The Amazing Marriage, Complete
Part 1 out of 9
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THE AMAZING MARRIAGE
By George Meredith
I. ENTER DAME GOSSIP AS CHORUS
II. MISTRESS GOSSIP TELLS OF THE ELOPEMENT OF THE COUNTESS OF
CRESSETT WITH THE OLD BUCCANEER, AND OF CHARLES DUMP THE
POSTILLION CONDUCTING THEM, AND OF A GREAT COUNTY FAMILY
III. CONTINUATION OF THE INTRODUCTORY MEANDERINGS OF DAME GOSSIP,
TOGETHER WITH HER SUDDEN EXTINCTION
IV. MORNING AND FAREWELL TO AN OLD HOME
V. A MOUNTAIN WALK IN MIST AND SUNSHINE
VI. THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHER
VII. THE LADY'S LETTER
VIII. OF THE ENCOUNTER OF TWO STRANGE YOUNG MEN AND THEIR CONSORTING:
IN WHICH THE MALE READER IS REQUESTED TO BEAR IN MIND WHAT WILD
CREATURE HE WAS IN HIS YOUTH, WHILE THE FEMALE SHOULD MARVEL
IX. CONCERNING THE BLACK GODDESS FORTUNE AND THE WORSHIP OF HER,
TOGETHER WITH AN INTRODUCTION OF SOME OF HER VOTARIES
X. SMALL CAUSES
XI. THE PRISONER OF HIS WORD
XII. HENRIETTA'S LETTER TREATING OF THE GREAT EVENT
XIII. AN IRRUPTION OF MISTRESS GOSSIP IN BREACH OF THE CONVENTION
XIV. A PENDANT OF THE FOREGOING
XV. OPENING STAGE OF THE HONEYMOON
XVI. IN WHICH THE BRIDE FROM FOREIGN PARTS IS GIVEN A TASTE OF OLD
XVII. RECORDS A SHADOW CONTEST CLOSE ON THE FOREGOING
XVIII. DOWN WHITECHAPEL WAY
XIX. THE GIRL MADGE
XX. STUDIES IN FOG, GOUT, AN OLD SEAMAN, A LOVELY SERPENT, AND THE
MORAL EFFECTS THAT MAY COME OF A BORROWED SHIRT
XXI. IN WHICH WE HAVE FURTHER GLIMPSES OF THE WONDROUS MECHANISM OF
OUR YOUNGER MAN
XXII. A RIGHT-MINDED GREAT LADY
XXIII. IN DAME GOSSIP'S VEIN
XXIV. A KIDNAPPING AND NO GREAT HARM
XXV. THE PHILOSOPHER MAN OF ACTION
XXVI. AFTER SOME FENCING THE DAME PASSES OUR GUARD
XXVII. WE DESCEND INTO A STEAMER'S ENGINE-ROOM
XXVIII. BY CONCESSIONS TO MISTRESS GOSSIP A FURTHER INTRUSION IS
XXIX. CARINTHIA IN WALES
XXX. REBECCA WYTHAN
XXXI. WE HAVE AGAIN TO DEAL WITH THE EXAMPLES OF OUR YOUNGER MAN
XXXII. IN WHICH WE SEE CARINTHIA PUT IN PRACTICE ONE OF HER OLD
XXXIII. A FRIGHTFUL DEBATE
XXXIV. A SURVEY OF THE RIDE OF THE WELSH CAVALIERS ESCORTING THE
COUNTESS OF FLEETWOOD TO KENTISH ESSLEMONT
XXXV. IN WHICH CERTAIN CHANGES MAY BE DISCERNED
XXXVI. BELOW THE SURFACE AND ABOVE
XXXVII. BETWEEN CARINTHIA AND HER LORD
XXXVIII. A DIP INTO THE SPRING'S WATERS
XXXIX. THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR
XL. A RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS
XLI. IN WHICH THE FATES ARE SEEN AND A CHOICE OF THE REFUGES FROM
XLII. THE RETARDED COURTSHIP
XLIII. ON THE ROAD TO THE ACT OF PENANCE
XLIV. BETWEEN THE EARL; THE COUNTESS AND HER BROTHER, AND OF A SILVER
XLV. CONTAINS A RECORD OF WHAT WAS FEARED, WHAT WAS HOPED, AND WHAT
XLVI. A CHAPTER OF UNDERCURRENTS AND SOME SURFACE FLASHES
XLVII. THE LAST: WITH A CONCLUDING WORD BY THE DAME
THE AMAZING MARRIAGE
I. ENTER DAME GOSSIP AS CHORUS
II. MISTRESS GOSSIP TELLS OF THE ELOPEMENT OF THE COUNTESS OF
CRESSETT WITH THE OLD BUCCANEER, AND OF CHARLES DUMP THE
POSTILLION CONDUCTING THEM, AND OF A GREAT COUNTY FAMILY
III. CONTINUATION OF THE INTRODUCTORY MEANDERINGS OF DAME GOSSIP,
TOGETHER WITH HER SUDDEN EXTINCTION
IV. MORNING AND FAREWELL TO AN OLD HOME
V. A MOUNTAIN WALK IN MIST AND SUNSHINE
VI. THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHER
VII. THE LADY'S LETTER
VIII. OF THE ENCOUNTER OF TWO STRANGE YOUNG MEN AND THEIR CONSORTING:
IN WHICH THE MALE READER IS REQUESTED TO BEAR IN MIND WHAT WILD
CREATURE HE WAS IN HIS YOUTH, WHILE THE FEMALE SHOULD MARVEL
IX. CONCERNING THE BLACK GODDESS FORTUNE AND THE WORSHIP OF HER,
TOGETHER WITH AN INTRODUCTION OF SOME OF HER VOTARIES
ENTER DAME GOSSIP AS CHORUS
Everybody has heard of the beautiful Countess of Cressett, who was one of
the lights of this country at the time when crowned heads were running
over Europe, crying out for charity's sake to be amused after their
tiresome work of slaughter: and you know what a dread they have of
moping. She was famous for her fun and high spirits besides her good
looks, which you may judge of for yourself on a walk down most of our
great noblemen's collections of pictures in England, where you will
behold her as the goddess Diana fitting an arrow to a bow; and elsewhere
an Amazon holding a spear; or a lady with dogs, in the costume of the
day; and in one place she is a nymph, if not Diana herself, gazing at her
naked feet before her attendants loosen her tunic for her to take the
bath, and her hounds are pricking their ears, and you see antlers of a
stag behind a block of stone. She was a wonderful swimmer, among other
things, and one early morning, when she was a girl, she did really swim,
they say, across the Shannon and back to win a bet for her brother Lord
Levellier, the colonel of cavalry, who left an arm in Egypt, and changed
his way of life to become a wizard, as the common people about his
neighbourhood supposed, because he foretold the weather and had cures for
aches and pains without a doctor's diploma. But we know now that he was
only a mathematician and astronomer, all for inventing military engines.
The brother and sister were great friends in their youth, when he had his
right arm to defend her reputation with; and she would have done anything
on earth to please him.
There is a picture of her in an immense flat white silk hat trimmed with
pale blue, like a pavilion, the broadest brim ever seen, and she simply
sits on a chair; and Venus the Queen of Beauty would have been
extinguished under that hat, I am sure; and only to look at Countess
Fanny's eye beneath the brim she has tipped ever so slightly in her
artfulness makes the absurd thing graceful and suitable. Oh! she was a
cunning one. But you must be on your guard against the scandalmongers
and collectors of anecdotes, and worst of any, the critic, of our
Galleries of Art; for she being in almost all of them (the principal
painters of the day were on their knees for the favour of a sitting),
they have to speak of her pretty frequently, and they season their dish,
the coxcombs do, by hinting a knowledge of her history.
'Here we come to another portrait of the beautiful but, we fear, naughty
Countess of Cressett.'
You are to imagine that they know everything, and they are so indulgent
when they drop their blot on a lady's character.
They can boast of nothing more than having read Nymriey's Letters and
Correspondence, published, fortunately for him, when he was no longer to
be called to account below for his malicious insinuations, pretending to
decency in initials and dashes: That man was a hater of women and the
clergy. He was one of the horrid creatures who write with a wink at you,
which sets the wicked part of us on fire: I have known it myself, and I
own it to my shame; and if I happened to be ignorant of the history of
Countess Fanny, I could not refute his wantonness. He has just the same
benevolent leer for a bishop. Give me, if we are to make a choice, the
beggar's breech for decency, I say: I like it vastly in preference to a
Nymney, who leads you up to the curtain and agitates it, and bids you to
retire on tiptoe. You cannot help being angry with the man for both
reasons. But he is the writer society delights in, to show what it is
composed of. A man brazen enough to declare that he could hold us in
suspense about the adventures of a broomstick, with the aid of a yashmak
and an ankle, may know the world; you had better not know him--that is my
remark; and do not trust him.
He tells the story of the Old Buccaneer in fear of the public, for it was
general property, but of course he finishes with a Nymney touch: 'So the
Old Buccaneer is the doubloon she takes in exchange for a handful of
silver pieces.' There is no such handful to exchange--not of the kind he
sickeningly nudges at you. I will prove to you it was not Countess
Fanny's naughtiness, though she was indeed very blamable. Women should
walk in armour as if they were born to it; for these cold sneerers will
never waste their darts on cuirasses. An independent brave young
creature, exposing herself thoughtlessly in her reckless innocence, is
the victim for them. They will bring all society down on her with one of
their explosive sly words appearing so careless, the cowards. I say
without hesitation, her conduct with regard to Kirby, the Old Buccaneer,
as he was called, however indefensible in itself, warrants her at heart
an innocent young woman, much to be pitied. Only to think of her, I
could sometimes drop into a chair for a good cry. And of him too! and
their daughter Carinthia Jane was the pair of them, as to that, and so
was Chillon John, the son.
Those critics quoting Nymney should look at the portrait of her in the
Long Saloon of Cresset Castle, where she stands in blue and white,
completely dressed, near a table supporting a couple of holster pistols,
and then let them ask themselves whether they would speak of her so if
her little hand could move.
Well, and so the tale of her swim across the Shannon river and back drove
the young Earl of Cresset straight over to Ireland to propose for her,
he saying; that she was the girl to suit his book; not allowing her time
to think of how much he might be the man to suit hers. The marriage was
what is called a good one: both full of frolic, and he wealthy and rather
handsome, and she quite lovely and spirited.
No wonder the whole town was very soon agog about the couple, until at
the end of a year people began to talk of them separately, she going her
way, and he his. She could not always be on the top of a coach, which
was his throne of happiness.
Plenty of stories are current still of his fame as a four-in-hand
coachman. They say he once drove an Emperor and a King, a Prince
Chancellor and a pair of Field Marshals, and some ladies of the day,
from the metropolis to Richmond Hill in fifty or sixty odd minutes,
having the ground cleared all the way by bell and summons, and only a
donkey-cart and man, and a deaf old woman, to pay for; and went, as you
can imagine, at such a tearing gallop, that those Grand Highnesses had
to hold on for their lives and lost their hats along the road; and a
publican at Kew exhibits one above his bar to the present hour. And
Countess Fanny was up among them, they say. She was equal to it. And
some say, that was the occasion of her meeting the Old Buccaneer.
She met him at Richmond in Surrey we know for certain. It was on
Richmond Hill, where the old King met his Lass. They say Countess Fanny
was parading the hill to behold the splendid view, always admired so much
by foreigners, with their Achs and Hechs! and surrounded by her crowned
courtiers in frogged uniforms and moustachioed like sea-horses, a little
before dinner time, when Kirby passed her, and the Emperor made a remark
on him, for Kirby was a magnificent figure of a man, and used to be
compared to a three-decker entering harbour after a victory. He stood
six feet four, and was broad-shouldered and deep-chested to match, and
walked like a king who has humbled his enemy. You have seen big dogs.
And so Countess Fanny looked round. Kirby was doing the same. But he
had turned right about, and appeared transfixed and like a royal beast
angry, with his wound. If ever there was love at first sight, and a
dreadful love, like a runaway mail-coach in a storm of wind and lightning
at black midnight by the banks of a flooded river, which was formerly our
comparison for terrible situations, it was when those two met.
And, what! you exclaim, Buccaneer Kirby full sixty-five, and Countess
Fanny no more than three and twenty, a young beauty of the world of
fashion, courted by the highest, and she in love with him! Go and gaze
at one of our big ships coming out of an engagement home with all her
flags flying and her crew manning the yards. That will give you an idea
of a young woman's feelings for an old warrior never beaten down an inch
by anything he had to endure; matching him, I dare say, in her woman's
heart, with the Mighty Highnesses who had only smelt the outside edge of
battle. She did rarely admire a valiant man. Old as Methuselah, he
would have made her kneel to him. She was all heart for a real hero.
The story goes, that Countess Fanny sent her husband to Captain Kirby,
at the emperor's request, to inquire his name; and on hearing it, she
struck her hands on her bosom, telling his Majesty he saw there the
bravest man in the king's dominions; which the emperor scarce crediting,
and observing that the man must be, then, a superhuman being to be so
distinguished in a nation of the brave, Countess Fanny related the well-
known tale of Captain Kirby and the shipful of mutineers; and how when
not a man of them stood by him, and he in the service of the first
insurgent State of Spanish America, to save his ship from being taken
over to the enemy,--he blew her up, fifteen miles from land: and so he
got to shore swimming and floating alternately, and was called Old Sky-
high by English sailors, any number of whom could always be had to sail
under Buccaneer Kirby. He fought on shore as well; and once he came down
from the tops of the Andes with a black beard turned white, and went into
action with the title of Kirby's Ghost.
But his heart was on salt water; he was never so much at home as in a
ship foundering or splitting into the clouds. We are told that he never
forgave the Admiralty for striking him off the list of English naval
captains: which is no doubt why in his old age he nursed a grudge against
Ours, I am sure, was the loss; and many have thought so since. He was a
mechanician, a master of stratagems; and would say, that brains will beat
Grim Death if we have enough of them. He was a standing example of the
lessons of his own MAXIMS FOR MEN, a very curious book, that fetches a
rare price now wherever a copy is put up for auction. I shudder at them
as if they were muzzles of firearms pointed at me; but they were not
addressed to my sex; and still they give me an interest in the writer who
would declare, that 'he had never failed in an undertaking without
stripping bare to expose to himself where he had been wanting in
Intention and Determination.'
There you may see a truly terrible man.
So the emperor being immensely taken with Kirby's method of preserving
discipline on board ship, because (as we say to the madman, 'Your strait-
waistcoat is my easy-chair') monarchs have a great love of discipline,
he begged Countess Fanny's permission that he might invite Captain Kirby
to his table; and Countess Fanny (she had the name from the ballad
'I am the star of Prince and Czar,
My light is shed on many,
But I wait here till my bold Buccaneer
Makes prize of Countess Fanny':--
for the popular imagination was extraordinarily roused by the elopement,
and there were songs and ballads out of number), Countess Fanny
despatched her husband to Captain Kirby again, meaning no harm, though
the poor man is laughed at in the songs for going twice upon his mission.
None of the mighty people repented of having the Old Buccaneer--for that
night, at all events. He sat in the midst of them, you may believe, like
the lord of that table, with his great white beard and hair--not a lock
of it shed--and his bronze lion-face, and a resolute but a merry eye that
he had. He was no deep drinker of wine, but when he did drink, and the
wine champagne, he drank to show his disdain of its powers; and the
emperor wishing for a narrative of some of his exploits, particularly the
blowing up of his ship, Kirby paid his Majesty the compliment of giving
it him as baldly as an official report to the Admiralty. So disengaged
and calm was he, with his bottles of champagne in him, where another
would have been sparkling and laying on the colours, that he was then and
there offered Admiral's rank in the Imperial navy; and the Old Buccaneer,
like a courtier of our best days, bows to Countess Fanny, and asks her,
if he is a free man to go: and, No, says she, we cannot spare you! And
there was a pretty wrangle between Countess Fanny and the emperor, each
pulling at the Old Buccaneer to have possession of him.
He was rarely out of her sight after their first meeting, and the
ridiculous excuse she gave to her husband's family was, she feared he
would be kidnapped and made a Cossack of! And young Lord Cressett, her
husband, began to grumble concerning her intimacy with a man old enough
to be her grandfather. As if the age were the injury! He seemed to
think it so, and vowed he would shoot the old depredator dead, if he
found him on the grounds of Cressett: 'like vermin,' he said, and it was
considered that he had the right, and no jury would have convicted him.
You know what those days were.
He had his opportunity one moonlight night, not far from the castle, and
peppered Kirby with shot from a fowling-piece at, some say, five paces'
distance, if not point-blank.
But Kirby had a maxim, Steady shakes them, and he acted on it to receive
his enemy's fire; and the young lord's hand shook, and the Old Buccaneer
stood out of the smoke not much injured, except in the coat-collar, with
a pistol cocked in his hand, and he said:
'Many would take that for a declaration of war, but I know it 's only
your lordship's diplomacy'; and then he let loose to his mad fun,
astounding Lord Cressett and his gamekeeper, and vowed, as the young lord
tried to relate subsequently, as well as he could recollect the words--
here I have it in print:--'that he was a man pickled in saltpetre when an
infant, like Achilles, and proof against powder and shot not marked with
cross and key, and fetched up from the square magazine in the central
depot of the infernal factory, third turning to the right off the grand
arcade in Kingdom-come, where the night-porter has to wear wet
petticoats, like a Highland chief, to make short work of the sparks
flying about, otherwise this world and many another would not have to
wait long for combustion.'
Kirby had the wildest way of talking when he was not issuing orders under
fire, best understood by sailors. I give it you as it stands here
printed. I do not profess to understand.
So Lord Cressett said: 'Diplomacy and infernal factories be hanged! Have
your shot at me; it's only fair.' And Kirby discharged his pistol at the
top twigs of an old oak tree, and called the young lord a Briton, and
proposed to take him in hand and make a man of him, as nigh worthy of his
wife as any one not an Alexander of Macedon could be.
So they became friendly, and the young lord confessed it was his family
that had urged him to the attack; and Kirby abode at the castle, and all
three were happy, in perfect honour, I am convinced: but such was not the
opinion of the Cressetts and Levelliers. Down they trooped to Cressett
Castle with a rush and a roar, crying on the disgrace of an old desperado
like Kirby living there; Dukes, Marchionesses, Cabinet Ministers, leaders
of fashion, and fire-eating colonels of the King's body-guard, one of
whom Captain John Peter Kirby laid on his heels at ten paces on an April
morning, when the duel was fought, as early as the blessed heavens had
given them light to see to do it. Such days those were!
There was talk of shutting up the infatuated lady. If not incarcerated,
she was rigidly watched. The earl her husband fell altogether to
drinking and coaching, and other things. The ballad makes her say:
'My family my gaolers be,
My husband is a zany;
Naught see I clear save my bold Buccaneer
To rescue Countess Fanny!'
and it goes on:
'O little lass, at play on the grass,
Come earn a silver penny,
And you'll be dear to my bold Buccaneer
For news of his Countess Fanny.'
In spite of her bravery, that poor woman suffered!
We used to learn by heart the ballads and songs upon famous events in
those old days when poetry was worshipped.
But Captain Kirby gave provocation enough to both families when he went
among the taverns and clubs, and vowed before Providence over his big
fist that they should rue their interference, and he would carry off the
lady on a day he named; he named the hour as well, they say, and that was
midnight of the month of June. The Levelliers and Cressetts foamed at
the mouth in speaking of him, so enraged they were on account of his age
and his passion for a young woman. As to blood, the Kirbys of
Lincolnshire were quite equal to the Cressetts of Warwick. The Old
Buccaneer seems to have had money too. But you can see what her people
had to complain of: his insolent contempt of them was unexampled. And
their tyranny had roused my lady's high spirit not a bit less; and she
said right out: 'When he comes, I am ready and will go with him.'
There was boldness for you on both sides! All the town was laughing and
betting on the event of the night in June: and the odds were in favour of
Kirby; for though, Lord Cressett was quite the popular young English
nobleman, being a capital whip and free of his coin, in those days men
who had smelt powder were often prized above titles, and the feeling,
out of society, was very strong for Kirby, even previous to the fight
on the heath. And the age of the indomitable adventurer must have
contributed to his popularity. He was the hero of every song.
"'What's age to me!" cries Kirby;
"Why, young and fresh let her be,
But it 's mighty better reasoned
For a man to be well seasoned,
And a man she has in me," cries Kirby.'
As to his exact age:
"'Write me down sixty-three," cries Kirby.'
I have always maintained that it was an understatement. We must
remember, it was not Kirby speaking, but the song-writer. Kirby would
not, in my opinion, have numbered years he was proud of below their due
quantity. He was more, if he died at ninety-one; and Chillon Switzer
John Kirby, born eleven months after the elopement, was, we know, twenty-
three years old when the old man gave up the ghost and bequeathed him
little besides a law-suit with the Austrian Government, and the care of
Carinthia Jane, the second child of this extraordinary union; both
children born in wedlock, as you will hear. Sixty-three, or sixty-seven,
near upon seventy, when most men are reaping and stacking their sins with
groans and weak knees, Kirby was a match for his juniors, which they
Captain John Peter Avason Kirby, son of a Lincolnshire squire of an
ancient stock, was proud of his blood, and claimed descent from a chief
of the Danish rovers.
'"What's rank to me!" cries Kirby;
"A titled lass let her be,
But unless my plans miscarry,
I'll show her when we marry;
As brave a pedigree," cries Kirby.'
That was the song-writer's answer to the charge that the countess had
stooped to a degrading alliance.
John Peter was fourth of a family of seven children, all males, and hard
at the bottle early in life: 'for want of proper occupation,' he says in
his Memoirs, and applauds his brother Stanson, the clergyman, for being
ahead of him in renouncing strong dunks, because he found that he 'cursed
better upon water.' Water, however, helped Stanson Kirby to outlive his
brothers and inherit the Lincolnshire property, and at the period of the
great scandal in London he was palsied, and waited on by his grandson and
heir Ralph Thorkill Kirby, the hero of an adventure celebrated in our Law
courts and on the English stage; for he took possession of his coachman's
wife, and was accused of compassing the death of the husband. He was not
hanged for it, so we are bound to think him not guilty.
The stage-piece is called 'Saturday Night', and it had an astonishing
run, but is only remembered now for the song of 'Saturday,' sung by the
poor coachman and labourers at the village ale-house before he starts to
capture his wife from the clutches of her seducer and meets his fate.
Never was there a more popular song: you heard it everywhere.
I recollect one verse:
'O Saturday money is slippery metal,
And Saturday ale it is tipsy stuff
At home the old woman is boiling her kettle,
She thinks we don't know when we've tippled enough.
We drink, and of never a man are we jealous,
And never a man against us will he speak
For who can be hard on a set of poor fellows
Who only see Saturday once a week!
You chorus the last two lines.
That was the very song the unfortunate coachman of Kirby Hall joined in
singing before he went out to face his end for the woman he loved. He
believed in her virtue to the very last.
'The ravished wife of my bosom,' he calls her all through the latter half
of the play. It is a real tragedy. The songs of that day have lost
their effect now, I suppose. They will ever remain pathetic to me; and
to hear the poor coachman William Martin invoking the name of his dear
stolen wife Elizabeth, jug in hand, so tearfully, while he joins the song
of Saturday, was a most moving thing. You saw nothing but handkerchiefs
out all over the theatre. What it is that has gone from our drama, I
cannot tell: I am never affected now as I was then; and people in a low
station of life could affect me then, without being flung at me, for I
dislike an entire dish of them, I own. We were simpler in our habits and
ways of thinking. Elizabeth Martin, according to report, was a woman to
make better men than Ralph Thorkill act evilly--as to good looks, I mean.
She was not entirely guiltless, I am afraid; though in the last scene,
Mrs. Kempson, who played the part (as, alas, she could do to the very
life!), so threw herself into the pathos of it that there were few to
hold out against her, and we felt that Elizabeth had been misled. So
much for morality in those days!
And now for the elopement.
MISTRESS GOSSIP TELLS OF THE ELOPEMENT OF THE COUNTESS OF CRESSETT WITH
THE OLD BUCCANEER, AND OF CHARLES DUMP THE POSTILLION CONDUCTING THEM,
AND OF A GREAT COUNTY FAMILY
The twenty-first of June was the day appointed by Captain Kirby to carry
off Countess Fanny, and the time midnight: and ten minutes to the stroke
of twelve, Countess Fanny, as if she scorned to conceal that she was in a
conspiracy with her grey-haired lover, notwithstanding that she was
watched and guarded, left the Marchioness of Arpington's ball-room and
was escorted downstairs by her brother Lord Levellier, sworn to baffle
Kirby. Present with him in the street and witness to the shutting of the
carriage-door on Countess Fanny, were brother officers of his, General
Abrane, Colonel Jack Potts, and Sir Upton Tomber.
The door fast shut, Countess Fanny kissed her hand to them and drew up
the window, seeming merry, and as they had expected indignation and
perhaps resistance, for she could be a spitfire in a temper and had no
fear whatever of firearms, they were glad to have her safe on such good
terms; and so General Abrane jumped up on the box beside the coachman,
Jack Potts jumped up between the footmen, and Sir Upton Tomber and the
one-armed lord, as soon as the carriage was disengaged from the ruck two
deep, walked on each side of it in the road all the way to Lord
Cressett's town house. No one thought of asking where that silly young
man was--probably under some table.
Their numbers were swelled by quite a host going along, for heavy bets
were on the affair, dozens having backed Kirby; and it must have appeared
serious to them, with the lady in custody, and constables on the look-
out, and Kirby and his men nowhere in sight. They expected an onslaught
at some point of the procession, and it may be believed they wished it,
if only that they might see something for their money. A beautiful
bright moonlight night it happened to be. Arm in arm among them were
Lord Pitscrew and Russett, Earl of Fleetwood, a great friend of Kirby's;
for it was a device of the Old Buccaneer's that helped the earl to win
the great Welsh heiress who made him, even before he took to hoarding and
buying,--one of the wealthiest noblemen in England; but she was crazed by
her marriage or the wild scenes leading to it; she never presented
herself in society. She would sit on the top of Estlemont towers--as
they formerly spelt it--all day and half the night in midwinter, often,
looking for the mountains down in her native West country, covered with
an old white flannel cloak, and on her head a tall hat of her Welsh
women-folk; and she died of it, leaving a son in her likeness, of whom
you will hear. Lord Fleetwood had lost none of his faith in Kirby, and
went on booking bets giving him huge odds, thousands!
He accepted fifty to one when the carriage came to a stop at the steps of
Lord Cressett's mansion; but he was anxious, and well he might be, seeing
Countess Fanny alight and pass up between two lines of gentlemen all
bowing low before her: not a sign of the Old Buccaneer anywhere to right
or left! Heads were on the look out, and vows offered up for his
She was at the door and about to enter the house. Then it was; that with
a shout of the name of some dreadful heathen god, Colonel Jack Potts
roared out, 'She's half a foot short o' the mark!'
He was on the pavement, and it seems he measured her as she slipped by
him, and one thing and another caused him to smell a cheat; and General
Abrane, standing beside her near the door, cried: 'Where art flying now,
Jack?' But Jack Potts grew more positive and bellowed, 'Peel her wig!
And she did not speak a word, but stood huddled-up and hooded; and Lord
Levellier caught her up by the arm as she was trying a dash into the
hall, and Sir Upton Tomber plucked at her veil and raised it, and
'Phew!'--which struck the rabble below with awe of the cunning of the Old
Buccaneer; and there was no need for them to hear General Abrane say:
'Right! Jack, we've a dead one in hand,' or Jack Potts reply:
'It's ten thousand pounds clean winged away from my pocket, like a string
of wild geese!'
The excitement of the varletry in the square, they say, was fearful to
hear. So the principal noblemen and gentlemen concerned thought it
prudent to hurry the young woman into the house and bar the door; and
there she was very soon stripped of veil and blonde false wig with long
curls, the whole framing of her artificial resemblance to Countess Fanny,
and she proved to be a good-looking foreign maid, a dark one, powdered,
trembling very much, but not so frightened upon hearing that her penalty
for the share she had taken in the horrid imposture practised upon them
was to receive and return a salute from each of the gentlemen in
rotation; which the hussy did with proper submission; and Jack Potts
remarked, that 'it was an honest buss, but dear at ten thousand!'
When you have been the victim of a deceit, the explanation of the
simplicity of the trick turns all the wonder upon yourself, you know, and
the backers of the Old Buccaneer and the wagerers against him crowed and
groaned in chorus at the maid's narrative of how the moment Countess
Fanny had thrown up the window of her carriage, she sprang out to a
carriage on the off side, containing Kirby, and how she, this little
French jade, sprang in to take her place. One snap of the fingers and
the transformation was accomplished. So for another kiss all round they
let her go free, and she sat at the supper-table prepared for Countess
Fanny and the party by order of Lord Levellier, and amused the gentlemen
with stories of the ladies she had served, English and foreign. And that
is how men are taught to think they know our sex and may despise it! I
could preach them a lesson. Those men might as well not believe in the
steadfastness of the very stars because one or two are reported lost out
of the firmament, and now and then we behold a whole shower of fragments
descending. The truth is, they have taken a stain from the life they
lead, and are troubled puddles, incapable of clear reflection. To listen
to the tattle of a chatting little slut, and condemn the whole sex upon
her testimony, is a nice idea of justice. Many of the gentlemen present
became notorious as woman-scorners, whether owing to Countess Fanny or
other things. Lord Levellier was, and Lord Fleetwood, the wicked man!
And certainly the hearing of naughty stories of us by the light of a
grievous and vexatious instance of our misconduct must produce an
impression. Countess Fanny's desperate passion for a man of the age of
Kirby struck them as out of nature. They talked of it as if they could
have pardoned her a younger lover.
All that Lord Cressett said, on the announcement of the flight of his
wife, was: 'Ah! Fan! she never would run in my ribbons.'
He positively declined to persue. Lord Levellier would not attempt to
follow her up without him, as it would have cost money, and he wanted all
that he could spare for his telescopes and experiments. Who, then, was
the gentleman who stopped the chariot, with his three mounted attendants,
on the road to the sea, on the heath by the great Punch-Bowl?
That has been the question for now longer than half a century, in fact
approaching seventy mortal years. No one has ever been able to say for
It occurred at six o'clock on the summer morning. Countess Fanny must
have known him,--and not once did she open her mouth to breathe his name.
Yet she had no objection to talk of the adventure and how Simon Fettle,
Captain Kirby's old ship's steward in South America, seeing horsemen
stationed on the ascent of the high road bordering the Bowl, which is
miles round and deep, made the postillion cease jogging, and sang out to
his master for orders, and Kirby sang back to him to look to his priming,
and then the postillion was bidden proceed, and he did not like it, but
he had to deal with pistols behind, where men feel weak, and he went
bobbing on the saddle in dejection, as if upon his very heart he jogged;
and soon the fray commenced. There was very little parleying between
Simon Fettle was a plain kindly creature without a thought of malice,
who kept his master's accounts. He fired the first shot at the foremost
man, as he related in after days, 'to reduce the odds.' Kirby said to
Countess Fanny, just to comfort her, never so much as imagining she would
be afraid, 'The worst will be a bloody shirt for Simon to mangle,' for
they had been arranging to live cheaply in a cottage on the Continent,
and Simon Fettle to do the washing. She could not help laughing
outright. But when the Old Buccaneer was down striding in the battle,
she took a pistol and descended likewise; and she used it, too, and
She had not to use it a second time. Kirby pulled the gentleman off his
horse, wounded in the thigh, and while dragging him to Countess Fanny to
crave her pardon, a shot intended for Kirby hit the poor gentleman in the
breast, and Kirby stretched him at his length, and Simon and he disarmed
the servant who had fired. One was insensible, one flying, and those two
on the ground. All in broad daylight; but so lonely is that spot,
nothing might have been heard of it, if at the end of the week the
postillion who had been bribed and threatened with terrible threats to
keep his tongue from wagging, had not begun to talk. So the scene of the
encounter was examined, and on one spot, carefully earthed over, blood-
marks were discovered in the green sand. People in the huts on the hill-
top, a quarter of a mile distant, spoke of having heard sounds of firing
while they were at breakfast, and a little boy named Tommy Wedger said he
saw a dead body go by in an open coach that morning; all bloody and
mournful. He had to appear before the magistrates, crying terribly, but
did not know the nature of an oath, and was dismissed. Time came when
the boy learned to swear, and he did, and that he had seen a beautiful
lady firing and killing men like pigeons and partridges; but that was
after Charles Dump, the postillion, had been telling the story.
Those who credited Charles Dump's veracity speculated on dozens of great
noblemen--and gentlemen known to be dying in love with Countess Fanny.
And this brings us to another family.
I do not say I know anything; I do but lay before you the evidence we
have to fix suspicion upon a notorious character, perfectly capable of
trying to thwart a man like Kirby, and with good reason to try, if she
had bewitched him to a consuming passion, as we are told.
About eleven miles distant, as the crow flies and a bold huntsman will
ride in that heath country, from the Punch-Bowl, right across the mounds
and the broad water, lies the estate of the Fakenhams, who intermarried
with the Coplestones of the iron mines, and were the wealthiest of the
old county families until Curtis Fakenham entered upon his inheritance.
Money with him was like the farm-wife's dish of grain she tosses in
showers to her fowls. He was more than what you call a lady-killer, he
was a woman-eater. His pride was in it as well as his taste, and when
men are like that, indeed they are devourers!
Curtis was the elder brother of Commodore Baldwin Fakenham, whose
offspring, like his own, were so strangely mixed up with Captain Kirby's
children by Countess Fanny, as you will hear. And these two brothers
were sons of Geoffrey Fakenham, celebrated for his devotion to the French
Countess Jules d'Andreuze, or some such name, a courtly gentleman, who
turned Papist on his death-bed in France, in Brittany somewhere, not to
be separated from her in the next world, as he solemnly left word;
wickedly, many think.
To show the oddness of things and how opposite to one another brothers
may be, his elder, the uncle of Curtis, and Baldwin, was the renowned old
Admiral Fakenham, better known along our sea-coasts and ports among
sailors as 'Old Showery,' because of a remark he once made to his flag-
captain, when cannon-balls were coming thick on them in a hard-fought
action. 'Hot work, sir,' his captain said. 'Showery,' replied the
admiral, as his cocked-hat was knocked off by the wind of a cannon-ball.
He lost both legs before the war was over, and said merrily, 'Stumps for
life'' while they were carrying him below to the cockpit. In my girlhood
the boys were always bringing home anecdotes of old Admiral Showery: not
all of them true ones, perhaps, but they fitted him. He was a rough
seaman, fond, as they say, of his glass and his girl, and utterly
despising his brother Geoffrey for the airs he gave himself, and crawling
on his knees to a female Parleyvoo; and when Geoffrey died, the admiral
drank to his rest in the grave: 'There's to my brother Jeff,' he said,
and flinging away the dregs of his glass: 'There 's to the Frog!' and
flinging away the glass to shivers: 'There's to the Turncoat!'
He salted his language in a manner I cannot repeat; no epithet ever stood
by itself. When I was young the boys relished these dreadful words
because they seemed to smell of tar and battle-smoke, when every English
boy was for being a sailor and daring the Black Gentleman below. In all
truth, the bad words came from him; though an excellent scholar has
assured me they should be taken for aspirates, and mean no harm; and so
it may be, but heartily do I rejoice that aspirates, have been dropped by
people of birth; for you might once hear titled ladies guilty of them in
polite society, I do assure you.
We have greatly improved in that respect. They say the admiral's
reputation as a British sailor of the old school made him, rather his
name, a great favourite at Court; but to Court he could not be got to go,
and if the tale be true, their Majesties paid him a visit on board his
ship, in harbour one day, and sailors tell you that Old Showery gave
his liege lord and lady a common dish of boiled beef with carrots and
turnips, and a plain dumpling, for their dinner, with ale and port wine,
the merit of which he swore to; and he became so elate, that after the
cloth was removed, he danced them a hornpipe on his pair of wooden legs,
whistling his tune, and holding his full tumbler of hot grog in his hand
all the while, without so much as the spilling of a drop!--so earnest was
he in everything he did. They say his limit was two bottles of port wine
at a sitting, with his glass of hot grog to follow, and not a soul could
induce him to go beyond that. In addition to being a great seaman, he
was a very religious man and a stout churchman.
Well, now, the Curtis Fakenham of Captain Kirby's day had a good deal of
his uncle as well as his father in him, the spirit of one and the
outside, of the other; and, favoured or not, he had been distinguished
among Countess Fanny's adorers: she certainly chose to be silent about
the name of the assailant. And it has been attested on oath that two
days and a night subsequent to the date furnished by Charles Dump, Curtis
Fakenham was brought to his house, Hollis Grange, lame of a leg, with a
shot in his breast, that he carried to the family vault; and his head
gamekeeper, John Wiltshire, a resolute fellow, was missing from that
hour. Some said they had a quarrel, and Curtis was wounded and John
Wiltshire killed. Curtis was known to have been extremely attached to
the man. Yet when Wiltshire was inquired for, he let fall a word of
'having more of Wiltshire than was agreeable to Hampshire'--his county.
People asked what that meant. Yet, according to the tale, it was the
surviving servant, by whom he, or whoever it may have been, was
We are in a perfect tangle. On the other hand, it was never denied that
Curtis and John Wiltshire were in London together at the time of Countess
Fanny's flight: and Curtis Fakenham was one of the procession of armed
gentleman conducting her in her carriage, as they supposed; and he was
known to have started off, on the discovery of the cheat, with horrible
imprecations against Frenchwomen. It became known, too; that horses of
his were standing saddled in his innyard at midnight. And more, Charles
Dump the postillion was taken secretly to set eyes on him as they wheeled
him in his garden-walk, and he vowed it was the identical gentleman. But
this coming by and by to the ear of Curtis, he had Charles Dump fetched
over to confront him; and then the man made oath that he had never seen
Mr. Curtis Fakenham anywhere but there, in his own house at Hollis! One
does not really know what, to think of it.
This postillion made a small fortune. He was everywhere in request.
People were never tired of asking him how he behaved while the fight was
going on, and he always answered that he sat as close to his horse as he
could, and did not dream of dismounting; for, he said, 'he was a figure
on a horse, and naught when off it.' His repetition of the story, with
some adornments, and that same remark, made him the popular man of the
county; people said he might enter Parliament, and I think at one time it
was possible. But a great success is full of temptations. After being
hired at inns to fill them with his account of the battle, and tipped by
travellers from London to show the spot, he set up for himself as
innkeeper, and would have flourished, only he had contracted habits on
his rounds, and he fell to contradicting himself, so that he came to be
called Lying Charley; and the people of the country said it was 'he who
drained the Punch-Bowl, for though he helped to put the capital into it,
he took all the interest out of it.'
Yet we have the doctor of the village of Ipley, Dr. Cawthorne, a noted
botanist, assuring us of the absolute credibility of Charles Dump, whom
he attended in the poor creature's last illness, when Charles Dump
confessed he had lived in mortal terror of Squire Curtis, and had got
the trick of lying, through fear of telling the truth. Hence his ruin.
So he died delirious and contrite. Cawthorne, the great Turf man,
inherited a portrait of him from his father the doctor. It was often
the occasion of the story being told over again, and used to hang in
the patients' reception room, next to an oil-painting of the Punch-Bowl,
an admired landscape picture by a local artist, highly-toned and true
to every particular of the scene, with the bright yellow road winding
uphill, and the banks of brilliant purple heath, and a white thorn in
bloom quite beautiful, and the green fir trees, and the big Bowl black as
a cauldron,--indeed a perfect feast of harmonious contrasts in colours.
And now you know how it is that the names of Captain Kirby and Curtis
Fakenham are alive to the present moment in the district.
We lived a happy domestic life in those old coaching days, when county
affairs and county people were the topics of firesides, and the country
enclosed us to make us feel snug in our own importance. My opinion is,
that men and women grow to their dimensions only where such is the case.
We had our alarms from the outside now and again, but we soon relapsed
to dwell upon our private business and our pleasant little hopes and
excitements; the courtships and the crosses and the scandals, the tea-
parties and the dances, and how the morning looked after the stormy night
had passed, and the coach coming down the hill with a box of news and
perhaps a curious passenger to drop at the inn. I do believe we had a
liking for the very highwaymen, if they had any reputation for civility.
What I call human events, things concerning you and me, instead of the
deafening catastrophes now afflicting and taking all conversation out of
us, had their natural interest then. We studied the face of each morning
as it came, and speculated upon the secret of the thing it might have in
store for us or our heroes and heroines; we thought of them more than of
ourselves. Long after the adventures of the Punch-Bowl, our county was
anxious about Countess Fanny and the Old Buccaneer, wondering where they
were and whether they were prospering, whether they were just as much in
love as ever, and which of them would bury the other, and what the
foreign people abroad thought of that strange pair.
CONTINUATION OF THE INTRODUCTORY MEANDERINGS OF DAME GOSSIP, TOGETHER
WITH HER SUDDEN EXTINCTION
I have still time before me, according to the terms of my agreement with
the person to whom I have, I fear foolishly, entrusted the letters and
documents of a story surpassing ancient as well as modern in the
wonderment it causes, that would make the Law courts bless their hearts,
judges no less than the barristers, to have it running through them day
by day, with every particular to wrangle over, and many to serve as a
text for the pulpit. So to proceed.
It should be mentioned that the postillion Charles Dump is not
represented, and I have no conception of the reason why not, sitting
on horseback, in the portrait in the possession of the Cawthorne family.
I have not seen it, I am bound to admit. We had offended Dr. Cawthorne,
by once in an urgent case calling in another doctor, who, he would have
it, was a quack, that ought to have killed us, and we ceased to visit;
but a gentleman who was an established patient of Dr. Cawthorne's and
had frequent opportunities of judging the portrait, in the course of a
chronic malady, describes Charles Dump on his legs as a small man looking
diminished from a very much longer one by shrinkage in thickish wrinkles
from the shoulders to the shanks. His hat is enormous and very gay.
He is rather of sad countenance. An elevation of his collar behind the
ears, and pointed at the neck, gives you notions of his having dropped
from some hook. He stands with his forefinger extended, like a disused
semaphore-post, that seems tumbling and desponding on the hill by the
highroad, in his attitude while telling the tale; if standing it may be
called, where the whole figure appears imploring for a seat. That was
his natural position, as one would suppose any artist must have thought,
and a horse beneath him. But it has been suggested that the artist in
question was no painter of animals. Then why did he not get a painter of
animals to put in the horse? It is vain to ask, though it is notorious
that artists combine without bickering to do these things; and one puts
his name on the animal, the other on the human being or landscape.
My informant adds, that the prominent feature, telling a melancholy tale
of its own, is of sanguine colour, and while plainly in the act of
speaking, Charles Dump might be fancied about to drop off to sleep. He
was impressed by the dreaminess of the face; and I must say I regard him
as an interesting character. During my girlhood Napoleon Bonaparte alone
would have been his rival for filling an inn along our roads. I have
known our boys go to bed obediently and get up at night to run three
miles to THE WHEATSHEAF, only to stand on the bench or traveller's-rest
outside the window and look in at Charles Dump reciting, with just room
enough in the crowd to point his finger, as his way was.
He left a child, Mary Dump, who grew up to become lady's maid to Livia
Fakenham, daughter of Curtis, the beauty of Hampshire, equalled by no one
save her cousin Henrietta Fakenham, the daughter of Commodore Baldwin;
and they were two different kinds of beauties, not to be compared, and
different were their fortunes; for this lady was likened to the sun going
down on a cloudy noon, and that lady to the moon riding through a stormy
night. Livia was the young widow of Lord Duffield when she accepted the
Earl of Fleetwood, and was his third countess, and again a widow at
eight-and-twenty, and stepmother to young Croesus, the Earl of Fleetwood
of my story. Mary Dump testifies to her kindness of heart to her
dependents. If we are to speak of goodness, I am afraid there are other
I resent being warned that my time is short and that I have wasted much
of it over 'the attractive Charles.' What I have done I have done with a
purpose, and it must be a storyteller devoid of the rudiments of his art
who can complain of my dwelling on Charles Dump, for the world to have a
pause and pin its faith to him, which it would not do to a grander
person--that is, as a peg. Wonderful events, however true they are,
must be attached to something common and familiar, to make them credible.
Charles Dump, I say, is like a front-page picture to a history of those
old quiet yet exciting days in England, and when once you have seized him
the whole period is alive to you, as it was to me in the delicious
dulness I loved, that made us thirsty to hear of adventures and able to
enjoy to the utmost every thing occurring. The man is no more attractive
to me than a lump of clay. How could he be? But supposing I took up the
lump and told you that there where I found it, that lump of clay had been
rolled over and flung off by the left wheel of the prophet's Chariot of
Fire before it mounted aloft and disappeared in the heavens above!--
you would examine it and cherish it and have the scene present with you,
you may be sure; and magnificent descriptions would not be one-half so
persuasive. And that is what we call, in my profession, Art, if you
So to continue: the Earl of Cressett fell from his coach-box in a fit,
and died of it, a fortnight after the flight of his wife; and the people
said she might as well have waited. Kirby and Countess Fanny were at
Lucerne or Lausanne, or some such place, in Switzerland when the news
reached them, and Kirby, without losing an hour, laid hold of an English
clergyman of the Established Church and put him through the ceremony of
celebrating his lawful union with the beautiful young creature he adored.
And this he did, he said, for the world to guard his Fan in a wider
circle than his two arms could compass, if not quite so well.
So the Old Buccaneer was ever after that her lawful husband, and as his
wedded wife, not wedded to a fool, she was an example to her sex, like
many another woman who has begun badly with a light-headed mate. It is
hard enough for a man to be married to a fool, but a man is only half-
cancelled by that burden, it has been said; whereas a woman finds herself
on board a rudderless vessel, and often the desperate thing she does is
to avoid perishing! Ten months, or eleven, some say, following the
proclamation of the marriage-tie, a son was born to Countess Fanny, close
by the castle of Chillon-on-the-lake, and he had the name of Chillon
Switzer John Kirby given to him to celebrate the fact.
Two years later the girl was born, and for the reason of her first seeing
the light in that Austrian province, she was christened Carinthia Jane.
She was her old father's pet; but Countess Fanny gloried in the boy. She
had fancied she would be a childless woman before he gave sign of coming;
and they say she wrote a little volume of Meditations in Prospect of
Approaching Motherhood, for the guidance of others in a similar
I have never been able to procure the book or pamphlet, but I know she
was the best of mothers, and of wives too. And she, with her old
husband, growing like a rose out of a weather-beaten rock, proved she was
that, among those handsome foreign officers poorly remarkable for their
morals. Not once had the Old Buccaneer to teach them a lesson. Think of
it and you will know that her feet did not stray--nor did her pretty
eyes. Her heart was too full for the cravings of vanity. Innocent
ladies who get their husbands into scrapes are innocent, perhaps; but
knock you next door in their bosoms, where the soul resides, and ask for
information of how innocence and uncleanness may go together. Kirby
purchased a mine in Carinthia, on the borders of Styria, and worked it
himself. His native land displeased him, so that he would not have been
unwilling to see Chillon enter the Austrian service, which the young man
was inclined for, subsequent to his return to his parents from one of the
English public schools, notwithstanding his passionate love for Old
England. But Lord Levellier explained the mystery in a letter to his
half-forgiven sister, praising the boy for his defence of his mother's
name at the school, where a big brutal fellow sneered at her, and Chillon
challenged him to sword or pistol; and then he walked down to the boy's
home in Staffordshire to force him to fight; and the father of the boy
made him offer an apology. That was not much balm to Master Chillon's
wound. He returned to his mother quite heavy, unlike a young man; and
the unhappy lady, though she knew, him to be bitterly sensitive on the
point of honour, and especially as to everything relating to her, saw
herself compelled to tell him the history of her life, to save him, as
she thought, from these chivalrous vindications of her good name. She
may have even painted herself worse than she was, both to excuse her
brother's miserliness to her son and the world's evil speaking of her.
Wisely or not, she chose this course devotedly to protect him from the
perils she foresaw in connection with the name of the once famous
Countess Fanny in the British Isles. And thus are we stricken by the
days of our youth. It is impossible to moralize conveniently when one is
being hurried by a person at one's elbow.
So the young man heard his mother out and kissed her, and then he went
secretly to Vienna and enlisted and served for a year as a private in the
regiment of Hussars, called, my papers tell me, Liechtenstein, and what
with his good conduct and the help of Kirby's friends, he would have
obtained a commission from the emperor, when, at the right moment to keep
a sprig of Kirby's growth for his country, Lord Levellier sent word that
he was down for a cornetcy in a British regiment of dragoons. Chillon
came home from a garrison town, and there was a consultation about his
future career. Shall it be England? Shall it be Austria? Countess
Fanny's voice was for England, and she carried the vote, knowing though
she did that it signified separation, and it might be alienation--where
her son would chance to hear things he could not refute. She believed
that her son by such a man as Kirby would be of use to his country, and
her voice, against herself, was for England.
It broke her heart. If she failed to receive the regular letter, she
pined and was disconsolate. He has heard more of me! was in her mind.
Her husband sat looking at her with his old large grey glassy eyes. You
would have fancied him awaiting her death as the signal for his own
release. But she, poor mother, behind her weeping lids beheld her son's
filial love of her wounded and bleeding. When there was anything to be
done for her, old Kirby was astir. When it was nothing, either in physic
or assistance, he was like a great corner of rock. You may indeed
imagine grief in the very rock that sees its flower fading to the
withered shred. On the last night of her life this old man of past
ninety carried her in his arms up a flight of stairs to her bed.
A week after her burial, Kirby was found a corpse in the mountain forest.
His having called the death of his darling his lightning-stroke must have
been the origin of the report that he died of lightning. He touched not
a morsel of food from the hour of the dropping of the sod on her coffin
of ebony wood. An old crust of their mahogany bread, supposed at first
to be a specimen of quartz, was found in one of his coat pockets. He
kissed his girl Carinthia before going out on his last journey from home,
and spoke some wandering words. The mine had not been worked for a year.
She thought she would find him at the mouth of the shaft, where he would
sometimes be sitting and staring, already dead at heart with the death he
saw coming to the beloved woman. They had to let her down with ropes,
that she might satisfy herself he was not below. She and her great dog
and a faithful man-servant discovered the body in the forest. Chillon
arrived from England to see the common grave of both his parents.
And now good-bye to sorrow for a while. Keep your tears for the living.
And first I am going to describe to you the young Earl of Fleetwood, son
of the strange Welsh lady, the richest nobleman of his time, and how he
persued and shunned the lady who had fascinated him, Henrietta, the
daughter of Commodore Baldwin Fakenham; and how he met Carinthia Jane;
and concerning that lovely Henrietta and Chillon Kirby-Levellier; and of
the young poet of ordinary parentage, and the giant Captain Abrane, and
Livia the widowed Countess of Fleetwood, Henrietta's cousin, daughter of
Curtis Fakenham; and numbers of others; Lord Levellier, Lord Brailstone,
Lord Simon Pitscrew, Chumley Potts, young Ambrose Mallard; and the
English pugilist, such a man of honour though he drank; and the
adventures of Madge, Carinthia Jane's maid. Just a few touches. And
then the marriage dividing Great Britain into halves, taking sides.
After that, I trust you may go on, as I would carry you were we all
twenty years younger, had I but sooner been in possession of these
treasured papers. I promise you excitement enough, if justice is done to
them. But I must and will describe the wedding. This young Earl of
Fleetwood, you should know, was a very powder-magazine of ambition, and
never would he break his word: which is right, if we are properly
careful; and so he--
She ceases. According to the terms of the treaty, the venerable lady's
time has passed. An extinguisher descends on her, giving her the
likeness of one under condemnation of 'the Most Holy Inqusition, in the
ranks of an 'auto da fe'; and singularly resembling that victim at the
first sharp bite of the flames she will, be when she hears the version of
MORNING AND FAREWELL TO AN OLD HOME
Brother and sister were about to leave the mountainland for England.
They had not gone to bed overnight, and from the windows of their
deserted home, a little before dawn, they saw the dwindled moon, a late
riser, break through droves of hunted cloud, directly topping their
ancient guardian height, the triple peak and giant of the range,
friendlier in his name than in aspect for the two young people clinging
to the scene they were to quit. His name recalled old-days: the
apparition of his head among the heavens drummed on their sense of
To the girl, this was a division of her life, and the dawn held the
sword. She felt herself midswing across a gulf that was the grave of one
half, without a light of promise for the other. Her passionate excess of
attachment to her buried home robbed the future of any colours it might
have worn to bid a young heart quicken. And England, though she was of
British blood, was a foreign place to her, not alluring: her brother had
twice come out of England reserved in speech; her mother's talk of
England had been unhappy; her father had suffered ill-treatment there
from a brutal institution termed the Admiralty, and had never regretted
the not seeing England again. The thought that she was bound thitherward
enfolded her like a frosty mist. But these bare walls, these loud
floors, chill rooms, dull windows, and the vault-sounding of the ghostly
house, everywhere the absence of the faces in the house told her she had
no choice, she must go. The appearance of her old friend the towering
mountain-height, up a blue night-sky, compelled her swift mind to see
herself far away, yearning to him out of exile, an exile that had no
local features; she would not imagine them to give a centre of warmth,
her wilful grief preferred the blank. It resembled death in seeming some
hollowness behind a shroud, which we shudder at.
The room was lighted by a stable-lantern on a kitchen-table. Their seat
near the window was a rickety garden-bench rejected in the headlong sale
of the furniture; and when she rose, unable to continue motionless while
the hosts of illuminated cloud flew fast, she had to warn her brother to
preserve his balance. He tacitly did so, aware of the necessity.
She walked up and down the long seven-windowed saloon, haunted by her
footfall, trying to think, chafing at his quietness and acknowledging
that he did well to be quiet. They had finished their packing of boxes
and of wearing-apparel for the journey. There was nothing to think of,
nothing further to talk of, nothing for her to do save to sit and look,
and deaden her throbs by counting them. She soon returned to her seat
beside her brother, with the marvel in her breast that the house she
desired so much to love should be cold and repel her now it was a vacant
shell. Her memories could not hang within it anywhere. She shut her
eyes to be with the images of the dead, conceiving the method as her
brother's happy secret, and imitated his posture, elbows propped on knees
to support the chin. His quietness breathed of a deeper love than her
Meanwhile the high wind had sunk; the moon, after pushing her withered
half to the zenith, was climbing the dusky edge, revealed fitfully;
threads and wisps of thin vapour travelled along a falling gale, and
branched from the dome of the sky in migratory broken lines, like wild
birds shifting the order of flight, north and east, where the dawn sat in
a web, but as yet had done no more than shoot up a glow along the central
heavens, in amid the waves of deepened aloud: a mirror for night to see
her dark self in her own hue. A shiver between the silent couple pricked
their wits, and she said:
'Chillon, shall we run out and call the morning?'
It was an old game of theirs, encouraged by their hearty father, to be
out in the early hour on a rise of ground near the house and 'call the
morning.' Her brother was glad of the challenge, and upon one of the
yawns following a sleepless night, replied with a return to boyishness:
'Yes, if you like. It's the last time we shall do her the service here.
They sprang up together and the bench fell behind them. Swinging the
lantern he carried inconsiderately, the ring of it was left on his
finger, and the end of candle rolled out of the crazy frame to the floor
and was extinguished. Chillon had no match-box. He said to her:
'What do you think of the window?--we've done it before, Carin. Better
than groping down stairs and passages blocked with lumber.'
'I'm ready,' she said, and caught at her skirts by instinct to prove her
readiness on the spot.
A drop of a dozen feet or so from the French window to a flower--bed was
not very difficult. Her father had taught her how to jump, besides the
how of many other practical things. She leaped as lightly as her
brother, never touching earth with her hands; and rising from the proper
contraction of the legs in taking the descent, she quoted her father:
'Mean it when you're doing it.'
'For no enemy's shot is equal to a weak heart in the act,'
Chillon pursued the quotation, laying his hand on her shoulder for a sign
of approval. She looked up at him.
They passed down the garden and a sloping meadow to a brook swollen by
heavy rains; over the brook on a narrow plank, and up a steep and stony
pathway, almost a watercourse, between rocks, to another meadow, level
with the house, that led ascending through a firwood; and there the
change to thicker darkness told them light was abroad, though whether of
the clouded moon or of the first grey of the quiet revolution was
uncertain. Metallic light of a subterranean realm, it might have been
'You remember everything of father,' Carinthia said. 'We both do,' said
She pressed her brother's arm. 'We will. We will never forget
Beyond the firwood light was visibly the dawn's. Half-way down the
ravines it resembled the light cast off a torrent water. It lay on the
grass like a sheet of unreflecting steel, and was a face without a smile
above. Their childhood ran along the tracks to the forest by the light,
which was neither dim nor cold, but grave; presenting tree and shrub and
dwarf growth and grass austerely, not deepening or confusing them. They
wound their way by borders of crag, seeing in a dell below the mouth of
the idle mine begirt with weedy and shrub-hung rock, a dripping semi-
circle. Farther up they came on the flat juniper and crossed a wet
ground-thicket of whortleberry: their feet were in the moist moss among
sprigs of heath; and a great fir-tree stretched his length, a peeled
multitude of his dead fellows leaned and stood upright in the midst of
scattered fire-stained members, and through their skeleton limbs the
sheer precipice of slate-rock of the bulk across the chasm, nursery of
hawk and eagle; wore a thin blue tinge, the sign of warmer light abroad.
'This way, my brother!' cried Carinthia, shuddering at a path he was
about to follow.
Dawn in the mountain-land is a meeting of many friends. The pinnacle,
the forest-head, the latschen-tufted mound, rock-bastion and defiant
cliff and giant of the triple peak, were in view, clearly lined for a
common recognition, but all were figures of solid gloom, unfeatured and
bloomless. Another minute and they had flung off their mail, and changed
to various, indented, intricate, succinct in ridge, scar and channel;
and they had all a look of watchfulness that made them one company.
The smell of rock-waters and roots of herb and moss grew keen; air became
a wine that raised the breast high to breathe it; an uplifting coolness
pervaded the heights. What wonder that the mountain-bred girl should let
fly her voice. The natural carol woke an echo. She did not repeat it.
'And we will not forget our home, Chillon,' she said, touching him gently
to comfort some saddened feeling.
The plumes of cloud now slowly entered into the lofty arch of dawn and
melted from brown to purpleblack. The upper sky swam with violet; and in
a moment each stray cloud-feather was edged with rose, and then suffused.
It seemed that the heights fronted East to eye the interflooding of
colours, and it was imaginable that all turned to the giant whose
forehead first kindled to the sun: a greeting of god and king.
On the morning of a farewell we fluctuate sharply between the very
distant and the close and homely: and even in memory the fluctuation
occurs, the grander scene casting us back on the modestly nestling, and
that, when it has refreshed us, conjuring imagination to embrace the
splendour and wonder. But the wrench of an immediate division from what
we love makes the things within us reach the dearest, we put out our
hands for them, as violently-parted lovers do, though the soul in days to
come would know a craving, and imagination flap a leaden wing, if we had
not looked beyond them.
'Shall we go down?' said Carinthia, for she knew a little cascade near
the house, showering on rock and fern, and longed to have it round her.
They descended, Chillon saying that they would soon have the mists
rising, and must not delay to start on their journey.
The armies of the young sunrise in mountain-lands neighbouring the
plains, vast shadows, were marching over woods and meads, black against
the edge of golden; and great heights were cut with them, and bounding
waters took the leap in a silvery radiance to gloom; the bright and dark-
banded valleys were like night and morning taking hands down the sweep of
their rivers. Immense was the range of vision scudding the peaks and
over the illimitable Eastward plains flat to the very East and sources of
Carinthia said: 'When I marry I shall come here to live and die.'
Her brother glanced at her. He was fond of her, and personally he liked
her face; but such a confident anticipation of marriage on the part of a
portionless girl set him thinking of the character of her charms and the
attraction they would present to the world of men. They were expressive
enough; at times he had thought them marvellous in their clear cut of the
animating mind.--No one could fancy her handsome; and just now her hair
was in some disorder, a night without sleep had an effect on her
'It's not usually the wife who decides where to live,' said he.
Her ideas were anywhere but with the dream of a husband. 'Could we stay
on another day?--'
'My dear girl! Another night on that crazy stool! 'Besides, Mariandl is
bound to go to-day to her new place, and who's to cook for us? Do you
propose fasting as well as watching?'
'Could I cook?' she asked him humbly.
'No, you couldn't; not for a starving regiment! Your accomplishments are
of a different sort. No, it's better to get over the pain at once, if we
can't escape it.
'That I think too,' said she, 'and we should have to buy provisions.
Then, brother, instantly after breakfast. Only, let us walk it. I know
the whole way, and it is not more than a two days' walk for you and me.
Consent. Driving would be like going gladly. I could never bear to
remember that I was driven away.
And walking will save money; we are not rich, you tell me, brother.'
'A few florins more or less!' he rejoined, rather frowning. 'You have
good Styrian boots, I see. But I want to be over at the Baths there
soon; not later than to-morrow.'
'But, brother, if they know we are coming they will wait for us. And we
can be there to-morrow night or the next morning!'
He considered it. He wanted exercise and loved this mountain-land; his
inclinations melted into hers; though he had reasons for hesitating.
'Well, we'll send on my portmanteau and your boxes in the cart; we'll
walk it. You're a capital walker, you're a gallant comrade; I wouldn't
wish for a better.' He wondered, as he spoke, whether any true-hearted
gentleman besides himself would ever think the same of this lonely girl.
Her eyes looked a delighted 'No-really?' for the sweetest on earth to her
was to be prized by her brother.
She hastened forward. 'We will go down and have our last meal at home,'
she said in the dialect of the country. 'We have five eggs. No meat for
you, dear, but enough bread and butter, some honey left, and plenty of
coffee. I should like to have left old Mariandl more, but we are unable
to do very much for poor people now. Milk, I cannot say. She is just
the kind soul to be up and out to fetch us milk for an early first
breakfast; but she may have overslept herself.'
Chillon smiled. 'You were right, Janet', about not going to bed last
night; we might have missed the morning.'
'I hate sleep: I hate anything that robs me of my will,' she replied.
'You'd be glad of your doses of sleep if you had to work and study.'
'To fall down by the wayside tired out--yes, brother, a dead sleep is
good. Then you are in the hands of God. Father used to say, four hours
for a man, six for a woman.'
'And four and twenty for a lord,' added Chillon. 'I remember.'
'A lord of that Admiralty,' she appealed to his closer recollection.
'But I mean, brother, dreaming is what I detest so.'
'Don't be detesting, my dear; reserve your strength,' said he. 'I suppose
dreams are of some use, now and then.'
'I shall never think them useful.'
'When we can't get what we want, my good Carin.'
'Then we should not waste ourselves in dreams.'
'They promise falsely sometimes. That's no reason why we should reject
the consolation when we can't get what we want, my little sister.'
'I would not be denied.'
'There's the impossible.'
'Not for you, brother.'
Perhaps a half-minute after she had spoken, he said, 'pursuing a dialogue
within himself aloud rather than revealing a secret: 'You don't know her
Carinthia's heart stopped beating. Who was this person suddenly conjured
She fancied she might not have heard correctly; she feared to ask and yet
she perceived a novel softness in him that would have answered. Pain of
an unknown kind made her love of her brother conscious that if she asked
she would suffer greater pain.
The house was in sight, a long white building with blinds down at some of
the windows, and some wide open, some showing unclean glass: the three
aspects and signs of a house's emptiness when they are seen together.
Carinthia remarked on their having met nobody. It had a serious meaning
for them. Formerly they were proud of outstripping the busy population
of the mine, coming down on them with wild wavings and shouts of sunrise.
They felt the death again, a whole field laid low by one stroke, and
wintriness in the season of glad life. A wind had blown and all had
The second green of the year shot lively sparkles off the meadows, from a
fringe of coloured glovelets to a warm silver lake of dews. The firwood
was already breathing rich and sweet in the sun. The half-moon fell
rayless and paler than the fan of fleeces pushed up Westward, high
overhead, themselves dispersing on the blue in downy feathers, like the
mottled grey of an eagle's breast: the smaller of them bluish like traces
of the beaked wood-pigeon.
She looked above, then below on the slim and straightgrown flocks of
naked purple crocuses in bud and blow abounding over the meadow that
rolled to the level of the house, and two of these she gathered.
A MOUNTAIN WALK IN MIST AND SUNSHINE
Chillon was right in his forecast of the mists. An over-moistened earth
steaming to the sun obscured it before the two had finished breakfast,
which was a finish to everything eatable in the ravaged dwelling, with
the exception of a sly store for the midday meal, that old Mariandl had
stuffed into Chillon's leather sack--the fruit of secret begging on their
behalf about the neighbourhood. He found the sack heavy and bulky as he
slung it over his shoulders; but she bade him make nothing of such a
trifle till he had it inside him. 'And you that love tea so, my pretty
one, so that you always laughed and sang after drinking a cup with your
mother,' she said to Carinthia, 'you will find one pinch of it in your
bag at the end of the left-foot slipper, to remember your home by when
you are out in the world.'
She crossed the strap of the bag on her mistress's bosom, and was
embraced by Carinthia and Chillon in turns, Carinthia telling her to dry
her eyes, for that she would certainly come back and perhaps occupy the
house one day or other. The old soul moaned of eyes that would not be
awake to behold her; she begged a visit at her grave, though it was to be
in a Catholic burial-place and the priests had used her dear master and
mistress ill, not allowing them to lie in consecrated ground; affection
made her a champion of religious tolerance and a little afraid of
retribution. Carinthia soothed her, kissed her, gave the promise, and
the parting was over.
She and Chillon had on the previous day accomplished a pilgrimage to the
resting-place of their father and mother among humble Protestants, iron-
smelters, in a valley out of the way of their present line of march to
the glacier of the great snow-mountain marking the junction of three
Alpine provinces of Austria. Josef, the cart-driver with the boxes, who
was to pass the valley, vowed of his own accord to hang a fresh day's
wreath on the rails. He would not hear of money for the purchase, and
they humoured him. The family had been beloved. There was an offer of a
home for Carinthia in the castle of Count Lebern, a friend of her
parents, much taken with her, and she would have accepted it had not
Chillon overruled her choice, determined that, as she was English, she
must come to England and live under the guardianship of her uncle, Lord
Levellier, of whose character he did not speak.
The girl's cheeks were drawn thin and her lips shut as they departed;
she was tearless. A phantom ring of mist accompanied her from her first
footing outside the house. She did not look back. The house came
swimming and plunging after her, like a spectral ship on big seas, and
her father and mother lived and died in her breast; and now they were
strong, consulting, chatting, laughing, caressing; now still and white,
caught by a vapour that dived away with them either to right or left, but
always with the same suddenness, leaving her to question herself whether
she existed, for more of life seemed to be with their mystery than with
her speculations. The phantom ring of mist enclosing for miles the
invariable low-sweeping dark spruce-fir kept her thoughts on them as
close as the shroud. She walked fast, but scarcely felt that she was
moving. Near midday the haunted circle widened; rocks were loosely
folded in it, and heads of trees, whose round intervolving roots grasped
the yellow roadside soil; the mists shook like a curtain, and partly
opened and displayed a tapestry-landscape, roughly worked, of woollen
crag and castle and suggested glen, threaded waters, very prominent
foreground, Autumn flowers on banks; a predominant atmospheric greyness.
The sun threw a shaft, liquid instead of burning, as we see his beams
beneath a wave; and then the mists narrowed again, boiled up the valleys
and streams above the mountain, curled and flew, and were Python coils
pierced by brighter arrows of the sun. A spot of blue signalled his
To look at it was to fancy they had been walking under water and had now
risen to the surface. Carinthia's mind stepped out of the chamber of
death. The different air and scene breathed into her a timid warmth
toward the future, and between her naming of the lesser mountains on
their side of the pass, she asked questions relating to England, and
especially the ladies she was to see at the Baths beyond the glacier-
pass. She had heard of a party of his friends awaiting him there,
without much encouragement from him to ask particulars of them,
and she had hitherto abstained, as she was rather shy of meeting her
countrywomen. The ladies, Chillon said, were cousins; one was a young
widow, the Countess of Fleetwood, and the other was Miss Fakenham, a
Carinthia murmured in German: 'Poor soul!' Which one was she pitying?
The widow, she said, in the tone implying, naturally.
Her brother assured her the widow was used to it, for this was her second
'She marries again!' exclaimed the girl.
'You don't like that idea?' said he.
Carinthia betrayed a delicate shudder.
Her brother laughed to himself at her expressive present tense. 'And
marries again!' he said. 'There will certainly be a third.'
'Husband?' said she, as at the incredible.
'Husband, let's hope,' he answered.
She dropped from her contemplation of the lady, and her look at her
brother signified: It will not be you!
Chillon was engaged in spying for a place where he could spread out the
contents of his bag. Sharp hunger beset them both at the mention of
eating. A bank of sloping green shaded by a chestnut proposed the seat,
and here he relieved the bag of a bottle of wine, slices of, meat, bread,
hard eggs, and lettuce, a chipped cup to fling away after drinking the
wine, and a supply of small butler-cakes known to be favourites with
Carinthia. She reversed the order of the feast by commencing upon one of
the cakes, to do honour to Mariandl's thoughtfulness. As at their
breakfast, they shared the last morsel.
'But we would have made it enough for our dear old dog Pluto as well, if
he had lived,' said Carinthia, sighing with her thankfulness and
compassionate regrets, a mixture often inspiring a tender babbling
melancholy. 'Dogs' eyes have such a sick look of love. He might have
lived longer, though he was very old, only he could not survive the loss
of father. I know the finding of the body broke his heart. He sprang
forward, he stopped and threw up his head. It was human language to hear
him, Chillon. He lay in the yard, trying to lift his eyes when I came to
him, they were so heavy; and he had not strength to move his poor old
tail more than once. He died with his head on my lap. He seemed to beg
me, and I took him, and he breathed twice, and that was his end. Pluto!
old dog! Well, for you or for me, brother, we could not have a better
wish. As for me, death! . . . When we know we are to die! Only let
my darling live! that is my prayer, and that we two may not be separated
till I am taken to their grave. Father bought ground for four--his wife
and himself and his two children. It does not oblige us to be buried
there, but could we have any other desire?'
She stretched her hand to her brother. He kissed it spiritedly.
'Look ahead, my dear girl. Help me to finish this wine. There 's
nothing like good hard walking to give common wine of the country a
flavour--and out of broken crockery.'
'I think it so good,' Carinthia replied, after drinking from the cup.
'In England they, do not grow wine. Are the people there kind?'
'They're civilized people, of course.'
'Kind--warm to you, Chillon?'
'Some of them, when you know them. "Warm," is hardly the word. Winter's
warm on skates. You must do a great deal for yourself. They don't boil
over. By the way, don't expect much of your uncle.'
'Will he not love me?'
'He gives you a lodging in his house, and food enough, we'll hope. You
won't see company or much of him.'
'I cannot exist without being loved. I do not care for company. He must
love me a little.'
'He is one of the warm-hearted race--he's mother's brother; but where his
heart is, I 've not discovered.
Bear with him just for the present, my dear, till I am able to support
'I will,' she said.
The dreary vision of a home with an unloving uncle was not brightened by
the alternative of her brother's having to support her. She spoke of
money. 'Have we none, Chillon?'
'We have no debts,' he answered. 'We have a claim on the Government here
for indemnification for property taken to build a fortress upon one of
the passes into Italy. Father bought the land, thinking there would be a
yield of ore thereabout; and they have seized it, rightly enough, but
they dispute our claim for the valuation we put on it. A small sum they
would consent to pay. It would be a very small sum, and I 'm father's
son, I will have justice.'
'Yes!' Carthinia joined with him to show the same stout nature.
'We have nothing else except a bit to toss up for luck.'
'And how can I help being a burden on my brother?' she inquired, in
'Marry, and be a blessing to a husband,' he said lightly.
They performed a sacrifice of the empty bottle and cracked cup on the
site of their meal, as if it had been a ceremony demanded from
travellers, and leaving them in fragments, proceeded on their journey
Walking was now high enjoyment, notwithstanding the force of the sun, for
they were a hardy couple, requiring no more than sufficient nourishment
to combat the elements with an exulting blood. Besides they loved
mountain air and scenery, and each step to the ridge of the pass they
climbed was an advance in splendour. Peaks of ashen hue and pale dry red
and pale sulphur pushed up, straight, forked, twisted, naked, striking
their minds with an indeterminate ghostliness of Indian, so strange they
were in shape and colouring. These sharp points were the first to greet
them between the blue and green. A depression of the pass to the left
gave sight of the points of black fir forest below, round the girths of
the barren shafts. Mountain blocks appeared pushing up in front, and a
mountain wall and woods on it, and mountains in the distance, and cliffs
riven with falls of water that were silver skeins, down lower to meadows,
villages and spires, and lower finally to the whole valley of the foaming
river, field and river seeming in imagination rolled out from the hand of
the heading mountain.
'But see this in winter, as I did with father, Chillon!' said Carinthia.
She said it upon love's instinct to halo the scene with something beyond
present vision, and to sanctify it for her brother, so that this walk of
theirs together should never be forgotten.
A smooth fold of cloud, moveless along one of the upper pastures, and
still dense enough to be luminous in sunlight, was the last of the mist.
They watched it lying in the form of a fish, leviathan diminished, as
they descended their path; and the head was lost, the tail spread
peacockwise, and evaporated slowly in that likeness; and soft to a breath
of air as gossamer down, the body became a ball, a cock, a little lizard,
The bluest bright day of the year was shining. Chillon led the descent.
With his trim and handsome figure before her, Carinthia remembered the
current saying, that he should have been the girl and she the boy. That
was because he resembled their mother in face. But the build of his
limbs and shoulders was not feminine.
To her admiring eyes, he had a look superior to simple strength and
grace; the look of a great sky-bird about to mount, a fountain-like
energy of stature, delightful to her contemplation. And he had the mouth
women put faith in for decision and fixedness. She did, most fully; and
reflecting how entirely she did so, the thought assailed her: some one
must be loving him!
She allowed it to surprise her, not choosing to revert to an uneasy
sensation of the morning.
That some one, her process of reasoning informed her, was necessarily an
English young lady. She reserved her questions till they should cease
this hopping and heeling down the zigzag of the slippery path-track.
When children they had been collectors of beetles and butterflies, and
the flying by of a 'royal-mantle,' the purple butterfly grandly fringed,
could still remind Carinthia of the event it was of old to spy and chase
one. Chillon himself was not above the sentiment of their "very early
days"; he stopped to ask if she had been that lustrous blue-wing, a rarer
species, prized by youngsters, shoot through the chestnut trees: and they
both paused for a moment, gazing into the fairyland of infancy, she
seeing with her brother's eyes, this prince of the realm having escaped
her. He owned he might have been mistaken, as the brilliant fellow flew
swift and high between leaves, like an ordinary fritillary. Not the less
did they get their glimpse of the wonders in the sunny eternity of a
'An Auerhahn, Chillon!' she said, picturing the maturer day when she had
scaled perilous heights with him at night to stalk the blackcock in the
prime of the morning. She wished they could have had another such
adventure to stamp the old home on his heart freshly, to tile exclusion
of beautiful English faces.
On the level of the valley, where they met the torrent-river, walking
side by side with him, she ventured an inquiry: 'English girls are fair
girls, are they not?'
'There are some dark also,' he replied.
'But the best-looking are fair?'
'Perhaps they are, with us.'
'Mother was fair.'
'I have only seen a few of them, once at Vies and at Venice, and those
Baths we are going to; and at Meran, I think.'
'You considered them charming?'
It was touching that she should be such a stranger to her countrywomen!
He drew a portrait-case from his breast-pocket, pressing the spring,
and handed it to her, saying: 'There is one.' He spoke indifferently,
but as soon as she had seen the face inside it, with a look at him and a
deep breath; she understood that he was an altered brother, and that they
were three instead of two.
She handed it back to him, saying hushedly and only 'Yes.'
He did not ask an opinion upon the beauty she had seen. His pace
increased, and she hastened her steps beside him. She had not much to
learn when some minutes later she said; 'Shall I see her, Chillon?'
'She is one of the ladies we are to meet.'
'What a pity!' Carinthia stepped faster, enlightened as to his wish to
get to the Baths without delay; and her heart softened in reflecting how
readily he had yielded to her silly preference for going on foot.
Her cry of regret was equivocal; it produced no impression on him. They
reached a village where her leader deemed it adviseable to drive for the
remainder of the distance up the valley to the barrier snow-mountain.
She assented instantly, she had no longer any active wishes of her own,
save to make amends to her brother, who was and would ever be her
brother: she could not be robbed of their relationship.
Something undefined in her feeling of possession she had been robbed of,
she knew it by her spiritlessness; and she would fain have attributed it
to the idle motion of the car, now and them stupidly jolting her on,
after the valiant exercise of her limbs. They were in a land of
waterfalls and busy mills, a narrowing vale where the runs of grass grew
short and wild, and the glacier-river roared for the leap, more foam than
water, and the savagery, naturally exciting to her, breathed of its lair
among the rocks and ice-fields.
Her brother said: 'There he is.' She saw the whitecrowned king of the
region, of whose near presence to her old home she had been accustomed to
think proudly, end she looked at him without springing to him, and
continued imaging her English home and her loveless uncle, merely
admiring the scene, as if the fire of her soul had been extinguished.--
'Marry, and be a blessing to a husband.' Chillon's words whispered of
the means of escape from the den of her uncle.
But who would marry me! she thought. An unreproved sensation of melting
pervaded her; she knew her capacity for gratitude, and conjuring it up in
her 'heart, there came with it the noble knightly gentleman who would
really stoop to take a plain girl by the hand, release her, and say: 'Be
mine!' His vizor was down, of course. She had no power of imagining the
lineaments of that prodigy. Or was he a dream? He came and went. Her
mother, not unkindly, sadly, had counted her poor girl's chances of
winning attention and a husband. Her father had doated on her face; but,
as she argued, her father had been attracted by her mother, a beautiful
woman, and this was a circumstance that reflected the greater
hopelessness on her prospects. She bore a likeness to her father,
little to her mother, though he fancied the reverse and gave her the
mother's lips and hair. Thinking of herself, however, was destructive
to the form of her mirror of knightliness: he wavered, he fled for good,
as the rosy vapour born of our sensibility must do when we relapse to
coldness, and the more completely when we try to command it. No, she
thought, a plain girl should think of work, to earn her independence.
'Women are not permitted to follow armies, Chillon?' she said.
He laughed out. 'What 's in your head?'
The laugh abashed her; she murmured of women being good nurses for
wounded soldiers, if they were good walkers to march with the army; and,
as evidently it sounded witless to him, she added, to seem reasonable:
'You have not told me the Christian names of those ladies.'
He made queer eyes over the puzzle to connect the foregoing and the
succeeding in her remarks, but answered straightforwardly: 'Livia is one,
Her ear seized on the stress of his voice. 'Henrietta!' She chose that
name for the name of the person disturbing her; it fused best, she
thought, with the new element she had been compelled to take into her
system, to absorb it if she could.
'You're not scheming to have them serve as army hospital nurses, my
'You can't explain it, I suppose?'
'A sister could go too, when you go to war, Chillon.'
A sister could go, if it were permitted by the authorities, and be near
her brother to nurse him in case of wounds; others would be unable to
claim the privilege. That was her meaning, involved with the hazy
project of earning an independence; but she could not explain it, and
Chillon set her down for one of the inexplicable sex, which the simple
adventurous girl had not previously seemed to be.
She was inwardly warned of having talked foolishly, and she held her
tongue. Her humble and modest jealousy, scarce deserving the title,
passed with a sigh or two. It was her first taste of life in the world.
A fit of heavy-mindedness ensued, that heightened the contrast her recent
mood had bequeathed, between herself, ignorant as she was, and those
ladies. Their names, Livia and Henrietta, soared above her and sang the
music of the splendid spheres. Henrietta was closer to earth, for her
features had been revealed; she was therefore the dearer, and the richer
for him who loved her, being one of us, though an over-earthly one; and
Carinthia gave her to Chillon, reserving for herself a handmaiden's place
within the circle of their happiness.
This done, she sat straight in the car. It was toiling up the steep
ascent of a glen to the mountain village, the last of her native
province. Her proposal to walk was accepted, and the speeding of her
blood, now that she had mastered a new element in it, soon restored her
to her sisterly affinity with natural glories. The sunset was on yonder
side of the snows. Here there was a feast of variously-tinted sunset
shadows on snow, meadows, rock, river, serrated cliff. The peaked cap of
the rushing rock-dotted sweeps of upward snow caught a scarlet
illumination: one flank of the white in heaven was violetted wonderfully.
At nightfall, under a clear black sky, alive with wakeful fires round
head and breast of the great Alp, Chillon and Carinthia strolled out of
the village, and he told her some of his hopes. They referred to
inventions of destructive weapons, which were primarily to place his
country out of all danger from a world in arms; and also, it might be
mentioned, to bring him fortune. 'For I must have money!' he said,
sighing it out like a deliberate oath. He and his uncle were associated
in the inventions. They had an improved rocket that would force military
chiefs to change their tactics: they had a new powder, a rifle, a model
musket--the latter based on his own plans; and a scheme for fortress
artillery likely to turn the preponderance in favour of the defensive
once again. 'And that will be really doing good,' said Chillon, 'for
where it's with the offensive, there's everlasting bullying and
Carinthia warmly agreed with him, but begged him be sure his uncle
divided the profits equally. She discerned what his need of money
Tenderness urged her to say: 'Henrietta! Chillon.'
'Well?' he answered quickly.
'Will she wait?'
'Can she, you should ask.'
'Is she brave?'
'Who can tell, till she has been tried?'
'Is she quite free?'
'She has not yet been captured.'
'Brother, is there no one else . . . ?'
'There's a nobleman anxious to bestow his titles on her.'
'He is rich?'
'The first or second wealthiest in Great Britain, they say.'
'Is he young?'
'About the same age as mine.'
'Is he a handsome young man?'
'Handsomer than your brother, my girl.'
'No, no, no !' said she. 'And what if he is, and your Henrietta does not
choose him? Now let me think what I long to think. I have her close to
She rocked a roseate image on her heart and went to bed with it by
By starlight they sprang to their feet and departed the next morning, in
the steps of a guide carrying, Chillon said, 'a better lantern than we
left behind us at the smithy.'
'Father!' exclaimed Carinthia on her swift inward breath, for this one of
the names he had used to give to her old home revived him to her thoughts
and senses fervently.
THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHER
Three parts down a swift decline of shattered slate, where travelling
stones loosened from rows of scree hurl away at a bound after one roll
over, there sat a youth dusty and torn, nursing a bruised leg, not in the
easiest of postures, on a sharp tooth of rock, that might at any moment
have broken from the slanting slab at the end of which it formed a stump,
and added him a second time to the general crumble of the mountain. He
had done a portion of the descent in excellent imitation of the detached
fragments, and had parted company with his alpenstock and plaid;
preserving his hat and his knapsack. He was alone, disabled, and
cheerful; in doubt of the arrival of succour before he could trust his
left leg to do him further service unaided; but it was morning still, the
sun was hot, the air was cool; just the tempering opposition to render
existence pleasant as a piece of vegetation, especially when there has
been a question of your ceasing to exist; and the view was of a
sustaining sublimity of desolateness: crag and snow overhead; a gloomy
vale below; no life either of bird or herd; a voiceless region where
there had once been roars at the bowling of a hill from a mountain to the
deep, and the third flank of the mountain spoke of it in the silence.
He would have enjoyed the scene unremittingly, like the philosopher he
pretended to be, in a disdain of civilization and the ambitions of men,
had not a contest with earth been forced on him from time to time to keep
the heel of his right foot, dug in shallow shale, fixed and supporting.
As long as it held he was happy and maintained the attitude of a guitar-
player, thrumming the calf of the useless leg to accompany tuneful
thoughts, but the inevitable lapse and slide of the foot recurred, and
the philosopher was exhibited as an infant learning to crawl. The seat,
moreover, not having been fashioned for him or for any soft purpose,
resisted his pressure and became a thing of violence, that required to be
humiliatingly coaxed. His last resource to propitiate it was counselled
by nature turned mathematician: tenacious extension solved the problem;
he lay back at his length, and with his hat over his eyes consented to
see nothing for the sake of comfort. Thus he was perfectly rational,
though when others beheld him he appeared the insanest of mortals.
A girl's voice gave out the mountain carol ringingly above. His heart
and all his fancies were in motion at the sound. He leaned on an elbow
to listen; the slide threatened him, and he resumed his full stretch,
determined to take her for a dream. He was of the class of youths who,
in apprehension that their bright season may not be permanent, choose to
fortify it by a systematic contempt of material realities unless they
come in the fairest of shapes, and as he was quite sincere in this
feeling and election of the right way to live, disappointment and
sullenness overcame him on hearing men's shouts and steps; despite his
helpless condition he refused to stir, for they had jarred on his dream.
Perhaps his temper, unknown to himself, had been a little injured by his
mishap, and he would not have been sorry to charge them with want of
common humanity in passing him; or he did not think his plight so bad,
else he would have bawled after them had they gone by: far the youths of
his description are fools only upon system,--however earnestly they
indulge the present self-punishing sentiment. The party did not pass;
they stopped short, they consulted, and a feminine tongue more urgent
than the others, and very musical, sweet to hear anywhere, put him in
tune. She said, 'Brother! brother!' in German. Our philosopher flung
off his hat.
'You see!' said the lady's brother.
'Ask him, Anton,'she said to their guide.
'And quick!' her brother added.
The guide scrambled along to him, and at a closer glance shouted: 'The
Englishman!' wheeling his finger to indicate what had happened to the
His master called to know if there were broken bones, as if he could stop
for nothing else.
The cripple was raised. The gentleman and lady made their way to him,
and he tried his hardest to keep from tottering on the slope in her
presence. No injury had been done to the leg; there was only a
stiffness, and an idiotic doubling of the knee, as though at each step
his leg pronounced a dogged negative to the act of walking. He said
something equivalent to 'this donkey leg,' to divert her charitable eyes
from a countenance dancing with ugly twitches. She was the Samaritan. A
sufferer discerns his friend, though it be not the one who physically
assists him: he is inclined by nature to put material aid at a lower mark
than gentleness, and her brief words of encouragement, the tone of their
delivery yet more, were medical to his blood, better help than her
brother's iron arm, he really believed. Her brother and the guide held
him on each side, and she led to pick out the safer footing for him; she
looked round and pointed to some projection that would form a step; she
drew attention to views here and there, to win excuses for his resting;
she did not omit to soften her brother's visible impatience as well, and
this was the art which affected her keenly sensible debtor most.
'I suppose I ought to have taken a guide,' he said.
'There's not a doubt of that,' said Chillon Kirby.
Carinthia halted, leaning on her staff: 'But I had the same wish. They
told us at the inn of an Englishman who left last night to sleep on the
mountain, and would go alone; and did I not say, brother, that must be
true love of the mountains?'
'These freaks get us a bad name on the Continent,' her brother replied.
He had no sympathy with nonsense, and naturally not with a youth who
smelt of being a dreamy romancer and had caused the name of Englishman to
be shouted in his ear in derision. And the fellow might delay his
arrival at the Baths and sight of the lady of his love for hours!
They managed to get him hobbling and slipping to the first green tuft of
the base, where long black tongues of slate-rubble pouring into the
grass, like shore-waves that have spent their burden, seem about to draw
back to bring the mountain down. Thence to the level pasture was but a
few skips performed sliding.
'Well, now,' said Chillon, 'you can stand?'
'Pretty well, I think.' He tried his foot on the ground, and then
stretched his length, saying that it only wanted rest. Anton pressed a
hand at his ankle and made him wince, but the bones were sound, leg and
hip not worse than badly bruised. He was advised by Anton to plant his
foot in the first running water he came to, and he was considerate enough
to say to Chillon
'Now you can leave me; and let me thank you. Half an hour will set me
right. My name is Woodseer, if ever we meet again.'
Chillon nodded a hurried good-bye, without a thought of giving his name
in return. But Carinthia had thrown herself on the grass. Her brother
asked her in dismay if she was tired. She murmured to him: 'I should
like to hear more English.'
'My dear girl, you'll have enough of it in two or three weeks.'
'Should we leave a good deed half done, Chillon?'
'He shall have our guide.'
'He may not be rich.'
'I'll pay Anton to stick to him.'
'Brother, he has an objection to guides.'
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