The Entire Short Works of George Meredith
Part 4 out of 9
Pollington's lawn-party. Some have said, that he should not have
betrayed his daughter; but it is reasonable to suppose he had no idea of
his daughter's being the Psyche. Or if he had, it was indistinct, owing
to the violence of his personal emotion. Assuming this to have been the
very sketch; he handed it to two or three ladies in turn, and was heard
to deliver himself at intervals in the following snatches: 'As you like,
my lady, as you like; strike, I say strike; I bear it; I say I bear it
. . . . If her ladyship is unforgiving, I say I am enduring . . .
I may go, I was saying I may go mad, but while I have my reason I walk
upright, I walk upright.'
Mr. Pollington and certain City gentlemen hearing the poor General's
renewed soliloquies, were seized with disgust of Lady Camper's conduct,
and stoutly advised an application to the Law Courts.
He gave ear to them abstractedly, but after pulling out the whole chapter
of the caricatures (which it seemed that he kept in a case of morocco
leather in his breast-pocket), showing them, with comments on them, and
observing, 'There will be more, there must be more, I say I am sure there
are things I do that her ladyship will discover and expose,' he declined
to seek redress or simple protection; and the miserable spectacle was
exhibited soon after of this courtly man listening to Mrs. Barcop on the
weather, and replying in acquiescence: 'It is hot.--If your ladyship will
only abstain from colours. Very hot as you say, madam,--I do not
complain of pen and ink, but I would rather escape colours. And I dare
say you find it hot too?'
Mrs. Barcop shut her eyes and sighed over the wreck of a handsome
She asked him: 'What is your objection to colours?'
His hand was at his breast-pocket immediately, as he said: 'Have you not
seen?'--though but a few minutes back he had shown her the contents of
the packet, including a hurried glance of the famous digging scene.
By this time the entire district was in fervid sympathy with General
Ople. The ladies did not, as their lords did, proclaim astonishment
that a man should suffer a woman to goad him to a state of semi-lunacy;
but one or two confessed to their husbands, that it required a great
admiration of General Ople not to despise him, both for his
susceptibility and his patience. As for the men, they knew him to have
faced the balls in bellowing battle-strife; they knew him to have endured
privation, not only cold but downright want of food and drink--an almost
unimaginable horror to these brave daily feasters; so they could not
quite look on him in contempt; but his want of sense was offensive, and
still more so his submission to a scourging by a woman. Not one of them
would have deigned to feel it. Would they have allowed her to see that
she could sting them? They would have laughed at her. Or they would
have dragged her before a magistrate.
It was a Sunday in early Summer when General Ople walked to morning
service, unaccompanied by Elizabeth, who was unwell. The church was of
the considerate old-fashioned order, with deaf square pews, permitting
the mind to abstract itself from the sermon, or wrestle at leisure with
the difficulties presented by the preacher, as General Ople often did,
feeling not a little in love with his sincere attentiveness for grappling
with the knotty point and partially allowing the struggle to be seen.
The Church was, besides, a sanctuary for him. Hither his enemy did not
come. He had this one place of refuge, and he almost looked a happy man
He had passed into his hat and out of it, which he habitually did
standing, when who should walk up to within a couple of yards of him
but Lady Camper. Her pew was full of poor people, who made signs of
retiring. She signified to them that they were to sit, then quietly
took her seat among them, fronting the General across the aisle.
During the sermon a low voice, sharp in contradistinction to the monotone
of the preacher's, was heard to repeat these words: 'I say I am not sure
I shall survive it.' Considerable muttering in the same quarter was
After the customary ceremonious game, when all were free to move, of
nobody liking to move first, Lady Camper and a charity boy were the
persons who took the lead. But Lady Camper could not quit her pew, owing
to the sticking of the door. She smiled as with her pretty hand she
twice or thrice essayed to shake it open. General Ople strode to her
aid. He pulled the door, gave the shadow of a respectful bow, and no
doubt he would have withdrawn, had not Lady Camper, while acknowledging
the civility, placed her prayer-book in his hands to carry at her heels.
There was no choice for him. He made a sort of slipping dance back for
his hat, and followed her ladyship. All present being eager to witness
the spectacle, the passage of Lady Camper dragging the victim General
behind her was observed without a stir of the well-dressed members of the
congregation, until a desire overcame them to see how Lady Camper would
behave to her fish when she had him outside the sacred edifice.
None could have imagined such a scene. Lady Camper was in her carriage;
General Ople was holding her prayer-book, hat in hand, at the carriage
step, and he looked as if he were toasting before the bars of a furnace;
for while he stood there, Lady Camper was rapidly pencilling outlines in
a small pocket sketchbook. There are dogs whose shyness is put to it to
endure human observation and a direct address to them, even on the part
of their masters; and these dear simple dogs wag tail and turn their
heads aside waveringly, as though to entreat you not to eye them and talk
to them so. General Ople, in the presence of the sketchbook, was much
like the nervous animal. He would fain have run away. He glanced at it,
and round about, and again at it, and at the heavens. Her ladyship's
cruelty, and his inexplicable submission to it, were witnessed of the
The General's friends walked very slowly. Lady Camper's carriage whirled
by, and the General came up with them, accosting them and himself
alternately. They asked him where Elizabeth was, and he replied,
'Poor child, yes! I am told she is pale, but I cannot, believe I am so
perfectly, I say so perfectly ridiculous, when I join the responses.' He
drew forth half a dozen sheets, and showed them sketches that Lady Camper
had taken in church, caricaturing him in the sitting down and the
standing up. She had torn them out of the book, and presented them to
him when driving off. 'I was saying, worship in the ordinary sense will
be interdicted to me if her ladyship . . .,' said the General, woefully
shuffling the sketch-paper sheets in which he figured.
He made the following odd confession to Mr. and Mrs. Gosling on the
road:--that he had gone to his chest, and taken out his sword-belt to
measure his girth, and found himself thinner than when he left the
service, which had not been the case before his attendance at the last
levee of the foregoing season. So the deduction was obvious, that Lady
Camper had reduced him. She had reduced him as effectually as a
'But why do you pay attention to her? Why . . . !' exclaimed Mr.
Gosling, a gentleman of the City, whose roundness would have turned a
'To allow her to wound you so seriously!' exclaimed Mrs. Gosling.
'Madam, if she were my wife,' the General explained, 'I should feel it.
I say it is the fact of it; I feel it, if I appear so extremely
ridiculous to a human eye, to any one eye.'
'To Lady Camper's eye.'
He admitted it might be that. He had not thought of ascribing the
acuteness of his pain to the miserable image he presented in this
particular lady's eye. No; it really was true, curiously true: another
lady's eye might have transformed him to a pumpkin shape, exaggerated all
his foibles fifty-fold, and he, though not liking it, of course not,
would yet have preserved a certain manly equanimity. How was it Lady
Camper had such power over him?--a lady concealing seventy years with a
rouge-box or paint-pot! It was witchcraft in its worst character. He
had for six months at her bidding been actually living the life of a
beast, degraded in his own esteem; scorched by every laugh he heard;
running, pursued, overtaken, and as it were scored or branded, and then
let go for the process to be repeated.
Our young barbarians have it all their own way with us when they fall
into love-liking; they lead us whither they please, and interest us in
their wishings, their weepings, and that fine performance, their
kissings. But when we see our veterans tottering to their fall, we
scarcely consent to their having a wish; as for a kiss, we halloo at them
if we discover them on a byway to the sacred grove where such things are
supposed to be done by the venerable. And this piece of rank injustice,
not to say impoliteness, is entirely because of an unsound opinion that
Nature is not in it, as though it were our esteem for Nature which caused
us to disrespect them. They, in truth, show her to us discreet,
civilized, in a decent moral aspect: vistas of real life, views of the
mind's eye, are opened by their touching little emotions; whereas those
bully youngsters who come bellowing at us and catch us by the senses
plainly prove either that we are no better than they, or that we give our
attention to Nature only when she makes us afraid of her. If we cared
for her, we should be up and after her reverentially in her sedater
steps, deeply studying her in her slower paces. She teaches them nothing
when they are whirling. Our closest instructors, the true philosophers--
the story-tellers, in short-will learn in time that Nature is not of
necessity always roaring, and as soon as they do, the world may be said
to be enlightened. Meantime, in the contemplation of a pair of white
whiskers fluttering round a pair of manifestly painted cheeks, be assured
that Nature is in it: not that hectoring wanton--but let the young have
their fun. Let the superior interest of the passions of the aged be
conceded, and not a word shall be said against the young.
If, then, Nature is in it, how has she been made active? The reason of
her launch upon this last adventure is, that she has perceived the person
who can supply the virtue known to her by experience to be wanting.
Thus, in the broader instance, many who have journeyed far down the road,
turn back to the worship of youth, which they have lost. Some are for
the graceful worldliness of wit, of which they have just share enough to
admire it. Some are captivated by hands that can wield the rod, which in
earlier days they escaped to their cost. In the case of General Ople, it
was partly her whippings of him, partly her penetration; her ability,
that sat so finely on a wealthy woman, her indifference to conventional
manners, that so well beseemed a nobly-born one, and more than all, her
correction of his little weaknesses and incompetencies, in spite of his
dislike of it, won him. He began to feel a sort of nibbling pleasure in
her grotesque sketches of his person; a tendency to recur to the old ones
while dreading the arrival of new. You hear old gentlemen speak fondly
of the swish; and they are not attached to pain, but the instrument
revives their feeling of youth; and General Ople half enjoyed, while
shrinking, Lady Camper's foregone outlines of him. For in the distance,
the whip's-end may look like a clinging caress instead of a stinging
flick. But this craven melting in his heart was rebuked by a very worthy
pride, that flew for support to the injury she had done to his devotions,
and the offence to the sacred edifice. After thinking over it, he
decided that he must quit his residence; and as it appeared to him in the
light of duty, he, with an unspoken anguish, commissioned the house-agent
of his town to sell his lease or let the house furnished, without further
From the house-agent's shop he turned into the chemist's, for a tonic--
a foolish proceeding, for he had received bracing enough in the blow he
had just dealt himself, but he had been cogitating on tonics recently,
imagining certain valiant effects of them, with visions of a former
careless happiness that they were likely to restore. So he requested to
have the tonic strong, and he took one glass of it over the counter.
Fifteen minutes after the draught, he came in sight of his house, and
beholding it, he could have called it a gentlemanly residence aloud under
Lady Camper's windows, his insurgency was of such violence. He talked of
it incessantly, but forbore to tell Elizabeth, as she was looking pale,
the reason why its modest merits touched him so. He longed for the hour
of his next dose, and for a caricature to follow, that he might drink and
defy it. A caricature was really due to him, he thought; otherwise why
had he abandoned his bijou dwelling? Lady Camper, however, sent none.
He had to wait a fortnight before one came, and that was rather a
likeness, and a handsome likeness, except as regarded a certain
disorderliness in his dress, which he knew to be very unlike him. Still
it despatched him to the looking-glass, to bring that verifier of facts
in evidence against the sketch. While sitting there he heard the
housemaid's knock at the door, and the strange intelligence that his
daughter was with Lady Camper, and had left word that she hoped he would
not forget his engagement to go to Mrs. Baerens' lawn-party.
The General jumped away from the glass, shouting at the absent Elizabeth
in a fit of wrath so foreign to him, that he returned hurriedly to have
another look at himself, and exclaimed at the pitch of his voice, 'I say
I attribute it to an indigestion of that tonic. Do you hear?' The
housemaid faintly answered outside the door that she did, alarming him,
for there seemed to be confusion somewhere. His hope was that no one
would mention Lady Camper's name, for the mere thought of her caused a
rush to his head. 'I believe I am in for a touch of apoplexy,' he said
to the rector, who greeted him, in advance of the ladies, on Mr. Baerens'
lawn. He said it smilingly, but wanting some show of sympathy, instead
of the whisper and meaningless hand at his clerical band, with which the
rector responded, he cried, 'Apoplexy,' and his friend seemed then to
understand, and disappeared among the ladies.
Several of them surrounded the General, and one inquired whether the
series was being continued. He drew forth his pocket-book, handed her
the latest, and remarked on the gross injustice of it; for, as he
requested them to take note, her ladyship now sketched him as a person
inattentive to his dress, and he begged them to observe that she had
drawn him with his necktie hanging loose. 'And that, I say that has
never been known of me since I first entered society.'
The ladies exchanged looks of profound concern; for the fact was, the
General had come without any necktie and any collar, and he appeared to
be unaware of the circumstance. The rector had told them, that in answer
to a hint he had dropped on the subject of neckties, General Ople
expressed a slight apprehension of apoplexy; but his careless or merely
partial observance of the laws of buttonment could have nothing to do
with such fears. They signified rather a disorder of the intelligence.
Elizabeth was condemned for leaving him to go about alone. The situation
was really most painful, for a word to so sensitive a man would drive him
away in shame and for good; and still, to let him parade the ground in
the state, compared with his natural self, of scarecrow, and with the
dreadful habit of talking to himself quite rageing, was a horrible
alternative. Mrs. Baerens at last directed her husband upon the General,
trembling as though she watched for the operations of a fish torpedo; and
other ladies shared her excessive anxiousness, for Mr. Baerens had the
manner and the look of artillery, and on this occasion carried a
surcharge of powder.
The General bent his ear to Mr. Baerens, whose German-English and
repeated remark, 'I am to do it wid delicassy,' did not assist his
comprehension; and when he might have been enlightened, he was petrified
by seeing Lady Camper walk on the lawn with Elizabeth. The great lady
stood a moment beside Mrs. Baerens; she came straight over to him,
contemplating him in silence.
Then she said, 'Your arm, General Ople,' and she made one circuit of the
lawn with him, barely speaking.
At her request, he conducted her to her carriage. He took a seat beside
her, obediently. He felt that he was being sketched, and comported
himself like a child's flat man, that jumps at the pulling of a string.
'Where have you left your girl, General?'
Before he could rally his wits to answer the question, he was asked:
'And what have you done with your necktie and collar?'
He touched his throat.
'I am rather nervous to-day, I forgot Elizabeth,' he said, sending his
fingers in a dotting run of wonderment round his neck.
Lady Camper smiled with a triumphing humour on her close-drawn lips.
The verified absence of necktie and collar seemed to be choking him.
'Never mind, you have been abroad without them,' said Lady Camper, 'and
that is a victory for me. And you thought of Elizabeth first when I drew
your attention to it, and that is a victory for you. It is a very great
victory. Pray, do not be dismayed, General. You have a handsome
campaigning air. And no apologies, if you please; I like you well enough
as you are. There is my hand.'
General Ople understood her last remark. He pressed the lady's hand in
silence, very nervously.
'But do not shrug your head into your shoulders as if there were any
possibility of concealing the thunderingly evident,' said Lady Camper,
electrifying him, what with her cordial squeeze, her kind eyes, and her
singular language. 'You have omitted the collar. Well? The collar is
the fatal finishing touch in men's dress; it would make Apollo look
Her hand was in his: and watching the play of her features, a spark
entered General Ople's brain, causing him, in forgetfulness of collar and
caricatures, to ejaculate, 'Seventy? Did your ladyship say seventy?
Utterly impossible! You trifle with me.'
'We will talk when we are free of this accompaniment of carriage-wheels,
General,' said Lady Camper.
'I will beg permission to go and fetch Elizabeth, madam.'
'Rightly thought of. Fetch her in my carriage. And, by the way, Mrs.
Baerens was my old music-mistress, and is, I think, one year older than
I. She can tell you on which side of seventy I am.'
'I shall not require to ask, my lady,' he said, sighing.
'Then we will send the carriage for Elizabeth, and have it out together
at once. I am impatient; yes, General, impatient: for what?--
'Of me, my lady?' The General breathed profoundly.
'Of whom else? Do you know what it is?-I don't think you do. You
English have the smallest experience of humanity. I mean this: to strike
so hard that, in the end, you soften your heart to the victim. Well,
that is my weakness. And we of our blood put no restraint on the blows
we strike when we think them wanted, so we are always overdoing it.'
General Ople assisted Lady Camper to alight from the carriage, which was
forthwith despatched for Elizabeth.
He prepared to listen to her with a disconnected smile of acute
She had changed. She spoke of money. Ten thousand pounds must be
settled on his daughter. 'And now,' said she, 'you will remember that
you are wanting a collar.'
He acquiesced. He craved permission to retire for ten minutes.
'Simplest of men! what will cover you?' she exclaimed, and peremptorily
bidding him sit down in the drawing-room, she took one of the famous pair
of pistols in her hand, and said, 'If I put myself in a similar position,
and make myself decodletee too, will that satisfy you? You see these
murderous weapons. Well, I am a coward. I dread fire-arms. They are
laid there to impose on the world, and I believe they do. They have
imposed on you. Now, you would never think of pretending to a moral
quality you do not possess. But, silly, simple man that you are! You
can give yourself the airs of wealth, buy horses to conceal your
nakedness, and when you are taken upon the standard of your apparent
income, you would rather seem to be beating a miserly retreat than behave
frankly and honestly. I have a little overstated it, but I am near the
'Your ladyship wanting courage!' cried the General.
'Refresh yourself by meditating on it,' said she. 'And to prove it to
you, I was glad to take this house when I knew I was to have a gallant
gentleman for a neighbour. No visitors will be admitted, General Ople,
so you are bare-throated only to me: sit quietly. One day you speculated
on the paint in my cheeks for the space of a minute and a half:--I had
said that I freckled easily. Your look signified that you really could
not detect a single freckle for the paint. I forgave you, or I did not.
But when I found you, on closer acquaintance, as indifferent to your
daughter's happiness as you had been to her reputation . . .'
'My daughter! her reputation! her happiness !'
General Ople raised his eyes under a wave, half uttering the outcries.
'So indifferent to her reputation, that you allowed a young man to talk
with her over the wall, and meet her by appointment: so reckless of the
girl's happiness, that when I tried to bring you to a treaty, on her
behalf, you could not be dragged from thinking of yourself and your own
affair. When I found that, perhaps I was predisposed to give you some of
what my sisters used to call my spice. You would not honestly state the
proportions of your income, and you affected to be faithful to the woman
of seventy. Most preposterous! Could any caricature of mine exceed in
grotesqueness your sketch of yourself? You are a brave and a generous
man all the same: and I suspect it is more hoodwinking than egotism--or
extreme egotism--that blinds you. A certain amount you must have to be a
man. You did not like my paint, still less did you like my sincerity;
you were annoyed by my corrections of your habits of speech; you were
horrified by the age of seventy, and you were credulous--General Ople,
listen to me, and remember that you have no collar on--you were credulous
of my statement of my great age, or you chose to be so, or chose to seem
so, because I had brushed your cat's coat against the fur. And then,
full of yourself, not thinking of Elizabeth, but to withdraw in the
chivalrous attitude of the man true to his word to the old woman, only
stickling to bring a certain independence to the common stock, because--
I quote you! and you have no collar on, mind--"you could not be at your
wife's mercy," you broke from your proposal on the money question. Where
was your consideration for Elizabeth then?
'Well, General, you were fond of thinking of yourself, and I thought I
would assist you. I gave you plenty of subject matter. I will not say
I meant to work a homoeopathic cure. But if I drive you to forget your
collar, is it or is it not a triumph?
'No,' added Lady Camper, 'it is no triumph for me, but it is one for you,
if you like to make the most of it. Your fault has been to quit active
service, General, and love your ease too well. It is the fault of your
countrymen. You must get a militia regiment, or inspectorship of
militia. You are ten times the man in exercise. Why, do you mean to
tell me that you would have cared for those drawings of mine when
'I think so, I say I think so,' remarked the General seriously.
'I doubt it,' said she. 'But to the point; here comes Elizabeth. If you
have not much money to spare for her, according to your prudent
calculation, reflect how this money has enfeebled you and reduced you to
the level of the people round about us here--who are, what? Inhabitants
of gentlemanly residences, yes! But what kind of creature? They have no
mental standard, no moral aim, no native chivalry. You were rapidly
becoming one of them, only, fortunately for you, you were sensitive to
'Elizabeth shall have half my money settled on her,' said the General;
'though I fear it is not much. And if I can find occupation, my lady...'
'Something worthier than that,' said Lady Camper, pencilling outlines
rapidly on the margin of a book, and he saw himself lashing a pony; 'or
that,' and he was plucking at a cabbage; 'or that,' and he was bowing to
three petticoated posts.
'The likeness is exact,' General Ople groaned.
'So you may suppose I have studied you,' said she. 'But there is no real
likeness. Slight exaggerations do more harm to truth than reckless
violations of it.
You would not have cared one bit for a caricature, if you had not nursed
the absurd idea of being one of our conquerors. It is the very tragedy
of modesty for a man like you to have such notions, my poor dear good
friend. The modest are the most easily intoxicated when they sip at
vanity. And reflect whether you have not been intoxicated, for these
young people have been wretched, and you have not observed it, though one
of them was living with you, and is the child you love. There, I have
done. Pray show a good face to Elizabeth.'
The General obeyed as well as he could. He felt very like a sheep that
has come from a shearing, and when released he wished to run away. But
hardly had he escaped before he had a desire for the renewal of the
operation. 'She sees me through, she sees me through,' he was heard
saying to himself, and in the end he taught himself, to say it with a
secret exultation, for as it was on her part an extraordinary piece of
insight to see him through, it struck him that in acknowledging the truth
of it, he made a discovery of new powers in human nature.
General Ople studied Lady Camper diligently for fresh proofs of her
penetration of the mysteries in his bosom; by which means, as it happened
that she was diligently observing the two betrothed young ones, he began
to watch them likewise, and took a pleasure in the sight. Their
meetings, their partings, their rides out and home furnished him themes
of converse. He soon had enough to talk of, and previously, as he
remembered, he had never sustained a conversation of any length with
composure and the beneficent sense of fulness. Five thousand pounds, to
which sum Lady Camper reduced her stipulation for Elizabeth's dowry, he
signed over to his dear girl gladly, and came out with the confession to
her ladyship that a well-invested twelve thousand comprised his fortune.
She shrugged she had left off pulling him this way and that, so his
chains were enjoyable, and he said to himself: 'If ever she should in the
dead of night want a man to defend her!' He mentioned it to Reginald,
who had been the repository of Elizabeth's lamentations about her father
being left alone, forsaken, and the young man conceived a scheme for
causing his aunt's great bell to be rung at midnight, which would
certainly have led to a dramatic issue and the happy re-establishment of
our masculine ascendancy at the close of this history. But he forgot it
in his bridegroom's delight, until he was making his miserable official
speech at the wedding-breakfast, and set Elizabeth winking over a tear.
As she stood in the hall ready to depart, a great van was observed in the
road at the gates of Douro Lodge; and this, the men in custody declared
to contain the goods and knick-knacks of the people who had taken the
house furnished for a year, and were coming in that very afternoon.
'I remember, I say now I remember, I had a notice,' the General said
cheerily to his troubled daughter.
'But where are you to go, papa?' the poor girl cried, close on sobbing.
'I shall get employment of some sort,' said he. 'I was saying I want it,
I need it, I require it.'
'You are saying three times what once would have sufficed for,' said Lady
Camper, and she asked him a few questions, frowned with a smile, and
offered him a lodgement in his neighbour's house.
'Really, dearest Aunt Angela?' said Elizabeth.
'What else can I do, child? I have, it seems, driven him out of a
gentlemanly residence, and I must give him a ladylike one. True, I would
rather have had him at call, but as I have always wished for a policeman
in the house, I may as well be satisfied with a soldier.'
'But if you lose your character, my lady?' said Reginald.
'Then I must look to the General to restore it.'
General Ople immediately bowed his head over Lady Camper's fingers.
'An odd thing to happen to a woman of forty-one!' she said to her great
people, and they submitted with the best grace in the world, while the
General's ears tingled till he felt younger than Reginald. This, his
reflections ran, or it would be more correct to say waltzed, this is the
result of painting!--that you can believe a woman to be any age when her
cheeks are tinted!
As for Lady Camper, she had been floated accidentally over the ridicule
of the bruit of a marriage at a time of life as terrible to her as her
fiction of seventy had been to General Ople; she resigned herself to let
things go with the tide. She had not been blissful in her first
marriage, she had abandoned the chase of an ideal man, and she had found
one who was tunable so as not to offend her ears, likely ever to be a
fund of amusement for her humour, good, impressible, and above all, very
picturesque. There is the secret of her, and of how it came to pass that
a simple man and a complex woman fell to union after the strangest
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Can believe a woman to be any age when her cheeks are tinted
Modest are the most easily intoxicated when they sip at vanity
Nature is not of necessity always roaring
Only to be described in the tongue of auctioneers
Respected the vegetable yet more than he esteemed the flower
She seems honest, and that is the most we can hope of girls
Spare me that word "female" as long as you live
The mildness of assured dictatorship
When we see our veterans tottering to their fall
THE TALE OF CHLOE
AN EPISODE IN THE HISTORY OF BEAU BEAMISH
By George Meredith
'Fair Chloe, we toasted of old,
As the Queen of our festival meeting;
Now Chloe is lifeless and cold;
You must go to the grave for her greeting.
Her beauty and talents were framed
To enkindle the proudest to win her;
Then let not the mem'ry be blamed
Of the purest that e'er was a sinner!'
Captain Chanter's Collection.
A proper tenderness for the Peerage will continue to pass current the
illustrious gentleman who was inflamed by Cupid's darts to espouse the
milkmaid, or dairymaid, under his ballad title of Duke of Dewlap: nor was
it the smallest of the services rendered him by Beau Beamish, that he
clapped the name upon her rustic Grace, the young duchess, the very first
day of her arrival at the Wells. This happy inspiration of a wit never
failing at a pinch has rescued one of our princeliest houses from the
assaults of the vulgar, who are ever too rejoiced to bespatter and
disfigure a brilliant coat-of-arms; insomuch that the ballad, to which we
are indebted for the narrative of the meeting and marriage of the ducal
pair, speaks of Dewlap in good faith
O the ninth Duke of Dewlap I am, Susie dear!
without a hint of a domino title. So likewise the pictorial historian is
merry over 'Dewlap alliances' in his description of the society of that
period. He has read the ballad, but disregarded the memoirs of the beau.
Writers of pretension would seem to have an animus against individuals of
the character of Mr. Beamish. They will treat of the habits and manners
of highwaymen, and quote obscure broadsheets and songs of the people to
colour their story, yet decline to bestow more than a passing remark upon
our domestic kings: because they are not hereditary, we may suppose.
The ballad of 'The Duke and the Dairymaid,' ascribed with questionable
authority to the pen of Mr. Beamish himself in a freak of his gaiety, was
once popular enough to provoke the moralist to animadversions upon an
order of composition that 'tempted every bouncing country lass to sidle
an eye in a blowsy cheek' in expectation of a coronet for her pains--and
a wet ditch as the result! We may doubt it to have been such an occasion
of mischief. But that mischief may have been done by it to a nobility-
loving people, even to the love of our nobility among the people, must be
granted; and for the particular reason, that the hero of the ballad
behaved so handsomely. We perceive a susceptibility to adulteration in
their worship at the sight of one of their number, a young maid, suddenly
snatched up to the gaping heights of Luxury and Fashion through sheer
good looks. Remembering that they are accustomed to a totally reverse
effect from that possession, it is very perceptible how a breach in their
reverence may come of the change.
Otherwise the ballad is innocent; certainly it is innocent in design.
A fresher national song of a beautiful incident of our country life has
never been written. The sentiments are natural, the imagery is apt and
redolent of the soil, the music of the verse appeals to the dullest ear.
It has no smell of the lamp, nothing foreign and far-fetched about it,
but is just what it pretends to be, the carol of the native bird. A
sample will show, for the ballad is much too long to be given entire:
Sweet Susie she tripped on a shiny May morn,
As blithe as the lark from the green-springing corn,
When, hard by a stile, 'twas her luck to behold
A wonderful gentleman covered with gold!
There was gold on his breeches and gold on his coat,
His shirt-frill was grand as a fifty-pound note;
The diamonds glittered all up him so bright,
She thought him the Milky Way clothing a Sprite!
'Fear not, pretty maiden,' he said with a smile;
'And, pray, let me help you in crossing the stile.
She bobbed him a curtsey so lovely and smart,
It shot like an arrow and fixed in his heart.
As light as a robin she hopped to the stone,
But fast was her hand in the gentleman's own;
And guess how she stared, nor her senses could trust,
When this creamy gentleman knelt in the dust!
With a rhapsody upon her beauty, he informs her of his rank, for
a flourish to the proposal of honourable and immediate marriage.
He cannot wait. This is the fatal condition of his love: apparently
a characteristic of amorous dukes. We read them in the signs extended
to us. The minds of these august and solitary men have not yet been
sounded; they are too distant. Standing upon their lofty pinnacles,
they are as legible to the rabble below as a line of cuneiform writing
in a page of old copybook roundhand. By their deeds we know them, as
heathendom knows of its gods; and it is repeatedly on record that the
moment they have taken fire they must wed, though the lady's finger be
circled with nothing closer fitting than a ring of the bed-curtain.
Vainly, as becomes a candid country lass, blue-eyed Susan tells him that
she is but a poor dairymaid. He has been a student of women at Courts,
in which furnace the sex becomes a transparency, so he recounts to her
the catalogue of material advantages he has to offer. Finally, after his
assurances that she is to be married by the parson, really by the parson,
and a real parson--
Sweet Susie is off for her parents' consent,
And long must the old folk debate what it meant.
She left them the eve of that happy May morn,
To shine like the blossom that hangs from the thorn!
Apart from its historical value, the ballad is an example to poets of our
day, who fly to mythological Greece, or a fanciful and morbid
mediaevalism, or--save the mark!--abstract ideas, for themes of song, of
what may be done to make our English life poetically interesting, if they
would but pluck the treasures presented them by the wayside; and Nature
being now as then the passport to popularity, they have themselves to
thank for their little hold on the heart of the people. A living native
duke is worth fifty Phoebus Apollos to Englishmen, and a buxom young lass
of the fields mounting from a pair of pails to the estate of duchess,
a more romantic object than troops of your visionary Yseults and
A certain time after the marriage, his Grace alighted at the Wells,
and did himself the honour to call on Mr. Beamish. Addressing that
gentleman, to whom he was no stranger, he communicated the purport of his
'Sir, and my very good friend,' he said, 'first let me beg you to abate
the severity of your countenance, for if I am here in breach of your
prohibition, I shall presently depart in compliance with it. I could
indeed deplore the loss of the passion for play of which you effectually
cured me. I was then armed against a crueller, that allows of no
interval for a man to make his vow to recover!'
'The disease which is all crisis, I apprehend,' Mr. Beamish remarked.
'Which, sir, when it takes hold of dry wood, burns to the last splinter.
It is now'--the duke fetched a tender groan--'three years ago that I had
a caprice to marry a grandchild!'
'Of Adam's,' Mr. Beamish said cheerfully. 'There was no legitimate bar
to the union.'
'Unhappily none. Yet you are not to suppose I regret it. A most
admirable creature, Mr. Beamish, a real divinity! And the better known,
the more adored. There is the misfortune. At my season of life, when
the greater and the minor organs are in a conspiracy to tell me I am
mortal, the passion of love must be welcomed as a calamity, though one
would not be free of it for the renewal of youth. You are to understand,
that with a little awakening taste for dissipation, she is the most
innocent of angels. Hitherto we have lived . . . To her it has been a
new world. But she is beginning to find it a narrow one. No, no, she is
not tired of my society. Very far from that. But in her present station
an inclination for such gatherings as you have here, for example, is like
a desire to take the air: and the healthy habits of my duchess have not
accustomed her to be immured. And in fine, devote ourselves as we will,
a term approaches when the enthusiasm for serving as your wife's
playfellow all day, running round tables and flying along corridors
before a knotted handkerchief, is mightily relaxed. Yet the dread of
a separation from her has kept me at these pastimes for a considerable
period beyond my relish of them. Not that I acknowledge fatigue. I
have, it seems, a taste for reflection; I am now much disposed to read
and meditate, which cannot be done without repose. I settle myself, and
I receive a worsted ball in my face, and I am expected to return it. I
comply; and then you would say a nursery in arms. It would else be the
deplorable spectacle of a beautiful young woman yawning.'
'Earthquake and saltpetre threaten us less terribly,' said Mr. Beamish.
'In fine, she has extracted a promise that 'this summer she shall visit
the Wells for a month, and I fear I cannot break my pledge of my word; I
fear I cannot.'
'Very certainly I would not,' said Mr. Beamish.
The duke heaved a sigh. 'There are reasons, family reasons, why my
company and protection must be denied to her here. I have no wish . . .
indeed my name, for the present, until such time as she shall have found
her feet . . . and there is ever a penalty to pay for that. Ah, Mr.
Beamish, pictures are ours, when we have bought them and hung them up;
but who insures us possession of a beautiful work of Nature? I have
latterly betaken me to reflect much and seriously. I am tempted to side
with the Divines in the sermons I have read; the flesh is the habitation
of a rebellious devil.'
'To whom we object in proportion as we ourselves become quit of him,' Mr.
'But this mania of young people for pleasure, eternal pleasure, is one of
the wonders. It does not pall on them; they are insatiate.'
'There is the cataract, and there is the cliff. Potentate to potentate,
duke--so long as you are on my territory, be it understood. Upon my way
to a place of worship once, I passed a Puritan, who was complaining of a
butterfly that fluttered prettily abroad in desecration of the Day of
Rest. "Friend," said I to him, "conclusively you prove to me that you
are not a butterfly." Surly did no more than favour me with the anathema
of his countenance.'
'Cousin Beamish, my complaint of these young people is, that they miss
their pleasure in pursuing it. I have lectured my duchess--'
'Foolish, I own,' said the duke. 'But suppose, now, you had caught your
butterfly, and you could neither let it go nor consent to follow its
vagaries. That poses you.'
'Young people,' said Mr. Beamish, 'come under my observation in this poor
realm of mine--young and old. I find them prodigiously alike in their
love of pleasure, differing mainly in their capacity to satisfy it.
That is no uncommon observation. The young, have an edge which they are
desirous of blunting; the old contrariwise. The cry of the young for
pleasure is actually--I have studied their language--a cry for burdens.
Curious! And the old ones cry for having too many on their shoulders:
which is not astonishing. Between them they make an agreeable concert
both to charm the ears and guide the steps of the philosopher, whose
wisdom it is to avoid their tracks.'
'Good. But I have asked you for practical advice, and you give me an
'For the reason, duke, that you propose a case that suggests hanging.
You mention two things impossible to be done. The alternative is, a
garter and the bedpost. When we have come upon crossways, and we can
decide neither to take the right hand nor the left, neither forward nor
back, the index of the board which would direct us points to itself, and
emphatically says, Gallows.'
'Beamish, I am distracted. If I refuse her the visit, I foresee
dissensions, tears, games at ball, romps, not one day of rest remaining
to me. I could be of a mind with your Puritan, positively. If I allow
it, so innocent a creature in the atmosphere of a place like this must
suffer some corruption. You should know that the station I took her from
was . . . it was modest. She was absolutely a buttercup of the
fields. She has had various masters. She dances . . . she dances
prettily, I could say bewitchingly. And so she is now for airing her
accomplishments: such are women!'
'Have you heard of Chloe?' said Mr. Beamish. 'There you have an example
of a young lady uncorrupted by this place--of which I would only remark
that it is best unvisited, but better tasted than longed for.'
'Chloe? A lady who squandered her fortune to redeem some ill-requiting
rascal: I remember to have heard of her. She is here still? And ruined,
'That cannot be without the loss of reputation.'
'Chloe's champion will grant that she is exposed to the evils of
improvidence. The more brightly shine her native purity, her goodness
of heart, her trustfulness. She is a lady whose exaltation glows in her
'She has, I see, preserved her comeliness,' observed the duke, with a
'Despite the flying of the roses, which had not her heart's patience.
'Tis now the lily that reigns. So, then, Chloe shall be attached to the
duchess during her stay, and unless the devil himself should interfere,
I guarantee her Grace against any worse harm than experience; and that,'
Mr. Beamish added, as the duke raised his arms at the fearful word, 'that
shall be mild. Play she will; she is sure to play. Put it down at a
thousand. We map her out a course of permissible follies, and she plays
to lose the thousand by degrees, with as telling an effect upon a
connubial conscience as we can produce.'
'A thousand,' said the duke, 'will be cheap indeed. I think now I have
had a description of this fair Chloe, and from an enthusiast; a brune?
elegantly mannered and of a good landed family; though she has thought
proper to conceal her name. And that will be our difficulty, cousin
'She was, under my dominion, Miss Martinsward,' Mr. Beamish pursued.
'She came here very young, and at once her suitors were legion. In the
way of women, she chose the worst among them; and for the fellow Caseldy
she sacrificed the fortune she had inherited of a maternal uncle. To
release him from prison, she paid all his debts; a mountain of bills,
with the lawyers piled above--Pelion upon Ossa, to quote our poets. In
fact, obeying the dictates of a soul steeped in generosity, she committed
the indiscretion to strip herself, scandalizing propriety. This was
immediately on her coming of age; and it was the death-blow to her
relations with her family. Since then, honoured even by rakes, she has
lived impoverished at the Wells. I dubbed her Chloe, and man or woman
disrespectful to Chloe packs. From being the victim of her generous
disposition, I could not save her; I can protect her from the shafts of
'She has no passion for play?' inquired the duke.
'She nourishes a passion for the man for whom she bled, to the exclusion
of the other passions. She lives, and I believe I may say that it is the
motive of her rising and dressing daily, in expectation of his advent.'
'He may be dead.'
'The dog is alive. And he has not ceased to be Handsome Caseldy, they
say. Between ourselves, duke, there is matter to break her heart. He
has been the Count Caseldy of Continental gaming tables, and he is
recently Sir Martin Caseldy, settled on the estate she made him free to
take up intact on his father's decease.'
'Pah! a villain!'
'With a blacker brand upon him every morning that he looks forth across
his property, and leaves her to languish! She still--I say it to the
redemption of our sex--has offers. Her incomparable attractions of mind
and person exercise the natural empire of beauty. But she will none of
them. I call her the Fair Suicide. She has died for love; and she is a
ghost, a good ghost, and a pleasing ghost, but an apparition, a taper.
The duke fidgeted, and expressed a hope to hear that she was not of
melancholy conversation; and again, that the subject of her discourse
was not confined to love and lovers, happy or unhappy. He wished his
duchess, he said, to be entertained upon gayer topics: love being a theme
he desired to reserve to himself. 'This month!' he said, prognostically
shaking and moaning. 'I would this month were over, and that we were
well purged of it.'
Mr. Beamish reassured him. The wit and sprightliness of Chloe were so
famous as to be considered medical, he affirmed; she was besieged for
her company; she composed and sang impromptu verses, she played harp and
harpsichord divinely, and touched the guitar, and danced, danced like the
silvery moon on the waters of the mill pool. He concluded by saying that
she was both humane and wise, humble-minded and amusing, virtuous yet not
a Tartar; the best of companions for her Grace the young duchess.
Moreover, he boldly engaged to carry the duchess through the term of her
visit under a name that should be as good as a masquerade for concealing
his Grace's, while giving her all the honours due to her rank.
'You strictly interpret my wishes,' said the duke; 'all honours, the
foremost place, and my wrath upon man or woman gainsaying them!'
'Mine! if you please, duke,' said Mr. Beamish.
'A thousand pardons! I leave it to you, cousin. I could not be in safer
hands. I am heartily bounders to you. Chloe, then. By the way, she has
a decent respect for age?'
'She is reverentially inclined.'
'Not that. She is, I would ask, no wanton prattler of the charms and
advantages of youth?'
'She has a young adorer that I have dubbed Alonzo, whom she scarce
'Nothing could be better. Alonzo: h'm! A faithful swain?'
'Life is his tree, upon which unceasingly he carves his mistress's
'She should not be too cruel. I recollect myself formerly: I was . . .
Young men will, when long slighted, transfer their affections, and be
warmer to the second flame than to the first. I put you on your guard.
He follows her much? These lovers' paintings and puffings in the
neighbourhood of the most innocent of women are contagious.'
'Her Grace will be running home all the sooner.'
'Or off!--may she forgive me! I am like a King John's Jew, forced to
lend his treasure without security. What a world is ours! Nothing,
Beamish, nothing desirable will you have which is not coveted! Catch a
prize, and you will find you are at war with your species. You have to
be on the defensive from that moment. There is no such thing as
peaceable procession on earth. Let it be a beautiful young woman!--Ah!'
Mr. Beamish replied bracingly, 'The champion wrestler challenges all
comers while he wears the belt.'
The duke dejectedly assented. 'True; or he is challenged, say. Is there
any tale we could tell her of this Alonzo? You could deport him for the
month, my dear Beamish.'
'I commit no injustice unless with sufficient reason. It is an estimable
youth, as shown by his devotion to a peerless woman. To endow her with
his name and fortune is his only thought.'
'I perceive; an excellent young fellow! I have an incipient liking for
this young Alonzo. You must not permit my duchess to laugh at him.
Encourage her rather to advance his suit. The silliness of a young man
will be no bad spectacle. Chloe, then. You have set my mind at rest,
Beamish, and it is but another obligation added to the heap; so, if I do
not speak of payment, the reason is that I know you would not have me
The remainder of the colloquy of the duke and Mr. Beamish referred
to the date of her Grace's coming to the Wells, the lodgement she was to
receive, and other minor arrangements bearing upon her state and comfort;
the duke perpetually observing, 'But I leave it all to you, Beamish,'
when he had laid down precise instructions in these respects, even to the
specification of the shopkeepers, the confectioner and the apothecary,
who were to balance or cancel one another in the opposite nature of their
supplies, and the haberdasher and the jeweller, with whom she was to make
her purchases. For the duke had a recollection of giddy shops, and of
giddy shopmen too; and it was by serving as one for a day that a certain
great nobleman came to victory with a jealously guarded dame beautiful as
Venus. 'I would have challenged the goddess!' he cried, and subsided
from his enthusiasm plaintively, like a weak wind instrument. 'So there
you see the prudence of a choice of shops. But I leave it to you,
Beamish.' Similarly the great military commander, having done whatsoever
a careful prevision may suggest to insure him victory, casts himself upon
Providence, with the hope of propitiating the unanticipated and darkly
The splendid equipage of a coach and six, with footmen in scarlet and
green, carried Beau Beamish five miles along the road on a sunny day to
meet the young duchess at the boundary of his territory, and conduct her
in state to the Wells. Chloe sat beside him, receiving counsel with
regard to her prospective duties. He was this day the consummate beau,
suave, but monarchical, and his manner of speech partook of his external
grandeur. 'Spy me the horizon, and apprise me if somewhere you
distinguish a chariot,' he said, as they drew up on the rise of a hill
of long descent, where the dusty roadway sank between its brown hedges,
and crawled mounting from dry rush-spotted hollows to corn fields on a
companion height directly facing them, at a remove of about three-
quarters of a mile. Chloe looked forth, while the beau passingly raised
his hat for coolness, and murmured, with a glance down the sultry track:
'It sweats the eye to see!'
Presently Chloe said, 'Now a dust blows. Something approaches. Now I
discern horses, now a vehicle; and it is a chariot!'
Orders were issued to the outriders for horns to be sounded.
Both Chloe and Beau Beamish wrinkled their foreheads at the disorderly
notes of triple horns, whose pealing made an acid in the air instead of
'You would say, kennel dogs that bay the moon!' said the wincing beau.
'Yet, as you know, these fellows have been exercised. I have had them
out in a meadow for hours, baked and drenched, to get them rid of their
native cacophony. But they love it, as they love bacon and beans. The
musical taste of our people is in the stage of the primitive appetite for
noise, and for that they are gluttons.'
'It will be pleasant to hear in the distance,' Chloe replied.
'Ay, the extremer the distance, the pleasanter to hear. Are they
'They stop. There is a cavalier at the window. Now he doffs his hat.'
Chloe described a semicircle in the grand manner.
The beau's eyebrows rose. 'Powers divine !' he muttered. 'She is let
loose from hand to hand, and midway comes a cavalier. We did not count
on the hawks. So I have to deal with a cavalier! It signifies, my dear
Chloe, that I must incontinently affect the passion if I am to be his
match: nothing less.'
'He has flown,' said Chloe.
'Whom she encounters after meeting me, I care not,' quoth the beau,
snapping a finger. 'But there has been an interval for damage with a
lady innocent as Eve. Is she advancing?'
'The chariot is trotting down the hill. He has ridden back. She has no
'They were dismissed at my injunction ten miles off particularly to the
benefit of the cavaliering horde, it would appear. In the case of a
woman, Chloe, one blink of the eyelids is an omission of watchfulness.'
'That is an axiom fit for the harem of the Grand Signior.'
'The Grand Signior might give us profitable lessons for dealing with the
'Distrust us, and it is a declaration of war!'
'Trust you, and the stopper is out of the smelling-bottle.'
'Mr. Beamish, we are women, but we have souls.'
'The pip in the apple whose ruddy cheek allures little Tommy to rob the
orchard is as good a preservative.'
'You admit that men are our enemies?'
'I maintain that they carry the banner of virtue.'
'Oh, Mr. Beamish, I shall expire.'
'I forbid it in my lifetime, Chloe, for I wish to die believing in one
'No flattery for me at the expense of my sisters!'
'Then fly to a hermitage; for all flattery is at somebody's expense,
child. 'Tis an essence-extract of humanity! To live on it, in the
fashion of some people, is bad--it is downright cannibal. But we may
sprinkle our handkerchiefs with it, and we should, if we would caress our
noses with an air. Society, my Chloe, is a recommencement upon an upper
level of the savage system; we must have our sacrifices. As, for
instance, what say you of myself beside our booted bumpkin squires?'
'Hundreds of them, Mr. Beamish !'
'That is a holocaust of squires reduced to make an incense for me, though
you have not performed Druid rites and packed them in gigantic osier
ribs. Be philosophical, but accept your personal dues. Grant us ours
too. I have a serious intention to preserve this young duchess, and I
expect my task to be severe. I carry the banner aforesaid; verily and
penitentially I do. It is an error of the vulgar to suppose that all is
dragon in the dragon's jaws.'
'Men are his fangs and claws.'
'Ay, but the passion for his fiery breath is in woman. She will take her
leap and have her jump, will and will! And at the point where she will
and she won't, the dragon gulps and down she goes! However, the business
is to keep our buttercup duchess from that same point. Is she near?'
'I can see her,' said Chloe.
Beau Beamish requested a sketch of her, and Chloe began: 'She is
Upon which he commented, 'Every woman is ravishing at forty paces, and
still more so in imagination.'
'Beautiful auburn hair, and a dazzling red and white complexion, set in a
''Tis an English witch!' exclaimed the beau, and he compassionately
invoked her absent lord.
Chloe's optics were no longer tasked to discern the fair lady's
lineaments, for the chariot windows came flush with those of the beau on
the broad plateau of the hill. His coach door was opened. He sat
upright, levelling his privileged stare at Duchess Susan until she
'Ay, madam,' quoth he, 'I am not the first.'
'La, sir!' said she; 'who are you?'
The beau deliberately raised his hat and bowed. 'He, madam, of whose
approach the gentleman who took his leave of you on yonder elevation
She looked artlessly over her shoulder, and at the beau alighting from
his carriage. 'A gentleman?'
The duchess popped her head through the window on an impulse to measure
the distance between the two hills.
'Never!' she cried.
'Why, madam, did he deliver no message to announce me?' said the beau,
'Goodness gracious! You must be Mr. Beamish,' she replied.
He laid his hat on his bosom, and invited her to quit her carriage for a
seat beside him. She stipulated, 'If you are really Mr. Beamish?' He
frowned, and raised his head to convince her; but she would not be
impressed, and he applied to Chloe to establish his identity. Hearing
Chloe's name, the duchess called out, 'Oh! there, now, that's enough, for
Chloe's my maid here, and I know she's a lady born, and we're going to be
friends. Hand me to Chloe. And you are Chloe?' she said, after a frank
stride from step to step of the carriages. 'And don't mind being my
maid? You do look a nice, kind creature. And I see you're a lady born;
I know in a minute. You're dark, I'm fair; we shall suit. And tell me--
hush!--what dreadful long eyes he has! I shall ask you presently what
you think of me. I was never at the Wells before. Dear me! the coach
has turned. How far off shall we hear the bells to say I'm coming? I
know I'm to have bells. Mr. Beamish, Mr. Beamish! I must have a chatter
with a woman, and I'm in awe of you, sir, that I am, but men and men I
see to talk to for a lift of my finger, by the dozen, in my duke's
palace--though they're old ones, that's true--but a woman who's a lady,
and kind enough to be my maid, I haven't met yet since I had the right to
wear a coronet. There, I'll hold Chloe's hand, and that'll do. You
would tell me at once, Chloe, if I was not dressed to your taste; now,
wouldn't you? As for talkative, that's a sign with me of my liking
people. I really don't know what to say to my duke sometimes. I sit and
think it so funny to be having a duke instead of a husband. You're off!'
The duchess laughed at Chloe's laughter. Chloe excused herself, but was
informed by her mistress that it was what she liked.
'For the first two years,' she resumed, 'I could hardly speak a syllable.
I stammered, I reddened, I longed to be up in my room brushing and
curling my hair, and was ready to curtsey to everybody. Now I'm quite at
home, for I've plenty of courage--except about death, and I'm worse about
death than I was when I was a simple body with a gawk's "lawks!" in her
round eyes and mouth for an egg. I wonder why that is? But isn't death
horrible? And skeletons!' The duchess shuddered.
'It depends upon the skeleton,' said Beau Beamish, who had joined the
conversation. 'Yours, madam, I would rather not meet, because she would
precipitate me into transports of regret for the loss of the flesh. I
have, however, met mine own and had reason for satisfaction with the
'Your own skeleton, sir!' said the duchess wonderingly and appalled.
'Unmistakably mine. I will call you to witness by an account of him.'
Duchess Susan gaped, and, 'Oh, don't!' she cried out; but added, 'It 's
broad day, and I've got some one to sleep anigh me after dark'; with
which she smiled on Chloe, who promised her there was no matter for
'I encountered my gentleman as I was proceeding to my room at night,'
said the beau, 'along a narrow corridor, where it was imperative that one
of us should yield the 'pas;' and, I must confess it, we are all so
amazingly alike in our bones, that I stood prepared to demand place of
him. For indubitably the fellow was an obstruction, and at the first
glance repulsive. I took him for anybody's skeleton, Death's ensign,
with his cachinnatory skull, and the numbered ribs, and the extraordinary
splay feet--in fact, the whole ungainly and shaky hobbledehoy which man
is built on, and by whose image in his weaker moments he is haunted. I
had, to be frank, been dancing on a supper with certain of our choicest
Wits and Beauties. It is a recipe for conjuring apparitions. Now, then,
thinks I, my fine fellow, I will bounce you; and without a salutation I
pressed forward. Madam, I give you my word, he behaved to the full pitch
as I myself should have done under similar circumstances. Retiring upon
an inclination of his structure, he draws up and fetches me a bow of the
exact middle nick between dignity and service. I advance, he withdraws,
and again the bow, devoid of obsequiousness, majestically condescending.
These, thinks I, be royal manners. I could have taken him for the Sable
King in person, stripped of his mantle. On my soul, he put me to the
'And is that all?' asked the duchess, relieving herself with a sigh.
'Why, madam,' quoth the beau, 'do you not see that he could have been
none other than mine own, who could comport himself with that grand air
and gracefulness when wounded by his closest relative? Upon his opening
my door for me, and accepting the 'pas,' which I now right heartily
accorded him, I recognized at once both him and the reproof he had
designedly dealt me--or the wine supper I had danced on, perhaps I should
say' and I protest that by such a display of supreme good breeding he
managed to convey the highest compliment ever received by man, namely the
assurance, that after the withering away of this mortal garb, I shall
still be noted for urbanity and elegancy. Nay, and more, immortally,
without the slip I was guilty of when I carried the bag of wine.'
Duchess Susan fanned herself to assist her digestion of the anecdote.
'Well, it's not so frightful a story, and I know you are the great Mr.
Beamish;' she said.
He questioned her whether the gentleman had signalled him to her on the
'What can he mean about a gentleman?' she turned to Chloe. 'My duke told
me you would meet me, sir. And you are to protect me. And if anything
happens, it is to be your fault.'
'Entirely,' said the beau. 'I shall therefore maintain a vigilant
'Except leaving me free. Oof! I've been boxed up so long. I declare,
Chloe, I feel like a best dress out for a holiday, and a bit afraid of
spoiling. I'm a real child, more than I was when my duke married me.
I seemed to go in and grow up again, after I was raised to fortune. And
nobody to tell of it! Fancy that! For you can't talk to old gentlemen
about what's going on in your heart.'
'How of young gentlemen?' she was asked by the beau.
And she replied, 'They find it out.'
'Not if you do not assist them,' said he.
Duchess Susan let her eyelids and her underlie half drop, as she looked
at him with the simple shyness of one of nature's thoughts in her head at
peep on the pastures of the world. The melting blue eyes and the cherry
lip made an exceedingly quickening picture. 'Now, I wonder if that is
true?' she transferred her slyness to speech.
'Beware the middle-aged!' he exclaimed.
She appealed to Chloe. 'And I'm sure they're the nicest.'
Chloe agreed that they were.
The duchess measured Chloe and the beau together, with a mind swift in
apprehending all that it hungered for.
She would have pursued the pleasing theme had she not been directed to
gaze below upon the towers and roofs of the Wells, shining sleepily in a
siesta of afternoon Summer sunlight.
With a spread of her silken robe, she touched the edifice of her hair,
murmuring to Chloe, 'I can't abide that powder. You shall see me walk in
a hoop. I can. I've done it to slow music till my duke clapped hands.
I'm nothing sitting to what I am on my feet. That's because I haven't
got fine language yet. I shall. It seems to come last. So, there 's
the place. And whereabouts do all the great people meet and prommy--?'
'They promenade where you see the trees, madam,' said Chloe.
'And where is it where the ladies sit and eat jam tarts with whipped
cream on 'em, while the gentlemen stand and pay compliments?'
Chloe said it was at a shop near the pump room.
Duchess Susan looked out over the house-tops, beyond the dusty hedges.
'Oh, and that powder!' she cried. 'I hate to be out of the fashion and a
spectacle. But I do love my own hair, and I have such a lot, and I like
the colour, and so does my duke. Only, don't let me be fingered at. If
once I begin to blush before people, my courage is gone; my singing
inside me is choked; and I've a real lark going on in me all day long,
rain or sunshine--hush, all about love and amusement.'
Chloe smiled, and Duchess Susan said, 'Just like a bird, for I don't know
what it is.'
She looked for Chloe to say that she did.
At the moment a pair of mounted squires rode up, and the coach stopped,
while Beau Beamish gave orders for the church bells to be set ringing,
and the band to meet and precede his equipage at the head of the bath
avenue: 'in honour of the arrival of her Grace the Duchess of Dewlap.'
He delivered these words loudly to his men, and turned an effulgent gaze
upon the duchess, so that for a minute she was fascinated and did not
consult her hearing; but presently she fell into an uneasiness; the signs
increased, she bit her lip, and after breathing short once or twice, 'Was
it meaning me, Mr. Beamish?' she said.
'You, madam, are the person whom we 'delight to honour,' he replied.
'Duchess of what?' she screwed uneasy features to hear.
'Duchess of Dewlap,' said he.
'It's not my title, sir.'
'It is your title on my territory, madam.'
She made her pretty nose and upper lip ugly with a sneer of 'Dew--! And
enter that town before all those people as Duchess of . . . Oh, no, I
won't; I just won't! Call back those men now, please; now, if you
please. Pray, Mr. Beamish! You'll offend me, sir. I'm not going to be
a mock. You'll offend my duke, sir. He'd die rather than have my
feelings hurt. Here's all my pleasure spoilt. I won't and I sha'n't
enter the town as duchess of that stupid name, so call 'em back, call 'em
back this instant. I know who I am and what I am, and I know what's due
to me, I do.'
Beau Beamish rejoined, 'I too. Chloe will tell you I am lord here.'
'Then I'll go home, I will. I won't be laughed at for a great lady
ninny. I'm a real lady of high rank, and such I'll appear. What 's a
Duchess of Dewlap? One might as well be Duchess of Cowstail, Duchess of
Mopsend. And those people! But I won't be that. I won't be played
with. I see them staring! No, I can make up my mind, and I beg you to
call back your men, or I'll go back home.' She muttered, 'Be made fun of
--made a fool of!'
'Your Grace's chariot is behind,' said the beau.
His despotic coolness provoked her to an outcry and weeping: she
repeated, 'Dewlap! Dewlap!' in sobs; she shook her shoulders and hid her
'You are proud of your title, are you, madam?' said he.
'I am.' She came out of her hands to answer him proudly. 'That I am!'
she meant for a stronger affirmation.
'Then mark me,' he said impressively; 'I am your duke's friend, and you
are under my charge here. I am your guardian and you are my ward, and
you can enter the town only on the condition of obedience to me. Now,
mark me, madam; no one can rob you of your real name and title saving
yourself. But you are entering a place where you will encounter a
thousand temptations to tarnish, and haply forfeit it. Be warned do
nothing that will.'
'Then I'm to have my own title?' said she, clearing up.
'For the month of your visit you are Duchess of Dewlap.'
'I say I sha'n't!'
'I command it.'
She flung herself forward, with a wail, upon Chloe's bosom. 'Can't you
do something for me?' she whimpered.
'It is impossible to move Mr. Beamish,' Chloe said.
Out of a pause, composed of sobs and sighs, the duchess let loose in a
broken voice: 'Then I 'm sure I think--I think I'd rather have met--have
met his skeleton!'
Her sincerity was equal to wit.
Beau Beamish shouted. He cordially applauded her, and in the genuine
kindness of an admiration that surprised him, he permitted himself the
liberty of taking and saluting her fingers. She fancied there was
another chance for her, but he frowned at the mention of it.
Upon these proceedings the exhilarating sound of the band was heard;
simultaneously a festival peal of bells burst forth; and an admonishment
of the necessity for concealing her chagrin and exhibiting both station
and a countenance to the people, combined with the excitement of the
new scenes and the marching music to banish the acuter sense of
disappointment from Duchess Susan's mind; so she very soon held herself
erect, and wore a face open to every wonder, impressionable as the blue
lake-surface, crisped here and there by fitful breezes against a level
It was an axiom with Mr. Beamish, our first, if not our only
philosophical beau and a gentleman of some thoughtfulness, that the
social English require tyrannical government as much as the political are
able to dispense with it: and this he explained by an exposition of the
character of a race possessed of the eminent virtue of individual self-
assertion, which causes them to insist on good elbowroom wherever they
gather together. Society, however, not being tolerable where the
smoothness of intercourse is disturbed by a perpetual punching of sides,
the merits of the free citizen in them become their demerits when a
fraternal circle is established, and they who have shown an example of
civilization too notable in one sphere to call for eulogy, are often to
be seen elbowing on the ragged edge of barbarism in the other. They must
therefore be reduced to accept laws not of their own making, and of an
Here too is a further peril; for the gallant spirits distinguishing them
in the state of independence may (he foresaw the melancholy experience of
a later age) abandon them utterly in subjection, and the glorious
boisterousness befitting the village green forsake them even in their
haunts of liberal association, should they once be thoroughly tamed by
authority. Our 'merrie England' will then be long-faced England, an
England of fallen chaps, like a boar's head, bearing for speech a lemon
in the mouth: good to feast on, mayhap; not with!
Mr. Beamish would actually seem to have foreseen the danger of a
transition that he could watch over only in his time; and, as he said,
'I go, as I came, on a flash'; he had neither ancestry nor descendants:
he was a genius, he knew himself a solitary, therefore, in spite of his
efforts to create his like. Within his district he did effect something,
enough to give him fame as one of the princely fathers of our domestic
civilization, though we now appear to have lost by it more than formerly
we gained. The chasing of the natural is ever fraught with dubious
hazards. If it gallops back, according to the proverb, it will do so at
the charge: commonly it gallops off, quite off; and then for any kind of
animation our precarious dependence is upon brains: we have to live on
our wits, which are ordinarily less productive than land, and cannot be
remitted in entail.
Rightly or wrongly (there are differences of opinion about it) Mr.
Beamish repressed the chthonic natural with a rod of iron beneath his
rule. The hoyden and the bumpkin had no peace until they had given
public imitations of the lady and the gentleman; nor were the lady and
the gentleman privileged to be what he called 'free flags.' He could be
charitable to the passion, but he bellowed the very word itself (hauled
up smoking from the brimstone lake) against them that pretended to be
shamelessly guilty of the peccadilloes of gallantry. His famous accost
of a lady threatening to sink, and already performing like a vessel in
that situation: 'So, madam, I hear you are preparing to enrol yourself in
the very ancient order?' . . . (he named it) was a piece of insolence
that involved him in some discord with the lady's husband and 'the rascal
steward,' as he chose to term the third party in these affairs: yet it is
reputed to have saved the lady.
Furthermore, he attacked the vulgarity of persons of quality, and he has
told a fashionable dame who was indulging herself in a marked sneer of
disdain, not improving to her features, 'that he would be pleased to have
her assurance it was her face she presented to mankind': a thing--thanks
perhaps to him chiefly--no longer possible of utterance. One of the sex
asking him why he addressed his persecutions particularly to women:
'Because I fight your battles,' says he, 'and I find you in the ranks of
the enemy.' He treated them as traitors.
He was nevertheless well supported by a sex that compensates for dislike
of its friend before a certain age by a cordial recognition of him when
it has touched the period. A phalanx of great dames gave him the terrors
of Olympus for all except the natively audacious, the truculent and the
insufferably obtuse; and from the midst of them he launched decree and
bolt to good effect: not, of course, without receiving return missiles,
and not without subsequent question whether the work of that man was
beneficial to the country, who indeed tamed the bumpkin squire and his
brood, but at the cost of their animal spirits and their gift of speech;
viz. by making petrifactions of them. In the surgical operation of
tracheotomy, a successful treatment of the patient hangs, we believe, on
the promptness and skill of the introduction of the artificial windpipe;
and it may be that our unhappy countrymen when cut off from the source of
their breath were not neatly handled; or else that there is a physical
opposition in them to anything artificial, and it must be nature or
nothing. The dispute shall be left where it stands.
Now, to venture upon parading a beautiful young Duchess of Dewlap, with
an odour of the shepherdess about her notwithstanding her acquired art of
stepping conformably in a hoop, and to demand full homage of respect for
a lady bearing such a title, who had the intoxicating attractions of the
ruddy orchard apple on the tree next the roadside wall, when the owner is
absent, was bold in Mr. Beamish, passing temerity; nor would even he have
attempted it had he not been assured of the support of his phalanx of
great ladies. They indeed, after being taken into the secret, had
stipulated that first they must have an inspection of the transformed
dairymaid; and the review was not unfavourable. Duchess Susan came out
of it more scatheless than her duke. She was tongue-tied, and her
tutored walking and really admirable stature helped her to appease, the
critics of her sex; by whom her too readily blushful innocence was
praised, with a reserve, expressed in the remark, that she was a
monstrous fine toy for a duke's second childhood, and should never have
been let fly from his nursery. Her milliner was approved. The duke was
a notorious connoisseur of female charms, and would see, of course, to
the decorous adornment of her person by the best of modistes. Her
smiling was pretty, her eyes were soft; she might turn out good, if well
guarded for a time; but these merits of the woman are not those of the
great lady, and her title was too strong a beam on her character to give
it a fair chance with her critics. They one and all recommended powder
for her hair and cheeks. That odour of the shepherdess could be
exorcised by no other means, they declared. Her blushing was indecent.
Truly the critics of the foeman sex behaved in a way to cause the blushes
to swarm rosy as the troops of young Loves round Cytherea in her sea-
birth, when, some soaring, and sinking some, they flutter like her
loosened zone, and breast the air thick as flower petals on the summer's
breath, weaving her net for the world. Duchess Susan might protest her
inability to keep her blushes down; that the wrong was done by the
insolent eyes, and not by her artless cheeks. Ay, but nature, if we are
to tame these men, must be swathed and concealed, partly stifled,
absolutely stifled upon occasion. The natural woman does not move a foot
without striking earth to conjure up the horrid apparition of the natural
man, who is not as she, but a cannibal savage. To be the light which
leads, it is her business to don the misty vesture of an idea, that she
may dwell as an idea in men's minds, very dim, very powerful, but
abstruse, unseizable. Much wisdom was imparted to her on the subject,
and she understood a little, and echoed hollow to the remainder, willing
to show entire docility as far as her intelligence consented to be awake.
She was in that stage of the dainty, faintly tinged innocence of the
amorousness of themselves when beautiful young women who have not been
caught for schooling in infancy deem it a defilement to be made to
appear other than the blessed nature has made them, which has made them
beautiful, and surely therefore deserves to be worshipped. The lectures
of the great ladies and Chloe's counsels failed to persuade her to use
the powder puff-ball. Perhaps too, as timidity quitted her, she enjoyed
her distinctiveness in their midst.
But the distinctiveness of a Duchess of Dewlap with the hair and cheeks
of our native fields, was fraught with troubles outrunning Mr. Beamish's
calculations. He had perceived that she would be attractive; he had not
reckoned on the homogeneousness of her particular English charms. A
beauty in red, white, and blue is our goddess Venus with the apple of
Paris in her hand; and after two visits to the Pump Room, and one
promenade in the walks about the Assembly House, she had as completely
divided the ordinary guests of the Wells into male and female in opinion
as her mother Nature had done in it sex. And the men would not be
silenced; they had gazed on their divinest, and it was for the women
to succumb to that unwholesome state, so full of thunder. Knights and
squires, military and rural, threw up their allegiance right and left
to devote themselves to this robust new vision, and in their peculiar
manner, with a general View-halloo, and Yoicks, Tally-ho, and away we go,
pelt ahead! Unexampled as it is in England for Beauty to kindle the
ardours of the scent of the fox, Duchess Susan did more--she turned all
her followers into hounds; they were madmen: within a very few days of
her entrance bets raged about her, and there were brawls, jolly flings at
her character in the form of lusty encomium, givings of the lie, and upon
one occasion a knock-down blow in public, as though the place had never
known the polishing touch of Mr. Beamish.
He was thrown into great perplexity by that blow. Discountenancing the
duel as much as he could, an affair of the sword was nevertheless more
tolerable than the brutal fist: and of all men to be guilty of it, who
would have anticipated the young Alonzo, Chloe's quiet, modest lover!
He it was. The case came before Mr. Beamish for his decision; he had
to pronounce an impartial judgement, and for some time, during the
examination of evidence, he suffered, as he assures us in his Memoirs, a
royal agony. To have to strike with the glaive of Justice them whom they
most esteem, is the greatest affliction known to kings. He would have
done it: he deserved to reign. Happily the evidence against the
gentleman who was tumbled, Mr. Ralph Shepster, excused Mr. Augustus
Camwell, otherwise Alonzo, for dealing with him promptly to shut his
This Shepster, a raw young squire, 'reeking,' Beau Beamish writes of him,
'one half of the soil, and t' other half of the town,' had involved Chloe
in his familiar remarks upon the Duchess of Dewlap; and the personal
respect entertained by Mr. Beamish for Chloe so strongly approved
Alonzo's championship of her, that in giving judgement he laid stress on
young Alonzo's passion for Chloe, to prove at once the disinterestedness
of the assailant, and the judicial nature of the sentence: which was,
that Mr. Ralph Shepster should undergo banishment, and had the right to
demand reparation. The latter part of this decree assisted in effecting
the execution of the former. Shepster declined cold steel, calling it
murder, and was effusive of nature's logic on the subject
'Because a man comes and knocks me down, I'm to go up to him and ask him
to run me through!'
His shake of the head signified that he was not such a noodle. Voluble
and prolific of illustration, as is no one so much as a son of nature
inspired to speak her words of wisdom, he defied the mandate, and refused
himself satisfaction, until in the strangest manner possible flights of
white feathers beset him, and he became a mark for persecution too trying
for the friendship of his friends. He fled, repeating his tale, that he
had seen 'Beamish's Duchess,' and Chloe attending her, at an assignation
in the South Grove, where a gentleman, unknown to the Wells, presented
himself to the adventurous ladies, and they walked together--a tale
ending with nods.
Shepster's banishment was one of those victories of justice upon which
mankind might be congratulated if they left no commotion behind. But,
as when a boy has been horsed before his comrades, dread may visit them,
yet is there likewise devilry in the school; and everywhere over earth
a summary punishment that does not sweep the place clear is likely to
infect whom it leaves remaining. The great law-givers, Lycurgus, Draco,
Solon, Beamish, sorrowfully acknowledge that they have had recourse to
infernal agents, after they have thus purified their circle of an
offender. Doctors confess to the same of their physic. The expelling
agency has next to be expelled, and it is a subtle poison, affecting our
spirits. Duchess Susan had now the incense of a victim to heighten her
charms; like the treasure-laden Spanish galleon for whom, on her voyage
home from South American waters, our enterprising light-craft privateers
lay in wait, she had the double attraction of being desirable and an
enemy. To watch above her conscientiously was a harassing business.
Mr. Beamish sent for Chloe, and she came to him at once. Her look was
curious; he studied it while they conversed. So looks one who is
watching the sure flight of an arrow, or the happy combinations of an
intrigue. Saying, 'I am no inquisitor, child,' he ventured upon two or
three modest inquisitions with regard to her mistress. The title he had
disguised Duchess Susan in, he confessed to rueing as the principal cause
of the agitation of his principality. 'She is courted,' he said, 'less
like a citadel waving a flag than a hostelry where the demand is for
sitting room and a tankard! These be our manners. Yet, I must own, a
Duchess of Dewlap is a provocation, and my exclusive desire to protect
the name of my lord stands corrected by the perils environing his lady.
She is other than I supposed her; she is, we will hope, an excellent good
creature, but too attractive for most and drawbridge and the customary
defences to be neglected.
Chloe met his interrogatory with a ready report of the young duchess's
innocence and good nature that pacified Mr. Beamish.
'And you?' said he.
She smiled for answer.
That smile was not the common smile; it was one of an eager exultingness,
producing as he gazed the twitch of an inquisitive reflection of it on
his lips. Such a smile bids us guess and quickens us to guess, warns us
we burn and speeds our burning, and so, like an angel wafting us to some
heaven-feasting promontory, lifts us out of ourselves to see in the
universe of colour what the mouth has but pallid speech to tell. That is
the very heart's language; the years are in a look, as mount and vale of
the dark land spring up in lightning.
He checked himself: he scarce dared to say it.
'You have seen the man, Chloe?'
Her smiling broke up in the hard lines of an ecstasy neighbouring pain.
'He has come; he is here; he is faithful; he has not forgotten me. I was
right. I knew! I knew!'
'Caseldy has come?'
'He has come. Do not ask. To have him! to see him! Mr. Beamish, he is
'Well, Caseldy has come, then! But now, friend Chloe, you should be made
aware that the man--'
She stopped her ears. As she did so, Mr. Beamish observed a thick silken
skein dangling from one hand. Part of it was plaited, and at the upper
end there was a knot. It resembled the commencement of her manufactory
of a whip: she swayed it to and fro, allowing him to catch and lift the
threads on his fingers for the purpose of examining her work. There was
no special compliment to pay, so he dropped it without remark.
Their faces had expressed her wish to hear nothing from him of Caseldy
and his submission to say nothing. Her happiness was too big; she
appeared to beg to lie down with it on her bosom, in the manner of an
outworn, young mother who has now first received her infant in her arms
from the nurse.
Humouring Chloe with his usual considerateness, Mr. Beamish forbore to
cast a shadow on her new-born joy, and even within himself to doubt the
security of its foundation. Caseldy's return to the Wells was at least
some assurance of his constancy, seeing that here they appointed to meet
when he and Chloe last parted. All might be well, though it was
unexplained why he had not presented himself earlier. To the lightest
inquiry Chloe's reply was a shiver of happiness.
Moreover, Mr. Beamish calculated that Caseldy would be a serviceable ally
in commanding a proper respect for her Grace the Duchess of Dewlap. So
he betook himself cheerfully to Caseldy's lodgings to deliver a message
of welcome, meeting, on his way thither, Mr. Augustus Camwell, with whom
he had a short conversation, greatly to his admiration of the enamoured
young gentleman's goodness and self-compression in speaking of Caseldy
and Chloe's better fortune. Mr. Camwell seemed hurried.
Caseldy was not at home, and Mr. Beamish proceeded to the lodgings of the
duchess. Chloe had found her absent. The two consulted. Mr. Beamish
put on a serious air, until Chloe mentioned the pastrycook's shop, for
Duchess Susan had a sweet tooth; she loved a visit to the pastrycook's,
whose jam tarts were dearer to her than his more famous hot mutton pies.
The pastry cook informed Mr. Beamish that her Grace had been in his shop,
earlier than usual, as it happened, and accompanied by a foreign-looking
gentleman wearing moustachois. Her Grace, the pastrycook said, had
partaken of several tarts, in common with the gentleman, who complimented
him upon his excelling the Continental confectioner. Mr. Beamish glanced
at Chloe. He pursued his researches down at the Pump Room, while she
looked round the ladies' coffee house. Encountering again, they walked
back to the duchess's lodgings, where a band stood playing in the road,
by order of her Grace; but the duchess was away, and had not been seen
since her morning's departure.
'What sort of character would you give mistress Susan of Dewlap, from
your personal acquaintance with it?' said Mr. Beamish to Chloe, as they
stepped from the door.
Chloe mused and said, 'I would add "good" to the unkindest comparison you
could find for her.'
'But accepting the comparison!' Mr. Beamish nodded, and revolved upon the
circumstance of their being very much in nature's hands with Duchess
Susan, of whom it might be said that her character was good, yet all the
more alive to the temptations besetting the Spring season. He allied
Chloe's adjective to a number of epithets equally applicable to nature
and to women, according to current ideas, concluding: 'Count, they call
your Caseldy at his lodgings. "The Count he is out for an airing." He
is counted out. Ah! you will make him drop that "Count" when he takes
you from here.'
'Do not speak of the time beyond the month,' said Chloe, so urgently on a
rapid breath as to cause Mr. Beamish to cast an inquiring look at her.
She answered it, 'Is not one month of brightness as much as we can ask
The beau clapped his elbows complacently to his sides in philosophical
concord with her sentiment.
In the afternoon, on the parade, they were joined by Mr. Camwell, among
groups of fashionable ladies and their escorts, pacing serenely, by
medical prescription, for an appetite. As he did not comment on the
absence of the duchess, Mr. Beamish alluded to it; whereupon he was
informed that she was about the meadows, and had been there for some
'Not unguarded,' he replied to Mr. Beamish.
'Aha!' quoth the latter; 'we have an Argus!' and as the duchess was not
on the heights, and the sun's rays were mild in cloud, he agreed to his
young friend's proposal that they should advance to meet her. Chloe
walked with them, but her face was disdainful; at the stiles she gave her
hand to Mr. Beamish; she did not address a word to Mr. Camwell, and he
knew the reason. Nevertheless he maintained his air of soldierly
resignation to the performance of duty, and held his head like a
gentleman unable to conceive the ignominy of having played spy.
Chloe shrank from him.
Duchess Susan was distinguished coming across a broad uncut meadow,
tirra-lirraing beneath a lark, Caseldy in attendance on her. She stopped
short and spoke to him; then came forward, crying ingenuously. 'Oh, Mr.
Beamish, isn't this just what you wanted me to do?'
'No, madam,' said he, 'you had my injunctions to the contrary.'
'La!' she exclaimed, 'I thought I was to run about in the fields now and
then to preserve my simplicity. I know I was told so, and who told me!'
Mr. Beamish bowed effusively to the introduction of Caseldy, whose
fingers he touched in sign of the renewal of acquaintance, and with a
laugh addressed the duchess:
'Madam, you remind me of a tale of my infancy. I had a juvenile comrade
of the tenderest age, by name Tommy Plumston, and he enjoyed the
privilege of intimacy with a component urchin yclept Jimmy Clungeon, with
which adventurous roamer, in defiance of his mother's interdict against
his leaving the house for a minute during her absence from home, he
departed on a tour of the district, resulting, perhaps as a consequence
of its completeness, in this, that at a distance computed at four miles
from the maternal mansion, he perceived his beloved mama with sufficient
clearness to feel sure that she likewise had seen him. Tommy consulted
with Jimmy, and then he sprang forward on a run to his frowning mama, and
delivered himself in these artless words, which I repeat as they were
uttered, to give you the flavour of the innocent babe: he said, "I frink
I frought I hear you call me, ma! and Jimmy Clungeon, he frought he frink
so too!" So, you see, the pair of them were under the impression that
they were doing right. There is a delicate distinction in the tenses of
each frinking where the other frought, enough in itself to stamp
sincerity upon the statement.'
Caseldy said, 'The veracity of a boy possessing a friend named Clungeon
is beyond contest.'
Duchess Susan opened her eyes. 'Four miles from home! And what did his
mother do to him?'
'Tommy's mama,' said Mr. Beamish, and with the resplendent licence of the
period which continued still upon tolerable terms with nature under the
compromise of decorous 'Oh-fie!' flatly declared the thing she did.
'I fancy, sir, that I caught sight of your figure on the hill yonder
about an hour or so earlier,' said Caseldy to Mr. Camwell.
'If it was at the time when you were issuing from that wood, sir, your
surmise is correct,' said the young gentleman.
'You are long-sighted, sir!'
'I am, sir.'
'And so am I.'
'And I,' said Chloe.
'Our Chloe will distinguish you accurately at a mile, and has done it,'
observed Mr. Beamish.
'One guesses tiptoe on a suspicion, and if one is wrong it passes, and if
one is right it is a miracle,' she said, and raised her voice on a song
to quit the subject.
'Ay, ay, Chloe; so then you had a suspicion, you rogue, the day we had
the pleasure of meeting the duchess, had you?' Mr. Beamish persisted.
Duchess Susan interposed. 'Such a pretty song! and you to stop her,
Caseldy took up the air.
'Oh, you two together!' she cried. 'I do love hearing music in the
fields; it is heavenly. Bands in the town and voices in the green
fields, I say! Couldn't you join Chloe, Mr .... Count, sir, before we
come among the people, here where it 's all so nice and still. Music!
and my heart does begin so to pit-a-pat. Do you sing, Mr. Alonzo?'
'Poorly,' the young gentleman replied.
'But the Count can sing, and Chloe's a real angel when she sings; and
won't you, dear?' she implored Chloe, to whom Caseldy addressed a prelude
with a bow and a flourish of the hand.
Chloe's voice flew forth. Caseldy's rich masculine matched it. The song
was gay; he snapped his finger at intervals in foreign style, singing
big-chested, with full notes and a fine abandonment, and the quickest
susceptibility to his fair companion's cunning modulations, and an eye
for Duchess Susan's rapture.
Mr. Beamish and Mr. Camwell applauded them.
'I never can tell what to say when I'm brimming'; the duchess let fall a
sigh. 'And he can play the flute, Mr. Beamish. He promised me he would
go into the orchestra and play a bit at one of your nice evening
delicious concerts, and that will be nice--Oh!'
'He promised you, madam, did he so?' said the beau. 'Was it on your way
to the Wells that he promised you?'
'On my way to the Wells!' she exclaimed softly. 'Why, how could anybody
promise me a thing before ever he saw me? I call that a strange thing to
ask a person. No, to-day, while we were promenading; and I should hear
him sing, he said. He does admire his Chloe so. Why, no wonder, is it,
now? She can do everything; knit, sew, sing, dance--and talk! She's
never uneasy for a word. She makes whole scenes of things go round you,
like a picture peep-show, I tell her. And always cheerful. She hasn't a
minute of grumps; and I'm sometimes a dish of stale milk fit only for
With your late hours here, I'm sure I want tickling in the morning, and
Chloe carols me one of her songs, and I say, "There's my bird!"'
Mr. Beamish added, 'And you will remember she has a heart.'
'I should think so!' said the duchess.
'A heart, madam!'
'Why, what else?'
Nothing other, the beau, by his aspect, was constrained to admit.
He appeared puzzled by this daughter of nature in a coronet; and more on
her remarking, 'You know about her heart, Mr. Beamish.'
He acquiesced, for of course he knew of her life-long devotion to
Caseldy; but there was archness in her tone. However, he did not expect
a woman of her education to have the tone perfectly concordant with the
circumstances. Speaking tentatively of Caseldy's handsome face and
figure, he was pleased to hear the duchess say, 'So I tell Chloe.'
'Well,' said he, 'we must consider them united; they are one.'
Duchess Susan replied, 'That's what I tell him; she will do anything you
He repeated these words with an interjection, and decided in his mind
that they were merely silly. She was a real shepherdess by birth and
nature, requiring a strong guard over her attractions on account of her
simplicity; such was his reading of the problem; he had conceived it at
the first sight of her, and always recurred to it under the influence of
her artless eyes, though his theories upon men and women were astute, and
that cavalier perceived by long-sighted Chloe at Duchess Susan's coach
window perturbed him at whiles. Habitually to be anticipating the
simpleton in a particular person is the sure way of being sometimes the
dupe, as he would not have been the last to warn a neophyte; but abstract
wisdom is in need of an unappeased suspicion of much keenness of edge, if
we would have it alive to cope with artless eyes and our prepossessed
fancy of their artlessness.
'You talk of Chloe to him?' he said.
She answered. 'Yes, that I do. And he does love her! I like to hear
him. He is one of the gentlemen who don't make me feel timid with them.'
She received a short lecture on the virtues of timidity in preserving the
sex from danger; after which, considering that the lady who does not feel
timid with a particular cavalier has had no sentiment awakened, he
relinquished his place to Mr. Camwell, and proceeded to administer the
probe to Caseldy.
That gentleman was communicatively candid. Chloe had left him, and he
related how, summoned home to England and compelled to settle a dispute
threatening a lawsuit, he had regretfully to abstain from visiting the
Wells for a season, not because of any fear of the attractions of play--
he had subdued the frailty of the desire to play--but because he deemed
it due to his Chloe to bring her an untroubled face, and he wished first
to be the better of the serious annoyances besetting him. For some
similar reason he had not written; he wished to feast on her surprise.
'And I had my reward,' he said, as if he had been the person principally
to suffer through that abstinence. 'I found--I may say it to you, Mr.
Beamish love in her eyes. Divine by nature, she is one of the immortals,
both in appearance and in steadfastness.'
They referred to Duchess Susan. Caseldy reluctantly owned that it would
be an unkindness to remove Chloe from attendance on her during the short
remaining term of her stay at the Wells; and so he had not proposed it,
he said, for the duchess was a child, an innocent, not stupid by any
means; but, of course, her transplanting from an inferior to an exalted
position put her under disadvantages.
Mr. Beamish spoke of the difficulties of his post as guardian, and also
of the strange cavalier seen at her carriage window by Chloe.
Caseldy smiled and said, 'If there was one--and Chloe is rather long--
sighted--we can hardly expect her to confess it.'
'Why not, sir, if she be this piece of innocence?' Mr. Beamish was led to
'She fears you, sir,' Caseldy answered. 'You have inspired her with an
extraordinary fear of you.'
'I have?' said the beau: it had been his endeavour to inspire it, and he
swelled somewhat, rather with relief at the thought of his possessing a
power to control his delicate charge, than with our vanity; yet would it
be audacious to say that there was not a dose of the latter. He was a
very human man; and he had, as we have seen, his ideas of the effect of
the impression of fear upon the hearts of women. Something, in any case,
caused him to forget the cavalier.
They were drawn to the three preceding them, by a lively dissension
between Chloe and Mr. Camwell.
Duchess Susan explained it in her blunt style: 'She wants him to go away
home, and he says he will, if she'll give him that double skein of silk
she swings about, and she says she won't, let him ask as long as he
pleases; so he says he sha'n't go, and I'm sure I don't see why he
should; and she says he may stay, but he sha'n't have her necklace, she
calls it. So Mr. Camwell snatches, and Chloe fires up. Gracious, can't
she frown!--at him. She never frowns at anybody but him.'
Caseldy attempted persuasion on Mr. Camwell's behalf. With his mouth at
Chloe's ear, he said, 'Give it; let the poor fellow have his memento;
despatch him with it.'
'I can hear! and that is really kind,' exclaimed Duchess Susan.
'Rather a missy-missy schoolgirl sort of necklace,' Mr. Beamish observed;
'but he might have it, without the dismissal, for I cannot consent to
lose Alonzo. No, madam,' he nodded at the duchess.
Caseldy continued his whisper: 'You can't think of wearing a thing like
that about your neck?'
'Indeed,' said Chloe, 'I think of it.'
'Why, what fashion have you over here?'
'It is not yet a fashion,' she said.
'A silken circlet will not well become any precious pendant that I know
'A bag of dust is not a very precious pendant,' she said.
'Oh, a memento mori!' cried he.
And she answered, 'Yes.'
He rallied her for her superstition, pursuing, 'Surely, my love, 'tis a
cheap riddance of a pestilent, intrusive jaloux. Whip it into his hands
for a mittimus.'
'Does his presence distress you?' she asked.
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