The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, v6
Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by Pat Castevans
and David Widger
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
By George Meredith
XXXIX. THE LITTLE BIRD AND THE FALCON: A BERRY
TO THE RESCUE!
XL. CLARE'S DIARY
XLI. AUSTIN RETURNS
XLII. NATURE SPEAKS
XLIII. AGAIN THE MAGIAN CONFLICT
XLIV. THE LAST SCENE
XLV. LADY BLANDISH TO AUSTIN WENTWORTH
At a season when the pleasant South-western Island has few attractions to
other than invalids and hermits enamoured of wind and rain, the potent
nobleman, Lord Mountfalcon, still lingered there to the disgust of his
friends and special parasite. "Mount's in for it again," they said among
themselves. "Hang the women!" was a natural sequence. For, don't you
see, what a shame it was of the women to be always kindling such a very
inflammable subject! All understood that Cupid had twanged his bow, and
transfixed a peer of Britain for the fiftieth time: but none would
perceive, though he vouched for it with his most eloquent oaths, that
this was a totally different case from the antecedent ones. So it had
been sworn to them too frequently before. He was as a man with mighty
tidings, and no language: intensely communicative, but inarticulate.
Good round oaths had formerly compassed and expounded his noble emotions.
They were now quite beyond the comprehension of blasphemy, even when
emphasized, and by this the poor lord divinely felt the case was
different. There is something impressive in a great human hulk writhing
under the unutterable torments of a mastery he cannot contend with, or
account for, or explain by means of intelligible words. At first he took
refuge in the depths of his contempt for women. Cupid gave him line.
When he had come to vent his worst of them, the fair face now stamped on
his brain beamed the more triumphantly: so the harpooned whale rose to
the surface, and after a few convulsions, surrendered his huge length.
My lord was in love with Richard's young wife. He gave proofs of it by
burying himself beside her. To her, could she have seen it, he gave
further proofs of a real devotion, in affecting, and in her presence
feeling, nothing beyond a lively interest in her well-being. This
wonder, that when near her he should be cool and composed, and when away
from her wrapped in a tempest of desires, was matter for what powers of
cogitation the heavy nobleman possessed.
The Hon. Peter, tired of his journeys to and fro, urged him to press the
business. Lord Mountfalcon was wiser, or more scrupulous, than his
parasite. Almost every evening he saw Lucy. The inexperienced little
wife apprehended no harm in his visits. Moreover, Richard had commended
her to the care of Lord Mountfalcon, and Lady Judith. Lady Judith had
left the Island for London: Lord Mountfalcon remained. There could be no
harm. If she had ever thought so, she no longer did. Secretly, perhaps,
she was flattered. Lord Mountfalcon was as well educated as it is the
fortune of the run of titled elder sons to be: he could talk and
instruct: he was a lord: and he let her understand that he was wicked,
very wicked, and that she improved him. The heroine, in common with the
hero, has her ambition to be of use in the world--to do some good: and
the task of reclaiming a bad man is extremely seductive to good women.
Dear to their tender bosoms as old china is a bad man they are mending!
Lord Mountfalcon had none of the arts of a libertine: his gold, his
title, and his person had hitherto preserved him from having long to sigh
in vain, or sigh at all, possibly: the Hon. Peter did his villanies for
him. No alarm was given to Lucy's pure instinct, as might have been the
case had my lord been over-adept. It was nice in her martyrdom to have a
true friend to support her, and really to be able to do something for
that friend. Too simple-minded to think much of his lordship's position,
she was yet a woman. "He, a great nobleman, does not scorn to
acknowledge me, and think something of me," may have been one of the
half-thoughts passing through her now and then, as she reflected in self-
defence on the proud family she had married into.
January was watering and freezing old earth by turns, when the Hon. Peter
travelled down to the sun of his purse with great news. He had no sooner
broached his lordship's immediate weakness, than Mountfalcon began to
plunge like a heavy dragoon in difficulties. He swore by this and that
he had come across an angel for his sins, and would do her no hurt. The
next moment he swore she must be his, though she cursed like a cat. His
lordship's illustrations were not choice. "I haven't advanced an inch,"
he groaned. "Brayder! upon my soul, that little woman could do anything
with me. By heaven! I'd marry her to-morrow. Here I am, seeing her
every day in the week out or in, and what do you think she gets me to
talk about?--history! Isn't it enough to make a fellow mad? and there am
I lecturing like a prig, and by heaven! while I'm at it I feel a pleasure
in it; and when I leave the house I should feel an immense gratification
in shooting somebody. What do they say in town?"
"Not much," said Brayder, significantly.
"When's that fellow--her husband--coming down?"
"I rather hope we've settled him for life, Mount."
Nobleman and parasite exchanged looks.
"How d'ye mean?"
Brayder hummed an air, and broke it to say, "He's in for Don Juan at a
gallop, that's all."
"The deuce! Has Bella got him?" Mountfalcon asked with eagerness.
Brayder handed my lord a letter. It was dated from the Sussex coast,
signed "Richard," and was worded thus:
"My beautiful Devil!--
"Since we're both devils together, and have found each other out, come to
me at once, or I shall be going somewhere in a hurry. Come, my bright
hell-star! I ran away from you, and now I ask you to come to me! You
have taught me how devils love, and I can't do without you. Come an hour
after you receive this."
Mountfalcon turned over the letter to see if there was any more.
"Complimentary love-epistle!" he remarked, and rising from his chair and
striding about, muttered, "The dog! how infamously he treats his wife!"
"Very bad," said Brayder.
"How did you get hold of this?"
"Strolled into Belle's dressing-room, waiting for her turned over her
pincushion hap-hazard. You know her trick."
"By Jove! I think that girl does it on purpose. Thank heaven, I haven't
written her any letters for an age. Is she going to him?"
"Not she! But it's odd, Mount!--did you ever know her refuse money
before? She tore up the cheque in style, and presented me the fragments
with two or three of the delicacies of language she learnt at your
Academy. I rather like to hear a woman swear. It embellishes her!"
Mountfalcon took counsel of his parasite as to the end the letter could
be made to serve. Both conscientiously agreed that Richard's behaviour
to his wife was infamous, and that he at least deserved no mercy. "But,"
said his lordship, "it won't do to show the letter. At first she'll be
swearing it's false, and then she'll stick to him closer. I know the
"The rule of contrary," said Brayder, carelessly. "She must see the
trahison with her eyes. "They believe their eyes. There's your chance,
Mount. You step in: you give her revenge and consolation--two birds at
one shot. That's what they like."
"You're an ass, Brayder," the nobleman exclaimed. "You're an infernal
blackguard. You talk of this little woman as if she and other women were
all of a piece. I don't see anything I gain by this confounded letter.
Her husband's a brute--that's clear."
"Will you leave it to me, Mount?"
"Be damned before I do!" muttered my lord.
"Thank you. Now see how this will end: You're too soft, Mount. You'll
be made a fool of."
"I tell you, Brayder, there's nothing to be done. If I carry her off--
I've been on the point of doing it every day--what'll come of that?
She'll look--I can't stand her eyes--I shall be a fool--worse off with
her than I am now."
Mountfalcon yawned despondently. "And what do you think?" he pursued.
"Isn't it enough to make a fellow gnash his teeth? She's"...he mentioned
something in an underbreath, and turned red as he said it.
"Hm!" Brayder put up his mouth and rapped the handle of his cane on his
chin. "That's disagreeable, Mount. You don't exactly want to act in
that character. You haven't got a diploma. Bother!"
"Do you think I love her a bit less?" broke out my lord in a frenzy. "By
heaven! I'd read to her by her bedside, and talk that infernal history
to her, if it pleased her, all day and all night."
"You're evidently graduating for a midwife, Mount."
The nobleman appeared silently to accept the imputation.
"What do they say in town?" he asked again.
Brayder said the sole question was, whether it was maid, wife, or widow.
"I'll go to her this evening," Mountfalcon resumed, after--to judge by
the cast of his face--reflecting deeply. "I'll go to her this evening.
She shall know what infernal torment she makes me suffer."
"Do you mean to say she don't know it?"
"Hasn't an idea--thinks me a friend. And so, by heaven! I'll be to
"A--hm!" went the Honourable Peter. "This way to the sign of the Green
"Do you want to be pitched out of the window, Brayder?"
"Once was enough, Mount. The Salvage Man is strong. I may have
forgotten the trick of alighting on my feet. There--there! I'll be
sworn she's excessively innocent, and thinks you a disinterested friend."
"I'll go to her this evening," Mountfalcon repeated. "She shall know
what damned misery it is to see her in such a position. I can't hold out
any longer. Deceit's horrible to such a girl as that. I'd rather have
her cursing me than speaking and looking as she does. Dear little girl!-
-she's only a child. You haven't an idea how sensible that little woman
"Have you?" inquired the cunning one.
"My belief is, Brayder, that there are angels among women," said
Mountfalcon, evading his parasite's eye as he spoke.
To the world, Lord Mountfalcon was the thoroughly wicked man; his
parasite simply ingeniously dissipated. Full many a man of God had
thought it the easier task to reclaim the Hon. Peter.
Lucy received her noble friend by firelight that evening, and sat much in
the shade. She offered to have the candles brought in. He begged her to
allow the room to remain as it was. "I have something to say to you," he
observed with a certain solemnity.
"Yes--to me?" said Lucy, quickly.
Lord Mountfalcon knew he had a great deal to say, but how to say it, and
what it exactly was, he did not know.'
"You conceal it admirably," he began, "but you must be very lonely here--
I fear, unhappy."
"I should have been lonely, but for your kindness, my lord," said Lucy.
"I am not unhappy." Her face was in shade and could not belie her.
"Is there any help that one who would really be your friend might give
you, Mrs. Feverel?"
"None indeed that I know of," Lucy replied. "Who can help us to pay for
"At least you may permit me to endeavour to pay my debts, since you have
helped me to wash out some of any sins."
"Ah, my lord!" said Lucy, not displeased. It is sweet for a woman to
believe she has drawn the serpent's teeth.
"I tell you the truth," Lord Mountfalcon went on. "What object could I
have in deceiving you? I know you quite above flattery--so different
from other women!"
"Oh, pray, do not say that," interposed Lucy.
"According to my experience, then."
"But you say you have met such--such very bad women."
"I have. And now that I meet a good one, it is my misfortune."
"Your misfortune, Lord Mountfalcon?"
"Yes, and I might say more."
His lordship held impressively mute.
"How strange men are!" thought Lucy. "He had some unhappy secret."
Tom Bakewell, who had a habit of coming into the room on various
pretences during the nobleman's visits, put a stop to the revelation, if
his lordship intended to make any.
When they were alone again, Lucy said, smiling: "Do you know, I am always
ashamed to ask you to begin to read."
Mountfalcon stared. "To read?--oh! ha! yes!" he remembered his evening
duties. "Very happy, I'm sure. Let me see. Where were we?"
"The life of the Emperor Julian. But indeed I feel quite ashamed to ask
you to read, my lord. It's new to me; like a new world--hearing about
Emperors, and armies, and things that really have been on the earth we
walk upon. It fills my mind. But it must have ceased to interest you,
and I was thinking that I would not tease you any more."
"Your pleasure is mine, Mrs. Feverel. 'Pon my honour, I'd read till I
was hoarse, to hear your remarks."
"Are you laughing at me?"
"Do I look so?"
Lord Mountfalcon had fine full eyes, and by merely dropping the lids he
could appear to endow them with mental expression.
"No, you are not," said Lucy. "I must thank you for your forbearance."
The nobleman went on his honour loudly.
Now it was an object of Lucy's to have him reading; for his sake, for her
sake, and for somebody else's sake; which somebody else was probably
considered first in the matter. When he was reading to her, he seemed to
be legitimizing his presence there; and though she had no doubts or
suspicions whatever, she was easier in her heart while she had him
employed in that office. So she rose to fetch the book, laid it open on
the table at his lordship's elbow, and quietly waited to ring for candles
when he should be willing to commence.
That evening Lord Mountfalcon could not get himself up to the farce, and
he felt a pity for the strangely innocent unprotected child with anguish
hanging over her, that withheld the words he wanted to speak, or
insinuate. He sat silent and did nothing.
"What I do not like him for," said Lucy, meditatively, "is his changing
his religion. He would have been such a hero, but for that. I could
have loved him."
"Who is it you could have loved, Mrs. Feverel?" Lord Mountfalcon asked.
"The Emperor Julian."
"Oh! the Emperor Julian! Well, he was an apostate but then, you know, he
meant what he was about. He didn't even do it for a woman."
"For a woman!" cried Lucy. "What man would for a woman?"
"You, Lord Mountfalcon?"
"Yes. I'd turn Catholic to-morrow."
"You make me very unhappy if you say that, my lord."
"Then I'll unsay it."
Lucy slightly shuddered. She put her hand upon the bell to ring for
"Do you reject a convert, Mrs. Feverel?" said the nobleman.
"Oh yes! yes! I do. One who does not give his conscience I would not
"If he gives his heart and body, can he give more?"
Lucy's hand pressed the bell. She did not like the doubtful light with
one who was so unscrupulous. Lord Mountfalcon had never spoken in this
way before. He spoke better, too. She missed the aristocratic twang in
his voice, and the hesitation for words, and the fluid lordliness with
which he rolled over difficulties in speech.
Simultaneously with the sounding of the bell the door opened, and
presented Tom Bakewell. There was a double knock at the same instant at
the street door. Lucy delayed to give orders.
"Can it be a letter, Tom!--so late?" she said, changing colour. "Pray
run and see."
"That an't powst" Tom remarked, as he obeyed his mistress.
"Are you very anxious for a letter, Mrs. Feverel?" Lord Mountfalcon
"Oh, no!--yes, I am, very." said Lucy. Her quick ear caught the tones of
a voice she remembered. "That dear old thing has come to see me," she
cried, starting up.
Tom ushered a bunch of black satin into the room.
"Mrs. Berry!" said Lucy, running up to her and kissing her.
"Me, my darlin'!" Mrs. Berry, breathless and rosy with her journey,
returned the salute. "Me truly it is, in fault of a better, for I ain't
one to stand by and give the devil his licence--roamin'! and the salt
sure enough have spilte my bride-gown at the beginnin', which ain't the
best sign. Bless ye!--Oh, here he is." She beheld a male figure in a
chair by the half light, and swung around to address him. "You bad man!"
she held aloft one of her fat fingers, "I've come on ye like a bolt, I
have, and goin' to make ye do your duty, naughty boy! But your my
darlin' babe," she melted, as was her custom, "and I'll never meet you
and not give to ye the kiss of a mother."
Before Lord Mountfalcon could find time to expostulate the soft woman had
him by the neck, and was down among his luxurious whiskers.
"Ha!" She gave a smothered shriek, and fell back. "What hair's that?"
Tom Bakewell just then illumined the transaction.
"Oh, my gracious!" Mrs. Berry breathed with horror, "I been and kiss a
Lucy, half-laughing, but in dreadful concern, begged the noble lord to
excuse the woful mistake.
"Extremely flattered, highly favoured, I'm sure;" said his lordship, re-
arranging his disconcerted moustache; "may I beg the pleasure of an
"My husband's dear old nurse--Mrs. Berry," said Lucy, taking her hand to
lend her countenance. "Lord Mountfalcon, Mrs. Berry."
Mrs. Berry sought grace while she performed a series of apologetic bobs,
and wiped the perspiration from her forehead.
Lucy put her into a chair: Lord Mountfalcon asked for an account of her
passage over to the Island; receiving distressingly full particulars, by
which it was revealed that the softness of her heart was only equalled by
the weakness of her stomach. The recital calmed Mrs. Berry down.
"Well, and where's my--where's Mr. Richard? yer husband, my dear?" Mrs.
Berry turned from her tale to question.
"Did you expect to see him here?" said Lucy, in a broken voice.
"And where else, my love? since he haven't been seen in London a whole
Lucy did not speak.
"We will dismiss the Emperor Julian till to-morrow, I think," said Lord
Mountfalcon, rising and bowing.
Lucy gave him her hand with mute thanks. He touched it distantly,
embraced Mrs. Berry in a farewell bow, and was shown out of the house by
The moment he was gone, Mrs. Berry threw up her arms. "Did ye ever know
sich a horrid thing to go and happen to a virtuous woman!" she exclaimed.
"I could cry at it, I could! To be goin' and kissin' a strange hairy
man! Oh dear me! what's cornin' next, I wonder? Whiskers! thinks I--for
I know the touch o' whiskers--'t ain't like other hair--what! have he
growed a crop that sudden, I says to myself; and it flashed on me I been
and made a awful mistake! and the lights come in, and I see that great
hairy man--beggin' his pardon--nobleman, and if I could 'a dropped
through the floor out o' sight o' men, drat 'em! they're al'ays in the
way, that they are!"--
"Mrs. Berry," Lucy checked her, "did you expect to find him here?"
"Askin' that solemn?" retorted Berry. "What him? your husband? O'
course I did! and you got him--somewheres hid."
"I have not heard from my husband for fifteen days," said Lucy, and her
tears rolled heavily off her cheeks.
"Not heer from him!--fifteen days!" Berry echoed.
"O Mrs. Berry! dear kind Mrs. Berry! have you no news? nothing to tell
me! I've borne it so long. They're cruel to me, Mrs. Berry. Oh, do you
know if I have offended him--my husband? While he wrote I did not
complain. I could live on his letters for years. But not to hear from
him! To think I have ruined him, and that he repents! Do they want to
take him from me? Do they want me dead? O Mrs. Berry! I've had no one
to speak out my heart to all this time, and I cannot, cannot help crying,
Mrs. Berry was inclined to be miserable at what she heard from Lucy's
lips, and she was herself full of dire apprehension; but it was never
this excellent creature's system to be miserable in company. The sight
of a sorrow that was not positive, and could not refer to proof, set her
resolutely the other way.
"Fiddle-faddle," she said. "I'd like to see him repent! He won't find
anywheres a beauty like his own dear little wife, and he know it. Now,
look you here, my dear--you blessed weepin' pet--the man that could see
ye with that hair of yours there in ruins, and he backed by the law, and
not rush into your arms and hold ye squeezed for life, he ain't got much
man in him, I say; and no one can say that of my babe! I was sayin',
look here, to comfort ye--oh, why, to be sure he've got some surprise for
ye. And so've I, my lamb! Hark, now! His father've come to town, like
a good reasonable man at last, to u-nite ye both, and bring your bodies
together, as your hearts is, for everlastin'. Now ain't that news?"
"Oh!" cried Lucy, "that takes my last hope away. I thought he had gone
to his father." She burst into fresh tears.
Mrs. Berry paused, disturbed.
"Belike he's travellin' after him," she suggested.
"Fifteen days, Mrs. Berry!"
"Ah, fifteen weeks, my dear, after sieh a man as that. He's a regular
meteor, is Sir Austin Feverel, Raynham Abbey. Well, so hark you here. I
says to myself, that knows him--for I did think my babe was in his
natural nest--I says, the bar'net'll never write for you both to come up
and beg forgiveness, so down I'll go and fetch you up. For there was
your mistake, my dear, ever to leave your husband to go away from ye one
hour in a young marriage. It's dangerous, it's mad, it's wrong, and it's
only to be righted by your obeyin' of me, as I commands it: for I has my
fits, though I am a soft 'un. Obey me, and ye'll be happy tomorrow--or
the next to it."
Lucy was willing to see comfort. She was weary of her self-inflicted
martyrdom, and glad to give herself up to somebody else's guidance
"But why does he not write to me, Mrs. Berry?"
"'Cause, 'cause--who can tell the why of men, my dear? But that he love
ye faithful, I'll swear. Haven't he groaned in my arms that he couldn't
come to ye?--weak wretch! Hasn't he swore how he loved ye to me, poor
young man! But this is your fault, my sweet. Yes, it be. You should 'a
followed my 'dvice at the fust--'stead o' going into your 'eroics about
this and t'other." Here Mrs. Berry poured forth fresh sentences on
matrimony, pointed especially at young couples. "I should 'a been a fool
if I hadn't suffered myself," she confessed, "so I'll thank my Berry if I
makes you wise in season."
Lucy smoothed her ruddy plump cheeks, and gazed up affectionately into
the soft woman's kind brown eyes. Endearing phrases passed from mouth to
mouth. And as she gazed Lucy blushed, as one who has something very
secret to tell, very sweet, very strange, but cannot quite bring herself
to speak it.
"Well! these's three men in my life I kissed," said Mrs. Berry, too much
absorbed in her extraordinary adventure to notice the young wife's
struggling bosom, "three men, and one a nobleman! He've got more whisker
than my Berry, I wonder what the man thought. Ten to one he'll think,
now, I was glad o' my chance--they're that vain, whether they's lords or
commons. How was I to know? I nat'ral thinks none but her husband'd sit
in that chair. Ha! and in the dark? and alone with ye?" Mrs. Berry
hardened her eyes, "and your husband away? What do this mean? Tell to
me, child, what it mean his bein' here alone without ere a candle?"
"Lord Mountfalcon is the only friend I have here," said Lucy. "He is
very kind. He comes almost every evening."
"Lord Montfalcon--that his name!" Mrs. Berry exclaimed. "I been that
flurried by the man, I didn't mind it at first. He come every evenin',
and your husband out o' sight! My goodness me! it's gettin' worse and
worse. And what do he come for, now, ma'am? Now tell me candid what ye
do together here in the dark of an evenin'."
Mrs. Berry glanced severely.
"O Mrs. Berry! please not to speak in that way--I don't like it," said
"What do he come for, I ask?"
"Because he is kind, Mrs. Berry. He sees me very lonely, and wishes to
amuse me. And he tells me of things I know nothing about and"--
"And wants to be a-teachin' some of his things, mayhap," Mrs. Berry
interrupted with a ruffled breast.
"You are a very ungenerous, suspicious, naughty old woman," said Lucy,
"And you're a silly, unsuspectin' little bird," Mrs. Berry retorted, as
she returned her taps on the cheek. "You haven't told me what ye do
together, and what's his excuse for comin'."
"Well, then, Mrs. Berry, almost every evening that he comes we read
History, and he explains the battles, and talks to me about the great
men. And he says I'm not silly, Mrs. Berry."
"That's one bit o' lime on your wings, my bird. History, indeed!
History to a young married lovely woman alone in the dark! a pretty
History! Why, I know that man's name, my dear. He's a notorious living
rake, that Lord Montfalcon. No woman's safe with him."
"Ah, but he hasn't deceived me, Mrs. Berry. He has not pretended he was
"More's his art," quoth the experienced dame. "So you read History
together in the dark; my dear!"
"I was unwell to-night, Mrs. Berry. I wanted him not to see my face.
Look! there's the book open ready for him when the candles come in. And
now, you dear kind darling old thing, let me kiss you for coming to me.
I do love you. Talk of other things."
"So we will," said Mrs. Berry softening to Lucy's caresses. "So let us.
A nobleman, indeed, alone with a young wife in the dark, and she sich a
beauty! I say this shall be put a stop to now and henceforth, on the
spot it shall! He won't meneuvele Bessy Berry with his arts. There! I
drop him. I'm dyin' for a cup o' tea, my dear."
Lucy got up to ring the bell, and as Mrs. Berry, incapable of quite
dropping him, was continuing to say: "Let him go and boast I kiss him; he
ain't nothin' to be 'shamed of in a chaste woman's kiss--unawares--which
men don't get too often in their lives, I can assure 'em;"--her eye
surveyed Lucy's figure.
Lo, when Lucy returned to her, Mrs. Berry surrounded her with her arms,
and drew her into feminine depths. "Oh, you blessed!" she cried in most
meaning tone, "you good, lovin', proper little wife, you!"
"What is it, Mrs. Berry!" lisps Lucy, opening the most innocent blue
"As if I couldn't see, you pet! It was my flurry blinded me, or I'd 'a
marked ye the fast shock. Thinkin' to deceive me!"
Mrs. Berry's eyes spoke generations. Lucy's wavered; she coloured all
over, and hid her face on the bounteous breast that mounted to her.
"You're a sweet one," murmured the soft woman, patting her back, and
rocking her. "You're a rose, you are! and a bud on your stalk. Haven't
told a word to your husband, my dear?" she asked quickly.
Lucy shook her head, looking sly and shy.
"That's right. We'll give him a surprise; let it come all at once on
him, and thinks he--losin' breath 'I'm a father!' Nor a hint even you
haven't give him?"
Lucy kissed her, to indicate it was quite a secret.
"Oh! you are a sweet one," said Bessy Berry, and rocked her more closely
Then these two had a whispered conversation, from which let all of male
persuasion retire a space nothing under one mile.
Returning, after a due interval, we see Mrs. Berry counting on her
fingers' ends. Concluding the sum, she cries prophetically: "Now this
right everything--a baby in the balance! Now I say this angel-infant
come from on high. It's God's messenger, my love! and it's not wrong to
say so. He thinks you worthy, or you wouldn't 'a had one--not for all
the tryin' in the world, you wouldn't, and some tries hard enough, poor
creatures! Now let us rejice and make merry! I'm for cryin' and
laughin', one and the same. This is the blessed seal of matrimony, which
Berry never stamp on me. It's be hoped it's a boy. Make that man a
grandfather, and his grandchild a son, and you got him safe. Oh! this
is what I call happiness, and I'll have my tea a little stronger in
consequence. I declare I could get tipsy to know this joyful news."
So Mrs. Berry carolled. She had her tea a little stronger. She ate and
she drank; she rejoiced and made merry. The bliss of the chaste was
Says Lucy demurely: "Now you know why I read History, and that sort of
"Do I?" replies Berry. "Belike I do. Since what you done's so good, my
darlin', I'm agreeable to anything. A fig for all the lords! They can't
come anigh a baby. You may read Voyages and Travels, my dear, and
Romances, and Tales of Love and War. You cut the riddle in your own dear
way, and that's all I cares for."
"No, but you don't understand," persists Lucy. "I only read sensible
books, and talk of serious things, because I'm sure... because I have
heard say...dear Mrs. Berry! don't you understand now?"
Mrs. Berry smacked her knees. "Only to think of her bein' that
thoughtful! and she a Catholic, too! Never tell me that people of one
religion ain't as good as another, after that. Why, you want to make him
a historian, to be sure! And that rake of a lord who've been comin' here
playin' at wolf, you been and made him--unbeknown to himself--sort o'
tutor to the unborn blessed! Ha! ha! say that little women ain't got art
ekal to the cunningest of 'em. Oh! I understand. Why, to be sure,
didn't I know a lady, a widow of a clergyman: he was a postermost child,
and afore his birth that women read nothin' but Blair's 'Grave' over and
over again, from the end to the beginnin';--that's a serious book!--very
hard readin'!--and at four years of age that child that come of it reelly
was the piousest infant!--he was like a little curate. His eyes was up;
he talked so solemn." Mrs. Berry imitated the little curate's appearance
and manner of speaking. "So she got her wish, for one!"
But at this lady Lucy laughed.
They chattered on happily till bedtime. Lucy arranged for Mrs. Berry to
sleep with her. "If it's not dreadful to ye, my sweet, sleepin' beside a
woman," said Mrs. Berry. "I know it were to me shortly after my Berry,
and I felt it. It don't somehow seem nat'ral after matrimony--a woman in
your bed! I was obliged to have somebody, for the cold sheets do give ye
the creeps when you've been used to that that's different."
Upstairs they went together, Lucy not sharing these objections. Then
Lucy opened certain drawers, and exhibited pretty caps, and laced linen,
all adapted for a very small body, all the work of her own hands: and
Mrs. Berry praised them and her. "You been guessing a boy--woman-like,"
she said. Then they cooed, and kissed, and undressed by the fire, and
knelt at the bedside, with their arms about each other, praying; both
praying for the unborn child; and Mrs. Berry pressed Lucy's waist the
moment she was about to breathe the petition to heaven to shield and
bless that coming life; and thereat Lucy closed to her, and felt a strong
love for her. Then Lucy got into bed first, leaving Berry to put out the
light, and before she did so, Berry leaned over her, and eyed her
roguishly, saying, "I never see ye like this, but I'm half in love with
ye myself, you blushin' beauty! Sweet's your eyes, and your hair do take
one so--lyin' back. I'd never forgive my father if he kep me away from
ye four-and-twenty hours just. Husband o' that!" Berry pointed at the
young wife's loveliness. "Ye look so ripe with kisses, and there they
are a-languishin'!--... You never look so but in your bed, ye beauty!--
just as it ought to be." Lucy had to pretend to rise to put out the
light before Berry would give up her amorous chaste soliloquy. Then they
lay in bed, and Mrs. Berry fondled her, and arranged for their departure
to-morrow, and reviewed Richard's emotions when he came to hear he was
going to be made a father by her, and hinted at Lucy's delicious shivers
when Richard was again in his rightful place, which she, Bessy Berry, now
usurped; and all sorts of amorous sweet things; enough to make one fancy
the adage subverted, that stolen fruits are sweetest; she drew such
glowing pictures of bliss within the law and the limits of the
conscience, till at last, worn out, Lucy murmured "Peepy, dear Berry,"
and the soft woman gradually ceased her chirp.
Bessy Berry did not sleep. She lay thinking of the sweet brave heart
beside her, and listening to Lucy's breath as it came and went; squeezing
the fair sleeper's hand now and then, to ease her love as her reflections
warmed. A storm of wind came howling over the Hampshire hills, and
sprang white foam on the water, and shook the bare trees. It passed,
leaving a thin cloth of snow on the wintry land. The moon shone
brilliantly. Berry heard the house-dog bark. His bark was savage and
persistent. She was roused by the noise. By and by she fancied she
heard a movement in the house; then it seemed to her that the house-door
opened. She cocked her ears, and could almost make out voices in the
midnight stillness. She slipped from the bed, locked and bolted the door
of the room, assured herself of Lucy's unconsciousness, and went on
tiptoe to the window. The trees all stood white to the north; the ground
glittered; the cold was keen. Berry wrapped her fat arms across her
bosom, and peeped as close over into the garden as the situation of the
window permitted. Berry was a soft, not a timid, woman: and it happened
this night that her thoughts were above the fears of the dark. She was
sure of the voices; curiosity without a shade of alarm held her on the
watch; and gathering bundles of her day-apparel round her neck and
shoulders, she silenced the chattering of her teeth as well as she could,
and remained stationary. The low hum of the voices came to a break;
something was said in a louder tone; the house-door quietly shut; a man
walked out of the garden into the road. He paused opposite her window,
and Berry let the blind go back to its place, and peeped from behind an
edge of it. He was in the shadow of the house, so that it was impossible
to discern much of his figure. After some minutes he walked rapidly
away, and Berry returned to the bed an icicle, from which Lucy's limbs
Next morning Mrs. Berry asked Tom Bakewell if he had been disturbed in
the night. Tom, the mysterious, said he had slept like a top. Mrs.
Berry went into the garden. The snow was partially melted; all save one
spot, just under the portal, and there she saw the print of a man's foot.
By some strange guidance it occurred to her to go and find one of
Richard's boots. She did so, and, unperceived, she measured the sole of
the boot in that solitary footmark. There could be no doubt that it
fitted. She tried it from heel to toe a dozen times.
Sir Austin Feverel had come to town with the serenity of a philosopher
who says, 'Tis now time; and the satisfaction of a man who has not
arrived thereat without a struggle. He had almost forgiven his son. His
deep love for him had well-nigh shaken loose from wounded pride and more
tenacious vanity. Stirrings of a remote sympathy for the creature who
had robbed him of his son and hewed at his System, were in his heart of
hearts. This he knew; and in his own mind he took credit for his
softness. But the world must not suppose him soft; the world must think
he was still acting on his System. Otherwise what would his long absence
signify?--Something highly unphilosophical. So, though love was strong,
and was moving him to a straightforward course, the last tug of vanity
drew him still aslant.
The Aphorist read himself so well, that to juggle with himself was a
necessity. As he wished the world to see him, he beheld himself: one who
entirely put aside mere personal feelings: one in whom parental duty,
based on the science of life, was paramount: a Scientific Humanist, in
He was, therefore, rather surprised at a coldness in Lady Blandish's
manner when he did appear. "At last!" said the lady, in a sad way that
sounded reproachfully. Now the Scientific Humanist had, of course,
nothing to reproach himself with.
But where was Richard?
Adrian positively averred he was not with his wife.
"If he had gone," said the baronet, "he would have anticipated me by a
This, when repeated to Lady Blandish, should have propitiated her, and
shown his great forgiveness. She, however, sighed, and looked at him
Their converse was not happy and deeply intimate. Philosophy did not
seem to catch her mind; and fine phrases encountered a rueful assent,
more flattering to their grandeur than to their influence.
Days went by. Richard did not present himself. Sir Austin's pitch of
self-command was to await the youth without signs of impatience.
Seeing this, the lady told him her fears for Richard, and mentioned the
rumour of him that was about.
"If," said the baronet, "this person, his wife, is what you paint her, I
do not share your fears for him. I think too well of him. If she is one
to inspire the sacredness of that union, I think too well of him. It is
The lady saw one thing to be done.
"Call her to you," she said. "Have her with you at Raynham. Recognize
her. It is the disunion and doubt that so confuses him and drives him
wild. I confess to you I hoped he had gone to her. It seems not. If
she is with you his way will be clear. Will you do that?"
Science is notoriously of slow movement. Lady Blandish's proposition was
far too hasty for Sir Austin. Women, rapid by nature, have no idea of
"We shall see her there in time, Emmeline. At present let it be between
me and my son."
He spoke loftily. In truth it offended him to be asked to do anything,
when he had just brought himself to do so much.
A month elapsed, and Richard appeared on the scene.
The meeting between him and his father was not what his father had
expected and had crooned over in the Welsh mountains. Richard shook his
hand respectfully, and inquired after his health with the common social
solicitude. He then said: "During your absence, sir, I have taken the
liberty, without consulting you, to do something in which you are more
deeply concerned than myself. I have taken upon myself to find out my
mother and place her under my care. I trust you will not think I have
done wrong. I acted as I thought best."
Sir Austin replied: "You are of an age, Richard, to judge for yourself in
such a case. I would have you simply beware of deceiving yourself in
imagining that you considered any one but yourself in acting as you did."
"I have not deceived myself, sir," said Richard, and the interview was
over. Both hated an exposure of the feelings, and in that both were
satisfied: but the baronet, as one who loves, hoped and looked for tones
indicative of trouble and delight in the deep heart; and Richard gave him
none of those. The young man did not even face him as he spoke: if their
eyes met by chance, Richard's were defiantly cold. His whole bearing was
"This rash marriage has altered him," said the very just man of science
in life: and that meant: "it has debased him."
He pursued his reflections. "I see in him the desperate maturity of a
suddenly-ripened nature: and but for my faith that good work is never
lost, what should I think of the toil of my years? Lost, perhaps to me!
lost to him! It may show itself in his children."
The Philosopher, we may conceive, has contentment in benefiting embryos:
but it was a somewhat bitter prospect to Sir Austin. Bitterly he felt
the injury to himself.
One little incident spoke well of Richard. A poor woman called at the
hotel while he was missing. The baronet saw her, and she told him a tale
that threw Christian light on one part of Richard's nature. But this
might gratify the father in Sir Austin; it did not touch the man of
science. A Feverel, his son, would not do less, he thought. He sat down
deliberately to study his son.
No definite observations enlightened him. Richard ate and drank; joked
and laughed. He was generally before Adrian in calling for a fresh
bottle. He talked easily of current topics; his gaiety did not sound
forced. In all he did, nevertheless, there was not the air of a youth
who sees a future before him. Sir Austin put that down. It might be
carelessness, and wanton blood, for no one could say he had much on his
mind. The man of science was not reckoning that Richard also might have
learned to act and wear a mask. Dead subjects--this is to say, people
not on their guard--he could penetrate and dissect. It is by a rare
chance, as scientific men well know, that one has an opportunity of
examining the structure of the living.
However, that rare chance was granted to Sir Austin. They were engaged
to dine with Mrs. Doria at the Foreys', and walked down to her in the
afternoon, father and son arm-in-arm, Adrian beside them. Previously the
offended father had condescended to inform his son that it would shortly
be time for him to return to his wife, indicating that arrangements would
ultimately be ordered to receive her at Raynham. Richard had replied
nothing; which might mean excess of gratitude, or hypocrisy in concealing
his pleasure, or any one of the thousand shifts by which gratified human
nature expresses itself when all is made to run smooth with it. Now Mrs.
Berry had her surprise ready charged for the young husband. She had Lucy
in her own house waiting for him. Every day she expected him to call and
be overcome by the rapturous surprise, and every day, knowing his habit
of frequenting the park, she marched Lucy thither, under the plea that
Master Richard, whom she had already christened, should have an airing.
The round of the red winter sun was behind the bare Kensington chestnuts,
when these two parties met. Happily for Lucy and the hope she bore in
her bosom, she was perversely admiring a fair horsewoman galloping by at
the moment. Mrs. Berry plucked at her gown once or twice, to prepare her
eyes for the shock, but Lucy's head was still half averted, and thinks
Mrs. Berry, "Twon't hurt her if she go into his arms head foremost."
They were close; Mrs. Berry performed the bob preliminary. Richard held
her silent with a terrible face; he grasped her arm, and put her behind
him. Other people intervened. Lucy saw nothing to account for Berry's
excessive flutter. Berry threw it on the air and some breakfast bacon,
which, she said, she knew in the morning while she ate it, was bad for
the bile, and which probably was the cause of her bursting into tears,
much to Lucy's astonishment.
"What you ate makes you cry, Mrs. Berry?"
"It's all--" Mrs. Berry pressed at her heart and leaned sideways, "it's
all stomach, my dear. Don't ye mind," and becoming aware of her
unfashionable behaviour, she trailed off to the shelter of the elms.
"You have a singular manner with old ladies," said Sir Austin to his son,
after Berry had been swept aside.
Scarcely courteous. She behaved like a mad woman, certainly."--Are you
ill, my son?"
Richard was death-pale, his strong form smitten through with weakness.
The baronet sought Adrian's eye. Adrian had seen Lucy as they passed,
and he had a glimpse of Richard's countenance while disposing of Berry.
Had Lucy recognized them, he would have gone to her unhesitatingly. As
she did not, he thought it well, under the circumstances, to leave
matters as they were. He answered the baronet's look with a shrug.
"Are you ill, Richard?" Sir Austin again asked his son.
"Come on, sir! come on!" cried Richard.
His father's further meditations, as they stepped briskly to the Foreys',
gave poor ferry a character which one who lectures on matrimony, and has
kissed but three men in her life, shrieks to hear the very title of.
"Richard will go to his wife to-morrow," Sir Austin said to Adrian some
time before they went in to dinner.
Adrian asked him if he had chanced to see a young fair-haired lady by the
side of the old one Richard had treated so peculiarly; and to the
baronet's acknowledgment that he remembered to have observed such a
person, Adrian said: "That was his wife, sir."
Sir Austin could not dissect the living subject. As if a bullet had torn
open the young man's skull, and some blast of battle laid his palpitating
organization bare, he watched every motion of his brain and his heart;
and with the grief and terror of one whose mental habit was ever to
pierce to extremes. Not altogether conscious that he had hitherto played
with life, he felt that he was suddenly plunged into the stormful reality
of it. He projected to speak plainly to his son on all points that
"Richard is very gay," Mrs. Doris, whispered her brother.
"All will be right with him to-morrow," he replied; for the game had been
in his hands so long, so long had he been the God of the machine, that
having once resolved to speak plainly and to act, he was to a certain
extent secure, bad as the thing to mend might be.
"I notice he has rather a wild laugh--I don't exactly like his eyes,"
said Mrs. Doria.
"You will see a change in him to-morrow," the man of science remarked.
It was reserved for Mrs. Doria herself to experience that change. In the
middle of the dinner a telegraphic message from her son-in-law, worthy
John Todhunter, reached the house, stating that Clare was alarmingly ill,
bidding her come instantly. She cast about for some one to accompany
her, and fixed on Richard. Before he would give his consent for Richard
to go, Sir Austin desired to speak with him apart, and in that interview
he said to his son: "My dear Richard! it was my intention that we should
come to an understanding together this night. But the time is short--
poor Helen cannot spare many minutes. Let me then say that you deceived
me, and that I forgive you. We fix our seal on the past. You will bring
your wife to me when you return." And very cheerfully the baronet looked
down on the generous future he thus founded.
"Will you have her at Raynham at once, sir?" said Richard.
"Yes, my son, when you bring her."
"Are you mocking me, sir?"
"Pray, what do you mean?"
"I ask you to receive her at once."
"Well! the delay cannot be long. I do not apprehend that you will be
kept from your happiness many days."
"I think it will be some time, sir!" said Richard, sighing deeply.
"And what mental freak is this that can induce you to postpone it and
play with your first duty?"
"What is my first duty, sir?"
"Since you are married, to be with your wife."
"I have heard that from an old woman called Berry!" said Richard to
himself, not intending irony.
"Will you receive her at once?" he asked resolutely.
The baronet was clouded by his son's reception of his graciousness. His
grateful prospect had formerly been Richard's marriage--the culmination
of his System. Richard had destroyed his participation in that. He now
looked for a pretty scene in recompense:--Richard leading up his wife to
him, and both being welcomed by him paternally, and so held one
ostentatious minute in his embrace.
He said: "Before you return, I demur to receiving her."
"Very well, sir," replied his son, and stood as if he had spoken all.
"Really you tempt me to fancy you already regret your rash proceeding!"
the baronet exclaimed; and the next moment it pained him he had uttered
the words, Richard's eyes were so sorrowfully fierce. It pained him, but
he divined in that look a history, and he could not refrain from glancing
acutely and asking: "Do you?"
"Regret it, sir?" The question aroused one of those struggles in the
young man's breast which a passionate storm of tears may still, and which
sink like leaden death into the soul when tears come not. Richard's eyes
had the light of the desert.
"Do you?" his father repeated. "You tempt me--I almost fear you do." At
the thought--for he expressed his mind--the pity that he had for Richard
was not pure gold.
"Ask me what I think of her, sir! Ask me what she is! Ask me what it is
to have taken one of God's precious angels and chained her to misery!
Ask me what it is to have plunged a sword into her heart, and to stand
over her and see such a creature bleeding! Do I regret that? Why, yes,
I do! Would you?"
His eyes flew hard at his father under the ridge of his eyebrows.
Sir Austin winced and reddened. Did he understand? There is ever in the
mind's eye a certain wilfulness. We see and understand; we see and won't
"Tell me why you passed by her as you did this afternoon," he said
gravely: and in the same voice Richard answered: "I passed her because I
could not do otherwise."
"Your wife, Richard?"
"Yes! my wife!"
"If she had seen you, Richard?"
"God spared her that!"
Mrs. Doria, bustling in practical haste, and bearing Richard's hat and
greatcoat in her energetic hands, came between them at this juncture.
Dimples of commiseration were in her cheeks while she kissed her
brother's perplexed forehead. She forgot her trouble about Clare,
deploring his fatuity.
Sir Austin was forced to let his son depart. As of old, he took counsel
with Adrian, and the wise youth was soothing. "Somebody has kissed him,
sir, and the chaste boy can't get over it." This absurd suggestion did
more to appease the baronet than if Adrian had given a veritable
reasonable key to Richard's conduct. It set him thinking that it might
be a prudish strain in the young man's mind, due to the System in
"I may have been wrong in one thing," he said, with an air of the utmost
doubt of it. "I, perhaps, was wrong in allowing him so much liberty
during his probation."
Adrian pointed out to him that he had distinctly commanded it.
"Yes, yes; that is on me."
His was an order of mind that would accept the most burdensome charges,
and by some species of moral usury make a profit out of them.
Clare was little talked of. Adrian attributed the employment of the
telegraph to John Todhunter's uxorious distress at a toothache, or
possibly the first symptoms of an heir to his house.
"That child's mind has disease in it... She is not sound," said the
On the door-step of the hotel, when they returned, stood Mrs. Berry. Her
wish to speak a few words with the baronet reverentially communicated,
she was ushered upstairs into his room.
Mrs. Berry compressed her person in the chair she was beckoned to occupy.
"Well' ma'am, you have something to say," observed the baronet, for she
seemed loth to commence.
"Wishin' I hadn't--" Mrs. Berry took him up, and mindful of the good rule
to begin at the beginning, pursued: "I dare say, Sir Austin, you don't
remember me, and I little thought when last we parted our meeting 'd be
like this. Twenty year don't go over one without showin' it, no more
than twenty ox. It's a might o' time,--twenty year! Leastways not quite
twenty, it ain't."
"Round figures are best," Adrian remarked.
"In them round figures a be-loved son have growed up, and got himself
married!" said Mrs. Berry, diving straight into the case.
Sir Austin then learnt that he had before him the culprit who had
assisted his son in that venture. It was a stretch of his patience to
hear himself addressed on a family matter; but he was naturally
"He came to my house, Sir Austin, a stranger! If twenty year alters us
as have knowed each other on the earth, how must they alter they that we
parted with just come from heaven! And a heavenly babe he were! so
sweet! so strong! so fat!"
Adrian laughed aloud.
Mrs. Berry bumped a curtsey to him in her chair, continuing: "I wished
afore I spoke to say how thankful am I bound to be for my pension not cut
short, as have offended so, but that I know Sir Austin Feverel, Raynham
Abbey, ain't one o' them that likes to hear their good deeds pumlished.
And a pension to me now, it's something more than it were. For a pension
and pretty rosy cheeks in a maid, which I was--that's a bait many a
man'll bite, that won't so a forsaken wife!"
"If you will speak to the point, ma'am, I will listen to you," the
baronet interrupted her.
"It's the beginnin' that's the worst, and that's over, thank the Lord!
So I'll speak, Sir Austin, and say my say:--Lord speed me! Believin' our
idees o' matrimony to be sim'lar, then, I'll say, once married--married
for life! Yes! I don't even like widows. For I can't stop at the
grave. Not at the tomb I can't stop. My husband's my husband, and if
I'm a body at the Resurrection, I say, speaking humbly, my Berry is the
husband o' my body; and to think of two claimin' of me then--it makes me
hot all over. Such is my notion of that state 'tween man and woman. No
givin' in marriage, o' course I know; and if so I'm single."
The baronet suppressed a smile. "Really, my good woman, you wander very
"Beggin' pardon, Sir Austin; but I has my point before me all the same,
and I'm comin' to it. Ac-knowledgin' our error, it'd done, and bein'
done, it's writ aloft. Oh! if you ony knew what a sweet young creature
she be! Indeed; 'taint all of humble birth that's unworthy, Sir Austin.
And she got her idees, too: She reads History! She talk that sensible as
would surprise ye. But for all that she's a prey to the artful o' men--
unpertected. And it's a young marriage--but there's no fear for her, as
far as she go. The fear's t'other way. There's that in a man--at the
commencement--which make of him Lord knows what if you any way
interferes: whereas a woman bides quiet! It's consolation catch her,
which is what we mean by seduein'. Whereas a man--he's a savage!"
Sir Austin turned his face to Adrian, who was listening with huge
"Well, ma'am, I see you have something in your mind, if you would only
come to it quickly."
"Then here's my point, Sir Austin. I say you bred him so as there ain't
another young gentleman like him in England, and proud he make me. And
as for her, I'll risk sayin'--it's done, and no harm--you might search
England through, and nowhere will ye find a maid that's his match like
his own wife. Then there they be. Are they together as should be? O
Lord no! Months they been divided. Then she all lonely and exposed, I
went, and fetched her out of seducers' ways--which they may say what they
like, but the inn'cent is most open to when they're healthy and
confidin'--I fetch her, and--the liberty--boxed her safe in my own house.
So much for that sweet! That you may do with women. But it's him--Mr.
Richard--I am bold, I know, but there--I'm in for it, and the Lord'll
help me! It's him, Sir Austin, in this great metropolis, warm from a
young marriage. It's him, and--I say nothin' of her, and how sweet she
bears it, and it's eating her at a time when Natur' should have no other
trouble but the one that's goin' on it's him, and I ask--so bold--shall
there--and a Christian gentlemen his father--shall there be a tug 'tween
him as a son and him as a husband--soon to be somethin' else? I speak
bold out--I'd have sons obey their fathers, but a priest's words spoke
over them, which they're now in my ears, I say I ain't a doubt on earth--
I'm sure there ain't one in heaven--which dooty's the holier of the two."
Sir Austin heard her to an end. Their views on the junction of the sexes
were undoubtedly akin. To be lectured on his prime subject, however, was
slightly disagreeable, and to be obliged mentally to assent to this old
lady's doctrine was rather humiliating, when it could not be averred that
he had latterly followed it out. He sat cross-legged and silent, a
finger to his temple.
"One gets so addle-gated thinkin' many things," said Mrs. Berry, simply.
"That's why we see wonder clever people goin' wrong--to my mind. I think
it's al'ays the plan in a dielemmer to pray God and walk forward."
The keen-witted soft woman was tracking the baronet's thoughts, and she
had absolutely run him down and taken an explanation out of his mouth, by
which Mrs. Berry was to have been informed that he had acted from a
principle of his own, and devolved a wisdom she could not be expected to
Of course he became advised immediately that it would be waste of time to
direct such an explanation to her inferior capacity.
He gave her his hand, saying, "My son has gone out of town to see his
cousin, who is ill. He will return in two or three days, and then they
will both come to me at Raynham."
Mrs. Berry took the tips of his fingers, and went half-way to the floor
perpendicularly. "He pass her like a stranger in the park this evenin',"
"Ah?" said the baronet. "Yes, well! they will be at Raynham before the
week is over."
Mrs. Berry was not quite satisfied. "Not of his own accord he pass that
sweet young wife of his like a stranger this day, Sir Austin!"
"I must beg you not to intrude further, ma'am."
Mrs. Berry bobbed her bunch of a body out of the room.
"All's well that ends well," she said to herself. "It's just bad
inquirin' too close among men. We must take 'em somethin' like
Providence--as they come. Thank heaven! I kep' back the baby."
In Mrs. Berry's eyes the baby was the victorious reserve.
Adrian asked his chief what he thought of that specimen of woman.
"I think I have not met a better in my life," said the baronet, mingling
praise and sarcasm.
Clare lies in her bed as placid as in the days when she breathed; her
white hands stretched their length along the sheets, at peace from head
to feet. She needs iron no more. Richard is face to face with death for
the first time. He sees the sculpture of clay--the spark gone.
Clare gave her mother the welcome of the dead. This child would have
spoken nothing but kind commonplaces had she been alive. She was dead,
and none knew her malady. On her fourth finger were two wedding-rings.
When hours of weeping had silenced the mother's anguish, she, for some
comfort she saw in it, pointed out that strange thing to Richard,
speaking low in the chamber of the dead; and then he learnt that it was
his own lost ring Clare wore in the two worlds. He learnt from her
husband that Clare's last request had been that neither of the rings
should be removed. She had written it; she would not speak it.
"I beg of my husband, and all kind people who may have the care of me
between this and the grave, to bury me with my hands untouched."
The tracing of the words showed the bodily torment she was suffering, as
she wrote them on a scrap of paper found beside her pillow.
In wonder, as the dim idea grew from the waving of Clare's dead hand,
Richard paced the house, and hung about the awful room; dreading to enter
it, reluctant to quit it. The secret Clare had buried while she lived,
arose with her death. He saw it play like flame across her marble
features. The memory of her voice was like a knife at his nerves. His
coldness to her started up accusingly: her meekness was bitter blame.
On the evening of the fourth day, her mother came to him in his bedroom,
with a face so white that he asked himself if aught worse could happen to
a mother than the loss of her child. Choking she said to him, "Read
this," and thrust a leather-bound pocket-book trembling in his hand. She
would not breathe to him what it was. She entreated him not to open it
"Tell me," she said, "tell me what you think. John must not hear of it.
I have nobody to consult but you O Richard!"
"My Diary" was written in the round hand of Clare's childhood on the
first page. The first name his eye encountered was his own.
"Richard's fourteenth birthday. I have worked him a purse and put it
under his pillow, because he is going to have plenty of money. He does
not notice me now because he has a friend now, and he is ugly, but
Richard is not, and never will be."
The occurrences of that day were subsequently recorded, and a childish
prayer to God for him set down. Step by step he saw her growing mind in
his history. As she advanced in years she began to look back, and made
much of little trivial remembrances, all bearing upon him.
"We went into the fields and gathered cowslips together, and pelted each
other, and I told him he used to call them 'coals-sleeps' when he was a
baby, and he was angry at my telling him, for he does not like to be told
he was ever a baby."
He remembered the incident, and remembered his stupid scorn of her meek
affection. Little Clare! how she lived before him in her white dress and
pink ribbons, and soft dark eyes! Upstairs she was lying dead. He read
"Mama says there is no one in the world like Richard, and I am sure there
is not, not in the whole world. He says he is going to be a great
General and going to the wars. If he does I shall dress myself as a boy
and go after him, and he will not know me till I am wounded. Oh I pray
he will never, never be wounded. I wonder what I should feel if Richard
was ever to die."
Upstairs Clare was lying dead.
"Lady Blandish said there was a likeness between Richard and me. Richard
said I hope I do not hang down my head as she does. He is angry with me
because I do not look people in the face and speak out, but I know I am
not looking after earthworms."
Yes. He had told her that. A shiver seized him at the recollection.
Then it came to a period when the words: "Richard kissed me," stood by
themselves, and marked a day in her life.
Afterwards it was solemnly discovered that Richard wrote poetry. He read
one of his old forgotten compositions penned when he had that ambition.
"Thy truth to me is truer
Than horse, or dog, or blade;
Thy vows to me are fewer
Than ever maiden made.
Thou steppest from thy splendour
To make my life a song:
My bosom shall be tender
As thine has risen strong."
All the verses were transcribed. "It is he who is the humble knight,"
Clare explained at the close, "and his lady, is a Queen. Any Queen would
throw her crown away for him."
It came to that period when Clare left Raynham with her mother.
"Richard was not sorry to lose me. He only loves boys and men.
Something tells me I shall never see Raynham again. He was dressed in
blue. He said Good-bye, Clare, and kissed me on the cheek. Richard
never kisses me on the mouth. He did not know I went to his bed and
kissed him while he was asleep. He sleeps with one arm under his head,
and the other out on the bed. I moved away a bit of his hair that was
over his eyes. I wanted to cut it. I have one piece. I do not let
anybody see I am unhappy, not even mama. She says I want iron. I am
sure I do not. I like to write my name. Clare Doria Forey. Richard's
is Richard Doria Feverel."
His breast rose convulsively. Clare Doria Forey! He knew the music of
that name. He had heard it somewhere. It sounded faint and mellow now
behind the hills of death.
He could not read for tears. It was midnight. The hour seemed to belong
to her. The awful stillness and the darkness were Clare's. Clare's
voice clear and cold from the grave possessed it.
Painfully, with blinded eyes, he looked over the breathless pages. She
spoke of his marriage, and her finding the ring.
"I knew it was his. I knew he was going to be married that morning. I
saw him stand by the altar when they laughed at breakfast. His wife must
be so beautiful! Richard's wife! Perhaps he will love me better now he
is married. Mama says they must be separated. That is shameful. If I
can help him I will. I pray so that he may be happy. I hope God hears
poor sinners' prayers. I am very sinful. Nobody knows it as I do. They
say I am good, but I know. When I look on the ground I am not looking
after earthworms, as he said. Oh, do forgive me, God!"
Then she spoke of her own marriage, and that it was her duty to obey her
mother. A blank in the Diary ensued.
"I have seen Richard. Richard despises me," was the next entry.
But now as he read his eyes were fixed, and the delicate feminine
handwriting like a black thread drew on his soul to one terrible
"I cannot live. Richard despises me. I cannot bear the touch of my
fingers or the sight of my face. Oh! I understand him now. He should
not have kissed me so that last time. I wished to die while his mouth
was on mine."
Further: "I have no escape. Richard said he would die rather than endure
it. I know he would. Why should I be afraid to do what he would do? I
think if my husband whipped me I could bear it better. He is so kind,
and tries to make me cheerful. He will soon be very unhappy. I pray to
God half the night. I seem to be losing sight of my God the more I
Richard laid the book open on the table. Phantom surges seemed to be
mounting and travelling for his brain. Had Clare taken his wild words in
earnest? Did she lie there dead--he shrouded the thought.
He wrapped the thoughts in shrouds, but he was again reading.
"A quarter to one o'clock. I shall not be alive this time to-morrow. I
shall never see Richard now. I dreamed last night we were in the fields
together, and he walked with his arm round my waist. We were children,
but I thought we were married, and I showed him I wore his ring, and he
said--if you always wear it, Clare, you are as good as my wife. Then I
made a vow to wear it for ever and ever... "It is not mama's fault. She
does not think as Richard and I do of these things. He is not a coward,
nor am I. He hates cowards.
"I have written to his father to make him happy. Perhaps when I am dead
he will hear what I say.
"I heard just now Richard call distinctly--Clare, come out to me. Surely
he has not gone. I am going I know not where. I cannot think. I am
The words were written larger, and staggered towards the close, as if her
hand had lost mastery over the pen.
"I can only remember Richard now a boy. A little boy and a big boy. I
am not sure now of his voice. I can only remember certain words.
'Clari,' and 'Don Ricardo,' and his laugh. He used to be full of fun.
Once we laughed all day together tumbling in the hay. Then he had a
friend, and began to write poetry, and be proud. If I had married a
young man he would have forgiven me, but I should not have been happier.
I must have died. God never looks on me.
"It is past two o'clock. The sheep are bleating outside. It must be
very cold in the ground. Good-bye, Richard."
With his name it began and ended. Even to herself Clare was not over-
communicative. The book was slender, yet her nineteen years of existence
left half the number of pages white.
Those last words drew him irresistibly to gaze on her. There she lay,
the same impassive Clare. For a moment he wondered she had not moved--to
him she had become so different. She who had just filled his ears with
strange tidings--it was not possible to think her dead! She seemed to
have been speaking to him all through his life. His image was on that
He dismissed the night-watchers from the room, and remained with her
alone, till the sense of death oppressed him, and then the shock sent him
to the window to look for sky and stars. Behind a low broad pine, hung
with frosty mist, he heard a bell-wether of the flock in the silent fold.
Death in life it sounded.
The mother found him praying at the foot of Clare's bed. She knelt by
his side, and they prayed, and their joint sobs shook their bodies, but
neither of them shed many tears. They held a dark unspoken secret in
common. They prayed God to forgive her.
Clare was buried in the family vault of the Todhunters. Her mother
breathed no wish to have her lying at Lobourne.
After the funeral, what they alone upon earth knew brought them together.
"Richard," she said, "the worst is over for me. I have no one to love
but you, dear. We have all been fighting against God, and this...
Richard! you will come with me, and be united to your wife, and spare my
brother what I suffer."
He answered the broken spirit: "I have killed one. She sees me as I am.
I cannot go with you to my wife, because I am not worthy to touch her
hand, and were I to go, I should do this to silence my self-contempt. Go
you to her, and when she asks of me, say I have a death upon my head
that--No! say that I am abroad, seeking for that which shall cleanse
me. If I find it I shall come to claim her. If not, God help us all!"
She had no strength to contest his solemn words, or stay him, and he went
A man with a beard saluted the wise youth Adrian in the full blaze of
Piccadilly with a clap on the shoulder. Adrian glanced leisurely behind.
"Do you want to try my nerves, my dear fellow? I'm not a man of fashion,
happily, or you would have struck the seat of them. How are you?"
That was his welcome to Austin Wentworth after his long absence.
Austin took his arm, and asked for news, with the hunger of one who had
been in the wilderness five years.
"The Whigs have given up the ghost, my dear Austin. The free Briton is
to receive Liberty's pearl, the Ballot. The Aristocracy has had a
cycle's notice to quit. The Monarchy and old Madeira are going out;
Demos and Cape wines are coming in. They call it Reform. So, you see,
your absence has worked wonders. Depart for another five years, and you
will return to ruined stomachs, cracked sconces, general upset, an
equality made perfect by universal prostration."
Austin indulged him in a laugh. "I want to hear about ourselves. How is
"You know of his--what do they call it when greenhorns are licensed to
jump into the milkpails of dairymaids?--a very charming little woman she
makes, by the way--presentable! quite old Anacreon's rose in milk. Well!
everybody thought the System must die of it. Not a bit. It continued to
flourish in spite. It's in a consumption now, though--emaciated, lean,
raw, spectral! I've this morning escaped from Raynham to avoid the sight
of it. I have brought our genial uncle Hippias to town--a delightful
companion! I said to him: 'We've had a fine Spring.' 'Ugh!' he answers,
'there's a time when you come to think the Spring old.' You should have
heard how he trained out the 'old.' I felt something like decay in my sap
just to hear him. In the prize-fight of life, my dear Austin, our uncle
Hippias has been unfairly hit below the belt. Let's guard ourselves
there, and go and order dinner."
"But where's Ricky now, and what is he doing?" said Austin.
"Ask what he has done. The miraculous boy has gone and got a baby!"
"A child? Richard has one?" Austin's clear eyes shone with pleasure.
"I suppose it's not common among your tropical savages. He has one: one
as big as two. That has been the death-blow to the System. It bore the
marriage--the baby was too much for it. Could it swallow the baby,
'twould live. She, the wonderful woman, has produced a large boy. I
assure you it's quite amusing to see the System opening its mouth every
hour of the day, trying to gulp him down, aware that it would be a
consummate cure, or a happy release."
By degrees Austin learnt the baronet's proceedings, and smiled sadly.
"How has Ricky turned out?" he asked. "What sort of a character has he?"
"The poor boy is ruined by his excessive anxiety about it. Character? he
has the character of a bullet with a treble charge of powder behind it.
Enthusiasm is the powder. That boy could get up an enthusiasm for the
maiden days of Ops! He was going to reform the world, after your
fashion, Austin,--you have something to answer for. Unfortunately he
began with the feminine side of it. Cupid proud of Phoebus newly slain,
or Pluto wishing to people his kingdom, if you like, put it into the soft
head of one of the guileless grateful creatures to kiss him for his good
work. Oh, horror! he never expected that. Conceive the System in the
flesh, and you have our Richard. The consequence is, that this male Peri
refuses to enter his Paradise, though the gates are open for him, the
trumpets blow, and the fair unspotted one awaits him fruitful within. We
heard of him last that he was trying the German waters--preparatory to
his undertaking the release of Italy from the subjugation of the Teuton.
Let's hope they'll wash him. He is in the company of Lady Judith Felle--
your old friend, the ardent female Radical who married the decrepit to
carry out her principles. They always marry English lords, or foreign
princes: I admire their tactics."
"Judith is bad for him in such a state. I like her, but she was always
too sentimental," said Austin.
"Sentiment made her marry the old lord, I suppose? I like her for her
sentiment, Austin. Sentimental people are sure to live long and die fat.
Feeling, that's the slayer, coz. Sentiment! 'tis the cajolery of
existence: the soft bloom which whoso weareth, he or she is enviable.
Would that I had more!"
"You're not much changed, Adrian."
"I'm not a Radical, Austin."
Further inquiries, responded to in Adrian's figurative speech, instructed
Austin that the baronet was waiting for his son, in a posture of
statuesque offended paternity, before he would receive his daughter-in-
law and grandson. That was what Adrian meant by the efforts of the
System to swallow the baby.
"We're in a tangle," said the wise youth. "Time will extricate us, I
presume, or what is the venerable signor good for?"
Austin mused some minutes, and asked for Lucy's place of residence.
"We'll go to her by and by," said Adrian.
"I shall go and see her now," said Austin.
"Well, we'll go and order the dinner first, coz."
"Give me her address."
"Really, Austin, you carry matters with too long a beard," Adrian
objected. "Don't you care what you eat?" he roared hoarsely, looking
humorously hurt. "I daresay not. A slice out of him that's handy--sauce
du ciel! Go, batten on the baby, cannibal. Dinner at seven."
Adrian gave him his own address, and Lucy's, and strolled off to do the
Overnight Mrs. Berry had observed a long stranger in her tea-cup.
Posting him on her fingers and starting him with a smack, he had vaulted
lightly and thereby indicated that he was positively coming the next day.
She forgot him in the bustle of her duties and the absorption of her
faculties in thoughts of the incomparable stranger Lucy had presented to
the world, till a knock at the street-door reminded her. "There he is!"
she cried, as she ran to open to him. "There's my stranger come!" Never
was a woman's faith in omens so justified. The stranger desired to see
Mrs. Richard Feverel. He said his name was Mr. Austin Wentworth. Mrs.
Berry clasped her hands, exclaiming, "Come at last!" and ran bolt out of
the house to look up and down the street. Presently she returned with
many excuses for her rudeness, saying: "I expected to see her comin'
home, Mr. Wentworth. Every day twice a day she go out to give her
blessed angel an airing. No leavin' the child with nursemaids for her!
She is a mother! and good milk, too, thank the Lord! though her heart's
Indoors Mrs. Berry stated who she was, related the history of the young
couple and her participation in it, and admired the beard. "Although I'd
swear you don't wear it for ornament, now!" she said, having in the first
impulse designed a stroke at man's vanity.
Ultimately Mrs. Berry spoke of the family complication, and with dejected
head and joined hands threw out dark hints about Richard.
While Austin was giving his cheerfuller views of the case, Lucy came in
preceding the baby.
"I am Austin Wentworth," he said, taking her hand. They read each
other's faces, these two, and smiled kinship.
"Your name is Lucy?"
She affirmed it softly.
"And mine is Austin, as you know."
Mrs. Berry allowed time for Lucy's charms to subdue him, and presented
Richard's representative, who, seeing a new face, suffered himself to be
contemplated before he commenced crying aloud and knocking at the doors
of Nature for something that was due to him.
"Ain't he a lusty darlin'?" says Mrs. Berry. "Ain't he like his own
father? There can't be no doubt about zoo, zoo pitty pet. Look at his
fists. Ain't he got passion? Ain't he a splendid roarer? Oh!" and she
went off rapturously into baby-language.
A fine boy, certainly. Mrs. Berry exhibited his legs for further proof,
desiring Austin's confirmation as to their being dumplings.
Lucy murmured a word of excuse, and bore the splendid roarer out of the
"She might a done it here," said Mrs. Berry. "There's no prettier sight,
I say. If her dear husband could but see that! He's off in his heroics-
-he want to be doin' all sorts o' things: I say he'll never do anything
grander than that baby. You should 'a seen her uncle over that baby--he
came here, for I said, you shall see your own family, my dear, and so she
thinks. He come, and he laughed over that baby in the joy of his heart,
poor man! he cried, he did. You should see that Mr. Thompson, Mr.
Wentworth--a friend o' Mr. Richard's, and a very modest-minded young
gentleman--he worships her in his innocence. It's a sight to see him
with that baby. My belief is he's unhappy 'cause he can't anyways be
nurse-maid to him. O Mr. Wentworth! what do you think of her, sir?"
Austin's reply was as satisfactory as a man's poor speech could make it.
He heard that Lady Feverel was in the house, and Mrs. Berry prepared the
way for him to pay his respects to her. Then Mrs. Berry ran to Lucy, and
the house buzzed with new life. The simple creatures felt in Austin's
presence something good among them. "He don't speak much," said Mrs.
Berry, "but I see by his eye he mean a deal. He ain't one o' yer long-
word gentry, who's all gay deceivers, every one of 'em."
Lucy pressed the hearty suckling into her breast. "I wonder what he
thinks of me, Mrs. Berry? I could not speak to him. I loved him before
I saw him. I knew what his face was like."
"He looks proper even with a beard, and that's a trial for a virtuous
man," said Mrs. Berry. "One sees straight through the hair with him.
Think! he'll think what any man'd think--you a-suckin spite o' all your
sorrow, my sweet,--and my Berry talkin' of his Roman matrons!--here's a
English wife'll match 'em all! that's what he thinks. And now that
leetle dark under yer eye'll clear, my darlin', now he've come."
Mrs. Berry looked to no more than that; Lucy to no more than the peace
she had in being near Richard's best friend. When she sat down to tea it
was with a sense that the little room that held her was her home perhaps
for many a day.
A chop procured and cooked by Mrs. Berry formed Austin's dinner. During
the meal he entertained them with anecdotes of his travels. Poor Lucy
had no temptation to try to conquer Austin. That heroic weakness of hers
Mrs. Berry had said: "Three cups--I goes no further," and Lucy had
rejected the proffer of more tea, when Austin, who was in the thick of a
Brazilian forest, asked her if she was a good traveller.
"I mean, can you start at a minute's notice?"
Lucy hesitated, and then said; "Yes," decisively, to which Mrs. Berry
added, that she was not a "luggage-woman"
"There used to be a train at seven o'clock," Austin remarked, consulting
The two women were silent.
"Could you get ready to come with me to Raynham in ten minutes?"
Austin looked as if he had asked a commonplace question.
Lucy's lips parted to speak. She could not answer.
Loud rattled the teaboard to Mrs. Berry's dropping hands.
"Joy and deliverance!" she exclaimed with a foundering voice.
"Will you come?" Austin kindly asked again.
Lucy tried to stop her beating heart, as she answered, "Yes." Mrs. Berry
cunningly pretended to interpret the irresolution in her tones with a
mighty whisper: "She's thinking what's to be done with baby."
"He must learn to travel," said Austin.
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Berry, "and I'll be his nuss, and bear him, a sweet!
Oh! and think of it! me nurse-maid once more at Raynham Abbey! but it's
nurse-woman now, you must say. Let us be goin' on the spot."
She started up and away in hot haste, fearing delay would cool the
heaven-sent resolve. Austin smiled, eying his watch and Lucy
alternately. She was wishing to ask a multitude of questions. His face
reassured her, and saying: "I will be dressed instantly," she also left
the room. Talking, bustling, preparing, wrapping up my lord, and looking
to their neatnesses, they were nevertheless ready within the time
prescribed by Austin, and Mrs. Berry stood humming over the baby. "He'll
sleep it through," she said. "He's had enough for an alderman, and goes
to sleep sound after his dinner, he do, a duck!" Before they departed,
Lucy ran up to Lady Feverel. She returned for, the small one.
"One moment, Mr. Wentworth?"
"Just two," said Austin.
Master Richard was taken up, and when Lucy came back her eyes were full
"She thinks she is never to see him again, Mr. Wentworth."
"She shall," Austin said simply.
Off they went, and with Austin near her, Lucy forgot to dwell at all upon
the great act of courage she was performing.
"I do hope baby will not wake," was her chief solicitude.
"He!" cries nurse-woman Berry, from the rear, "his little tum-tum's as
tight as he can hold, a pet! a lamb! a bird! a beauty! and ye may take
yer oath he never wakes till that's slack. He've got character of his
own, a blessed!"
There are some tremendous citadels that only want to be taken by storm.
The baronet sat alone in his library, sick of resistance, and rejoicing
in the pride of no surrender; a terror to his friends and to himself.
Hearing Austin's name sonorously pronounced by the man of calves, he
looked up from his book, and held out his hand. "Glad to see you,
Austin." His appearance betokened complete security. The next minute he
found himself escaladed.
It was a cry from Mrs. Berry that told him others were in the room
besides Austin. Lucy stood a little behind the lamp: Mrs. Berry close to
the door. The door was half open, and passing through it might be seen
the petrified figure of a fine man. The baronet glancing over the lamp
rose at Mrs. Berry's signification of a woman's personality. Austin
stepped back and led Lucy to him by the hand. "I have brought Richard's
wife, sir," he said with a pleased, perfectly uncalculating, countenance,
that was disarming. Very pale and trembling Lucy bowed. She felt her
two hands taken, and heard a kind voice. Could it be possible it
belonged to the dreadful father of her husband? She lifted her eyes
nervously: her hands were still detained. The baronet contemplated
Richard's choice. Had he ever had a rivalry with those pure eyes? He
saw the pain of her position shooting across her brows, and, uttering-
gentle inquiries as to her health, placed her in a seat. Mrs. Berry had
already fallen into a chair.
"What aspect do you like for your bedroom?--East?" said the baronet.
Lucy was asking herself wonderingly: "Am I to stay?"
"Perhaps you had better take to Richard's room at once," he pursued.
"You have the Lobourne valley there and a good morning air, and will feel
more at home."
Lucy's colour mounted. Mrs. Berry gave a short cough, as one who should
say, "The day is ours!" Undoubtedly--strange as it was to think it--the
fortress was carried.
"Lucy is rather tired," said Austin, and to hear her Christian name thus
bravely spoken brought grateful dew to her eyes.
The baronet was about to touch the bell. "But have you come alone?" he
At this Mrs. Berry came forward. Not immediately: it seemed to require
effort for her to move, and when she was within the region of the lamp,
her agitation could not escape notice. The blissful bundle shook in her
"By the way, what is he to me?" Austin inquired generally as he went and
unveiled the younger hope of Raynham. "My relationship is not so defined
as yours, sir."
An observer might have supposed that the baronet peeped at his grandson
with the courteous indifference of one who merely wished to compliment
the mother of anybody's child.
"I really think he's like Richard," Austin laughed. Lucy looked: I am
sure he is!
"As like as one to one," Mrs. Berry murmured feebly; but Grandpapa not
speaking she thought it incumbent on her to pluck up. "And he's as
healthy as his father was, Sir Austin--spite o' the might 'a beens.
Reg'lar as the clock! We never want a clock since he come. We knows the
hour o' the day, and of the night."
"You nurse him yourself, of course?" the baronet spoke to Lucy, and was
satisfied on that point.
Mrs. Berry was going to display his prodigious legs. Lucy, fearing the
consequent effect on the prodigious lungs, begged her not to wake him.
"'T'd take a deal to do that," said Mrs. Berry, and harped on Master
Richard's health and the small wonder it was that he enjoyed it,
considering the superior quality of his diet, and the lavish attentions
of his mother, and then suddenly fell silent on a deep sigh.
"He looks healthy," said the baronet, "but I am not a judge of babies."
Thus, having capitulated, Raynham chose to acknowledge its new
commandant, who was now borne away, under the directions of the
housekeeper, to occupy the room Richard had slept in when an infant.
Austin cast no thought on his success. The baronet said: "She is
extremely well-looking." He replied: "A person you take to at once."
There it ended.
But a much more animated colloquy was taking place aloft, where Lucy and
Mrs. Berry sat alone. Lucy expected her to talk about the reception they
had met with, and the house, and the peculiarities of the rooms, and the
solid happiness that seemed in store. Mrs. Berry all the while would
persist in consulting the looking-glass. Her first distinct answer was,
"My dear! tell me candid, how do I look?"
"Very nice indeed, Mrs. Berry; but could you have believed he would be so
kind, so considerate?"
"I am sure I looked a frump," returned Mrs. Berry. "Oh dear! two birds
at a shot. What do you think, now?"
"I never saw so wonderful a likeness," says Lucy.
"Likeness! look at me." Mrs. Berry was trembling and hot in the palms.
"You're very feverish, dear Berry. What can it be?"
"Ain't it like the love-flutters of a young gal, my dear."
"Go to bed, Berry, dear," says Lucy, pouting in her soft caressing way.
"I will undress you, and see to you, dear heart! You've had so much
"Ha! ha!" Berry laughed hysterically; "she thinks it's about this
business of hers. Why, it's child's-play, my darlin'. But I didn't look
for tragedy to-night. Sleep in this house I can't, my love!"
Lucy was astonished. "Not sleep here, Mrs. Berry?--Oh! why, you silly
old thing? I know."
"Do ye!" said Mrs. Berry, with a sceptical nose.
"You're afraid of ghosts."
"Belike I am when they're six foot two in their shoes, and bellows when
you stick a pin into their calves. I seen my Berry!"
"Large as life!"
Lucy meditated on optical delusions, but Mrs. Berry described him as the
Colossus who had marched them into the library, and vowed that he had
recognized her and quaked. "Time ain't aged him," said Mrs. Berry,
"whereas me! he've got his excuse now. I know I look a frump."
Lucy kissed her: "You look the nicest, dearest old thing."
"You may say an old thing, my dear."
"And your husband is really here?"
Profoundly uttered as this was, it chased every vestige of incredulity.
"What will you do, Mrs. Berry?"
"Go, my dear. Leave him to be happy in his own way. It's over atween
us, I see that. When I entered the house I felt there was something
comin' over me, and lo and behold ye! no sooner was we in the hall-
passage--if it hadn't been for that blessed infant I should 'a dropped.
I must 'a known his step, for my heart began thumpin', and I knew I
hadn't got my hair straight--that Mr. Wentworth was in such a hurry--nor
my best gown. I knew he'd scorn me. He hates frumps."
"Scorn you!" cried Lucy, angrily. "He who has behaved so wickedly!"
Mrs. Berry attempted to rise. "I may as well go at once," she whimpered.
"If I see him I shall only be disgracin' of myself. I feel it all on my
side already. Did ye mark him, my dear? I know I was vexin' to him at
times, I was. Those big men are so touchy about their dignity--nat'ral.
Hark at me! I'm goin' all soft in a minute. Let me leave the house, my
dear. I daresay it was good half my fault. Young women don't understand
men sufficient--not altogether--and I was a young woman then; and then
what they goes and does they ain't quite answerable for: they, feels, I
daresay, pushed from behind. Yes. I'll go. I'm a frump. I'll go.
'Tain't in natur' for me to sleep in the same house."
Lucy laid her hands on Mrs. Berry's shoulders, and forcibly fixed her in
her seat. "Leave baby, naughty woman? I tell you he shall come to you,
and fall on his knees to you and beg your forgiveness."
"Berry on his knees!"
"Yes. And he shall beg and pray you to forgive him."
"If you get more from Martin Berry than breath-away words, great'll be my
wonder!" said Mrs. Berry.
"We will see," said Lucy, thoroughly determined to do something for the
good creature that had befriended her.
Mrs. Berry examined her gown. "Won't it seem we're runnin' after him?"
she murmured faintly.
"He is your husband, Mrs. Berry. He may be wanting to come to you now."
"Oh! Where is all I was goin' to say to that man when we met." Mrs.
Berry ejaculated. Lucy had left the room.
On the landing outside the door Lucy met a lady dressed in black, who
stopped her and asked if she was Richard's wife, and kissed her, passing
from her immediately. Lucy despatched a message for Austin, and related
the Berry history. Austin sent for the great man and said: "Do you know
your wife is here?" Before Berry had time to draw himself up to
enunciate his longest, he was requested to step upstairs, and as his
young mistress at once led the way, Berry could not refuse to put his
legs in motion and carry the stately edifice aloft.
Of the interview Mrs. Berry gave Lucy a slight sketch that night. "He
began in the old way, my dear, and says I, a true heart and plain words,
Martin Berry. So there he cuts himself and his Johnson short, and down
he goes--down on his knees. I never could 'a believed it. I kep my
dignity as a woman till I see that sight, but that done for me. I was a
ripe apple in his arms 'fore I knew where I was. There's something about
a fine man on his knees that's too much for us women. And it reely was
the penitent on his two knees, not the lover on his one. If he mean it!
But ah! what do you think he begs of me, my dear?.--not to make it known
in the house just yet! I can't, I can't say that look well."
Lucy attributed it to his sense of shame at his conduct, and Mrs. Berry
did her best to look on it in that light.
"Did the bar'net kiss ye when you wished him goodnight?" she asked. Lucy
said he had not. "Then bide awake as long as ye can," was Mrs. Berry's
rejoinder. "And now let us pray blessings on that simple-speaking
gentleman who does so much 'cause he says so little."
Like many other natural people, Mrs. Berry was only silly where her own
soft heart was concerned. As she secretly anticipated, the baronet came
into her room when all was quiet. She saw him go and bend over Richard
the Second, and remain earnestly watching him. He then went to the half-
opened door of the room where Lucy slept, leaned his ear a moment,
knocked gently, and entered. Mrs. Berry heard low words interchanging
within. She could not catch a syllable, yet she would have sworn to the
context. "He've called her his daughter, promised her happiness, and
given a father's kiss to her." When Sir Austin passed out she was in a
Briareus reddening angrily over the sea--what is that vaporous Titan?
And Hesper set in his rosy garland--why looks he so implacably sweet? It
is that one has left that bright home to go forth and do cloudy work, and
he has got a stain with which he dare not return. Far in the West fair
Lucy beckons him to come. Ah, heaven! if he might! How strong and
fierce the temptation is! how subtle the sleepless desire! it drugs his
reason, his honour. For he loves her; she is still the first and only
woman to him. Otherwise would this black spot be hell to him? otherwise
would his limbs be chained while her arms are spread open to him. And if
he loves her, why then what is one fall in the pit, or a thousand? Is
not love the password to that beckoning bliss? So may we say; but here
is one whose body has been made a temple to him, and it is desecrated.
A temple, and desecrated! For what is it fit for but for a dance of
devils? His education has thus wrought him to think.
He can blame nothing but his own baseness. But to feel base and accept
the bliss that beckons--he has not fallen so low as that.
Ah, happy English home! sweet wife! what mad miserable Wisp of the Fancy
led him away from you, high in his conceit? Poor wretch! that thought to
be he of the hundred hands, and war against the absolute Gods. Jove
whispered a light commission to the Laughing Dame; she met him; and how
did he shake Olympus? with laughter?
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