The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, v6
Part 2 out of 2
Sure it were better to be Orestes, the Furies howling in his ears, than
one called to by a heavenly soul from whom he is for ever outcast. He
has not the oblivion of madness. Clothed in the lights of his first
passion, robed in the splendour of old skies, she meets him everywhere;
morning, evening, night, she shines above him; waylays him suddenly in
forest depths; drops palpably on his heart. At moments he forgets; he
rushes to embrace her; calls her his beloved, and lo, her innocent kiss
brings agony of shame to his face.
Daily the struggle endured. His father wrote to him, begging him by the
love he had for him to return. From that hour Richard burnt unread all
the letters he received. He knew too well how easily he could persuade
himself: words from without might tempt him and quite extinguish the
spark of honourable feeling that tortured him, and that he clung to in
To arrest young gentlemen on the downward slope is both a dangerous and
thankless office. It is, nevertheless, one that fair women greatly
prize, and certain of them professionally follow. Lady Judith, as far as
her sex would permit, was also of the Titans in their battle against the
absolute Gods; for which purpose, mark you, she had married a lord
incapable in all save his acres. Her achievements she kept to her own
mind: she did not look happy over them. She met Richard accidentally in
Paris; she saw his state; she let him learn that she alone on earth
understood him. The consequence was that he was forthwith enrolled in
her train. It soothed him to be near a woman. Did she venture her guess
as to the cause of his conduct, she blotted it out with a facility women
have, and cast on it a melancholy hue he was taught to participate in.
She spoke of sorrows, personal sorrows, much as he might speak of his--
vaguely, and with self-blame. And she understood him. How the dark
unfathomed wealth within us gleams to a woman's eye! We are at compound
interest immediately: so much richer than we knew!--almost as rich as we
dreamed! But then the instant we are away from her we find ourselves
bankrupt, beggared. How is that? We do not ask. We hurry to her and
bask hungrily in her orbs. The eye must be feminine to be thus creative:
I cannot say why. Lady Judith understood Richard, and he feeling
infinitely vile, somehow held to her more feverishly, as one who dreaded
the worst in missing her. The spirit must rest; he was weak with what he
Austin found them among the hills of Nassau in Rhineland: Titans, male
and female, who had not displaced Jove, and were now adrift, prone on
floods of sentiment. The blue-flocked peasant swinging behind his oxen
of a morning, the gaily-kerchiefed fruit-woman, the jackass-driver, even
the doctor of those regions, have done more for their fellows. Horrible
reflection! Lady Judith is serene above it, but it frets at Richard when
he is out of her shadow. Often wretchedly he watches the young men of
his own age trooping to their work. Not cloud-work theirs! Work solid,
Lady Judith had a nobler in prospect for the hero. He gaped blindfolded
for anything, and she gave him the map of Europe in tatters. He
swallowed it comfortably. It was an intoxicating cordial. Himself on
horseback overriding wrecks of Empires! Well might common sense cower
with the meaner animals at the picture. Tacitly they agreed to recast
the civilized globe. The quality of vapour is to melt and shape itself
anew; but it is never the quality of vapour to reassume the same shapes.
Briareus of the hundred unoccupied hands may turn to a monstrous donkey
with his hind legs aloft, or twenty thousand jabbering apes. The
phantasmic groupings of the young brain are very like those we see in the
skies, and equally the sport of the wind. Lady Judith blew. There was
plenty of vapour in him, and it always resolved into some shape or other.
You that mark those clouds of eventide, and know youth, will see the
similitude: it will not be strange, it will barely seem foolish to you,
that a young man of Richard's age, Richard's education and position,
should be in this wild state. Had he not been nursed to believe he was
born for great things? Did she not say she was sure of it? And to feel
base, yet born for better, is enough to make one grasp at anything
cloudy. Suppose the hero with a game leg. How intense is his faith to
quacks! with what a passion of longing is he not seized to break
somebody's head! They spoke of Italy in low voices. "The time will
come," said she. "And I shall be ready," said he. What rank was he to
take in the liberating army? Captain, colonel, general in chief, or
simple private? Here, as became him, he was much more positive and
specific than she was: Simple private, he said. Yet he save himself
caracoling on horseback. Private in the cavalry, then, of course.
Private in the cavalry over-riding wrecks of Empires. She looked forth
under her brows with mournful indistinctness at that object in the
distance. They read Petrarch to get up the necessary fires. Italia mia!
Vain indeed was this speaking to those thick and mortal wounds in her
fair body, but their sighs went with the Tiber, the Arno, and the Po, and
their hands joined. Who has not wept for Italy? I see the aspirations
of a world arise for her, thick and frequent as the puffs of smoke from
cigars of Pannonian sentries!
So when Austin came Richard said he could not leave Lady Judith, Lady
Judith said she could not part with him. For his sake, mind! This
Richard verified. Perhaps he had reason to be grateful. The high road
of Folly may have led him from one that terminates worse. Ho is foolish,
God knows; but for my part I will not laugh at the hero because he has
not got his occasion. Meet him when he is, as it were, anointed by his
occasion, and he is no laughing matter.
Richard felt his safety in this which, to please the world, we must term
folly. Exhalation of vapours was a wholesome process to him, and
somebody who gave them shape and hue a beneficent Iris. He told Austin
plainly he could not leave her, and did not anticipate the day when he
"Why can't you go to your wife, Richard?"
"For a reason you would be the first to approve, Austin."
He welcomed Austin with every show of manly tenderness, and sadness at
heart. Austin he had always associated with his Lucy in that Hesperian
palace of the West. Austin waited patiently. Lady Judith's old lord
played on all the baths in Nassau without evoking the tune of health.
Whithersoever he listed she changed her abode. So admirable a wife was
to be pardoned for espousing an old man. She was an enthusiast even in
her connubial duties. She had the brows of an enthusiast. With occasion
she might have been a Charlotte Corday. So let her also be shielded from
the ban of ridicule. Nonsense of enthusiasts is very different from
nonsense of ninnies. She was truly a high-minded person, of that order
who always do what they see to be right, and always have confidence in
their optics. She was not unworthy of a young man's admiration, if she
was unfit to be his guide. She resumed her ancient intimacy with Austin
easily, while she preserved her new footing with Richard. She and Austin
were not unlike, only Austin never dreamed, and had not married an old
The three were walking on the bridge at Limburg on the Lahn, where the
shadow of a stone bishop is thrown by the moonlight on the water brawling
over slabs of slate. A woman passed them bearing in her arms a baby,
whose mighty size drew their attention.
"What a wopper!" Richard laughed.
"Well, that is a fine fellow," said Austin, "but I don't think he's much
bigger than your boy."
"He'll do for a nineteenth-century Arminius," Richard was saying. Then
he looked at Austin.
"What was that you said?" Lady Judith asked of Austin.
"What have I said that deserves to be repeated?" Austin counterqueried
"Richard has a son?"
"You didn't know it?"
"His modesty goes very far," said Lady Judith, sweeping the shadow of a
curtsey to Richard's paternity.
Richard's heart throbbed with violence. He looked again in Austin's
face. Austin took it so much as a matter of course that he said nothing
more on the subject.
"Well!" murmured Lady Judith.
When the two men were alone, Richard said in a quick voice: "Austin! you
were in earnest?"
"You didn't know it, Richard?"
"Why, they all wrote to you. Lucy wrote to you: your father, your aunt.
I believe Adrian wrote too."
"I tore up their letters," said Richard.
"He's a noble fellow, I can tell you. You've nothing to be ashamed of.
He'll soon be coming to ask about you. I made sure you knew."
"No, I never knew." Richard walked away, and then said: "What is he
"Well, he really is like you, but he has his mother's eyes."
"Yes. I think the child has kept her well."
"They're both at Raynham?"
Hence fantastic vapours! What are ye to this! Where are the dreams of
the hero when he learns he has a child? Nature is taking him to her
bosom. She will speak presently. Every domesticated boor in these hills
can boast the same, yet marvels the hero at none of his visioned
prodigies as he does when he comes to hear of this most common
performance. A father? Richard fixed his eyes as if he were trying to
make out the lineaments of his child.
Telling Austin he would be back in a few minutes, he sallied into the
air, and walked on and on. "A father!" he kept repeating to himself: "a
child!" And though he knew it not, he was striking the keynotes of
Nature. But he did know of a singular harmony that suddenly burst over
his whole being.
The moon was surpassingly bright: the summer air heavy and still. He
left the high road and pierced into the forest. His walk was rapid: the
leaves on the trees brushed his cheeks; the dead leaves heaped in the
dells noised to his feet. Something of a religious joy--a strange sacred
pleasure--was in him. By degrees it wore; he remembered himself: and now
he was possessed by a proportionate anguish. A father! he dared never
see his child. And he had no longer his phantasies to fall upon. He was
utterly bare to his sin. In his troubled mind it seemed to him that
Clare looked down on him--Clare who saw him as he was; and that to her
eyes it would be infamy for him to go and print his kiss upon his child.
Then came stern efforts to command his misery and make the nerves of his
By the log of an ancient tree half buried in dead leaves of past summers,
beside a brook, he halted as one who had reached his journey's end.
There he discovered he had a companion in Lady Judith's little dog. He
gave the friendly animal a pat of recognition, and both were silent in
It was impossible for Richard to return; his heart was surcharged. He
must advance, and on he footed, the little dog following.
An oppressive slumber hung about the forest-branches. In the dells and
on the heights was the same dead heat. Here where the brook tinkled it
was no cool-lipped sound, but metallic, and without the spirit of water.
Yonder in a space of moonlight on lush grass, the beams were as white
fire to sight and feeling. No haze spread around. The valleys were
clear, defined to the shadows of their verges, the distances sharply
distinct, and with the colours of day but slightly softened. Richard
beheld a roe moving across a slope of sward far out of rifle-mark. The
breathless silence was significant, yet the moon shone in a broad blue
heaven. Tongue out of mouth trotted the little dog after him; crouched
panting when he stopped an instant; rose weariedly when he started
afresh. Now and then a large white night-moth flitted through the dusk
of the forest.
On a barren corner of the wooded highland looking inland stood grey
topless ruins set in nettles and rank grass-blades. Richard mechanically
sat down on the crumbling flints to rest, and listened to the panting of
the dog. Sprinkled at his feet were emerald lights: hundreds of glow-
worms studded the dark dry ground.
He sat and eyed them, thinking not at all. His energies were expended in
action. He sat as a part of the ruins, and the moon turned his shadow
Westward from the South. Overhead, as she declined, long ripples of
silver cloud were imperceptibly stealing toward her. They were the van
of a tempest. He did not observe them or the leaves beginning to
chatter. When he again pursued his course with his face to the Rhine, a
huge mountain appeared to rise sheer over him, and he had it in his mind
to scale it. He got no nearer to the base of it for all his vigorous
outstepping. The ground began to dip; he lost sight of the sky. Then
heavy, thunder-drops streak his cheek, the leaves were singing, the earth
breathed, it was black before him, and behind. All at once the thunder
spoke. The mountain he had marked was bursting over him.
Up startled the whole forest in violet fire. He saw the country at the
foot of the hills to the bounding Rhine gleam, quiver, extinguished.
Then there were pauses; and the lightning seemed as the eye of heaven,
and the thunder as the tongue of heaven, each alternately addressing him;
filling him with awful rapture. Alone there--sole human creature among
the grandeurs and mysteries of storm--he felt the representative of his
kind, and his spirit rose, and marched, and exulted, let it be glory, let
it be ruin! Lower down the lightened abysses of air rolled the wrathful
crash; then white thrusts of light were darted from the sky, and great
curving ferns, seen steadfast in pallor a second, were supernaturally
agitated, and vanished. Then a shrill song roused in the leaves and the
herbage. Prolonged and louder it sounded, as deeper and heavier the
deluge pressed. A mighty force of water satisfied the desire of the
earth. Even in this, drenched as he was by the first outpouring, Richard
had a savage pleasure. Keeping in motion, he was scarcely conscious of
the wet, and the grateful breath of the weeds was refreshing. Suddenly
he stopped short, lifting a curious nostril. He fancied he smelt meadow-
sweet. He had never seen the flower in Rhineland--never thought of it;
and it would hardly be met with in a forest. He was sure he smelt it
fresh in dews. His little companion wagged a miserable wet tail some way
in advance. He went an slowly, thinking indistinctly. After two or
three steps he stooped and stretched out his hand to feel for the flower,
having, he knew not why, a strong wish to verify its growth there.
Groping about, his hand encountered something warm that started at his
touch, and he, with the instinct we have, seized it, and lifted it to
look at it. The creature was very small, evidently quite young.
Richard's eyes, now accustomed to the darkness, were able to discern it
for what it was, a tiny leveret, and ha supposed that the dog had
probably frightened its dam just before he found it. He put the little
thing on one hand in his breast, and stepped out rapidly as before.
The rain was now steady; from every tree a fountain poured. So cool and
easy had his mind become that he was speculating on what kind of shelter
the birds could find, and how the butterflies and moths saved their
coloured wings from washing. Folded close they might hang under a leaf,
he thought. Lovingly he looked into the dripping darkness of the coverts
on each side, as one of their children. He was next musing on a strange
sensation he experienced. It ran up one arm with an indescribable
thrill, but communicated nothing to his heart. It was purely physical,
ceased for a time, and recommenced, till he had it all through his blood,
wonderfully thrilling. He grew aware that the little thing he carried in
his breast was licking his hand there. The small rough tongue going over
and over the palm of his hand produced the strange sensation he felt.
Now that he knew the cause, the marvel ended; but now that he knew the
cause, his heart was touched and made more of it. The gentle scraping
continued without intermission as on he walked. What did it say to him?
Human tongue could not have said so much just then.
A pale grey light on the skirts of the flying tempest displayed the dawn.
Richard was walking hurriedly. The green drenched weeds lay all about in
his path, bent thick, and the forest drooped glimmeringly. Impelled as a
man who feels a revelation mounting obscurely to his brain, Richard was
passing one of those little forest-chapels, hung with votive wreaths,
where the peasant halts to kneel and pray. Cold, still, in the twilight
it stood, rain-drops pattering round it. He looked within, and saw the
Virgin holding her Child. He moved by. But not many steps had he gone
ere his strength went out of him, and he shuddered. What was it? He
asked not. He was in other hands. Vivid as lightning the Spirit of Life
illumined him. He felt in his heart the cry of his child, his darling's
touch. With shut eyes he saw them both. They drew him from the depths;
they led him a blind and tottering man. And as they led him he had a
sense of purification so sweet he shuddered again and again.
When he looked out from his trance on the breathing world, the small
birds hopped and chirped: warm fresh sunlight was over all the hills. He
was on the edge of the forest, entering a plain clothed with ripe corn
under a spacious morning sky.
They heard at Raynham that Richard was coming. Lucy had the news first
in a letter from Ripton Thompson, who met him at Bonn. Ripton did not
say that he had employed his vacation holiday on purpose to use his
efforts to induce his dear friend to return to his wife; and finding
Richard already on his way, of course Ripton said nothing to him, but
affected to be travelling for his pleasure like any cockney. Richard
also wrote to her. In case she should have gone to the sea he directed
her to send word to his hotel that he might not lose an hour. His letter
was sedate in tone, very sweet to her. Assisted by the faithful female
Berry, she was conquering an Aphorist.
"Woman's reason is in the milk of her breasts," was one of his rough
notes, due to an observation of Lucy's maternal cares. Let us remember,
therefore, we men who have drunk of it largely there, that she has it.
Mrs. Berry zealously apprised him how early Master Richard's education
had commenced, and the great future historian he must consequently be.
This trait in Lucy was of itself sufficient to win Sir Austin.
"Here my plan with Richard was false," he reflected: "in presuming that
anything save blind fortuity would bring him such a mate as he should
have." He came to add: "And has got!"
He could admit now that instinct had so far beaten science; for as
Richard was coming, as all were to be happy, his wisdom embraced them all
paternally as the author of their happiness. Between him and Lucy a
tender intimacy grew.
"I told you she could talk, sir," said Adrian.
"She thinks!" said the baronet.
The delicate question how she was to treat her uncle, he settled
generously. Farmer Blaize should come up to Raynham when he would: Lucy
must visit him at least three times a week. He had Farmer Blaize and
Mrs. Berry to study, and really excellent Aphorisms sprang from the plain
human bases this natural couple presented.
"It will do us no harm," he thought, "some of the honest blood of the
soil in our veins." And he was content in musing on the parentage of the
little cradled boy. A common sight for those who had the entry to the
library was the baronet cherishing the hand of his daughter-in-law.
So Richard was crossing the sea, and hearts at Raynham were beating
quicker measures as the minutes progressed. That night he would be with
them. Sir Austin gave Lucy a longer, warmer salute when she came down to
breakfast in the morning. Mrs. Berry waxed thrice amorous. "It's your
second bridals, ye sweet livin' widow!" she said. "Thanks be the Lord!
it's the same man too! and a baby over the bed-post," she appended
"Strange," Berry declared it to be, "strange I feel none o' this to my
Berry now. All my feelin's o' love seem t'ave gone into you two sweet
In fact, the faithless male Berry complained of being treated badly, and
affected a superb jealousy of the baby; but the good dame told him that
if he suffered at all he suffered his due. Berry's position was
decidedly uncomfortable. It could not be concealed from the lower
household that he had a wife in the establishment, and for the
complications this gave rise to, his wife would not legitimately console
him. Lucy did intercede, but Mrs. Berry, was obdurate. She averred she
would not give up the child till he was weaned. "Then, perhaps," she
said prospectively. "You see I ain't so soft as you thought for."
"You're a very unkind, vindictive old woman," said Lucy.
"Belike I am," Mrs. Berry was proud to agree. We like a new character,
now and then. Berry had delayed too long.
Were it not notorious that the straightlaced prudish dare not listen to,
the natural chaste, certain things Mrs. Berry thought it advisable to
impart to the young wife with regard to Berry's infidelity, and the
charity women should have toward sinful men, might here be reproduced.
Enough that she thought proper to broach the matter, and cite her own
Christian sentiments, now that she was indifferent in some degree.
Oily calm is on the sea. At Raynham they look up at the sky and
speculate that Richard is approaching fairly speeded. He comes to throw
himself on his darling's mercy. Lucy irradiated over forest and sea,
tempest and peace--to her the hero comes humbly. Great is that day when
we see our folly! Ripton and he were the friends of old. Richard
encouraged him to talk of the two he could be eloquent on, and Ripton,
whose secret vanity was in his powers of speech, never tired of
enumerating Lucy's virtues, and the peculiar attributes of the baby.
"She did not say a word against me, Rip?"
"Against you, Richard! The moment she knew she was to be a mother, she
thought of nothing but her duty to the child. She's one who can't think
"You've seen her at Raynham, Rip?"
"Yes, once. They asked me down. And your father's so fond of her--I'm
sure he thinks no woman like her, and he's right. She is so lovely, and
Richard was too full of blame of himself to blame his father: too British
to expose his emotions. Ripton divined how deep and changed they were by
his manner. He had cast aside the hero, and however Ripton had obeyed
him and looked up to him in the heroic time, he loved him tenfold now.
He told his friend how much Lucy's mere womanly sweetness and excellence
had done for him, and Richard contrasted his own profitless extravagance
with the patient beauty of his dear home angel. He was not one to take
her on the easy terms that offered. There was that to do which made his
cheek burn as he thought of it, but he was going to do it, even though it
lost her to him. Just to see her and kneel to her was joy sufficient to
sustain him, and warm his blood in the prospect. They marked the white
cliffs growing over the water. Nearer, the sun made them lustrous.
Houses and people seemed to welcome the wild youth to common sense,
simplicity, and home.
They were in town by mid-day. Richard had a momentary idea of not
driving to his hotel for letters. After a short debate he determined to
go there. The porter said he had two letters for Mr. Richard Feverel--
one had been waiting some time. He went to the box and fetched them.
The first Richard opened was from Lucy, and as he read it, Ripton
observed the colour deepen on his face, while a quivering smile played
about his mouth. He opened the other indifferently. It began without
any form of address. Richard's forehead darkened at the signature. This
letter was in a sloping feminine hand, and flourished with light strokes
all over, like a field of the bearded barley. Thus it ran:
"I know you are in a rage with me because I would not consent to ruin
you, you foolish fellow. What do you call it? Going to that unpleasant
place together. Thank you, my milliner is not ready yet, and I want to
make a good appearance when I do go. I suppose I shall have to some day.
Your health, Sir Richard. Now let me speak to you seriously. Go home to
your wife at once. But I know the sort of fellow you are, and I must be
plain with you. Did I ever say I loved you? You may hate me as much as
you please, but I will save you from being a fool.
"Now listen to me. You know my relations with Mount. That beast Brayder
offered to pay all my debts and set me afloat, if I would keep you in
town. I declare on my honour I had no idea why, and I did not agree to
it. But you were such a handsome fellow--I noticed you in the park
before I heard a word of you. But then you fought shy--you were just as
tempting as a girl. You stung me. Do you know what that is? I would
make you care for me, and we know how it ended, without any intention of
mine, I swear. I'd have cut off my hand rather than do you any harm,
upon my honour. Circumstances! Then I saw it was all up between us.
Brayder came and began to chaff about you. I dealt the animal a stroke
on the face with my riding-whip--I shut him up pretty quick. Do you
think I would let a man speak about you?--I was going to swear. You see
I remember Dick's lessons. O my God! I do feel unhappy.--Brayder
offered me money. Go and think I took it, if you like. What do I care
what anybody thinks! Something that black-guard said made me suspicious.
I went down to the Isle of Wight where Mount was, and your wife was just
gone with an old lady who came and took her away. I should so have liked
to see her. You said, you remember, she would take me as a sister, and
treat me--I laughed at it then. My God! how I could cry now, if water
did any good to a devil, as you politely call poor me. I called at your
house and saw your man-servant, who said Mount had just been there. In a
minute it struck me. I was sure Mount was after a woman, but it never
struck me that woman was your wife. Then I saw why they wanted me to
keep you away. I went to Brayder. You know how I hate him. I made love
to the man to get it out of him. Richard! my word of honour, they have
planned to carry her off, if Mount finds he cannot seduce her. Talk of
devils! He's one; but he is not so bad as Brayder. I cannot forgive a
mean dog his villany.
"Now after this, I am quite sure you are too much of a man to stop away
from her another moment. I have no more to say. I suppose we shall not
see each other again, so good-bye, Dick! I fancy I hear you cursing me.
Why can't you feel like other men on the subject? But if you were like
the rest of them I should not have cared for you a farthing. I have not
worn lilac since I saw you last. I'll be buried in your colour, Dick.
That will not offend you--will it?
"You are not going to believe I took the money? If I thought you thought
that--it makes me feel like a devil only to fancy you think it.
"The first time you meet Brayder, cane him publicly.
"Adieu! Say it's because you don't like his face. I suppose devils must
not say Adieu. Here's plain old good-bye, then, between you and me.
Good-bye, dear Dick! You won't think that of me?
"May I eat dry bread to the day of my death if I took or ever will touch
a scrap of their money. BELLA."
Richard folded up the letter silently.
"Jump into the cab," he said to Ripton.
"Anything the matter, Richard?"
The driver received directions. Richard sat without speaking. His friend
knew that face. He asked whether there was bad news in the letter. For
answer, he had the lie circumstancial. He ventured to remark that they
were going the wrong way.
"It'd the right way," cried Richard, and his jaws were hard and square,
and his eyes looked heavy and full.
Ripton said no more, but thought.
The cabman pulled up at a Club. A gentleman, in whom Ripton recognized
the Hon. Peter Brayder, was just then swinging a leg over his horse, with
one foot in the stirrup. Hearing his name called, the Hon. Peter turned
about, and stretched an affable hand.
"Is Mountfalcon in town?" said Richard taking the horse's reins instead
of the gentlemanly hand. His voice and aspect were quite friendly.
"Mount?" Brayder replied, curiously watching the action; "yes. He's off
"He is in town?" Richard released his horse. "I want to see him. Where
The young man looked pleasant: that which might have aroused Brayder's
suspicions was an old affair in parasitical register by this time. "Want
to see him? What about?" he said carelessly, and gave the address.
"By the way," he sang out, "we thought of putting your name down,
Feverel." He indicated the lofty structure. "What do you say?"
Richard nodded back at him, crying, "Hurry." Brayder returned the nod,
and those who promenaded the district soon beheld his body in elegant
motion to the stepping of his well-earned horse.
"What do you want to see Lord Mountfalcon for, Richard?" said Ripton.
"I just want to see him," Richard replied.
Ripton was left in the cab at the door of my lord's residence. He had to
wait there a space of about ten minutes, when Richard returned with a
clearer visage, though somewhat heated. He stood outside the cab, and
Ripton was conscious of being examined by those strong grey eyes. As
clear as speech he understood them to say to him, "You won't do," but
which of the many things on earth he would not do for he was at a loss to
"Go down to Raynham, Ripton. Say I shall be there tonight certainly.
Don't bother me with questions. Drive off at once. Or wait. Get another
cab. I'll take this."
Ripton was ejected, and found himself standing alone in the street. As
he was on the point of rushing after the galloping cab-horse to get a
word of elucidation, he heard some one speak behind him.
"You are Feverel's friend?"
Ripton had an eye for lords. An ambrosial footman, standing at the open
door of Lord Mountfalcon's house, and a gentleman standing on the
doorstep, told him that he was addressed by that nobleman. He was
requested to step into the house. When they were alone, Lord
Mountfalcon, slightly ruffled, said: "Feverel has insulted me grossly. I
must meet him, of course. It's a piece of infernal folly!--I suppose he
is not quite mad?"
Ripton's only definite answer was, a gasping iteration of "My lord."
My lord resumed: "I am perfectly guiltless of offending him, as far as I
know. In fact, I had a friendship for him. Is he liable to fits of this
sort of thing?"
Not yet at conversation-point, Ripton stammered: "Fits, my lord?"
"Ah!" went the other, eying Ripton in lordly cognizant style. "You know
nothing of this business, perhaps?"
Ripton said he did not.
"Have you any influence with him?"
"Not much, my lord. Only now and then--a little."
"You are not in the Army?"
The question was quite unnecessary. Ripton confessed to the law, and my
lord did not look surprised.
"I will not detain you," he said, distantly bowing.
Ripton gave him a commoner's obeisance; but getting to the door, the
sense of the matter enlightened him.
"It's a duel, my lord?"
"No help for it, if his friends don't shut him up in Bedlam between this
and to-morrow morning."
Of all horrible things a duel was the worst in Ripton's imagination. He
stood holding the handle of the door, revolving this last chapter of
calamity suddenly opened where happiness had promised.
"A duel! but he won't, my lord,--he mustn't fight, my lord."
"He must come on the ground," said my lord, positively.
Ripton ejaculated unintelligible stuff. Finally Lord Mountfalcon said:
"I went out of my way, sir, in speaking to you. I saw you from the
window. Your friend is mad. Deuced methodical, I admit, but mad. I
have particular reasons to wish not to injure the young man, and if an
apology is to be got out of him when we're on the ground, I'll take it,
and we'll stop the damned scandal, if possible. You understand? I'm the
insulted party, and I shall only require of him to use formal words of
excuse to come to an amicable settlement. Let him just say he regrets
Now, sir," the nobleman spoke with considerable earnestness,
"should anything happen--I have the honour to be known to Mrs. Feverel--
and I beg you will tell her. I very particularly desire you to let her
know that I was not to blame."
Mountfalcon rang the bell, and bowed him out. With this on his mind
Ripton hurried down to those who were waiting in joyful trust at Raynham.
The watch consulted by Hippias alternately with his pulse, in occult
calculation hideous to mark, said half-past eleven on the midnight.
Adrian, wearing a composedly amused expression on his dimpled plump
face,--held slightly sideways, aloof from paper and pen,--sat writing at
the library table. Round the baronet's chair, in a semi-circle, were
Lucy, Lady Blandish, Mrs. Doria, and Ripton, that very ill bird at
Raynham. They were silent as those who question the flying minutes.
Ripton had said that Richard was sure to come; but the feminine eyes
reading him ever and anon, had gathered matter for disquietude, which
increased as time sped. Sir Austin persisted in his habitual air of
Remote as he appeared from vulgar anxiety, he was the first to speak and
betray his state.
"Pray, put up that watch. Impatience serves nothing," he said, half-
turning hastily to his brother behind him.
Hippias relinquished his pulse and mildly groaned: "It's no nightmare,
His remark was unheard, and the bearing of it remained obscure. Adrian's
pen made a louder flourish on his manuscript; whether in commiseration or
infernal glee, none might say.
"What are you writing?" the baronet inquired testily of Adrian, after a
pause; twitched, it may be, by a sort of jealousy of the wise youth's
"Do I disturb you, sir?" rejoined Adrian. "I am engaged on a portion of
a Proposal for uniting the Empires and Kingdoms of Europe under one
Paternal Head, on the model of the ever-to-be-admired and lamented Holy
Roman. This treats of the management of Youths and Maids, and of certain
magisterial functions connected therewith. 'It is decreed that these
officers be all and every men of science,' etc." And Adrian cheerily
drove his pen afresh.
Mrs. Doria took Lucy's hand, mutely addressing encouragement to her, and
Lucy brought as much of a smile as she could command to reply with.
"I fear we must give him up to-night," observed Lady Blandish.
"If he said he would come, he will come," Sir Austin interjected.
Between him and the lady there was something of a contest secretly going
on. He was conscious that nothing save perfect success would now hold
this self-emancipating mind. She had seen him through.
"He declared to me he would be certain to come," said Ripton; but he
could look at none of them as he said it, for he was growing aware that
Richard might have deceived him, and was feeling like a black conspirator
against their happiness. He determined to tell the baronet what he knew,
if Richard did not come by twelve.
"What is the time?" he asked Hippias in a modest voice.
"Time for me to be in bed," growled Hippias, as if everybody present had
been treating him badly.
Mrs. Berry came in to apprise Lucy that she was wanted above. She
quietly rose. Sir Austin kissed her on the forehead, saying: "You had
better not come down again, my child." She kept her eyes on him.
"Oblige me by retiring for the night," he added. Lucy shook their hands,
and went out, accompanied by Mrs. Doria.
"This agitation will be bad for the child," he said, speaking to himself
Lady Blandish remarked: "I think she might just as well have returned.
She will not sleep."
"She will control herself for the child's sake."
"You ask too much of her."
"Of her, not," he emphasized.
It was twelve o'clock when Hippies shut his watch, and said with
vehemence: "I'm convinced my circulation gradually and steadily
"Going back to the pre-Harvey period!" murmured Adrian as he wrote.
Sir Austin and Lady Blandish knew well that any comment would introduce
them to the interior of his machinery, the eternal view of which was
sufficiently harrowing; so they maintained a discreet reserve. Taking it
for acquiescence in his deplorable condition, Hippies resumed
despairingly: "It's a fact. I've brought you to see that. No one can be
more moderate than I am, and yet I get worse. My system is organically
sound--I believe: I do every possible thing, and yet I get worse. Nature
never forgives! I'll go to bed."
The Dyspepsy departed unconsoled.
Sir Austin took up his brother's thought: "I suppose nothing short of a
miracle helps us when we have offended her."
"Nothing short of a quack satisfies us," said Adrian, applying wax to an
envelope of official dimensions.
Ripton sat accusing his soul of cowardice while they talked; haunted by
Lucy's last look at him. He got up his courage presently and went round
to Adrian, who, after a few whispered words, deliberately rose and
accompanied him out of the room, shrugging. When they had gone, Lady
Blandish said to the baronet: "He is not coming."
"To-morrow, then, if not tonight," he replied. "But I say he will come
"You do really wish to see him united to his wife?"
The question made the baronet raise his brows with some displeasure.
"Can you ask me?"
"I mean," said, the ungenerous woman, "your System will require no
further sacrifices from either of them?"
When he did answer, it was to say: "I think her altogether a superior
person. I confess I should scarcely have hoped to find one like her."
"Admit that your science does not accomplish everything."
"No: it was presumptuous--beyond a certain point," said the baronet,
meaning deep things.
Lady Blandish eyed him. "Ah me!" she sighed, "if we would always be true
to our own wisdom!"
"You are very singular to-night, Emmeline." Sir Austin stopped his walk
in front of her.
In truth, was she not unjust? Here was an offending son freely forgiven.
Here was a young woman of humble birth, freely accepted into his family
and permitted to stand upon her qualities. Who would have done more--or
as much? This lady, for instance, had the case been hers, would have
fought it. All the people of position that he was acquainted with would
have fought it, and that without feeling it so peculiarly. But while the
baronet thought this, he did not think of the exceptional education his
son had received. He, took the common ground of fathers, forgetting his
System when it was absolutely on trial. False to his son it could not be
said that he had been false to his System he was. Others saw it plainly,
but he had to learn his lesson by and by.
Lady Blandish gave him her face; then stretched her hand to the table,
saying, "Well! well!" She fingered a half-opened parcel lying there, and
drew forth a little book she recognized. "Ha! what is this?" she said.
"Benson returned it this morning," he informed her. "The stupid fellow
took it away with him--by mischance, I am bound to believe."
It was nothing other than the old Note-book. Lady Blandish turned over
the leaves, and came upon the later jottings.
She read: "A maker of Proverbs--what is he but a narrow mind with the
mouthpiece of narrower?"
"I do not agree with that," she observed. He was in no humour for
"Was your humility feigned when you wrote it?"
He merely said: "Consider the sort of minds influenced by set sayings. A
proverb is the half-way-house to an Idea, I conceive; and the majority
rest there content: can the keeper of such a house be flattered by his
She felt her feminine intelligence swaying under him again. There must
be greatness in a man who could thus speak of his own special and
Further she read, "Which is the coward among us?--He who sneers at the
failings of Humanity!"
"Oh! that is true! How much I admire that!" cried the dark-eyed dame as
she beamed intellectual raptures.
Another Aphorism seemed closely to apply to him: "There is no more
grievous sight, as there is no greater perversion, than a wise man at the
mercy of his feelings."
"He must have written it," she thought, "when he had himself for an
example--strange man that he is!"
Lady Blandish was still inclined to submission, though decidedly
insubordinate. She had once been fairly conquered: but if what she
reverenced as a great mind could conquer her, it must be a great man that
should hold her captive. The Autumn Primrose blooms for the loftiest
manhood; is a vindictive flower in lesser hands. Nevertheless Sir Austin
had only to be successful, and this lady's allegiance was his for ever.
The trial was at hand.
She said again: "He is not coming to-night," and the baronet, on whose
visage a contemplative pleased look had been rising for a minute past,
quietly added: "He is come."
Richard's voice was heard in the hall.
There was commotion all over the house at the return of the young heir.
Berry, seizing every possible occasion to approach his Bessy now that her
involuntary coldness had enhanced her value--"Such is men!" as the soft
woman reflected--Berry ascended to her and delivered the news in pompous
tones and wheedling gestures. "The best word you've spoke for many a
day," says she, and leaves him unfee'd, in an attitude, to hurry and pour
bliss into Lucy's ears.
"Lord be praised!" she entered the adjoining room exclaiming, "we're got
to be happy at last. They men have come to their senses. I could cry to
your Virgin and kiss your Cross, you sweet!"
"Hush!" Lucy admonished her, and crooned over the child on her knees.
The tiny open hands, full of sleep, clutched; the large blue eyes started
awake; and his mother, all trembling and palpitating, knowing, but
thirsting to hear it, covered him with her tresses, and tried to still
her frame, and rocked, and sang low, interdicting even a whisper from
bursting Mrs. Berry.
Richard had come. He was under his father's roof, in the old home that
had so soon grown foreign to him. He stood close to his wife and child.
He might embrace them both: and now the fulness of his anguish and the
madness of the thing he had done smote the young man: now first he tasted
hard earthly misery.
Had not God spoken to him in the tempest? Had not the finger of heaven
directed him homeward? And he had come: here he stood: congratulations
were thick in his ears: the cup of happiness was held to him, and he was
invited to drink of it. Which was the dream? his work for the morrow, or
this? But for a leaden load that he felt like a bullet in his breast, he
might have thought the morrow with death sitting on it was the dream.
Yes; he was awake. Now first the cloud of phantasms cleared away: he
beheld his real life, and the colours of true human joy: and on the
morrow perhaps he was to close his eyes on them. That leaden bullet
dispersed all unrealities.
They stood about him in the hall, his father, Lady Blandish, Mrs. Doria,
Adrian, Ripton; people who had known him long. They shook his hand: they
gave him greetings he had never before understood the worth of or the
meaning. Now that he did they mocked him. There was Mrs. Berry in the
background bobbing, there was Martin Berry bowing, there was Tom Bakewell
grinning. Somehow he loved the sight of these better.
"Ah, my old Penelope!" he said, breaking through the circle of his
relatives to go to her. "Tom! how are you?"
"Bless ye, my Mr, Richard," whimpered Mrs. Berry, and whispered, rosily,
"all's agreeable now. She's waiting up in bed for ye, like a new-born."
The person who betrayed most agitation was, Mrs. Doria. She held close
to him, and eagerly studied his face and every movement, as one
accustomed to masks. "You are pale, Richard?" He pleaded exhaustion.
"What detained you, dear?" "Business," he said. She drew him
imperiously apart from the others. "Richard! is it over?" He asked what
she meant. "The dreadful duel, Richard." He looked darkly. "Is it
over? is it done, Richard?" Getting no immediate answer, she continued--
and such was her agitation that the words were shaken by pieces from her
mouth: "Don't pretend not to understand me, Richard! Is it over? Are
you going to die the death of my child--Clare's death? Is not one in a
family enough? Think of your dear young wife--we love her so!--your
child!--your father! Will you kill us all?"
Mrs. Doria had chanced to overhear a trifle of Ripton's communication to
Adrian, and had built thereon with the dark forces of a stricken soul.
Wondering how this woman could have divined it, Richard calmly said:
"It's arranged--the matter you allude to."
"Tell me"--but he broke away from her, saying: "You shall hear the
particulars to-morrow," and she, not alive to double meaning just then,
allowed him to leave her.
He had eaten nothing for twelve hours, and called for food, but he would
take only dry bread and claret, which was served on a tray in the
library. He said, without any show of feeling, that he must eat before
he saw the young hope of Raynham: so there he sat, breaking bread, and
eating great mouthfuls, and washing them down with wine, talking of what
they would. His father's studious mind felt itself years behind him, he
was so completely altered. He had the precision of speech, the bearing
of a man of thirty. Indeed he had all that the necessity for cloaking an
infinite misery gives. But let things be as they might, he was, there.
For one night in his life Sir Austin's perspective of the future was
bounded by the night.
"Will your go to your wife now?" he had asked and Richard had replied
with a strange indifference. The baronet thought it better that their
meeting should be private, and sent word for Lucy to wait upstairs. The
others perceived that father and son should now be left alone. Adrian
went up to him, and said: "I can no longer witness this painful sight, so
Good-night, Sir Famish! You may cheat yourself into the belief that
you've made a meal, but depend upon it your progeny--and it threatens to
be numerous--will cry aloud and rue the day. Nature never forgives! A
lost dinner can never be replaced! Good-night, my dear boy. And here--
oblige me by taking this," he handed Richard the enormous envelope
containing what he had written that evening. "Credentials!" he exclaimed
humorously, slapping Richard on the shoulder. Ripton heard also the
words "propagator--species," but had no idea of their import. The wise
youth looked: You see we've made matters all right for you here, and
quitted the room on that unusual gleam of earnestness.
Richard shook his hand, and Ripton's. Then Lady Blandish said her good-
night, praising Lucy, and promising to pray for their mutual happiness.
The two men who knew what was hanging over him, spoke together outside.
Ripton was for getting a positive assurance that the duel would not be
fought, but Adrian said: "Time enough tomorrow. He's safe enough while
he's here. I'll stop it to-morrow:" ending with banter of Ripton and
allusions to his adventures with Miss Random, which must, Adrian said,
have led him into many affairs of the sort. Certainly Richard was there,
and while he was there he must be safe. So thought Ripton, and went to
his bed. Mrs. Doria deliberated likewise, and likewise thought him safe
while he was there. For once in her life she thought it better not to
trust to her instinct, for fear of useless disturbance where peace should
be. So she said not a syllable of it to her brother. She only looked
more deeply into Richard's eyes, as she kissed him, praising Lucy. "I
have found a second daughter in her, dear. Oh! may you both be happy!"
They all praised Lucy, now. His father commenced the moment they were
alone. "Poor Helen! Your wife has been a great comfort to her, Richard.
I think Helen must have sunk without her. So lovely a young person,
possessing mental faculty, and a conscience for her duties, I have never
He wished to gratify his son by these eulogies of Lucy, and some hours
back he would have succeeded. Now it had the contrary effect.
"You compliment me on my choice, sir?"
Richard spoke sedately, but the irony was perceptible and he could speak
no other way, his bitterness was so intense.
"I think you very fortunate," said his father.
Sensitive to tone and manner as he was, his ebullition of paternal
feeling was frozen. Richard did not approach him. He leaned against the
chimney-piece, glancing at the floor, and lifting his eyes only when he
spoke. Fortunate! very fortunate! As he revolved his later history, and
remembered how clearly he had seen that his father must love Lucy if he
but knew her, and remembered his efforts to persuade her to come with
him, a sting of miserable rage blackened his brain. But could he blame
that gentle soul? Whom could he blame? Himself? Not utterly. His
father? Yes, and no. The blame was here, the blame was there: it was
everywhere and nowhere, and the young man cast it on the Fates, and
looked angrily at heaven, and grew reckless.
"Richard," said his father, coming close to him, "it is late to-night. I
do not wish Lucy to remain in expectation longer, or I should have
explained myself to you thoroughly, and I think--or at least hope--you
would have justified me. I had cause to believe that you had not only
violated my confidence, but grossly deceived me. It was not so, I now
know. I was mistaken. Much of our misunderstanding has resulted from
that mistake. But you were married--a boy: you knew nothing of the
world, little of yourself. To save you in after-life--for there is a
period when mature men and women who have married young are more impelled
to temptation than in youth,--though not so exposed to it,--to save you,
I say, I decreed that you should experience self-denial and learn
something of your fellows of both sexes, before settling into a state
that must have been otherwise precarious, however excellent the woman who
is your mate. My System with you would have been otherwise imperfect,
and you would have felt the effects of it. It is over now. You are a
man. The dangers to which your nature was open are, I trust, at an end.
I wish you to be happy, and I give you both my blessing, and pray God to
conduct and strengthen you both."
Sir Austin's mind was unconscious of not having spoken devoutly. True or
not, his words were idle to his son: his talk of dangers over, and
Richard coldly took his father's extended hand.
"We will go to her," said the baronet. "I will leave you at her door."
Not moving: looking fixedly at his father with a hard face on which the
colour rushed, Richard said: "A husband who has been unfaithful to his
wife may go to her there, sir?"
It was horrible, it was cruel: Richard knew that. He wanted no advice on
such a matter, having fully resolved what to do. Yesterday he would have
listened to his father, and blamed himself alone, and done what was to be
done humbly before God and her: now in the recklessness of his misery he
had as little pity for any other soul as for his own. Sir Austin's brows
were deep drawn down.
"What did you say, Richard?"
Clearly his intelligence had taken it, but this--the worst he could hear-
-this that he had dreaded once and doubted, and smoothed over, and cast
aside--could it be?
Richard said: "I told you all but the very words when we last parted.
What else do you think would have kept me from her?"
Angered at his callous aspect, his father cried: "What brings you to her
"That will be between us two," was the reply.
Sir Austin fell into his chair. Meditation was impossible. He spoke
from a wrathful heart: "You will not dare to take her without"--
"No, sir," Richard interrupted him, "I shall not. Have no fear."
"Then you did not love your wife?"
"Did I not?" A smile passed faintly over Richard's face.
"Did you care so much for this--this other person?"
"So much? If you ask me whether I had affection for her, I can say I had
O base human nature! Then how? then why? A thousand questions rose in
the baronet's mind. Bessy Berry could have answered them every one.
"Poor child! poor child!" he apostrophized Lucy, pacing the room.
Thinking of her, knowing her deep love for his son--her true forgiving
heart--it seemed she should be spared this misery.
He proposed to Richard to spare her. Vast is the distinction between
women and men in this one sin, he said, and supported it with physical
and moral citations. His argument carried him so far, that to hear him
one would have imagined he thought the sin in men small indeed. His
words were idle.
"She must know it," said Richard, sternly. "I will go to her now, sir,
if you please."
Sir Austin detained him, expostulated, contradicted himself, confounded
his principles, made nonsense of all his theories. He could not induce
his son to waver in his resolve. Ultimately, their good-night being
interchanged, he understood that the happiness of Raynham depended on
Lucy's mercy. He had no fears of her sweet heart, but it was a strange
thing to have come to. On which should the accusation fall--on science,
or on human nature?
He remained in the library pondering over the question, at times
breathing contempt for his son, and again seized with unwonted suspicion
of his own wisdom: troubled, much to be pitied, even if he deserved that
blow from his son which had plunged him into wretchedness. Richard went
straight to Tom Bakewell, roused the heavy sleeper, and told him to have
his mare saddled and waiting at the park gates East within an hour.
Tom's nearest approach to a hero was to be a faithful slave to his
master, and in doing this he acted to his conception of that high and
glorious character. He got up and heroically dashed his head into cold
water. "She shall be ready, sir," he nodded.
"Tom! if you don't see me back here at Raynham, your money will go on
being paid to you."
"Rather see you than the money, Mr. Richard," said Tom.
"And you will always watch and see no harm comes to her, Tom."
"Mrs. Richard, sir?" Tom stared. "God bless me, Mr. Richard"--
"No questions. You'll do what I say."
"Ay, sir; that I will. Did'n Isle o' Wight."
The very name of the Island shocked Richard's blood; and he had to walk
up and down before he could knock at Lucy's door. That infamous
conspiracy to which he owed his degradation and misery scarce left him
the feelings of a man when he thought of it.
The soft beloved voice responded to his knock. He opened the door, and
stood before her. Lucy was half-way toward him. In the moment that
passed ere she was in his arms, he had time to observe the change in her.
He had left her a girl: he beheld a woman--a blooming woman: for pale at
first, no sooner did she see him than the colour was rich and deep on her
face and neck and bosom half shown through the loose dressing-robe, and
the sense of her exceeding beauty made his heart thump and his eyes swim.
"My darling!" each cried, and they clung together, and her mouth was
fastened on his.
They spoke no more. His soul was drowned in her kiss. Supporting her,
whose strength was gone, he, almost as weak as she, hung over her, and
clasped her closer, closer, till they were as one body, and in the
oblivion her lips put upon him he was free to the bliss of her embrace.
Heaven granted him that. He placed her in a chair and knelt at her feet
with both arms around her. Her bosom heaved; her eyes never quitted him:
their light as the light on a rolling wave. This young creature,
commonly so frank and straightforward, was broken with bashfulness in her
husband's arms--womanly bashfulness on the torrent of womanly love;
tenfold more seductive than the bashfulness of girlhood. Terrible
tenfold the loss of her seemed now, as distantly--far on the horizon of
memory--the fatal truth returned to him.
Lose her? lose this? He looked up as if to ask God to confirm it.
The same sweet blue eyes! the eyes that he had often seen in the dying
glories of evening; on him they dwelt, shifting, and fluttering, and
glittering, but constant: the light of them as the light on a rolling
And true to him! true, good, glorious, as the angels of heaven! And his
she was! a woman--his wife! The temptation to take her, and be dumb, was
all powerful: the wish to die against her bosom so strong as to be the
prayer of his vital forces. Again he strained her to him, but this time
it was as a robber grasps priceless treasure--with exultation and
defiance. One instant of this. Lucy, whose pure tenderness had now
surmounted the first wild passion of their meeting, bent back her head
from her surrendered body, and said almost voicelessly, her underlids
wistfully quivering: "Come and see him--baby;" and then in great hope of
the happiness she was going to give her husband, and share with him, and
in tremour and doubt of what his feelings would be, she blushed, and her
brows worked: she tried to throw off the strangeness of a year of
separation, misunderstanding, and uncertainty.
"Darling! come and see him. He is here." She spoke more clearly, though
Richard had released her, and she took his hand, and he suffered himself
to be led to the other side of the bed. His heart began rapidly
throbbing at the sight of a little rosy-curtained cot covered with lace
like milky summer cloud.
It seemed to him he would lose his manhood if he looked on that child's
"Stop!" he cried suddenly.
Lucy turned first to him, and then to her infant, fearing it should have
"Lucy, come back."
"What is it, darling?" said she, in alarm at his voice and the grip he
had unwittingly given her hand.
O God! what an Ordeal was this! that to-morrow he must face death,
perhaps die and be torn from his darling--his wife and his child; and
that ere he went forth, ere he could dare to see his child and lean his
head reproachfully on his young wife's breast--for the last time, it
might be--he must stab her to the heart, shatter the image she held of
"Lucy!" She saw him wrenched with agony, and her own face took the
whiteness of his--she bending forward to him, all her faculties strung to
He held her two hands that she might look on him and not spare the
horrible wound he was going to lay open to her eyes.
"Lucy. Do you know why I came to you to-night?"
She moved her lips repeating his words.
"Lucy. Have you guessed why I did not come before?"
Her head shook widened eyes.
"Lucy. I did not come because I was not worthy of my wife! Do you
"Darling," she faltered plaintively, and hung crouching under him, "what
have I done to make you angry with me?"
"O beloved!" cried he, the tears bursting out of his eyes. "O beloved!"
was all he could say, kissing her hands passionately.
She waited, reassured, but in terror.
"Lucy. I stayed away from you--I could not come to you, because... I
dared not come to you, my wife, my beloved! I could not come because I
was a coward: because--hear me--this was the reason: I have broken my
Again her lips moved. She caught at a dim fleshless meaning in them.
"But you love me? Richard! My husband! you love me?"
"Yes. I have never loved, I never shall love, woman but you."
"Darling! Kiss me."
"Have you understood what I have told you?"
"Kiss me," she said.
He did not join lips. "I have come to you to-night to ask your
Her answer was: "Kiss me."
"Can you forgive a man so base?"
"But you love me, Richard?"
"Yes: that I can say before God. I love you, and I have betrayed you,
and am unworthy of you--not worthy to touch your hand, to kneel at your
feet, to breathe the same air with you."
Her eyes shone brilliantly. "You love me! you love me, darling!" And as
one who has sailed through dark fears into daylight, she said: "My
husband! my darling! you will never leave me? We never shall be parted
He drew his breath painfully. To smooth her face growing rigid with
fresh fears at his silence, he met her mouth. That kiss in which she
spoke what her soul had to say, calmed her, and she smiled happily from
it, and in her manner reminded him of his first vision of her on the
summer morning in the field of the meadow-sweet. He held her to him, and
thought then of a holier picture: of Mother and Child: of the sweet
wonders of life she had made real to him.
Had he not absolved his conscience? At least the pangs to come made him
think so. He now followed her leading hand. Lucy whispered: "You
mustn't disturb him--mustn't touch him, dear!" and with dainty fingers
drew off the covering to the little shoulder. One arm of the child was
out along the pillow; the small hand open. His baby-mouth was pouted
full; the dark lashes of his eyes seemed to lie on his plump cheeks.
Richard stooped lower down to him, hungering for some movement as a sign
that he lived. Lucy whispered. "He sleeps like you, Richard--one arm
under his head." Great wonder, and the stir of a grasping tenderness was
in Richard. He breathed quick and soft, bending lower, till Lucy's
curls, as she nestled and bent with him, rolled on the crimson quilt of
the cot. A smile went up the plump cheeks: forthwith the bud of a mouth
was in rapid motion. The young mother whispered, blushing: "He's
dreaming of me," and the simple words did more than Richard's eyes to
make him see what was. Then Lucy began to hum and buzz sweet baby-
language, and some of the tiny fingers stirred, and he made as if to
change his cosy position, but reconsidered, and deferred it, with a
peaceful little sigh. Lucy whispered: "He is such a big fellow. Oh!
when you see him awake he is so like you, Richard."
He did not hear her immediately: it seemed a bit of heaven dropped there
in his likeness: the more human the fact of the child grew the more
heavenly it seemed. His son! his child! should he ever see him awake?
At the thought, he took the words that had been spoken, and started from
the dream he had been in. "Will he wake soon, Lucy?"
"Oh no! not yet, dear: not for hours. I would have kept him awake for
you, but he was so sleepy."
Richard stood back from the cot. He thought that if he saw the eyes of
his boy, and had him once on his heart, he never should have force to
leave him. Then he looked down on him, again struggled to tear himself
away. Two natures warred in his bosom, or it may have been the Magian
Conflict still going on. He had come to see his child once and to make
peace with his wife before it should be too late. Might he not stop with
them? Might he not relinquish that devilish pledge? Was not divine
happiness here offered to him?--If foolish Ripton had not delayed to tell
him of his interview with Mountfalcon all might have been well. But
pride said it was impossible. And then injury spoke. For why was he
thus base and spotted to the darling of his love? A mad pleasure in the
prospect of wreaking vengeance on the villain who had laid the trap for
him, once more blackened his brain. If he would stay he could not. So
he resolved, throwing the burden on Fate. The struggle was over, but oh,
Lucy beheld the tears streaming hot from his face on the child's cot.
She marvelled at such excess of emotion. But when his chest heaved, and
the extremity of mortal anguish appeared to have seized him, her heart
sank, and she tried to get him in her arms. He turned away from her and
went to the window. A half-moon was over the lake.
"Look!" he said, "do you remember our rowing there one night, and we saw
the shadow of the cypress? I wish I could have come early to-night that
we might have had another row, and I have heard you sing there!"
"Darling!" said she, "will it make you happier if I go with you now? I
"No, Lucy. Lucy, you are brave!"
"Oh, no! that I'm not. I thought so once. I know I am not now."
"Yes! to have lived--the child on your heart--and never to have uttered a
complaint!--you are brave. O my Lucy! my wife! you that have made me
man! I called you a coward. I remember it. I was the coward--I the
wretched vain fool! Darling! I am going to leave you now. You are
brave, and you will bear it. Listen: in two days, or three, I may be
back--back for good, if you will accept me. Promise me to go to bed
quietly. Kiss the child for me, and tell him his father has seen him.
He will learn to speak soon. Will he soon speak, Lucy?"
Dreadful suspicion kept her speechless; she could only clutch one arm of
his with both her hands.
"Going?" she presently gasped.
"For two or three days. No more--I hope."
"Going now? my husband!" her faculties abandoned her.
"You will be brave, my Lucy!"
"Richard! my darling husband! Going? What is it takes you from me?"
But questioning no further, she fell on her knees, and cried piteously to
him to stay--not to leave them. Then she dragged him to the little
sleeper, and urged him to pray by his side, and he did, but rose abruptly
from his prayer when he had muttered a few broken words--she praying on
with tight-strung nerves, in the faith that what she said to the
interceding Mother above would be stronger than human hands on him. Nor
could he go while she knelt there.
And he wavered. He had not reckoned on her terrible suffering. She came
to him, quiet. "I knew you would remain." And taking his hand,
innocently fondling it: "Am I so changed from her he loved? You will not
leave me, dear?" But dread returned, and the words quavered as she spoke
He was almost vanquished by the loveliness of her womanhood. She drew
his hand to her heart, and strained it there under one breast. "Come:
lie on my heart," she murmured with a smile of holy sweetness.
He wavered more, and drooped to her, but summoning the powers of hell,
kissed her suddenly, cried the words of parting, and hurried to the door.
It was over in an instant. She cried out his name, clinging to him
wildly, and was adjured to be brave, for he would be dishonoured if he
did not go. Then she was shaken off.
Mrs. Berry was aroused by an unusual prolonged wailing of the child,
which showed that no one was comforting it, and failing to get any answer
to her applications for admittance, she made bold to enter. There she
saw Lucy, the child in her lap, sitting on the floor senseless:--she had
taken it from its sleep and tried to follow her husband with it as her
strongest appeal to him, and had fainted.
"Oh my! oh my!" Mrs. Berry moaned, "and I just now thinkin' they was so
Warming and caressing the poor infant, she managed by degrees to revive
Lucy, and heard what had brought her to that situation.
"Go to his father," said Mrs. Berry. "Ta-te-tiddle-te-heighty-O! Go, my
love, and every horse in Raynham shall be out after 'm. This is what men
brings us to! Heighty-oighty-iddlety-Ah! Or you take blessed baby, and
The baronet himself knocked at the door. "What is this?" he said. "I
heard a noise and a step descend."
"It's Mr. Richard have gone, Sir Austin! have gone from his wife and
babe! Rum-te-um-te-iddledy--Oh, my goodness! what sorrow's come on us!"
and Mrs. Berry wept, and sang to baby, and baby cried vehemently, and
Lucy, sobbing, took him and danced him and sang to him with drawn lips
and tears dropping over him. And if the Scientific Humanist to the day
of his death forgets the sight of those two poor true women jigging on
their wretched hearts to calm the child, he must have very little of the
human in him.
There was no more sleep for Raynham that night.
"His ordeal is over. I have just come from his room and seen him bear
the worst that could be. Return at once--he has asked for you. I can
hardly write intelligibly, but I will tell you what we know.
"Two days after the dreadful night when he left us, his father heard from
Ralph Morton. Richard had fought a duel in France with Lord Mountfalcon,
and was lying wounded at a hamlet on the coast. His father started
immediately with his poor wife, and I followed in company with his aunt
and his child. The wound was not dangerous. He was shot in the side
somewhere, but the ball injured no vital part. We thought all would be
well. Oh! how sick I am of theories, and Systems, and the pretensions of
men! There was his son lying all but dead, and the man was still
unconvinced of the folly he had been guilty of. I could hardly bear the
sight of his composure. I shall hate the name of Science till the day I
die. Give me nothing but commonplace unpretending people!
"They were at a wretched French cabaret, smelling vilely, where we still
remain, and the people try as much as they can do to compensate for our
discomforts by their kindness. The French poor people are very
considerate where they see suffering. I will say that for them. The
doctors had not allowed his poor Lucy to go near him. She sat outside
his door, and none of us dared disturb her. That was a sight for
Science. His father and myself, and Mrs. Berry, were the only ones
permitted to wait on him, and whenever we came out, there she sat, not
speaking a word--for she had been told it would endanger his life--but
she looked such awful eagerness. She had the sort of eye I fancy mad
persons have. I was sure her reason was going. We did everything we
could think of to comfort her. A bed was made up for her and her meals
were brought to her there. Of course there was no getting her to eat.
What do you suppose his alarm was fixed on? He absolutely said to me--
but I have not patience to repeat his words. He thought her to blame for
not commanding herself for the sake of her maternal duties. He had
absolutely an idea of insisting that she should make an effort to suckle
the child. I shall love that Mrs. Berry to the end of my days. I really
believe she has twice the sense of any of us--Science and all. She asked
him plainly if he wished to poison the child, and then he gave way, but
with a bad grace.
"Poor man! perhaps I am hard on him. I remember that you said Richard
had done wrong. Yes; well, that may be. But his father eclipsed his
wrong in a greater wrong--a crime, or quite as bad; for if he deceived
himself in the belief that he was acting righteously in separating
husband and wife, and exposing his son as he did, I can only say that
there are some who are worse than people who deliberately commit crimes.
No doubt Science will benefit by it. They kill little animals for the
sake of Science.
"We have with us Doctor Bairam, and a French physician from Dieppe, a
very skilful man. It was he who told us where the real danger lay. We
thought all would be well. A week had passed, and no fever supervened.
We told Richard that his wife was coming to him, and he could bear to
hear it. I went to her and began to circumlocute, thinking she listened
--she had the same eager look. When I told her she might go in with me
to see her dear husband, her features did not change. M. Despres, who
held her pulse at the time, told me, in a whisper, it was cerebral fever
--brain fever coming on. We have talked of her since. I noticed that
though she did not seem to understand me, her bosom heaved, and she
appeared to be trying to repress it, and choke something. I am sure now,
from what I know of her character, that she--even in the approaches of
delirium--was preventing herself from crying out. Her last hold of
reason was a thought for Richard. It was against a creature like this
that we plotted! I have the comfort of knowing that I did my share in
helping to destroy her. Had she seen her husband a day or two before--
but no! there was a new System to interdict that! Or had she not so
violently controlled her nature as she did, I believe she might have been
"He said once of a man, that his conscience was a coxcomb. Will you
believe that when he saw his son's wife--poor victim! lying delirious, he
could not even then see his error. You said he wished to take Providence
out of God's hands. His mad self-deceit would not leave him. I am
positive, that while he was standing over her, he was blaming her for not
having considered the child. Indeed he made a remark to me that it was
unfortunate 'disastrous,' I think he said--that the child should have to
be fed by hand. I dare say it is. All I pray is that this young child
may be saved from him. I cannot bear to see him look on it. He does not
spare himself bodily fatigue--but what is that? that is the vulgarest
form of love. I know what you will say. You will say I have lost all
charity, and I have. But I should not feel so, Austin, if I could be
quite sure that he is an altered man even now the blow has struck him.
He is reserved and simple in his speech, and his grief is evident, but I
have doubts. He heard her while she was senseless call him cruel and
harsh, and cry that she had suffered, and I saw then his mouth contract
as if he had been touched. Perhaps, when he thinks, his mind will be
clearer, but what he has done cannot be undone. I do not imagine he will
abuse women any more. The doctor called her a 'forte et belle jeune
femme:' and he said she was as noble a soul as ever God moulded clay
upon. A noble soul 'forte et belle!' She lies upstairs. If he can look
on her and not see his sin, I almost fear God will never enlighten him."
She died five days after she had been removed. The shock had utterly
deranged her. I was with her. She died very quietly, breathing her last
breath without pain--asking for no one--a death I should like to die.
"Her cries at one time were dreadfully loud. She screamed that she was
'drowning in fire,' and that her husband would not come to her to save
her. We deadened the sound as much as we could, but it was impossible to
prevent Richard from hearing. He knew her voice, and it produced an
effect like fever on him. Whenever she called he answered. You could
not hear them without weeping. Mrs. Berry sat with her, and I sat with
him, and his father moved from one to the other.
"But the trial for us came when she was gone. How to communicate it to
Richard--or whether to do so at all! His father consulted with us. We
were quite decided that it would be madness to breathe it while he was in
that state. I can admit now--as things have turned out--we were wrong.
His father left us--I believe he spent the time in prayer--and then
leaning on me, he went to Richard, and said in so many words, that his
Lucy was no more. I thought it must kill him. He listened, and smiled.
I never saw a smile so sweet and so sad. He said he had seen her die, as
if he had passed through his suffering a long time ago. He shut his
eyes. I could see by the motion of his eyeballs up that he was straining
his sight to some inner heaven.--I cannot go on.
"I think Richard is safe. Had we postponed the tidings, till he came to
his clear senses, it must have killed him. His father was right for
once, then. But if he has saved his son's body, he has given the death-
blow to his heart. Richard will never be what he promised.
"A letter found on his clothes tells us the origin of the quarrel. I
have had an interview with Lord M. this morning. I cannot say I think
him exactly to blame: Richard forced him to fight. At least I do not
select him the foremost for blame. He was deeply and sincerely affected
by the calamity he has caused. Alas! he was only an instrument. Your
poor aunt is utterly prostrate and talks strange things of her daughter's
death. She is only happy in drudging. Dr. Bairam says we must under any
circumstances keep her employed. Whilst she is doing something, she can
chat freely, but the moment her hands are not occupied she gives me an
idea that she is going into a fit.
"We expect the dear child's uncle to-day. Mr. Thompson is here. I have
taken him upstairs to look at her. That poor young man has a true heart.
"Come at once. You will not be in time to see her. She will lie at
Raynham. If you could you would see an angel. He sits by her side for
hours. I can give you no description of her beauty.
"You will not delay, I know, dear Austin, and I want you, for your
presence will make me more charitable than I find it possible to be.
Have you noticed the expression in the eyes of blind men? That is just
how Richard looks, as he lies there silent in his bed--striving to image
her on his brain."
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This was a totally different case from the antecedent ones
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