Part 5 out of 6
"Signal of hope!" I said, and advanced. "But I will be a little
calmer; I am not going to rush in, and get up a scene directly."
Forcibly staying my eager step, I paused on the mat.
"What an absolute hush! Is she in? Is anybody in?" I demanded
to myself. A little tinkle, as of cinders falling from a grate,
replied; a movement--a fire was gently stirred; and the slight
rustle of life continuing, a step paced equably backwards and
forwards, backwards and forwards, in the apartment. Fascinated,
I stood, more fixedly fascinated when a voice rewarded the
attention of my strained ear--so low, so self-addressed, I never
fancied the speaker otherwise than alone; solitude might speak
thus in a desert, or in the hall of a forsaken house.
"'And ne'er but once, my son,' he said,
'Was yon dark cavern trod;
In persecution's iron days,
When the land was left by God.
From Bewley's bog, with slaughter red,
A wanderer hither drew;
And oft he stopp'd and turn'd his head,
As by fits the night-winds blew.
For trampling round by Cheviot-edge
Were heard the troopers keen;
And frequent from the Whitelaw ridge
The death-shot flash'd between,'" &c. &c.
The old Scotch ballad was partly recited, then dropt; a pause
ensued; then another strain followed, in French, of which the
purport, translated, ran as follows:--
I gave, at first, attention close;
Then interest warm ensued;
From interest, as improvement rose,
Obedience was no effort soon,
And labour was no pain;
If tired, a word, a glance alone
Would give me strength again.
From others of the studious band,
Ere long he singled me;
But only by more close demand,
And sterner urgency.
The task he from another took,
From me he did reject;
He would no slight omission brook,
And suffer no defect.
If my companions went astray,
He scarce their wanderings blam'd;
If I but falter'd in the way,
His anger fiercely flam'd.
Something stirred in an adjoining chamber; it would not do to be
surprised eaves-dropping; I tapped hastily, And as hastily
entered. Frances was just before me; she had been walking slowly
in her room, and her step was checked by my advent: Twilight
only was with her, and tranquil, ruddy Firelight; to these
sisters, the Bright and the Dark, she had been speaking, ere I
entered, in poetry. Sir Walter Scott's voice, to her a foreign,
far-off sound, a mountain echo, had uttered itself in the first
stanzas; the second, I thought, from the style and the substance,
was the language of her own heart. Her face was grave, its
expression concentrated; she bent on me an unsmiling eye--an eye
just returning from abstraction, just awaking from dreams:
well-arranged was her simple attire, smooth her dark hair,
orderly her tranquil room; but what--with her thoughtful look,
her serious self-reliance, her bent to meditation and haply
inspiration--what had she to do with love? "Nothing," was the
answer of her own sad, though gentle countenance; it seemed to
say, "I must cultivate fortitude and cling to poetry; one is to
be my support and the other my solace through life. Human
affections do not bloom, nor do human passions glow for me."
Other women have such thoughts. Frances, had she been as
desolate as she deemed, would not have been worse off than
thousands of her sex. Look at the rigid and formal race of old
maids--the race whom all despise; they have fed themselves, from
youth upwards, on maxims of resignation and endurance. Many of
them get ossified with the dry diet; self-control is so
continually their thought, so perpetually their object, that at
last it absorbs the softer and more agreeable qualities of their
nature; and they die mere models of austerity, fashioned out of a
little parchment and much bone. Anatomists will tell you that
there is a heart in the withered old maid's carcase--the same as
in that of any cherished wife or proud mother in the land. Can
this be so? I really don't know; but feel inclined to doubt it.
I came forward, bade Frances "good evening," and took my seat.
The chair I had chosen was one she had probably just left; it
stood by a little table where were her open desk and papers. I
know not whether she had fully recognized me at first, but she
did so now; and in a voice, soft but quiet, she returned my
greeting. I had shown no eagerness; she took her cue from me,
and evinced no surprise. We met as me had always met, as master
and pupil--nothing more. I proceeded to handle the papers;
Frances, observant and serviceable, stepped into an inner room,
brought a candle, lit it, placed it by me; then drew the curtain
over the lattice, and having added a little fresh fuel to the
already bright fire, she drew a second chair to the table and sat
down at my right hand, a little removed. The paper on the top
was a translation of some grave French author into English, but
underneath lay a sheet with stanzas; on this I laid hands.
Frances half rose, made a movement to recover the captured spoil,
saying, that was nothing--a mere copy of verses. I put by
resistance with the decision I knew she never long opposed; but
on this occasion her fingers had fastened on the paper. I had
quietly to unloose them; their hold dissolved to my touch; her
hand shrunk away; my own would fain have followed it, but for the
present I forbade such impulse. The first page of the sheet was
occupied with the lines I had overheard; the sequel was not
exactly the writer's own experience, but a composition by
portions of that experience suggested. Thus while egotism was
avoided, the fancy was exercised, and the heart satisfied. I
translate as before, and my translation is nearly literal; it
When sickness stay'd awhile my course,
He seem'd impatient still,
Because his pupil's flagging force
Could not obey his will.
One day when summoned to the bed
Where pain and I did strive,
I heard him, as he bent his head,
Say, "God, she must revive!"
I felt his hand, with gentle stress,
A moment laid on mine,
And wished to mark my consciousness
By some responsive sign.
But pow'rless then to speak or move,
I only felt, within,
The sense of Hope, the strength of Love,
Their healing work begin.
And as he from the room withdrew,
My heart his steps pursued;
I long'd to prove, by efforts new;
My speechless gratitude.
When once again I took my place,
Long vacant, in the class,
Th' unfrequent smile across his face
Did for one moment pass.
The lessons done; the signal made
Of glad release and play,
He, as he passed, an instant stay'd,
One kindly word to say.
"Jane, till to-morrow you are free
From tedious task and rule;
This afternoon I must not see
That yet pale face in school.
"Seek in the garden-shades a seat,
Far from the play-ground din;
The sun is warm, the air is sweet:
Stay till I call you in."
A long and pleasant afternoon
I passed in those green bowers;
All silent, tranquil, and alone
With birds, and bees, and flowers.
Yet, when my master's voice I heard
Call, from the window, "Jane!"
I entered, joyful, at the word,
The busy house again.
He, in the hall, paced up and down;
He paused as I passed by;
His forehead stern relaxed its frown:
He raised his deep-set eye.
"Not quite so pale," he murmured low.
Now Jane, go rest awhile."
And as I smiled, his smoothened brow
Returned as glad a smile.
My perfect health restored, he took
His mien austere again;
And, as before, he would not brook
The slightest fault from Jane.
The longest task, the hardest theme
Fell to my share as erst,
And still I toiled to place my name
In every study first.
He yet begrudged and stinted praise,
But I had learnt to read
The secret meaning of his face,
And that was my best meed.
Even when his hasty temper spoke
In tones that sorrow stirred,
My grief was lulled as soon as woke
By some relenting word.
And when he lent some precious book,
Or gave some fragrant flower,
I did not quail to Envy's look,
Upheld by Pleasure's power.
At last our school ranks took their ground,
The hard-fought field I won;
The prize, a laurel-wreath, was bound
My throbbing forehead on.
Low at my master's knee I bent,
The offered crown to meet;
Its green leaves through my temples sent
A thrill as wild as sweet.
The strong pulse of Ambition struck
In every vein I owned;
At the same instant, bleeding broke
A secret, inward wound.
The hour of triumph was to me
The hour of sorrow sore;
A day hence I must cross the sea,
Ne'er to recross it more.
An hour hence, in my master's room
I with him sat alone,
And told him what a dreary gloom
O'er joy had parting thrown.
He little said; the time was brief,
The ship was soon to sail,
And while I sobbed in bitter grief,
My master but looked pale.
They called in haste; he bade me go,
Then snatched me back again;
He held me fast and murmured low,
"Why will they part us, Jane?"
"Were you not happy in my care?
Did I not faithful prove?
Will others to my darling bear
As true, as deep a love?
"O God, watch o'er my foster child!
O guard her gentle head!
When minds are high and tempests wild
Protection round her spread!
"They call again; leave then my breast;
Quit thy true shelter, Jane;
But when deceived, repulsed, opprest,
Come home to me again! "
I read--then dreamily made marks on the margin with my pencil;
thinking all the while of other things; thinking that "Jane" was
now at my side; no child, but a girl of nineteen; and she might
be mine, so my heart affirmed; Poverty's curse was taken off me;
Envy and Jealousy were far away, and unapprized of this our quiet
meeting; the frost of the Master's manner might melt; I felt the
thaw coming fast, whether I would or not; no further need for the
eye to practise a hard look, for the brow to compress its expense
into a stern fold: it was now permitted to suffer the outward
revelation of the inward glow--to seek, demand, elicit an
answering ardour. While musing thus, I thought that the grass on
Hermon never drank the fresh dews of sunset more gratefully than
my feelings drank the bliss of this hour.
Frances rose, as if restless; she passed before me to stir the
fire, which did not want stirring; she lifted and put down the
little ornaments on the mantelpiece; her dress waved within a
yard of me; slight, straight, and elegant;, she stood erect on
There are impulses we can control; but there are others which
control us, because they attain us with a tiger-leap, and are our
masters ere we have seen them. Perhaps, though, such impulses
are seldom altogether bad; perhaps Reason, by a process as brief
as quiet, a process that is finished ere felt, has ascertained
the sanity of the deed Instinct meditates, and feels justified in
remaining passive while it is performed. I know I did not
reason, I did not plan or intend, yet, whereas one moment I was
sitting solus on the chair near the table, the next, I held
Frances on my knee, placed there with sharpness and decision, and
retained with exceeding tenacity.
"Monsieur!" cried Frances, and was still: not another word
escaped her lips; sorely confounded she seemed during the lapse
of the first few moments; but the amazement soon subsided; terror
did not succeed, nor fury: after all, she was only a little
nearer than she had ever been before, to one she habitually
respected and trusted; embarrassment might have impelled her to
contend, but self-respect checked resistance where resistance was
"Frances, how much regard have you for me?" was my demand. No
answer; the situation was yet too new and surprising to permit
speech. On this consideration, I compelled myself for some
seconds to tolerate her silence, though impatient of it:
presently, I repeated the same question--probably, not in the
calmest of tones; she looked at me; my face, doubtless, was no
model of composure, my eyes no still wells of tranquillity.
"Do speak," I urged; and a very low, hurried, yet still arch
"Monsieur, vous me faites mal; de grace lachez un peu ma main
In truth I became aware that I was holding the said "main droite"
in a somewhat ruthless grasp: I did as desired; and, for the
third time, asked more gently--
"Frances, how much regard have you for me?"
"Mon maitre, j'en ai beaucoup," was the truthful rejoinder.
"Frances, have you enough to give yourself to me as my wife?--to
accept me as your husband?"
I felt the agitation of the heart, I saw "the purple light of
love" cast its glowing reflection on cheeks, temples, neck; I
desired to consult the eye, but sheltering lash and lid forbade.
"Monsieur," said the soft voice at last,--"Monsieur desire savoir
si je consens--si--enfin, si je veux me marier avec lui?"
"Monsieur sera-t-il aussi bon mari qu'il a ete bon maitre?"
"I will try, Frances."
A pause; then with a new, yet still subdued inflexion of the
voice--an inflexion which provoked while it pleased me
--accompanied, too, by a "sourire a la fois fin et timide" in
perfect harmony with the tone:--
"C'est a dire, monsieur sera toujours un peu entete exigeant,
"Have I been so, Frances?"
"Mais oui; vous le savez bien."
"Have I been nothing else?"
"Mais oui; vons avez ete mon meilleur ami."
"And what, Frances, are you to me?"
"Votre devouee eleve, qui vous aime de tout son coeur."
"Will my pupil consent to pass her life with me? Speak English
Some moments were taken for reflection; the answer, pronounced
slowly, ran thus:--
"You have always made me happy; I like to hear you speak; I like
to see you; I like to be near you; I believe you are very good,
and very superior; I know you are stern to those who are careless
and idle, but you are kind, very kind to the attentive and
industrious, even if they are not clever. Master, I should be
GLAD to live with you always;" and she made a sort of movement,
as if she would have clung to me, but restraining herself she
only added with earnest emphasis--"Master, I consent to pass my
life with you."
"Very well, Frances."
I drew her a little nearer to my heart; I took a first kiss from
her lips, thereby sealing the compact, now framed between us;
afterwards she and I were silent, nor was our silence brief.
Frances' thoughts, during this interval, I know not, nor did I
attempt to guess them; I was not occupied in searching her
countenance, nor in otherwise troubling her composure. The peace
I felt, I wished her to feel; my arm, it is true, still detained
her; but with a restraint that was gentle enough, so long as no
opposition tightened it. My gaze was on the red fire; my heart
was measuring its own content; it sounded and sounded, and found
the depth fathomless.
"Monsieur," at last said my quiet companion, as stirless in her
happiness as a mouse in its terror. Even now in speaking she
scarcely lifted her head.
"Well, Frances?" I like unexaggerated intercourse; it is not my
way to overpower with amorous epithets, any more than to worry
with selfishly importunate caresses.
"Monsieur est raisonnable, n'eut-ce pas?"
"Yes; especially when I am requested to be so in English: but
why do you ask me? You see nothing vehement or obtrusive in my
manner; am I not tranquil enough?"
"Ce n'est pas cela--" began Frances.
"English!" I reminded her.
"Well, monsieur, I wished merely to say, that I should like, of
course, to retain my employment of teaching. You will teach
still, I suppose, monsieur?"
"Oh, yes! It is all I have to depend on."
"Bon!--I mean good. Thus we shall have both the same profession.
I like that; and my efforts to get on will be as unrestrained as
yours--will they not, monsieur?"
"You are laying plans to be independent of me," said I.
"Yes, monsieur; I must be no incumbrance to you--no burden in any
"But, Frances, I have not yet told you what my prospects are. I
have left M. Pelet's; and after nearly a month's seeking, I have
got another place, with a salary of three thousand francs a year,
which I can easily double by a little additional exertion. Thus
you see it would be useless for you to fag yourself by going out
to give lessons; on six thousand francs you and I can live, and
Frances seemed to consider. There is something flattering to
man's strength, something consonant to his honourable pride, in
the idea of becoming the providence of what he loves--feeding and
clothing it, as God does the lilies of the field. So, to decide
her resolution, I went on:--
"Life has been painful and laborious enough to you so far,
Frances; you require complete rest; your twelve hundred francs
would not form a very important addition to our income, and what
sacrifice of comfort to earn it! Relinquish your labours: you
must be weary, and let me have the happiness of giving you rest."
I am not sure whether Frances had accorded due attention to my
harangue; instead of answering me with her usual respectful
promptitude, she only sighed and said,--
"How rich you are, monsieur!" and then she stirred uneasy in my
arms. "Three thousand francs!" she murmured, "While I get only
twelve hundred!" She went on faster. "However, it must be so for
the present; and, monsieur, were you not saying something about
my giving up my place? Oh no! I shall hold it fast;" and her
little fingers emphatically tightened on mine.
"Think of my marrying you to be kept by you, monsieur! I could
not do it; and how dull my days would be! You would be away
teaching in close, noisy school-rooms, from morning till evening,
and I should be lingering at home, unemployed and solitary; I
should get depressed and sullen, and you would soon tire of me."
"Frances, you could read and study--two things you
like so well."
"Monsieur, I could not; I like a contemplative life, but I like
an active life better; I must act in some way, and act with you.
I have taken notice, monsieur, that people who are only in each
other's company for amusement, never really like each other so
well, or esteem each other so highly, as those who work together,
and perhaps suffer together."
"You speak God's truth," said I at last, "and you shall have your
own way, for it is the best way. Now, as a reward for such ready
consent, give me a voluntary kiss."
After some hesitation, natural to a novice in the art of kissing,
she brought her lips into very shy and gentle contact with my
forehead; I took the small gift as a loan, and repaid it
promptly, and with generous interest.
I know not whether Frances was really much altered since the time
I first saw her; but, as I looked at her now, I felt that she was
singularly changed for me; the sad eye, the pale cheek, the
dejected and joyless countenance I remembered as her early
attributes, were quite gone, and now I saw a face dressed in
graces; smile, dimple, and rosy tint, rounded its contours and
brightened its hues. I had been accustomed to nurse a flattering
idea that my strong attachment to her proved some particular
perspicacity in my nature; she was not handsome, she was not
rich, she was not even accomplished, yet was she my life's
treasure; I must then be a man of peculiar discernment. To-night
my eyes opened on the mistake I had made; I began to suspect that
it was only my tastes which were unique, not my power of
discovering and appreciating the superiority of moral worth over
physical charms. For me Frances had physical charms: in her
there was no deformity to get over; none of those prominent
defects of eyes, teeth, complexion, shape, which hold at bay the
admiration of the boldest male champions of intellect (for women
can love a downright ugly man if he be but talented); had she
been either "edentee, myope, rugueuse, ou bossue," my feelings
towards her might still have been kindly, but they could never
have been impassioned; I had affection for the poor little
misshapen Sylvie, but for her I could never have had love. It is
true Frances' mental points had been the first to interest me,
and they still retained the strongest hold on my preference; but
I liked the graces of her person too. I derived a pleasure,
purely material, from contemplating the clearness of her brown
eyes, the fairness of her fine skin, the purity of her well-set
teeth, the proportion of her delicate form; and that pleasure I
could ill have dispensed with. It appeared, then, that I too was
a sensualist, in my temperate and fastidious way.
Now, reader, during the last two pages I have been giving you
honey fresh from flowers, but you must not live entirely on food
so luscious; taste then a little gall--just a drop, by way of
At a somewhat late hour I returned to my lodgings: having
temporarily forgotten that man had any such coarse cares as those
of eating and drinking, I went to bed fasting. I had been excited
and in action all day, and had tasted no food since eight that
morning; besides, for a fortnight past, I had known no rest
either of body or mind; the last few hours had been a sweet
delirium, it would not subside now, and till long after midnight,
broke with troubled ecstacy the rest I so much needed. At last I
dozed, but not for long; it was yet quite dark when I awoke, and
my waking was like that of Job when a spirit passed before his
face, and like him, "the hair of my flesh stood up." I might
continue the parallel, for in truth, though I saw nothing, yet "a
thing was secretly brought unto me, and mine ear received a
little thereof; there was silence, and I heard a voice," saying
--"In the midst of life we are in death."
That sound, and the sensation of chill anguish accompanying it,
many would have regarded as supernatural; but I recognized it at
once as the effect of reaction. Man is ever clogged with his
mortality, and it was my mortal nature which now faltered and
plained; my nerves, which jarred and gave a false sound, because
the soul, of late rushing headlong to an aim, had overstrained
the body's comparative weakness. A horror of great darkness fell
upon me; I felt my chamber invaded by one I had known formerly,
but had thought for ever departed. I was temporarily a prey to
She had been my acquaintance, nay, my guest, once before in
boyhood; I had entertained her at bed and board for a year; for
that space of time I had her to myself in secret; she lay with
me, she ate with me, she walked out with me, showing me nooks in
woods, hollows in hills, where we could sit together, and where
she could drop her drear veil over me, and so hide sky and sun,
grass and green tree; taking me entirely to her death-cold bosom,
and holding me with arms of bone. What tales she would tell me
at such hours! What songs she would recite in my ears! How she
would discourse to me of her own country--the grave--and again
and again promise to conduct me there ere long; and, drawing me
to the very brink of a black, sullen river, show me, on the other
side, shores unequal with mound, monument, and tablet, standing
up in a glimmer more hoary than moonlight. "Necropolis!" she
would whisper, pointing to the pale piles, and add, "It contains
a mansion prepared for you."
But my boyhood was lonely, parentless; uncheered by brother or
sister; and there was no marvel that, just as I rose to youth, a
sorceress, finding me lost in vague mental wanderings, with many
affections and few objects, glowing aspirations and gloomy
prospects, strong desires and slender hopes, should lift up her
illusive lamp to me in the distance, and lure me to her vaulted
home of horrors. No wonder her spells THEN had power; but NOW,
when my course was widening, my prospect brightening; when my
affections had found a rest; when my desires, folding wings,
weary with long flight, had just alighted on the very lap of
fruition, and nestled there warm, content, under the caress of a
soft hand--why did hypochondria accost me now?
I repulsed her as one would a dreaded and ghastly concubine
coming to embitter a husband's heart toward his young bride; in
vain; she kept her sway over me for that night and the next day,
and eight succeeding days. Afterwards, my spirits began slowly to
recover their tone; my appetite returned, and in a fortnight I
was well. I had gone about as usual all the time, and had said
nothing to anybody of what I felt; but I was glad when the evil
spirit departed from me, and I could again seek Frances, and sit
at her side, freed from the dreadful tyranny of my demon.
ONE fine, frosty Sunday in November, Frances and I took a long
walk; we made the tour of the city by the Boulevards; and,
afterwards, Frances being a little tired, we sat down on one of
those wayside seats placed under the trees, at intervals, for the
accommodation of the weary. Frances was telling me about
Switzerland; the subject animated her; and I was just thinking
that her eyes spoke full as eloquently as her tongue, when she
stopped and remarked--
"Monsieur, there is a gentleman who knows you."
I looked up; three fashionably dressed men were just then
passing--Englishmen, I knew by their air and gait as well as by
their features; in the tallest of the trio I at once recognized
Mr. Hunsden; he was in the act of lifting his hat to Frances;
afterwards, he made a grimace at me, and passed on.
"Who is he?"
"A person I knew in England."
"Why did he bow to me? He does not know me."
"Yes, he does know you, in his way."
"How, monsieur?" (She still called me "monsieur"; I could not
persuade her to adopt any more familiar term.)
"Did you not read the expression of his eyes?"
"Of his eyes? No. What did they say?"
"To you they said, 'How do you do, Wilhelmina, Crimsworth?'
To me, 'So you have found your counterpart at last; there she
sits, the female of your kind!'"
"Monsieur, you could not read all that in his eyes; He was so
"I read that and more, Frances; I read that he will probably call
on me this evening, or on some future occasion shortly; and I
have no doubt he will insist on being introduced to you; shall I
bring him to your rooms?"
"If you please, monsieur--I have no objection; I think, indeed, I
should rather like to see him nearer; he looks so original."
As I had anticipated, Mr. Hunsden came that evening. The first
thing he said was:--
"You need not begin boasting, Monsieur le Professeur; I know
about your appointment to -- College, and all that; Brown has
told me." Then he intimated that he had returned from Germany
but a day or two since; afterwards, he abruptly demanded whether
that was Madame Pelet-Reuter with whom he had seen me on the
Boulevards. I was going to utter a rather emphatic negative,
but on second thoughts I checked myself, and, seeming to assent,
asked what he thought of her?
"As to her, I'll come to that directly; but first I've a word for
you. I see you are a scoundrel; you've no business to be
promenading about with another man's wife. I thought you had
sounder sense than to get mixed up in foreign hodge-podge of this
"But the lady?"
"She's too good for you evidently; she is like you, but something
better than you--no beauty, though; yet when she rose (for I
looked back to see you both walk away) I thought her figure and
carriage good. These foreigners understand grace. What the
devil has she done with Pelet? She has not been married to him
three months--he must be a spoon!"
I would not let the mistake go too far; I did not like it much.
"Pelet? How your head runs on Mons. and Madame Pelet! You are
always talking about them. I wish to the gods you had wed Mdlle.
"Was that young gentlewoman not Mdlle. Zoraide?"
"No; nor Madame Zoraide either."
"Why did you tell a lie, then?"
"I told no lie; but you are is such a hurry. She is a pupil of
mine--a Swiss girl."
"And of course you are going to be married to her? Don't deny
"Married! I think I shall--if Fate spares us both ten weeks
longer. That is my little wild strawberry, Hunsden, whose
sweetness made me careless of your hothouse grapes."
"Stop! No boasting--no heroics; I won't hear them. What is she?
To what caste does she belong?"
I smiled. Hunsden unconsciously laid stress on the word caste,
and, in fact, republican, lordhater as he was, Hunsden was as
proud of his old ---shire blood, of his descent and family
standing, respectable and respected through long generations
back, as any peer in the realm of his Norman race and
Conquest-dated title. Hunsden would as little have thought of
taking a wife from a caste inferior to his own, as a Stanley
would think of mating with a Cobden. I enjoyed the surprise I
should give; I enjoyed the triumph of my practice over his
theory; and leaning over the table, and uttering the words slowly
but with repressed glee, I said concisely--
"She is a lace-mender."
Hunsden examined me. He did not SAY he was surprised, but
surprised he was; he had his own notions of good breeding. I saw
he suspected I was going to take some very rash step; but
repressing declamation or remonstrance, he only answered--
"Well, you are the best; judge of your own affairs. A
lace-mender may make a good wife as well as a lady; but of course
you have taken care to ascertain thoroughly that since she has
not education, fortune or station, she is well furnished with
such natural qualities as you think most likely to conduce to
your happiness. Has she many relations?"
"None in Brussels."
"That is better. Relations are often the real evil in such
cases. I cannot but think that a train of inferior connections
would have been a bore to you to your life's end."
After sitting in silence a little while longer, Hunsden rose, and
was quietly bidding me good evening; the polite, considerate
manner in which he offered me his hand (a thing he had never done
before), convinced me that he thought I had made a terrible fool
of myself; and that, ruined and thrown away as I was, it was no
time for sarcasm or cynicism, or indeed for anything but
indulgence and forbearance.
"Good night, William," he said, in a really soft voice, while his
face looked benevolently compassionate. "Good night, lad. I
wish you and your future wife much prosperity; and I hope she
will satisfy your fastidious soul."
I had much ado to refrain from laughing as I beheld the
magnanimous pity of his mien; maintaining, however, a grave air,
"I thought you would have liked to have seen Mdlle. Henri?"
"Oh, that is the name! Yes--if it would be convenient, I should
like to see her--but----." He hesitated.
"I should on no account wish to intrude."
"Come, then," said I. We set out. Hunsden no doubt regarded me
as a rash, imprudent man, thus to show my poor little grisette
sweetheart, in her poor little unfurnished grenier; but he
prepared to act the real gentleman, having, in fact, the kernel
of that character, under the harsh husk it pleased him to wear by
way of mental mackintosh. He talked affably, and even gently, as
we went along the street; he had never been so civil to me in his
life. We reached the house, entered, ascended the stair; on
gaining the lobby, Hunsden turned to mount a narrower stair which
led to a higher story; I saw his mind was bent on the attics.
"Here, Mr. Hunsden," said I quietly, tapping at Frances' door.
He turned; in his genuine politeness he was a little disconcerted
at having made the mistake; his eye reverted to the green mat,
but he said nothing.
We walked in, and Frances rose from her seat near the table to
receive us; her mourning attire gave her a recluse, rather
conventual, but withal very distinguished look; its grave
simplicity added nothing to beauty, but much to dignity; the
finish of the white collar and manchettes sufficed for a relief
to the merino gown of solemn black; ornament was forsworn.
Frances curtsied with sedate grace, looking, as she always did,
when one first accosted her, more a woman to respect than to
love; I introduced Mr. Hunsden, and she expressed her happiness
at making his acquaintance in French. The pure and polished
accent, the low yet sweet and rather full voice, produced their
effect immediately; Hunsden spoke French in reply; I had not
heard him speak that language before; he managed it very well. I
retired to the window-seat; Mr. Hunsden, at his hostess's
invitation, occupied a chair near the hearth; from my position I
could see them both, and the room too, at a glance. The room was
so clean and bright, it looked like a little polished cabinet; a
glass filled with flowers in the centre of the table, a fresh
rose in each china cup on the mantelpiece gave it an air of FETE,
Frances was serious, and Mr. Hunsden subdued, but both mutually
polite; they got on at the French swimmingly: ordinary topics
were discussed with great state and decorum; I thought I had
never seen two such models of propriety, for Hunsden (thanks to
the constraint of the foreign tongue) was obliged to shape his
phrases, and measure his sentences, with a care that forbade any
eccentricity. At last England was mentioned, and Frances
proceeded to ask questions. Animated by degrees, she began to
change, just as a grave night-sky changes at the approach of
sunrise: first it seemed as if her forehead cleared, then her
eyes glittered, her features relaxed, and became quite mobile;
her subdued complexion grew warm and transparent; to me, she now
looked pretty; before, she had only looked ladylike.
She had many things to say to the Englishman just fresh from his
island-country, and she urged him with an enthusiasm of
curiosity, which ere long thawed Hunsden's reserve as fire thaws
a congealed viper. I use this not very flattering comparison
because he vividly reminded me of a snake waking from torpor, as
he erected his tall form, reared his head, before a little
declined, and putting back his hair from his broad Saxon
forehead, showed unshaded the gleam of almost savage satire which
his interlocutor's tone of eagerness and look of ardour had
sufficed at once to kindle in his soul and elicit from his eyes:
he was himself; as Frances was herself, and in none but his own
language would he now address her.
"You understand English?" was the prefatory question.
"Well, then, you shall have plenty of it; and first, I see you've
not much more sense than some others of my acquaintance"
(indicating me with his thumb), "or else you'd never turn rabid
about that dirty little country called England; for rabid, I see
you are; I read Anglophobia in your looks, and hear it in your
words. Why, mademoiselle, is it possible that anybody with a
grain of rationality should feel enthusiasm about a mere name,
and that name England? I thought you were a lady-abbess five
minutes ago, and respected you accordingly; and now I see you are
a sort of Swiss sibyl, with high Tory and high Church
"England is your country?" asked Frances.
"And you don't like it?"
"I'd be sorry to like it! A little corrupt, venal,
lord-and-king-cursed nation, full or mucky pride (as they say in
---shire), and helpless pauperism; rotten with abuses, worm-eaten
"You might say so of almost every state; there are abuses and
prejudices everywhere, and I thought fewer in England than in
"Come to England and see. Come to Birmingham and Manchester;
come to St. Giles' in London, and get a practical notion of how
our system works. Examine the footprints of our august
aristocracy; see how they walk in blood, crushing hearts as they
go. Just put your head in at English cottage doors; get a
glimpse of Famine crouched torpid on black hearthstones; of
Disease lying bare on beds without coverlets, of Infamy wantoning
viciously with Ignorance, though indeed Luxury is her favourite
paramour, and princely halls are dearer to her than thatched
"I was not thinking of the wretchedness and vice in England; I
was thinking of the good side--of what is elevated in your
character as a nation."
"There is no good side--none at least of which you can have any
knowledge; for you cannot appreciate the efforts of industry, the
achievements of enterprise, or the discoveries of science:
narrowness of education and obscurity of position quite
incapacitate you from understanding these points; and as to
historical and poetical associations, I will not insult you,
mademoiselle, by supposing that you alluded to such humbug."
"But I did partly."
Hunsden laughed--his laugh of unmitigated scorn.
"I did, Mr. Hunsden. Are you of the number of those to whom such
associations give no pleasure?"
"Mademoiselle, what is an association? I never saw one. What is
its length, breadth, weight, value--ay, VALUE? What price will
it bring in the market?"
"Your portrait, to any one who loved you, would, for the sake of
association, be without price."
That inscrutable Hunsden heard this remark and felt it rather
acutely, too, somewhere; for he coloured--a thing not unusual
with him, when hit unawares on a tender point. A sort of trouble
momentarily darkened his eye, and I believe he filled up the
transient pause succeeding his antagonist's home-thrust, by a
wish that some one did love him as he would like to be loved
--some one whose love he could unreservedly return.
The lady pursued her temporary advantage.
"If your world is a world without associations, Mr. Hunsden, I no
longer wonder that you hate England so. I don't clearly know
what Paradise is, and what angels are; yet taking it to be the
most glorious region I can conceive, and angels the most elevated
existences--if one of them--if Abdiel the Faithful himself" (she
was thinking of Milton) "were suddenly stripped of the faculty of
association, I think he would soon rush forth from 'the
ever-during gates,' leave heaven, and seek what he had lost in
hell. Yes, in the very hell from which he turned 'with retorted
Frances' tone in saying this was as marked as her language, and
it was when the word "hell" twanged off from her lips, with a
somewhat startling emphasis, that Hunsden deigned to bestow one
slight glance of admiration. He liked something strong, whether
in man or woman; he liked whatever dared to clear conventional
limits. He had never before heard a lady say "hell" with that
uncompromising sort of accent, and the sound pleased him from a
lady's lips; he would fain have had Frances to strike the string
again, but it was not in her way. The display of eccentric
vigour never gave her pleasure, and it only sounded in her voice
or flashed in her countenance when extraordinary circumstances
--and those generally painful--forced it out of the depths where
it burned latent. To me, once or twice, she had in intimate
conversation, uttered venturous thoughts in nervous language; but
when the hour of such manifestation was past, I could not recall
it; it came of itself and of itself departed. Hunsden's
excitations she put by soon with a smile, and recurring to the
theme of disputation, said--
"Since England is nothing, why do the continental nations respect
"I should have thought no child would have asked that question,"
replied Hunsden, who never at any time gave information without
reproving for stupidity those who asked it of him. "If you had
been my pupil, as I suppose you once had the misfortune to be
that of a deplorable character not a hundred miles off, I would
have put you in the corner for such a confession of ignorance.
Why, mademoiselle, can't you see that it is our GOLD which buys
us French politeness, German good-will, and Swiss servility?"
And he sneered diabolically.
"Swiss?" said Frances, catching the word "servility." "Do you
call my countrymen servile?" and she started up. I could not
suppress a low laugh; there was ire in her glance and defiance in
her attitude. "Do you abuse Switzerland to me, Mr. Hunsden? Do
you think I have no associations? Do you calculate that I am
prepared to dwell only on what vice and degradation may be found
in Alpine villages, and to leave quite out of my heart the social
greatness of my countrymen, and our blood-earned freedom, and the
natural glories of our mountains? You're mistaken--you're
"Social greatness? Call it what you will, your countrymen are
sensible fellows; they make a marketable article of what to you
is an abstract idea; they have, ere this, sold their social
greatness and also their blood-earned freedom to be the servants
of foreign kings."
"You never were in Switzerland?"
"Yes--I have been there twice."
"You know nothing of it."
"And you say the Swiss are mercenary, as a parrot says 'Poor
Poll,' or as the Belgians here say the English are not brave, or
as the French accuse them of being perfidious: there is no
justice in your dictums."
"There is truth."
"I tell you, Mr. Hunsden, you are a more unpractical man than I
am an unpractical woman, for you don't acknowledge what really
exists; you want to annihilate individual patriotism and national
greatness as an atheist would annihilate God and his own soul, by
denying their existence."
"Where are you flying to? You are off at a tangent--I thought we
were talking about the mercenary nature of the Swiss."
"We were--and if you proved to me that the Swiss are mercenary
to-morrow (which you cannot do) I should love Switzerland still."
"You would be mad, then--mad as a March hare--to indulge in a
passion for millions of shiploads of soil, timber, snow, and
"Not so mad as you who love nothing."
"There's a method in my madness; there's none in yours."
"Your method is to squeeze the sap out of creation and make
manure of the refuse, by way of turning it to what you call use."
"You cannot reason at all," said Hunsden; "there is no logic in
"Better to be without logic than without feeling," retorted
Frances, who was now passing backwards and forwards from her
cupboard to the table, intent, if not on hospitable thoughts, at
least on hospitable deeds, for she was laying the cloth, and
putting plates, knives and forks thereon.
"Is that a hit at me, mademoiselle? Do you suppose I am without
"I suppose you are always interfering with your own feelings,and
those of other people, and dogmatizing about the irrationality of
this, that, and the other sentiment, and then ordering it to be
suppressed because you imagine it to be inconsistent with logic."
"I do right."
Frances had stepped out of sight into a sort of little pantry;
she soon reappeared.
"You do right? Indeed, no! You are much mistaken if you think
so. Just be so good as to let me get to the fire, Mr. Hunsden; I
have something to cook." (An interval occupied in settling a
casserole on the fire; then, while she stirred its contents:)
"Right! as if it were right to crush any pleasurable sentiment
that God has given to man, especially any sentiment that, like
patriotism, spreads man's selfishness in wider circles" (fire
stirred, dish put down before it).
"Were you born in Switzerland?"
"I should think so, or else why should I call it my country?"
"And where did you get your English features and figure?"
"I am English, too; half the blood in my veins is English; thus I
have a right to a double power of patriotism, possessing an
interest in two noble, free, and fortunate countries."
"You had an English mother?"
"Yes, yes; and you, I suppose, had a mother from the moon or from
Utopia, since not a nation in Europe has a claim on your
"On the contrary, I'm a universal patriot, if you could
understand me rightly: my country is the world."
"Sympathies so widely diffused must be very shallow: will you
have the goodness to come to table. Monsieur" (to me who
appeared to be now absorbed in reading by moonlight)--"Monsieur,
supper is served."
This was said in quite a different voice to that in which she had
been bandying phrases with Mr. Hunsden--not so short, graver and
"Frances, what do you mean by preparing, supper? we had no
intention of staying."
"Ah, monsieur, but you have stayed, and supper is prepared; you
have only the alternative of eating it."
The meal was a foreign one, of course; it consisted in two small
but tasty dishes of meat prepared with skill and served with
nicety; a salad and "fromage francais," completed it. The
business of eating interposed a brief truce between the
belligerents, but no sooner was supper disposed of than they were
at it again. The fresh subject of dispute ran on the spirit of
religious intolerance which Mr. Hunsden affirmed to exist
strongly in Switzerland, notwithstanding the professed attachment
of the Swiss to freedom. Here Frances had greatly the worst of
it, not only because she was unskilled to argue, but because her
own real opinions on the point in question happened to coincide
pretty nearly with Mr. Hunsden's, and she only contradicted him
out of opposition. At last she gave in, confessing that she
thought as he thought, but bidding him take notice that she did
not consider herself beaten.
"No more did the French at Waterloo," said Hunsden.
"There is no comparison between the cases," rejoined Frances; "
mine was a sham fight."
"Sham or real, it's up with you."
"No; though I have neither logic nor wealth of words, yet in a
case where my opinion really differed from yours, I would adhere
to it when I had not another word to say in its defence; you
should be baffled by dumb determination. You speak of Waterloo;
your Wellington ought to have been conquered there, according to
Napoleon; but he persevered in spite of the laws of war, and was
victorious in defiance of military tactics. I would do as he
"I'll be bound for it you would; probably you have some of the
same sort of stubborn stuff in you.
"I should be sorry if I had not; he and Tell were brothers, and
I'd scorn the Swiss, man or woman, who had none of the
much-enduring nature of our heroic William in his soul."
"If Tell was like Wellington, he was an ass."
"Does not ASS mean BAUDET?" asked Frances, turning to me.
"No, no," replied I, "it means an ESPRIT-FORT; and now," I
continued, as I saw that fresh occasion of strife was brewing
between these two, "it is high time to go."
Hunsden rose. "Good bye," said he to Frances; "I shall be off
for this glorious England to-morrow, and it may be twelve months
or more before I come to Brussels again; whenever I do come I'll
seek you out, and you shall see if I don't find means to make you
fiercer than a dragon. You've done pretty well this evening, but
next interview you shall challenge me outright. Meantime you're
doomed to become Mrs. William Crimsworth, I suppose; poor young
lady? but you have a spark of spirit; cherish it, and give the
Professor the full benefit thereof."
"Are you married. Mr. Hunsden?" asked Frances, suddenly.
"No. I should have thought you might have guessed I was a
Benedict by my look."
"Well, whenever you marry don't take a wife out of Switzerland;
for if you begin blaspheming Helvetia, and cursing the cantons
--above all, if you mention the word ASS in the same breath with
the name Tell (for ass IS baudet, I know; though Monsieur is
pleased to translate it ESPRIT-FORT) your mountain maid will some
night smother her Breton-bretonnant, even as your own
Shakspeare's Othello smothered Desdemona."
"I am warned," said Hunsden; "and so are you, lad," (nodding to
me). "I hope yet to hear of a travesty of the Moor and his
gentle lady, in which the parts shall be reversed according to
the plan just sketched--you, however, being in my nightcap.
Farewell, mademoiselle!" He bowed on her hand, absolutely like
Sir Charles Grandison on that of Harriet Byron; adding--"Death
from such fingers would not be without charms."
"Mon Dieu!" murmured Frances, opening her large eyes and lifting
her distinctly arched brows; "c'est qu'il fait des compliments!
je ne m'y suis pas attendu." She smiled, half in ire, half in
mirth, curtsied with foreign grace, and so they parted.
No sooner had we got into the street than Hunsden collared me.
"And that is your lace-mender?" said he; "and you reckon you have
done a fine, magnanimous thing in offering to marry her? You, a
scion of Seacombe, have proved your disdain of social
distinctions by taking up with an ouvriere! And I pitied the
fellow, thinking his feelings had misled him, and that he had
hurt himself by contracting a low match!"
"Just let go my collar, Hunsden."
"On the contrary, he swayed me to and fro; so I grappled him
round the waist. It was dark; the street lonely and lampless.
We had then a tug for it; and after we had both rolled on the
pavement, and with difficulty picked ourselves up, we agreed to
walk on more soberly.
"Yes, that's my lace-mender," said I; "and she is to be mine for
"God is not willing--you can't suppose it; what business have you
to be suited so well with a partner? And she treats you with a
sort of respect, too, and says, 'Monsieur' and modulates her tone
in addressing you, actually, as if you were something superior!
She could not evince more deference to such a one as I, were she
favoured by fortune to the supreme extent of being my choice
instead of yours."
"Hunsden, you're a puppy. But you've only seen the title-page of
my happiness; you don't know the tale that follows; you cannot
conceive the interest and sweet variety and thrilling excitement
of the narrative."
Hunsden--speaking low and deep, for we had now entered a busier
street--desired me to hold my peace, threatening to do something
dreadful if I stimulated his wrath further by boasting. I
laughed till my sides ached. We soon reached his hotel; before he
entered it, he said--
"Don't be vainglorious. Your lace-mender is too good for you,
but not good enough for me; neither physically nor morally does
she come up to my ideal of a woman. No; I dream of something far
beyond that pale-faced, excitable little Helvetian (by-the-by she
has infinitely more of the nervous, mobile Parisienne in her than
of the the robust 'jungfrau'). Your Mdlle. Henri is in person
"chetive", in mind "sans caractere", compared with the queen of
my visions. You, indeed, may put up with that "minois chiffone";
but when I marry I must have straighter and more harmonious
features, to say nothing of a nobler and better developed shape
than that perverse, ill-thriven child can boast."
"Bribe a seraph to fetch you a coal of fire from heaven, if you
will," said I, "and with it kindle life in the tallest, fattest,
most boneless, fullest-blooded of Ruben's painted women--leave me
only my Alpine peri, and I'll not envy you."
With a simultaneous movement, each turned his back on the other.
Neither said " God bless you;" yet on the morrow the sea was to
roll between us.
IN two months more Frances had fulfilled the time of mourning for
her aunt. One January morning--the first of the new year
holidays--I went in a fiacre, accompanied only by M. Vandenhuten,
to the Rue Notre Dame aux Neiges, and having alighted alone and
walked upstairs, I found Frances apparently waiting for me,
dressed in a style scarcely appropriate to that cold, bright,
frosty day. Never till now had I seen her attired in any other
than black or sad-coloured stuff; and there she stood by the
window, clad all in white, and white of a most diaphanous
texture; her array was very simple, to be sure, but it looked
imposing and festal because it was so clear, full, and floating;
a veil shadowed her head, and hung below her knee; a little
wreath of pink flowers fastened it to her thickly tressed Grecian
plait, and thence it fell softly on each side of her face.
Singular to state, she was, or had been crying; when I asked her
if she were ready, she said "Yes, monsieur," with something very
like a checked sob; and when I took a shawl, which lay on the
table, and folded it round her, not only did tear after tear
course unbidden down her cheek, but she shook to my ministration
like a reed. I said I was sorry to see her in such low spirits,
and requested to be allowed an insight into the origin thereof.
She only said, "It was impossible to help it," and then
voluntarily, though hurriedly, putting her hand into mine,
accompanied me out of the room, and ran downstairs with a quick,
uncertain step, like one who was eager to get some formidable
piece of business over. I put her into the fiacre. M.
Vandenhuten received her, and seated her beside himself; we drove
all together to the Protestant chapel, went through a certain
service in the Common Prayer Book, and she and I came out
married. M. Vandenhuten had given the bride away.
We took no bridal trip; our modesty, screened by the peaceful
obscurity of our station, and the pleasant isolation of our
circumstances, did not exact that additional precaution. We
repaired at once to a small house I had taken in the faubourg
nearest to that part of the city where the scene of our
Three or four hours after the wedding ceremony, Frances, divested
of her bridal snow, and attired in a pretty lilac gown of warmer
materials, a piquant black silk apron, and a lace collar with
some finishing decoration of lilac ribbon, was kneeling on the
carpet of a neatly furnished though not spacious parlour,
arranging on the shelves of a chiffoniere some books, which I
handed to her from the table. It was snowing fast out of doors;
the afternoon had turned out wild and cold; the leaden sky seemed
full of drifts, and the street was already ankle-deep in the
white downfall. Our fire burned bright, our new habitation
looked brilliantly clean and fresh, the furniture was all
arranged, and there were but some articles of glass, china,
books, &c., to put in order. Frances found in this business
occupation till tea-time, and then, after I had distinctly
instructed her how to make a cup of tea in rational English
style, and after she had got over the dismay occasioned by seeing
such an extravagant amount of material put into the pot, she
administered to me a proper British repast, at which there wanted
neither candies nor urn, fire-light nor comfort.
Our week's holiday glided by, and we readdressed ourselves to
labour. Both my wife and I began in good earnest with the notion
that we were working people, destined to earn our bread by
exertion, and that of the most assiduous kind. Our days were
thoroughly occupied; me used to part every morning at eight
o'clock, and not meet again till five P.M.; but into what sweet
rest did the turmoil of each busy day decline! Looking down the
vista, of memory, I see the evenings passed in that little
parlour like a long string of rubies circling the dusk brow of
the past. Unvaried were they as each cut gem, and like each gem
brilliant and burning.
A year and a half passed. One morning (it was a FETE, and we had
the day to ourselves) Frances said to me, with a suddenness
peculiar to her when she had been thinking long on a subject, and
at last, having come to a conclusion, wished to test its
soundness by the touchstone of my judgment:--
"I don't work enough."
"What now ?" demanded I, looking up from my coffee, which I had
been deliberately stirring while enjoying, in anticipation, a
walk I proposed to take with Frances, that fine summer day (it
was June), to a certain farmhouse in the country, where we were
to dine. "What now?" and I saw at once, in the serious ardour of
her face, a project of vital importance.
"I am not satisfied" returned she: "you are now earning eight
thousand francs a year" (it was true; my efforts, punctuality,
the fame of my pupils' progress, the publicity of my station, had
so far helped me on), "while I am still at my miserable twelve
hundred francs. I CAN do better, and I WILL."
"You work as long and as diligently as I do, Frances."
"Yes, monsieur, but I am not working in the right way, and I am
convinced of it."
"You wish to change--you have a plan for progress in your mind;
go and put on your bonnet; and, while we take our walk, you shall
tell me of it."
She went--as docile as a well-trained child; she was a curious
mixture of tractability and firmness: I sat thinking about her,
and wondering what her plan could be, when she re-entered.
"Monsieur, I have given Minnie" (our bonne) "leave to go out too,
as it is so very fine; so will you be kind enough to lock the
door, and take the key with you?"
"Kiss me, Mrs. Crimsworth," was my not very apposite reply; but
she looked so engaging in her light summer dress and little
cottage bonnet, and her manner in speaking to me was then, as
always, so unaffectedly and suavely respectful, that my heart
expanded at the sight of her, and a kiss seemed necessary to
content its importunity.
"Why do you always call me 'Monsieur?' Say, 'William.'"
"I cannot pronounce your W; besides, 'Monsieur' belongs to you; I
like it best."
Minnie having departed in clean cap and smart shawl, we, too, set
out, leaving the house solitary and silent--silent, at least, but
for the ticking of the clock. We were soon clear of Brussels;
the fields received us, and then the lanes, remote from carriage-
resounding CHAUSSEES. Ere long we came upon a nook, so rural,
green, and secluded, it might have been a spot in some pastoral
English province; a bank of short and mossy grass, under a
hawthorn, offered a seat too tempting to be declined; we took it,
and when we had admired and examined some English-looking
wild-flowers growing at our feet, I recalled Frances' attention
and my own to the topic touched on at breakfast.
"What was her plan?" A natural one--the next step to be mounted
by us, or, at least, by her, if she wanted to rise in her
profession. She proposed to begin a school. We already had the
means for commencing on a careful scale, having lived greatly
within our income. We possessed, too, by this time, an extensive
and eligible connection, in the sense advantageous to our
business; for, though our circle of visiting acquaintance
continued as limited as ever, we were now widely known in schools
and families as teachers. When Frances had developed her plan,
she intimated, in some closing sentences, her hopes for the
future. If we only had good health and tolerable success, me
might, she was sure, in time realize an independency; and that,
perhaps, before we were too old to enjoy it; then both she and I
would rest; and what was to hinder us from going to live in
England? England was still her Promised Land.
I put no obstacle in her way; raised no objection; I knew she was
not one who could live quiescent and inactive, or even
comparatively inactive. Duties she must have to fulfil, and
important duties; work to do--and exciting, absorbing, profitable
work; strong faculties stirred in her frame, and they demanded
full nourishment, free exercise: mine was not the hand ever to
starve or cramp them; no, I delighted in offering them
sustenance, and in clearing them wider space for action.
"You have conceived a plan, Frances," said I, "and a good plan;
execute it; you have my free consent, and wherever and whenever
my assistance is wanted, ask and you shall have."
Frances' eyes thanked me almost with tears; just a sparkle or
two, soon brushed away; she possessed herself of my hand too, and
held it for some time very close clasped in both her own, but she
said no more than "Thank you, monsieur."
We passed a divine day, and came home late, lighted by a full
Ten years rushed now upon me with dusty, vibrating, unresting
wings; years of bustle, action, unslacked endeavour; years in
which I and my wife, having launched ourselves in the full career
of progress, as progress whirls on in European capitals, scarcely
knew repose, were strangers to amusement, never thought of
indulgence, and yet, as our course ran side by side, as we
marched hand in hand, we neither murmured, repented, nor
faltered. Hope indeed cheered us; health kept us up; harmony of
thought and deed smoothed many difficulties, and finally, success
bestowed every now and then encouraging reward on diligence. Our
school became one of the most popular in Brussels, and as by
degrees we raised our terms and elevated our system of education,
our choice of pupils grew more select, and at length included the
children of the best families in Belgium. We had too an
excellent connection in England, first opened by the unsolicited
recommendation of Mr. Hunsden, who having been over, and having
abused me for my prosperity in set terms, went back, and soon
after sent a leash of young ---shire heiresses--his cousins; as
he said "to be polished off by Mrs. Crimsworth."
As to this same Mrs. Crimsworth, in one sense she was become
another woman, though in another she remained unchanged. So
different was she under different circumstances. I seemed to
possess two wives. The faculties of her nature, already
disclosed when I married her, remained fresh and fair; but other
faculties shot up strong, branched out broad, and quite altered
the external character of the plant. Firmness, activity, and
enterprise, covered with grave foliage, poetic feeling and
fervour; but these flowers were still there, preserved pure and
dewy under the umbrage of later growth and hardier nature:
perhaps I only in the world knew the secret of their existence,
but to me they were ever ready to yield an exquisite fragrance
and present a beauty as chaste as radiant.
In the daytime my house and establishment were conducted by
Madame the directress, a stately and elegant woman, bearing much
anxious thought on her large brow; much calculated dignity in her
serious mien: immediately after breakfast I used to part with
this lady; I went to my college, she to her schoolroom; returning
for an hour in the course of the day, I found her always in
class, intently occupied; silence, industry, observance,
attending on her presence. When not actually teaching, she was
overlooking and guiding by eye and gesture; she then appeared
vigilant and solicitous. When communicating instruction, her
aspect was more animated; she seemed to feel a certain enjoyment
in the occupation. The language in which she addressed her
pupils, though simple and unpretending, was never trite or dry;
she did not speak from routine formulas--she made her own phrases
as she went on, and very nervous and impressive phrases they
frequently were; often, when elucidating favourite points of
history, or geography, she would wax genuinely eloquent in her
earnestness. Her pupils, or at least the elder and more
intelligent amongst them, recognized well the language of a
superior mind; they felt too, and some of them received the
impression of elevated sentiments; there was little fondling
between mistress and girls, but some of Frances' pupils in time
learnt to love her sincerely, all of them beheld her with
respect; her general demeanour towards them was serious;
sometimes benignant when they pleased her with their progress and
attention, always scrupulously refined and considerate. In cases
where reproof or punishment was called for she was usually
forbearing enough; but if any took advantage of that forbearance,
which sometimes happened, a sharp, sudden and lightning-like
severity taught the culprit the extent of the mistake committed.
Sometimes a gleam of tenderness softened her eyes and manner, but
this was rare; only when a pupil was sick, or when it pined after
home, or in the case of some little motherless child, or of one
much poorer than its companions, whose scanty wardrobe and mean
appointments brought on it the contempt of the jewelled young
countesses and silk-clad misses. Over such feeble fledglings the
directress spread a wing of kindliest protection: it was to
their bedside she came at night to tuck them warmly in; it was
after them she looked in winter to see that they always had a
comfortable seat by the stove; it was they who by turns were
summoned to the salon to receive some little dole of cake or
fruit--to sit on a footstool at the fireside--to enjoy home
comforts, and almost home liberty, for an evening together--to be
spoken to gently and softly, comforted, encouraged, cherished
--and when bedtime came, dismissed with a kiss of true
tenderness. As to Julia and Georgiana G ---, daughters of an
English baronet, as to Mdlle. Mathilde de ----, heiress of a
Belgian count, and sundry other children of patrician race, the
directress was careful of them as of the others, anxious for
their progress, as for that of the rest--but it never seemed to
enter her head to distinguish then by a mark of preference; one
girl of noble blood she loved dearly--a young Irish baroness
--lady Catherine ---; but it was for her enthusiastic heart and
clever head, for her generosity and her genius, the title and
rank went for nothing.
My afternoons were spent also in college, with the exception of
an hour that my wife daily exacted of me for her establishment,
and with which she would not dispense. She said that I must spend
that time amongst her pupils to learn their characters, to be AU
COURANT with everything that was passing in the house, to become
interested in what interested her, to be able to give her my
opinion on knotty points when she required it, and this she did
constantly, never allowing my interest in the pupils to fall
asleep, and never making any change of importance without my
cognizance and consent. She delighted to sit by me when I gave
my lessons (lessons in literature), her hands folded on her knee,
the most fixedly attentive of any present. She rarely addressed
me in class; when she did it was with an air of marked deference;
it was her pleasure, her joy to make me still the master in all
At six o'clock P.M. my daily labours ceased. I then came home,
for my home was my heaven; ever at that hour, as I entered our
private sitting-room, the lady-directress vanished from before my
eyes, and Frances Henri, my own little lace-mender, was magically
restored to my arms; much disappointed she would have been if her
master had not been as constant to the tryste as herself, and if
his truthfull kiss had not been prompt to answer her soft, "Bon
Talk French to me she would, and many a punishment she has had
for her wilfulness. I fear the choice of chastisement must have
been injudicious, for instead of correcting the fault, it seemed
to encourage its renewal. Our evenings were our own; that
recreation was necessary to refresh our strength for the due
discharge of our duties; sometimes we spent them all in
conversation, and my young Genevese, now that she was thoroughly
accustomed to her English professor, now that she loved him too
absolutely to fear him much, reposed in him a confidence so
unlimited that topics of conversation could no more be wanting
with him than subjects for communion with her own heart. In
those moments, happy as a bird with its mate, she would show me
what she had of vivacity, of mirth, of originality in her
well-dowered nature. She would show, too, some stores of
raillery, of "malice," and would vex, tease, pique me sometimes
about what she called my "bizarreries anglaises," my "caprices
insulaires," with a wild and witty wickedness that made a perfect
white demon of her while it lasted. This was rare, however, and
the elfish freak was always short: sometimes when driven a
little hard in the war of words--for her tongue did ample justice
to the pith, the point, the delicacy of her native French, in
which language she always attacked me--I used to turn upon her
with my old decision, and arrest bodily the sprite that teased
me. Vain idea! no sooner had I grasped hand or arm than the elf
was gone; the provocative smile quenched in the expressive brown
eyes, and a ray of gentle homage shone under the lids in its
place. I had seized a mere vexing fairy, and found a submissive
and supplicating little mortal woman in my arms. Then I made her
get a book, and read English to me for an hour by way of penance.
I frequently dosed her with Wordsworth in this way, and
Wordsworth steadied her soon; she had a difficulty in
comprehending his deep, serene, and sober mind; his language,
too, was not facile to her; she had to ask questions, to sue for
explanations, to be like a child and a novice, and to acknowledge
me as her senior and director. Her instinct instantly penetrated
and possessed the meaning of more ardent and imaginative writers.
Byron excited her; Scott she loved; Wordsworth only she puzzled
at, wondered over, and hesitated to pronounce an opinion upon.
But whether she read to me, or talked with me; whether she teased
me in French, or entreated me in English; whether she jested with
wit, or inquired with deference; narrated with interest, or
listened with attention; whether she smiled at me or on me,
always at nine o'clock I was left abandoned. She would extricate
herself from my arms, quit my side, take her lamp, and be gone.
Her mission was upstairs; I have followed her sometimes and
watched her. First she opened the door of the dortoir (the
pupils' chamber), noiselessly she glided up the long room between
the two rows of white beds, surveyed all the sleepers; if any
were wakeful, especially if any were sad, spoke to them and
soothed them; stood some minutes to ascertain that all was safe
and tranquil; trimmed the watch-light which burned in the
apartment all night, then withdrew, closing the door behind her
without sound. Thence she glided to our own chamber; it had a
little cabinet within; this she sought; there, too, appeared a
bed, but one, and that a very small one; her face (the night I
followed and observed her) changed as she approached this tiny
couch; from grave it warmed to earnest; she shaded with one hand
the lamp she held in the other; she bent above the pillow and
hung over a child asleep; its slumber (that evening at least, and
usually, I believe) was sound and calm; no tear wet its dark
eyelashes; no fever heated its round cheek; no ill dream
discomposed its budding features. Frances gazed, she did not
smile, and yet the deepest delight filled, flushed her face;
feeling pleasurable, powerful, worked in her whole frame, which
still was motionless. I saw, indeed, her heart heave, her lips
were a little apart, her breathing grew somewhat hurried; the
child smiled; then at last the mother smiled too, and said in low
soliloquy, "God bless my little son!" She stooped closer over
him, breathed the softest of kisses on his brow, covered his
minute hand with hers, and at last started up and came away. I
regained the parlour before her. Entering it two minutes later
she said quietly as she put down her extinguished lamp--
"Victor rests well: he smiled in his sleep; he has your smile,
The said Victor was of course her own boy, born in the third year
of our marriage: his Christian name had been given him in honour
of M. Vandenhuten, who continued always our trusty and
Frances was then a good and dear wife to me, because I was to her
a good, just, and faithful husband. What she would have been had
she married a harsh, envious, careless man--a profligate, a
prodigal, a drunkard, or a tyrant--is another question, and one
which I once propounded to her. Her answer, given after some
"I should have tried to endure the evil or cure it for awhile;
and when I found it intolerable and incurable, I should have left
my torturer suddenly and silently."
"And if law or might had forced you back again?"
"What, to a drunkard, a profligate, a selfish spendthrift, an
"I would have gone back; again assured myself whether or not his
vice and my misery were capable of remedy; and if not, have left
"And if again forced to return, and compelled to abide?"
"I don't know," she said, hastily. "Why do you ask me,
I would have an answer, because I saw a strange kind of spirit in
her eye, whose voice I determined to waken.
"Monsieur, if a wife's nature loathes that of the man she is
wedded to, marriage must be slavery. Against slavery all right
thinkers revolt, and though torture be the price of resistance,
torture must be dared: though the only road to freedom lie
through the gates of death, those gates must be passed; for
freedom is indispensable. Then, monsieur, I would resist as far
as my strength permitted; when that strength failed I should be
sure of a refuge. Death would certainly screen me both from bad
laws and their consequences."
"Voluntary death, Frances?"
"No, monsieur. I'd have courage to live out every throe of
anguish fate assigned me, and principle to contend for justice
and liberty to the last."
"I see you would have made no patient Grizzle. And now,
supposing fate had merely assigned you the lot of an old maid,
what then? How would you have liked celibacy?"
"Not much, certainly. An old maid's life must doubtless be void
and vapid--her heart strained and empty. Had I been an old maid I
should have spent existence in efforts to fill the void and ease
the aching. I should have probably failed, and died weary and
disappointed, despised and of no account, like other single
women. But I'm not an old maid," she added quickly. "I should
have been, though, but for my master. I should never have suited
any man but Professor Crimsworth--no other gentleman, French,
English, or Belgian, would have thought me amiable or handsome;
and I doubt whether I should have cared for the approbation of
many others, if I could have obtained it. Now, I have been
Professor Crimsworth's wife eight years, and what is he in my
eyes? Is he honourable, beloved---?" She stopped, her voice was
cut off, her eyes suddenly suffused. She and I were standing
side by side; she threw her arms round me, and strained me to her
heart with passionate earnestness: the energy of her whole being
glowed in her dark and then dilated eye, and crimsoned her
animated cheek; her look and movement were like inspiration; in
one there was such a flash, in the other such a power. Half an
hour afterwards, when she had become calm, I asked where all that
wild vigour was gone which had transformed her ere-while and made
her glance so thrilling and ardent--her action so rapid and
strong. She looked down, smiling softly and passively:--
"I cannot tell where it is gone, monsieur," said she, "but I know
that, whenever it is wanted, it will come back again."
Behold us now at the close of the ten years, and we have realized
an independency. The rapidity with which we attained this end
had its origin in three reasons:-- Firstly, we worked so hard for
it; secondly, we had no incumbrances to delay success; thirdly,
as soon as we had capital to invest, two well-skilled
counsellors, one in Belgium, one in England, viz. Vandenhuten
and Hunsden, gave us each a word of advice as to the sort of
investment to be chosen. The suggestion made was judicious; and,
being promptly acted on, the result proved gainful--I need not
say how gainful; I communicated details to Messrs. Vandenhuten
and Hunsden; nobody else can be interested in hearing them.
Accounts being wound up, and our professional connection disposed
of, we both agreed that, as mammon was not our master, nor his
service that in which we desired to spend our lives; as our
desires were temperate, and our habits unostentatious, we had now
abundance to live on--abundance to leave our boy; and should
besides always have a balance on hand, which, properly managed by
right sympathy and unselfish activity, might help philanthropy in
her enterprises, and put solace into the hand of charity.
To England we now resolved to take wing; we arrived there safely;
Frances realized the dream of her lifetime. me spent a whole
summer and autumn in travelling from end to end of the British
islands, and afterwards passed a winter in London. Then we
thought it high time to fix our residence. My heart yearned
towards my native county of ----shire; and it is in ----shire I
now live; it is in the library of my own home I am now writing.
That home lies amid a sequestered and rather hilly region, thirty
miles removed from X----; a region whose verdure the smoke of
mills has not yet sullied, whose waters still run pure, whose
swells of moorland preserve in some ferny glens that lie between
them the very primal wildness of nature, her moss, her bracken,
her blue-bells, her scents of reed and heather, her free and
fresh breezes. My house is a picturesque and not too spacious
dwelling, with low and long windows, a trellised and leaf-veiled
porch over the front door, just now, on this summer evening,
looking like an arch of roses and ivy. The garden is chiefly
laid out in lawn, formed of the sod of the hills, with herbage
short and soft as moss, full of its own peculiar flowers, tiny
and starlike, imbedded in the minute embroidery of their fine
foliage. At the bottom of the sloping garden there is a wicket,
which opens upon a lane as green as the lawn, very long, shady,
and little frequented; on the turf of this lane generally appear
the first daisies of spring--whence its name--Daisy Lane; serving
also as a distinction to the house.
It terminates (the lane I mean) in a valley full of wood; which
wood--chiefly oak and beech--spreads shadowy about the vicinage
of a very old mansion, one of the Elizabethan structures, much
larger, as well as more antique than Daisy Lane, the property and
residence of an individual familiar both to me and to the reader.
Yes, in Hunsden Wood--for so are those glades and that grey
building, with many gables and more chimneys, named--abides Yorke
Hunsden, still unmarried; never, I suppose, having yet found his
ideal, though I know at least a score of young ladies within a
circuit of forty miles, who would be willing to assist him in the
The estate fell to him by the death of his father, five years
since; he has given up trade, after having made by it sufficient
to pay off some incumbrances by which the family heritage was
burdened. I say he abides here, but I do not think he is
resident above five months out of the twelve; he wanders from
land to land, and spends some part of each winter in town: he
frequently brings visitors with him when he comes to ---shire,
and these visitors are often foreigners; sometimes he has a
German metaphysician, sometimes a French savant; he had once a
dissatisfied and savage-looking Italian, who neither sang nor
played, and of whom Frances affirmed that he had "tout l'air d'un
What English guests Hunsden invites, are all either men of
Birmingham or Manchester--hard men, seemingly knit up in one
thought, whose talk is of free trade. The foreign visitors, too,
are politicians; they take a wider theme--European progress--the
spread of liberal sentiments over the Continent; on their mental
tablets, the names of Russia, Austria, and the Pope, are
inscribed in red ink. I have heard some of them talk vigorous
sense--yea, I have been present at polyglot discussions in the
old, oak-lined dining-room at Hunsden Wood, where a singular
insight was given of the sentiments entertained by resolute minds
respecting old northern despotisms, and old southern
superstitions: also, I have heard much twaddle, enounced chiefly
in French and Deutsch, but let that pass. Hunsden himself
tolerated the drivelling theorists; with the practical men he
seemed leagued hand and heart.
When Hunsden is staying alone at the Wood (which seldom happens)
he generally finds his way two or three times a week to Daisy
Lane. He has a philanthropic motive for coming to smoke his
cigar in our porch on summer evenings; he says he does it to kill
the earwigs amongst the roses, with which insects, but for his
benevolent fumigations, he intimates we should certainly be
overrun. On wet days, too, we are almost sure to see him;
according to him, it gets on time to work me into lunacy by
treading on my mental corns, or to force from Mrs. Crimsworth
revelations of the dragon within her, by insulting the memory of
Hofer and Tell.
We also go frequently to Hunsden Wood, and both I and Frances
relish a visit there highly. If there are other guests, their
characters are an interesting study; their conversation is
exciting and strange; the absence of all local narrowness both in
the host and his chosen society gives a metropolitan, almost a
cosmopolitan freedom and largeness to the talk. Hunsden himself
is a polite man in his own house: he has, when he chooses to
employ it, an inexhaustible power of entertaining guests; his
very mansion too is interesting, the rooms look storied, the
passages legendary, the low-ceiled chambers, with their long rows
of diamond-paned lattices, have an old-world, haunted air: in
his travels he hall collected stores of articles of VERTU, which
are well and tastefully disposed in his panelled or tapestried
rooms: I have seen there one or two pictures, and one or two
pieces of statuary which many an aristocratic connoisseur might
When I and Frances have dined and spent an evening with Hunsden,
he often walks home with us. His wood is large, and some of the
timber is old and of huge growth. There are winding ways in it
which, pursued through glade and brake, make the walk back to
Daisy Lane a somewhat long one. Many a time, when we have had
the benefit of a full moon, and when the night has been mild and
balmy, when, moreover, a certain nightingale has been singing,
and a certain stream, hid in alders, has lent the song a soft
accompaniment, the remote church-bell of the one hamlet in a
district of ten miles, has tolled midnight ere the lord of the
wood left us at our porch. Free-flowing was his talk at such
hours, and far more quiet and gentle than in the day-time and
before numbers. He would then forget politics and discussion,
and would dwell on the past times of his house, on his family
history, on himself and his own feelings--subjects each and all
invested with a peculiar zest, for they were each and all unique.
One glorious night in June, after I had been taunting him about
his ideal bride and asking him when she would come and graft her
foreign beauty on the old Hunsden oak, he answered suddenly--
"You call her ideal; but see, here is her shadow; and there
cannot be a shadow without a substance."
He had led us from the depth of the "winding way" into a glade
from whence the beeches withdrew, leaving it open to the sky; an
unclouded moon poured her light into this glade, and Hunsden held
out under her beam an ivory miniature.
Frances, with eagerness, examined it first; then she gave it to
me--still, however, pushing her little face close to mine, and
seeking in my eyes what I thought of the portrait. I thought it
represented a very handsome and very individual-looking female
face, with, as he had once said, "straight and harmonious
features." It was dark; the hair, raven-black, swept not only
from the brow, but from the temples--seemed thrust away
carelessly, as if such beauty dispensed with, nay, despised
arrangement. The Italian eye looked straight into you, and an
independent, determined eye it was; the mouth was as firm as
fine; the chin ditto. On the back of the miniature was gilded
"That is a real head," was my conclusion.
"I think so," he replied. "All was real in Lucia."
"And she was somebody you would have liked to marry--but could
"I should certainly have liked to marry her, and that I HAVE not
done so is a proof that I COULD not."
He repossessed himself of the miniature, now again in Frances'
hand, and put it away.
"What do YOU think of it?" he asked of my wife, as he buttoned
his coat over it.
"I am sure Lucia once wore chains and broke them," was the
strange answer. "I do not mean matrimonial chains," she added,
correcting herself, as if she feared mis-interpretation, "but
social chains of some sort. The face is that of one who has made
an effort, and a successful and triumphant effort, to wrest some
vigorous and valued faculty from insupportable constraint; and
when Lucia's faculty got free, I am certain it spread wide
pinions and carried her higher than--" she hesitated.
"Than what?" demanded Hunsden.
"Than 'les convenances' permitted you to follow."
"I think you grow spiteful--impertinent."
"Lucia has trodden the stage," continued Frances. "You never
seriously thought of marrying her; you admired her originality,
her fearlessness, her energy of body and mind; you delighted in
her talent, whatever that was, whether song, dance, or dramatic
representation; you worshipped her beauty, which was of the sort
after your own heart: but I am sure she filled a sphere from
whence you would never have thought of taking a wife."
"Ingenious," remarked Hunsden; "whether true or not is another
question. Meantime, don't you feel your little lamp of a spirit
wax very pale, beside such a girandole as Lucia's?"
"Candid, at least; and the Professor will soon be dissatisfied
with the dim light you give?"
"Will you, monsieur?"
"My sight was always too weak to endure a blaze, Frances," and we
had now reached the wicket.
I said, a few pages back, that this is a sweet summer evening; it
is--there has been a series of lovely days, and this is the
loveliest; the hay is just carried from my fields, its perfume
still lingers in the air. Frances proposed to me, an hour or two
since, to take tea out on the lawn; I see the round table, loaded
with china, placed under a certain beech; Hunsden is expected
--nay, I hear he is come--there is his voice, laying down the law
on some point with authority; that of Frances replies; she
opposes him of course. They are disputing about Victor, of whom
Hunsden affirms that his mother is making a milksop. Mrs.
"Better a thousand times he should be a milksop than what he,
Hunsden, calls 'a fine lad;' and moreover she says that if
Hunsden were to become a fixture in the neighbourhood, and were
not a mere comet, coming and going, no one knows how, when,
where, or why, she should be quite uneasy till she had got Victor
away to a school at least a hundred miles off; for that with his
mutinous maxims and unpractical dogmas, he would ruin a score of
I have a word to say of Victor ere I shut this manuscript in my
desk--but it must be a brief one, for I hear the tinkle of silver
Victor is as little of a pretty child as I am of a handsome man,
or his mother of a fine woman; he is pale and spare, with large
eyes, as dark as those of Frances, and as deeply set as mine.
His shape is symmetrical enough, but slight; his health is good.
I never saw a child smile less than he does, nor one who knits
such a formidable brow when sitting over a book that interests
him, or while listening to tales of adventure, peril, or wonder,
narrated by his mother, Hunsden, or myself. But though still, he
is not unhappy--though serious, not morose; he has a
susceptibility to pleasurable sensations almost too keen, for it
amounts to enthusiasm. He learned to read in the old-fashioned
way out of a spelling-book at his mother's knee, and as he got on
without driving by that method, she thought it unnecessary to buy
him ivory letters, or to try any of the other inducements to
learning now deemed indispensable. When he could read, he became
a glutton of books, and is so still. His toys have been few, and
he has never wanted more. For those he possesses, he seems to
have contracted a partiality amounting to affection; this
feeling, directed towards one or two living animals of the house,
strengthens almost to a passion.
Mr. Hunsden gave him a mastiff cub, which he called Yorke, after
the donor; it grew to a superb dog, whose fierceness, however,
was much modified by the companionship and caresses of its young
master. He would go nowhere, do nothing without Yorke; Yorke
lay at his feet while he learned his lessons, played with him in
the garden, walked with him in the lane and wood, sat near his
chair at meals, was fed always by his own hand, was the first
thing he sought in the morning, the last he left at night. Yorke
accompanied Mr. Hunsden one day to X----, and was bitten in the
street by a dog in a rabid state. As soon as Hunsden had brought
him home, and had informed me of the circumstance, I went into
the yard and shot him where he lay licking his wound: he was
dead in an instant; he had not seen me level the gun; I stood
behind him. I had scarcely been ten minutes in the house, when
my ear was struck with sounds of anguish: I repaired to the yard
once more, for they proceeded thence. Victor was kneeling beside
his dead mastiff, bent over it, embracing its bull-like neck, and
lost in a passion of the wildest woe: he saw me.
"Oh, papa, I'll never forgive you! I'll never forgive you!" was
his exclamation. "You shot Yorke--I saw it from the window. I
never believed you could be so cruel--I can love you no more!"
I had much ado to explain to him, with a steady voice, the stern
necessity of the deed; he still, with that inconsolable and
bitter accent which I cannot render, but which pierced my heart,
"He might have been cured--you should have tried--you should have
burnt the wound with a hot iron, or covered it with caustic. You
gave no time; and now it is too late--he is dead!"
He sank fairly down on the senseless carcase; I waited patiently
a long while, till his grief had somewhat exhausted him; and then
I lifted him in my arms and carried him to his mother, sure that
she would comfort him best. She had witnessed the whole scene
from a window; she would not come out for fear of increasing my
difficulties by her emotion, but she was ready now to receive
him. She took him to her kind heart, and on to her gentle lap;
consoled him but with her lips, her eyes, her soft embrace, for
some time; and then, when his sobs diminished, told him that
Yorke had felt no pain in dying, and that if he had been left to
expire naturally, his end would have been most horrible; above
all, she told him that I was not cruel (for that idea seemed to
give exquisite pain to poor Victor), that it was my affection for
Yorke and him which had made me act so, and that I was now almost
heart-broken to see him weep thus bitterly.
Victor would have been no true son of his father, had these
considerations, these reasons, breathed in so low, so sweet a
tone--married to caresses so benign, so tender--to looks so
inspired with pitying sympathy--produced no effect on him. They
did produce an effect: he grew calmer, rested his face on her
shoulder, and lay still in her arms. Looking up, shortly, he
asked his mother to tell him over again what she had said about
Yorke having suffered no pain, and my not being cruel; the balmy
words being repeated, he again pillowed his cheek on her breast,
and was again tranquil.
Some hours after, he came to me in my library, asked if I forgave
him, and desired to be reconciled. I drew the lad to my side,
and there I kept him a good while, and had much talk with him,
in the course of which he disclosed many points of feeling and
thought I appoved of in my son. I found, it is true, few
elements of the "good fellow" or the "fine fellow" in him; scant
sparkles of the spirit which loves to flash over the wine cup, or
which kindles the passions to a destroying fire; but I saw in the
soil of his heart healthy and swelling germs of compassion,
affection, fidelity. I discovered in the garden of his intellect
a rich growth of wholesome principles--reason, justice, moral
courage, promised, if not blighted, a fertile bearing. So I
bestowed on his large forehead, and on his cheek--still pale with
tears--a proud and contented kiss, and sent him away comforted.
Yet I saw him the next day laid on the mound under which Yorke
had been buried, his face covered with his hands; he was
melancholy for some weeks, and more than a year elapsed before he
would listen to any proposal of having another dog.
Victor learns fast. He must soon go to Eton, where, I suspect,
his first year or two will be utter wretchedness: to leave me,
his mother, and his home, will give his heart an agonized wrench;
then, the fagging will not suit him--but emulation, thirst after
knowledge, the glory of success, will stir and reward him in
time. Meantime, I feel in myself a strong repugnance to fix the
hour which will uproot my sole olive branch, and transplant it
far from me; and, when I speak to Frances on the subject, I am
heard with a kind of patient pain, as though I alluded to some
fearful operation, at which her nature shudders, but from which
her fortitude will not permit her to recoil. The step must,
however, be taken, and it shall be; for, though Frances will not
make a milksop of her son, she will accustom him to a style of
treatment, a forbearance, a congenial tenderness, he will meet
with from none else. She sees, as I also see, a something in
Victor's temper--a kind of electrical ardour and power--which
emits, now and then, ominous sparks; Hunsden calls it his spirit,
and says it should not be curbed. I call it the leaven of the
offending Adam, and consider that it should be, if not WHIPPED
out of him, at least soundly disciplined; and that he will be
cheap of any amount of either bodily or mental suffering which
will ground him radically in the art of self-control. Frances
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