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Title: Lord Ormont and His Aminta — Complete
Author: Meredith, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LORD ORMONT AND HIS AMINTA, COMPLETE


By George Meredith



CONTENTS.

  BOOK 1.
  I.        LOVE AT A SCHOOL
  II.       LADY CHARLOTTE
  III.      THE TUTOR
  IV.       RECOGNITION
  V.        IN WHICH THE SHADES OF BROWNY AND MATEY ADVANCE AND RETIRE

  BOOK 2.
  VI.       IN A MOOD OF LANGUOR
  VII.      EXHIBITS EFFECTS OF A PRATTLER’S DOSES
  VIII.     MRS. LAWRENCE FINCHLEY
  IX.       A FLASH OF THE BRUISED WARRIOR
  X.        A SHORT PASSAGE IN THE GAME PLAYED BY TWO
  XI.       THE SECRETARY TAKEN AS AN ANTIDOTE

  BOOK 3.
  XII.      MORE OF CUPER’S BOYS
  XIII.     WAR AT OLMER
  XIV.      OLD LOVERS NEW FRIENDS
  XV.       SHOWING A SECRET FISHED WITHOUT ANGLING
  XVI.      ALONG TWO ROADS TO STEIGNTON

  BOOK 4.
  XVII.     LADY CHARLOTTE’S TRIUMPH
  XVIII.    A SCENE ON THE ROAD BACK
  XIX.      THE PURSUERS
  XX.       AT THE SIGN OF THE JOLLY CRICKETERS
  XXI.      UNDER-CURRENTS IN THE MINDS OF LADY CHARLOTTE AND LORD ORMONT
  XXII.     TREATS OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTENTION OF BROTHER AND SISTER
  XXIII.    THE ORMONT JEWELS

  BOOK 5.
  XXIV.     LOVERS MATED
  XXXV.     PREPARATIONS FOR A RESOLVE
  XXVI.     VISITS OF FAREWELL
  XXVII.    A MARINE DUET
  XXVIII.   THE PLIGHTING
  XXIX.     AMINTA TO HER LORD
  XXX.      CONCLUSION



CHAPTER I. LOVE AT A SCHOOL

A procession of schoolboys having to meet a procession of schoolgirls on
the Sunday’s dead march, called a walk, round the park, could hardly go
by without dropping to a hum in its chatter, and the shot of incurious
half-eyes the petticoated creatures--all so much of a swarm unless you
stare at them like lanterns. The boys cast glance because it relieved
their heaviness; things were lumpish and gloomy that day of the week.
The girls, who sped their peep of inquisition before the moment of
transit, let it be seen that they had minds occupied with thoughts of
their own.

Our gallant fellows forgot the intrusion of the foreign as soon as it
had passed. A sarcastic discharge was jerked by chance at the usher and
the governess--at the old game, it seemed; or why did they keep
steering columns to meet? There was no fun in meeting; it would never be
happening every other Sunday, and oftener, by sheer toss-penny accident.
They were moved like pieces for the pleasure of these two.

Sometimes the meeting occurred twice during the stupid march-out, when
it became so nearly vexatious to boys almost biliously oppressed by the
tedium of a day merely allowing them to shove the legs along, ironically
naming it animal excise, that some among them pronounced the sham
variation of monotony to be a bothering nuisance if it was going to
happen every Sunday, though Sunday required diversions. They hated
the absurdity in this meeting and meeting; for they were obliged to
anticipate it, as a part of their ignominious weekly performance; and
they could not avoid reflecting on it, as a thing done over again: it
had them in front and in rear; and it was a kind of broadside mirror,
flashing at them the exact opposite of themselves in an identically
similar situation, that forced a resemblance.

Touching the old game, Cuper’s fold was a healthy school, owing to the
good lead of the head boy, Matey Weyburn, a lad with a heart for games
to bring renown, and no thought about girls. His emulation, the fellows
fancied, was for getting the school into a journal of the Sports. He
used to read one sent him by a sporting officer of his name, and talk
enviously of public schools, printed whatever they did--a privilege and
dignity of which, they had unrivalled enjoyment in the past, days, when
wealth was more jealously exclusive; and he was always prompting for
challenges and saving up to pay expenses; and the fellows were to laugh
at kicks and learn the art of self-defence--train to rejoice in whipcord
muscles. The son of a tradesman, if a boy fell under the imputation, was
worthy of honour with him, let the fellow but show grip and toughness.
He loathed a skulker, and his face was known for any boy who would
own to fatigue or confess himself beaten. “Go to bed,” was one of his
terrible stings. Matey was good at lessons, too--liked them; liked Latin
and Greek; would help a poor stumbler.

Where he did such good work was in sharpening the fellows to excel.
He kept them to the grindstone, so that they had no time for rusty
brooding; and it was fit done by exhortations off a pedestal, like St.
Paul at the Athenians, it breathed out of him every day of the week. He
carried a light for followers. Whatever he demanded of them, he himself
did it easily. He would say to boys, “You’re going to be men,” meaning
something better than women. There was a notion that Matey despised
girls. Consequently, never much esteemed, they were in disfavour. The
old game was mentioned only because of a tradition of an usher and
governess leering sick eyes until they slunk away round a corner and
married, and set up a school for themselves--an emasculate ending.
Comment on it came of a design to show that the whole game had been
examined dismissed as uninteresting and profitless.

One of the boys alluded in Matey’s presence to their general view upon
the part played by womankind on the stage, confident of a backing; and
he had it, in a way: their noble chief whisked the subject, as not worth
a discussion; but he turned to a younger chap, who said he detested
girls, and asked him how about a sister at home; and the youngster
coloured, and Matey took him and spun him round, with a friendly tap on
the shoulder.

Odd remarks at intervals caused it to be suspected that he had ideas
concerning girls. They were high as his head above the school; and there
they were left, with Algebra and Homer, for they were not of a sort to
inflame; until the boys noticed how he gave up speaking, and fell to
hard looking, though she was dark enough to get herself named Browny.
In the absence of a fair girl of equal height to set beside her, Browny
shone.

She had a nice mouth, ready for a smile at the corners, or so it was
before Matey let her see that she was his mark. Now she kept her mouth
asleep and her eyes half down, up to the moment of her nearing to pass,
when the girl opened on him, as if lifting her eyelids from sleep to the
window, a full side--look, like a throb, and no disguise--no slyness
or boldness either, not a bit of languishing. You might think her heart
came quietly out.

The look was like the fall of light on the hills from the first
of morning. It lasted half a minute, and left a ruffle for a good
half-hour. Even the younger fellows, without knowing what affected
them, were moved by the new picture of a girl, as if it had been
a frontispiece of a romantic story some day to be read. She looked
compelled to look, but consenting and unashamed; at home in submission;
just the look that wins observant boys, shrewd as dogs to read by signs,
if they are interested in the persons. They read Browny’s meaning: that
Matey had only to come and snatch her; he was her master, and she was a
brave girl, ready to go all over the world with him; had taken to him
as he to her, shot for shot. Her taking to the pick of the school was a
capital proof that she was of the right sort. To be sure, she could not
much help herself.

Some of the boys regretted her not being fair. But, as they felt, and
sought to explain, in the manner of the wag of a tail, with elbows and
eyebrows to one another’s understanding, fair girls could never have let
fly such look; fair girls are softer, woollier, and when they mean to
look serious, overdo it by craping solemn; or they pinafore a jigging
eagerness, or hoist propriety on a chubby flaxen grin; or else they
dart an eye, or they mince and prim and pout, and are sigh-away and
dying-ducky, given to girls’ tricks. Browny, after all, was the girl for
Matey.

She won a victory right away and out of hand, on behalf of her
cloud-and-moon sisters, as against the sunny-meadowy; for slanting
intermediates are not espied of boys in anything: conquered by Browny;
they went over to her colour, equal to arguing, that Venus at her
mightiest must have been dark, or she would not have stood a comparison
with the forest Goddess of the Crescent, swanning it through a lake--on
the leap for run of the chase--watching the dart, with her humming
bow at breast. The fair are simple sugary thing’s, prone to fat,
like broad-sops in milk; but the others are milky nuts, good to bite,
Lacedaemonian virgins, hard to beat, putting us on our mettle; and they
are for heroes, and they can be brave. So these boys felt, conquered
by Browny. A sneaking native taste for the forsaken side, known to
renegades, hauled at them if her image waned during the week; and it
waned a little, but Sunday restored and stamped it.

By a sudden turn the whole upper-school had fallen to thinking of girls,
and the meeting on the Sunday was a prospect. One of the day-boarders
had a sister in the seminary of Miss Vincent. He was plied to obtain
information concerning Browny’s name and her parents. He had it pat to
hand in answer. No parents came to see her; an aunt came now and then.
Her aunt’s name was not wanted. Browny’s name was Aminta Farrell.

Farrell might pass; Aminta was debated. This female Christian name had
a foreign twang; it gave dissatisfaction. Boy after boy had a try at it,
with the same effect: you could not speak the name without a pursing
of the month and a puckering of the nose, beastly to see, as one little
fellow reminded them on a day when Matey was in more than common favour,
topping a pitch of rapture, for clean bowling, first ball, middle stump
on the kick, the best bat of the other eleven in a match; and, says this
youngster, drawling, soon after the cheers and claps had subsided to
business, “Aminta.”

He made it funny by saying it as if to himself and the ground, in a
subdued way, while he swung his leg on a half-circle, like a skater,
hands in pockets. He was a sly young rascal, innocently precocious
enough, and he meant no disrespect either to Browny or to Matey; but he
had to run for it, his delivery of the name being so like what was in
the breasts of the senior fellows, as to the inferiority of any Aminta
to old Matey, that he set them laughing; and Browny was on the field, to
reprove them, left of the tea-booth, with her school-mates, part of her
head under a scarlet parasol.

A girl with such a name as Aminta might not be exactly up to the
standard of old Matey, still, if he thought her so and she had spirit,
the school was bound to subscribe; and that look of hers warranted her
for taking her share in the story, like the brigand’s wife loading
gnus for him while he knocks over the foremost carabineer on the
mountain-ledge below, who drops on his back with a hellish expression.

Browny was then clearly seen all round, instead of only front-face, as
on the Sunday in the park, when fellows could not spy backward after
passing. The pleasure they had in seeing her all round involved no fresh
stores of observation, for none could tell how she tied her back-hair,
which was the question put to them by a cynic of a boy, said to be
queasy with excess of sisters. They could tell that she was tall for a
girl, or tallish--not a maypole. She drank a cup of tea, and ate a slice
of bread-and-butter; no cake.

She appeared undisturbed when Matey, wearing his holiday white ducks,
and all aglow, entered the booth. She was not expected to faint, only
she stood for the foreign Aminta more than for their familiar Browny in
his presence. Not a sign of the look which had fired the school did she
throw at him. Change the colour and you might compare her to a lobster
fixed on end, with a chin and no eyes. Matey talked to Miss Vincent up
to the instant of his running to bat. She would have liked to guess how
he knew she had a brother on the medical staff of one of the regiments
in India: she asked him twice, and his cheeks were redder than cricket
in the sun. He said he read all the reports from India, and asked her
whether she did not admire Lord Ormont, our general of cavalry, whose
charge at the head of fifteen hundred horse in the last great battle
shattered the enemy’s right wing, and gave us the victory--rolled him up
and stretched him out like a carpet for dusting. Miss Vincent exclaimed
that it was really strange, now, he should speak of Lord Ormont, for she
had been speaking of him herself in morning to one of her young ladies,
whose mind was bent on his heroic deeds. Matey turned his face to the
group of young ladies, quite pleased that one of them loved his hero;
and he met a smile here and there--not from Miss Aminta Farrell. She was
a complete disappointment to the boys that day. “Aminta” was mouthed at
any allusions to her.

So, she not being a match for Matey, they let her drop. The flush that
had swept across the school withered to a dry recollection, except when
on one of their Sunday afternoons she fanned the desert. Lord Ormont
became the subject of inquiry and conversation; and for his own
sake--not altogether to gratify Matey. The Saturday autumn evening’s
walk home, after the race out to tea at a distant village, too late
in the year for cricket, too early for regular football, suited Matey,
going at long strides, for the story of his hero’s adventures; and it
was nicer than talk about girls, and puzzling. Here lay a clear field;
for he had the right to speak of a cavalry officer: his father died
of wounds in the service, and Matey naturally intended to join the
Dragoons; if he could get enough money to pay for mess, he said,
laughing. Lord Ormont was his pattern of a warrior. We had in him a
lord who cast off luxury to live like a Spartan when under arms, with
a passion to serve his country and sustain the glory of our military
annals. He revived respect for the noble class in the hearts of
Englishmen. He was as good an authority on horseflesh as any Englishman
alive; the best for the management of cavalry: there never was a better
cavalry leader. The boys had come to know that Browny admired Lord
Ormont, so they saw a double reason why Matey should; and walking home
at his grand swing in the October dusk, their school hero drew their
national hero closer to them.

Every fellow present was dead against the usher, Mr. Shalders, when he
took advantage of a pause to strike in with his “Murat!”

He harped on Murat whenever he had a chance. Now he did it for the
purpose of casting eclipse upon Major-General Lord Ormont, the son and
grandson of English earls; for he was an earl by his title, and Murat
was the son of an innkeeper. Shalders had to admit that Murat might
have served in the stables when a boy. Honour to Murat, of course,
for climbing the peaks! Shalders, too, might interest him in military
affairs and Murat; he did no harm, and could be amusing. It rather added
to his amount of dignity. It was rather absurd, at the same time, for an
English usher to be spouting and glowing about a French general, who had
been a stable-boy and became a king, with his Murat this, Murat that,
and hurrah Murat in red and white and green uniform, tunic and breeches,
and a chimney-afire of feathers; and how the giant he was charged at the
head of ten thousand horse, all going like a cataract under a rainbow
over the rocks, right into the middle of the enemy and through; and he a
spark ahead, and the enemy streaming on all sides flat away, as you see
puffed smoke and flame of a bonfire. That was fun to set boys jigging.
No wonder how in Russia the Cossacks feared him, and scampered from the
shadow of his plumes--were clouds flying off his breath! That was a
fine warm picture for the boys on late autumn or early winter evenings,
Shalders warming his back at the grate, describing bivouacs in the snow.
They liked well enough to hear him when he was not opposing Matey and
Lord Ormont. He perked on his toes, and fetched his hand from behind him
to flourish it when his Murat came out. The speaking of his name clapped
him on horseback--the only horseback he ever knew. He was as fond of
giving out the name Murat as you see in old engravings of tobacco-shops
men enjoying the emission of their whiff of smoke.

Matey was not inclined to class Lord Ormont alongside Murat, a
first-rate horseman and an eagle-eye, as Shalders rightly said; and
Matey agreed that forty thousand cavalry under your orders is a toss
above fifteen hundred; but the claim for a Frenchman of a superlative
merit to swallow and make nothing of the mention of our best cavalry
generals irritated him to call Murat a mountebank.

Shalders retorted, that Lord Ormont was a reprobate.

Matey hoped he would some day write us an essay on the morale of
illustrious generals of cavalry; and Shalders told him he did not
advance his case by talking nonsense.

Each then repeated to the boys a famous exploit of his hero. Their
verdict was favourable to Lord Ormont. Our English General learnt riding
before he was ten years old, on the Pampas, where you ride all day, and
cook your steak for your dinner between your seat and your saddle. He
rode with his father and his uncle, Muncastle, the famous traveller,
into Paraguay. He saw fighting before he was twelve. Before he was
twenty he was learning outpost duty in the Austrian frontier cavalry. He
served in the Peninsula, served in Canada, served in India, volunteered
for any chance of distinction. No need to say much of his mastering the
picked Indian swordsmen in single combat: he knew their trick, and
was quick to save his reins when they made a dash threatening the
headstroke--about the same as disabling sails in old naval engagements.

That was the part for the officer; we are speaking of the General. For
that matter, he had as keen an eye for the field and the moment for his
arm to strike as any Murat. One world have liked to see Murat matched
against the sabre of a wily Rajpoot! As to campaigns and strategy, Lord
Ormont’s head was a map. What of Murat and Lord Ormont horse to horse
and sword to sword? Come, imagine that, if you are for comparisons. And
if Lord Ormont never headed a lot of thousands, it does not prove he was
unable. Lord Ormont was as big as Murat. More, he was a Christian to his
horses. How about Murat in that respect? Lord Ormont cared for his men:
did Murat so particularly much? And he was as cunning fronting odds,
and a thunderbolt at the charge. Why speak of him in the past? He is an
English lord, a lord by birth, and he is alive; things may be expected
of him to-morrow or next day.

Shalders here cut Matey short by meanly objecting to that.

“Men are mortal,” he said, with a lot of pretended stuff, deploring
our human condition in the elegy strain; and he fell to reckoning the
English hero’s age--as that he, Lord Ormont, had been a name in the
world for the last twenty-five years or more. The noble lord could be no
chicken. We are justified in calculating, by the course of nature, that
his term of activity is approaching, or has approached, or, in fact, has
drawn to its close.

“If your estimate, sir, approaches to correctness,” rejoined
Matey--tellingly, his comrades thought.

“Sixty, as you may learn some day, is a serious age, Matthew Weyburn.”

Matey said he should be happy to reach it with half the honours Lord
Ormont had won.

“Excepting the duels,” Shalders had the impudence to say.

“If the cause is a good one!” cried Matey.

“The cause, or Lord Ormont has been maligned, was reprehensible in the
extremest degree.” Shalders cockhorsed on his heels to his toes and back
with a bang.

“What was the cause, if you please, sir?” a boy, probably naughty,
inquired; and as Shalders did not vouchsafe a reply, the bigger boys
knew.

They revelled in the devilish halo of skirts on the whirl encircling
Lord Ormont’s laurelled head.

That was a spark in their blood struck from a dislike of the tone
assumed by Mr. Shalders to sustain his argument; with his “men are
mortal,” and talk of a true living champion as “no chicken,” and the
wordy drawl over “justification for calculating the approach of a close
to a term of activity”--in the case of a proved hero!

Guardians of boys should make sure that the boys are on their side
before they raise the standard of virtue. Nor ought they to summon
morality for support of a polemic. Matey Weyburn’s object of worship
rode superior to a morality puffing its phrasy trumpet. And, somehow,
the sacrifice of an enormous number of women to Lord Ormont’s glory
seemed natural; the very thing that should be, in the case of a
first-rate military hero and commander--Scipio notwithstanding. It
brightens his flame, and it is agreeable to them. That is how they come
to distinction: they have no other chance; they are only women; they
are mad to be singed, and they rush pelf-mall, all for the honour of the
candle.

Shortly after this discussion Matey was heard informing some of the
bigger fellows he could tell them positively that Lord Ormont’s age was
under fifty-four--the prime of manhood, and a jolly long way off death!
The greater credit to him, therefore, if he had been a name in the world
for anything like the period Shalders insinuated, “to get himself out of
a sad quandary.” Matey sounded the queer word so as to fix it sticking
to the usher, calling him Mr. Peter Bell Shalders, at which the boys
roared, and there was a question or two about names, which belonged to
verses, for people caring to read poems.

To the joy of the school he displayed a greater knowledge of Murat than
Shalders had: named the different places in Europe where Lord Ormont and
Murat were both springing to the saddle at the same time--one a Marshal,
the other a lieutenant; one a king, to be off his throne any day, the
other a born English nobleman, seated firm as fate. And he accused Murat
of carelessness of his horses, ingratitude to his benefactor, circussy
style. Shalders went so far as to defend Murat for attending to the
affairs of his kingdom, instead of galloping over hedges and ditches
to swell Napoleon’s ranks in distress. Matey listened to him there; he
became grave; he nodded like a man saying, “I suppose we must examine
it in earnest.” The school was damped to hear him calling it a nice
question. Still, he said he thought he should have gone; and that
settled it.

The boys inclined to speak contemptuously of Shalders. Matey world
not let them; he contrasted Shalders with the other ushers, who had
no enthusiasms. He said enthusiasms were salt to a man; and he liked
Shalders for spelling at his battles and thinking he understood them,
and admiring Murat, and leading Virgil and parts of Lucan for his
recreation. He said he liked the French because they could be splendidly
enthusiastic. He almost lost his English flavour when he spoke in
downright approval of a small French fellow, coming from Orthez, near
the Pyrenees, for senselessly dashing and kicking at a couple of English
who jeered to hear Orthez named--a place trampled under Wellington’s
heels, on his march across conquered France. The foreign little cockerel
was a clever lad, learning English fast, and anxious to show he had got
hold of the English trick of not knowing when he was beaten. His French
vanity insisted on his engaging the two, though one of them stood aside,
and the other let him drive his nose all the compass round at a poker
fist. What was worse, Matey examined these two, in the interests of fair
play, as if he doubted.

Little Emile Grenat set matters right with his boast to vindicate his
country against double the number, and Matey praised him, though he knew
Emile had been floored without effort by the extension of a single fist.
He would not hear the French abused; he said they were chivalrous, they
were fine fellows, topping the world in some things; his father had
fought them and learnt to respect them. Perhaps his father had learnt to
respect Jews, for there was a boy named Abner, he protected, who smelt
Jewish; he said they ran us Gentiles hard, and carried big guns.

Only a reputation like Matey’s could have kept his leadership from
a challenge. Joseph Masner, formerly a rival, went about hinting and
shrugging; all to no purpose, you find boys born to be chiefs. On the
day of the snow-fight Matey won the toss, and chose J. Masner first
pick; and Masner, aged seventeen and some months, big as a navvy,
lumbered across to him and took his directions, proud to stand in the
front centre, at the head of the attack, and bear the brunt--just what
he was fit for, Matey gave no offence by choosing, half-way down the
list, his little French friend, whom he stationed beside himself, rather
off his battle-front, as at point at cricket, not quite so far removed.
Two boys at his heels piled ammunition. The sides met midway of a marshy
ground, where a couple of flat and shelving banks, formed for a broad
new road, good for ten abreast--counting a step of the slopes--ran
transverse; and the order of the game was to clear the bank and drive
the enemy on to the frozen ditch-water. Miss Vincent heard in the
morning from the sister of little Collett of the great engagement
coming off; she was moved by curiosity, and so the young ladies of
her establishment beheld the young gentlemen of Mr. Cuper’s in furious
division, and Matey’s sore aim and hard fling, equal to a slinger’s,
relieving J. Masner of a foremost assailant with a spanker on the
nob. They may have fancied him clever for selecting a position rather
comfortable, as things went, until they had sight of him with his little
French ally and two others, ammunition boys to rear, descending one
bank and scaling another right into the flank of the enemy, when his
old tower of a Masner was being heavily pressed by numbers. Then came a
fight hand to hand, but the enemy stood in a clamp; not to split like
a nut between crackers, they gave way and rolled, backing in lumps from
bank to ditch.

The battle was over before the young ladies knew. They wondered to see
Matey shuffling on his coat and hopping along at easy bounds to pay his
respects to Miss Vincent, near whom was Browny; and this time he and
Browny talked together. He then introduced little Emile to her. She
spoke of Napoleon at Brienne, and complimented Matey. He said he was
cavalry, not artillery, that day. They talked to hear one another’s
voices. By constantly appealing to Miss Vincent he made their
conversation together seem as under her conduct; and she took a slide on
some French phrases with little Emile. Her young ladies looked shrinking
and envious to see the fellows wet to the skin, laughing, wrestling,
linking arms; and some, who were clown-faced with a wipe of scarlet,
getting friends to rub their cheeks with snow, all of them happy as
larks in air, a big tea steaming for them at the school. Those girls
had a leap and a fail of the heart, glad to hug themselves in their dry
clothes, and not so warm as the dripping boys were, nor so madly fond of
their dress-circle seats to look on at a play they were not allowed
even to desire to share. They looked on at blows given and taken in
good temper, hardship sharpening jollity. The thought of the difference
between themselves and the boys must have been something like the tight
band--call it corset--over the chest, trying to lift and stretch for
draughts of air. But Browny’s feeling naturally was, that all this
advantage for the boys came of Matey Weyburn’s lead.

Miss Vincent with her young ladies walked off in couples, orderly
chicks, the usual Sunday march of their every day. The school was
coolish to them; one of the fellows hummed bars of some hymn tune,
rather faster than church. And next day there was a murmur of letters
passing between Matey and Browny regularly, little Collett for postman.
Anybody might have guessed it, but the report spread a feeling that
girls are not the entirely artificial beings or flat targets we suppose.
The school began to brood, like air deadening on oven-heat. Winter
is hen-mother to the idea of love in schools, if the idea has fairly
entered. Various girls of different colours were selected by boys
for animated correspondence, that never existed and was vigorously
prosecuted, with efforts to repress contempt of them in courtship for
their affections. They found their part of it by no means difficult when
they imagined the lines without the words, or, better still, the letter
without the lines. A holy satisfaction belonged to the sealed thing; the
breaking of the seal and inspection of the contents imposed perplexity
on that sentiment. They thought of certain possible sentences Matey
and Browny would exchange; but the plain, conceivable, almost visible,
outside of the letter had a stronger spell for them than the visionary
inside. This fancied contemplation of the love-letter was reversed
in them at once by the startling news of Miss Vincent’s discovery
and seizure of the sealed thing, and her examination of the burden
it contained. Then their thirst was for drama--to see, to drink every
wonderful syllable those lovers had written.

Miss Vincent’s hand was upon one of Matey’s letters. She had come across
the sister of little Collett, Selina her name was, carrying it. She saw
nothing of the others. Aminta was not the girl to let her. Nor did Mr.
Cuper dare demand from Matey a sight or restitution of the young lady’s
half of the correspondence. He preached heavily at Matey; deplored that
the boy he most trusted, etc.--the school could have repeated it without
hearing. We know the master’s lecture in tones--it sings up to sing
down, and touches nobody. As soon as he dropped to natural talk, and
spoke of his responsibility and Miss Vincent’s, Matey gave the word of
a man of honour that he would not seek to communicate farther with Miss
Farrell at the school.

Now there was a regular thunder-hash among the boys on the rare
occasions when they met the girls. All that Matey and Browny were
forbidden to write they looked--much like what it had been before the
discovery; and they dragged the boys back from promised instant events.
It was, nevertheless, a heaving picture, like the sea in the background
of a marine piece at the theatre, which rouses anticipations of storm,
and shows readiness. Browny’s full eyebrow sat on her dark eye like a
cloud of winter noons over the vanishing sun. Matey was the prisoner
gazing at light of a barred window and measuring the strength of the
bars. She looked unhappy, but looked unbeaten more. Her look at him fed
the school on thoughts of what love really is, when it is not fished
out of books and poetry. For though she was pale, starved and pale, they
could see she was never the one to be sighing; and as for him, he looked
ground dower all to edge. However much they puzzled over things, she
made them feel they were sure, as to her, that she drove straight and
meant blood, the life or death of it: all her own, if need be, and
confidence in the captain she had chosen. She could have been imagined
saying, There is a storm, but I am ready to embark with you this minute.

That sign of courage in real danger ennobled her among girls. The name
Browny was put aside for a respectful Aminta. Big and bright events to
come out in the world were hinted, from the love of such a couple. The
boys were not ashamed to speak the very word love. How he does love
that girl! Well, and how she loves him! She did, but the boys had to be
seeing her look at Matey if they were to put the girl on some balanced
equality with a fellow she was compelled to love. It seemed to them
that he gave, and that she was a creature carried to him, like driftwood
along the current of the flood, given, in spite of herself. When they
saw those eyes of hers they were impressed with an idea of her as
a voluntary giver too; pretty well the half to the bargain; and it
confused their notion of feminine inferiority. They resolved to think
her an exceptional girl, which, in truth, they could easily do, for none
but an exceptional girl could win Matey to love her.

Since nothing appeared likely to happen at the school, they speculated
upon what would occur out in the world, and were assisted to conjecture,
by a rumour, telling of Aminta Farrell’s aunt as a resident at Dover.
Those were days when the benevolently international M. de Porquet had
begun to act as interpreter to English schools in the portico of the
French language; and under his guidance it was asked, in contempt of the
answer, Combien de postes d’ici a Douvres? But, accepting the rumour
as a piece of information, the answer became important. Ici was twenty
miles to the north-west of London. How long would it take Matey to reach
Donvres? Or at which of the combien did he intend to waylay and away
with Aminta? The boys went about pounding at the interrogative French
phrase in due sincerity, behind the burlesque of traveller bothering
coachman. Matey’s designs could be finessed only by a knowledge of his
character: that he was not the fellow to give up the girl he had taken
to; and impediments might multiply, but he would bear them down. Three
days before the break-up of the school another rumour came tearing
through it: Aminta’s aunt had withdrawn her from Miss Vincent’s. And
now rose the question, two-dozen-mouthed, Did Matey know her address at
Douvres? His face grew stringy and his voice harder, and his eyes ready
to burst from a smother of fire. All the same, he did his work: he was
the good old fellow at games, considerate in school affairs, kind to
the youngsters; he was heard to laugh. He liked best the company of his
little French friend from Orthez, over whose shoulder his hand was laid
sometimes as they strolled and chatted in two languages. He really went
a long way to make French fellows popular, and the boys were sorry that
little Emile was off to finish his foreign education in Germany. His
English was pretty good, thanks to Matey. He went away, promising to
remember Old England, saying he was French first, and a Briton next. He
had lots of plunk; which accounted for Matey’s choice of him as a friend
among the juniors.



CHAPTER II. LADY CHARLOTTE

Love-passages at a school must produce a ringing crisis if they are to
leave the rosy impression which spans the gap of holidays. Neither Matey
nor Browny returned to their yoke, and Cuper’s boys recollected the
couple chiefly on Sundays. They remembered several of Matey’s doings and
sayings: his running and high leaping, his bowling, a maxim or two of
his, and the tight strong fellow he was; also that the damsel’s colour
distinctly counted for dark. She became nearly black in their minds.
Well, and Englishmen have been known to marry Indian princesses:
some have a liking for negresses. There are Nubians rather pretty in
pictures, if you can stand thick lips. Her colour does not matter,
provided the girl is of the right sort. The exchange of letters between
the lovers was mentioned. The discovery by Miss Vincent of their cool
habit of corresponding passed for an incident; and there it remained,
stiff as a poet, not being heated by a story to run. So the foregone
excitement lost warmth, and went out like a winter sun at noon or a
match lighted before the candle is handy.

Lord Ormont continued to be a subject of discussion from time to time,
for he was a name in the newspapers; and Mr. Shalders had been worked
by Matey Weyburn into a state of raw antagonism at the mention of the
gallant General; he could not avoid sitting in judgement on him.

According to Mr. Shalders, the opinion of all thoughtful people in
England was with John Company and the better part of the Press to
condemn Lord Ormont in his quarrel with the Commissioner of one of the
Indian provinces, who had the support of the Governor of his Presidency
and of the Viceroy; the latter not unreservedly, yet ostensibly inclined
to condemn a too prompt military hand. The Gordian knot of a difficulty
cut is agreeable in the contemplation of an official chief hesitating
to use the sword and benefiting by having it done for him. Lord Ormont
certainly cut the knot.

Mr. Shalders was cornered by the boys, coming at him one after another
without a stop, vowing it was the exercise of a military judgement upon
a military question at a period of urgency, which had brought about
the quarrel with the Commissioner and the reproof of the Governor. He
betrayed the man completely cornered by generalizing. He said--

“We are a civilian people; we pride ourselves on having civilian
methods.”

“How can that be if we have won India with guns and swords?”

“But that splendid jewel for England’s tiara won,” said he (and he might
as well have said crown), “we are bound to sheathe the sword and govern
by the Book of the Law.”

“But if they won’t have the Book of the Law!”

“They knew the power behind it.”

“Not if we knock nothing harder than the Book of the Law upon their
skulls.”

“Happily for the country, England’s councils are not directed by boys!”

“Ah, but we’re speaking of India, Mr. Shalders.”

“You are presuming to speak of an act of insubordination committed by a
military officer under civilian command.”

“What if we find an influential prince engaged in conspiracy?”

“We look for proof.”

“Suppose we have good proof?”

“We summon him to exonerate himself.”

“No; we mount and ride straight away into his territory, spot the
treason, deport him, and rule in his place!”

It was all very well for Mr. Shalders to say he talked to boys; he was
cornered again, as his shrug confessed.

The boys asked among themselves whether he would have taken the same
view if his Murat had done it!

These illogical boys fought for Matey Weyburn in their defence of Lord
Ormont. Somewhere, they wee sure, old Matey was hammering to the same
end--they could hear him. Thought of him inspired them to unwonted
argumentative energy, that they might support his cause; and scatter
the gloomy prediction of the school, as going to the dogs now Matey had
left.

The subject provoked everywhere in Great Britain a division similar to
that between master and boys at Cuper’s establishment: one party for
our modern English magisterial methods with Indians, the other for the
decisive Oriental at the early time, to suit their native tastes;
and the Book of the Law is to be conciliatingly addressed to their
sentiments by a benign civilizing Power, or the sword is out smartly at
the hint of a warning to protect the sword’s conquests. Under one aspect
we appear potteringly European; under another, drunk of the East.

Lord Ormont’s ride at the head of two hundred horsemen across a stretch
of country including hill and forest, to fall like a bolt from the blue
on the suspected Prince in the midst of his gathering warriors, was a
handsome piece of daring, and the high-handed treatment of the Prince
was held by his advocates to be justified by the provocation, and the
result. He scattered an unprepared body of many hundreds, who might have
enveloped him, and who would presumptively have stood their ground, had
they not taken his handful to be the advance of regiments. These are the
deeds that win empires! the argument in his favour ran. Are they of a
character to maintain empires? the counter-question was urged. Men of
a deliberative aspect were not wanting in approval of the sharp and
summary of the sword in air when we have to deal with Indians. They
chose to regard it as a matter of the dealing with Indians, and put
aside the question of the contempt of civil authority.

Counting the cries, Lord Ormont won his case. Festival aldermen, smoking
clubmen, buckskin squires, obsequious yet privately excitable tradesmen,
sedentary coachmen and cabmen, of Viking descent, were set to think like
boys about him: and the boys, the women, and the poets formed a tipsy
chorea. Journalists, on the whole, were fairly halved, as regarded
numbers. In relation to weight, they were with the burgess and the
presbyter; they preponderated heavily in the direction of England’s
burgess view of all cases disputed between civilian and soldier. But
that was when the peril was over.

Admirers of Lord Ormont enjoyed a perusal of a letter addressed by him
to the burgess’s journal; and so did his detractors. The printing of it
was an act of editorial ruthlessness. The noble soldier had no mould in
his intellectual or educational foundry for the casting of sentences;
and the editor’s leading type to the letter, without further notice
of the writer--who was given a prominent place or scaffolding for
the execution of himself publicly, if it pleased him to do that
thing--tickled the critical mind. Lord Ormont wrote intemperately.

His Titanic hurling of blocks against critics did no harm to an enemy
skilled in the use of trimmer weapons, notably the fine one of letting
big missiles rebound. He wrote from India, with Indian heat--“curry and
capsicums,” it was remarked. He dared to claim the countenance of the
Commander-in-chief of the Army of India for an act disapproved by the
India House. Other letters might be on their way, curryer than the
preceding, his friends feared; and might also be malevolently printed,
similarly commissioning the reverberation of them to belabour his name
before the public. Admirers were still prepared to admire; but aldermen
not at the feast, squire-archs not in the saddle or at the bottle, some
few of the juvenile and female fervent, were becoming susceptible to a
frosty critical tone in the public pronunciation of Lord Ormont’s name
since the printing of his letter and the letters it called forth. None
of them doubted that his case was good. The doubt concerned the effect
on it of his manner of pleading it. And if he damaged his case, he
compromised his admirers. Why, the case of a man who has cleverly won
a bold stroke for his country must be good, as long as he holds his
tongue. A grateful country will right him in the end: he has only to
wait, and not so very long. “This I did: now examine it.” Nothing more
needed to be said by him, if that.

True, he has a temper. It is owned that he is a hero. We take him with
his qualities, impetuosity being one, and not unsuited to his arm of the
service, as he has shown. If his temper is high, it is an element of a
character proved heroical. So has the sun his blotches, and we believe
that they go to nourish the luminary, rather than that they are a
disease of the photosphere.

Lord Ormont’s apologists had to contend with anecdotes and dicta now
pouring in from offended Britons, for illustration of an impetuosity
fit to make another Charley XII. of Sweden--a gratuitous Coriolanus
haughtiness as well, new among a people accustomed socially to bow
the head to their nobles, and not, of late, expecting a kick for their
pains. Newspapers wrote of him that, “a martinet to subordinates, he
was known for the most unruly of lieutenants.” They alluded to current
sayings, as that he “habitually took counsel of his horse on the field
when a movement was entrusted to his discretion.” Numerous were the
journalistic sentences running under an air of eulogy of the lordly
warrior purposely to be tripped, and producing their damnable effect,
despite the obvious artifice. The writer of the letter from Bombay,
signed Ormont, was a born subject for the antithetical craftsmen’s
tricky springes.

He was, additionally, of infamous repute for morale in burgess
estimation, from his having a keen appreciation of female beauty and
a prickly sense of masculine honour. The stir to his name roused
pestilential domestic stories. In those days the aristocrat still
claimed licence, and eminent soldier-nobles, comporting themselves as
imitative servants of their god Mars, on the fields of love and war,
stood necessarily prepared to vindicate their conduct as the field of
the measured paces, without deeming themselves bounden to defend the
course they took. Our burgess, who bowed head to his aristocrat,
and hired the soldier to fight for him, could not see that such
mis-behaviour necessarily ensued. Lord Ormont had fought duels at home
and abroad. His readiness to fight again, and against odds, and with a
totally unused weapon, was exhibited by his attack on the Press in the
columns of the Press. It wore the comical face to the friends deploring
it, which belongs to things we do that are so very like us. They agreed
with his devoted sister, Lady Charlotte Eglett, as to the prudence of
keeping him out of England for a time, if possible.

At the first perusal of the letter, Lady Charlotte quitted her place
in Leicestershire, husband, horses, guests, the hunt, to scour across a
vacant London and pick up acquaintances under stress to be spots there
in the hunting season, with them to gossip for counsel on the subject
of “Ormont’s hand-grenade,” and how to stop and extinguish a second.
She was a person given to plain speech. “Stinkpot” she called it, when
acknowledging foul elements in the composition and the harm it did to
the unskilful balist. Her view of the burgess English imaged a mighty
monster behind bars, to whom we offer anything but our hand. As soon as
he gets held of that he has you; he won’t let it loose with flesh on the
bones. We must offend him--we can’t be man or woman without offending
his tastes and his worships; but while we keep from contact (i.e.
intercommunication) he may growl, he is harmless. Witness the many
occasions when her brother offended worse, and had been unworried, only
growled at, and distantly, not in a way to rouse concern; and at the
neat review, or procession into the City, or public display of any
sort, Ormont had but to show himself, he was the popular favourite
immediately. He had not committed the folly of writing a letter to a
newspaper then.

Lady Charlotte paid an early visit to the office of the great London
solicitor, Arthur Abner, who wielded the law as an instrument of
protection for countless illustrious people afflicted by what they stir
or attract in a wealthy metropolis. She went simply to gossip of her
brother’s affairs with a refreshing man of the world, not given to
circumlocutions, and not afraid of her: she had no deeper object; but
fancying she heard the clerk, on his jump from the stool, inform
her that Mr. Abner was out, “Out?” she cried, and rattled the room,
thumping, under knitted brows. “Out of town?” For a man of business
taking holidays, when a lady craves for gossip, disappointed her faith
in him as cruelly as the shut-up, empty inn the broken hunter knocking
at a hollow door miles off home.

Mr. Abner, hatted and gloved and smiling, came forth. “Going out, the
man meant, Lady Charlotte. At your service for five minutes.”

She complimented his acuteness, in the remark, “You see I’ve only come
to chat,” and entered his room.

He led her to her theme: “The excitement is pretty well over.”

“My brother’s my chief care--always was. I’m afraid he’ll be
pitchforking at it again, and we shall have another blast. That letter
ought never to have been printed. That editor deserves the horsewhip
for letting it appear. If he prints a second one I shall treat him as a
personal enemy.”

“Better make a friend of him.”

“How?”

“Meet him at my table.”

She jumped an illumined half-about on her chair. “So I will, then. What
are the creature’s tastes?”

“Hunts, does he?” The editor rose in her mind from the state of neuter
to something of a man. “I recollect an article in that paper on the
Ormont duel. I hate duelling, but I side with my brother. I had to
laugh, though. Luckily, there’s no woman on hand at present, as far as
I know. Ormont’s not likely to be hooked by garrison women or blacks.
Those coloured women--some of ours too--send the nose to the clouds;
not a bad sign for health. And there are men like that old Cardinal
Guicciardini tells of... hum! Ormont’s not one of them. I hope
he’ll stay in India till this blows over, or I shall be hearing of
provocations.”

“You have seen the Duke?”

She nodded. Her reserve was a summary of the interview. “Kind, as he
always is,” she said. “Ormont has no chance of employment unless there’s
a European war. They can’t overlook him in case of war. He’ll have to
pray for that.”

“Let us hope we shan’t get it.”

“My wish; but I have to think of my brother. If he’s in England with
no employment, he’s in a mess with women and men both. He kicks if he’s
laid aside to rust. He has a big heart. That’s what I said: all he wants
is to serve his country. If you won’t have war, give him Gibraltar or
Malta, or command of one of our military districts. The South-eastern
‘ll be vacant soon. He’d like to be Constable of the Castle, and have an
eye on France.”

“I think he’s fond of the French?”

“Loves the French. Expects to have to fight them all the same. He loves
his country best. Here’s the man everybody’s abusing!”

“I demur, my lady. I was dining the other day with a client of mine, and
a youngster was present who spoke of Lord Ormont in a way I should like
you to have heard. He seemed to know the whole of Lord Ormont’s career,
from the time of the ride to Paraguay up to the capture of the plotting
Rajah. He carried the table.”

“Good boy! We must turn to the boys for justice, then. Name your day for
this man, this editor.”

“I will see him. You shall have the day to-night.”

Lady Charlotte and the editor met. She was racy, he anecdotal. Stag,
fox, and hare ran before them, over fields and through drawing-rooms:
the scent was rich. They found that they could talk to one another
as they thought; that he was not the Isle-bound burgess, nor she the
postured English great lady; and they exchanged salt, without which your
current scandal is of exhausted savour. They enjoyed the peculiar novel
relish of it, coming from a social pressman and a dame of high society.
The different hemispheres became known as one sphere to these birds of
broad wing convening in the upper blue above a quartered carcase earth.

A week later a letter, the envelope of a bulky letter in Lord Ormont’s
handwriting, reached Lady Charlotte. There was a line from the editor:

   “Would it please your ladyship to have this printed?”

She read the letter, and replied:

   “Come to me for six days; you shall have the best mount in the
   county.”

An editor devoid of malice might probably have forborne to print a
letter that appealed to Lady Charlotte, or touched her sensations, as
if a glimpse of the moon, on the homeward ride in winter on a nodding
horse, had suddenly bared to view a precipitous quarry within two steps.
There is no knowing: few men can forbear to tell a spicy story of
their friends; and an editor, to whom an exhibition of the immensely
preposterous on the part of one writing arrogantly must be provocative,
would feel the interests of his Journal, not to speak of the claims
of readers, pluck at him when he meditated the consignment of such a
precious composition to extinction. Lady Charlotte withheld a sight of
the letter from Mr. Eglett. She laid it in her desk, understanding well
that it was a laugh lost to the world. Poets could reasonably feign it
to shake the desk inclosing it. She had a strong sense of humour; her
mind reverted to the desk in a way to make her lips shut grimly. She
sided with her brother.

Only pen in hand did he lay himself open to the enemy. In his personal
intercourse he was the last of men to be taken at a disadvantage. Lady
Charlotte was brought round to the distasteful idea of some help coming
from a legitimate adjunct at his elbow: a restraining woman--wife, it
had to be said. And to name the word wife for Thomas Rowsley, Earl of
Ormont, put up the porcupine quills she bristled with at the survey of
a sex thirsting, and likely to continue thirsting, for such honour. What
woman had she known fit to bear the name? She had assumed the judicial
seat upon the pretensions of several, and dismissed them to their limbo,
after testifying against them. Who is to know the fit one in these mines
of deception? Women of the class offering wives decline to be taken on
trial; they are boxes of puzzles--often dire surprises. Her brother
knew them well enough to shy at the box. Her brother Rowsley had a funny
pride, like a boy at a game, at the never having been caught by one
among the many he made captive. She let him have it all to himself.

He boasted it to a sister sharing the pride exultant in the cry of
the hawk, scornful of ambitions poultry, a passed finger-post to the
plucked, and really regretful that no woman had been created fit
for him. When she was not aiding with her brother, women, however
contemptible for their weakness, appeared to her as better than
barn-door fowl, or vermin in their multitudes gnawing to get at the
cheese-trap. She could be humane, even sisterly, with women whose
conduct or prattle did not outrage plain sense, just as the stickler
for the privileges of her class was large-heartedly charitable to the
classes flowing in oily orderliness round about below it--if they did so
flow. Unable to read woman’s character, except upon the broadest lines
as it were the spider’s main threads of its web, she read men minutely,
from the fact that they were neither mysteries nor terrors to her; but
creatures of importunate appetites, humorous objects; very manageable,
if we leave the road to their muscles, dress their wounds, smoothe their
creases, plume their vanity; and she had an unerring eye for the man
to be used when a blow was needed, methods for setting him in action
likewise. She knew how much stronger than ordinary men the woman who can
put them in motion. They can be set to serve as pieces of cannon, under
compliments on their superior powers, which were not all undervalued by
her on their own merits, for she worshipped strength. But the said,
with a certain amount of truth, that the women unaware of the advantage
Society gave them (as to mastering men) were fools.

Tender, is not a word coming near to Lady Charlotte. Thoughtful on
behalf of the poor foolish victims of men she was. She had saved some,
avenged others. It should be stated, that her notion of saving was the
saving of them from the public: she had thrown up a screen. The saving
of them from themselves was another matter--hopeless, to her thinking.
How preach at a creature on the bend of passion’s rapids! One might as
well read a chapter from the Bible to delirious patients. When once a
woman is taken with the love-passion, we must treat her as bitten;
hide her antics from the public: that is the principal business. If she
recovers, she resumes her place, and horrid old Nature, who drove her
to the frenzy, is unlikely to bother or, at least, overthrow her
again, unless she is one of the detestable wantons, past compassion or
consideration. In the case reviewed, the woman has gone through fire,
and is none the worse for her experiences: worth ten times what she was,
to an honest man, if men could be got to see it. Some do. Of those men
who do not, Lady Charlotte spoke with the old family-nurse humour, which
is familiar with the tricks and frailties of the infants; and it is
a knife to probe the male, while seemingly it does the part of the
napkin--pities and pats. They expect a return of much for the little
that is next to nothing. They are fall of expectations: and of what
else? They are hard bargainers.

She thought this of men; and she liked men by choice. She had old
nurse’s preference for the lustier male child. The others are puling
things, easier to rear, because they bend better; and less esteemed,
though they give less trouble, rouse less care. But when it came to the
duel between the man and the woman, her sense of justice was moved to
join her with the party of her unfairly handled sisters--a strong party,
if it were not so cowardly, she had to think.

Mr. Eglett, her husband, accepted her--accepted the position into which
he naturally fell beside her, and the ideas she imposed on him; for she
never went counter to his principles. These were the fixed principles of
a very wealthy man, who abhorred debt, and was punctilious in veracity,
scrupulous in cleanliness of mind and body, devoted to the honour of
his country, the interests of his class. She respected the high landmark
possessing such principles; and she was therefore enabled to lead
without the wish to rule. As it had been between them at the beginning,
so it was now, when they were grandparents running on three lines of
progeny from two daughters and a son: they were excellent friends.
Few couples can say more. The union was good English grey--that of a
prolonged November, to which we are reconciled by occasions for the hunt
and the gun. She was, nevertheless, an impassioned woman. The feeling
for her brother helped to satisfy her heart’s fires, though as little
with her brother as with her husband was she demonstrative. Lord Ormont
disrelished the caresses of relatives.

She, for her part, had so strong a sympathy on behalf of poor gentlemen
reduced to submit to any but a young woman’s hug, that when, bronzed
from India, he quitted the carriage and mounted her steps at Olmer, the
desire to fling herself on his neck and breast took form in the words:
“Here you are home again, Rowsley; glad to have you.” They shook hands
firmly.

He remained three days at Olmer. His temper was mild, his frame of mind
bad as could be. Angry evaporations had left a residuum of solid scorn
for these “English,” who rewarded soldierly services as though it were a
question of damaged packages of calico. He threatened to take the
first offer of a foreign State “not in insurrection.” But clear sky was
overhead. He was the Rowsley of the old boyish delight in field sports,
reminiscences of prowlings and trappings in the woods, gropings along
water-banks, enjoyment of racy gossip. He spoke wrathfully of “one
of their newspapers” which steadily persisted in withholding from
publication every letter he wrote to it, after printing the first. And
if it printed one, why not the others?

Lady Charlotte put it on the quaintness of editors.

He had found in London, perhaps, reason for saying that he should
do well to be “out of this country” as early as he could; adding,
presently, that he meant to go, though “it broke his heart to keep away
from a six months’ rest at Steignton,” his Wiltshire estate.

No woman was in the field. Lady Charlotte could have submitted to the
intrusion of one of those at times wholesome victims, for the sake of
the mollification the unhappy proud thing might bring to a hero smarting
under injustice at the hands of chiefs and authorities.

He passed on to Steignton, returned to London, and left England for
Spain, as he wrote word, saying he hoped to settle at Steignton neat
year. He was absent the next year, and longer. Lady Charlotte had the
surprising news that Steignton was let, shooting and all, for five
years; and he had no appointment out of England or at home. When he
came to Olmer again he was under one of his fits of reserve, best
undisturbed. Her sympathy with a great soldier snubbed, an active man
rusting, kept her from remonstrance.

Three years later she was made meditative by the discovery of a woman’s
being absolutely in the field, mistress of the field; and having been
there for a considerable period, dating from about the time when he
turned his back on England to visit a comrade-in-arms condemned by the
doctors to pass the winter in Malaga; and it was a young woman, a girl
in her teens, a handsome girl. Handsome was to be expected; Ormont
bargained for beauty. But report said the girl was very handsome, and
showed breeding: she seemed a foreigner, walked like a Goddess, sat her
horse the perfect Amazon. Rumour called her a Spaniard.

“Not if she rides!” Lady Charlotte cut that short.

Rumour had subsequently more to say. The reporter in her ear did not
confirm it, and she was resolutely deaf to a story incredible of her
brother--the man, of all men living, proudest of his name, blood,
station. So proud was he by nature, too, that he disdained to complain
of rank injustice; he maintained a cheerful front against adversity and
obloquy. And this man of complete self-command, who has every form of
noble pride, gets cajoled like a twenty-year-old yahoo at college! Do
you imagine it? To suppose of a man cherishing the name of Ormont, that
he would bestow it legally on a woman, a stranger, and imperil his race
by mixing blood with a creature of unknown lineage, was--why, of course,
it was to suppose him struck mad, and there never had been madness among
the Ormonts: they were too careful of the purity of the strain. Lady
Charlotte talked. She was excited, and ran her sentences to blanks,
a cunning way for ministering consolation to her hearing, where the
sentence intended a question, and the blank ending caught up the query
tone and carried it dwindling away to the most distant of throttled
interrogatives. She had, in this manner, only to ask,--her hearing
received the comforting answer it desired; for she could take that thin
far sound as a travelling laughter of incredulity, triumphant derision.

This meant to her--though she scarcely knew it, though the most wilful
of women declined to know it--a state of alarm. She had said of her
brother in past days that he would have his time of danger after
striking sixty. The dangerous person was to be young.

But, then, Ormont had high principles with regard to the dues to his
family. His principles could always be trusted. The dangerous young
person would have to be a person of lineage, of a certain station at
least: no need for a titled woman, only for warranted good blood. Is
that to be found certificated out of the rolls of Society? It may
just possibly be found, without certificate, however, in those muddled
caverns where the excluded intermingle. Here and there, in a peasant
family, or a small country tradesman’s just raised above a peasant,
honest regenerating blood will be found. Nobles wanting refreshment from
the soil might do worse than try a slip of one of those juicy weeds;
ill-fated, sickly Royalties would be set-up striding through another
half-century with such invigoration, if it could be done for them!
There are tales. The tales are honourably discredited by the crazy
constitutions of the heirs to the diadem.

Yes, but we are speculating on the matter seriously, as though it were
one of intimate concern to the family. What is there to make us think
that Ormont would marry? Impossible to imagine him intimidated. Unlikely
that he, a practised reader of women, having so little of the woman in
him, would be melted by a wily girl; as women in the twilight situation
have often played the trick to come into the bright beams. How? They do
a desperate thing, and call it generosity, and then they appeal from
it to my lord’s generosity; and so the two generosities drive off in
a close carriage with a friend and a professional landlady for the
blessing of the parson, and are legitimately united. Women have won
round fools to give way in that way. And quite right too! thought Lady
Charlotte, siding with nature and justice, as she reflected that no
woman created would win round her brother to give way in that way. He
was too acute. The moment the woman showed sign of becoming an actress,
her doom was written. “Poor idiot!” was not uncharitably inscribed by
the sisterly lady on the tombstone of hopes aimed with scarce pardonable
ambition at her brother.

She blew away the rumour. Ormont, she vowed, had not entitled any woman
to share and bear his title. And this was her interpretation of the
report: he permitted (if he did permit) the woman to take his name, that
he might have a scornful fling at the world maltreating him. Besides,
the name was not published, it was not to be seen in the papers; it
passed merely among male friends, tradesmen, servants: no great harm in
that.

Listen further. Here is an unknown girl: why should he marry her? A girl
consenting to the place beside a man of his handsome ripe age, is either
bought, or she is madly enamoured; she does not dictate terms. Ormont
is not of the brute buyers in that market. One sees it is the girl who
leads the dance. A girl is rarely so madly enamoured as when she falls
in love with her grandfather; she pitches herself at his head. This
had not happened for the first time in Ormont’s case; and he had never
proposed marriage. Why should he do it now?

But again, if the girl has breeding to some extent, he might think it
her due that she should pass under the safeguard of his name, out of
sight.

Then, so far the report is trustworthy. We blow the rumour out of
belief. A young woman there is: she is not a wife. Lady Charlotte
allowed her the fairly respectable post of Hecate of the Shades, as long
as the girl was no pretender to the place and name in the upper sphere.
Her deductions were plausible, convincing to friends shaken by her
vehement manner of coming at them. She convinced herself by means of her
multitude of reasons for not pursuing inquiry. Her brother said nothing.
There was no need for him to speak. He seemed on one or two occasions in
the act of getting himself together for the communication of a secret;
and she made ready to listen hard, with ears, eyebrows, shut month, and
a gleam at the back of her eyes, for a signification of something she
would refer him to after he had spoken. He looked at her and held his
peace, or virtually held it,--that is, he said not one word on the
subject she was to have told him she had anticipated. Lady Charlotte
ascribed it to his recollection of the quick blusher, the pained
blusher, she was in her girlhood at mention or print of the story of men
and women. Who, not having known her, could conceive it! But who could
conceive that, behind the positive, plain-dealing, downright woman
of the world, there was at times, when a nerve was touched or an old
blocked path of imagination thrown open, a sensitive youthfulness; still
quick to blush as far as the skin of a grandmother matron might show it!



CHAPTER III. THE TUTOR

There was no counting now on Lord Ormont’s presence in the British
gathering seasons, when wheatears wing across our fields or swallows
return to their eaves. He forsook the hunt to roam the Continent, one
of the vulgar band of tourists, honouring town only when Mayflies had
flown, and London’s indiscriminate people went about without their
volatile heads.

Lady Charlotte put these changed conditions upon the behaviour of the
military authorities to her brother, saying that the wonder was he did
not shake the dust of his country from his feet. In her wise head she
rejoiced to think he was not the donkey she sketched for admiration; and
she was partly consoled, or played at the taking of a comfort needed in
her perpetual struggle with a phantom of a fact, by the reflection that
a young woman on his arm would tense him to feel himself more at home
abroad. Her mind’s habit of living warmly beside him in separation was
vexed by the fixed intrusion of a female third person, who checked the
run of intimate chatter, especially damped the fancied talk over early
days--of which the creature was ignorant; and her propinquity to him
arrested or broke the dialogue Lady Charlotte invented and pressed to
renew. But a wife, while letting him be seen, would have insisted on
appropriating the thought of him--all his days, past as well as present.
An impassioned sister’s jealousy preferred that it should not be a wife
reigning to dispute her share of her brother in imagination.

Then came a rumour, telling of him as engaged upon the composition of
his Memoirs.

Lady Charlotte’s impulsive outcry: “Writing them?” signified her grounds
for alarm.

Happily, Memoirs are not among the silly deeds done in a moment; they
were somewhere ahead and over the hills: a band of brigands rather than
a homely shining mansion, it was true; but distant; and a principal
question shrieked to know whether he was composing them for publication.
She could look forward with a girl’s pleasure to the perusal of them
in manuscript, in a woody nook, in a fervour of partizanship, easily
avoiding sight of errors, grammatical or moral. She chafed at the
possible printing and publishing of them. That would be equivalent to an
exhibition of him clean-stripped for a run across London--brilliant in
himself, spotty in the offence. Published Memoirs indicate the end of
a man’s activity, and that he acknowledges the end; and at a period of
Lord Ormont’s life when the denial of it should thunder. They are his
final chapter, making mummy of the grand figure they wrap in the printed
stuff. They are virtually his apology. Can those knowing Lord Ormont
hear him apologize? But it is a craven apology if we stoop to expound:
we are seen as pleading our case before the public. Call it by any
name you please, and under any attitude, it is that. And set aside the
writing: it may be perfect; the act is the degradation. It is a rousing
of swarms. His friends and the public will see the proudest nobleman
of his day, pleading his case in mangled English, in the headlong of an
out-poured, undrilled, rabble vocabulary, doubling the ridicule by
his imperturbability over the ridicule he excites: he who is no more
ridiculous, cried the partizan sister, conjuring up the scene, not an
ace more ridiculous, than a judge of assize calling himself miserable
sinner on Sunday before the parson, after he has very properly condemned
half a score of weekday miserable sinners to penal servitude or the
rope. Nobody laughs at the judge. Everybody will be laughing at the
scornful man down half-way to his knee-cape with a stutter of an apology
for having done his duty to his country, after stigmatizing numbers for
inability or ill-will to do it. But Ormont’s weapon is the sword, not a
pen! Lady Charlotte hunted her simile till the dogs had it or it ran to
earth.

She struck at the conclusion, that the young woman had been persuading
him. An adoring young woman is the person to imagine and induce to the
commission of such folly. “What do you think? You have seen her, you
say?” she asked of a man she welcomed for his flavour of the worldling’s
fine bile.

Lord Adderwood made answer: “She may be having a hand in it. She
worships, and that is your way of pulling gods to the ground.”

“Does she understand good English?”

“Speaks it.”

“Can she write?”

“I have never had a letter from her.”

“You tell me Morsfield admires the woman--would marry her to-morrow, if
he could get her.”

“He would go through the ceremony Ormont has performed, I do not doubt.”

“I don’t doubt all of you are ready. She doesn’t encourage one?”

“On the contrary, all.”

“She’s clever. This has been going on for now seven years, and, as far
as I know, she has my brother fast.”

“She may have done the clever trick of having him fast from the
beginning.”

“She’d like people to think it.”

“She has an aunt to advertise it.”

“Ormont can’t swallow the woman, I’m told.”

“Trying, if one is bound to get her down!”

“Boasts of the connection everywhere she’s admitted, Randeller says.”

“Randeller procures the admission to various parti-coloured places.”

“She must be a blinking moll-owl! And I ask any sane Christian or
Pagan--proof enough!--would my brother Rowsley let his wife visit those
places, those people? Monstrous to have the suspicion that he would, you
know him! Mrs. Lawrence Finchley, for example. I say nothing to hurt the
poor woman; I back her against her imbecile of a husband. He brings a
charge he can’t support; she punishes him by taking three years’ lease
of independence and kicks up the grass all over the paddock, and then
comes cuckoo, barking his name abroad to have her home again. You can
win the shyest filly to corn at last. She goes, and he digests ruefully
the hotch-potch of a dish the woman brings him. Only the world spies a
side-head at her, husbanded or not, though the main fault was his, and
she had a right to insist that he should be sure of his charge before
he smacked her in the face with it before the world. In dealing with
a woman, a man commonly prudent--put aside chivalry, justice, and the
rest--should bind himself to disbelieve what he can’t prove. Otherwise,
let him expect his whipping, with or without ornament. My opinion is,
Lawrence Finchley had no solid foundation for his charge, except his
being an imbecile. She wasn’t one of the adventurous women to jump the
bars,--the gate had to be pushed open, and he did it. There she is; and
I ask you, would my brother Rowsley let his wife be intimate with her?
And there are others. And, sauf votre respect, the men--Morsfield for
one, Randeller another!”

“They have a wholesome dread of the lion.”

“If they smell a chance with the lion’s bone--it’s the sweeter for being
the lion’s. These metaphors carry us off our ground. I must let these
Ormont Memoirs run and upset him, if they get to print. I’ve only to
oppose, printed they’ll be. The same if I say a word of this woman, he
marries her to-morrow morning. You speak of my driving men. Why can’t I
drive Ormont? Because I’m too fond of him. There you have the secret of
the subjection of women: they can hold their own, and a bit more, when
they’ve no enemy beating inside.”

“Hearts!--ah, well, it’s possible. I don’t say no; I’ve not discovered
them,” Lord Adderwood observed.

They are rarely discovered in the haunts he frequented.

Her allusion to Mrs. Lawrence Finchley rapped him smartly, and she
admired his impassiveness under the stroke. Such a spectacle was one of
her pleasures.

Lady Charlotte mentioned incidentally her want of a tutor for her
grandson Leo during the winter holidays. He suggested an application
to the clergyman of her parish. She was at feud with the Rev. Stephen
Hampton-Evey, and would not take, she said, a man to be a bootblack
in her backyard or a woman a scullery-wench in her kitchen upon his
recommendation. She described the person of Mr. Hampton-Evey, his manner
of speech, general opinions, professional doctrines; rolled him into a
ball and bowled him, with a shrug for lamentation, over the decay of the
good old order of manly English Protestant clergymen, who drank their
port, bothered nobody about belief, abstained from preaching their
sermon, if requested; were capital fellows in the hunting-field, too;
for if they came, they had the spur to hunt in the devil’s despite.
Now we are going to have a kind of bitter, clawed, forked female, in
vestments over breeches. “How do you like that bundling of the sexes?”

Lord Adderwood liked the lines of division to be strictly and invitingly
definite. He was thinking, as he reviewed the frittered appearance
of the Rev. Stephen Hampton-Evey in Lady Charlotte’s hinds, of the
possibility that Lord Ormont, who was reputed to fear nobody, feared
her. In which case, the handsome young woman passing among his
associates as the pseudo Lady Ormont might be the real one after all,
and Isabella Lawrence Finchley prove right in the warning she gave to
dogs of chase.

The tutor required by Lady Charlotte was found for her by Mr. Abner.
Their correspondence on the subject filled the space of a week, and then
the gentleman hired to drive a creaky wheel came down from London to
Olmer, arriving late in the evening.

Lady Charlotte’s blunt “Oh!” when he entered her room and bowed upon the
announcement of his name, was caused by an instantaneous perception and
refection that it would be prudent to keep her grand-daughter Philippa,
aged between seventeen and eighteen, out of his way.

“You are friend of Mr. Abner’s, are you?”

He was not disconcerted. He replied, in an assured and pleasant voice,
“I have hardly the pretension to be called a friend, madam.”

“Are you a Jew?”

Her abruptness knocked something like a laugh almost out of him, but he
restrained the signs of it.

“I am not.”

“You wouldn’t be ashamed to tell me you were one if you were?”

“Not at all.”

“You like the Jews?”

“Those I know I like.”

“Not many Christians have the good sense and the good heart of Arthur
Abner. Now go and eat. Come back to me when you’ve done. I hope you are
hungry. Ask the butler for the wine you prefer.”

She had not anticipated the enrolment in her household of a man so young
and good-looking. These were qualifications for Cupid’s business, which
his unstrained self-possession accentuated to a note of danger to her
chicks, because she liked the taste of him. Her grand-daughter Philippa
was in the girl’s waxen age; another, Beatrice, was coming to it. Both
were under her care; and she was a vigilant woman, with an intuition
and a knowledge of sex. She did not blame Arthur Abner for sending her
a good-looking young man; she had only a general idea that tutors in a
house, and even visiting tutors, should smell of dust and wear a snuffy
appearance. The conditions will not always insure the tutors from
foolishness, as her girl’s experience reminded her, but they protect the
girl.

“Your name is Weyburn; your father was an officer in the army, killed
on the battle-field, Arthur Abner tells me,” was her somewhat
severely-toned greeting to the young tutor on his presenting himself the
second time.

It had the sound of the preliminary of an indictment read in a Court of
Law.

“My father died of his wounds in hospital,” he said.

“Why did you not enter the service?”

“Want of an income, my lady.”

“Bad look-out. Army or Navy for gentlemen, if they stick to the school
of honour. The sedentary professions corrupt men: bad for the blood.
Those monastery monks found that out. They had to birch the devil out of
them three times a day and half the night, howling like full-moon dogs
all through their lives, till the flesh was off them. That was their
exercise, if they were for holiness. My brother, Lord Ormont, has never
been still in his youth or his manhood. See him now. He counts his years
by scores; and he has about as many wrinkles as you when you’re smiling.
His cheeks are as red as yours now you’re blushing. You ought to have
left off that trick by this time. It’s well enough in a boy.”

Against her will she was drawn to the young man, and her consciousness
of it plucked her back to caution with occasional jerks--quaint
alternations of the familiar and the harshly formal, in the stranger’s
experience.

“If I have your permission, Lady Charlotte,” said he, “the reason why I
mount red a little--if I do it--is, you mention Lord Ormont, and I have
followed his career since I was the youngest of boys.”

“Good to begin with the worship of a hero. He can’t sham, can’t
deceive--not even a woman; and you’re old enough to understand the
temptation: they’re so silly. All the more, it’s a point of honour with
a man of honour to shield her from herself. When it’s a girl--”

The young man’s eyebrows bent.

“Chapters of stories, if you want to hear them,” she resumed; “and I can
vouch some of them true. Lord Ormont was never one of the wolves in a
hood. Whatever you hear of him; you may be sure he laid no trap. He’s
just the opposite to the hypocrite; so hypocrites date him. I’ve heard
them called high-priests of decency. Then we choose to be indecent
and honest, if there’s a God to worship. Fear, they’re in the habit of
saying--we are to fear God. A man here, a Rev. Hampton-Evey, you’ll hear
him harp on ‘fear God.’ Hypocrites may: honest sinners have no fear. And
see the cause: they don’t deceive themselves--that is why. Do you think
we call love what we fear? They love God, or they disbelieve. And if
they believe in Him, they know they can’t conceal anything from Him.
Honesty means piety: we can’t be one without the other. And here are
people--parsons--who talk of dying as going into the presence of our
Maker, as if He had been all the while outside the world He created.
Those parsons, I told the Rev. Hampton-Evey here, make infidels--they
make a puzzle of their God. I’m for a rational Deity. They preach up a
supernatural eccentric. I don’t say all: I’ve heard good sermons, and
met sound-headed clergymen--not like that gaping Hampton-Evey, when
a woman tells him she thinks for herself. We have him sitting on our
pariah. A free-thinker startles him as a kind of demon; but a female
free-thinker is one of Satan’s concubines. He took it upon himself to
reproach me--flung his glove at my feet, because I sent a cheque to a
poor man punished for blasphemy. The man had the right to his opinions,
and he had the courage of his opinions. I doubt whether the Rev.
Hampton-Evey would go with a willing heart to prison for his. All the
better for him if he comes head-up out of a trial. But now see: all
these parsons and judges and mobcaps insist upon conformity. A man with
common manly courage comes before them, and he’s cast in penalties.
Yet we know from history, in England, France, Germany, that the time
of nonconformity brought out the manhood of the nation. Now, I say, a
nation, to be a nation, must have men--I mean brave men. That’s what
those hosts of female men combine to try to stifle. They won’t succeed,
but we shall want a war to teach the country the value of courage. You
catch what I am driving at? They accuse my brother of immorality because
he makes no pretence to be better than the men of his class.”

Weyburn’s eyelids fluttered. Her kite-like ascent into the general, with
the sudden drop on her choice morsel, switched his humour at the moment
when he was respectfully considering that her dartings and gyrations had
motive as mach as the flight of the swallow for food. They had meaning;
and here was one of the great ladies of the land who thought for
herself, and was thoughtful for the country. If she came down like a
bird winged, it was her love of her brother that did it. His look at
Lady Charlotte glistened.

She raised her defences against the basilisk fascinating Philippa;
and with a vow to keep them apart and deprive him of his chance, she
relapsed upon the stiff frigidity which was not natural to her. It
lasted long enough to put him on his guard under the seductions of a
noble dame’s condescension to a familiar tone. But, as he was too well
bred to show the change in his mind for her change of manner, and as she
was the sister of his boyhood’s hero, and could be full of flavour, his
eyes retained something of their sparkle. They were ready to lighten
again, in the way peculiar to him, when she, quite forgetting her
defence of Philippa, disburdened herself of her antagonisms and
enthusiasms, her hates and her loves all round the neighbourhood and
over the world, won to confidential communication by this young man’s
face. She confessed as much, had he been guided to perceive it. She
said, “Arthur Abner’s a reader of men: I can trust his word about them.”

Presently, it is true, she added: “No man’s to be relied upon where
there’s a woman.” She refused her implicit trust to saints--“if ever a
man really was a saint before he was canonized!”

Her penetrative instinct of sex kindled the scepticism. Sex she saw
at play everywhere, dogging the conduct of affairs, directing them at
times; she saw it as the animation of nature, senselessly stigmatized,
hypocritically concealed, active in our thoughts where not in our deeds;
and the declining of the decorous to see it, or admit the sight, got
them abhorred bad names from her, after a touch at the deadly poison
coming of that blindness, or blindfoldedness, and a grimly melancholy
shrug over the cruelties resulting--cruelties chiefly affecting women.

“You’re too young to have thought upon such matters,” she said, for a
finish to them.

That was hardly true.

“I have thought,” said Weyburn, and his head fell to reckoning of the
small sum of his thoughts upon them.

He was pulled up instantly for close inspection by the judge. “What is
your age?”

“I am in my twenty-sixth year.”

“You have been among men: have you studied women?”

“Not largely, Lady Charlotte. Opportunity has been wanting at French and
German colleges.”

“It’s only a large and a close and a pretty long study of them that can
teach you anything; and you must get rid of the poetry about them, and
be sure you haven’t lost it altogether. That’s what is called the golden
mean. I’m not for the golden mean in every instance; it’s a way of
exhorting to brutal selfishness. I grant it’s the right way in those
questions. You’ll learn in time.” Her scanning gaze at the young man’s
face drove him along an avenue of his very possible chances of learning.
“Certain to. But don’t tell me that at your age you have thought about
women. You may say you have felt. A young man’s feelings about women are
better reading for him six or a dozen chapters farther on. Then he can
sift and strain. It won’t be perfectly clear, but it will do.”

Mr. Eglett hereupon threw the door open, and ushered in Master Leo.

Lady Charlotte noticed that the tutor shook the boy’s hand offhandedly,
with not a whit of the usual obtrusive geniality, and merely dropped him
a word. Soon after, he was talking to Mr. Eglett of games at home and
games abroad. Poor fun over there! We head the world in field games, at
all events. He drew a picture of a foreigner of his acquaintance looking
on at football. On the other hand, French boys and German, having passed
a year or two at an English school, get the liking for our games, and
do a lot of good when they go home. The things we learn from them are
to dance, to sing, and to study:--they are more in earnest than we about
study. They teach us at fencing too. The tutor praised fencing as an
exercise and an accomplishment. He had large reserves of eulogy for
boxing. He knew the qualities of the famous bruisers of the time, cited
fisty names, whose owners were then to be seen all over an admiring
land in prints; in the glorious defensive-offensive attitude, England’s
own--Touch me, if you dare! with bullish, or bull-dog, or oak-bole
fronts for the blow, handsome to pugilistic eyes.

The young tutor had lighted on a pet theme of Mr. Eglett’s--the
excelling virtues of the practice of pugilism in Old England, and the
school of honour that it is to our lower population. “Fifty times better
for them than cock-fighting,” he exclaimed, admitting that he could be
an interested spectator at a ring or the pit cock-fighting or ratting.

“Ratting seems to have more excuse,” the tutor said, and made no sign of
a liking for either of those popular pastimes. As he disapproved without
squeamishness, the impulsive but sharply critical woman close by nodded;
and she gave him his dues for being no courtier.

Leo had to be off to bed. The tutor spared him any struggle over
the shaking of hands, and saying, “Goodnight, Leo,” continued the
conversation. The boy went away, visibly relieved of the cramp that
seizes on a youngster at the formalities pertaining to these chilly and
fateful introductions.

“What do you think of the look of him?” Mr. Eglett asked.

The tutor had not appeared to inspect the boy. “Big head,” he remarked.
“Yes, Leo won’t want pushing at books when he’s once in harness. He
will have six weeks of me. It’s more than the yeomanry get for drill
per annum, and they’re expected to know something of a soldier’s duties.
There’s a chance of putting him on the right road in certain matters.
We’ll walk, or ride, or skate, if the frost holds to-morrow: no lessons
the first day.”

“Do as you think fit,” said lady Charlotte.

The one defect she saw in the tutor did not concern his pupil. And a
girl, if hit, would be unable to see that this tutor, judged as a man,
was to some extent despicable for accepting tutorships, and, one might
say, dishonouring the family of a soldier of rank and distinction,
by coming into houses at the back way, with footing enough to air his
graces when once established there. He ought to have knocked at every
door in the kingdom for help, rather than accept tutorships, and disturb
households (or providently-minded mistresses of them) with all sorts of
probably groundless apprehensions, founded naturally enough on the good
looks he intrudes.

This tutor committed the offence next day of showing he had a firm and
easy seat in the saddle, which increased Lady Charlotte’s liking for him
and irritated her watchful forecasts. She rode with the young man after
lunch, “to show him the country,” and gave him a taste of what he took
for her variable moods. He misjudged her. Like a swimmer going
through warm and cold springs of certain lake waters, he thought her a
capricious ladyship, dangerous for intimacy, alluring to the deeps and
gripping with cramps.

She pushed him to defend his choice of the tutor’s profession.

“Think you understand boys?” she caught up his words; “you can’t. You
can humour them, as you humour women. They’re just as hard to read. And
don’t tell me a young man can read women. Boys and women go on their
instincts. Egyptologists can spell you hieroglyphs; they’d be stumped,
as Leo would say, to read a spider out of an ink-pot over a sheet of
paper.”

“One gets to interpret by degrees, by observing their habits,” the tutor
said, and vexed her with a towering complacency under provocation that
went some way further to melt the woman she was, while her knowledge of
the softness warned her still more of the duty of playing dragon round
such a young man in her house. The despot is alert at every issue, to
every chance; and she was one, the wakefuller for being benevolent; her
mind had no sleep by day.

For a month she subjected Mr. Matthew Weyburn to the microscope of
her observation and the probe of her instinct. He proved that he could
manage without cajoling a boy. The practical fact established, by
agreement between herself and the unobservant gentleman who was her
husband, Lady Charlotte allowed her meditations to drop an indifferent
glance at the speculative views upon education entertained by this young
tutor. To her mind they were flighty; but she liked him, and as her
feelings dictated to her mind when she had not to think for others, she
spoke of his views toleratingly, almost with an implied approval, after
passing them through the form of burlesque to which she customarily
treated things failing to waft her enthusiasm. In regard to Philippa,
he behaved well: he bestowed more of his attention on Beatrice, nearer
Leo’s age, in talk about games and story-books and battles; nothing that
he did when the girls were present betrayed the strutting plumed cock,
bent to attract, or the sickly reptile, thirsty for a prize above him
and meaning to have it, like Satan in Eden. Still, of course, he could
not help his being a handsome fellow, having a vivid face and eyes
transparent, whether blue or green, to flame of the brain exciting them;
and that becomes a picture in the dream of girls--a picture creating the
dream often. And Philippa had asked her grandmother, very ingenuously
indeed, with a most natural candour, why “they saw so little of Leo’s
hero.” Simple female child!

However, there was no harm done, and Lady Charlotte liked him. She liked
few. Forthwith, in the manner of her particular head, a restless head,
she fell to work at combinations.

Thus:--he is a nice young fellow, well bred, no cringing courtier,
accomplished, good at classics, fairish at mathematics, a scholar in
French, German, Italian, with a shrewd knowledge of the different races,
and with sound English sentiment too, and the capacity for writing good
English, although in those views of his the ideas are unusual, therefore
un-English, profoundly so. But his intentions are patriotic; they would
not displease Lord Ormont. He has a worship of Lord Ormont. All we
can say on behalf of an untried inferior is in that,--only the valiant
admire devotedly. Well, he can write grammatical, readable English. What
if Lord Ormont were to take him as a secretary while the Memoirs are
in hand? He might help to chasten the sentences laughed at by those
newspapers. Or he might, being a terrible critic of writing, and funny
about styles, put it in an absurd light, that would cause the Memoirs
to be tossed into the fire. He was made for the post of secretary! The
young man’s good looks would be out of harm’s way then. If any sprig of
womankind come across him there, it will, at any rate, not be a girl.
Women must take care of themselves. Only the fools among them run to
mischief in the case of a handsome young fellow.

Supposing a certain woman to be one of the fools? Lady Charlotte merely
suggested it in the dashing current of her meditations--did not strike
it out interrogatively. The woman would be a fine specimen among her
class; that was all. For the favourite of Lord Ormont to stoop from
her place beside him--ay, but women do; heroes have had the woeful
experience of that fact. First we see them aiming themselves at their
hero; next they are shooting an eye at the handsome man. The thirst of
nature comes after that of their fancy, in conventional women. Sick of
the hero tried, tired of their place in the market, no longer ashamed to
acknowledge it, they begin to consult their own taste for beauty--they
have it quite as much as the men have it; and when their worshipped
figure of manliness, in a romantic sombrero, is a threadbare giant,
showing bruises, they sink on their inherent desire for a dance with the
handsome man. And the really handsome man is the most extraordinary of
the rarities. No wonder that when he appears he slays them, walks over
them like a pestilence!

This young Weyburn would touch the fancy of a woman of a romantic turn.
Supposing her enthusiastic in her worship of the hero, after a number
of years--for anything may be imagined where a woman is concerned--why,
another enthusiasm for the same object, and on the part of a stranger,
a stranger with effective eyes, rapidly leads to sympathy. Suppose the
reverse--the enthusiasm gone to dust, or become a wheezy old bellows, as
it does where there’s disparity of age, or it frequently does--then the
sympathy with a good-looking stranger comes more rapidly still.

These were Lady Charlotte’s glances right and left--idle flights of the
eye of a mounted Amazon across hedges at the canter along the main road
of her scheme; which was to do a service to the young man she liked
and to the brother she loved, for the marked advantage of both equally;
perhaps for the chance of a little gossip to follow about that tenacious
woman by whom her brother was held hard and fast, kept away from friends
and relatives, isolated, insomuch as to have given up living on his
estate--the old home!--because he would not disgrace it or incur odium
by taking her there.

In consequence of Lord Ormont’s resistance to pressure from her on two
or three occasions, she chose to nurse and be governed by the maxim for
herself: Never propose a plan to him, if you want it adopted. That was
her way of harmlessly solacing love’s vindictiveness for an injury.

She sent Arthur Abner a letter, thanking him for his recommendation of
young Mr. Weyburn, stating her benevolent wishes as regarded the young
man and “those hateful Memoirs,” requesting that her name should not be
mentioned in the affair, because she was anxious on all grounds to have
the proposal accepted by her brother. She could have vowed to herself
that she wrote sincerely.

“He must want a secretary. He would be shy at an offer of one from me.
Do you hint it, if you get a chance. You gave us Mr. Weyburn, and Mr.
Eglett and I like him. Ormont would too, I am certain. You have obliged
him before; this will be better than anything you have done for us. It
will stop the Memoirs, or else give them a polish. Your young friend
has made me laugh over stuff taken for literature until we put on our
spectacles. Leo jogs along in harness now, and may do some work at
school yet.”

Having posted her letter, she left the issue to chance, as we may when
conscience is easy. An answer came the day before Weyburn’s departure.
Arthur Abner had met Lord Ormont in the street, had spoken of the rumour
of Memoirs promised to the world, hinted at the possible need for a
secretary; “Lord Ormont would appoint a day to see Mr. Weyburn.”

Lady Charlotte considered that to be as good as the engagement.

“So we keep you in the family,” she said. “And now look here: you ought
to know my brother’s ways, if you’re going to serve him. You’ll have to
guess at half of everything he tells you; he’ll expect you to know the
whole. There’s no man so secret. Why? He fears nothing; I can’t tell
why. And what his mouth shuts on, he exposes as if in his hand. Of
course he’s proud, and good reason. You’ll see when you mustn’t offend.
A lady’s in the house--I hear of it. She takes his name, they say. She
may be a respectable woman--I’ve heard no scandal. We have to hear of a
Lady Ormont out of Society! We have to suppose it means there’s not to
be a real one. He can’t marry if he has allowed her to go about bearing
his name. She has a fool of an aunt, I’m told; as often in the house
as not. Good proof of his fondness for the woman, if he swallows half
a year of the aunt! Well, you won’t, unless you’ve mere man’s eyes, be
able to help seeing him trying to hide what he suffers from that aunt.
He bears it, like the man he is; but woe to another betraying it! She
has a tongue that goes like the reel of a rod, with a pike bolting out
of the shallows to the snag he knows--to wind round it and defy you to
pull. Often my brother Rowsley and I have fished the day long, and in
hard weather, and brought home a basket; and he boasted of it more than
of anything he has ever done since. That woman holds him away from me
now. I say no harm of her. She may be right enough from her point of
view; or it mayn’t be owing to her. I wouldn’t blame a woman. Well,
but my point with you is, you swallow the woman’s aunt--the lady’s
aunt--without betraying you suffer at all. Lord Ormont has eyes of an
eagle for a speck above the surface. All the more because the aunt is a
gabbling idiot does he--I say it seeing it--fire up to defend her from
the sneer of the lip or half a sign of it! No, you would be an your
guard; I can trust you. Of course you’d behave like the gentleman you
are where any kind of woman’s concerned; but you mustn’t let a shadow
be seen, think what you may. The woman--lady--calling herself Lady
Ormont,--poor woman, I should do the same in her place,--she has a hard
game to play; I have to be for my family: she has manners, I’m told;
holds herself properly. She fancies she brings him up to the altar, in
the end, by decent behaviour. That’s a delusion. It’s creditable to her,
only she can’t understand the claims of the family upon a man like
my brother. When you have spare time--‘kick-ups,’ he need to call it,
writing to me from school--come here; you’re welcome, after three days’
notice. I shall be glad to see you again. You’ve gone some way to make a
man of Leo.”

He liked her well: he promised to come. She was a sinewy bite of the
gentle sex, but she had much flavour, and she gave nourishment.

“Let me have three days’ notice,” she repeated.

“Not less, Lady Charlotte,” said he.

Weyburn received intimation from Arthur Abner of the likely day Lord
Ormont would appoint, and he left Olmer for London to hold himself in
readiness. Lady Charlotte and Leo drove him to meet the coach. Philippa,
so strangely baffled in her natural curiosity, begged for a seat; she
begged to be allowed to ride. Petitions were rejected. She stood at
the window seeing “Grandmama’s tutor,” as she named him, carried off by
grandmama. Her nature was avenged on her tyrant grandmama: it brought
up almost to her tongue thoughts which would have remained subterranean,
under control of her habit of mind, or the nursery’s modesty, if she
had been less tyrannically treated. They were subterranean thoughts,
Nature’s original, such as the sense of injustice will rouse in young
women; and they are better unstirred, for they ripen girls over-rapidly
when they are made to revolve near the surface. It flashed on the girl
why she had been treated tyrannically.

“Grandmama has good taste in tutors,” was all that she said while the
thoughts rolled over.



CHAPTER IV. RECOGNITION

Our applicant for the post of secretary entered the street of Lord
Ormont’s London house, to present himself to his boyhood’s hero by
appointment.

He was to see, perhaps to serve, the great soldier. Things had come to
this; and he thought it singular. But for the previous introduction to
Lady Charlotte, he would have thought it passing wonderful. He ascribed
it to the whirligig.

The young man was not yet of an age to gather knowledge of himself
and of life from his present experience of the fact, that passionate
devotion to an object strikes a vein through circumstances, as a
travelling run of flame darts the seeming haphazard zigzags to catch
at the dry of dead wood amid the damp; and when passion has become
quiescent in the admirer, there is often the unsubsided first impulsion
carrying it on. He will almost sorely embrace his idol with one or other
of the senses.

Weyburn still read the world as it came to him, by bite, marvelling at
this and that, after the fashion of most of us. He had not deserted his
adolescent’s hero, or fallen upon analysis of a past season. But he was
now a young man, stoutly and cognizantly on the climb, with a good aim
overhead, axed green youth’s enthusiasms a step below his heels: one
of the lovers of life, beautiful to behold, when we spy into them;
generally their aspect is an enlivenment, whatever may be the carving
of their features. For the sake of holy unity, this lover of life,
whose gaze was to the front in hungry animation, held fast to his young
dreams, perceiving a soul of meaning in them, though the fire might have
gone out; and he confessed to a past pursuit of delusions. Young men of
this kind will have, for the like reason, a similar rational sentiment
on behalf of our world’s historic forward march, while admitting that
history has to be taken from far backward if we would gain assurance of
man’s advance. It nerves an admonished ambition.

He was ushered into a London house’s library, looking over a niggard
enclosure of gravel and dull grass, against a wall where ivy dribbled.
An armchair was beside the fireplace. To right and left of it a floreate
company of books in high cases paraded shoulder to shoulder, without
a gap; grenadiers on the line. Weyburn read the titles on their
scarlet-and-blue facings. They were approved English classics; honoured
veterans, who have emerged from the conflict with contemporary opinion,
stamped excellent, or have been pushed by the roar of contemporaneous
applauses to wear the leather-and-gilt uniform of our Immortals, until
a more qualmish posterity disgorges them. The books had costly bindings.
Lord Ormont’s treatment of Literature appeared to resemble Lady
Charlotte’s, in being reverential and uninquiring. The books she bought
to read were Memoirs of her time by dead men and women once known to
her. These did fatigue duty in cloth or undress. It was high drill with
all of Lord Ormont’s books, and there was not a modern or a minor name
among the regiments. They smelt strongly of the bookseller’s lump lots
by order; but if a show soldiery, they were not a sham, like a certain
row of venerably-titled backs, that Lady Charlotte, without scruple,
left standing to blow an ecclesiastical trumpet of empty contents; any
one might have his battle of brains with them, for the twining of an
absent key.

The door opened. Weyburn bowed to his old star in human shape: a grey
head on square shoulders, filling the doorway. He had seen at Olmer
Lady Charlotte’s treasured miniature portrait of her brother; a perfect
likeness, she said--complaining the neat instant of injustice done to
the fire of his look.

Fire was low down behind the eyes at present. They were quick to scan
and take summary of their object, as the young man felt while observing
for himself. Height and build of body were such as might be expected in
the brother of Lady Charlotte and from the tales of his prowess. Weyburn
had a glance back at Cuper’s boys listening to the tales.

The soldier-lord’s manner was courteously military--that of an
established superior indifferent to the deferential attitude he must
needs enact. His curt nick of the head, for a response to the visitor’s
formal salutation, signified the requisite acknowledgment, like a city
creditor’s busy stroke of the type-stamp receipt upon payment.

The ceremony over, he pitched a bugle voice to fit the contracted area:
“I hear from Mr. Abner that you have made acquaintance with Olmer. Good
hunting country there.”

“Lady Charlotte kindly gave me a mount, my lord.”

“I knew your father by name--Colonel Sidney Weyburn. You lost him at
Toulouse. We were in the Peninsula; I was at Talavera with him. Bad day
for our cavalry.”

“Our officers were young at their work then.”

“They taught the Emperor’s troops to respect a charge of English horse.
It was teaching their fox to set traps for them.”

Lord Ormont indicated a chair. He stood.

“The French had good cavalry leaders,” Weyburn said, for cover to a
continued study of the face,

“Montbrun, yes: Murat, Lassalle, Bessieres. Under the Emperor they had.”

“You think them not at home in the saddle, my lord?”

“Frenchmen have nerves; horses are nerves. They pile excitement too
high. When cool, they’re among the best. None of them had head for
command of all the arms.”

“One might say the same of Seidlitz and Ziethen?”

“Of Ziethen. Seidlitz had a wider grasp, I suppose.” He pursed his
month, pondering. “No; and in the Austrian service, too; generals
of cavalry are left to whistle for an independent command. There’s a
jealousy of our branch!” The injured warrior frowned and hummed. He
spoke his thought mildly: “Jealousy of the name of soldier in this
country! Out of the service, is the place to recommend. I’d have advised
a son of mine to train for a jockey rather than enter it. We deal with
that to-morrow, in my papers. You come to me? Mr. Abner has arranged
the terms? So I see you at ten in the morning. I am glad to meet a young
man--Englishman--who takes an interest in the service.”

Weyburn fancied the hearing of a step; he heard the whispering dress. It
passed him; a lady went to the armchair. She took her seat, as she had
moved, with sedateness, the exchange of a toneless word with my lord.
She was a brune. He saw that when he rose to do homage.

Lord Ormont resumed: “Some are born to it, must be soldiers; and in
peace they are snubbed by the heads; in war they are abused by the
country. They don’t understand in England how to treat an army; how to
make one either!

“The gentleman--Mr. Weyburn: Mr. Arthur Abner’s recommendation,” he
added hurriedly, with a light wave of his hand and a murmur, that might
be the lady’s title; continuing: “A young man of military tastes should
take service abroad. They’re in earnest about it over there. Here
they play at it; and an army’s shipped to land without commissariat,
ambulances, medical stores, and march against the odds, as usual--if it
can march!

“Albuera, my lord?”

“Our men can spurt, for a flick o’ the whip. They’re expected to be
constantly ready for doing prodigies--to repair the country’s omissions.
All the country cares for is to hope Dick Turpin may get to York. Our
men are good beasts; they give the best in ‘em, and drop. More’s the
scandal to a country that has grand material and overtasks it. A blazing
disaster ends the chapter!”

This was talk of an injured veteran. It did not deepen the hue of his
ruddied skin. He spoke in the tone of matter of fact. Weyburn had been
prepared for something of the sort by his friend, Arthur Abner. He noted
the speaker’s heightened likeness under excitement to Lady Charlotte.
Excitement came at an early call of their voices to both; and both
had handsome, open features, bluntly cut, nothing of aquiline or the
supercilious; eyes bluish-grey, in arched recesses, horny between
the thick lids, lively to shoot their meaning when the trap-mouth was
active; effectively expressing promptitute for combat, pleasure in
attack, wrestle, tag, whatever pertained to strife; an absolute sense of
their right.

As there was a third person present at this dissuasion of military
topics, the silence of the lady drew Weyburn to consult her opinion in
her look.

It was on him. Strange are the woman’s eyes which can unoffendingly
assume the privilege to dwell on such a living object as a man without
become gateways for his return look, and can seem in pursuit of thoughts
while they enfold. They were large dark eyes, eyes of southern night.
They sped no shot; they rolled forth an envelopment. A child among toys,
caught to think of other toys, may gaze in that way. But these were a
woman’s eyes.

He gave Lord Ormont his whole face, as an auditor should. He was
interested besides, as he told a ruffled conscience. He fell upon the
study of his old hero determinedly.

The pain of a memory waking under pillows, unable to do more than strain
for breath, distracted his attention. There was a memory: that was
all he knew. Or else he would have lashed himself for hanging on the
beautiful eyes of a woman. To be seeing and hearing his old hero was
wonder enough.

Recollections of Lady Charlotte’s plain hints regarding the lady present
resolved to the gross retort, that her eyes were beautiful. And he knew
them--there lay the strangeness. They were known beautiful eyes, in a
foreign land of night and mist.

Lord Ormont was discoursing with racy eloquence of our hold on India:
his views in which respect were those of Cuper’s boys. Weyburn ventured
a dot-running description of the famous ride, and out flew an English
soldier’s grievance. But was not the unjustly-treated great soldier well
rewarded, whatever the snubs and the bitterness, with these large dark
eyes in his house, for his own? Eyes like these are the beginning of
a young man’s world; they nerve, inspire, arm him, colour his life; he
would labour, fight, die for them. It seemed to Weyburn a blessedness
even to behold them. So it had been with him at the early stage; and his
heart went swifter, memory fetched a breath. Memory quivered eyelids,
when the thought returned--of his having known eyes as lustrous.
First lights of his world, they had more volume, warmth, mystery--were
sweeter. Still, these in the room were sisters to them. They quickened
throbs; they seemed a throb of the heart made visible.

That was their endowment of light and lustre simply, and the mystical
curve of the lids. For so they could look only because the heart was
disengaged from them. They were but heavenly orbs.

The lady’s elbow was on an arm of her chair, her forefinger at her
left temple. Her mind was away, one might guess; she could hardly be
interested in talk of soldiering and of foreign army systems, jealous
English authorities and officials, games, field-sports. She had personal
matters to think of.

Adieu until to-morrow to the homes she inhabited! The street was a
banishment and a relief when Weyburn’s first interview with Lord Ormont
was over.

He rejoiced to tell his previous anticipations that he had not been
disappointed; and he bade hero-worshippers expect no gilded figure. We
gather heroes as we go, if we are among the growing: our constancy is
shown in the not discarding of our old ones. He held to his earlier
hero, though he had seen him, and though he could fancy he saw round
him.

Another, too, had been a hero-lover. How did that lady of night’s eyes
come to fall into her subjection?

He put no question as to the name she bore; it hung in a black
suspense--vividly at its blackest illuminated her possessor. A man is
a hero to some effect who wins a woman like this; and, if his glory
bespells her, so that she flings all to the winds for him, burns the
world; if, for solely the desperate rapture of belonging to him, she
consents of her free will to be one of the nameless and discoloured, he
shines in a way to make the marrow of men thrill with a burning envy.
For that must be the idolatrous devotion desired by them all.

Weyburn struck down upon his man’s nature--the bad in us, when beauty
of woman is viewed; or say, the old original revolutionary, best kept
untouched; for a touch or a meditative pause above him, fetches him up
to roam the civilized world devouringly and lawlessly. It is the special
peril of the young lover of life, that an inflammability to beauty in
women is in a breath intense with him. He is, in truth, a thinly-sealed
volcano of our imperishable ancient father; and has it in him to be the
multitudinously-amorous of the mythologic Jove. Give him head, he can be
civilization’s devil. Is she fair and under a shade?--then is she doubly
fair. The shadow about her secretes mystery, just as the forest breeds
romance: and mystery is a measureless realm. If we conceive it, we have
a mysterious claim on her who is the heart of it.

He marched on that road to the music of sonorous brass for some drunken
minutes.

The question came, What of the man who takes advantage of her
self-sacrifice?

It soon righted him, and he did Lord Ormont justice, and argued the case
against Lady Charlotte’s naked hints.

This dark-eyed heroine’s bearing was assured, beyond an air of
dependency. Her deliberate short nod to him at his leave-taking, and the
toneless few words she threw to my lord, signified sufficiently that she
did not stand defying the world or dreading it.

She had by miracle the eyes which had once charmed him--could
again--would always charm. She reminded him of Aminta Farrell’s very
eyes under the couchant-dove brows--something of her mouth, the dimple
running from a corner. She had, as Aminta had, the self-collected and
self-cancelled look, a realm in a look, that was neither depth nor
fervour, nor a bestowal, nor an allurement; nor was it an exposure,
though there seemed no reserve. One would be near the meaning in
declaring it to bewilder men with the riddle of openhandedness. We read
it--all may read it--as we read inexplicable plain life; in which let
us have a confiding mind, despite the blows at our heart, and some
understanding will enter us.

He shut the door upon picture and speculations, returning to them by
another door. The lady had not Aminta’s freshness: she might be taken
for an elder sister of Aminta. But Weyburn wanted to have her position
defined before he set her beside Aminta. He writhed under Lady
Charlotte’s tolerating scorn of “the young woman.” It roused an uneasy
sentiment of semi-hostility in the direction of my lord; and he had no
personal complaint to make.

Lord Ormont was cordial on the day of the secretary’s installation; as
if--if one might dare to guess it--some one had helped him to a friendly
judgement.

The lady of Aminta’s eyes was absent at the luncheon table. She came
into the room a step, to speak to Lord Ormont, dressed for a drive to
pay a visit.

The secretary was unnoticed.

Lord Ormont put inquiries to him at table, for the why of his having
avoided the profession of arms; and apparently considered that the
secretary had made a mistake, and that he would have committed a greater
error in becoming a soldier--“in this country.” A man with a grievance
is illogical under his burden. He mentioned the name “Lady Ormont”
 distinctly during some remarks on travel. Lady Ormont preferred the
Continent.

Two days later she came to the armchair, as before, met Weyburn’s eyes
when he raised them; gave him no home in hers--not a temporary shelter
from the pelting of interrogations. She hardly spoke. Why did she come?

But how was it that he was drawn to think of her? Absent or present,
she was round him, like the hills of a valley. She was round his
thoughts--caged them; however high, however far they flew, they were
conscious of her.

She took her place at the midday meal. She had Aminta’s voice in some
tones; a mellower than Aminta’s--the voice of one of Aminta’s family.
She had the trick of Aminta’s upper lip in speaking. Her look on him was
foreign; a civil smile as they conversed. She was very much at home with
my lord, whom she rallied for his addiction to his Club at a particular
hour of the afternoon. She conversed readily. She reminded him,
incidentally that her aunt would arrive early next day. He informed her,
some time after, of an engagement “to tiffin with a brother officer,”
 and she nodded.

They drove away together while the secretary was at his labour of
sorting the heap of autobiographical scraps in a worn dispatch-box, pen
and pencil jottings tossed to swell the mess when they had relieved
an angry reminiscence. He noticed, heedlessly at the moment, feminine
handwriting on some few clear sheets among them.

Next day he was alone in the library. He sat before the box, opened it
and searched, merely to quiet his annoyance for having left those sheets
of the fair amanuensis unexamined. They were not discoverable. They had
gone.

He stood up at the stir of the door. It was she, and she acknowledged
his bow; she took her steps to her chair.

He was informed that Lord Ormont had an engagement, and he remarked, “I
can do the work very well.” She sat quite silent.

He read first lines of the scraps, laid them in various places, as in
a preparation for conjurer’s tricks at cards; refraining from a glance,
lest he should disconcert the eyes he felt to be on him fitfully.

At last she spoke, and he knew Aminta in his hearing and sight.

“Is Emile Grenat still anglomane?”

An instant before her voice was heard he had been persuading himself
that the points of unlikeness between his young Aminta and this tall
and stately lady of the proud reserve in her bearing flouted the
resemblance.



CHAPTER V. IN WHICH THE SHADES OF BROWNY AND MATEY ADVANCE AND RETIRE

“Emile is as anglomane as ever, and not a bit less a Frenchman,” Weyburn
said, in a tone of one who muffles a shock at the heart.

“It would be the poorer compliment to us,” she rejoined.

They looked at one another; she dropped her eyelids, he looked away.

She had the grand manner by nature. She was the woman of the girl once
known.

“A soldier, is he?”

“Emile’s profession and mine are much alike, or will be.”

“A secretary?”

Her deadness of accent was not designed to carry her opinion of the post
of secretary.

It brought the reply: “We hope to be schoolmasters.”

She drew in a breath; there was a thin short voice, hardly voice, as
when one of the unschooled minor feelings has been bruised. After a
while she said--

“Does he think it a career?”

“Not brilliant.”

“He was formed for a soldier.”

“He had to go as the road led.”

“A young man renouncing ambition!”

“Considering what we can do best.”

“It signifies the taste for what he does.”

“Certainly that.”

Weyburn had senses to read the word “schoolmaster” in repetition behind
her shut mouth. He was sharply sensible of a fall.

The task with his papers occupied him. If he had a wish, it was to
sink so low in her esteem as to be spurned. A kick would have been
a refreshment. Yet he was unashamed of the cause invoking it. We are
instruments to the touch of certain women, and made to play strange
tunes.

“Mr. Cuper flourishes?”

“The school exists. I have not been down there. I met Mr. Shalders
yesterday. He has left the school.”

“You come up from Olmer?”

“I was at Olmer last week, Lady Ormont.”

An involuntary beam from her eyes thanked him for her title at that
juncture of the dialogue. She grew more spirited.

“Mr. Shalders has joined the Dragoons, has he?”

“The worthy man has a happy imagination. He goes through a campaign
daily.”

“It seems to one to dignify his calling.”

“I like his enthusiasm.”

The lady withdrew into her thoughts; Weyburn fell upon his work.

Mention of the military cloak of enthusiasm covering Shalders, brought
the scarce credible old time to smite at his breast, in the presence of
these eyes. A ringing of her title of Lady Ormont rendered the present
time the incredible.

“I can hardly understand a young Frenchman’s not entering the army,” she
said.

“The Napoleonic legend is weaker now,” said he.

“The son of an officer!”

“Grandson.”

“It was his choice to be,--he gave it up without reluctance?”

“Emile obeyed the command of his parents,” Weyburn answered; and he was
obedient to the veiled direction of her remark, in speaking of himself:
“I had a reason, too.”

“One wonders!”

“It would have impoverished my mother’s income to put aside a small
allowance for me for years. She would not have hesitated. I then set my
mind on the profession of schoolmaster.”

“Emile Grenat was a brave boy. Has he no regrets?”

“Neither of us has a regret.”

“He began ambitiously.”

“It’s the way at the beginning.”

“It is not usually abjured.”

“I’m afraid we neither of us ‘dignify our calling’ by discontent with
it!”

A dusky flash, worth seeing, came on her cheeks. “I respect
enthusiasms,” she said; and it was as good to him to hear as the begging
pardon, though clearly she could not understand enthusiasm for the
schoolmaster’s career.

Light of evidence was before him, that she had a friendly curiosity to
know what things had led to their new meeting under these conditions.
He sketched them cursorily; there was little to tell--little, that is;
appealing to a romantic mind for interest. Aware of it, by sympathy,
he degraded the narrative to a flatness about as cheering as a suburban
London Sunday’s promenade. Sympathy caused the perverseness. He felt her
disillusionment; felt with it and spread a feast of it. She had to hear
of studies at Caen and at a Paris Lycee; French fairly mastered; German,
the same; Italian, the same; after studies at Heidelberg, Asti, and
Florence; between four and five months at Athens (he was needlessly
precise), in tutorship with a young nobleman: no events, nor a spot of
colour. Thus did he wilfully, with pain to himself, put an extinguisher
on the youth painted brilliant and eminent in a maiden’s imagination.

“So there can no longer be thought of the army,” she remarked; and the
remark had a sort of sigh, though her breathing was equable.

“Unless a big war knocks over all rules and the country comes praying us
to serve,” he said.

“You would not refuse then?”

“Not in case of need. One may imagine a crisis when they would give
commissions to men of my age or older for the cavalry--heavy losses of
officers.”

She spoke, as if urged by a sting to revert to the distasteful: “That
profession--must you not take... enter into orders if you aim at any
distinction?”

“And a member of the Anglican Church would not be allowed to exchange
his frock for a cavalry sabre,” said he. “That is true. I do not propose
to settle as a schoolmaster in England.”

“Where?”

“On the Continent.”

“Would not America be better?”

“It would not so well suit the purpose in view for us.”

“There are others besides?”

“Besides Emile, there is a German and an Italian and a Swiss.”

“It is a Company?”

“A Company of schoolmasters! Companies of all kinds are forming.
Colleges are Companies. And they have their collegians. Our aim is
at pupils; we have no ambition for any title higher than School and
Schoolmaster; it is not a Company.”

So, like Nature parading her skeleton to youthful adorers of her face,
he insisted on reducing to hideous material wreck the fair illusion,
which had once arrayed him in alluring promise.

She explained; “I said, America. You would be among Protestants in
America.”

“Catholics and Protestants are both welcome to us, according to our
scheme. And Germans, French, English, Americans, Italians, if they will
come; Spaniards and Portuguese, and Scandinavians, Russians as well. And
Jews; Mahommedans too, if only they will come! The more mixed, the more
it hits our object.”

“You have not stated where on the Continent it is to be.”

“The spot fixed on is in Switzerland.”

“You will have scenery.”

“I hold to that, as an influence.”

A cool vision of the Bernese Alps encircled the young schoolmaster; and
she said, “It would influence girls; I dare say.”

“A harder matter with boys, of course--at first. We think we may make it
serve.”

“And where is the spot? Is that fixed on?”

“Fifteen miles from Berne, on elevated land, neighbouring a water, not
quite to be called a lake, unless in an auctioneer’s advertisement.”

“I am glad of the lake. I could not look on a country home where there
was no swimming. You will be head of the school.”

“There must be a head.”

“Is the school likely to be established soon?”

He fell into her dead tone: “Money is required for establishments. I
have a Reversion coming some day; I don’t dabble in post obits.”

He waited for farther questions. They were at an end.

“You have your work to do, Mr. Weyburn.”

Saying that, she bowed an implied apology for having kept him from
it, and rose. She bowed again as she passed through the doorway, in
acknowledgment of his politeness.

Here; then, was the end of the story of Browny and Matey. Such was his
thought under the truncheon-stroke of their colloquy. Lines of Browny’s
letters were fiery waving ribands about him, while the coldly gracious
bow of the Lady wrote Finis.

The gulf between the two writings remained unsounded. It gave a heave to
the old passion; but stirred no new one; he had himself in hand now,
and he shut himself up when the questions bred of amazement buzzed and
threatened to storm. After all, what is not curious in this world? The
curious thing would be if curious things should fail to happen. Men have
been saying it since they began to count and turn corners. And let
us hold off from speculating when there is or but seems a shadow of
unholiness over that mole-like business. There shall be no questions;
and as to feelings, the same. They, if petted for a moment beneath the
shadow, corrupt our blood. Weyburn was a man to have them by the throat
at the birth.

Still they thronged; heavy work of strangling had to be done. Her tone
of disappointment with the schoolmaster bit him, and it flattered
him. The feelings leapt alive, equally venomous from the wound and the
caress. They pushed to see, had to be repelled from seeing, the girl
Browny in the splendid woman; they had lightning memories: not the pain
of his grip could check their voice on the theme touching her happiness
or the reverse. And this was an infernal cunning. He paused perforce to
inquire, giving them space for the breeding of their multitudes. Was she
happy? Did she not seem too meditative, enclosed, toneless, at her age?
Vainly the persecuted fellow said to himself: “But what is it to me
now?”--The Browny days were over. The passion for the younger Aminta was
over--buried; and a dream of power belonging to those days was not
yet more than visionary. It had moved her once, when it was a young
soldier’s. She treated the schoolmaster’s dream as vapour, and the old
days as dead and ghostless. She did rightly. How could they or she or he
be other than they were!

With that sage exclamation, he headed into the Browny days and breasted
them; and he had about him the living foamy sparkle of the very time,
until the Countess of Ormont breathed the word “Schoolmaster”; when, at
once, it was dusty land where buoyant waters had been, and the armies
of the facts, in uniform drab, with some feathers and laces, and a
significant surpliced figure, decorously covering the wildest of
Cupids, marched the standard of the winking gold-piece, which is their
nourishing sun and eclipser of all suns that foster dreams.

As you perceive, he was drawing swiftly to the vortex of the fools, and
round and round he went, lucky to float.

His view of the business of the schoolmaster plucked him from the whirl.
She despised it; he upheld it. He stuck to his view, finding their
antagonism on the subject wholesome for him. All that she succeeded in
doing was to rob it of the aurora colour clothing everything on which
Matey Weyburn set his aim. Her contempt of it, whether as a profession
in itself or as one suitable to the former young enthusiast for arms,
dwarfed it to appear like the starved plants under Greenland skies. But
those are of a sturdy genus; they mean to live; they live, perforce, of
the right to live; they will prove their right in a coming season,
when some one steps near and wonders at them, and from more closely
observing; gets to understand, learning that the significance and the
charm of earth will be as well shown by them as by her tropical fair
flaunters or the tenderly-nurtured exotics.

An unopened coffer of things to be said in defence of--no, on behalf
of--no, in honour of the Profession of Schoolmaster, perhaps to the
convincing of Aminta, Lady Ormont, was glanced at; a sentence or two
leapt out and stepped forward, and had to retire. He preferred to the
fathering of tricky, windy phrases, the being undervalued--even by her.
He was taught to see again how Rhetoric haunts, and Rhetoric bedevils,
the vindication of the clouded, especially in the case of a disesteemed
Profession requiring one to raise it and impose it upon the antagonistic
senses for the bewildering of the mind. One has to sound it loudly;
there is no treating it, as in the advocacy of the cases of flesh and
blood, with the masterly pathos of designed simplicity. And Weyburn
was Cuper’s Matey Weyburn still in his loathing of artifice to
raise emotion, loathing of the affected, the stilted, the trumpet of
speech--always excepting school-exercises in the tongues, the unmasking
of a Catiline, the address of a General, Athenian or other, to troops.

He kept his coffer shut; and, for a consequence, he saw the contents as
an avenue of blossom leading to vistas of infinite harvest.

She was Lady Ormont: Aminta shared the title of his old hero! He refused
to speculate upon how it had come to pass, and let the curtain hang,
though dramas and romances, with the miracles involved in them, were
agitated by a transient glimpse at the curtain.

Well! and he hoped to be a member of the Profession she despised: hoped
it with all his heart. And one good effect of his giving his heart to
the hope was, that he could hold from speculating and from feeling, even
from pausing to wonder at the most wonderful turn of events. Blessed
antagonism drove him to be braced by thoughts upon the hardest of
the schoolmaster’s tasks--bright winter thoughts, prescribing to him
satisfaction with a faith in the sowing, which may be his only reaping.
Away fly the boys in sheaves. After his toil with them, to instruct,
restrain, animate, point their minds, they leave him, they plunge into
the world and are gone. Will he see them again? It is a flickering
perhaps. To sustain his belief that he has done serviceable work, he
must be sore of his having charged them with good matter. How can the
man do it, if, during his term of apprenticeship, he has allowed himself
to dally here and there, down to moony dreamings over inscrutable
beautiful eyes of a married lady; for the sole reason that he meets her
unexpectedly, after an exchange of letters with her in long-past days at
school, when she was an inexperienced girl, who knew not what she vowed,
and he a flighty-headed youngster, crying out to be the arrow of any bow
that was handy? Yea, she was once that girl, named Browny by the boys.

Temptation threw warm light on the memory, and very artfully, by
conjuring up the faces, cries, characters, all the fun of the boys.
There was no possibility of forgetting her image in those days; he had,
therefore, to live with it and to live near the grown woman--Time’s
present answer to the old riddle. It seemed to him, that instead
of sorting Lord Ormont’s papers, he ought to be at sharp exercise.
According to his prescript, sharp exercise of lungs and limbs is a man’s
moral aid against temptation. He knew it as the one trusty antidote for
him, who was otherwise the vessel of a temperament pushing to mutiny.
Certainly it is the best philosophy youth can pretend to practise; and
Lord Ormont kept him from it! Worse than that, the slips and sheets of
paper in the dispatch-box were not an exercise of the mind even; there
was nothing to grapple with--no diversion; criticism passed by them
indulgently, if not benevolently.

Quite apart from the subject inscribed on them, Weyburn had now and
again a blow at the breast, of untraceable origin. For he was well
enough aware that the old days when Browny imagined him a hero, in
drinking his praises of a brighter, were drowned. They were dead; but
here was she the bride of the proved hero. His praises might have helped
in causing her willingness--devotional readiness, he could fancy--to
yield her hand. Perhaps at the moment when the hero was penning some of
the Indian slips here, the boy at school was preparing Aminta; but he
could not be responsible for a sacrifice of the kind suggested by Lady
Charlotte. And no, there had been no such sacrifice, although Lord
Ormont’s inexplicable treatment of his young countess, under cover of
his notorious reputation with women, conduced to the suspicion.

While the vagrant in Weyburn was thus engaged, his criticism of the
soldier-lord’s field-English on paper let the stuff go tolerantly
unexamined, but with a degree of literary contempt at heart for the
writer who had that woman-scented reputation and expressed himself so
poorly. The sentiment was outside of reason. We do, nevertheless, expect
our Don Juans to deliver their minds a trifle elegantly; if not in
classic English, on paper; and when we find one of them inflicting
cruelty, as it appears, and the victim is a young woman, a beautiful
young woman, she pleads to us poetically against the bearish sentences
of his composition. We acknowledge, however, that a mere sentiment,
entertained possibly by us alone, should not be permitted to condemn him
unheard.

Lady Ormont was not seen again. After luncheon at a solitary table, the
secretary worked till winter’s lamps were lit; and then shone freedom,
with assurance to him that he would escape from the miry mental ditch
he had been floundering in since Aminta revealed herself. Sunday was
the glorious day to follow, with a cleansing bath of a walk along the
southern hills; homely English scenery to show to a German friend,
one of his “Company.” Half a dozen good lads were pledged to the walk;
bearing which in view, it could be felt that this nonsensical puzzlement
over his relations to the moods and tenses of a married woman would be
bounced out of recollection before nightfall. The landscape given off
any of the airy hills of Surrey would suffice to do it.

A lady stood among her boxes below, as he descended the stairs to cross
the hall. He knew her for the person Lady Charlotte called “the woman’s
aunt,” whom Lord Ormont could not endure--a forgiven old enemy, Mrs.
Nargett Pagnell.

He saluted. She stared, and corrected her incivility with “Ah, yes,” and
a formal smile.

If not accidentally delayed on her journey, she had been needlessly the
cause why Lord Ormont hugged his Club during the morning and afternoon.
Weyburn was pushed to think of the matter by remembrance of his foregone
resentment at her having withdrawn Aminta from Miss Vincent’s three days
earlier than the holiday time. The resentment was over; but a germ of
it must have sprang from the dust to prompt the kindling leap his memory
took, out of all due connection; like a lightning among the crags.
It struck Aminta smartly. He called to mind the conversation at table
yesterday. Had she played on Lord Ormont’s dislike of the aunt to drive
him forth for some purpose of her own? If so, the little trick had been
done with deplorable spontaneity or adeptness of usage. What was the
purpose?--to converse with an old acquaintance, undisturbed by Lord
Ormont and her aunt? Neatly done, supposing the surmise correct.

But what was there in the purpose? He sifted rapidly for the gist of the
conversation; reviewed the manner of it, the words, the sound they had,
the feelings they touched; then owned that the question could not
be answered. Owning, further, that the recurrence of these idiotic
speculations, feelings, questions, wrote him down as both dull fellow
and impertinent, he was unabled to restore Aminta to the queenly place
she took above the schoolmaster, who was very soon laughing at his fever
or flash of the afternoon. The day had brought a great surprise, nothing
more. Twenty minutes of fencing in the a salle d’armes of an Italian
captain braced him to health, and shifted scenes of other loves, lighter
loves, following the Browny days--not to be called loves; in fact;
hardly beyond inclinations. Nevertheless, inclinations are an
infidelity. To meet a married woman, and be mooning over her because she
gave him her eyes and her handwriting when a girl, was enough to
rouse an honest fellow’s laugh at himself, in the contemplation of
his intermediate amorous vagabondage. Had he ever known the veritable
passion after Browny sank from his ken? Let it be confessed, never. His
first love was his only true love, despite one shuddering episode, oddly
humiliating to recollect, though he had not behaved badly. So, then,
by right of his passion, thus did eternal justice rule it: that Browny
belonged, to Matey Weyburn, Aminta to Lord Ormont. Aminta was a lady
blooming in the flesh, Browny was the past’s pale phantom; for which
reason he could call her his own, without harm done to any one, and
with his usual appetite for dinner, breakfast, lunch, whatever the meal
supplied by the hour.

It would somewhat alarmingly have got to Mr. Weyburn’s conscience
through a disturbance of his balance, telling him that he was on a
perilous road, if his relish for food had been blunted. He had his
axiom on the subject, and he was wrong in the general instance, for
the appetites of rogues and ogres are not known to fail. As regarded
himself, he was eminently right; and he could apply it to boys also,
to all young people--the unlaunched, he called them. He counted himself
among the launched, no doubt, and had breasted seas; but the boy was
alive, a trencherman lad, in the coming schoolmaster, and told him
profitable facts concerning his condition; besides throwing a luminous
ray on the arcane of our elusive youthful. If they have no stout zest
for eating, put Query against them.

His customary enjoyment of dinner convinced Mr. Weyburn that he had
not brooded morbidly over his phantom Browny, and could meet Aminta,
Countess of Ormont, on the next occasion with the sentiments proper to
a common official. Did she not set him a commendable example? He admired
her for not concealing her disdain of the aspirant schoolmaster, quite
comprehending, by sympathy, why the woman should reproach the girl who
had worshipped heroes, if this was a full-grown specimen; and the reply
of the shamed girl, that in her ignorance she could not know better. He
spared the girl, but he laughed at the woman he commended, laughed at
himself.

Aminta’s humour was being stirred about the same time. She and her
aunt were at the dinner-table in the absence of my lord. The dinner had
passed with the stiff dialogue peculiar to couples under supervision of
their inferiors; and, as soon as the room was clear, she had asked her
aunt, touching the secretary: “Have you seen him?”

Mrs. Nargett Pagnell’s answer could have been amusing only to one whose
intimate knowledge of her found it characteristically salt; for she
was a lady of speech addressed ever directly or roundabout to the chief
point of business between herself and her hearer, and the more she was
brief, oblique, far-shooting, the more comically intelligible she was to
her niece. She bent her head to signify that she had seen the secretary,
and struck the table with both hands, exclaiming:

“Well, to be sure, Lord Ormont!”

Their discussion, before they descended the stairs to dinner, concerned
his lordship’s extraordinary indifference to the thronging of handsome
young men around his young countess.

Here, the implication ran, is one established in the house.

Aminta’s thoughts could be phrased: “Yes, that is true, for one part of
it.”

As for the other part, the ascent of a Phoebus Apollo, with his golden
bow and quiver off the fairest of Eastern horizon skies, followed
suddenly by the sight of him toppling over in Mr. Cuper’s long-skirted
brown coat, with spectacles and cane, is an image that hardly exceeds
the degradation she conceived. It was past ludicrous; yet admitted of no
woefulness, nothing soothingly pathetic. It smothered and barked at the
dreams of her blooming spring of life, to which her mind had latterly
been turning back, for an escape from sour, one may say cynical,
reflections, the present issue of a beautiful young woman’s first savour
of battle with the world.



CHAPTER VI. IN A MOOD OF LANGUOR

Up in Aminta’s amber dressing-room; Mrs. Nargett Pagnell alluded sadly
to the long month of separation, and begged her niece to let her have in
plain words an exact statement of the present situation; adding, “Items
will do.” Thereupon she slipped into prattle and held the field.

She was the known, worthy, good, intolerable woman whom the burgess
turns out for his world in regiments, that do and look and all but step
alike; and they mean well, and have conventional worships and material
aspirations, and very peculiar occult refinements, with a blind head and
a haphazard gleam of acuteness, impressive to acquaintances, convincing
themselves that they impersonate sagacity. She had said this, done that;
and it was, by proof, Providence consenting, the right thing. A niece,
written down in her girlhood, because of her eyes and her striking air
and excellent deportment, as mate for a nobleman, marries, him before
she is out of her teens. “I said, She shall be a countess.” A countess
she is. Providence does not comply with our predictions in order
to stultify us. Admitting the position of affairs for the moment as
extraordinary, we are bound by what has happened to expect they will be
conformable in the end. Temporarily warped, we should say of them.

She could point to the reason: it was Lord Ormont’s blunt
misunderstanding of her character. The burgess’s daughter was refining
to an appreciation of the exquisite so rapidly that she could criticize
patricians. My lord had never forgiven her for correcting him in his
pronunciation of her name by marriage. Singular indeed; but men, even
great men, men of title, are so, some of them, whom you could least
suspect of their being so. He would speak the “g” in Nargett, and he,
declined--after a remonstrance he declined--to pass Pagnell under the
cedilla. Lord Ormont spoke the name like a man hating it, or an English
rustic: “Nargett Pagnell,” instead, of the soft and elegant “Naryett
Pagnell,” the only true way of speaking it; and she had always taken
that pronunciation of her name for a test of people’s breeding. The
expression of his lordship’s countenance under correction was memorable.
Naturally, in those honeymoony days, the young Countess of Ormont sided
with her husband the earl; she declared that her aunt had never dreamed
of the cedilla before the expedition to Spain. When, for example, Alfred
Nargett Pagnell had a laughing remark, which Aminta in her childhood
must have heard: “We rhyme with spaniel!”

That was the secret of Lord Ormont’s prepossession against Aminta’s
aunt; and who can tell? perhaps of much of his behaviour to the
beautiful young wife he at least admired, sincerely admired, though he
caused her to hang her head--cast a cloud on the head so dear to him!

Otherwise there was no interpreting his lordship. To think of herself as
personally disliked by a nobleman stupefied Mrs. Pagnell, from her just
expectation of reciprocal dealings in high society; for she confessed
herself a fly to a title. Where is the shame, if titles are created to
attract? Elsewhere than in that upper circle, we may anticipate hard
bargains; the widow of a solicitor had not to learn it. But when a
distinguished member and ornament of the chosen seats above blew cold
upon their gesticulatory devotee, and was besides ungrateful; she was
more than commonly assured of his being, as she called him, “a sphinx.”
 His behaviour to his legally wedded wife confirmed the charge.

She checked her flow to resume the question. “So, then, where are we
now? He allows you liberally for pin-money in addition to your own small
independent income. Satisfaction with that would warrant him to suppose
his whole duty done by you.”

“We are where we were, aunty; the month has made no change,” said Aminta
in languor.

“And you as patient as ever?”

“I am supposed to have everything a woman can require.”

“Can he possibly think it? And I have to warn you, child, that lawyers
are not so absolving as the world is with some of the ladies Lord Ormont
allows you to call your friends. I have been hearing--it is not mere
airy tales one hears from lawyers about cases in Courts of Law. Tighten
your lips as you like; I say nothing to condemn or reflect on Mrs.
Lawrence Finchley. I have had my eyes a little opened, that is all.
Oh, I know my niece Aminta, when it’s a friend to stand by; but our
position--thanks to your inscrutable lord and master--demands of us the
utmost scrupulousness, or it soon becomes a whirl and scandal flying
about, and those lawyers picking up and putting together. I have had a
difficulty to persuade them!... and my own niece! whom I saw married at
the British Embassy in Madrid, as I take good care to tell everybody;
for it was my doing; I am the responsible person! and by an English
Protestant clergyman, to all appearance able to walk erect in and out of
any of these excellent new Life Assurance offices they are starting for
the benefit of widows and orphans, and deceased within six days of the
ceremony--if ceremony one may call the hasty affair in those foreign
places. My dear, the instant I heard it I had a presentiment, ‘All has
gone well up to now.’ I remember murmuring the words. Then your letter,
received in that smelly Barcelona: Lord Ormont was carrying you off to
Granada--a dream of my infancy! It may not have been his manoeuvre, but
it was the beginning of his manoeuvres.”

Aminta shuddered. “And tra-la-la, and castanets, and my Cid! my Cid! and
the Alhambra, the Sierra Nevada, and ay di me, Alhama; and Boabdil el
Chico and el Zagal and Fray Antonio Agapida!” She flung out the rattle,
yawning, with her arms up and her head back, in the posture of a woman
wounded. One of her aunt’s chance shots had traversed her breast,
flashing at her the time, the scene, the husband, intensest sunniness
on sword-edges of shade,--and now the wedded riddle; illusion dropping
mask, romance in its anatomy, cold English mist. Ah, what a background
is the present when we have the past to the fore! That filmy past is
diaphanous on heaving ribs.

She smiled at the wide-eyed little gossip. “Don’t speak of manaoeuvres,
dear aunt. And we’ll leave Granada to the poets. I’m tired. Talk of our
own people, on your side and my father’s, and as much as you please of
the Pagnell-Pagnells, they refresh me. Do they go on marrying?”

“Why, my child, how could they go on without it?”

Aminta pressed her hands at her eyelids. “Oh, me!” she sighed, feeling
the tear come with a sting from checked laughter. “But there are
marriages, aunty, that don’t go on, though Protestant clergymen
officiated. Leave them unnoticed, I have really nothing to tell.”

“You have not heard anything of Lady Eglett?”

“Lady Charlotte Eglett? No syllable. Or wait--my lord’s secretary was
with her at Olmer; approved by her, I have to suppose.”

“There, my dear, I say again I do dread that woman, if she can make
a man like Lord Ormont afraid of her. And no doubt she is of our old
aristocracy. And they tell me she is coarse in her conversation--like a
man. Lawyers tell me she is never happy but in litigation. Years back, I
am given to understand, she did not set so particularly good an example.
Lawyers hear next to everything. I am told she lifted her horsewhip on
a gentleman once, and then put her horse at him and rode him down.
You will say, the sister of your husband. No; not to make my niece a
countess, would I, if I had known the kind of family! Then one asks, Is
she half as much afraid of him? In that case, no wonder they have
given up meeting. Was formerly one of the Keepsake Beauties. Well, Lady
Eglett, and Aminta, Countess of Ormont, will be in that Peerage, as
they call it, let her only have her dues. My dear, I would--if I ever
did--swear the woman is jealous.”

“Of me, aunty!”

“I say more; I say again, it would be a good thing for somebody if
somebody had his twitch of jealousy. Wives may be too meek. Cases and
cases my poor Alfred read to me, where an ill-behaving man was brought
to his senses by a clever little shuffle of the cards, and by the most
innocent of wives. A kind of poison to him, of course; but there are
poisons that cure. It might come into the courts; and the nearer the
proofs the happier he in withdrawing from his charge and effecting a
reconciliation. Short of guilt, of course. Men are so strange. Imagine
now, if a handsome young woman were known to be admired rather more than
enough by a good-looking gentleman near about her own age. Oh, I’ve no
patience with, the man for causing us to think and scheme! Only there
are men who won’t be set right unless we do. My husband used to say,
change is such a capital thing in life’s jogtrot; that men find it
refreshing if we now and then, reverse the order of our pillion-riding
for them. A spiritless woman in a wife is what they bear least of all.
Anything rather. Is Mr. Morsfield haunting Mrs. Lawrence Finchley’s
house as usual?”

Aminta’s cheeks unrolled their deep damask rose at the abrupt intrusion
of the name. “I meet him there.”

“Lord Adderwood, Sir John Randeller; and the rest?”

“Two or three times a week.”

“And the lady, wife of the captain, really a Lady Fair--Mrs.... month of
May: so I have to get at it.”

“She may be seen there.”

“Really a contrast, when you two are together! As to reputation, there
is an exchange of colours. Those lawyers hold the keys of the great
world, and a naughty world it is, I fear--with exceptions, who are the
salt, but don’t taste so much. I can’t help enjoying the people at Mrs.
Lawrence Finchley’s. I like to feel I can amuse them, as they do me. One
puzzles for what they say--in somebody’s absence, I mean. They must take
Lord Ormont for a perfect sphinx; unless they are so silly as to think
they may despise him, or suppose him indifferent. Oh, that upper class!
It’s a garden, and we can’t help pushing to enter it; and fair flowers,
indeed, but serpents too, like the tropics. It tries us more than
anything else in the world--well, just as good eating tries the
constitution. He ought to know it and feel it, and give his wife all the
protection of his name, instead of--not that he denies: I have brought
him to that point; he cannot deny it with me. But not to present her--to
shun the Court; not to introduce her to his family, to appear ashamed
of her! My darling Aminta, a month of absence for reflection on your
legally-wedded husband’s conduct increases my astonishment. For usually
men old enough to be the grandfathers of their wives--”

“Oh, pray, aunty, pray, pray!” Aminta cried, and her body writhed. “No
more to-night. You mean well, I am sure. Let us wait. I shall sleep,
perhaps, if I go to bed early. I dare say I am spiritless--not worth
more than I get. I gave him the lead altogether; he keeps it. In
everything else he is kind; I have all the luxuries--enough to loathe
them. Kiss me and say good night.”

Aminta made it imperative by rising. Her aunt stood up, kissed, and
exclaimed, “I tell you you are a queenly creature, not to be treated as
any puny trollop of a handmaid. And although he is a great nobleman, he
is not to presume to behave any longer, my dear, as if your family had
no claim on his consideration. My husband, Alfred Pagnell, would have
laid that before him pretty quick. You are the child of the Farrells and
the Solers, both old families; on your father’s side you are linked
with the oldest nobility in Europe. It flushes one to think of it!
Your grandmother, marrying Captain Algernon Farrell, was the legitimate
daughter of a Grandee of Spain; as I have told Lord Ormont often, and
I defy him to equal that for a romantic marriage in the annals of his
house, or boast of bluer blood. Again, the Solers--”

“We take the Solers for granted, aunty, good night.”

“Commoners, if you like; but established since the Conquest. That is, we
trace the pedigree. And to be treated, even by a great nobleman, as if
we were stuff picked up out of the ditch! I declare, there are times
when I sit and think and boil. Is it chivalrous, is it generous--is it,
I say, decent--is it what Alfred would have called a fair fulfilment
of a pact, for your wedded husband--? You may close my mouth! But he
pretends to be chivalrous and generous, and he has won a queen any
wealthy gentleman in England--I know of one, if not two--would be proud
to have beside him in equal state; and what is he to her? He is an
extinguisher. Or is it the very meanest miserliness, that he may keep
you all to himself? There we are again! I say he is an unreadable
sphinx.”

Aminta had rung the bell for her maid. Mrs. Pagnell could be counted on
for drawing in her tongue when the domestics were near.

A languor past delivery in sighs was on the young woman’s breast. She
could have heard without a regret that the heart was to cease beating.
Had it been downright misery she would have looked about her with less
of her exanimate glassiness. The unhappy have a form of life: until they
are worn out, they feel keenly. She felt nothing. The blow to her pride
of station and womanhood struck on numbed sensations. She could complain
that the blow was not heavier.

A letter lying in her jewel-box called her to read it, for the chance
of some slight stir. The contents were known. The signature of Adolphus
Morsfield had a new meaning for her eyes, and dashed her at her husband
in a spasm of revolt and wrath against the man exposing her to these
letters, which a motion of her hand could turn to blood, and abstention
from any sign maintained in a Satanic whisper, saying, “Here lies one
way of solving the riddle.” It was her husband who drove her to look
that way.

The look was transient, and the wrath: she could not burn. A small
portion of contempt lodged in her mind to shadow husbands precipitating
women on their armoury for a taste of vengeance. Women can always be
revenged--so speedily, so completely: they have but to dip. Husbands
driving wives to taste their power execrate the creature for her fall
deep downward. They are forgetful of causes.

Does it matter? Aminta’s languor asked. The letter had not won a reply.
Thought of the briefest of replies was a mountain of effort, and she
moaned at her nervelessness in body and mind. To reply, to reproach the
man, to be flame--an image of herself under the form she desired--gave
her a momentary false energy, wherein the daring of the man, whose life
was at a loss for the writing of this letter, hung lighted. She had
therewith a sharp vision of his features, repellent in correctness,
Greek in lines, with close eyes, hollow temples, pressed lips--a face
indicating the man who can fling himself on a die. She had heard tales
of women and the man. Some had loved him, report said. Here were words
to say that he loved her. They might, poor man, be true. Otherwise she
had never been loved.

Memory had of late been paying visits to a droopy plant in the golden
summer drought on a gorgeous mid-sea island, and had taken her on board
to refresh her with voyages, always bearing down full sail on a couple
of blissful schools, abodes of bloom and briny vigour, sweet merriment,
innocent longings, dreams the shyest, dreams the mightiest. At night
before sleep, at morn before rising, often during day, and when vexed
or when dispirited, she had issued her command for the voyage. Sheer
refreshment followed, as is ever the case if our vessel carries no
freight of hopes. There could be no hopes. It was forgotten that they
had ever been seriously alive. But it carried an admiration. Now, an
admiration may endure, and this one had been justified all round. The
figure heroical, the splendid, active youth, hallowed Aminta’s past. The
past of a bitterly humiliated Aminta was a garden in the coming kiss of
sunset, with that godlike figure of young manhood to hallow it. There he
stayed, perpetually assuring her of his triumphs to come.

She could have no further voyages. Ridicule convulsed her home of
refuge. For the young soldier-hero, to be unhorsed by misfortune, was
one thing; but the meanness of the ambition he had taken in exchange for
the thirst of glory, accused his nature. He so certainly involved her in
the burlesque of the transformation that she had to quench memory.

She was, therefore, having smothered a good part of herself, accountably
languid--a condition alternating with fire in Aminta; and as Mr.
Morsfield’s letter supplied the absent element, her needy instinct
pushed her to read his letter through. She had not yet done that with
attention.

Whether a woman loves a man or not, he is her lover if he dare tell her
he loves her, and is heard with attention. Aware that the sentences
were poison, she summoned her constitutional antagonism to the mad step
proposed, so far nullifying the virus as to make her shrink from the
madness. Even then her soul cried out to her husband, Who drives me to
read? or rather, to brood upon what she read. The brooding ensued, was
the thirst of her malady. The best antidote she could hit on was the
writer’s face. Yet it expressed him, his fire and his courage--gifts she
respected in him, found wanting in herself. Read by Lord Ormont, this
letter would mean a deadly thing.

Aminta did her lord the justice to feel sure of him, that with her name
bearing the superscription, it might be left on her table, and world not
have him to peruse it. If he manoeuvred, it was never basely. Despite
resentment, her deepest heart denied his being indifferent either to
her honour or his own in relation to it. He would vindicate both at
a stroke, for a sign. Nevertheless, he had been behaving cruelly. She
charged on him the guilt of the small preludes, archeries, anglings,
veilings, evasions, all done with the eyelids and the mute of the lips,
or a skirmisher word or a fan’s flourish, and which, intended to pique
the husband rather than incite the lover, had led Mrs. Lawrence Finchley
to murmur at her ear, in close assembly, without a distinct designation
of Mr. Morsfield, “Dangerous man to play little games with!” It had
brought upon her this letter of declaration, proposal, entreaty.

This letter was the man’s life in her hands, and safe, of course. But
surely it was a proof that the man loved her?

Aminta was in her five-and-twentieth year; when the woman who is
uncertain of the having been loved, and she reputed beautiful,
desirable, is impelled by a sombre necessity to muse on a declaration,
and nibble at an idea of a test. If “a dangerous man to play little
games with,” he could scarcely be dangerous to a woman having no love
for him at all. It meant merely that he would soon fall to writing
letters like this, and he could not expect an answer to it. But her
heart really thanked him, and wished the poor gentleman to take its dumb
response as his reward, for being the one sole one who had loved her.

Aminta dwelt on “the one sole one.” Lord Ormont’s treatment had
detached her from any belief in love on his part; and the schoolboy, now
ambitions to become a schoolmaster, was behind the screen unlikely to
be lifted again by a woman valuing her pride of youth, though he
had--behold our deceptions!--the sympathetic face entirely absent from
that of Mr. Adolphus Morsfield, whom the world would count quite as
handsome--nay, it boasted him. He enjoyed the reputation of a killer
of ladies. Women have odd tastes, Aminta thought, and examined the
gentleman’s handwriting. It pleased her better. She studied it till the
conventional phrases took a fiery hue, and came at her with an invasive
rush.

The letter was cast back into the box, locked up; there an end to it, or
no interdiction of sleep.

Sleep was a triumph. Aminta’s healthy frame rode her over petty
agitations of a blood uninflamed, as lightly as she swam the troubled
sea-waters her body gloried to cleave. She woke in the morning peaceful
and mildly reflective, like one who walks across green meadows. Only by
degrees, by glimpses, was she drawn to remember the trotting, cantering,
galloping, leaping of an active heart during night. We cannot, men
or woman, control the heart in sleep at night. There had been wild
leapings. Night will lead an unsatisfied heart of a woman, by way of
sleep, to scale black mountains, jump jagged chasms. Sleep is a horse
that laughs at precipices and abysses. We bid women, moreover, be
all heart. They are to cultivate their hearts, pay much heed to their
hearts. The vast realm of feeling is open to these appointed keepers of
the sanctuary household, who may be withering virgins, may be childless
matrons, may be unhusbanded wives. Wandering in the vast realm which
they are exhorted to call their own, for the additional attractiveness
it gives them, an unsatisfied heart of woman will somewhat audaciously
cross the borderland a single step into the public road of the vast
realm of thinking. Once there, and but a single step on the road, she is
a rebel against man’s law for her sex. Nor is it urgent on her that she
should think defiantly in order to feel herself the rebel. She may think
submissively; with a heart (the enlarged, the scientifically plumped,
the pasture of epicurean man), with her coveted heart in revolt, and
from the mere act of thinking at all.

Aminta reviewed perforce, dead against her will, certain of the
near-to-happiness ratings over-night. She thinned her lips, and her
cheeks glowed. An arm, on the plea of rescuing, had been round her. The
choice now offered her was, to yield to softness or to think. She took
the latter step, the single step of an unaccustomed foot, which women
educated simply to feet, will, upon extreme impulsion, take; and it held
a candle in a windy darkness. She saw no Justice there. The sensational
immensity touched sublime, short of that spirit of Justice required
for the true sublime. And void of Justice; what a sunless place is any
realm! Infants, the male and the female alike, first begin to know they
feel when it is refused them. When they know they feel, they have begun
to reflect. The void of Justice is a godless region. Women, to whom the
solitary thought has come as a blown candle, illumining the fringes of
their storm, ask themselves whether they are God’s creatures or man’s.
The question deals a sword-stroke of division between them and their
human masters. Young women, animated by the passions their feeling
bosoms of necessity breed, and under terror discover, do not distinguish
an abstract justice from a concrete. They are of the tribe too long
hereditarily enslaved to conceive an abstract. So it is with them, that
their God is the God of the slave, as it is with all but the bravest of
boys. He is a Thing to cry to, a Punisher, not much of a Supporter--the
Biblical Hebrew’s right reading of Nature, favouring man, yet prompt to
confound him, and with woman for the instrument of vengeance. By such
a maze the blindfolded, are brought round to see Justice on earth. If
women can only believe in some soul of justice, they will feel they
belong to God--of the two; and the peril for them then is, that they
will set the one incomprehensible Power in opposition to the other,
urging them unsatisfied natures to make secret appeal away from man and
his laws altogether, at the cost of losing clear sight of the God who
shines in thought. It is a manner whereby the desperately harried
among these creatures of the petted heart arrive upon occasion at an
agreeable, almost reposeful, contemplation of the reverse of God.

There is little pleasure to be on the lecture-rostrum for a narrator
sensible to the pulses of his audience. Justice compels at times. In
truth, there are times when the foggy obscurities of the preacher are by
comparison broad daylight beside the whirling loose tissues of a woman
unexplained. Aminta was one born to prize rectitude, to walk on the
traced line uprightly; and while the dark rose overflowed the soft
brown of her cheeks, under musings upon her unlicenced heart’s doings
overnight, she not only pleaded for woeful creatures of her sex burdened
as she and erring, she weighed them in the scales with men, and put her
heart where Justice pointed, sending men to kick aloft.

Her husband, the man-riddle: she was unable to rede or read him. Her
will could not turn him; nor her tongue combat; nor was it granted her
to pique the mailed veteran. Every poor innocent little bit of an art
had been exhausted. Her title was Lady Ormont her condition actually
slave. A luxuriously established slave, consorting with a singularly
enfranchised set,--as, for instance, Mrs. Lawrence Finchley and Lord
Adderwood; Sir John Randeller and Lady Staines; Mrs. May, Amy May,
notorious wife of a fighting captain, the loneliest of blondes; and
other ladies, other gentlemen, Mr. Morsfield in the list, paired or not
yet paired: gossip raged. Aminta was of a disposition too generously
cordial to let her be the rigorous critic of people with whom she was
in touch. But her mind knew relief when she recollected that her humble
little school-mate, Selina Collect, who had suffered on her behalf in
old days, was coming up to her from the Suffolk coast on a visit for a
week. However much a slave and an unloved woman, she could be a constant
and protecting friend. Besides, Lord Ormont was gracious to little
Selina. She thought of his remarks about the modest-minded girl after
first seeing her. From that she struck upon a notion of reserves of
humaneness being in him, if she might find the path to them: and
thence, fortified by the repose her picture of little Selina’s merit had
bestowed, she sprang to the idea of valiancy, that she would woo him
to listen to her, without inflicting a scene. He had been a listening
lover, seeming lover, once, later than the Granada sunsets. The letter
in her jewel-box urged Aminta to clear her conscience by some means, for
leaving it unburnt.



CHAPTER VII. EXHIBITS EFFECTS OF A PRATTLER’S DOSES

The rules in Lord Ormont’s household assisted to shelter him for some
hours of the day from the lady who was like a blast of sirocco under his
roof. He had his breakfast alone, as Lady Charlotte had it at Olmer; a
dislike of a common table in the morning was a family trait with both.
At ten o’clock the secretary arrived, and they were shut up together. At
the luncheon table Aminta usually presided. If my lord dined at home,
he had by that time established an equanimity rendering, his constant
civility to Mrs. Pagnell less arduous. The presence of a woman of
tongue, perpetually on the spring to gratify him and win him, was among
the burdens he bore for his Aminta.

Mrs. Pagnell soon perceived that the secretary was in favour. My lord
and this Mr. Weyburn had their pet themes of conversation, upon which
the wary aunt of her niece did not gaze like the wintry sun with the
distant smile her niece displayed over discussions concerning military
biographies, Hannibal’s use of his elephants and his Numidian horse,
the Little St. Bernard, modern artillery, ancient slingers, English and
Genoese bowmen, Napoleon’s tactics, his command to the troopers to “give
point,” and English officers’ neglect of sword exercise, and the “devil
of a day” Old England is to have on a day to come. My lord connected
our day of trial with India. Mrs. Pagnell assumed an air of studious
interest; she struck in to give her niece a lead, that Lord Ormont might
know his countess capable of joining the driest of subjects occupying
exalted minds. Aminta did not follow her; and she was extricated
gallantly by the gentlemen in turn.

The secretary behaved with a pretty civility. Aminta shook herself to
think tolerantly of him when he, after listening to the suggestion, put
interrogatively, that we should profit by Hannibal’s example and train
elephants to serve as a special army corps for the perfect security of
our priceless Indian Empire, instanced the danger likely to result from
their panic fear of cannon, and forbore to consult Lord Ormont’s eye.

Mrs. Pagnell knew that she had put her foot into it; but women advised
of being fools in what they say, are generally sustained by their sense
of the excellent motive which impelled them. Even to the Countess of
Ormont, she could have replied, “We might have given them a higher idea
of us”--if, that meant, the Countess of Ormont had entered the field
beside her, to the exclusion of a shrinking Aminta. She hinted as much
subsequently, and Aminta’s consciousness of the troth was touched.
The young schoolmaster’s company sat on her spirits, deadened her
vocabulary. Her aunt spoke of passing the library door and hearing the
two gentlemen loudly laughing. It seemed subserviency on the fallen
young hero’s part. His tastes were low. He frequented the haunts of
boxing men; her lord informed her of his having made, or of his making,
matches to run or swim or walk certain distances against competitors or
within a given time. He had also half a dozen boys or more in tow, whom
he raced out of town on Sundays; a nucleus of the school he intended to
form.

But will not Achilles become by comparison a common rushlight where
was a blazing torch, if we see him clap a clown’s cap on the head whose
golden helm was fired by Pallas?

Nay, and let him look the hero still: all the more does he point finger
on his meanness of nature.

Turning to another, it is another kind of shame that a woman feels, if
she consents to an exchange of letters--shameful indeed, but not such
a feeling of deadly sickness as comes with the humiliating view of an
object of admiration degraded. Bad she may be; and she may be deceived,
vilely treated, in either case. And what is a woman’s pride but the
staff and banner of her soul, beyond all gifts? He who wounds it cannot
be forgiven--never!--he has killed the best of her. Aminta found herself
sliding along into the sentiment, that the splendid idol of a
girl’s worship is, if she discover him in the lapse of years as an
infinitesimally small one, responsible for the woman’s possible reckless
fit of giddiness. And she could see her nonsense; she could not correct
it. Lines of the letters under signature of Adolphus were phosphorescent
about her: they would recur; and she charged their doing so on the
discovered meanness of the girl’s idol. Her wicked memory was caused by
his having plunged her low.

Mrs. Pagnell performed the offices of attention to Mr. Weyburn in lieu
of the countess, who seemed to find it a task to sit at the luncheon
table with him, when Lady Ormont was absent. “Just peeped in,” she said
as she entered the library, “to see if all was comfortable;” and gossip
ensued, not devoid of object. She extracted an astonishingly smooth
description of Lady Charlotte. Weyburn was brightness in speaking of the
much-misunderstood lady. “She’s one of the living women of the world.”

“You are sure you don’t mean one of the worldly women?” Mrs. Pagnell
rejoiced.

“She has to be known to be liked,” he owned.

“And you were, one hears, among the favoured?”

“I can scarcely pretend to that, ma’am.”

“You were recommended.”

“Lady Charlotte is devoted to her brother.”

Mrs. Pagnell’s bosom heaved. “How strange Lord Ormont is! One would
suppose, with his indignation at the country for its treatment of him,
admirers would be welcome. Oh dear, no! that is not the way. On board
the packet, on our voyage to Spain, my niece in her cabin, imploring
mercy of Neptune, as they say, I heard of Lord Ormont among the
passengers. I could hardly credit my ears. For I had been hearing of him
from my niece ever since her return from a select establishment for the
education of young ladies, not much more than a morning’s drive out of
London, though Dover was my residence. She had got a hero! It was Lord
Ormont! Lord Ormont! all day: and when the behaviour of the country to
him became notorious, Aminta--my niece the countess--she could hardly
contain herself. A secret:--I promised her--it’s not known to Lord
Ormont himself:--a printed letter in a metropolitan paper, copied into
the provincial papers, upholding him for one of the greatest of our
patriot soldiers and the saviour of India, was the work of her hands.
You would, I am sure, think it really well written. Meeting him on
deck--the outline of the coast of Portugal for an introductory subject,
our Peninsular battles and so forth--I spoke of her enthusiasm. The
effect was, to cut off all communication between us. I had only to
appear, Lord Ormont vanished. I said to myself, this is a character.
However, the very mention of him to my niece, as one of the passengers
on board--medicine, miraculous! She was up in half an hour, out pacing
the deck before evening, hardly leaning on my arm, and the colour
positively beginning to show on her cheeks again. He fled, of coarse.
I had prepared her for his eccentricities. Next morning she was out
by herself. In the afternoon Lord Ormont strode up to us his--military
step--and most courteously requested the honour of an introduction. I
had broken the ice at last; from that moment he was cordiality itself,
until--I will not say, until he had called her his own--a few little
misunderstandings!--not with his countess. You see, a resident aunt
is translated mother-in-law by husbands; though I spare them pretty
frequently; I go to friends, they travel. Here in London she must have a
duenna. The marriage at Madrid, at the Embassy:--well, perhaps it was a
step for us, for commoners, though we rank with the independent. Has
her own little pin-money--an inheritance. Perhaps Lady Eglett gives the
world her version. She may say, there was aiming at station. I reply,
never was there a more whole-hearted love-match! Absolutely the girl’s
heart has been his from the period of her school-days. Oh! a little
affair--she was persecuted by a boy at a neighbouring school. Her
mistress wrote me word--a very determined Romeo young gentleman
indeed--quite alarmed about him. In the bud! I carried her off on the
spot, and snapped it effectually. Warned he meant to be desperate, I
kept her away from my house at Dover four months, place to place; and
I did well. I heard on my return, that a youth, answering to the
schoolmistress’s description of him, had been calling several times,
the first two months and longer. You have me alluding to these little
nonsensical nothings, because she seemed born to create violent
attachments, even at that early day; and Lady Eglett--Lady Charlotte
Eglett may hear; for there is no end to them, and impute them to her,
when really!--can she be made responsible for eyes innocent of the
mischief they appear destined to do? But I am disturbing you in your
work.”

“You are very good, ma’am,” said the ghost of the determined young
gentleman.

“A slight cold, have you?” Mrs. Pagnell asked solicitously.

“Dear me, no!” he gave answer with a cleared throat.

In charging him with more than he wanted to carry, she supplied him with
particulars he had wanted to know; and now he asked himself what could
be the gain of any amount of satisfied curiosity regarding a married
Aminta. She slew my lord on board a packet-boat; she bears the arrows
that slay. My lord married her where the first English chaplain was to
be found; that is not wonderful either. British Embassy, Madrid! Weyburn
believed the ceremony to have been performed there: at the same time, he
could hear Lady Charlotte’s voice repeating with her varied intonation
Mrs. Pagnell’s impressive utterances; and he could imagine how the
somewhat silly duenna aunt, so penetrable in her transparent artifices,
struck emphasis on the incredulity of people inclined to judge of the
reported ceremony by Lord Ormont’s behaviour to his captive.

How explain that strange matter? But can there be a gain in trying to
sound it? Weyburn shuffled it away. Before the fit of passion seized
him, he could turn his eager mind from anything which had not a
perceptible point of gain, either for bodily strength or mental
acquisition, or for money, too, now that the school was growing palpable
as an infant in arms and agape for the breast. Thought of gain, and the
bent to pursue it, is the shield of Athene over young men in the press
of the seductions. He had to confess his having lost some bits of
himself by reason of his meditations latterly; and that loss, if we let
it continue a space, will show in cramp at the wrist, logs on the legs,
a wheezy wind, for any fellow vowed to physical trials of strength
and skill. It will show likewise in the brain beating broken
wings--inability to shoot a thought up out of the body for half a
minute. And, good Lord! how quickly the tight-strong fellow crumbles,
when once the fragmentary disintegration has begun! Weyburn cried out on
a heart that bounded off at prodigal gallops, and had to be nipped with
reminders of the place of good leader he was for taking among the young.
Hang superexcellence! but we know those moanings over the troubles of
a married woman; we know their sources, know their goal, or else we are
the fiction-puppet or the Bedlamite; and she is a married woman, married
at the British Embassy, Madrid, if you please! after a few weeks’
acquaintance with her husband, who doubtless wrote his name intelligibly
in the registrar’s book, but does not prove himself much the hero when
he drives a pen, even for so little as the signing of his name! He
signed his name, apparently not more than partly pledging himself to
the bond. Lord Ormont’s autobiographical scraps combined with Lady
Charlotte’s hints and Mrs. Pagnell’s communications, to provoke the
secretary’s literary contempt of his behaviour to his wife. However, the
former might be mended, and he resumed the task.

It had the restorative effect of touching him to see his old hero in
action; whereby he was brought about to a proper modesty, so that he
really craved no more than for the mistress of this house to breathe the
liberal air of a public acknowledgment of her rightful position.
Things constituted by their buoyancy to float are remarkable for lively
bobbings when they are cast upon the waters; and such was the case with
Weyburn, until the agitation produced by Mrs. Pagnell left him free to
sail away in the society of the steadiest.

He decided that by not observing, not thinking, not feeling, about the
circumstances of the household into which Fate had thrown him, he would
best be able--probably it was the one way--to keep himself together; and
his resolution being honest all round, he succeeded in it as long as he
abstained from a very wakeful vigilance over simple eyesight. For if
one is nervously on guard to not-see, the matter starts up winged, and
enters us, and kindles the mind, and tingles through the blood; it has
us as a foe. The art of blind vision requires not only practice, but an
intimate knowledge of the arts of the traitor we carry within. Safest
for him, after all, was to lay fast hold of the particularly unimportant
person he was, both there and anywhere else. The Countess of Ormont’s
manner toward him was to be read as a standing index of the course he
should follow; and he thanked her. He could not quite so sincerely thank
her aunt. His ingratitude for the sickly dose she had administered to
him sprang a doubt whether Lady Ormont now thanked her aunt on account
of services performed at the British Embassy, Madrid.

Certain looks of those eyes recently, when in colloquy with my lord,
removed the towering nobleman to a shadowed landscape.

Was it solely an effect of eyes commanding light, and having every
shaft of the quiver of the rays at her disposal? Or was it a shot from a
powerful individuality issuing out of bondage to some physical oppressor
no longer master of the soul, in peril of the slipping away of the body?
Her look on him was not hate: it was larger, more terribly divine. Those
eyes had elsewhere once looked love: they had planted their object in
a throbbing Eden. The man on whom they had looked shivered over the
thought of it after years of blank division.

Rather than have those eyes to look on him their displacing
unintentness, the man on whom they had once looked love would have
chosen looks of wrath, the darts that kill--blest darts of the celestial
Huntress, giving sweet sudden cessation of pain, in the one everlasting
last flash of life with thought that the shot was hers. Oh for the
‘ayava behea’ of the Merciful in splendour!

These were the outcries of the man deciding simultaneously not to
observe, not to think, not to feel, and husbanding calculations upon
storage of gain for the future. Softness held the song below. It came of
the fact that his enforced resolution, for the sake of sanity, drove his
whole reflective mind backward upon his younger days, when an Evening
and a Morning star in him greeted the bright Goddess Browny or sang
adieu, and adored beyond all golden beams the underworld whither she had
sunk, where she was hidden.

Meanwhile, the worthy dame who had dosed him was out in her carriage,
busy paying visits to distinguished ladies of the great world, with the
best of excuses for an early call, which was gossip to impart, such as
the Countess of Ormont had not yet thought of mentioning; and two or
three of them were rather amusedly interested to hear that Lord Ormont
had engaged a handsome young secretary, “under the patronage of Lady
Charlotte Eglett, devoted to sports of all kinds, immensely favoured by
both.” Gossip must often have been likened to the winged insect bearing
pollen to the flowers; it fertilizes many a vacuous reverie. Those
flowers of the upper garden are not, indeed, stationary and in need of
the missionary buzzer, but if they have been in one place unmoved for
one hour, they are open to take animation from their visitors. Aminta
was pleasantly surprised next day by the receipt of a note from Mrs.
Lawrence Finchley, begging to be invited to lunch if she came, as she
had a purpose in the wish to meet my lord.



[NOTE: The remainder of ‘Lord Ormont and His Aminta’ is taken from an
older edition which uses single rather than double quotation marks.
D.W.]


CHAPTER VIII. MRS. LAWRENCE FINCHLEY

My lord had one of his wilful likings for Isabella Lawrence Finchley,
and he consented to the torture of an hour of Mrs. Nargett Pagnell in
the middle of the day, just to taste the favourite he welcomed at home
as he championed her abroad. The reasons were numerous and intimate why
she pleased him. He liked the woman, enjoyed the cause for battle that
she gave. Weyburn, on coming to the luncheon table, beheld a lady with
the head of a comely boy, the manner, softened in delicate feminine, of
a capital comrade. Her air of candour was her nature in her face; and
it carried a guileless roguery, a placid daring, a supersensual
naughtiness, a simplicity of repose amid the smoky reputation she
created, that led one to think the vapour calumnious or the creature
privileged. That young boy’s look opened him at once; he had not to
warm to her,--he flew. Ordinarily the sweetest ladies will make us pass
through cold mist and cross a stile or two, or a broken bridge, before
the formalities are cleared away to grant us rights of citizenship. She
was like those frank lands where we have not to hand out a passport at
the frontier and wait for dubious inspection of it.

She prevailed with cognizant men and with the frivolous. Women were
capable of appreciating her, too: as Aminta did, despite some hinted
qualifications addressed shyly to her husband. But these were the very
matters exciting his particular esteem. He was of Lady Charlotte’s mind,
in her hot zeal against injustice done to the creatures she despised;
and yet more than she applauded a woman who took up her idiot husband’s
challenge to defend her good name, and cleared it, right or wrong, and
beat him down on his knees, and then started for her spell of the merry
canter over turf: an example to the English of the punishment they get
for their stupid Puritanic tyranny--sure to be followed by a national
helter-skelter down-hill headlong. And Mrs. Lawrence was not one of the
corrupt, he argued; she concealed what it was decent to conceal, without
pouting hypocritical pretences; she had merely dispensed with idle legal
formalities, in the prettiest curvetting airy wanton way, to divorce the
man who tried to divorce her, and ‘whined to be forgiven when he found
he couldn’t. Adderwood was ready to marry her to-morrow, if the donkey
husband would but go and bray his last. Half a dozen others were heads
off on the same course to that goal.’

That was her champion’s perusal of a lady candidly asserting her right
to have breeched comrades, and paying for it in the advocacy which
compromises. She was taken to be and she was used as a weapon wherewith
to strike at our Pharisees. Women pushing out into the world for
independence, bleed heavy payments all round.

The earl’s double-edged defence of her was partly a vindication of
another husband, who allowed his wife to call her friend; he was
nevertheless assured of her not being corrupt, both by his personal
knowledge of the lady, and his perception of her image in the bosom of
his wife. She did no harm there, he knew well. Although he was not a man
to put his trust in faces, as his young secretary inclined to do,
Mrs. Lawrence’s look of honest boy did count among the pleadings.
And somewhat so might a government cruiser observe the intrusion of a
white-sailed yacht in protected sea-waters, where licenced trawlers are
at the haul.

Talk over the table coursed as fluently as might be, with Mrs. Pagnell
for a boulder in the stream. Uninformed by malice, she led up to Lord
Adderwood’s name, and perhaps more designedly spoke of Mr. Morsfield, on
whom her profound reading into the female heart of the class above her
caused her to harp, as ‘a real Antinous,’ that the ladies might discuss
him and Lord Ormont wax meditative.

Mrs. Lawrence pitied the patient gentleman, while asking him in her mind
who was the author of the domestic burden he had to bear.

‘It reminds me I have a mission,’ she said. ‘There’s a fencing match
down at a hall in the West, near the barracks; private and select:
Soldier and Civilian; I forget who challenged--Civilian, one judges;
Soldiers are the peaceful party. They want you to act “umpire,” as they
call it, on the military side, my dear lord; and you will?--I have
given my word you will bring Lady Ormont. You will?--and not let me be
confounded! Yes, and we shall make a party. I see consent. Aminta will
enjoy the switch of steel. I love to see fencing. It rouses all that is
diabolical in me.’

She sent a skimming look at the opposite.

‘And I,’ said he, much freshened.

‘You fence?’

‘Handle the foils.’

‘If you must speak modestly! Are you in practice?’

‘I spend in hour in Captain Chiallo’s fencing rooms generally every
evening before dinner. I heard there the first outlines of the match
proposed. You are right; it was the civilian.’

‘Mr. Morsfield, as I suspected.’

She smiled to herself, like one saying, Not badly managed, Mr.
Morsfield!

‘Italian school?’ Lord Ormont inquired, with a screw of the eyelids.

‘French, my lord.’

‘The only school for teaching.’

‘The simplest--has the most rational method. Italians are apt to be
tricky. But they were masters once, and now and then they send out a
fencer the French can’t touch.’

‘How would you account for it?’

‘If I had to account for it, I should say, hotter blood, cool nerve,
quick brain.’

‘Hum. Where are we, then?’

‘We don’t shine with the small sword.’

‘We had men neatly pinked for their slashings in the Peninsula.’

‘We’ve had clever Irishmen.’

‘Hot enough blood! This man Morsfield--have you crossed the foils with
him?’

‘Goes at it like a Spaniard; though Spaniards in Paris have been found
wary enough.’

My lord hummed. ‘Fellow looks as if he would easily lose his head over
steel.’

‘He can be dangerous.’

The word struck on something, and rang.

Mrs. Lawrence had a further murmur within her lips. Her travelling eye
met Aminta’s and passed it.

‘But not dangerous, surely, if the breast is padded?’ said Mrs. Pagnell.

‘Oh no, oh no; not in that case!’ Mrs. Lawrence ran out her voluble
assent, and her eyelids blinked; her fair boy’s face was mischief at
school under shadow of the master.

She said to Weyburn: ‘Are you one in the list--to give our military a
lesson? They want it.’

His answer was unheard by Aminta. She gathered from Mrs. Lawrence’s
pleased sparkle that he had been invited to stand in the list; and the
strange, the absurd spectacle of a young schoolmaster taking the heroic
attitude for attack and defence wrestled behind her eyes with a suddenly
vivid first-of-May cricketing field, a scene of snowballs flying, the
vision of a strenuous lighted figure scaling to noble young manhood.
Isabella Lawrence’s look at him spirited the bright past out of the
wretched long-brown-coat shroud of the present, prompting her to grieve
that some woman’s hand had not smoothed a small tuft of hair, disorderly
on his head a little above the left parting, because Isabella
Lawrence Finchley could have no recollection of how it used to toss
feathery--wild at his games.

My lord hummed again. ‘I suspect we ‘re going to get a drubbing. This
fellow here has had his French maitre d’armes. Show me your hand, sir.’

Weyburn smiled, and extended his right hand, saying: ‘The wrist wants
exercise.’

‘Ha! square thumb, flesh full at the nails’ ends; you were a bowler at
cricket.’

‘Now examine the palms, my lord; I judge by the lines on the palms,’
Mrs. Pagnell remarked.

He nodded to her and rose.

Coffee had not been served, she reminded him; it was coming in, so
down he sat a yard from the table; outwardly equable, inwardly cursing
coffee; though he refused to finish a meal without his cup.

‘I think the palms do betray something,’ said Mrs. Lawrence; and Aminta
said: ‘Everything betrays.’

‘No, my dear,’ Mrs. Pagnell corrected her; ‘the extremities betray, and
we cannot read the centre. Is it not so, my lord?’

‘It may be as you say, ma’am.’

She was disappointed in her scheme to induce a general examination of
palms, and especially his sphinx lordship’s.

Weyburn controlled the tongue she so frequently tickled to an elvish
gavotte, but the humour on his face touched Mrs. Lawrence’s to a subdued
good-fellow roguishness, and he felt himself invited to chat with her on
the walk for a reposeful ten minutes in Aminta’s drawing-room.

Mrs. Pagnell, ‘quite enjoying the company,’ as she told her niece,
was dismayed to hear her niece tell her of a milliner’s appointment,
positive for three o’clock; and she had written it in her head ‘p.m.,
four o’clock,’ and she had mislaid or destroyed the milliner’s note; and
she still had designs upon his lordship’s palms, things to read and hint
around her off the lines. She departed.

Lord Ormont became genial; and there was no one present who did not
marvel that he should continue to decree a state of circumstances more
or less necessitating the infliction he groaned under. He was too lofty
to be questioned, even by his favourites. Mrs. Lawrence conjured the
ghost of Lady Charlotte for an answer: this being Lord Adderwood’s idea.
Weyburn let his thoughts go on fermenting. Pride froze a beginning stir
in the bosom of Aminta.

Her lord could captivate a reluctant woman’s bosom when he was genial.
He melted her and made her call up her bitterest pride to perform its
recent office. That might have failed; but it had support in a second
letter received from the man accounted both by Mrs. Lawrence and by Mr.
Weyburn ‘dangerous’; and the thought of who it was that had precipitated
her to ‘play little games’ for the sole sake of rousing him through
jealousy to a sense of righteous duty, armed her desperately against
him. She could exult in having read the second letter right through
on receipt of it, and in remembering certain phrases; and notably in
a reflection shot across her bewildered brain by one of the dangerous
man’s queer mad sentences: ‘Be as iron as you like, I will strike you
to heat’; and her thought: Is there assurance of safety in a perpetual
defence?--all while she smiled on her genial lord, and signified
agreement, with a smiting of wonderment at her heart, when he alluded to
a panic shout of the country for defence, and said: ‘Much crying of that
kind weakens the power to defend when the real attack comes.’ Was it
true?

‘But say what you propose?’ she asked.

Lord Ormont proposed vigilance and drill; a small degree of
self-sacrifice on the part of the population, and a look-out head in
the War Department. He proposed to have a nation of stout-braced men
laughing at the foreign bully or bandit, instead of being a pack of
whimpering women; whom he likened to the randomly protestant geese of
our country roadside, heads out a yard in a gabble of defence while they
go backing.

So thereupon Aminta’s notion of a resemblance in the mutual thought
subsided; she relapsed on the cushioning sentiment that she was a woman.
And--only a woman! he might exclaim, if it pleased him; though he would
never be able to say she was one of the whimpering. She, too, had
the choice to indulge in scorn of the superior man stone blind to
proceedings intimately affecting him--if he cared! One might doubt it.

Mrs. Lawrence listened to him with a mind more disengaged, and a
flitting disapproval of Aminta’s unsympathetic ear, or reluctance to
stimulate the devout attention a bruised warrior should have in his
tent. She did not press on him the post of umpire. He consented--at her
request, he said--to visit the show; but refused any official position
that would, it was clearly enough implied, bring his name in any
capacity whatever before the country which had unpardonably maltreated
him.

Feminine wits will be set working, when a point has been gained; and as
Mrs. Lawrence could now say she had persuaded Lord Ormont to gratify
her specially, she warmed to fancy she read him, and that she might have
managed the wounded and angry giant. Her minor intelligence, caracoling
unhampered by harassing emotions, rebuked Aminta’s for not perceiving
that to win him round to whatever a woman may desire, she must be with
him, outstrip him even, along the line he chooses for himself; abuse
the country, rail at the Government, ridicule the title of English Army,
proscribe the name of India in his hearing. Little stings of jealousy
are small insect bites, and do not pique a wounded giant hardly
sensible of irritation under his huge, and as we assume for our purpose,
justifiable wrath. We have to speculate which way does the giant incline
to go? and turn him according to the indication.

Mrs. Lawrence was driven by her critic mood to think Aminta
relied--erroneously, after woman’s old fashion--on the might of superb
dark eyes after having been captured. It seemed to her worse than a
beautiful woman’s vanity, a childishness. But her boy’s head held boy’s
brains; and Lord Ormont’s praise of the splendid creature’s nerve when
she had to smell powder in Spain, and at bull-fights, and once at a
wrecking of their carriage down a gully on the road over the Alpujarras,
sent her away subdued, envious, happy to have kissed the cheek of the
woman who could inspire it.



CHAPTER IX. A FLASH OF THE BRUISED WARRIOR

The winning of Lord Ormont’s consent to look on at the little bout of
arms was counted an achievement; for even in his own rarefied upper
circle, where the fervid sentiments are not allowed to be seen plunging,
he had his troop of enthusiasts; and they were anxious that he should
make an appearance in public, to take what consolation a misunderstood
and injured man could get from evidence of the grateful esteem
entertained for him by a party of his countrymen, who might reasonably
expect at the same time to set eyes, at rather close quarters, on the
wonderful dark beauty, supposed a Spaniard, occasionally beheld riding
beside him. If it is possible to connect a woman with the devoutest of
their anticipations, the sons of leisure up there will do it. But, in
truth, an English world was having cause to ransack the dust-heaps
for neglected men of mettle. Our intermittent ague, known as dread of
invasion, was over the land. Twice down the columns of panic newspaper
correspondence Lord Ormont saw his name cited, with the effect on him
that such signs of national repentance approaching lodged a crabbed
sourness in his consulting-room, whether of head or breast.

He was assailed by a gusty appeal from Lady Charlotte, bidding him
seize the moment to proclaim his views while the secretary had a private
missive from her, wherein, between insistency and supplication, she
directed him to bring the subject before my lord every day, and be sure
to write out a fair copy of the epistle previous to the transmission of
it. ‘Capua’ was mentioned; she brought in ‘a siren,’ too. Her brother
was to be the soldier again--fling off silken bonds. The world might
prate of his morality; now was the hour for showing his patriotism,
casting aside his just anger, and backing his chief’s opinion. ‘A good
chance to get their names together.’ To her brother she declared that
the columns of the leading journal were open to him--‘in large type’; he
was to take her word for it; he had only to ‘dictate away,’ quite at his
ease, just as he talked at Olmer, and leave the bother of the scribe’s
business to his aide. ‘Lose no time,’ she concluded; ‘the country wants
your ideas; let us have your plan.’

The earl raised his shoulders, and kept his aide exclusively at the
Memoirs. Weyburn, however, read out to him, with accentuation, foolish
stuff in the recurrent correspondence of the daily sheets, and a
complacent burgess article, meant to be a summary of the controversy and
a recommendation to the country to bask in the sun of its wealth again.

‘Ay, be the porker sow it’s getting liker and liker to every year!’ Lord
Ormont exclaimed, and sprang on his feet. ‘Take a pen. Shut up that
box. We’ll give ‘em digestive biscuits for their weak stomachs. Invasion
can’t be done, they say! I tell the doddered asses Napoleon would have
been over if Villeneuve had obeyed him to the letter. Villeneuve had
a fit of paralysis, owing to the prestige of Nelson--that ‘s as it
happened. And they swear at prestige, won’t believe in it, because it’s
not fat bacon. I tell them, after Napoleon’s first battles, prestige did
half his work for him. It saved him at Essling from a plunge into the
Danube; it saved him at Moskowa; it would have marched him half over
England at his first jump on our shingle beach. But that squelch of fat
citizens should be told--to the devil with them! will they ever learn?
short of a second William!--there were eight-and-forty hours when the
liberty of this country hung wavering in the balance with those Boulogne
boats. Now look at Ulm and Austerlitz. Essling, Wagram; put the victors
in those little affairs to front our awkward squads. The French could
boast a regimental system, and chiefs who held them as the whist-player
his hand of cards. Had we a better general than the Archduke Charles?
or cavalry and artillery equal to the Hungarian? or drilled infantry
numbering within eighty thousand of the Boulogne-Wimereux camps? We had
nothing but the raw material of courage--pluck, and no science. Ask
any boxing man what he thinks of the chances. The French might have
sacrificed a fleet to land fifty thousand. Our fleet was our one chance.
Any foreign General at the head of fifty thousand trained, picked troops
would risk it, and cut an ‘entrechat’ for joy of the chance. We should
have fought and bled and been marched over--a field of Anglo-Saxon
stubble! and Nelson riding the Channel, undisputed lord of the waters.
Heigh! by the Lord, this country would have been like a man free to rub
his skin with his hand and a mortal disease in his blood. Are you ready?
How anticipate a hostile march on the capital, is our business.’

Striding up and down the library, Lord Ormont dropped his wrath to
dictate the practical measures for defence--detesting the cat’s-cry
‘defence,’ he said; but the foe would bring his old growlers, and we
should have to season our handful of regulars and mob of levies, turn
the mass into troops. With plenty of food, and blows daily, Englishmen
soon get stomachs for the right way to play the game; bowl as well as
bat; and the sooner they give up the idea of shamming sturdy on a stiff
hind leg, the better for their chances. Only, it’s a beastly thing to
see that for their favourite attitude;--like some dog of a fellow weak
in the fists, weaker in the midriff, at a fair, who cries, Come on, and
prays his gods you won’t. All for peace, the rascal boasts himself, and
he beats his wife and kicks his curs at home. Is there any one to help
him now, he vomits gold and honours on the man he yesterday treated as a
felon. Ha!

Bull the bumpkin disposed of, my lord drew leisurely back from the
foeman’s landing-place, at the head of a body of serious Englishmen;
teaching them to be manageable as chess-pieces, ready as bow-strings to
let fly. Weyburn rejoiced to find himself transcribing crisp sentences,
hard on the matter, without garnish of scorn. Kent, Sussex, Surrey, all
the southern heights about London, round away to the south-western of
the Hampshire heathland, were accurately mapped in the old warrior’s
brain. He knew his points of vantage by name; there were no references
to gazetteer or atlas. A chain of forts and earthworks enables us to
choose our ground, not for clinging to them, but for choice of time and
place to give battle. If we have not been playing double-dyed traitor
to ourselves, we have a preponderating field artillery; our yeomanry and
volunteer horsemen are becoming a serviceable cavalry arm; our infantry
prove that their heterogeneous composition can be welded to a handy
mass, and can stand fire and return it, and not be beaten by an
acknowledged defeat.

‘That’s English! yes, that’s English! when they’re at it,’ my lord sang
out.

‘To know how to take a licking, that wins in the end,’ cried Weyburn;
his former enthusiasm for the hero mounting, enlightened by a
reminiscence of the precept he had hammered on the boys at Cuper’s.

‘They fall well. Yes, the English fall like men,’ said my lord,
pardoning and embracing the cuffed nation. ‘Bodies knocked over, hearts
upright. That’s example; we breed Ironsides out of a sight like that.
If it weren’t for a cursed feeble Government scraping ‘conges’ to the
taxpayer--well, so many of our good fellows would not have to fall. That
I say; for this thing is going to happen some day, mind you, sir! And I
don’t want to have puncheons and hogsheads of our English blood poured
out merely to water the soil of a conquered country because English
Governments are a craven lot, not daring risk of office by offending the
taxpayer. But, on!’

Weyburn sent Lady Charlotte glowing words of the composition in
progress.

They worked through a day, and a second day--talked of nothing else in
the intervals. Explanatory answers were vouchsafed to Aminta’s modest
inquiries at Finch, as she pictured scenes of smoke, dust and blood from
the overpowering plain masculine lines they drew, terrible in bluntness.
The third morning Lord Ormont had map and book to verify distances and
attempt a scale of heights, take names of estates, farms, parishes,
commons, patches of woodland. Weyburn wrote his fair copy on folio
paper, seven-and-thirty pages. He read it aloud to the author on the
afternoon of the fourth day, with the satisfaction in his voice that he
felt. My lord listened and nodded. The plan for the defence of England’s
heart was a good plan.

He signed to have the manuscript handed to him. A fortified London
secure of the Thames for abundant supplies, well able to breathe within
earthworks extending along the southern hills, was clearly shown to
stand the loss of two big battles on the Sussex weald or more East to
North-east, if fortune willed it.

He rose from his chair, paced some steps, with bent head, came back
thoughtfully, lifted the manuscript sheets for another examination.
Then he stooped to the fire, spreading the edges unevenly, so that they
caught flame. Weyburn spied at him. It was to all appearance the
doing of a man who had intended it and brought it to the predetermined
conclusion.

‘About time for you to be off for your turn at Chiallo’s,’ our country’s
defender remarked, after tossing the last half-burnt lump under the
grate and shovelling at it.

‘I will go, my lord,’ said Weyburn--and he was glad to go.

He went, calculated his term of service under Lord Ormont. He was young,
not a philosopher. Waste of anything was abhorrent to a nature pointed
at store of daily gain, if it were only the gain in a new or a freshened
idea; and time lost, work lost, good counsel to the nation lost,
represented horrid vacuity to him, and called up the counter
demonstration of a dance down the halls of madness, for proof that we
should, at least, have jolly motion of limbs there before Perdition
struck the great gong. Ay, and we should be twirling with a fair form on
the arm: woman and man; as it ought to be; twirling downward, true, but
together. Such a companionship has a wisdom to raise it above the title
of madness. Name it, heartily, pleasure; and in contempt of the moralist
burgess, praise the dance of a woman and the man together high over a
curmudgeonly humping solitariness, that won’t forgive an injury, nurses
rancour, smacks itself in the face, because it can’t--to use the old
schoolboy words--take a licking!

These were the huddled, drunken sensations and thoughts entertained by
Weyburn, without his reflecting on the detachment from his old hero, of
which they were the sign. He criticized impulsively, and fancied he did
no more, and was not doing much though, in fact, criticism is the end of
worship; the Brutus blow at that Imperial but mortal bosom.

The person criticized was manifest. Who was the woman he twirled with?
She was unfeatured, undistinguished, one of the sex, or all the sex:
the sex to be shunned as our deadly sapper of gain, unless we find the
chosen one to super-terrestrialize it and us, and trebly outdo our gift
of our whole self for her.

She was indistinguishable, absolutely unknown; yet she murmured, or
seemed to murmur--for there was no sound--a complaint of Lord Ormont.
And she, or some soundless mouth of woman, said he was a splendid
military hero, a chivalrous man, a man of inflexible honour; but had
no understanding of how to treat a woman, or belief in her having equal
life with him on earth.

She was put aside rather petulantly, and she took her seat out of the
whirl with submission. Thinking she certainly was not Browny, whom he
would have known among a million, he tried to quit the hall, and he
twirled afresh, necessarily not alone; it is the unpardonable offence
both to the Graces and the Great Mother for man to valse alone. She
twirled on his arm, uninvited; accepted, as in the course of nature;
hugged, under dictate of the nature of the man steeled against her by
the counting of gain, and going now at desperation’s pace, by very means
of those defensive locked steam-valves meant to preserve him from this
madness,--for the words of the red-lipped mate, where there were no
words, went through him like a music when the bow is over the viol,
sweeping imagination, and they said her life was wasting.

Was not she a priceless manuscript cast to the flames? Her lord had been
at some trouble to win her. Or his great fame and his shadowed fortunes
had won her. He took her for his own, and he would not call her his own.
He comported himself with absolute, with kindly deference to the lady
whose more than vital spark he let the gossips puff at and blur. He
praised her courage, visibly admired her person, admitted her in private
to be his equal, degraded her in public. Could anything account for the
behaviour of so manly and noble a gentleman?--Rhetoric made the attempt,
and Weyburn gave up the windy business.

Discovering that his fair partner of the wasting life was--he struggled
to quench the revelation--Aminta, he stopped the dance. If there was no
gain in whirling fancifully with one of the sex, a spin of a minute with
her was downright bankruptcy.

He was young, full of blood; his heart led him away from the door Lord
Ormont had exposed; at which a little patient unemotional watchfulness
might have intimated to him something besides the simple source of the
old hero’s complex chapter of conduct. As it was, Weyburn did see the
rancour of a raw wound in operation. But he moralized and disapproved;
telling himself, truly enough, that so it would not have been with him;
instead of sounding at my lord’s character, and his condition of the
unjustly neglected great soldier, for the purpose of asking how that raw
wound would affect an injured veteran, who compressed, almost repressed,
the roar of Achilles, though his military bright name was to him his
Briseis.



CHAPTER X. A SHORT PASSAGE IN THE GAME PLAYED BY TWO

Politest of men in the domestic circle and everywhere among women, Lord
Ormont was annoyed to find himself often gruffish behind the tie of his
cravat. Indeed, the temper of our eminently serene will feel the
strain of a doldrum-dulness that is goaded to activity by a nettle. The
forbearance he carried farther than most could do was tempted to kick,
under pressure of Mrs. Nargett Pagnell. Without much blaming Aminta, on
whose behalf he submitted to it, and whose resolution to fix in England
had brought it to this crisis, he magnanimously proposed to the Fair
Enemy he forced her to be, and liked to picture her as being, a month in
Paris.

Aminta declined it for herself; after six or more years of travelling,
she wished to settle, and know her country, she said: a repetition
remark, wide of the point, and indicatory to the game of Pull she
was again playing beneath her smooth visage, unaware that she had the
wariest of partners at the game.

‘But go you--do, I beg,’ she entreated. ‘It will give you new
impressions; and I cannot bear to tie you down here.’

‘How you can consent to be tied down here, is the wonder to me!’ said
he. ‘When we travelled through the year, just visited England and
were off again, we were driving on our own road. Vienna in April and
May--what do you say? You like the reviews there, and the dances,
concerts, Zigeuner bands, military Bohemian bands. Or Egypt to-morrow,
if you like--though you can’t be permitted to swim in the Nile, as
you wanted. Come, Xarifa, speak it. I go to exile without you. Say you
come.’

She smiled firmly. The name of her honeymoon days was not a cajolery to
her.

His name had been that of the Christian Romancero Knight Durandarte, and
she gave it to him, to be on the proper level with him, while she still
declined.

‘Well, but just a month in Paris! There’s nothing doing here. And we
both like the French theatre.’

‘London will soon be filling.’

‘Well, but--’ He stopped; for the filling of London did really concern
her, in the game of Pull she was covertly playing with him. ‘You seem
to have caught the fever of this London;... no bands.... no reviews ....
Low comedy acting.’ He muttered his objections to London.

‘The society of people speaking one’s own tongue, add that,’ she
ventured to say.

‘You know you are ten times more Spanish than English. Moorish, if you
like.’

‘The slave of the gallant Christian Knight, converted, baptized, and
blissful. Oh, I know. But now we are settled in England, I have a wish
to study English society.’

‘Disappointing, I assure you;--dinners heavy, dancing boorish, intrigue
a blind-man’s-buff. We’ve been over it all before!’

‘We have.’

‘Admired, I dare say. You won’t be understood.’

‘I like my countrymen.’

‘The women have good looks--of the ungarnished kind. The men are louts.’

‘They are brave.’

‘You’re to see their fencing. You’ll own a little goes a long way.’

‘I think it will amuse me.’

‘So I thought when I gave the nod to Isabella your friend.’

‘You like her?’

‘You, too.’

‘One fancies she would make an encouraging second in a duel.’

‘I will remember... when I call you out.’

‘Oh, my dear lord, you have dozens to choose from leave me my one if we
are to enter the lists.’

‘We are, it seems; unless you consent to take the run to Paris. You are
to say Tom or Rowsley.’

‘The former, I can never feel at home in saying; Rowsley is Lady
Charlotte’s name for you.’

The name of Lady Charlotte was an invitation to the conflict between
them. He passed it, and said ‘Durandarte runs a mile on the mouth, and
the Coriolanus of their newspapers helps a stage-player to make lantern
jaws. Neither of them comes well from the lips of my girl. After seven
years she should have hit on a nickname, of none of the Christian suit.
I am not “at home” either with “my lord.” However, you send me off
to Paris alone; and you’ll be alone and dull here in this London.
Incomprehensible to me why!’

‘We are both wondering?’ said Aminta.

‘You ‘re handsomer than when I met you first--by heaven you are!’

She flushed her dark brown-red late-sunset. ‘Brunes are exceptional in
England.’

‘Thousands admiring you, of course! I know, my love, I have a jewel.’

She asked him: ‘What are jewels for?’ and he replied, ‘To excite
cupidity.’

‘When they ‘re shut in a box?’

‘Ware burglars! But this one is not shut up. She shuts herself up. And
up go her shoulders! Decide to be out of it, and come to Paris for some
life for a month. No? It’s positive? When do you expect your little
school friend?’

‘After Easter. Aunt will be away.’

‘Your little friend likes the country. I’ll go to my house agents.
If there ‘s a country house open on the upper Thames, you can have
swimming, boating, botanizing...’

He saw her throat swallow. But as he was offering agreeable things he
chose to not understand how he was to be compassionate.

‘Steignton?’ she said, and did her cause no good by saying it feebly.

His look of a bygone awake-in-sleep old look, drearily known to her, was
like a strip of sunlight on a fortress wall. It signified, Is the poor
soul pushing me back to that again?

She compelled herself to say: ‘Your tenant there?’

‘Matter of business... me and my tenant,’ he remarked. ‘The man pays
punctually.’

‘The lease has expired.’

‘Not quite. You are misinformed.’

‘At Easter.’

‘Ah! Question of renewing.’

‘You were fond of the place.’

‘I was fond of the place? Thank Blazes, I’m not what I was!’ He paced
about. ‘There’s not a corner of the place that doesn’t screw an eye at
me, because I had a dream there. La gloire!’

The rest he muttered. ‘These English!’ was heard. Aminta said: ‘Am I
never to see Steignton?’

Lord Ormont invoked the Powers. He could not really give answer to this
female talk of the eternities.

‘Beaten I can never be,’ he said, with instinctive indulgence to the
greater creature. ‘But down there at Steignton, I should be haunted by
a young donkey swearing himself the fellow I grew up out of. No doubt
of that. I don’t like him the better for it. Steignton grimaces at a
cavalry officer fool enough at his own risks and penalties to help
save India for the English. Maunderers! You can’t tell--they don’t know
themselves--what they mean. Except that they ‘re ready to take anything
you hand ‘em, and then pipe to your swinging. I served them well--and at
my age, in full activity, they condemn me to sit and gape!’

He stopped his pacing and gazed on the glass of the window.

‘Would you wish me not to be present at this fencing?’ said Aminta.

‘Dear me! by all means, go, my love,’ he replied.

Any step his Fair Enemy won in the secret game Pull between them, she
was undisputedly to keep.

She suggested: ‘It might lead to unpleasantness.’

‘Of what sort?’

‘You ask?’

He emphasized: ‘Have you forgotten? Something happened after that
last ball at Challis’s Rooms. Their women as well as their men must be
careful not to cross me.’

Aminta had confused notions of her being planted in hostile territory,
and torn and knitted, trumpeted to the world as mended, but not
honourably mended in a way to stop corridor scandal. The ball at
Challis’s Rooms had been one of her steps won: it had necessitated a
requirement for the lion in her lord to exhibit himself, and she had
gained nothing with Society by the step, owing to her poor performance
of the lion’s mate. She had, in other words, shunned the countenance of
some scattered people pityingly ready to support her against the deadly
passive party known to be Lady Charlotte’s.

She let her lord go; thinking that once more had she striven and gained
nothing: which was true of all their direct engagements. And she had
failed because of her being only a woman! Mr. Morsfield was foolishly
wrong in declaring that she, as a woman, had reserves of strength. He
was perhaps of Lady Charlotte’s mind with regard to the existence of
a Countess of Ormont, or he would know her to be incredibly cowardly.
Cowardly under the boast of pride, too; well, then, say, if you like, a
woman!

Yet this mere shallow woman would not hesitate to meet the terrible Lady
Charlotte at any instant, on any terms: and what are we to think of
a soldier, hero, lion, dreading to tell her to her face that the
persecuted woman is his wife!

‘Am I a woman they can be ashamed of?’ she asked, and did not seek the
answer at her mirror. She was in her bedroom, and she put out a hand
to her jewel-box, fingered it, found it locked, and abandoned her idle
project. A gentleman was ‘dangerous.’ She had not found him so. He had
the reputation, perhaps, because he was earnest. Not so very many men
are earnest. She called to recollection how ludicrously practical he was
in the thick of his passion. His third letter (addressed to the Countess
of Ormont--whom he manifestly did not or would not take to be the
veritable Countess--and there was much to plead for his error), or was
it his fourth?--the letters were a tropical hail-storm: third or
fourth, he broke off a streaked thunderpeal, to capitulate his worldly
possessions, give the names and degrees of kinship of his relatives, the
exact amount of the rent-roll of his Yorkshire estates, of his funded
property.

Silly man! but not contemptible. He proposed everything in honour, from
his view of it.

Whether in his third, fourth, or fifth letter.... How many had come?
She drew the key from her purse, and opened a drawer. The key of the
jewel-box was applied to the lock.

Mr. Morsfield had sent her six flaming letters. He not only took no
precautions, he boasted that he hailed the consequences of discovery.
Six!

She lifted a pen: it had to be done.

He was briefly informed that he disturbed her peace. She begged he would
abstain from any further writing to her.

The severity was in the brevity. The contrast of her style and his
appeared harsh. But it belonged to the position.

Having with one dash of the pen scribbled her three lines, she slipped
the letter into her pocket. That was done, and it had to be done; it
ought to have been done before. How simple it was when one contemplated
it as actually done! Aminta made the motion of a hand along the paper,
just a flourish. Soon after, her head dropped back on the chair, and her
eyes shut, she took in breath through parted lips. The brief lines of
writing had cut away a lump of her vitality.



CHAPTER XI. THE SECRETARY TAKEN AS AN ANTIDOTE

Dusty wayfarers along a white high-road who know of a bubbling little
spring across a stile, on the woodland borders of deep grass, are hailed
to sit aside it awhile: and Aminta’s feverishness was cooled by now
and then a quiet conversation with the secretary ambitious to become a
school-master. Lady Charlotte liked him, so did her lord; Mrs. Lawrence
had chatted with him freshly, as it was refreshing to recollect; nobody
thought him a stunted growth.

In Aminta’s realized recollections, amid the existing troubles of her
mind, the charge against him grew paler, and she could no longer quite
think that the young hero transformed into a Mr. Cuper had deceived her,
though he had done it--much as if she had assisted at the planting and
watched aforetime the promise of a noble tree, to find it, after an
interval of years, pollarded--a short trunk shooting out a shock of
small, slim, stiff branches; dwarfed and disgraced; serviceable perhaps;
not ludicrous or ugly, certainly, taking it for a pollard. And he was
a cool well-spring to talk with. He, supposed once to be a passionate
nature, scorned passion as a madness; he smiled in his merciful
executioner’s way at the high society, of which her aim was to pass for
one among the butterflies or dragonflies; he had lost his patriotism;
he labelled our English classes the skimmers, the gorgers, the grubbers,
and stigmatized them with a friendly air; and uttered words of tolerance
only for farmers and surgeons and schoolmasters. But that was quite
incidental in the humorous run of his talk, diverting to hear while it
lasted. He had, of course, a right to his ideas.

No longer concerned in contesting them, she drank at the water of this
plain earth-well, and hoped she preferred it to fiery draughts, though
it was flattish, or, say, flavourless. In the other there was excess
of flavour--or, no, spice it had to be called. The young schoolmaster’s
world seemed a sunless place, the world of traders bargaining for gain,
without a glimmer of the rich generosity to venture life, give it, dare
all for native land--or for the one beloved. Love pressed its claim on
heroical generosity, and instantly it suffused her, as an earth under
flush of sky. The one beloved! She had not known love; she was in her
five-and-twentieth year, and love was not only unknown to her, it was
shut away from her by the lock of a key that opened on no estimable
worldly advantage in exchange, but opened on a dreary, clouded round,
such as she had used to fancy it must be to the beautiful creamy
circus-horse of the tossing mane and flowing tail and superb step. She
was admired; she was just as much doomed to a round of paces, denied the
glorious fling afield, her nature’s food. Hitherto she would have been
shamefaced as a boy in forming the word ‘love’: now, believing it denied
to her for good and all--for ever and ever--her bosom held and uttered
the word. She saw the word, the nothing but the word that it was, and
she envisaged it, for the purpose of saying adieu to it--good-bye even
to the poor empty word.

This condition was attributable to a gentleman’s wild rageing with the
word, into which he had not infused the mystic spirit. He poured hot
wine and spiced. If not the spirit of love, it was really the passion of
the man. Her tremors now and again in the reading of his later letters
humiliated her, in the knowledge that they came of no response to
him, but from the temporary base acquiescence; which is, with women, a
terrible perception of the gulf of their unsatisfied nature.

The secretary, cheerful at his work, was found for just the opening of a
door. Sometimes she hesitated--to disturb him, she said to herself,--and
went up-stairs or out visiting. He protested that he could work on and
talk too. She was able to amuse her lord with some of his ideas. He had
a stock of them, all his own.

Ideas, new-born and naked original ideas, are acceptable at no time to
the humanity they visit to help uplift, it from the state of beast. In
the England of that, period original or unknown ideas were a smoking
brimstone to the nose, dread Arabian afrites, invisible in the air,
jumping out of vases, armed for the slaughter of the venerable and
the cherished, the ivy-clad and celestially haloed. They carried
the dishevelled Maenad’s torch. A step with them, and we were on the
Phlegethon waters of the French Revolution. For a publication of simple
ideas men were seized, tried at law, mulcted, imprisoned, and not
pardoned after the term of punishment; their names were branded: the
horned elect butted at them; he who alluded to them offered them
up, wittingly or not, to be damned in the nose of the public for an
execrable brimstone stench.

Lord Ormont broke through his shouts or grunts at Aminta’s report of the
secretary’s ideas on various topics, particularly the proposal that the
lords of the land should head the land in a revolutionary effort to make
law of his crazy, top-heavy notions, with a self-satisfied ejaculation:
‘He has not favoured me with any of these puffballs of his.’

The deduction was, that the author sagaciously considered them adapted
for the ear of a woman; they were womanish--i.e. flighty, gossamer. To
the host of males, all ideas are female until they are made facts.

This idea, proposing it to our aristocracy to take up his other ideas,
or reject them on pain of the forfeiture of their caste and headship
with the generations to follow, and a total displacing of them
in history by certain notorious, frowzy, scrubby pamphleteers and
publishers, Lord Ormont thought amazingly comical. English nobles
heading the weavers, cobblers, and barbers of England! He laughed, but
he said, ‘Charlotte would listen to that.’

The dread, high-sitting Lady Charlotte was, in his lofty thinking, a
woman, and would therefore listen to nonsense, if it happened to
strike a particular set of bells hanging in her cranium. She patronized
blasphemous and traitorous law-breakers, just to keep up the pluck of
the people, not with a notion of maintaining our English aristocracy
eminent in history.

Lady Charlotte, however, would be the foremost to swoop down on the
secretary’s ideas about the education of women.

On that subject, Aminta said she did not know what to think.

Now, if a man states the matter he thinks, and a woman does but listen,
whether inclining to agree or not, a perceptible stamp is left on soft
wax. Lord Ormont told her so, with cavalier kindness.

She confessed ‘she did not know what to think,’ when the secretary
proposed the education and collocation of boys and girls in one group,
never separated, declaring it the only way for them to learn to know and
to respect one another. They were to learn together, play together, have
matches together, as a scheme for stopping the mischief between them.

‘But, my dear girl, don’t you see, the devilry was intended by Nature.
Life would be the coldest of dishes without it.’ And as for mixing the
breeched and petticoated in those young days--‘I can’t enter into it,’
my lord considerately said. ‘All I can tell you is, I know boys.’

Aminta persisted in looking thoughtful. ‘Things are bad, as they are
now,’ she said.

‘Always were--always will be. They were intended to be, if we are to
call them bad. Botched mendings will only make them worse.’

‘Which side suffers?’

‘Both; and both like it. One side must be beaten at any game. It’s off
and on, pretty equal--except in the sets where one side wears thick
boots. Is this fellow for starting a mixed sexes school? Funny mothers!’

‘I suppose--’ Aminta said, and checked the supposition. ‘The mothers
would not leave their girls unless they were confident...?’

‘There’s to be a female head of the female department? He reckons
on finding a woman as big a fool as himself? A fair bit of reckoning
enough. He’s clever at the pen. He doesn’t bother me with his ideas; now
and then I ‘ve caught a sound of his bee buzzing.’

The secretary was left undisturbed at his labours for several days.

He would have been gladdened by a brighter look of her eyes at her next
coming. They were introspective and beamless. She had an odd leaning
to the talk upon Cuper’s boys. He was puzzled by what he might have
classed, in any other woman, as a want of delicacy, when she recurred
to incidents which were red patches of the school time, and had clearly
lost their glow for her.

A letter once written by him, in his early days at Cuper’s, addressed
to J. Masner, containing a provocation to fight with any weapons, and
signed, ‘Your Antagonist,’ had been read out to the whole school, under
strong denunciation of the immorality, the unchristian-like conduct of
the writer, by Mr. Cuper; creating a sensation that had travelled to
Miss Vincent’s establishment, where some of the naughtiest of the
girls had taken part with the audacious challenger, dreadful though
the contemplation of a possible duel so close to them was. And then
the girls heard that the anonymous ‘Your Antagonist,’ on being cited
to proclaim himself in public assembly of school-mates and masters, had
jumped on his legs and into the name of--one who was previously thought
by Miss Vincent’s good girls incapable of the ‘appalling wickedness,’
as Mr. Cuper called it, of signing ‘Your Antagonist’ to a Christian
school-fellow, having the design to provoke a breach of the law of the
land and shed Christian blood. Mr. Cuper delivered an impressive sermon
from his desk to the standing up boarders and day-scholars alike,
vilifying the infidel Greek word ‘antagonist.’

‘Do you remember the offender’s name?’ the Countess of Ormont said; and
Weyburn said--

‘Oh yes, I ‘ve not forgotten the incident.’

Her eyes, wherein the dead time hung just above the underlids, lingered,
as with the wish for him to name the name.

She said: ‘I am curious to hear how you would treat a case of that sort.
Would you preach to the boys?

‘Ten words at most. The right assumption is that both fellows were to
blame. I fancy the proper way would be to appeal to the naughty girls
for their opinion as to how the dispute should be decided.’

‘You impose too much on them. And you are not speaking seriously.’

‘Pardon me, I am. I should throw myself into the mind of a naughty
girl--supposing none of these at hand--and I should let it be known that
my eyes were shut to proceedings, always provided the weapons were not
such as would cause a shock of alarm in female bosoms.’

‘You would at your school allow it to be fought out?’

‘Judging by the characters of the boys. If they had heads to understand,
I would try them at their heads. Otherwise they are the better, they
come round quicker to good blood, at their age--I speak of English
boys--for a little hostile exercise of their fists. Well, for one thing,
it teaches them the value of sparring.’

‘I must imagine I am not one of the naughty sisterhood,--for I cannot
think I should ever give consent to fighting of any description, unless
for the very best of reasons,’ said the countess.

His eyes were at the trick of the quarter-minute’s poising. Her lids
fluttered. ‘Oh, I don’t mean to say I was one of the good,’ she added.

At the same time her enlivened memory made her conscious of a warning,
that she might, as any woman might, so talk on of past days as to take,
rather more than was required of the antidote she had come for.

The antidote was excellent; cooling, fortifying; ‘quite a chalybeate,’
her aunt would say, and she was thankful. Her heart rose on a quiet wave
of the thanks, and pitched down to a depth of uncounted fathoms. Aminta
was unable to tell herself why.

Mrs. Lawrence Finchley had been announced. On her way to the drawing
room Aminta’s brain fell upon a series of dots, that wound along a track
to the point where she accused herself of a repented coquettry--cause of
the burning letters she was doomed to receive and could not stop without
rousing her lion. She dotted backwards; there was no sign that she
had been guilty of any weakness other than the almost--at least, in
design--innocent first move, which had failed to touch Lord Ormont in
the smallest degree. Never failure more absolute!

She was about to inquire of her bosom’s oracle whether she greatly
cared now. For an answer, her brain went dotting along from Mr. Cuper’s
school, and a boy named Abner there, and a boy named Matey Weyburn, who
protected the little Jew-boy, up to Mr. Abner in London, who recommended
him in due season to various acquaintances; among them to Lady Charlotte
Eglett. Hence the introduction to Lord Ormont. How little extraordinary
circumstances are, if only we trace them to the source!

But if only it had appeared marvellous, the throbbing woman might have
seized on it, as a thing fateful, an intervention distinctly designed
to waken the best in her, which was, after all, the strongest. Yea, she
could hope and pray and believe it was the strongest.

She was listening to Isabella Lawrence Finchley, wishing she might have
followed to some end the above line of her meditations.

Mrs. Lawrence was changed, much warmer, pressing to be more than merely
friendly. Aminta twice gave her cheek for kisses. The secretary had
spoken of Mrs. Lawrence as having the look of a handsome boy; and
Aminta’s view of her now underwent a change likewise. Compunction,
together with a sisterly taste for the boyish fair one flying her sail
independently, and gallantly braving the winds, induced her to kiss in
return.

‘You do like me a morsel?’ said Mrs. Lawrence. ‘I fell in love with you
the last time I was here. I came to see Mr. Secretary--it’s avowed; and
I have been thinking of you ever since, of no one else. Oh yes, for a
man; but you caught me. I’ve been hearing of him from Captain May. They
fence at those rooms. And it ‘s funny, Mr. Morsfield practises there,
you know; and there was a time when the lovely innocent Amy, Queen
of Blondes, held the seat of the Queen of Brunes. Ah, my dear, the
infidelity of men doesn’t count. They are affected by the changeing
moons. As long as the captain is civil to him, we may be sure beautiful
Amy has not complained. Her husband is the pistol she carries in her
pocket, and she has fired him twice, with effect. Through love of you I
have learnt the different opinion the world of the good has of her and
of me; I thought we ran under a common brand. There are gradations. I
went to throw myself at the feet of my great-aunt; good old great-aunt
Lady de Culme, who is a power in the land. I let her suppose I came for
myself, and she reproached me with Lord Adder. I confessed to him
and ten others. She is a dear, she’s ticklish, and at eighty-four she
laughed! She looked into my eyes and saw a field with never a man in
it--just the shadow of a man. She admitted the ten cancelled the one,
and exactly named to me, by comparison with the erring Amy, the sinner
I am and must be, if I ‘m to live. So, dear, the end of it is,’ and Mrs.
Lawrence put her fingers to a silken amber bow at Aminta’s throat, and
squared it and flattened it with dainty precision, speaking on under
dropped eyelids, intent upon her work, ‘Lady de Culme will be happy to
welcome you whenever it shall suit the Countess of Ormont to accompany
her disreputable friend. But what can I do, dear?’ She raised her lids
and looked beseechingly. ‘I was born with this taste for the ways and
games and style of men. I hope I don’t get on badly with women; but if I
‘m not allowed to indulge my natural taste, I kick the stable-boards and
bite the manger.’

Aminta threw her arms round her, and they laughed their mutual peal.

Caressing her still, Aminta said: ‘I don’t know whether I embrace a
boy.’

‘That idea comes from a man!’ said Mrs. Lawrence. It was admitted. The
secretary was discussed.

Mrs. Lawrence remarked: ‘Yes, I like talking with him; he’s bright. You
drove him out of me the day I saw him. Doesn’t he give you the idea of a
man who insists on capturing you and lets it be seen he doesn’t care two
snaps of a finger?’

Aminta petitioned on his behalf indifferently: ‘He ‘s well bred.’

She was inattentive to Mrs. Lawrence’s answer. The allusion of the
Queen of Blondes had stung her in the unacknowledged regions where women
discard themselves and are most sensitive.

‘Decide on coming soon to Lady de Culme,’ said Mrs. Lawrence. ‘Now that
her arms are open to you, she would like to have you in them. She is
old--. You won’t be rigorous? no standing on small punctilios?

She would call, but she does not--h’m, it is M. le Comte that she does
not choose to--h’m. But her arms are open to the countess. It ought to
be a grand step. You may be assured that Lady Charlotte Eglett would not
be taken into them. My great-aunt has a great-aunt’s memory. The Ormonts
are the only explanation--if it ‘s an apology--she can offer for the
behaviour of the husband of the Countess of Ormont. You know I like him.
I can’t help liking a man who likes me. Is that the way with a boy, Mr.
Secretary? I must have another talk with the gentleman, my dear. You are
Aminta to me.’

‘Always Aminta to you,’ was the reply, tenderly given.

‘But as for comprehending him, I’m as far off that as Lady de Culme, who
hasn’t the liking for him I have.’

‘The earl?’ said Aminta, showing by her look that she was in the same
position.

Mrs. Lawrence shrugged: ‘I believe men and women marry in order that
they should never be able to understand one another. The riddle’s best
read at a moderate distance. It ‘s what they call the golden mean; too
close, too far, we’re strangers. I begin to understand that husband of
mine, now we’re on bowing terms. Now, I must meet the earl to-morrow.
You will arrange? His hand wants forcing. Upon my word, I don’t believe
it ‘s more.’

Mrs. Lawrence contrasted him in her mind with the husband she knew, and
was invigorated by the thought that a placable impenetrable giant may
often be more pliable in a woman’s hands than an irascible dwarf--until,
perchance, the latter has been soundly cuffed, and then he is docile to
trot like a squire, as near your heels as he can get. She rejoiced to be
working for the woman she had fallen in love with.

Aminta promised herself to show the friend a livelier affection at their
next meeting.

A seventh letter, signed ‘Adolphus,’ came by post, was read and locked
up in her jewel-box. They were all nigh destruction for a wavering
minute or so. They were placed where they lay because the first of them
had been laid there, the box being a strong one, under a patent key, and
discovery would mean the terrible. They had not been destroyed because
they had, or seemed to her to have, the language of passion. She could
read them unmoved, and appease a wicked craving she owned to having, and
reproached herself with having, for that language.

Was she not colour in the sight of men? Here was one, a mouthpiece of
numbers, who vowed that homage was her due, and devotion, the pouring
forth of the soul to her. What was the reproach if she read the stuff
unmoved?

But peruse and reperuse it, and ask impressions to tell our deepest
instinct of truthfulness whether language of this character can have
been written to two women by one hand! Men are cunning. Can they catch a
tone? Not that tone!

She, too, Mrs. Amy May, was colour in the sight of men. Yet it seemed
that he could not have written so to the Queen of Blondes. And she, by
repute, was as dangerous to slight as he to attract. Her indifference
exonerated him. Besides, a Queen of Blondes would not draw the hearts
out of men in England, as in Italy and in Spain. Aminta had got thus
far when she found ‘Queen of Brunes’ expunged by a mist: she imagined
hearing the secretary’s laugh. She thought he was right to laugh at her.
She retorted simply: ‘These are feelings that are poetry.’

A man may know nothing about them, and be an excellent schoolmaster.

Suggestions touching the prudence of taking Mrs. Lawrence into her
confidence, as regarded these troublesome letters of the man with the
dart in his breast, were shuffled aside for various reasons: her modesty
shrank; and a sense of honour toward the man forbade it. She would have
found it easier to do if she had conspired against her heart in doing
it. And yet, cold-bloodedly to expose him and pluck the clothing from a
passion--dear to think of only when it is profoundly secret--struck
her as an extreme baseness, of which not even the woman who perused and
reperused his letters could be guilty.

Her head rang with some of the lines, and she accused her head of the
crime of childishness, seeing that her heart was not an accomplice. At
the same time, her heart cried out violently against the business of
a visit to Lady de Culme, and all the steps it involved. Justly she
accused her heart of treason. Heart and head were severed. This, as
she partly apprehended, is the state of the woman who is already on the
slope of her nature’s mine-shaft, dreading the rush downwards, powerless
to break away from the light.

Letters perused and reperused, coming from a man never fervently noticed
in person, conjure features one would wish to put beside the actual,
to make sure that the fiery lines he writes are not practising a
beguilement. Aminta had lost grasp of the semblance of the impassioned
man. She just remembered enough of his eyes to think there might be
healing in a sight of him.

Latterly she had refused to be exhibited to a tattling world as the
great nobleman’s conquest:--The ‘Beautiful Lady Doubtful’ of a report
that had scorched her cars. Theatres, rides, pleasure-drives, even such
houses as she saw standing open to her had been shunned. Now she asked
the earl to ride in the park.

He complied, and sent to the stables immediately, just noted another
of her veerings. The whimsy creatures we are matched to contrast with,
shift as the very winds or feather-grasses in the wind. Possibly a fine
day did it. Possibly, too, her not being requested to do it.

He was proud of her bearing on horseback. She rode well and looked well.
A finer weapon wherewith to strike at a churlish world was never given
into the hands of man. These English may see in her, if they like, that
they and their laws and customs are defied. It does her no hurt, and it
hits them a ringing buffet.

Among the cavaliers they passed was Mr. Morsfield. He rode by slowly.
The earl stiffened his back in returning the salute. Both that and the
gentleman were observed by Aminta.

‘He sees to having good blood under him,’ said the earl. ‘I admired his
mount,’ she replied.

Interpreted by the fire of his writing, his features expressed
character: insomuch that a woman could say of another woman, that she
admired him and might reasonably do so. His gaze at her in the presence
of her lord was audacious.

He had the defect of his virtue of courage. Yet a man indisputably
possessing courage cannot but have an interesting face--though one may
continue saying, Pity that the eyes are not a little wider apart! He
dresses tastefully; the best English style. A portrait by a master hand
might hand him down to generations as an ancestor to be proud of. But
with passion and with courage, and a bent for snatching at the lion’s
own, does he not look foredoomed to an early close? Her imagination
called up a portrait of Elizabeth’s Earl of Essex to set beside him;
and without thinking that the two were fraternally alike, she sent him
riding away with the face of the Earl of Essex and the shadow of the
unhappy nobleman’s grievous fortunes over his head.

But it is inexcuseable to let the mind be occupied recurrently by a man
who has not moved the feelings, wicked though it be to have the feelings
moved by him. Aminta rebuked her silly wits, and proceeded to speculate
from an altitude, seeing the man’s projects in a singularly definite
minuteness, as if the crisis he invoked, the perils he braved, the mute
participation he implored of her for the short space until their fate
should be decided, were a story sharply cut on metal. Several times she
surprised herself in an interesting pursuit of the story; abominably
cold, abominably interested. She fell upon a review of small duties of
the day, to get relief; and among them a device for spiriting away her
aunt from the table where Mrs. Lawrence wished to meet Lord Ormont.
It sprang up to her call like an imp of the burning pit. She saw it
ingenious and of natural aspect. I must be a born intriguer! she said in
her breast. That was hateful; but it seemed worse when she thought of a
woman commanding the faculty and consenting to be duped and foiled. That
might be termed despicable; but what if she had not any longer the wish
to gain her way with her lord?

Those letters are acting like a kind of poison in me! her heart cried:
and it was only her head that dwelt on the antidote.



CHAPTER XII. MORE OF CUPER’S BOYS

Entering the dining-room at the appointed minute in a punctual
household, Mrs. Lawrence informed the company that she had seen a Horse
Guards orderly at the trot up the street. Weyburn said he was directing
a boy to ring the bell of the house for him. Lord Ormont went to the
window.

‘Amends and honours?’ Mrs. Lawrence hummed and added an operatic
flourish of an arm. Something like it might really be imagined. A large
square missive was handed to the footman. Thereupon the orderly trotted
off.

My lord took seat at table, telling the footman to lay ‘that parcel’
beside the clock on the mantelpiece. Aminta and Mrs. Lawrence gave out a
little cry of bird or mouse, pitiable to hear: they could not wait, they
must know, they pished at sight of plates. His look deferred to their
good pleasure, like the dead hand of a clock under key; and Weyburn
placed the missive before him, seeing by the superscription that it was
not official.

It was addressed, in the Roman hand of a boy’s copybook writing, to

     General the Earl of Ormont, I.C.B., etc.,
                  Horse Guards,
                       London.’

The earl’s eyebrows creased up over the address; they came down low on
the contents.

He resumed his daily countenance. ‘Nothing of importance,’ he said to
the ladies.

Mrs. Lawrence knocked the table with her knuckles. Aminta put out a
hand, in sign of her wish.

‘Pray let me see it.’

‘After lunch will do.’

‘No, no, no! We are women--we are women,’ cried Mrs. Lawrence.

‘How can it concern women?’

‘As well ask how a battle-field concerns them!’

‘Yes, the shots hit us behind you,’ said Aminta; and she, too, struck
the table.

He did not prolong their torture. Weyburn received the folio sheet and
passed it on. Aminta read. Mrs. Lawrence jumped from her chair and ran
to the countess’s shoulder; her red lips formed the petitioning word to
the earl for the liberty she was bent to take.

‘Peep? if you like,’ my lord said, jesting at the blank she would find,
and soft to the pretty play of her mouth.

When the ladies had run to the end of it, he asked them: ‘Well; now
then?’

‘But it’s capital--the dear laddies!’ Mrs. Lawrence exclaimed.

Aminta’s eyes met Weyburn’s.

She handed him the sheet of paper; upon the transmission of which empty
thing from the Horse Guards my lord commented: ‘An orderly!’

Weyburn scanned it rapidly, for the table had been served.

The contents were these:

          ‘HIGH BRENT NEAR ARTSWELL.
                       ‘April 7th.

   ‘To GENERAL THE EARL OF ORMONT
             ‘Cavalry.

   ‘May it please your Lordship, we, the boys of Mr. Cuper’s school,
   are desirous to bring to the notice of the bravest officer England
   possesses now living, a Deed of Heroism by a little boy and girl,
   children of our school laundress, aged respectively eight and six,
   who, seeing a little fellow in the water out of depth, and sinking
   twice, before the third time jumped in to save him, though unable to
   swim themselves; the girl aged six first, we are sorry to say; but
   the brother, Robert Coop, followed her example, and together they
   made a line, and she caught hold of the drowning boy, and he held
   her petycoats, and so they pulled. We have seen the place: it is
   not a nice one. They got him ashore at last. The park-keeper here
   going along found them dripping, rubbing his hands, and blowing into
   his nostrils. Name, T. Shellen, son of a small cobbler here, and
   recovered.

   ‘May it please your Lordship, we make bold to apply, because you
   have been for a number of years, as far as the oldest can recollect,
   the Hero of our school, and we are so bold as to ask the favour of
   General Lord Ormont’s name to head a subscription we are making to
   circulate for the support of their sick mother, who has fallen ill.
   We think her a good woman. Gentlemen and ladies of the
   neighbourhood are willing to subscribe. If we have a great name to
   head the list, we think we shall make a good subscription. Names:--

        ‘Martha Mary Coop, mother.
        ‘Robert Coop.
        ‘Jane Coop, the girl, aged six.

   ‘If we are not taking too great a liberty, a subscription paper will
   follow. We are sure General the Earl of Ormont’s name will help to
   make them comfortable.
        ‘We are obediently and respectfully,
               ‘DAVID GOWEN,
               ‘WALTER BENCH,
               ‘JAMES PANNERS PARSONS,
               ‘And seven others.’

Weyburn spared Aminta an answering look, that would have been a begging
of Browny to remember Matey.

‘It ‘s genuine,’ he said to Mrs. Lawrence, as he attacked his plate with
the gusto for the repast previously and benignly observed by her. ‘It
ought to be the work of some of the younger fellows.’

‘They spell correctly, on the whole.’

‘Excepting,’ said my lord, ‘an article they don’t know much about yet.’

Weyburn had noticed the word, and he smiled. ‘Said to be the happy
state! The three signing their names are probably what we called bellman
and beemen, collector, and heads of the swarm-enthusiasts. If it is
not the work of some of the younger hands, the school has levelled on
minors. In any case it shows the school is healthy.’

‘I subscribe,’ said Mrs. Lawrence.

‘The little girl aged six shall have something done for her,’ said
Aminta, and turned her eyes on the earl.

He was familiar with her thrilled voice at a story of bravery. He said--

‘The boys don’t say the girl’s brother turned tail.’

‘Only that the girl’s brother aged eight followed the lead of the little
girl aged six,’ Mrs. Lawrence remarked. ‘Well, I like the schoolboys,
too--“we are sorry to say!” But they ‘re good lads. Boys who can
appreciate brave deeds are capable of doing them.’

‘Speak to me about it on Monday,’ the earl said to Weyburn.

He bowed, and replied--

‘I shall have the day to-morrow. I ‘ll walk it and call on Messrs.’ (he
glanced at the paper) ‘Gowen, Bench, and Parsons. I have a German friend
in London anxious to wear his legs down stumpier.’

‘The name of the school?’

‘It is called Cuper’s.’

Aminta, on hearing the name of Cuper a second time, congratulated
herself on the happy invention of her pretext to keep Mrs. Pagnell from
the table at midday. Her aunt had a memory for names: what might she not
have exclaimed! There would have been little in it, but it was as well
that the ‘boy of the name of Weyburn’ at Cuper’s should be unmentioned.
By an exaggeration peculiar to a disgust in fancy, she could hear
her aunt vociferating ‘Weyburn!’ and then staring at Mr. Weyburn
opposite--perhaps not satisfied with staring.

He withdrew after his usual hearty meal, during which his talk of
boys and their monkey tricks, and what we can train them to, had been
pleasant generally, especially to Mrs. Lawrence. Aminta was carried
back to the minute early years at High Brent. A line or two of a smile
touched her cheek.

‘Yes, my dear countess, that is the face I want for Lady de Culme
to-day,’ said Mrs. Lawrence.’ She likes a smiling face. Aunty--aunty has
always been good; she has never been prim. I was too much for her, until
I reflected that she was very old, and deserved to know the truth before
she left us; and so I went to her; and then she said she wished to see
the Countess of Ormont, because of her being my dearest friend. I fancy
she entertains an ‘arriere’ idea of proposing her flawless niece Gracey,
Marchioness of Fencaster, to present you. She ‘s quite equal to the
fatigue herself. You ‘ll rejoice in her anecdotes. People were virtuous
in past days: they counted their sinners. In those days, too, as I have
to understand, the men chivalrously bore the blame, though the women
were rightly punished. Now, alas! the initiative is with the women, and
men are not asked for chivalry. Hence it languishes. Lady de Culme won’t
hear of the Queen of Blondes; has forbidden her these many years!’

Lord Ormont, to whom the lady’s prattle was addressed, kept his visage
moveless, except in slight jerks of the brows.

‘What queen?’

‘You insist upon renewing my old, old pangs of jealousy, my dear lord!
The Queen of Cyprus, they called her, in the last generation; she fights
our great duellist handsomely.’

‘My dear Mrs. Lawrence!’

‘He triumphs finally, we know, but she beats him every round.’

‘It ‘s only tattle that says the duel has begun.’

‘May is the month of everlasting beauty! There ‘s a widower marquis now
who claims the right to cast the glove to any who dispute it.’

‘Mrs. May is too good-looking to escape from scandal.’

‘Amy May has the good looks of the Immortals.’

‘She can’t be thirty.’

‘In the calendar of women she counts thirty-four.’

‘Malignity! Her husband’s a lucky man.’

‘The shots have proved it.’

Lord Ormont nodded his head over the hopeless task of defending a woman
from a woman, and their sharp interchange ceased. But the sight of
his complacency in defeat told Aminta that he did not respect his fair
client: it drew a sketch of the position he allotted his wife before the
world side by side with this Mrs. Amy May, though a Lady de Culme was
persuaded to draw distinctions.

He had, however, quite complacently taken the dose intended for him by
Mrs. Lawrence, who believed that the system of gently forcing him was
the good one.

The ladies drove away in the afternoon. The earl turned his back on
manuscript. He sent for a couple of walking sticks, and commanded
Weyburn to go through his parades. He was no tyro, merely out of
practice, and unacquainted with the later, simpler form of the great
master of the French school, by which, at serious issues, the guarding
of the line can be more quickly done: as, for instance, the ‘parade
de septime’ supplanting the slower ‘parade de prime;’ the ‘parade de
quarte’ having advantage over the ‘parade de quince;’ the ‘parade de
tierce’ being readier and stronger than the ‘parade de sixte;’ the same
said for the ‘parade de seconde’ instead of the weak ‘parade d’octave.’

These were then new points of instruction. Weyburn demonstrated them as
neatly as he could do with his weapon.

‘Yes, the French think,’ Lord Ormont said, grasping the stick to get
conviction of thumb-strength and finger-strength from the parades
advocated; ‘their steel would thread the ribs of our louts before:
they could raise a cry of parry; so here they ‘re pleased to sneer
at fencing, as if it served no purpose but the duel. Fencing, for one
thing, means, that with a good stick in his hand, a clever fencer can
double up a giant or two, grant him choice of ground. Some of our men
box; but the sword’s the weapon for an officer, and precious few of ‘em
are fit for more than to kick the scabbard. Slashing comes easier to
them: a plaguey cut, if it does cut--say, one in six. Navy too. Their
cutlass-drill is like a woman’s fling of the arm to fetch a slap from
behind her shoulder. Pinking beats chopping. These English ‘ll have
their lesson. It ‘s like what you call good writing: the simple way does
the business, and that’s the most difficult to learn, because you must
give your head to it, as those French fellows do. ‘Trop de finesse’ is
rather their fault. Anything’s better than loutishness. Well! the lesson
‘ll come.’

He continued. He spoke as he thought: he was not speaking what he was
thinking. His mind was directed on the visit of Aminta to Lady de Culme,
and the tolerably wonderful twist whereby Mrs. Lawrence Finchley had
vowed herself to his girl’s interests. And he blamed neither of them;
only he could not understand how it had been effected, for Aminta and
Mrs. Lawrence had not been on such particularly intimate terms last
week or yesterday. His ejaculation, ‘Women!’ was, as he knew, merely
ignorance roaring behind a mask of sarcasm. But it allied him with all
previous generations on the male side, and that was its virtue. His view
of the shifty turns of women got no further, for the reason that he took
small account of the operations of the feelings, to the sole exercise of
which he by system condemned the sex.

He was also insensibly half a grain more soured by the homage of those
poor schoolboys, who called to him to take it for his reward in a
country whose authorities had snubbed, whose Parliament had ignored,
whose Press had abused him. The ridiculous balance made him wilfully
oblivious that he had seen his name of late eulogized in articles and
in books for the right martial qualities. Can a country treating a good
soldier--not serving it for pay--in so scurvy a fashion, be struck too
hard with our disdain? One cannot tell it in too plain a language how
one despises its laws, its moralities, its sham of society. The Club,
some choice anecdotists, two or three listeners to his dolences clothed
as diatribes; a rubber, and the sight of his girl at home, composed,
with a week’s shooting now and then, his round of life now that she
refused to travel. What a life for a soldier in his vigour. Weyburn was
honoured by the earl’s company on the walk to Chiallo’s. In the street
of elegant shops they met Lord Adderwood, and he, as usual, appeared
in the act of strangling one of his flock of yawns, with gentlemanly
consideration for the public. Exercise was ever his temporary specific
for these incurables. Flinging off his coat, he cast away the cynic
style engendering or engendered by them. He and Weyburn were for a bout.
Sir John Randeller and Mr. Morsfield were at it, like Bull in training
and desperado foiled. A French ‘maitre d’armes,’ famed in ‘escrime,’
standing near Captain Chiallo, looked amused in the eyes, behind a mask
of professional correctness. He had come on an excursion for the display
of his art. Sir John’s very sturdy defence was pierced. Weyburn saluted
the Frenchman as an acquaintance, and they shook hands, chatted,
criticized, nodded. Presently he and his adversary engaged, vizored and
in their buckram, and he soon proved to be too strong for Adderwood, as
the latter expected and had notified to Lord Ormont before they crossed
the steel. My lord had a pleasant pricking excitement in the sound.
There was a pretty display between Weyburn and the ‘escrimeur,’ who
neatly and kindly trifled, took a point and returned one, and at
the finish complimented him. The earl could see that he had to be
sufficiently alert.

Age mouthed an ugly word to the veteran insensible of it in his body,
when a desire to be one with these pairs of nimble wrists and legs was
like an old gamecock shown the pit and put back into the basket. He left
the place, carrying away an image of the coxcombical attitudinizing of
the man Morsfield at the salut, upon which he brought down his powers of
burlesque.

My lord sketched the scene he had just quitted to a lady who had stopped
her carriage. She was the still beautiful Mrs. Amy May, wife of the
famous fighting captain. Her hair was radiant in a shady street; her
eyelids tenderly toned round the almond enclosure of blue pebbles,
bright as if shining from the seawash. The lips of the fair woman could
be seen to say that they were sweet when, laughing or discoursing, they
gave sight of teeth proudly her own, rivalling the regularity of the
grin of dentistry. A Venus of nature was melting into a Venus of art,
and there was a decorous concealment of the contest and the anguish
in the process, for which Lord Ormont liked her well enough to wink
benevolently at her efforts to cheat the world at various issues, and
maintain her duel with Time. The world deserved that she should beat it,
even if she had been all deception.

She let the subject of Mr. Morsfield pass without remark from her, until
the exhaustion of open-air topics hinted an end of their conversation,
and she said--

‘We shall learn next week what to think if the civilians. I have heard
Mr. Morsfield tell that he is ‘de premiere force.’ Be on your guard.
You are to know that I never forget a service, and you did me one once.’
‘You have reason...?’ said the earl.

‘If anybody is the dragon to the treasure he covets he is a spadassin
who won’t hesitate at provocations. Adieu.’

Lord Ormont’s eye had been on Mr. Morsfield. He had seen what Mrs.
Pagnell counselled her niece to let him see. He thanked Mr. Morsfield
for a tonic that made him young with anticipations of bracing; and he
set his head to work upon an advance half-way to meet the gentleman, and
safely exclude his wife’s name.

Monday brought an account of Cuper’s boys. Aminta received it while the
earl was at his papers for the morning’s news of the weightier deeds of
men.

They were the right boys, Weyburn said; his interview with Gowen, Bench,
Parsons, and the others assured him that the school was breathing big
lungs. Mr. Cuper, too, had spoken well of them.

‘You walked the twenty miles?’ Aminta interrupted him.

‘With my German friend: out and home: plenty of time in the day. He
has taken to English boys, but asks why enthusiasm and worship of great
deeds don’t grow upward from them to their elders. And I, in turn, ask
why Germans insist on that point more even than the French do.’

‘Germans are sentimental. But the English boys he saw belonged to
a school with traditions of enthusiasm sown by some one. The school
remembered?’

‘Curiously, Mr. Cuper tells me, the hero of the school has dropped
and sprung up, stout as ever, twice--it tells me what I wish to
believe--since Lord Ormont led their young heads to glory. He can’t say
how it comes. The tradition’s there, and it ‘s kindled by some flying
spark.’

‘They remember who taught the school to think of Lord Ormont?’

‘I ‘m a minor personage. I certainly did some good, and that ‘s a push
forward.’

‘They speak of you?’

It was Aminta more than the Countess of Ormont speaking to him.

‘You take an interest in the boys,’ he said, glowing. ‘Yes, well, they
have their talks. I happened to be a cricketer, counting wickets and
scores. I don’t fancy it’s remembered that it was I preached my lord. A
day of nine wickets and one catch doesn’t die out of a school. The
boy Gowen was the prime spirit in getting up the subscription for the
laundress. But Bench and Parsons are good boys, too.’

He described them, dwelt on them. The enthusiast, when not lyrical, is
perilously near to boring. Aminta was glad of Mrs. Lawrence’s absence.
She had that feeling because Matthew Weyburn would shun talk of himself
to her, not from a personal sense of tedium in hearing of the boys; and
she was quaintly reminded by suggestions, coming she knew not whence, of
a dim likeness between her and these boys of the school when their hero
dropped to nothing and sprang up again brilliantly--a kind of distant
cousinship, in her susceptibility to be kindled by so small a flying
spark as this one on its travels out of High Brent. Moreover, the dear
boys tied her to her girlhood, and netted her fleeting youth for
the moth-box. She pressed to hear more and more of them, and of the
school-laundress Weyburn had called to see, and particularly of the
child, little Jane, aged six. Weyburn went to look at the sheet of water
to which little Jane had given celebrity over the county. The girl stood
up to her shoulders when she slid off the bank and made the line for her
brother to hold, he in the water as well. Altogether, Cuper’s boys were
justified in promoting a subscription, the mother being helpless.

‘Modest little woman,’ he said of Jane. ‘We’ll hope people won’t spoil
her. Don’t forget, Lady Ormont, that the brother did his part; he had
more knowledge of the danger than she.’

‘You will undertake to convey our subscriptions? Lord Ormont spoke of
the little ones and the schoolboys yesterday.’

‘I’ll be down again among them next Sunday, Lady Ormont. On the Monday I
go to Olmer.’

‘The girls of High Brent subscribe?’

There was a ripple under Weyburn’s gravity.

‘Messrs. Gowen, Bench, and Parsons thought proper to stop Miss Vincent
at the head of her detachment in the park.’

‘On the Sunday?’

‘And one of them handed her a paper containing a report of their
interview with Mrs. Coop and a neat eulogy of little Jane. But don’t
suspect them, I beg. I believe them to be good, honest fellows. Bench,
they say, is religious; Gowen has written verses; Parsons generally
harum-scarum. They’re boyish in one way or another, and that’ll do. The
cricket of the school has been low: seems to be reviving.’

‘Mr. Weyburn,’ said the countess, after a short delay--and Aminta
broke through--‘it pleases me to hear of them, and think they have not
forgotten you, or, at least, they follow the lead you gave. I should
like to know whether an idea I have is true: Is much, I mean constant,
looking down on young people likely to pull one’s mind down to their
level?’

‘Likely enough to betray our level, if there ‘s danger,’ he murmured.
‘Society offers an example that your conjecture is not unfounded, Lady
Ormont. But if we have great literature and an interest in the world’s
affairs, can there be any fear of it? The schoolmaster ploughs to make
a richer world, I hope. He must live with them, join with them in their
games, accustom them to have their heads knocked with what he wants to
get into them, leading them all the while, as the bigger schoolfellow
does, if he is a good fellow. He has to be careful not to smell of his
office. Doing positive good is the business of his every day--on a small
scale, but it ‘s positive, if he likes his boys. ‘Avaunt favouritism!’
he must like all boys. And it ‘s human nature not so far removed from
the dog; only it’s a supple human nature: there ‘s the beauty of it. We
train it. Nothing is more certain than that it will grow upward. I have
the belief that I shall succeed, because I like boys, and they like me.
It always was the case.’

‘I know,’ said Aminta.

Their eyes met. She looked moved at heart behind that deep forest of her
chestnut eyes.

‘And I think I can inspire confidence in fathers and mothers,’ he
resumed.’ I have my boys already waiting for me to found the school.
I was pleased the other day: an English friend brought an Italian
gentleman to see me and discuss my system, up at Norwood, at my
mother’s--a Signor Calliani. He has a nephew; the parents dote on
him. The uncle confesses that the boy wants--he has got hold of our
word--“pluck.” We had a talk. He has promised to send me the lad when I
am established in Switzerland.’

‘When?’ said Aminta.

‘A relative from whom a Reversion comes is near the end. It won’t be
later than September that I shall go. My Swiss friend has the school,
and would take me at once before he retires.’

‘You make friends wherever you go,’ said Aminta.

‘Why shouldn’t everybody? I’m convinced it’s because I show people I
mean well, and I never nurse an injury, great or small. And besides,
they see I look forward. I do hope good for the world. If at my school
we have all nationalities--French boys and German, Italian, Russian,
Spaniard--without distinction of race and religion and station, and
with English intermixing--English games, English sense of honour and
conception of gentleman--we shall help to nationalize Europe. Emile
Grenat, Adolf Fleischer, and an Italian, Vincentino Chiuse, are prepared
to start with me: and they are men of attainments; they will throw up
their positions; they will do me the honour to trust to my leadership.
It’s not scaling Alps or commanding armies, true.’

‘It may be better,’ said Aminta, and thought as she spoke.

‘Slow work, if we have a taste for the work, doesn’t dispirit.
Otherwise, one may say that an African or South American traveller has a
more exciting time. I shall manage to keep my head on its travels.’

‘You have ideas about the education of girls?’

‘They can’t be carried out unaided.’

‘Aid will come.’

Weyburn’s confidence, high though it was, had not mounted to that pitch.

‘One may find a mate,’ he said. The woman to share and practically
to aid in developing such ideas is not easily found: that he left as
implied.

Aminta was in need of poetry; but the young schoolmaster’s plain,
well-directed prose of the view of a business in life was welcome to
her.

Lord Ormont entered the room. She reminded him of the boys of High Brent
and the heroine Jane. He was ready to subscribe his five-and-twenty
guineas, he said. The amount of the sum gratified Weyburn, she could
see. She was proud of her lord, and of the boys and the little girl; and
she would have been happy to make the ardent young schoolmaster aware of
her growing interest in the young.

The night before the earl’s departure on the solitary expedition to
which she condemned him, he surprised her with a visit of farewell,
so that he need not disturb her in the early morning, he said. She was
reading beside her open jewel-box, and she closed it with the delicate
touch of a hand turned backward while listening to him, with no sign of
nervousness.



CHAPTER XIII. WAR AT OLMER

Lively doings were on the leap to animate Weyburn at Olmer during Easter
week. The Rev. Mr. Hampton-Evey, rector of Barborough, on hearing that
Lady Charlotte Eglett was engaged in knocking at the doors of litigation
with certain acts that constituted distinct breaches of the law and the
peace, and were a violation of the rights of her neighbour, Mr. Gilbert
Addicote, might hope that the troublesome parishioner whom he did not
often number among his congregation would grant him a term of repose.
Therein he was deceived. Alterations and enlargements of the church,
much required, had necessitated the bricking up of a door regarded by
the lady as the private entrance to the Olmer pew. She sent him notice
of her intention to batter at the new brickwork; so there was the
prospect of a pew-fight before him. But now she came to sit under him
every Sunday; and he could have wished her absent; for she diverted his
thoughts from piety to the selections of texts applicable in the case
of a woman who sat with arms knotted, and the frown of an intemperate
schoolgirl forbidden speech; while her pew’s firelight startlingly
at intervals danced her sinister person into view, as from below. The
lady’s inaccessible and unconquerable obtuseness to exhortation informed
the picture with an evil spirit that cried for wrestlings.

Regularly every week-day she headed the war now rageing between Olmer
and Addicotes, on the borders of the estates. It was open war, and
herself to head the cavalry. Weyburn, driving up a lane in the gig she
had sent to meet the coach, beheld a thicket of countrymen and boys
along a ridge; and it swayed and broke, and through it burst the figure
of a mounted warrior woman at the gallop, followed by what bore an
appearance of horse and gun, minus carriage, drivers at the flanks
cracking whips on foot. Off went the train, across a small gorse common,
through a gate.

‘That’s another down,’ said his whip. ‘Sound good wood it is, not made
to fall. Her ladyship’s at it hard to-day. She ‘ll teach Mr. Addicote a
thing or two about things females can do. That is, when they stand for
their rights.’

He explained to Weyburn that Mr. Addicote, a yeoman farmer and a good
hunting man, but a rare obstinate one, now learning his lesson from her
ladyship, was in dispute with her over rights of property on a stretch
of fir-trees lining the ridge where the estates of Olmer and Addicotes
met. Her ladyship had sworn that if he did not yield to her claim she
would cut down every tree of the ridge and sell the lot for timber under
his nose. She acted according to her oath, in the teeth of his men two
feet across the border. All the world knew the roots of those trees were
for the most part in Olmer soil, though Addicote shared the shade. All
the people about mourned for the felling of those trees. All blamed Mr.
Gilbert Addicote for provoking her ladyship, good hunting man though he
was. But as to the merits of the question, under the magnifier of the
gentlemen of the law, there were as many different opinions as wigs in
the land.

‘And your opinion?’ said Weyburn.

To which the young groom answered: ‘Oh, I don’t form an opinion, sir. I
‘m of my mistress’s opinion; and if she says, Do it, think as we like,
done it has to be.’

Lady Charlotte came at a trot through the gate, to supervise the
limbering-up of another felled tree. She headed it as before. The log
dragged bounding and twirling, rattling its chains; the crowd along the
ridge, forbidden to cheer, watching it with intense repression of the
roar. We have not often in England sight of a great lady challengeing
an unpopular man to battle and smacking him in the face like this to
provoke him. Weyburn was driven on a half-circle of the lane to the
gate, where he jumped out to greet Lady Charlotte trotting back for
another smack in the face of her enemy,--a third rounding of her
Troy with the vanquished dead at her heels, as Weyburn let a flimsy
suggestion beguile his fancy, until the Homeric was overwhelming even to
a playful mind, and he put her in a mediaeval frame. She really had
the heroical aspect in a grandiose-grotesque, fitted to some lines of
Ariosto. Her head wore a close hood, disclosing a fringe of grey locks,
owlish to see about features hooked for action.

‘Ah, you! there you are: good--I’ll join you in three minutes,’ she sang
out to him, and cantered to the ridge.

Hardly beyond the stated number she was beside him again, ranging her
steed for the victim log to dance a gyration on its branches across the
lane and enter a field among the fallen compeers. One of her men had run
behind her. She slid from her saddle and tossed him the reins, catching
up her skirts.

‘That means war, as much as they’ll have it in England,’ she said,
seeing his glance at the logs. ‘My husband’s wise enough to leave it
to me, so I save him trouble with neighbours. An ass of a Mr. Gilbert
Addicote dares us to make good our claim on our property, our timber,
because half a score of fir-tree roots go stretching on to his ground.’

She swished her whip. Mr. Gilbert Addicote received the stroke and
retired, a buried subject. They walked on at an even pace. ‘You ‘ll see
Leo to-morrow. He worships you. You may as well give him a couple of
hours’ coaching a day for the week. He’ll be hanging about you, and you
won’t escape him. Well, and my brother Rowsley: how is Lord Ormont? He
never comes to me now, since--Well, it ‘s nothing to me; but I like to
see my brother. She can’t make any change here. Olmer and Lady Charlotte
‘s bosom were both implied. ‘What do you think?--you ‘ve noticed: is he
in good health? It ‘s the last thing he ‘ll be got to speak of.’

Weyburn gave the proper assurances.

‘Not he!’ said she. ‘He’s never ill. Men beat women in the long race, if
they haven’t overdone it when young. My doctor wants me to renounce the
saddle. He says it ‘s time. Not if I ‘ve got work for horseback!’ she
nicked her head emphatically: ‘I hate old age. They sha’nt dismount
me till a blow comes. Hate it! But I should despise myself if I showed
signs, like a worm under heel. Let Nature do her worst; she can’t
conquer us as long as we keep up heart. You won’t have to think of that
for a good time yet. Now tell me why Lord Ormont didn’t publish the
“Plan for the Defence” you said he was writing; and he was, I know. He
wrote it and he finished it; you made the fair copy. Well, and he read
it,--there! see!’ She took the invisible sheets in her hands and tore
them. ‘That’s my brother. He’s so proud. It would have looked like
asking the country, that injured him, to forgive him. I wish it had been
printed. But whatever he does I admire. That--she might have advised,
if she ‘d been a woman of public spirit or cared for his reputation. He
never comes near me. Did she read your copy?’

The question was meant for an answer.

Weyburn replied: ‘Lady Ormont had no sight of it.’

‘Ah! she’s Lady Ormont to the servants, I know. She has an aunt living
in the house. If my brother’s a sinner, and there’s punishment for him,
he has it from that aunt. Pag... something. He bears with her. He ‘s a
Spartan. She ‘s his pack on his back, for what she covers and the game
he plays. It looks just tolerably decent with her in the house. She goes
gabbling a story about our Embassy at Madrid. To preserve propriety, as
they call it. Her niece doesn’t stoop to any of those tricks, I ‘m told.
I like her for that.’

Weyburn was roused: ‘I think you would like Lady Ormont, if you knew
her, my lady.’

‘The chances of my liking the young woman are not in the dice-box. You
call her Lady Ormont: you are not one of the servants. Don’t call her
Lady Ormont to me.’

‘It is her title, Lady Charlotte.’ She let fly a broadside at him.

‘You are one of the woman’s dupes. I thought you had brains. How can
you be the donkey not to see that my brother Rowsley, Lord Ormont, would
never let a woman, lawfully bearing his name, go running the quadrille
over London in couples with a Lady Staines and a Mrs. Lawrence Finchley,
Lord Adderwood, and that man Morsfield, who boasts of your Lady Ormont,
and does it unwhipped--tell me why? Pooh, you must be the poorest fool
born to suppose it possible my brother would allow a man like that man
Morsfield to take his wife’s name in his mouth a second time. Have you
talked much with this young person?’

‘With Lady Ormont? I have had the honour occasionally.’

‘Stick to the title and write yourself plush-breech. Can’t you be more
than a footman? Try to be a man of the world; you’re old enough for that
by now. I know she ‘s good-looking; the whole tale hangs on that. You
needn’t be singing me mooncalf hymn tunes of “Lady Ormont, Lady Ormont,”
 solemn as a parson’s clerk; the young woman brought good looks to
market; and she got the exchange she had a right to expect. But it
‘s not my brother Rowsley’s title she has got--except for footmen and
tradesmen. When there’s a true Countess of Ormont!... Unless my brother
has cut himself from his family. Not he. He’s not mad.’

They passed through Olmer park-gates. Lady Charlotte preceded him, and
she turned, waiting for him to rejoin her. He had taken his flagellation
in the right style, neither abashed nor at sham crow: he was easy, ready
to converse on any topic; he kept the line between supple courtier and
sturdy independent; and he was a pleasant figure of a young fellow.
Thinking which, a reminder that she liked him drew her by the road of
personal feeling, as usual with her, to reflect upon another, and a
younger, woman’s observing and necessarily liking him too.

‘You say you fancy I should like the person you call Lady Ormont?’

‘I believe you would, my lady.’

‘Are her manners agreeable?’

‘Perfect; no pretension.’

‘Ah! she sings, plays--all that?

‘She plays the harp and sings.’

‘You have heard her?’

‘Twice.’

‘She didn’t set you mewing?’

‘I don’t remember the impulse; at all events, it was restrained.’

‘She would me; but I’m an old woman. I detest their squalling and
strumming. I can stand it with Italians on the boards: they don’t, stop
conversation. She was present at that fencing match where you plucked a
laurel? I had an account of it. I can’t see the use of fencing in this
country. Younger women can, I dare say. Now, look. If we’re to speak of
her, I can’t call her Lady Ormont, and I don’t want to hear you. Give me
her Christian name.’

‘It is’--Weyburn found himself on a slope without a stay--‘Aminta.’

Lady Charlotte’s eye was on him. He felt intolerably hot; his vexation
at the betrayal of the senseless feeling made it worse, a conscious
crimson.

‘Aminta,’ said she, rather in the style of Cuper’s boys, when the name
was a strange one to them. ‘I remember my Italian master reading out a
poem when I was a girl. I read poetry then. You wouldn’t have imagined
that. I did, and liked it. I hate old age. It changes you so. None of my
children know me as I was when I had life in me and was myself, and my
brother Rowsley called me Cooey. They think me a hard old woman. I was
Cooey through the woods and over the meadows and down stream to Rowsley.
Old age is a prison wall between us and young people. They see a
miniature head and bust, and think it a flattery--won’t believe it.
After I married I came to understand that the world we are in is a
world to fight in, or under we go. But I pity the young who have to cast
themselves off and take up arms. Young women above all.’

Why had she no pity for Aminta? Weyburn asked it of his feelings, and he
had the customary insurgent reply from them.

‘You haven’t seen Steignton yet,’ she continued. ‘No place on earth
is equal to Steignton for me. It ‘s got the charm. Here at Olmer I’m a
mother and a grandmother--the “devil of an old-woman” my neighbours take
me to be. She hasn’t been to Steignton, either. No, and won’t go there,
though she’s working her way round, she supposes. He’ll do everything
for his “Aminta,” but he won’t take her to Steignton. I’m told now she’s
won Lady de Culme. That Mrs. Lawrence Finchley has dropped the curtsey
to her great-aunt and sworn to be a good girl, for a change, if Lady
de Culme will do the chaperon, and force Lord Ormont’s hand. My brother
shrugs. There’ll be a nice explosion one day soon. Presented? The Court
won’t have her. That I know for positive. If she’s pushed forward, she
‘ll be bitterly snubbed. It ‘s on the heads of those women--silly women!
I can’t see the game Mrs. Lawrence Finchley’s playing. She’d play for
fun. If they’d come to me, I ‘d tell them I ‘ve proof she ‘s not
the Countess of Ormont: positive proof. You look? I have it. I hold
something; and not before,--(he may take his Aminta to Steignton, he
may let her be presented, she may wear his name publicly, I say he’s
laughing at them, snapping his fingers at them louder and louder the
more they seem to be pushing him into a corner, until--I know my brother
Rowsley!--and, poor dear fellow! a man like that, the best cavalry
general England ever had:--they’ll remember it when there comes a cry
for a general from India: that’s the way with the English; only
their necessities teach them to be just!)--he to be reduced to be
out-manoeuvring a swarm of women,--I tell them, not before my brother
Rowsley comes to me for what he handed to my care and I keep safe for
him, will I believe he has made or means to make his Aminta Countess of
Ormont.’

They were at the steps of the house. Turning to Weyburn there, the
inexhaustible Lady Charlotte remarked that their conversation had given
her pleasure. Leo was hanging on to one of his hands the next minute. A
small girl took the other. Philippa and Beatrice were banished damsels.

Lady Charlotte’s breath had withered the aspect of Aminta’s fortunes.
Weyburn could forgive her, for he was beginning to understand her.
He could not pardon ‘her brother Rowsley,’ who loomed in his mind
incomprehensible, and therefore black. Once he had thought the great
General a great man. He now regarded him as a mere soldier, a soured
veteran; socially as a masker and a trifler, virtually a callous angler
playing his cleverly-hooked fish for pastime.

What could be the meaning of Lady Charlotte’s ‘that, man Morsfield, who
boasts of your Lady Ormont, and does it unwhipped’?

Weyburn stopped his questioning, with the reflection that he had no
right to recollect her words thus accurately. The words, however,
stamped Morsfield’s doings and sayings and postures in the presence
of Aminta with significance. When the ladies were looking on at the
fencers, Morsfield’s perfect coxcombry had been noticeable. He knew the
art of airing a fine figure. Mrs. Lawrence Finchley had spoken of it,
and Aminta had acquiesced; in the gravely simple manner of women who may
be thinking of it much more intently than the vivacious prattler. Aminta
confessed to an admiration of masculine physical beauty; the picador,
matador, of the Spanish ring called up an undisguised glow that English
ladies show coldly when they condescend to let it be seen; as it were,
a line or two of colour on the wintriest of skies. She might, after all,
at heart be one of the leisured, jewelled, pretty-winged; the spending,
never harvesting, world she claimed and sought to enter. And what a
primitive world it was!--world of the glittering beast and the not too
swiftly flying prey, the savage passions clothed in silk. Surely desire
to belong to it writes us poor creatures. Mentally, she could hardly
be maturer than the hero-worshipping girl in the procession of Miss
Vincent’s young seminarists. Probably so, but she carried magic. She was
of the order of women who walk as the goddesses of old, bearing the
gift divine. And, by the way, she had the step of the goddess. Weyburn
repeated to himself the favourite familiar line expressive of the
glorious walk, and accused Lord Ormont of being in cacophonous
accordance with the perpetual wrong of circumstance, he her possessor,
the sole person of her sphere insensible to the magic she bore! So ran
his thought.

The young man chose to conceive that he thought abstractedly. He was,
in truth, often casting about for the chances of his meeting on some
fortunate day the predestined schoolmaster’s wife: a lady altogether
praiseworthy for carrying principles of sound government instead of
magic. Consequently, susceptible to woman’s graces though he knew
himself to be, Lady Ormont’s share of them hung in the abstract for him.
His hopes were bent on an early escape to Switzerland and his life’s
work.

Lady Charlotte mounted to ride to the battle daily. She talked of
her brother Rowsley, and of ‘Aminta,’ and provoked an advocacy of the
Countess of Ormont, and trampled the pleas and defences to dust, much
in the same tone as on the first day; sometimes showing a peep of sweet
humaneness, like the ripe berry of a bramble, and at others rattling
thunder at the wretch of a woman audacious enough to pretend to a part
in her brother’s title.

Not that she had veneration for titles. She considered them a tinsel,
and the devotee on his knee-caps to them a lump for a kick. Adding: ‘Of
course I stand for my class; and if we can’t have a manlier people--and
it ‘s not likely in a country treating my brother so badly--well, then,
let things go on as they are.’ But it was the pretension to a part
in the name of Ormont which so violently offended the democratic
aristocrat, and caused her to resent it as an assault on the family
honour, by ‘a woman springing up out of nothing’--a woman of no
distinctive birth.

She was rational in her fashion; or Weyburn could at least see where and
how the reason in her took a twist. The Rev. Mr. Hampton-Evey would
not see it; he was, in charity to her ladyship, of a totally contrary
opinion, he informed Weyburn. The laborious pastor and much-enduring
Churchman met my lady’s apologist as he was having a swing of the
legs down the lanes before breakfast, and he fell upon a series of
complaints, which were introduced by a declaration that ‘he much feared’
her ladyship would have a heavy legal bill to pay for taking the law
into her hands up at Addicotes.

Her ladyship might, if she pleased, he said, encourage her domestics and
her husband’s tenants and farm-labourers to abandon the church for the
chapel, and go, as she had done and threatened to do habitually, to the
chapel herself; but to denounce the ritual of the Orthodox Church under
the denomination of ‘barbarous,’ to say of the invoking supplications of
the service, that they were--she had been heard to state it more or less
publicly and repeatedly--suitable to abject ministers and throngs at
the court of an Indian rajah, that he did not hesitate to term highly
unbecoming in a lady of her station, subversive and unchristian. The
personal burdens inflicted on him by her ladyship he prayed for patience
to endure. He surprised Weyburn in speaking of Lady Charlotte as
‘educated and accomplished.’ She was rather more so than Weyburn knew,
and more so than was common among the great ladies of her time.

Weyburn strongly advised the reverend gentleman on having it out with
Lady Charlotte in a personal interview. He sketched the great lady’s
combative character on a foundation of benevolence, and stressed
her tolerance for open dealing, and the advantage gained by personal
dealings with her--after a mauling or two. His language and his
illustrations touched an old-school chord in the Rev. Mr. Hampton-Evey,
who hummed over the project, profoundly disrelishing the introductory
portion.

‘Do me the honour to call and see me to-morrow, after breakfast, before
her ladyship starts for the fray on Addicote heights,’ Weyburn said;
‘and I will ask your permission to stand by you. Her bark is terrific,
we know; and she can bite, but there’s no venom.’

Finally, on a heave of his chest, Mr. Hampton-Evey consented to call, in
the interests of peace.

Weyburn had said it must be ‘man to man with her, facing her and taking
steps’; and, although the prospect was unpleasant to repulsiveness, it
was a cheerful alternative beside Mr. Hampton-Evey’s experiences and
anticipations of the malignant black power her ladyship could be when
she was not faced.

‘Let the man come,’ said Lady Charlotte. Her shoulders intimated
readiness for him.

She told Weyburn he might be present--insisted to have him present.
During the day Weyburn managed to slide in observations on the
favourable reports of Mr. Hampton-Evey’s work among the poor--emollient
doses that irritated her to fret and paw, as at a checking of her onset.

In the afternoon the last disputed tree on the Addicotes’ ridge was
felled and laid on Olmer ground. Riding with Weyburn and the joyful Leo,
she encountered Mr. Eglett and called out the news. He remarked, in the
tone of philosophy proper to a placable country gentleman obedient
to government on foreign affairs: ‘Now for the next act. But no more
horseback now, mind!’

She muttered of not recollecting a promise. He repeated the interdict.
Weyburn could fancy seeing her lips form words of how she hated old age.

He had been four days at Olmer, always facing her, ‘man to man,’ in
the matter of Lady Ormont, not making way at all, but holding firm, and
winning respectful treatment. They sat alone in her private room, where,
without prelude, she discharged a fiery squib at impudent hussies caught
up to the saddle-bow of a hero for just a canter, and pretending to a
permanent seat beside him.

‘You have only to see Lady Ormont; you will admit the justice of her
claim, my lady,’ said he; and as evidently he wanted a fight, she let
him have it.

‘You try to provoke me; you take liberties. You may call the woman
Aminta, I’ve told you; you insult me when you call the woman by my
family name.’

‘Pardon me, my lady: I have no right to call Lady Ormont Aminta.’

‘You’ve never done so, eh? Say!’

She had him at the edge of the precipice. He escaped by saying, ‘Her
Christian name was asked the other day, and I mentioned it. She is
addressed by me as Lady Ormont.’

‘And by her groom and her footman. They all do; it ‘s the indemnity to
that class of young woman. Her linendraper is Lady-Ormonting as you do.
I took you for a gentleman. Let me hear you give her that title again,
you shall hear her true one, that the world fits her with, from me.’

The time was near the half-hour bell before dinner, the situation
between them that of the fall of the breath to fetch words electrical.
She left it to him to begin the fight, and was not sorry that she had
pricked him for it.

A footman entered the room, bearer of a missive for Mr. Weyburn. Lord
Ormont’s groom had brought it from London.

‘Send in the man,’ said Lady Charlotte.

Weyburn read

‘The Countess of Ormont begs Mr. Weyburn to return instantly. There
has been an accident in his home. It may not be very serious. An arm--a
shock to the system from a fall. Messenger informs her, fear of internal
hemorrhage. Best doctors in attendance.’

He handed Lady Charlotte the letter. She humped at the first line,
flashed across the remainder, and in a lowered voice asked--

‘Sister in the house?’

‘My mother,’ Weyburn said.

The groom appeared. He knew nothing. The Countess had given him orders
to spare no expense on the road to Olmer, without a minute’s delay. He
had ridden and driven.

He looked worn. Lady Charlotte rang the bell for her butler. To him she
said--

‘See that this man has a good feed of meat, any pastry you have, and a
bottle of port wine. He has earned a pipe of tobacco; make up a bed
for him. Despatch at once any one of the stable-boys to Loughton--the
Dolphin. Mr. Leeman there will have a chariot, fly, gig, anything,
ready-horsed in three hours from now. See Empson yourself; he will put
my stepper Mab to the light trap; no delay. Have his feed at Loughton.
Tell Mrs. Maples to send up now, here, a tray, whatever she has, within
five minutes--not later. A bottle of the Peace of Amiens Chambertin--Mr.
Eglett’s. You understand. Mrs. Maples will pack a basket for the
journey; she will judge. Add a bottle of the Waterloo Bordeaux. Wait: a
dozen of Mr. Eglett’s cigars. Brisk with all the orders. Go.’

She turned to Weyburn. ‘You pack your portmanteau faster than a servant
will do it.’

He ran up-stairs.

She was beside the tray to welcome and inspirit his eating, and she
performed the busy butler’s duty in pouring out wine for him. It was
a toned old Burgundy, happy in the year of its birth, the grandest of
instruments to roll the gambol-march of the Dionysiaca through the blood
of this frame and sound it to the spirit. She spoke no word of his cause
for departure. He drank, and he felt what earth can do to cheer one of
her stricken children and strengthen the beat of a heart with a dread
like a shot in it.

She, while he flew supporting the body of his most beloved to the sun of
Life in brighter hope, reckoned the stages of his journey.

‘Leeman at Loughton will post you through the night to Mersley. Wherever
you bait, it is made known that you come from Olmer, and are one of us.
That passes you on up to London. Where can Lord Ormont be now?’

‘In Paris.’

‘Still in Paris? He leaves her. She did well to send as she did. You
will not pay for the posting along the road.’

‘I will pay for myself--I have a ‘purse,’ Weyburn said; and continued,
‘Oh, my lady; there is Mr. Hampton-Evey to-morrow morning: I promised to
stand by him.’

‘I’ll explain,’ said Lady Charlotte. ‘He shall not miss you. If he
strips the parson and comes as a man and a servant of the poor, he has
nothing to fear. You’ve done? The night before my brother Rowsley’s
first duel I sat with him at supper and poured his wine out, and knew
what was going to happen, didn’t say a word. No use in talking about
feelings. Besides, death is only the other side of the ditch, and one
or other of us must go foremost. Now then, good-bye. Empson’s waiting by
this time. Mr. Eglett and Leo shall hear the excuses from me. Think of
anything you may want, while I count ten.’

She held his hand. He wanted her to be friendly to Lady Ormont, but
could not vex her at the last moment, touched as he was by her practical
kindness.

She pressed his hand and let it go.



CHAPTER XIV. OLD LOVERS NEW FRIENDS

The cottage inhabited by Weyburn’s mother was on the southern hills over
London. He reached it late in the afternoon. His mother’s old servant,
Martha, spied the roadway at the gate of the small square of garden. Her
steady look without welcome told him the scene he would meet beyond the
door, and was the dead in her eyes. He dropped from no height; he stood
on a level with the blow. His apprehensions on the road had lowered him
to meet it.

‘Too late, Martha?’

‘She’s in heaven, my dear.’

‘She is lying alone?’

‘The London doctor left half an hour back. She’s gone. Slipped, and
fell, coming from her room, all the way down. She prayed for grace to
see her son. She ‘ll watch over him, be sure. You ‘ll not find it lone
and cold. A lady sits with it--Lady Ormont, they call her--a very kind
lady. My mistress liked her voice. Ever since news of the accident, up
to ten at night; and never eats or drinks more than a poor tiny bit of
bread-and-butter, with a teacup.’

‘Weyburn went up-stairs.

Aminta sat close to the bedside in a darkened room. They greeted
silently. He saw the white shell of the life that had flown; he took his
mother’s hand and kissed it, and knelt, clasping it.

Fear of disturbing his prayer kept Aminta seated. Death was a stranger
to him. The still warm, half-cold, nerveless hand smote the fact of
things as they were through the prayer for things as we would have
them. The vitality of his prayer was the sole light he had. It drew
sustainment from the dead hand in his grasp, and cowered down to the
earth claiming all we touch. He tried to summon vision of a soaring
spirituality; he could not; his understanding and senses were too
stricken. He prayed on. His prayer was as a little fountain, not rising
high out of earth, and in the clutch of death; but its being it had from
death, his love gave it food.

Prayer is power within us to communicate with the desired beyond our
thirsts. The goodness of the dear good mother gone was in him for
assurance of a breast of goodness to receive her, whatever the nature of
the eternal secret may be. The good life gone lives on in the mind;
the bad has but a life in the body, and that not lasting,--it extends,
dispreads, it worms away, it perishes. Need we more to bid the
mind perceive through obstructive flesh the God who reigns, a devil
vanquished? Be certain that it is the pure mind we set to perceive. The
God discerned in thought is another than he of the senses. And let the
prayer be as a little fountain. Rising on a spout, from dread of the
hollow below, the prayer may be prolonged in words begetting words, and
have a pulse of fervour: the spirit of it has fallen after the first
jet. That is the delirious energy of our craving, which has no life
in our souls. We do not get to any heaven by renouncing the Mother we
spring from; and when there is an eternal secret for us, it is befit
to believe that Earth knows, to keep near her, even in our utmost
aspirations.

Weyburn still knelt. He was warned to quit the formal posture of an
exhausted act by the thought, that he had come to reflect upon how he
might be useful to his boys in a like calamity.

Having risen, he became aware, that for some time of his kneeling
Aminta’s hand had been on his head, and they had raised their souls
in unison. It was a soul’s link. They gazed together on the calm, rapt
features. They passed from the room.

‘I cannot thank you,’ he said.

‘Oh no; I have the reason for gratitude,’ said she. ‘I have learnt to
know and love her, and hope I may imitate when my time is near.’

“She.... at the last?’

‘Peacefully; no pain. The breath had not left her very long before you
came.’

‘I said I cannot; but I must--

‘Do not.’

‘Not in speech, then.’

They went into the tasteful little sitting-room below, where the
stillness closed upon them as a consciousness of loss.

‘You have comforted her each day,’ he said.

‘It has been my one happiness.’

‘I could not wish for better than for her to have known you.’

‘Say that for me. I have gained. She left her last words for you with
me. They were love, love... pride in her son: thanks to God for having
been thought worthy to give him birth.’

‘She was one of the noble women of earth.’

‘She was your mother. Let me not speak any more. I think I will now go.
I am rarely given to these--’

The big drops were falling.

‘You have not ordered your carriage?’

‘It brings me here. I find my way home.’

‘Alone?’

‘I like the independence.’

‘At night, too!’

‘Nothing harmed me. Now it is daylight. A letter arrived for you from
High Brent this morning. I forgot to bring it. Yesterday two of your
pupils called here. Martha saw them.’

Her naming of the old servant familiarly melted him. ‘You will not bear
to hear praise or thanks.’

‘If I deserved them. I should like you to call on Dr. Buxton; he will
tell you more than we can. He drove with me the first day, after I had
sent you the local doctor’s report. I had it from the messenger, his
assistant.’

Weyburn knew Dr. Buxton’s address. He begged her to stay and take some
nourishment; ventured a remark on her wasted look.

‘It is poor fare in cottages.’

‘I have been feeding on better than bread and meat,’ she said.’ I should
have eaten if I had felt appetite. My looks will recover, such as they
are. I hope I have grown out of them; they are a large part of the
bondage of women. You would like to see me safe into some conveyance. Go
up-stairs for a few minutes; I will wait here.’

He obeyed her. Passing from the living to the dead, from the dead to the
living, they were united in his heart.

Her brevity of tone, and her speech, so practical upon a point of need,
under a crisis of distress, reminded him of Lady Charlotte at the time
of the groom’s arrival with her letter.

Aminta was in no hurry to drive. She liked walking and looking down on
London, she said.

‘My friend and schoolmate, Selina Collett, comes to me at Whitsuntide.
We have taken a house on the Upper Thames, above Marlow. You will
come and see us, if you can be persuaded to leave your boys. We have
a boathouse, and a bathing-plank for divers. The stream is quiet there
between rich meadows. It seems to flow as if it thought. I am not
poetical; I tell you only my impression. You shall be a great deal by
yourself, as men prefer to be.’

‘As men are forced to be--I beg!’ said he. ‘Division is against my
theories.’

‘We might help, if we understood one another, I have often fancied. I
know something of your theories. I should much like to hear you some
day on the scheme of the school in Switzerland, and also on the
schoolmaster’s profession. She whom we have lost was full of it, and
spoke of it to me as much as her weakness would permit. The subject
seemed to give her strength.’

‘She has always encouraged me,’ said Weyburn.’ I have lost her, but I
shall feel that she is not absent. She had ideas of her own about men
and women.’

‘Some she mentioned.’

‘And about marriage?’

‘That too.’

Aminta shook herself out of a sudden stupor.

‘Her mind was very clear up to the last hour upon all the subjects
interesting her son. She at one time regretted his not being a soldier,
for the sake of his father’s memory. Then she learned to think he could
do more for the world as the schoolmaster. She said you can persuade.’

‘We had our talks. She would have the reason, if she was to be won. I
like no other kind of persuasion.’

‘I long to talk over the future school with you. That is, to hear your
plans.’

They were at the foot of the hill, in view of an inn announcing livery
stables. She wished to walk the whole distance. He shook his head.

The fly was ready for her soon, and he begged to see her safe home. She
refused, after taking her seat, but said: ‘At any other time. We are old
friends. You will really go through the ceremony of consulting me about
the school?’

He replied: ‘I am honoured.’

‘Ah, not to me,’ said Aminta. ‘We will be the friends we--You will not
be formal with me?--not from this day?’

She put out her hand. He took it gently. The dead who had drawn them
together withheld a pressure. Holding the hand, he said: ‘I shall crave
leave of absence for some days.’

‘I shall see you on the day,’ said she. ‘If it is your desire: I will
send word.’

‘We both mourn at heart. We should be in company. Adieu.’

Their hands fell apart. They looked. The old school time was in each
mind. They saw it as a shore-bank in grey outline across morning mist.
Years were between; and there was a division of circumstance, more
repelling than an abyss or the rush of deep wild waters.

Neither of them had regrets. Under their cloud, and with the grief they
shared, they were as happy as two could be in recovering one another as
friends.

On the day of the funeral Aminta drove to the spot where they had
parted--she walked to the churchyard.

She followed the coffin to its gravel-heap, wishing neither to see nor
be seen, only that she might be so far attached to the remains of the
dead; and the sense of blessedness she had in her bowed simplicity of
feeling was as if the sainted dead had cleansed and anointed her.

When the sods had been cast on, the last word spoken, she walked her
way back, happy in being alone, unnoticed. She was grateful to the chief
mourner for letting her go as she had come. That helped her to her sense
of purification, the haven out of the passions, hardly less quiet than
the repose into which the dear dead woman, his mother, had entered.

London lay beneath her. The might of the great hive hummed at the verge
of her haven of peace without disturbing. There she had been what
none had known of her: an ambitious girl, modest merely for lack of
intrepidity; paralyzed by her masterful lord; aiming her highest at
a gilt weathercock; and a disappointed creature, her breast a home of
serpents; never herself. She thought and hoped she was herself now.
Alarm lest this might be another of her moods, victim of moods as she
had latterly been, was a shadow armed with a dart playing round her to
find the weak spot. It sprang from her acknowledged weakness of nature;
and she cast about for how to keep it outside her and lean on a true
though a small internal support. She struck at her desires, to sound
them.

They were yesterday for love; partly for distinction, for a woman having
beauty to shine in the sphere of beauty; but chiefly to love and be
loved, therefore to live. She had yesterday read letters of a man
who broke a music from the word--about as much music as there is in
a tuning--fork, yet it rang and lingered; and he was not the magical
musician. Now those letters were as dust of the road. The sphere of
beauty was a glass lamp-globe for delirious moths. She had changed.
Belief in the real change gave her full view of the compliant coward she
had been.

Her heart assured her she had natural courage. She felt that it could be
stubborn to resist a softness. Now she cared no more for the hackneyed
musical word; friendship was her desire. If it is not life’s poetry, it
is a credible prose; a land of low undulations instead of Alps; beyond
the terrors and the deceptions. And she could trust her friend: he who
was a singular constancy. His mother had told her of his preserving
letters of a girl he loved when at school; and of his journeys to an
empty house at Dover. That was past; but, as the boy, so the man would
be in sincerity of feeling trustworthy to the uttermost.

She mused on the friend. He was brave. She had seen how he took his
blow, and sorrow as a sister, conquering emotion. It was not to be
expected of him by one who knew him when at school. Had he faults? He
must have faults. She, curiously, could see none. After consenting to
his career as a schoolmaster, and seeing nothing ludicrous in it, she
endowed him with the young school-hero’s reputation, beheld him with the
eyes of the girl who had loved him--and burnt his old letters!--bitterly
regretted that she burnt his letters!--and who had applauded his
contempt of ushers and master opposing his individual will and the thing
he thought it right to do.

Musing thus, she turned a corner, on a sudden, in her mind, and ran
against a mirror, wherein a small figure running up to meet her, grew
large and nodded, with the laugh and eyes of Browny. So little had she
changed! The stedfast experienced woman rebuked that volatile, and some
might say, faithless girl. But the girl had her answer: she declared
they were one and the same, affirmed that the years between were a bad
night’s dream, that her heart had been faithful, that he who conjures
visions of romance in a young girl’s bosom must always have her heart,
as a crisis will reveal it to her. She had the volubility of the mettled
Browny of old, and was lectured. When she insisted on shouting ‘Matey!
Matey!’ she was angrily spurned and silenced.

Aminta ceased to recline in her carriage. An idea that an indolent
posture fostered vapourish meditations, counselled her sitting
rigidly upright and interestedly observing the cottages and merry
gutter-children along the squat straight streets of a London suburb. Her
dominant ultimate thought was, ‘I, too, can work!’ Like her courage, the
plea of a capacity to work appealed for confirmation to the belief which
exists without demonstrated example; and as she refrained from probing
to the inner sources of that mental outcry, it was allowed to stand and
remain among the convictions we store--wherewith to shape our destinies.

Childishly indeed, quite witlessly, she fell into a trick of repeating
the name of Matthew Weyburn in her breast and on her lips, after the
manner of Isabella Lawrence Finchley, when she had inquired for his
Christian name, and went on murmuring it, as if sucking a new bonbon,
with the remark: ‘It sounds nice, it suits the mouth.’ Little Selina
Collett had told, Aminta remembered, how those funny boys at Cuper’s
could not at first get the name ‘Aminta’ to suit the mouth, but
went about making hideous faces in uttering it. She smiled at the
recollection, and thought, up to a movement of her lips, one is not
tempted to do that in saying Matthew Weyburn!



CHAPTER XV. SHOWING A SECRET FISHED WITHOUT ANGLING

That great couchant dragon of the devouring jaws and the withering
breath, known as our London world, was in expectation of an excitement
above yawns on the subject of a beautiful Lady Doubtful proposing
herself, through a group of infatuated influential friends, to a
decorous Court, as one among the ladies acceptable. The popular version
of it sharpened the sauce by mingling romance and cynicism very happily;
for the numerous cooks, when out of the kitchen, will furnish a piquant
dish. Thus, a jewel-eyed girl of half English origin (a wounded
British officer is amiably nursed in a castle near the famous Peninsula
battlefield, etc.), running wild down the streets of Seville, is picked
up by Lord Ormont, made to discard her tambourine, brought over to our
shores, and allowed the decoration of his name, without the legitimate
adornment of his title. Discontented with her position after a time,
she now pushes boldly to claim the place which will be most effective
in serving her as a bath. She has, by general consent, beauty; she must,
seeing that she counts influential friends, have witchery. Those who
have seen her riding and driving beside her lord, speak of Andalusian
grace, Oriental lustre, fit qualification for the fair slave of a
notoriously susceptible old warrior.

She won a party in the widening gossip world; and enough of a party in
the regent world to make a stream. Pretending to be the actual Countess
of Ormont, though not publicly acknowledged as his countess by the earl,
she had on her side the strenuous few who knew and liked her, some
who were pleased compassionately to patronize, all idle admirers of a
shadowed beautiful woman at bay, the devotees of any beauty in distress,
and such as had seen, such as imagined they had seen, such as could
paint a mental picture of a lady of imposing stature, persuasive
appearance, pathetic history, and pronounce her to be unjustly treated,
with a general belief that she was visible and breathing. She had the
ready enthusiasts, the responsive sentimentalists, and an honest
active minor number, of whom not every one could be declared perfectly
unspotted in public estimation, however innocent under verdict of the
courts of law.

Against her was the livid cloud-bank over a flowery field, that has
not yet spoken audible thunder: the terrible aggregate social woman,
of man’s creation, hated by him, dreaded, scorned, satirized, and
nevertheless, upheld, esteemed, applauded: a mark of civilization, on
to which our human society must hold as long as we have nothing humaner.
She exhibits virtue, with face of waxen angel, with paw of desert
beast, and blood of victims on it. Her fold is a genial climate and
the material pleasures for the world’s sheepy: worshipping herself, she
claims the sanctification of a performed religion. She is gentle when
unassailed, going her way serenely, with her malady in the blood. When
the skin bears witness to it, she swallows an apothecary, and there is
a short convulsion. She is refreshed by cutting off diseased inferior
members: the superior betraying foul symptoms, she covers up and
retains; rationally, too, for they minister to her present existence,
and she lives all in the present. Her subjects are the mixed
Subservient; among her rebellious are earth’s advanced, who have cold a
morning on their foreheads, and these would not dethrone her, they
would but shame and purify by other methods than the druggist. She
loves nothing. Undoubtedly, she dislikes the vicious. On that merit she
subsists.

The vexatious thing in speaking of her is, that she compels to the
use of the rhetorician’s brass instrument. As she is one of the Powers
giving life and death, one may be excused. This tremendous queen of the
congregation has brought discredit on her sex for the scourge laid
on quivering female flesh, and for the flippant indifference shown to
misery and to fine distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad;
and particularly for the undiscriminating hardness upon the starved of
women. We forget her having been conceived in the fear of men, shaped to
gratify them. She is their fiction of the state they would fain beguile
themselves to suppose her sex has reached, for their benefit; where she
may be queen of it in a corner, certain of a loyal support, if she
will only give men her half-the-world’s assistance to uplift the fabric
comfortable to them; together with assurance of paternity, case of mind
in absence, exclusive possession, enormous and minutest, etc.; not
by any means omitting a regimental orderliness, from which men are
privately exempt, because they are men, or because they are grown
boys--the brisker at lessons after a vacation or a truancy, says the
fiction.

In those days the world had oscillated, under higher leading than its
royal laxity, to rigidity. Tiny peccadilloes were no longer matter
of jest, and the sinner exposed stood ‘sola’ to receive the brand. A
beautiful Lady Doubtful needed her husband’s countenance if she was
to take one of the permanent steps in public places. The party of Lady
Charlotte Eglett called on the livid cloud-bank aforesaid to discharge
celestial bolts and sulphur oil on the head of an impudent, underbred,
ambitious young slut, whose arts had bewitched a distinguished nobleman
not young in years at least, and ensnared the remainder wits of some
principal ancient ladies of the land. Professional Puritans, born
conservatives, malicious tattlers, made up a goodly tail to Lady
Charlotte’s party. The epithet ‘unbred’ was accredited upon the quoted
sayings and doings of the pretentious young person’s aunt, repeated
abroad by noblemen and gentlemen present when she committed herself;
and the same were absurd. They carried a laugh, and so they lived and
circulated. Lord Ormont submitted to the infliction of that horrid
female in his household! It was no wonder he stopped short of allying
himself with the family.

Nor was it a wonder that the naturally enamoured old warrior or
invalided Mars (for she had the gift of beauty) should deem it prudent
to be out of England when she and her crazy friends determined on the
audacious move. Or put it the other way--for it is just as confounding
right side or left--she and her friends take advantage of his absence
to make the clever push for an establishment, and socially force him to
legalize their union on his return. The deeds of the preceding reign
had bequeathed a sort of legendary credence to the wildest tales gossip
could invent under a demurrer.

But there was the fact, the earl was away. Lady Charlotte’s party buzzed
everywhere. Her ladyship had come to town to head it. Her ladyship laid
trains of powder from dinner-parties, balls, routs, park-processions,
into the Lord Chamberlain’s ear, and fired and exploded them, deafening
the grand official. Do you consider that virulent Pagan Goddesses
and the flying torch-furies are extinct? Error of Christians! We have
relinquished the old names and have no new ones for them; but they are
here, inextinguishable, threading the day and night air with their dire
squib-trail, if we would but see. Hissing they go, and we do not hear.
We feel the effects.

Upon the counsel of Mrs. Lawrence, Aminta sent a letter to Lord Ormont
at his hotel in Paris, informing him of the position of affairs. He had
delayed his return, and there had been none of his brief communications.

She wrote, as she knew, as she felt, coldly. She was guided by others,
and her name was up before the world, owing to some half-remembered
impulsion of past wishes, but her heart was numbed; she was not a woman
to have a wish without a beat of the heart in it. For her name she had a
feeling, to be likened rather to the losing gambler’s contemplation of a
big stake he has flung, and sees it gone while fortune is undecided; and
he catches at a philosophy nothing other than his hug of a modest little
background pleasure, that he has always preferred to this accursed bad
habit of gambling with the luck against him. Reckless in the cast, she
was reckless of success.

Her letter was unanswered.

Then, and day by day more strongly, she felt for her name. She put a
false heart into it. She called herself to her hearing the Countess of
Ormont, and deigned to consult the most foolish friend she could have
chosen--her aunt; and even listened to her advice, that she should run
about knocking at all the doors open to her, and state her case against
the earl. It seemed the course to take, the moment for taking it. Was
she not asked if she could now at last show she had pride? Her pride ran
stinging through her veins, like a band of freed prisoners who head the
rout to fire a city. She charged her lord with having designedly--oh!
cunningly indeed left her to be the prey of her enemies at the hour
when he knew it behoved him to be her great defender. There had been no
disguise of the things in progress: they had been spoken of allusively,
quite comprehensibly, after the fashion common with two entertaining
a secret semi-hostility on a particular subject; one of them being the
creature that blushes and is educated to be delicate, reserved, and
timorous. He was not ignorant, and he had left her, and he would not
reply to her letter!

So fell was her mood, that an endeavour to conjure up the scene of her
sitting beside the death-bed of Matthew Weyburn’s mother, failed to
sober and smooth it, holy though that time was. The false heart she had
put into the pride of her name was powerfuller than the heart in her
bosom. But to what end had the true heart counselled her of late? It had
been a home of humours and languors, an impotent insurgent, the sapper
of her character; and as we see in certain disorderly States a curative
incendiarism usurp the functions of the sluggish citizen, and the work
of re-establishment done by destruction, in peril of a total extinction,
Aminta’s feverish anger on behalf of her name went a stretch to vivify
and give her dulled character a novel edge. She said good-bye to
cowardice. ‘I have no husband to defend me--I must do it for myself.’
The peril of a too complete exercise of independence was just intimated
to her perceptions. On whom the blame? And let the motively guilty go
mourn over consequences! That Institution of Marriage was eyed. Is it
not a halting step to happiness? It is the step of a cripple,--and one
leg or the other poses for the feebler sex,--small is the matter
which! And is happiness our cry? Our cry is rather for circumstance and
occasion to use our functions, and the conditions are denied to women
by Marriage--denied to the luckless of women, who are many, very many:
denied to Aminta, calling herself Countess of Ormont, for one, denied
to Mrs. Lawrence Finchley for another, and in a base bad manner. She had
defended her good name triumphantly, only to enslave herself for life or
snatch at the liberty which besmirches.

Reviewing Mrs. Lawrence, Aminta’s real heart pressed forward at the
beat, in tender pity of the woman for whom a yielding to love was to
sin; and unwomanly is the woman who does not love: men will say
it. Aminta found herself phrasing. ‘Why was she unable to love her
husband?--he is not old.’ She hurried in flight from the remark to
confidences imparted by other ladies, showing strange veins in an earthy
world; after which, her mind was bent to rebuke Mrs. Pagnell for the
silly soul’s perpetual allusions to Lord Ormont’s age. She did not think
of his age. But she was vividly thinking that she was young. Young,
married, loveless, cramped in her energies, publicly dishonoured--a Lady
Doubtful, courting one friend whom she liked among women, one friend
whom she respected among men; that was the sketch of her.

That was in truth the outline, as much as Aminta dared sketch of herself
without dragging her down lower than her trained instinct would bear
to look. Our civilization shuns nature; and most shuns it in the most
artificially civilized, to suit the market. They, however, are always
close to their mother nature, beneath their second nature’s mask of
custom; and Aminta’s unconscious concluding touch to the sketch: ‘My
husband might have helped me to a footing in Society,’ would complete it
as a coloured picture, if writ in tones.

She said it, and for the footing in Society she had lost her taste.

Mrs. Lawrence brought the final word from high quarters: that the
application must be deferred until Lord Ormont returned to town. It
was known before, that such would be the decision. She had it from the
eminent official himself, and she kicked about the room, setting her
pretty mouth and nose to pout and sniff, exactly like a boy whose chum
has been mishandled by a bully.

‘Your dear good man is too much for us. I thought we should drive him.
‘C’est un ruse homme de guerre.’ I like him, but I could slap him.
He stops the way. Upon my word, he seems tolerably careless of his
treasure. Does he suppose Mrs. Paggy is a protection? Do you know she’s
devoted to that man Morsfield? He listens to her stories. To judge by
what he shouts aloud, he intends carrying you off the first opportunity,
divorcing, and installing you in Cobeck Hall. All he fears is, that your
lord won’t divorce. You should have seen him the other day; he marched
up and down the room, smacking his head and crying out: “Legal measures
or any weapons her husband pleases!” For he has come to believe that the
lady would have been off with him long before, if her lord had no
claim to the marital title. “It ‘s that husband I can’t get over! that
husband!” He reminded me, to the life, of Lawrence Finchley with a
headache the morning after a supper, striding, with his hand on the
shining middle of his head: “It’s that Welsh rabbit! that Welsh rabbit!”
 He has a poor digestion, and he will eat cheese. The Welsh rabbit chased
him into his bed. But listen to me, dear, about your Morsfield. I told
you he was dangerous.’

‘He is not my Morsfield,’ said Aminta.

‘Beware of his having a tool in Paggy. He boasts of letters.’

‘Mine? Two: and written to request him to cease writing to me.’

‘He stops at nothing. And, oh, my Simplicity! don’t you see you gave him
a step in begging him to retire? Morsfield has lived a good deal among
our neighbours, who expound the physiology of women. He anatomizes us;
pulls us to pieces, puts us together, and then animates us with a breath
of his “passion”--sincere upon every occasion, I don’t doubt. He spared
me, although he saw I was engaged. Perhaps it was because I ‘m of no
definite colour. Or he thought I was not a receptacle for “passion.” And
quite true,--Adder, the dear good fellow, has none. Or where should
we be? On a Swiss Alp, in a chalet, he shooting chamois, and I milking
cows, with ‘ah-ahio, ah-ahio,’ all day long, and a quarrel at night over
curds and whey. Well, and that ‘s a better old pensioner’s limp to his
end for “passion” than the foreign hotel bell rung mightily, and one
of the two discovered with a dagger in the breast, and the other a
don’t-look lying on the pavement under the window. Yes, and that’s
better than “passion” splitting and dispersing upon new adventures, from
habit, with two sparks remaining of the fire.’

Aminta took Mrs. Lawrence’s hands. ‘Is it a lecture?’

She was kissed. ‘Frothy gabble. I’m really near to “passion” when I
embrace you. You’re the only one I could run away with; live with all
alone, I believe. I wonder men can see you while that silly lord of
yours is absent, and not begin Morsfielding. They’re virtuous if they
resist. Paggy tells the world... well?’ Aminta had reddened.

‘What does my aunt tell the world?’

Mrs. Lawrence laid her smoothing hand absently on a frill of lace fichu
above a sternly disciplined bosom at half-heave. ‘I think I can
judge now that you’re not much hurt by this wretched business of the
presentation. The little service I could do was a moral lesson to me
on the subject of deuce-may-care antecedents. My brother Tom, too, was
always playing truant, as a boy. It ‘s in the blood.’

She seemed to be teasing, and Aminta cried: ‘My aunt! Let me hear. She
tells the world--?’

‘Paggy? ah, yes. Only that she says the countess has an exalted opinion
of Mr. Secretary’s handwriting--as witnessed by his fair copy of the
Memoirs, of course.’

‘Poor woman! How can she talk such foolishness! I guessed it.’

‘You wear a dark red rose when you’re guessing, ‘ma mie,’--French for,
my Aminta.’

‘But consider, Isabella, Mr. Weyburn has just had the heaviest of
losses. My aunt should spare mention of him.’

‘Matthew Weyburn! we both like the name.’ Mrs. Lawrence touched at her
friend and gazed. ‘I’ve seen it on certain evenings--crimson over an
olive sky. What it forebodes, I can’t imagine; but it’s the end of
a lovely day. They say it threatens rain, if it begins one. It ‘s an
ominous herald.’

‘You make me,’ said Aminta. ‘I must redden if you keep looking at me so
closely.’

‘Now frown one little bit, please. I love to see you. I love to see a
secret disclose itself ingenuously.’

‘But what secret, my dear?’ cried Aminta’s defence of her innocence; and
she gave a short frown.

‘Have no fear. Mr. Secretary is not the man to be Morsfielding. And he
can enjoy his repast; a very good sign. But is he remaining long?’

‘He is going soon, I hear.’

‘He’s a good boy. I could have taken to him myself, and not dreaded
a worrying. There ‘s this difference between you and me,
though, my Aminta; one of us has the fireplace prepared for
what’s-his-name--“passion.” Kiss me. How could you fancy you were going
to have a woman for your friend and keep hidden from her any one of
the secrets that blush! and with Paggy to aid! I am sure it means
very little. Admiration for good handwriting is--’ a smile broke the
sentence.

‘You’re astray, Isabella.’

‘Not I, dear, I’m too fond of you.’

‘You read what is not.’

‘What is not yet written, you mean.’

‘What never could be written.’

‘I read what is in the blood, and comes out to me when I look. That lord
of yours should take to study you as I have done ever since I fell in
love with you. He ‘s not counselling himself well in keeping away.’

‘Now you speak wisely,’ said Aminta.

‘Not a particle more wisely. And the reason is close at hand--see.
You are young, you attract--how could it be otherwise?--and you have
“passion” sleeping, and likely to wake with a spring whether roused or
not. In my observation good-man t’other fellow--the poet’s friend--is
never long absent when the time is ripe--at least, not in places where
we gather together. Well, one is a buckler against the other: I don’t
say with lovely Amy May,--with an honourable woman. But Aminta can smell
powder and grow more mettlesome. Who can look at you and be blind to
passion sleeping! The sight of you makes me dream of it--me, a woman,
cool as a wine-cellar or a well. So there’s to help you to know yourself
and be on your guard. I know I’m not deceived, because I’ve fallen in
love with you, and no love can be without jealousy, so I have the needle
in my breast, that points at any one who holds a bit of you. Kind of
sympathetic needle to the magnet behind anything. You’ll know it, if you
don’t now. I should have felt the thing without the aid of Paggy. So,
then, imagine all my nonsense unsaid, and squeeze a drop or two
of ‘sirop de bon conseil’ out of it, as if it were your own wise
meditations.’ The rest of Mrs. Lawrence’s discourse was a swallow’s wing
skimming the city stream. She departed, and Aminta was left to beat at
her heart and ask whether it had a secret.

But if there was one, the secret was out, and must have another name.
It had been a secret for her until she heard her friend speak those
pin-points that pricked her heart, and sent the blood coursing over her
face, like a betrayal, so like as to resemble a burning confession.

But if this confessed the truth, she was the insanest of women. No
woman could be surer that she had her wits. She had come to see things,
previously mysteries, with surprising clearness. As, for example, that
passion was part of her nature; therefore her very life, lying tranced.
She certainly could not love without passion such an abandonment was the
sole justification of love in a woman standing where she stood. And now
for the first time she saw her exact position before the world; and she
saw some way into her lord: saw that he nursed a wound, extracted balm
from anything enabling him to show the world how he despised it, and
undesigningly immolated her for the petty gratification.

It could not, in consequence, be the truth. To bear what she had borne
she must be a passionless woman; and she was glad of her present safety
in thinking it. Once it was absolutely true. She swam away to the
golden-circled Island of Once; landed, and dwelt there solitarily and
blissfully, looking forward to Sunday’s walk round the park, looking
back on it. Proudly she could tell herself that her dreams of the Prince
of the island had not been illusions as far as he was concerned; for he
had a great soul. He did not aim at a tawdry glory. He was a loss to
our army--no loss to his country or the world. A woman might clasp her
feeling of pride in having foreseen distinction for him; and a little,
too, in distinguishing now the true individual distinction from the
feathered uniform vulgar. Where the girl’s dreams had proved illusions,
she beheld in a title and luxuries, in a loveless marriage.

That was perilous ground. Still it taught her to see that the
substantial is the dust; and passion not being active, she could
reflect. After a series of penetrative flashes, flattering to her
intelligence the more startling they were, reflection was exhausted.
She sank on her nature’s desire to join or witness agonistic incidents,
shocks, wrestlings, the adventures which are brilliant air to sanguine
energies. Imagination shot tap, and whirled the circle of a succession
of them; and she had a companion and leader, unfeatured, reverently
obeyed, accepted as not to be known, not to be guessed at, in the
deepest hooded inmost of her being speechlessly divined.

The sudden result of Aminta’s turmoil was a determination that she must
look on Steignton. And what was to be gained by that? She had no idea.
And how had she stopped her imaginative flight with the thought of
looking on Steignton? All she could tell was, that it would close a
volume. She could not say why the volume must be closed.

Her orders for the journey down to Steignton were prompt. Mrs. Pagnell
had an engagement at the house of Lady Staines for the next day to
meet titles and celebrities, and it precluded her comprehension of the
project. She begged to have the journey postponed. She had pledged her
word, she said.

‘To Mr. Morsfield?’ said Aminta.

Her aunt was astounded.

‘I did tell him we should be there, my dear.’ ‘He appears to have a
pleasure in meeting you.’ ‘He is one of the real gentlemen of the land.’

‘You correspond with him?’

‘I may not be the only one.’

‘Foolish aunty! How can you speak to me in that senseless way?’ cried
Aminta. ‘You know the schemer he is, and that I have no protection from
his advances unless I run the risk of bloodshed.’

‘My dear Aminta, whenever I go into society, and he is present, I know
I shall not be laughed at, or fall into that pit of one of their dead
silences, worse for me to bear than titters and faces. It is their way
of letting one feel they are of birth above us. Mr. Morsfield--purer
blood than many of their highest titles--is always polite, always
deferential; he helps me to feel I am not quite out of my element in the
sphere I prefer. We shall be travelling alone?’

‘Have you any fear?’

‘Not if nothing happens. Might we not ask that Mr. Weyburn?’

‘He has much work to do. He will not long be here. He is absent to-day.’

Mrs. Pagnell remarked: ‘I must say he earns his money easily.’

Aminta had softened herself with the allusion to the shortness of his
time with them. Her aunt’s coarse hint, and the thought of his loss, and
the banishment it would be to her all the way to Steignton, checked a
sharp retort she could have uttered, but made it necessary to hide her
eyes from sight. She went to her bedroom, and flung herself on the bed.
Even so little as an unspoken defence of him shook her to floods of
tears.



CHAPTER XVI. ALONG TWO ROADS TO STEIGNTON

Unaccountable resolutions, if impromptu and springing from the female
breast, are popularly taken for caprices; and even when they divert the
current of a history, and all the more when they are very small matters
producing a memorable crisis. In this way does a lazy world consign
discussion to silence with the cynical closure. Man’s hoary shrug at a
whimsy sex is the reading of his enigma still.

But ask if she has the ordinary pumping heart in that riddle of a
breast: and then, as the organ cannot avoid pursuit, we may get hold of
it, and succeed in spelling out that she is consequent, in her fashion.
She is a creature of the apparent moods and shifts and tempers only
because she is kept in narrow confines, resembling, if you like, a wild
cat caged. Aminta’s journey down to Steignton turned the course of other
fortunes besides her own; and she disdained the minor adventure it
was, while dreaming it important; and she determined eagerly on going,
without wanting to go; and it was neither from a sense of duty nor in
a spirit of contrariety that she went. Nevertheless, with her heart in
hand, her movements are traceably as rational as a soldier’s before the
enemy or a trader’s matching his customer.

The wish to look on Steignton had been spoken or sighed for during
long years between Aminta and her aunt, until finally shame and anger
clinched the subject. To look on Steignton for once was now Aminta’s
phrasing of her sudden resolve; it appeared as a holiday relief from
recent worries, and it was an expedition with an aim, though she had but
the coldest curiosity to see the place, and felt alien to it. Yet the
thought, never to have seen Steignton! roused phantoms of dead wishes
to drive the strange engine she was, faster than the living would have
done. Her reason for haste was rationally founded on the suddenness of
her resolve, which, seeing that she could not say she desired to go,
seemed to come of an external admonition; and it counselled quick
movements, lest her inspired obedience to the prompting should as
abruptly breathe itself out. ‘And in that case I shall never have seen
Steignton at all,’ she said, with perfect calmness, and did not attempt
to sound her meaning.

She did know that she was a magazine of a great storage of powder. It
banked inoffensively dry. She had forgiven her lord, owning the real
nobleman he was in courtesy to women, whom his inherited ideas of them
so quaintly minimized and reduced to pretty insect or tricky reptile.
They, too, had the choice of being ultimately the one or the other in
fact; the latter most likely.

If, however, she had forgiven her lord, the shattering of their union
was the cost of forgiveness. In letting him stand high, as the lofty man
she had originally worshipped, she separated herself from him, to feel
that the humble she was of a different element, as a running water at a
mountain’s base. They are one in the landscape; they are far from one in
reality. Aminta’s pride of being chafed at the yoke of marriage.

Her aunt was directed to prepare for a start at an early hour the next
morning. Mrs. Pagnell wrote at her desk, and fussed, and ordered the
posting chariot, and bewailed herself submissively; for it was the
Countess of Ormont speaking when Aminta delivered commands, and the
only grievance she dared to mutter was ‘the unexpectedness.’ Her letters
having been despatched, she was amazed in the late evening to hear
Aminta give the footman orders for the chariot to be ready at the door
an hour earlier than the hour previously appointed. She remonstrated.
Aminta simply observed that it would cause less inconvenience to all
parties. A suspicion of her aunt’s proceedings was confirmed by the good
woman’s flustered state. She refrained from smiling.

She would have mustered courage to invite Matthew Weyburn as her
escort, if he had been at hand. He was attending to his affairs with
lawyers--mainly with his friend Mr. Abner. She studied map and gazetteer
till late into the night. Giving her orders to the postillion on the
pavement in the morning, she named a South-westerly direction out of
London, and after entering the chariot, she received a case from one of
the footmen.

‘What is that, my dear?’ said Mrs. Pagnell.

Aminta unlocked and laid it open. A pair of pistols met Mrs. Pagnell’s
gaze.

‘We shan’t be in need of those things?’ the lady said anxiously.

‘One never knows, on the road, aunt.’

‘Loaded? You wouldn’t hesitate to fire; I’m sure.’

‘At Mr. Morsfield himself, if he attempted to stop me.’

Mrs. Pagnell withdrew into her astonishment, and presently asked, in a
tone of some indignation: ‘Why did you mention Mr. Morsfield, Aminta?’

‘Did you not write to him yesterday afternoon, aunt?’

‘You read the addresses on my letters!’

‘Did you not supply him with our proposed route and the time for
starting?’

‘Pistols!’ exclaimed Mrs. Pagnell. ‘One would fancy you think we are
in the middle of the last century. Mr. Morsfield is a gentleman, not a
highwayman.’

‘He gives the impression of his being a madman.’

‘The real madman is your wedded husband, Aminta, if wedding it was!’

It was too surely so, in Aminta’s mind. She tried, by looking out of the
window, to forget her companion. The dullness of the roads and streets
opening away to flat fields combined with the postillion’s unvarying jog
to sicken her thoughts over the exile from London she was undergoing,
and the chance that Matthew Weyburn might call at a vacant house next
day, to announce his term of service to the earl, whom he had said
he much wanted to see. He said it in his sharp manner when there was
decision behind it. Several times after contemplating the end of her
journey, and not perceiving any spot of pleasure ahead, an emotion urged
her to turn back; for the young are acutely reasoning when their breasts
advise them to quit a road where no pleasure beckons.

Unlike Matthew Weyburn, the tiptoe sparkle of a happy mind did not leap
from her at wayside scenes, a sweep of grass, distant hills, clouds
in flight. She required, since she suffered, the positive of events or
blessings to kindle her glow.

Matthew Weyburn might call at the house. Would he be disappointed? He
had preserved her letters of the old school-days. She had burnt his. But
she had not burnt the letters of Mr. Morsfield; and she cared nothing
for that man. Assuredly she merited the stigma branding women as
crack-brained. Yet she was not one of the fools; she could govern a
household, and she liked work, she had the capacity for devotedness. So,
therefore, she was a woman perverted by her position, and she shook her
bonds in revolt from marriage. Imagining a fall down some suddenly spied
chasm of her nature, she had a sisterly feeling for the women named
sinful. At the same time, reflecting that they are sinful only with the
sinful, she knelt thankfully at the feet of the man who had saved her
from such danger. Tears threatened. They were a poor atonement for the
burning of his younger letters. But not he--she was the sufferer, and
she whipped up a sensation of wincing at the flames they fell to, and
at their void of existence, committing sentimental idiocies worthy of
a lovesick girl, consciously to escape the ominous thought, which her
woman’s perception had sown in her, that he too chafed at a marriage no
marriage: was true in fidelity, not true through infidelity, as she had
come to be. The thought implied misery for both. She entered a black
desolation, with the prayer that he might not be involved, for his
own sake: partly also on behalf of the sustaining picture the young
schoolmaster at his task, merry among his dear boys, to trim and point
them body and mind for their business in the world, painted for her a
weariful prospect of the life she must henceforth drag along.

Is a woman of the plain wits common to numbers ever deceived in her
perception of a man’s feelings for her? Let her first question herself
whether she respects him. If she does not, her judgement will go easily
astray, intuition and observation are equally at fault, she has no key;
he has charmed her blood, that is all. But if she respects him, she
cannot be deceived; respect is her embrace of a man’s character.
Aminta’s vision was clear. She had therefore to juggle with the fact
revealed, that she might keep her heart from rushing out; and the
process was a disintegration of her feminine principle of docility under
the world’s decrees. At each pause of her mental activity she was hurled
against the state of marriage. Compassion for her blameless fellow in
misery brought a deluge to sweep away institutions and landmarks.

But supposing the blest worst to happen, what exchange had she to
bestow? Her beauty? She was reputed beautiful. It had made a madman
of one man; and in her poverty of endowments to be generous with, she
hovered over Mr. Morsfield like a cruel vampire, for the certification
that she had a much-prized gift to bestow upon his rival.

But supposing it: she would then be no longer in the shiny garden of
the flowers of wealth; and how little does beauty weigh as all aid to
an active worker in the serious fighting world! She would be a kind of
potted rose-tree under his arm, of which he must eventually tire.

A very cold moment came, when it seemed that even the above supposition,
in the case of a woman who has been married, is shameful to her, a sin
against her lover, and should be obliterated under floods of scarlet.
For, if she has pride, she withers to think of pushing the most noble
of men upon his generosity. And, further, if he is not delicately
scrupulous, is there not something wanting in him? The very cold wave
passed, leaving the sentence: better dream of being plain friends.

Mrs. Pagnell had been quietly chewing her cud of the sullens, as was
the way with her after a snub. She now resumed her gossip of the naughty
world she knelt to and expected to see some day stricken by a bolt from
overhead; containing, as it did, such wicked members as that really
indefensible brazen Mrs. Amy May, who was only the daughter of a
half-pay naval captain, and that Marquis of Collestou, who would, they
say, decorate her with his title to-morrow, if her husband were but
somewhere else. She spread all sorts of report, about Mr. Morsfield,
and he was honour itself in his reserve about her. ‘Depend upon it,
Aminta--he was not more than a boy then, and they say she aimed at her
enfranchisement by plotting the collision, for his Yorkshire revenues
are immense, and he is, you know, skilful in the use of arms, and
Captain May has no resources whatever: penury! no one cares to speculate
how they contrive!--but while that dreadful duelling--and my lord as bad
as any in his day-exists, depend upon it, an unscrupulous good-looking
woman has as many lives for her look of an eye or lift of a finger as a
throned Ottoman Turk on his divan.’

Aminta wished to dream. She gave her aunt a second dose, and the lady
relapsed again.

Power to dream had gone. She set herself to look at roadside things,
cottage gardens, old housewives in doorways, gaffer goodman meeting his
crony on the path, groups of boys and girls. She would take the girls,
Matthew Weyburn the boys. She had lessons to give to girls, she had
sympathy, pity, anticipation. That would be a life of happy service. It
might be a fruitful trial of the system he proposed, to keep the boys
and girls in company as much as possible, both at lessons and at games.
His was the larger view. Her lord’s view appeared similar to that of her
aunt’s ‘throned Ottoman Turk on his divan.’ Matthew Weyburn believed in
the bettering of the world; Lord Ormont had no belief like it.

Presently Mrs. Pagnell returned to the charge, and once more she was
nipped, and irritated to declare she had never known her niece’s temper
so provoking. Aminta was launching a dream of a lass she had seen in a
field, near a white hawthorn, standing upright, her left arm aloft round
the pole of a rake, the rim of her bonnet tipped on her forehead; an
attitude of a rustic.

Britannia with helmet heeling at dignity. The girl’s eyes hung to the
passing chariot, without movement of her head. It was Aminta who looked
back, and she saw the girl looking away. Among the superior dames and
damsels she had seen, there was not one to match that figure for stately
air, gallant ease, and splendour of pose. Matthew Weyburn would have
admired the girl. Aminta did better than envy, she cast off the last
vestiges of her bitter ambition to be a fine lady, and winged into the
bosom of the girl, and not shyly said ‘yes’ to Matthew Weyburn, and
to herself, deep in herself: ‘A maid has no need to be shy.’ Hardly
blushing, she walks on into the new life beside him, and hears him
say: ‘I in my way, you in yours; we are equals, the stronger for being
equals,’ and she quite agrees, and she gives him the fuller heart for
his not requiring her to be absorbed--she is the braver mate for him.
Does not that read his meaning? Happiest of the girls of earth, she has
divined it at once, from never having had the bitter ambition to be a
slave, that she might wear rich tissues; and let herself be fettered,
that she might loll in idleness; lose a soul to win a title; escape
commonplace to discover it ghastlier under cloth of gold, and the
animal crowned, adored, fattened, utterly served, in the class called by
consent of human society the Upper.

Reason whispered a reminder of facts to her.

‘But I am not the Countess of Ormont!’ she said. She felt herself the
girl, her sensations were so intensely simple.

Proceeding to an argument, that the earl did not regard her as the
Countess of Ormont, or the ceremony at the British Embassy as one
serious and binding, she pushed her reason too far: sweet delusion
waned. She waited for some fresh scene to revive it.

Aminta sat unwittingly weaving her destiny.

While she was thus engaged, a carriage was rolling on the more westerly
road down to Steignton. Seated in it were Lady Charlotte Eglett and
Matthew Weyburn. They had met at Arthur Abner’s office the previous day.
She went there straight from Lord Ormont’s house-agent and upholsterer,
to have a queer bit of thunderous news confirmed, that her brother was
down at Steignton, refurnishing the house, and not for letting. She
was excited: she treated Arthur Abner’s closed-volume reticence as a
corroboration of the house-agent’s report, and hearing Weyburn speak of
his anxiety to see the earl immediately, in order to get release from
his duties, proposed a seat in her carriage; for down Steignton way she
meant to go, if only as excuse for a view of the old place. She kept
asking what Lord Ormont wanted down at Steignton refurnishing the house,
and not to let it! Her evasions of answers that, plain speculation would
supply were quaint. ‘He hasn’t my feeling for Steignton. He could let
it--I couldn’t. Sacrilege to me to have a tenant in my old home where I
was born. He’s furnishing to raise his rent. His country won’t give him
anything to do, so he turns miser. That’s my brother Rowsley’s way of
taking on old age.’

Her brother Rowsley might also be showing another sign of his calamitous
condition. She said to Weyburn, in the carriage, that her brother
Rowsley might like having his hair clipped by the Philistine woman;
which is one of the ways of strong men to confess themselves ageing.
‘Not,’ said she, with her usual keen justness ‘not that I’ve, a word
against Delilah. I look upon her as a patriot; she dallied and she used
the scissors on behalf of her people. She wasn’t bound to Samson in
honour,--liked a strong man, probably enough. She proved she liked her
country better. The Jews wrote the story of it, so there she stands for
posterity to pelt her, poor wretch.’

‘A tolerably good analogy for the story of men and women generally,’
said Weyburn.

‘Ah, well, you’ve a right to talk; you don’t run miauling about women.
It ‘s easy to be squashy on that subject. As for the Jews, I don’t go by
their history, but now they ‘re down I don’t side with the Philistines,
or Christians. They ‘re good citizens, and they ‘ve got Samson in the
brain, too. That comes of persecution, a hard education. They beat the
world by counting in the head. That ‘s because they ‘ve learnt the value
of fractions. Napoleon knew it in war, when he looked to the boots and
great-coats of his men; those were his fractions. Lord Ormont thinks he
had too hard-and-fast a system for the battle-field.’

‘A greater strategist than tactician, my lady? It may be,’ said Weyburn,
smiling at her skips.

‘Massing his cannon to make a big hole for his cavalry, my brother says;
and weeding his infantry for the Imperial Guard he postponed the moment
to use.’

‘At Moskowa?’

‘Waterloo. I believe Lord Ormont would--there! his country ‘s lost him,
and chose it. They ‘ll have their day for repentance yet. What a rapture
to have a thousand horsemen following you! I suppose there never was
a man worthy of the name who roared to be a woman. I know I could have
shrieked half my life through to have been born male. It ‘s no matter
now. When we come to this hateful old age, we meet: no, we ‘re no sex
then--we ‘re dry sticks. I ‘ll tell you: my Olmer doctor--that ‘s an
impudent fellow who rode by staring into my carriage. The window’s down.
He could see without pushing his hat in.’

Weyburn looked out after a man cantering on.

‘A Mr. Morsfield,’ he said. ‘I thought it was he when I saw him go by.
I’ve met him at the fencing-rooms. He ‘s one of the violent fencers,
good for making his point, if one funks an attack.’

‘That man Morsfield, is it? I wonder what he’s doing on the road here.
He goes over London boasting--hum, nothing to me. But he ‘ll find Lord
Ormont’s arm can protect a poor woman, whatever she is. He’d have had
it before, only Lord Ormont shuns a scandal. I was telling you, my Olmer
doctor forbade horse-riding, and my husband raised a noise like one of
my turkeycocks on the wing; so I ‘ve given up the saddle, to quiet him.
I guessed. I went yesterday morning to my London physician. He sounded
me, pushed out his mouth and pulled down his nose, recommended avoidance
of excitement. “Is it heart?” I said. He said it was heart. That was
the best thing an old woman could hear. He said, when he saw I wasn’t
afraid, it was likely to be quick; no doctors, no nurses and daily
bulletins for inquirers, but just the whites of the eyes, the
laying-out, the undertaker, and the family-vault. That’s one reason why
I want to see Steignton before the blow that may fall any day, whether
my brother Rowsley’s there or no. But that Olmer doctor of mine,
Causitt, Peter Causitt, shall pay me for being a liar or else an
ignoramus when I told him he was to tell me bluntly the nature of my
disease.’

A horseman, in whom they recognized Mr. Morsfield, passed, clattering on
the road behind them.

‘Some woman here about,’ Lady Charlotte muttered. Weyburn saw him joined
by a cavalier, and the two consulted and pointed whips right and left.



CHAPTER XVII. LADY CHARLOTTE’S TRIUMPH

One of the days of sovereign splendour in England was riding down the
heavens, and drawing the royal mantle of the gold-fringed shadows
over plain and wavy turf, blue water and woods of the country round
Steignton. A white mansion shone to a length of oblong lake that held
the sun-ball suffused in mild yellow.

‘There’s the place,’ Lady Charlotte said to Weyburn, as they had view
of it at a turn of the park. She said to herself--where I was born and
bred! and her sight gloated momentarily on the house and side avenues, a
great plane standing to the right of the house, the sparkle of a little
river running near; all the scenes she knew, all young and lively.
She sprang on her seat for a horse beneath her, and said, ‘But this
is healthy excitement,’ as in reply to her London physician’s
remonstrances. ‘And there’s my brother Rowsley, talking to one of the
keepers,’ she cried. ‘You see Lord Ormont? I can see a mile. Sight
doesn’t fail with me. He ‘s insisting. ‘Ware poachers when Rowsley’s on
his ground! You smell the air here? Nobody dies round about Steignton.
Their legs wear out and they lie down to rest them. It ‘s the finest air
in the world. Now look, the third window left of the porch, first floor.
That was my room before I married. Strangers have been here and called
the place home. It can never be home to any but me and Rowsley. He sees
the carriage. He little thinks! He’s dressed in his white corduroy and
knee-breeches. Age! he won’t know age till he’s ninety. Here he comes
marching. He can’t bear surprises. I’ll wave my hand and call.’

She called his name.

In a few strides he was at the carriage window. ‘You, Charlotte?’

‘Home again, Rowsley! Bring down your eyebrows, and let me hear you’re
glad I ‘ve come.’

‘What made you expect you would find me here?’

‘Anything-cats on the tiles at night. You can’t keep a secret from me.
Here’s Mr. Weyburn, good enough to be my escort. I ‘ll get out.’

She alighted, scorning help; Weyburn at her heels. The earl nodded to
him politely and not cordially. He was hardly cordial to Lady Charlotte.

That had no effect on her. ‘A glorious day for Steignton,’ she said.
‘Ah, there’s the Buridon group of beeches; grander trees than grow at
Buridon. Old timber now. I knew them slim as demoiselles. Where ‘s the
ash? We had a splendid ash on the west side.’

‘Dead and cut down long since,’ replied the earl.

‘So we go!’

She bent her steps to the spot: a grass-covered heave of the soil.

‘Dear old tree!’ she said, in a music of elegy: and to Weyburn: ‘Looks
like a stump of an arm lopped off a shoulder in bandages. Nature does it
so. All the tenants doing well, Rowsley?’

‘About the same amount of trouble with them.’

‘Ours at Olmer get worse.’

‘It’s a process for the extirpation of the landlords.’

‘Then down goes the country.’

‘They ‘ve got their case, their papers tell us.’

‘I know they have; but we’ve got the soil, and we’ll make a fight of
it.’

‘They can fight too, they say.’

‘I should be sorry to think they couldn’t if they’re Englishmen.’

She spoke so like his old Charlotte of the younger days that her brother
partly laughed.

‘Parliamentary fighting ‘s not much to your taste or mine. They ‘ve lost
their stomach for any other. The battle they enjoy is the battle that
goes for the majority. Gauge their valour by that.’

‘To be sure,’ said his responsive sister. She changed her note. ‘But
what I say is, let the nobles keep together and stick to their class.
There’s nothing to fear then. They must marry among themselves, think
of the blood: it’s their first duty. Or better a peasant girl! Middle
courses dilute it to the stuff in a publican’s tankard. It ‘s an
adulterous beast who thinks of mixing old wine with anything.’

‘Hulloa!’ said the earl; and she drew up.

‘You’ll have me here till over to-morrow, Rowsley, so that I may have
one clear day at Steignton?’

He bowed. ‘You will choose your room. Mr. Weyburn is welcome.’

Weyburn stated the purport of his visit, and was allowed to name an
early day for the end of his term of service.

Entering the house, Lady Charlotte glanced at the armour and stag
branches decorating corners of the hall, and straightway laid her head
forward, pushing after it in the direction of the drawing room. She went
in, stood for a minute, and came out. Her mouth was hard shut.

At dinner she had tales of uxorious men, of men who married mistresses,
of the fearful incubus the vulgar family of a woman of the inferior
classes ever must be; and her animadversions were strong in the matter
of gew-gaw modern furniture. The earl submitted to hear.

She was, however, keenly attentive whenever he proffered any item of
information touching Steignton. After dinner Weyburn strolled to the
points of view she cited as excellent for different aspects of her old
home.

He found her waiting to hear his laudation when he came back; and in the
early morning she was on the terrace, impatient to lead him down to the
lake. There, at the boat-house, she commanded him to loosen a skiff and
give her a paddle. Between exclamations, designed to waken louder
from him, and not so successful as her cormorant hunger for praise of
Steignton required, she plied him to confirm with his opinion an opinion
that her reasoning mind had almost formed in the close neighbourhood of
the beloved and honoured person providing it; for abstract ideas were
unknown to her. She put it, however, as in the abstract:--

‘How is it we meet people brave as lions before an enemy, and rank
cowards where there’s a botheration among their friends at home? And
tell me, too, if you’ve thought the thing over, what’s the meaning of
this? I ‘ve met men in high places, and they’ve risen to distinction by
their own efforts, and they head the nation. Right enough, you’d say.
Well, I talk with them, and I find they’ve left their brains on the
ladder that led them up; they’ve only the ideas of their grandfather on
general subjects. I come across a common peasant or craftsman, and he
down there has a mind more open--he’s wiser in his intelligence than
his rulers and lawgivers up above him. He understands what I say, and I
learn from him. I don’t learn much from our senators, or great lawyers,
great doctors, professors, members of governing bodies--that lot. Policy
seems to petrify their minds when they ‘ve got on an eminence. Now
explain it, if you can.’

‘Responsibility has a certain effect on them, no doubt,’ said Weyburn.
‘Eminent station among men doesn’t give a larger outlook. Most of them
confine their observation to their supports. It happens to be one of the
questions I have thought over. Here in England, and particularly on a
fortnight’s run in the lowlands of Scotland once, I have, like you, my
lady, come now and then across the people we call common, men and women,
old wayside men especially; slow-minded, but hard in their grasp of
facts, and ready to learn, and logical, large in their ideas, though
going a roundabout way to express them. They were at the bottom of
wisdom, for they had in their heads the delicate sense of justice, upon
which wisdom is founded. That is what their rulers lack. Unless we have
the sense of justice abroad like a common air, there ‘s no peace, and no
steady advance. But these humble people had it. They reasoned from it,
and came to sound conclusions. I felt them to be my superiors. On the
other hand, I have not felt the same with “our senators, rulers, and
lawgivers.” They are for the most part deficient in the liberal mind.’

‘Ha! good, so far. How do you account for it?’ said Lady Charlotte.

‘I read it in this way: that the world being such as it is at present,
demanding and rewarding with honours and pay special services, the men
called great, who have risen to distinction, are not men of brains, but
the men of aptitudes. These men of aptitudes have a poor conception of
the facts of life to meet the necessities of modern expansion. They are
serviceable in departments. They go as they are driven, or they resist.
In either case, they explain how it is that we have a world moving
so sluggishly. They are not the men of brains, the men of insight and
outlook. Often enough they are foes of the men of brains.’

‘Aptitudes; yes, that flashes a light into me,’ said Lady Charlotte. ‘I
see it better. It helps to some comprehension of their muddle. A man
may be a first-rate soldier, doctor, banker--as we call the usurer
now-a-days--or brewer, orator, anything that leads up to a figure-head,
and prove a foolish fellow if you sound him. I ‘ve thought something
like it, but wanted the word. They say themselves, “Get to know, and you
see with what little wisdom the world is governed!” You explain how it
is. I shall carry “aptitudes” away.’

She looked straight at Weyburn. ‘If I were a younger woman I could kiss
you for it.’

He bowed to her very gratefully.

‘Remember, my lady, there’s a good deal of the Reformer in that
definition.’

‘I stick to my class. But they shall hear a true word when there’s one
abroad, I can tell them. That reminds me--you ought to have asked;
let me tell you I’m friendly with the Rev. Mr. Hampton-Evey. We had
a wrestle for half an hour, and I threw him and helped him up, and he
apologized for tumbling, and I subscribed to one of his charities,
and gave up about the pew, but had an excuse for not sitting under the
sermon. A poor good creature. He ‘s got the aptitudes for his office.
He won’t do much to save his Church. I knew another who had his aptitude
for the classics, and he has mounted. He was my tutor when I was a girl.
He was fond of declaiming passages from Lucian and Longus and Ovid. One
day he was at it with a piece out of Daphnis and Chloe, and I said, “Now
translate.” He fetched a gurgle to say he couldn’t, and I slapped his
check. Will you believe it? the man was indignant. I told him, if he
would like to know why I behaved in “that unmaidenly way,” he had better
apply at home. I had no further intimations of his classical aptitudes;
but he took me for a cleverer pupil than I was. I hadn’t a notion of the
stuff he recited. I read by his face. That was my aptitude--always has
been. But think of the donkeys parents are when they let a man have a
chance of pouring his barley-sugar and sulphur into the ears of a
girl. Lots of girls have no latent heckles and prickles to match his
villany.--There’s my brother come back to breakfast from a round. You
and I ‘ll have a drive before lunch, and a ride or a stroll in the
afternoon. There’s a lot to see. I mean you to get the whole place into
your head. I ‘ve ordered the phaeton, and you shall take the whip, with
me beside you. That’s how my husband and I spent three-quarters of our
honeymoon.’

Each of the three breakfasted alone.

They met on the terrace. It was easily perceived that Lord Ormont stood
expecting an assault at any instant; prepared also to encounter and
do battle with his redoubtable sister. Only he wished to defer the
engagement. And he was magnanimous: he was in the right, she in the
wrong; he had no desire to grapple with her, fling and humiliate. The
Sphinx of Mrs. Pagnell had been communing with himself unwontedly during
the recent weeks.

What was the riddle of him? That, he did not read. But, expecting an
assault, and relieved by his sister Charlotte’s departure with Weyburn,
he went to the drawing-room, where he had seen her sniff her strong
suspicions of a lady coming to throne it. Charlotte could believe that
he flouted the world with a beautiful young woman on his arm; she would
not believe him capable of doing that in his family home and native
county; so, then, her shrewd wits had nothing or little to learn.
But her vehement fighting against facts; her obstinate aristocratic
prejudices, which he shared; her stinger of a tongue: these in
ebullition formed a discomforting prospect. The battle might as well be
conducted through the post. Come it must!

Even her writing of the pointed truths she would deliver was an
unpleasant anticipation. His ears heated. Undoubtedly he could crush
her. Yet, supposing her to speak to his ears, she would say: ‘You
married a young woman, and have been foiling and fooling her ever
since, giving her half a title to the name of wife, and allowing her
in consequence to be wholly disfigured before the world--your family
naturally her chief enemies, who would otherwise (Charlotte would
proclaim it) have been her friends. What! your intention was (one could
hear Charlotte’s voice) to smack the world in the face, and you smacked
your young wife’s instead!’

His intention had been nothing of the sort. He had married, in a
foreign city, a young woman who adored him, whose features, manners, and
carriage of her person satisfied his exacting taste in the sex; and he
had intended to cast gossipy England over the rail and be a traveller
for the remainder of his days. And at the first she had acquiesced,
tacitly accepted it as part of the contract. He bore with the burden
of an intolerable aunt of hers for her sake. The two fell to work to
conspire. Aminta ‘tired of travelling,’ Aminta must have a London
house. She continually expressed a hope that ‘she might set her eyes on
Steignton some early day.’ In fact, she as good as confessed her scheme
to plot for the acknowledged position of Countess of Ormont in the
English social world. That was a distinct breach of the contract.

As to the babble of the London world about a ‘very young wife,’ he
scorned it completely, but it belonged to the calculation. ‘A very
handsome young wife,’ would lay commands on a sexagenarian vigilance
while adding to his physical glory. The latter he could forego among
a people he despised. It would, however, be an annoyance to stand
constantly hand upon sword-hilt. There was, besides, the conflict with
his redoubtable sister. He had no dread of it, in contemplation of the
necessity; he could crush his Charlotte. The objection was, that
his Aminta should be pressing him to do it. Examine the situation at
present. Aminta has all she needs--every luxury. Her title as Countess
of Ormont is not denied. Her husband justly refuses to put foot
into English society. She, choosing to go where she may be received,
dissociates herself from him, and he does not complain. She does
complain. There is a difference between the two.

He had always shunned the closer yoke with a woman because of these
vexatious dissensions. For not only are women incapable of practising,
they cannot comprehend magnanimity.

Lord Ormont’s argumentative reverie to the above effect had been pursued
over and over. He knew that the country which broke his military career
and ridiculed his newspaper controversy was unforgiven by him. He did
not reflect on the consequences of such an unpardoning spirit in its
operation on his mind.

If he could but have passed the injury, he would ultimately--for his
claims of service were admitted--have had employment of some kind.
Inoccupation was poison to him; travel juggled with his malady of
restlessness; really, a compression of the warrior’s natural forces.
His Aminta, pushed to it by the woman Pagnell, declined to help him in
softening the virulence of the disease. She would not travel; she would
fix in this London of theirs, and scheme to be hailed the accepted
Countess of Ormont. She manoeuvred; she threw him on the veteran
soldier’s instinct, and it resulted spontaneously that he manoeuvred.

Hence their game of Pull, which occupied him a little, tickled him and
amused. The watching of her pretty infantile tactics amused him too much
to permit of a sidethought on the cruelty of the part he played. She
had every luxury, more than her station by right of birth would have
supplied.

But he was astonished to find that his Aminta proved herself clever,
though she had now and then said something pointed. She was in awe of
him: notwithstanding which, clearly she meant to win and pull him over.
He did not dislike her for it; she might use her weapons to play her
game; and that she should bewitch men--a man like Morsfield--was not
wonderful. On the other hand, her conquest of Mrs. Lawrence Finchley
scored tellingly: that was unaccountably queer. What did Mrs. Lawrence
expect to gain? the sage lord asked. He had not known women devoid of a
positive practical object of their own when they bestirred themselves to
do a friendly deed.

Thanks to her conquest of Mrs. Lawrence, his Aminta was gaining
ground--daily she made an advance; insomuch that he had heard of himself
as harshly blamed in London for not having countenanced her recent and
rather imprudent move. In other words, whenever she gave a violent tug
at their game of Pull, he was expected to second it. But the world of
these English is too monstrously stupid in what it expects, for any of
its extravagances to be followed by interjections.

All the while he was trimming and rolling a field of armistice at
Steignton, where they could discuss the terms he had a right to dictate,
having yielded so far. Would she be satisfied with the rule of his
ancestral hall, and the dispensing of hospitalities to the county?
No, one may guess: no woman is ever satisfied. But she would have
to relinquish her game, counting her good round half of the honours.
Somewhat more, on the whole. Without beating, she certainly had
accomplished the miracle of bending him. To time and a wife it is no
disgrace for a man to bend. It is the form of submission of the bulrush
to the wind, of courtesy in the cavalier to a lady.

‘Oh, here you are, Rowsley,’ Lady Charlotte exclaimed at the drawing
room door. ‘Well, and I don’t like those Louis Quinze cabinets; and
that modern French mantelpiece clock is hideous. You seem to furnish in
downright contempt of the women you invite to sit in the room. Lord help
the wretched woman playing hostess in such a pinchbeck bric-a-brac shop,
if there were one! She ‘s spared, at all events.’

He stepped at slow march to one of the five windows. Lady Charlotte went
to another near by. She called to Weyburn--

‘We had a regatta on that water when Lord Ormont came of age. I took an
oar in one of the boats, and we won a prize; and when I was landing I
didn’t stride enough to the spring-plank, and plumped in.’

Some labourers of the estate passed in front.

Lord Ormont gave out a broken laugh. ‘See those fellows walk! That ‘s
the raw material of the famous English infantry. They bend their knees
five-and-forty degrees for every stride; and when you drill them out of
that, they ‘re stiff as ramrods. I gymnasticized them in my regiment.
I’d have challenged any French regiment to out-walk or out-jump us, or
any crack Tyrolese Jagers to out-climb, though we were cavalry.’

‘Yes, my lord, and exercised crack corps are wanted with us,’ Weyburn
replied. ‘The English authorities are adverse to it, but it ‘s against
nature--on the supposition that all Englishmen might enrol untrained in
Caesar’s pet legion. Virgil shows knowledge of men when he says of the
row-boat straining in emulation, ‘Possunt quia posse videntur.’’

He talked on rapidly; he wondered that he did not hear Lady Charlotte
exclaim at what she must be seeing. From the nearest avenue a lady had
issued. She stood gazing at the house, erect--a gallant figure of a
woman--one hand holding her parasol, the other at her hip. He knew
her. She was a few paces ahead of Mrs. Pagnell, beside whom a gentleman
walked.

The cry came: ‘It’s that man Morsfield! Who brings that man Morsfield
here? He hunted me on the road; he seemed to be on the wrong scent. Who
are those women? Rowsley, are your grounds open every day of the week?
She threatens to come in!’

Lady Charlotte had noted that the foremost and younger of ‘those women’
understood how to walk and how to dress to her shape and colour. She
inclined to think she was having to do with an intrepid foreign-bred
minx.

Aminta had been addressed by one of her companions, and had hastened
forward. It looked like the beginning of a run to enter the house.

Mrs. Pagnell ran after her. She ran cow-like.

The earl’s gorge rose at the spectacle Charlotte was observing.

With Morsfield he could have settled accounts at any moment, despatching
Aminta to her chamber for an hour. He had, though he was offended, an
honourable guess that she had not of her free will travelled with
the man and brought him into the grounds. It was the presence of the
intolerable Pagnell under Charlotte’s eyes which irritated him
beyond the common anger he felt at Aminta’s pursuit of him right into
Steignton. His mouth locked. Lady Charlotte needed no speech from him
for sign of the boiling; she was too wary to speak while that went on.

He said to Weyburn, loud enough for his Charlotte to heir. ‘Do me the
favour to go to the Countess of Ormont. Conduct her back to London. You
will say it is my command. Inform Mr. Morsfield, with my compliments, I
regret I have no weapons here. I understand him to complain of having to
wait. I shall be in town three days from this date.’

‘My lord,’ said Mr. Weyburn; and actually he did mean to supplicate. He
could imagine seeing Lord Ormont’s eyebrows rising to alpine heights.

Lady Charlotte seized his arm.

‘Go at once. Do as you are told. I’ll have your portmanteau packed and
sent after you--the phaeton’s out in the yard--to Rowsley, or Ashead, or
Dornton, wherever they put up. Now go, or we shall have hot work. Keep
your head on, and go.’

He went, without bowing.

Lady Charlotte rang for the footman.

The earl and she watched the scene on the sward below the terrace.

Aminta listened to Weyburn. Evidently there was no expostulation.

But it was otherwise with Mrs. Pagnell. She flung wild arms of a
semaphore signalling national events. She sprang before Aminta to stop
her retreat, and stamped and gibbed, for sign that she would not be
driven. She fell away to Mr. Morsfield, for simple hearing of her
plaint. He appeared emphatic. There was a passage between him and
Weyburn.

‘I suspect you’ve more than your match in young Weyburn, Mr. Morsfield,’
Lady Charlotte said, measuring them as they stood together. They turned
at last.

‘You shall drive back to town with me, Rowsley,’ said the fighting dame.

She breathed no hint of her triumph.



CHAPTER XVIII. A SCENE ON THE ROAD BACK

After refusing to quit the grounds of Steignton, in spite of the
proprietor, Mrs. Pagnell burst into an agitation to have them be at
speed, that they might ‘shake the dust of the place from the soles of
their feet’; and she hurried past Aminta and Lord Ormont’s insolent
emissary, carrying Mr. Morsfield beside her, perforce of a series of
imperiously-toned vacuous questions, to which he listened in rigid
politeness, with the ejaculation steaming off from time to time, ‘A
scandal!’

He shot glances behind him.

Mrs. Pagnell was going too fast. She, however, world not hear of a halt,
and she was his main apology for being present; he was excruciatingly
attached to the horrid woman.

Weyburn spoke the commonplaces about regrets to Aminta.

‘Believe me, it’s long since I have been so happy,’ she said.

She had come out of her stupefaction, and she wore no theatrical looks
of cheerfulness.

‘I regret that you should be dragged away. But, if you say you do not
mind, it will be pleasant to me. I can excuse Lord Ormont’s anger. I was
ignorant of his presence here. I thought him in Paris. I supposed the
place empty. I wished to see it once. I travelled as the niece of Mrs.
Pagnell. She is a little infatuated.... Mr. Morsfield heard of our
expedition through her. I changed the route. I was not in want of a
defender. I could have defended myself in case of need. We slept at
Ashead, two hours from Steignton. He and a friend accompanied us, not
with my consent. Lord Ormont could not have been aware of that. These
accidental circumstances happen. There may be pardonable intentions on
all sides.’

She smiled. Her looks were open, and her voice light and spirited;
though the natural dark rose-glow was absent from her olive cheeks.

Weyburn puzzled over the mystery of so volatile a treatment of a serious
matter, on the part of a woman whose feelings he had reason to know were
quick and deep. She might be acting, as women so cleverly do.

It could hardly be acting when she pointed to peeps of scenery, with a
just eye for landscape.

‘You leave us for Switzerland very soon?’ she said.

‘The Reversion I have been expecting has fallen in, besides my
inheritance. My mother was not to see the school. But I shall not forget
her counsels. I can now make my purchase of the house and buildings, and
buy out my partner at the end of a year. My boys are jumping to start. I
had last week a letter from Emile.’

‘Dear little Emile!’

‘You like him?’

‘I could use a warmer word. He knew me when I was a girl.’

She wound the strings of his heart suddenly tense, and they sang to
their quivering.

‘You will let me hear of you, Mr. Weyburn?’

‘I will write. Oh! certainly I will write, if I am told you are
interested in our doings, Lady Ormont.’

‘I will let you know that I am.’

‘I shall be happy in writing full reports.’

‘Every detail, I beg. All concerning the school. Help me to feel I am a
boarder. I catch up an old sympathy I had for girls and boys. For boys!
any boys! the dear monkey boys! cherub monkeys! They are so funny. I am
sure I never have laughed as I did at Selina Collett’s report, through
her brother, of the way the boys tried to take to my name; and their
sneezing at it, like a cat at a deceitful dish. “Aminta”--was that their
way?’

‘Something--the young rascals!’

‘But please repeat it as you heard them.’

‘“Aminta.”’

He subdued the mouthing.

‘It didn’t, offend me at all. It is one of my amusements to think of it.
But after a time they liked the name; and then how did they say it?’

He had the beloved Aminta on his lips.

He checked it, or the power to speak it failed. She drew in a sharp
breath.

‘I hope your boys will have plenty of fun in them. They will have you
for a providence and a friend. I should wish to propose to visit your
school some day. You will keep me informed whether the school has
vacancies. You will, please, keep me regularly informed?’

She broke into sobs.

Weyburn talked on of the school, for a cover to the resuming of her
fallen mask, as he fancied it.

She soon recovered, all save a steady voice for converse, and begged him
to proceed, and spoke in the flow of the subject; but the quaver of her
tones was a cause of further melting. The tears poured, she could not
explain why, beyond assuring him that they were no sign of unhappiness.
Winds on the great waters against a strong tidal current beat up the
wave and shear and wing the spray, as in Aminta’s bosom. Only she could
know that it was not her heart weeping, though she had grounds for a
woman’s weeping. But she alone could be aware of her heart’s running
counter to the tears.

Her agitation was untimely. Both Mrs. Pagnell and Mr. Morsfield observed
emotion at work. And who could wonder? A wife denied the admittance to
her husband’s house by her husband! The most beautiful woman of her time
relentlessly humiliated, ordered to journey back the way she had come.

They had reached the gate of the park, and had turned.

‘A scandal!’

Mr. Morsfield renewed his interjection vehemently, for an apology to his
politeness in breaking from Mrs. Pagnell.

Joining the lady, whose tears were of the nerves, he made offer of
his devotion in any shape; and she was again in the plight to which
a desperado can push a woman of the gentle kind. She had the fear of
provoking a collision if she reminded him, that despite her entreaties,
he had compelled her, seconded by her aunt as he had been, to submit to
his absurd protection on the walk across the park.

He seemed quite regardless of the mischief he had created; and,
reflecting upon how it served his purpose, he might well be. Intemperate
lover, of the ancient pattern, that he was, his aim to win the woman
acknowledged no obstacle in the means. Her pitiable position appealed to
the best of him; his inordinate desire of her aroused the worst. It
was, besides, an element of his coxcombry, that he should, in apeing the
utterly inconsiderate, rush swiftly to impersonate it when his passions
were cast on a die.

Weyburn he ignored as a stranger, an intruder, an inferior.

Aminta’s chariot was at the gate.

She had to resign herself to the chances of a clash of men, and, as
there were two to one, she requested help of Weyburn’s hand, that he
might be near her.

A mounted gentleman, smelling parasite in his bearing, held the bridle
of Morsfield’s horse.

The ladies having entered the chariot, Morsfield sprang to the saddle,
and said: ‘You, sir, had better stretch your legs to the inn.’

‘There is room for you, Mr. Weyburn,’ said Aminta.

Mrs. Pagnell puffed.

‘I can’t think we’ve room, my dear. I want that bit of seat in front for
my feet.’

Morsfield kicked at his horse’s flanks, and between Weyburn and the
chariot step, cried: ‘Back, sir!’

His reins were seized; the horse reared, the unexpected occurred.

Weyburn shouted ‘Off!’ to the postillion, and jumped in.

Morsfield was left to the shaking of a dusty coat, while the chariot
rolled its gentle course down the leafy lane into the high-road.

His friend had seized the horse’s bridle-reins; and he remarked: ‘I say,
Dolf, we don’t prosper to-day.’

‘He pays for it!’ said Morsfield, foot in stirrup. ‘You’ll take him and
trounce him at the inn. I don’t fight with servants. Better game. One
thing, Cumnock: the fellow’s clever at the foils.’

‘Foils to the devil! If I tackle the fellow, it won’t be with the
buttons. But how has he pushed in?’

Morsfield reported ‘the scandal!’ in sharp headings.

‘Turned her away. Won’t have her enter his house--grandest woman in all
England! Sent his dog to guard. Think of it for an insult! It’s insult
upon insult. I ‘ve done my utmost to fire his marrow. I did myself a
good turn by following her up and entering that park with her. I shall
succeed; there ‘s a look of it. All I have--my life--is that woman’s. I
never knew what this devil’s torture was before I saw her.’

His friend was concerned for his veracity. ‘Amy!’

‘A common spotted snake. She caught me young, and she didn’t carry me
off, as I mean to carry off this glory of her sex--she is: you’ve seen
her!--and free her, and devote every minute of the rest of my days to
her. I say I must win the woman if I stop at nothing, or I perish;
and if it ‘s a failure, exit ‘s my road. I ‘ve watched every atom
she touched in a room, and would have heaped gold to have the chairs,
tables, cups, carpets, mine. I have two short letters written with her
hand. I ‘d give two of my estates for two more. If I were a beggar, and
kept them, I should be rich. Relieve me of that dog, and I toss you a
thousand-pound note, and thank you from my soul, Cumnock. You know what
hangs on it. Spur, you dolt, or she’ll be out of sight.’

They cantered upon application of the spur. Captain Cumnock was an
impecunious fearless rascal, therefore a parasite and a bully duellist;
a thick-built north-countryman; a burly ape of the ultra-elegant;
hunter, gamester, hard-drinker, man of pleasure. His known readiness to
fight was his trump-card at a period when the declining custom of
the duel taxed men’s courage to brave the law and the Puritan in the
interests of a privileged and menaced aristocracy. An incident like the
present was the passion in the dice-box to Cumnock. Morsfield was of
the order of men who can be generous up to the pitch of their desires.
Consequently, the world accounted him open-handed and devoted when
enamoured. Few men liked him; he was a hero with some women. The women
he trampled on; the men he despised. To the lady of his choice he
sincerely offered his fortune and his life for the enjoyment of
her favour. His ostentation and his offensive daring combined the
characteristics of the peacock and the hawk. Always near upon madness,
there were occasions when he could eclipse the insane. He had a ringing
renown in his class.

Chariot and horsemen arrived at the Roebuck Arms, at the centre of the
small town of Ashead, on the line from Steignton through Rowsley. The
pair of cavaliers dismounted and hustled Weyburn in assisting the ladies
to descend.

The ladies entered the inn; they declined refection of any sort. They
had biscuits and sweetmeats, and looked forward to tea at a farther
stage. Captain Cumnock stooped to their verdict on themselves, with
marvel at the quantity of flesh they managed to put on their bones from
such dieting.

‘By your courtesy, sir, a word with you in the inn yard, if you please,’
he said to Weyburn in the inn-porch.

Weyburn answered, ‘Half a minute,’ and was informed that it was exactly
the amount of time the captain could afford to wait.

Weyburn had seen the Steignton phaeton and coachman in the earl’s
light-blue livery. It was at his orders, he heard. He told the coachman
to expect hire shortly, and he followed the captain, with a heavy
trifle of suspicion that some brew was at work. He said to Aminta in the
passage--

‘You have your settlement with the innkeeper. Don’t, I beg, step into
the chariot till you see me.’

‘Anything?’ said she.

‘Only prudence.’

‘Our posting horses will be harnessed soon, I hope. I burn to get away.’

Mrs. Pagnell paid the bill at the bar of the inn. Morsfield poured out
for the injured countess or no-countess a dram of the brandy of passion,
under the breath.

‘Deny that you singled me once for your esteem. Hardest-hearted of the
women of earth and dearest! deny that you gave me reason to hope--and
now! I have ridden in your track all this way for the sight of you, as
you know, and you kill me with frost. Yes, I rejoice that we were seen
together. Look on me. I swear I perish for one look of kindness. You
have been shamefully used, madam.’

‘It seems to me I am being so,’ said Aminta, cutting herself loose from
the man of the close eyes that wavered as they shot the dart.

Her action was too decided for him to follow her up under the
observation of the inn windows and a staring street.

Mrs. Pagnell came out. She went boldly to Morsfield and they conferred.
He was led by her to the chariot, where she pointed to a small padded
slab of a seat back to the horses. Turning to the bar, he said:--My
friend will look to my horse. Both want watering and a bucketful.
There!’--he threw silver--‘I have to protect the ladies.’

Aminta was at the chariot door talking to her aunt inside.

‘But I say I have been insulted--is the word--more than enough by Lord
Ormont to-day!’ Mrs. Pagnell exclaimed; ‘and I won’t, I positively
refuse to ride up to London with any servant of his. It’s quite
sufficient that it’s his servant. I’m not titled, but I ‘in not quite
dirt. Mr. Morsfield kindly offers his protection, and I accept. He is
company.’

Nodding and smirking at Morsfield’s approach, she entreated Aminta to
step up and in, for the horses were coming out of the yard.

Aminta looked round. Weyburn was perceived; and Morsfield’s features
cramped at thought of a hitch in the plot.

‘Possession,’ Mrs. Pagnell murmured significantly. She patted the seat.
Morsfield sprang to Weyburn’s place.

That was witnessed by Aminta and Weyburn. She stepped to consult him.
He said to the earl’s coachman--a young fellow with a bright eye for
orders--

‘Drive as fast as you can pelt for Dornton. I’m doing my lord’s
commands.’

‘Trust yourself to me, madam.’ His hand stretched for Aminta to mount.
She took it without a word and climbed to the seat. A clatter of hoofs
rang out with the crack of the whip. They were away behind a pair of
steppers that could go the pace.



CHAPTER XIX. THE PURSUERS

For promptitude, the lady, the gentleman, and the coachman were in such
unison as to make it a reasonable deduction that the flight had been
concerted.

Never did any departure from the Roebuck leave so wide-mouthed a body of
spectators. Mrs. Pagnell’s shrieks of ‘Stop, oh! stop!’ to the backs
of the coachman and Aminta were continued until they were far down
the street. She called to the innkeeper, called to the landlady and to
invisible constables for help. But her pangs were childish compared with
Morsfield’s, who, with the rage of a conceited schemer tricked and the
fury of a lover beholding the rape of his beautiful, bellowed impotently
at Weyburn and the coachman out of hearing, ‘Stop! you!’ He was in the
state of men who believe that there is a virtue in imprecations, and he
shot loud oaths after them, shook his fist, cursed his friend Cumnock,
whose name he vociferated as a summons to him,--generally the baffled
plotter misconducted himself to an extreme degree, that might have
apprised Mrs. Pagnell of a more than legitimate disappointment on his
part.

Pursuit was one of the immediate ideas which rush forward to look
back woefully on impediments and fret to fever over the tardiness of
operations. A glance at the thing of wrinkles receiving orders to
buckle at his horses and pursue convinced them of the hopelessness; and
Morsfield was pricked to intensest hatred of the woman by hearing the
dire exclamation, ‘One night, and her character’s gone!’

‘Be quiet, ma’am, if you please, or nothing can be done,’ he cried.

‘I tell you, Mr. Morsfield--don’t you see?--he has thrown them
together. It is Lord Ormont’s wicked conspiracy to rid himself of her. A
secretary! He’ll beat any one alive in plots. She can’t show her face
in London after this, if you don’t overtake her. And she might have seen
Lord Ormont’s plot to ruin her. He tired of her, and was ashamed of
her inferior birth to his own, after the first year, except on the
Continent, where she had her rights. Me he never forgave for helping
make him the happy man he might have been in spite of his age. For she
is lovely! But it’s worse for a lovely woman with a damaged reputation.
And that ‘s his cunning. How she could be so silly as to play into it!
She can’t have demeaned herself to look on that secretary! I said from
the first he seemed as if thrown into her way for a purpose. But she
has pride: my niece Aminta has pride. She might well have listened to
flatterers--she had every temptation--if it hadn’t been for her pride.
It may save her yet. However good-looking, she will remember her
dignity--unless he’s a villain. Runnings away! drivings together! inns
oh! the story over London! I do believe she has a true friend in you,
Mr. Morsfield; and I say, as I have said before, the sight of a devoted
admirer would have brought any husband of more than sixty to his senses,
if he hadn’t hoped a catastrophe and determined on it. Catch them we
can’t, unless she repents and relents; and prayers for that are our only
resource. Now, start, man, do!’

The postillion had his foot in position to spring. Morsfield bawled
Cumnock’s name, and bestrode his horse. Captain Cumnock emerged from the
inn-yard with a dubitative step, pressing a handkerchief to his nose,
blinking, and scrutinizing the persistent fresh stains on it.

Stable-boys were at the rear. These, ducking and springing, surcharged
and copious exponents of the play they had seen, related, for the
benefit of the town, how that the two gentlemen had exchanged words in
the yard, which were about beastly pistols, which the slim gentleman
would have none of; and then the big one trips up, like dancing, to the
other one and flicks him a soft clap on the check--quite friendly, you
may say; and before he can square to it, the slim one he steps his hind
leg half a foot back, and he drives a straight left like lightning off
the shoulder slick on to t’ other one’s nob, and over he rolls, like a
cart with the shafts up down a bank; and he’ a been washing his ‘chops’
and threatening bullets ever since.

The exact account of the captain’s framework in the process of the fall
was graphically portrayed in our blunt and racy vernacular, which a
society nourished upon Norman-English and English-Latin banishes from
print, largely to its impoverishment, some think.

By the time the primary narrative of the encounter in the inn yard had
given ground for fancy and ornament to present it in yet more luscious
dress, Lord Ormont’s phaeton was a good mile on the road. Morsfield
and Captain Cumnock--the latter inquisitive of the handkerchief
pressed occasionally at his nose--trotted on tired steeds along dusty
wheel-tracks. Mrs. Pagnell was the solitary of the chariot, having a
horrid couple of loaded pistols to intimidate her for her protection,
and the provoking back view of a regularly jogging mannikin under a big
white hat with blue riband, who played the part of Time in dragging her
along, with worse than no countenance for her anxieties.

News of the fugitives was obtained at the rampant Red Lion in Dudsworth,
nine miles on along the London road, to the extent that the Earl of
Ormont’s phaeton, containing a lady and a gentleman, had stopped there a
minute to send back word to Steignton of their comfortable progress,
and expectations of crossing the borders into Hampshire before sunset.
Morsfield and Cumnock shrugged at the bumpkin artifice. They left
their line of route to be communicated to the chariot, and chose,
with practised acumen, that very course, which was the main road, and
rewarded them at the end of half an hour with sight of the Steignton
phaeton.

But it was returning. A nearer view showed it empty of the couple.

Morsfield bade the coachman pull up, and he was readily obeyed. Answers
came briskly.

Although provincial acting is not of the high class which conceals
the art, this man’s look beside him and behind him at vacant seats had
incontestable evidence in support of his declaration, that the lady
and gentleman had gone on by themselves: the phaeton was a box of flown
birds.

‘Where did you say they got out, you dog?’ said Cumnock.

The coachman stood up to spy a point below. ‘Down there at the bottom of
the road, to the right, where there’s a stile across the meadows,
making a short cut by way of a bridge over the river to Busley and
North Tothill, on the high-road to Hocklebourne. The lady and gentleman
thought they ‘d walk for a bit of exercise the remains of the journey.’

‘Can’t prove the rascal’s a liar,’ Cumnock said to Morsfield, who
rallied him savagely on his lucky escape from another knock-down blow,
and tossed silver on the seat, and said--

‘We ‘ll see if there is a stile.’

‘You’ll see the stile, sir,’ rejoined the man, and winked at their
backs.

Both cavaliers, being famished besides baffled, were in sour tempers,
expecting to see just the dead wooden stile, and see it as a grin at
them. Cumnock called on Jove to witness that they had been donkeys
enough to forget to ask the driver how far round on the road it was to
the other end of the cross-cut.

Morsfield, entirely objecting to asinine harness with him, mocked at his
invocation and intonation of the name of Jove.

Cumnock was thereupon stung to a keen recollection of the allusion to
his knock-down blow, and he retorted that there were some men whose wit
was the parrot’s.

Morsfield complimented him over the exhibition of a vastly superior and
more serviceable wit, in losing sight of his antagonist after one trial
of him.

Cumnock protested that the loss of time was caused by his friend’s
dalliance with the Venus in the chariot.

Morsfield’s gall seethed at a flying picture of Mrs. Pagnell, coupled
with the retarding reddened handkerchief business, and he recommended
Cumnock to pay court to the old woman, as the only chance he would have
of acquaintanceship with the mother of Love.

Upon that Cumnock confessed in humility to his not being wealthy.
Morsfield looked a willingness to do the deed he might have to pay for
in tenderer places than the pocket, and named the head as a seat of
poverty with him.

Cumnock then yawned a town fop’s advice to a hustling street passenger
to apologize for his rudeness before it was too late. Whereat Morsfield,
certain that his parasitic thrasyleon apeing coxcomb would avoid
extremities, mimicked him execrably.

Now this was a second breach of the implied convention existing among
the exquisitely fine-bred silken-slender on the summits of our mundane
sphere, which demands of them all, that they respect one another’s
affectations. It is commonly done, and so the costly people of a single
pattern contrive to push forth, flatteringly to themselves, luxuriant
shoots of individuality in their orchidean glass-house. A violation
of the rule is a really deadly personal attack. Captain Cumnock was
particularly sensitive regarding it, inasmuch as he knew himself not
the natural performer he strove to be, and a mimicry affected him as a
haunting check.

He burst out: ‘Damned if I don’t understand why you’re hated by men and
women both!’

Morsfield took a shock. ‘Infernal hornet!’ he muttered; for his
conquests had their secret history.

‘May and his wife have a balance to pay will trip you yet, you ‘ll
find.’

‘Reserve your wrath, sir, for the man who stretched you on your back.’

The batteries of the two continued exchangeing redhot shots, with the
effect, that they had to call to mind they were looking at the stile. A
path across a buttercup meadow was beyond it. They were damped to some
coolness by the sight.

‘Upon my word, the trick seems neat!’ said Cumnock staring at the
pastoral curtain.

‘Whose trick?’ he was asked sternly.

‘Here or there ‘s not much matter; they ‘re off, unless they ‘re under a
hedge laughing.’

An ache of jealousy and spite was driven through the lover, who groaned,
and presently said--

‘I ride on. That old woman can follow. I don’t want to hear her
gibberish. We’ve lost the game--there ‘s no reckoning the luck. If
there’s a chance, it’s this way. It smells a trick. He and she--by all
the devils! It has been done in my family--might have been done again.
Tell the men on the plain they can drive home. There’s a hundred-pound
weight on your tongue for silence.’

Cumnock cried: ‘But we needn’t be parting, Dolf! Stick together. Bad
luck’s not repeated every day. Keep heart for the good.’

‘My heart’s shattered, Cumnock. I say it’s impossible she can love a
husband twice her age, who treats her--you ‘ve seen. Contempt of that
lady!

By heaven! once in my power, I swear she would have been sacred to me.
But she would have been compelled to face the public and take my hand.
I swear she would have been congratulated on the end of her sufferings.
Worship!--that’s what I feel. No woman ever alive had eyes in her head
like that lady’s. I repeat her name ten times every night before I go to
sleep. If I had her hand, no, not one kiss would I press on it without
her sanction. I could be in love with her cruelty, if only I had her
near me. I ‘ve lost her--by the Lord, I ‘ve lost her!’

‘Pro tem.,’ said the captain. ‘A plate of red beef and a glass of port
wine alters the view. Too much in the breast, too little in the belly,
capsizes lovers. Old story. Horses that ought to be having a mash
between their ribs make riders despond. Say, shall we back to the town
behind us, or on? Back’s the safest, if the chase is up.’

Morsfield declared himself incapable of turning and meeting that
chariot. He sighed heavily. Cumnock offered to cheer him with a song
of Captain Chanter’s famous collection, if he liked; but Morsfield
gesticulated abhorrence, and set out at a trot. Song in defeat was a
hiss of derision to him.

He had failed. Having failed, he for the first time perceived the
wildness of a plot that had previously appeared to him as one of the
Yorkshire Morsfields’ moves to win an object. Traditionally they stopped
at nothing. There would have been a sunburst of notoriety in the capture
and carrying off of the beautiful Countess of Ormont.

She had eluded him during the downward journey to Steignton. He came on
her track at the village at the junction of the roads above Ashead, and
thence, confiding in the half-connivance or utter stupidity of the
fair one’s duenna, despatched a mounted man-servant to his coachman and
footmen, stationed ten miles behind, with orders that they should drive
forthwith to the great plain, and be ready at a point there for two
succeeding days. That was the plot, promptly devised upon receipt of
Mrs. Pagnell’s communication; for the wealthy man of pleasure was a
strategist fit to be a soldier, in dexterity not far from rivalling the
man by whom he had been outdone.

An ascetic on the road to success, he dedicated himself to a term of
hard drinking under a reverse; and the question addressed to the chief
towns in the sketch counties his head contained was, which one near
would be likely to supply the port wine for floating him through
garlanding dreams of possession most tastily to blest oblivion.

He was a lover, nevertheless, honest in his fashion, and meant not worse
than to pull his lady through a mire, and wash her with Morsfield soap,
and crown her, and worship. She was in his blood, about him, above
him; he had plunged into her image, as into deeps that broke away in
phosphorescent waves on all sides, reflecting every remembered,
every imagined, aspect of the adored beautiful woman piercing him to
extinction with that last look of her at the moment of flight.

Had he been just a trifle more sincere in the respect he professed for
his lady’s duenna, he would have turned on the road to Dornton and a
better fortune. Mrs. Pagnell had now become the ridiculous Paggy of Mrs.
Lawrence Finchley and her circle for the hypocritical gentleman; and
he remarked to Captain Cumnock, when their mutual trot was established:
‘Paggy enough for me for a month--good Lord! I can’t stand another dose
of her by herself.’

‘It’s a bird that won’t roast or boil or stew,’ said the captain.

They were observed trotting along below by Lord Ormont’s groom of the
stables on promotion, as he surveyed the country from the chalk-hill
rise and brought the phaeton to a stand, Jonathan Boon, a sharp lad,
whose comprehension was a little muddled by ‘the rights of it’ in this
adventure. He knew, however, that he did well to follow the directions
of one who was in his lordship’s pay, and stretched out the fee with
the air of a shake of the hand, and had a look of the winning side,
moreover. A born countryman could see that.

Boon watched the pair of horsemen trotting to confusion, and clicked in
his cheek. The provincial of the period when coaches were beginning to
be threatened by talk of new-fangled rails was proud to boast of his
outwitting Londoners on material points; and Boon had numerous tales of
how it had been done, to have the laugh of fellows thinking themselves
such razors. They compensated him for the slavish abasement of his whole
neighbourhood under the hectoring of the grand new manufacture of wit in
London:--the inimitable Metropolitan PUN, which came down to the country
by four-in-hand, and stopped all other conversation wherever it was
reported, and would have the roar--there was no resisting it. Indeed,
to be able to see the thing smartly was an entry into community with
the elect of the district; and when the roaring ceased and the thing
was examined, astonishment at the cleverness of it, and the wonderful
shallowness of the seeming deep hole, and the unexhausted bang it had to
go off like a patent cracker, fetched it out for telling over again; and
up went the roar, and up it went at home and in stable-yards, and at the
net puffing of churchwardens on a summer’s bench, or in a cricket-booth
after a feast, or round the old inn’s taproom fine. The pun, the
wonderful bo-peep of double meanings darting out to surprise and smack
one another from behind words of the same sound, sometimes the same
spelling, overwhelmed the provincial mind with awe of London’s occult
and prolific genius.

Yet down yonder you may behold a pair of London gentlemen trotting along
on as fine a fool’s errand as ever was undertaken by nincompoops bearing
a scaled letter, marked urgent, to a castle, and the request in it that
the steward would immediately upon perusal down with their you-know-what
and hoist them and birch them a jolly two dozen without parley.

Boon smacked his leg, and then drove ahead merrily.

For this had happened to his knowledge: the gentleman accompanying the
lady had refused to make anything of a halt at the Red Lion, and had
said he was sure there would be a small public-house at the outskirts
of the town, for there always was one; and he proved right, and the lady
and he had descended at the sign of the Jolly Cricketers, and Boon had
driven on for half an hour by order.

This, too, had happened, external to Boon’s knowledge: the lady and the
gentleman had witnessed, through the small diamond window-panes of the
Jolly Cricketers’ parlour, the passing-by of the two horsemen in pursuit
of them; and the gentleman had stopped the chariot coming on some
fifteen minutes later, but he did not do it at the instigation of the
lady.



CHAPTER XX. AT THE SIGN OF THE JOLLY CRICKETERS

The passing by of the pair of horsemen, who so little suspected the
treasure existing behind the small inn’s narrow window did homage in
Aminta’s mind to her protector’s adroitness. Their eyes met without a
smile, though they perceived the grisly comic of the incident. Their
thoughts were on the chariot to follow.

Aminta had barely uttered a syllable since the start of the flight from
Ashead. She had rocked in a swing between sensation and imagination,
exultant, rich with the broad valley of the plain and the high green
waves of the downs at their giant’s bound in the flow of curves and
sunny creases to the final fling-off of the dip on sky. Here was a
twisted hawthorn carved clean to the way of the wind; a sheltered
clump of chestnuts holding their blossoms up, as with a thousand
cresset-clasping hands; here were grasses that nodded swept from green
to grey; flowers yellow, white, and blue, significant of a marvellous
unknown through the gates of colour; and gorse-covers giving out the
bird, squares of young wheat, a single fallow threaded by a hare, and
cottage gardens, shadowy garths, wayside flint-heap, woods of the mounds
and the dells, fluttering leaves, clouds: all were swallowed, all were
the one unworried significance. Scenery flew, shifted, returned; again
the line of the downs raced and the hollows reposed simultaneously. They
were the same in change to an eye grown older; they promised, as at
the first, happiness for recklessness. The whole woman was urged to
delirious recklessness in happiness, and she drank the flying scenery as
an indication, a likeness, an encouragement.

When her wild music of the blood had fallen to stillness with the
stopped wheels, she was in the musky, small, low room of the diamond
window-panes, at her companion’s disposal for what he might deem the
best: he was her fate. But the more she leaned on a man of self-control,
the more she admired; and an admiration that may not speak itself to
the object present drops inward, stirs the founts; and if these are
repressed, the tenderness which is not allowed to weep will drown
self-pity, hardening the woman to summon scruples in relation to her
unworthiness. He might choose to forget, but the more she admired,
the less could her feminine conscience permit of an utter or of
any forgetfulness that she was not the girl Browny, whom he once
loved--perhaps loved now, under some illusion of his old passion for
her--does love now, ill-omened as he is in that! She read him by her
startled reading of her own heart, and she constrained her will to keep
from doing, saying, looking aught that would burden without gracing
his fortunes. For, as she felt, a look, a word, a touch would do the
mischief; she had no resistance behind her cold face, only the physical
scruple, which would become the moral unworthiness if in any way she
induced him to break his guard and blow hers to shreds. An honourable
conscience before the world has not the same certificate in love’s pure
realm. They are different kingdoms. A girl may be of both; a married
woman, peering outside the narrow circle of her wedding-ring, should let
her eyelids fall and the unseen fires consume her.

Their common thought was now, Will the chariot follow?

What will he do if it comes? was an unformed question with Aminta.

He had formed and not answered it, holding himself, sincerely at the
moment, bound to her wishes. Near the end of Ashead main street she had
turned to him in her seat beside the driver, and conveyed silently, with
the dental play of her tongue and pouted lips, ‘No title.’

Upon that sign, waxen to those lips, he had said to the driver, ‘You
took your orders from Lady Charlotte?

And the reply, ‘Her ladyship directed me sir, exonerated Lord Ormont so
far.

Weyburn remembered then a passage of one of her steady looks, wherein
an oracle was mute. He tried several of the diviner’s shots to interpret
it: she was beyond his reach. She was in her blissful delirium of
the flight, and reproached him with giving her the little bit less to
resent--she who had no sense of resentment, except the claim on it to
excuse.

Their landlady entered the room to lay the cloth for tea and eggs. She
made offer of bacon as well, homecured. She was a Hampshire woman, and
understood the rearing of pigs. Her husband had been a cricketer, and
played for his county. He didn’t often beat Hampshire! They had a good
garden of vegetables, and grass-land enough for two cows. They made
their own bread, their own butter, but did not brew.

Weyburn pronounced for a plate of her home-cured. She had children, the
woman told him--two boys and a girl. Her husband wished for a girl. Her
eldest boy wished to be a sailor, and would walk miles to a pond to sail
bits of wood on it, though there had never been a sea-faring man in her
husband’s family or her own. She agreed with the lady and gentleman that
it might be unwise to go contrary to the boy’s bent. Going to school or
coming home, a trickle of water would stop him.

Aminta said to her companion in French, ‘Have you money?’

She chased his blood. ‘Some: sufficient. I think.’ It stamped their
partnership.

‘I have but a small amount. Aunt was our paymaster. We will buy the
little boy a boat to sail. You are pale.’

‘I ‘ve no notion of it.’

‘Something happened it Ashead.’

‘It would not have damaged my complexion.’

He counted his money. Aminta covertly handed him her purse. Their
fingers touched. The very minor circumstance of their landlady being in
the room dammed a flood.

Her money and his amounted to seventeen pounds. The sum-total was a
symbol of days that were a fiery wheel.

Honour and blest adventure might travel together two days or three, he
thought. If the chariot did not pass:--Lord Ormont had willed it. A
man could not be said to swerve in his duty when acting to fulfil the
master’s orders, and Mrs. Pagnell was proved a hoodwinked duenna, and
Morsfield was in the air. The breathing Aminta had now a common purse
with her first lover. For three days or more they were, it would seem,
to journey together, alone together: the prosecution of his duty imposed
it on him. Sooth to say, Weyburn knew that a spice of passion added to
a bowl of reason makes a sophist’s mess; but he fancied an absolute
reliance on Aminta’s dignity, and his respect for her was another
barrier. He begged the landlady’s acceptance of two shillings for her
boy’s purchase of a boat, advising her to have him taught early to swim.
Both he and Aminta had a feeling that they could be helpful in some
little things on the road if the chariot did not pass.

Justification began to speak loudly against the stopping of the chariot
if it did pass. The fact that sweet wishes come second, and not so
loudly, assured him they were quite secondary; for the lover sunk to
sophist may be self-beguiled by the arts which render him the potent
beguiler.

‘We are safe here,’ he said, and thrilled her with the ‘we’ behind the
curtaining leaded window-panes.

‘What is it you propose?’ Her voice was lower than she intended. To that
she ascribed his vivid flush. It kindled the deeper of her dark hue.

He mentioned her want of luggage, and the purchase of a kit.

She said, ‘Have we the means?’

‘We can adjust the means to the ends.’

‘We must be sparing of expenses.’

‘Will you walk part of the way?’

‘I should like it.’

‘We shall be longer on the journey.’

‘We shall not find it tiresome, I hope.’

‘We can say so, if we do.’

‘We are not strangers.’

The recurrence of the ‘we’ had an effect of wedding: it was fatalistic,
it would come; but, in truth, there was pleasure in it, and the pleasure
was close to consciousness of some guilt when vowing itself innocent.

And, no, they were not strangers; hardly a word could they utter without
cutting memory to the quick; their present breath was out of the far
past.

Love told them both that they were trembling into one another’s arms,
not voluntarily, against the will with each of them; they knew it
would be for life; and Aminta’s shamed reserves were matched to make an
obstacle by his consideration for her good name and her station, for his
own claim to honest citizenship also.

Weyburn acted on his instinct at sight of the postillion and the
chariot; he flung the window wide and shouted. Then he said, ‘It is
decided,’ and he felt the rightness of the decision, like a man who has
given a condemned limb to the surgeon.

Aminta was passive as a water-weed in the sway of the tide. Hearing it
to be decided, she was relieved. What her secret heart desired, she kept
secret, almost a secret from herself. He was not to leave her; so she
had her permitted wish, she had her companion plus her exclamatory
aunt, who was a protection, and she had learnt her need of the smallest
protection.

‘I can scarcely believe I see you, my dear, dear child!’ Mrs. Pagnell
cried, upon entering the small inn parlour; and so genuine was her
satisfaction that for a time she paid no heed to the stuffiness of the
room, the meanness of the place, the unfitness of such a hostelry to
entertain ladies--the Countess of Ormont!

‘Eat here?’ Mrs. Pagnell asked, observing the preparations for the meal.
Her pride quailed, her stomach abjured appetite. But she forbore from
asking how it was that the Countess of Ormont had come to the place.

At a symptom of her intention to indulge in disgust; Aminta brought up
Mr. Morsfield by name; whereupon Mrs. Pagnell showed she had reflected
on her conduct in relation to the gentleman, and with the fear of the
earl if she were questioned.

Home-made bread and butter, fresh eggs and sparkling fat of bacon
invited her to satisfy her hunger. Aminta let her sniff at the teapot
unpunished; the tea had a rustic aroma of ground-ivy, reminding Weyburn
of his mother’s curiosity to know the object of an old man’s plucking of
hedgeside leaves in the environs of Bruges one day, and the simple reply
to her French, ‘Tea for the English.’ A hint of an anecdote interested
and enriched the stores of Mrs. Pagnell, so she capped it and partook of
the infusion ruefully.

‘But the bread is really good,’ she said, ‘and we are unlikely to be
seen leaving the place by any person of importance.’

‘Unless Mr. Morsfield should be advised to return this way,’ said
Aminta.

Her aunt proposed for a second cup. She was a manageable woman; the same
scourge had its instant wholesome effect on her when she snubbed the
secretary.

So she complimented his trencherman’s knife, of which the remarkably
fine edge was proof enough that he had come heart-whole out of the trial
of an hour or so’s intimate companionship with a beautiful woman, who
had never been loved, never could be loved by man, as poor Mr. Morsfield
loved her! He had sworn to having fasted three whole days and nights
after his first sight of Aminta. Once, he said, her eyes pierced him so
that he dreamed of a dagger in his bosom, and woke himself plucking at
it. That was love, as a born gentleman connected with a baronetcy and
richer than many lords took the dreadful passion. A secretary would have
no conception of such devoted extravagance. At the most he might have
attempted to insinuate a few absurd, sheepish soft nothings, and the
Countess of Ormont would know right well how to shrivel him with one
of her looks. No lady of the land could convey so much either way, to
attract or to repel, as Aminta, Countess of Ormont! And the man, the
only man, insensible to her charm or her scorn, was her own wedded lord
and husband. Old, to be sure, and haughty, his pride might not allow him
to overlook poor Mr. Morsfield’s unintentional offence. But the presence
of the countess’s aunt was a reply to any charge he might seek to
establish. Unhappily, the case is one between men on their touchiest
point, when women are pushed aside, and justice and religion as well. We
might be living in a heathen land, for aught that morality has to say.

Mrs. Pagnell fussed about being seen on her emergence from the Jolly
Cricketers. Aminta sent Weyburn to spy for the possible reappearance
of Mr. Morsfield. He reported a horseman; a butcher-boy clattered by.
Aminta took the landlady’s hand, under her aunt’s astonished gaze, and
said: ‘I shall not forget your house and your attention to us.’ She
spoke with a shake of her voice. The landlady curtseyed and smiled,
curtseyed and almost whimpered. The house was a poor one, she begged to
say; they didn’t often have such guests, but whoever came to it they did
their best to give good food and drink.

Hearing from Weyburn that the chariot was bound to go through
Winchester, she spoke of a brother, a baker there, the last surviving
member of her family and, after some talk, Weyburn offered to deliver a
message of health and greeting at the baker’s shop. There was a waving
of hands, much nodding and curtseying, as the postillion resumed his
demi-volts--all to the stupefaction of Mrs. Pagnell; but she dared not
speak, she had Morsfield on the mouth. Nor could she deny the excellent
quality of the bread and butter, and milk, too, at the sign of the Jolly
Cricketers. She admitted, moreover, that the food and service of the
little inn belonged in their unpretentious honesty to the kind we
call old English: the dear old simple country English of the brotherly
interchange in sight of heaven--good stuff for good money, a matter with
a blessing on it.

‘But,’ said she, ‘my dear Aminta, I do not and I cannot understand looks
of grateful affection at a small innkeeper’s wife paid, and I don’t
doubt handsomely paid, for her entertainment of you.’

‘I feel it,’ said Aminta; tears rushed to her eyelids, overflowing, and
her features were steady.

‘Ah, poor dear! that I do understand,’ her aunt observed. ‘Any little
kindness moves you to-day; and well it may.’

‘Yes, aunty,’ said Aminta, and in relation to the cause of her tears she
was the less candid of the two.

So far did she carry her thanks for a kindness as to glance back through
her dropping tears at the sign-board of the Jolly Cricketers; where two
brave batsmen cross for the second of a certain three runs, if only the
fellow wheeling legs, face up after the ball in the clouds, does but
miss his catch: a grand suspensory moment of the game, admirably chosen
by the artist to arrest the wayfarer and promote speculation. For will
he let her slip through his fingers when she comes down? or will he have
her fast and tight? And in the former case, the bats are tearing their
legs off for just number nought. And in the latter, there ‘s a wicket
down, and what you may call a widower walking it bat on shoulder, parted
from his mate for that mortal innings, and likely to get more chaff than
consolation when he joins the booth.



CHAPTER XXI. UNDER-CURRENTS IN THE MINDS OF LADY CHARLOTTE AND LORD
ORMONT

Another journey of travellers to London, in the rear of the chariot, was
not diversified by a single incident or refreshed by scraps of dialogue.
Lady Charlotte had her brother Rowsley with her, and he might be
taciturn,--she drove her flocks of thoughts, she was busily and
contentedly occupied. Although separation from him stirred her mind
more excitedly over their days and deeds of boy and girl, her having him
near, and having now won him to herself, struck her as that old time’s
harvest, about as much as can be hoped for us from life, when we have
tasted it.

The scene of the invasion of Steignton by the woman and her aunt, and
that man Morsfield, was a steel engraving among her many rapid and
featureless cogitations. She magnified the rakishness of the woman’s
hand on hip in view of the house, and she magnified the woman’s
insolence in bringing that man Morsfield--to share probably the
hospitality of Steignton during the master’s absence! Her trick of
caricature, whenever she dealt with adversaries, was active upon
the three persons under observation of the windows. It was potent to
convince her that her brother Rowsley had cast the woman to her native
obscurity. However, Lady Charlotte could be just: the woman’s figure,
and as far as could be seen of her face, accounted for Rowsley’s
entanglement.

Why chastize that man Morsfield at all? Calling him out would give a
further dip to the name of Ormont. A pretty idea, to be punishing a roan
for what you thank him for! He did a service; and if he’s as mad about
her as he boasts, he can take her and marry her now Rowsley ‘s free of
her.

Morsfield says he wants to marry her--wants nothing better. Then let
him. Rowsley has shown him there ‘s no legal impediment. Pity that young
Weyburn had to be sent to do watch-dog duty. But Rowsley would not have
turned her back to travel alone: that is, without a man to guard. He ‘s
too chivalrous.

The sending of Weyburn, she now fancied, was her own doing, and Lady
Charlotte attributed it to her interpretation of her brother’s heart of
chivalry; though it would have been the wiser course, tending straight
and swift to the natural end, if the two women and their Morsfield had
received the dismissal to travel as they came.

One sees it after the event. Yes, only Rowsley would not have dismissed
her without surety that she would be protected. So it was the right
thing prompted on the impulse of the moment. And young Weyburn would
meet some difficulty in protecting his ‘Lady Ormont,’ if she had no
inclination for it.

Analyzing her impulse of the moment, Lady Charlotte credited
herself, not unjustly, with a certain considerateness for the woman,
notwithstanding the woman’s violent intrusion between brother and
sister. Knowing the world, and knowing the upper or Beanstalk world
intimately, she winked at nature’s passions. But when the legitimate
affection of a brother and sister finds them interposing, they are, as
little parsonically as possible, reproved. If persistently intrusive,
they are handed to the constable.

How, supposing the case of a wife? Well, then comes the contest; and it
is with an inferior, because not a born, legitimacy of union; which
may be, which here and there is, affection; is generally the habit of
partnership. It is inferior, from not being the union of the blood; it
is a matter merely of the laws and the tastes. No love, she reasoned,
is equal to the love of brother and sister: not even the love of parents
for offspring, or of children for mother and father. Brother and sister
have the holy young days in common; they have lastingly the recollection
of their youth, the golden time when they were themselves, or the
best of themselves. A wife is a stranger from the beginning; she is
necessarily three parts a stranger up to the finish of the history.
She thinks she can absorb the husband. Not if her husband has a sister
living! She may cry and tear for what she calls her own: she will act
prudently in bowing her head to the stronger tie. Is there a wife in
Europe who broods on her husband’s merits and his injuries as the sister
of Thomas Rowsley, Earl of Ormont does? or one to defend his good name,
one to work for his fortunes, as devotedly?

Over and over Lady Charlotte drove her flocks, of much the same pattern,
like billows before a piping gale. They might be similar--a puffed
iteration, and might be meaningless and wearisome; the gale was a power
in earnest.

Her brother sat locked-up. She did as a wife would not have done, and
held her peace. He spoke; she replied in a few words--blunt, to the
point, as no wife would have done.

Her dear, warm-hearted Rowsley was shaken by the blow he had been
obliged to deal to the woman--poor woman!--if she felt it. He was always
the principal sufferer where the feelings were concerned. He was never
for hurting any but the enemy.

His ‘Ha, here we dine!’ an exclamation of a man of imprisoned yawns at
the apparition of the turnkey, was delightful to her, for a proof of
health and sanity and enjoyment of the journey.

‘Yes, and I’ve one bottle left, in the hamper, of the hock you like,’
she said. ‘That Mr. Weyburn likes it too. He drank a couple coming
down.’

She did not press for talk; his ready appetite was the flower of
conversation to her. And he slept well, he said. Her personal experience
on that head was reserved.

London enfolded them in the late evening of a day brewing storm. My lord
heard at the door of his house that Lady Ormont had not arrived. Yet
she had started a day in advance of him. He looked down, up and round at
Charlotte. He looked into an empty hall. Pagnell was not there. A sight
of Pagnell would, strange to say, have been agreeable.

Storm was in the air, and Aminta was on the road. Lightning has, before
now, frightened carriage-horses. She would not misconduct herself; she
would sit firm. No woman in England had stouter nerve--few men.

But the carriage might be smashed. He was ignorant of the road she
had chosen for her return. Out of Wiltshire there would be no cliffs,
quarries, river-banks, presenting dangers. Those dangers, however,
spring up when horses have the frenzy.

Charlotte was nodded at, for a signal to depart; and she drove off,
speculating on the bullet of a grey eye, which was her brother’s adieu
to her.

The earl had apparently a curiosity to inspect vacant rooms. His
Aminta’s drawing-room, her boudoir, her bed-chamber, were submissive in
showing bed, knickknacks, furniture. They told the tale of a corpse.

He washed and dressed, and went out to his club to dine, hating
the faces of the servants of the house, just able to bear with the
attentions of his valet.

Thunder was rattling at ten at night. The house was again the tomb.

She had high courage, that girl. She might be in a bed, with her
window-blind up, calmly waiting for the flashes: lightning excited her.
He had seen her lying at her length quietly, her black hair scattered
on the pillow, like shadow of twigs and sprays on moonlit grass,
illuminated intermittently; smiling to him, but her heart out and
abroad, wild as any witch’s. If on the road, she would not quail. But it
was necessary to be certain of her having a trusty postillion.

He walked through the drench and scream of a burst cloud to the
posting-office. There, after some trouble, he obtained information
directing him to the neighbouring mews. He had thence to find his way to
the neighbouring pot-house.

The report of the postillion was, on the whole, favourable. The man
understood horses--was middle-aged--no sot; he was also a man with an
eye for weather, proverbially in the stables a cautious hand--slow ‘Old
Slow-and-sure,’ he was called; by name, Joshua Abnett.

‘Oh, Joshua Abnett?’ said the earl, and imprinted it on his memory, for
the service it was to do during the night.

Slow-and-sure Joshua Abnett would conduct her safely, barring accidents.
For accidents we must all be prepared. She was a heroine in an accident.
The earl recalled one and more: her calm face, brightened eyes, easy
laughter. Hysterics were not in her family.

She did wrong to let that fellow Morsfield accompany her. Possibly
he had come across her on the road, and she could not shake him off.
Judging by all he knew of her, the earl believed she would not have
brought the fellow into the grounds of Steignton of her free will. She
had always a particular regard for decency.

According to the rumour, Morsfield and the woman Pagnell were very thick
together. He barked over London of his being a bitten dog. He was near
to the mad dog’s fate, as soon as a convenient apology for stopping his
career could be invented.

The thinking of the lesson to Morsfield on the one hand, and of the
slow-and-sure postillion Joshua Abriett on the other, lulled Lord Ormont
to a short repose in his desolate house. Of Weyburn he had a glancing
thought, that the young man would be a good dog to guard the countess
from a mad dog, as he had reckoned in commissioning him.

Next day was the day of sunlight Aminta loved.

It happens with the men who can strike, supposing them of the order
of civilized creatures, that when they have struck heavily, however
deserved the blow, a liking for the victim will assail them, if they
discover no support in hatred; and no sooner is the spot of softness
touched than they are invaded by hosts of the stricken person’s
qualities, which plead to be taken as virtues, and are persuasive. The
executioner did rightly. But it is the turn for the victim to declare
the blow excessive.

Now, a just man, who has overdone the stroke, will indemnify and console
in every way, short of humiliating himself.

He had an unusually clear vision of the scene at Steignton. Surprise and
wrath obscured it at the moment, for reflection to bring it out in sharp
outline; and he was able now to read and translate into inoffensive
English the inherited Spanish of it, which violated nothing of Aminta’s
native ‘donayre,’ though it might look on English soil outlandish or
stagey.

Aminta stood in sunlight on the greensward. She stood hand on hip,
gazing at the house she had so long desired to see, without a notion
that she committed an offence. Implicitly upon all occasions she took
her husband’s word for anything he stated, and she did not consequently
imagine him to be at Steignton. So, then, she had no thought of running
down from London to hunt and confound him, as at first it appeared. The
presence of that white-faced Morsfield vindicated her sufficiently so
far. And let that fellow hang till the time for cutting him down! Not
she, but Pagnell, seems to have been the responsible party. And, by the
way, one might prick the affair with Morsfield by telling him publicly
that his visit to inspect Steignton was waste of pains, for he would not
be accepted as a tenant in the kennels, et caetera.

Well, poor girl, she satisfied her curiosity, not aware that a few weeks
farther on would have done it to the full.

As to Morsfield, never once, either in Vienna or in Paris, had she,
warmly admired though she was, all eyes telescoping and sun-glassing
on her, given her husband an hour or half an hour or two minutes of
anxiety. Letters came. The place getting hot, she proposed to leave it.

She had been rather hardly tried. There are flowers we cannot keep
growing in pots. Her fault was, that instead of flinging down her glove
and fighting it out openly, she listened to Pagnell, and began the
game of Pull. If he had a zest for the game, it was to stump the woman
Pagnell. So the veteran fancied in his amended mind.

This intrusive sunlight chased him from the breakfast-table and out of
the house. She would be enjoying it somewhere; but the house empty of
a person it was used to contain had an atmosphere of the vaults,
and inside it the sunlight she loved had an effect of taunting him
singularly.

He called on his upholsterer and heard news to please her. The house
hired for a month above Great Marlow was ready; her ladyship could enter
it to-morrow. It pleased my lord to think that she might do so, and not
bother him any more about the presentation at Court during the current
year. In spite of certain overtures from the military authorities, and
roused eulogistic citations of his name in the newspapers and magazines,
he was not on friendly terms with his country yet, having contracted the
fatal habit of irony, which, whether hitting or musing its object, stirs
old venom in our wound, twitches the feelings. Unfortunately for him,
they had not adequate expression unless he raged within; so he had to
shake up wrath over his grievances, that he might be satisfactorily
delivered; and he was judged irreconcilable when he had subsided into
the quietest contempt, from the prospective seat of a country estate, in
the society of a young wife who adored him.

An exile from the sepulchre of that house void of the consecration of
ashes, he walked the streets and became reconciled to street sunlight.
There were no carriage accidents to disturb him with apprehensions.
Besides, the slowness of the postillion Joshua Abnett, which probably
helped to the delay, was warrant of his sureness. And in an accident the
stringy fellow, young Weyburn, could be trusted for giving his attention
to the ladies--especially to the younger of the two, taking him for the
man his elders were at his age. As for Pagnell, a Providence watches
over the Pagnells! Mortals have no business to interfere.

An accident on water would be a frolic to his girl. Swimming was a gift
she had from nature. Pagnell vowed she swam out a mile at Dover when she
was twelve. He had seen her in blue water: he had seen her readiness to
jump to the rescue once when a market-woman, stepping out of a boat
to his yacht on the Tabus, plumped in. She had the two kinds of
courage--the impulsive and the reasoned. What is life to man or woman if
we are not to live it honourably? Men worthy of the name say this. The
woman who says and acts on it is--well, she is fit company for them. But
only the woman of natural courage can say it and act on it.

Would she come by Winchester, or choose the lower road by Salisbury and
Southampton, to smell the sea? perhaps-like her!--dismissing the chariot
and hiring a yacht for a voyage round the coast and up the Thames. She
had an extraordinary love of the sea, yet she preferred soldiers to
sailors. A woman? Never one of them more a woman! But it came of her
quickness to take the colour and share the tastes of the man to whom she
gave herself.

My lord was beginning to distinguish qualities in a character.

He was informed at the mews that Joshua Abnett was on the road still.
Joshua seemed to be a roadster of uncommon unprogressiveness, proper to
a framed picture.

While debating whether to lunch at his loathed club or at a home loathed
more, but open to bright enlivenment any instant, Lord Ormont beheld
a hat lifted and Captain May saluting him. They were near a famous
gambling-house in St. James’s Street.

‘Good! I am glad to see you,’ he said. ‘Tell me you know Mr. Morsfield
pretty well. I’m speaking of my affair. He has been trespassing down on
my grounds at Steignton, and I think of taking the prosecution of him
into my own hands. Is he in town?’

‘I ‘ve just left his lame devil Cumnock, my lord,’ said May, after a
slight grimace. ‘They generally run in tandem.’

‘Will you let me know?’

‘At once, when I hear.’

‘You will call on me? Before noon?’

‘Any service required?’

‘My respects to your wife.’

‘Your lordship is very good.’

Captain May bloomed at a civility paid to his wife. He was a smallish,
springy, firm-faced man, devotee of the lady bearing his name and
wielding him. In the days when duelling flourished on our land, frail
women could be powerful.

The earl turned from him to greet Lord Adderwood and a superior officer
of his Profession, on whom he dropped a frigid nod. He held that all but
the rank and file, and a few subalterns, of the service had abandoned
him to do homage to the authorities. The Club he frequented was not his
military Club. Indeed, lunching at any Club in solitariness that day,
with Aminta away from home, was bitter penance. He was rejoiced by Lord
Adderwood’s invitation, and hung to him after the lunch; for a horrible
prospect of a bachelor dinner intimated astonishingly that he must have
become unawares a domesticated man.

The solitary later meal of a bachelor was consumed, if the word will
suit a rabbit’s form of feeding. He fatigued his body by walking the
streets and the bridge of the Houses of Parliament, and he had some
sleep under a roof where a life like death, or death apeing life, would
have seemed to him the Joshua Abnett, if he had been one to take up
images.

Next day he was under the obligation to wait at home till noon. Shortly
before noon a noise of wheels drew him to the window. A young lady, in
whom he recognized Aminta’s little school friend, of some name, stepped
out of a fly. He met her in the hall.

She had expected to be welcomed by Aminta, and she was very timid on
finding herself alone with the earl. He, however, treated her as the
harbinger bird, wryneck of the nightingale, sure that Aminta would keep
her appointment unless an accident delayed. He had forgotten her name,
but not her favourite pursuit of botany; and upon that he discoursed,
and he was interested, not quite independently of the sentiment of her
being there as a guarantee of Aminta’s return. Still he knew his English
earth, and the counties and soil for particular wild-flowers, grasses,
mosses; and he could instruct her and inspire a receptive pupil on the
theme of birds, beasts, fishes, insects, in England and other lands.

He remained discoursing without much weariness till four of the
afternoon. Then he had his reward. The chariot was at the door, and
the mounted figure of Joshua Abnett, on which he cast not a look or a
thought. Aminta was alone. She embraced Selina Collett warmly, and said,
in friendly tones, ‘Ah! my lord, you are in advance of me.’

She had dropped Mrs. Pagnell and Mr. Weyburn at two suburban houses;
working upon her aunt’s dread of the earl’s interrogations as regarded
Mr. Morsfield. She had, she said, chosen to take the journey easily on
her return, and enjoyed it greatly.

My lord studied her manner more than her speech. He would have
interpreted a man’s accurately enough. He read hers to signify that
she had really enjoyed her journey, ‘made the best of it,’ and did not
intend to be humble about her visit to Steignton without his permission;
but that, if hurt at the time, she had recovered her spirits, and was
ready for a shot or two--to be nothing like a pitched battle. And she
might fire away to her heart’s content: wordy retorts would not come
from him; he had material surprises in reserve for her. His question
concerning Morsfield knew its answer, and would only be put under
pressure.

Comparison of the friends Aminta and Selina was forced by their standing
together, and the representation in little Selina of the inferiority of
the world of women to his Aminta; he thought of several, and splendid
women, foreign and English. The comparison rose sharply now, with
Aminta’s novel, airy, homely, unchallengeing assumption of an equal
footing beside her lord, in looks and in tones that had cast off
constraint of the adoring handmaid, to show the full-blown woman,
rightful queen of her half of the dominion. Between the Aminta of then
and now, the difference was marked as between Northern and Southern
women: the frozen-mouthed Northerner and the pearl and rose-nipped
Southerner; those who smirk in dropping congealed monosyllables, and
those who radiantly laugh out the voluble chatter.

Conceiving this to the full in a mind destitute of imagery, but
indicative of the thing as clearly as the planed, unpolished woodwork
of a cabinet in a carpenter’s shop, Lord Ormont liked her the better for
the change, though she was not the woman whose absence from his house
had caused him to go mooning half a night through the streets, and
though it forewarned him of a tougher bit of battle, if battle there was
to be.

He was a close reader of surfaces. But in truth, the change so notable
came of the circumstance, that some little way down below the surface he
perused, where heart weds mind, or nature joins intellect, for the two
to beget a resolution, the battle of the man and the woman had been
fought, and the man beaten.



CHAPTER XXII. TREATS OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTENTION OF BROTHER AND
SISTER

In the contest rageing at mid-sea still between the man and the woman,
it is the one who is hard to the attractions of the other that will make
choice of the spot and have the advantages. A short time earlier Lord
Ormont could have marked it out at his leisure. He would have been
unable to comprehend why it was denied him to do so now; for he was
master of himself, untroubled by conscience, unaware, since he was
assured of his Aminta’s perfect safety and his restored sense of
possession, that any taint of softness in him had reversed the condition
of their alliance. He felt benevolently the much he had to bestow, and
was about to bestow. Meanwhile, without complicity on his part, without
his knowledge, yet absolutely involving his fate, the battle had gone
against him in Aminta’s breast.

Like many of his class and kind, he was thoroughly acquainted with the
physical woman, and he took that first and very engrossing volume of
the great Book of Mulier for all the history. A powerful wing of
imagination, strong as the flappers of the great Roc of Arabian story,
is needed to lift the known physical woman even a very little way up
into azure heavens. It is far easier to take a snap-shot at the psychic,
and tumble her down from her fictitious heights to earth. The mixing of
the two make nonsense of her. She was created to attract the man, for an
excellent purpose in the main. We behold her at work incessantly. One is
a fish to her hook; another a moth to her light. By the various arts
at her disposal she will have us, unless early in life we tear away
the creature’s coloured gauzes and penetrate to her absurdly simple
mechanism. That done, we may, if we please, dominate her. High priests
of every religion have successively denounced her as the chief enemy.
To subdue and bid her minister to our satisfaction is therefore a right
employment of man’s unperverted superior strength. Of course, we keep
to ourselves the woman we prefer; but we have to beware of an uxorious
preference, or we are likely to resemble the Irishman with his wolf, and
dance imprisoned in the hug of our captive.

For it is the creature’s characteristic to be lastingly awake, in her
moments of utmost slavishness most keenly awake to the chances of the
snaring of the stronger. Be on guard, then. Lord Ormont had been on
guard then and always: his instinct of commandership kept him on guard.
He was on guard now when his Aminta played, not the indignant and the
frozen, but the genially indifferent. She did it well, he admitted.

Had it been the indignant she played, he might have stooped to cajole
the handsome queen of gypsies she was, without acknowledgement of
her right to complain. Feeling that he was about to be generous, he
shrugged. He meant to speak in deeds.

Lady Charlotte’s house was at the distance of a stroller’s half-hour
across Hyde Park westward from his own. Thither he walked, a few
minutes after noon, prepared for cattishness. He could fancy that he had
hitherto postponed the visit rather on her account, considering that
he would have to crush her if she humped and spat, and he hoped to be
allowed to do it gently. There would certainly be a scene.

Lady Charlotte was at home.

‘Always at home to you, Rowsley, at any hour. Mr. Eglett has driven down
to the City. There ‘s a doctor in a square there’s got a reputation for
treating weak children, and he has taken down your grand-nephew Bobby to
be inspected. Poor boy comes of a poor stock on the father’s side. Mr.
Eglett would have that marriage. Now he sees wealth isn’t everything.
Those Benlews are rushlights. However, Elizabeth stood with her father
to have Robert Benlew, and this poor child ‘s the result. I wonder
whether they have consciences!’

My lord prolonged the sibilation of his ‘Yes,’ in the way of
absent-minded men. He liked little Bobby, but had to class the boy
second for the present.

‘You have our family jewels in your keeping, Charlotte?’

‘No, I haven’t,--and you know I haven’t, Rowsley.’ She sprang to arms,
the perfect porcupine, at his opening words, as he had anticipated.

‘Where are the jewels?’

‘They’re in the cellars of my bankers, and safe there, you may rely on
it.’

‘I want them.’

‘I want to have them safe; and there they stop.’

‘You must get them and hand them over.’

‘To whom?’

‘To me.’

‘What for?’

‘They will be worn by the Countess of Ormont’

‘Who ‘s she?’

‘The lady who bears the title.’

‘The only Countess of Ormont I know of is your mother and mine, Rowsley;
and she’s dead.’

‘The Countess of Ormont I speak of is alive.’

Lady Charlotte squared to him. ‘Who gives her the title?’

‘She bears it by right.’

‘Do you mean to say, Rowsley, you have gone and married the woman since
we came up from Steignton?’

‘She is my wife.’

‘Anyhow, she won’t have our family jewels.’

‘If you had swallowed them, you’d have to disgorge.’

‘I don’t give up our family jewels to such people.’

‘Do you decline to call on her?’

‘I do: I respect our name and blood.’

‘You will send the order to your bankers for them to deliver the jewels
over to me at my house this day.’

‘Look here, Rowsley; you’re gone cracked or senile. You ‘re in the hands
of one of those clever wenches who catch men of your age. She may catch
you; she shan’t lay hold of our family jewels: they stand for the honour
of our name and blood.’

‘They are to be at my house-door at four o’clock this afternoon.’

‘They’ll not stir.’

‘Then I go down to order your bankers and give them the order.’

‘My bankers won’t attend to it without the order from me.’

‘You will submit to the summons of my lawyers.’

‘You’re bent on a public scandal, are you?’

‘I am bent on having the jewels.’

‘They are not yours; you ‘ve no claim to them; they are heirlooms in our
family. Things most sacred to us are attached to them. They belong to
our history. There ‘s the tiara worn by the first Countess of Ormont.
There ‘s the big emerald of the necklace-pendant--you know the story of
it. Two rubies not counted second to any in England. All those diamonds!
I wore the cross and the two pins the day I was presented after my
marriage.’

‘The present Lady Ormont will wear them the day she is presented.’

‘She won’t wear them at Court.’

‘She will.’

‘Don’t expect the Lady Ormont of tradesmen and footmen to pass the Lord
Chamberlain.’

‘That matter will be arranged for next season. Now I ‘ve done.’

‘So have I; and you have my answer, Rowsley.’ They quitted their chairs.

‘You decline to call on my wife?’ said the earl.

Lady Charlotte replied: ‘Understand me, now. If the woman has won you
round to legitimize the connection, first, I’ve a proper claim to see
her marriage lines. I must have a certificate of her birth. I must have
a testified account of her life before you met her and got the worst of
it. Then, as the case may be, I ‘ll call on her.

‘You will behave yourself when you call.’

‘But she won’t have our family jewels.’

‘That affair has been settled by me.’

‘I should be expecting to hear of them as decorating the person of one
of that man Morsfield’s mistresses.’

The earl’s brow thickened. ‘Charlotte, I smacked your cheek when you
were a girl.’

‘I know you did. You might again, and I wouldn’t cry out. She travels
with that Morsfield; you ‘ve seen it. He goes boasting of her. Gypsy or
not, she ‘s got queer ways.’

‘I advise you, you had better learn at once to speak of her
respectfully.’

‘I shall have enough to go through, if what you say’s true, with
questions of the woman’s antecedents and her people, and the date of the
day of this marriage. When was the day you did it? I shall have to give
an answer. You know cousins of ours, and the way they ‘ll be pressing,
and comparing ages and bawling rumours. None of them imagined my brother
such a fool as to be wheedled into marrying her. You say it’s done,
Rowsley. Was it done yesterday or the day before?’

Lord Ormont found unexpectedly that she struck on a weak point. Married
from the first? Why not tell me of it? He could hear her voice as if she
had spoken the words. And how communicate the pell-mell of reasons?

‘You’re running vixen. The demand I make is for the jewels,’ he said.

‘You won’t have them, Rowsley--not for her.’

‘You think of compelling me to use force?’

‘Try it.’

‘You swear the jewels are with your bankers?’

‘I left them in charge of my bankers, and they’ve not been moved by me.’

‘Well, it must be force.’

‘Nothing short of it when the honour of our family’s concerned.’

It was rather worse than the anticipated struggle with this Charlotte,
though he had kept his temper. The error was in supposing that an hour’s
sharp conflict would settle it, as he saw. The jewels required a siege.

‘When does Eglett return?’ he asked.

‘Back to lunch. You stay and lunch here, Rowsley we don’t often have
you.’

The earl contemplated her, measuring her powers of resistance for a
prolonged engagement. Odd that the pride which had withdrawn him from
the service of an offending country should pitch him into a series of
tussles with women, for its own confusion! He saw that, too, in his dim
reflectiveness, and held the country answerable for it.

Mr. Eglett was taken into confidence by him privately after lunch.
Mr. Eglett’s position between the brother and sister was perplexing;
habitually he thought his wife had strong good sense, in spite of the
costliness of certain actions at law not invariably confirming his
opinion; he thought also that the earl’s demand must needs be considered
obediently. At the same time, his wife’s objections to the new Countess
of Ormont, unmasked upon the world, seemed very legitimate; though it
might be asked why the earl should not marry, marrying the lady who
pleased him. But if, in the words of his wife, the lady had no claim to
be called a lady, the marriage was deplorable. On the other hand, Lord
Ormont spoke of her in terms of esteem, and he was no fondling dotard.

How to compromise the matter for the sake of peace? The man perpetually
plunged into strife by his combative spouse, cried the familiar question
again; and at every suggestion of his on behalf of concord he heard from
Lady Charlotte that he had no principles, or else from Lord Ormont that
his head must be off his shoulders.

The man for peace had the smallest supply of language, and so, unless he
took a side and fought, his active part was football between them.

It went on through the afternoon up to five o’clock. No impression was
betrayed by Lady Charlotte.

She congratulated her brother on the recruit he had enlisted. He
smiled his grimmest of the lips drawn in. A combat, perceptibly of some
extension, would soon give him command of the man of peace; and energy
to continue attacks will break down the energies of any dogged defensive
stand.

He deferred the discussion with his unreasonable sister until the
next day at half-past twelve o’clock. Lady Charlotte nodded to the
appointment. She would have congratulated herself without irony on the
result of the first day’s altercation but for her brother Rowsley’s
unusual and ominous display of patience. Twice during the wrangle she
had to conceal a difficult breathing. She felt a numbness in one arm
now it was over, and mentally complimented her London physician on the
unerringness of his diagnosis. Her heart, however, complained of
the cruelty of having in the end, perhaps, if the wrangle should be
protracted, to yield, for sheer weakness, without ceasing to beat.



CHAPTER XXIII. THE ORMONT JEWELS

At half-past twelve of the noon next day Lord Ormont was at Lady
Charlotte’s house door. She welcomed him affectionately, as if nothing
were in dispute; he nodded an acceptance of her greetings, with a blunt
intimation of the business to be settled; she put on her hump of the
feline defensive; then his batteries opened fire and hers barked back
on him. Each won admiration of the other’s tenacity, all the more
determined to sap or split it. They had known one another’s character,
but they had never seen it in such strong light. Never had their mutual
and similar, though opposed, resources been drawn out so copiously and
unreservedly. This was the shining scrawl of all that each could do
to gain a fight. They admired one another’s contemptibly justifiable
evasions, changes of front, statements bordering the lie, even to
meanness in the withdrawal of admissions and the denial of the same ever
having been made. That was Charlotte! That was Rowsley! Anything to beat
down the adversary.

As to will, the woman’s will, of these two, equalled the man’s. They
were matched in obstinacy and unscrupulousness.

Her ingenuitics of the defence eluded his attacks, and compelled him
to fall on heavy iteration of his demand for the jewels, an immediate
restitution of the jewels. ‘Why immediate?’ cried she.

He repeated it without replying to her.

‘But, you tell me, Rowsley, why immediate? If you’re in want of money
for her, you come to me, tell me, you shall have thousands. I’ll drive
down to the City to-morrow and sell out stock. Mr. Eglett won’t mind
when he hears the purpose. I shall call five thousand cheap, and don’t
ask to see the money again.’

‘Ah! double the sum to have your own way!’ said he.

She protested that she valued her money. She furnished instances of her
carefulness of her money all along up to the present period of brutal
old age. Yet she would willingly part with five thousand or more to save
the family honour. Mr. Eglett would not only approve, he would probably
advance a good part of the money himself.

‘Money! Who wants money?’ thundered the earl, and jumped out of her trap
of the further diversion from the plain request. ‘To-morrow, when I am
here, I shall expect to have the jewels delivered to me.’

‘That you may hand them over to her. Where are they likely to be this
time next year? And what do you know about jewels? You may look at them
when you ask to see them, and not know imitation paste--like the stuff
Lady Beltus showed her old husband. Our mother wore them, and she prized
them. I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather hear they were exhibited in a Bond
Street jeweller’s shop or a Piccadilly pawnbroker’s than have them on
that woman.’

‘You speak of my wife.’

‘For a season, perhaps; and off they’re likely to go, to pay bills, if
her Adderwoods and her Morsfields are out of funds, as they call it.’

‘You are aware you are speaking of my wife, Charlotte?’

‘You daren’t say my sister-in-law.’

He did not choose to say it; and once more she dared him. She could
imagine she scored a point.

They were summoned to lunch by Mr. Eglett; and there was an hour’s
armistice; following which the earl demanded the restitution of the
jewels, and heard the singular question, childishly accentuated, ‘What
for?’

Patience was his weapon and support, so he named his object with an air
of inveteracy in tranquillity they were for his wife to wear.

Lady Charlotte dared him to say they were for her sister-in-law.

He despised the transparent artifice of the challenge.

‘But you have to own the difference,’ she said. ‘You haven’t lost
respect for your family, thank God! No. It ‘s one thing to say she ‘s a
wife: you hang fire when it ‘s to say she ‘s my sister-in-law.’

‘You’ll have to admit the fact, Charlotte.’

‘How long is it since I should have had to admit the fact?’

‘From the date of my marriage.’

‘Tell me the date.’

‘No, you don’t wear a wig, Charlotte; but you are fit to practise in the
Law-courts!’ he said, exasperatedly jocular.

She had started a fresh diversion, and she pressed him for the date. ‘I
‘m supposed to have had a sister-in-law-how many weeks?--months?’

‘Years.’

‘Married years! And if you’ve been married years, where were you
married? Not in a church. That woman’s no church-bride.’

‘There are some clever women made idiots of by their trullish tempers.’

‘Abuse away. I’ve asked you where you were married, Rowsley.’

‘Go to Madrid. Go to the Embassy. Apply to the chaplain.’

‘Married in Madrid! Who’s ever married in Madrid! You flung her a yellow
handkerchief, and she tied it round her neck--that ‘s your ceremony!
Now you tell me you’ve been married years; and she’s a young woman; you
fetch her over from Madrid, set her in a place where those Morsfields
and other fungi-fellows grow, and she has to think herself lucky to be
received by a Lady Staines and a Mrs. Lawrence Finchley, and she the
talk of the town, refused at Court, for all an honourable-enough old
woman countenanced her in pity; and I ‘m asked to believe she was my
brother’s wife, sister-in-law of mine, all the while! I won’t.’

Lady Charlotte dilated on it for a length of time, merely to show she
declined to believe it; pouring Morsfield over him and the talk of
the town, the gypsy caught in Spain--now to be foisted on her as her
sister-in-law! She could fancy she produced an effect.

She did indeed unveil to him a portion of the sufferings his Aminta
had undergone; as visibly, too, the good argumentative reasons for his
previous avoidance of the deadly, dismal wrangle here forced on him.
A truly dismal, profitless wrangle! But the finish of it would be the
beginning of some solace to his Aminta.

The finish of it must be to-morrow. He refrained from saying so, and
simply appointed to-morrow for the resumption of the wrestle, departing
in his invincible coat of patience: which one has to wear when dealing
with a woman like Charlotte, he informed Mr. Eglett, on his way out at a
later hour than on the foregone day. Mr. Eglett was of his opinion,
that an introduction of lawyers into a family dispute was ‘rats in
the pantry’; and he would have joined him in his gloomy laugh, if the
thought of Charlotte in a contention had not been so serious a matter.
She might be beaten; she could not be brought to yield.

She retired to her bedroom, and laid herself flat on her bed,
immoveable, till her maid undressed her for the night. A cup of broth
and strip of toast formed her sole nourishment. As for her doctor’s
possible reproaches, the symptoms might crowd and do their worst; she
fought for the honour of her family.

At midday of the third day Lady Charlotte was reduced to the condition
of those fortresses which wave defiantly the flag, but deliver no
further shot, awaiting the assault. Her body, affected by hideous
old age, succumbed. Her will was unshaken. She would not write to her
bankers. Mr. Eglett might go to them, if he thought fit. Rowsley was
to understand that he might call himself married; she would have no
flower-basket bunch of a sister-in-law thrust upon her.

Lord Ormont and Mr. Eglett walked down to her bankers in the afternoon.
As a consequence of express injunctions given by my lady five years
previously, the assistant-manager sought an interview with her.

The jewels were lodged at her house the day ensuing. They were examined,
verified by the list in Lady Charlotte’s family record-book, and then
taken away--forcibly, of course--by her brother.

He laughed in his dry manner; but the reminiscent glimpses, helping him
to see the humour of it, stirred sensations of the tug it had been with
that combative Charlotte, and excused him for having shrunk from the
encounter until he conceived it to be necessary.

Settlement of the affair with Morsfield now claimed his attention. The
ironical tolerance he practised in relation to Morsfield when Aminta had
no definite station before the world changed to an angry irritability
at the man’s behaviour now that she had stepped forth under his
acknowledgement of her as the Countess of Ormont. He had come round to a
rather healthier mind regarding his country, and his introduction of the
Countess of Ormont to the world was his peace-offering.

As he returned home earlier on the third day, he found his diligent
secretary at work. The calling on Captain May and the writing to the
sort of man were acts obnoxious to his dignity; so he despatched Weyburn
to the captain’s house, one in a small street of three narrow tenements
abutting on aristocracy and terminating in mews. Weyburn’s mission was
to give the earl’s address at Great Marlow for the succeeding days, and
to see Captain May, if the captain was at home. During his absence the
precious family jewel-box was locked in safety. Aminta and her friend,
little Miss Collett, were out driving, by the secretary’s report. The
earl considered it a wholesome feature of Aminta’s character that she
should have held to her modest schoolmate the fact spoke well for both
of them.

A look at the papers to serve for Memoirs was discomposing, and led him
to think the secretary could be parted with as soon as he pleased to go:
say, a week hence.

The Memoirs were no longer designed for issue. He had the impulse to
treat them on the spot as the Plan for the Defence of the Country had
been treated; and for absolutely obverse reasons. The secretary and the
Memoirs were associated: one had sprung out of the other. Moreover, the
secretary had witnessed a scene at Steignton. The young man had done his
duty, and would be thanked for that, and dismissed, with a touch of his
employer’s hand. The young man would have made a good soldier--a better
soldier, good as he might be as a scribe. He ought to have been in his
father’s footsteps, and he would then have disciplined or quashed his
fantastical ideas. Perhaps he was right on the point of toning the
Memoirs here and there. Since the scene at Steignton Lord Ormont’s
views had changed markedly in relation to everybody about him, and most
things.

Weyburn came back at the end of an hour to say that he had left the
address with Mrs. May, whom he had seen.

‘A handsome person,’ the earl observed.

‘She must have been very handsome,’ said Weyburn.

‘Ah! we fall into their fictions, or life would be a bald business, upon
my word!’

Lord Ormont had not uttered it before the sentiment of his greater luck
with one of that queer world of the female lottery went through him on a
swell of satisfaction, just a wave.

An old-world eye upon women, it seemed to Weyburn. But the man who could
crown a long term of cruel injustice with the harshness to his wife at
Steignton would naturally behold women with that eye.

However, he was allowed only to generalize; he could not trust himself
to dwell on Lady Ormont and the Aminta inside the shell. Aminta and Lady
Ormont might think as one or diversely of the executioner’s blow she
had undergone. She was a married woman, and she probably regarded the
wedding by law as the end a woman has to aim at, and is annihilated by
hitting; one flash of success, and then extinction, like a boy’s cracker
on the pavement. Not an elevated image, but closely resembling that
which her alliance with Lord Ormont had been!

At the same time, no true lover of a woman advises her--imploring
is horrible treason--to slip the symbolic circle of the law from her
finger, and have in an instant the world for her enemy. She must consent
to be annihilated, and must have no feelings; particularly no mind. The
mind is the danger for her. If she has a mind alive, she will certainly
push for the position to exercise it, and run the risk of a classing
with Nature’s created mates for reptile men.

Besides, Lady Ormont appeared, in the company of her friend Selina
Collett, not worse than rather too thoughtful; not distinctly unhappy.
And she was conversable, smiling. She might have had an explanation
with my lord, accepting excuses--or, who knows? taking the blame, and
offering them. Weakness is pliable. So pliable is it, that it has been
known for a crack of the masterly whip to fling off the victim and put
on the culprit! Ay, but let it be as it may with Lady Ormont, Aminta
is of a different composition. Aminta’s eyes of the return journey to
London were haunting lights, and lured him to speculate; and for her
sake he rejected the thought that for him they meant anything warmer
than the passing thankfulness, though they were a novel assurance to him
of her possession beneath her smothering cloud of the power to resolve,
and show forth a brilliant individuality.

The departure of the ladies and my lord in the travelling carriage for
the house on the Upper Thames was passably sweetened to Weyburn by the
command to him to follow in a day or two, and continue his work there
until he left England. Aminta would not hear of an abandonment of the
Memoirs. She spoke on the subject to my lord as to a husband pardoned.

She was not less affable and pleasant with him out of Weyburn’s hearing.
My lord earned her gratitude for his behaviour to Selina Collett, to
whom he talked interestedly of her favourite pursuit, as he had done on
the day when, as he was not the man to forget, her arrival relieved him
of anxiety. Aminta, noticed the box on the seat beside him.

They drove up to their country house in time to dress leisurely for
dinner. Nevertheless, the dinner-hour had struck several minutes before
she descended; and the earl, as if not expecting her, was out on the
garden path beside the river bank with Selina. She beckoned from the
step of the open French window.

He came to her at little Selina’s shuffling pace, conversing upon
water-plants.

‘No jewelry to-day?’ he said.

And Aminta replied: ‘Carstairs has shown me the box and given the key. I
have not opened it.’

‘Time in the evening, or to-morrow. You guess the contents?’

‘I presume I do.’

She looked feverish and shadowed.

He murmured kindly: ‘Anything?’

‘Not now: we will dine.’

She had missed, had lost, she feared, her own jewelbox; a casket of no
great treasure to others, but of a largely estimable importance to her.

After the heavy ceremonial entrance and exit of dishes, she begged the
earl to accompany her for an examination of the contents of the box.

As soon as her chamber-door was shut, she said, in accents of alarm:
‘Mine has disappeared. Carstairs, I know, is to be trusted. She
remembers carrying the box out of my room; she believes she can remember
putting it into the fly. She had to confess that it had vanished,
without her knowing how, when my boxes were unpacked.’

‘Is she very much upset?’ said the earl.

‘Carstairs? Why, yes, poor creature! you can imagine. I have no doubt
she feels for me; and her own reputation is concerned. What do you think
is best to be done?’

‘To be done! Overhaul the baggage again in all the rooms.’

‘We’ve not failed to do that.’

‘Control yourself, my dear. If, by bad luck, they’re lost, we can
replace them. The contents of this box, now, we could not replace. Open
it, and judge.’

‘I have no curiosity--forgive me, I beg. And the servant’s fly has been
visited, ransacked inside and out, footmen questioned; we have not left
anything we can conceive of undone. My lord, will you suggest?’

‘The intrinsic value of the gems would not be worth--not worth Aminta’s
one beat of the heart. Upon my word--not one!’

An amatory knightly compliment breasting her perturbation roused
an unwonted spite; and a swift reflection on it startled her with a
suspicion. She cast it behind her. He could be angler and fish, he would
not be cat and mouse.

She said, however, more temperately: ‘It is not the value of the gems.
We are losing precious minutes!’

‘Association of them with the giver? Is it that? If that has a value for
you, he is flattered.’

This betrayed him to the woman waxing as intensely susceptible in all
her being as powder to sparks.

‘There is to be no misunderstanding, my lord,’ she said. ‘I like--I
value my jewels; but--I am alarmed lest the box should fall into
hands--into strange hands.’

‘The box!’ he exclaimed with an outline of a comic grimace; and, if
proved a voluptuary in torturing, he could instance half a dozen points
for extenuation: her charm of person, withheld from him, and to be
embraced; her innocent naughtiness; compensation coming to her in excess
for a transient infliction of pain. ‘Your anxiety is about the box?’

‘Yes, the box,’ Aminta said firmly. ‘It contains--’

‘No false jewels? A thief might complain.’

‘It contains letters, my lord.’ ‘Blackmail?’

‘You would be at liberty to read them. I would rather they were burnt.’

‘Ah!’ The earl heaved his chest prodigiously. ‘Blackmail letters are
better in a husband’s hands, if they can be laid there.’

‘If there is a necessity for him to read them--yes.’

‘There may be a necessity, there can’t be a gratification,--though there
are dogs of thick blood that like to scratch their sores,’ he murmured
to himself. ‘You used to show me these declaration epistles.’

‘Not the names.’

‘Not the names--no!’

‘When we had left the country, I showed you why it had been my wish to
go.’

‘Xarifa was and is female honour. Take the key, open that box; I will
make inquiries. But, my dear, you guess everything. Your little box was
removed for the bigger impression to be produced by this one.’

A flash came out of her dark eyes.

‘No, you guess wrong this time, you clever shrew! I wormed nothing from
you,’ said he. ‘I knew you kept particular letters in that receptacle of
things of price: Aminta can’t conceal. The man has worried you. Why not
have come to me?’

‘Oblige me, my lord, by restoring me my box.’

‘This is your box.’

Her bosom lifted with the words Oh, no! unspoken. He took the key and
opened the box. A dazzling tray of stones was revealed; underneath it
the constellations in cases, very heavens for the worldly Eve; and he
doubted that Eve could have gone completely out of her. But she had, as
observation instructed him, set her woman’s mind on something else, and
must have it before letting her eyes fall on objects impossible for any
of her sex to see without coveting them.

He bowed. ‘I will fetch it,’ he said magnanimously. Her own box was
brought from his room. She then consented to look womanly at the Ormont
jewels, over which the battle; whereof she knew nothing, and nothing
could be told her, had been fought in her interests, for her sovereign
pleasure.

She looked and admired. They were beautiful jewels the great emerald was
wonderful, and there were two rubies to praise. She excused herself
for declining to put the circlet for the pendant round her neck, or a
glittering ring on her finger. Her remarks were encomiums, not quite
so cold as those of a provincial spinster of an ascetic turn at an
exhibition of the world’s flycatcher gewgaws. He had divided Aminta from
the Countess of Ormont, and it was the wary Aminta who set a guard on
looks and tones before the spectacle of his noble bounty, lest any,
the smallest, payment of the dues of the countess should be demanded.
Rightly interpreting him to be by nature incapable of asking pardon, or
acknowledging a wrong done by him, however much he might crave exemption
from blame and seek for peace, she kept to her mask of injury, though
she hated unforgivingness; and she felt it little, she did it easily,
because her heart was dead to the man. My lord’s hand touched her on her
shoulder, propitiatingly in some degree, in his dumb way.

Offended women can be emotional to a towering pride, that bends while
it assumes unbendingness: it must come to their sensations, as it were
a sign of humanity in the majestic, speechless king of beasts; and they
are pathetically melted, abjectly hypocritical; a nice confusion of
sentiments, traceable to a tender bosom’s appreciation of strength and
the perceptive compassion for its mortality.

In a case of the alienated wife, whose blood is running another way, no
foul snake’s bite is more poisonous than that indicatory touch, however
simple and slight. My lord’s hand, lightly laid on Aminta’s shoulder,
became sensible of soft warm flesh stiffening to the skeleton.



CHAPTER XXIV. LOVERS MATED

He was benevolently martial, to the extent of paternal, in thinking
his girl, of whom he deigned to think now as his countess, pardonably
foolish. Woman for woman, she was of a pattern superior to the world’s
ordinary, and might run the world’s elect a race. But she was pitifully
woman-like in her increase of dissatisfaction with the more she got.
Women are happier enslaved. Men, too, if their despot is an Ormont.
Colonel of his regiment, he proved that: his men would follow him
anywhere, do anything. Grand old days, before he was condemned by one
knows not what extraordinary round of circumstances to cogitate on women
as fluids, and how to cut channels for them, that they may course along
in the direction good for them, imagining it their pretty wanton will
to go that way! Napoleon’s treatment of women is excellent example.
Peterborough’s can be defended.

His Aminta could not reason. She nursed a rancour on account of the blow
she drew on herself at Steignton, and she declined consolation in her
being pardoned. The reconcilement evidently was proposed as a finale of
one of the detestable feminine storms enveloping men weak enough to
let themselves be dragged through a scene for the sake of domestic
tranquillity.

A remarkable exhibition of Aminta the woman was, her entire change of
front since he had taken her spousal chill. Formerly she was passive,
merely stately, the chiselled grande dame, deferential in her bearing
and speech, even when argumentative and having an opinion to plant. She
had always the independent eye and step; she now had the tongue of the
graceful and native great lady, fitted to rule her circle and hold
her place beside the proudest of the Ormonts. She bore well the small
shuffle with her jewel-box--held herself gallantly. There had been no
female feignings either, affected misapprehensions, gapy ignorances,
and snaky subterfuges, and the like, familiar to men who have the gentle
twister in grip. Straight on the line of the thing to be seen she flew,
and struck on it; and that is a woman’s martial action. He would right
heartily have called her comrade, if he had been active himself. A
warrior pulled off his horse, to sit in a chair and contemplate
the minute evolutions of the sex is pettish with his part in such
battle-fields at the stage beyond amusement.

Seen swimming, she charmed him. Abstract views of a woman summon
opposite advocates: one can never say positively, That is she! But the
visible fair form of a woman is hereditary queen of us. We have none of
your pleadings and counter-pleadings and judicial summaries to obstruct
a ravenous loyalty. My lord beheld Aminta take her three quick steps on
the plank, and spring and dive and ascend, shaking the ends of her bound
black locks; and away she went with shut mouth and broad stroke of her
arms into the sunny early morning river; brave to see, although he had
to flick a bee of a question, why he enjoyed the privilege of seeing,
and was not beside her. The only answer confessed to a distaste for all
exercise once pleasurable.

She and her little friend boated or strolled through the meadows during
the day; he fished. When he and Aminta rode out for the hour before
dinner, she seemed pleased. She was amicable, conversable, all that
was agreeable as a woman, and she was the chillest of wives. My lord’s
observations and reflections came to one conclusion: she pricked and
challenged him to lead up to her desired stormy scene. He met her and
meant to vanquish her with the dominating patience Charlotte had found
too much for her: women cannot stand against it.

To be patient in contention with women, however, one must have a
continuous and an exclusive occupation; and the tax it lays on us
conduces usually to impatience with men. My lord did not directly
connect Aminta’s chillness and Morsfield’s impudence; yet the sensation
roused by his Aminta participated in the desire to punish Morsfield
speedily. Without wishing for a duel, he was moved by the social
sanction it had to consider whether green youths and women might not
think a grey head had delayed it too long. The practice of the duel
begot the peculiar animal logic of the nobler savage, which tends to
magnify an offence in the ratio of our vanity, and hunger for a blood
that is not demanded by the appetite. Moreover, a waning practice, in
disfavour with the new generation, will be commended to the conservative
barbarian, as partaking of the wisdom of his fathers. Further, too, we
may have grown slothful, fallen to moodiness, done excess of service to
Omphale, our tyrant lady of the glow and the chill; and then undoubtedly
the duel braces.

He left Aminta for London, submissive to the terms of intimacy dictated
by her demeanour, his unacknowledged seniority rendering their harshness
less hard to endure. She had not gratified him with a display of her
person in the glitter of the Ormont jewels; and since he was, under
common conditions, a speechless man, his ineptitude for amorous
remonstrances precipitated him upon deeds, that he might offer
additional proofs of his esteem and the assurance of her established
position as his countess. He proposed to engage Lady Charlotte in a
conflict severer than the foregoing, until he brought her to pay the
ceremonial visit to her sister-in-law. The count of time for this final
trial of his masterfulness he calculated at a week. It would be an
occupation, miserable occupation though it was. He hailed the prospect
of chastising Morsfield, for a proof that his tussels with women,
prolonged study of their tricks, manoeuvrings and outwittings of them,
had not emasculated him.

Aminta willingly promised to write from day to day. Her senses had his
absence insured to them by her anticipation of the task. She did not
conceive it would be so ponderous a task. What to write to him when
nothing occurred! Nothing did occur, unless the arrival of Mr. Weyburn
was to be named an event. She alluded to it: ‘Mr. Weyburn has come,
expecting to find you here. The dispatch-box is here. Is he to await
you?’

That innocent little question was a day gained.

One day of boating on the upper reaches of the pastoral river, and walks
in woods and golden meadows, was felicity fallen on earth, the ripe
fruit of dreams. A dread surrounded it, as a belt, not shadowing the
horizon; and she clasped it to her heart the more passionately, like a
mother her rosy infant, which a dark world threatens and the universal
fate.

Love, as it will be at her June of life, was teaching her to know the
good and bad of herself. Women, educated to embrace principles through
their timidity and their pudency, discover, amazed, that these are not
lasting qualities under love’s influence. The blushes and the fears take
flight. The principles depend much on the beloved. Is he a man whose
contact with the world has given him understanding of life’s laws, and
can hold him firm to the right course in the strain and whirling of a
torrent, they cling to him, deeply they worship. And if they tempt him,
it is not advisedly done. Nature and love are busy in conjunction.
The timidities and pudencies have flown; they may hover, they are not
present. You deplore it, you must not blame; you have educated them so.
Muscular principles are sown only out in the world; and, on the whole,
with all their errors, the worldly men are the truest as well as the
bravest of men. Her faith in his guidance was equal to her dependence.
The retrospect of a recent journey told her how he had been tried.

She could gaze tenderly, betray her heart, and be certain of safety. Can
wine match that for joy? She had no schemes, no hopes, but simply the
desire to bestow, the capacity to believe. Any wish to be enfolded by
him was shapeless and unlighted, unborn; though now and again for some
chance word or undefined thought she surprised the strange tenant of her
breast at an incomprehensibly faster beat, and knew it for her own and
not her own, the familiar the stranger--an utter stranger, as one who
had snared her in a wreath and was pulling her off her feet.

She was not so guileless at the thought of little Selina Collett here,
and of Selina as the letter-bearer of old; and the marvel that Matey and
Browny and Selina were together after all! Was it not a kind of summons
to her to call him Matey just once, only once, in play? She burned
and ached to do it. She might have taxed her ingenuity successfully to
induce little Selina to the boldness of calling him Matey--and she
then repeating it, as the woman who revived with a meditative effort
recollections of the girl. Ah, frightful hypocrite! Thoughts of the
pleasure of his name aloud on her lips in his hearing dissolved through
her veins, and were met by Matthew Weyburn’s open face, before which
hypocrisy stood rent and stripped. She preferred the calmer, the truer
pleasure of seeing him modestly take lessons in the nomenclature of
weeds, herbs, grasses, by hedge and ditch. Selina could instruct him as
well in entomology, but he knew better the Swiss, Tyrolese, and Italian
valley-homes of beetle and butterfly species. Their simple talk was a
cool zephyr fanning Aminta.

The suggestion to unite the two came to her, of course, but their
physical disparity denied her that chance to settle her own difficulty,
and a whisper of one physically the match for him punished her. In
stature, in healthfulness, they were equals, perhaps: not morally or
intellectually. And she could claim headship of him on one little point
confided to her by his mother, who was bearing him, and startled by
the boom of guns under her pillow, when her husband fronted the enemy:
Matthew Weyburn, the fencer, boxer, cricketer, hunter, all things manly,
rather shrank from firearms--at least, one saw him put on a screw
to manipulate them. In danger--among brigands or mutineers,
for example--she could stand by him and prove herself his mate.
Intellectually, morally, she had to bow humbly. Nor had she, nor could
she do more than lean on and catch example from his prompt spiritual
valiancy. It shone out from him, and a crisis fulfilled the promise. Who
could be his mate for cheerful courage, for skill, the ready mind, easy
adroitness, and for self-command? To imitate was a woman’s utmost.

Matthew Weyburn appeared the very Matey of the first of May cricketing
day among Cuper’s boys the next morning, when seen pacing down the
garden-walk. He wore his white trousers of that happiest of old
days--the ‘white ducks’ Aminta and Selina remembered. Selina beamed.
‘Yes, he did; he always wore them; but now it’s a frock-coat instead of
a jacket.’

‘But now he will be a master instead of a schoolboy,’ said Aminta. ‘Let
us hope he will prosper.’

‘He gives me the idea of a man who must succeed,’ Selina said; and she
was patted, rallied, asked how she had the idea, and kissed; Aminta
saying she fancied it might be thought, for he looked so confident.

‘Only not what the boys used to call “cocky,”’ said Selina. ‘He won’t be
contemptuous of those he outstrips.’

‘His choice of the schoolmaster’s profession points to a modesty in him,
does it not, little woman?’

‘He made me tell him, while you were writing your letters yesterday, all
about my brother and his prospects.’

‘Yes, that is like him. And I must hear of your brother, “little
Collett.” Don’t forget, Sely, little Collett was our postman.’

The Countess of Ormont’s humorous reference to the circumstance passed
with Selina for a sign of a poetic love of the past, and a present
social elevation that allowed her to review it impassively. She admired
the great lady and good friend who could really be interested in
the fortunes of a mere schoolmaster and a merchant’s clerk. To her
astonishment, by some agency beyond her fathoming, she found herself,
and hardly for her own pleasure, pushing the young schoolmaster
animatedly to have an account of his aims in the establishment of the
foreign school.

Weyburn smiled. He set a short look at Aminta; and she, conscious of her
detected diplomacy, had an inward shiver, mixed of the fascination
and repugnance felt by a woman who knows that under one man’s eyes her
character is naked and anatomized. Her character?--her soul. He held it
in hand and probed it mercifully. She had felt the sweet sting again and
again, and had shrunk from him, and had crawled to him. The love of him
made it all fascination. How did he learn to read at any moment right to
the soul of a woman? Did experience teach him, or sentimental sympathy?
He was too young, he was too manly. It must be because of his being in
heart and mind the brother to the sister with women.

Thames played round them on his pastoral pipes. Bee-note and woodside
blackbird and meadow cow, and the fish of the silver rolling rings,
composed the leap of the music.

She gave her mind to his voice, following whither it went; half was in
air, higher than the swallow’s, exalting him.

How is it he is the brother of women? They are sisters for him because
he is neither sentimentalist nor devourer. He will not flatter to feed
on them. The one he chooses, she will know love. There are women who go
through life not knowing love. They are inanimate automatic machines,
who lay them down at last, inquiring wherefore they were caused to move.
She is not of that sad flock. She will be mated; she will have the right
to call him Matey. A certain Browny called him Matey. She lived and
died. A certain woman apes Browny’s features and inherits her passion,
but has forfeited her rights. Were she, under happiest conditions,
to put her hand in his, shame would burn her. For he is just--he is
Justice; and a woman bringing him less than his due, she must be a
creature of the slime!

This was the shadowy sentiment that made the wall of division between
them. There was no other. Lord Ormont had struck to fragments that
barrier of the conventional oath and ceremonial union. He was unjust--he
was Injustice. The weak may be wedded, they cannot be married; to
Injustice. And if we have the world for the buttress of injustice, then
is Nature the flaring rebel; there is no fixed order possible. Laws
are necessary instruments of the majority; but when they grind the sane
human being to dust for their maintenance, their enthronement is the
rule of the savage’s old deity, sniffing blood-sacrifice. There cannot
be a based society upon such conditions. An immolation of the naturally
constituted individual arrests the general expansion to which we step,
decivilizes more, and is more impious to the God in man, than temporary
revelries of a licence that Nature soon checks.

Arrows of thoughts resembling these shot over the half of Aminta’s mind
not listening. Her lover’s head was active on the same theme while he
spoke. They converged to it from looks crossing or catching profiles, or
from tones, from a motion of hand, from a chance word. Insomuch that
the third person present was kept unobservant only by her studious and
humble speculations on the young schoolmaster’s grand project to bring
the nationalities together, and teach Old England to the Continent--the
Continent to Old England: our healthy games, our scorn of the lie,
manliness; their intellectual valour, diligence, considerate manners.

‘Just to name a few of the things for interchange,’ said Weyburn. ‘As to
method, we shall be their disciples. But I look forward to our fellows
getting the lead. No hurry. Why will they? you ask in petto. Well, they
‘re emulous, and they take a thrashing kindly. That ‘s the way to learn
a lesson. I ‘ve seen our fellows beaten and beaten--never the courage
beaten out of them. In the end, they won and kept the field. They have a
lot to learn--principally not to be afraid of ideas. They lose heaps
of time before they can feel at home with ideas. They call themselves
practical for having an addiction to the palpable. It is a pretty wreath
they clap on their deficiencies. Practical dogs are for bones, horses
for corn. I want the practical Englishman to settle his muzzle in a
nosebag of ideas. When he has once got hold of them, he makes good stuff
of them. On the Continent ideas have wings and pay visits. Here, they’re
stay-at-home. Then I want our fellows to have the habit of speaking from
the chest. They shall return to England with the whoop of the mountains
in them and ready to jump out. They shall have an Achillean roar; and
they shall sing by second nature. Don’t fear: they’ll give double for
anything they take. I’ve known Italians, to whom an Englishman’s honesty
of mind and dealing was one of the dreams of a better humanity they
had put in a box. Frenchmen, too, who, when they came to know us, were
astonished at their epithet of perfide, and loved us.’

‘Emile,’ said Aminta. ‘You remember Emile, Selina: the dear little
French boy at Mr. Cuper’s?’

‘Oh, I do,’ Selina responded.

‘He will work with Mr. Weyburn in Switzerland.’

‘Oh, that will be nice!’ the girl exclaimed.

Aminta squeezed Selina’s hand. A shower of tears clouded her eyes. She
chose to fancy it was because of her envy of the modest, busy, peaceful
girl, who envied none. Conquers also sincerity in the sincerest. She was
vexed with her full breast, and had as little command of her thoughts as
of her feelings.

‘Mr. Weyburn has ideas for the education of girls too,’ she said.

‘There’s the task,’ said he. ‘It’s to separate them as little as
possible. All the--passez-moi le mot--devilry between the sexes begins
at their separation. They ‘re foreigners when they meet; and their
alliances are not always binding. The chief object in life, if happiness
be the aim, and the growing better than we are, is to teach men and
women how to be one; for, if they ‘re not, then each is a morsel for
the other to prey on. Lady Charlotte Eglett’s view is, that the greater
number of them on both sides hate one another.’

‘Hate!’ exclaimed Selina; and Aminta said: ‘Is Lady Charlotte Eglett an
authority?’

‘She has observed, and she thinks. She has in the abstract the justest
of minds: and that is the curious point about her. But one may say they
are trained at present to be hostile. Some of them fall in love and
strike a truce, and still they are foreigners. They have not the same
standard of honour. They might have it from an education in common.’

‘But there must be also a lady to govern the girls?’ Selina interposed.

‘Ah, yes; she is not yet found!’

‘Would it increase their mutual respect?--or show of respect, if you
like?’ said Aminta, with his last remark at work as the shattering bell
of a city’s insurrection in her breast.

‘In time, under management; catching and grouping them young. A boy who
sees a girl do what he can’t, and would like to do, won’t take refuge in
his muscular superiority--which, by the way, would be lessened.’

‘You suppose their capacities are equal?’

‘Things are not equal. I suppose their excellencies to make a pretty
nearly equal sum in the end. But we ‘re not weighing them each. The
question concerns the advantage of both.’

‘That seems just!’

Aminta threw no voice into the word ‘just.’ It was the word of the
heavens assuaging earth’s thirst, and she was earth to him. Her soul
yearned to the man whose mind conceived it.

She said to Selina: ‘We must plan an expedition next year or the year
after, and see how the school progresses.’

All three smiled; and Selina touched and held Aminta’s hand shyly.
Visions of the unseen Switzerland awed her.

Weyburn named the Spring holiday time, the season of the flowering
Alpine robes. He promised welcome, pressed for a promise of the visit.
Warmly it was given. ‘We will; we will indeed!’

‘I shall look forward,’ he said.

There was nothing else for him or for her, except to doat on the passing
minute that slipped when seized. The looking forward turned them to the
looking back at the point they had flown from, and yielded a momentary
pleasure, enough to stamp some section of a picture on their memories,
which was not the burning now Love lives for, in the clasp, if but of
hands. Desire of it destroyed it. They swung to the future, swung to the
present it made the past, sensible to the quick of the now they could
not hold. They were lovers. Divided lovers in presence, they thought and
they felt in pieces. Feelings and thoughts were forbidden to speech.
She dared look the very little of her heart’s fulness, without the
disloyalty it would have been in him to let a small peep of his heart
be seen. While her hand was not clasped she could look tenderly, and her
fettered state, her sense of unworthiness muffled in the deeps, would
keep her from the loosening to passion.

He who read through her lustrous, transiently dwelling eyes had not that
security. His part, besides the watch over the spring of his hot blood,
was to combat a host, insidious among which was unreason calling her
Browny, urging him to take his own, to snatch her from a possessor who
forfeited by undervaluing her. This was the truth in a better-ordered
world: she belonged to the man who could help her to grow and to do her
work. But in the world we have around us, it was the distorted truth:
and keeping passion down, he was able to wish her such happiness as
pertained to safety from shipwreck, and for himself, that he might
continue to walk in the ranks of the sober citizens.

Oh, true and right, but she was gloriously beautiful! Day by day she
surpassed the wondrous Browny of old days. All women were eclipsed by
her. She was that fire in the night which lights the night and draws the
night to look at it. And more: this queen of women was beginning to have
a mind at work. One saw already the sprouting of a mind repressed. She
had a distinct ability; the good ambition to use her qualities. She
needed life and air--that is, comprehension of her, encouragement, the
companion mate. With what strength would she now endow him! The pride
in the sharp imagination of possessing her whispered a boast of the
strength her mate would have from her. His need and her need rushed
together somewhere down the skies. They could not, he argued, be
separated eternally.

He had to leave her. Selina, shocked at a boldness she could not
understand in herself, begged him to stay and tell her of Switzerland
and Alpine flowers and herbs, and the valleys for the gold beetle and
the Apollo butterfly. Aminta hinted that Lord Ormont might expect to
find him there, if he came the next morning; but she would not try to
persuade, and left the decision with him, loving him for the pain he
inflicted by going.

Why, indeed, should he stay? Both could ask; they were one in asking.
Anguish balanced pleasure in them both. The day of the pleasure was
heaven to remember, heaven to hope for; not so heavenly to pray for.
The praying for it, each knew, implored their joint will to decree the
perilous blessing. A shadowy sentiment of duty and rectitude, born of
what they had suffered, hung between them and the prayer for a renewal,
that would renew the tempting they were conscious of when the sweet, the
strained, throbbing day was over. They could hope for chance to renew
it, and then they would be irresponsible. Then they would think and wish
discreetly, so as to have it a happiness untainted. In refusing now to
take another day or pray for it, they deserved that chance should grant
it.

Aminta had said through Selina the utmost her self-defences could allow.
But the idea of a final parting cut too cruelly into her life, and she
murmured: ‘I shall see you before you go for good?’

‘I will come, here or in London.’

‘I can trust?’

‘Quite certain.’

A meeting of a few hasty minutes involved none of the dangers of a
sunny, long summer day; and if it did, the heart had its claims, the
heart had its powers of resistance. Otherwise we should be base verily.

He turned on a bow to leave her before there was a motion for the offer
of her hand.

After many musings and frettings, she reached the wisdom of that.
Wisdom was her only nourishment now. A cold, lean dietary it is; but
he dispensed it, and it fed her, or kept her alive. It became a proud
feeling that she had been his fellow in the achievement of a piece of
wisdom; though the other feeling, that his hand’s kind formal touching,
without pressure of hers, would have warmed her to go through the next
interview with her lord, mocked at pure satisfaction. Did he distrust
himself? Or was it to spare her? But if so, her heart was quite bare to
him! But she knew it was.

Aminta drove her questioning heart as a vessel across blank circles
of sea, where there was nothing save the solitary heart for answer. It
answered intelligibly and comfortingly at last, telling her of proof
given that she could repose under his guidance with absolute faith. Was
ever loved woman more blest than she in such belief? She had it firmly;
and a blessedness, too, in this surety wavering beneath shadows of the
uncertainty. Her eyes knew it, her ears were empty of the words. Her
heart knew it, and it was unconfirmed by reason. As for his venturing to
love her, he feared none. And no sooner did that reflection surge
than she stood up beside him in revolt against her lion and lord. Her
instinct judged it impossible she could ever have yielded her heart to
a man lacking courage. Hence--what? when cowardice appeared as the sole
impediment to happiness now!

He had gone, and the day lived again for both of them--a day of sheer
gold in the translation from troubled earth to the mind. One another’s
beauty through the visage into the character was newly perceived and
worshipped; and the beauties of pastoral Thames, the temple of peace,
hardly noticed in the passing of the day--taken as air to the breather;
until some chip of the scene, round which an emotion had curled, was
vivid foreground and gateway to shrouded romance: it might be the
stream’s white face browning into willow-droopers, or a wagtail on a
water-lily leaf, or the fore-horse of an up-river barge at strain of
legs, a red-finned perch hung a foot above the pebbles in sun-veined
depths, a kingfisher on the scud under alders, the forest of the
bankside weeds.



CHAPTER XXV. PREPARATIONS FOR A RESOLVE

That day receded like a spent billow, and lapsed among the others
advancing, but it left a print deeper than events would have stamped.
Aminta’s pen declined to run to her lord; and the dipping it in ink
was no acceleration of the process. A sentence, bearing likeness to an
artless infant’s trot of the half-dozen steps to mother’s lap, stumbled
upon the full stop midway. Desperate determination pushed it along, and
there was in consequence a dead stop at the head of the next sentence.
A woman whose nature is insurgent against the majesty of the man to whom
she must, among the singular injunctions binding her, regularly write,
sees no way between hypocrisy and rebellion. For rebellion, she, with
the pen in her hand, is avowedly not yet ripe, hypocrisy is abominable.

If she abstained from writing, he might travel down to learn the cause;
a similar danger, or worse, haunted the writing frigidly. She had to be
the hypocrite or else--leap.

But an honest woman who is a feeling woman, when she consents to play
hypocrite, cannot do it by halves. From writing a short cold letter,
Aminta wrote a short warm one, or very friendly. Length she could avoid,
because she was unable to fill a page. It seemed that she could not
compose a friendly few lines without letting her sex be felt in them.
What she had put away from her, so as not to feel it herself, the
simulation of ever so small a bit of feeling brought prominently back;
and where she had made a cast for flowing independent simplicity, she
was feminine, ultra-feminine to her reading of it.

Better take the leap than be guilty of double-dealing even on paper! The
nature of the leap she did not examine.

Her keen apprehension of the price payable for his benevolent intentions
caught scent of them in the air. Those Ormont jewels shone as emblems of
a detested subjection, the penalty for being the beautiful woman rageing
men proclaimed. Was there no scheme of some other sort, and far less
agreeable, to make amends for Steignton? She was shrewd at divination;
she guessed her lord’s design. Rather than meet Lady Charlotte, she
proposed to herself the ‘leap’ immediately; knowing it must be a leap
in the dark, hoping it might be into a swimmer’s water. She had her own
pin-money income, and she loathed the chain of her title. So the leap
would at least be honourable, as it assuredly would be unregretted,
whatever ensued.

While Aminta’s heart held on to this debate, and in her bed, in her
boat, across the golden valley meadows beside her peaceful little
friend, she gathered a gradual resolution without sight of agencies or
consequences, Lord Ormont was kept from her by the struggle to
master his Charlotte a second time--compared with which the first was
insignificant. And this time it was curious: he could not subdue her
physique, as he did before; she was ready for him each day, and she was
animated, much more voluble, she was ready to jest. The reason being,
that she fought now on plausibly good grounds: on behalf of her
independent action.

Previously, her intelligence of the ultimate defeat hanging over the
more stubborn defence of a weak position had harassed her to death’s
door. She had no right to retain the family jewels; she had the most
perfect of established rights to refuse doing an ignominious thing. She
refused to visit the so-called Countess of Ormont, or leave her card,
or take one step to warrant the woman in speaking of her as her
sister-in-law. And no,--it did not signify that her brother Rowsley was
prohibited by her from marrying whom he pleased. It meant, that to judge
of his acts as those of a reasoning man, he would have introduced
his wife to his relatives--the relatives he had not quarrelled
with--immediately upon his marriage unless he was ashamed of the woman;
and a wife he was ashamed of was no sister-in-law for her nor aunt for
her daughters. Nor should she come playing the Black Venus among
her daughters’ husbands, Lady Charlotte had it in her bosom to say
additionally.

Lord Ormont was disconcerted by her manifest pleasure in receiving him
every day. Evidently she consented to the recurrence of a vexatious
dissension for the enjoyment of having him with her hourly. Her
dialectic, too, was cunning. Impetuous with meaning, she forced her
way to get her meaning out, in a manner effective to strike her blow.
Anything for a diversion or a triumph of the moment! He made no way. She
was the better fencer at the tongue.

Yet there was not any abatement of her deference to her brother; and
this little misunderstanding put aside, he was the Rowsley esteemed by
her as the chief of men. She foiled him, it might seem, to exalt him
the more. After he had left the house, visibly annoyed and somewhat
stupefied, she talked of him to her husband, of the soul of chivalry
Rowsley was, the loss to his country. Mr. Eglett was a witness to one of
the altercations, when she, having as usual the dialectical advantage,
praised her brother, to his face, for his magnanimous nature; regretting
only that it could be said he was weak on the woman side of him--which
was, she affirmed, a side proper to every man worth the name; but in his
case his country might complain. Of what?--Well, of a woman.--What
had she done, for the country to complain of her?--Why, then, arts
or graces, she had bewitched and weaned him from his public duty, his
military service, his patriotic ambition.

Lord Ormont’s interrogations, heightening the effect of Charlotte’s
charge, appeared to Mr. Eglett as a giving of himself over into her
hands; but the earl, after a minute of silence, proved he was a tricky
combatant. It was he who had drawn on Charlotte, that he might have
his opportunity to eulogize--‘this lady, whom you continue to call the
woman, after I have told you she is my wife.’ According to him, her
appeals, her entreaties, that he should not abandon his profession or
let his ambition rust, had been at one period constant.

He spoke fervently, for him eloquently; and he gained his point; he
silenced Lady Charlotte’s tongue, and impressed Mr. Eglett.

When the latter and his wife were alone, he let her see that the
Countess of Ormont was becoming a personage in his consideration.

Lady Charlotte cried out: ‘Hear these men where it’s a good-looking
woman between the winds! Do you take anything Rowsley says for earnest?
You ought to know he stops at no trifle to get his advantage over you in
a dispute. That ‘s the soldier in him. It ‘s victory at any cost!--and I
like him for it. Do you tell me you think it possible my brother Rowsley
would keep smothered years under a bushel the woman he can sit here
magnifying because he wants to lime you and me: you to take his part,
and me to go and call the noble creature decked out in his fine fiction
my sister-in-law. Nothing ‘ll tempt me to believe my brother could
behave in such a way to the woman he respected!’

So Mr. Eglett opined. But he had been impressed.

He relieved his mind on the subject in a communication to Lord
Adderwood; who habitually shook out the contents of his to Mrs. Lawrence
Finchley, and she, deeming it good for Aminta to have information of
the war waging for her behoof, obtained her country address, with the
resolve to drive down, a bearer of good news to the dear woman she liked
to think of, look at, and occasionally caress; besides rather tenderly
pitying her, now that a change of fortune rendered her former trials
conspicuous.

An incident, considered grave even in the days of the duel and the kicks
against a swelling public reprehension of the practice, occurred to
postpone her drive for four-and-twenty hours. London was shaken by
rumours of a tragic mishap to a socially well-known gentleman at the
Chiallo fencing rooms. The rumours passing from mouth to mouth acquired,
in the nature of them, sinister colours as they circulated. Lord
Ormont sent Aminta word of what he called ‘a bad sort of accident at
Chiallo’s,’ without mentioning names or alluding to suspicions.

He treated it lightly. He could not have written of it with such
unconcern if it involved the secretary! Yet Aminta did seriously ask
herself whether he could; and she flew rapidly over the field of
his character, seizing points adverse, points favourably advocative,
balancing dubiously--most unjustly: she felt she was unjust. But in her
condition, the heart of a woman is instantly planted in jungle when the
spirits of the two men closest to her are made to stand opposed by
a sudden excitement of her fears for the beloved one. She cannot see
widely, and is one of the wild while the fit lasts; and, after it, that
savage narrow vision she had of the unbeloved retains its vivid print
in permanence. Was she unjust? Aminta cited corroboration of her being
accurate: such was Lord Ormont! and although his qualities of gallantry,
courtesy, integrity, honourable gentleman, presented a fair low-level
account on the other side, she had so stamped his massive selfishness
and icy inaccessibility to emotion on her conception of him that the
repulsive figure formed by it continued towering when her mood was
kinder.

Love played on love in the woman’s breast. Her love had taken a fever
from her lord’s communication of the accident at Chiallo’s, and she
pushed her alarm to imagine the deadliest, and plead for the right of
confession to herself of her unrepented regrets. She and Matey Weyburn
had parted without any pressure of hands, without a touch. They were,
then, unplighted if now the grave divided them! No touch: mere glances!
And she sighed not, as she pleaded, for the touch, but for the plighting
it would have been. If now she had lost him, he could never tell herself
that since the dear old buried and night-walking schooldays she had said
once Matey to him, named him once to his face Matey Weyburn. A sigh like
the roll of a great wave breaking against a wall of rock came from her
for the possibly lost chance of naming him to his face Matey,--oh, and
seeing his look as she said it!

The boldness might be fancied: it could not be done. Agreeing with
the remote inner voice of her reason so far, she toned her exclamatory
foolishness to question, in Reason’s plain, deep, basso-profundo
accompaniment tone, how much the most blessed of mortal women could do
to be of acceptable service to a young schoolmaster?

There was no reply to the question. But it became a nestling centre for
the skiey flock of dreams, and for really temperate soundings of her
capacities, tending to the depreciatory. She could do little. She
entertained the wish to work, not only ‘for the sake of Somebody,’
as her favourite poet sang, but for the sake of working and
serving--proving that she was helpfuller than a Countess of Ormont,
ranged with all the other countesses in china and Dresden on a
drawing-room mantelpiece for show. She could organize, manage a
household, manage people too, she thought: manage a husband? The word
offends. Perhaps invigorate him, here and there perhaps inspire him,
if he would let her breathe. Husbands exist who refuse the right of
breathing to their puppet wives. Above all, as it struck her, she could
assist, and be more than an echo of one nobler, in breathing manliness,
high spirit, into boys. With that idea she grazed the shallows of
reality, and her dreams whirred from the nest and left it hungrily
empty.

Selina Collett was writing under the verandah letters to her people in
Suffolk, performing the task with marvellous ease. Aminta noted it as
a mark of superior ability, and she had the envy of the complex nature
observing the simple. It accused her of some guiltiness, uncommitted
and indefensible. She had pushed her anxiety about ‘the accident
at Chiallo’s’ to an extreme that made her the creature of her
sensibilities. In the midst of this quiet country life and landscape;
these motionless garden flowers headed by the smooth white river, and
her gentle little friend so homely here, the contemplation of herself
was like a shriek in music. Worse than discordant, she pronounced
herself inferior, unfit mentally as well as bodily for the dreams of
companionship with any noble soul who might have the dream of turning
her into something better. There are couples in the world, not coupled
by priestly circumstance, who are close to the true; union, by reason of
generosity on the one part, grateful devotion, as for the gift of life,
on the other. For instance, Mrs. Lawrence Finchley and Lord Adderwood,
which was an instance without resemblance; but Aminta’s heart beat thick
for what it wanted, and they were the instance of two that did not
have to snap false bonds of a marriage-tie in order to walk together
composedly outside it--in honour? Oh yes, yes! She insisted on believing
it was in honour.

She saw the couple issue from the boathouse. She had stepped into the
garden full of a presentiment; so she fancied, the moment they were
seen. She had, in fact, heard a noise in the boathouse while thinking
of them, and the effect on her was to spring an idea of mysterious
interventions at the sight.

Mrs. Lawrence rushed to her, and was embraced. ‘You ‘re not astonished
to see me? Adder drove me down, and stopped his coach at the inn, and
rowed me the half-mile up. We will lunch, if you propose; but presently.
My dear, I have to tell you things. You have heard?’

‘The accident?’

Aminta tried to read in Mrs. Lawrence’s eyes whether it closely
concerned her.

Those pretty eyes, their cut of lids hinting at delicate affinities
with the rice-paper lady of the court of China, were trying to peer
seriously.

‘Poor man! One must be sorry for him: he--’

‘Who?’

‘You ‘ve not heard, then?’ Mrs. Lawrence dropped her voice: ‘Morsfield.’

Aminta shivered. ‘All I have heard-half a line from my lord this
morning: no name. It was at the fencing-rooms, he said.’

‘Yes, he wouldn’t write more;’ said Mrs. Lawrence, nodding. ‘You know,
he would have had to do it himself if it had not been done for him.
Adder saw him some days back in a brown consultation near his club with
Captain May. Oh, but of course it was accident! Did he call it so in his
letter to you?’

‘One word of Mr. Morsfield: he is wounded?’

‘Past cure: he has the thing he cried for, spoilt boy as he was from his
birth. I tell you truth, m’ Aminta, I grieve to lose him. What with his
airs of the foreign-tinted, punctilious courtly gentleman covering a
survival of the ancient British forest boar or bear, he was a picture
in our modern set, and piquant. And he was devoted to our sex, we must
admit, after the style of the bears. They are for honey, and they have a
hug. If he hadn’t been so much of a madman, I should have liked him for
his courage. He had plenty of that, nothing to steer it. A second cousin
comes in for his estates.’

‘He is dead?’ Aminta cried.

‘Yes, dear, he is gone. What the women think of it I can’t say. The
general feeling among the men is that some one of them would have had to
send him sooner or later. The curious point, Adder says, is his letting
it be done by steel. He was a dead shot, dangerous with the small sword,
as your Mr. Weyburn said, only soon off his head. But I used to be
anxious about the earl’s meeting him with pistols. He did his best to
provoke it. Here, Adder,’--she spoke over her shoulder,--‘tell Lady
Ormont all you know of the Morsfield-May affair.’

Lord Adderwood bowed compliance. His coolness was the masculine of Mrs.
Lawrence’s hardly feminine in treating of a terrible matter, so that
the dull red facts had to be disengaged from his manner of speech before
they sank into Aminta’s acceptance; of them as credible.

‘They fought with foils, buttons off, preliminary ceremonies perfect;
salute in due order; guard, and at it.

Odd thing was, nobody at Chiallo’s had a notion of the business till
Morsfield was pinked. He wouldn’t be denied; went to work like a fellow
meaning to be skewered, if he couldn’t do the trick: and he tried it.
May had been practising some weeks. He’s well on the Continent by this
time. It’ll blow over. Button off sheer accident. I wasn’t lucky enough
to see the encounter: came in just when Chiallo was lashing his poll
over Morsfield flat on the ground. He had it up to the hilt. We put a
buttoned foil by the side of Morsfield, and all swore to secrecy. As
it is, it ‘ll go badly against poor Chiallo. Taste for fencing won’t be
much improved by the affair. They quarrelled in the dressing room, and
fetched the foils and knocked off the buttons there. A big rascal
toady squire of Morsfield’s did it for him. Morsfield was just up from
Yorkshire. He said he was expecting a summons elsewhere, bound to
await it, declined provocation for the present. May filliped him on the
cheek.’

‘Adder conveyed the information of her husband’s flight to the
consolable Amy,’ said Mrs. Lawrence.

‘He had to catch the coach for Dover,’ Adderwood explained. ‘His wife
was at a dinner-party. I saw her at midnight.’

‘Fair Amy was not so very greatly surprised?’

‘Quite the soldier’s wife!’

‘She said she was used to these little catastrophes. But, Adder, what
did she say of her husband?’

‘Said she was never anxious about him, for nothing would kill him.’

Mrs. Lawrence shook a doleful head at Aminta.

‘You see, my dear Aminta, here’s another, and probably her last, chance
of sharing the marquisate gone. Who can fail to pity her, except old
Time! And I ‘m sure she likes her husband well enough. She ought: no
woman ever had such a servant. But the captain has not been known to
fight without her sanction, and the inference is--‘Alas! woe! Fair Amy
is doomed to be the fighting captain’s bride to the end of the chapter.
Adder says she looked handsome. A dinner-party suits her cosmetic
complexion better than a ball. The account of the inquest is in the
day’s papers, and we were tolerably rejoiced we could drive out of
London without having to reply to coroner’s questions.’

‘He died-soon?’ Aminta’s voice was shaken.

Mrs. Lawrence touched at her breast, it might be for heart or lungs.
Judging by Aminta’s voice and face, one could suppose she was harking
back, in woman’s way, to her original sentiment for the man, now that he
lay prostrate.

Aminta read the unreproachful irony in the smile addressed to her. She
was too convulsed by her many emotions and shouting thoughts to think of
defending herself.

Selina, in the drawing-room, diligently fingered and classed brown-black
pressed weeds of her neophyte’s botany-folios. The sight of her and her
occupation struck Aminta as that of a person in another world beyond
this world of blood, strangely substantial to view; and one heard her
speak.

Guilty?--no. But she had wished to pique her lord. After the term of a
length of months, could it be that the unhappy man and she were punished
for the half-minute’s acting of some interest in him? And Lord Ormont
had been seen consulting Captain May; or was it giving him directions?

Her head burned. All the barren interrogations were up, running and
knocking for hollow responses; and, saving a paleness of face, she
cloaked any small show of the riot. She was an amiable hostess. She had
ceased to comprehend Mrs. Lawrence, even to the degree of thinking her
unfeminine. She should have known that the ‘angelical chimpanzee,’ as
a friend, once told of his being a favourite with the lady, had called
her, could not simulate a feeling, and had not the slightest power of
pretence to compassion for an ill-fated person who failed to quicken her
enthusiasm. In that, too, she was a downright boy. Morsfield was a
kind of Bedlamite to her; amusing in his antics, and requiring to be
manoeuvred and eluded while he lived: once dead, just a tombstone, of
interest only to his family.

She beckoned Aminta to follow her; and, with a smirk of indulgent fun,
commended Lord Adderwood to a study of Selina Collett’s botany-folios,
which the urbanest of indifferent gentlemen had slid his eyes over his
nose to inspect before the lunch.

‘You ought to know what is going on in town, my dear Aminta. You have
won the earl to a sense of his duty, and he ‘s at work on the harder
task of winning Lady Charlotte Eglett to a sense of hers. It ‘s
tremendous. Has been forward some days, and no sign of yielding on
either side. Mr. Eglett, good man, is between them, catching it right
and left; and he deserves his luck for marrying her. Vows she makes him
the best of wives. If he ‘s content, I ‘ve nothing to complain of. You
must be ready to receive her; my lord is sure to carry the day.
You gulp. You won’t be seeing much of her. I ‘m glad to say he is
condescending to terms of peace with the Horse Guards. We hear so. You
may be throning it officially somewhere next year. And all ‘s well that
ends well! Say that to me!’

‘It is, when the end comes,’ Aminta replied.

Mrs. Lawrence’s cool lips were pressed to her cheek. The couple
and their waterman rowed away to the party they had left with the
four-in-hand at their inn.

A wind was rising. The trees gave their swish of leaves, the river
darkened the patch of wrinkles, the bordering flags amid the reed-blades
dipped and streamed.

Surcharged with unassimilated news of events, that made a thunder in her
head, Aminta walked down the garden path, meeting Selina and bearing
her on. She had a witch’s will to rouse gales. Hers was not the woman’s
nature to be driven cowering by stories of men’s bloody deeds. She took
the field, revolted, dissevering herself from the class which tolerated
them--actuated by a reflective moralty, she believed; and loathed
herself for having aspired, schemed, to be a member of the class. But
it was not the class, it was against her lord as representative of the
class, that she was now the rebel, neither naming him nor imaging
him. Her enveloping mind was black on him. Such as one of those hard
slaughtering men could call her his own? She breathed short and breathed
deep. Her bitter reason had but the common pity for a madman despatched
to his rest. Yet she knew hatred of her lord in his being suspected as
instigator or accomplice of the hand that dealt the blow. He became to
her thought a python whose coils were about her person, insufferable to
the gaze backward.

Moments like these are the mothers in travail of a resolve joylessly
conceived, undesired to clasp, Necessity’s offspring. Thunderclouds have
as little love of the lightnings they fling.

Aminta was aware only of her torment. The trees were bending, the water
hissing, the grasses all this way and that, like hands of a delirious
people in surges of wreck. She scorned the meaningless shake of the
garments of earth, and exclaimed: ‘If we were by the sea to-night!’

‘I shall be to-morrow night,’ said Selina. ‘I shall think of you. Oh!
would you come with me?’

‘Would you have me?’

‘My mother will indeed be honoured by your consenting to come.’

‘Write to her before the post is out.’

‘We shall travel down together?’

Aminta nodded and smiled, and Selina kissed her hand in joy, saying,
that down home she would not be so shy of calling her Aminta. She was
bidden to haste.



CHAPTER XXVI. VISITS OF FAREWELL

The noise in London over Adolphus Morsfield’s tragical end disturbed
Lord Ormont much less than the cessation of letters from his Aminta;
and that likewise, considering his present business on her behalf, he
patiently shrugged at and pardoned, foreseeing her penitent air.
He could do it lightly after going some way to pardon his offending
country. For Aminta had not offended, his robust observation of her was
moved to the kindly humorous by a reflective view here and there of the
downright woman her clever little shuffles exposed her to be, not worse.
It was her sex that made her one of the gliders in grasses, some of
whom are venomous; but she belonged to the order only as an innocuous
blindworm. He could pronounce her small by-play with Morsfield innocent,
her efforts to climb the stairs into Society quite innocent; judging
her, of course, by her title of woman. A woman’s innocence has a rainbow
skin. Set this one beside other women, she comes out well, fairly well,
well enough.

Now that the engagement with Charlotte assumed proportions of a
series of battle, properly to be entitled a campaign, he had, in his
loneliness, fallen into the habit of reflecting at the close of his
day’s work; and the rubbing of that unused opaque mirror hanging
inside a man of action had helped him piecemeal to perceive bits of
his conduct, entirely approved by him, which were intimately connected,
nevertheless, with a train of circumstances that he disliked and could
not charge justly upon any other shoulders than his own. What was to
be thought of it? He would not be undergoing this botheration of the
prolonged attempt to bring a stubborn woman to a sense of her duty, if
he had declared his marriage in the ordinary style, and given his young
countess her legitimate place before the world. What impeded it? The
shameful ingratitude of his countrymen to the soldier who did it eminent
service at a crisis of the destinies of our Indian Empire! He could not
condone the injury done to him by entering among them again. Too like
the kicked cur, that! He retired--call it ‘sulked in his tent,’ if
you like. His wife had to share his fortunes. He being slighted, she
necessarily was shadowed. For a while she bore it contentedly enough;
then began her mousy scratches to get into the room off the wainscot,
without blame from him; she behaved according to her female nature.

Yes, but the battles with Charlotte forced on his recognition once
more, and violently, the singular consequences of his retirement and
Coriolanus quarrel with his countrymen. He had doomed himself ever since
to a contest with women. First it was his Queen of Amazons, who, if
vanquished, was not so easily vanquished, and, in fact, doubtfully,--for
now, to propitiate her, he had challenged, and must overcome or be
disgraced, the toughest Amazonian warrior man could stand against at
cast of dart or lock of arms. No day scored an advantage; and she did
not apparently suffer fatigue. He did: that is to say, he was worried
and hurried to have the wrangle settled and Charlotte at Aminta’s feet.
He gained not an inch of ground. His principle in a contention of the
sort was to leave the woman to the practice of her obvious artifices,
and himself simply hammer, incessantly hammer. But Charlotte hammered
as well. The modest position of the defensive negative was not to
her taste. The moment he presented himself she flew out upon some
yesterday’s part of the argument and carried the war across the borders,
in attacks on his character and qualities--his weakness regarding women,
his incapacity to forgive, and the rest. She hammered on that head. As
for any prospect of a termination of the strife, he could see none in
her joyful welcome to him and regretful parting and pleased appointment
of the next meeting day after day.

The absurdest of her devices for winding him off his aim was to harp on
some new word she had got hold of as, for example, to point out to him
his aptitudes, compliment him on his aptitudes, recommend him to study
and learn the limitations of his aptitudes! She revelled in something
the word unfolded to her.

However, here was the point: she had to be beaten. So, if she, too,
persisted in hammering, he must employ her female weapon of artifice
with her. One would gladly avoid the stooping to it in a civil dispute,
in which one is not so gloriously absolved for lying and entrapping as
in splendid war.

Weyburn’s name was announced to him at an early hour on Thursday
morning. My lord nodded to the footman; he nodded to himself over a
suggestion started in a tactical intelligence by the name.

‘Ah! you ‘re off?’ he accosted the young man.

‘I have come to take my leave, my lord.’

‘Nothing new in the morning papers?’

‘A report that Captain May intends to return and surrender.’

‘Not before a month has passed, if he follows my counsel.’

‘To defend his character.’

‘He has none.’

‘His reputation.’

‘He has too much.’

‘These charges against him must be intolerable.’

‘Was he not a bit of a pupil of yours?’

‘We practised two or three times-nothing more.’

‘Morsfield was a wasp at a feast. Somebody had to crush him. I ‘ve seen
the kind of man twice in my life and exactly the kind of man. If their
law puts down duelling, he rules the kingdom!’

‘My lord, I should venture to say the kind of man can be a common
annoyance because the breach of the law is countenanced.’

‘Bad laws are best broken. A society that can’t get a scouring now and
then will be a dirty set.’

With a bend of the head, in apology for speaking of himself, Weyburn
said: ‘I have acted on my view. I declined a challenge from a sort of
henchman of his.’

‘Oh! a poacher’s lurcher? You did right. Fight such fellows with
constables. You have seen Lady Charlotte?’

‘I am on my way to her ladyship.’

‘Do me this favour. Fourteen doors up the street of her residence, my
physician lives. I have to consult him at once. Dr. Rewkes.’

Weyburn bowed. Lady Charlotte could not receive him later than half-past
ten of the morning, he said. ‘This morning she can,’ said my lord. ‘You
will tell Dr. Rewkes that it is immediate. I rather regret your going.
I shall be in a controversy with the Horse Guards about our cavalry
saddles. It would be regiments of raw backs the first fortnight of a
campaign.’

The earl discoursed on saddles; and passed to high eulogy of our
Hanoverian auxiliary troopers in the Peninsula; ‘good husbands,’ he
named them quaintly, speaking of their management of their beasts.
Thence he diverged to Frederic’s cavalry, rarely matched for shrewdness
and endurance; to the deeds of the Liechtenstein Hussars; to the great
things Blucher did with his horsemen.

The subject was interesting; but Weyburn saw the clock at past the half
after ten. He gave a slight sign of restiveness, and was allowed to go
when the earl had finished his pro and con upon Arab horses and Mameluke
saddles. Lord Ormont nicked his head, just as at their first interview:
he was known to have an objection to the English shaking of hands.
‘Good-morning,’ he said; adding a remark or two, of which et cetera
may stand for an explicit rendering. It concerned the young man’s
prosperity: my lord’s conservative plain sense was in doubt of the
prospering of a giddy pate, however good a worker. His last look at
the young man, who had not served him badly, held an anticipation
of possibly some day seeing a tatterdemalion of shipwreck, a rueful
exhibition of ideas put to the business of life.

Weyburn left the message with Dr. Rewkes in person. It had not seemed
to him that Lord Ormont was one requiring the immediate attendance of
a physician. By way of accounting to Lady Charlotte for the lateness of
his call, he mentioned the summons he had delivered.

‘Oh, that’s why he hasn’t come yet,’ said she. ‘We’ll sit and talk till
he does come. I don’t wonder if his bile has been stirred. He can’t oil
me to credit what he pumps into others. His Lady Ormont! I believe in it
less than ever I did. Morsfield or no Morsfield--and now the poor
wretch has got himself pinned to the plank, like my grandson Bobby’s
dragonflies, I don’t want to say anything further of him--she doesn’t
have much of a welcome at Steignton! If I were a woman to wager as men
do, I ‘d stake a thousand pounds to five on her never stepping across
the threshold of Steignton. All very well in London, and that place he
hires up at Marlow. He respects our home. That ‘s how I know my brother
Rowsley still keeps a sane man. A fortune on it!--and so says Mr.
Eglett. Any reasonable person must think it. He made a fool of some
Hampton-Evey at Madrid, if he went through any ceremony--and that I
doubt. But she and old (what do they call her?) may have insisted upon
the title, as much as they could. He sixty; she under twenty, I’m told.
Pagnell ‘s the name. That aunt of a good-looking young woman sees a
noble man of sixty admiring her five feet seven or so--she’s tall--of
marketable merchandise, and she doesn’t need telling that at sixty he’ll
give the world to possess the girl. But not his family honour! He stops
at that. Why? Lord Ormont ‘s made of pride! He’ll be kind to her, he’ll
be generous, he won’t forsake her; she’ll have her portion in his will,
and by the course of things in nature, she’ll outlive him and marry, and
be happy, I hope. Only she won’t enter Steignton. You remember what I
say. You ‘ll live when I ‘m gone. It ‘s the thirst of her life to be
mistress of Steignton. Not she!--though Lord Ormont would have us all
open our doors to her; mine too, now he ‘s about it. He sets his mind on
his plan, and he forgets rights and dues--everything; he must have it as
his will dictates. That ‘s how he made such a capital soldier. You know
the cavalry leader he was. If they’d given him a field in Europe! His
enemies admit that. Twelve! and my clock’s five minutes or more slow.
What can Rowsley be doing?’

She rattled backward on the scene at Steignton, and her brother’s
handsome preservation of his dignity ‘stood it like the king he is!’ and
to the Morsfield-May encounter, which had prevented another; and Mrs.
May was rolled along in the tide, with a hint of her good reason for
liking Lord Ormont; also the change of opinion shown by the Press as to
Lord Ormont’s grand exploit. Referring to it, she flushed and jigged on
her chair for a saddle beneath her. And that glorious Indian adventure
warmed her to the man who had celebrated it among his comrades when a
boy at school.

‘You ‘re to teach Latin and Greek, you said. For you ‘re right: we
English can’t understand the words we ‘re speaking, if we don’t know a
good deal of Latin and some Greek. “Conversing in tokens, not standard
coin,” you said, I remember; and there’ll be a “general rabble tongue,”
 unless we English are drilled in the languages we filched from. Lots of
lords and ladies want the drilling, then! I’ll send some over to you
for Swiss air and roots of the English tongue. Oh, and you told me you
supported Lord Ormont on his pet argument for corps d’elite; and you
quoted Virgil to back it. Let me have that line again--in case of his
condescending to write to the papers on the subject.’

Weyburn repeated the half-line.

‘Good: I won’t forget now. And you said the French act on that because
they follow human nature, and the English don’t. We “bully it,” you
said. That was on our drive down to Steignton. I hope you ‘ll succeed.
You ‘ll be visiting England. Call on me in London or at Olmer--only mind
and give me warning. I shall be glad to see you. I ‘ve got some ideas
from you. If I meet a man who helps me to read the world and men as they
are, I ‘m grateful to him; and most people are not, you ‘ll find. They
want you to show them what they ‘d like the world to be. We don’t agree
about a lady. You ‘re in the lists, lance in rest, all for chivalry. You
‘re a man, and a young man. Have you taken your leave of her yet? She’ll
expect it, as a proper compliment.’

‘I propose running down to take my leave of Lady Ormont to-morrow,’
replied Weyburn.

‘She is handsome?’

She is very handsome.’

‘Beautiful, do you mean?’

‘Oh, my lady, it would only be a man’s notion!’

‘Now, that ‘s as good an answer as could be made! You ‘re sure to
succeed. I ‘m not the woman’s enemy. But let her keep her place. Why,
Rowsley can’t be coming to-day! Did Lord Ormont look ill?’

‘It did not strike me so.’

‘He ‘s between two fires. A man gets fretted. But I shan’t move a step.
I dare say she won’t. Especially with that Morsfield out of the way. You
do mean you think her a beauty. Well, then, there’ll soon be a successor
to Morsfield. Beauties will have their weapons, and they can hit on
plenty; and it ‘s nothing to me, as long as I save my brother from their
arts.’

Weyburn felt he had done his penance in return for kindness. He bowed
and rose, Lady Charlotte stretched out her hand.

‘We shall be sending you a pupil some day,’ she said, and smiled.

‘Forward your address as soon as you ‘re settled.’ Her face gave a
glimpse of its youth in a cordial farewell smile.

Lord Ormont had no capacity to do the like, although they were strictly
brother and sister in appearance. The smallest difference in character
rendered her complex and kept him simple. She had a thirsting mind.

Weyburn fancied that a close intimacy of a few months would have enabled
him to lift her out of her smirching and depraving mean jealousies. He
speculated, as he trod the street, on little plots and surprises, which
would bring Lady Charlotte and Lady Ormont into presence, and end by
making friends of them. Supposing that could be done, Lady Ormont might
be righted by the intervention of Lady Charlotte after all.

Weyburn sent his dream flying with as dreamy an after-thought: ‘Funny
it will be then for Lady Charlotte to revert to the stuff she has been
droning in my ear half an hour ago!--Look well behind, and we see spots
where we buzzed, lowed, bit and tore; and not until we have cast that
look and seen the brute are we human creatures.’

A crumb of reflection such as this could brace him, adding its modest
maravedi to his prized storehouse of gain, fortifying with assurances of
his having a concrete basis for his business in life. His great youthful
ambition had descended to it, but had sunk to climb on a firmer footing.

Arthur Abner had his next adieu. They talked of Lady Ormont, as to whose
position of rightful Countess of Ormont Mr. Abner had no doubt. He said
of Lady Charlotte: ‘She has a clear head; but she loves her “brother
Rowsley” excessively; and any excess pushes to craziness.’

He spoke to Weyburn of his prospects in the usually, perhaps
necessarily, cheerless tone of men who recognize by contrast the one
mouse’s nibbling at a mountain of evil. ‘To harmonize the nationalities,
my dear boy! teach Christians to look fraternally on Jews! David was a
harper, but the setting of him down to roll off a fugue on one of
your cathedral organs would not impose a heavier task than you are
undertaking. You have my best wishes, whatever aid I can supply. But we
‘re nearer to King John’s time than to your ideal, as far as the Jews
go.’

‘Not in England.’

‘Less in England,’ Abner shrugged.

‘You have beaten the Christians on the field they challenged you to
enter for a try. They feel the pinch in their interests and their
vanity. That will pass. I ‘m for the two sides, under the name of
Justice; and I give the palm to whichever of the two first gets hold of
the idea of Justice. My old schoolmate’s well?’

‘Always asking after Matey Weyburn!’

‘He shall have my address in Switzerland. You and I will be
corresponding.’

Now rose to view the visit to the lady who was Lady Ormont on the
tongue, Aminta at heart; never to be named Aminta even to himself. His
heart broke loose at a thought of it.

He might say Browny. For that was not serious with the intense
present signification the name Aminta had. Browny was queen of the old
school-time-enclosed it in her name; and that sphere enclosed her, not
excluding him. And the dear name of Browny played gently, humorously,
fervently, too, with life: not, pathetically, as that of Aminta did
when came a whisper of her situation, her isolation, her friendlessness;
hardly dissimilar to what could be imagined of a gazelle in the streets
of London city. The Morsfields were not all slain. The Weyburns would be
absent.

At the gate of his cottage garden Weyburn beheld a short unfamiliar
figure of a man with dimly remembered features. Little Collett he
still was in height. The schoolmates had not met since the old days of
Cuper’s.

Little Collett delivered a message of invitation from Selina, begging
Mr. Weyburn to accompany her brother on the coach to Harwich next day,
and spend two or three days by the sea. But Weyburn’s mind had been set
in the opposite direction--up Thames instead of down.

He was about to refuse, but he checked his voice and hummed. Words of
Selina’s letter jumped in italics. He perceived Lady Ormont’s hand.
For one thing, would she be at Great Marlow alone? And he knew that
hand--how deftly it moved and moved others. Selina Collett would not
have invited him with underlinings merely to see a shoreside house and
garden. Her silence regarding a particular name showed her to be under
injunction, one might guess. At worst, it would be the loss of a couple
of days; worth the venture. They agreed to journey by coach next day.

Facing eastward in the morning, on a seat behind the coachman, Weyburn
had a seafaring man beside him, bound for the good port of Harwich,
where his family lived, and thence by his own boat to Flushing. Weyburn
set him talking of himself, as the best way of making him happy; for it
is the theme which pricks to speech, and so liberates an uncomfortably
locked-up stranger; who, if sympathetic to human proximity, is thankful.
They exchanged names, delighted to find they were both Matthews;
whereupon Matthew of the sea demanded the paw of Matthew of the land,
and there was a squeeze. The same with little Collett, after hearing of
him as the old schoolmate of the established new friend. Then there was
talk. Little Collett named Felixstowe as the village of his mother’s
house and garden sloping to the sands. ‘That ‘s it-you have it,’ said
the salted Matthew: ‘peace is in that spot, and there I ‘ve sworn to
pitch my tent when I ‘m incapacitated for further exercise--profitable,
so to speak. My eldest girl has a bar of amber she picked up one wash of
the tide at Felixstowe, and there it had been lying sparkling, unseen,
hours, the shore is that solitary. What I like!--a quiet shore and a
peopled sea. Ever been to Brighton? There it ‘s t’ other way.’

Not long after he had mentioned the time of early evening for their
entry into his port of Harwich, the coach turned quietly over on a
bank of the roadside, depositing outside passengers quite safely, in
so matter-of-course a way, that only the screams of an uninjured lady
inside repressed their roars of laughter. One of the wheels had come
loose, half a mile off the nearest town. Their entry into Harwich was
thereby delayed until half-past nine at night. Full of consideration for
the new mates now fast wedded to his heart by an accident. Matthew Shale
proposed to Matthew Weyburn, instead of the bother of crossing the ferry
with a portmanteau and a bag at that late hour, to sup at his house, try
the neighbouring inn for a short sleep, and ship on board his yawl, the
honest Susan, to be rowed ashore off the Swin to Felixstowe sands no
later than six o’clock of a summer’s morning, in time for a bath and
a swim before breakfast. It sounded well--it sounded sweetly. Weyburn
suggested the counter proposal of supper for the three at the inn. But
the other Matthew said: ‘I married a cook. She expects a big appetite,
and she always keeps warm when I ‘m held away, no matter how late. Sure
to be enough.’

Beds were secured at the inn; after which came the introduction to
Mrs. Shale, the exhibition of Susan Shale’s bar of amber, the dish of
fresh-fried whiting, the steak pudding, a grog, tobacco, rest at the
inn, and a rousing bang at the sleepers’ doors when the unwonted supper
in them withheld an answer to the intimating knock. Young Matthew Shale,
who had slept on board the Susan, conducted them to her boat. His glance
was much drawn to the very white duck trousers Weyburn had put on, for a
souvenir of the approbation they had won at Marlow. They were on, and so
it was of no use for young Matthew to say they were likely to bear away
a token from the Susan. She was one among the damsels of colour, and
free of her tokens, especially to the spotless.

How it occurred, nobody saw; though everybody saw how naturally it must
occur for the white ducks to ‘have it in the eye’ by the time they had
been on board a quarter of an hour. Weyburn got some fun out of
them, for a counterbalance to a twitch of sentimental regret scarcely
decipherable, as that the last view of him should bear a likeness of
Browny’s recollection of her first.

A glorious morning of flushed open sky and sun on sea chased all small
thoughts out of it. The breeze was from the west, and the Susan, lightly
laden, took the heave of smooth rollers with a flowing current-curtsey
in the motion of her speed. Fore-sail and aft were at their gentle
strain; her shadow rippled fragmentarily along to the silver rivulet and
boat of her wake. Straight she flew to the ball of fire now at spring
above the waters, and raining red gold on the line of her bows. By
comparison she was an ugly yawl, and as the creature of wind and wave
beautiful.

They passed an English defensive fort, and spared its walls, in
obedience to Matthew Shale’s good counsel that they should forbear
from sneezing. Little Collett pointed to the roof of his mother’s house
twenty paces rearward of a belt of tamarisks, green amid the hollowed
yellows of shorebanks yet in shade, crumbling to the sands. Weyburn was
attracted by a diminutive white tent, of sentry-box shape, evidently a
bather’s, quite as evidently a fair bather’s. He would have to walk on
some way for his dip. He remarked to little Collett that ladies going
into the water half-dressed never have more than half a bath. His arms
and legs flung out contempt of that style of bathing, exactly in old
Matey’s well-remembered way. Half a mile off shore, the Susan was
put about to flap her sails, and her boat rocked with the passengers.
Turning from a final cheer to friendly Matthew, Weyburn at the rudder
espied one of those unenfranchised ladies in marine uniform issuing
through the tent-slit. She stepped firmly, as into her element. A plain
look at her, and a curious look, and an intent look fixed her fast, and
ran the shock on his heart before he knew of a guess. She waded, she
dipped; a head across the breast of the waters was observed: this one
of them could swim. She was making for sea, a stone’s throw off the
direction of the boat. Before his wits had grasped the certainty
possessing them, fiery envy and desire to be alongside her set his
fingers fretting at buttons. A grand smooth swell of the waters lifted
her, and her head rose to see her world. She sank down the valley,
where another wave was mounding for its onward roll: a gentle scene of
Weyburn’s favourite Sophoclean chorus. Now she was given to him--it
was she. How could it ever have been any other! He handed his watch to
little Collett, and gave him the ropes, pitched coat and waistcoat on
his knees, stood free of boots and socks, and singing out, truly enough,
the words of a popular cry, ‘White ducks want washing,’ went over and
in.



CHAPTER XXVII. A MARINE DUET

She soon had to know she was chased. She had seen the dive from the
boat, and received all illumination. With a chuckle of delighted
surprise, like a blackbird startled, she pushed seaward for joy of the
effort, thinking she could exult in imagination of an escape up to the
moment of capture, yielding then only to his greater will; and she meant
to try it.

The swim was a holiday; all was new--nothing came to her as the same
old thing since she took her plunge; she had a sea-mind--had left her
earth-mind ashore. The swim, and Matey Weyburn pursuing her passed up,
out of happiness, through the spheres of delirium, into the region
where our life is as we would have it be a home holding the quiet of the
heavens, if but midway thither, and a home of delicious animation of the
whole frame, equal to wings.

He drew on her, but he was distant, and she waved an arm. The shout of
her glee sprang from her: ‘Matey!’ He waved; she heard his voice. Was it
her name? He was not so drunken of the sea as she: he had not leapt out
of bondage into buoyant waters, into a youth without a blot, without an
aim, satisfied in tasting; the dream of the long felicity.

A thought brushed by her: How if he were absent? It relaxed her stroke
of arms and legs. He had doubled the salt sea’s rapture, and he had
shackled its gift of freedom. She turned to float, gathering her knees
for the funny sullen kick, until she heard him near. At once her stroke
was renewed vigorously; she had the foot of her pursuer, and she called,
‘Adieu, Matey Weyburn!’

Her bravado deserved a swifter humiliation than he was able to bring
down on her: she swam bravely, and she was divine to see ahead as well
as overtake.

Darting to the close parallel, he said: ‘What sea nymph sang me my
name?’

She smote a pang of her ecstasy into him: ‘Ask mine!’

‘Browny!’

They swam; neither of them panted; their heads were water-flowers that
spoke at ease.

‘We ‘ve run from school; we won’t go back.’

‘We ‘ve a kingdom.’

‘Here’s a big wave going to be a wall.’

‘Off he rolls.’

‘He’s like the High Brent broad meadow under Elling Wood.’

‘Don’t let Miss Vincent hear you.’

‘They ‘re not waves; they ‘re sighs of the deep.’

‘A poet I swim with! He fell into the deep in his first of May morning
ducks. We used to expect him.’

‘I never expected to owe them so much.’

Pride of the swimmer and the energy of her joy embraced Aminta, that she
might nerve all her powers to gain the half-minute for speaking at her
ease.

‘Who ‘d have thought of a morning like this? You were looked for last
night.’

‘A lucky accident to our coach. I made friends with the skipper of the
yawl.’

‘I saw the boat. Who could have dreamed--? Anything may happen now.’

For nothing further would astonish her, as he rightly understood her;
but he said: ‘You ‘re prepared for the rites? Old Triton is ready.’

‘Float, and tell me.’

They spun about to lie on their backs. Her right hand, at piano-work of
the octave-shake, was touched and taken, and she did not pull it away.
Her eyelids fell.

‘Old Triton waits.’

‘Why?’

‘We ‘re going to him.’

‘Yes?’

‘Customs of the sea.’

‘Tell me.’

‘He joins hands. We say, “Browny-Matey,” and it ‘s done.’

She splashed, crying ‘Swim,’ and after two strokes, ‘You want to beat
me, Matey Weyburn.’

‘How?’

‘Not fair!’

‘Say what.’

‘Take my breath. But, yes! we’ll be happy in our own way. We ‘re
sea-birds. We ‘ve said adieu to land. Not to one another. We shall be
friends?’

‘Always.’

‘This is going to last?’

‘Ever so long.’

They had a spell of steady swimming, companionship to inspirit it.
Browny was allowed place a little foremost, and she guessed not
wherefore, in her flattered emulation.

‘I ‘m bound for France.’

‘Slew a point to the right: South-east by South. We shall hit
Dunkerque.’

‘I don’t mean to be picked up by boats.’

‘We’ll decline.’

‘You see I can swim.’

‘I was sure of it.’

They stopped their talk--for the pleasure of the body to be savoured
in the mind, they thought; and so took Nature’s counsel to rest their
voices awhile.

Considering that she had not been used of late to long immersions, and
had not broken her fast, and had talked much, for a sea-nymph, Weyburn
spied behind him on a shore seeming flat down, far removed.

‘France next time,’ he said: ‘we’ll face to the rear.’

‘Now?’ said she, big with blissful conceit of her powers and incredulous
of such a command from him.

‘You may be feeling tired presently.’

The musical sincerity of her ‘Oh no, not I!’ sped through his limbs; he
had a willingness to go onward still some way.

But his words fastened the heavy land on her spirit, knocked at the
habit of obedience. Her stroke of the arms paused. She inclined to his
example, and he set it shoreward.

They swam silently, high, low, creatures of the smooth green roller. He
heard the water-song of her swimming. She, though breathing equably at
the nostrils, lay deep. The water shocked at her chin, and curled round
the under lip. He had a faint anxiety; and, not so sensible of a weight
in the sight of land as she was, he chattered, by snatches, rallied her,
encouraged her to continue sportive for this once, letting her feel it
was but a once and had its respected limit with him. So it was not out
of the world.

Ah, friend Matey! And that was right and good on land; but rightness and
goodness flung earth’s shadow across her brilliancy here, and any stress
on ‘this once’ withdrew her liberty to revel in it, putting an end to
perfect holiday; and silence, too, might hint at fatigue. She began to
think her muteness lost her the bloom of the enchantment, robbing her of
her heavenly frolic lead, since friend Matey resolved to be as eminently
good in salt water as on land. Was he unaware that they were boy and
girl again?--she washed pure of the intervening years, new born, by
blessing of the sea; worthy of him here!--that is, a swimmer worthy of
him, his comrade in salt water.

‘You’re satisfied I swim well?’ she said.

‘It would go hard with me if we raced a long race.’

‘I really was out for France.’

‘I was ordered to keep you for England.’ She gave him Browny’s eyes.

‘We’ve turned our backs on Triton.’

‘The ceremony was performed.’

‘When?’

‘The minute I spoke of it and you splashed.’

‘Matey! Matey Weyburn!’

‘Browny Farrell!’

‘Oh, Matey! she’s gone!’

‘She’s here.’

‘Try to beguile me, then, that our holiday’s not over. You won’t forget
this hour?’

‘No time of mine on earth will live so brightly for me.’

‘I have never had one like it. I could go under and be happy; go to old
Triton, and wait for you; teach him to speak your proper Christian
name. He hasn’t heard it yet,--heard “Matey,”--never yet has been taught
“Matthew.”’

‘Aminta!’

‘Oh, my friend! my dear!’ she cried, in the voice of the wounded, like
a welling of her blood: ‘my strength will leave me. I may play--not you:
you play with a weak vessel. Swim, and be quiet. How far do you count
it?’

‘Under a quarter of a mile.’

‘Don’t imagine me tired.’

‘If you are, hold on to me.’

‘Matey, I’m for a dive.’

He went after the ball of silver and bubbles, and they came up together.
There is no history of events below the surface.

She shook off her briny blindness, and settled to the full sweep of the
arms, quite silent now. Some emotion, or exhaustion from the strain of
the swimmer’s breath in speech, stopped her playfulness. The pleasure
she still knew was a recollection of the outward swim, when she had been
privileged to cast away sex with the push from earth, as few men will
believe that women, beautiful women, ever wish to do; and often and
ardently during the run ahead they yearn for Nature to grant them their
one short holiday truce.

But Aminta forgave him for bringing earth so close to her when there
was yet a space of salt water between her and shore; and she smiled at
times, that he might not think she was looking grave.



CHAPTER XXVIII. THE PLIGHTING

They touched sand at the first draw of the ebb, and this being
earth, Matey addressed himself to the guardian and absolving genii of
matter-of-fact, by saying; ‘Did you inquire about the tides?’

Her head shook, stunned with what had passed. She waded to shore, after
motioning for him to swim on. Men, in comparison beside their fair
fellows, are so little sensationally complex, that his one feeling now,
as to what had passed, was relief at the idea of his presence having
been a warrantable protectorship.

Aminta’s return from the sea-nymph to the state of woman crossed
annihiliation on the way back to sentience, and picked up meaningless
pebbles and shells of life, between the sea’s verge and her tent’s
shelter; hardly her own life to her understanding yet, except for the
hammer Memory became, to strike her insensible, at here and there a
recollected word or nakedness of her soul.

He swam along by the shore to where the boat was paddled, spying at her
bare feet on the sand, her woman’s form. He waved, and the figure in
the striped tunic and trousers waved her response, apparently the same
person he had quitted.

Dry and clad, and decently formal under the transformation, they met at
Mrs. Collett’s breakfast-table, and in each hung the doubt whether land
was the dream or sea. Both owned to a swim; both omitted mention of
the tale of white ducks. Little Collett had brought Matey’s and his
portmanteau into the house, by favour of the cook, through the scullery.
He, who could have been a pictorial and suggestive narrator, carried a
spinning head off his shoulders from this wonderful Countess of Ormont
to Matey Weyburn’s dark-eyed Browny at High Brent, and the Sunday walk
in Sir Peter Wensell’s park. Away and back his head went. Browny was not
to be thought of as Browny; she was this grand Countess of Ormont; she
had married Matey Weyburn’s hero: she would never admit she had been
Browny. Only she was handsome then, and she is handsome now; and she
looks on Matey Weyburn now just as she did then. How strange is the
world! Or how if we are the particular person destined to encounter the
strange things of the world? And fancy J. Masner, and Pinnett major,
and young Oakes (liked nothing better than a pretty girl, he strutted
boasting at thirteen), and the Frenchy, and the lot, all popping down at
the table, and asked the name of the lady sitting like Queen Esther--how
they would roar out! Boys, of course--but men, too!--very few men have
a notion of the extraordinary complications and coincidences and
cracker-surprises life contains. Here ‘s an instance; Matey Weyburn
positively will wear white ducks to play before Aminta Farrell on the
first of May cricketing-day. He happens to have his white ducks on when
he sees the Countess of Ormont swimming in the sea; and so he can go in
just as if they were all-right bathing-drawers. In he goes, has a good
long swim with her, and when he comes out, says, of his dripping ducks,
‘tabula votiva... avida vestimenta,’ to remind an old schoolmate of his
hopping to the booth at the end of a showery May day, and dedicating
them to the laundry in these words. It seems marvellous. It was a quaint
revival, an hour after breakfast, for little Collett to be acting
as intermediary with Selina to request Lady Ormont’s grant of a
five-minutes’ interview before the church-bell summoned her. She was
writing letters, and sent the message: ‘Tell Mr. Weyburn I obey.’ Selina
delivered it, uttering ‘obey’ in a demurely comical way, as a word of
which the humour might be comprehensible to him.

Aminta stood at the drawing-room window. She was asking herself whether
her recent conduct shrieked coquette to him, or any of the abominable
titles showered on the women who take free breath of air one day after
long imprisonment.

She said: ‘Does it mean you are leaving us?’ the moment he was near.

‘Not till evening or to-morrow, as it may happen,’ he answered: ‘I have
one or two things to say, if you will spare the time.’

‘All my time,’ said she, smiling to make less of the heart’s reply; and
he stepped into the room.

They had not long back been Matey and Browny, and though that was in
another element, it would not sanction the Lady Ormont and Mr. Weyburn
now. As little could it be Aminta and Matthew. Brother and sister they
were in the spirit’s world, but in this world the titles had a sound of
imposture. And with a great longing to call her by some allying name, he
rejected ‘friend’ for its insufficiency and commonness, notwithstanding
the entirely friendly nature of the burden to be spoken. Friend, was
a title that ran on quicksands: an excuse that tried for an excuse. He
distinguished in himself simultaneously, that the hesitation and beating
about for a name had its origin in an imperfect frankness when he sent
his message: the fretful desire to be with her, close to her, hearing
her, seeing her, besides the true wish to serve her. He sent it after
swinging round abruptly from an outlook over the bordering garden
tamarisks on a sea now featureless, desolately empty.

However, perceptibly silence was doing the work of a scourge, and he
said: ‘I have been thinking I may have--and I don’t mind fighting hard
to try it before I leave England on Tuesday or Wednesday--some influence
with Lady Charlotte Eglett. She is really one of the true women living,
and the heartiest of backers, if she can be taught to see her course. I
fancy I can do that. She ‘s narrow, but she is not one of the class who
look on the working world below them as, we’ll say, the scavenger dogs
on the plains of Ilium were seen by the Achaeans. And my failure would
be no loss to you! Your name shall not be alluded to as empowering me
to plead for her help. But I want your consent, or I may be haunted and
weakened by the idea of playing the busy-body. One has to feel strong
in a delicate position. Well, you know what my position with her has
been--one among the humble; and she has taken contradictions, accepted
views from me, shown me she has warmth of heart to an extreme degree.’

Aminta slightly raised her hand. ‘I will save you trouble. I have
written to Lord Ormont. I have left him.’

Their eyes engaged on the thunder of this. ‘The letter has gone?’

‘It was posted before my swim: posted yesterday.’

‘You have fully and clearly thought it out to a determination?’

‘Bit by bit--I might say, blow by blow.’

‘It is no small matter to break a marriage-tie.’

‘I have conversed with your mother.’

‘Yes, she! and the woman happiest in marriage!’

‘I know. It was hatred of injustice, noble sympathy. And she took me for
one of the blest among wives.’

‘She loved God. She saw the difference between men’s decrees for their
convenience, and God’s laws. She felt for women. You have had a hard
trial Aminta.’

‘Oh, my name! You mean it?’

‘You heard it from me this morning.’

‘Yes, there! I try to forget. I lost my senses. You may judge me
harshly, on reflection.’

‘Judge myself worse, then. You had a thousand excuses. I had only my
love of you. There’s no judgement against either of us, for us to see,
if I read rightly. We elect to be tried in the courts of the sea-god.
Now we ‘ll sit and talk it over. The next ten minutes will decide our
destinies.’

His eyes glittered, otherwise he showed the coolness of the man
discussing business; and his blunt soberness refreshed and upheld her,
as a wild burst of passion would not have done.

Side by side, partly facing, they began their interchange.

‘You have weighed what you abandon?’

‘It weighs little.’

‘That may be error. You have to think into the future.’

‘My sufferings and experiences are not bad guides.’

‘They count. How can you be sure you have all the estimates?’

‘Was I ever a wife?’

‘You were and are the Countess of Ormont.’

‘Not to the world. An unacknowledged wife is a slave, surely.’

‘You step down, if you take the step.’

‘From what? Once I did desire that station--had an idea it was glorious.
I despise it: or rather the woman who had the desire.’

‘But the step down is into the working world.’

‘I have means to live humbly. I want no more, except to be taught to
work.’

‘So says the minute. Years are before you. You have weighed well, that
you attract?’

She reddened and murmured: ‘How small!’ Her pout of spite at her
attractions was little simulated.

‘Beauty and charm are not small matters. You have the gift, called
fatal. Then--looking right forward--you have faith in the power of
resistance of the woman living alone?’

He had struck at her breast. From her breast she replied.

‘Hear this of me. I was persecuted with letters. I read them and did
not destroy them. Perhaps you saved me. Looking back, I see weakness,
nothing worse; but it is a confession.’

‘Yes, you have courage. And that comes of a great heart. And therein
lies the danger.’

‘Advise me of what is possible to a lonely woman.’

‘You have resolved on the loneliness?’

‘It means breathing to me.’

‘You are able to see that Lord Ormont is a gentleman?’

‘A chivalrous gentleman, up to the bounds of his intelligence.’

The bounds of his intelligence closed their four walls in a rapid
narrowing slide on Aminta’s mind, and she exclaimed:

‘If only to pluck flowers in fields and know their names, I must be
free! I say what one can laugh at, and you are good and don’t. Is the
interrogatory exhausted?’

‘Aminta, my beloved, if you are free, I claim you.’

‘Have you thought--?’

The sense of a dissolving to a fountain quivered through her veins.

‘Turn the tables and examine me.’

‘But have you thought--oh! I am not the girl you loved. I would go
through death to feel I was, and give you one worthy of you.’

‘That means what I won’t ask you to speak at present but I must have
proof.’

He held out a hand, and hers was laid in his.

There was more for her to say, she knew. It came and fled, lightened
and darkened. She had yielded her hand to him here on land, not with
the licence and protection of the great holiday salt water; and she
was trembling from the run of his blood through hers at the pressure of
hands, when she said in undertones: ‘Could we--we might be friends.’

‘Meet and part as friends, you and I,’ he replied.

His voice carried the answer for her, his intimate look had in it the
unfolding of the full flower of the woman to him, as she could not
conceal from such eyes; and feeling that, she was all avowal.

‘It is for life, Matthew.’

‘My own words to myself when I first thought of the chance.’

‘But the school?’

‘I shall not consider that we are malefactors. We have the world against
us. It will not keep us from trying to serve it. And there are hints of
humaner opinions; it’s not all a huge rolling block of a Juggernaut. Our
case could be pleaded before it. I don’t think the just would condemn us
heavily. I shall have to ask you to strengthen me, complete me. If you
love me, it is your leap out of prison, and without you, I am from
this time no better than one-third of a man. I trust you to weigh the
position you lose, and the place we choose to take in the world. It ‘s
this--I think this describes it. You know the man who builds his house
below the sea’s level has a sleepless enemy always threatening. His
house must be firm and he must look to the dykes. We commit this
indiscretion. With a world against us, our love and labour are
constantly on trial; we must have great hearts, and if the world is
hostile we are not to blame it. In the nature of things it could not be
otherwise. My own soul, we have to see that we do--though not publicly,
not insolently, offend good citizenship. But we believe--I with my whole
faith, and I may say it of you--that we are not offending Divine law.
You are the woman I can help and join with; think whether you can tell
yourself that I am the man. So, then, our union gives us powers to make
amends to the world, if the world should grant us a term of peace for
the effort. That is our risk; consider it, Aminta, between now and
tomorrow; deliberate. We don’t go together into a garden of roses.’

‘I know. I should feel shame. I wish it to look dark,’ said Aminta,
her hand in his, and yet with a fair-sailing mind on the stream of the
blood.

Rationally and irrationally, the mixed passion and reason in two clear
heads and urgent hearts discussed the stand they made before a world
defied, neither of them quite perceiving what it was which coloured
reason to beauty, or what so convinced their intellects when passion
spoke the louder.

‘I am to have a mate.’

‘She will pray she may be one.’

‘She is my first love.’

Aminta’s lips formed ‘mine,’ without utterance.

Meanwhile his hand or a wizardry subdued her will, allured her body.
She felt herself being drawn to the sign and seal of their plighting for
life. She said, ‘Matthew,’ softly in protest; and he said, ‘Never once
yet!’ She was owing to his tenderness. Her deepened voice murmured: ‘Is
this to deliberate?’ Colour flooded the beautiful dark face, as of the
funeral hues of a sun suffusing all the heavens; firing earth.



CHAPTER XXIX. AMINTA TO HER LORD

On Friday, on Saturday, on Sunday, Lady Charlotte waited for her brother
Rowsley, until it was a diminished satisfaction that she had held her
ground and baffled his mighty will to subdue her. She did not sleep
for thinking of him on the Sunday night. Toward morning a fit of hazy
horrors, which others would have deemed imaginings, drove her from her
bed to sit and brood over Rowsley in a chair. What if it was a case of
heart with him too? Heart disease had been in the family. A man like
Rowsley, still feeling the world before him, as a man of his energies
and aptitudes, her humour added in the tide of his anxieties, had a
right to feel, would not fall upon resignation like a woman.

She was at the physician’s door at eight o’clock. Dr. Rewkes reported
reassuringly; it was a simple disturbance in Lord Ormont’s condition of
health, and he conveyed just enough of disturbance to send the impetuous
lady knocking and ringing at her brother’s door upon the hour of nine.

The announcement of Lady Charlotte’s early visit informed my lord that
Dr. Rewkes had done the spiriting required of him. He descended to the
library and passed under scrutiny.

‘You don’t look ill, Rowsley,’ she said, reluctantly in the sound.

‘I am the better for seeing you here, Charlotte. Shall I order breakfast
for you? I am alone.’

‘I know you are. I’ve eaten. Rewkes tells me you’ve not lost appetite.’

‘Have I the appearance of a man who has lost anything?’ Prouder man, and
heartier and ruddier, could not be seen, she thought.

‘You’re winning the country to right you; that I know.’

‘I don’t ask it.’

‘The country wants your services.’

‘I have heard some talk of it. That lout comes to a knowledge of his
wants too late. If they promoted and offered me the command in India
to-morrow--‘My lord struck the arm of his chair. ‘I live at Steignton
henceforth; my wife is at a seaside place eastward. She left the
jewel-case when on her journey through London for safety; she is
a particularly careful person, forethoughtful. I take her down to
Steignton two days after her return. We entertain there in the autumn.
You come?’

‘I don’t. I prefer decent society.’

‘You are in her house now, ma’am.’

‘If I have to meet the person, you mean, I shall be civil. The society
you’ve given her, I won’t meet.’

‘You will have to greet the Countess of Ormont if you care to meet your
brother.’

‘Part, then, on the best terms we can. I say this, the woman who keeps
you from serving your country, she ‘s your country’s enemy.’

‘Hear my answer. The lady who is my wife has had to suffer for what you
call my country’s treatment of me. It ‘s a choice between my country and
her. I give her the rest of my time.’

‘That’s dotage.’

‘Fire away your epithets.’

‘Sheer dotage. I don’t deny she’s a handsome young woman.’

‘You’ll have to admit that Lady Ormont takes her place in our family
with the best we can name.’

‘You insult my ears, Rowsley.’

‘The world will say it when it has the honour of her acquaintance.’

‘An honour suspiciously deferred.’

‘That’s between the world and me.’

‘Set your head to work, you’ll screw the world to any pitch you
like--that I don’t need telling.’

Lord Ormont’s head approved the remark.

‘Now,’ said Lady Charlotte, ‘you won’t get the Danmores, the Dukerlys,
the Carminters, the Oxbridges any more than you get me.’

‘You are wrong, ma’am. I had yesterday a reply from Lady Danmore to a
communication of mine.’

‘It ‘s thickening. But while I stand, I stand for the family; and I ‘m
not in it, and while I stand out of it, there ‘s a doubt either of your
honesty or your sanity.’

‘There’s a perfect comprehension of my sister!’

‘I put my character in the scales against your conduct, and your
Countess of Ormont’s reputation into the bargain.’

‘You have called at her house; it ‘s a step. You ‘ll be running at her
heels next. She ‘s not obdurate.’

‘When you see me running at her heels, it’ll be with my head off. Stir
your hardest, and let it thicken. That man Morsfield’s name mixed up
with a sham Countess of Ormont, in the stories flying abroad, can’t hurt
anybody. A true Countess of Ormont--we ‘re cut to the quick.’

‘We ‘re cut! Your quick, Charlotte, is known to court the knife.’

Letters of the morning’s post were brought in.

The earl turned over a couple and took up a third, saying: ‘I ‘ll attend
to you in two minutes’; and thinking once more: Queer world it is,
where, when you sheath the sword, you have to be at play with bodkins!

Lady Charlotte gazed on the carpet, effervescent with retorts to his
last observation, rightly conjecturing that the letter he selected to
read was from ‘his Aminta.’

The letter apparently was interesting, or it was of inordinate length.
He seemed still to be reading. He reverted to the first page.

At the sound of the paper, she discarded her cogitations and glanced
up. His countenance had become stony. He read on some way, with a sudden
drop on the signature, a recommencement, a sound in the throat, as when
men grasp a comprehensible sentence of a muddled rigmarole and begin
to have hopes of the remainder. But the eye on the page is not the eye
which reads.

‘No bad news, Rowsley?’

The earl’s breath fell heavily.

Lady Charlotte left her chair, and walked about the room.

‘Rowsley, I ‘d like to hear if I can be of use.’

‘Ma’am?’ he said; and pondered on the word ‘use,’ staring at her.

‘I don’t intend to pry. I can’t see my brother look like that, and not
ask.’

The letter was tossed on the table to her. She read these lines, dated
from Felixstowe:

   ‘MY DEAR LORD,

   ‘The courage I have long been wanting in has come at last, to break
   a tie that I have seen too clearly was a burden on you from the
   beginning. I will believe that I am chiefly responsible for
   inducing you to contract it. The alliance with an inexperienced
   girl of inferior birth, and a perhaps immoderate ambition, has taxed
   your generosity; and though the store may be inexhaustible, it is
   not truly the married state when a wife subjects the husband to such
   a trial. The release is yours, the sadness is for me. I have
   latterly seen or suspected a design on your part to meet my former
   wishes for a public recognition of the wife of Lord Ormont. Let me
   now say that these foolish wishes no longer exist. I rejoice to
   think that my staying or going will be alike unknown to the world.
   I have the means of a livelihood, in a modest way, and shall trouble
   no one.

   ‘I have said, the sadness is for me. That is truth. But I have to
   add, that I, too, am sensible of the release. My confession of a
   change of feeling to you as a wife, writes the close of all
   relations between us. I am among the dead for you; and it is a
   relief to me to reflect on the little pain I give...’

‘Has she something on her conscience about that man Morsfield?’ Lady
Charlotte cried.

Lord Ormont’s prolonged Ah! of execration rolled her to a bundle.

Nevertheless her human nature and her knowledge of woman’s, would out
with the words: ‘There’s a man!’

She allowed her brother to be correct in repudiating the name of the
dead Morsfield--chivalrous as he was on this Aminta’s behalf to
the last!--and struck along several heads, Adderwood’s, Weyburn’s,
Randeller’s, for the response to her suspicion. A man there certainly
was. He would be probably a young man. He would not necessarily be a
handsome man.... or a titled or a wealthy man. She might have set eyes
on a gypsy somewhere round Great Marlow--blood to blood; such things
have been. Imagining a wildish man for her, rather than a handsome one
and one devoted staidly to the founding of a school, she overlooked
Weyburn, or reserved him with others for subsequent speculation.

The remainder of Aminta’s letter referred to her delivery of the Ormont
jewel-case at Lord Ormont’s London house, under charge of her maid
Carstairs. The affairs of the household were stated very succinctly,
the drawer for labelled keys, whatever pertained to her management, in
London or at Great Marlow.

‘She ‘s cool,’ Lady Charlotte said, after reading out the orderly array
of items, in a tone of rasping irony, to convince her brother he was
well rid of a heartless wench.

Aminta’s written statement of those items were stabs at the home she had
given him, a flashed picture of his loss. Nothing written by her touched
him to pierce him so shrewdly; nothing could have brought him so closely
the breathing image in the flesh of the woman now a phantom for him.

‘Will she be expecting you to answer, Rowsley?’

‘Will that forked tongue cease hissing!’ he shouted, in the agony of a
strong man convulsed both to render and conceal the terrible, shameful,
unexampled gush of tears.

Lady Charlotte beheld her bleeding giant. She would rather have seen
the brother of her love grimace in woman’s manner than let loose those
rolling big drops down the face of a rock. The big sob shook him, and
she was shaken to the dust by the sight. Now she was advised by her deep
affection for her brother to sit patient and dumb, behind shaded eyes:
praising in her heart the incomparable force of the man’s love of the
woman contrasted with the puling inclinations of the woman for the man.

Neither opened mouth when they separated. She pressed and kissed a large
nerveless hand. Lord Ormont stood up to bow her forth. His ruddied skin
had gone to pallor resembling the berg of ice on the edge of Arctic
seas, when sunlight has fallen away from it.



CHAPTER XXX. CONCLUSION

The peaceful little home on the solitary sandy shore was assailed,
unwarned, beneath a quiet sky, some hours later, by a whirlwind, a
dust-storm, and rattling volleys. Miss Vincent’s discovery, in the past
school-days, of Selina Collett’s ‘wicked complicity in a clandestine
correspondence’ had memorably chastened the girl, who vowed at the time
when her schoolmistress, using the rod of Johnsonian English for the
purpose, exposed the depravity of her sinfulness, that she would never
again be guilty of a like offence. Her dear and lovely Countess of
Ormont, for whom she then uncomplainingly suffered, who deigned now to
call her friend, had spoken the kind good-bye, and left the house
after Mr. Weyburn’s departure that same day; she, of course, to post
by Harwich to London; he to sail by packet from the port of Harwich for
Flushing. The card of an unknown lady, a great lady, the Lady Charlotte
Eglett, was handed to her mother at eight o’clock in the evening.

Lady Charlotte was introduced to the innocent country couple; the mother
knitting, the daughter studying a book of the botany of the Swiss Alps,
dreaming a distant day’s journey over historic lands of various hues to
the unimaginable spectacle of earth’s grandeur. Her visit lasted fifteen
minutes. From the moment of her entry, the room was in such turmoil as
may be seen where a water-mill wheel’s paddles are suddenly set rounding
to pour streams of foam on the smooth pool below. A relentless catechism
bewildered their hearing. Mrs. Collett attempted an opposition of
dignity to those vehement attacks for answers. It was flooded and
rolled over. She was put upon her honour to reply positively to positive
questions: whether the Countess of Ormont was in this house at present;
whether the Countess of Ormont left the house alone or in company;
whether a gentleman had come to the house during the stay of the
Countess of Ormont; whether Lady Ormont had left the neighbourhood; the
exact time of the day when she quitted the house, and the stated point
of her destination.

Ultimately, protesting that they were incapable of telling what they
did not know--which Lady Charlotte heard with an incredulous shrug--they
related piecemeal what they did know, and Weyburn’s name gave her scent.
She paid small heed to the tale of Mr. Weyburn’s having come there in
the character of young Mr. Collett’s old schoolmate. Mr. Weyburn had
started for the port of Harwich. This day, and not long subsequently,
Lady Ormont had started for the port of Harwich, on her way to London,
if we like to think it. Further corroboration was quite superfluous.

‘Is there a night packet-boat from this port of yours?’ Lady Charlotte
asked.

The household servants had to be consulted; and she, hurriedly craving
the excuse of their tedious mistress, elicited, as far as she could
understand them, that there might be and very nearly was, a night
packet-boat starting for Flushing. The cook, a native of Harwich, sent
up word of a night packet-boat starting at about eleven o’clock last
year.

Lady Charlotte saw the chance as a wind-blown beacon-fire under press
of shades. Changeing her hawkish manner toward the simple pair, she gave
them view of a smile magical by contrast, really beautiful--the smile
she had in reserve for serviceable persons whom she trusted--while
thanking them and saying, that her anxiety concerned Lady Ormont’s
welfare.

Her brother had prophesied she would soon be ‘running at his wife’s
heels,’ and so she was, but not ‘with her head off,’ as she had
rejoined. She might prove, by intercepting his Aminta, that her head was
on. The windy beacon-fire of a chance blazed at the rapid rolling of her
carriage-wheels, and sank to stifling smoke at any petty obstruction.
Let her but come to an interview with his Aminta, she would stop all
that nonsense of the woman’s letter; carry her off--and her Weyburn
plucking at her other hand to keep her. Why, naturally, treated as she
was by Rowsley, she dropped soft eyes on a good-looking secretary. Any
woman would--confound the young fellow! But all ‘s right yet if we get
to Harwich in time; unless... as a certain coldfish finale tone of the
letter playing on the old string, the irrevocable, peculiar to women who
are novices in situations of the kind, appeared to indicate; they see in
their conscience-blasted minds a barrier to a return home, high as the
Archangelical gate behind Mother Eve, and they are down on their knees
blubbering gratitude and repentance if the gate swings open to them. It
is just the instant, granting the catastrophe, to have a woman back to
her duty. She has only to learn she has a magnanimous husband. If she
learns into the bargain how he suffers, how he loves her,--well,
she despises a man like that Lawrence Finchley all the more for the
‘magnanimity’ she has the profit of, and perceives to be feebleness. But
there ‘s woman in her good and her bad; she’ll trick a man of age, and
if he forgives her, owning his own faults in the case, she won’t scorn
him for it; the likelihood is, she ‘ll feel bound in honour to serve him
faithfully for the rest of their wedded days.

A sketch to her of Rowsley’s deep love.... Lady Charlotte wandered into
an amazement at it. A sentence of her brother’s recent speaking danced
in her recollection. He said of his country: That Lout comes to a
knowledge of his wants too late. True, Old England is always louting
to the rear, and has to be pricked in the rear and pulled by the neck
before she ‘s equal to the circumstances around her. But what if his
words were flung at him in turn! Short of ‘Lout,’ it rang correctly.
‘Too late,’ we hope to clip from the end of the sentence likewise. We
have then, if you stress it--‘comes to a knowledge of his wants;--a fair
example of the creatures men are; the greatest of men; who have to learn
from the loss of the woman--or a fear of the loss--how much they really
do love her.

Well, and she may learn the same or something sufficiently like it,
if she ‘s caught in time, called to her face, Countess of Ormont,
sister-in-law, and smoothed, petted, made believe she ‘s now understood
and won’t be questioned on a single particular--in fact, she marches
back in a sort of triumph; and all the past in a cupboard, locked up,
without further inquiry.

Her brother Rowsley’s revealed human appearance of the stricken
man--stricken right into his big heart--precipitated Lady Charlotte’s
reflections and urged her to an unavailing fever of haste during the
circuitous drive in moonlight to the port. She alighted at the principal
inn, and was there informed that the packetboat, with a favouring breeze
and tide, had started ten minutes earlier. She summoned the landlord,
and described a lady, as probably one of the passengers: ‘Dark, holds
herself up high. Some such lady had dined at the inn on tea, and gone
aboard the boat soon after.

Lady Charlotte burned with the question: Alone? She repressed her
feminine hunger and asked to see the book of visitors. But the lady had
not slept at the inn, so had not been requested to write her name.

The track of the vessel could be seen from the pier, on the line of a
bar of moonlight; and thinking, that the abominable woman, if aboard she
was, had coolly provided herself with a continental passport--or had
it done for two by her accomplice, that Weyburn, before she left
London--Lady Charlotte sent a loathing gaze at the black figure of
the boat on the water, untroubled by any reminder of her share in the
conspiracy of events, which was to be her brother’s chastisement to his
end.

Years are the teachers of the great rocky natures, whom they round and
sap and pierce in caverns, having them on all sides, and striking deep
inward at moments. There is no resisting the years, if we have a heart,
and a common understanding. They constitute, in the sum of them,
the self-examination, whence issues, acknowledged or not, a belated
self-knowledge, to direct our final actions. She had the heart. Sight
of the high-minded, proud, speechless man suffering for the absence of
a runaway woman, not ceasing to suffer, never blaming the woman, and
consequently, it could be fancied, blaming himself, broke down Lady
Charlotte’s defences and moved her to review her part in her brother
Rowsley’s unhappiness. For supposing him to blame himself, her power
to cast a shadow of blame on him went from her, and therewith her
vindication of her conduct. He lived at Olmer. She read him by degrees,
as those who have become absolutely tongueless have to be read; and so
she gathered that this mortally (or lastingly) wounded brother of hers
was pleased by an allusion to his Aminta. He ran his finger on the lines
of a map of Spain, from Barcelona over to Granada; and impressed his
nail at a point appearing to be mountainous or woody. Lady Charlotte
suggested that he and his Aminta had passed by there. He told a story of
a carriage accident: added, ‘She was very brave.’ One day, when he had
taken a keepsake book of England’s Beauties off the drawing-room table,
his eyes dwelt on a face awhile, and he handed it, with a nod, followed
by a slight depreciatory shrug. ‘Like her, not so handsome,’ Lady
Charlotte said.

He nodded again. She came to a knowledge of Aminta’s favourite colours
through the dwelling of his look on orange and black, deepest rose,
light yellow, light blue. Her grand-daughters won the satisfied look
if they wore a combination touching his memory. The rocky are not
imaginative, and have to be struck from without for a kindling of them.
Submissive though she was to court and soothe her brother Rowsley, a
spur of jealousy burned in the composition of her sentiments, to set
her going. He liked visiting Mrs. Lawrence Finchley at her effaced good
man’s country seat, Brockholm in Berkshire, and would stay there a month
at a time. Lady Charlotte learnt why. The enthusiast for Aminta, without
upholding her to her late lord, whom she liked well, talked of her
openly with him, confessed to a fondness for her. How much Mrs. Lawrence
ventured to say, Lady Charlotte could not know. But rivalry pushed her
to the extreme of making Aminta partially a topic; and so ready was
he to follow her lead in the veriest trifles recalling the handsome
runaway; that she had to excite his racy diatribes against the burgess
English and the pulp they have made of a glorious nation, in order not
to think him inclining upon dotage.

Philippa’s occasional scoff in fun concerning ‘grandmama’s tutor,’
hurt Lady Charlotte for more reasons than one, notwithstanding the
justification of her fore-thoughtfulness. The girl, however, was
privileged; she was Bobby Benlew’s dearest friend, and my lord loved
the boy; with whom nothing could be done at school, nor could a tutor
at Olmer control him. In fine, Bobby saddened the family and gained the
earl’s anxious affection by giving daily proofs of his being an Ormont
in a weak frame; patently an Ormont, recurrently an invalid. His moral
qualities hurled him on his physical deficiencies. The local doctor and
Dr. Rewkes banished him twice to the seashore, where he began to bloom
the first week and sickened the next, for want of playfellows, jolly
fights and friendships. Ultimately they prescribed mountain air, Swiss
air, easy travelling to Switzerland, and several weeks of excursions at
the foot of the Alps. Bobby might possibly get an aged tutor, or find an
English clergyman taking pupils, on the way.

Thus it happened, that seven years after his bereavement, Lord Ormont
and Philippa and Bobby were on the famous Bernese Terrace, grandest of
terrestrial theatres where soul of man has fronting him earth’s utmost
majesty. Sublime: but five minutes of it fetched sounds as of a plug in
an empty phial from Bobby’s bosom, and his heels became electrical.

He was observed at play with a gentleman of Italian complexion. Past
guessing how it had come about, for the gentleman was an utter stranger.
He had at any rate the tongue of an Englishman. He had the style, too,
the slang and cries and tricks of an English schoolboy, though visibly
a foreigner. And he had the art of throwing his heart into that bit of
improvised game, or he would never have got hold of Bobby, shrewd to
read a masker.

Lugged-up by the boy to my lord and the young lady, he doffed and bowed.
‘Forgive me, pray,’ he said; ‘I can’t see an English boy without having
a spin with him; and I make so bold as to speak to English people
wherever I meet them, if they give me the chance. Bad manners? Better
than that. You are of the military profession, sir, I see. I am a
soldier, fresh from Monte Video. Italian, it is evident, under an
Italian chief there. A clerk on a stool, and hey presto plunged into the
war a month after, shouldering a gun and marching. Fifteen battles in
eighteen months; and Death a lady at a balcony we kiss hands to on the
march below. Not a bit more terrible! Ah, but your pardon, sir,’ he
hastened to say, observing rigidity on the features of the English
gentleman; ‘would I boast? Not I. Accept it as my preface for why I am
moved to speak the English wherever I meet them:--Uruguay, Buenos Ayres,
La Plata, or Europe. I cannot resist it. At least, he bent gracefully,
‘I do not. We come to the grounds of my misbehaviour. I have shown at
every call I fear nothing, kiss hand of welcome or adieu to Death.
And I, a boy of the age of this youngster--he ‘s not like me, I can
declare!--I was a sneak and a coward. It follows, I was a liar and
a traitor. Who cured me of that vileness, that scandal? I will tell
you--an Englishman and an Englishwoman: my schoolmaster and his wife. My
schoolmaster--my friend! He is the comrade of his boys: English, French,
Germans, Italians, a Spaniard in my time--a South American I have sent
him--two from Boston, Massachusetts--and clever!--all emulous to excel,
none boasting. But, to myself; I was that mean fellow. I did--I could
let you know: before this young lady--she would wither me with her
scorn, Enough, I sneaked, I lied. I let the blame fall on a schoolfellow
and a housemaid. Oh! a small thing, but I coveted it--a scarf. It
reminded me of Rome. Enough, there at the bottom of that pit, behold me.
It was not discovered, but my schoolfellow was unpunished, the housemaid
remained in service; I thought, I thought, and I thought until I could
not look in my dear friend Matthew’s face. He said to me one day: “Have
you nothing to tell me, Giulio?” as if to ask the road to right or left.
Out it all came. And no sermon, no! He set me the hardest task I could
have. That was a penance!--to go to his wife, and tell it all to her.
Then I did think it an easier thing to go and face death--and death had
been my nightmare. I went, she listened, she took my hand she said: “You
will never do this again, I know, Giulio.” She told me no English girl
would ever look on a man who was a coward and lied. From that day I have
made Truth my bride. And what the consequence? I know not fear! I could
laugh, knowing I was to lie down in my six-foot measure to-morrow. If I
have done my duty and look in the face of my dear Matthew and his wife!
Ah, those two! They are loved. They will be loved all over Europe. He
works for Europe and America--all civilized people--to be one country.
He is the comrade of his boys. Out of school hours, it is Christian
names all round--Matthew, Emile, Adolf, Emilio, Giulio, Robert, Marcel,
Franz, et caetera. Games or lessons, a boy can’t help learning with him.
He makes happy fellows and brave soldiers of them without drill. Sir, do
I presume when I say I have your excuse for addressing you because you
are his countryman? I drive to the old school in half an hour, and next
week he and his dear wife and a good half of the boys will be on the
tramp over the Simplon, by Lago Maggiore, to my uncle’s house in Milan
for a halt. I go to Matthew before I see my own people.’

He swept another bow of apology, chiefly to Philippa, as representative
of the sex claiming homage.

Lord Ormont had not greatly relished certain of the flowery phrases
employed by this young foreigner. ‘Truth his bride,’ was damnable:
and if a story had to be told, he liked it plain, without jerks
and evolutions. Many offences to our taste have to be overlooked in
foreigners--Italians! considered, before they were proved in fire, a
people classed by nature as operatic declaimers. Bobby had shown himself
on the road out to Bern a difficult boy, and stupefyingly ignorant. My
lord had two or three ideas working to cloudy combination in his head
when he put a question, referring to the management of the dormitories
at the school. Whereupon the young Italian introduced himself as Giulio
Calliani, and proposed a drive to inspect the old school, with its
cricket and football fields, lake for rowing and swimming, gymnastic
fixtures, carpenter’s shed, bowling alley, and four European languages
in the air by turns daily; and the boys, too, all the boys rosy and
jolly, according to the last report received of them from his friend
Matthew. Enthusiasm struck and tightened the loose chord of scepticism
in Lord Ormont; somewhat as if a dancing beggar had entered a
kennel-dog’s yard, designing to fascinate the faithful beast. It is a
chord of one note, that is tightened to sound by the violent summons
to accept, which is a provocation to deny. At the same time, the
enthusiast’s dance is rather funny; he is not an ordinary beggar; to see
him trip himself in his dance would be rather funnier. This is to say,
inspect the trumpeted school and retire politely. My lord knew the Bern
of frequent visits: the woman was needed beside him to inspire a
feeling for scenic mountains. Philippa’s admiration of them was like a
new-pressed grape-juice after a draught of the ripe vintage. Moreover,
Bobby was difficult: the rejected of his English schools was a stiff
Ormont at lessons, a wheezy Benlew in the playground: exactly the
reverse of what should have been. A school of four languages in bracing
air, if a school with healthy dormitories, and a school of the trained
instincts we call gentlemanly, might suit Master Bobby for a trial. An
eye on the boys of the school would see in a minute what stuff they were
made of. Supposing this young Italianissimo with the English tongue
to be tolerably near the mark, with a deduction of two-thirds of the
enthusiasm, Bobby might stop at the school as long as his health held
out, or the master would keep him. Supposing half a dozen things and
more, the meeting with this Mr. Calliand was a lucky accident. But lucky
accidents are anticipated only by fools.

Lord Ormont consented to visit the school. He handed his card and
invited his guest; he had a carriage in waiting for the day, he said;
and obedient to Lady Charlotte’s injunctions, he withheld Philippa from
the party. She and her maid were to pass the five hours of his absence
in efforts to keep their monkey Bobby out of the well of the solicitious
bears.

My lord left his carriage at the inn of the village lying below the
school-house on a green height. The young enthusiast was dancing him
into the condition of livid taciturnity, which could, if it would, flash
out pungent epigrams of the actual world at Operatic recitative.

‘There’s the old school-clock! Just in time for the half-hour before
dinner,’ said Calliani, chattering two hundred to the minute, of the
habits and usages of the school, and how all had meals together,
the master, his wife, the teachers, the boys. ‘And she--as for
her!’ Calliani kissed finger up to the furthest skies: into which a
self-respecting sober Northener of the Isles could imagine himself to
kick enthusiastic gesticulators, if it were polite to do so.

The school-house faced the master’s dwelling house, and these, with a
block of building, formed a three-sided enclosure, like barracks! Forth
from the school-house door burst a dozen shouting lads, as wasps
from the hole of their nest from a charge of powder. Out they poured
whizzing; and the frog he leaped, and pussy ran and doubled before the
hounds, and hockey-sticks waved, and away went a ball. Cracks at the
ball anyhow, was the game for the twenty-five minutes breather before
dinner.

‘French day!’ said Calliani, hearing their cries. Then he bellowed
‘Matthew!--Giulio!’

A lusty inversion of the order of the names and an Oberland jodel
returned his hail. The school retreating caught up the Alpine cry in the
distance. Here were lungs! Here were sprites!

Lord Ormont bethought him of the name of the master. ‘Mr. Matthew, I
think you said, sir,’ he was observing to Calliani, as the master came
nearer; and Calliani replied: ‘His Christian name. But if the boys are
naughty boys, it is not the privilege. Mr. Weyburn.’

There was not any necessity to pronounce that name Calliani spoke it on
the rush to his friend.

Lord Ormont and Weyburn advanced the steps to the meeting. Neither of
them flinched in eye or limb.

At a corridor window of the dwelling-house a lady stood. Her colour was
the last of a summer day over western seas; her thought: ‘It has come!’
Her mind was in her sight; her other powers were frozen.

The two men conversed. There was no gesture.

This is one of the lightning moments of life for the woman, at the
meeting of the two men between whom her person has been in dispute, may
still be; her soul being with one. And that one, dearer than the blood
of her body, imperilled by her.

She could ask why she exists, if a question were in her grasp. She
would ask for the meaning of the gift of beauty to the woman, making her
desireable to those two men, making her a cause of strife, a thing of
doom. An incessant clamour dinned about her: ‘It has come!’

The two men walked conversing into the school-house. She was unconscious
of the seeing of a third, though she saw and at the back of her
mind believed she knew a friend in him. The two disappeared. She was
insensible stone, except for the bell-clang: ‘It has come’; until they
were in view again, still conversing: and the first of her thought to
stir from petrifaction was: ‘Life holds no secret.’

She tried, in shame of the inanimate creature she had become, to
force herself to think: and had, for a chastising result, a series of
geometrical figures shooting across her brain, mystically expressive
of the situation, not communicably. The most vivid and persistent was
a triangle. Interpret who may. The one beheld the two pass from view
again, still conversing.

They are on the gravel; they bow; they separate. He of the grey head
poised high has gone.

Her arm was pressed by a hand. Weyburn longed to enfold her, and she
desired it, and her soul praised him for refraining. Both had that
delicacy.

‘You have seen, my darling,’ Weyburn said. ‘It has come, and we take our
chance. He spoke not one word, beyond the affairs of the school. He has
a grandnephew in want of a school: visited the dormitories, refectory,
and sheds: tasted the well-water, addressed me as Mr. Matthew. He had
it from Giulio. Came to look at the school of Giulio’s “friend
Matthew,”:--you hear him. Giulio little imagines!--Well, dear love, we
stand with a squad in front, and wait the word. It mayn’t be spoken. We
have counted long before that something like it was bound to happen. And
you are brave. Ruin’s an empty word for us two.’

‘Yes, dear, it is: we will pay what is asked of us,’ Aminta said. ‘It
will be heavy, if the school... and I love our boys. I am fit to be the
school-housekeeper; for nothing else.’

‘I will go to the boys’ parents. At the worst, we can march into new
territory. Emile will stick to us. Adolf, too. The fresh flock will
come.’

Aminta cried in the voice of tears: ‘I love the old so!’

‘The likelihood is, we shall hear nothing further.’

‘You had to bear the shock, Matthew.’

‘Whatever I bore, and you saw, you shared.’

‘Yes,’ she said.

‘Mais, n’oublions pas que c’est aujourd’hui jour francais; si, madame,
vous avez assez d’appetit pour diner avec nous?

‘Je suis, comme toujours, aux ordres de Monsieur.’ She was among the
bravest of women. She had a full ounce of lead in her breast when
she sat with the boys at their midday meal, showing them her familiar
pleasant face.

Shortly after the hour of the evening meal, a messenger from Bern
delivered a letter addressed to the Headmaster. Weyburn and Aminta were
strolling to the playground, thinking in common, as they usually did.
They read the letter together. These were the lines:

‘Lord Ormont desires to repeat his sense of obligation to Mr. Matthew
for the inspection of the school under his charge, and will be thankful
to Mr. Calliani, if that gentleman will do him the favour to call at his
hotel at Bern to-morrow, at as early an hour as is convenient to him,
for the purpose of making arrangements, agreeable to the Head-master’s
rules, for receiving his grandnephew Robert Benlew as a pupil at the
school.’

The two raised eyes on one another, pained in their deep joy by the
religion of the restraint upon their hearts, to keep down the passion to
embrace.

‘I thank heaven we know him to be one of the true noble men,’ said
Aminta, now breathing, and thanking Lord Ormont for the free breath she
drew.

Weyburn spoke of an idea he had gathered from the earl’s manner. But he
had not imagined the proud lord’s great-heartedness would go so far
as to trust him with the guardianship of the boy. That moved, and that
humbled him, though it was far from humiliating.

Six months later, the brief communication arrived from Lady Charlotte

‘She is a widow.

‘Unlikely you will hear from me again. Death is always next door, you
said once. I look on the back of life.

‘Tell Bobby, capital for him to write he has no longing for home
holidays. If any one can make a man of him, you will. That I know.

                  ‘CHARLOTTE EGLETT.’

     ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS

     A bird that won’t roast or boil or stew
     A woman, and would therefore listen to nonsense
     A free-thinker startles him as a kind of demon
     A female free-thinker is one of Satan’s concubines
     Acting is not of the high class which conceals the art
     Affected misapprehensions
     Ah! we fall into their fictions
     All that Matey and Browny were forbidden to write they looked
     And not be beaten by an acknowledged defeat
     Any excess pushes to craziness
     As well ask (women) how a battle-field concerns them!
     Bad luck’s not repeated every day Keep heart for the good
     Bad laws are best broken
     Began the game of Pull
     Being in heart and mind the brother to the sister with women
     Botched mendings will only make them worse
     Bounds of his intelligence closed their four walls
     Boys who can appreciate brave deeds are capable of doing them
     Boys, of course--but men, too!
     But had sunk to climb on a firmer footing
     By nature incapable of asking pardon
     Cajoled like a twenty-year-old yahoo at college
     Careful not to smell of his office
     Challenged him to lead up to her desired stormy scene
     Chose to conceive that he thought abstractedly
     Consciousness of some guilt when vowing itself innocent
     Consign discussion to silence with the cynical closure
     Convictions we store--wherewith to shape our destinies
     Convincing themselves that they impersonate sagacity
     Could not understand enthusiasm for the schoolmaster’s career
     Could we--we might be friends
     Curious thing would be if curious things should fail to happen
     Death is only the other side of the ditch
     Death is always next door
     Desire of it destroyed it
     Detestable feminine storms enveloping men weak enough
     Didn’t say a word No use in talking about feelings
     Distaste for all exercise once pleasurable
     Divided lovers in presence
     Enthusiasm struck and tightened the loose chord of scepticism
     Enthusiast, when not lyrical, is perilously near to boring
     Exult in imagination of an escape up to the moment of capture
     Few men can forbear to tell a spicy story of their friends
     Greatest of men; who have to learn from the loss of the woman
     Having contracted the fatal habit of irony
     He had to shake up wrath over his grievances
     He had gone, and the day lived again for both of them
     He gave a slight sign of restiveness, and was allowed to go
     He loathed a skulker
     He took small account of the operations of the feelings
     He began ambitiously--It’s the way at the beginning
     Her vehement fighting against facts
     Her duel with Time
     His aim to win the woman acknowledged no obstacle in the means
     His restored sense of possession
     Hopeless task of defending a woman from a woman
     How to compromise the matter for the sake of peace?
     I have all the luxuries--enough to loathe them
     I hate old age It changes you so
     I could be in love with her cruelty, if only I had her near me
     I look on the back of life
     I want no more, except to be taught to work
     I married a cook She expects a big appetite
     I’m for a rational Deity
     If the world is hostile we are not to blame it
     Ignorance roaring behind a mask of sarcasm
     Increase of dissatisfaction with the more she got
     Lawyers hold the keys of the great world
     Learn--principally not to be afraid of ideas
     Loathing of artifice to raise emotion
     Look well behind
     Lucky accidents are anticipated only by fools
     Magnify an offence in the ratio of our vanity
     Man who helps me to read the world and men as they are
     Meant to vanquish her with the dominating patience
     Men bore the blame, though the women were rightly punished
     Men who believe that there is a virtue in imprecations
     Naked original ideas, are acceptable at no time
     Napoleon’s treatment of women is excellent example
     Necessity’s offspring
     Never nurse an injury, great or small
     Nevertheless, inclinations are an infidelity
     No love can be without jealousy
     Not daring risk of office by offending the taxpayer
     Not the indignant and the frozen, but the genially indifferent
     Not men of brains, but the men of aptitudes
     Old age is a prison wall between us and young people
     One has to feel strong in a delicate position
     One night, and her character’s gone
     One is a fish to her hook; another a moth to her light
     Orderliness, from which men are privately exempt
     Our love and labour are constantly on trial
     Passion added to a bowl of reason makes a sophist’s mess
     People were virtuous in past days: they counted their sinners
     Perhaps inspire him, if he would let her breathe
     Person in another world beyond this world of blood
     Policy seems to petrify their minds
     Practical for having an addiction to the palpable
     Professional Puritans
     Published Memoirs indicate the end of a man’s activity
     Rage of a conceited schemer tricked
     Regularity of the grin of dentistry
     Respect one another’s affectations
     Screams of an uninjured lady
     Selfishness and icy inaccessibility to emotion
     She had to be the hypocrite or else--leap
     She had a thirsting mind
     Silence was doing the work of a scourge
     Smile she had in reserve for serviceable persons
     Snatch her from a possessor who forfeited by undervaluing her
     So says the minute Years are before you
     That pit of one of their dead silences
     The despot is alert at every issue, to every chance
     The spending, never harvesting, world
     The shots hit us behind you
     The terrible aggregate social woman
     The next ten minutes will decide our destinies
     The woman side of him
     The good life gone lives on in the mind
     The beat of a heart with a dread like a shot in it
     There is no history of events below the surface
     There are women who go through life not knowing love
     They want you to show them what they ‘d like the world to be
     Things are not equal
     Things were lumpish and gloomy that day of the week
     This female talk of the eternities
     Titles showered on the women who take free breath of air
     To males, all ideas are female until they are made facts
     To time and a wife it is no disgrace for a man to bend
     To know how to take a licking, that wins in the end
     Uncommon unprogressiveness
     Venus of nature was melting into a Venus of art
     Violent summons to accept, which is a provocation to deny
     We cannot, men or woman, control the heart in sleep at night
     We shall want a war to teach the country the value of courage
     We don’t go together into a garden of roses
     When duelling flourished on our land, frail women powerful
     Where heart weds mind, or nature joins intellect
     Who cries, Come on, and prays his gods you won’t
     Why he enjoyed the privilege of seeing, and was not beside her
     With what little wisdom the world is governed
     Women are happier enslaved
     World against us It will not keep us from trying to serve
     Years are the teachers of the great rocky natures
     You’ll have to guess at half of everything he tells you
     You’re going to be men, meaning something better than women





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