DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By George Meredith
XVIII. THE AUTHORESS
XIX. A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
XX. DIANA'S NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
XXI. THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE
XXII. BETWEEN DIANA AND DACIER : THE WIND EAST OVER BLEAK LAND
XXIII. RECORDS A VISIT TO DIANA FROM ONE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD WOMEN
XXIV. INDICATES A SOUL PREPARED FOR DESPERATION
XXV. ONCE MORE THE CROSSWAYS AND A CHANGE OF TURNINGS
XXVI. IN WHICH A DISAPPOINTED LOVER RECEIVES A MULTITUDE OF LESSONS
The effect of a great success upon Diana, at her second literary venture,
was shown in the transparent sedateness of a letter she wrote to Emma
Dunstane, as much as in her immediate and complacent acceptance of the
magical change of her fortunes. She spoke one thing and acted another,
but did both with a lofty calm that deceived the admiring friend who
clearly saw the authoress behind her mask, and feared lest she should be
too confidently trusting to the powers of her pen to support an
'If the public were a perfect instrument to strike on, I should be
tempted to take the wonderful success of my PRINCESS at her first
appearance for a proof of natural aptitude in composition, and might
think myself the genius. I know it to be as little a Stradivarius as I
am a Paganini. It is an eccentric machine, in tune with me for the
moment, because I happen to have hit it in the ringing spot. The book is
a new face appealing to a mirror of the common surface emotions; and the
kitchen rather than the dairy offers an analogy for the real value of
that "top-skim." I have not seen what I consider good in the book once
mentioned among the laudatory notices—except by your dear hand, my Emmy.
Be sure I will stand on guard against the "vaporous generalizations," and
other "tricks" you fear. Now that you are studying Latin for an
occupation—how good and wise it was of Mr. Redworth to propose it!—
I look upon you with awe as a classic authority and critic. I wish I had
leisure to study with you. What I do is nothing like so solid and
'THE PRINCESS EGERIA' originally (I must have written word of it to you—
I remember the evening off Palermo!) was conceived as a sketch; by
gradations she grew into a sort of semi-Scudery romance, and swelled to
her present portliness. That was done by a great deal of piecing, not to
say puffing, of her frame. She would be healthier and have a chance of
living longer if she were reduced by a reversal of the processes. But
how would the judicious clippings and prickings affect our "pensive
public"? Now that I have furnished a house and have a fixed address,
under the paws of creditors, I feel I am in the wizard-circle of my
popularity and subscribe to its laws or waken to incubus and the desert.
Have I been rash? You do not pronounce. If I have bound myself to pipe
as others please, it need not be entirely; and I can promise you it shall
not be; but still I am sensible when I lift my "little quill" of having
forced the note of a woodland wren into the popular nightingale's—which
may end in the daw's, from straining; or worse, a toy-whistle.
'That is, in the field of literature. Otherwise, within me deep,
I am not aware of any transmutation of the celestial into coined gold.
I sound myself, and ring clear. Incessant writing is my refuge, my
solace—escape out of the personal net. I delight in it, as in my early
morning walks at Lugano, when I went threading the streets and by the
lake away to "the heavenly mount," like a dim idea worming upward in a
sleepy head to bright wakefulness.
'My anonymous critic, of whom I told you, is intoxicating with eulogy.
The signature "Apollonius" appears to be of literary-middle indication.
He marks passages approved by you. I have also had a complimentary
letter from Mr. Dacier:
'For an instance of this delight I have in writing, so strong is it that
I can read pages I have written, and tear the stuff to strips (I did
yesterday), and resume, as if nothing had happened. The waves within are
ready for any displacement. That must be a good sign. I do not doubt of
excelling my PRINCESS; and if she received compliments, the next may hope
for more. Consider, too, the novel pleasure of earning money by the
labour we delight in. It is an answer to your question whether I am
happy. Yes, as the savage islander before the ship entered the bay with
the fire-water. My blood is wine, and I have the slumbers of an infant.
I dream, wake, forget my dream, barely dress before the pen is galloping;
barely breakfast; no toilette till noon. A savage in good sooth! You
see, my Emmy, I could not house with the "companionable person" you hint
at. The poles can never come together till the earth is crushed. She
would find my habits intolerable, and I hers contemptible, though we
might both be companionable persons. My dear, I could not even live with
myself. My blessed little quill, which helps me divinely to live out of
myself, is and must continue to be my one companion. It is my mountain
height, morning light, wings, cup from the springs, my horse, my goal,
my lancet and replenisher, my key of communication with the highest,
grandest, holiest between earth and heaven-the vital air connecting them.
'In justice let me add that I have not been troubled by hearing of any of
the mysterious legal claims, et caetera. I am sorry to hear bad reports
of health. I wish him entire felicity—no step taken to bridge division!
The thought of it makes me tigrish.
'A new pianist playing his own pieces (at Lady Singleby's concert) has
given me exquisite pleasure' and set me composing songs—not to his
music, which could be rendered only by sylphs moving to "soft recorders"
in the humour of wildness, languor, bewitching caprices, giving a new
sense to melody. How I wish you had been with me to hear him! It was
the most AEolian thing ever caught from a night-breeze by the soul of a
'But do not suppose me having headlong tendencies to the melting mood.
(The above, by the way, is a Pole settled in Paris, and he is to be
introduced to me at Lady Pennon's.)—What do you say to my being invited
by Mr. Whitmonby to aid him in writing leading articles for the paper he
is going to conduct! "write as you talk and it will do," he says. I am
choosing my themes. To write—of politics—as I talk, seems to me like
an effort to jump away from my shadow. The black dog of consciousness
declines to be shaken off. If some one commanded me to talk as I write!
I suspect it would be a way of winding me up to a sharp critical pitch
'Not good news of Lord D. I have had messages. Mr. Dacier conceals his
alarm. The PRINCESS gave great gratification. She did me her best
service there. Is it not cruel that the interdict of the censor should
force me to depend for information upon such scraps as I get from a
gentleman passing my habitation on his way to the House? And he is not,
he never has been, sympathetic in that direction. He sees my grief, and
assumes an undertakerly air, with some notion of acting in concert, one
supposes little imagining how I revolt from that crape-hatband formalism
'One word of her we call our inner I. I am not drawing upon her
resources for my daily needs; not wasting her at all, I trust; certainly
not walling her up, to deafen her voice. It would be to fall away from
you. She bids me sign myself, my beloved, ever, ever your Tony.'
The letter had every outward show of sincereness in expression, and was
endowed to wear that appearance by the writer's impulse to protest with
so resolute a vigour as to delude herself. Lady Dunstane heard of Mr.
Dacier's novel attendance at concerts. The world made a note of it;
for the gentleman was notoriously without ear for music.
Diana's comparison of her hours of incessant writing to her walks under
the dawn at Lugano, her boast of the similarity of her delight in both,
deluded her uncorrupted conscience to believe that she was now
spiritually as free: as in that fair season of the new spring in her
veins. She, was not an investigating physician, nor was Lady Dunstane,
otherwise they would have examined the material points of her conduct—
indicators of the spiritual secret always. What are the patient's acts?
The patient's, mind was projected too far beyond them to see the fore
finger they stretched at her; and the friend's was not that of a prying
doctor on the look out for betraying symptoms. Lady Dunstane did ask
herself why Tony should have incurred the burden of a costly household—
a very costly: Sir Lukin had been at one of Tony's little' dinners: but
her wish to meet the world on equal terms, after a long dependency,
accounted for it in seeming to excuse. The guests on the occasion were
Lady Pennon. Lady Singleby, Mr. Whitmonby, Mr. Percy Dacier, Mr. Tonans;
—'Some other woman,' Sir Lukin said, and himself. He reported the
cookery as matching the: conversation, and that was princely; the wines
not less—an extraordinary fact to note of a woman. But to hear
Whitmonby and Diana Warwick! How he told a story, neat as a postman's
knock, and she tipped it with a remark and ran to a second, drawing in
Lady Pennon, and then Dacier, 'and me!' cried Sir Lukin; 'she made us all
toss the ball from hand to hand, and all talk up to the mark; and none of
us noticed that we all went together to the drawing-room, where we talked
for another hour, and broke up fresher than we began.'
'That break between the men and the women after dinner was Tony's
aversion, and I am glad she has instituted a change,' said Lady Dunstane.
She heard also from Redworth of the unexampled concert of the guests at
Mrs. Warwick's dinner parties. He had met on one occasion the Esquarts,
the Pettigrews, Mr. Percy Dacier, and a Miss Paynham. Redworth had not
a word to say of the expensive household. Whatever Mrs. Warwick did was
evidently good to him. On another evening the party was composed of Lady
Pennon, Lord Larrian, Miss Paynham, a clever Mrs. Wollasley, Mr. Henry
Wilmers, and again Mr. Percy Dacier.
When Diana came to Copsley, Lady Dunstane remarked on the recurrence of
the name of Miss Paynham in the list of her guests.
'And Mr. Percy Dacier's too,' said Diana, smiling. 'They are invited
each for specific reasons. It pleases Lord Dannisburgh to hear that a
way has been found to enliven his nephew; and my little dinners are
effective, I think. He wakes. Yesterday evening he capped flying jests
with Mr. Sullivan Smith. But you speak of Miss. Paynham.' Diana
lowered her voice on half a dozen syllables, till the half-tones dropped
into her steady look. 'You approve, Emmy?'
The answer was: 'I do—true or not.'
'Between us two, dear, I fear! . . . In either case, she has been
badly used. Society is big engine enough to protect itself. I incline
with British juries to do rough justice to the victims. She has neither
father nor brother. I have had no confidences: but it wears the look of a
cowardly business. With two words in his ear, I could arm an Irishman to
do some work of chastisement: he would select the rascal's necktie for a
cause of quarrel and lords have to stand their ground as well as
commoners. They measure the same number of feet when stretched their
length. However, vengeance with the heavens! though they seem tardy.
Lady Pennon has been very kind about it; and the Esquarts invite her to
Lockton. Shoulder to shoulder, the tide may be stemmed.'
'She would have gone under, but for you, dear Tony!' said Emma' folding
arms round her darling's neck anal kissing her. 'Bring her here some
Diana did not promise it. She had her vision of Sir Lukin in his fit of
'I am too weak for London now,' Emma resumed. 'I should like to be
useful. Is she pleasant?'
'Sprightly by nature. She has worn herself with fretting.'
'Then bring her to stay with me, if I cannot keep you. She will talk of
you to me.'
'I will bring her for a couple of days,' Diana said. 'I am too busy to
remain longer. She paints portraits to amuse herself. She ought to be
pushed, wherever she is received about London, while the season is warm.
One season will suffice to establish her. She is pretty, near upon six
and twenty: foolish, of course:—she pays for having had a romantic head.
Heavy payment, Emmy! I drive at laws, but hers is an instance of the
creatures wanting simple human kindness.'
'The good law will come with a better civilization; but before society
can be civilized it has to be debarbarized,' Emma remarked, and Diana
sighed over the task and the truism.
I should have said in younger days, because it will not look plainly on
our nature and try to reconcile it with our conditions. But now I see
that the sin is cowardice. The more I know of the world the more clearly
I perceive that its top and bottom sin is cowardice, physically and
morally alike. Lord Larrian owns to there being few heroes in an army.
We must fawn in society. What is the meaning of that dread of one
example of tolerance? O my dear! let us give it the right name.
Society is the best thing we have, but it is a crazy vessel worked by a
crew that formerly practised piracy, and now, in expiation, professes
piety, fearful of a discovered Omnipotence, which is in the image of
themselves and captain. Their old habits are not quite abandoned, and
their new one is used as a lash to whip the exposed of us for a
propitiation of the capricious potentate whom they worship in the place
of the true God.'
Lady Dunstane sniffed. 'I smell the leading article.'
Diana joined with her smile, 'No, the style is rather different.'
'Have you not got into a trick of composing in speaking, at times?'
Diana confessed, 'I think I have at times. Perhaps the daily writing of
all kinds and the nightly talking . . . I may be getting strained.'
'No, Tony; but longer visits in the country to me would refresh you.
I miss your lighter touches. London is a school, but, you know it,
not a school for comedy nor for philosophy; that is gathered on my hills,
with London distantly in view, and then occasional descents on it well
'I wonder whether it is affecting me !' said Diana, musing.
'A metropolitan hack! and while thinking myself free, thrice harnessed;
and all my fun gone. Am I really as dull as a tract, my dear? I must
be, or I should be proving the contrary instead of asking. My pitfall is
to fancy I have powers equal to the first look-out of the eyes of the.
morning. Enough of me. We talked of Mary Paynham. If only some right
good man would marry her!'
Lady Dunstane guessed at the right good man in Diana's mind. 'Do you
bring them together?'
Diana nodded, and then shook doleful negatives to signify no hope.
'None whatever—if we mean the same person,' said Lady Dunstane,
bethinking her, in the spirit of wrath she felt at such a scheme being
planned by Diana to snare the right good man, that instead of her own
true lover Redworth, it might be only Percy Dacier. So filmy of mere
sensations are these little ideas as they flit in converse, that she did
not reflect on her friend's ignorance of Redworth's love of her, or on
the unlikely choice of one in Dacier's high station to reinstate a
They did not name the person.
'Passing the instance, which is cruel, I will be just to society thus
far,' said Diana. 'I was in a boat at Richmond last week, and Leander
was revelling along the mud-banks, and took it into his head to swim out
to me, and I was moved to take him on board. The ladies in the boat
objected, for he was not only wet but very muddy. I was forced to own
that their objections were reasonable. My sentimental humaneness had no
argument against muslin dresses, though my dear dog's eyes appealed
pathetically, and he would keep swimming after us. The analogy excuses
the world for protecting itself in extreme cases; nothing, nothing
excuses its insensibility to cases which may be pleaded. You see the
pirate crew turned pious-ferocious in sanctity.' She added, half
laughing: 'I am reminded by the boat, I have unveiled my anonymous
critic, and had a woeful disappointment. He wrote like a veteran; he is
not much more than a boy. I received a volume of verse, and a few lines
begging my acceptance. I fancied I knew the writing, and wrote asking
him whether I had not to thank him, and inviting him to call. He seems
a nice lad of about two and twenty, mad for literature; and he must have
talent. Arthur Rhodes by name. I may have a chance of helping him.
He was an articled clerk of Mr. Braddock's, the same who valiantly came
to my rescue once. He was with us in the boat.'
'Bring him to me some day,' said Lady Dunstane.
Miss Paynham's visit to Copsley was arranged, and it turned out a
failure. The poor young lady came in a flutter, thinking that the friend
of Mrs. Warwick would expect her to discourse cleverly. She attempted
it, to Diana's amazement. Lady Dunstane's opposingly corresponding
stillness provoked Miss Paynham to expatiate, for she had sprightliness
and some mental reserves of the common order. Clearly, Lady Dunstane
mused while listening amiably, Tony never could have designed this
gabbler for the mate of Thomas Redworth!
Percy Dacier seemed to her the more likely one, in that light, and she
thought so still, after Sir Lukin had introduced him at Copsley for a
couple of days of the hunting season. Tony's manner with him suggested
it; she had a dash of leadership. They were not intimate in look or
But Percy Dacier also was too good for Miss Paynham, if that was Tony's
plan for him, Lady Dunstane thought, with the relentlessness of an
invalid and recluse's distaste. An aspect of penitence she had not
demanded, but the silly gabbier under a stigma she could not pardon.
Her opinion of Miss Paynham was diffused in her silence.
Speaking of Mr. Dacier, she remarked, 'As you say of him, Tony, he can
brighten, and when you give him a chance he is entertaining. He has fine
gifts. If I were a member of his family I should beat about for a match
for him. He strikes me as one of the young men who would do better
'He is doing very well, but the wonder is that he doesn't marry,'
said Diana. 'He ought to be engaged. Lady Esquart told me that he was.
A Miss Asper—great heiress; and the Daciers want money. However, there
Not many weeks later Diana could not have spoken of Mr. Percy Dacier with
this air of indifference without corruption of her inward guide.
A DRIVE IN SUNLIGHT AND A DRIVE IN MOONLIGHT
The fatal time to come for her was in the Summer of that year.
Emma had written her a letter of unwonted bright spirits, contrasting
strangely with an inexplicable oppression of her own that led her to
imagine her recent placid life the pause before thunder, and to sharp the
mood of her solitary friend she flew to Copsley, finding Sir Lukin
absent, as usual. They drove out immediately after breakfast, on one of
those high mornings of the bared bosom of June when distances are given
to our eyes, and a soft air fondles leaf and grass-blade, and beauty and
peace are overhead, reflected, if we will. Rain had fallen in the night.
Here and there hung a milk-white cloud with folded sail. The South-west
left it in its bay of blue, and breathed below. At moments the fresh
scent of herb and mould swung richly in warmth. The young beech-leaves
glittered, pools of rain-water made the roadways laugh, the grass-banks
under hedges rolled their interwoven weeds in cascades of many-shaded
green to right and left of the pair of dappled ponies, and a squirrel
crossed ahead, a lark went up a little way to ease his heart, closing his
wings when the burst was over, startled black-birds, darting with a
clamour like a broken cockcrow, looped the wayside woods from hazel to
oak-scrub; short flights, quick spirts everywhere, steady sunshine above.
Diana held the reins. The whip was an ornament, as the plume of feathers
to the general officer. Lady Dunstane's ponies were a present from
Redworth, who always chose the pick of the land for his gifts. They
joyed in their trot, and were the very love-birds of the breed for their
pleasure of going together, so like that Diana called them the Dromios.
Through an old gravel-cutting a gateway led to the turf of the down,
springy turf bordered on a long line, clear as a racecourse, by golden
gorse covers, and leftward over the gorse the dark ridge of the fir and
heath country ran companionably to the Southwest, the valley between,
with undulations of wood and meadow sunned or shaded, clumps, mounds,
promontories, away to broad spaces of tillage banked by wooded hills, and
dimmer beyond and farther, the faintest shadowiness of heights, as a veil
to the illimitable. Yews, junipers, radiant beeches, and gleams of the
service-tree or the white-beam spotted the semicircle of swelling green
Down black and silver. The sun in the valley sharpened his beams on
squares of buttercups, and made a pond a diamond.
'You see, Tony,' Emma said, for a comment on the scene, 'I could envy
Italy for having you, more than you for being in Italy.'
'Feature and colour!' said Diana. 'You have them here, and on a scale
that one can embrace. I should like to build a hut on this point, and
wait for such a day to return. It brings me to life.' She lifted her
eyelids on her friend's worn sweet face, and knowing her this friend up
to death, past it in her hopes, she said bravely, 'It is the Emma of days
and scenes to me! It helps me to forget myself, as I do when I think of
you, dearest; but the subject has latterly been haunting me, I don't know
why, and ominously, as if my nature were about to horrify my soul. But I
am not sentimentalizing, you are really this day and scene in my heart.'
Emma smiled confidingly. She spoke her reflection: 'The heart must be
troubled a little to have the thought. The flower I gather here tells me
that we may be happy in privation and suffering if simply we can accept
beauty. I won't say expel the passions, but keep passion sober, a
trotter in harness.'
Diana caressed the ponies' heads with the droop of her whip: 'I don't
think I know him!' she said.
Between sincerity and a suspicion so cloaked and dull that she did not
feel it to be the opposite of candour, she fancied she was passionless
because she could accept the visible beauty, which was Emma's
prescription and test; and she forced herself to make much of it, cling
to it, devour it; with envy of Emma's contemplative happiness, through
whose grave mind she tried to get to the peace in it, imagining that she
succeeded. The cloaked and dull suspicion weighed within her
nevertheless. She took it for a mania to speculate on herself. There
are states of the crimson blood when the keenest wits are childish,
notably in great-hearted women aiming at the majesty of their sex and
fearful of confounding it by the look direct and the downright word.
Yet her nature compelled her inwardly to phrase the sentence: 'Emma is
a wife!' The character of her husband was not considered, nor was the
meaning of the exclamation pursued.
They drove through the gorse into wild land of heath and flowering
hawthorn, and along by tracts of yew and juniper to another point,
jutting on a furzy sand-mound, rich with the mild splendour of English
scenery, which Emma stamped on her friend's mind by saying: 'A cripple
has little to envy in you who can fly when she has feasts like these at
They had an inclination to boast on the drive home of the solitude they
had enjoyed; and just then, as the road in the wood wound under great
beeches, they beheld a London hat. The hat was plucked from its head.
A clear-faced youth, rather flushed, dusty at the legs, addressed Diana.
'Mr. Rhodes!' she said, not discouragingly.
She was petitioned to excuse him; he thought she would wish to hear the
news in town last night as early as possible; he hesitated and murmured
Diana turned to Emma: 'Lord Dannisburgh!' her paleness told the rest.
Hearing from Mr. Rhodes that he had walked the distance from town,
and had been to Copsley, Lady Dunstane invited him to follow the pony-
carriage thither, where he was fed and refreshed by a tea-breakfast,
as he preferred walking on tea, he said. 'I took the liberty to call
at Mrs. Warwick's house,' he informed her; 'the footman said she was
at Copsley. I found it on the map—I knew the directions—and started
about two in the morning. I wanted a walk.'
It was evident to her that he was one of the young squires bewitched whom
beautiful women are constantly enlisting. There was no concealment of
it, though he stirred a sad enviousness in the invalid lady by descanting
on the raptures of a walk out of London in the youngest light of day, and
on the common objects he had noticed along the roadside, and through the
woods, more sustaining, closer with nature than her compulsory feeding on
the cream of things.
'You are not fatigued?' she inquired, hoping for that confession at
least; but she pardoned his boyish vaunting to walk the distance back
without any fatigue at all.
He had a sweeter reward for his pains; and if the business of the
chronicler allowed him to become attached to pure throbbing felicity
wherever it is encountered, he might be diverted by the blissful
unexpectedness of good fortune befalling Mr. Arthur Rhodes in having
the honour to conduct Mrs. Warwick to town. No imagined happiness,
even in the heart of a young man of two and twenty, could have matched
it. He was by her side, hearing and seeing her, not less than four
hours. To add to his happiness, Lady Dunstane said she would be glad to
welcome him again. She thought him a pleasant specimen of the self-vowed
Diana was sure that there would be a communication for her of some sort
at her house in London; perhaps a message of farewell from the dying
lord, now dead. Mr. Rhodes had only the news of the evening journals,
to the effect that Lord Dannisburgh had expired at his residence, the
Priory, Hallowmere, in Hampshire. A message of farewell from him, she
hoped for: knowing him as she did, it seemed a certainty; and she
hungered for that last gleam of life in her friend. She had no
anticipation of the burden of the message awaiting her.
A consultation as to the despatching of the message, had taken place
among the members of Lord Dannisburgh's family present at his death.
Percy Dacier was one of them, and he settled the disputed point, after
some time had been spent in persuading his father to take the plain view
of obligation in the matter, and in opposing the dowager countess, his
grandmother, by stating that he had already sent a special messenger to
London. Lord Dannisburgh on his death-bed had expressed a wish that Mrs.
Warwick would sit with him for an hour one night before the nails were
knocked in his coffin. He spoke of it twice, putting it the second time
to Percy as a formal request to be made to her, and Percy had promised
him that Mrs. Warwick should have the message. He had done his best to
keep his pledge, aware of the disrelish of the whole family for the
lady's name, to say nothing of her presence.
'She won't come,' said the earl.
'She'll come,' said old Lady Dacier.
'If the woman respects herself she'll hold off it,' the earl insisted
because of his desire that way. He signified in mutterings that the
thing was improper and absurd, a piece of sentiment, sickly senility,
unlike Lord Dannisburgh. Also that Percy had been guilty of excessive
To which Lady Dacier nodded her assent, remarking, 'The woman is on her
mettle. From what I've heard of her, she's not a woman to stick at
trifles. She'll take it as a sort of ordeal by touch, and she 'll come.'
They joined in abusing Percy, who had driven away to another part of the
country. Lord Creedmore, the heir of the house, was absent, hunting in
America, or he might temporarily have been taken into favour by contrast.
Ultimately they agreed that the woman must be allowed to enter the house,
but could not be received. The earl was a widower; his mother managed
the family, and being hard to convince, she customarily carried her
point, save when it involved Percy's freedom of action. She was one of
the veterans of her sex that age to toughness; and the 'hysterical fuss'
she apprehended in the visit of this woman to Lord Dannisburgh's death-
bed and body, did not alarm her. For the sake of the household she
determined to remain, shut up in her room. Before night the house was
empty of any members of the family excepting old Lady Dacier and the
outstretched figure on the bed.
Dacier fled to escape the hearing of the numberless ejaculations re-
awakened in the family by his uncle's extraordinary dying request. They
were an outrage to the lady, of whom he could now speak as a privileged
champion; and the request itself had an air of proving her stainless, a
white soul and efficacious advocate at the celestial gates (reading the
mind of the dying man). So he thought at one moment: he had thought so
when charged with the message to her; had even thought it a natural wish
that she should look once on the face she would see no more, and say
farewell to it, considering that in life it could not be requested. But
the susceptibility to sentimental emotion beside a death-bed, with a
dying man's voice in the ear, requires fortification if it is to be
maintained;' and the review of his uncle's character did not tend to make
this very singular request a proof that the lady's innocence was honoured
in it. His epicurean uncle had no profound esteem for the kind of
innocence. He had always talked of Mrs. Warwick—with warm respect for
her: Dacier knew that he had bequeathed her a sum of money. The
inferences were either way. Lord Dannisburgh never spoke evilly of any
woman, and he was perhaps bound to indemnify her materially as well as he
could for what she had suffered.—On the other hand, how easy it was to
be the dupe of a woman so handsome and clever.—Unlikely too that his
uncle would consent to sit at the Platonic banquet with her.—Judging by
himself, Dacier deemed it possible for man. He was not quick to kindle,
and had lately seen much of her, had found her a Lady Egeria, helpful in
counsel, prompting, inspiriting, reviving as well-waters, and as
temperately cool: not one sign of native slipperiness. Nor did she stir
the mud in him upon which proud man is built. The shadow of the scandal
had checked a few shifty sensations rising now and then of their own
accord, and had laid them, with the lady's benign connivance. This was
good proof in her favour, seeing that she must have perceived of late the
besetting thirst he had for her company; and alone or in the medley
equally. To see her, hear, exchange ideas with her; and to talk of new
books, try to listen to music at the opera and at concerts, and admire
her playing of hostess, were novel pleasures, giving him fresh notions of
life, and strengthening rather than disturbing the course of his life's
At any rate, she was capable of friendship. Why not resolutely believe
that she had been his uncle's true and simple friend! He adopted the
resolution, thanking her for one recognized fact:—he hated marriage, and
would by this time have been in the yoke, but for the agreeable deviation
of his path to her society. Since his visit to Copsley, moreover, Lady
Dunstane's idolizing, of her friend had influenced him. Reflecting on
it, he recovered from the shock which his uncle's request had caused.
Certain positive calculations were running side by side with the
speculations in vapour. His messenger would reach her house at about
four of the afternoon. If then at home, would she decide to start
immediately?—Would she come? That was a question he did not delay to
answer. Would she defer the visit? Death replied to that. She would
not delay it.
She would be sure to come at once. And what of the welcome she would
meet? Leaving the station at London at six in the evening, she might
arrive at the Priory, all impediments counted, between ten and eleven at
night. Thence, coldly greeted, or not greeted, to the chamber of death.
A pitiable and cruel reception for a woman upon such a mission!
His mingled calculations and meditations reached that exclamatory
terminus in feeling, and settled on the picture of Diana, about as clear
as light to blinking eyes, but enough for him to realize her being there
and alone, woefully alone. The supposition of an absolute loneliness was
most possible. He had intended to drive back the next day, when the
domestic storm would be over, and take the chances of her coming. It
seemed now a piece of duty to return at night, a traverse of twenty rough
up and down miles from Itchenford to the heath-land rolling on the chalk
wave of the Surrey borders, easily done after the remonstrances of his
host were stopped.
Dacier sat in an open carriage, facing a slip of bright moon. Poetical
impressions, emotions, any stirrings of his mind by the sensational stamp
on it, were new to him, and while he swam in them, both lulled and
pricked by his novel accessibility to nature's lyrical touch, he asked
himself whether, if he were near the throes of death, the thought of
having Diana Warwick to sit beside his vacant semblance for an hour at
night would be comforting. And why had his uncle specified an hour of
the night? It was a sentiment, like the request: curious in a man so
little sentimental. Yonder crescent running the shadowy round of the
hoop roused comparisons. Would one really wish to have her beside one
in death? In life—ah! But suppose her denied to us in life. Then the
desire for her companionship appears passingly comprehensible. Enter
into the sentiment, you see that the hour of darkness is naturally
chosen. And would even a grand old Pagan crave the presence beside his
dead body for an hour of the night of a woman he did not esteem? Dacier
answered no. The negative was not echoed in his mind. He repeated it,
and to the same deadness.
He became aware that he had spoken for himself, and he had a fit of
sourness. For who can say he is not a fool before he has been tried by a
woman! Dacier's wretched tendency under vexation to conceive grotesque
analogies, anti-poetic, not to say cockney similes, which had slightly
chilled Diana at Rovio, set him looking at yonder crescent with the hoop,
as at the shape of a white cat climbing a wheel. Men of the northern
blood will sometimes lend their assent to poetical images, even to those
that do not stun the mind lie bludgeons and imperatively, by much
repetition, command their assent; and it is for a solid exchange and
interest in usury with soft poetical creatures when they are so
condescending; but they are seized by the grotesque. In spite of efforts
to efface or supplant it, he saw the white cat, nothing else, even to
thinking that she had jumped cleverly to catch the wheel. He was a true
descendant of practical hard-grained fighting Northerners, of gnarled
dwarf imaginations, chivalrous though they were, and heroes to have
serviceable and valiant gentlemen for issue. Without at all tracing back
to its origin his detestable image of the white cat on the dead circle,
he kicked at the links between his uncle and Diana Warwick, whatever they
had been; particularly at the present revival of them. Old Lady Dacier's
blunt speech, and his father's fixed opinion, hissed in his head.
They were ignorant of his autumnal visit to the Italian Lakes, after the
winter's Nile-boat expedition; and also of the degree of his recent
intimacy with Mrs. Warwick; or else, as he knew, he would have heard more
hissing things. Her patronage of Miss Paynham exposed her to attacks
where she was deemed vulnerable; Lady Dacier muttered old saws as to the
flocking of birds; he did not accurately understand it, thought it
indiscreet, at best. But in regard to his experience, he could tell
himself that a woman more guileless of luring never drew breath. On the
contrary, candour said it had always been he who had schemed and pressed
for the meeting. He was at liberty to do it, not being bound in honour
elsewhere. Besides, despite his acknowledgement of her beauty, Mrs.
Warwick was not quite his ideal of the perfectly beautiful woman.
Constance Asper came nearer to it. He had the English taste for red and
white, and for cold outlines: he secretly admired a statuesque demeanour
with a statue's eyes. The national approbation of a reserved haughtiness
in woman, a tempered disdain in her slightly lifted small upperlip and
drooped eyelids, was shared by him; and Constance Asper, if not exactly
aristocratic by birth, stood well for that aristocratic insular type,
which seems to promise the husband of it a casket of all the trusty
virtues, as well as the security of frigidity in the casket. Such was
Dacier's native taste; consequently the attractions of Diana Warwick for
him were, he thought, chiefly mental, those of a Lady Egeria. She might
or might not be good, in the vulgar sense. She was an agreeable woman,
an amusing companion, very suggestive, inciting, animating; and her past
history must be left as her own. Did it matter to him? What he saw was
bright, a silver crescent on the side of the shadowy ring. Were it a
question of marrying her!—That was out of the possibilities. He
remembered, moreover, having heard from a man, who professed to know,
that Mrs. Warwick had started in married life by treating her husband
cavalierly to an intolerable degree: 'Such as no Englishman could stand,'
the portly old informant thundered, describing it and her in racy
vernacular. She might be a devil of a wife. She was a pleasant friend;
just the soft bit sweeter than male friends which gave the flavour of sex
without the artful seductions. He required them strong to move him.
He looked at last on the green walls of the Priory, scarcely supposing a
fair watcher to be within; for the contrasting pale colours of dawn had
ceased to quicken the brilliancy of the crescent, and summer daylight
drowned it to fainter than a silver coin in water. It lay dispieced like
a pulled rag. Eastward, over Surrey, stood the full rose of morning.
The Priory clock struck four. When the summons of the bell had gained
him admittance, and he heard that Mrs. Warwick had come in the night,
he looked back through the doorway at the rosy colour, and congratulated
himself to think that her hour of watching was at an end. A sleepy
footman was his informant. Women were in my lord's dressing-room, he
said. Upstairs, at the death-chamber, Dacier paused. No sound came to
him. He hurried to his own room, paced about, and returned. Expecting
to see no one but the dead, he turned the handle, and the two circles of
a shaded lamp, on ceiling and on table, met his gaze.
DIANA A NIGHT-WATCH IN THE CHAMBER OF DEATH
He stepped into the room, and thrilled to hear the quiet voice beside the
bed: 'Who is it?'
Apologies and excuses were on his tongue. The vibration of those grave
tones checked them.
'It is you,' she said.
She sat in shadow, her hands joined on her lap. An unopened book was
under the lamp.
He spoke in an underbreath: 'I have just come. I was not sure I should
find you here. Pardon.'
'There is a chair.'
He murmured thanks and entered into the stillness, observing her.
'You have been watching . . . . You must be tired.'
'An hour was asked, only one.'
'I could not leave him.'
'Watchers are at hand to relieve you'
'It is better for him to have me.'
The chord of her voice told him of the gulf she had sunk in during the
night. The thought of her endurance became a burden.
He let fall his breath for patience, and tapped the floor with his foot.
He feared to discompose her by speaking. The silence grew more fearful,
as the very speech of Death between them.
'You came. I thought it right to let you know instantly. I hoped you
would come to-morrow'
'I could not delay.'
'You have been sitting alone here since eleven!'
'I have not found it long.'
'You must want some refreshment . . . tea?'
'I need nothing.'
'It can be made ready in a few minutes.'
'I could not eat or drink.'
He tried to brush away the impression of the tomb in the heavily-
curtained chamber by thinking of the summer-morn outside; he spoke of it,
the rosy sky, the dewy grass, the piping birds. She listened, as one
hearing of a quitted sphere.
Their breathing in common was just heard if either drew a deeper breath.
At moments his eyes wandered and shut. Alternately in his mind Death had
vaster meanings and doubtfuller; Life cowered under the shadow or
outshone it. He glanced from her to the figure in the bed, and she
He said: 'It is time for you to have rest. You know your room. I will
stay till the servants are up.'
She replied: 'No, let this night with him be mine.'
'I am not intruding . . .?'
'If you wish to remain . . .'
No traces of weeping were on her face. The lampshade revealed it
colourless, and lustreless her eyes. She was robed in black. She held
her hands clasped.
'You have not suffered?'
She said it without sighing: nor was her speech mournful, only brief.
'You have seen death before?'
'I sat by my father four nights. I was a girl then. I cried till I had
no more tears.'
He felt a burning pressure behind his eyeballs.
'Death is natural,' he said.
'It is natural to the aged. When they die honoured . . .'
She looked where the dead man lay. 'To sit beside the young, cut off
from their dear opening life . . . !' A little shudder swept over
her. 'Oh! that!'
'You were very good to come. We must all thank you for fulfilling his
'He knew it would be my wish.'
Her hands pressed together.
'He lies peacefully!'
'I have raised the lamp on him, and wondered each time. So changeless he
lies. But so like a sleep that will wake. We never see peace but in the
features of the dead. Will you look? They are beautiful. They have a
The desire to look was evidently recurrent with her. Dacier rose.
Their eyes fell together on the dead man, as thoughtfully as Death allows
to the creatures of sensation.
'And after?' he said in low tones.
'I trust to my Maker,' she replied. 'Do you see a change since he
breathed his last?'
'You were with him?'
'Not in the room. Two minutes later.'
'Who . . .?'
'My father. His niece, Lady Cathairn.'
'If our lives are lengthened we outlive most of those we would have to
close our eyes. He had a dear sister.'
'She died some years back.'
'I helped to comfort him for that loss.'
'He told me you did.'
The lamp was replaced on the table.
'For a moment, when I withdraw the light from him, I feel sadness.
As if the light we lend to anything were of value to him now!'
She bowed her head deeply. Dacier left her meditation undisturbed.
The birds on the walls outside were audible, tweeting, chirping.
He went to the window-curtains and tried the shutter-bars. It seemed to
him that daylight would be cheerfuller for her. He had a thirst to
behold her standing bathed in daylight.
'Shall I open them?' he asked her.
'I would rather the lamp,' she said.
They sat silently until she drew her watch from her girdle. 'My train
starts at half-past six. It is a walk of thirty-five minutes to the
station. I did it last night in that time.'
'You walked here in the dark alone?'
'There was no fly to be had. The station-master sent one of his porters
with me. We had a talk on the road. I like those men.'
Dacier read the hour by the mantelpiece clock. 'If you must really go by
the early train, I will drive you.'
'No, I will walk; I prefer it.'
'I will order your breakfast at once.'
He turned on his heel. She stopped him. 'No, I have no taste for eating
'Pray . . .' said he, in visible distress.
She shook her head. 'I could not. I have twenty minutes longer. I can
find my way to the station; it is almost a straight road out of the park-
His heart swelled with anger at the household for they treatment she had
been subjected to, judging by her resolve not to break bread in the
They resumed their silent sitting. The intervals for a word to pass
between them were long, and the ticking of the time-piece fronting the
death-bed ruled the chamber, scarcely varied.
The lamp was raised for the final look, the leave-taking.
Dacier buried his face, thinking many things—the common multitude in
'A servant should be told to come now,' she said. 'I have only to put on
my bonnet and I am ready.'
'You will take no . . . ?'
'It is not too late for a carriage to be ordered.'
He roused the two women in the dressing-room, asleep with heads against
the wall. Thence he sped to his own room for hat and overcoat, and a
sprinkle of cold water. Descending the stairs, he beheld his companion
issuing from the chamber of death. Her lips were shut, her eyelids
They were soon in the warm sweet open air, and they walked without an
interchange of a syllable through the park into the white hawthorn lane,
glad to breathe. Her nostrils took long draughts of air, but of the
change of, scene she appeared scarcely sensible.
At the park-gates, she said: 'There is no necessity four your coming.'
His answer was: 'I think of myself. I gain something every step I walk
'To-day is Thursday,' said she. 'The funeral is . . . ?'
'Monday has been fixed. According to his directions, he will lie in the
churchyard of his village—not in the family vault.'
'I know,' she said hastily. 'They are privileged who follow him and see
the coffin lowered. He spoke of this quiet little resting-place.'
'Yes, it's a good end. I do not wonder at his wish for the honour you
have done him. I could wish it too. But more living than dead—that is
a natural wish.'
'It is not to be called an honour.'
'I should feel it so-an honour to me.'
'It is a friend's duty. The word is too harsh; it was his friend's
desire. He did not ask it so much as he sanctioned it. For to him what
has my sitting beside him been!'
'He had the prospective happiness.'
'He knew well that my soul would be with him—as it was last night.
But he knew it would be my poor human happiness to see him with my eyes,
touch him with my hand, before he passed from our sight.'
Dacier exclaimed: 'How you can love!'
'Is the village church to be seen?' she asked.
'To the right of those elms; that is the spire. The black spot below is
a yew. You love with the whole heart when you love.'
'I love my friends,' she replied.
'You tempt me to envy those who are numbered among them.'
'They are not many.'
'They should be grateful.!
'You have some acquaintance with them all.'
'And an enemy? Had you ever one? Do you know of one?'
'Direct and personal designedly? I think not. We give that title to
those who are disinclined to us and add a dash of darker colour to our
errors. Foxes have enemies in the dogs; heroines of melodramas have
their persecuting villains. I suppose that conditions of life exist
where one meets the original complexities. The bad are in every rank.
The inveterately malignant I have not found. Circumstances may combine
to make a whisper as deadly as a blow, though not of such evil design.
Perhaps if we lived at a Court of a magnificent despot we should learn
that we are less highly civilized than we imagine ourselves; but that is
a fire to the passions, and the extreme is not the perfect test. Our
civilization counts positive gains—unless you take the melodrama for the
truer picture of us. It is always the most popular with the English.—
And look, what a month June is! Yesterday morning I was with Lady
Dunstane on her heights, and I feel double the age. He was fond of
this wild country. We think it a desert, a blank, whither he has gone,
because we will strain to see in the utter dark, and nothing can come of
that but the bursting of the eyeballs.'
Dacier assented: 'There's no use in peering beyond the limits.'
'No,' said she; 'the effect is like the explaining of things to a dull
head—the finishing stroke to the understanding! Better continue to
brood. We get to some unravelment if we are left to our own efforts.
I quarrel with no priest of any denomination. That they should quarrel
among themselves is comprehensible in their wisdom, for each has the
specific. But they show us their way of solving the great problem, and
we ought to thank them, though one or the other abominate us. You are
advised to talk with Lady Dunstane on these themes.
She is perpetually in the antechamber of death, and her soul is
perennially sunshine.—See the pretty cottage under the laburnum curls!
Who lives there?'
'His gamekeeper, Simon Rofe.'
'And what a playground for the children, that bit of common by their
garden-palings! and the pond, and the blue hills over the furzes. I
hope those people will not be turned out.'
Dacier could not tell. He promised to do his best for them.
'But,' said she, 'you are the lord here now.'
'Not likely to be the tenant. Incomes are wanted to support even small
'The reason is good for courting the income.'
He disliked the remark; and when she said presently:
'Those windmills make the landscape homely,' he rejoined: 'They remind
one of our wheeling London gamins round the cab from the station.'
'They remind you,' said she, and smiled at the chance discordant trick he
had, remembering occasions when it had crossed her.
'This is homelier than Rovio,' she said; 'quite as nice in its way.'
'You do not gather flowers here.'
'Because my friend has these at her feet.'
'May one petition without a rival, then, for a souvenir?'
'Certainly, if you care to have a common buttercup.'
They reached the station, five minutes in advance of the train. His
coming manoeuvre was early detected, and she drew from her pocket the
little book he had seen lying unopened on the table, and said: 'I shall
have two good hours for reading.'
'You will not object? . . . I must accompany you to town. Permit it,
I beg. You shall not be worried to talk.'
'No; I came alone and return alone.'
'Fasting and unprotected! Are you determined to take away the worst
impression of us? Do not refuse me this favour.'
'As to fasting, I could not eat: and unprotected no woman is in England,
if she is a third-class traveller. That is my experience of the class;
and I shall return among my natural protectors—the most unselfishly
chivalrous to women in the whole world.'
He had set his heart on going with her, and he attempted eloquence in
pleading, but that exposed him to her humour; he was tripped.
'It is not denied that you belong to the knightly class,' she said; 'and
it is not necessary that you should wear armour and plumes to proclaim
it; and your appearance would be ample protection from the drunken
sailors travelling, you say, on this line; and I may be deplorably
mistaken in imagining that I could tame them. But your knightliness is
due elsewhere; and I commit myself to the fortune of war. It is a battle
for women everywhere; under the most favourable conditions among my dear
common English. I have not my maid with me, or else I should not dare.'
She paid for a third-class ticket, amused by Dacier's look of entreaty
'Of course I obey,' he murmured.
'I have the habit of exacting it in matters concerning my independence,'
she said; and it arrested some rumbling notions in his head as to a piece
of audacity on the starting of the train. They walked up and down the
platform till the bell rang and the train came rounding beneath an arch.
'Oh, by the way, may I ask?'—he said: 'was it your article in
Whitmonby's journal on a speech of mine last week?'
'The guilty writer is confessed.'
'Let me thank you.'
'Don't. But try to believe it written on public grounds—if the task is
not too great.'
'I may call?'
'You will be welcome.'
'To tell you of the funeral—the last of him.'
'Do not fail to come.'
She could have laughed to see him jumping on the steps of the third-class
carriages one after another to choose her company for her. In those pre-
democratic blissful days before the miry Deluge, the opinion of the
requirements of poor English travellers entertained by the Seigneur
Directors of the class above them, was that they differed from cattle in
stipulating for seats. With the exception of that provision to suit
their weakness, the accommodation extended to them resembled pens, and
the seats were emphatically seats of penitence, intended to grind the
sitter for his mean pittance payment and absence of aspiration to a
higher state. Hard angular wood, a low roof, a shabby square of window
aloof, demanding of him to quit the seat he insisted on having, if he
would indulge in views of the passing scenery,—such was the furniture of
dens where a refinement of castigation was practised on villain poverty
by denying leathers to the windows, or else buttons to the leathers, so
that the windows had either to be up or down, but refused to shelter and
Dacier selected a compartment occupied by two old women, a mother and
babe and little maid, and a labouring man. There he installed her, with
an eager look that she would not notice.
'You will want the window down,' he said.
She applied to her fellow-travellers for the permission; and struggling
to get the window down, he was irritated to animadvert on 'these
carriages' of the benevolent railway Company.
'Do not forget that the wealthy are well treated, or you may be unjust,'
said she, to pacify him.
His mouth sharpened its line while he tried arts and energies on the
refractory window. She told him to leave it. 'You can't breathe this
atmosphere!' he cried, and called to a porter, who did the work,
remarking that it was rather stiff.
The door was banged and fastened. Dacier had to hang on the step to see
her in the farewell. From the platform he saw the top of her bonnet; and
why she should have been guilty of this freak of riding in an unwholesome
carriage, tasked his power of guessing. He was too English even to have
taken the explanation, for he detested the distinguishing of the races in
his country, and could not therefore have comprehended her peculiar
tenacity of the sense of injury as long as enthusiasm did not arise to
obliterate it. He required a course of lessons in Irish.
Sauntering down the lane, he called at Simon Rofe's cottage, and spoke
very kindly to the gamekeeper's wife. That might please Diana. It was
all he could do at present.
'THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE'
Descriptions in the newspapers of the rural funeral of Lord Dannisburgh
had the effect of rousing flights of tattlers with a twittering of the
disused name of Warwick; our social Gods renewed their combat, and the
verdict of the jury was again overhauled, to be attacked and maintained,
the carpers replying to the champions that they held to their view of it:
as heads of bull-dogs are expected to do when they have got a grip of
one. It is a point of muscular honour with them never to relax their
hold. They will tell you why:—they formed that opinion from the first.
And but for the swearing of a particular witness, upon whom the plaintiff
had been taught to rely, the verdict would have been different—to prove
their soundness of judgement. They could speak from private positive
information of certain damnatory circumstances, derived from authentic
sources. Visits of a gentleman to the house of a married lady in the
absence of the husband? Oh!—The British Lucretia was very properly not
legally at home to the masculine world of that day. She plied her
distaff in pure seclusion, meditating on her absent lord; or else a fair
proportion of the masculine world, which had not yet, has not yet,
'doubled Cape Turk,' approved her condemnation to the sack.
There was talk in the feminine world, at Lady Wathin's assemblies. The
elevation of her husband had extended and deepened her influence on the
levels where it reigned before, but without, strange as we may think it
now, assisting to her own elevation, much aspired for, to the smooth and
lively upper pavement of Society, above its tumbled strata. She was near
that distinguished surface, not on it. Her circle was practically the
same as it was previous to the coveted nominal rank enabling her to
trample on those beneath it. And women like that Mrs. Warwick, a woman
of no birth, no money, not even honest character, enjoyed the entry
undisputed, circulated among the highest:—because people took her rattle
for wit!—and because also our nobility, Lady Wathin feared, had no due
regard for morality. Our aristocracy, brilliant and ancient though it
was, merited rebuke. She grew severe upon aristocratic scandals, whereof
were plenty among the frolicsome host just overhead, as vexatious as the
drawing-room party to the lodger in the floor below, who has not received
an invitation to partake of the festivities and is required to digest the
noise. But if ambition is oversensitive, moral indignation is ever
consolatory, for it plants us on the Judgement Seat. There indeed we
may, sitting with the very Highest, forget our personal disappointments
in dispensing reprobation for misconduct, however eminent the offenders.
She was Lady Wathin, and once on an afternoon's call to see poor Lady
Dunstane at her town-house, she had been introduced to Lady Pennon, a
patroness of Mrs. Warwick, and had met a snub—an icy check-bow of the
aristocratic head from the top of the spinal column, and not a word, not
a look; the half-turn of a head devoid of mouth and eyes! She practised
that forbidding checkbow herself to perfection, so the endurance of it
was horrible. A noli me tangere, her husband termed it, in his
ridiculous equanimity; and he might term it what he pleased—it was
insulting. The solace she had was in hearing that hideous Radical
Revolutionary things were openly spoken at Mrs. Warwick's evenings with
her friends:—impudently named 'the elect of London.' Pleasing to
reflect upon Mrs. Warwick as undermining her supporters, to bring them
some day down with a crash! Her 'elect of London' were a queer
gathering, by report of them! And Mr. Whitmonby too, no doubt a
celebrity, was the right-hand man at these dinner-parties of Mrs.
Warwick. Where will not men go to be flattered by a pretty woman! He
had declined repeated, successive invitations to Lady Wathin's table.
But there of course he would not have had 'the freedom': that is, she
rejoiced in thinking defensively and offensively, a moral wall enclosed
her topics. The Hon. Percy Dacier had been brought to her Thursday
afternoon by. Mr. Quintin Manx, and he had one day dined with her; and
he knew Mrs. Warwick—a little, he said. The opportunity was not lost to
convey to him, entirely in the interest of sweet Constance Asper, that
the moral world entertained a settled view of the very clever woman Mrs.
Warwick certainly was. He had asked Diana, on their morning walk to the
station, whether she had an enemy: so prone are men, educated by the
Drama and Fiction in the belief that the garden of civilized life must be
at the mercy of the old wild devourers, to fancy 'villain whispers' an
indication of direct animosity. Lady Wathin had no sentiment of the
But she had become acquainted with the other side of the famous
Dannisburgh case—the unfortunate plaintiff; and compassion as well as
morality moved her to put on a speaking air when Mr. Warwick's name was
mentioned. She pictured him to the ladies of her circle as 'one of our
true gentlemen in his deportment and his feelings.' He was, she would
venture to say, her ideal of an English gentleman. 'But now,' she added
commiseratingly, 'ruined; ruined in his health and in his prospects.'
A lady inquired if it was the verdict that had thus affected him. Lady
Wathin's answer was reported over moral, or substratum, London: 'He is
the victim of a fatal passion for his wife; and would take her back to-
morrow were she to solicit his forgiveness.' Morality had something to
say against this active marital charity, attributable, it was to be
feared, to weakness of character on the part of the husband. Still Mrs.
Warwick undoubtedly was one of those women (of Satanic construction) who
have the art of enslaving the men unhappy enough to cross their path.
The nature of the art was hinted, with the delicacy of dainty feet which
have to tread in mire to get to safety. Men, alas! are snared in this
way. Instances too numerous for the good repute of the swinish sex,
were cited, and the question of how Morality was defensible from their
grossness passed without a tactical reply. There is no defence: Those
women come like the Cholera Morbus—and owing to similar causes. They
will prevail until the ideas of men regarding women are purified.
Nevertheless the husband who could forgive, even propose to forgive, was
deemed by consent generous, however weak. Though she might not have been
wholly guilty, she had bitterly offended. And he despatched an emissary
to her?—The theme, one may, in their language, 'fear,' was relished as a
sugared acid. It was renewed in the late Autumn of the year, when
ANTONIA published her new book, entitled THE YOUNG MINISTER of STATE.
The signature of the authoress was now known; and from this resurgence of
her name in public, suddenly a radiation of tongues from the circle of
Lady Wathin declared that the repentant Mrs. Warwick had gone back to her
husband's bosom and forgiveness! The rumour spread in spite of sturdy
denials at odd corners, counting the red-hot proposal of Mr. Sullivan
Smith to eat his head and boots for breakfast if it was proved correct.
It filled a yawn of the Clubs for the afternoon. Soon this wanton rumour
was met and stifled by another of more morbific density, heavily charged
as that which led the sad Eliza to her pyre.
ANTONIA's hero was easily identified. THE YOUNG MINISTER of STATE could
be he only who was now at all her parties, always meeting her; had been
spied walking with her daily in the park near her house, on his march
down to Westminster during the session; and who positively went to
concerts and sat under fiddlers to be near her. It accounted moreover
for his treatment of Constance Asper. What effrontery of the authoress,
to placard herself with him in a book! The likeness of the hero to Percy
Dacier once established became striking to glaringness—a proof of her
ability, and more of her audacity; still more of her intention to flatter
him up to his perdition. By the things written of him, one would imagine
the conversations going on behind the scenes. She had the wiles of a
Cleopatra, not without some of the Nilene's experiences. A youthful
Antony Dacier would be little likely to escape her toils. And so
promising a young man! The sigh, the tear for weeping over his
destruction, almost fell, such vivid realizing of the prophesy
appeared in its pathetic pronouncement.
This low rumour, or malaria, began blowing in the winter, and did not
travel fast; for strangely, there was hardly a breath of it in the
atmosphere of Dacier, none in Diana's. It rose from groups not so
rapidly and largely mixing, and less quick to kindle; whose crazy
sincereness battened on the smallest morsel of fact and collected the
fictitious by slow absorption. But as guardians of morality, often doing
good duty in their office, they are persistent. When Parliament
assembled, Mr. Quintin Manx, a punctual member of the House, if nothing
else, arrived in town. He was invited to dine with Lady Wathin. After
dinner she spoke to him of the absent Constance, and heard of her being
well, and expressed a great rejoicing at that. Whereupon the burly old
shipowner frowned and puffed. Constance, he said, had plunged into these
new spangle, candle and high singing services; was all for symbols,
harps, effigies, what not. Lady Wathin's countenance froze in hearing of
it. She led Mr. Quintin to a wall-sofa, and said: 'Surely the dear child
must have had a disappointment, for her to have taken to those foolish
displays of religion! It is generally a sign.'
'Well, ma'am-my lady—I let girls go their ways in such things. I don't
interfere. But it's that fellow, or nobody, with her. She has fixed her
girl's mind on him, and if she can't columbine as a bride, she will as a
nun. Young people must be at some harlequinade.'
'But it is very shocking. And he?'
'He plays last and loose, warm and cold. I'm ready to settle twenty
times a nobleman's dowry on my niece and she's a fine girl, a handsome
girl, educated up to the brim, fit to queen it in any drawing-room. He
holds her by some arts that don't hold him, it seems. He's all for
'Constance can scarcely be his dupe so far, I should think.'
'How do you mean?'
'Everything points to one secret of his conduct.'
Lady Wathin's head shook for her sex's pained affirmative.
Mr. Quintin in the same fashion signified the downright negative. 'The
fellow's as cold as a fish.'
'Flattery will do anything. There is, I fear, one.'
'Widow? wife? maid?'
'Married, I regret to say.'
'Well, if he'd get over with it,' said Quintin, in whose notions the
seductiveness of a married woman could be only temporary, for all the
reasons pertaining to her state. At the same time his view of Percy
Dacier was changed in thinking it possible that a woman could divert him
from his political and social interests. He looked incredulous.
'You have heard of a Mrs. Warwick?' said Lady Wathin.
'Warwick! I have. I've never seen her. At my broker's in the City
yesterday I saw the name on a Memorandum of purchase of Shares in a
concern promising ten per cent., and not likely to carry the per annum
into the plural. He told me she was a grand kind of woman, past
'For what amount'
'Some thousands, I think it was.'
'She has no money': Lady Wathin corrected her emphasis: 'or ought to have
'She can't have got it from him.'
'Did you notice her Christian name?'
'I don't recollect it, if I did. I thought the woman a donkey.'
'Would you consider me a busybody were I to try to mitigate this woman's
evil influence? I love dear Constance, and should be happy to serve
'I want my girl married,' said old Quintin. 'He's one of my
Parliamentary chiefs, with first-rate prospects; good family, good
sober fellow—at least I thought so; by nature, I mean; barring your
incantations. He suits me, she liking him.'
'She admires him, I am sure.'
'She's dead on end for the fellow!'
Lady Wathin felt herself empowered by Quintin Manx to undertake the
release of sweet Constance Asper's knight from the toils of his
enchantress. For this purpose she had first an interview with Mr.
Warwick, and next she hurried to Lady Dunstane at Copsley. There, after
jumbling Mr. Warwick's connubial dispositions and Mrs. Warwick's last
book, and Mr. Percy Dacier's engagement to the great heiress in a gossipy
hotch-potch, she contrived to gather a few items of fact, as that THE
YOUNG MINISTER was probably modelled upon Mr. Percy Dacier. Lady
Dunstane made no concealment of it as soon as she grew sensible of the
angling. But she refused her help to any reconciliation between Mr. and
Mrs. Warwick. She declined to listen to Lady Wathin's entreaties. She
declined to give her reasons.—These bookworm women, whose pride it is to
fancy that they can think for themselves, have a great deal of the
heathen in them, as morality discovers when it wears the enlistment
ribands and applies yo them to win recruits for a service under the
direct blessing of Providence.
Lady Wathin left some darts behind her, in the form of moral
exclamations; and really intended morally. For though she did not like
Mrs. Warwick, she had no wish to wound, other than by stopping her
further studies of the Young Minister, and conducting him to the young
lady loving him, besides restoring a bereft husband to his own. How
sadly pale and worn poor Mr. Warwick appeared? The portrayal of his
withered visage to Lady Dunstane had quite failed to gain a show of
sympathy. And so it is ever with your book-worm women pretending to be
philosophical! You sound them vainly for a manifestation of the
commonest human sensibilities, They turn over the leaves of a Latin book
on their laps while you are supplicating them to assist in a work of
Lady Wathin's interjectory notes haunted Emma's ear. Yet she had seen
nothing in Tony to let her suppose that there was trouble of her heart
below the surface; and her Tony when she came to Copsley shone in the
mood of the day of Lord Dannisburgh's drive down from London with her.
She was running on a fresh work; talked of composition as a trifle.
'I suppose the YOUNG MINISTER is Mr. Percy Dacier?' said Emma.
'Between ourselves he is,' Diana replied, smiling at a secret guessed.
'You know my model and can judge of the likeness.'
'You write admiringly of him, Tony.'
'And I do admire him. So would you, Emmy, if you knew him as well as I
do now. He pairs with Mr. Redworth; he also is the friend of women. But
he lifts us to rather a higher level of intellectual friendship. When
the ice has melted—and it is thick at first—he pours forth all his
ideas without reserve; and they are deep and noble. Ever since Lord
Dannisburgh's death and our sitting together, we have been warm friends
—intimate, I would say, if it could be said of one so self-contained.
In that respect, no young man was ever comparable with him. And I am
encouraged to flatter myself that he unbends to me more than to others.'
'He is engaged, or partly, I hear; why does he not marry?'
'I wish he would!' Diana said, with a most brilliant candour of aspect.
Emma read in it, that it would complete her happiness, possibly by
fortifying her sense of security; and that seemed right. Her own
meditations, illumined by the beautiful face in her presence, referred to
the security of Mr. Dacier.
'So, then, life is going smoothly,' said Emma.
'Yes, at a good pace and smoothly: not a torrent—Thames-like, "without
o'erflowing full." It is not Lugano and the Salvatore. Perhaps it is
better: as action is better than musing.'
'No troubles whatever?'
'None. Well, except an "adorer" at times. I have to take him as my
portion. An impassioned Caledonian has a little bothered me. I met him
at Lady Pennon's, and have been meeting him, as soon as I put foot out of
my house, ever since. If I could impress and impound him to marry Mary
Paynham, I should be glad. By the way, I have consented to let her try
at a portrait of me. No, I have no troubles. I have friends, the
choicest of the nation; I have health, a field for labour, fairish
success with it; a mind alive, such as it is. I feel like that midsummer
morning of our last drive out together, the sun high, clearish, clouded
enough to be cool. And still I envy Emmy on her sofa, mastering Latin,
biting at Greek. What a wise recommendation that was of Mr. Redworth's!
He works well in the House. He spoke excellently the other night.'
'He runs over to Ireland this Easter.'
'He sees for himself, and speaks with authority. He sees and feels.
Englishmen mean well, but they require an extremity of misery to waken
'It is coming, he says; and absit omen!'
'Mr. Dacier says he is the one Englishman who may always be sure of an
Irish hearing; and he does not cajole them, you know. But the English
defect is really not want of feeling so much as want of foresight. They
will not look ahead. A famine ceasing, a rebellion crushed, they jog on
as before, with their Dobbin trot and blinker confidence in "Saxon
energy." They should study the Irish: I think it was Mr. Redworth who
compared the governing of the Irish to the management of a horse: the
rider should not grow restive when the steed begins to kick: calmer;
firm, calm, persuasive.'
'Does Mr. Dacier agree?'
'Not always. He has the inveterate national belief that Celtic blood
is childish, and the consequently illogical disregard of its hold of
impressions. The Irish—for I have them in my heart, though I have not
been among them for long at a time—must love you to serve you, and will
hate you if you have done them injury and they have not wiped it out—
they with a treble revenge, or you with cordial benefits. I have told
him so again and again: ventured to suggest measures.'
'He listens to you, Tony?'
'He says I have brains. It ends in a compliment.'
'You have inspired Mr. Redworth.'
'If I have, I have lived for some good.'
Altogether her Tony's conversation proved to Emma that her perusal of the
model of THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE was an artist's, free, open, and not
discoloured by the personal tincture. Her heart plainly was free and
undisturbed. She had the same girl's love of her walks where wildflowers
grew; if possible, a keener pleasure. She hummed of her happiness in
being at Copsley, singing her Planxty Kelly and The Puritani by turns.
She stood on land: she was not on the seas. Emma thought so with good
She stood on land, it was true, but she stood on a cliff of the land,
the seas below and about her; and she was enabled to hoodwink her friend
because the assured sensation of her firm footing deceived her own soul,
even while it took short flights to the troubled waters. Of her firm
footing she was exultingly proud. She stood high, close to danger,
without giddiness. If at intervals her soul flew out like lightning
from the rift (a mere shot of involuntary fancy, it seemed to her),
the suspicion of instability made her draw on her treasury of impressions
of the mornings at Lugano—her loftiest, purest, dearest; and these
reinforced her. She did not ask herself why she should have to seek
them for aid. In other respects her mind was alert and held no sly
covers, as the fiction of a perfect ignorant innocence combined with
common intelligence would have us to suppose that the minds of women can
do. She was honest as long as she was not directly questioned, pierced
to the innermost and sanctum of the bosom. She could honestly summon
bright light to her eyes in wishing the man were married. She did not
ask herself why she called it up. The remorseless progressive
interrogations of a Jesuit Father in pursuit of the bosom's verity might
have transfixed it and shown her to herself even then a tossing vessel as
to the spirit, far away from that firm land she trod so bravely.
Descending from the woody heights upon London, Diana would have said that
her only anxiety concerned young Mr. Arthur Rhodes, whose position she
considered precarious, and who had recently taken a drubbing for
venturing to show a peep of his head, like an early crocus, in the
literary market. Her ANTONIA'S last book had been reviewed obediently
to smart taps from the then commanding baton of Mr. Tonans, and Mr.
Whitmonby's choice picking of specimens down three columns of his paper.
A Literary Review (Charles Rainer's property) had suggested that perhaps
'the talented authoress might be writing too rapidly'; and another,
actuated by the public taste of the period for our 'vigorous homely
Saxon' in one and two syllable words, had complained of a 'tendency to
polysyllabic phraseology.' The remainder, a full majority, had sounded
eulogy with all their band-instruments, drum, trumpet, fife, trombone.
Her foregoing work had raised her to Fame, which is the Court of a Queen
when the lady has beauty and social influence, and critics are her
dedicated courtiers, gaping for the royal mouth to be opened, and
reserving the kicks of their independent manhood for infamous outsiders,
whom they hoist in the style and particular service of pitchforks. They
had fallen upon a little volume of verse, 'like a body of barn-door hens
on a stranger chick,' Diana complained; and she chid herself angrily for
letting it escape her forethought to propitiate them on the author's
behalf. Young Rhodes was left with scarce a feather; and what remained
to him appeared a preposterous ornament for the decoration of a shivering
and welted poet. He laughed, or tried the mouth of laughter. ANTONIA's
literary conscience was vexed at the different treatment she had met and
so imperatively needed that the reverse of it would have threatened the
smooth sailing of her costly household. A merry-go-round of creditors
required a corresponding whirligig of receipts.
She felt mercenary, debased by comparison with the well-scourged verse-
mason, Orpheus of the untenanted city, who had done his publishing
ingenuously for glory: a good instance of the comic-pathetic. She wrote
to Emma, begging her to take him in at Copsley for a few days: 'I told
you I had no troubles. I am really troubled about this poor boy. He has
very little money and has embarked on literature. I cannot induce any of
my friends to lend him a hand. Mr. Redworth gruffly insists on his going
back to his law-clerk's office and stool, and Mr. Dacier says that no
place is vacant. The reality of Lord Dannisburgh's death is brought
before me by my helplessness. He would have made him an assistant
private Secretary, pending a Government appointment, rather than let me
plead in vain.'
Mr. Rhodes with his travelling bag was packed off to Copsley, to enjoy a
change of scene after his run of the gauntlet. He was very heartily
welcomed by Lady Dunstane, both for her Tony's sake and his own modest
worship of that luminary, which could permit of being transparent; but
chiefly she welcomed him as the living proof of Tony's disengagement
from anxiety, since he was her one spot of trouble, and could easily be
comforted by reading with her, and wandering through the Spring woods
along the heights. He had a happy time, midway in air between his
accomplished hostess and his protecting Goddess. His bruises were soon
healed. Each day was radiant to him, whether it rained or shone; and by
his looks and what he said of himself Lady Dunstane understood that he
was in the highest temper of the human creature tuned to thrilling accord
with nature. It was her generous Tony's work. She blessed it, and liked
the youth the better.
During the stay of Mr. Arthur Rhodes at Copsley, Sir Lukin came on a
visit to his wife. He mentioned reports in the scandal-papers: one, that
Mr. P. D. would shortly lead to the altar the lovely heiress Miss A.,
Percy Dacier and Constance Asper:—another, that a reconciliation was to
be expected between the beautiful authoress Mrs. W. and her husband.
'Perhaps it's the best thing she can do,' Sir Lukin added.
Lady Dunstane pronounced a woman's unforgiving: 'Never.' The revolt
of her own sensations assured her of Tony's unconquerable repugnance.
In conversation subsequently with Arthur Rhodes, she heard that he knew
the son of Mr. Warwick's attorney, a Mr. Fern; and he had gathered from
him some information of Mr. Warwick's condition of health. It had been
alarming; young Fern said it was confirmed heart-disease. His father
frequently saw Mr. Warwick, and said he was fretting himself to death.
It seemed just a possibility that Tony's natural compassionateness had
wrought on her to immolate herself and nurse to his end the man who had
wrecked her life. Lady Dunstane waited for the news. At last she wrote,
touching the report incidentally. There was no reply. The silence
ensuing after such a question responded forcibly.
BETWEEN DIANA AND DACIER: THE WIND EAST OVER BLEAK LAND
On the third day of the Easter recess Percy Dacier landed from the Havre
steamer at Caen and drove straightway for the sandy coast, past fields of
colza to brine-blown meadows of coarse grass, and then to the low dunes
and long stretching sands of the ebb in semicircle: a desolate place at
that season; with a dwarf fishing-village by the shore; an East wind
driving landward in streamers every object that had a scrap to fly.
He made head to the inn, where the first person he encountered in the
passage was Diana's maid Danvers, who relaxed from the dramatic
exaggeration of her surprise at the sight of a real English gentleman in
these woebegone regions, to inform him that her mistress might be found
walking somewhere along the sea-shore, and had her dog to protect her.
They were to stay here a whole week, Danvers added, for a conveyance of
her private sentiments. Second thoughts however whispered to her
shrewdness that his arrival could only be by appointment. She had been
anticipating something of the sort for some time.
Dacier butted against the stringing wind, that kept him at a rocking
incline to his left for a mile. He then discerned in what had seemed a
dredger's dot on the sands, a lady's figure, unmistakably she, without
the corroborating testimony of Leander paw-deep in the low-tide water.
She was out at a distance on the ebb-sands, hurtled, gyred, beaten to all
shapes, in rolls, twists, volumes, like a blown banner-flag, by the
pressing wind. A kerchief tied her bonnet under her chin. Bonnet and
breast-ribands rattled rapidly as drummer-sticks. She stood near the
little running ripple of the flat sea-water, as it hurried from a long
streaked back to a tiny imitation of spray. When she turned to the shore
she saw him advancing, but did not recognize; when they met she merely
looked with wide parted lips. This was no appointment.
'I had to see you,' Dacier said.
She coloured to a deeper red than the rose-conjuring wind had whipped in
her cheeks. Her quick intuition of the reason of his coming barred a
mental evasion, and she had no thought of asking either him or herself
what special urgency had brought him.
'I have been here four days.'
'Lady Esquart spoke of the place.'
'Lady Esquart should not have betrayed me.'
'She did it inadvertently, without an idea of my profiting by it.'
Diana indicated the scene in a glance. 'Dreary country, do you think?'
They walked up the sand-heap. The roaring Easter with its shrieks and
whistles at her ribands was not favourable to speech. His 'Anywhere!'
had a penetrating significance, the fuller for the break that left it
Speech between them was commanded; he could not be suffered to remain.
She descended upon a sheltered pathway running along a ditch, the border
of pastures where cattle cropped, raised heads, and resumed their one
Diana gazed on them, smarting from the buffets of the wind she had met.
'No play of their tails to-day'; she said, as she slackened her steps.
'You left Lady Esquart well?'
'Lady Esquart . . . I think was well. I had to see you. I thought
you would be with her in Berkshire. She told me of a little sea-side
place close to Caen.'
'You had to see me?'
'I miss you now if it's a day!'
'I heard a story in London . . .'
'In London there are many stories. I heard one. Is there a foundation
He breathed relieved. 'I wanted to see you once before . . . if it
was true. It would have made a change in my life-a gap.'
'You do me the honour to like my Sunday evenings?'
'Beyond everything London can offer.'
'A letter would have reached me.'
'I should have had to wait for the answer. There is no truth in it?'
Her choice was to treat the direct assailant frankly or imperil her
defence by the ordinary feminine evolutions, which might be taken for
inviting: poor pranks always.
'There have been overtures,' she said.
'Forgive me; I have scarcely the right to ask . . . speak of it.!
'My friends may use their right to take an interest in my fortunes.'
'I thought I might, on my way to Paris, turn aside . . . coming by
'If you determined not to lose much of your time.'
The coolness of her fencing disconcerted a gentleman conscious of his
madness. She took instant advantage of any circuitous move; she gave him
no practicable point. He was little skilled in the arts of attack, and
felt that she checked his impetuousness; respected her for it, chafed at
it, writhed with the fervours precipitating him here, and relapsed on his
pleasure in seeing her face, hearing her voice.
'Your happiness, I hope, is the chief thought in such a case,' he said.
'I am sure you would consider it.'
'I can't quite forget my own.'
'You compliment an ambitious hostess.'
Dacier glanced across the pastures, 'What was it that tempted you to this
'A poet would say it looks like a figure in the shroud. It has no
features; it has a sort of grandeur belonging to death. I heard of it as
the place where I might be certain of not meeting an acquaintance.'
'And I am the intruder.'
'An hour or two will not give you that title.'
'Am I to count the minutes by my watch?'
'By the sun. We will supply you an omelette and piquette, and send you
back sobered and friarly—to Caen for Paris at sunset.'
'Let the fare be Spartan. I could take my black broth with philosophy
every day of the year under your auspices. What I should miss . . .'
'You bring no news of the world or the House?'
'None. You know as much as I know. The Irish agitation is chronic.
The Corn-law threatens to be the same.'
'And your Chief—in personal colloquy?'
'He keeps a calm front. I may tell you: there is nothing I would not
confide to you: he has let fall some dubious words in private. I don't
know what to think of them.'
'But if he should waver?'
'It's not wavering. It's the openness of his mind.'
'Ah! the mind. We imagine it free. The House and the country are the
sentient frame governing the mind of the politician more than his ideas.
He cannot think independently of them:—nor I of my natural anatomy. You
will test the truth of that after your omelette and piquette, and marvel
at the quitting of your line of route for Paris. As soon as the mind
attempts to think independently, it is like a kite with the cord cut,
and performs a series of darts and frisks, that have the look of wildest
liberty till you see it fall flat to earth. The openness of his mind is
most honourable to him.'
'Ominous for his party.'
'Likely to be good for his country.'
'That is the question.'
'Prepare to encounter it. In politics I am with the active minority on
behalf of the inert but suffering majority. That is my rule. It leads,
unless you have a despotism, to the conquering side. It is always the
noblest. I won't say, listen to me; only do believe my words have some
weight. This is a question of bread.'
'It involves many other questions.'
'And how clearly those leaders put their case! They are admirable
debaters. If I were asked to write against them, I should have but to
quote them to confound my argument. I tried it once, and wasted a couple
of my precious hours.'
'They are cogent debaters,' Dacier assented. 'They make me wince now and
then, without convincing me: I own it to you. The confession is not
agreeable, though it's a small matter.'
'One's pride may feel a touch with the foils as keenly as the point of a
rapier,' said Diana.
The remark drew a sharp look of pleasure from him.
'Does the Princess Egeria propose to dismiss the individual she inspires,
when he is growing most sensible of her wisdom?'
'A young Minister of State should be gleaning at large when holiday is
Dacier coloured. 'May I presume on what is currently reported?'
'Parts, parts; a bit here, a bit there,' she rejoined. 'Authors find
their models where they can, and generally hit on the nearest.'
'Happy the nearest!'
'If you run to interjections I shall cite you a sentence, from your
latest speech in the House.'
He asked for it, and to school him she consented to flatter with her
recollection of his commonest words:
'"Dealing with subjects of this nature emotionally does, not advance us a
'I must have said that in relation to hard matter of business.'
'It applies. There is my hostelry, and the spectral form of Danvers,
utterly depaysee. Have you spoken to the poor soul? I can never
discover the links of her attachment to my service.'
'She knows a good mistress.—I have but a few minutes, if you are
relentless. May I . . ., shall I ever be privileged to speak your
'My Christian name! It is Pagan. In one sphere I am Hecate. Remember
'I am not among the people who so regard you.'
'The time may come.'
'I break no tie. I owe no allegiance whatever to the name.'
'Keep to the formal title with me. We are Mrs. Warwick and Mr. Dacier.
I think I am two years younger than you; socially therefore ten in
seniority; and I know how this flower of friendship is nourished and may
be withered. You see already what you have done? You have cast me on
the discretion of my maid. I suppose her trusty, but I am at her mercy,
and a breath from her to the people beholding me as Hecate queen of
Witches! . . . I have a sensation of the scirocco it would blow.'
'In that event, the least I can offer is my whole life.'
'We will not conjecture the event.'
'The best I could hope for!'
'I see I shall have to revise the next edition of THE YOUNG MINISTER, and
make an emotional curate of him. Observe Danvers. The woman is
wretched; and now she sees me coming she pretends to be using her wits
in studying the things about her, as I have directed. She is a riddle.
I have the idea that any morning she may explode; and yet I trust her and
sleep soundly. I must be free, though I vex the world's watchdogs.—So,
Danvers, you are noticing how thoroughly Frenchwomen do their work.'
Danvers replied with a slight mincing: 'They may, ma'am; but they chatter
'The result proves that it is not a waste of energy. They manage their
'They've no such thing as mutton, ma'am.'
Dacier patriotically laughed.
'She strikes the apology for wealthy and leisurely landlords,' Diana
Danvers remarked that the poor fed meagrely in France. She was not
convinced of its being good for them by hearing that they could work on
it sixteen hours out of the four and twenty.
Mr. Percy Dacier's repast was furnished to him half an hour later. At
sunset Diana, taking Danvers beside her, walked with him to the line of
the country road bearing on Caen. The wind had sunk. A large brown disk
paused rayless on the western hills.
'A Dacier ought to feel at home in Normandy; and you may have sprung from
this neighbourhood,' said she, simply to chat. 'Here the land is
poorish, and a mile inland rich enough to bear repeated crops of colza,
which tries the soil, I hear. As for beauty, those blue hills you see,
enfold charming valleys. I meditate an expedition to Harcourt before I
return. An English professor of his native tongue at the Lycee at Caen
told me on my way here that for twenty shillings a week you may live in
royal ease round about Harcourt. So we have our bed and board in
prospect if fortune fails us, Danvers!
'I would rather die in England, ma'am,' was the maid's reply.
Dacier set foot on his carriage-step. He drew a long breath to say a
short farewell, and he and Diana parted.
They parted as the plainest of sincere good friends, each at heart
respecting the other for the repression of that which their hearts
craved; any word of which might have carried them headlong, bound
together on a Mazeppa-race, with scandal for the hounding wolves, and
social ruin for the rocks and torrents.
Dacier was the thankfuller, the most admiring of the two; at the same
time the least satisfied. He saw the abyss she had aided him in
escaping; and it was refreshful to look abroad after his desperate
impulse. Prominent as he stood before the world, he could not think
without a shudder of behaving like a young frenetic of the passion.
Those whose aim is at the leadership of the English people know, that
however truly based the charges of hypocrisy, soundness of moral fibre
runs throughout the country and is the national integrity, which may
condone old sins for present service; but will not have present sins to
flout it. He was in tune with the English character. The passion was in
him nevertheless, and the stronger for a slow growth that confirmed its
union of the mind and heart. Her counsel fortified him, her suggestions
opened springs; her phrases were golden-lettered in his memory; and more,
she had worked an extraordinary change in his views of life and aptitude
for social converse: he acknowledged it with genial candour. Through her
he was encouraged, led, excited to sparkle with the witty, feel new
gifts, or a greater breadth of nature; and thanking her, he became
thirstily susceptible to her dark beauty; he claimed to have found the
key of her, and he prized it. She was not passionless: the blood flowed
warm. Proud, chaste, she was nobly spirited; having an intellectual
refuge from the besiegings of the blood; a rockfortress. The 'wife no
wife' appeared to him, striking the higher elements of the man, the
commonly masculine also.—Would he espouse her, had he the chance?—
to-morrow! this instant! With her to back him, he would be doubled in
manhood, doubled in brain and heart-energy. To call her wife, spring
from her and return, a man might accept his fate to fight Trojan or
Greek, sure of his mark on the enemy.
But if, after all, this imputed Helen of a decayed Paris passed,
submissive to the legitimate solicitor, back to her husband?
The thought shot Dacier on his legs for a look at the blank behind him.
He vowed she had promised it should not be. Could it ever be, after
the ruin the meanly suspicious fellow had brought upon her?—Diana
voluntarily reunited to the treacherous cur?
He sat, resolving sombrely that if the debate arose he would try what
force he had to save her from such an ignominy, and dedicate his life to
her, let the world wag its tongue. So the knot would be cut.
Men unaccustomed to a knot in their system find the prospect of cutting
it an extreme relief, even when they know that the cut has an edge to
wound mortally as well as pacify. The wound was not heavy payment for
the rapture of having so incomparable a woman his own. He reflected
wonderingly on the husband, as he had previously done, and came again to
the conclusion that it was a poor creature, abjectly jealous of a wife,
he could neither master, nor equal, nor attract. And thinking of
jealousy, Dacier felt none; none of individuals, only of facts: her
marriage, her bondage. Her condemnation to perpetual widowhood angered
him, as at an unrighteous decree. The sharp sweet bloom of her beauty,
fresh in swarthiness, under the whipping Easter, cried out against that
loathed inhumanity. Or he made it cry.
Being a stranger to the jealousy of men, he took the soft assurance that
he was preferred above them all. Competitors were numerous: not any won
her eyes as he did. She revealed nothing of the same pleasures in the
shining of the others touched by her magical wand. Would she have
pardoned one of them the 'Diana!' bursting from his mouth?
She was not a woman for trifling, still less for secresy. He was as
little the kind of lover. Both would be ready to take up their burden,
if the burden was laid on them. Diana had thus far impressed him.
Meanwhile he faced the cathedral towers of the ancient Norman city,
standing up in the smoky hues of the West; and a sentence out of her book
seemed fitting to the scene and what he felt. He rolled it over
luxuriously as the next of delights to having her beside him.—She wrote
of; 'Thoughts that are bare dark outlines, coloured by some odd passion
of the soul, like towers of a distant city seen in the funeral waste of
day.'—His bluff English anti-poetic training would have caused him to
shrug at the stuff coming from another pen: he might condescendingly have
criticized it, with a sneer embalmed in humour. The words were hers; she
had written them; almost by a sort of anticipation, he imagined; for he
at once fell into the mood they suggested, and had a full crop of the
'bare dark outlines' of thoughts coloured by his particular form of
Diana had impressed him powerfully when she set him swallowing and
assimilating a sentence ethereally thin in substance of mere sentimental
significance, that he would antecedently have read aloud in a drawing-
room, picking up the book by hazard, as your modern specimen of romantic
vapouring. Mr. Dacier however was at the time in observation of the
towers of Caen, fresh from her presence, animated to some conception of
her spirit. He drove into the streets, desiring, half determining, to
risk a drive back on the morrow.
The cold light of the morrow combined with his fear of distressing her to
restrain him. Perhaps he thought it well not to risk his gains. He was
a northerner in blood. He may have thought it well not further to run
the personal risk immediately.
RECORDS A VISIT TO DIANA FROM ONE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD WOMEN
Pure disengagement of contemplativeness had selected. Percy Dacier as
the model of her YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE, Diana supposed. Could she
otherwise have dared to sketch him? She certainly would not have done
That was a reflection similar to what is entertained by one who has
dropped from a precipice to the midway ledge over the abyss, where
caution of the whole sensitive being is required for simple self-
preservation. How could she have been induced to study and portray him!
It seemed a form of dementia.
She thought this while imagining the world to be interrogating her. When
she interrogated herself, she flew to Lugano and her celestial Salvatore,
that she might be defended from a charge of the dreadful weakness of her
sex. Surely she there had proof of her capacity for pure disengagement.
Even in recollection the springs of spiritual happiness renewed the
bubbling crystal play. She believed that a divineness had wakened in her
there, to strengthen her to the end, ward her from any complicity in her
sex's culprit blushing.
Dacier's cry of her name was the cause, she chose to think, of the
excessive circumspection she must henceforth practise; precariously
footing, embracing hardest earth, the plainest rules, to get back to
safety. Not that she was personally endangered, or at least not
spiritually; she could always fly in soul to her heights. But she had
now to be on guard, constantly in the fencing attitude. And watchful of
herself as well. That was admitted with a ready frankness, to save it
from being a necessitated and painful confession: for the voluntary-
acquiescence, if it involved her in her sex, claimed an individual
exemption. 'Women are women, and I am a woman but I am I, and unlike
them: I see we are weak, and weakness tempts: in owning the prudence of
guarded steps, I am armed. It is by dissembling, feigning immunity, that
we are imperilled.' She would have phrased it so, with some anger at her
feminine nature as well as at the subjection forced on her by
Besides, her position and Percy Dacier's threw the fancied danger into
remoteness. The world was her stepmother, vigilant to become her judge;
and the world was his taskmaster, hopeful of him, yet able to strike him
down for an offence. She saw their situation as he did. The course of
folly must be bravely taken, if taken at all: Disguise degraded her to
This was faced. Consequently there was no fear of it.
She had very easily proved that she had skill and self-possession to
keep him rational, and therefore they could continue to meet. A little
outburst of frenzy to a reputably handsome woman could be treated as the
froth of a passing wave. Men have the trick, infants their fevers.
Diana's days were spent in reasoning. Her nights were not so tuneable to
the superior mind. When asleep she was the sport of elves that danced
her into tangles too deliciously unravelled, and left new problems for
the wise-eyed and anxious morning. She solved them with the thought that
in sleep it was the mere ordinary woman who fell a prey to her
tormentors; awake, she dispersed the swarm, her sky was clear. Gradually
the persecution ceased, thanks to her active pen.
A letter from her legal adviser, old Mr. Braddock, informed her that no
grounds existed for apprehending marital annoyance, and late in May her
household had resumed its customary round.
She examined her accounts. The Debit and Credit sides presented much of
the appearance of male and female in our jog-trot civilization. They
matched middling well; with rather too marked a tendency to strain the
leash and run frolic on the part of friend Debit (the wanton male), which
deepened the blush of the comparison. Her father had noticed the same
funny thing in his effort to balance his tugging accounts: 'Now then for
a look at Man and Wife': except that he made Debit stand for the portly
frisky female, Credit the decorous and contracted other half, a prim
gentleman of a constitutionally lean habit of body, remonstrating with
her. 'You seem to forget that we are married, my dear, and must walk in
step or bundle into the Bench,' Dan Merion used to say.
Diana had not so much to rebuke in Mr. Debit; or not at the first
reckoning. But his ways were curious. She grew distrustful of him,
after dismissing him with a quiet admonition and discovering a series of
ambush bills, which he must have been aware of when he was allowed to
pass as an honourable citizen. His answer to her reproaches pleaded the
necessitousness of his purchases and expenditure: a capital plea; and
Mrs. Credit was requested by him, in a courteous manner, to drive her pen
the faster, so that she might wax to a corresponding size and satisfy the
world's idea of fitness in couples. She would have costly furniture,
because it pleased her taste; and a French cook, for a like reason, in
justice to her guests; and trained servants; and her tribe of pensioners;
flowers she would have profuse and fresh at her windows and over the
rooms; and the pictures and engravings on the walls were (always for the
good reason mentioned) choice ones; and she had a love of old lace, she
loved colours as she loved cheerfulness, and silks, and satin hangings,
Indian ivory carvings, countless mirrors, Oriental woods, chairs and
desks with some feature or a flourish in them, delicate tables with
antelope legs, of approved workmanship in the chronology of European
upholstery, and marble clocks of cunning device to symbol Time,
mantelpiece decorations, illustrated editions of her favourite authors;
her bed-chambers, too, gave the nest for sleep a dainty cosiness in
aerial draperies. Hence, more or less directly, the peccant bills.
Credit was reduced to reckon to a nicety the amount she could rely on
positively: her fixed income from her investments and the letting of The
Crossways: the days of half-yearly payments that would magnify her to
some proportions beside the alarming growth of her partner, who was proud
of it, and referred her to the treasures she could summon with her pen,
at a murmur of dissatisfaction. His compliments were sincere; they were
seductive. He assured her that she had struck a rich vein in an
inexhaustible mine; by writing only a very little faster she could double
her income; counting a broader popularity, treble it; and so on a tide of
success down the widening river to a sea sheer golden. Behold how it
sparkles! Are we then to stint our winged hours of youth for want of
courage to realize the riches we can command? Debit was eloquent, he was
Another calculator, an accustomed and lamentably-scrupulous
arithmetician, had been at work for some time upon a speculative summing
of the outlay of Diana's establishment, as to its chances of swamping the
income. Redworth could guess pretty closely the cost of a house hold, if
his care for the holder set him venturing on aver ages. He knew nothing
of her ten per cent. investment and considered her fixed income a
beggarly regiment to marshal against the invader. He fancied however, in
his ignorance of literary profits, that a popular writer, selling several
editions, had come to an El Dorado. There was the mine. It required a
diligent worker. Diana was often struck by hearing Redworth ask her when
her next book might be expected. He appeared to have an eagerness in
hurrying her to produce, and she had to say that she was not a nimble
writer. His flattering impatience was vexatious. He admired her work,
yet he did his utmost to render it little admirable. His literary taste
was not that of young Arthur Rhodes, to whom she could read her chapters,
appearing to take counsel upon them while drinking the eulogies: she
suspected him of prosaic ally wishing her to make money, and though her
exchequer was beginning to know the need of it, the author's lofty mind
disdained such sordidness: to be excused, possibly, for a failing
productive energy. She encountered obstacles to imaginative composition.
With the pen in her hand, she would fall into heavy musings; break a
sentence to muse, and not on the subject. She slept unevenly at night,
was drowsy by day, unless the open air was about her, or animating
friends. Redworth's urgency to get her to publish was particularly
annoying when she felt how greatly THE YOUNG MINISTER OF STATE would
have been improved had she retained the work to brood over it, polish,
re-write passages, perfect it. Her musings embraced long dialogues of
that work, never printed; they sprang up, they passed from memory;
leaving a distaste for her present work: THE CANTATRICE: far more
poetical than the preceding, in the opinion of Arthur Rhodes; and the
story was more romantic; modelled on a Prima Donna she had met at the
musical parties of Henry Wilmers, after hearing Redworth tell of Charles
Rainer's quaint passion for the woman, or the idea of the woman. Diana
had courted her, studied and liked her. The picture she was drawing of
the amiable and gifted Italian, of her villain Roumanian husband, and of
the eccentric, high-minded, devoted Englishman, was good in a fashion;
but considering the theme, she had reasonable apprehension that her
CANTATRICE would not repay her for the time and labour bestowed on it.
No clever transcripts of the dialogue of the day occurred; no hair-
breadth 'scapes, perils by sea and land, heroisms of the hero, fine
shrieks of the heroine; no set scenes of catching pathos and humour; no
distinguishable points of social satire—equivalent to a smacking of the
public on the chaps, which excites it to grin with keen discernment of
the author's intention. She did not appeal to the senses nor to a
superficial discernment. So she had the anticipatory sense of its
failure; and she wrote her best, in perverseness; of course she wrote
slowly; she wrote more and more realistically of the characters and the
downright human emotions, less of the wooden supernumeraries of her
story, labelled for broad guffaw or deluge tears—the grappling natural
links between our public and an author. Her feelings were aloof. They
flowed at a hint of a scene of THE YOUNG MINISTER. She could not put
them into THE CANTATRICE. And Arthur Rhodes pronounced this work
poetical beyond its predecessors, for the reason that the chief
characters were alive and the reader felt their pulses. He meant
to say, they were poetical inasmuch as they were creations.
The slow progress of a work not driven by the author's feelings
necessitated frequent consultations between Debit and Credit, resulting
in altercations, recriminations, discord of the yoked and divergent
couple. To restore them to their proper trot in harness, Diana
reluctantly went to her publisher for an advance item of the sum she was
to receive, and the act increased her distaste. An idea came that she
would soon cease to be able to write at all. What then? Perhaps by
selling her invested money, and ultimately The Crossways, she would have
enough for her term upon earth. Necessarily she had to think that short,
in order to reckon it as nearly enough. 'I am sure,' she said to
herself, 'I shall not trouble the world very long.' A strange languor
beset her; scarcely melancholy, for she conceived the cheerfulness of
life and added to it in company; but a nervelessness, as though she had
been left by the stream on the banks, and saw beauty and pleasure sweep
along and away, while the sun that primed them dried her veins. At this
time she was gaining her widest reputation for brilliancy of wit. Only
to welcome guests were her evenings ever spent at home. She had no
intimate understanding of the deadly wrestle of the conventional woman
with her nature which she was undergoing below the surface. Perplexities
she acknowledged, and the prudence of guardedness. 'But as I am sure not
to live very long, we may as well meet.' Her meetings with Percy Dacier
were therefore hardly shunned; and his behaviour did not warn her to
discountenance them. It would have been cruel to exclude him from her
select little dinners of eight. Whitmonby, Westlake, Henry Wilmers and
the rest, she perhaps aiding, schooled him in the conversational art.
She heard it said of him, that the courted discarder of the sex, hitherto
a mere politician, was wonderfully humanized. Lady Pennon fell to
talking of him hopefully. She declared him to be one of the men who
unfold tardily, and only await the mastering passion. If the passion had
come, it was controlled. His command of himself melted Diana. How could
she forbid his entry to the houses she frequented? She was glad to see
him. He showed his pleasure in seeing her. Remembering his tentative
indiscretion on those foreign sands, she reflected that he had been
easily checked: and the like was not to be said of some others.
Beautiful women in her position provoke an intemperateness that contrasts
touchingly with the self-restraint of a particular admirer. Her
'impassioned Caledonian' was one of a host, to speak of whom and their
fits of lunacy even to her friend Emma, was repulsive. She bore with
them, foiled them, passed them, and recovered her equanimity; but the
contrast called to her to dwell on it, the self-restraint whispered of a
depth of passion . . . .
She was shocked at herself for a singular tremble 'she experienced,
without any beating of the heart, on hearing one day that the marriage of
Percy Dacier and Miss Asper was at last definitely fixed. Mary Paynham
brought her the news. She had it from a lady who had come across Miss
Asper at Lady Wathin's assemblies, and considered the great heiress
'A golden miracle,' Diana gave her words to say. 'Good looks and gold
together are rather superhuman. The report may be this time true.'
Next afternoon the card of Lady Wathin requested Mrs. Warwick to grant
her a private interview.
Lady Wathin, as one of the order of women who can do anything in a holy
cause, advanced toward Mrs. Warwick, unabashed by the burden of her
mission, and spinally prepared, behind benevolent smilings, to repay
dignity of mien with a similar erectness of dignity. They touched
fingers and sat. The preliminaries to the matter of the interview were
brief between ladies physically sensible of antagonism and mutually too
scornful of subterfuges in one another's presence to beat the bush.
Lady Wathin began. 'I am, you are aware, Mrs. Warwick, a cousin of your
friend Lady Dunstane.'
'You come to me on business?' Diana said.
'It may be so termed. I have no personal interest in it. I come to lay
certain facts before you which I think you should know. We think it
better that an acquaintance, and one of your sex, should state the case
to you, instead of having recourse to formal intermediaries, lawyers—'
'Well, my husband is a lawyer, it is true. In the course of his
professional vocations he became acquainted with Mr. Warwick. We have
latterly seen a good deal of him. He is, I regret to say, seriously
'I have heard of it.'
'He has no female relations, it appears. He needs more care than he can
receive from hirelings.'
'Are you empowered by him, Lady Wathin?'
'I am, Mrs. Warwick. We will not waste time in apologies. He is most
anxious for a reconciliation. It seems to Sir Cramborne and to me the
most desireable thing for all parties concerned, if you can be induced to
regard it in that light. Mr. Warwick may or may not live; but the
estrangement is quite undoubtedly the cause of his illness. I touch on
nothing connected with it. I simply wish that you should not be in
ignorance of his proposal and his condition.'
Diana bowed calmly. 'I grieve at his condition. His proposal has
already been made and replied to.'
'Oh, but, Mrs. Warwick, an immediate and decisive refusal of a proposal
so fraught with consequences . . . !'
'Ah, but, Lady Wathin, you are now outstepping the limits prescribed by
the office you have undertaken.'
'You will not lend ear to an intercession?'
'I will not.'
'Of course, Mrs. Warwick, it is not for me to hint at things that lawyers
could say on the subject.'
'Your forbearance is creditable, Lady Wathin.'
'Believe me, Mrs. Warwick, the step is—I speak in my husband's name as
well as my own—strongly to be advised.'
'If I hear one word more of it, I leave the country.'
'I should be sorry indeed at any piece of rashness depriving your
numerous friends of your society. We have recently become acquainted
with Mr. Redworth, and I know the loss you would be to them. I have not
attempted an appeal to your feelings, Mrs. Warwick.'
'I thank you warmly, Lady Wathin, for what you have not done.'
The aristocratic airs of Mrs. Warwick were annoying to Lady Wathin when
she considered that they were borrowed, and that a pattern morality could
regard the woman as ostracized: nor was it agreeable to be looked at
through eyelashes under partially lifted brows. She had come to appeal
to the feelings of the wife; at any rate, to discover if she had some and
was better than a wild adventuress.
'Our life below is short!' she said. To which Diana tacitly assented.
'We have our little term, Mrs. Warwick. It is soon over.'
'On the other hand, the platitudes concerning it are eternal.'
Lady Wathin closed her eyes, that the like effect might be produced on
her ears. 'Ah! they are the truths. But it is not my business to
preach. Permit me to say that I feel deeply for your husband.'
'I am glad of Mr. Warwick's having friends; and they are many, I hope.'
'They cannot behold him perishing, without an effort on his behalf.'
A chasm of silence intervened. Wifely pity was not sounded in it.
'He will question me, Mrs. Warwick.'
'You can report to him the heads of our conversation, Lady Wathin.'
'Would you—it is your husband's most earnest wish; and our house is open
to his wife and to him for the purpose; and it seems to us that . . .
indeed it might avert a catastrophe you would necessarily deplore:—would
you consent to meet him at my house?'
'It has already been asked, Lady Wathin, and refused.'
'But at my house-under our auspices!'
Diana glanced at the clock. 'Nowhere.'
'Is it not—pardon me—a wife's duty, Mrs. Warwick, at least to listen?'
'Lady Wathin, I have listened to you.'
'In the case of his extreme generosity so putting it, for the present,
Mrs. Warwick, that he asks only to be heard personally by his wife! It
may preclude so much.'
Diana felt a hot wind across her skin.
She smiled and said: 'Let me thank you for bringing to an end a mission
that must have been unpleasant to you.'
'But you will meditate on it, Mrs. Warwick, will you not? Give me that
'I shall not forget it,' said Diana.
Again the ladies touched fingers, with an interchange of the social
grimace of cordiality. A few words of compassion for poor Lady
Dunstane's invalided state covered Lady Wathin's retreat.
She left, it struck her ruffled sentiments, an icy libertine, whom any
husband caring for his dignity and comfort was well rid of; and if only
she could have contrived allusively to bring in the name of Mr. Percy
Dacier, just to show these arrant coquettes, or worse, that they were not
quite so privileged to pursue their intrigues obscurely as they imagined,
it would have soothed her exasperation.
She left a woman the prey of panic.
Diana thought of Emma and Redworth, and of their foolish interposition
to save her character and keep her bound. She might now have been free!
The struggle with her manacles reduced her to a state of rebelliousness,
from which issued vivid illuminations of the one means of certain escape;
an abhorrent hissing cavern, that led to a place named Liberty, her
refuge, but a hectic place.
Unable to write, hating the house which held her a fixed mark for these
attacks, she had an idea of flying straight to her beloved Lugano lake,
and there hiding, abandoning her friends, casting off the slave's name
she bore, and living free in spirit. She went so far as to reckon the
cost of a small household there, and justify the violent step by an
exposition of retrenchment upon her large London expenditure. She had
but to say farewell to Emma, no other tie to cut! One morning on the
Salvatore heights would wash her clear of the webs defacing and
INDICATES A SOUL PREPARED FOR DESPERATION
The month was August, four days before the closing of Parliament, and
Diana fancied it good for Arthur Rhodes to run down with her to Copsley.
He came to her invitation joyfully, reminding her of Lady Dunstane's wish
to hear some chapters of THE CANTATRICE, and the MS. was packed. They
started, taking rail and fly, and winding up the distance on foot.
August is the month of sober maturity and majestic foliage, songless, but
a crowned and royal-robed queenly month; and the youngster's appreciation
of the homely scenery refreshed Diana; his delight in being with her was
also pleasant. She had no wish to exchange him for another; and that was
a strengthening thought.
At Copsley the arrival of their luggage had prepared the welcome. Warm
though it was, Diana perceived a change in Emma, an unwonted reserve,
a doubtfulness of her eyes, in spite of tenderness; and thus thrown back
on herself, thinking that if she had followed her own counsel (as she
called her impulse) in old days, there would have been no such present
misery, she at once, and unconsciously, assumed a guarded look. Based on
her knowledge of her honest footing, it was a little defiant. Secretly
in her bosom it was sharpened to a slight hostility by the knowledge that
her mind had been straying. The guilt and the innocence combined to
clothe her in mail, the innocence being positive, the guilt so vapoury.
But she was armed only if necessary, and there was no requirement for
armour. Emma did not question at all. She saw the alteration in her
Tony: she was too full of the tragic apprehensiveness, overmastering her
to speak of trifles. She had never confided to Tony the exact nature and
the growth of her malady, thinking it mortal, and fearing to alarm her
A portion of the manuscript was read out by Arthur Rhodes in the evening;
the remainder next morning. Redworth perceptibly was the model of the
English hero; and as to his person, no friend could complain of the
sketch; his clear-eyed heartiness, manliness, wholesomeness—a word of
Lady Dunstane's regarding him,—and his handsome braced figure, were well
painted. Emma forgave the: insistance on a certain bluntness of the
nose, in consideration of the fond limning of his honest and expressive
eyes, and the 'light on his temples,' which they had noticed together.
She could not so easily forgive the realistic picture of the man: an
exaggeration, she thought, of small foibles, that even if they existed,
should not have been stressed. The turn for 'calculating' was shown up
ridiculously; Mr. Cuthbert Dering was calculating in his impassioned
moods as well as in his cold. His head was a long division of ciphers.
He had statistics for spectacles, and beheld the world through them, and
the mistress he worshipped.
'I see,' said Emma, during a pause; 'he is a Saxon. You still affect to
have the race en grippe, Tony.'
'I give him every credit for what he is,' Diana replied. 'I admire the
finer qualities of the race as much as any one. You want to have them
presented to you in enamel, Emmy.'
But the worst was an indication that the mania for calculating in and
out of season would lead to the catastrophe destructive of his happiness.
Emma could not bear that. Without asking herself whether it could be
possible that Tony knew the secret, or whether she would have laid it
bare, her sympathy for Redworth revolted at the exposure. She was
chilled. She let it pass; she merely said: 'I like the writing.'
Diana understood that her story was condemned.
She put on her robes of philosophy to cloak discouragement. 'I am glad
the writing pleases you.'
'The characters are as true as life!' cried Arthur Rhodes. 'The
Cantatrice drinking porter from the pewter at the slips after harrowing
the hearts of her audience, is dearer to me than if she had tottered to a
sofa declining sustenance; and because her creatrix has infused such
blood of life into her that you accept naturally whatever she does. She
was exhausted, and required the porter, like a labourer in the
Emma looked at him, and perceived the poet swamped by the admirer. Taken
in conjunction with Mr. Cuthbert Dering's frenzy for calculating, she
disliked the incident of the porter and the pewter.
'While the Cantatrice swallowed her draught, I suppose Mr. Dering counted
the cost?' she said.
'It really might be hinted,' said Diana.
The discussion closed with the accustomed pro and con upon the wart of
Cromwell's nose, Realism rejoicing in it, Idealism objecting.
Arthur Rhodes was bidden to stretch his legs on a walk along the heights
in the afternoon, and Emma was further vexed by hearing Tony complain of
Redworth's treatment of the lad, whom he would not assist to any of the
snug little posts he was notoriously able to dispense.
'He has talked of Mr. Rhodes to me,' said Emma. 'He thinks the
profession of literature a delusion, and doubts the wisdom of having
poets for clerks.'
'John-Bullish!' Diana exclaimed. 'He speaks contemptuously of the poor
'Only inasmuch as the foolishness of the young man in throwing up the Law
provokes his practical mind to speak.'
'He might take my word for the "young man's" ability. I want him to have
the means of living, that he may write. He has genius.'
'He may have it. I like him, and have said so. If he were to go back to
his law-stool, I have no doubt that Redworth would manage to help him.'
'And make a worthy ancient Braddock of a youth of splendid promise! Have
I sketched him too Saxon?'
'It is the lens, and hot the tribe, Tony.'
THE CANTATRICE was not alluded to any more; but Emma's disapproval
blocked the current of composition, already subject to chokings in the
brain of the author. Diana stayed three days at Copsley, one longer than
she had intended, so that Arthur Rhodes might have his fill of country
'I would keep him, but I should be no companion for him,' Emma said.
'I suspect the gallant squire is only to be satisfied by landing me
safely,' said Diana, and that small remark grated, though Emma saw the
simple meaning. When they parted, she kissed her Tony many times. Tears
were in her eyes. It seemed to Diana that she was anxious to make amends
for the fit of alienation, and she was kissed in return warmly, quite
forgiven, notwithstanding the deadly blank she had caused in the
imagination of the writer for pay, distracted by the squabbles of Debit
Diana chatted spiritedly to young Rhodes on their drive to the train.
She was profoundly discouraged by Emma's disapproval of her work. It
wanted but that one drop to make a recurrence to the work impossible.
There it must lie! And what of the aspects of her household?—Perhaps,
after all, the Redworths of the world are right, and Literature as a
profession is a delusive pursuit. She did not assent to it without
hostility to the world's Redworths.—'They have no sensitiveness, we have
too much. We are made of bubbles that a wind will burst, and as the wind
is always blowing, your practical Redworths have their crow of us.'
She suggested advice to Arthur Rhodes upon the prudence of his resuming
the yoke of the Law.
He laughed at such a notion, saying that he had some expectations of
money to come.
'But I fear,' said he, 'that Lady Dunstane is very very ill. She begged
me to keep her informed of your address.'
Diana told him he was one of those who should know it whithersoever she
went. She spoke impulsively, her sentiments of friendliness for the
youth being temporarily brightened by the strangeness of Emma's conduct
in deputing it to him to fulfil a duty she had never omitted. 'What can
she think I am going to do!'
On her table at home lay, a letter from Mr. Warwick. She read it hastily
in the presence of Arthur Rhodes, having at a glance at the handwriting
anticipated the proposal it contained and the official phrasing.
Her gallant squire was invited to dine with her that evening, costume
They conversed of Literature as a profession, of poets dead and living,
of politics, which he abhorred and shied at, and of his prospects. He
wrote many rejected pages, enjoyed an income of eighty pounds per annum,
and eked out a subsistence upon the modest sum his pen procured him; a
sum extremely insignificant; but great Nature was his own, the world was
tributary to him, the future his bejewelled and expectant bride. Diana
envied his youthfulness. Nothing is more enviable, nothing richer to the
mind, than the aspect of a cheerful poverty. How much nobler it was,
contrasted with Redworth's amassing of wealth!
When alone, she went to her bedroom and tried to write, tried to sleep.
Mr. Warwick's letter was looked at. It seemed to indicate a threat; but
for the moment it did not disturb her so much as the review of her moral
prostration. She wrote some lines to her lawyers, quoting one of Mr.
Warwick's sentences. That done, his letter was dismissed. Her
intolerable languor became alternately a defeating drowsiness and a
fever. She succeeded in the effort to smother the absolute cause: it was
not suffered to show a front; at the cost of her knowledge of a practised
self-deception. 'I wonder whether the world is as bad as a certain class
of writers tell us!' she sighed in weariness, and mused on their
soundings and probings of poor humanity, which the world accepts for the
very bottom truth if their dredge brings up sheer refuse of the
abominable. The world imagines those to be at our nature's depths who
are impudent enough to expose its muddy shallows. She was in the mood
for such a kind of writing: she could have started on it at once but that
the theme was wanting; and it may count on popularity, a great repute for
penetration. It is true of its kind, though the dredging of nature is
the miry form of art. When it flourishes we may be assured we have been
overenamelling the higher forms. She felt, and shuddered to feel, that
she could draw from dark stores. Hitherto in her works it had been a
triumph of the good. They revealed a gaping deficiency of the subtle
insight she now possessed. 'Exhibit humanity as it is, wallowing,
sensual, wicked, behind the mask,' a voice called to her; she was allured
by the contemplation of the wide-mouthed old dragon Ego, whose portrait,
decently painted, establishes an instant touch of exchange between author
and public, the latter detected and confessing. Next to the pantomime of
Humour and Pathos, a cynical surgical knife at the human bosom seems the
surest talisman for this agreeable exchange; and she could cut. She gave
herself a taste of her powers. She cut at herself mercilessly, and had
to bandage the wound in a hurry to keep in life.
Metaphors were her refuge. Metaphorically she could allow her mind to
distinguish the struggle she was undergoing, sinking under it. The
banished of Eden had to put on metaphors, and the common use of them has
helped largely to civilize us. The sluggish in intellect detest them,
but our civilization is not much indebted to that major faction.
Especially are they needed by the pedestalled woman in her conflict with
the natural. Diana saw herself through the haze she conjured up. 'Am I
worse than other women?' was a piercing twithought. Worse, would be
hideous isolation. The not worse, abased her sex. She could afford to
say that the world was bad: not that women were.
Sinking deeper, an anguish of humiliation smote her to a sense of
drowning. For what of the poetic ecstasy on her Salvatore heights had
not been of origin divine? had sprung from other than spiritual founts?
had sprung from the reddened sources she was compelled to conceal? Could
it be? She would not believe it. But there was matter to clip her
wings, quench her light, in the doubt.
She fell asleep like the wrecked flung ashore.
Danvers entered her room at an early hour for London to inform her that
Mr. Percy Dacier was below, and begged permission to wait.
Diana gave orders for breakfast to be proposed to him. She lay staring
at the wall until it became too visibly a reflection of her mind.
ONCE MORE THE CROSSWAYS AND A CHANGE OF TURNINGS
The suspicion of his having come to impart the news of his proximate
marriage ultimately endowed her with sovereign calmness. She had need to
think it, and she did. Tea was brought to her while she dressed; she
descended the stairs revolving phrases of happy congratulation and the
world's ordinary epigrams upon the marriage-tie, neatly mixed.
They read in one another's faces a different meaning from the empty words
of excuse and welcome. Dacier's expressed the buckling of a strong set
purpose; but, grieved by the look of her eyes, he wasted a moment to say:
'You have not slept. You have heard . . . ?'
'What?' said she, trying to speculate; and that was a sufficient answer.
'I hadn't the courage to call last night; I passed the windows. Give me
your hand, I beg.'
She gave her hand in wonderment, and more wonderingly felt it squeezed.
Her heart began the hammerthump. She spoke an unintelligible something;
saw herself melting away to utter weakness-pride, reserve, simple
prudence, all going; crumbled ruins where had stood a fortress imposing
to men. Was it love? Her heart thumped shiveringly.
He kept her hand, indifferent to the gentle tension.
'This is the point: I cannot live without you: I have gone on . . .
Who was here last night? Forgive me.'
'You know Arthur Rhodes.'
'I saw him leave the door at eleven. Why do you torture me? There's no
time to lose now. You will be claimed. Come, and let us two cut the
knot. It is the best thing in the world for me—the only thing. Be
brave! I have your hand. Give it for good, and for heaven's sake don't
play the sex. Be yourself. Dear soul of a woman! I never saw the soul
in one but in you. I have waited: nothing but the dread of losing you
sets me speaking now. And for you to be sacrificed a second time to
that—! Oh, no! You know you can trust me. On my honour, I take breath
from you. You are my better in everything—guide, goddess, dearest
heart! Trust me; make me master of your fate.'
'But my friend!' the murmur hung in her throat. He was marvellously
transformed; he allowed no space for the arts of defence and evasion.
'I wish I had the trick of courting. There's not time; and I 'm a
simpleton at the game. We can start this evening. Once away, we leave
it to them to settle the matter, and then you are free, and mine to the
'But speak, speak! What is it?' Diana said.
'That if we delay, I 'm in danger of losing you altogether.'
Her eyes lightened: 'You mean that you have heard he has determined—?'
'There's a process of the law. But stop it. Just this one step, and it
ends. Whether intended or not, it hangs over you, and you will be
perpetually tormented. Why waste your whole youth?—and mine as well!
For I am bound to you as much as if we had stood at the altar—where we
will stand together the instant you are free.'
'But where have you heard . . .?
'From an intimate friend. I will tell you—sufficiently intimate—from
Lady Wathin. Nothing of a friend, but I see this woman at times. She
chose to speak of it to me it doesn't matter why. She is in his
confidence, and pitched me a whimpering tale. Let those people chatter.
But it 's exactly for those people that you are hanging in chains, all
your youth shrivelling. Let them shout their worst! It's the bark of a
day; and you won't hear it; half a year, and it will be over, and I shall
bring you back—the husband of the noblest bride in Christendom! You
don't mistrust me?'
'It is not that,' said she. 'But now drop my hand. I am imprisoned.'
'It's asking too much. I've lost you—too many times. I have the hand
and I keep it. I take nothing but the hand. It's the hand I want.
I give you mine. I love you. Now I know what love is!—and the word
carries nothing of its weight. Tell me you do not doubt my honour.'
'Not at all. But be rational. I must think, and I cannot while you keep
He kissed it. 'I keep my own against the world.'
A cry of rebuke swelled to her lips at his conqueror's tone. It was not
uttered, for directness was in his character and his wooing loyal—save
for bitter circumstances, delicious to hear; and so narrow was the ring
he had wound about her senses, that her loathing of the circumstances
pushed her to acknowledge within her bell of a heart her love for him.
He was luckless enough to say: 'Diana!'
It rang horridly of her husband. She drew her hand to loosen it, with
repulsing brows. 'Not that name!'
Dacier was too full of his honest advocacy of the passionate lover to
take a rebuff. There lay his unconscious mastery, where the common arts
of attack would have tripped him with a quick-witted woman, and where a
man of passion, not allowing her to succumb in dignity, would have
alarmed her to the breaking loose from him.
'Lady Dunstane calls you Tony.'
'She is my dearest and oldest friend.'
'You and I don't count by years. You are the dearest to me on earth,
She debated as to forbidding that name.
The moment's pause wrapped her in a mental hurricane, out of which she
came with a heart stopped, her olive cheeks ashen-hued. She had seen
that the step was possible.
'Oh! Percy, Percy, are we mad?'
'Not mad. We take what is ours. Tell me, have I ever, ever disrespected
you? You were sacred to me; and you are, though now the change has come.
Look back on it—it is time lost, years that are dust. But look forward,
and you cannot imagine our separation. What I propose is plain sense for
us two. Since Rovio, I have been at your feet. Have I not some just
claim for recompense? Tell me! Tony!'
The sweetness of the secret name, the privileged name, in his mouth stole
through her blood, melting resistance.
She had consented. The swarthy flaming of her face avowed it even more
than the surrender of her hand. He gained much by claiming little: he
respected her, gave her no touches of fright and shame; and it was her
glory to fall with pride. An attempt at a caress would have awakened her
view of the whitherward: but she was treated as a sovereign lady
'Is it since Rovio, Percy?'
'Since the morning when you refused me one little flower.'
'If I had given it, you might have been saved!'
'I fancy I was doomed from the beginning.'
'I was worth a thought?'
'Worth a life! worth ten thousand!'
'You have reckoned it all like a sane man:—family, position, the world,
'All. I have long known that you were the mate for me. You have to
weather a gale, Tony. It won't last. My dearest! it won't last many
months. I regret the trial for you, but I shall be with you, burning for
the day to reinstate you and show you the queen you are.'
'Yes, we two can have no covert dealings, Percy,' said Diana. They would
be hateful—baseness! Rejecting any baseness, it seemed to her that she
stood in some brightness. The light was of a lurid sort. She called on
her heart to glory in it as the light of tried love, the love that defied
the world. Her heart rose. She and he would at a single step give proof
of their love for one another—and this kingdom of love—how different
from her recent craven languors!—this kingdom awaited her, was hers for
one word; and beset with the oceans of enemies, it was unassailable. If
only they were true to the love they vowed, no human force could subvert
it: and she doubted him as little as of herself. This new kingdom of
love, never entered by her, acclaiming her, was well-nigh unimaginable,
in spite of the many hooded messengers it had despatched to her of late.
She could hardly believe that it had come.
'But see me as I am,' she said; she faltered it through her direct gaze
'With chains to strike off? Certainly; it is done,' he replied.
'Rather heavier than those of the slave-market! I am the deadest of
burdens. It means that your enemies, personal—if you have any, and
political—you have numbers; will raise a cry . . . . Realize it.
You may still be my friend. I forgive the bit of wildness.'
She provoked a renewed kissing of her hand; for magnammity in love is
an overflowing danger; and when he said: 'The burden you have to bear
outweighs mine out of all comparison. What is it to a man—a public man
or not! The woman is always the victim. That's why I have held myself
in so long:—her strung frame softened. She half yielded to the tug on
'Is there no talking for us without foolishness?' she murmured. The
foolishness had wafted her to sea, far from sight of land. 'Now sit, and
speak soberly. Discuss the matter.—Yes, my hand, but I must have my
wits. Leave me free to use them till we choose our path. Let it be the
brains between us, as far as it can. You ask me to join my fate to
yours. It signifies a sharp battle for you, dear friend; perhaps the
blighting of the most promising life in England. One question is, can I
countervail the burden I shall be, by such help to you as I can afford?
Burden, is no word—I rake up a buried fever. I have partially lived it
down, and instantly I am covered with spots. The old false charges and
this plain offence make a monster of me.'
'And meanwhile you are at the disposal of the man who falsely charged you
and armed the world against you,' said Dacier.
'I can fly. The world is wide.'
'Time slips. Your youth is wasted. If you escape the man, he will have
triumphed in keeping you from me. And I thirst for you; I look to you
for aid and counsel; I want my mate. You have not to be told how you
inspire me? I am really less than half myself without you. If I am to
do anything in the world, it must be with your aid, you beside me.
Our hands are joined: one leap! Do you not see that after . . . well,
it cannot be friendship. It imposes rather more on me than I can bear.
You are not the woman to trifle; nor I; Tony, the man for it with a woman
like you. You are my spring of wisdom. You interdict me altogether—can
you?—or we unite our fates, like these hands now. Try to get yours
Her effort ended in a pressure. Resistance, nay, to hesitate at the
joining of her life with his after her submission to what was a scorching
fire in memory, though it was less than an embrace, accused her of worse
'Well, then,' said she, 'wait three days. Deliberate. Oh! try to know
yourself, for your clear reason to guide you. Let us be something better
than the crowd abusing us, not simple creatures of impulse—as we choose
to call the animal. What if we had to confess that we took to our heels
the moment the idea struck us! Three days. We may then pretend to a
philosophical resolve. Then come to me: or write to me.'
'How long is it since the old Rovio morning, Tony?'
'Date my deliberations from that day.'
The thought of hers having to be dated possibly from an earlier day,
robbed her of her summit of feminine isolation, and she trembled, chilled
and flushed; she lost all anchorage.
'So it must be to-morrow,' said he, reading her closely, 'not later.
Better at once. But women are not to be hurried.'
'Oh! don't class me, Percy, pray! I think of you, not of myself.'
'You suppose that in a day or two I might vary?'
She fixed her eyes on him, expressing certainty of his unalterable
stedfastness. The look allured. It changed: her head shook. She held
away and said: 'No, leave me; leave me, dear, dear friend. Percy, my
dearest! I will not "play the sex." I am yours if . . . if it is
your wish. It may as well be to-morrow. Here I am useless; I cannot
write, not screw a thought from my head. I dread that "process of the
Law" a second time. To-morrow, if it must be. But no impulses. Fortune
is blind; she may be kind to us. The blindness of Fortune is her one
merit, and fools accuse her of it, and they profit by it! I fear we all
of us have our turn of folly: we throw the stake for good luck. I hope
my sin is not very great. I know my position is desperate. I feel a
culprit. But I am sure I have courage, perhaps brains to help. At any
rate, I may say this: I bring no burden to my lover that he does not know
Dacier pressed her hand. 'Money we shall have enough. My uncle has left
me fairly supplied.'
'What would he think?' said Diana, half in a glimpse of meditation.
'Think me the luckiest of the breeched. I fancy I hear him thanking you
for "making a man" of me.'
She blushed. Some such phrase might have been spoken by Lord
'I have but a poor sum of money,' she said. 'I may be able to write
abroad. Here I cannot—if I am to be persecuted.'
'You shall write, with a new pen!' said Dacier. 'You shall live, my
darling Tony. You have been held too long in this miserable suspension,
neither maid nor wife, neither woman nor stockfish. Ah! shameful. But
we 'll right it. The step, for us, is the most reasonable that could be
considered. You shake your head. But the circumstances make it so.
Courage, and we come to happiness! And that, for you and me, means work.
Look at the case of Lord and Lady Dulac. It's identical, except that she
is no match beside you: and I do not compare her antecedents with yours.
But she braved the leap, and forced the world to swallow it, and now, you
see, she's perfectly honoured. I know a place on a peak of the Maritime
Alps, exquisite in summer, cool, perfectly solitary, no English, snow
round us, pastures at our feet, and the Mediterranean below. There! my
Tony. To-morrow night we start. You will meet me-shall I call here?—
well, then at the railway station, the South-Eastern, for Paris: say,
twenty minutes to eight. I have your pledge? You will come?'
She sighed it, then said it firmly, to be worthy of him. Kind Fortune,
peeping under the edge of her bandaged eyes, appeared willing to bestow
the beginning of happiness upon one who thought she had a claim to a
small taste of it before she died. It seemed distinguishingly done, to
give a bite of happiness to the starving!
'I fancied when you were announced that you came for congratulations upon
your approaching marriage, Percy.'
'I shall expect to hear them from you to-morrow evening at the station,
dear Tony,' said he.
The time was again stated, the pledge repeated. He forbore entreaties
for privileges, and won her gratitude.
They named once more the place of meeting and the hour: more significant
to them than phrases of intensest love and passion. Pressing hands
sharply for pledge of good faith, they sundered.
She still had him in her eyes when he had gone. Her old world lay
shattered; her new world was up without a dawn, with but one figure, the
sun of it, to light the swinging strangeness.
Was ever man more marvellously transformed? or woman more wildly swept
from earth into the clouds? So she mused in the hum of her tempest of
heart and brain, forgetful of the years and the conditions preparing both
of them for this explosion.
She had much to do: the arrangements to dismiss her servants, write to
house-agents and her lawyer, and write fully to Emma, write the enigmatic
farewell to the Esquarts and Lady Pennon, Mary Paynham, Arthur Rhodes,
Whitmonby (stanch in friendship, but requiring friendly touches), Henry
Wilmers, and Redworth. He was reserved to the last, for very enigmatical
adieux: he would hear the whole story from Emma; must be left to think as
The vague letters were excellently well composed: she was going abroad,
and knew not when she would return; bade her friends think the best they
could of her in the meantime. Whitmonby was favoured with an anecdote,
to be read as an apologue by the light of subsequent events. But the
letter to Emma tasked Diana. Intending to write fully, her pen committed
the briefest sentences: the tenderness she felt for Emma wakening her
heart to sing that she was loved, loved, and knew love at last; and
Emma's foreseen antagonism to the love and the step it involved rendered
her pleadings in exculpation a stammered confession of guiltiness,
ignominious, unworthy of the pride she felt in her lover. 'I am like a
cartridge rammed into a gun, to be discharged at a certain hour
tomorrow,' she wrote; and she sealed a letter so frigid that she could
not decide to post it. All day she imagined hearing a distant cannonade.
The light of the day following was not like earthly light. Danvers
assured her there was no fog in London.
'London is insupportable; I am going to Paris, and shall send for you in
a week or two,' said Diana.
'Allow me to say, ma'am, that you had better take me with you,' said
'Are you afraid of travelling by yourself, you foolish creature?'
'No, ma'am, but I don't like any hands to undress and dress my mistress
but my own.'
'I have not lost the art,' said Diana, chafing for a magic spell to
extinguish the woman, to whom, immediately pitying her, she said: 'You
are a good faithful soul. I think you have never kissed me. Kiss me on
Danvers put her lips to her mistress's forehead, and was asked: 'You
still consider yourself attached to my fortunes?'
'I do, ma'am, at home or abroad; and if you will take me with you . . '
'Not for a week or so.'
'I shall not be in the way, ma'am.'
They played at shutting eyes. The petition of Danvers was declined;
which taught her the more; and she was emboldened to say: 'Wherever my
mistress goes, she ought to have her attendant with her.' There was no
answer to it but the refusal.
The hours crumbled slowly, each with a blow at the passages of retreat.
Diana thought of herself as another person, whom she observed, not
counselling her, because it was a creature visibly pushed by the Fates.
In her own mind she could not perceive a stone of solidity anywhere, nor
a face that had the appearance of our common life. She heard the cannon
at intervals. The things she said set Danvers laughing, and she wondered
at the woman's mingled mirth and stiffness. Five o'clock struck. Her
letters were sent to the post. Her boxes were piled from stairs to door.
She read the labels, for her good-bye to the hated name of Warwick:—why
ever adopted! Emma might well have questioned why! Women are guilty of
such unreasoning acts! But this was the close to that chapter. The hour
of six went by. Between six and seven came a sound of knocker and bell
at the street-door. Danvers rushed into the sitting-room to announce
that it was Mr. Redworth. Before a word could be mustered, Redworth was
in the room. He said: 'You must come with me at once!'
IN WHICH A DISAPPOINTED LOVER RECEIVES A MULTITUDE OF LESSONS
Dacier welted at the station, a good figure of a sentinel over his
luggage and a spy for one among the inpouring passengers. Tickets had
been confidently taken, the private division of the carriages happily
secured. On board the boat she would be veiled. Landed on French soil,
they threw off disguises, breasted the facts. And those? They
lightened. He smarted with his eagerness.
He had come well in advance of the appointed time, for he would not have
had her hang about there one minute alone.
Strange as this adventure was to a man of prominent station before the
world, and electrical as the turning-point of a destiny that he was given
to weigh deliberately and far-sightedly, Diana's image strung him to the
pitch of it. He looked nowhere but ahead, like an archer putting hand
for his arrow.
Presently he compared his watch and the terminus clock. She should now
be arriving. He went out to meet her and do service. Many cabs and
carriages were peered into, couples inspected, ladies and their maids,
wives and their husbands—an August exodus to the Continent. Nowhere the
starry she. But he had a fund of patience. She was now in some block of
the streets. He was sure of her, sure of her courage. Tony and
recreancy could not go together. Now that he called her Tony, she was
his close comrade, known; the name was a caress and a promise, breathing
of her, as the rose of sweetest earth. He counted it to be a month ere
his family would have wind of the altered position of his affairs,
possibly a year to the day of his making the dear woman his own in the
eyes of the world. She was dear past computation, womanly, yet quite
unlike the womanish woman, unlike the semi-males courteously called
dashing, unlike the sentimental. His present passion for her lineaments,
declared her surpassingly beautiful, though his critical taste was rather
for the white statue that gave no warmth. She had brains and ardour, she
had grace and sweetness, a playful petulancy enlivening our atmosphere,
and withal a refinement, a distinction, not to be classed; and justly
might she dislike the being classed. Her humour was a perennial
refreshment, a running well, that caught all the colours of light; her
wit studded the heavens of the recollection of her. In his heart he felt
that it was a stepping down for the brilliant woman to give him her hand;
a condescension and an act of valour. She who always led or prompted
when they conversed, had now in her generosity abandoned the lead and
herself to him, and she deserved his utmost honouring.
But where was she? He looked at his watch, looked at the clock. They
said the same: ten minutes to the moment of the train's departure.
A man may still afford to dwell on the charms and merits of his heart's
mistress while he has ten minutes to spare. The dropping minutes,
however, detract one by one from her individuality and threaten to sink
her in her sex entirely. It is the inexorable clock that says she is as
other women. Dacier began to chafe. He was unaccustomed to the part he
was performing:—and if she failed him? She would not. She would be
late, though. No, she was in time! His long legs crossed the platform
to overtake a tall lady veiled and dressed in black. He lifted his hat;
he heard an alarmed little cry and retired. The clock said, Five
minutes: a secret chiromancy in addition indicating on its face the word
Fool. An odd word to be cast at him! It rocked the icy pillar of pride
in the background of his nature. Certainly standing solos at the hour of
eight P.M., he would stand for a fool. Hitherto he had never allowed a
woman to chance to posture him in that character. He strode out,
returned, scanned every lady's shape, and for a distraction watched the
veiled lady whom he had accosted. Her figure suggested pleasant
features. Either she was disappointed or she was an adept. At the
shutting of the gates she glided through, not without a fearful look
around and at him. She disappeared. Dacier shrugged. His novel
assimilation to the rat-rabble of amatory intriguers tapped him on the
shoulder unpleasantly. A luckless member of the fraternity too! The
bell, the clock and the train gave him his title. 'And I was ready to
fling down everything for the woman!' The trial of a superb London
gentleman's resources in the love-passion could not have been much
keener. No sign of her.
He who stands ready to defy the world, and is baffled by the absence of
his fair assistant, is the fool doubled, so completely the fool that he
heads the universal shout; he does not spare himself. The sole
consolation he has is to revile the sex. Women! women! Whom have they
not made a fool of! His uncle as much as any—and professing to know
them. Him also! the man proud of escaping their wiles. 'For this woman
. . . !' he went on saying after he had lost sight of her in her sex's
trickeries. The nearest he could get to her was to conceive that the
arrant coquette was now laughing at her utter subjugation and befooling
of the man popularly supposed invincible. If it were known of him!
The idea of his being a puppet fixed for derision was madly distempering.
He had only to ask the affirmative of Constance Asper to-morrow!
A vision of his determination to do it, somewhat comforted him.
Dacier walked up and down the platform, passing his pile of luggage,
solitary and eloquent on the barrow. Never in his life having been made
to look a fool, he felt the red heat of the thing, as a man who has not
blessedly become acquainted with the swish in boyhood finds his
untempered blood turn to poison at a blow; he cannot healthily take a
licking. But then it had been so splendid an insanity when he urged
Diana to fly with him. Any one but a woman would have appreciated the
His luggage had to be removed. He dropped his porter a lordly fee and
drove home. From that astonished solitude he strolled to his Club.
Curiosity mastering the wrath it was mixed with, he left his Club and
crossed the park southward in the direction of Diana's house, abusing her
for her inveterate attachment to the regions of Westminster. There she
used to receive Lord Dannisburgh; innocently, no doubt-assuredly quite
innocently; and her husband had quitted the district. Still it was
rather childish for a woman to-be always haunting the seats of
Parliament. Her disposition to imagine that she was able to inspire
statesmen came in for a share of ridicule; for when we know ourselves
to be ridiculous, a retort in kind, unjust upon consideration, is balm.
The woman dragged him down to the level of common men; that was the
peculiar injury, and it swept her undistinguished into the stream of
women. In appearance, as he had proved to the fellows at his Club, he
was perfectly self-possessed, mentally distracted and bitter, hating
himself for it, snapping at the cause of it. She had not merely
disappointed, she had slashed his high conceit of himself, curbed him at
the first animal dash forward, and he champed the bit with the fury of a
Twice he passed her house. Of course no light was shown at her windows.
They were scanned malignly.
He held it due to her to call and inquire whether there was any truth in
the report of Mrs. Warwick's illness. Mrs. Warwick! She meant to keep
A maid-servant came to the door with a candle in her hand revealing red
eyelids. She was not aware that her mistress was unwell. Her mistress
had left home some time after six o'clock with a gentleman. She was
unable to tell him the gentleman's name. William, the footman, had
opened the door to him. Her mistress's maid Mrs. Danvers had gone to the
Play—with William. She thought that Mrs. Danvers might know who the
gentleman was. The girl's eyelids blinked, and she turned aside. Dacier
consoled her with a piece of gold, saying he would come and see Mrs.
Danvers in the morning.
His wrath was partially quieted by the new speculations offered up to it.
He could not conjure a suspicion of treachery in Diana Warwick; and a
treachery so foully cynical! She had gone with a gentleman. He guessed
on all sides; he struck at walls, as in complete obscurity.
The mystery of her conduct troubling his wits for the many hours was
explained by Danvers. With a sympathy that she was at pains to show, she
informed him that her mistress was not at all unwell, and related of how
Mr. Redworth had arrived just when her mistress was on the point of
starting for Paris and the Continent; because poor Lady Dunstane was
this very day to undergo an operation under the surgeons at Copsley, and
she did not wish her mistress to be present, but Mr. Redworth thought her
mistress ought to be there, and he had gone down thinking she was there,
and then came back in hot haste to fetch her, and was just in time, as it
happened, by two or three minutes.
Dacier rewarded the sympathetic woman for her intelligence, which
appeared to him to have shot so far as to require a bribe. Gratitude to
the person soothing his unwontedly ruffled temper was the cause of the
indiscretion in the amount he gave.
It appeared to him that he ought to proceed to Copsley for tidings of
Lady Dunstane. Thither he sped by the handy railway and a timely train.
He reached the parkgates at three in the afternoon, telling his flyman to
wait. As he advanced by short cuts over the grass, he studied the look
of the rows of windows. She was within, and strangely to his clouded
senses she was no longer Tony, no longer the deceptive woman he could in
justice abuse. He and she, so close to union, were divided. A hand
resembling the palpable interposition of Fate had swept them asunder.
Having the poorest right—not any—to reproach her, he was disarmed, he
felt himself a miserable intruder; he summoned his passion to excuse him,
and gained some unsatisfied repose of mind by contemplating its devoted
sincerity; which roused an effort to feel for the sufferer—Diana
Warwick's friend. With the pair of surgeons named, the most eminent of
their day, in attendance, the case must be serious. To vindicate the
breaker of her pledge, his present plight likewise assured him of that,
and nearing the house he adopted instinctively the funeral step and mood,
just sensible of a novel smallness. For the fortifying testimony of his
passion had to be put aside, he was obliged to disavow it for a simpler
motive if he applied at the door. He stressed the motive, produced the
sentiment, and passed thus naturally into hypocrisy, as lovers
precipitated by their blood among the crises of human conditions are
often forced to do. He had come to inquire after Lady Dunstane. He
remembered that it had struck him as a duty, on hearing of her dangerous
The door opened before he touched the bell. Sir Lukin knocked against
him and stared.
'Ah!—who—?—you?' he said, and took him by the arm and pressed him on
along the gravel. 'Dacier, are you? Redworth's in there. Come on a
step, come! It's the time for us to pray. Good God! There's mercy for
sinners. If ever there was a man! . . . But, oh, good God! she's in
their hands this minute. My saint is under the knife.'
Dacier was hurried forward by a powerful hand. 'They say it lasts about
five minutes, four and a half—or more! My God! When they turned me out
of her room, she smiled to keep me calm. She said: "Dear husband": the
veriest wretch and brutallest husband ever poor woman . . . and a
saint! a saint on earth! Emmy!' Tears burst from him.
He pulled forth his watch and asked Dacier for the time.
'A minute's gone in a minute. It's three minutes and a half. Come
faster. They're at their work! It's life or death. I've had death
about me. But for a woman! and your wife! and that brave soul! She
bears it so. Women are the bravest creatures afloat. If they make her
shriek, it'll be only if she thinks I 'm out of hearing. No: I see her.
She bears it!—They mayn't have begun yet. It may all be over! Come
into the wood. I must pray. I must go on my knees.'
Two or three steps in the wood, at the mossed roots of a beech, he fell
kneeling, muttering, exclaiming.
The tempest of penitence closed with a blind look at his watch, which he
left dangling. He had to talk to drug his thoughts.
'And mind you,' said he, when he had rejoined Dacier and was pushing his
arm again, rounding beneath the trees to a view of the house, 'for a man
steeped in damnable iniquity! She bears it all for me, because I begged
her, for the chance of her living. It's my doing—this knife!
Macpherson swears there is a chance. Thomson backs him. But they're at
her, cutting! . . . The pain must be awful—the mere pain! The
gentlest creature ever drew breath! And women fear blood—and her own!
And a head! She ought to have married the best man alive, not a—! I
can't remember her once complaining of me—not once. A common donkey
compared to her! All I can do is to pray. And she knows the beast I am,
and has forgiven me. There isn't a blessed text of Scripture that
doesn't cry out in praise of her. And they cut and hack . . . !' He
dropped his head. The vehement big man heaved, shuddering. His lips
'She is not alone with them, unsupported?' said Dacier.
Sir Lukin moaned for relief. He caught his watch swinging and stared at
it. 'What a good fellow you were to come! Now 's the time to know your
friends. There's Diana Warwick, true as steel. Redworth came on her
tiptoe for the Continent; he had only to mention . . . Emmy wanted
to spare her. She would not have sent—wanted to spare her the sight.
I offered to stand by . . . Chased me out. Diana Warwick's there:—
worth fifty of me! Dacier, I've had my sword-blade tried by Indian
horsemen, and I know what true as steel means. She's there. And I know
she shrinks from the sight of blood. My oath on it, she won't quiver a
muscle! Next to my wife, you may take my word for it, Dacier, Diana
Warwick is the pick of living women. I could prove it. They go
together. I could prove it over and over. She 's the loyallest woman
anywhere. Her one error was that marriage of hers, and how she ever
pitched herself into it, none of us can guess.' After a while, he said:
'Look at your watch.'
'Nearly twenty minutes gone.'
'Are they afraid to send out word? It's that window !' He covered his
eyes, and muttered, sighed. He became abruptly composed in appearance.
'The worst of a black sheep like me is, I'm such an infernal sinner, that
Providence! . . . But both surgeons gave me their word of honour that
there was a chance. A chance! But it's the end of me if Emmy . . . .
Good God! no! the knife's enough; don't let her be killed! It would be
murder. Here am I talking! I ought to be praying. I should have sent
for the parson to help me; I can't get the proper words—bellow like a
rascal trooper strung up for the cat. It must be twenty-five minutes
now. Who's alive now!'
Dacier thought of the Persian Queen crying for news of the slaughtered,
with her mind on her lord and husband: 'Who is not dead?' Diana exalted
poets, and here was an example of the truth of one to nature, and of the
poor husband's depth of feeling. They said not the same thing, but it
was the same cry de profundis.
He saw Redworth coming at a quick pace.
Redworth raised his hand. Sir Lukin stopped. 'He's waving!'
'It's good,' said Dacier.
'Speak! are you sure?'
'I judge by the look.'
Redworth stepped unfalteringly.
'It's over, all well,' he said. He brushed his forehead and looked
'My dear fellow! my dear fellow!' Sir Lukin grasped his hand. 'It's more
than I deserve. Over? She has borne it! She would have gone to heaven
and left me!
Is she safe?'
'Have you seen the surgeons?'
'What did she say?'
'A nod of the head.'
'You saw her?'
'She came to the stairs.'
'Diana Warwick never lies. She wouldn't lie, not with a nod! They've
saved Emmy—do you think?'
'It looks well.'
My girl has passed the worst of it?'
Sir Lukin gazed glassily. The necessity of his agony was to lean to the
belief, at a beckoning, that Providence pardoned him, in tenderness for
what would have been his loss. He realized it, and experienced a sudden
calm: testifying to the positive pardon.
'Now, look here, you two fellows, listen half a moment,' he addressed
Redworth and Dacier; 'I've been the biggest scoundrel of a husband
unhung, and married to a saint; and if she's only saved to me; I'll swear
to serve her faithfully, or may a thunderbolt knock me to perdition!
and thank God for his justice! Prayers are answered, mind you, though
a fellow may be as black as a sweep. Take a warning from me. I've had
Dacier soon after talked of going. The hope of seeing Diana had
abandoned him, the desire was almost extinct.
Sir Lukin could not let him go. He yearned to preach to him or any one
from his personal text of the sinner honourably remorseful on account of
and notwithstanding the forgiveness of Providence, and he implored Dacier
and Redworth by turns to be careful when they married of how they behaved
to—the sainted women their wives; never to lend ear to the devil, nor to
believe, as he had done, that there is no such thing as a devil, for he
had been the victim of him, and he knew. The devil, he loudly
proclaimed, has a multiplicity of lures, and none more deadly than when
he baits with a petticoat. He had been hooked, and had found the devil
in person. He begged them urgently to keep his example in memory. By
following this and that wildfire he had stuck himself in a bog—a common
result with those who would not see the devil at work upon them; and it
required his dear suffering saint to be at death's doors, cut to pieces
and gasping, to open his eyes. But, thank heaven, they were opened at
last! Now he saw the beast he was: a filthy beast! unworthy of tying
his wife's shoestring. No confessions could expose to them the beast he
was. But let them not fancy there was no such thing as an active DEVIL
about the world.
Redworth divined that the simply sensational man abased himself before
Providence and heaped his gratitude on the awful Power in order to render
it difficult for the promise of the safety of his wife to be withdrawn.
He said: 'There is good hope'; and drew an admonition upon himself.
'Ah! my dear good Redworth,' Sir Lukin sighed from his elevation of
outspoken penitence: 'you will see as I do some day. It is the devil,
think as you like of it. When you have pulled down all the Institutions
of the Country, what do you expect but ruins? That Radicalism of yours
has its day. You have to go through a wrestle like mine to understand
it. You say, the day is fine, let's have our game. Old England pays for
it! Then you'll find how you love the old land of your birth—the
noblest ever called a nation!—with your Corn Law Repeals!—eh, Dacier?
—You 'll own it was the devil tempted you. I hear you apologizing.
Pray God, it mayn't be too late!'
He looked up at the windows. 'She may be sinking!'
'Have no fears,' Redworth said; 'Mrs. Warwick would send for you.'
'She would. Diana Warwick would be sure to send. Next to my wife, Diana
Warwick's . . . she'd send, never fear. I dread that room. I'd
rather go through a regiment of sabres—though it 's over now. And Diana
Warwick stood it. The worst is over, you told me. By heaven! women are
wonderful creatures. But she hasn't a peer for courage. I could trust
her—most extraordinary thing; that marriage of hers!—not a soul has
ever been able to explain it:—trust her to the death.'
Redworth left them, and Sir Lukin ejaculated on the merits of Diana
Warwick to Dacier. He laughed scornfully: 'And that's the woman the
world attacks for want of virtue! Why, a fellow hasn't a chance with
her, not a chance. She comes out in blazing armour if you unmask a
battery. I don't know how it might be if she were in love with a fellow.
I doubt her thinking men worth the trouble. I never met the man. But if
she were to take fire, Troy 'd be nothing to it. I wonder whether we
might go in: I dread the house.'
Dacier spoke of departing.
'No, no, wait,' Sir Lukin begged him. 'I was talking about women. They
are the devil—or he makes most use of them: and you must learn to see
the cloven foot under their petticoats, if you're to escape them.
There's no protection in being in love with your wife; I married for
love; I am, I always have been, in love with her; and I went to the
deuce. The music struck up and away I waltzed. A woman like Diana
Warwick might keep a fellow straight, because she,'s all round you; she's
man and woman in brains; and legged like a deer, and breasted like a
swan, and a regular sheaf of arrows—in her eyes. Dark women—ah!
But she has a contempt for us, you know. That's the secret of her.—
Redworth 's at the door. Bad? Is it bad? I never was particularly fond
of that house—hated it. I love it now for Emmy's sake. I couldn't live
in another—though I should be haunted. Rather her ghost than nothing—
though I'm an infernal coward about the next world. But if you're right
with religion you needn't fear. What I can't comprehend in Redworth is
his Radicalism, and getting richer and richer.'
'It's not a vow of poverty,' said Dacier.
'He'll find they don't coalesce, or his children will. Once the masses
are uppermost! It's a bad day, Dacier, when we 've no more gentlemen in
the land. Emmy backs him, so I hold my tongue. To-morrow's a Sunday.
I wish you were staying here; I 'd take you to church with me-we shirk
it when we haven't a care. It couldn't do you harm. I've heard capital
sermons. I've always had the good habit of going to church, Dacier.
Now 's the time for remembering them. Ah, my dear fellow, I 'm not a
parson. It would have been better for me if I had been.'
And for you too! his look added plainly. He longed to preach; he was
impelled to chatter.
Redworth reported the patient perfectly quiet, breathing calmly.
'Laudanum?' asked Sir Lukin. 'Now there's a poison we've got to bless!
And we set up in our wisdom for knowing what is good for us!'
He had talked his hearers into a stupefied assent to anything he uttered.
'Mrs. Warwick would like to see you in two or three minutes; she will
come down,' Redworth said to Dacier.
'That looks well, eh? That looks bravely,' Sir Lukin cried. 'Diana,
Warwick wouldn't leave the room without a certainty. I dread the look of
those men; I shall have to shake their hands! And so I do, with all my
heart: only—But God bless them! But we must go in, if she's coming
They entered the house, and sat in the drawing-room, where Sir Lukin took
up from the table one of his wife's Latin books, a Persius, bearing her
marginal notes. He dropped his head on it, with sobs.
The voice of Diana recalled him to the present. She counselled him to
control himself; in that case he might for one moment go to the chamber-
door and assure himself by the silence that his wife was resting. She
brought permission from the surgeons and doctor, on his promise to be
Redworth supported Sir Lukin tottering out.
Dacier had risen. He was petrified by Diana's face, and thought of her
as whirled from him in a storm, bearing the marks of it. Her underlip
hung for short breaths; the big drops of her recent anguish still
gathered on her brows; her eyes were tearless, lustreless; she looked
ancient in youth, and distant by a century, like a tall woman of the
vaults, issuing white-ringed, not of our light.
She shut her mouth for strength to speak to him.
He said: 'You are not ill? You are strong?'
'I? Oh, strong. I will sit. I cannot be absent longer than two
minutes. The trial of her strength is to come. If it were courage,
we might be sure. The day is fine?'
'A perfect August day.'
'I held her through it. I am thankful to heaven it was no other hand
than mine. She wished to spare me. She was glad of her Tony when the
time came. I thought I was a coward—I could have changed with her to
save her; I am a strong woman, fit to submit to that work. I should not
have borne it as she did. She expected to sink under it. All her
dispositions were made for death-bequests to servants and to . . . to
friends: every secret liking they had, thought of!'
Diana clenched her hands.
'I hope!' Dacier said.
'You shall hear regularly. Call at Sir William's house to-morrow. He
sleeps here to-night. The suspense must last for days. It is a question
of vital power to bear the shock. She has a mind so like a flying spirit
that, just before the moment, she made Mr. Lanyan Thomson smile by
quoting some saying of her Tony's.'
'Try by-and-by to recollect it,' said Dacier.
'And you were with that poor man! How did he pass the terrible time? I
'He suffered; he prayed.'
'It was the best he could do. Mr. Redworth was as he always is at the
trial, a pillar. Happy the friend who knows him for one! He never
thinks of himself in a crisis. He is sheer strength to comfort and aid.
They will drive you to the station with Mr. Thomson. He returns to
relieve Sir William to-morrow. I have learnt to admire the men of the
knife! No profession equals theirs in self-command and beneficence.
Dr. Bridgenorth is permanent here.'
'I have a fly, and go back immediately,' said Dacier.
'She shall hear of your coming. Adieu.'
Diana gave him her hand. It was gently pressed.
A wonderment at the utter change of circumstances took Dacier passingly
at the sight of her vanishing figure.
He left the house, feeling he dared have no personal wishes. It had
ceased to be the lover's hypocrisy with him.
The crisis of mortal peril in that house enveloped its inmates, and so
wrought in him as to enshroud the stripped outcrying husband, of whom he
had no clear recollection, save of the man's agony. The two women,
striving against death, devoted in friendship, were the sole living
images he brought away; they were a new vision of the world and our life.
He hoped with Diana, bled with her. She rose above him high, beyond his
transient human claims. He envied Redworth the common friendly right to
be near her. In reflection, long after, her simplicity of speech, washed
pure of the blood-emotions, for token of her great nature, during those
two minutes of their sitting together, was, dearer, sweeter to the lover
than if she had shown by touch or word that a faint allusion to their
severance was in her mind; and this despite a certain vacancy it created.
He received formal information of Lady Dunstane's progress to
convalescence. By degrees the simply official tone of Diana's letters
combined with the ceasing of them and the absence of her personal charm
to make a gentleman not remarkable for violence in the passion so calmly
reasonable as to think the dangerous presence best avoided for a time.
Subject to fits of the passion, he certainly was, but his position in the
world was a counselling spouse, jealous of his good name. He did not
regret his proposal to take the leap; he would not have regretted it if
taken. On the safe side of the abyss, however, it wore a gruesome look
to his cool blood.