DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
By George Meredith
BOOK 1. I. OF DIARIES AND DIARISTS TOUCHING THE HEROINE II. AN IRISH BALL III. THE INTERIOR OF MR. REDWORTH AND THE EXTERIOR OF MR. SULLIVAN SMITH IV. CONTAINING HINTS OF DIANA'S EXPERIENCES AND OF WHAT THEY LED TO V. CONCERNING THE SCRUPULOUS GENTLEMAN WHO CAME TOO LATE VI. THE COUPLE VII. THE CRISIS VIII. IN WHICH IS EXHIBITED HOW A PRACTICAL MAN AND A DIVINING WOMAN LEARN TO RESPECT ONE ANOTHER
BOOK 2. IX. SHOWS HOW A POSITION OF DELICACY FOR A LADY AND GENTLEMAN WAS MET IN SIMPLE FASHION WITHOUT HURT TO EITHER. X. THE CONFLICT OF THE NIGHT XI. RECOUNTS THE JOURNEY IN A CHARIOT, WITH A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF DIALOGUE, AND A SMALL INCIDENT ON THE ROAD XII. BETWEEN EMMA AND DIANA XIII. TOUCHING THE FIRST DAYS OF HER PROBATION XIV. GIVING GLIMPSES OF DIANA UNDER HER CLOUD BEFORE THE WORLD AND OF HER FURTHER APPRENTICESHIP XV. INTRODUCES THE HON. PERCY DACIER XVI. TREATS OF A MIDNIGHT BELL, AND OF A SCENE OF EARLY MORNING XVII. THE PRINCESS EGERIA
BOOK 3. 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
BOOK 5. XXXVI. IS CONCLUSIVE AS TO THE HEARTLESSNESS OF WOMEN WITH BRAINS XXXVII. AN EXHIBITION OF SOME CHAMPIONS OF THE STRICKEN LADY XXXVIII. CONVALESCENCE OF A HEALTHY MIND DISTRAUGHT XXXIX. OF NATURE WITH ONE OF HER CULTIVATED DAUGHTERS AND A SHORT EXCURSION IN ANTI-CLIMAX XL. IN WHICH WE SEE NATURE MAKING OF A WOMAN A MAID AGAIN, AND A THRICE WHIMSICAL XLI. CONTAINS A REVELATION OF THE ORIGIN OF THE TIGRESS IN DIANA XLII. THE PENULTIMATE : SHOWING A FINAL STRUGGLE FOR LIBERTY AND RUN INTO HARNESS XLIII. NUPTIAL CHAPTER: AND OF HOW A BARELY WILLING WOMAN WAS LED TO BLOOM WITH NUPTIAL SENTIMENT
A lady of high distinction for wit and beauty, the daughter of an illustrious Irish House, came under the shadow of a calumny. It has latterly been examined and exposed as baseless. The story of Diana of the Crossways is to be read as fiction.
OF DIARIES AND DIARISTS TOUCHING THE HEROINE
Among the Diaries beginning with the second quarter of our century, there is frequent mention of a lady then becoming famous for her beauty and her wit: 'an unusual combination,' in the deliberate syllables of one of the writers, who is, however, not disposed to personal irony when speaking of her. It is otherwise in his case and a general fling at the sex we may deem pardonable, for doing as little harm to womankind as the stone of an urchin cast upon the bosom of mother Earth; though men must look some day to have it returned to them, which is a certainty; and indeed full surely will our idle-handed youngster too, in his riper season; be heard complaining of a strange assault of wanton missiles, coming on him he knows not whence; for we are all of us distinctly marked to get back what we give, even from the thing named inanimate nature.
The 'LEAVES FROM THE DIARY OF HENRY WILMERS' are studded with examples of the dinner-table wit of the time, not always worth quotation twice; for smart remarks have their measured distances, many requiring to be a brule pourpoint, or within throw of the pistol, to make it hit; in other words, the majority of them are addressed directly to our muscular system, and they have no effect when we stand beyond the range. On the contrary, they reflect sombrely on the springs of hilarity in the generation preceding us; with due reserve of credit, of course, to an animal vivaciousness that seems to have wanted so small an incitement. Our old yeomanry farmers—returning to their beds over ferny commons under bright moonlight from a neighbour's harvest-home, eased their bubbling breasts with a ready roar not unakin to it. Still the promptness to laugh is an excellent progenitorial foundation for the wit to come in a people; and undoubtedly the diarial record of an imputed piece of wit is witness to the spouting of laughter. This should comfort us while we skim the sparkling passages of the 'Leaves.' When a nation has acknowledged that it is as yet but in the fisticuff stage of the art of condensing our purest sense to golden sentences, a readier appreciation will be extended to the gift: which is to strike not the dazzled eyes, the unanticipating nose, the ribs, the sides, and stun us, twirl us, hoodwink, mystify, tickle and twitch, by dexterities of lingual sparring and shuffling, but to strike roots in the mind, the Hesperides of good things. We shall then set a price on the 'unusual combination.' A witty woman is a treasure; a witty Beauty is a power. Has she actual beauty, actual wit?—not simply a tidal material beauty that passes current any pretty flippancy or staggering pretentiousness? Grant. the combination, she will appear a veritable queen of her period, fit for homage; at least meriting a disposition to believe the best of her, in the teeth of foul rumour; because the well of true wit is truth itself, the gathering of the precious drops of right reason, wisdom's lightning; and no soul possessing and dispensing it can justly be a target for the world, however well armed the world confronting her. Our temporary world, that Old Credulity and stone-hurling urchin in one, supposes it possible for a woman to be mentally active up to the point of spiritual clarity and also fleshly vile; a guide to life and a biter at the fruits of death; both open mind and hypocrite. It has not yet been taught to appreciate a quality certifying to sound citizenship as authoritatively as acres of land in fee simple, or coffers of bonds, shares and stocks, and a more imperishable guarantee. The multitudes of evil reports which it takes for proof, are marshalled against her without question of the nature of the victim, her temptress beauty being a sufficiently presumptive delinquent. It does not pretend to know the whole, or naked body of the facts; it knows enough for its furry dubiousness; and excepting the sentimental of men, a rocket-headed horde, ever at the heels of fair faces for ignition, and up starring away at a hint of tearfulness; excepting further by chance a solid champion man, or some generous woman capable of faith in the pelted solitary of her sex, our temporary world blows direct East on her shivering person. The scandal is warrant for that; the circumstances of the scandal emphasize the warrant. And how clever she is! Cleverness is an attribute of the selecter missionary lieutenants of Satan. We pray to be defended from her cleverness: she flashes bits of speech that catch men in their unguarded corner. The wary stuff their ears, the stolid bid her best sayings rebound on her reputation. Nevertheless the world, as Christian, remembers its professions, and a portion of it joins the burly in morals by extending to her a rough old charitable mercifulness; better than sentimental ointment, but the heaviest blow she has to bear, to a character swimming for life.
That the lady in question was much quoted, the Diaries and Memoirs testify. Hearsay as well as hearing was at work to produce the abundance; and it was a novelty in England, where (in company) the men are the pointed talkers, and the women conversationally fair Circassians. They are, or they know that they should be; it comes to the same. Happily our civilization has not prescribed the veil to them. The mutes have here and there a sketch or label attached to their names: they are 'strikingly handsome'; they are 'very good-looking'; occasionally they are noted as 'extremely entertaining': in what manner, is inquired by a curious posterity, that in so many matters is left unendingly to jump the empty and gaping figure of interrogation over its own full stop. Great ladies must they be, at the web of politics, for us to hear them cited discoursing. Henry Wilmers is not content to quote the beautiful Mrs. Warwick, he attempts a portrait. Mrs. Warwick is 'quite Grecian.' She might 'pose for a statue.' He presents her in carpenter's lines, with a dab of school-box colours, effective to those whom the Keepsake fashion can stir. She has a straight nose, red lips, raven hair, black eyes, rich complexion, a remarkably fine bust, and she walks well, and has an agreeable voice; likewise 'delicate extremities.' The writer was created for popularity, had he chosen to bring his art into our literary market.
Perry Wilkinson is not so elaborate: he describes her in his 'Recollections' as a splendid brune, eclipsing all the blondes coming near her: and 'what is more, the beautiful creature can talk.' He wondered, for she was young, new to society. Subsequently he is rather ashamed of his wonderment, and accounts for it by 'not having known she was Irish.' She 'turns out to be Dan Merion's daughter.'
We may assume that he would have heard if she had any whiff of a brogue. Her sounding of the letter R a trifle scrupulously is noticed by Lady Pennon: 'And last, not least, the lovely Mrs. Warwick, twenty minutes behind the dinner-hour, and r-r-really fearing she was late.'
After alluding to the soft influence of her beauty and ingenuousness on the vexed hostess, the kindly old marchioness adds, that it was no wonder she was late, 'for just before starting from home she had broken loose from her husband for good, and she entered the room absolutely houseless!' She was not the less 'astonishingly brilliant.' Her observations were often 'so unexpectedly droll I laughed till I cried.' Lady Pennon became in consequence one of the stanch supporters of Mrs. Warwick.
Others were not so easily won. Perry Wilkinson holds a balance when it goes beyond a question of her wit and beauty. Henry Wilmers puts the case aside, and takes her as he finds her. His cousin, the clever and cynical Dorset Wilmers, whose method of conveying his opinions without stating them was famous, repeats on two occasions when her name appears in his pages, 'handsome, lively, witty'; and the stressed repetition of calculated brevity while a fiery scandal was abroad concerning the lady, implies weighty substance—the reservation of a constable's truncheon, that could legally have knocked her character down to the pavement. We have not to ask what he judged. But Dorset Wilmers was a political opponent of the eminent Peer who yields the second name to the scandal, and politics in his day flushed the conceptions of men. His short references to 'that Warwick-Dannisburgh affair' are not verbally malicious. He gets wind of the terms of Lord Dannisburgh's will and testament, noting them without comment. The oddness of the instrument in one respect may have served his turn; we have no grounds for thinking him malignant. The death of his enemy closes his allusions to Mrs. Warwick. He was growing ancient, and gout narrowed the circle he whirled in. Had he known this 'handsome, lively, witty' apparition as a woman having political and social views of her own, he would not, one fancies, have been so stingless. Our England exposes a sorry figure in his Reminiscences. He struck heavily, round and about him, wherever he moved; he had by nature a tarnishing eye that cast discolouration. His unadorned harsh substantive statements, excluding the adjectives, give his Memoirs the appearance of a body of facts, attractive to the historic Muse, which has learnt to esteem those brawny sturdy giants marching club on shoulder, independent of henchman, in preference to your panoplied knights with their puffy squires, once her favourites, and wind-filling to her columns, ultimately found indigestible.
His exhibition of his enemy Lord Dannisburgh, is of the class of noble portraits we see swinging over inn-portals, grossly unlike in likeness. The possibility of the man's doing or saying this and that adumbrates the improbability: he had something of the character capable of it, too much good sense for the performance. We would think so, and still the shadow is round our thoughts. Lord Dannisburgh was a man of ministerial tact, official ability, Pagan morality; an excellent general manager, if no genius in statecraft. But he was careless of social opinion, unbuttoned, and a laugher. We know that he could be chivalrous toward women, notwithstanding the perplexities he brought on them, and this the Dorset-Diary does not show.
His chronicle is less mischievous as regards Mrs. Warwick than the paragraphs of Perry Wilkinson, a gossip presenting an image of perpetual chatter, like the waxen-faced street advertizements of light and easy dentistry. He has no belief, no disbelief; names the pro-party and the con; recites the case, and discreetly, over-discreetly; and pictures the trial, tells the list of witnesses, records the verdict: so the case went, and some thought one thing, some another thing: only it is reported for positive that a miniature of the incriminated lady was cleverly smuggled over to the jury, and juries sitting upon these eases, ever since their bedazzlement by Phryne, as you know . . . . And then he relates an anecdote of the husband, said to have been not a bad fellow before he married his Diana; and the naming of the Goddess reminds him that the second person in the indictment is now everywhere called 'The elderly shepherd';—but immediately after the bridal bells this husband became sour and insupportable, and either she had the trick of putting him publicly in the wrong, or he lost all shame in playing the churlish domestic tyrant. The instances are incredible of a gentleman. Perry Wilkinson gives us two or three; one on the authority of a personal friend who witnessed the scene; at the Warwick whist-table, where the fair Diana would let loose her silvery laugh in the intervals. She was hardly out of her teens, and should have been dancing instead of fastened to a table. A difference of fifteen years in the ages of the wedded pair accounts poorly for the husband's conduct, however solemn a business the game of whist. We read that he burst out at last, with bitter mimicry, 'yang—yang—yang!' and killed the bright laugh, shot it dead. She had outraged the decorum of the square-table only while the cards were making. Perhaps her too-dead ensuing silence, as of one striving to bring back the throbs to a slain bird in her bosom, allowed the gap between the wedded pair to be visible, for it was dated back to prophecy as soon as the trumpet proclaimed it.
But a multiplication of similar instances, which can serve no other purpose than that of an apology, is a miserable vindication of innocence. The more we have of them the darker the inference. In delicate situations the chatterer is noxious. Mrs. Warwick had numerous apologists. Those trusting to her perfect rectitude were rarer. The liberty she allowed herself in speech and action must have been trying to her defenders in a land like ours; for here, and able to throw its shadow on our giddy upper-circle, the rigour of the game of life, relaxed though it may sometimes appear, would satisfy the staidest whist-player. She did not wish it the reverse, even when claiming a space for laughter: 'the breath of her soul,' as she called it, and as it may be felt in the early youth of a lively nature. She, especially, with her multitude of quick perceptions and imaginative avenues, her rapid summaries, her sense of the comic, demanded this aerial freedom.
We have it from Perry Wilkinson that the union of the divergent couple was likened to another union always in a Court of Law. There was a distinction; most analogies will furnish one; and here we see England and Ireland changeing their parts, until later, after the breach, when the Englishman and Irishwoman resumed a certain resemblance to the yoked Islands.
Henry Wilmers, I have said, deals exclusively with the wit and charm of the woman. He treats the scandal as we might do in like manner if her story had not to be told. But these are not reporting columns; very little of it shall trouble them. The position is faced, and that is all. The position is one of the battles incident to women, their hardest. It asks for more than justice from men, for generosity, our civilization not being yet of the purest. That cry of hounds at her disrobing by Law is instinctive. She runs, and they give tongue; she is a creature of the chase. Let her escape unmangled, it will pass in the record that she did once publicly run, and some old dogs will persist in thinking her cunninger than the virtuous, which never put themselves in such positions, but ply the distaff at home. Never should reputation of woman trail a scent! How true! and true also that the women of waxwork never do; and that the women of happy marriages do not; nor the women of holy nunneries; nor the women lucky in their arts. It is a test of the civilized to see and hear, and add no yapping to the spectacle.
Thousands have reflected on a Diarist's power to cancel our Burial Service. Not alone the cleric's good work is upset by him; but the sexton's as well. He howks the grave, and transforms the quiet worms, busy on a single poor peaceable body, into winged serpents that disorder sky and earth with a deadly flight of zig-zags, like military rockets, among the living. And if these are given to cry too much, to have their tender sentiments considered, it cannot be said that History requires the flaying of them. A gouty Diarist, a sheer gossip Diarist, may thus, in the bequest of a trail of reminiscences, explode our temples (for our very temples have powder in store), our treasuries, our homesteads, alive with dynamitic stuff; nay, disconcert our inherited veneration, dislocate the intimate connexion between the tugged flaxen forelock and a title.
No similar blame is incurred by Henry Wilmers. No blame whatever, one would say, if he had been less, copious, or not so subservient, in recording the lady's utterances; for though the wit of a woman may be terse, quite spontaneous, as this lady's assuredly was here and there, she is apt to spin it out of a museful mind, at her toilette, or by the lonely fire, and sometimes it is imitative; admirers should beware of holding it up to the withering glare of print: she herself, quoting an obscure maximmonger, says of these lapidary sentences, that they have merely 'the value of chalk-eggs, which lure the thinker to sit,' and tempt the vacuous to strain for the like, one might add; besides flattering the world to imagine itself richer than it is in eggs that are golden. Henry Wilmers notes a multitude of them. 'The talk fell upon our being creatures of habit, and how far it was good: She said:—It is there that we see ourselves crutched between love grown old and indifference ageing to love.' Critic ears not present at the conversation catch an echo of maxims and aphorisms overchannel, notwithstanding a feminine thrill in the irony of 'ageing to love.' The quotation ranks rather among the testimonies to her charm.
She is fresher when speaking of the war of the sexes. For one sentence out of many, though we find it to be but the clever literary clothing of a common accusation: 'Men may have rounded Seraglio Point: they have not yet doubled Cape Turk.'
It is war, and on the male side, Ottoman war: her experience reduced her to think so positively. Her main personal experience was in the social class which is primitively venatorial still, canine under its polish.
She held a brief for her beloved Ireland. She closes a discussion upon Irish agitation by saying rather neatly: 'You have taught them it is English as well as common human nature to feel an interest in the dog that has bitten you.'
The dog periodically puts on madness to win attention; we gather then that England, in an angry tremour, tries him with water-gruel to prove him sane.
Of the Irish priest (and she was not of his retinue), when he was deemed a revolutionary, Henry Wilmers notes her saying: 'Be in tune with him; he is in the key-note for harmony. He is shepherd, doctor, nurse, comforter, anecdotist and fun-maker to his poor flock; and you wonder they see the burning gateway of their heaven in him? Conciliate the priest.'
It has been partly done, done late, when the poor flock have found their doctoring and shepherding at other hands: their 'bulb-food and fiddle,' that she petitioned for, to keep them from a complete shaving off their patch of bog and scrub soil, without any perception of the tremulous transatlantic magnification of the fiddle, and the splitting discord of its latest inspiriting jig.
And she will not have the consequences of the 'weariful old Irish duel between Honour and Hunger judged by bread and butter juries.'
She had need to be beautiful to be tolerable in days when Englishmen stood more openly for the strong arm to maintain the Union. Her troop of enemies was of her summoning.
Ordinarily her topics were of wider range, and those of a woman who mixed hearing with reading, and observation with her musings. She has no doleful ejaculatory notes, of the kind peculiar to women at war, containing one-third of speculative substance to two of sentimental—a feminine plea for comprehension and a squire; and it was probably the reason (as there is no reason to suppose an emotional cause) why she exercised her evident sway over the mind of so plain and straightforward an Englishman as Henry Wilmers. She told him that she read rapidly, 'a great deal at one gulp,' and thought in flashes—a way with the makers of phrases. She wrote, she confessed, laboriously. The desire to prune, compress, overcharge, was a torment to the nervous woman writing under a sharp necessity for payment. Her songs were shot off on the impulsion; prose was the heavy task. 'To be pointedly rational,' she said, 'is a greater difficulty for me than a fine delirium.' She did not talk as if it would have been so, he remarks. One is not astonished at her appearing an 'actress' to the flat-minded. But the basis of her woman's nature was pointed flame: In the fulness of her history we perceive nothing histrionic. Capricious or enthusiastic in her youth, she never trifled with feeling; and if she did so with some showy phrases and occasionally proffered commonplaces in gilt, as she was much excited to do, her moods of reflection were direct, always large and honest, universal as well as feminine.
Her saying that 'A woman in the pillory restores the original bark of brotherhood to mankind,' is no more than a cry of personal anguish. She has golden apples in her apron. She says of life: 'When I fail to cherish it in every fibre the fires within are waning,' and that drives like rain to the roots. She says of the world, generously, if with tapering idea: 'From the point of vision of the angels, this ugly monster, only half out of slime, must appear our one constant hero.' It can be read maliciously, but abstain.
She says of Romance: 'The young who avoid that region escape the title of Fool at the cost of a celestial crown.' Of Poetry: 'Those that have souls meet their fellows there.'
But she would have us away with sentimentalism. Sentimental people, in her phrase, 'fiddle harmonics on the strings of sensualism,' to the delight of a world gaping for marvels of musical execution rather than for music. For our world is all but a sensational world at present, in maternal travail of a soberer, a braver, a brighter-eyed. Her reflections are thus to be interpreted, it seems to me. She says, 'The vices of the world's nobler half in this day are feminine.' We have to guard against 'half-conceptions of wisdom, hysterical goodness, an impatient charity'—against the elementary state of the altruistic virtues, distinguishable as the sickness and writhings of our egoism to cast its first slough. Idea is there. The funny part of it is our finding it in books of fiction composed for payment. Manifestly this lady did not 'chameleon' her pen from the colour of her audience: she was not of the uniformed rank and file marching to drum and fife as gallant interpreters of popular appetite, and going or gone to soundlessness and the icy shades.
Touches inward are not absent: 'To have the sense of the eternal in life is a short flight for the soul. To have had it, is the soul's vitality.' And also: 'Palliation of a sin is the hunted creature's refuge and final temptation. Our battle is ever between spirit and flesh. Spirit must brand the flesh, that it may live.'
You are entreated to repress alarm. She was by preference light-handed; and her saying of oratory, that 'It is always the more impressive for the spice of temper which renders it untrustworthy,' is light enough. On Politics she is rhetorical and swings: she wrote to spur a junior politician: 'It is the first business of men, the school to mediocrity, to the covetously ambitious a sty, to the dullard his amphitheatre, arms of Titans to the desperately enterprising, Olympus to the genius.' What a woman thinks of women, is the test of her nature. She saw their existing posture clearly, yet believed, as men disincline to do, that they grow. She says, that 'In their judgements upon women men are females, voices of the present (sexual) dilemma.' They desire to have 'a still woman; who can make a constant society of her pins and needles.' They create by stoppage a volcano, and are amazed at its eruptiveness. 'We live alone, and do not much feel it till we are visited.' Love is presumably the visitor. Of the greater loneliness of women, she says: 'It is due to the prescribed circumscription of their minds, of which they become aware in agitation. Were the walls about them beaten down, they would understand that solitariness is a common human fate and the one chance of growth, like space for timber.' As to the sensations of women after the beating down of the walls, she owns that the multitude of the timorous would yearn in shivering affright for the old prison-nest, according to the sage prognostic of men; but the flying of a valiant few would form a vanguard. And we are informed that the beginning of a motive life with women must be in the head, equally with men (by no means a truism when she wrote). Also that 'men do not so much fear to lose the hearts of thoughtful women as their strict attention to their graces.' The present market is what men are for preserving: an observation of still reverberating force. Generally in her character of the feminine combatant there is a turn of phrase, like a dimple near the lips showing her knowledge that she was uttering but a tart measure of the truth. She had always too much lambent humour to be the dupe of the passion wherewith, as she says, 'we lash ourselves into the persuasive speech distinguishing us from the animals.'
The instances of her drollery are rather hinted by the Diarists for the benefit of those who had met her and could inhale the atmosphere at a word. Drolleries, humours, reputed witticisms, are like odours of roast meats, past with the picking of the joint. Idea is the only vital breath. They have it rarely, or it eludes the chronicler. To say of the great erratic and forsaken Lady A****, after she had accepted the consolations of Bacchus, that her name was properly signified in asterisks 'as she was now nightly an Ariadne in heaven through her God,' sounds to us a roundabout, with wit somewhere and fun nowhere. Sitting at the roast we might have thought differently. Perry Wilkinson is not happier in citing her reply to his compliment on the reviewers' unanimous eulogy of her humour and pathos:—the 'merry clown and poor pantaloon demanded of us in every work of fiction,' she says, lamenting the writer's compulsion to go on producing them for applause until it is extremest age that knocks their knees. We are informed by Lady Pennon of 'the most amusing description of the first impressions of a pretty English simpleton in Paris'; and here is an opportunity for ludicrous contrast of the French and English styles of pushing flatteries—'piping to the charmed animal,' as Mrs. Warwick terms it in another place: but Lady Pennon was acquainted with the silly woman of the piece, and found her amusement in the 'wonderful truth' of that representation.
Diarists of amusing passages are under an obligation to paint us a realistic revival of the time, or we miss the relish. The odour of the roast, and more, a slice of it is required, unless the humorous thing be preternaturally spirited to walk the earth as one immortal among a number less numerous than the mythic Gods. 'He gives good dinners,' a candid old critic said, when asked how it was that he could praise a certain poet. In an island of chills and fogs, coelum crebris imbribus ac nebulis foedum, the comic and other perceptions are dependent on the stirring of the gastric juices. And such a revival by any of us would be impolitic, were it a possible attempt, before our systems shall have been fortified by philosophy. Then may it be allowed to the Diarist simply to relate, and we can copy from him.
Then, ah! then, moreover, will the novelist's Art, now neither blushless infant nor executive man, have attained its majority. We can then be veraciously historical, honestly transcriptive. Rose-pink and dirty drab will alike have passed away. Philosophy is the foe of both, and their silly cancelling contest, perpetually renewed in a shuffle of extremes, as it always is where a phantasm falseness reigns, will no longer baffle the contemplation of natural flesh, smother no longer the soul issuing out of our incessant strife. Philosophy bids us to see that we are not so pretty as rose-pink, not so repulsive as dirty drab; and that instead of everlastingly shifting those barren aspects, the sight of ourselves is wholesome, bearable, fructifying, finally a delight. Do but perceive that we are coming to philosophy, the stride toward it will be a giant's—a century a day. And imagine the celestial refreshment of having a pure decency in the place of sham; real flesh; a soul born active, wind-beaten, but ascending. Honourable will fiction then appear; honourable, a fount of life, an aid to life, quick with our blood. Why, when you behold it you love it—and you will not encourage it?—or only when presented by dead hands? Worse than that alternative dirty drab, your recurring rose-pink is rebuked by hideous revelations of the filthy foul; for nature will force her way, and if you try to stifle her by drowning, she comes up, not the fairest part of her uppermost! Peruse your Realists—really your castigators for not having yet embraced Philosophy. As she grows in the flesh when discreetly tended, nature is unimpeachable, flower-eke, yet not too decoratively a flower; you must have her with the stem, the thorns, the roots, and the fat bedding of roses. In this fashion she grew, says historical fiction; thus does she flourish now, would say the modern transcript, reading the inner as well as exhibiting the outer.
And how may you know that you have reached to Philosophy? You touch her skirts when you share her hatred of the sham decent, her derision of sentimentalism. You are one with her when—but I would not have you a thousand years older! Get to her, if in no other way, by the sentimental route:—that very winding path, which again and again brings you round to the point of original impetus, where you have to be unwound for another whirl; your point of original impetus being the grossly material, not at all the spiritual. It is most true that sentimentalism springs from the former, merely and badly aping the latter,—fine flower, or pinnacle flame-spire, of sensualism that it is, could it do other? and accompanying the former it traverses tracts of desert here and there couching in a garden, catching with one hand at fruits, with another at colours; imagining a secret ahead, and goaded by an appetite, sustained by sheer gratifications. Fiddle in harmonics as it may, it will have these gratifications at all costs. Should none be discoverable, at once you are at the Cave of Despair, beneath the funereal orb of Glaucoma, in the thick midst of poniarded, slit-throat, rope-dependant figures, placarded across the bosom Disillusioned, Infidel, Agnostic, Miserrimus. That is the sentimental route to advancement. Spirituality does not light it; evanescent dreams: are its oil-lamps, often with wick askant in the socket.
A thousand years! You may count full many a thousand by this route before you are one with divine Philosophy. Whereas a single flight of brains will reach and embrace her; give you the savour of Truth, the right use of the senses, Reality's infinite sweetness; for these things are in philosophy; and the fiction which is the summary of actual Life, the within and without of us, is, prose or verse, plodding or soaring, philosophy's elect handmaiden. To such an end let us bend our aim to work, knowing that every form of labour, even this flimsiest, as you esteem it, should minister to growth. If in any branch of us we fail in growth, there is, you are aware, an unfailing aboriginal democratic old monster that waits to pull us down; certainly the branch, possibly the tree; and for the welfare of Life we fall. You are acutely conscious of yonder old monster when he is mouthing at you in politics. Be wary of him in the heart; especially be wary of the disrelish of brainstuff. You must feed on something. Matter that is not nourishing to brains can help to constitute nothing but the bodies which are pitched on rubbish heaps. Brainstuff is not lean stuff;—the brainstuff of fiction is internal history, and to suppose it dull is the profoundest of errors; how deep, you will understand when I tell you that it is the very football of the holiday-afternoon imps below. They kick it for pastime; they are intelligences perverted. The comic of it, the adventurous, the tragic, they make devilish, to kindle their Ogygian hilarity. But—sharply comic, adventurous, instructively tragic, it is in the interwinding with human affairs, to give a flavour of the modern day reviving that of our Poet, between whom and us yawn Time's most hollow jaws. Surely we owe a little to Time, to cheer his progress; a little to posterity, and to our country. Dozens of writers will be in at yonder yawning breach, if only perusers will rally to the philosophic standard. They are sick of the woodeny puppetry they dispense, as on a race-course to the roaring frivolous. Well, if not dozens, half-dozens; gallant pens are alive; one can speak of them in the plural. I venture to say that they would be satisfied with a dozen for audience, for a commencement. They would perish of inanition, unfed, unapplauded, amenable to the laws perchance for an assault on their last remaining pair of ears or heels, to hold them fast. But the example is the thing; sacrifices must be expected. The example might, one hopes, create a taste. A great modern writer, of clearest eye and head, now departed, capable in activity of presenting thoughtful women, thinking men, groaned over his puppetry, that he dared not animate them, flesh though they were, with the fires of positive brainstuff. He could have done it, and he is of the departed! Had he dared, he would (for he was Titan enough) have raised the Art in dignity on a level with History; to an interest surpassing the narrative of public deeds as vividly as man's heart and brain in their union excel his plain lines of action to eruption. The everlasting pantomime, suggested by Mrs. Warwick in her exclamation to Perry Wilkinson, is derided, not unrighteously, by our graver seniors. They name this Art the pasture of idiots, a method for idiotizing the entire population which has taken to reading; and which soon discovers that it can write likewise, that sort of stuff at least. The forecast may be hazarded, that if we do not speedily embrace Philosophy in fiction, the Art is doomed to extinction, under the shining multitude of its professors. They are fast capping the candle. Instead, therefore, of objurgating the timid intrusions of Philosophy, invoke her presence, I pray you. History without her is the skeleton map of events: Fiction a picture of figures modelled on no skeleton-anatomy. But each, with Philosophy in aid, blooms, and is humanly shapely. To demand of us truth to nature, excluding Philosophy, is really to bid a pumpkin caper. As much as legs are wanted for the dance, Philosophy is required to make our human nature credible and acceptable. Fiction implores you to heave a bigger breast and take her in with this heavenly preservative helpmate, her inspiration and her essence. You have to teach your imagination of the feminine image you have set up to bend your civilized knees to, that it must temper its fastidiousness, shun the grossness of the over-dainty. Or, to speak in the philosophic tongue, you must turn on yourself, resolutely track and seize that burrower, and scrub and cleanse him; by which process, during the course of it, you will arrive at the conception of the right heroical woman for you to worship: and if you prove to be of some spiritual stature, you may reach to an ideal of the heroical feminine type for the worship of mankind, an image as yet in poetic outline only, on our upper skies.
'So well do we know ourselves, that we one and all determine to know a purer,' says the heroine of my columns. Philosophy in fiction tells, among various other matters, of the perils of this intimate acquaintance with a flattering familiar in the 'purer'—a person who more than ceases to be of else to us after his ideal shall have led up men from their flint and arrowhead caverns to intercommunicative daylight. For when the fictitious creature has performed that service of helping to civilize the world, it becomes the most dangerous of delusions, causing first the individual to despise the mass, and then to join the mass in crushing the individual. Wherewith let us to our story, the froth being out of the bottle.
AN IRISH BALL
In the Assembly Rooms of the capital city of the Sister Island there was a public Ball, to celebrate the return to Erin of a British hero of Irish blood, after his victorious Indian campaign; a mighty struggle splendidly ended; and truly could it be said that all Erin danced to meet him; but this was the pick of the dancing, past dispute the pick of the supping. Outside those halls the supping was done in Lazarus fashion, mainly through an excessive straining of the organs of hearing and vision, which imparted the readiness for more, declared by physicians to be the state inducing to sound digestion. Some one spied the figure of the hero at the window and was fed; some only to hear the tale chewed the cud of it; some told of having seen him mount the steps; and sure it was that at an hour of the night, no matter when, and never mind a drop or two of cloud, he would come down them again, and have an Irish cheer to freshen his pillow. For 'tis Ireland gives England her soldiers, her generals too. Farther away, over field and bogland, the whiskies did their excellent ancient service of watering the dry and drying the damp, to the toast of 'Lord Larrian, God bless him! he's an honour to the old country!' and a bit of a sigh to follow, hints of a story, and loud laughter, a drink, a deeper sigh, settling into conversation upon the brave Lord Larrian's deeds, and an Irish regiment he favoured—had no taste for the enemy without the backing of his 'boys.' Not he. Why, he'd never march to battle and they not handy; because when he struck he struck hard, he said. And he has a wound on the right hip and two fingers off his left hand; has bled for England, to show her what Irishmen are when they're well treated.
The fine old warrior standing at the upper end of the long saloon, tall, straight, grey-haired, martial in his aspect and decorations, was worthy to be the flag-pole for enthusiasm. His large grey eyes lightened from time to time as he ranged them over the floating couples, and dropped a word of inquiry to his aide, Captain Sir Lukin Dunstane, a good model of a cavalry officer, though somewhat a giant, equally happy with his chief in passing the troops of animated ladies under review. He named as many as were known to him. Reviewing women exquisitely attired for inspection, all variously and charmingly smiling, is a relief after the monotonous regiments of men. Ireland had done her best to present the hero of her blood an agreeable change; and he too expressed a patriotic satisfaction on hearing that the faces most admired by him were of the native isle. He looked upon one that came whirling up to him on a young officer's arm and swept off into the crowd of tops, for a considerable while before he put his customary question. She was returning on the spin when he said,
'Who is she?'
Sir Lukin did not know. 'She 's a new bird; she nodded to my wife; I'll ask.'
He manoeuvred a few steps cleverly to where his wife reposed. The information he gathered for the behoof of his chief was, that the handsome creature answered to the name of Miss Merion; Irish; aged somewhere between eighteen and nineteen; a dear friend of his wife's, and he ought to have remembered her; but she was a child when he saw her last.
'Dan Merion died, I remember, about the day of my sailing for India,' said the General. 'She may be his daughter.'
The bright cynosure rounded up to him in the web of the waltz, with her dark eyes for Lady Dunstane, and vanished again among the twisting columns.
He made his way, handsomely bumped by an apologetic pair, to Lady Dunstane, beside whom a seat was vacated for him; and he trusted she had not over-fatigued herself.
'Confess,' she replied, 'you are perishing to know more than Lukin has been able to tell you. Let me hear that you admire her: it pleases me; and you shall hear what will please you as much, I promise you, General.'
'I do. Who wouldn't?' said he frankly.
'She crossed the Channel expressly to dance here tonight at the public Ball in honour of you.'
'Where she appears, the first person falls to second rank, and accepts it humbly.'
'That is grandly spoken.'
'She makes everything in the room dust round a blazing jewel.'
'She makes a poet of a soldier. Well, that you may understand how pleased I am, she is my dearest friend, though she is younger than I, as may be seen; she is the only friend I have. I nursed her when she was an infant; my father and Mr. Dan Merion were chums. We were parted by my marriage and the voyage to India. We have not yet exchanged a syllable: she was snapped up, of course, the moment she entered the room. I knew she would be a taking girl: how lovely, I did not guess. You are right, she extinguishes the others. She used to be the sprightliest of living creatures, and to judge by her letters, that has not faded. She 's in the market, General.'
Lord Larrian nodded to everything he heard, concluding with a mock doleful shake of the head. 'My poorest subaltern!' he sighed, in the theatrical but cordially melancholy style of green age viewing Cytherea's market.
His poorest subaltern was richer than he in the wherewithal to bid for such prizes.
'What is her name in addition to Merion?'
'Diana Antonia Merion. Tony to me, Diana to the world.'
'She lives over there?'
'In England, or anywhere; wherever she is taken in. She will live, I hope, chiefly with me.'
'And honest Irish?'
'Oh, she's Irish.'
'Ah!' the General was Irish to the heels that night.
Before further could be said the fair object of the dialogue came darting on a trip of little runs, both hands out, all her face one tender sparkle of a smile; and her cry proved the quality of her blood: 'Emmy! Emmy! my heart!'
'My dear Tony!
I should not have come but for the hope of seeing you here.'
Lord Larrian rose and received a hurried acknowledgement of his courtesy from the usurper of his place.
'Emmy! we might kiss and hug; we're in Ireland. I burn to! But you're not still ill, dear? Say no! That Indian fever must have gone. You do look a dash pale, my own; you're tired.'
'One dance has tired me. Why were you so late?'
'To give the others a chance? To produce a greater impression by suspense? No and no. I wrote you I was with the Pettigrews. We caught the coach, we caught the boat, we were only two hours late for the Ball; so we did wonders. And good Mrs. Pettigrew is, pining somewhere to complete her adornment. I was in the crush, spying for Emmy, when Mr. Mayor informed me it was the duty of every Irishwoman to dance her toes off, if she 'd be known for what she is. And twirl! a man had me by the waist, and I dying to find you.'
'Who was the man?'
'Not to save these limbs from the lighted stake could I tell you!'
'You are to perform a ceremonious bow to Lord Larrian.'
'Chatter first! a little!'
The plea for chatter was disregarded. It was visible that the hero of the night hung listening and in expectation. He and the Beauty were named to one another, and they chatted through a quadrille. Sir Lukin introduced a fellow-Harrovian of old days, Mr. Thomas Redworth, to his wife.
'Our weather-prophet, meteorologist,' he remarked, to set them going; 'you remember, in India, my pointing to you his name in a newspaper—letter on the subject. He was generally safe for the cricketing days.'
Lady Dunstane kindly appeared to call it to mind, and she led upon the them-queried at times by an abrupt 'Eh?' and 'I beg pardon,' for manifestly his gaze and one of his ears, if not the pair, were given to the young lady discoursing with Lord Larrian. Beauty is rare; luckily is it rare, or, judging from its effect on men, and the very stoutest of them, our world would be internally more distracted planet than we see, to the perversion of business, courtesy, rights of property, and the rest. She perceived an incipient victim, of the hundreds she anticipated, and she very tolerantly talked on: 'The weather and women have some resemblance they say. Is it true that he who reads the one can read the other?'
Lord Larrian here burst into a brave old laugh, exclaiming, 'Oh! good!'
Mr. Redworth knitted his thick brows. 'I beg pardon? Ah! women! Weather and women? No; the one point more variable in women makes all the difference.'
'Can you tell me what the General laughed at?'
The honest Englishman entered the trap with promptitude. 'She said:—who is she, may I ask you?'
Lady Dunstane mentioned her name.
Daughter of the famous Dan Merion? The young lady merited examination for her father's sake. But when reminded of her laughter-moving speech, Mr. Redworth bungled it; he owned he spoilt it, and candidly stated his inability to see the fun. 'She said, St. George's Channel in a gale ought to be called St. Patrick's—something—I missed some point. That quadrille-tune, the Pastourelle, or something . . .'
'She had experience of the Channel last night,' Lady Dunstane pursued, and they both, while in seeming converse, caught snatches from their neighbours, during a pause of the dance.
The sparkling Diana said to Lord Larrian, 'You really decline to make any of us proud women by dancing to-night?'
The General answered: 'I might do it on two stilts; I can't on one.' He touched his veteran leg.
'But surely,' said she, 'there's always an inspiration coming to it from its partner in motion, if one of them takes the step.'
He signified a woeful negative. 'My dear young lady, you say dark things to grey hairs!'
She rejoined: 'If we were over in England, and you fixed on me the stigma of saying dark things, I should never speak without being thought obscure.'
'It's because you flash too brightly for them.'
'I think it is rather the reminiscence of the tooth that received a stone when it expected candy.'
Again the General laughed; he looked pleased and warmed. 'Yes, that 's their way, that 's their way!' and he repeated her words to himself, diminishing their importance as he stamped them on his memory, but so heartily admiring the lovely speaker, that he considered her wit an honour to the old country, and told her so. Irish prevailed up to boiling-point.
Lady Dunstane, not less gratified, glanced up at Mr. Redworth, whose brows bore the knot of perplexity over a strong stare. He, too, stamped the words on his memory, to see subsequently whether they had a vestige of meaning. Terrifically precocious, he thought her. Lady Dunstane, in her quick sympathy with her friend, read the adverse mind in his face. And her reading of the mind was right, wrong altogether her deduction of the corresponding sentiment.
Music was resumed to confuse the hearing of the eavesdroppers.
They beheld a quaint spectacle: a gentleman, obviously an Englishman, approached, with the evident intention of reminding the Beauty of the night of her engagement to him, and claiming her, as it were, in the lion's jaws. He advanced a foot, withdrew it, advanced, withdrew; eager for his prize, not over-enterprising; in awe of the illustrious General she entertained—presumeably quite unaware of the pretender's presence; whereupon a voice was heard: 'Oh! if it was minuetting you meant before the lady, I'd never have disputed your right to perform, sir.' For it seemed that there were two claimants in the field, an Irishman and an Englishman; and the former, having a livelier sense of the situation, hung aloof in waiting for her eye; the latter directed himself to strike bluntly at his prey; and he continued minuetting, now rapidly blinking, flushed, angry, conscious of awkwardness and a tangle, incapable of extrication. He began to blink horribly under the raillery of his rival. The General observed him, but as an object remote and minute, a fly or gnat. The face of the brilliant Diana was entirely devoted to him she amused.
Lady Dunstane had the faint lines of a decorous laugh on her lips, as she said: 'How odd it is that our men show to such disadvantage in a Ball-room. I have seen them in danger, and there they shine first of any, and one is proud of them. They should always be facing the elements or in action.' She glanced at the minuet, which had become a petrified figure, still palpitating, bent forward, an interrogative reminder.
Mr. Redworth reserved his assent to the proclamation of any English disadvantage. A whiff of Celtic hostility in the atmosphere put him on his mettle. 'Wherever the man is tried,' he said.
'My lady!' the Irish gentleman bowed to Lady Dunstane. 'I had the honour . . . Sullivan Smith . . . at the castle . . .'
She responded to the salute, and Mr. Sullivan Smith proceeded to tell her, half in speech, half in dots most luminous, of a civil contention between the English gentleman and himself, as to the possession of the loveliest of partners for this particular ensuing dance, and that they had simultaneously made a rush from the Lower Courts, namely, their cards, to the Upper, being the lady; and Mr. Sullivan Smith partly founded his preferable claim on her Irish descent, and on his acquaintance with her eminent defunct father—one of the ever-radiating stars of his quenchless country.
Lady Dunstane sympathized with him for his not intruding his claim when the young lady stood pre-engaged, as well as in humorous appreciation of his imaginative logic.
'There will be dancing enough after supper,' she said.
'If I could score one dance with her, I'd go home supperless and feasted,' said he. 'And that's not saying much among the hordes of hungry troopers tip-toe for the signal to the buffet. See, my lady, the gentleman, as we call him; there he is working his gamut perpetually up to da capo. Oh! but it's a sheep trying to be wolf; he 's sheep-eyed and he 's wolf-fanged, pathetic and larcenous! Oh, now! who'd believe it!—the man has dared . . . I'd as soon think of committing sacrilege in a cathedral!'
The man was actually; to quote his indignant rival, 'breaching the fortress,' and pointing out to Diana Merion 'her name on his dirty scrap of paper': a shocking sight when the lady's recollection was the sole point to be aimed at, and the only umpire. 'As if all of us couldn't have written that, and hadn't done it!' Mr. Sullivan Smith groaned disgusted. He hated bad manners, particularly in cases involving ladies; and the bad manners of a Saxon fired his antagonism to the race; individual members of which he boasted of forgiving and embracing, honouring. So the man blackened the race for him, and the race was excused in the man. But his hatred of bad manners was vehement, and would have extended to a fellow-countryman. His own were of the antecedent century, therefore venerable.
Diana turned from her pursuer with a comic woeful lifting of the brows at her friend. Lady Dunstane motioned her fan, and Diana came, bending head.
'Are you bound in honour?'
'I don't think I am. And I do want to go on talking with the General. He is so delightful and modest—my dream of a true soldier!—telling me of his last big battle, bit by bit, to my fishing.'
'Put off this person for a square dance down the list, and take out Mr. Redworth—Miss Diana Merlon, Mr. Redworth: he will bring you back to the General, who must not totally absorb you, or he will forfeit his popularity.'
Diana instantly struck a treaty with the pertinacious advocate of his claims, to whom, on his relinquishing her, Mr. Sullivan Smith remarked: 'Oh! sir, the law of it, where a lady's concerned! You're one for evictions, I should guess, and the anti-human process. It's that letter of the law that stands between you and me and mine and yours. But you've got your congee, and my blessing on ye!'
'It was a positive engagement,' said the enemy.
Mr. Sullivan Smith derided him. 'And a pretty partner you've pickled for yourself when she keeps her positive engagement!'
He besought Lady Dunstane to console him with a turn. She pleaded weariness. He proposed to sit beside her and divert her. She smiled, but warned him that she was English in every vein. He interjected: 'Irish men and English women! though it's putting the cart before the horse—the copper pennies where the gold guineas should be. So here's the gentleman who takes the oyster, like the lawyer of the fable. English is he? But we read, the last shall be first. And English women and Irish men make the finest coupling in the universe.'
'Well, you must submit to see an Irish woman led out by an English man,' said Lady Dunstane, at the same time informing the obedient Diana, then bestowing her hand on Mr. Redworth to please her friend, that he was a schoolfellow of her husband's.
'Favour can't help coming by rotation, except in very extraordinary circumstances, and he was ahead of me with you, and takes my due, and 'twould be hard on me if I weren't thoroughly indemnified.' Mr. Sullivan Smith bowed. 'You gave them just the start over the frozen minute for conversation; they were total strangers, and he doesn't appear a bad sort of fellow for a temporary mate, though he's not perfectly sure of his legs. And that we'll excuse to any man leading out such a fresh young beauty of a Bright Eyes—like the stars of a winter's night in the frosty season over Columkill, or where you will, so that's in Ireland, to be sure of the likeness to her.'
'Her mother was half English.'
'Of course she was. And what was my observation about the coupling? Dan Merion would make her Irish all over. And she has a vein of Spanish blood in her; for he had; and she's got the colour.—But you spoke of their coupling—or I did. Oh, a man can hold his own with an English roly-poly mate: he's not stifled! But a woman hasn't his power of resistance to dead weight. She's volatile, she's frivolous, a rattler and gabbler—haven't I heard what they say of Irish girls over there? She marries, and it's the end of her sparkling. She must choose at home for a perfect harmonious partner.'
Lady Dunstane expressed her opinion that her couple danced excellently together.
'It'd be a bitter thing to see, if the fellow couldn't dance, after leading her out!' sighed Mr. Sullivan Smith. 'I heard of her over there. They, call her the Black Pearl, and the Irish Lily—because she's dark. They rack their poor brains to get the laugh of us.'
'And I listen to you,' said Lady Dunstane.
'Ah! if all England, half, a quarter, the smallest piece of the land were like you, my lady, I'd be loyal to the finger-nails. Now, is she engaged?—when I get a word with her?'
'She is nineteen, or nearly, and she ought to have five good years of freedom, I think.'
'And five good years of serfdom I'd serve to win her!'
A look at him under the eyelids assured Lady Dunstane that there would be small chance for Mr. Sullivan Smith; after a life of bondage, if she knew her Diana, in spite of his tongue, his tact, his lively features, and breadth of shoulders.
Up he sprang. Diana was on Mr. Redworth's arm. 'No refreshments,' she said; and 'this is my refreshment,' taking the seat of Mr. Sullivan Smith, who ejaculated,
'I must go and have that gentleman's name.' He wanted a foe.
'You know you are ready to coquette with the General at any moment, Tony,' said her friend.
'Yes, with the General!'
'He is a noble old man.'
'Superb. And don't say "old man." With his uniform and his height and his grey head, he is like a glorious October day just before the brown leaves fall.'
Diana hummed a little of the air of Planxty Kelly, the favourite of her childhood, as Lady Dunstane well remembered, they smiled together at the scenes and times it recalled.
'Do you still write verses, Tony?'
'I could about him. At one part of the fight he thought he would be beaten. He was overmatched in artillery, and it was a cavalry charge he thundered on them, riding across the field to give the word of command to the couple of regiments, riddled to threads, that gained the day. That is life—when we dare death to live! I wonder at men, who are men, being anything but soldiers! I told you, madre, my own Emmy, I forgave you for marrying, because it was a soldier.'
'Perhaps a soldier is to be the happy man. But you have not told me a word of yourself. What has been done with the old Crossways?'
'The house, you know, is mine. And it's all I have: ten acres and the house, furnished, and let for less than two hundred a year. Oh! how I long to evict the tenants! They can't have my feeling for the place where I was born. They're people of tolerably good connections, middling wealthy, I suppose, of the name of Warwick, and, as far as I can understand, they stick there to be near the Sussex Downs, for a nephew, who likes to ride on them. I've a half engagement, barely legible, to visit them on an indefinite day, and can't bear the idea of strangers masters in the old house. I must be driven there for shelter, for a roof, some month. And I could make a pilgrimage in rain or snow just to doat on the outside of it. That's your Tony.'
'She's my darling.'
'I hear myself speak! But your voice or mine, madre, it's one soul. Be sure I am giving up the ghost when I cease to be one soul with you, dear and dearest! No secrets, never a shadow of a deception, or else I shall feel I am not fit to live. Was I a bad correspondent when you were in India?'
'Pretty well. Copious letters when you did write.'
'I was shy. I knew I should be writing, to Emmy and another, and only when I came to the flow could I forget him. He is very finely built; and I dare say he has a head. I read of his deeds in India and quivered. But he was just a bit in the way. Men are the barriers to perfect naturalness, at least, with girls, I think. You wrote to me in the same tone as ever, and at first I had a struggle to reply. And I, who have such pride in being always myself!'
Two staring semi-circles had formed, one to front the Hero; the other the Beauty. These half moons imperceptibly dissolved to replenish, and became a fixed obstruction.
'Yes, they look,' Diana made answer to Lady Dunstane's comment on the curious impertinence. She was getting used to it, and her friend had a gratification in seeing how little this affected her perfect naturalness.
'You are often in the world—dinners, dances?' she said.
'People are kind.'
Diana's unshadowed bright face defied all menace of an eclipse.
The block of sturdy gazers began to melt. The General had dispersed his group of satellites by a movement with the Mayoress on his arm, construed as the signal for procession to the supper-table.
THE INTERIOR OF MR. REDWORTH, AND THE EXTERIOR OF MR. SULLIVAN SMITH
'It may be as well to take Mr. Redworth's arm; you will escape the crush for you,' said Lady Dunstane to Diana. 'I don't sup. Yes! go! You must eat, and he is handiest to conduct you.'
Diana thought of her chaperon and the lateness of the hour. She murmured, to soften her conscience, 'Poor Mrs. Pettigrew!'
And once more Mr. Redworth, outwardly imperturbable, was in the maelstrom of a happiness resembling tempest. He talked, and knew not what he uttered. To give this matchless girl the best to eat and drink was his business, and he performed it. Oddly, for a man who had no loaded design, marshalling the troops in his active and capacious cranium, he fell upon calculations of his income, present and prospective, while she sat at the table and he stood behind her. Others were wrangling for places, chairs, plates, glasses, game-pie, champagne: she had them; the lady under his charge to a certainty would have them; so far good; and he had seven hundred pounds per annum—seven hundred and fifty, in a favourable aspect, at a stretch . . . .
'Yes, the pleasantest thing to me after working all day is an opera of Carini's,' she said, in full accord with her taste, 'and Tellio for tenor, certainly.'
—A fair enough sum for a bachelor: four hundred personal income, and a prospect of higher dividends to increase it; three hundred odd from his office, and no immediate prospects of an increase there; no one died there, no elderly martyr for the advancement of his juniors could be persuaded to die; they were too tough to think of retiring. Say, seven hundred and fifty . . . . eight hundred, if the commerce of the country fortified the Bank his property was embarked in; or eight-fifty or nine ten. . . .
'I could call him my poet also,' Mr. Redworth agreed with her taste in poets. 'His letters are among the best ever written—or ever published: the raciest English I know. Frank, straight out: capital descriptions. The best English letter-writers are as good as the French—
You don't think so?—in their way, of course. I dare' say we don't sufficiently cultivate the art. We require the supple tongue a closer intercourse of society gives.'
—Eight or ten hundred. Comfortable enough for a man in chambers. To dream of entering as a householder on that sum, in these days, would be stark nonsense: and a man two removes from a baronetcy has no right to set his reckoning on deaths:—if he does, he becomes a sort of meditative assassin. But what were the Fates about when they planted a man of the ability of Tom Redworth in a Government office! Clearly they intended him to remain a bachelor for life. And they sent him over to Ireland on inspection duty for a month to have sight of an Irish Beauty . . . .
'Think war the finest subject for poets?' he exclaimed. 'Flatly no: I don't think it. I think exactly the reverse. It brings out the noblest traits in human character? I won't own that even. It brings out some but under excitement, when you have not always the real man.—Pray don't sneer at domestic life. Well, there was a suspicion of disdain.—Yes, I can respect the hero, military or civil; with this distinction, that the military hero aims at personal reward—'
'He braves wounds and death,' interposed Diana.
'Whereas the civilian hero—'
'Pardon me, let me deny that the soldier-hero aims at a personal reward,' she again interposed.
'He gets it.'
'If he is not beaten.'
'And then he is no longer a hero.'
'He is to me.'
She had a woman's inveterate admiration of the profession of aims. Mr. Redworth endeavoured to render practicable an opening in her mind to reason. He admitted the grandeur of the poetry of Homer. We are a few centuries in advance of Homer. We do not slay damsels for a sacrifice to propitiate celestial wrath; nor do we revel in details of slaughter. He reasoned with her; he repeated stories known to him of civilian heroes, and won her assent to the heroical title for their deeds, but it was languid, or not so bright as the deeds deserved—or as the young lady could look; and he insisted on the civilian hero, impelled by some unconscious motive to make her see the thing he thought, also the thing he was—his plain mind and matter-of-fact nature. Possibly she caught a glimpse of that. After a turn of fencing, in which he was impressed by the vibration of her tones when speaking of military heroes, she quitted the table, saying: 'An argument between one at supper and another handing plates, is rather unequal if eloquence is needed. As Pat said to the constable, when his hands were tied, You beat me with the fists, but my spirit is towering and kicks freely.'
—Eight hundred? a thousand a year, two thousand, are as nothing in the calculation of a householder who means that the mistress of the house shall have the choicest of the fruits and flowers of the Four Quarters; and Thomas Redworth had vowed at his first outlook on the world of women, that never should one of the sisterhood coming under his charge complain of not having them in profusion. Consequently he was a settled bachelor. In the character of disengaged and unaspiring philosophical bachelor, he reviewed the revelations of her character betrayed by the beautiful virgin devoted to the sanguine coat. The thrill of her voice in speaking of soldier-heroes shot him to the yonder side of a gulf. Not knowing why, for he had no scheme, desperate or other, in his head, the least affrighted of men was frightened by her tastes, and by her aplomb, her inoffensiveness in freedom of manner and self-sufficiency—sign of purest breeding: and by her easy, peerless vivacity, her proofs of descent from the blood of Dan Merion—a wildish blood. The candour of the look of her eyes in speaking, her power of looking forthright at men, and looking the thing she spoke, and the play of her voluble lips, the significant repose of her lips in silence, her weighing of the words he uttered, for a moment before the prompt apposite reply, down to her simple quotation of Pat, alarmed him; he did not ask himself why. His manly self was not intruded on his cogitations. A mere eight hundred or thousand per annum had no place in that midst. He beheld her quietly selecting the position of dignity to suit her: an eminent military man, or statesman, or wealthy nobleman: she had but to choose. A war would offer her the decorated soldier she wanted. A war! Such are women of this kind! The thought revolted him, and pricked his appetite for supper. He did service by Mrs. Pettigrew, to which lady Miss Merion, as she said, promoted him, at the table, and then began to refresh in person, standing.
'Malkin! that's the fellow's name' he heard close at his ear.
Mr. Sullivan Smith had drained a champagne-glass, bottle in hand, and was priming the successor to it. He cocked his eye at Mr. Redworth's quick stare. 'Malkin!' And now we'll see whether the interior of him is grey, or black, or tabby, or tortoise-shell, or any other colour of the Malkin breed.'
He explained to Mr. Redworth that he had summoned Mr. Malkin to answer to him as a gentleman for calling Miss Merion a jilt. 'The man, sir, said in my hearing, she jilted him, and that's to call the lady a jilt. There's not a point of difference, not a shade. I overheard him. I happened by the blessing of Providence to be by when he named her publicly jilt. And it's enough that she's a lady to have me for her champion. The same if she had been an Esquimaux squaw. I'll never live to hear a lady insulted.'
'You don't mean to say you're the donkey to provoke a duel!' Mr. Redworth burst out gruffly, through turkey and stuffing.
'And an Irish lady, the young Beauty of Erin!' Mr. Sullivan Smith was flowing on. He became frigid, he politely bowed: 'Two, sir, if you haven't the grace to withdraw the offensive term before it cools and can't be obliterated.'
'Fiddle! and go to the deuce!' Mr. Redworth cried.
'Would a soft slap o' the cheek persuade you, sir?'
'Try it outside, and don't bother me with nonsense of that sort at my supper. If I'm struck, I strike back. I keep my pistols for bandits and law-breakers. Here,' said Mr. Redworth, better inspired as to the way of treating an ultra of the isle; 'touch glasses: you're a gentleman, and won't disturb good company. By-and-by.'
The pleasing prospect of by-and-by renewed in Mr. Sullivan Smith his composure. They touched the foaming glasses: upon which, in a friendly manner, Mr. Sullivan Smith proposed that they should go outside as soon as Mr. Redworth had finished supper-quite finished supper: for the reason that the term 'donkey' affixed to him was like a minster cap of schooldays, ringing bells on his topknot, and also that it stuck in his gizzard.
Mr. Redworth declared the term to be simply hypothetical. 'If you fight, you're a donkey for doing it. But you won't fight.'
'But I will fight.'
'He won't fight.'
'Then for the honour of your country you must. But I'd rather have him first, for I haven't drunk with him, and it should be a case of necessity to put a bullet or a couple of inches of steel through the man you've drunk with. And what's in your favour, she danced with ye. She seemed to take to ye, and the man she has the smallest sugar-melting for is sacred if he's not sweet to me. If he retracts!'
'Then we grasp hands on it. It's Malkin or nothing!' said Mr. Sullivan Smith, swinging his heel moodily to wander in search of the foe. How one sane man could name another a donkey for fighting to clear an innocent young lady's reputation, passed his rational conception.
Sir Lukin hastened to Mr. Redworth to have a talk over old schooldays and fellows.
'I'll tell you what,' said the civilian, 'There are Irishmen and Irishmen. I've met cool heads and long heads among them, and you and I knew Jack Derry, who was good at most things. But the burlesque Irishman can't be caricatured. Nature strained herself in a 'fit of absurdity to produce him, and all that Art can do is to copy.'
This was his prelude to an account of Mr. Sullivan Smith, whom, as a specimen, he rejoiced to have met.
'There's a chance of mischief,' said Sir Lukin. 'I know nothing of the man he calls Malkin. I'll inquire presently.'
He talked of his prospects, and of the women. Fair ones, in his opinion, besides Miss Merion were parading; he sketched two or three of his partners with a broad brush of epithets.
'It won't do for Miss Merion's name to be mixed up in a duel,' said Redworth.
'Not if she's to make her fortune in England,' said Sir Lukin. 'It's probably all smoke.'
The remark had hardly escaped him when a wreath of metaphorical smoke, and fire, and no mean report, startled the company of supping gentlemen. At the pitch of his voice, Mr. Sullivan Smith denounced Mr. Malkin in presence for a cur masquerading as a cat.
'And that is not the scoundrel's prime offence. For what d' ye think? He trumps up an engagement to dance with a beautiful lady, and because she can't remember, binds her to an oath for a dance to come, and then, holding her prisoner to 'm, he sulks, the dirty dogcat goes and sulks, and he won't dance and won't do anything but screech up in corners that he's jilted. He said the word. Dozens of gentlemen heard the word. And I demand an apology of Misterr Malkin—or . . ! And none of your guerrier nodding and bravado, Mister Malkin, at me, if you please. The case is for settlement between gentlemen.'
The harassed gentleman of the name of Malkin, driven to extremity by the worrying, stood in braced preparation for the English attitude of defence. His tormentor drew closer to him.
'Mind, I give you warning, if you lay a finger on me I'll knock you down,' said he.
Most joyfully Mr. Sullivan Smith uttered a low melodious cry. 'For a specimen of manners, in an assembly of ladies and gentlemen . . . I ask ye!' he addressed the ring about him, to put his adversary entirely in the wrong before provoking the act of war. And then, as one intending gently to remonstrate, he was on the point of stretching out his finger to the shoulder of Mr. Malkin, when Redworth seized his arm, saying: 'I 'm your man: me first: you're due to me.'
Mr. Sullivan Smith beheld the vanishing of his foe in a cloud of faces. Now was he wroth on patently reasonable grounds. He threatened Saxondom. Man up, man down, he challenged the race of short-legged, thickset, wooden-gated curmudgeons: and let it be pugilism if their white livers shivered at the notion of powder and ball. Redworth, in the struggle to haul him away, received a blow from him. 'And you've got it! you would have it!' roared the Celt.
'Excuse yourself to the company for a misdirected effort,' Redworth said; and he observed generally: 'No Irish gentleman strikes a blow in good company.'
'But that's true as Writ! And I offer excuses—if you'll come along with me and a couple of friends. The thing has been done before by torchlight—and neatly.'
'Come along, and come alone,' said Redworth.
A way was cleared for them. Sir Lukin hurried up to Redworth, who had no doubt of his ability to manage Mr. Sullivan Smith.
He managed that fine-hearted but purely sensational fellow so well that Lady Dunstane and Diana, after hearing in some anxiety of the hubbub below, beheld them entering the long saloon amicably, with the nods and looks of gentlemen quietly accordant.
A little later, Lady Dunstane questioned Redworth, and he smoothed her apprehensions, delivering himself, much to her comfort, thus: 'In no case would any lady's name have been raised. The whole affair was nonsensical. He's a capital fellow of a kind, capable of behaving like a man of the world and a gentleman. Only he has, or thinks he has, like lots of his countrymen, a raw wound—something that itches to be grazed. Champagne on that! . . . Irishmen, as far as I have seen of them, are, like horses, bundles of nerves; and you must manage them, as you do with all nervous creatures, with firmness, but good temper. You must never get into a fury of the nerves yourself with them. Spur and whip they don't want; they'll be off with you in a jiffy if you try it.
They want the bridle-rein. That seems to me the secret of Irish character. We English are not bad horsemen. It's a wonder we blunder so in our management of such a people.'
'I wish you were in a position to put your method to the proof,' said she.
He shrugged. 'There's little chance of it!'
To reward him for his practical discretion, she contrived that Diana should give him a final dance; and the beautiful gill smiled quickly responsive to his appeal. He was, moreover, sensible in her look and speech that he had advanced in her consideration to be no longer the mere spinning stick, a young lady's partner. By which he humbly understood that her friend approved him. A gentle delirium enfolded his brain. A householder's life is often begun on eight hundred a year: on less: on much less:—sometimes on nothing but resolution to make a fitting income, carving out a fortune. Eight hundred may stand as a superior basis. That sum is a distinct point of vantage. If it does not mean a carriage and Parisian millinery and a station for one of the stars of society, it means at any rate security; and then, the heart of the man being strong and sound . . .
'Yes,' he replied to her, 'I like my experience of Ireland and the Irish; and better than I thought I should. St. George's Channel ought to be crossed oftener by both of us.'
'I'm always glad of the signal,' said Diana.
He had implied the people of the two islands. He allowed her interpretation to remain personal, for the sake of a creeping deliciousness that it carried through his blood.
'Shall you soon be returning to England?' he ventured to ask.
'I am Lady Dunstane's guest for some months.'
'Then you will. Sir Lukin has an estate in Surrey. He talks of quitting the Service.'
'I can't believe it!'
His thrilled blood was chilled. She entertained a sentiment amounting to adoration for the profession of arms!
Gallantly had the veteran General and Hero held on into the night, that the festivity might not be dashed by his departure; perhaps, to a certain degree, to prolong his enjoyment of a flattering scene. At last Sir Lukin had the word from him, and came to his wife. Diana slipped across the floor to her accommodating chaperon, whom, for the sake of another five minutes with her beloved Emma, she very agreeably persuaded to walk in the train of Lord Larrian, and forth they trooped down a pathway of nodding heads and curtsies, resembling oak and birch-trees under a tempered gale, even to the shedding of leaves, for here a turban was picked up by Sir Lukin, there a jewelled ear-ring by the self-constituted attendant, Mr. Thomas Redworth. At the portico rang a wakening cheer, really worth hearing. The rain it rained, and hats were formless,' as in the first conception of the edifice, backs were damp, boots liquidly musical, the pipe of consolation smoked with difficulty, with much pulling at the stem, but the cheer arose magnificently, and multiplied itself, touching at the same moment the heavens and Diana's heart-at least, drawing them together; for she felt exalted, enraptured, as proud of her countrymen as of their hero.
'That's the natural shamrock, after the artificial!' she heard Mr. Redworth say, behind her.
She turned and sent one of her brilliant glances flying over him, in gratitude for a timely word well said. And she never forgot the remark, nor he the look.
CONTAINING HINTS OF DIANA'S EXPERIENCES AND OF WHAT THEY LED TO
A fortnight after this memorable Ball the principal actors of both sexes had crossed the Channel back to England, and old Ireland was left to her rains from above and her undrained bogs below; her physical and her mental vapours; her ailments and her bog-bred doctors; as to whom the governing country trusted they would be silent or discourse humorously.
The residence of Sir Lukin Dunstane, in the county of Surrey, inherited by him during his recent term of Indian services, was on the hills, where a day of Italian sky, or better, a day of our breezy South-west, washed from the showery night, gives distantly a tower to view, and a murky web, not without colour: the ever-flying banner of the metropolis, the smoke of the city's chimneys, if you prefer plain language. At a first inspection of the house, Lady Dunstane did not like it, and it was advertized to be let, and the auctioneer proclaimed it in his dialect. Her taste was delicate; she had the sensitiveness of an invalid: twice she read the stalking advertizement of the attractions of Copsley, and hearing Diana call it 'the plush of speech,' she shuddered; she decided that a place where her husband's family had lived ought not to stand forth meretriciously spangled and daubed, like a show-booth at a fair, for a bait; though the grandiloquent man of advertizing letters assured Sir Lukin that a public agape for the big and gaudy mouthful is in no milder way to be caught; as it is apparently the case. She withdrew the trumpeting placard. Retract we likewise 'banner of the metropolis.' That plush of speech haunts all efforts to swell and illuminate citizen prose to a princely poetic.
Yet Lady Dunstane herself could name the bank of smoke, when looking North-eastward from her summerhouse, the flag of London: and she was a person of the critical mind, well able to distinguish between the simple metaphor and the superobese. A year of habitation induced her to conceal her dislike of the place in love: cat's love, she owned. Here, she confessed to Diana, she would wish to live to her end. It seemed remote, where an invigorating upper air gave new bloom to her cheeks; but she kept one secret from her friend.
Copsley was an estate of nearly twelve hundred acres, extending across the ridge of the hills to the slopes North and South. Seven counties rolled their backs under this commanding height, and it would have tasked a pigeon to fly within an hour the stretch of country visible at the Copsley windows. Sunrise to right, sunset leftward, the borders of the grounds held both flaming horizons. So much of the heavens and of earth is rarely granted to a dwelling. The drawback was the structure, which had no charm, scarce a face. 'It is written that I should live in barracks,' Lady Dunstane said. The colour of it taught white to impose a sense of gloom. Her cat's love of the familiar inside corners was never able to embrace the outer walls. Her sensitiveness, too, was racked by the presentation of so pitiably ugly a figure to the landscape. She likened it to a coarse-featured country wench, whose cleaning and decorating of her countenance makes complexion grin and ruggedness yawn. Dirty, dilapidated, hung with weeds and parasites, it would have been more tolerable. She tried the effect of various creepers, and they were as a staring paint. What it was like then, she had no heart to say.
One may, however, fall on a pleasurable resignation in accepting great indemnities, as Diana bade her believe, when the first disgust began to ebb. 'A good hundred over there would think it a Paradise for an asylum': she signified London. Her friend bore such reminders meekly. They were readers of books of all sorts, political, philosophical, economical, romantic; and they mixed the diverse readings in thought, after the fashion of the ardently youthful. Romance affected politics, transformed economy, irradiated philosophy. They discussed the knotty question, Why things were not done, the things being confessedly to do; and they cut the knot: Men, men calling themselves statesmen, declined to perform that operation, because, forsooth, other men objected to have it performed on them. And common humanity declared it to be for the common weal! If so, then it is clearly indicated as a course of action: we shut our eyes against logic and the vaunted laws of economy. They are the knot we cut; or would cut, had we the sword. Diana did it to the tune of Garryowen or Planxty Kelly. O for a despot! The cry was for a beneficent despot, naturally: a large-minded benevolent despot. In short, a despot to obey their bidding. Thoughtful young people who think through the heart soon come to this conclusion. The heart is the beneficent despot they would be. He cures those miseries; he creates the novel harmony. He sees all difficulties through his own sanguine hues. He is the musical poet of the problem, demanding merely to have it solved that he may sing: clear proof of the necessity for solving it immediately.
Thus far in their pursuit of methods for the government of a nation, to make it happy, Diana was leader. Her fine ardour and resonance, and more than the convincing ring of her voice, the girl's impassioned rapidity in rushing through any perceptible avenue of the labyrinth, or beating down obstacles to form one, and coming swiftly to some solution, constituted her the chief of the pair of democratic rebels in questions that clamoured for instant solution. By dint of reading solid writers, using the brains they possessed, it was revealed to them gradually that their particular impatience came perhaps of the most earnest desire to get to a comfortable termination of the inquiry: the heart aching for mankind sought a nest for itself. At this point Lady Dunstane took the lead. Diana had to be tugged to follow. She could not accept a 'perhaps' that cast dubiousness on her disinterested championship. She protested a perfect certainty of the single aim of her heart outward. But she reflected. She discovered that her friend had gone ahead of her.
The discovery was reached, and even acknowledged, before she could persuade herself to swallow the repulsive truth. O self! self! self! are we eternally masking in a domino that reveals your hideous old face when we could be most positive we had escaped you? Eternally! the desolating answer knelled. Nevertheless the poor, the starving, the overtaxed in labour, they have a right to the cry of Now! now! They have; and if a cry could conduct us to the secret of aiding, healing, feeding, elevating them, we might swell the cry. As it is, we must lay it on our wits patiently to track and find the secret; and meantime do what the individual with his poor pittance can. A miserable contribution! sighed the girl. Old Self was perceived in the sigh. She was haunted.
After all, one must live one's life. Placing her on a lower pedestal in her self-esteem, the philosophy of youth revived her; and if the abatement of her personal pride was dispiriting, she began to see an advantage in getting inward eyes.
'It's infinitely better I should know it, Emmy—I'm a reptile! Pleasure here, pleasure there, I'm always thinking of pleasure. I shall give up thinking and take to drifting. Neither of us can do more than open purses; and mine's lean. If the old Crossways had no tenant, it would be a purse all mouth. And charity is haunted, like everything we do. Only I say with my whole strength yes, I am sure, in spite of the men professing that they are practical, the rich will not move without a goad. I have and hold—you shall hunger and covet, until you are strong enough to force my hand:—that 's the speech of the wealthy. And they are Christians. In name. Well, I thank heaven I'm at war, with myself.'
'You always manage to strike out a sentence worth remembering, Tony,' said Lady Dunstane. 'At war with ourselves, means the best happiness we can have.'
It suited her, frail as her health was, and her wisdom striving to the spiritual of happiness. War with herself was far from happiness in the bosom of Diana. She wanted external life, action, fields for energies, to vary the struggle. It fretted and rendered her ill at ease. In her solitary rides with Sir Lukin through a long winter season, she appalled that excellent but conventionally-minded gentleman by starting, nay supporting, theories next to profane in the consideration of a land-owner. She spoke of Reform: of the Repeal of the Corn Laws as the simple beginning of the grants due to the people. She had her ideas, of course, from that fellow Redworth, an occasional visitor at Copsley; and a man might be a donkey and think what he pleased, since he had a vocabulary to back his opinions. A woman, Sir Lukin held, was by nature a mute in politics. Of the thing called a Radical woman, he could not believe that she was less than monstrous: 'with a nose,' he said; and doubtless, horse teeth, hatchet jaws, slatternly in the gown, slipshod, awful. As for a girl, an unmarried, handsome girl, admittedly beautiful, her interjections, echoing a man, were ridiculous, and not a little annoying now and them, for she could be piercingly sarcastic. Her vocabulary in irony was a quiverful. He admired her and liked her immensely; complaining only of her turn for unfeminine topics. He pardoned her on the score of the petty difference rankling between them in reference to his abandonment of his Profession, for here she was patriotically wrong-headed. Everybody knew that he had sold out in order to look after his estates of Copsley and Dunena, secondly: and in the first place, to nurse and be a companion to his wife. He had left her but four times in five months; he had spent just three weeks of that time away from her in London. No one could doubt of his having kept his pledge, although his wife occupied herself with books and notions and subjects foreign to his taste—his understanding, too, he owned. And Redworth had approved of his retirement, had a contempt for soldiering. 'Quite as great as yours for civilians, I can tell you,' Sir Lukin said, dashing out of politics to the vexatious personal subject. Her unexpressed disdain was ruffling.
'Mr. Redworth recommends work: he respects the working soldier,' said Diana.
Sir Lukin exclaimed that he had been a working soldier; he was ready to serve if his country wanted him. He directed her to anathematize Peace, instead of scorning a fellow for doing the duties next about him: and the mention of Peace fetched him at a bound back to politics. He quoted a distinguished Tory orator, to the effect, that any lengthened term of peace bred maggots in the heads of the people.
'Mr. Redworth spoke of it: he translated something from Aristophanes for a retort,' said Diana.
'Well, we're friends, eh?' Sir Lukin put forth a hand.
She looked at him surprised at the unnecessary call for a show, of friendship; she touched his hand with two tips of her fingers, remarking, 'I should think so, indeed.'
He deemed it prudent to hint to his wife that Diana Merion appeared to be meditating upon Mr. Redworth.
'That is a serious misfortune, if true,' said Lady Dunstane. She thought so for two reasons: Mr. Redworth generally disagreed in opinion with Diana, and contradicted her so flatly as to produce the impression of his not even sharing the popular admiration of her beauty; and, further, she hoped for Diana to make a splendid marriage. The nibbles threatened to be snaps and bites. There had been a proposal, in an epistle, a quaint effusion, from a gentleman avowing that he had seen her, and had not danced with her on the night of the Irish ball. He was rejected, but Diana groaned over the task of replying to the unfortunate applicant, so as not to wound him. 'Shall I have to do this often, I wonder?' she said.
'Unless you capitulate,' said her friend.
Diana's exclamation: 'May I be heart-free for another ten years!' encouraged Lady Dunstane to suppose her husband quite mistaken.
In the Spring Diana, went on a first pilgrimage to her old home, The Crossways, and was kindly entertained by the uncle and aunt of a treasured nephew, Mr. Augustus Warwick. She rode with him on the Downs. A visit of a week humanized her view of the intruders. She wrote almost tenderly of her host and hostess to Lady Dunstane; they had but 'the one fault—of spoiling their nephew.' Him she described as a 'gentlemanly official,' a picture of him. His age was thirty-four. He seemed 'fond of her scenery.' Then her pen swept over the Downs like a flying horse. Lady Dunstane thought no more of the gentlemanly official. He was a barrister who did not practise: in nothing the man for Diana. Letters came from the house of the Pettigrews in Kent; from London; from Halford Manor in Hertfordshire; from Lockton Grange in Lincolnshire: after which they ceased to be the thrice weekly; and reading the latest of them, Lady Dunstane imagined a flustered quill. The letter succeeding the omission contained no excuse, and it was brief. There was a strange interjection, as to the wearifulness of constantly wandering, like a leaf off the tree. Diana spoke of looking for a return of the dear winter days at Copsley. That was her station. Either she must have had some disturbing experience, or Copsley was dear for a Redworth reason, thought the anxious peruser; musing, dreaming, putting together divers shreds of correspondence and testing them with her intimate knowledge of Diana's character, Lady Dunstane conceived that the unprotected beautiful girl had suffered a persecution, it might be an insult. She spelt over the names of the guests at the houses. Lord Wroxeter was of evil report: Captain Rampan, a Turf captain, had the like notoriety. And it is impossible in a great house for the hostess to spread her aegis to cover every dame and damsel present. She has to depend on the women being discreet, the men civilized.
'How brutal men can be!' was one of Diana's incidental remarks, in a subsequent letter, relating simply to masculine habits. In those days the famous ancestral plea of 'the passion for his charmer' had not been altogether socially quashed down among the provinces, where the bottle maintained a sort of sway, and the beauty which inflamed the sons of men was held to be in coy expectation of violent effects upon their boiling blood. There were, one hears that there still are, remnants of the pristine male, who, if resisted in their suing, conclude that they are scorned, and it infuriates them: some also whose 'passion for the charmer' is an instinct to pull down the standard of the sex, by a bully imposition of sheer physical ascendancy, whenever they see it flying with an air of gallant independence: and some who dedicate their lives to a study of the arts of the Lord Of Reptiles, until they have worked the crisis for a display of him in person. Assault or siege, they have achieved their triumphs; they have dominated a frailer system of nerves, and a young woman without father, or brother, or husband, to defend her, is cryingly a weak one, therefore inviting to such an order of heroes. Lady Dunstane was quick-witted and had a talkative husband; she knew a little of the upper social world of her time. She was heartily glad to have Diana by her side again.