Transcriber's Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Dialect spellings, contractions and discrepancies have been retained.
THE HISTORY OF SIR RICHARD CALMADY
NEW YORK Dodd, Mead & Company 1901
Copyright, 1901 BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY
THE CAXTON PRESS NEW YORK.
I. Acquainting the Reader with a Fair Domain and the Maker Thereof 1
II. Giving the Very Earliest Information Obtainable of the Hero of this Book 7
III. Touching Matters Clerical and Controversial 19
IV. Raising Problems which it is the Purpose of this History to Resolve 25
V. In which Julius March Beholds the Vision of the New Life 34
VI. Accident or Destiny, According to Your Humour 44
VII. Mrs. William Ormiston Sacrifices a Wine-glass to Fate 57
VIII. Enter a Child of Promise 69
IX. In which Katherine Calmady Looks on Her Son 76
X. The Birds of the Air Take Their Breakfast 84
THE BREAKING OF DREAMS
I. Recording some Aspects of a Small Pilgrim's Progress 93
II. In which Our Hero Improves His Acquaintance with Many Things—Himself Included 104
III. Concerning that which, Thank God, Happens Almost Every Day 117
IV. Which Smells very Vilely of the Stable 128
V. In which Dickie is Introduced to a Little Dancer with Blush-roses in Her Hat 140
VI. Dealing with a Physician of the Body and a Physician of the Soul 149
VII. An Attempt to Make the Best of It 159
VIII. Telling, Incidentally, of a Broken-down Postboy and a Country Fair 169
LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI
I. In which Our Hero's World Grows Sensibly Wider 181
II. Telling How Dickie's Soul was Somewhat Sick, and How He Met Fair Women on the Confines of a Wood 186
III. In which Richard Confirms One Judgment and Reverses Another 195
IV. Julius March Bears Testimony 203
V. Telling How Queen Mary's Crystal Ball Came to Fall on the Gallery Floor 215
VI. In which Dickie Tries to Ride Away from His Own Shadow, with Such Success as Might Have Been Anticipated 231
VII. Wherein the Reader is Courteously Invited to Improve His Acquaintance with Certain Persons of Quality 240
VIII. Richard Puts His Hand to a Plough from which There is no Turning Back 252
IX. Which Touches Incidentally on Matters of Finance 264
X. Mr. Ludovic Quayle Among the Prophets 280
XI. Containing Samples Both of Earthly and Heavenly Love 289
A SLIP BETWIXT CUP AND LIP
I. Lady Louisa Barking Traces the Finger of Providence 302
II. Telling How Vanity Fair Made Acquaintance with Richard Calmady 314
III. In which Katherine Tries to Nail Up the Weather-glass to Set Fair 324
IV. A Lesson Upon the Eleventh Commandment—"Parents Obey Your Children" 337
V. Iphigenia 350
VI. In which Honoria St. Quentin Takes the Field 362
VII. Recording the Astonishing Valour Displayed by a Certain Small Mouse in a Corner 375
VIII. A Manifestation of the Spirit 386
IX. In which Dickie Shakes Hands with the Devil 397
I. In which the Reader is Courteously Entreated to Grow Older by the Space of Some Four Years, and to Sail Southward Ho! Away 417
II. Wherein Time is Discovered to Have Worked Changes 429
III. Helen de Vallorbes Apprehends Vexatious Complications 438
IV. "Mater Admirabilis" 447
V. Exit Camp 455
VI. In which M. Paul Destournelle Has the Bad Taste to Threaten to Upset the Apple-cart 469
VII. Splendide Mendax 479
VIII. Helen de Vallorbes Learns Her Rival's Name 490
IX. Concerning that Daughter of Cupid and Psyche Whom Men Call Voluptas 506
X. The Abomination of Desolation 511
XI. In which Dickie Goes to the End of the World and Looks Over the Wall 526
THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
I. Miss St. Quentin Bears Witness to the Faith that is in Her 544
II. Telling How, Once Again, Katherine Calmady Looked on Her Son 555
III. Concerning a Spirit in Prison 566
IV. Dealing with Matters of Hearsay and Matters of Sport 575
V. Telling How Dickie Came to Untie a Certain Tag of Rusty, Black Ribbon 588
VI. A Litany of the Sacred Heart 600
VII. Wherein Two Enemies are Seen to Cry Quits 611
VIII. Concerning the Brotherhood Founded by Richard Calmady, and Other Matters of Some Interest 628
IX. Telling How Ludovic Quayle and Honoria St. Quentin Watched the Trout Rise in the Long Water 639
X. Concerning a Day of Honest Warfare and a Sunset Harbinger Not of the Night But of the Dawn 655
XI. In which Richard Calmady Bids the Long-suffering Reader Farewell 679
The History of Sir Richard Calmady
ACQUAINTING THE READER WITH A FAIR DOMAIN AND THE MAKER THEREOF
In that fortunate hour of English history, when the cruel sights and haunting insecurities of the Middle Ages had passed away, and while, as yet, the fanatic zeal of Puritanism had not cast its blighting shadow over all merry and pleasant things, it seemed good to one Denzil Calmady, esquire, to build himself a stately red-brick and freestone house upon the southern verge of the great plateau of moorland which ranges northward to the confines of Windsor Forest and eastward to the Surrey Hills. And this he did in no vainglorious spirit, with purpose of exalting himself above the county gentlemen, his neighbours, and showing how far better lined his pockets were than theirs. Rather did he do it from an honest love of all that is ingenious and comely, and as the natural outgrowth of an inquiring and philosophic mind. For Denzil Calmady, like so many another son of that happy age, was something more than a mere wealthy country squire, breeder of beef and brewer of ale. He was a courtier and traveler; and, if tradition speaks truly, a poet who could praise his mistress's many charms, or wittily resent her caprices, in well-turned verse. He was a patron of art, having brought back ivories and bronzes from Italy, pictures and china from the Low Countries, and enamels from France. He was a student, and collected the many rare and handsome leather-bound volumes telling of curious arts, obscure speculations, half-fabulous histories, voyages, and adventures, which still constitute the almost unique value of the Brockhurst library. He might claim to be a man of science, moreover—of that delectable old-world science which has no narrow-minded quarrel with miracle or prodigy, wherein angel and demon mingle freely, lending a hand unchallenged to complicate the operations both of nature and of grace—a science which, even yet, in perfect good faith, busied itself with the mysteries of the Rosy Cross, mixed strange ingredients into a possible Elixir of Life, ran far afield in search for the Philosopher's Stone, gathered herbs for the confection of simples during auspicious phases of the moon, and beheld in comet and meteor awful forewarnings of public calamity or of Divine Wrath.
From all of which it may be premised that when, like the wise king, of old, in Jerusalem, Denzil Calmady "builded him houses, made him gardens and orchards, and planted trees in them of all kind of fruits"; when he "made him pools of water to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees"; when he "gathered silver and gold and the treasure of provinces," and got him singers, and players of musical instruments, and "the delights of the sons of men,"—he did so that, having tried and sifted all these things, he might, by the exercise of a ripe and untrammeled judgment, decide what amongst them is illusory and but as a passing show, and what—be it never so small a remnant—has in it the promise of eternal subsistence, and therefore of vital worth; and that, having so decided and thus gained an even mind, he might prepare serenely to take leave of the life he had dared so largely to live.
Commencing his labours at Brockhurst during the closing years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Denzil Calmady completed them in 1611 with a royal house-warming. For the space of a week, during the autumn of that year,—the last autumn, as it unhappily proved, that graceful and scholarly prince was fated to see,—Henry, Prince of Wales, condescended to be his guest. He was entertained at Brockhurst—as contemporary records inform the curious—with "much feastinge and many joyous masques and gallant pastimes," including "a great slayinge of deer and divers beastes and fowl in the woods and coverts thereunto adjacent." It is added, with unconscious irony, that his host, being a "true lover of all wild creatures, had caused a fine bear-pit to be digged beyond the outer garden wall to the west." And that, on the Sunday afternoon of the Prince's visit, there "was held a most mighty baitinge," to witness which "many noble gentlemen of the neighbourhood did visit Brockhurst and lay there two nights."
Later it is reported of Denzil Calmady, who was an excellent churchman,—suspected even, notwithstanding his little turn for philosophy, of a greater leaning towards the old Mass-Book than towards the modern Book of Common Prayer,—that he notably assisted Laud, then Bishop of St. David's, in respect of certain delicate diplomacies. Laud proved not ungrateful to his friend; who, in due time, was honoured with one of King James's newly instituted baronetcies, not to mention some few score seedling Scotchfirs, which, taking kindly to the light moorland soil, increased and multiplied exceedingly and sowed themselves broadcast over the face of the surrounding country.
And, save for the vigorous upgrowth of those same fir trees, and for the fact that bears and bear-pit had long given place to race-horses and to a great square of stable buildings in the hollow lying back from the main road across the park, Brockhurst was substantially the same in the year of grace 1842, when this truthful history actually opens, as it had been when Sir Denzil's workmen set the last tier of bricks of the last twisted chimney-stack in its place. The grand, simple masses of the house—Gothic in its main lines, but with much of Renaissance work in its details—still lent themselves to the same broad effects of light and shadow, as it crowned the southern and western sloping hillside amid its red-walled gardens and pepper-pot summer-houses, its gleaming ponds and watercourses, its hawthorn dotted paddocks; its ancient avenues of elm, of lime, and oak. The same panelings and tapestries clothed the walls of its spacious rooms and passages; the same quaint treasures adorned its fine Italian cabinets; the same air of large and generous comfort pervaded it. As the child of true lovers is said to bear through life, in a certain glad beauty of person and of nature, witness to the glad hour of its conception, so Brockhurst, on through the accumulating years, still bore witness to the fortunate historic hour in which it was planned.
Yet, since in all things material and mortal there is always a little spot of darkness, a germ of canker, at least the echo of a cry of fear—lest life being too sweet, man should grow proud to the point of forgetting he is, after all, but a pawn upon the board, but the sport and plaything of destiny and the vast purposes of God—all was not quite well with Brockhurst. At a given moment of time, the diabolic element had of necessity obtruded itself. And, in the chronicles of this delightful dwelling-place, even as in those of Eden itself, the angels are proven not to have had things altogether their own gracious way.
The pierced stone parapet, which runs round three sides of the house, and constitutes, architecturally, one of its most noteworthy features, is broken in the centre of the north front by a tall, stepped and sharply pointed gable, flanked on either hand by slender, four-sided pinnacles. From the niche in the said gable, arrayed in sugar-loaf hat, full doublet and trunk hose, his head a trifle bent so that the tip of his pointed beard rests on the pleatings of his marble ruff, a carpenter's rule in his right hand, Sir Denzil Calmady gazes meditatively down. Delicate, coral-like tendrils of the Virginian creeper, which covers the house walls, and strays over the bay windows of the Long Gallery below, twine themselves yearly about his ankles and his square-toed shoes. The swallows yearly attempt to fix their gray, mud nests against the flutings of the scallop-shell canopy sheltering his bowed head; and are yearly ejected by cautious gardeners armed with imposing array of ladders and conscious of no little inward reluctance to face the dangers of so aerial a height.
And here, it may not be unfitting to make further mention of that same little spot of darkness, germ of canker, echo of the cry of fear, that had come to mar the fair records of Brockhurst For very certain it was that among the varying scenes, moving merry or majestic, upon which Sir Denzil had looked down during the two and a quarter centuries of his sojourn in the lofty niche of the northern gable, there was one his eyes had never yet rested upon—one matter, and that a very vital one, to which had he applied his carpenter's rule the measure of it must have proved persistently and grievously short.
Along the straight walks, across the smooth lawns, and beside the brilliant flower-borders of the formal gardens, he had seen generations of babies toddle and stagger, with gurglings of delight, as they clutched at glancing bird or butterfly far out of reach. He had seen healthy, clean-limbed, boisterous lads and dainty, little maidens laugh and play, quarrel, kiss, and be friends again. He had seen ardent lovers—in glowing June twilights, while the nightingales shouted from the laurels, or from the coppices in the park below—driven to the most desperate straits, to visions of cold poison, of horse-pistols, of immediate enlistment, or the consoling arms of Betty the housemaid, by the coquetries of some young lady captivating in powder and patches, or arrayed in the high-waisted, agreeably-revealing costume which our grandmothers judged it not improper to wear in their youth. He had seen husband and wife, too, wandering hand in hand at first, tenderly hopeful and elate. And then, sometimes, as the years lengthened,—they growing somewhat sated with the ease of their high estate,—he had seen them hand in hand no longer, waxing cold and indifferent, debating even, at moments, reproachfully whether they might not have invested the capital of their affections to better advantage elsewhere.
All this and much more Sir Denzil had seen, and doubtless measured, for all that he appears so immovably calm and apart. But that which he had never yet seen was a man of his name and race, full of years and honours, come slowly forth from the stately house to sun himself, morning or evening, in the comfortable shelter of the high, red-brick, rose-grown garden walls. Looking the while, with the pensive resignation of old age, at the goodly, wide-spreading prospect. Smiling again over old jokes, warming again over old stories of prowess with horse and hound, or rod and gun. Feeling the eyes moisten again at the memory of old loves, and of those far-away first embraces which seemed to open the gates of paradise and create the world anew; at remembrances of old hopes too, which proved still-born, and of old distresses, which often enough proved still-born likewise,—the whole of these simplified now, sanctified, the tumult of them stilled, along with the hot, young blood which went to make them, by the kindly torpor of increasing age and the approaching footsteps of greatly reconciling Death.
For Sir Denzil's male descendants, one and all,—so says tradition, so say too the written and printed family records, the fine monuments in the chancel of Sandyfield Church, and more than one tombstone in the yew-shaded church-yard,—have displayed a disquieting incapacity for living to the permitted "threescore years and ten," let alone fourscore, and dying decently, in ordinary, commonplace fashion, in their beds. Mention is made of casualties surprising in number and variety; and not always, it must be owned, to the moral credit of those who suffered them. It is told how Sir Thomas, grandson of Sir Denzil, died miserably of gangrene, caused by a tear in the arm from the antler of a wounded buck. How his nephew Zachary—who succeeded him—was stabbed during a drunken brawl in an eating-house in the Strand. How the brother of the said Zachary, a gallant young soldier, was killed at the battle of Ramillies in 1706. Dueling, lightning during a summer storm, even the blue-brown waters of the Brockhurst Lake in turn claim a victim. Later it is told how a second Sir Denzil, after hard fighting to save his purse, was shot by highwaymen on Bagshot Heath, when riding with a couple of servants—not notably distinguished, as it would appear, for personal valour—from Brockhurst up to town.
Lastly comes Courtney Calmady, who, living in excellent repute until close upon sixty, seemed destined by Providence to break the evil chain of the family fate. But he too goes the way of all flesh, suddenly enough, after a long run with the hounds, owing to the opening of a wound, received when he was little more than a lad, at the taking of Frenchtown under General Proctor, during the second American war. So he too died, and they buried him with much honest mourning, as befitted so kindly and honourable a gentleman; and his son Richard—of whom more hereafter—reigned in his stead.
GIVING THE VERY EARLIEST INFORMATION OBTAINABLE OF THE HERO OF THIS BOOK
It happened in this way, towards the end of August, 1842.
In the gray of the summer evening, as the sunset faded and the twilight gathered, spreading itself tenderly over the pastures and corn-fields,—over the purple-green glooms of the fir forest—over the open moors, whose surface is scored for miles by the turf-slane of the cottager and squatter—over the clear brown streams that trickle out of the pink and emerald mosses of the peat-bogs, and gain volume and vigour as they sparkle away by woodside, and green-lane, and village street—and over those secret, bosky places, in the heart of the great common-lands, where the smooth, white stems and glossy foliage of the self-sown hollies spring up between the roots of the beech trees, where plovers cry, and stoat and weazel lurk and scamper, while the old poacher's lean, ill-favoured, rusty-coloured lurcher picks up a shrieking hare, and where wandering bands of gypsies—those lithe, onyx-eyed children of the magic East—still pitch their dirty, little, fungus-like tents around the camp-fire,—as the sunset died and the twilight thus softly widened and deepened, Lady Calmady found herself, for the first time during all the long summer day, alone.
For though no royal personage had graced the occasion with his presence, nor had bears suffered martyrdom to promote questionably amiable mirth, Brockhurst, during the past week, had witnessed a series of festivities hardly inferior to those which marked Sir Denzil's historic house-warming. Young Sir Richard Calmady had brought home his bride, and it was but fitting the whole countryside should see her. So all and sundry received generous entertainment according to their degree.—Labourers, tenants, school-children. Weary old-age from Pennygreen poorhouse taking its pleasure of cakes and ale half suspiciously in the broad sunshine. The leading shopkeepers of Westchurch and their humbler brethren from Farley Row. All the country gentry too. Lord and Lady Fallowfeild and a goodly company from Whitney Park, Lord Denier and a large contingent from Grimshott Place, the Cathcarts of Newlands, and many more persons of undoubted consequence—specially perhaps in their own eyes.
Not to mention a small army of local clergy—who ever display a touching alacrity in attending festivals, even those of a secular character—with camp-followers, in the form of wives and families, galore.
And now, at last, all was over,—balls, sports, theatricals, dinners,—the last in the case of the labourers, with the unlovely adjunct of an ox roasted whole. Even the final garden-party, designed to include such persons as it was, socially speaking, a trifle difficult to place—Image, owner of the big Shotover brewery, for instance, who was shouldering his way so vigorously towards fortune and a seat on the bench of magistrates; the younger members of the firm of Goteway & Fox, Solicitors of Westchurch; Goodall, the Methodist miller from Parson's Holt, and certain sporting yeoman farmers with their comely womankind—even this final entertainment, with all its small triumphs and heart-burnings, flutterings of youthful inexperience, aspirations, condescensions, had gone, like the rest of the week's junketings, to swell the sum of things accomplished, of all that which is past and done with, and will never come again.
Fully an hour ago, Dr. Knott, "under plea of waiting cases, had hitched his ungainly, thick-set figure into his high gig.
"Plenty of fine folks, eh, Timothy?" he said to the ferret-faced groom beside him, as he gathered up the reins; and the brown mare, knowing the hand on her mouth, laid herself out to her work. "Handsome young couple as anybody need wish to see. Not much business doing there for me, I fancy, unless it lies in the nursery line."
"Say those Brockhurst folks mostly dies airly, though," remarked Timothy, with praiseworthy effort at professional encouragement.
"Eh! so you've heard that story too, have you?"—and John Knott drew the lash gently across the hollow of the mare's back.
"This 'ere Sir Richard's the third baronet I've a-seen, and I bean't so very old neither."
The doctor looked down at the spare little man with a certain snarling affection, as he said:—"Oh no! I'm not kept awake o' nights by the fear of losing you, Timothy. Your serviceable old carcass'll hang together for a good while yet."—Then his rough eyebrows drew into a line and he stared thoughtfully down the long space of the clean gravel road under the meeting branches of the lime trees.
The Whitney char a bancs had driven off but a few minutes later, to the admiration of all beholders; yet not, it must be admitted, without a measure of inward perturbation on the part of that noble charioteer, Lord Fallowfeild. Her Ladyship was constitutionally timid, and he was none too sure of the behaviour of his leaders in face of the string of very miscellaneous vehicles waiting to take up. However, the illustrious party happily got off without any occasion for Lady Fallowfeild's screaming. Then the ardour of departure became universal, and in broken procession the many carriages, phaetons, gigs, traps, pony-chaises streamed away from Brockhurst House, north, south, east and west.
Lady Calmady had bidden her guests farewell at the side-door opening on to the terrace, before they passed through the house to the main entrance in the south front. Last to go, as he had been first to come, was that worthy person, Thomas Caryll, the rector of Sandyfield. Mild, white-haired, deficient in chin, he had a natural leaning towards women in general, and towards those of the upper classes in particular. Katherine Calmady's radiant youth, her courtesy, her undeniable air of distinction, and a certain gracious gaiety which belonged to her, had, combined with unaccustomed indulgence in claret cup, gone far to turn the good man's head during the afternoon. Regardless of the slightly flustered remonstrances of his wife and daughters, he lingered, expending himself in innocently confused compliment, supplemented by prophecies regarding the blessings destined to descend upon Brockhurst and the mother parish of Sandyfield in virtue of Lady Calmady's advent.
But at length he also was gone. Katherine waited, her eyes full of laughter, until Mr. Caryll's footsteps died away on the stone quarries of the great hall within. Then she gently drew the heavy door to, and stepped out on to the centre of the terrace. The grass slopes of the park—dotted with thorn trees and beds of bracken,—the lime avenue running along the ridge of the hill, the ragged edge of the fir forest to the east, and the mass of the house, all these were softened to a vagueness—as the landscape in a dream—by the deepening twilight. An immense repose pervaded the whole scene. It affected Katherine to a certain seriousness. Her social excitements and responsibilities, the undoubted success that had attended her maiden essay as hostess during the past week, shrank to trivial proportions. Another order of emotion arose in her. She became sensible of a necessity to take counsel with herself.
She moved slowly along the terrace; paused in the arcaded garden-hall at the end of it—the carven stone benches and tables of which showed somewhat ghostly in the dimness—to put off her bonnet and push back the lace scarf from her shoulders. An increasing solemnity was upon her. There were things to think of, things deep and strange. She must needs place them, make an effort, anyhow, to do so. And, in face of this necessity, came an instinct to rid herself of all small impeding conventionalities, even in the matter of dress. For there was in Katherine that inherent desire of harmony with her surroundings, that natural sense of fitness, which—given certain technical aptitudes—goes to make a great dramatic artist. But, since in her case, such technical aptitudes were either non-existent, or wholly in abeyance, it followed that, save in nice questions of private honour, she was quite the least self-conscious and self-critical of human beings. Now, as she passed out under the archway on to the square lawn of the troco-ground, bare-headed, in her pale dress, a sweet seriousness filling all her mind, even as the sweet summer twilight filled all the valley and veiled the gleaming surface of the Long Water far below, she felt wholly in sympathy with the aspect and sentiment of the place. Indeed it appeared to her, just then, that the four months of her marriage, the five months of her engagement, even the twenty-two years which made up all the sum of her earthly living, were a prelude merely to the present hour and to that which lay immediately ahead.
Yet the prelude had, in truth, been a pretty enough piece of music. Katharine's experience had but few black patches in it as yet. Furnished with a fair and healthy body, with fine breeding, with a character in which the pride and grit of her North Country ancestry was tempered by the poetic instincts and quick wit which came to her with her mother's Irish blood, Katherine Ormiston started as well furnished as most to play the great game that all are bound to play, whether they will or no, with fate. Mrs. Ormiston, still young and beloved, had died in bringing this, her only daughter, into the world; and her husband had looked somewhat coldly upon the poor baby in consequence. There was an almost misanthropic vein in the autocratic land-owner and iron-master. He had three sons already, and therefore found but little use for this woman-child. So, while pluming himself on his clear judgment and unswerving reason, he resented, most unreasonably, her birth, since it took his wife from him. Such is the irony of things, forever touching man on the raw, proving his weakness in that he holds his strongest point! In point of fact, however, Katherine suffered but slightly from the poor welcome that greeted her advent in the gray, many-towered house upon the Yorkshire coast. For her great-aunt, Mrs. St. Quentin, speedily gathered the small creature into her still beautiful arms, and lavished upon it both tenderness and wealth, along—as it grew to a companionable age—with the wisdom of a mind ripened by wide acquaintance with men and with public affairs. Mrs. St. Quentin—famous in Dublin, London, Paris, as a beauty and a wit—had passed her early womanhood amid the tumult of great events. She had witnessed the horrors of the Terror, the splendid amazements of the First Empire; and could still count among her friends and correspondents, politicians and literary men of no mean standing. A legend obtains that Lord Byron sighed for her—and in vain. For, as Katherine came to know later, this woman had loved once, daringly, finally, yet without scandal—though the name of him whom she loved (and who loved her) was not, it must be owned, St. Quentin. And perhaps it was just this, this hidden and somewhat tragic romance, which kept her so young, so fresh; kept her unworldly, though moving so freely in the world; had given her that exquisite sense of relative values and that knowledge of the heart, which leads, as the divine Plato has testified, to the highest and most reconciling philosophy.
Thus, the delicately brilliant old lady and the radiant young lady lived together delightfully enough, spending their winters in Paris in a pretty apartment in the rue de Rennes—shared with one Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, whose friendship with Mrs. St. Quentin dated from their schooldays at the convent of the Sacre Coeur. Spring and autumn found Katherine and her great-aunt in London. While, in summer, there was always a long visit to Ormiston Castle, looking out from the cliff edge upon the restless North Sea. Lovers came in due course. For over and above its own shapeliness—which surely was reason enough—Katherine's hand was well worth winning from the worldly point of view. She would have money; and Mrs. St. Quentin's influence would count for much in the case of a great-nephew-by-marriage who aspired to a parliamentary or diplomatic career. But the lovers also went, for Katherine asked a great deal—not so much of them, perhaps, as of herself. She had taken an idea, somehow, that marriage, to be in the least satisfactory, must be based on love; and that love worth the name is an essentially two-sided business. Indirectly the girl had learnt much on this difficult subject from her great-aunt; and with characteristic directness had agreed with herself to wait till her heart was touched, if she waited a lifetime—though of exactly in what either her heart, or the touching of it, consisted she was deliciously innocent as yet.
And then, in the summer of 1841, Sir Richard Calmady came to Ormiston. He and her brother Roger had been at Eton together. Katherine remembered him, years ago, as a well-bred and courteously contemptuous schoolboy, upon whose superior mind, small female creatures—busy about dolls, and victims of the athletic restrictions imposed by petticoats—made but slight impression. Latterly Sir Richard's name had come to be one to conjure with in racing circles, thanks to the performances of certain horses bred and trained at the Brockhurst stables; though some critics, it is true, deplored his tendency to neglect the older and more legitimate sport of flat-racing in favour of steeple-chasing. It was said he aspired to rival the long list of victories achieved by Mr. Elmore's Gaylad and Lottery, and the successes of Peter Simple the famous gray. This much Katherine had heard of him from her brother. And having her haughty turns—as what charming woman has not?—set him down as probably a rough sort of person, notwithstanding his wealth and good connections, a kind of gentleman jockey, upon whom it would be easy to take a measure of pretty revenge for his boyish indifference to her existence. But the meeting, and the young man, alike, turned out quite other than she had anticipated. For she found a person as well furnished in all polite and social arts as herself, with no flavour of the stable about him. She had reckoned on one whose scholarship would carry him no further than a few stock quotations from Horace, and whose knowledge of art would begin and end with a portrait of himself presented by the members of a local hunt. And it was a little surprising—possibly a little mortifying to her—to hear him talking over obscure passages in Spencer's Faerie Queene with Mrs. St. Quentin, before the end of the dinner, and nicely apprising the relative merits of the water-colour sketches by Turner, that hung on either side the drawing-room fireplace.
Nor did Katherine's surprises end here. An unaccountable something was taking place within her, that opened up a whole new range of emotion. She, the least moody of young women, had strange fluctuations of temper, finding herself buoyantly happy one hour, the next pensive, filled with timidity and self-distrust—not to mention the little fits of gusty anger, and purposeless jealousy which took her, hurting her pride shrewdly. She grew anxiously solicitous as to her personal appearance. This dress would not please her nor that. The image of her charming oval face and well-set head ceased to satisfy her. Surely a woman's hair should be either positively blond or black, not this indeterminate brown, with warm lights in it? She feared her mouth was not small enough, the lips too full and curved for prettiness. She wished her eyes less given to change, under their dark lashes, from clear gray-blue to a nameless colour like the gloom of the pools of a woodland stream, as her feelings changed from gladness to distress. She feared her complexion was too bright, and then not bright enough. And, all the while, a certain shame possessed her that she should care at all about such trivial matters; for life had grown suddenly larger and more august. Books she had read, faces she had watched a hundred times, the vast horizon looking eastward over the unquiet sea, all these gained a new value and meaning which at once enthralled and agitated her thought.
Sir Richard Calmady stayed a fortnight at Ormiston. And the two ladies crossed to Paris earlier, that autumn, than was their custom. Katherine was not in her usual good health, and Mrs. St. Quentin desired change of air and scene on her account. She took Mademoiselle de Mirancourt into her confidence, hinting at causes for her restlessness and wayward little humours unacknowledged by the girl herself. Then the two elder women wrapped Katherine about with an atmosphere of—if possible—deeper tenderness than before; mingling sentiment with their gaiety, and gaiety with their sentiment, and the delicate respect which refrains from question with both.
One keenly bright October afternoon Richard Calmady called in the rue de Rennes. It appeared he had come to Paris with the intention of remaining there for an indefinite period. He called again and yet again, making himself charming—a touch of deference tempering his natural suavity—alike to his hostesses and to such of their guests as he happened to meet. It was the fashion of fifty years ago to conduct affairs, even those of the heart, with a dignified absence of precipitation. The weeks passed, while Sir Richard became increasingly welcome in some of the very best houses in Paris.—And Katherine? It must be owned Katherine was not without some heartaches, which she proudly tried to deny to herself and conceal from others. But eventually—it was on the morning after the ball at the British Embassy—the man spoke and the maid answered, and the old order changed, giving place to new in the daily life of the pretty apartment of the rue de Rennes.
About five months later the marriage took place in London; and Sir Richard and Lady Calmady started forth on a wedding journey of the old-fashioned type. They traveled up the Rhine, and posted, all in the delicious, early summer weather, through Northern Italy, as far as Florence. They returned by Paris. And there, Mrs. St. Quentin watching—in almost painful anxiety—to see how it fared with her recovered darling, was wholly satisfied, and gave thanks. For she perceived that, in this case, at least, marriage was no legal, conventional connection leaving the heart emptier than it found it—the bartering of precious freedom for a joyless bondage, an obligation, weary in the present, and hopeless of alleviation in the future, save by the reaching of that far-distant, heavenly country, concerning which it is comfortably assured us "that there they neither marry nor are given in marriage." For the Katherine who came back to her was at once the same, and yet another, Katherine—one who carried her head more proudly and stepped as though she was mistress of the whole fair earth, but whose merry wit had lost its little edge of sarcasm, whose sympathy was quicker and more instinctive, whose voice had taken fuller and more caressing tones, and in whose sweet eyes sat a steady content good to see. And then, suddenly, Mrs. St. Quentin began to feel her age as she had never, consciously, felt it before; and to be very willing to fold her hands and recite her Nunc Dimittis. For, in looking on the faces of the bride and bridegroom, she had looked once again on the face of Love itself, and had stood within the court of the temple of that Uranian Venus whose unsullied glory is secure here and hereafter, since to her it is given to discover to her worshippers the innermost secret of existence, thereby fencing them forever against the plagues of change, delusion, and decay. Love began gently to loosen the cords of life, and to draw Lucia St. Quentin home—home to that dear dwelling-place which, as we fondly trust—since God Himself is Love—is reserved for all true lovers beyond the grave and Gates of Death. Thus one flower falls as another opens; and to-day, however sweet, is only won across the corpse of yesterday.
And it was some perception of just this—the ceaseless push of event following on event, the ceaseless push of the yet unborn struggling to force the doors of life—which moved Katherine to seriousness, as she stood alone on the smooth expanse of the troco-ground, in the soft, all-covering twilight, at the close of the day's hospitality.
On her right the house, and its delicate twisted chimneys, showed dark against the fading rose of the western sky. The air, rich with the fragrance of the red-walled gardens behind her,—with the scent of jasmine, heliotrope and clove carnations, ladies-lilies and mignonette,—was stirred, now and again, by wandering winds, cool from the spaces of the open moors. While, as the last roll of departing wheels died out along the avenues, the voices of the woodland began to reassert themselves. Wild-fowl called from the alder-fringed Long Water. Night-hawks churred as they beat on noiseless wings above the beds of bramble and bracken. A cock pheasant made a most admired stir and keckling in seeing his wife and brood to roost on the branches of one of King James's age-old Scotch firs.
And this sense of nature coming back to claim her own, to make known her eternal supremacy, now that the fret of man's little pleasuring had past, was very grateful to Katherine Calmady. Her soul cried out to be free, for a time, to contemplate, to fully apprehend and measure its own happiness. It needed to stand aside, so that the love given, and all given with that love—even these matters of house and gardens, of men-servants and maid-servants, of broad acres, all the poetry, in short, of great possessions—might be seen in perspective. For Katherine had that necessity—in part intellectual, in part practical, and common to all who possess a gift for rule—to resist the confusing importunity of detail, and to grasp intelligently the whole, which alone gives to detail coherence and purpose. Her mind was not one—perhaps unhappily—which is contented to merely play with bricks, but demands the plan of the building into which those bricks should grow. And she wanted, just now, to lay hold of the plan of the fair building of her own life. And to this end the solitude, the evening quiet, the restful unrest of the forest and its wild creatures should surely have ministered? She moved forward and sat on the broad stone balustrade which, topping the buttressed masonry that supports it above the long downward grass slope of the park, encloses the troco-ground on the south.
The landscape lay drowned in the mystery of the summer night. And Katherine, looking out into it, tried to think clearly, tried to range the many new experiences of the last months and to reckon with them. But her brain refused to work obediently to her will. She felt strangely hurried for all the surrounding quiet.
One train of thought, which she had been busy enough by day and honestly sleepy enough at night, to keep at arm's length during this time of home-coming and entertaining, now invaded and possessed her mind—filling it at once with a new and overwhelming movement of tenderness, yet for all her high courage with a certain fear. She cried out for a little space of waiting, a little space in which to take breath. She wanted to pause, here in the fulness of her content. But no pause was granted her. She was so happy, she asked nothing more. But something more was forced upon her. And so it happened that, in realising the ceaseless push of event on event, the ceaseless dying of dear to-day in the service of unborn to-morrow, her gentle seriousness touched on regret.
How long she remained lost in such pensive reflections Lady Calmady could not have said. Suddenly the terrace door slammed. A moment later a man's footsteps echoed across the flags of the garden-hall.
"Katherine," Richard Calmady called, somewhat imperatively, "Katherine, are you there?"
She turned and stood watching him as he came rapidly across the turf.
"Yes, I am here," she cried. "Do you want me?"
"Do I want you?" he answered curtly. "Don't I always want you?"
A little sob rose in her throat—she knew not why—for, hearing the tone of his voice, her sadness was strangely assuaged.
"I could not find you," he went on. "And I got into an absurd state of panic—sent Roger in one direction, and Julius in another, to look for you."
"Whereupon Roger, probably, posted down to the stables, and Julius up to the chapel to search. Where the heart dwells there the feet follow. Meanwhile, you came straight here and found me yourself."
"I might have known I should do that."
The importunate thought returned upon Katherine and with it a touch of her late melancholy.
"Ah! one knows nothing for certain when one is frightened," she said. She moved closer to him, holding out her hand. "Here," she continued, "you are a little too shadowy, too unsubstantial, in this light, Dick. I would rather make more sure of your presence."
Richard Calmady laughed very gently. Then the two stood silent, looking out over the dim valley, hand in hand. The scent of the gardens was about them. Moving lights showed through the many windows of the great house. The waterfowl called sleepily. The churring of the night-hawks was continuous, soothing as the hum of a spinning-wheel. Somewhere, away in the Warren, a fox barked. In the eastern sky, the young moon began to climb above the ragged edge of the firs. When they spoke again it was very simply, in broken sentences, as children speak. The poetry of their relation to one another and the scene about them were too full of meaning, too lovely, to call for polish of rhetoric, or pointing by epigram.
"Tell me," Katherine said, "were you satisfied? Did I entertain your people prettily?"
"Prettily? You entertained them as they had never been entertained before—like a queen—and they knew it. But why did you stay out here alone?"
"To think—and to look at Brockhurst."
"Yes, it's worth looking at now," he said. "It was like a body wanting a soul till you came."
"But you loved it?" Katherine reasoned.
"Oh yes! because I believed the soul would come some day. Brockhurst, and the horses, and the books, all helped to make the time pass while I was waiting."
"Waiting for what?"
"Why for you, of course, you dear, silly sweet. Haven't I always been waiting for you—just precisely and wholly you, nothing more or less—all through my life, all through all conceivable and inconceivable lives, since before the world began?"
Katharine's breath came with a fluttering sigh. She let her head fall back against his shoulder. Her eyes closed involuntarily. She loved these fond exaggerations—as what woman does not who has had the good fortune to hear them? They pierced her with a delicious pain; and—perhaps therefore, perhaps not unwisely—she believed them true.
"Are you tired?" he asked presently.
Katherine looked up smiling, and shook her head.
"Not too tired to be up early to-morrow morning and come out with me to see the horses galloped? Sultan will give you no trouble. He is well-seasoned and merely looks on at things in general with intelligent interest, goes like a lamb and stands like a rock."
While her husband was speaking Katherine straightened herself up, and moved a little from him though still holding his hand. Her languor passed, and her eyes grew large and black.
"I think, perhaps, I had better not go to-morrow, Dick," she said slowly.
"Ah! you are tired, you poor dear. No wonder, after the week's work you have had. Another day will do just as well. Only I want you to come out sometimes in the first blush of the morning, before the day has had time to grow commonplace, while the gossamers are still hung with dew, and the mists are in hollows, and the horses are heady from the fresh air and the light. You will like it all, Kitty. It is rather inspiring. But it will keep. To-morrow I'll let you rest in peace."
"Oh no! it is not that," Katherine said quickly. The importunate thought was upon her again, clamouring, not only to be recognised, but fairly owned to and permitted to pass the doors of speech. And a certain modesty made her shrink from this. To know something in the secret of your own heart, or to tell it, thereby making it a hard concrete fact, outside yourself, over which, in a sense, you cease to have control, are two such very different matters! Katherine trembled on the edge of her confession, though that to be confessed was, after all, but the natural crown of her love.
"I think I ought not to ride now—for a time, Dick." All the blood rushed into her face and throat, and then ebbed, leaving her very white in the growing darkness.—"You have given me a child," she said.
TOUCHING MATTERS CLERICAL AND CONTROVERSIAL
Brockhurst had rarely appeared more blessed by spacious sunshine and stately cheerfulness than during the remaining weeks of that summer. A spirit of unclouded serenity possessed the place, both indoors and out. If rain fell, it was only at night. And this, as so much else, Julius March noted duly in his diary.
For that was the period of elaborate private chronicles, when persons of intelligence and position still took themselves, their doings and their emotions with most admired seriousness. Natural science, the great leveler, had hardly stepped in as yet. Therefore it was, that already, Julius's diary ran into many stout manuscript volumes; each in turn soberly but richly bound, with silver clasp and lock complete, so soon as its final page was written. Begun when he first went up to Oxford, some thirteen years earlier, it formed an intimate history of the influences of the Tractarian Movement upon a scholarly mind and delicately spiritual nature. At the commencement of his Oxford career he had come into close relations with some of the leaders of the movement. And the conception of an historic church, endowed with mystic powers—conveyed through an unbroken line of priests from the age of the apostles—the orderly round of vigil, fast, and festival, the secret, introspective joys of penance and confession, the fascinations of the strictly religious life, as set before him in eloquent public discourse or persuasive private conversation,—had combined to kindle an imagination very insufficiently satisfied by the lean spiritual meats offered it during an Evangelical childhood and youth. Julius yielded himself up to his instructors with passionate self-abandon. He took orders, and remained on at Oxford—being a fellow of his college—working earnestly for the cause he had so at heart. Eventually he became a member of the select band of disciples that dwelt, uncomfortably, supported by visions of reactionary reform at once austere and beneficent, in the range of disused stable buildings at Littlemore.
Of the storm and stress of this religious war, its triumphs, its defeats, its many agitations, Julius's diaries told with a deep, if chastened, enthusiasm. His was a singularly pure nature, unmoved by the primitive desires which usually inflame young blood. Ideas heated him; while the lust of the eye and the pride of life left him almost scornfully cold. He strove earnestly, of course, to bring the flesh into subjection to the spirit; which was, calmly considered, a slight waste of time, since the said flesh showed the least possible inclination of revolt. The earlier diaries contain pathetic exaggerations of the slightest indiscretion. Innocent and virtuous persons have ever been prone to such little manias of self-accusation! Later, the flesh did assert itself, though in a hardly licentious manner. Oxford fogs and damp, along with plain living and high thinking, acting upon a constitution naturally far from robust, produced a commonplace but most disabling nemesis in the form of colds, coughs, and chronic asthma. Julius did not greatly care. He was in that exalted frame of mind in which martyrdom, even by phthisis or bronchial affections, is immeasurably preferable to no martyrdom at all. Perhaps fortunately his relations, and even his Oxford friends, took a quite other view of the matter, and insisted upon his using all legitimate means to prolong his life.
Julius left Oxford with intense regret. It was the Holy City of the Tractarian Movement; and at this moment the progress of that Movement was the one thing worth living for, if live indeed he must. He went forth bewailing his exile and enforced idleness, as a man bewails the loss of the love of his youth. For a time he traveled in Italy and in the south of France. On his return to England he went to stay with his friend and cousin, Sir Richard Calmady. Brockhurst House had always been extremely congenial to him. Its suites of handsome rooms, the inlaid marble chimneypieces of which reach up to the frieze of the heavily moulded ceilings, its wide passages and stairways, their carved balusters and newel-posts, the treasures of its library—now overflowing the capacity of the two rooms originally designed for them, and filling ranges of bookcases between the bay windows of the Long Gallery running the whole length of the first floor from east to west,—the chapel in the southern wing, its richly furnished altar and the glories of its famous, stained-glass windows, all these were very grateful to his taste. While the light, dry, upland air and near neighbourhood of the fir forest eased the physical discomforts from which, at times, he still suffered shrewdly.
He found the atmosphere of the place both soothing and steadying. And of precisely this he stood sorely in need just now. For it must be admitted that a change had come over the spirit of Julius March's great ecclesiastical dream. Absence from Oxford and foreign travel had tended at once to widen and modify his thought. He had seen the Tractarian Movement from a distance, in due perspective. He had also seen Catholicism at close quarters. He had realised that the logical consequence of the teaching of the former could be nothing less than unqualified submission to the latter. On his return to England he learned that more than one of his Oxford friends was arriving, reluctantly, at the same conclusion. Then there arose within him the fiercest struggle his gentle nature had ever yet known. He was torn by the desire to go forward, risking all, with those whom he reverenced; yet was restrained by a sense of honour. For there was in Julius a strain of obstinate, almost fanatic, loyalty. To the Anglican Church he had pledged himself. Through her ministry he had received illumination. To the work of her awakening he had given all his young enthusiasm. How then could he desert her? Her rites might be maimed. The scandal of schism might tarnish her fair fame. Accusations of sloth and lukewarmness might not unjustly be preferred against her. All this he admitted; and it was very characteristic of the man that, just because he did admit it, he remained within her fold.
Yet the decision was dislocating to all his thought, even as the struggle had been. It left him bruised. It cruelly shook his self-confidence. For he was not one of those persons upon whom the shipwreck of long-cherished hopes and purposes have a stimulating effect, filling them merely with a buoyant satisfaction at the opportunity afforded them of beginning all over again! Julius was oppressed by the sense of a great failure. The diaries of this period are but sorrowful reading. He believed he should go softly all his days; and, from a certain point of view, in this he was right.
And it was here that Sir Richard Calmady intervened. He had watched his cousin's struggle, had accepted its reality, sympathising, through friendship rather than through moral or intellectual agreement. For he was one of those fortunate mortals who, while possessing a strong sense of God, have but small necessity to define Him. Many of Julius's keenest agonies appeared to him subjective, a matter of words and phrases. Yet he respected them, out of the sincere regard he bore the man who suffered them. He did more. He tried a practical remedy. Modestly, as one asking rather than conferring a favour, he invited Julius to remain at Brockhurst, on a fair stipend, as domestic chaplain and librarian.
"In the fulness of your generosity towards me you are creating a costly sinecure," Julius had remonstrated.
"Not in the least. I am selfishly trying to secure myself a most welcome companion, by asking you to undertake a very modest cure of souls and to catalogue my books, when you might be filling some important post and qualifying for a bishopric."
Julius had shaken his head sadly enough. "The high places of the Church are not for me," he said. "Neither are her great adventures."
Thus did Julius March, somewhat broken both in health and spirit, become a carpet-priest. The trumpet blasts of controversy reached him as echoes merely, while his days passed in peaceful, if pensive monotony. He read prayers morning and evening to the assembled household in the chapel; reduced the confusion of the library shelves, doing a fair amount of study, both secular and theological, during the process; rode with his cousin on fine afternoons to distant farms, by high-banked lanes in the lowland, or across the open moors; visited the lodges, or the keepers' and gardeners' cottages within the limits of the park, on foot. Now and again he took a service, or preached a sermon, for good Mr. Caryll of Sandyfield, in whose amiable mind instinctive admiration of those, even distantly, related to persons of wealth and position jostled an equally instinctive terror of Mr. March's "well-known Romanising tendencies." And in that there was, surely, a touch of the irony of fate! Lastly, Julius did his utmost to exercise an influence for good over the twenty and odd boys at the racing stables—an unpromising generation at best, the majority of whom, he feared, accepted his efforts for their moral and spiritual welfare with the same somewhat brutish philosophy with which they accepted Tom Chifney, the trainer's, rough-and-ready system of discipline, and the thousand and one vagaries of the fine-limbed, queer-tempered horses which were at once the glory and torment of their young lives.
Things had gone on thus for rather more than a year, when Richard Calmady married. Julius was perhaps inclined, beforehand, to underrate the importance of that event. He was singularly innocent, so far, of the whole question of woman. He had no sisters. At Oxford he had lived exclusively among men, while the Tractarian Movement had offered a sufficient outlet to all his emotion. The severe and exquisite verses of the "Lyra Apostolica" fitly expressed the passions of his heart. To the Church, at once his mother and his mistress, he had wholly given his first love. He had gone so far, indeed, in a rapture of devotion one Easter day, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, as to impose upon himself a vow of livelong chastity. This he did—let it be added—without either the sanction or knowledge of his spiritual advisers. The vow, therefore, remained unwitnessed and unratified, but he held it inviolable nevertheless. And it lay but lightly upon him, joyfully almost—rather as a ridding of himself of possible perturbations and obsessions, than as an act of most austere self-renunciation. In his ignorance he merely went forward with an increased freedom of spirit. All of which is set down, not without underlying pathos, in the diary of that date.
And that freedom of spirit remained by him, notwithstanding his altered circumstances. It even served—indirectly, since none knew the fact of his self-dedication save himself—as a basis of pleasant intercourse with the women of his own social standing whom he now met. It served him thus in respect of Lady Calmady, who accepted him as a member of her new household with charming kindliness, treating him with a gentle solicitude born of pity for his far from robust health and for the mental struggles which she understood him to have passed through.
Many persons, it must be owned, described Julius as remarkably ugly. But he did not strike Katherine thus. His heavy black hair, beardless face and sallow skin—rendered dull and colourless, his features thickened, though not actually scarred, by smallpox, which he had had as a child,—his sensitive mouth, and the questioning expression of his short-sighted brown eyes, reminded her of a fifteenth-century Florentine portrait that had always challenged her attention when she passed it in the vestibule of a certain obscure, yet aristocratic, Parisian hotel, on the left bank—well understood—of the Seine.
The man of the portrait was narrow-chested, clothed in black. So was Julius March. He had long-fingered, finely shaped hands. So had Julius. He gave her the impression of a person endowed with a capacity of prolonged and silent self-sacrifice. So did Julius. She wondered about his story. For Julius, at least—little as she or he then suspected it—the deepest places of the story still lay ahead.
RAISING PROBLEMS WHICH IT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS HISTORY TO RESOLVE
It was not without a movement of inward thanksgiving that, the festivities connected with Sir Richard and Lady Calmady's home-coming being over, Julius March returned to his labours in the Brockhurst library. Humanity at first hand, whatever its social standing or its pursuits, was, in truth, always slightly agitating to him. He felt more at home when dealing with conclusions than with the data that go to build up those conclusions, with the thoughts of men printed and bound, than with the urgent raw material from which those thoughts arise. Revelation, authority—these were still his watchwords; and in face of them even the harmless spectacle of a country neighbourhood at play, let alone the spectacle of the human comedy generally, is singularly confusing.
He sought the soothing companionship of books with even heightened relief one fair morning some three weeks later. For Mrs. St. Quentin and Mademoiselle de Mirancourt had arrived at Brockhurst the day previously, and Julius had been sensible of certain perturbations of mind in meeting these two ladies, one of whom was a devout Catholic by inheritance and personal conviction; while the other, though nominally a member of his own communion, was known to temper her religion with a wide, if refined, philosophy. Conversation had drifted towards serious subjects in the course of the evening, and Mrs. St. Quentin had admitted, with a playful deprecation of her dear friend's rigid religious attitude, that no one creed, no one system, offered an adequate solution of the infinite mystery and complexity of life—as she knew it. The serene adherence of one charming and experienced woman to an authority which he had rejected, the almost equally serene indifference on the part of the other to the revelation he held as absolute and final, troubled Julius. Small wonder then, that early, after a solitary breakfast, he retired upon the society of the odd volumes cluttering the shelves of the Long Gallery, that he sorted, arranged, catalogued, grateful for that dulling of thought which mechanical labour brings with it.
But fate was malicious, and elected to make a sport of Julius this morning. Unexpectedly importunate human drama obtruded itself, the deep places of the story—such as, in the innocence of his ascetic refinement, he had never dreamed of—began to reveal themselves.
He had climbed the wide, carpeted steps of the library ladder and seated himself on the topmost one, at right angles to a topmost shelf the contents of which he proposed to investigate, duster and note-book in hand. The vast perspective of the gallery lengthened out before him, cool, faint-tinted, full of a diffused and silvery light. The self-coloured, unpainted paneling of the walls and bookcases—but one shade warmer in tone than that of the stone mullions and transomes of the lofty windows—gave an indescribable delicacy of effect to the atmosphere of the room. Through the many-paned, leaded lights of the eastern bay, the sunshine—misty, full of dancing notes—streamed in obliquely, bringing into quaint prominence of light and shadow a very miscellaneous collection of objects.—A marble Buddha, benign of aspect, his right hand raised in blessing, seated, cross-legged upon the many-petalled lotus. A pair of cavalier's jack-boots, standing just below, most truculent and ungainly of foot-gear, wooden, hinged, leather-covered. A trophy of Polynesian spears, shields, and canoe paddles. A bronze Antinous, seductive of bearing and dainty of limb, but roughened by green rust. A collection of old sporting prints, softly coloured, covering a bare space of wall, beneath a moose skull, from the broad flat antlers of which hung a pair of Canadian snow-shoes. Along the inside wall of the great room, placed at regular intervals, were consol tables bearing tall oriental jars and huge bowls of fine porcelain, filled with potpourri; so that the scent of dried rose leaves, bay, verbena, and many spices impregnated the air. The place was, in short, a museum. Whatever of strange, grotesque, and curious, Calmadys of past generations had collected in their wanderings, by land and sea, found lodgment here. It was a home of half-forgotten histories, of valorous deeds grown dim through the lapse of years; a harbour of refuge for derelict gods, derelict weapons, derelict volumes, derelict instruments which had once discoursed sweet enough music, but the fashion of which had now passed away. The somewhat obsolete sentiment of the place harmonised with the thin, silvery light and the thin sweetness of spices and dead roses which pervaded it. It seemed to smile, as with the pitying tolerance of the benign image of Buddha, at the heat and flame, the untempered scarlet and purple of the fleeting procession of individual lives, that had ministered to its furnishing. For how much vigorous endeavour, now over and done with, never to be recalled, had indeed gone to supply the furnishing of that room!—And, after all, is not the most any human creature dare hope for the more or less dusty corner of some museum shelf at last? The passion of the heart testified to by some battered trinket, the sweat of the brain by some maggot-eaten manuscript, the agony of death, at best, by some round shot turned up by the ploughshare? And how shall any one dare complain of this, since have not empires before now only been saved from oblivion by a few buried potsherds, and whole races of mankind by childish picture-scratchings on a reindeer bone? Tout lasse, tout passe, tout casse. The individual—his arts, his possessions, his religion, his civilisation—is always as an envelope, merely, to be torn asunder and cast away. Nothing subsists, nothing endures but life itself, endlessly self-renewed, endlessly one, through the endless divergencies of its manifestations. And, as Julius March was to find, hide from it, deny it, strive to elude it as we may, the recognition of just that is bound to grip us sooner or later and hold us with a fearful and dominating power from which there is no escape.
Meanwhile, his occupation was tranquil enough, comfortably remote, as it seemed, from all such profound and disquieting matters. For the top shelf proved not very prolific of interest; and one book after another, examined and rejected as worthless, was dropped—with a reproachful flutter of pages and final thud—into the capacious paper-basket standing on the floor below. Then, at the far end of the said shelf, he came unexpectedly upon a collection of those quaint chap-books which commanded so wide a circulation during the eighteenth century.
Julius, with the true bibliophile's interest in all originals, examined his find carefully. The tattered and dogs-eared, little volumes, coarsely printed and embellished by a number of rough, square woodcuts, had, he knew, a distinct value. He soon perceived that they formed a very representative selection. He glanced at The famous History of Guy of Warwick; at that of Sir Bevis of Southampton; at Joaks upon Joaks, a lively work regarding the manners and customs of the aristocracy at the period of the Restoration; at the record of the amazing adventures of that lusty serving-wench Long Meg of Westminster; and at that refreshing piece of comedy known as Merry Tales concerning the Sayings and Doings of the Wise Men of Gotham.
Finally, hidden behind the outstanding frame of the bookcase, he discovered four tiny volumes tied together with a rusty, black ribbon. A heavy coating of dust lay upon them. A large spider, moreover, darted from behind them. Dust clung unpleasantly to its hairy and ill-favoured person. It was a matter of principle with Julius never to take life; yet instinctively he drew back his hand from the book in disgust.
"Araignee du matin, chagrin," he said, involuntarily, while he watched the insect make good its escape over the top of the bookcase.
Then he flicked uneasily at the little parcel with his duster, causing a cloud of gray atoms to float up and out into the room. Julius was perhaps absurdly open to impressions. It took him some seconds to recover from his sense of repulsion and to untie the rusty ribbon around the little books. They proved all to be ragged and imperfect copies of the same work. The woodcuts in them were splotched with crude colour. The title-page was printed in assorted type—here a line of Roman capitals, there one in italics or old English letters. The inscription, consequently, was difficult to decipher, causing him to hold the tattered page very close to his short-sighted eyes. It ran thus—
"Setting forth a true and particular account of the dealings of Sir Thomas Calmady with the forester's daughter and the bloody death of her only child. To which is added her prophecy and curse."
Julius had been standing, so as to reach the length of the shelf. Now he sat down on the top step of the ladder again. A whole rush of memories came upon him. He remembered vaguely how, long ago, in his childhood, he had heard legends of this same curse. Staying here at Brockhurst, as a baby-child with his mother, maids had hinted at it, gossiping over the nursery fire at night; and his mind, irresistibly attracted, even then, by the supernatural, had been filled at once by desperate curiosity and by panic fear. He paused, thinking back, singularly moved, as one on the edge of the satisfaction of long-desired knowledge, yet slightly self-contemptuous, both of his own emotion and of the rather vulgar means by which that knowledge promised to be obtained.
The shafts of sunshine fell more obliquely across the eastern end of the gallery. Benign Buddha had passed into shadow; while a painting by Murillo, standing on an easel near by caught the light, starting into arresting reality. It represented a hideous and misshapen dwarf, holding a couple of graceful greyhounds in a leash—an unhappy creature who had made sport for the household of some Castilian grandee, and whose gorgeous garments were ingeniously designed to emphasise the physical degradation of his contorted body. This painting, appearing to Julius too painful for habitual contemplation, had, at his request, been removed from his study down-stairs to its present station. Just now he fancied it looked forth at him queerly insistent. At this distance he could distinguish little more than a flare of scarlet and cloth-of-gold, and the white of the hounds' flanks and bellies under the strong sunlight. But he knew the picture in all its details; and was oppressed by the remembrance of tragic eyes in a brutal face, eyes that protested dumbly against cruelty inflicted by nature and by mankind alike. He, Julius, was not, so he feared, quite guiltless in this matter. For had there not been a savour of cruelty in his ejection of the portrait of this unhappy being from his peaceful study?
And thinking of this his discomfort augmented. He was assailed by an unreasoning nervousness of something malign, something sinister, about to befall or to become known to him.
"Araignee du matin, chagrin," he repeated involuntarily.
He laid the four little chap-books back hastily behind the outstanding woodwork of the bookshelf, descended the steps, walked the length of the gallery, and leaning against one of the stone mullions of the great, eastern bay window looked out of the wide, open casement.
The prospect was, indeed, reassuring enough. The softly green square of the troco-ground, the brilliant beds and borders of the brick-walled gardens, the gray flags of the great terrace—its rows of little orange trees, heavy with flower and fruit, set in blue painted tubs—lay below him in a blaze of August sunshine. From the direction of the Long Water in the valley, Richard Calmady rode up, between the thorn trees and the beds of bracken, across the turf slopes of the park. It was a joy to see him ride. The rider and horse were one, in vigour and in the repose which comes of vigour—a something classic in the natural beauty and sympathy of rider and of horse. Half-way up the slope Richard swerved, turned towards the house, sat looking up, hat in hand, while Katherine stood at the edge of the terrace looking down, speaking with him. The warm breeze fluttered her full muslin skirts, rose and white, and the white lace of her parasol. The rich tones of her voice and the ring of her laughter came up to Julius, as he leant against the stone mullion, along with the droning of innumerable bees, and the cooing of the pink-footed pigeons—that bowed to one another, spreading their tails, drooping their wings amorously, upon the broad, gray string-course running along the house front just beneath. Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, a small, neat, gray and black figure, was beside Katherine, and, now and again, he heard the pretty staccato of her foreign speech. Then Richard Calmady rode onward, turning half round in the saddle, looking up for a moment at the woman he loved. His horse broke into a canter, bearing him swiftly in and out of the shadow of the glistening, domed oaks and ancient, stag-headed, Spanish chestnuts which crowned the ascent, and on down the long, softly-shaded vista of the lime avenue. While Camp, the bulldog, who had lain panting in the bracken, streaked like a white flash up the hillside in pursuit of his well-beloved master.
And Julius March moved away from the open window with a sigh. Yet what, after all, of malign or sinister was perceptible, conceivable even, in respect of this glorious morning and these happy people—unless, as he reflected, something of pathos is of necessity ever resident in all beauty, all happiness, the world being sinful, and existence so prolific of pain and melancholy happenings? So he went back, climbed the library steps again, and taking the little bundle of chap-books from their dusty resting-place, set himself, in a somewhat penitential spirit, to master their contents. If the occupation was distasteful to him, the more wholesome to pursue it! So, supplying the deficiencies of torn or defaced pages by reference to another of the copies, he arrived by degrees at a clear understanding of the whole matter. The story was set forth in rhyming doggerel. The poet was not blessed with a gift of melody or of style. Absence of scansion tortured the ear. Coarseness of diction offended the taste. And yet, as he read on, Julius reluctantly admitted that the cruel tale gained credibility and moral force from the very homeliness of the language in which it was chronicled.
Thus Julius learned how, during the closing years of the Commonwealth, the young royalist gentleman, Sir Thomas Calmady, dwelling in enforced seclusion at Brockhurst, relieved the tedium of country life by indulgence in divers amours. He was large-hearted, apparently, and could not see a comely face without attempting intimate acquaintance with the possessor of it. Among other damsels distinguished by his attentions was his head forester's handsome daughter, whom, under reiterated promise of marriage, he seduced. In due time she bore him a child, ideally beautiful, according to the poet of the chap-book, blessed with "red-gold hair and eyes of blue," and many charms of infantile healthfulness. And yet, notwithstanding the noble looks of her little son, the forester's daughter still remained unwed. For just now came the Restoration, and along with it a notable change in the outlook of Sir Thomas Calmady and many another lusty young gallant, since the event in question not only restored Charles the Second to the arms of his devoted subjects, but restored such loyal gentlemen to the by no means too strait-laced society of town and court. Thence, some few years later, Sir Thomas—amiably willing in all things to oblige his royal master—brought home a bride, whose rank and wealth, according to the censorious chap-book, were extensively in excess of her youth and virtue.
Julius lingered a little in contemplation of the quaint wood-cut representing the arrival of this lady at Brockhurst. Clothed in a bottle-green bodice—very generously decolletee, her head adorned by a portentous erection of coronet and feathers, a sanguine dab of colour on her cheek, she craned a skinny neck out of the window of the family coach. Apparently she was engaged in directing the movements of persons—presumably footmen—clad in canary-coloured coats and armed with long staves. With these last, they treated a female figure in blue to, as it seemed, sadly rough usage. And the context informed Julius, in jingling verse, how that poor Hagar, the forester's daughter, inconveniently defiant of custom and of common sense, had stoutly refused to be cast forth into the social wilderness, along with her small Ishmael and a few pounds sterling as price of her honour and content, until she had stood face to face with Sarah, the safely church-wed, if none too reputable, wife. It informed him, further, how the said small Ishmael—whether alarmed by the violence of my lady's men-servants, or wanting merely, childlike, to welcome his returning father—ran to the coach door and clambered on the step; whence, thanks to a vicious thrust—so declares the chap-book—from "the painted Jezebel within," he fell, while the horses plunging forward caused the near hind wheel of the heavy, lumbering vehicle to pass over his legs, almost severing them from his body just above the knee.
Thereupon—and here the homely language of the gutter poet rose to a level of rude eloquence—the outraged mother, holding the mangled and dying child in her arms, cursed the man who had brought this ruin upon her. Cursed him and his descendants, to the sixth and seventh generations, good and bad alike. Declaring, moreover, that as judgment on his perfidy and lust, no owner of Brockhurst should reach the life limit set by the Psalmist, and die quiet and Christianly in his bed, until a somewhat portentous event should have taken place—namely, until, as the jingling rhyme set forth:—
"—a fatherless babe to the birth shall have come, Of brother or sister shall he have none, But red-gold hair and eyes of blue And a foot that will never know stocking or shoe. If he opens his purse to the lamenter's cry, Then the woe shall lift and be laid for aye."
Julius March, his spare, black figure crouched together, sat on the top step of the library ladder musing. His first movement had been one of refined and contemptuous disgust. Sensuality and the tragedies engendered by it were so wholly foreign to his nature and mental outlook, that it was difficult to him to reckon with them seriously and admit the very actual and permanent part which they play and always have played in the great drama of human life. It distressed, it, in a sense, annoyed him that the legend of Brockhurst, which had caused him elaborate imaginative terrors during his childhood, should belong to this gross and vulgar order of history. Yet indubitably—as he reluctantly admitted—each owner of Brockhurst had very certainly found death in the midst of life, and that according to some rather brutal and bloody pattern. This might, of course, be judged the result of merest coincidence. Had he leisure and opportunity to search them out, he could find, no doubt, plausible explanation of the majority of cases. Only that fact of persistent violence, persistent accident, did remain. It stared him in the face, so to speak, defiant of denial. And the deduction, consequent upon it, stared him in the face likewise. He was constrained to confess that the first clause of the deeply wronged mother's prediction had found ample fulfilment.—Julius paused, shifted his position uneasily, somewhat fearful of the conclusions of his own reasoning.
For how about the second clause of that same prediction? How about the advent of that strange child of promise, who preordained in his own flesh to bear the last and heaviest stroke at the hands of retributive justice, should, rightly bearing it, bring salvation both to himself and to his race? Behind the coarse and illiterate presentiment of the chap-book, Julius began dimly to apprehend a somewhat majestic moral and spiritual tragedy, a tragedy of vicarious suffering crowned by triumphant emancipation. Thus has God, as he reflected with a self-condemnatory emotion of humility, chosen the base things of the world and those which are despised—yea, and the things which are not, to bring to nought the things which are.—His heart, hungry of all martyrdom, all saintly doings, went forth to welcome the idea. But then, he asked himself almost awed, in this sceptical, rationalistic age, are such semi-miraculous moral examples still possible? And answered, with strong exultation—as one finding practical justification of a long, though silently, cherished conviction—yes, that even now, nineteen centuries after the death of that divine Saving Victim to whose service he had devoted his life and the joys of his manhood, such nobly sad and strange happenings may still be.
And even while he thus answered, his eyes were drawn involuntarily to the portrait of the unsightly dwarf, painted by Velasquez. The broad shaft of sunlight had crept backward, away from it, leaving the canvas unobtrusive, no longer harshly evident either in violence of colour or grotesqueness of form. It had become part of the great whole, merely modulated to gracious harmony with the divers objects surrounding it, and like them softly overlaid by a diffused and silvery light.
IN WHICH JULIUS MARCH BEHOLDS THE VISION OF THE NEW LIFE
He was aroused from these austere, yet, to him, inspiring reflections by the click of an opening door and the sound of women's voices. Mademoiselle de Mirancourt paused on the threshold, one hand raised in quick admiration, the other resting on Lady Calmady's arm.
"But this is superb," she cried gaily. "Your charming King Richard, Coeur d' Or, has given you a veritable palace to inhabit!"
"Ah yes! King Richard has indeed given me a palace to live in. But, better still, he has given me his dear heart of gold in which to hide the life of my heart forever and a day."
Katherine's words came triumphantly, more as song than as speech. She caught the elder woman's upraised hand gently and kissed it, looking her, meanwhile, full in the face.—"I am happy, very, very happy, best and dearest," she said. "And it is so delicious to be happy."
"Ah, my child, my beautiful child," Mademoiselle de Mirancourt cried.
There were tears in her pretty, patient eyes. For if youth finds age pathetic with the obvious pathos of spent body and of tired mind which has ceased to greatly hope, how far more deeply pathetic does age, from out its sad and settled wisdom, find poor gallant youth and all its still unbroken trust in the beneficence of destiny, its unbroken faith in the enchantments of earth!
Meanwhile, Julius March—product as he was of an arbitrary system of thought and training, and by so much divorced from the natural instincts of youth and age alike, the confident joy of the one, the mature acquiescence of the other—in overhearing this brief conversation suffered embarrassment amounting almost to shame. For not only Katherine's words, but the vital gladness of her voice, the sweet exuberance of her manner as she bent, in all her spotless bravery of white and rose, above the elder woman's hand and kissed it, came to him as a revelation before which he shrank with a certain fearful modesty. Julius had read of love in the poets, of course; but, in actual fact, he had never wooed a woman, nor heard from any woman's lips the language of intimate devotion. The cold embraces of the Church—a church, as he too often feared, rendered barren by schism and heresy—were the only embraces he had ever suffered. Things read of and things seen, moreover, are singularly different in power. And so he trembled now at the mystery of human love, actual and concrete, here close beside him. He was, indeed, moved to the point of losing his habitual suavity of demeanour. He rose hastily and descended the library steps, forgetful of the handful of chap-books, which fell in tattered and dusty confusion upon the floor.
Katherine looked round. Until now she had been unobservant of his presence, innocent of other audience than the old friend, to whom it was fitting enough to confide dear secrets. For an instant she hesitated, embarrassed too, her pride touched to annoyance, at having laid bare the treasures of her heart thus unwittingly. She was tempted to retreat through the still open door, into the library, and leave the review of the Long Gallery and its many relics to a more convenient season. But it was not Katherine's habit to run away, least of all from the consequences of her own actions. And her sense of justice compelled her to admit that, in this case, the indiscretion—if indiscretion indeed there was—lay with her, in not having seen poor Julius; rather than with him, in having overheard her little outburst. So she called to him in friendly greeting, and came swiftly towards him down the length of the great room.
And Julius stood waiting for her, leaning against the frame of the library ladder; a spare, black figure, notably at variance with the broad glory of sunshine and colour reigning out of doors.
His usually quick instinct of courtesy was in abeyance, shaken, as he still was, and confused by the revelation that had just come to him. He looked at Lady Calmady with a new and agitated understanding. She made so fair a picture that he could only gaze dumbly at it. Tall in fact, Katherine was rendered taller by the manner—careless of passing fashion—in which her hair was dressed. The warm, brown mass of it, rolled up and back from her forehead, showed all the perfect oval of her face. Tender, lovely, smiling, her blue-brown eyes soft and lustrous, with a certain wondering serenity in their depths, there was yet something majestic about Katherine Calmady. No poor or unworthy line marred the nobility of her face or figure. The dark, arched eyebrows, the well-chiselled and slightly aquiline nose, the firm chin and throat, the shapely hands, all denoted harmony and completeness of development, and promised a reserve of strength, ready to encounter and overcome if danger were to be met. Years afterwards, the remembrance of Katherine as he just then saw her would return upon Julius, as prophetic of much. Quailing in spirit, still reluctant, in his asceticism, to comprehend and reckon with her personality in the fulness of its present manifestation, he answered her at random, and with none of the pause and playful evasiveness usual to his speech.