An Illustrated Monthly
JANUARY TO JUNE
GEORGE NEWNES, LTD., 8, 9, 10, & 11, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, AND EXETER STREET, STRAND.
An Illustrated Monthly
Vol. 5, Issue. 25.
Shafts from an Eastern Quiver.
VII—MARGARITA, THE BOND QUEEN OF THE WANDERING DHAHS.
BY CHARLES J. MANSFORD, B. A.
"The Cingalese declare that the Queen of the Dhahs is a Sahibmem," said Hassan—meaning by this expression an Englishwoman.
"I don't think that can be true," responded Denviers; "it is hardly possible that any civilized human being would care to reign over such a queer race as those just described appear to be——"
"The Englishman is wrong in what he says," interrupted an indolent-looking native, "for I once saw her myself!"
"You!" I exclaimed, "then tell us what you know about this queen." The native was, however, by no means disposed to conversation, or indeed to do anything that disturbed his serenity.
From Southern India we had crossed over to Ceylon, and after a somewhat prolonged stay at Colombo, struck into the interior of the island. We visited Kandi, and having travelled for some days in the hilly district which surrounds it, arrived at the palm-covered hut of a Cingalese labourer, where, in spite of his protests, we stayed for a day to rest ourselves. Round the stems of the palms about us we saw, high up, that dead brushwood had been placed, by the rustling of which at night our unwilling host could tell if his few neighbours contemplated robbing him of the fruits of his toil. The only work, however, which he seemed to do was to stand at the door of his hut and gaze vacantly at the plantation of palm trees which he owned, and to shake his head—usually in the negative—whenever we attempted to entice him into a conversation.
"Well," said Denviers, looking with annoyance at our host, "if this Cingalese is too idle to tell us the full facts, I suppose we had better find them out for ourselves." Then turning to the man he asked:—
"How far is the district over which these strange Dhahs are said to wander?" The native pointed slowly to the north and then answered:—
"The Dhahs were wandering afar in the forest when last I saw them, which was fully a day's journey from here, but the sun was hot and I grew tired." His remark certainly did not convey much information to us, but before an hour had elapsed we set out, guided only by the forest, which could be seen far away in the distance. Hour after hour passed until at last evening came, and even then we were only entering upon the fringe of the great forest which rose before us, and seemed to shut out the sky as we wandered into the thickness of the undergrowth and gazed up at the lofty tops of the trees which bent each other's branches as they interlaced one with another.
We stopped at last to rest and to refresh ourselves, after which we reclined upon the ground, facing a wide clearing in the forest, where we laid talking idly for some time, until the voice of Hassan warned us that someone was approaching. We listened attentively for a minute, but no sound could be heard by us save that of the fluttering of the wings of some bird among the branches above.
"You heard nothing, Hassan," said Denviers, "or else you mistook the rustling above for someone wandering in the forest glade." The Arab turned to my companion and then responded:—
"Hassan has long been accustomed to distinguish different sounds from a distance, the one which was heard a minute ago was caused by a human foot." He pointed to a tangled clump a little to the right of us, as he continued:—
"Listen, sahibs, for the sound of footsteps is surely drawing near. From yonder thicket the wanderer will doubtless emerge." Presently a sound fell upon our ears, and a moment afterwards we heard the crackling of dead twigs as if someone was passing over them.
"The feet of the one who is approaching us are uncovered," volunteered our guide, whose keen sense of hearing was vastly superior to our own, and its accuracy was again proved fully, for, pushing aside the undergrowth which hindered his path, there stepped out upon the level track before us a singularly well-formed being, whose whole appearance was that of a man in his primitive, savage state. He was fully six feet in height, and wonderfully erect, his nut-brown skin forming a warm setting for the rich, dark eyes which so distinguish Eastern races. His black hair clustered thickly above his forehead, on which we observed a circular spot, crimson in colour, and much resembling the pottu which Shiva women daily paint above their brows as a religious emblem. As Hassan had already said, the man's feet were bare of covering, while the single garment which he wore was a brightly spotted panther skin, which passed over the left shoulder to the right side, and then hung down carelessly to the knees. In one hand he carried a stout bow, and the band which crossed his body over the right shoulder supported a quiver which hung gracefully behind. A savage, and in such a rude garb, the man seemed almost grand in his very simplicity.
"A Dhah!" exclaimed Hassan, quietly. "We have, indeed, met with good fortune." Again we heard the brushwood crackle, and a second man, resembling the first in appearance and dress, came forward, and together they held a conversation, interspersed largely with the gestures which play so prominent a part in the language of barbaric tribes.
"What can they be searching for?" Denviers asked Hassan, as the men seemed to be closely examining the trunks of several of the palm trees.
"I cannot tell, sahib," responded the Arab. Then he continued with a warning movement:—
"Hist! there are others coming, and they are bearing loads with them." Through the brushwood we next saw several Dhahs advance, each carrying upon his head a huge bundle of some twining plant belonging to a species which we had not observed hitherto during our wanderings in Ceylon. From its appearance we likened it to a giant convolvulus, for, while the pliant stem was as thick as a man's arm, there hung from it huge leaves and petals resembling that flower in shape. We moved cautiously into the undergrowth behind, thus getting a little farther away from the Dhahs, and, lying with our bodies stretched upon the ground at full length, we supported our heads upon our hands and narrowly watched the scene before us.
Following the commands of the Dhah whom we had first seen, one of the others deftly threw upwards a long coil of the climbing plant, which, on reaching a part of the trunk of one of the palm trees some distance above his head, twined round the stem. The rope-like plant was then fastened to another palm tree some little distance in front of the first, and lower down. Continuing this process in all directions we saw them construct before our astonished eyes a wonderful tent, the leafy green roof and sides of which glowed with a massy setting of white and crimson flowers. The front almost faced us, so that the interior of the tent was disclosed to our view, and then this strange tribe next placed within the tent a number of rich skins of various animals killed in the chase, the whole effect being viewed with satisfaction by the Dhahs when at last their labour was finished.
"What a curious tent!" Denviers exclaimed. "These Dhahs are indeed a strange people."
Just as he spoke a messenger came to them through the brushwood, whereupon the men who had constructed the tent threw themselves down on either side of it. Within a few minutes we heard the sound of a number of footsteps approaching, and then a band of Dhahs stepped out from the brushwood through which the first had come, and joined those resting by the tent. Following these, we next saw a number of others, who ranged themselves before the men in a standing posture, and as they did so we judged from their attire that they were women.
Their raven hair was loosely twisted and threaded with pearls, while pendants of the latter hung from their ears. The garb which covered their forms was made of similar skins to those which the men wore, but more elaborately wrought, in addition to being gathered at the waist by a glittering belt made of the plumage of beautiful birds. Here and there a dark-eyed and lightly-clad child could be seen standing among the women. From time to time the glances of the Dhahs were turned in the direction whence they had entered the forest clearing, and the sound of their voices then ceased. They were evidently expecting someone, and we, remembering the strange rumour as to the nationality of their queen, began to watch the brushwood with considerable interest, being anxious to see her as soon as she emerged. That some event of unusual moment was about to take place upon her arrival we felt sure, from the disappointed looks which overspread the Dhahs' faces each time that their expectation of her coming was not realized.
"What do you think is about to happen?" I whispered to Denviers, as we kept quite still, fearing lest our presence should be discovered.
"Something strange, no doubt," he responded, "for I notice that the crimson mark which we saw upon the men's foreheads also adorns those of the women, and seems to have been recently placed there." Here Hassan interposed, in his usually clear, grave tone:—
"It is very rarely, indeed, sahibs, that the Dhahs have been seen wandering on the borders of the forest, for they usually keep within the wild and pathless interior; so, at least, your slave heard in Kandi."
"Well," I added, "we certainly have much to be thankful for, since there is every chance of our remaining here unobserved, and witnessing whatever ceremony is about to take place. The sun has not long set, and yet the moon is up already. The network of branches above us keeps out its light to some extent; still we shall be able to see clearly what transpires."
"It will be unlucky for us if these Dhahs happen to discover our whereabouts," said Denviers, "for a shower of arrows shot from their stout bows towards us would make our present position anything but a pleasant one."
"They will not see us, sahib," continued Hassan, "unless we incautiously make some noise if anything unusual happens. They are not likely to cast many searching glances into the shadows which the trees cast, for they are apparently preoccupied, if we may judge from the excitement which they are evidently trying to suppress. We certainly must remain perfectly still when the queen appears, for thus only shall we see without being seen ourselves."
"That is easy enough to say, Hassan," I replied; "but in such a moment as that which faces us, we may easily forget to be cautious."
"Don't you think it would be a good plan if we were to separate a little from each other?" asked Denviers. Our guide seemed strongly in favour of this plan, and while I remained in the position which had been occupied hitherto, Denviers moved a few yards to the right, and Hassan about the same distance to the left of me. The latter, however, found his new position would readily expose him to observation, and when he had communicated this fact to me by signs, I beckoned to him to return to my side, which he did. Denviers, however, remained where he had gone, and this circumstance, slight as it was, led a little later on to a most unexpected result. The silence which just before we had observed among the Dhahs occurred again, and watching narrowly the brushwood we saw emerge from it the one whom they were eagerly expecting. As our eyes rested upon this last comer we were indeed startled, for before us was the Queen of the Dhahs, and we recognised in that moment that the rumour concerning her was true!
"She comes! Margarita!" burst from the lips of every assembled Dhah, as the queen slowly advanced and passed between her subjects, who lined the path leading to the tent. As she moved amid them they bent low, while here and there a warrior Dhah pressed with his lips her trailing garment as she passed. Reaching the tent the queen turned and faced the excited throng of subjects grouped round it, and then we saw more distinctly her features and the attire which she wore.
The age of the queen was apparently less than twenty, her clear, fair skin forcibly contrasting with the dark complexion of her subjects, whom she alone resembled in the colour of the soft, full eyes with which she glanced upon them. A look almost of sadness overshadowed her face, which all the adulation which she received from her subjects could not entirely banish. Her form, which was above the medium height, was clad in a flowing robe of a wonderfully soft and silky-looking material, woven possibly, we thought, from the inner bark of some tree. Its loose folds were bare of ornament, save that the queen wore a girdle over it thickly interwoven with pearls as white as those of Manaar, of which a profuse number also braided her light flowing hair, meshes of which partly concealed her forehead. When the queen stood in silence before her subjects, after the greeting which they had given her subsided, there issued from among the Dhahs that one whom first we saw in the forest. Prostrating himself before her he afterwards rose, and, having bent low his head, began:—
"Margarita, white queen of the dusky race whose habitation is the pathless forest, hail! Here, upon the border which limits thy domains, we pledge anew to thee the promise of fealty, of which the crimson star upon our foreheads is the token. By it we swear to thee that thy foes shall be our foes, and that over us, thy slaves, shalt thou have the power of life and death." Then, turning to the Dhahs, who throughout this speech had maintained a death-like silence, he asked:—
"Swear ye this by the crimson star of blood which is placed upon your brows?"
The last word had scarcely left his lips when the subject Dhahs rose and, placing upon their foreheads their left hands, held aloft the right above their heads as they cried:—
"By the crimson tide, which rules the life of man, we swear!"
We watched the strange scene intently as each of the Dhahs, in turn, came forward and fell prostrate before the queen, then gave place to those who followed. The Dhah who had administered the oath remained near the queen until the ceremony was concluded, and seemed to number the subjects as they came forward. Then he fell before her and, for a second time, kissed the hem of her robe. Smiling gravely upon him, the queen extended to him her hand. Pressing his lips fervently upon it he rose, then, turning to those around, he exclaimed:—
"All have not sworn fealty. One among us has not taken the oath, and at sundown he did not bear upon his forehead the sacred mark!" There was an ominous frown apparent upon the brows of the Dhahs as these words were uttered, and when he added: "Ye know the penalty which such transgression deserves; how then judge ye?" each man's hand gripped his bow in a threatening manner, while even the faces of the women grew terribly stern. By one of those assembled was uttered a cry which leapt from lip to lip, for it was immediately caught up by all:—
"Death to the false one! Death when the day shall dawn!" A gleam of satisfaction, one almost of savage joy, passed over the face of the Dhah who stood beside the queen as he added:—
"The sentence upon the traitor is a just one; do thou then confirm it!" He turned as if about to seek himself for the one who was the cause of the tumult, when the momentary silence was strangely broken. Upon our ears was borne the sharp whizz of an arrow shot true from a tightly-strung bow; then the Dhah who had just finished speaking, with a wild cry that pierced the forest, threw his arms up as if grasping the empty air, and fell dead at the queen's feet!
"Look yonder, sahib!" whispered Hassan, who was still beside me, "there is the one who sent forth the deadly shaft!" I turned my gaze hastily in the direction which the Arab indicated, and saw Denviers struggling with a fierce Dhah from whose hands he was trying to wrest a bow, and who had hidden in the brushwood near him without being observed hitherto! They were seen in a moment by the assembled Dhahs, and, with a wild rush, the latter poured down upon the combatants, seizing them as they still grasped the bow.
"Hassan," I cried to our guide, "come on, we must get Denviers out of the hands of this horde somehow!" We dashed across the intervening space, and made a brief but desperate attempt to release our companion. It was as useless as it was rash, for we were directly afterwards dragged, in spite of our struggles—as well as Denviers and his opponent—into the open glade, close to the dead body of the man lying there.
"We are betrayed!" cried one of the Dhahs. "The white spies have been led hither by the traitor among us that they may learn our strength, and then return with a force to destroy us! One of our number has already fallen; shall we not slay the captives over his dead body?" A fierce cry of assent rose from the others, as they fitted each a shaft to their bows and took deliberate aim at us as we were held fast by our captors. I saw the face of the queen grow pale as she rested her eyes, first upon the fallen Dhah and then upon us. Had men of her own race come that they might destroy the tribe which obeyed her slightest word? She made an imperative gesture, which caused the Dhahs to hold their arrows undischarged, though they still kept their bows bent, waiting eagerly for her to utter the word of command to slay us.
"Stop!" she cried, in a commanding tone. "Upon your foreheads ye wear still the pledge of obedience to me, with whom rests alone the power of life and death. Ye shall have justice to the full: I will hear what they can say in their defence, but if wantonly they have caused life to be taken, white though they be, I swear unto ye that they shall surely die." The Dhahs shifted their arrows from the bowstrings and seemed reluctant to give us even this short respite. I looked into the queen's face and read there that her threat against us was no idle one. She commanded the women and most of the men to retire—leaving us still held fast by our captors.
"We are not cowards," said Denviers, calmly, to her. "Hear what we have to say, and then decide our fate. Bid these savages release us from their grasp—we shall make no attempt to escape, I pledge my word." The queen glanced coldly at him as she responded:
"Be it as ye say." Then, turning to the Dhahs, she continued: "Take them within the tent, and then retire. Remain within an arrow shot from here, and if ye see one of the prisoners attempt to escape, slay him and spare not." We were conducted into the queen's tent, and there released. As the Dhahs withdrew Denviers turned to Hassan, and said:—
"Bid this savage who shot the arrow explain that we know nothing of him." The queen looked sharply at us, and then pointing to Hassan, asked:—
"Who is this whom ye have brought into the forest?"
I answered for us, saying: "He is our guide, with whom we have been wandering for some time. Why do you mistrust us, since you have ample proof that the fallen Dhah was shot by your own subject there?" and I pointed to the man, who, for a moment, had thrown himself down in the tent.
"Speak!" she commanded him. "Why did you shoot forth the winged messenger of death?"
To our surprise the man rose and confronted her boldly, as he answered:—
"Am I not a warrior? Can I not bend the bow and endure hardships better than anyone among the tribe over which thou rulest? Was not I prince of these Dhahs until the day when thou tookest possession of my right? Thou hast despised me and looked kindly upon another, wherefore have I sworn to refuse to take the pledge of fealty to thee when the time came round, and to stretch him dead at thy feet. Deliver me into the hands of the tribe if thou wilt, but thou art powerless to bring back life to thy favourite!" He stopped and drew himself up defiantly before her. The eyes of the imperious queen shone brightly with the fierce resentment which the Dhah's words roused in her.
"Darest thou then to confront thy queen so?" she asked, scornfully. "May not I choose whom I will upon whom to bestow my favours? Coward that thou art to shoot the shaft secretly, because thou darest not face thine enemy as a brave Dhah ever does! Thy crime has nearly cost these other prisoners dear; and I, ruling as I do this tribe without the exterminating feuds which distinguished it under thy misgovernment, doom thee to death. At sundown to-morrow shalt thou die; till then thou shall live, scorned by the race upon which thou hast brought this stain." She moved to the front of the tent, and then we saw the Dhah dragged away by those whom the queen quickly summoned.
We were bidden to rest ourselves upon the piles of soft, rich skins which were spread there, and having promised to secure our safety, the queen, whose anger gradually subsided, observing the inquiring glances which we turned towards her, said, in a low tone:—
"The deed which ye have seen enacted to-night has smitten me sorely. For ten years have I lived among these Dhahs, for to-day is the anniversary of that upon which I came to them, and so it is that ye chance to see their promise to obey me renewed. To-morrow it is expected that I, too, will take in turn the oath, by which yearly I have sworn to them to remain in this forest until the seasons change and change again. At midnight to-night my last promise expires, and for a few brief hours I shall not be their bond queen. By your glances I judge that ye would learn my history. Strange as it is, I must narrate it briefly, for, because of the death which ye have witnessed, I now have a request to make which may sound unusual upon your ears."
The dark eyes of the queen glanced at us as she began her story, the sequel to which we did not at all anticipate:—
"I was a mere child when it chanced that I strayed from the hut which my English parents inhabited on the borders of this forest. Of them I know nothing. I remember the cry of surprise which came from the lips of a Dhah woman when she found me, and then carried me among her tribeswomen to show to them. It is forbidden among us for a Dhah to ever pass beyond the limits of this forest, and so it transpired that, knowing nothing of other races, they were astonished at my strange whiteness. I have heard that at first they contemplated my death, thinking that my presence would bring dire misfortune upon them. The woman who found me averred, on the contrary, that my appearance betokened great advantages to the tribe, as I was sent to dwell in the forest as a goddess. Afterwards, believing this, they paid me the most abject worship for years. When I grew older I longed to escape, but they were determined that I should not do so, and compelled me to take an oath to stay with them for a year, which I have renewed as often as the promise expired. Finding that I disliked the adoration which they paid to me, they deposed their prince—he whose hand shot the fatal arrow, as, alas! ye saw—and although for a time I refused to accept the position, I was eventually made their queen—even as I am now.
"Many times I desired to leave them, but of late that wish has grown feeble, for he, whom ye know now lies lifeless before the tent, bent his dark eyes, and looked into mine, which returned his glances. One day I thought to raise him even as a prince to my side, for all the tribe trusted in him as much as they disliked the one deposed. Now that he is slain, the wish to depart has again re-entered my breast, and ye, who are of the same kindred as I, surely ye will aid me? How came ye hither, on foot or otherwise?"
"We left our horses on the edge of the forest," said Denviers, "but we did not expect to be so long absent from them. How wilt thou depart from these Dhahs? Surely they will avenge themselves upon us, for they will assuredly think that we have influenced you to desert them." The queen paused for a minute, then answered:—
"I could not bear to leave them openly, for I have grown to be almost one of themselves, and they are dear indeed to me. I will accompany ye to where your horses are tethered; and waiting there for me I will come to ye again upon the steed which has never known saddle."
The plan of escape seemed simple enough, but the slightest mishap might bring us into conflict with the whole tribe of the Dhahs, who would doubtless be infuriated if they thought that their queen was lost to them through us, as Denviers had suggested. It seemed to us a strange termination to our adventure, but in obedience to a gesture from the queen we rose, and, accompanied by her, passed the guards in safety. As she emerged from the tent, the queen bade us wait for her for a minute, and stopping, we saw the woman bend down sadly over the silent form lying there under the trees, which half shut out the midnight sky. Her hand touched the arrow and gently drew it forth—tipped with blood! Then placing it within the upper folds of her dress she passed silently on through the clearing, and so accompanied us to the spot where our horses were, whence she departed.
"I am afraid that this affair may yet turn out badly for us," I remarked to Denviers, as we untethered our steeds and waited for the queen's return. "Where shall we make for when we start?"
"For the hut of the Cingalese, which we left some time ago," he responded. "It will afford her some shelter, and we can keep watch outside."
He had scarcely finished speaking when we saw the queen riding towards us upon a snow-white steed. As the moonlight touched her spotless robe and her floating hair, with the pearls which adorned it, she seemed to us to be more like some vision than a living reality. I had just time to notice that she now carried the weapon of the tribe over which she had so long ruled—a bow—and that across her fair shoulders was slung a quiver of arrows, when a sudden cry rose from the forest, and at the same moment Hassan exclaimed:—
"Quick, sahibs! The Dhahs are upon us!"
We leapt upon our horses and dashed away from the forest just as a heavy shower of arrows narrowly missed us. Hassan went on in front, while Denviers and I galloped on either side of the queen. Glancing back at the Dhahs I observed that they were massed already upon the margin of the forest, the flight of their queen having become rapidly known. The women raised a mournful and appealing cry of entreaty to her to go back to them, and, glancing at the queen, I saw that her face was wet with tears. We heard the hoarse shouts of the warrior Dhahs when they found that their arrows fell short, but they did not dare to pass the limits of the forest beyond which their strange law forbade them to go. We rode on for some hours at a rapid rate, then, on nearing the hut of the Cingalese, Denviers leapt down and succeeded in awaking its sole occupant, who was induced to vacate it. The queen dismounted and entered the hut wearied, as we thought, with the long ride, for the dawn had come before we finished our journey. Hassan secured the horses, and soon after we were all lying at a little distance from the hut fast asleep in the shade of some giant ferns.
The morning was far advanced when we awoke, but hour after hour passed and the door of the hut remained closed. Becoming uneasy, at last I ventured to open it. The queen had disappeared!
"Denviers!" I shouted. "Come here a minute!" My companion hastened towards the hut, and was considerably surprised to find it empty. Glancing round it we saw against one of its thin palm leaf sides an arrow projecting. Going close to it we found roughly scratched beneath it a message to us, which said simply:—
"The Queen of the Dhahs could not rest away from her people and the forest where lies her dead lover!" We stared at the writing incredulously for a minute or two, then a sudden thought occurred to me:—
"Hassan!" I shouted, "see to the horses." The Arab went slowly to the spot where he had secured them, but hastily returned saying, in an animated tone, somewhat unusual for him unless when excited:—
"Sahibs, the white steed is no longer there!" and he looked gravely at us as he spoke.
"Well," said Denviers, as Hassan finished speaking, "this has been a strange adventure from beginning to end. How could such a woman care to spend her existence with those Dhahs? It seemed curious to me at the first, but after seeing her and observing the contrast between her and her subjects, I am still more surprised."
"The Dhahs are known throughout Ceylon," interposed Hassan, "for the honour which they pay to their queen, and that may influence her to remain with them; besides, they are a handsome race, very different to such as this man," and he pointed to the Cingalese, who was again vacantly staring at his plantation of palm trees.
"What do you think will become of the man who shot the Dhah, sahib?" asked Hassan, as he turned to Denviers. My companion was silent for a moment, then responded:—
"I really cannot say. He is doomed to die at sundown to-day, but I daresay someone will intercede for him with the queen." Then, holding out towards the Arab the arrow which we had found within the hut, he continued:—
"Take care of that, Hassan, for if we are able I should like to keep it as a memento of this event." The Arab examined it closely to see what constituted its value, and Denviers, thinking that it might disappear like sundry other lost treasures of ours, added: "It is a poisoned arrow, and if put in that sash of yours might prove very dangerous." Hassan understood the hint, as subsequent events proved, and, calling upon Mahomet as a witness to his integrity under such trying circumstances, carried it cautiously away and placed it among our baggage.
XIX.—THE LORD BISHOP OF RIPON.
It was a long, cold journey to Ripon. When I reached the Palace the time of five o'clock tea had long since passed—it only wanted half an hour to the first dinner bell. But a cup of deliciously warming tea was ready for me. This kindly thoughtfulness seemed to break down every barrier calculated to make one feel anything but perfectly "at home." Then, when the Bishop returned from a long day's work, the impressions gathered over the refreshing cup with his wife became a reality. It may at once be said that there is very little difference between him who preaches from the pulpit and him who sits down and talks with you in his own house.
The Bishop of Ripon is acknowledged to be one of the most eloquent preachers of the day. He is as gentle in his manner as he is convincing in his utterances. He is utterly free from anything suggestive of an over-estimated "I." He seems always to speak from his heart, and continually with the single thought of never giving a hurtful word. In truth, he is as impressive in the home as in the cathedral. Yet, when he is at home, there are his children, young and old. He is heart and soul with them in their play. Little Beatrice—whose pet name is Daisy—and five-year-old Douglas—familiarly known as Chappie—already know that there are merry games to be enjoyed in which their father watches over both.
We spent the evening after dinner in going through the house. The Palace, Ripon, is a semi-modern building, having been built some fifty years ago. The first stone was laid on Monday, 1st October, 1838, by Bishop Longley, and its correct entire cost was L14,059 1s. 8d. Its rooms are large and handsome. The entrance-hall abounds in flowers and ferns, and contains at least two valuable canvases. One is a life-size picture by Grant of Archbishop Longley—the first Bishop—the other, by Watts, is that of Bishop Bickersteth, the second Bishop. Both of these are heirlooms of the See of Ripon. Just beyond is a second hall, where is the great oak staircase leading to the rooms above. This corner is rich in etchings and engravings. Paul Sandby, R.A., is well represented with his "Windsor"; works by Aumonier, Fred Slocombe, Charles Murray, David Law, Joseph Knight, Meissonier, and a striking etching of Napoleon, by Ruet, are noticeable. There are many quaint old views of "Ripon Minster," a Soudanese sword which one of the Bishop's sons brought from Egypt, whilst on a table is a very clever model of the Bishop's father's church at Liverpool. It was made by an invalid lady, and her ingenious fingers have handled the cardboard and gum most artistically.
Immediately opposite to the hall is the Holden Library. A picture of the Rev. J. Holden, who not only founded it, but left a small endowment to keep it in good order, hangs over the fireplace. Here the clergy of the diocese may come and consult the volumes. It is a fine room, and its outlook upon the rising ground of the garden is pleasantness itself.
We were just leaving the library when a soft pit-pat, pit-pat at our heels caused me to turn. The quiet, disturbing footfalls were made by a beautiful blue Angora cat, which was accompanied by George, the pug, who had made his presence known at the dinner table. Both Sultan, the cat, and George proved to be the most interesting of animals imaginable. Sultan's kittens are sold for charitable purposes and a little litter realized L10 for the Wakefield Bishopric Fund. George used to worry the sheep—he was the death of seven. He saw a St. Bernard causing trouble amongst the universal providers of lamb and mutton, and he could not resist the temptation to imitate his bigger brother. But he has long since been forgiven.
"Sultan and George," said the Bishop, "were the greatest of rivals when they first came here—now they are the best of friends. One bitter cold night George set up a terrible barking. I left my room, went downstairs—nothing apparently the matter. But George would not let me go. He barked and ran to the door. Then I heard a low, piteous cry. I opened the door, and in walked Sultan from the snow-covered step, perished with cold!"
I gave George a pat on the head—I fancy he knew what we had been talking about. Away he cantered with Sultan, and we went into the drawing-room. There are two such apartments at the Palace, each leading into the other. Both look out upon the grounds, the trees in which now bear the golden-tinted reminders of autumn upon their branches, and the grass is plentifully strewn with the chestnuts blown down by the wind. The smaller of the two rooms abounds with dainty water-colours—light, bright and tiny paintings of sea-side views and flowers—numberless portraits, and photographic reminiscences of travel. The curiosity, however, of this apartment is a replica of the bust of Dante at Naples. The Bishop of Ripon is a very earnest and enthusiastic student of the great philosophical poet. Pictures of Dante, indeed, abound throughout the house, and in the study—to be visited later—are to be found many rare and valuable editions of him who conceived the never-to-be-excelled "Inferno," including Lord Vernon's, the Landino editions of 1481, and the Nidobeato of 1478.
The large drawing-room affords a distant and picturesque view of the great square tower of the cathedral. The Palace is really on a level with it, so great is the rise in the ground. This apartment, like all the rooms indeed, is richly perfumed by flowers; exquisite china and silver nick-nacks are everywhere, and the Bishop evidently does not believe in the untold troubles associated with the presence of peacocks' feathers. There are several fans made from the "unlucky" stalks. One table seems given up to the congregating of tiny china animals—the most diminutive of pigs, kangaroos, rabbits, dogs, and ducks. The pictures are mostly marine subjects: two fine dockyard scenes are by Charles Dixon. Dixon—whose father, it will be remembered, painted "The Pride of Battery B"—was only sixteen when he painted them. A grand skin from a St. Bernard has its story to tell. The Bishop had two such dogs. His lordship changed his coachman and groom. Together with his family the Bishop left the Palace for a time, and the dog pined away. His skin now lies by the window. Alas! his more callous wife is still alive in the stable. Two of its offspring are in the safe keeping of a well-known clergyman, who, being in doubt as to what name he should bestow upon his newly-purchased pups, out of gratitude for the invigorating influence of the Harrogate waters determined to call them Sulphur and Magnesia!
The dining-room need be of goodly size—frequently some thirty or forty people sit down at its tables. There are many fine oil-paintings here. Two bear the initials "A. S." "A. S." was Arthur Stocks. When the Bishop of Ripon was vicar of St. James's, Holloway, Arthur Stocks was a superintendent in the Sunday school. He used to travel backwards and forwards twice every Sabbath to the school, and when he died he left a wish that his quondam vicar should have one of his works. It has the best place in the room, though there are several valuable works of the Titian School, and a striking canvas, believed to be a Mazzoni, which was picked up in a general shop in a western town.
A long corridor runs level with the dining-room outside. Its walls are lined with pictures and photographs, all reviving pleasant memories. A dual picture of Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Stanley is autographed by nearly all who signed the register on the occasion of their marriage—such names as W. E. Gladstone, Sir Frederick Leighton, and the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. It was the Bishop of Ripon who officiated at the ceremony—probably the first and only Bishop who has conducted a wedding service the whole of which was "received" into phonographs placed in the Abbey. There are excellent portraits of Gerald Wellesley, Dean of Windsor; whilst Archbishop Longley—who surely occupied more ecclesiastical Sees than any previous prelate—has signed himself as Ripon, Durham, York, and Canterbury to a striking portrait of himself. Henry Irving is not forgotten; but perhaps the most striking sketch is that of General Gordon—just by the side of a map of Khartoum. The inscription reads: "General C. E. Gordon, from an hour's sketch I made of him on 21st December, 1882.—Ed. Clifford." Mr. Clifford was the only English artist the Hero of Khartoum ever sat to. Above the frame is a fac-simile of his last message: "I am quite happy, thank God; and, like Lawrence, I have tried to do my duty."
A photographic group of his lordship's working men's committee hangs near—their willing and kindly work is much valued. The Bishop is a purely practical prelate. This working men's committee has been formed with the aid of the clergy in Leeds. Leeds has some fifty parishes, and five working men are chosen out of each—giving a body of 250 strong. They help chiefly at special services such as those held on Good Fridays.
As we were discussing the peculiar advantages of soliciting the services of the working man to meet his brother workman, the distant sound of the chapel organ was heard. Its echo came very sweetly through the corridor. It was the time of evening service. The dim glow from the lamps lent an air of solemnity to the little chapel, and when the service was over we remained behind for a few moments. I could just distinguish the altar steps of white, black and red—the Dante combination of colours—and the peaceful light from the moon streamed through the stained glass windows on to the oaken stalls, showing faintly the outlines of apostles and saints. One of these was put up in 1852, in remembrance of the Rev. Charles Dodgson, examining chaplain to Bishop Longley and the father of the author of "Alice in Wonderland." It was here in the morning that I witnessed the gathering together of twenty or thirty clerics, who were licensed to new curacies and livings. We left the chapel, and ascending the great oaken staircase entered the study. This is essentially a room for work. The book-shelves contain some thousands of volumes—the only photo about the place is that of a family group. In one corner of the room stands a tin box, in which are three volumes of autographs, and the pages of these valuable volumes may be gone through, and the autographs of nearly all the Archbishops and Bishops of England for the last 200 years may be seen, including Juxon, Bishop of London, who attended Charles I. on the scaffold. A book containing photographs of the churches in the diocese reveals that Bishop Longley—the first Bishop of Ripon—was of a distinctly practical character. He started this ingenious index to the state of his churches. As soon as any alteration is made in a place of worship it is photographed. This shows the Bishop at a glance exactly how his churches are progressing from an architectural point of view.
The Bishop sat down, and it was whilst listening to much of the deepest interest regarding his work that I noticed the Prelate more closely. He is a trifle below the medium height, slightly whiskered, with iron-grey hair curled all about his head and brow. His face is intensely kind, and his every word and action suggestive of true and unaffected humility. Indeed, it is this very humility that has prevented his work becoming wider known. He is remarkably simple in his dress. Bishops, we know, have opportunity of seeing the sad, and indeed the seamy side of clerical life. If a man is a Bishop, he can still remain a brother. The putting on of the lawn lessens not his love for, and interest in, the young curate who only wears the linen surplice. He lives a quiet, homely, simple life, though always hospitable to others. How could he do otherwise, when he hears of cases like that of the poor cleric with a wife and eight children, who, after preaching his Sunday sermon, returns home to a meal of oatmeal gruel, and that meal would have been wanting had not a kindly farmer given it to his shepherd?
The Bishop of Ripon has a diocese extending over a million acres and numbering a million people. Between seventy and a hundred changes take place every year. He travels much. He estimates he covers between 10,000 and 12,000 miles every year.
We spoke about preaching. On this subject the Bishop believes that each man must use the method best suited to himself. There have been effective preachers both of written and extempore sermons. The question of memory came up, and the Bishop said: "I learnt something of this from the biography of Chancellor Bird, of Lincoln, who said, 'The memory is very sensitive of distrust; if you trust it, it seldom fails you.' I have tested this more than once. On one occasion I was preaching at St. Paul's. When I got into the pulpit I thought I could not remember the number of the verse of my text. I knew the chapter, and opened my Bible there, but could not see it. People began to move about, but I hazarded a guess, and fortunately it was right."
I learnt yet another example of this whilst in Ripon, though not from the Bishop. He was preaching at Bradford one Sunday morning two years ago. One of his many dramatic movements knocked his book from the pulpit cushion. It was just in the middle of the sermon. He never so much as glanced at the fallen volume, and my informant said he had never heard the Bishop more eloquent.
"You ask me if I advocate the preaching of other men's sermons," said his lordship, repeating my question. "There is one thing about it. It behoves every man to advocate the simplest honesty. If any cleric exchange his sermon with another, let him say from the pulpit, 'I'm going to give you So-and-so's sermon to-day.'"
We talked on, being joined by Mr. Harry Carpenter—the Bishop's eldest son—who frankly declared himself to be a happy, recently-called barrister, and just now lecturing for the University extension movement. We said "Good-night."
When I reached my room I sat down by the fire and remembered that the Bishop was fond of his joke. He has a name—William Boyd Carpenter—the latter of which is capable of a very merry conversion. The story is told how, before being appointed to the See of Ripon, he once married a young couple with the assurance that he was not only a Carpenter but a Joiner. Only a few months ago he was about to lay the foundation stone of a new vicarage. The architect handed him the trowel, etc., inviting him to become "an operative mason for a few moments."
"I would rather remain a working Carpenter," was the witty reply.
I stirred my fire, and amongst the flickering embers I could almost see the faces of a happy pair at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate. The Bishop was officiating. The charming though nervous bride experienced some difficulty in taking off her glove at the right moment to receive the wedding ring.
And a very soft whisper of kindly assurance came from the clergyman's lips.
"Don't be flurried," he said, sotto voce; "there's plenty of time, and they are bound to wait for us!"
When I awoke in the morning I looked from my window. It was very early, and the sun was lighting up the tower of Ripon Cathedral as it rose above the tree tops. It was a fair scene. You could count a dozen rabbits hopping about on the grassy lawn leading down to the tennis court, and sitting nervously for a few moments, and glancing anxiously this way, that way, and every way in expectancy of a disturbing footstep. And as I looked out upon the beautiful scene of autumn-tinted trees and grassy mounds, with just a last rose of summer here and there, I could almost distinguish those little Arabs from the by-streets and slums of Leeds. They were running about in tatters, shouting themselves hoarse with delight, and turning unlimited catharine-wheels in their happy delirium. I could hear them distinctly clapping their hands; I could not hear the patter of their feet, though—the poor little fellows were bootless. Then they ceased their play for a moment. Somebody was beckoning to them to follow him. He quietly led them beneath the branches of the very biggest tree in the garden. He pointed his finger upwards. It was a very short sermon—a sermon from a text set up by Nature which the tiniest mite amongst this tattered congregation could understand.
"Little children," he said, "I want you to grow up like this tree—with nothing between you and Heaven, nothing save the branches which you must shoot out—branches of help to others."
And the children went to play again.
Then I spied from my window a fine piece of level ground. The railway men were playing cricket there. How they seemed to enjoy the huge plum-puddings after throwing down their bats and leaving the wickets! The toothsome puddings had been contributed by the ladies of the city, and made hot and steaming in the great copper of the Palace kitchen.
After breakfast, the Bishop and I went for a long walk around the grounds—there are sixty or seventy acres of land here, and a small home farm. The Palace—which I now saw properly for the first time—is built of stone, the monotony of which is relieved by many a climbing nasturtium and cluster of ivy leaves. The chapel stands at right angles to the house. It was added later, and is the gift of the late Archbishop Vernon Harcourt to the See of Ripon.
There is rather a curious thing about some of the decorative work on the exterior of the Palace. An episcopal diary started by Bishop Longley, and preserved at the Palace, mentions that amongst many carved "heads" on the chapel was that of a Bishop. A strong gust of wind blew it down: all the others, which were decidedly unclerical, remained! But the most amusing entry in this book refers to two figures of angels at the south-east and south-west corners. Seeing that the Queen and Prince Consort had only been married a few months when the Palace was built, instructions were given to imitate in the carving of the angels the features of Her Majesty and her Consort. But the stone-mason, being possessed of a certain prosaic mind, was not content with the attempt to give the features of the Prince, but represented him as an angel arrayed in a field-marshal's uniform and wearing the ribbon of the Garter! Of course it was altered at once.
We had walked on and stood still for a moment at the end of a long avenue carpeted with fallen leaves.
"Now you can see Norton Conyers! It is about four miles from here," said the Bishop. "Charlotte Bronte once had a holiday engagement as governess there, and a room is still shown where it is said the mad woman was confined whose story the gifted authoress told in the pages of 'Jane Eyre.'"
Then as we wended our way across to the farm, down paths lined with hedgerows, and through many wicket gates, we paused at times as the Bishop looked back upon his quiet though useful life.
The Right Rev. William Boyd Carpenter was born at Liverpool on March 26th, 1841. His father was vicar of St. Michael's there for twenty-seven years. His first schooling was obtained under Dr. Dawson Turner, at the Royal Institution School, and amongst famous boys of the Royal Institution were Bishop Lightfoot, Canon Duckworth, Professor Warr, and Mr. Crosse.
"Dr. Dawson Turner," said the Bishop, "was a sort of cosmopolitan—he tried to teach a little of everything. He was a good-hearted man. He loved to give threepenny-pieces to the boys who pleased him. I well remember one day during prayers—we were all assembled in the big hall—and the head master was reading them. Suddenly the door opened and a big boy, very nervous and conscience-stricken, who thought he ought to be at prayers, crept quietly in. Dr. Turner looked up and said, in the same tone as he was reading, 'Go out—go out! Somebody put that idiot out!' Then he went on with his reading exactly in the same voice.
"The man I learned most from was Albert Glyn, our mathematical master—one of the best teachers that ever breathed. He would never let you pass a thing unless you thoroughly understood it. It was he who made mathematics an interesting and fascinating study to me."
We spoke of the time when the Crimean war broke out, when the Bishop was full of the boyish ardour of thirteen years of age. His schoolmaster would not give him a holiday to see the troops going off, but his father did. It was a sight to be remembered when the troops embarked during the war. The news was watched for eagerly, and talked over nightly. The Bishop's family, like so many others, had relatives in the war. Captain John Boyd, the Bishop's uncle, who was in command of the Royal George, planted the only shot in Cronstadt. Later he lost his life in attempting to rescue the crew of a small brig off Kingstown harbour. His monument is in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
At this point of our conversation the Bishop alluded to a well-known story and epigram.
The story on which the epigram is founded is of two Irishmen, one of whom challenged the other to a duel. But when the eventful hour arrived one sat down and wrote that, were it only his honour at stake he would meet his opponent, but his wife depended on him, so he begged to decline. The other individual sent a message to say that if honour were the only consideration he would come, but he had a daughter and therefore prayed to be excused. So the epigram read:—
Two brave sons of Erin, intent upon slaughter, Improved on the Hebrew's command: One honoured his wife and the other his daughter, That their days might be long in the land.
"This clever epigram," said the Bishop, "is popularly said to have been written by Flood, but I have always understood that it was written by my mother's mother."
That the Bishop's pen is occasionally employed in throwing off these epigrams is shown by the following. It will be remembered that at the time of the great storm at Samoa, Captain Kane, with a pluck and judgment which evoked the applause of the American and German crews in the harbour, took his vessel out to sea and so saved her. When questions were asked in Parliament as to what honour would be conferred on Captain Kane in recognition of his services, the First Lord of the Admiralty replied "that Kane had only done his duty, and if he had lost his ship he would have been court-martialled." So the Bishop wrote:—
What shall be done for Kane? Who brought his vessel safe through wave With skilful hand and heart as brave: What shall be done for Kane?
What shall he have? "We solve the knot," Cries the First Lord, impartial; "If Kane had failed, he would have got Our pickle rod—court-martial."
Then talk no more of praise or gain, Our English principle is plain: When storm winds rise to hurricane, If Kane escape he 'scapes the cane!
Here is another example:—
With regard to the recent conference at Grindelwald, which the Bishop had hoped to attend, it would not, it appears, have been his first visit, for at the request of the Bishop of London he acted as his deputy in opening the new English church destroyed in the recent fire. This church was built by the brothers Boss, who with their family, to the number of seven, keep the adjacent hotel, called "The Bear." The following lines were written by the Bishop in their visitors' book:—
A sign upon the earth, behold! Competes with one in heaven, The Bear above, the "Bear" below, The stars that form them, seven. But when these signs compared are, Judge then the heavenly losses; For all declare the earthly stars Most surely are the Bosses!
He won an open scholarship at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, and remained there until he took his degree in 1864. The late Attorney-General was the representative of Cambridge in sports in those days. The late Mr. Parnell was at Cambridge at the same time, and Lord Carrington and Mr. F. C. Burnand were among the most important members of the Cambridge A.D.C., as it was called. The acting in those days was of a very high order. The Bishop was cox. of his college boat; not a very enviable position—"you've got all the responsibility and none of the kudos." A cox. is like a bishop: he can only guide, he cannot give strength.
His lordship referred to the great improvement in University life to-day compared with thirty years ago. Much less wine is consumed now, and a man can go through the 'Varsity as a teetotaler without any inconvenience. At college the young man began a practical training for the ministry—giving lectures attending district meetings, and teaching in the Sunday school.
The Bishop's first curacy was at Maidstone, and, strangely enough, he was ordained by Bishop Longley. My visit to the Palace was in the full tide of the cholera scare, and the Bishop referred to his experiences of it at Maidstone.
"I was working there," he said, "when the cholera broke out in 1866. My vicar was away. I assisted a little, more especially at a rookery called Pad's Hole, then a den of thieves—now a low-lying little spot. I well remember the first case I visited. It was a poor fellow who was a very regular attendant at church. I went in at half-past ten to see him. I went again at half-past one. As I walked up the hill a woman met me and cried, 'He's gone!' He had been carried off in four hours. The truth is the people were taken by surprise, and few precautions were taken—there was no organized system of nurses then. The women who were sent to attend the cholera-stricken people knew nothing about nursing. They drank the brandy intended for the relief of the sufferers. I went into one house to see a woman. The nurse was intoxicated. Shortly after the poor woman died. At the graveside stood the nurse, still suffering from the effects of drink.
"Whenever I walk along here I feel indebted to Longley for one great thing," continued the Bishop. "You see these trees?" pointing to a magnificent belt of trees immediately in front of us. "They keep away the cutting Yorkshire winds. Longley planted these." Some idea of the power of the winds may be gathered from a note in Bishop Longley's diary already referred to. It was on the nights of the 6th and 7th of January, 1839, and all the north of England was affected by the storm. The Earl of Lonsdale lost 70,000 trees in his young plantation, and the magnificent avenue at Castle Howard was almost destroyed. The whole of the kitchen garden wall was blown down at the Palace. Bishop Longley very wisely put up that grand screen of trees.
His lordship entertains grateful recollections of his days at Maidstone under his vicar, the Rev. David Dale Stewart. He remained there two years, afterwards holding curacies at Clapham, and Lee in Kent. From Lee he went to St. James's, Holloway, to assist the Rev. W. B. Mackenzie.
"Mr. Mackenzie," said the Bishop, "was a remarkable man; his power in church and pulpit was singularly great. He only had one curacy and one incumbency. I succeeded him as vicar, remaining there from 1870 to 1880. There was no choir there—the congregation was the choir. Here, in Yorkshire, choirs are invaluable. The people enjoy it—they will have a choir."
I asked the Bishop if he thought well of the introduction of orchestras into our churches. His reply was thoroughly frank and real.
"In the old days," he said, "men used to play in the churches, and never expected to be paid. The condition of life since then has very much changed. If every man will bring his instrument to church as a personal act of homage to the glory of his Maker, by all means let us have it. We are in danger of forgetting that if our acts are not the personal homage of our hearts, such are not acceptable service. I am a little afraid that we are just now passing through such days of activity as will possibly cause us to forget the reality of things. We want, as Lord Mount-Temple said, the Deep Church as well as the High and Low. Yes, let us have orchestras in churches if you will, but I don't want the man to go into a place of worship with his fiddle-case under his arm and the idea in his mind that he is going to take part in a mere performance!"
At Holloway he founded many excellent institutions—classes for French, German, shorthand, etc. The young men had their House of Commons, with their vicar as Speaker. Many of the "M.P.'s" who belonged to the Highbury Parliament have since turned out admirable speakers and useful citizens.
After leaving St. James's, the Bishop became vicar of Christ Church, Lancaster Gate. He was Select Preacher at Cambridge in 1875 and 1877; Hulsean Lecturer at Cambridge, 1878; Honorary Chaplain to the Queen, 1878; Select Preacher at Oxford in 1882, when he was also appointed to a vacant Canonry at Windsor; Bampton Lecturer, 1887, and in 1889 he received an honorary D.C.L. from the University of Oxford.
On the death of the late Dr. Bickersteth, in 1884, he was consecrated Bishop of Ripon. His duties at the House of Lords consist of a fortnight or three weeks in each year, for the purpose of reading prayers. This duty, which once devolved entirely upon the junior Bishop, is now undertaken in turns, with the exception of the seniors in rank.
It was market-day when we took our way through the streets and great square which forms the market-place of the more than a thousand-year-old city. It still keeps up the old-fashioned custom of the blowing of a horn at morning and night near the Mayor's house.
On the north side of the Cathedral stands the Deanery. The Dean of Ripon, who is eighty-four, was cox. in the Oxford crew of the first 'Varsity race, and he acted as page at the coronation of William IV. His picturesque and venerable figure is one of the best known in Ripon. Dean Fremantle has made Ripon his home in the truest sense, ever since his appointment to the Deanery, now sixteen years ago. He has thrown himself with vigour and devotion into every good work in the city and neighbourhood. In the Millenary year he presented a magnificent silver-mounted horn to the Mayor and Corporation, as guardians of the city. More recently he presented a pleasant bathing shed and offices to the neighbourhood. He believes in the healthy exercise of swimming and boating and cricket. He still preaches with energy and impressiveness, and large congregations gather at the nave services in the Cathedral, where his voice is heard throughout the building. It is said that his portrait is to be hung up among the city worthies in the Town Hall. His sterling goodness, his generosity, his unfailing courtesy and kindness have endeared him to everyone; and all would readily allow that he is the best-loved citizen of the comely little Yorkshire town.
The near view of Ripon Cathedral is not particularly striking; its beauty is more impressive at a distance. Inside, however, though at first appearance somewhat bare-looking, there is much that is beautiful in architectural design. One is struck with its really magnificent width particularly, and the curious and sudden breaking up of the Norman arch, near the nave, by a Gothic pillar. The carving, however, of the stalls is very fine, and in many instances of great rarity. Beneath the stalls are many quaint specimens of the carver's handiwork. Beneath the Bishop's throne are the two spies of Joshua carrying the grapes, and a couple of giants are represented on either side, one all head and no body, the other all body with his head in the middle. Another stall shows Jonah being thrown overboard, with a whale waiting with open mouth to receive him, and near at hand is a carving of Pontius Pilate wheeling away Judas in a wheelbarrow with his bag of silver.
Yet amongst all that is interesting in and about the cathedral nothing is more so than the Saxon Chapel under the crypt. It is the earliest known place of worship in the kingdom, its architecture being about the seventh century. We light our candles and follow the verger down the stone steps. The descent is a trifle treacherous. There are little niches in the wall where candles are placed. Then we enter the chapel. It is perfectly dark, and smells very earthy. A hole in one side of the wall is pointed out. Tradition says that in the old days, when people had anything suspicious against them, they were brought to this spot. If they succeeded in crawling through to the other side they were blameless; if they could not, they were unquestionably guilty. It is also said that the young damsel who creeps through is sure to get married within the year. Be this as it may, I was assured that very recently a Yorkshire farmer brought his three daughters and sought permission for them to crawl through the lucky hole. Another daughter who had been through succeeded in getting married, and the father of the remaining trio was anxious for them to see whether a journey through the wall might not help him to more readily dispose of his daughters!
A Little Surprise.[A]
ADAPTED FROM THE FRENCH OF ABRAHAM DREYFUS
BY CONSTANCE BEERBOHM.
SIR WILLIAM BEAUCHAMP, BART. (43). LADY FLORENCE BEAUCHAMP (39). KATE DUGDALE (18). MR. JAMES DUGDALE (23). PORTER, the Lady's-maid (30).
SCENE: A country drawing-room. A French window opening on to a flower garden at the back of the stage. Doors right and left. A sofa, arm-chairs, smaller chairs, etc.
At the rise of the curtain, JEM and KITTY are discovered sitting with their backs to one another, evidently sulking. JEM looks round every now and then, trying to catch his wife's eye, and she studiously avoids his glance. At length their eyes meet.
JEM (rises): No! I tell you I can't stand it!
KITTY: And why not? I always went out with the guns at home.
JEM: "At home" and your husband's house are two very different places.
KITTY: So I find!
JEM: And I have told you over and over again I detest to see any woman—more especially a girl of eighteen, like yourself—tramping over the moors in gaiters, and a skirt by a long way too short!
KITTY: Perhaps, with your old-maidish ideas, you would like to see me taking my walks abroad with a train as long as my Court frock!
KITTY: I only know that papa, mamma, and grandmamma always said——
JEM: Ah! But your grandmother——
KITTY: How dare you speak in that way of dear grandmamma?
JEM: I never said a word against her——
KITTY: But you were going to!
JEM: Nothing of the sort.
KITTY (repeats): I only know that papa, mamma, and grandmamma always said——
JEM: Oh, Heavens! (He escapes.)
KITTY: Was ever anyone so wretched as I? Only three months married, and to find my husband an obstinate, vindictive, strait-laced country bumpkin! Well, not a bumpkin perhaps, after all, but almost as bad as that! Why, oh! why did I leave my happy home, where I could do what I liked from morning till night, and no one was ever disagreeable to me? And yet during my engagement what a lovely time I had! Jem seemed so kind and gentle, and promised me he would never say a cross word to me! He declared our married life should be one long sunshiny summer day; whilst I promised to be his little ministering angel! I reminded him of that yesterday. And what did he say? That he had never thought a little ministering angel could be such a little brute! I can hardly believe he is the same man I used to love so dearly! (Exit in tears.)
(After a moment, PORTER, the lady's-maid, enters, ushering in LADY FLORENCE BEAUCHAMP.)
LADY FLO: Your mistress is not here, after all, Porter?
PORTER: No, milady! Yet I heard her voice only a few moments ago.
LADY FLO: Well then, Porter, you must go and tell her a lady wishes to speak with her in the boudoir, and be sure not to say who the "lady" is, however much she may ask. I wish this visit to be a little surprise to her. Nor must you mention that Sir William is here.
(Enter KITTY, with traces of tears on her face.)
LADY FLO: Kitty, darling, Kitty!
KITTY: Aunty! Can it be you? This is delightful! (They embrace.)
LADY FLO: I'm glad you call it delightful! I came here as a little surprise to you; but I daresay you will think me a great bore for taking you by storm, and interrupting your tete-a-tete with Jem.
KITTY: Oh! far from it! I am only too, too happy you've come!
LADY FLO: Is that the real truth?
KITTY: Indeed, it is!
LADY FLO: I thought I should find you as blooming as a rose in June; but you are not quite so flourishing as I expected. Those pretty eyes look as if—as if—well, as if you had a cold in the head!
KITTY: They look as if I had been crying, you mean! And so I have. (Bursts into tears afresh, and throws herself into LADY FLO'S arms.)
(Enter SIR WILLIAM and JEM, the former standing amazed. KITTY, leaving LADY FLO'S arms, throws herself into those of SIR WILLIAM, with renewed sobs. SIR WILLIAM turns in surprise to JEM. LADY FLO looks down in embarrassment.)
JEM: Oh! yes, Kitty! This is all very well. Why not tell them I'm a monster at once?
KITTY: And so you are!
JEM (aside): Have you no sense of decency?
LADY FLO (aside): This is truly shocking.
SIR W. (aside): Good Heavens!
KITTY: Is it my fault that my uncle and aunt are witnesses of your ill-temper?
PORTER: Your ladyship's trunks have just arrived from the station.
LADY FLO (hesitating): Let them be taken back again.
SIR W.: We had intended staying but an hour or two.
JEM (to SIR W.): But I beg you to stay.
KITTY (to LADY FLO): Never were you so much needed.
JEM (to PORTER): Let her ladyship's trunks be taken to the Blue Rooms.
KITTY: Not to the Blue Rooms. They are quite damp. (To JEM) I may speak a word in my own house, I suppose? (To PORTER) Let the trunks be taken to the Turret Room.
JEM: The chimneys smoke there.
KITTY: Excuse me. They do not.
JEM: Excuse me. They do.
SIR W.: They smoked once upon a time, perhaps, but may not now.
PORTER: Where may I say the luggage is to be carried?
JEM: Take your orders from your mistress.
KITTY: No! From your master!
JEM (to KITTY): Spare me at least before the lady's-maid!
KITTY (to JEM): Oh! nobody knows better how you behave than Porter. Our quarrels are no secret from her.
JEM: That must be your fault. How can she know of them but from you?
KITTY: I tell her nothing. But your voice would reach to the ends of the earth.
JEM: As for yours—why——
KITTY: Grandmamma always said my voice was the most gentle she had ever heard.
JEM: But, then, your grandmother——
SIR W. (to LADY FLO): I really think we had better leave, after all.
LADY FLO (affectionately): No! dearest Will! I really think we had better stay.
SIR W.: For my part——
LADY FLO: I tell you we must stay.
SIR W.: Very well, Flo, as you wish. You always know best. (They exchange smiles.)
LADY FLO (to JEM): Kitty will take me to my room. So I leave my better half in your good company. (Exit with KITTY.)
SIR W.: I can't help regretting I came here, old fellow. It was your aunt's idea. I made objections. But she insisted that you'd both be glad enough to have a little interruption in your honeymoon.
JEM: She never said a truer word.
SIR W.: Then the honeymoon is not so great a success, after all?
JEM: To tell the truth, it's all a ghastly failure!
SIR W.: Poor boy! Believe me, I'm awfully sorry for you. (Puts his hand on JEM'S shoulder.)
JEM: I'm awfully glad you're sorry.
SIR W.: I pity you from my heart.
JEM: Thanks very much.
SIR W.: For my part, if I led a cat-and-dog life with your aunt, I should wish to blow my brains out.
JEM: So that's the advice you give me! (Moves towards door.)
SIR W.: Oh! no! All I want is five minutes' chat with you. Anything that affects Flo's niece naturally affects me.
JEM: Naturally. (Laughs.)
SIR W.: Now come! Tell me! How did your misunderstandings begin?
JEM: I really couldn't say.
SIR W.: And yet quarrels always have a beginning.
JEM: Of course, when women are so confoundedly selfish.
SIR W.: Kitty is selfish?
JEM: I don't want to make any complaints about her. Yet I must admit that she takes absolutely no interest in anything which interests me. You know my hobby—fishing——
SIR W.: And Kitty doesn't care for fishing?
JEM: Not she! Though, finding myself here, surrounded with trout streams, you may imagine how I was naturally anxious to spend my days. Kitty said fishing was a bore, and after having come out with me once or twice, she sternly refused to do so any more. And why? Simply because she wanted to tramp about with the shooters from Danby.
SIR W.: All this is but a trifling dissimilarity of taste, and insufficient to cause a real estrangement.
JEM: A trifling dissimilarity! Why, our tastes differ in every essential point! Kitty has got it into her head that a woman should take an interest in things "outside herself." A friend of her mother's, who used to conduct her to the British Museum, taught her to believe in Culture—with a capital "C." To hear her talk of Pompeiian marbles, Flaxman's designs, and all that sort of thing—why, it's sickening!
SIR W.: It strikes me you are unreasonable.
JEM: Oh, no! I'm not! A woman who takes an interest in things outside herself becomes a nuisance.
SIR W.: And yet I believe that with a little tact, a little gentleness, you would be able to manage Kitty, just as I have managed your aunt all these long years. There is no doubting the dear girl's affection for you. Remember her joy when her mother's scruples as to the length of your engagement were overcome.
JEM: That's true enough. Kitty was very fond of me three months ago. But it isn't only fondness I require of a wife. She must be bored when I'm bored, and keen when I'm keen, and that sort of thing, you know.
SIR W.: Yes! I see. In fact, lose her identity, as your dear good aunt has lost hers!
JEM (aside): Or, rather, as you have lost yours!
SIR W.: Well, I'll try and view things in your light, my good fellow. At the same time, you must have great patience—very great patience, Jem, and then all may come right in the end. It is true I never needed patience with your aunt. But had there been the necessity, I should have been equal to the demand. Now, I daresay your little quarrels have been but short lived; and that after having caused Kitty any vexation, you have always been ready to come forward with kind words to make up your differences?
JEM: Yes, ready! But not too ready, as I feared too much indulgence might not be advisable. Now, one morning, after having been out early, I determined to give up fishing for the rest of the day to please Kitty. On my way home—remember, it was before eight o'clock—I met her betaking herself to what she calls "matins." Now, I like a girl to be good and strict, and all that sort of thing. But imagine going to church at eight o'clock on a Monday morning!
SIR W.: A slight error in judgment; you might easily forgive the dear child.
JEM: I didn't find it easy. I said so. And Kitty refused her breakfast in consequence—only to aggravate me.
SIR W.: No! No! Perhaps she fasted only to soften your heart!
JEM: Far from it. In fact, to sum up the whole matter, we have no common sympathies. Kitty has not even any ambition, for instance, as to my future. You know I wish to stand for Portborough one day?
SIR W.: You!!
JEM: Why not?
SIR W.: Oh, no! Of course! Why not, as you say?
JEM: Yet if I begin to discuss it all with her, she begins to yawn; and her yawning drives me nearly mad, when I am talking on a matter of vital interest.
SIR W.: Dear! Dear! I begin to find all this more serious than I thought. For it does seem to me as if you differed on most subjects.
JEM (moodily): So we do.
SIR W.: Ah! I am afraid it may be pretty serious! And after listening to all your story I can't help feeling, my dear fellow, that there is not the chance of things bettering themselves, as I had hoped in the first instance.
JEM: You feel that?
SIR W.: I do! I do! This divergence of taste and sympathies is no laughing matter. It rather alarms me when I think that the abyss between you and your wife as time goes on may only widen. (He indicates an imaginary abyss, which JEM stares at dubiously.) Yes! widen—and widen!
JEM (after a moment's pause of half surprise, half pain): What you say is not consoling.
SIR W.: At first I thought differently; but now I hesitate to mislead you, and I admit my heart sinks when I think of your future, after hearing all you have to say. Indeed, I hope I may be mistaken. I have, as you know, but little experience in these matters. Your aunt and I have lived in undisturbed harmony these fifteen years. Never has an angry word been heard within our walls.
JEM: Whilst Kitty and I squabbled as soon as we had left the rice and slippers behind us! And since then scarcely an hour has passed without some sort of difference. I declare, when I think over it, that it would be best for us to plunge into the ice at once. A separation is the only hope for us. But, hush! I think I hear Aunt Flo's and Kitty's footsteps! (Lowers his voice, speaking rapidly) For Heaven's sake, don't breathe a word of what I have said! Fool that I've been! Worse than a fool—disloyal! Not a word to my aunt!
SIR W.: Oh! I promise you! (Mysteriously into Jem's ear) Women are so indiscreet. Now, I wouldn't tell your aunt for the wide world!
(Enter LADY FLO and KITTY, who have overheard the last words.)
LADY FLO (icily): I beg pardon! We interrupt!
JEM: Not at all! We were merely discussing the relations of man and wife! Uncle Will has been telling me that a wife—you, under the circumstances—has everything in her own hands.
LADY FLO (flattered): Indeed!
KITTY: Indeed! I must say that no one could appreciate Aunt Flo's virtues more than I, although at the same time I am certain she would very soon have lost her sweet temper if her husband had been aggravating, ignorant, domineering!
JEM: Why not call me a savage at once?
KITTY: A savage! Yes! A savage!
LADY FLO: Oh! Kitty! Kitty! Is this the way to make friends?
JEM: Come, Uncle Will! Let us go into the smoking-room! I shall choke here! (Exit.)
SIR W.: There's but little hope for them! Little hope! Little hope! (Exit, shaking his head.)
KITTY: Now, perhaps, you believe that I have something to put up with?
LADY FLO (soothingly): And yet there's no doubt Jem is extremely fond of you.
KITTY: He has a strange way of showing it! The other morning, after we had had one of our little scenes, I went down to the stream to find him when he was fishing. I would even have been willing to try and bait (shudders) his hook. But as I was starting off I met him coming up the garden, and he stared at me like an avenging god (or demon, I should say), and asked if I wasn't on my way to matins? Naturally, I did not contradict him.
LADY FLO: Dearest! You distress me!
KITTY: There's another thing I can't endure! You know I took the pledge, so as to be a good example to the village people here. Well! Jem is furious every time I refuse wine at luncheon or dinner. He declares that I pose! Can you imagine such nonsense?
LADY FLO: Well, dear! I confess I sympathize with Jem. I don't think any really nice women ever take the pledge—do they? I only ask, you know.
KITTY: Why, yes! Of course they do, aunty—when they want to be good examples. Jem cannot understand this; and, far from taking the pledge himself, he revolts me day after day by drinking—(whispers mysteriously)—Bass's pale ale!
LADY FLO: Ah! That's bad! But, oh! my dear, if you only knew the proper way to manage a husband!
KITTY: How could I? For Jem is as unmanageable as the Great Mogul.
LADY FLO: I see you don't realize how the most violent men are those most easy to subdue. Now, there's your uncle——
KITTY: I always thought him as mild as Moses!
LADY FLO: So he is now! But there was a time——
KITTY: Oh! Do tell me all about it!
LADY FLO: Well. There was a time when your uncle imagined he might be allowed to complain if dinner were late. One day he actually dared to ask, in a voice of thunder, "Is dinner ready?"
KITTY: Jem dares that every day.
LADY FLO: It happened to be the cook's fault.
KITTY: Ah! That would make no difference to Jem.
LADY FLO (impatient): I wish, darling, you would allow me to speak!
KITTY: Oh! I beg pardon.
LADY FLO (continuing, blandly): Not at all! Now, I replied: "The salmon has just fallen into the fire, and cook has had to send for another!"
KITTY: That was true?
LADY FLO: Not in the least! I had ordered red mullet. And Will ate his fish without noticing the difference.
KITTY: Jem would not have made that mistake.
LADY FLO: Oh, yes, he would, if you had just glanced at him in the right manner.
KITTY (eagerly): Show me how to do it!
LADY FLO (drily): It requires the inspiration of the moment. Ah! could you but see me with Will!
KITTY: It is certain you are very happy together.
LADY FLO: So we are; owing to my always using sweetness, firmness, and indifference just at the right moment. But all this, I confess, requires intelligence.
KITTY: Had I but the intelligence! It must be splendid to be able to avert a coming storm in this way.
LADY FLO: There never has been the question of a storm between Will and me!
KITTY: Happy, happy people!
LADY FLO: And you, my very dear children, must become happy, happy people too! William would feel your sorrow as deeply as I. We must do all in our power to restore peace and comfort between you! I shall try my very utmost to show you your little failings—here and there—you know. And as for Will! Why, he'll talk Jem over in no time! Before a week is out we shall see you walking arm-in-arm to matins—the happiest couple in all Yorkshire.
LADY FLO: Nay! We can but try. (Enter SIR WILLIAM.) Ah! Here comes your uncle. Now, run away, dear, and leave us alone for a discreet little talk. Who knows but what we may hit upon a plan to help you! (Exit KITTY.)
LADY FLO: Will, dearest! We must talk very seriously over our niece and nephew together.
SIR W. (aside): It is high time!
LADY FLO: But, first of all, by the way, I want to know what it was you were saying to Jem, when I came into the room a few minutes ago.
SIR W. (consciously): To Jem? Why, I was saying nothing to Jem!
LADY FLO: Oh, yes, you were! Now try to remember. Kitty and I heard you talking in quite an excited manner as we came downstairs. Then as we came nearer the door you lowered your voice.
SIR W.: Indeed, no!
LADY FLO: Yes, yes, you did, dear!
SIR W.: No, no, I didn't, dear!
LADY FLO: Don't tell fibs, darling.
SIR W.: You want to know too much, my dear, good Flo.
LADY FLO: Too much? Oh, no! That would be impossible! However, I know you will tell me the whole truth by-and-by.
SIR W.: First let me know what you have to say.
LADY FLO: Well, I'm in the deepest distress about the two young people. They seem to be at terrible loggerheads. Now, perhaps Jem confided the secret of his unhappy married life to you?
SIR W.: He never said a word about it! (Bites his lip.)
LADY FLO: Nevertheless, I assure you they lead a cat-and-dog existence.
SIR W.: Oh, dear, dear! Is that so?
LADY FLO: Why, of course! You saw them quarrelling yourself. But still I have hopes we may be able to arrange matters a little better for them. Who knows but what we may see them re-united before we leave this house?
SIR W.: We will do our best to help them, poor young things!
LADY FLO: Yes! Poor young things!
SIR W.: And I've no doubt we shall succeed.
LADY FLO: At the same time, it seems to me as if the abyss between them may widen.
SIR W.: That may be so. The abyss may widen! (Indicates an imaginary abyss, at which LADY FLO shakes her head).
LADY FLO: If a man and woman aren't made for one another——
SIR W.: Like you and me. I pointed that out to Jem.
LADY FLO: I'm afraid it didn't affect him as it ought. (With a sentimental sigh) The only consolation we can derive from the misfortune of our nephew and niece is that we are happier than they!
SIR W.: Clever little woman! (Kisses her.)
LADY FLO: Dear old Will! (Kisses him. Then with a sudden change of tone) But now I must hear what it was Jem was saying to you when I came into the room! You answered that "of course you wouldn't tell his aunt for the wide world." That must have been a facon de parler!
SIR W.: Of course! of course! And you shall know all about it as soon as I have asked Jem's leave. Meanwhile we must attend to the fates of these unhappy young people. We had better first try to show them their grievous fault as gently as possible, and if gentleness does not answer——
LADY FLO: Oh, yes! Gentleness is all very well! But I tell you quite candidly, Will, that before we talk of gentleness I must insist on knowing what it is you told Jem that you would not let me hear.
SIR W.: The fact is, my dear——(Coughs.)
LADY FLO: Tell me what the fact is, and at once, my dear!
SIR W.: The facts are, dear child——(Coughs again.)
LADY FLO (irritated): Don't cough!
SIR W. (continues coughing): Well! it's a long story.
LADY FLO: Haven't you a lozenge?
SIR W.: Never mind the lozenge! The story, I say, is a long one.
LADY FLO: Long or short, I must hear it!
SIR W.: I'll tell it to you, later on.
LADY FLO: I begin to suspect you can't tell me all about it, simply—because you can't!
SIR W.: Oh! I can! I could!
LADY FLO: Oh, no, you can't. You couldn't, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself!
SIR W.: You are going just a little bit too far, Florence.
LADY FLO: Oh, no; it was you who went too far. Why, I knew it by the look on your face the instant I came into the room!
SIR W. (aside): She is going very much too far. (Aloud) Nonsense!
LADY FLO: I beg pardon?
SIR W.: I repeat "Nonsense." And ridiculous nonsense!
LADY FLO: Then, how dare you?
SIR W.: You forget yourself strangely.
LADY FLO: Do not attempt to adopt your nephew's manner to his wife towards me!
SIR W.: It is you, my love, who are unfortunate in your choice of a manner this morning; and although pettishness in a young girl like Kitty has a certain little charm of its own——
LADY FLO: Yes!
SIR W.: When a woman has reached your time of life——
LADY FLO (furious): Yes!!!
SIR W.: Petulance sits remarkably ill upon her—upon you, my dear——
LADY FLO: When a man has reached your time of life and remains as great a fool——
SIR W. (furious): A fool?
LADY FLO: Yes! As great a fool and an idiot as ever——
SIR W.: I was always aware you had the very devil of a temper, Florence, and now, after fifteen years of married life, I make the discovery that you can be excessively—ahem!—unladylike.
LADY FLO: It's highly amusing to hear you express an opinion on the subject of how a lady should behave. When one remembers your sisters, one is inclined to believe you were not, perhaps, brought up in a school of the very highest standard.
SIR W.: You insult my sisters! (Becomes much excited and takes her by the arm.) Repeat that again!
(Enter JEM. Stands in amazement.)
JEM: For Heaven's sake, what is the matter?
SIR W.: Ask your Aunt Florence, my dear boy.
LADY FLO: I feel positively ashamed that you should come upon us—upon your uncle, I mean—at a moment when he is behaving like a raving madman!
JEM: A raving madman! My uncle Jem!
LADY FLO: Man-like, you side with a man! (With increasing agitation) I have always known your uncle to be a weak, nerveless——(Enter KITTY. Looks around, dumfounded.)
KITTY: Dear aunty! I'm frightened! You can't be well! What does this mean?
LADY FLO: Only that your husband is inciting mine to be abusive.
LADY FLO: Woman-like, you side with a man! Let me tell you that your poor uncle is pitiable in his foolishness this morning.
SIR W.: Florence! Once for all, I assert my authority. Be silent this moment, or I shall feel obliged to ask you to return home.
LADY FLO: Without you?
SIR W.: If that pleases you!
LADY FLO: It would suit me remarkably well.
SIR W.: In that case—"Go!"
LADY FLO: I shall, instantly; and when you desire to come home, I shall give the servants orders not to admit you——
SIR W. (turning to JEM): A man not admitted to his own house! That's rather too good, isn't it, Jem?
LADY FLO: We shall see! (Turns to KITTY) Meanwhile, Kitty, I bid you good-bye.
KITTY: Oh! Aunty! You can't mean that! Pray don't say good-bye!
LADY FLO (dramatically): Yes, I mean "Good-bye"! (Brushes furiously past SIR WILLIAM, and exit. KITTY makes movement to follow, but returns to SIR WILLIAM and JEM.)
SIR W. (bitterly): Don't hold her back, Kitty.
JEM: You are mad!
SIR W.: Less mad than you, when an hour ago you told me you found life intolerable with Kitty.
KITTY (moved): He said that? Jem said that to you?
JEM: No, no! (Compunctious.)
SIR W.: Oh! It's an easy matter for two young people to kiss again with tears. 'Twill be a different matter between your aunt and me. Florence will have no chance, however much she may wish it. The time has come for me to put down my foot at last. (Exit, talking and gesticulating angrily.)
(After the exit of SIR WILLIAM, JEM and KITTY look up slowly at one another. Their eyes meet. They turn away.)
JEM: (much embarrassed): Kitty!
JEM: This is painful! In fact, it's worse than wicked—it's vulgar!
KITTY (gently): It's simply dreadful to see two people behaving in such a way.
JEM: And at their time of life!
KITTY: That's the awful part of it!
JEM: I wonder how they can do it!
KITTY (archly, yet on the verge of tears): So do I!
(At the last words they turn; their eyes meet. KITTY falters. JEM falters. After a moment they fall into one another's arms.)
Enter PORTER: Her ladyship has bidden me to put her trunks together, ma'am.
KITTY: Wait a minute, Porter. Perhaps I can persuade her ladyship to stay. (Voices from without.)
LADY FLO: I wish to go this instant, and alone.
SIR W.: By all means, and to-morrow my lawyer shall wait on you.
LADY FLO: And mine on you. (After a moment, they enter.)
LADY FLO: And it has come to this, William!
SIR W.: By mutual consent. This is the happiest day of my life. I breathe again. I know now I have never breathed until this moment since the day I married you!
LADY FLO: This is beyond everything! (Violently excited.)
JEM (whispers aside to KITTY, unobserved; play on both sides; then, after evidently agreeing on a plan, pretend to treat the matter as a joke; advancing): Bravo! Bravissimo! Capital! (Roars with forced laughter.)
KITTY: Splendid! I never saw anything so well done! (Joins her husband in laughter.)
SIR W.: It's no laughing matter!
JEM: Ha! ha! I daresay not.
KITTY: Irving and Ellen Terry are not in it! (Continues laughing.)
LADY FLO: What can you mean?
JEM: Oh, don't pretend that you and my uncle have not been getting up this little comedy of a quarrel, merely to show Kitty and me what fools we look when we are fighting! Why! It was better than any play I ever saw!
SIR W.: It's all been in sober earnest, I assure you.
(LADY FLO recovers slightly. Looks first at JEM, then at KITTY, and lastly at SIR WILLIAM.)
LADY FLO (slowly): You call—all—this—a little comedy? (Recovers more, but very gradually.)
KITTY: Why, yes! Don't attempt to say it wasn't—(slyly)—especially after all you told me this morning about how cleverly you manage my uncle. Just let me see you glance at him in the way you said you could. (Whispering.)