Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
By George Eliot.
BOOK 1.--THE SPOILED CHILD.
Men can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. Even
science, the strict measurer, is obliged to start with a make-believe
unit, and must fix on a point in the stars' unceasing journey when his
sidereal clock shall pretend that time is at Nought. His less accurate
grandmother Poetry has always been understood to start in the middle;
but on reflection it appears that her proceeding is not very different
from his; since Science, too, reckons backward as well as forward,
divides his unit into billions, and with his clock-finger at Nought
really sets off "in medias res". No retrospect will take us to
the true beginning; and whether our prologue be in heaven or on earth,
it is but a fraction of that all-presupposing fact with which our
story sets out.
Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or
expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good
or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why
was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was
the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which
the whole being consents?
She who raised these questions in Daniel Deronda's mind was occupied in
gambling: not in the open air under a southern sky, tossing coppers on
a ruined wall, with rags about her limbs; but in one of those splendid
resorts which the enlightenment of ages has prepared for the same
species of pleasure at a heavy cost of guilt mouldings, dark-toned
color and chubby nudities, all correspondingly heavy--forming a
suitable condenser for human breath belonging, in great part, to the
highest fashion, and not easily procurable to be breathed in elsewhere
in the like proportion, at least by persons of little fashion.
It was near four o'clock on a September day, so that the atmosphere was
well-brewed to a visible haze. There was deep stillness, broken only by
a light rattle, a light chink, a small sweeping sound, and an
occasional monotone in French, such as might be expected to issue from
an ingeniously constructed automaton. Round two long tables were
gathered two serried crowds of human beings, all save one having their
faces and attention bent on the tables. The one exception was a
melancholy little boy, with his knees and calves simply in their
natural clothing of epidermis, but for the rest of his person in a
fancy dress. He alone had his face turned toward the doorway, and
fixing on it the blank gaze of a bedizened child stationed as a
masquerading advertisement on the platform of an itinerant show, stood
close behind a lady deeply engaged at the roulette-table.
About this table fifty or sixty persons were assembled, many in the
outer rows, where there was occasionally a deposit of new-comers, being
mere spectators, only that one of them, usually a woman, might now and
then be observed putting down a five-franc with a simpering air, just
to see what the passion of gambling really was. Those who were taking
their pleasure at a higher strength, and were absorbed in play, showed
very distant varieties of European type: Livonian and Spanish,
Graeco-Italian and miscellaneous German, English aristocratic and
English plebeian. Here certainly was a striking admission of human
equality. The white bejewelled fingers of an English countess were very
near touching a bony, yellow, crab-like hand stretching a bared wrist
to clutch a heap of coin--a hand easy to sort with the square, gaunt
face, deep-set eyes, grizzled eyebrows, and ill-combed scanty hair
which seemed a slight metamorphosis of the vulture. And where else
would her ladyship have graciously consented to sit by that dry-lipped
feminine figure prematurely old, withered after short bloom like her
artificial flowers, holding a shabby velvet reticule before her, and
occasionally putting in her mouth the point with which she pricked her
card? There too, very near the fair countess, was a respectable London
tradesman, blonde and soft-handed, his sleek hair scrupulously parted
behind and before, conscious of circulars addressed to the nobility and
gentry, whose distinguished patronage enabled him to take his holidays
fashionably, and to a certain extent in their distinguished company.
Not his gambler's passion that nullifies appetite, but a well-fed
leisure, which, in the intervals of winning money in business and
spending it showily, sees no better resource than winning money in play
and spending it yet more showily--reflecting always that Providence had
never manifested any disapprobation of his amusement, and dispassionate
enough to leave off if the sweetness of winning much and seeing others
lose had turned to the sourness of losing much and seeing others win.
For the vice of gambling lay in losing money at it. In his bearing
there might be something of the tradesman, but in his pleasures he was
fit to rank with the owners of the oldest titles. Standing close to his
chair was a handsome Italian, calm, statuesque, reaching across him to
place the first pile of napoleons from a new bagful just brought him by
an envoy with a scrolled mustache. The pile was in half a minute pushed
over to an old bewigged woman with eye-glasses pinching her nose. There
was a slight gleam, a faint mumbling smile about the lips of the old
woman; but the statuesque Italian remained impassive, and--probably
secure in an infallible system which placed his foot on the neck of
chance--immediately prepared a new pile. So did a man with the air of
an emaciated beau or worn-out libertine, who looked at life through one
eye-glass, and held out his hand tremulously when he asked for change.
It could surely be no severity of system, but rather some dream of
white crows, or the induction that the eighth of the month was lucky,
which inspired the fierce yet tottering impulsiveness of his play.
But, while every single player differed markedly from every other,
there was a certain uniform negativeness of expression which had the
effect of a mask--as if they had all eaten of some root that for the
time compelled the brains of each to the same narrow monotony of action.
Deronda's first thought when his eyes fell on this scene of dull,
gas-poisoned absorption, was that the gambling of Spanish shepherd-boys
had seemed to him more enviable:--so far Rousseau might be justified in
maintaining that art and science had done a poor service to mankind.
But suddenly he felt the moment become dramatic. His attention was
arrested by a young lady who, standing at an angle not far from him,
was the last to whom his eyes traveled. She was bending and speaking
English to a middle-aged lady seated at play beside her: but the next
instant she returned to her play, and showed the full height of a
graceful figure, with a face which might possibly be looked at without
admiration, but could hardly be passed with indifference.
The inward debate which she raised in Deronda gave to his eyes a
growing expression of scrutiny, tending farther and farther away from
the glow of mingled undefined sensibilities forming admiration. At one
moment they followed the movements of the figure, of the arms and
hands, as this problematic sylph bent forward to deposit her stake with
an air of firm choice; and the next they returned to the face which, at
present unaffected by beholders, was directed steadily toward the game.
The sylph was a winner; and as her taper fingers, delicately gloved in
pale-gray, were adjusting the coins which had been pushed toward her in
order to pass them back again to the winning point, she looked round
her with a survey too markedly cold and neutral not to have in it a
little of that nature which we call art concealing an inward exultation.
But in the course of that survey her eyes met Deronda's, and instead of
averting them as she would have desired to do, she was unpleasantly
conscious that they were arrested--how long? The darting sense that he
was measuring her and looking down on her as an inferior, that he was
of different quality from the human dross around her, that he felt
himself in a region outside and above her, and was examining her as a
specimen of a lower order, roused a tingling resentment which stretched
the moment with conflict. It did not bring the blood to her cheeks, but
it sent it away from her lips. She controlled herself by the help of an
inward defiance, and without other sign of emotion than this
lip-paleness turned to her play. But Deronda's gaze seemed to have
acted as an evil eye. Her stake was gone. No matter; she had been
winning ever since she took to roulette with a few napoleons at
command, and had a considerable reserve. She had begun to believe in
her luck, others had begun to believe in it: she had visions of being
followed by a "cortège" who would worship her as a goddess of luck and
watch her play as a directing augury. Such things had been known of
male gamblers; why should not a woman have a like supremacy? Her friend
and chaperon who had not wished her to play at first was beginning to
approve, only administering the prudent advice to stop at the right
moment and carry money back to England--advice to which Gwendolen had
replied that she cared for the excitement of play, not the winnings. On
that supposition the present moment ought to have made the flood-tide
in her eager experience of gambling. Yet, when her next stake was swept
away, she felt the orbits of her eyes getting hot, and the certainty
she had (without looking) of that man still watching her was something
like a pressure which begins to be torturing. The more reason to her
why she should not flinch, but go on playing as if she were indifferent
to loss or gain. Her friend touched her elbow and proposed that they
should quit the table. For reply Gwendolen put ten louis on the same
spot: she was in that mood of defiance in which the mind loses sight of
any end beyond the satisfaction of enraged resistance; and with the
puerile stupidity of a dominant impulse includes luck among its objects
of defiance. Since she was not winning strikingly, the next best thing
was to lose strikingly. She controlled her muscles, and showed no
tremor of mouth or hands. Each time her stake was swept off she doubled
it. Many were now watching her, but the sole observation she was
conscious of was Deronda's, who, though she never looked toward him,
she was sure had not moved away. Such a drama takes no long while to
play out: development and catastrophe can often be measured by nothing
clumsier than the moment-hand. "Faites votre jeu, mesdames et
messieurs," said the automatic voice of destiny from between the
mustache and imperial of the croupier: and Gwendolen's arm was
stretched to deposit her last poor heap of napoleons. "Le jeu ne va
plus," said destiny. And in five seconds Gwendolen turned from the
table, but turned resolutely with her face toward Deronda and looked at
him. There was a smile of irony in his eyes as their glances met; but
it was at least better that he should have disregarded her as one of an
insect swarm who had no individual physiognomy. Besides, in spite of
his superciliousness and irony, it was difficult to believe that he did
not admire her spirit as well as her person: he was young, handsome,
distinguished in appearance--not one of these ridiculous and dowdy
Philistines who thought it incumbent on them to blight the gaming-table
with a sour look of protest as they passed by it. The general
conviction that we are admirable does not easily give way before a
single negative; rather when any of Vanity's large family, male or
female, find their performance received coldly, they are apt to believe
that a little more of it will win over the unaccountable dissident. In
Gwendolen's habits of mind it had been taken for granted that she knew
what was admirable and that she herself was admired. This basis of her
thinking had received a disagreeable concussion, and reeled a little,
but was not easily to be overthrown.
In the evening the same room was more stiflingly heated, was brilliant
with gas and with the costumes of ladies who floated their trains along
it or were seated on the ottomans.
The Nereid in sea-green robes and silver ornaments, with a pale
sea-green feather fastened in silver falling backward over her green
hat and light brown hair, was Gwendolen Harleth. She was under the
wing, or rather soared by the shoulder, of the lady who had sat by her
at the roulette-table; and with them was a gentleman with a white
mustache and clipped hair: solid-browed, stiff and German. They were
walking about or standing to chat with acquaintances, and Gwendolen was
much observed by the seated groups.
"A striking girl--that Miss Harleth--unlike others."
"Yes, she has got herself up as a sort of serpent now--all green and
silver, and winds her neck about a little more than usual."
"Oh, she must always be doing something extraordinary. She is that kind
of girl, I fancy. Do you think her pretty, Mr. Vandernoodt?"
"Very. A man might risk hanging for her--I mean a fool might."
"You like a "nez retroussé", then, and long narrow eyes?"
"When they go with such an "ensemble"."
"The "ensemble du serpent"?"
"If you will. Woman was tempted by a serpent; why not man?"
"She is certainly very graceful; but she wants a tinge of color in her
cheeks. It is a sort of Lamia beauty she has."
"On the contrary, I think her complexion one of her chief charms. It is
a warm paleness; it looks thoroughly healthy. And that delicate nose
with its gradual little upward curve is distracting. And then her
mouth--there never was a prettier mouth, the lips curled backward so
finely, eh, Mackworth?"
"Think so? I cannot endure that sort of mouth. It looks so
self-complacent, as if it knew its own beauty--the curves are too
immovable. I like a mouth that trembles more."
"For my part, I think her odious," said a dowager. "It is wonderful
what unpleasant girls get into vogue. Who are these Langens? Does
anybody know them?"
"They are quite "comme il faut". I have dined with them several times
at the "Russie". The baroness is English. Miss Harleth calls her
cousin. The girl herself is thoroughly well-bred, and as clever as
"Dear me! and the baron?".
"A very good furniture picture."
"Your baroness is always at the roulette-table," said Mackworth. "I
fancy she has taught the girl to gamble."
"Oh, the old woman plays a very sober game; drops a ten-franc piece
here and there. The girl is more headlong. But it is only a freak."
"I hear she has lost all her winnings to-day. Are they rich? Who knows?"
"Ah, who knows? Who knows that about anybody?" said Mr. Vandernoodt,
moving off to join the Langens.
The remark that Gwendolen wound her neck about more than usual this
evening was true. But it was not that she might carry out the serpent
idea more completely: it was that she watched for any chance of seeing
Deronda, so that she might inquire about this stranger, under whose
measuring gaze she was still wincing. At last her opportunity came.
"Mr. Vandernoodt, you know everybody," said Gwendolen, not too eagerly,
rather with a certain languor of utterance which she sometimes gave to
her clear soprano. "Who is that near the door?"
"There are half a dozen near the door. Do you mean that old Adonis in
the George the Fourth wig?"
"No, no; the dark-haired young man on the right with the dreadful
"Dreadful, do you call it? I think he is an uncommonly fine fellow."
"But who is he?"
"He is lately come to our hotel with Sir Hugo Mallinger."
"Sir Hugo Mallinger?"
"Yes. Do you know him?"
"No." (Gwendolen colored slightly.) "He has a place near us, but he
never comes to it. What did you say was the name of that gentleman near
"What a delightful name! Is he an Englishman?"
"Yes. He is reported to be rather closely related to the baronet. You
are interested in him?"
"Yes. I think he is not like young men in general."
"And you don't admire young men in general?"
"Not in the least. I always know what they will say. I can't at all
guess what this Mr. Deronda would say. What "does" he say?"
"Nothing, chiefly. I sat with his party for a good hour last night on
the terrace, and he never spoke--and was not smoking either. He looked
"Another reason why I should like to know him. I am always bored."
"I should think he would be charmed to have an introduction. Shall I
bring it about? Will you allow it, baroness?"
"Why not?--since he is related to Sir Hugo Mallinger. It is a new
"rôle" of yours, Gwendolen, to be always bored," continued Madame von
Langen, when Mr. Vandernoodt had moved away. "Until now you have always
seemed eager about something from morning till night."
"That is just because I am bored to death. If I am to leave off play I
must break my arm or my collar-bone. I must make something happen;
unless you will go into Switzerland and take me up the Matterhorn."
"Perhaps this Mr. Deronda's acquaintance will do instead of the
But Gwendolen did not make Deronda's acquaintance on this occasion. Mr.
Vandernoodt did not succeed in bringing him up to her that evening, and
when she re-entered her own room she found a letter recalling her home.
This man contrives a secret 'twixt us two,
That he may quell me with his meeting eyes
Like one who quells a lioness at bay.
This was the letter Gwendolen found on her table:--
DEAREST CHILD.--I have been expecting to hear from you for a week. In
your last you said the Langens thought of leaving Leubronn and going
to Baden. How could you be so thoughtless as to leave me in
uncertainty about your address? I am in the greatest anxiety lest this
should not reach you. In any case, you were to come home at the end of
September, and I must now entreat you to return as quickly as
possible, for if you spent all your money it would be out of my power
to send you any more, and you must not borrow of the Langens, for I
could not repay them. This is the sad truth, my child--I wish I could
prepare you for it better--but a dreadful calamity has befallen us
all. You know nothing about business and will not understand it; but
Grapnell & Co. have failed for a million, and we are totally
ruined--your aunt Gascoigne as well as I, only that your uncle has his
benefice, so that by putting down their carriage and getting interest
for the boys, the family can go on. All the property our poor father
saved for us goes to pay the liabilities. There is nothing I can call
my own. It is better you should know this at once, though it rends my
heart to have to tell it you. Of course we cannot help thinking what a
pity it was that you went away just when you did. But I shall never
reproach you, my dear child; I would save you from all trouble if I
could. On your way home you will have time to prepare yourself for the
change you will find. We shall perhaps leave Offendene at once, for we
hope that Mr. Haynes, who wanted it before, may be ready to take it
off my hands. Of course we cannot go to the rectory--there is not a
corner there to spare. We must get some hut or other to shelter us,
and we must live on your uncle Gascoigne's charity, until I see what
else can be done. I shall not be able to pay the debts to the
tradesmen besides the servants' wages. Summon up your fortitude, my
dear child; we must resign ourselves to God's will. But it is hard to
resign one's self to Mr. Lassman's wicked recklessness, which they say
was the cause of the failure. Your poor sisters can only cry with me
and give me no help. If you were once here, there might be a break in
the cloud--I always feel it impossible that you can have been meant
for poverty. If the Langens wish to remain abroad, perhaps you can put
yourself under some one else's care for the journey. But come as soon
as you can to your afflicted and loving mamma,
The first effect of this letter on Gwendolen was half-stupefying. The
implicit confidence that her destiny must be one of luxurious ease,
where any trouble that occurred would be well clad and provided for,
had been stronger in her own mind than in her mamma's, being fed there
by her youthful blood and that sense of superior claims which made a
large part of her consciousness. It was almost as difficult for her to
believe suddenly that her position had become one of poverty and of
humiliating dependence, as it would have been to get into the strong
current of her blooming life the chill sense that her death would
really come. She stood motionless for a few minutes, then tossed off
her hat and automatically looked in the glass. The coils of her smooth
light-brown hair were still in order perfect enough for a ball-room;
and as on other nights, Gwendolen might have looked lingeringly at
herself for pleasure (surely an allowable indulgence); but now she took
no conscious note of her reflected beauty, and simply stared right
before her as if she had been jarred by a hateful sound and was waiting
for any sign of its cause. By-and-by she threw herself in the corner of
the red velvet sofa, took up the letter again and read it twice
deliberately, letting it at last fall on the ground, while she rested
her clasped hands on her lap and sat perfectly still, shedding no
tears. Her impulse was to survey and resist the situation rather than
to wail over it. There was no inward exclamation of "Poor mamma!" Her
mamma had never seemed to get much enjoyment out of life, and if
Gwendolen had been at this moment disposed to feel pity she would have
bestowed it on herself--for was she not naturally and rightfully the
chief object of her mamma's anxiety too? But it was anger, it was
resistance that possessed her; it was bitter vexation that she had lost
her gains at roulette, whereas if her luck had continued through this
one day she would have had a handsome sum to carry home, or she might
have gone on playing and won enough to support them all. Even now was
it not possible? She had only four napoleons left in her purse, but she
possessed some ornaments which she could sell: a practice so common in
stylish society at German baths that there was no need to be ashamed of
it; and even if she had not received her mamma's letter, she would
probably have decided to get money for an Etruscan necklace which she
happened not to have been wearing since her arrival; nay, she might
have done so with an agreeable sense that she was living with some
intensity and escaping humdrum. With ten louis at her disposal and a
return of her former luck, which seemed probable, what could she do
better than go on playing for a few days? If her friends at home
disapproved of the way in which she got the money, as they certainly
would, still the money would be there. Gwendolen's imagination dwelt on
this course and created agreeable consequences, but not with unbroken
confidence and rising certainty as it would have done if she had been
touched with the gambler's mania. She had gone to the roulette-table
not because of passion, but in search of it: her mind was still sanely
capable of picturing balanced probabilities, and while the chance of
winning allured her, the chance of losing thrust itself on her with
alternate strength and made a vision from which her pride sank
sensitively. For she was resolved not to tell the Langens that any
misfortune had befallen her family, or to make herself in any way
indebted to their compassion; and if she were to part with her jewelry
to any observable extent, they would interfere by inquiries and
remonstrances. The course that held the least risk of intolerable
annoyance was to raise money on her necklace early in the morning, tell
the Langens that her mother desired her immediate return without giving
a reason, and take the train for Brussels that evening. She had no maid
with her, and the Langens might make difficulties about her returning
home, but her will was peremptory.
Instead of going to bed she made as brilliant a light as she could and
began to pack, working diligently, though all the while visited by the
scenes that might take place on the coming day--now by the tiresome
explanations and farewells, and the whirling journey toward a changed
home, now by the alternative of staying just another day and standing
again at the roulette-table. But always in this latter scene there was
the presence of that Deronda, watching her with exasperating irony,
and--the two keen experiences were inevitably revived
together--beholding her again forsaken by luck. This importunate image
certainly helped to sway her resolve on the side of immediate
departure, and to urge her packing to the point which would make a
change of mind inconvenient. It had struck twelve when she came into
her room, and by the time she was assuring herself that she had left
out only what was necessary, the faint dawn was stealing through the
white blinds and dulling her candles. What was the use of going to bed?
Her cold bath was refreshment enough, and she saw that a slight trace
of fatigue about the eyes only made her look the more interesting.
Before six o'clock she was completely equipped in her gray traveling
dress even to her felt hat, for she meant to walk out as soon as she
could count on seeing other ladies on their way to the springs. And
happening to be seated sideways before the long strip of mirror between
her two windows she turned to look at herself, leaning her elbow on the
back of the chair in an attitude that might have been chosen for her
portrait. It is possible to have a strong self-love without any
self-satisfaction, rather with a self-discontent which is the more
intense because one's own little core of egoistic sensibility is a
supreme care; but Gwendolen knew nothing of such inward strife. She had
a "naïve" delight in her fortunate self, which any but the harshest
saintliness will have some indulgence for in a girl who had every day
seen a pleasant reflection of that self in her friends' flattery as
well as in the looking-glass. And even in this beginning of troubles,
while for lack of anything else to do she sat gazing at her image in
the growing light, her face gathered a complacency gradual as the
cheerfulness of the morning. Her beautiful lips curled into a more and
more decided smile, till at last she took off her hat, leaned forward
and kissed the cold glass which had looked so warm. How could she
believe in sorrow? If it attacked her, she felt the force to crush it,
to defy it, or run away from it, as she had done already. Anything
seemed more possible than that she could go on bearing miseries, great
Madame von Langen never went out before breakfast, so that Gwendolen
could safely end her early walk by taking her way homeward through the
Obere Strasse in which was the needed shop, sure to be open after
seven. At that hour any observers whom she minded would be either on
their walks in the region of the springs, or would be still in their
bedrooms; but certainly there was one grand hotel, the "Czarina" from
which eyes might follow her up to Mr. Wiener's door. This was a chance
to be risked: might she not be going in to buy something which had
struck her fancy? This implicit falsehood passed through her mind as
she remembered that the "Czarina" was Deronda's hotel; but she was then
already far up the Obere Strasse, and she walked on with her usual
floating movement, every line in her figure and drapery falling in
gentle curves attractive to all eyes except those which discerned in
them too close a resemblance to the serpent, and objected to the
revival of serpent-worship. She looked neither to the right hand nor to
the left, and transacted her business in the shop with a coolness which
gave little Mr. Weiner nothing to remark except her proud grace of
manner, and the superior size and quality of the three central
turquoises in the necklace she offered him. They had belonged to a
chain once her father's: but she had never known her father; and the
necklace was in all respects the ornament she could most conveniently
part with. Who supposes that it is an impossible contradiction to be
superstitious and rationalizing at the same time? Roulette encourages a
romantic superstition as to the chances of the game, and the most
prosaic rationalism as to human sentiments which stand in the way of
raising needful money. Gwendolen's dominant regret was that after all
she had only nine louis to add to the four in her purse: these Jew
dealers were so unscrupulous in taking advantage of Christians
unfortunate at play! But she was the Langens' guest in their hired
apartment, and had nothing to pay there: thirteen louis would do more
than take her home; even if she determined on risking three, the
remaining ten would more than suffice, since she meant to travel right
on, day and night. As she turned homeward, nay, entered and seated
herself in the "salon" to await her friends and breakfast, she still
wavered as to her immediate departure, or rather she had concluded to
tell the Langens simply that she had had a letter from her mamma
desiring her return, and to leave it still undecided when she should
start. It was already the usual breakfast-time, and hearing some one
enter as she was leaning back rather tired and hungry with her eyes
shut, she rose expecting to see one or other of the Langens--the words
which might determine her lingering at least another day, ready-formed
to pass her lips. But it was the servant bringing in a small packet for
Miss Harleth, which had at that moment been left at the door. Gwendolen
took it in her hand and immediately hurried into her own room. She
looked paler and more agitated than when she had first read her mamma's
letter. Something--she never quite knew what--revealed to her before
she opened the packet that it contained the necklace she had just
parted with. Underneath the paper it was wrapped in a cambric
handkerchief, and within this was a scrap of torn-off note-paper, on
which was written with a pencil, in clear but rapid handwriting--""A
stranger who has found Miss Harleth's necklace returns it to her with
the hope that she will not again risk the loss of it.""
Gwendolen reddened with the vexation of wounded pride. A large corner
of the handkerchief seemed to have been recklessly torn off to get rid
of a mark; but she at once believed in the first image of "the
stranger" that presented itself to her mind. It was Deronda; he must
have seen her go into the shop; he must have gone in immediately after
and repurchased the necklace. He had taken an unpardonable liberty, and
had dared to place her in a thoroughly hateful position. What could she
do?--Not, assuredly, act on her conviction that it was he who had sent
her the necklace and straightway send it back to him: that would be to
face the possibility that she had been mistaken; nay, even if the
"stranger" were he and no other, it would be something too gross for
her to let him know that she had divined this, and to meet him again
with that recognition in their minds. He knew very well that he was
entangling her in helpless humiliation: it was another way of smiling
at her ironically, and taking the air of a supercilious mentor.
Gwendolen felt the bitter tears of mortification rising and rolling
down her cheeks. No one had ever before dared to treat her with irony
and contempt. One thing was clear: she must carry out her resolution to
quit this place at once; it was impossible for her to reappear in the
public "salon", still less stand at the gaming-table with the risk of
seeing Deronda. Now came an importunate knock at the door: breakfast
was ready. Gwendolen with a passionate movement thrust necklace,
cambric, scrap of paper, and all into her "nécessaire", pressed her
handkerchief against her face, and after pausing a minute or two to
summon back her proud self-control, went to join her friends. Such
signs of tears and fatigue as were left seemed accordant enough with
the account she at once gave of her having sat up to do her packing,
instead of waiting for help from her friend's maid. There was much
protestation, as she had expected, against her traveling alone, but she
persisted in refusing any arrangements for companionship. She would be
put into the ladies' compartment and go right on. She could rest
exceedingly well in the train, and was afraid of nothing.
In this way it happened that Gwendolen never reappeared at the
roulette-table, but that Thursday evening left Leubronn for Brussels,
and on Saturday morning arrived at Offendene, the home to which she and
her family were soon to say a last good-bye.
"Let no flower of the spring pass by us; let us crown ourselves with
rosebuds before they be withered."--BOOK OF WISDOM.
Pity that Offendene was not the home of Miss Harleth's childhood, or
endeared to her by family memories! A human life, I think, should be
well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of
tender kinship for the face of earth, for the labors men go forth to,
for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that
early home a familiar unmistakable difference amid the future widening
of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be
inwrought with affection, and--kindly acquaintance with all neighbors,
even to the dogs and donkeys, may spread not by sentimental effort and
reflection, but as a sweet habit of the blood. At five years old,
mortals are not prepared to be citizens of the world, to be stimulated
by abstract nouns, to soar above preference into impartiality; and that
prejudice in favor of milk with which we blindly begin, is a type of
the way body and soul must get nourished at least for a time. The best
introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a
little lot of stars belonging to one's own homestead.
But this blessed persistence in which affection can take root had been
wanting in Gwendolen's life. It was only a year before her recall from
Leubronn that Offendene had been chosen as her mamma's home, simply for
its nearness to Pennicote Rectory, and that Mrs. Davilow, Gwendolen,
and her four half-sisters (the governess and the maid following in
another vehicle) had been driven along the avenue for the first time,
on a late October afternoon when the rooks were crawing loudly above
them, and the yellow elm-leaves were whirling.
The season suited the aspect of the old oblong red-brick house, rather
too anxiously ornamented with stone at every line, not excepting the
double row of narrow windows and the large square portico. The stone
encouraged a greenish lichen, the brick a powdery gray, so that though
the building was rigidly rectangular there was no harshness in the
physiognomy which it turned to the three avenues cut east, west and
south in the hundred yards' breadth of old plantation encircling the
immediate grounds. One would have liked the house to have been lifted
on a knoll, so as to look beyond its own little domain to the long
thatched roofs of the distant villages, the church towers, the
scattered homesteads, the gradual rise of surging woods, and the green
breadths of undulating park which made the beautiful face of the earth
in that part of Wessex. But though standing thus behind, a screen amid
flat pastures, it had on one side a glimpse of the wider world in the
lofty curves of the chalk downs, grand steadfast forms played over by
the changing days.
The house was but just large enough to be called a mansion, and was
moderately rented, having no manor attached to it, and being rather
difficult to let with its sombre furniture and faded upholstery. But
inside and outside it was what no beholder could suppose to be
inhabited by retired trades-people: a certainty which was worth many
conveniences to tenants who not only had the taste that shrinks from
new finery, but also were in that border-territory of rank where
annexation is a burning topic: and to take up her abode in a house
which had once sufficed for dowager countesses gave a perceptible tinge
to Mrs. Davilow's satisfaction in having an establishment of her own.
This, rather mysteriously to Gwendolen, appeared suddenly possible on
the death of her step-father, Captain Davilow, who had for the last
nine years joined his family only in a brief and fitful manner, enough
to reconcile them to his long absences; but she cared much more for the
fact than for the explanation. All her prospects had become more
agreeable in consequence. She had disliked their former way of life,
roving from one foreign watering-place or Parisian apartment to
another, always feeling new antipathies to new suites of hired
furniture, and meeting new people under conditions which made her
appear of little importance; and the variation of having passed two
years at a showy school, where, on all occasions of display, she had
been put foremost, had only deepened her sense that so exceptional a
person as herself could hardly remain in ordinary circumstances or in a
social position less than advantageous. Any fear of this latter evil
was banished now that her mamma was to have an establishment; for on
the point of birth Gwendolen was quite easy. She had no notion how her
maternal grandfather got the fortune inherited by his two daughters;
but he had been a West Indian--which seemed to exclude further
question; and she knew that her father's family was so high as to take
no notice of her mamma, who nevertheless preserved with much pride the
miniature of a Lady Molly in that connection. She would probably have
known much more about her father but for a little incident which
happened when she was twelve years old. Mrs. Davilow had brought out,
as she did only at wide intervals, various memorials of her first
husband, and while showing his miniature to Gwendolen recalled with a
fervor which seemed to count on a peculiar filial sympathy, the fact
that dear papa had died when his little daughter was in long clothes.
Gwendolen, immediately thinking of the unlovable step-father whom she
had been acquainted with the greater part of her life while her frocks
were short, said--
"Why did you marry again, mamma? It would have been nicer if you had
Mrs. Davilow colored deeply, a slight convulsive movement passed over
her face, and straightway shutting up the memorials she said, with a
violence quite unusual in her--
"You have no feeling, child!"
Gwendolen, who was fond of her mamma, felt hurt and ashamed, and had
never since dared to ask a question about her father.
This was not the only instance in which she had brought on herself the
pain of some filial compunction. It was always arranged, when possible,
that she should have a small bed in her mamma's room; for Mrs.
Davilow's motherly tenderness clung chiefly to her eldest girl, who had
been born in her happier time. One night under an attack of pain she
found that the specific regularly placed by her bedside had been
forgotten, and begged Gwendolen to get out of bed and reach it for her.
That healthy young lady, snug and warm as a rosy infant in her little
couch, objected to step out into the cold, and lying perfectly still,
grumbling a refusal. Mrs. Davilow went without the medicine and never
reproached her daughter; but the next day Gwendolen was keenly
conscious of what must be in her mamma's mind, and tried to make amends
by caresses which cost her no effort. Having always been the pet and
pride of the household, waited on by mother, sisters, governess and
maids, as if she had been a princess in exile, she naturally found it
difficult to think her own pleasure less important than others made it,
and when it was positively thwarted felt an astonished resentment apt,
in her cruder days, to vent itself in one of those passionate acts
which look like a contradiction of habitual tendencies. Though never
even as a child thoughtlessly cruel, nay delighting to rescue drowning
insects and watch their recovery, there was a disagreeable silent
remembrance of her having strangled her sister's canary-bird in a final
fit of exasperation at its shrill singing which had again and again
jarringly interrupted her own. She had taken pains to buy a white mouse
for her sister in retribution, and though inwardly excusing herself on
the ground of a peculiar sensitiveness which was a mark of her general
superiority, the thought of that infelonious murder had always made her
wince. Gwendolen's nature was not remorseless, but she liked to make
her penances easy, and now that she was twenty and more, some of her
native force had turned into a self-control by which she guarded
herself from penitential humiliation. There was more show of fire and
will in her than ever, but there was more calculation underneath it.
On this day of arrival at Offendene, which not even Mrs. Davilow had
seen before--the place having been taken for her by her brother-in-law,
Mr. Gascoigne--when all had got down from the carriage, and were
standing under the porch in front of the open door, so that they could
have a general view of the place and a glimpse of the stone hall and
staircase hung with sombre pictures, but enlivened by a bright wood
fire, no one spoke; mamma, the four sisters and the governess all
looked at Gwendolen, as if their feelings depended entirely on her
decision. Of the girls, from Alice in her sixteenth year to Isabel in
her tenth, hardly anything could be said on a first view, but that they
were girlish, and that their black dresses were getting shabby. Miss
Merry was elderly and altogether neutral in expression. Mrs. Davilow's
worn beauty seemed the more pathetic for the look of entire appeal
which she cast at Gwendolen, who was glancing round at the house, the
landscape and the entrance hall with an air of rapid judgment. Imagine
a young race-horse in the paddock among untrimmed ponies and patient
"Well, dear, what do you think of the place," said Mrs. Davilow at
last, in a gentle, deprecatory tone.
"I think it is charming," said Gwendolen, quickly. "A romantic place;
anything delightful may happen in it; it would be a good background for
anything. No one need be ashamed of living here."
"There is certainly nothing common about it."
"Oh, it would do for fallen royalty or any sort of grand poverty. We
ought properly to have been living in splendor, and have come down to
this. It would have been as romantic as could be. But I thought my
uncle and aunt Gascoigne would be here to meet us, and my cousin Anna,"
added Gwendolen, her tone changed to sharp surprise.
"We are early," said Mrs. Davilow, and entering the hall, she said to
the housekeeper who came forward, "You expect Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne?"
"Yes, madam; they were here yesterday to give particular orders about
the fires and the dinner. But as to fires, I've had 'em in all the
rooms for the last week, and everything is well aired. I could wish
some of the furniture paid better for all the cleaning it's had, but I
"think" you'll see the brasses have been done justice to. I "think"
when Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne come, they'll tell you nothing has been
neglected. They'll be here at five, for certain."
This satisfied Gwendolen, who was not prepared to have their arrival
treated with indifference; and after tripping a little way up the
matted stone staircase to take a survey there, she tripped down again,
and followed by all the girls looked into each of the rooms opening
from the hall--the dining-room all dark oak and worn red satin damask,
with a copy of snarling, worrying dogs from Snyders over the
side-board, and a Christ breaking bread over the mantel-piece; the
library with a general aspect and smell of old brown-leather; and
lastly, the drawing-room, which was entered through a small antechamber
crowded with venerable knick-knacks.
"Mamma, mamma, pray come here!" said Gwendolen, Mrs. Davilow having
followed slowly in talk with the housekeeper. "Here is an organ. I will
be Saint Cecilia: some one shall paint me as Saint Cecilia. Jocosa
(this was her name for Miss Merry), let down my hair. See, mamma?"
She had thrown off her hat and gloves, and seated herself before the
organ in an admirable pose, looking upward; while the submissive and
sad Jocosa took out the one comb which fastened the coil of hair, and
then shook out the mass till it fell in a smooth light-brown stream far
below its owner's slim waist.
Mrs. Davilow smiled and said, "A charming picture, my dear!" not
indifferent to the display of her pet, even in the presence of a
housekeeper. Gwendolen rose and laughed with delight. All this seemed
quite to the purpose on entering a new house which was so excellent a
"What a queer, quaint, picturesque room!" she went on, looking about
her. "I like these old embroidered chairs, and the garlands on the
wainscot, and the pictures that may be anything. That one with the
ribs--nothing but ribs and darkness--I should think that is Spanish,
"Oh, Gwendolen!" said the small Isabel, in a tone of astonishment,
while she held open a hinged panel of the wainscot at the other end of
Every one, Gwendolen first, went to look. The opened panel had
disclosed the picture of an upturned dead face, from which an obscure
figure seemed to be fleeing with outstretched arms. "How horrible!"
said Mrs. Davilow, with a look of mere disgust; but Gwendolen shuddered
silently, and Isabel, a plain and altogether inconvenient child with an
alarming memory, said--
"You will never stay in this room by yourself, Gwendolen."
"How dare you open things which were meant to be shut up, you perverse
little creature?" said Gwendolen, in her angriest tone. Then snatching
the panel out of the hand of the culprit, she closed it hastily,
saying, "There is a lock--where is the key? Let the key be found, or
else let one be made, and let nobody open it again; or rather, let the
key be brought to me."
At this command to everybody in general Gwendolen turned with a face
which was flushed in reaction from her chill shudder, and said, "Let us
go up to our own room, mamma."
The housekeeper on searching found the key in the drawer of the cabinet
close by the panel, and presently handed it to Bugle, the lady's-maid,
telling her significantly to give it to her Royal Highness.
"I don't know what you mean, Mrs. Startin," said Bugle, who had been
busy up-stairs during the scene in the drawing-room, and was rather
offended at this irony in a new servant.
"I mean the young lady that's to command us all-and well worthy for
looks and figure," replied Mrs. Startin in propitiation. "She'll know
what key it is."
"If you have laid out what we want, go and see to the others, Bugle,"
Gwendolen had said, when she and Mrs. Davilow entered their black and
yellow bedroom, where a pretty little white couch was prepared by the
side of the black and yellow catafalque known as the best bed. "I will
But her first movement was to go to the tall mirror between the
windows, which reflected herself and the room completely, while her
mamma sat down and also looked at the reflection.
"That is a becoming glass, Gwendolen; or is it the black and gold color
that sets you off?" said Mrs. Davilow, as Gwendolen stood obliquely
with her three-quarter face turned toward the mirror, and her left hand
brushing back the stream of hair.
"I should make a tolerable St. Cecilia with some white roses on my
head," said Gwendolen,--"only how about my nose, mamma? I think saint's
noses never in the least turn up. I wish you had given me your
perfectly straight nose; it would have done for any sort of
character--a nose of all work. Mine is only a happy nose; it would not
do so well for tragedy."
"Oh, my dear, any nose will do to be miserable with in this world,"
said Mrs. Davilow, with a deep, weary sigh, throwing her black bonnet
on the table, and resting her elbow near it.
"Now, mamma," said Gwendolen, in a strongly remonstrant tone, turning
away from the glass with an air of vexation, "don't begin to be dull
here. It spoils all my pleasure, and everything may be so happy now.
What have you to be gloomy about "now"?"
"Nothing, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, seeming to rouse herself, and
beginning to take off her dress. "It is always enough for me to see you
"But you should be happy yourself," said Gwendolen, still
discontentedly, though going to help her mamma with caressing touches.
"Can nobody be happy after they are quite young? You have made me feel
sometimes as if nothing were of any use. With the girls so troublesome,
and Jocosa so dreadfully wooden and ugly, and everything make-shift
about us, and you looking so dull--what was the use of my being
anything? But now you "might" be happy."
"So I shall, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, patting the cheek that was
bending near her.
"Yes, but really. Not with a sort of make-believe," said Gwendolen,
with resolute perseverance. "See what a hand and arm!--much more
beautiful than mine. Any one can see you were altogether more
"No, no, dear; I was always heavier. Never half so charming as you are."
"Well, but what is the use of my being charming, if it is to end in my
being dull and not minding anything? Is that what marriage always comes
"No, child, certainly not. Marriage is the only happy state for a
woman, as I trust you will prove."
"I will not put up with it if it is not a happy state. I am determined
to be happy--at least not to go on muddling away my life as other
people do, being and doing nothing remarkable. I have made up my mind
not to let other people interfere with me as they have done. Here is
some warm water ready for you, mamma," Gwendolen ended, proceeding to
take off her own dress and then waiting to have her hair wound up by
There was silence for a minute or two, till Mrs. Davilow said, while
coiling the daughter's hair, "I am sure I have never crossed you,
"You often want me to do what I don't like."
"You mean, to give Alice lessons?"
"Yes. And I have done it because you asked me. But I don't see why I
should, else. It bores me to death, she is so slow. She has no ear for
music, or language, or anything else. It would be much better for her
to be ignorant, mamma: it is her "rôle", she would do it well."
"That is a hard thing to say of your poor sister, Gwendolen, who is so
good to you, and waits on you hand and foot."
"I don't see why it is hard to call things by their right names, and
put them in their proper places. The hardship is for me to have to
waste my time on her. Now let me fasten up your hair, mamma."
"We must make haste; your uncle and aunt will be here soon. For
heaven's sake, don't be scornful to "them", my dear child! or to your
cousin Anna, whom you will always be going out with. Do promise me,
Gwendolen. You know, you can't expect Anna to be equal to you."
"I don't want her to be equal," said Gwendolen, with a toss of her head
and a smile, and the discussion ended there.
When Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne and their daughter came, Gwendolen, far
from being scornful, behaved as prettily as possible to them. She was
introducing herself anew to relatives who had not seen her since the
comparatively unfinished age of sixteen, and she was anxious--no, not
anxious, but resolved that they should admire her.
Mrs. Gascoigne bore a family likeness to her sister. But she was darker
and slighter, her face was unworn by grief, her movements were less
languid, her expression more alert and critical as that of a rector's
wife bound to exert a beneficent authority. Their closest resemblance
lay in a non-resistant disposition, inclined to imitation and
obedience; but this, owing to the difference in their circumstances,
had led them to very different issues. The younger sister had been
indiscreet, or at least unfortunate in her marriages; the elder
believed herself the most enviable of wives, and her pliancy had ended
in her sometimes taking shapes of surprising definiteness. Many of her
opinions, such as those on church government and the character of
Archbishop Laud, seemed too decided under every alteration to have been
arrived at otherwise than by a wifely receptiveness. And there was much
to encourage trust in her husband's authority. He had some agreeable
virtues, some striking advantages, and the failings that were imputed
to him all leaned toward the side of success.
One of his advantages was a fine person, which perhaps was even more
impressive at fifty-seven than it had been earlier in life. There were
no distinctively clerical lines in the face, no tricks of starchiness
or of affected ease: in his Inverness cape he could not have been
identified except as a gentleman with handsome dark features, a nose
which began with an intention to be aquiline but suddenly became
straight, and iron-gray, hair. Perhaps he owed this freedom from the
sort of professional make-up which penetrates skin, tones and gestures
and defies all drapery, to the fact that he had once been Captain
Gaskin, having taken orders and a diphthong but shortly before his
engagement to Miss Armyn. If any one had objected that his preparation
for the clerical function was inadequate, his friends might have asked
who made a better figure in it, who preached better or had more
authority in his parish? He had a native gift for administration, being
tolerant both of opinions and conduct, because he felt himself able to
overrule them, and was free from the irritations of conscious
feebleness. He smiled pleasantly at the foible of a taste which he did
not share--at floriculture or antiquarianism for example, which were
much in vogue among his fellow-clergyman in the diocese: for himself,
he preferred following the history of a campaign, or divining from his
knowledge of Nesselrode's motives what would have been his conduct if
our cabinet had taken a different course. Mr. Gascoigne's tone of
thinking after some long-quieted fluctuations had become ecclesiastical
rather than theological; not the modern Anglican, but what he would
have called sound English, free from nonsense; such as became a man who
looked at a national religion by daylight, and saw it in its relation
to other things. No clerical magistrate had greater weight at sessions,
or less of mischievous impracticableness in relation to worldly
affairs. Indeed, the worst imputation thrown out against him was
worldliness: it could not be proved that he forsook the less fortunate,
but it was not to be denied that the friendships he cultivated were of
a kind likely to be useful to the father of six sons and two daughters;
and bitter observers--for in Wessex, say ten years ago, there were
persons whose bitterness may now seem incredible--remarked that the
color of his opinions had changed in consistency with this principle of
action. But cheerful, successful worldliness has a false air of being
more selfish than the acrid, unsuccessful kind, whose secret history is
summed up in the terrible words, "Sold, but not paid for."
Gwendolen wondered that she had not better remembered how very fine a
man her uncle was; but at the age of sixteen she was a less capable and
more indifferent judge. At present it was a matter of extreme interest
to her that she was to have the near countenance of a dignified male
relative, and that the family life would cease to be entirely,
insipidly feminine. She did not intend that her uncle should control
her, but she saw at once that it would be altogether agreeable to her
that he should be proud of introducing her as his niece. And there was
every sign of his being likely to feel that pride. He certainly looked
at her with admiration as he said--
"You have outgrown Anna, my dear," putting his arm tenderly round his
daughter, whose shy face was a tiny copy of his own, and drawing her
forward. "She is not so old as you by a year, but her growing days are
certainly over. I hope you will be excellent companions."
He did give a comparing glance at his daughter, but if he saw her
inferiority, he might also see that Anna's timid appearance and
miniature figure must appeal to a different taste from that which was
attracted by Gwendolen, and that the girls could hardly be rivals.
Gwendolen at least, was aware of this, and kissed her cousin with real
cordiality as well as grace, saying, "A companion is just what I want.
I am so glad we are come to live here. And mamma will be much happier
now she is near you, aunt."
The aunt trusted indeed that it would be so, and felt it a blessing
that a suitable home had been vacant in their uncle's parish. Then, of
course, notice had to be taken of the four other girls, whom Gwendolen
had always felt to be superfluous: all of a girlish average that made
four units utterly unimportant, and yet from her earliest days an
obtrusive influential fact in her life. She was conscious of having
been much kinder to them than could have been expected. And it was
evident to her that her uncle and aunt also felt it a pity there were
so many girls:--what rational person could feel otherwise, except poor
mamma, who never would see how Alice set up her shoulders and lifted
her eyebrows till she had no forehead left, how Bertha and Fanny
whispered and tittered together about everything, or how Isabel was
always listening and staring and forgetting where she was, and treading
on the toes of her suffering elders?
"You have brothers, Anna," said Gwendolen, while the sisters were being
noticed. "I think you are enviable there."
"Yes," said Anna, simply. "I am very fond of them; but of course their
education is a great anxiety to papa. He used to say they made me a
tomboy. I really was a great romp with Rex. I think you will like Rex.
He will come home before Christmas."
"I remember I used to think you rather wild and shy; but it is
difficult now to imagine you a romp," said Gwendolen, smiling.
"Of course, I am altered now; I am come out, and all that. But in
reality I like to go blackberrying with Edwy and Lotta as well as ever.
I am not very fond of going out; but I dare say I shall like it better
now you will be often with me. I am not at all clever, and I never know
what to say. It seems so useless to say what everybody knows, and I can
think of nothing else, except what papa says."
"I shall like going out with you very much," said Gwendolen, well
disposed toward this "naïve" cousin. "Are you fond of riding?"
"Yes, but we have only one Shetland pony amongst us. Papa says he can't
afford more, besides the carriage-horses and his own nag; he has so
"I intend to have a horse and ride a great deal now," said Gwendolen,
in a tone of decision. "Is the society pleasant in this neighborhood?"
"Papa says it is, very. There are the clergymen all about, you know;
and the Quallons, and the Arrowpoints, and Lord Brackenshaw, and Sir
Hugo Mallinger's place, where there is nobody--that's very nice,
because we make picnics there--and two or three families at Wanchester:
oh, and old Mrs. Vulcany, at Nuttingwood, and--"
But Anna was relieved of this tax on her descriptive powers by the
announcement of dinner, and Gwendolen's question was soon indirectly
answered by her uncle, who dwelt much on the advantages he had secured
for them in getting a place like Offendene. Except the rent, it
involved no more expense than an ordinary house at Wanchester would
"And it is always worth while to make a little sacrifice for a good
style of house," said Mr. Gascoigne, in his easy, pleasantly confident
tone, which made the world in general seem a very manageable place of
residence: "especially where there is only a lady at the head. All the
best people will call upon you; and you need give no expensive dinners.
Of course, I have to spend a good deal in that way; it is a large item.
But then I get my house for nothing. If I had to pay three hundred a
year for my house I could not keep a table. My boys are too great a
drain on me. You are better off than we are, in proportion; there is no
great drain on you now, after your house and carriage."
"I assure you, Fanny, now that the children are growing up, I am
obliged to cut and contrive," said Mrs. Gascoigne. "I am not a good
manager by nature, but Henry has taught me. He is wonderful for making
the best of everything; he allows himself no extras, and gets his
curates for nothing. It is rather hard that he has not been made a
prebendary or something, as others have been, considering the friends
he has made and the need there is for men of moderate opinions in all
respects. If the Church is to keep its position, ability and character
ought to tell."
"Oh, my dear Nancy, you forget the old story--thank Heaven, there are
three hundred as good as I. And ultimately, we shall have no reason to
complain, I am pretty sure. There could hardly be a more thorough
friend than Lord Brackenshaw--your landlord, you know, Fanny. Lady
Brackenshaw will call upon you. And I have spoken for Gwendolen to be a
member of our Archery Club--the Brackenshaw Archery Club--the most
select thing anywhere. That is, if she has no objection," added Mr.
Gascoigne, looking at Gwendolen with pleasant irony.
"I should like it of all things," said Gwendolen. "There is nothing I
enjoy more than taking aim--and hitting," she ended, with a pretty nod
"Our Anna, poor child, is too short-sighed for archery. But I consider
myself a first-rate shot, and you shall practice with me. I must make
you an accomplished archer before our great meeting in July. In fact,
as to neighborhood, you could hardly be better placed. There are the
Arrowpoints--they are some of our best people. Miss Arrowpoint is a
delightful girl--she has been presented at Court. They have a
magnificent place--Quetcham Hall--worth seeing in point of art; and
their parties, to which you are sure to be invited, are the best things
of the sort we have. The archdeacon is intimate there, and they have
always a good kind of people staying in the house. Mrs. Arrowpoint is
peculiar, certainly; something of a caricature, in fact; but
well-meaning. And Miss Arrowpoint is as nice as possible. It is not all
young ladies who have mothers as handsome and graceful as yours and
Mrs. Davilow smiled faintly at this little compliment, but the husband
and wife looked affectionately at each other, and Gwendolen thought,
"My uncle and aunt, at least, are happy: they are not dull and dismal."
Altogether, she felt satisfied with her prospects at Offendene, as a
great improvement on anything she had known. Even the cheap curates,
she incidentally learned, were almost always young men of family, and
Mr. Middleton, the actual curate, was said to be quite an acquisition:
it was only a pity he was so soon to leave.
But there was one point which she was so anxious to gain that she could
not allow the evening to pass without taking her measures toward
securing it. Her mamma, she knew, intended to submit entirely to her
uncle's judgment with regard to expenditure; and the submission was not
merely prudential, for Mrs. Davilow, conscious that she had always been
seen under a cloud as poor dear Fanny, who had made a sad blunder with
her second marriage, felt a hearty satisfaction in being frankly and
cordially identified with her sister's family, and in having her
affairs canvassed and managed with an authority which presupposed a
genuine interest. Thus the question of a suitable saddle-horse, which
had been sufficiently discussed with mamma, had to be referred to Mr.
Gascoigne; and after Gwendolen had played on the piano, which had been
provided from Wanchester, had sung to her hearers' admiration, and had
induced her uncle to join her in a duet--what more softening influence
than this on any uncle who would have sung finely if his time had not
been too much taken up by graver matters?--she seized the opportune
moment for saying, "Mamma, you have not spoken to my uncle about my
"Gwendolen desires above all things to have a horse to ride--a pretty,
light, lady's horse," said Mrs. Davilow, looking at Mr. Gascoigne. "Do
you think we can manage it?"
Mr. Gascoigne projected his lower lip and lifted his handsome eyebrows
sarcastically at Gwendolen, who had seated herself with much grace on
the elbow of her mamma's chair.
"We could lend her the pony sometimes," said Mrs. Gascoigne, watching
her husband's face, and feeling quite ready to disapprove if he did.
"That might be inconveniencing others, aunt, and would be no pleasure
to me. I cannot endure ponies," said Gwendolen. "I would rather give up
some other indulgence and have a horse." (Was there ever a young lady
or gentleman not ready to give up an unspecified indulgence for the
sake of the favorite one specified?)
"She rides so well. She has had lessons, and the riding-master said she
had so good a seat and hand she might be trusted with any mount," said
Mrs. Davilow, who, even if she had not wished her darling to have the
horse, would not have dared to be lukewarm in trying to get it for her.
"There is the price of the horse--a good sixty with the best chance,
and then his keep," said Mr. Gascoigne, in a tone which, though
demurring, betrayed the inward presence of something that favored the
demand. "There are the carriage-horses--already a heavy item. And
remember what you ladies cost in toilet now."
"I really wear nothing but two black dresses," said Mrs. Davilow,
hastily. "And the younger girls, of course, require no toilet at
present. Besides, Gwendolen will save me so much by giving her sisters
lessons." Here Mrs. Davilow's delicate cheek showed a rapid blush. "If
it were not for that, I must really have a more expensive governess,
and masters besides."
Gwendolen felt some anger with her mamma, but carefully concealed it.
"That is good--that is decidedly good," said Mr. Gascoigne, heartily,
looking at his wife. And Gwendolen, who, it must be owned, was a deep
young lady, suddenly moved away to the other end of the long
drawing-room, and busied herself with arranging pieces of music.
"The dear child has had no indulgences, no pleasures," said Mrs.
Davilow, in a pleading undertone. "I feel the expense is rather
imprudent in this first year of our settling. But she really needs the
exercise--she needs cheering. And if you were to see her on horseback,
it is something splendid."
"It is what we could not afford for Anna," said Mrs. Gascoigne. "But
she, dear child, would ride Lotta's donkey and think it good enough."
(Anna was absorbed in a game with Isabel, who had hunted out an old
back-gammon-board, and had begged to sit up an extra hour.)
"Certainly, a fine woman never looks better than on horseback," said
Mr. Gascoigne. "And Gwendolen has the figure for it. I don't say the
thing should not be considered."
"We might try it for a time, at all events. It can be given up, if
necessary," said Mrs. Davilow.
"Well, I will consult Lord Brackenshaw's head groom. He is my "fidus
Achates" in the horsey way."
"Thanks," said Mrs. Davilow, much relieved. "You are very kind."
"That he always is," said Mrs. Gascoigne. And later that night, when
she and her husband were in private, she said--
"I thought you were almost too indulgent about the horse for Gwendolen.
She ought not to claim so much more than your own daughter would think
of. Especially before we see how Fanny manages on her income. And you
really have enough to do without taking all this trouble on yourself."
"My dear Nancy, one must look at things from every point of view. This
girl is really worth some expense: you don't often see her equal. She
ought to make a first-rate marriage, and I should not be doing my duty
if I spared my trouble in helping her forward. You know yourself she
has been under a disadvantage with such a father-in-law, and a second
family, keeping her always in the shade. I feel for the girl, And I
should like your sister and her family now to have the benefit of your
having married rather a better specimen of our kind than she did."
"Rather better! I should think so. However, it is for me to be grateful
that you will take so much on your shoulders for the sake of my sister
and her children. I am sure I would not grudge anything to poor Fanny.
But there is one thing I have been thinking of, though you have never
"What is that?"
"The boys. I hope they will not be falling in love with Gwendolen."
"Don't presuppose anything of the kind, my dear, and there will be no
danger. Rex will never be at home for long together, and Warham is
going to India. It is the wiser plan to take it for granted that
cousins will not fall in love. If you begin with precautions, the
affair will come in spite of them. One must not undertake to act for
Providence in these matters, which can no more be held under the hand
than a brood of chickens. The boys will have nothing, and Gwendolen
will have nothing. They can't marry. At the worst there would only be a
little crying, and you can't save boys and girls from that."
Mrs. Gascoigne's mind was satisfied: if anything did happen, there was
the comfort of feeling that her husband would know what was to be done,
and would have the energy to do it.
""Gorgibus."-- * * * Je te dis que le mariage est une chose sainte
et sacrée: et que c'est faire en honnêtes gens, que de débuter par là.
""Madelon."--Mon Dieu! que si tout le monde vous ressemblait, un
roman serait bientôt fini! La belle chose que ce serait, si d'abord
Cyrus épousait Mandane, et qu'Aronce de plain-pied fût marié à Clélie!
* * * Laissez-nous faire à loisir le tissu de notre roman, et n'en
pressez pas tant la conclusion."
MOLIÈRE. "Les Précieuses Ridicules."
It would be a little hard to blame the rector of Pennicote that in the
course of looking at things from every point of view, he looked at
Gwendolen as a girl likely to make a brilliant marriage. Why should he
be expected to differ from his contemporaries in this matter, and wish
his niece a worse end of her charming maidenhood than they would
approve as the best possible? It is rather to be set down to his credit
that his feelings on the subject were entirely good-natured. And in
considering the relation of means to ends, it would have been mere
folly to have been guided by the exceptional and idyllic--to have
recommended that Gwendolen should wear a gown as shabby as Griselda's
in order that a marquis might fall in love with her, or to have
insisted that since a fair maiden was to be sought, she should keep
herself out of the way. Mr. Gascoigne's calculations were of the kind
called rational, and he did not even think of getting a too frisky
horse in order that Gwendolen might be threatened with an accident and
be rescued by a man of property. He wished his niece well, and he meant
her to be seen to advantage in the best society of the neighborhood.
Her uncle's intention fell in perfectly with Gwendolen's own wishes.
But let no one suppose that she also contemplated a brilliant marriage
as the direct end of her witching the world with her grace on
horseback, or with any other accomplishment. That she was to be married
some time or other she would have felt obliged to admit; and that her
marriage would not be of a middling kind, such as most girls were
contented with, she felt quietly, unargumentatively sure. But her
thoughts never dwelt on marriage as the fulfillment of her ambition;
the dramas in which she imagined herself a heroine were not wrought up
to that close. To be very much sued or hopelessly sighed for as a bride
was indeed an indispensable and agreeable guarantee of womanly power;
but to become a wife and wear all the domestic fetters of that
condition, was on the whole a vexatious necessity. Her observation of
matrimony had inclined her to think it rather a dreary state in which a
woman could not do what she liked, had more children than were
desirable, was consequently dull, and became irrevocably immersed in
humdrum. Of course marriage was social promotion; she could not look
forward to a single life; but promotions have sometimes to be taken
with bitter herbs--a peerage will not quite do instead of leadership to
the man who meant to lead; and this delicate-limbed sylph of twenty
meant to lead. For such passions dwell in feminine breasts also. In
Gwendolen's, however, they dwelt among strictly feminine furniture, and
had no disturbing reference to the advancement of learning or the
balance of the constitution; her knowledge being such as with no sort
of standing-room or length of lever could have been expected to move
the world. She meant to do what was pleasant to herself in a striking
manner; or rather, whatever she could do so as to strike others with
admiration and get in that reflected way a more ardent sense of living,
seemed pleasant to her fancy.
"Gwendolen will not rest without having the world at her feet," said
Miss Merry, the meek governess: hyperbolical words which have long come
to carry the most moderate meanings; for who has not heard of private
persons having the world at their feet in the shape of some half-dozen
items of flattering regard generally known in a genteel suburb? And
words could hardly be too wide or vague to indicate the prospect that
made a hazy largeness about poor Gwendolen on the heights of her young
self-exultation. Other people allowed themselves to be made slaves of,
and to have their lives blown hither and thither like empty ships in
which no will was present. It was not to be so with her; she would no
longer be sacrificed to creatures worth less than herself, but would
make the very best of the chances that life offered her, and conquer
circumstances by her exceptional cleverness. Certainly, to be settled
at Offendene, with the notice of Lady Brackenshaw, the archery club,
and invitations to dine with the Arrowpoints, as the highest lights in
her scenery, was not a position that seemed to offer remarkable
chances; but Gwendolen's confidence lay chiefly in herself. She felt
well equipped for the mastery of life. With regard to much in her lot
hitherto, she held herself rather hardly dealt with, but as to her
"education," she would have admitted that it had left her under no
disadvantages. In the school-room her quick mind had taken readily that
strong starch of unexplained rules and disconnected facts which saves
ignorance from any painful sense of limpness; and what remained of all
things knowable, she was conscious of being sufficiently acquainted
with through novels, plays and poems. About her French and music, the
two justifying accomplishments of a young lady, she felt no ground for
uneasiness; and when to all these qualifications, negative and
positive, we add the spontaneous sense of capability some happy persons
are born with, so that any subject they turn their attention to
impresses them with their own power of forming a correct judgment on
it, who can wonder if Gwendolen felt ready to manage her own destiny?
There were many subjects in the world--perhaps the majority--in which
she felt no interest, because they were stupid; for subjects are apt to
appear stupid to the young as light seems dull to the old; but she
would not have felt at all helpless in relation to them if they had
turned up in conversation. It must be remembered that no one had
disputed her power or her general superiority. As on the arrival at
Offendene, so always, the first thought of those about her had been,
what will Gwendolen think?--if the footman trod heavily in creaking
boots, or if the laundress's work was unsatisfactory, the maid said,
"This will never do for Miss Harleth"; if the wood smoked in the
bedroom fireplace, Mrs. Davilow, whose own weak eyes suffered much from
this inconvenience, spoke apologetically of it to Gwendolen. If, when
they were under the stress of traveling, she did not appear at the
breakfast table till every one else had finished, the only question
was, how Gwendolen's coffee and toast should still be of the hottest
and crispest; and when she appeared with her freshly-brushed
light-brown hair streaming backward and awaiting her mamma's hand to
coil it up, her large brown eyes glancing bright as a wave-washed onyx
from under their long lashes, it was always she herself who had to be
tolerant--to beg that Alice who sat waiting on her would not stick up
her shoulders in that frightful manner, and that Isabel, instead of
pushing up to her and asking questions, would go away to Miss Merry.
Always she was the princess in exile, who in time of famine was to have
her breakfast-roll made of the finest-bolted flour from the seven thin
ears of wheat, and in a general decampment was to have her silver fork
kept out of the baggage. How was this to be accounted for? The answer
may seem to lie quite on the surface:--in her beauty, a certain
unusualness about her, a decision of will which made itself felt in her
graceful movements and clear unhesitating tones, so that if she came
into the room on a rainy day when everybody else was flaccid and the
use of things in general was not apparent to them, there seemed to be a
sudden, sufficient reason for keeping up the forms of life; and even
the waiters at hotels showed the more alacrity in doing away with
crumbs and creases and dregs with struggling flies in them. This potent
charm, added to the fact that she was the eldest daughter, toward whom
her mamma had always been in an apologetic state of mind for the evils
brought on her by a step-father, may seem so full a reason for
Gwendolen's domestic empire, that to look for any other would be to ask
the reason of daylight when the sun is shining. But beware of arriving
at conclusions without comparison. I remember having seen the same
assiduous, apologetic attention awarded to persons who were not at all
beautiful or unusual, whose firmness showed itself in no very graceful
or euphonious way, and who were not eldest daughters with a tender,
timid mother, compunctious at having subjected them to inconveniences.
Some of them were a very common sort of men. And the only point of
resemblance among them all was a strong determination to have what was
pleasant, with a total fearlessness in making themselves disagreeable
or dangerous when they did not get it. Who is so much cajoled and
served with trembling by the weak females of a household as the
unscrupulous male--capable, if he has not free way at home, of going
and doing worse elsewhere? Hence I am forced to doubt whether even
without her potent charm and peculiar filial position Gwendolen might
not still have played the queen in exile, if only she had kept her
inborn energy of egoistic desire, and her power of inspiring fear as to
what she might say or do. However, she had the charm, and those who
feared her were also fond of her; the fear and the fondness being
perhaps both heightened by what may be called the iridescence of her
character--the play of various, nay, contrary tendencies. For Macbeth's
rhetoric about the impossibility of being many opposite things in the
same moment, referred to the clumsy necessities of action and not to
the subtler possibilities of feeling. We cannot speak a loyal word and
be meanly silent; we cannot kill and not kill in the same moment; but a
moment is wide enough for the loyal and mean desire, for the outlash of
a murderous thought and the sharp backward stroke of repentance.
Values itself so highly, that to her
All matter else seems weak."
--"Much Ado About Nothing."
Gwendolen's reception in the neighborhood fulfilled her uncle's
expectations. From Brackenshaw Castle to the Firs at Wanchester, where
Mr. Quallon the banker kept a generous house, she was welcomed with
manifest admiration, and even those ladies who did not quite like her,
felt a comfort in having a new, striking girl to invite; for hostesses
who entertain much must make up their parties as ministers make up
their cabinets, on grounds other than personal liking. Then, in order
to have Gwendolen as a guest, it was not necessary to ask any one who
was disagreeable, for Mrs. Davilow always made a quiet, picturesque
figure as a chaperon, and Mr. Gascoigne was everywhere in request for
his own sake.
Among the houses where Gwendolen was not quite liked, and yet invited,
was Quetcham Hall. One of her first invitations was to a large
dinner-party there, which made a sort of general introduction for her
to the society of the neighborhood; for in a select party of thirty and
of well-composed proportions as to age, few visitable families could be
entirely left out. No youthful figure there was comparable to
Gwendolen's as she passed through the long suite of rooms adorned with
light and flowers, and, visible at first as a slim figure floating
along in white drapery, approached through one wide doorway after
another into fuller illumination and definiteness. She had never had
that sort of promenade before, and she felt exultingly that it befitted
her: any one looking at her for the first time might have supposed that
long galleries and lackeys had always been a matter of course in her
life; while her cousin Anna, who was really more familiar with these
things, felt almost as much embarrassed as a rabbit suddenly deposited
in that well-lit-space.
"Who is that with Gascoigne?" said the archdeacon, neglecting a
discussion of military manoeuvres on which, as a clergyman, he was
naturally appealed to. And his son, on the other side of the room--a
hopeful young scholar, who had already suggested some "not less elegant
than ingenious," emendations of Greek texts--said nearly at the same
time, "By George! who is that girl with the awfully well-set head and
But to a mind of general benevolence, wishing everybody to look well,
it was rather exasperating to see how Gwendolen eclipsed others: how
even the handsome Miss Lawe, explained to be the daughter of Lady Lawe,
looked suddenly broad, heavy and inanimate; and how Miss Arrowpoint,
unfortunately also dressed in white, immediately resembled a
"carte-de-visite" in which one would fancy the skirt alone to have been
charged for. Since Miss Arrowpoint was generally liked for the amiable
unpretending way in which she wore her fortunes, and made a softening
screen for the oddities of her mother, there seemed to be some
unfitness in Gwendolen's looking so much more like a person of social
"She is not really so handsome if you come to examine her features,"
said Mrs. Arrowpoint, later in the evening, confidentially to Mrs.
Vulcany. "It is a certain style she has, which produces a great effect
at first, but afterward she is less agreeable."
In fact, Gwendolen, not intending it, but intending the contrary, had
offended her hostess, who, though not a splenetic or vindictive woman,
had her susceptibilities. Several conditions had met in the Lady of
Quetcham which to the reasoners in that neighborhood seemed to have an
essential connection with each other. It was occasionally recalled that
she had been the heiress of a fortune gained by some moist or dry
business in the city, in order fully to account for her having a squat
figure, a harsh parrot-like voice, and a systematically high
head-dress; and since these points made her externally rather
ridiculous, it appeared to many only natural that she should have what
are called literary tendencies. A little comparison would have shown
that all these points are to be found apart; daughters of aldermen
being often well-grown and well-featured, pretty women having sometimes
harsh or husky voices, and the production of feeble literature being
found compatible with the most diverse forms of "physique", masculine
as well as feminine.
Gwendolen, who had a keen sense of absurdity in others, but was kindly
disposed toward any one who could make life agreeable to her, meant to
win Mrs. Arrowpoint by giving her an interest and attention beyond what
others were probably inclined to show. But self-confidence is apt to
address itself to an imaginary dullness in others; as people who are
well off speak in a cajoling tone to the poor, and those who are in the
prime of life raise their voice and talk artificially to seniors,
hastily conceiving them to be deaf and rather imbecile. Gwendolen, with
all her cleverness and purpose to be agreeable, could not escape that
form of stupidity: it followed in her mind, unreflectingly, that
because Mrs. Arrowpoint was ridiculous she was also likely to be
wanting in penetration, and she went through her little scenes without
suspicion that the various shades of her behavior were all noted.
"You are fond of books as well as of music, riding, and archery, I
hear," Mrs. Arrowpoint said, going to her for a "tete-à-tete" in the
drawing-room after dinner. "Catherine will be very glad to have so
sympathetic a neighbor." This little speech might have seemed the most
graceful politeness, spoken in a low, melodious tone; but with a twang,
fatally loud, it gave Gwendolen a sense of exercising patronage when
she answered, gracefully:
"It is I who am fortunate. Miss Arrowpoint will teach me what good
music is. I shall be entirely a learner. I hear that she is a thorough
"Catherine has certainly had every advantage. We have a first-rate
musician in the house now--Herr Klesmer; perhaps you know all his
compositions. You must allow me to introduce him to you. You sing, I
believe. Catherine plays three instruments, but she does not sing. I
hope you will let us hear you. I understand you are an accomplished
"Oh, no!--'die Kraft ist schwach, allein die Lust ist gross,' as
"Ah, you are a student of Goethe. Young ladies are so advanced now. I
suppose you have read everything."
"No, really. I shall be so glad if you will tell me what to read. I
have been looking into all the books in the library at Offendene, but
there is nothing readable. The leaves all stick together and smell
musty. I wish I could write books to amuse myself, as you can! How
delightful it must be to write books after one's own taste instead of
reading other people's! Home-made books must be so nice."
For an instant Mrs. Arrowpoint's glance was a little sharper, but the
perilous resemblance to satire in the last sentence took the hue of
girlish simplicity when Gwendolen added--
"I would give anything to write a book!"
"And why should you not?" said Mrs. Arrowpoint, encouragingly. "You
have but to begin as I did. Pen, ink, and paper are at everybody's
command. But I will send you all I have written with pleasure."
"Thanks. I shall be so glad to read your writings. Being acquainted
with authors must give a peculiar understanding of their books: one
would be able to tell then which parts were funny and which serious. I
am sure I often laugh in the wrong place." Here Gwendolen herself
became aware of danger, and added quickly, "In Shakespeare, you know,
and other great writers that we can never see. But I always want to
know more than there is in the books."
"If you are interested in any of my subjects I can lend you many extra
sheets in manuscript," said Mrs. Arrowpoint--while Gwendolen felt
herself painfully in the position of the young lady who professed to
like potted sprats.
"These are things I dare say I shall publish eventually: several
friends have urged me to do so, and one doesn't like to be obstinate.
My Tasso, for example--I could have made it twice the size."
"I dote on Tasso," said Gwendolen.
"Well, you shall have all my papers, if you like. So many, you know,
have written about Tasso; but they are all wrong. As to the particular
nature of his madness, and his feelings for Leonora, and the real cause
of his imprisonment, and the character of Leonora, who, in my opinion,
was a cold-hearted woman, else she would have married him in spite of
her brother--they are all wrong. I differ from everybody."
"How very interesting!" said Gwendolen. "I like to differ from
everybody. I think it is so stupid to agree. That is the worst of
writing your opinions; and make people agree with you." This speech
renewed a slight suspicion in Mrs. Arrowpoint, and again her glance
became for a moment examining. But Gwendolen looked very innocent, and
continued with a docile air:
"I know nothing of Tasso except the "Gerusalemme Liberata", which we
read and learned by heart at school."
"Ah, his life is more interesting than his poetry, I have constructed
the early part of his life as a sort of romance. When one thinks of his
father Bernardo, and so on, there is much that must be true."
"Imagination is often truer than fact," said Gwendolen, decisively,
though she could no more have explained these glib words than if they
had been Coptic or Etruscan. "I shall be so glad to learn all about
Tasso--and his madness especially. I suppose poets are always a little
"To be sure--'the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling'; and somebody
says of Marlowe--
'For that fine madness still he did maintain,
Which always should possess the poet's brain.'"
"But it was not always found out, was it?" said Gwendolen innocently.
"I suppose some of them rolled their eyes in private. Mad people are
often very cunning."
Again a shade flitted over Mrs. Arrowpoint's face; but the entrance of
the gentlemen prevented any immediate mischief between her and this too
quick young lady, who had over-acted her "naïveté".
"Ah, here comes Herr Klesmer," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, rising; and
presently bringing him to Gwendolen, she left them to a dialogue which
was agreeable on both sides, Herr Klesmer being a felicitous
combination of the German, the Sclave and the Semite, with grand
features, brown hair floating in artistic fashion, and brown eyes in
spectacles. His English had little foreignness except its fluency; and
his alarming cleverness was made less formidable just then by a certain
softening air of silliness which will sometimes befall even genius in
the desire of being agreeable to beauty.
Music was soon begun. Miss Arrowpoint and Herr Klesmer played a
four-handed piece on two pianos, which convinced the company in general
that it was long, and Gwendolen in particular that the neutral,
placid-faced Miss Arrowpoint had a mastery of the instrument which put
her own execution out of question--though she was not discouraged as to
her often-praised touch and style. After this every one became anxious
to hear Gwendolen sing; especially Mr. Arrowpoint; as was natural in a
host and a perfect gentleman, of whom no one had anything to say but
that he married Miss Cuttler and imported the best cigars; and he led
her to the piano with easy politeness. Herr Klesmer closed the
instrument in readiness for her, and smiled with pleasure at her
approach; then placed himself at a distance of a few feet so that he
could see her as she sang.
Gwendolen was not nervous; what she undertook to do she did without
trembling, and singing was an enjoyment to her. Her voice was a
moderately powerful soprano (some one had told her it was like Jenny
Lind's), her ear good, and she was able to keep in tune, so that her
singing gave pleasure to ordinary hearers, and she had been used to
unmingled applause. She had the rare advantage of looking almost
prettier when she was singing than at other times, and that Herr
Klesmer was in front of her seemed not disagreeable. Her song,
determined on beforehand, was a favorite aria of Belini's, in which she
felt quite sure of herself.
"Charming?" said Mr. Arrowpoint, who had remained near, and the word
was echoed around without more insincerity than we recognize in a
brotherly way as human. But Herr Klesmer stood like a statue--if a
statue can be imagined in spectacles; at least, he was as mute as a
statue. Gwendolen was pressed to keep her seat and double the general
pleasure, and she did not wish to refuse; but before resolving to do
so, she moved a little toward Herr Klesmer, saying with a look of
smiling appeal, "It would be too cruel to a great musician. You cannot
like to hear poor amateur singing."
"No, truly; but that makes nothing," said Herr Klesmer, suddenly
speaking in an odious German fashion with staccato endings, quite
unobservable in him before, and apparently depending on a change of
mood, as Irishmen resume their strongest brogue when they are fervid or
quarrelsome. "That makes nothing. It is always acceptable to see you
Was there ever so unexpected an assertion of superiority? at least
before the late Teutonic conquest? Gwendolen colored deeply, but, with
her usual presence of mind, did not show an ungraceful resentment by
moving away immediately; and Miss Arrowpoint, who had been near enough
to overhear (and also to observe that Herr Klesmer's mode of looking at
Gwendolen was more conspicuously admiring than was quite consistent
with good taste), now with the utmost tact and kindness came close to
her and said--
"Imagine what I have to go through with this professor! He can hardly
tolerate anything we English do in music. We can only put up with his
severity, and make use of it to find out the worst that can be said of
us. It is a little comfort to know that; and one can bear it when every
one else is admiring."
"I should be very much obliged to him for telling me the worst," said
Gwendolen, recovering herself. "I dare say I have been extremely ill
taught, in addition to having no talent--only liking for music." This
was very well expressed considering that it had never entered her mind
"Yes, it is true: you have not been well taught," said Herr Klesmer,
quietly. Woman was dear to him, but music was dearer. "Still, you are
not quite without gifts. You sing in tune, and you have a pretty fair
organ. But you produce your notes badly; and that music which you sing
is beneath you. It is a form of melody which expresses a puerile state
of culture--a dawdling, canting, see-saw kind of stuff--the passion and
thought of people without any breadth of horizon. There is a sort of
self-satisfied folly about every phrase of such melody; no cries of
deep, mysterious passion--no conflict--no sense of the universal. It
makes men small as they listen to it. Sing now something larger. And I
"Oh, not now--by-and-by," said Gwendolen, with a sinking of heart at
the sudden width of horizon opened round her small musical performance.
For a lady desiring to lead, this first encounter in her campaign was
startling. But she was bent on not behaving foolishly, and Miss
Arrowpoint helped her by saying--
"Yes, by-and-by. I always require half an hour to get up my courage
after being criticised by Herr Klesmer. We will ask him to play to us
now: he is bound to show us what is good music."
To be quite safe on this point Herr Klesmer played a composition of his
own, a fantasia called "Freudvoll, Leidvoll, Gedankenvoll"--an
extensive commentary on some melodic ideas not too grossly evident; and
he certainly fetched as much variety and depth of passion out of the
piano as that moderately responsive instrument lends itself to, having
an imperious magic in his fingers that seem to send a nerve-thrill
through ivory key and wooden hammer, and compel the strings to make a
quivering lingering speech for him. Gwendolen, in spite of her wounded
egoism, had fullness of nature enough to feel the power of this
playing, and it gradually turned her inward sob of mortification into
an excitement which lifted her for the moment into a desperate
indifference about her own doings, or at least a determination to get a
superiority over them by laughing at them as if they belonged to
somebody else. Her eyes had become brighter, her cheeks slightly
flushed, and her tongue ready for any mischievous remarks.
"I wish you would sing to us again, Miss Harleth," said young Clintock,
the archdeacon's classical son, who had been so fortunate as to take
her to dinner, and came up to renew conversation as soon as Herr
Klesmer's performance was ended, "That is the style of music for me. I
never can make anything of this tip-top playing. It is like a jar of
leeches, where you can never tell either beginnings or endings. I could
listen to your singing all day."
"Yes, we should be glad of something popular now--another song from you
would be a relaxation," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, who had also come near
with polite intentions.
"That must be because you are in a puerile state of culture, and have
no breadth of horizon. I have just learned that. I have been taught how
bad my taste is, and am feeling growing pains. They are never
pleasant," said Gwendolen, not taking any notice of Mrs. Arrowpoint,
and looking up with a bright smile at young Clintock.
Mrs. Arrowpoint was not insensible to this rudeness, but merely said,
"Well, we will not press anything disagreeably," and as there was a
perceptible outburst of imprisoned conversation just then, and a
movement of guests seeking each other, she remained seated where she
was, and looked around her with the relief of a hostess at finding she
is not needed.
"I am glad you like this neighborhood," said young Clintock,
well-pleased with his station in front of Gwendolen.
"Exceedingly. There seems to be a little of everything and not much of
"That is rather equivocal praise."
"Not with me. I like a little of everything; a little absurdity, for
example, is very amusing. I am thankful for a few queer people; but
much of them is a bore."
(Mrs. Arrowpoint, who was hearing this dialogue, perceived quite a new
tone in Gwendolen's speech, and felt a revival of doubt as to her
interest in Tasso's madness.)
"I think there should be more croquet, for one thing," young Clintock;
"I am usually away, but if I were more here I should go in for a
croquet club. You are one of the archers, I think. But depend upon it
croquet is the game of the future. It wants writing up, though. One of
our best men has written a poem on it, in four cantos;--as good as
Pope. I want him to publish it--You never read anything better."
"I shall study croquet to-morrow. I shall take to it instead of
"No, no, not that; but do take to croquet. I will send you Jenning's
poem if you like. I have a manuscript copy."
"Is he a great friend of yours?"
"Oh, if he is only rather, I think I will decline. Or, if you send it
to me, will you promise not to catechise me upon it and ask me which
part I like best? Because it is not so easy to know a poem without
reading it as to know a sermon without listening."
"Decidedly," Mrs. Arrowpoint thought, "this girl is double and
satirical. I shall be on my guard against her."
But Gwendolen, nevertheless, continued to receive polite attentions
from the family at Quetcham, not merely because invitations have larger
grounds than those of personal liking, but because the trying little
scene at the piano had awakened a kindly solicitude toward her in the
gentle mind of Miss Arrowpoint, who managed all the invitations and
visits, her mother being otherwise occupied.
"Croyez-vous m'avoir humiliée pour m'avoir appris que la terre tourne
autour du soleil? Je vous jure que je ne m'en estime pas moins."
--FONTENELLE: "Pluralité des Mondes".
That lofty criticism had caused Gwendolen a new sort of pain. She would
not have chosen to confess how unfortunate she thought herself in not
having had Miss Arrowpoint's musical advantages, so as to be able to
question Herr Klesmer's taste with the confidence of thorough
knowledge; still less, to admit even to herself that Miss Arrowpoint
each time they met raised an unwonted feeling of jealousy in her: not
in the least because she was an heiress, but because it was really
provoking that a girl whose appearance you could not characterize
except by saying that her figure was slight and of middle stature, her
features small, her eyes tolerable, and her complexion sallow, had
nevertheless a certain mental superiority which could not be explained
away--an exasperating thoroughness in her musical accomplishment, a
fastidious discrimination in her general tastes, which made it
impossible to force her admiration and kept you in awe of her standard.
This insignificant-looking young lady of four-and-twenty, whom any
one's eyes would have passed over negligently if she had not been Miss
Arrowpoint, might be suspected of a secret opinion that Miss Harleth's
acquirements were rather of a common order, and such an opinion was not
made agreeable to think of by being always veiled under a perfect
kindness of manner.
But Gwendolen did not like to dwell on facts which threw an unfavorable
light on itself. The musical Magus who had so suddenly widened her
horizon was not always on the scene; and his being constantly backward
and forward between London and Quetcham soon began to be thought of as
offering opportunities for converting him to a more admiring state of
mind. Meanwhile, in the manifest pleasure her singing gave at
Brackenshaw Castle, the Firs, and elsewhere, she recovered her
equanimity, being disposed to think approval more trustworthy than
objection, and not being one of the exceptional persons who have a
parching thirst for a perfection undemanded by their neighbors. Perhaps
it would have been rash to say then that she was at all exceptional
inwardly, or that the unusual in her was more than her rare grace of
movement and bearing, and a certain daring which gave piquancy to a
very common egoistic ambition, such as exists under many clumsy
exteriors and is taken no notice of. For I suppose that the set of the
head does not really determine the hunger of the inner self for
supremacy: it only makes a difference sometimes as to the way in which
the supremacy is held attainable, and a little also to the degree in
which it can be attained; especially when the hungry one is a girl,
whose passion for doing what is remarkable has an ideal limit in
consistency with the highest breeding and perfect freedom from the
sordid need of income. Gwendolen was as inwardly rebellious against the
restraints of family conditions, and as ready to look through
obligations into her own fundamental want of feeling for them, as if
she had been sustained by the boldest speculations; but she really had
no such speculations, and would at once have marked herself off from
any sort of theoretical or practically reforming women by satirizing
them. She rejoiced to feel herself exceptional; but her horizon was
that of the genteel romance where the heroine's soul poured out in her
journal is full of vague power, originality, and general rebellion,
while her life moves strictly in the sphere of fashion; and if she
wanders into a swamp, the pathos lies partly, so to speak, in her
having on her satin shoes. Here is a restraint which nature and society
have provided on the pursuit of striking adventure; so that a soul
burning with a sense of what the universe is not, and ready to take all
existence as fuel, is nevertheless held captive by the ordinary
wirework of social forms and does nothing particular.
This commonplace result was what Gwendolen found herself threatened
with even in the novelty of the first winter at Offendene. What she was
clear upon was, that she did not wish to lead the same sort of life as
ordinary young ladies did; but what she was not clear upon was, how she
should set about leading any other, and what were the particular acts
which she would assert her freedom by doing. Offendene remained a good
background, if anything would happen there; but on the whole the
neighborhood was in fault.
Beyond the effect of her beauty on a first presentation, there was not
much excitement to be got out of her earliest invitations, and she came
home after little sallies of satire and knowingness, such as had
offended Mrs. Arrowpoint, to fill the intervening days with the most
girlish devices. The strongest assertion she was able to make of her
individual claims was to leave out Alice's lessons (on the principle
that Alice was more likely to excel in ignorance), and to employ her
with Miss Merry, and the maid who was understood to wait on all the
ladies, in helping to arrange various dramatic costumes which Gwendolen
pleased herself with having in readiness for some future occasions of
acting in charades or theatrical pieces, occasions which she meant to
bring about by force of will or contrivance. She had never acted--only
made a figure in "tableaux vivans" at school; but she felt assured that
she could act well, and having been once or twice to the Théâtre
Français, and also heard her mamma speak of Rachel, her waking dreams
and cogitations as to how she would manage her destiny sometimes turned
on the question whether she would become an actress like Rachel, since
she was more beautiful than that thin Jewess. Meanwhile the wet days
before Christmas were passed pleasantly in the preparation of costumes,
Greek, Oriental, and Composite, in which Gwendolen attitudinized and
speechified before a domestic audience, including even the housekeeper,
who was once pressed into it that she might swell the notes of
applause; but having shown herself unworthy by observing that Miss
Harleth looked far more like a queen in her own dress than in that
baggy thing with her arms all bare, she was not invited a second time.
"Do I look as well as Rachel, mamma?" said Gwendolen, one day when she
had been showing herself in her Greek dress to Anna, and going through
scraps of scenes with much tragic intention.
"You have better arms than Rachel," said Mrs. Davilow, "your arms would
do for anything, Gwen. But your voice is not so tragic as hers; it is
not so deep."
"I can make it deeper, if I like," said Gwendolen, provisionally; then
she added, with decision, "I think a higher voice is more tragic: it is
more feminine; and the more feminine a woman is, the more tragic it
seems when she does desperate actions."
"There may be something in that," said Mrs. Davilow, languidly. "But I
don't know what good there is in making one's blood creep. And if there
is anything horrible to be done, I should like it to be left to the
"Oh, mamma, you are so dreadfully prosaic! As if all the great poetic
criminals were not women! I think the men are poor cautious creatures."
"Well, dear, and you--who are afraid to be alone in the night--I don't
think you would be very bold in crime, thank God."
"I am not talking about reality, mamma," said Gwendolen, impatiently.
Then her mamma being called out of the room, she turned quickly to her
cousin, as if taking an opportunity, and said, "Anna, do ask my uncle
to let us get up some charades at the rectory. Mr. Middleton and Warham
could act with us--just for practice. Mamma says it will not do to have
Mr. Middleton consulting and rehearsing here. He is a stick, but we
could give him suitable parts. Do ask, or else I will."
"Oh, not till Rex comes. He is so clever, and such a dear old thing,
and he will act Napoleon looking over the sea. He looks just like
Napoleon. Rex can do anything."
"I don't in the least believe in your Rex, Anna," said Gwendolen,
laughing at her. "He will turn out to be like those wretched blue and
yellow water-colors of his which you hang up in your bedroom and
"Very well, you will see," said Anna. "It is not that I know what is
clever, but he has got a scholarship already, and papa says he will get
a fellowship, and nobody is better at games. He is cleverer than Mr.
Middleton, and everybody but you call Mr. Middleton clever."
"So he may be in a dark-lantern sort of way. But he "is" a stick. If he
had to say, 'Perdition catch my soul, but I do love her,' he would say
it in just the same tone as, 'Here endeth the second lesson.'"
"Oh, Gwendolen!" said Anna, shocked at these promiscuous allusions.
"And it is very unkind of you to speak so of him, for he admires you
very much. I heard Warham say one day to mamma, 'Middleton is regularly
spooney upon Gwendolen.' She was very angry with him; but I know what
it means. It is what they say at college for being in love."
"How can I help it?" said Gwendolen, rather contemptuously. "Perdition
catch my soul if I love "him"."
"No, of course; papa, I think, would not wish it. And he is to go away
soon. But it makes me sorry when you ridicule him."
"What shall you do to me when I ridicule Rex?" said Gwendolen, wickedly.
"Now, Gwendolen, dear, you "will not"?" said Anna, her eyes filling
with tears. "I could not bear it. But there really is nothing in him to
ridicule. Only you may find out things. For no one ever thought of
laughing at Mr. Middleton before you. Every one said he was
nice-looking, and his manners perfect. I am sure I have always been
frightened at him because of his learning and his square-cut coat, and
his being a nephew of the bishop's, and all that. But you will not
ridicule Rex--promise me." Anna ended with a beseeching look which
"You are a dear little coz," she said, just touching the tip of Anna's
chin with her thumb and forefinger. "I don't ever want to do anything
that will vex you. Especially if Rex is to make everything come
off--charades and everything."
And when at last Rex was there, the animation he brought into the life
of Offendene and the rectory, and his ready partnership in Gwendolen's
plans, left her no inclination for any ridicule that was not of an open
and flattering kind, such as he himself enjoyed. He was a fine
open-hearted youth, with a handsome face strongly resembling his
father's and Anna's, but softer in expression than the one, and larger
in scale than the other: a bright, healthy, loving nature, enjoying
ordinary innocent things so much that vice had no temptation for him,
and what he knew of it lay too entirely in the outer courts and
little-visited chambers of his mind for him to think of it with great
repulsion. Vicious habits were with him "what some fellows
did"--"stupid stuff" which he liked to keep aloof from. He returned
Anna's affection as fully as could be expected of a brother whose
pleasures apart from her were more than the sum total of hers; and he
had never known a stronger love.
The cousins were continually together at the one house or the
other--chiefly at Offendene, where there was more freedom, or rather
where there was a more complete sway for Gwendolen; and whatever she
wished became a ruling purpose for Rex. The charades came off according
to her plans; and also some other little scenes not contemplated by her
in which her acting was more impromptu. It was at Offendene that the
charades and "tableaux" were rehearsed and presented, Mrs. Davilow
seeing no objection even to Mr. Middleton's being invited to share in
them, now that Rex too was there--especially as his services were
indispensable: Warham, who was studying for India with a Wanchester
"coach," having no time to spare, and being generally dismal under a
cram of everything except the answers needed at the forthcoming
examination, which might disclose the welfare of our Indian Empire to
be somehow connected with a quotable knowledge of Browne's Pastorals.
Mr. Middleton was persuaded to play various grave parts, Gwendolen
having flattered him on his enviable immobility of countenance; and at
first a little pained and jealous at her comradeship with Rex, he
presently drew encouragement from the thought that this sort of
cousinly familiarity excluded any serious passion. Indeed, he
occasionally felt that her more formal treatment of himself was such a
sign of favor as to warrant his making advances before he left
Pennicote, though he had intended to keep his feelings in reserve until
his position should be more assured. Miss Gwendolen, quite aware that
she was adored by this unexceptionable young clergyman with pale
whiskers and square-cut collar, felt nothing more on the subject than
that she had no objection to being adored: she turned her eyes on him
with calm mercilessness and caused him many mildly agitating hopes by
seeming always to avoid dramatic contact with him--for all meanings, we
know, depend on the key of interpretation.
Some persons might have thought beforehand that a young man of Anglican
leanings, having a sense of sacredness much exercised on small things
as well as great, rarely laughing save from politeness, and in general
regarding the mention of spades by their naked names as rather coarse,
would not have seen a fitting bride for himself in a girl who was
daring in ridicule, and showed none of the special grace required in
the clergyman's wife; or, that a young man informed by theological
reading would have reflected that he was not likely to meet the taste
of a lively, restless young lady like Miss Harleth. But are we always
obliged to explain why the facts are not what some persons thought
beforehand? The apology lies on their side, who had that erroneous way
As for Rex, who would possibly have been sorry for poor Middleton if he
had been aware of the excellent curate's inward conflict, he was too
completely absorbed in a first passion to have observation for any
person or thing. He did not observe Gwendolen; he only felt what she
said or did, and the back of his head seemed to be a good organ of
information as to whether she was in the room or out. Before the end of
the first fortnight he was so deeply in love that it was impossible for
him to think of his life except as bound up with Gwendolen's. He could
see no obstacles, poor boy; his own love seemed a guarantee of hers,
since it was one with the unperturbed delight in her image, so that he
could no more dream of her giving him pain than an Egyptian could dream
of snow. She sang and played to him whenever he liked, was always glad
of his companionship in riding, though his borrowed steeds were often
comic, was ready to join in any fun of his, and showed a right
appreciation of Anna. No mark of sympathy seemed absent. That because
Gwendolen was the most perfect creature in the world she was to make a
grand match, had not occurred to him. He had no conceit--at least not
more than goes to make up the necessary gum and consistence of a
substantial personality: it was only that in the young bliss of loving
he took Gwendolen's perfection as part of that good which had seemed
one with life to him, being the outcome of a happy, well-embodied
One incident which happened in the course of their dramatic attempts
impressed Rex as a sign of her unusual sensibility. It showed an aspect
of her nature which could not have been preconceived by any one who,
like him, had only seen her habitual fearlessness in active exercises
and her high spirits in society.
After a good deal of rehearsing it was resolved that a select party
should be invited to Offendene to witness the performances which went
with so much satisfaction to the actors. Anna had caused a pleasant
surprise; nothing could be neater than the way in which she played her
little parts; one would even have suspected her of hiding much sly
observation under her simplicity. And Mr. Middleton answered very well
by not trying to be comic. The main source of doubt and retardation had
been Gwendolen's desire to appear in her Greek dress. No word for a
charade would occur to her either waking or dreaming that suited her
purpose of getting a statuesque pose in this favorite costume. To
choose a motive from Racine was of no use, since Rex and the others
could not declaim French verse, and improvised speeches would turn the
scene into burlesque. Besides, Mr. Gascoigne prohibited the acting of
scenes from plays: he usually protested against the notion that an
amusement which was fitting for every one else was unfitting for a
clergyman; but he would not in this matter overstep the line of decorum
as drawn in that part of Wessex, which did not exclude his sanction of
the young people's acting charades in his sister-in-law's house--a very
different affair from private theatricals in the full sense of the word.
Everybody of course was concerned to satisfy this wish of Gwendolen's,
and Rex proposed that they should wind up with a tableau in which the
effect of her majesty would not be marred by any one's speech. This
pleased her thoroughly, and the only question was the choice of the
"Something pleasant, children, I beseech you," said Mrs. Davilow; "I
can't have any Greek wickedness."
"It is no worse than Christian wickedness, mamma," said Gwendolen,
whose mention of Rachelesque heroines had called forth that remark.
"And less scandalous," said Rex. "Besides, one thinks of it as all gone
by and done with. What do you say to Briseis being led away? I would be
Achilles, and you would be looking round at me--after the print we have
at the rectory."
"That would be a good attitude for me," said Gwendolen, in a tone of
acceptance. But afterward she said with decision, "No. It will not do.
There must be three men in proper costume, else it will be ridiculous."
"I have it," said Rex, after a little reflection. "Hermione as the
statue in Winter's Tale? I will be Leontes, and Miss Merry, Paulina,
one on each side. Our dress won't signify," he went on laughingly; "it
will be more Shakespearian and romantic if Leontes looks like Napoleon,
and Paulina like a modern spinster."
And Hermione was chosen; all agreeing that age was of no consequence,
but Gwendolen urged that instead of the mere tableau there should be
just enough acting of the scene to introduce the striking up of the
music as a signal for her to step down and advance; when Leontes,
instead of embracing her, was to kneel and kiss the hem of her garment,
and so the curtain was to fall. The antechamber with folding doors lent
itself admirably to the purpose of a stage, and the whole of the
establishment, with the addition of Jarrett the village carpenter, was
absorbed in the preparations for an entertainment, which, considering
that it was an imitation of acting, was likely to be successful, since
we know from ancient fable that an imitation may have more chance of
success than the original.
Gwendolen was not without a special exultation in the prospect of this
occasion, for she knew that Herr Klesmer was again at Quetcham, and she
had taken care to include him among the invited.
Klesmer came. He was in one of his placid, silent moods, and sat in
serene contemplation, replying to all appeals in benignant-sounding
syllables more or less articulate--as taking up his cross meekly in a
world overgrown with amateurs, or as careful how he moved his lion paws
lest he should crush a rampant and vociferous mouse.
Everything indeed went off smoothly and according to expectation--all
that was improvised and accidental being of a probable sort--until the
incident occurred which showed Gwendolen in an unforeseen phase of
emotion. How it came about was at first a mystery.
The tableau of Hermione was doubly striking from its dissimilarity with
what had gone before: it was answering perfectly, and a murmur of
applause had been gradually suppressed while Leontes gave his
permission that Paulina should exercise her utmost art and make the
Hermione, her arm resting on a pillar, was elevated by about six
inches, which she counted on as a means of showing her pretty foot and
instep, when at the given signal she should advance and descend.
"Music, awake her, strike!" said Paulina (Mrs. Davilow, who, by special
entreaty, had consented to take the part in a white burnous and hood).
Herr Klesmer, who had been good-natured enough to seat himself at the
piano, struck a thunderous chord--but in the same instant, and before
Hermione had put forth her foot, the movable panel, which was on a line
with the piano, flew open on the right opposite the stage and disclosed
the picture of the dead face and the fleeing figure, brought out in
pale definiteness by the position of the wax-lights. Everyone was
startled, but all eyes in the act of turning toward the open panel were
recalled by a piercing cry from Gwendolen, who stood without change of
attitude, but with a change of expression that was terrifying in its
terror. She looked like a statue into which a soul of Fear had entered:
her pallid lips were parted; her eyes, usually narrowed under their
long lashes, were dilated and fixed. Her mother, less surprised than
alarmed, rushed toward her, and Rex, too, could not help going to her
side. But the touch of her mother's arm had the effect of an electric
charge; Gwendolen fell on her knees and put her hands before her face.
She was still trembling, but mute, and it seemed that she had
self-consciousness enough to aim at controlling her signs of terror,
for she presently allowed herself to be raised from her kneeling
posture and led away, while the company were relieving their minds by
"A magnificent bit of "plastik" that!" said Klesmer to Miss Arrowpoint.
And a quick fire of undertoned question and answer went round.
"Was it part of the play?"
"Oh, no, surely not. Miss Harleth was too much affected. A sensitive
"Dear me! I was not aware that there was a painting behind that panel;
"No; how should I? Some eccentricity in one of the Earl's family long
ago, I suppose."
"How very painful! Pray shut it up."
"Was the door locked? It is very mysterious. It must be the spirits."
"But there is no medium present."
"How do you know that? We must conclude that there is, when such things
"Oh, the door was not locked; it was probably the sudden vibration from
the piano that sent it open."
This conclusion came from Mr. Gascoigne, who begged Miss Merry if
possible to get the key. But this readiness to explain the mystery was
thought by Mrs. Vulcany unbecoming in a clergyman, and she observed in
an undertone that Mr. Gascoigne was always a little too worldly for her
taste. However, the key was produced, and the rector turned it in the
lock with an emphasis rather offensively rationalizing--as who should
say, "it will not start open again"--putting the key in his pocket as a
However, Gwendolen soon reappeared, showing her usual spirits, and
evidently determined to ignore as far as she could the striking change
she had made in the part of Hermione.
But when Klesmer said to her, "We have to thank you for devising a
perfect climax: you could not have chosen a finer bit of "plastik","
there was a flush of pleasure in her face. She liked to accept as a
belief what was really no more than delicate feigning. He divined that
the betrayal into a passion of fear had been mortifying to her, and
wished her to understand that he took it for good acting. Gwendolen
cherished the idea that now he was struck with her talent as well as
her beauty, and her uneasiness about his opinion was half turned to
But too many were in the secret of what had been included in the
rehearsals, and what had not, and no one besides Klesmer took the
trouble to soothe Gwendolen's imagined mortification. The general
sentiment was that the incident should be let drop.
There had really been a medium concerned in the starting open of the
panel: one who had quitted the room in haste and crept to bed in much
alarm of conscience. It was the small Isabel, whose intense curiosity,
unsatisfied by the brief glimpse she had had of the strange picture on
the day of arrival at Offendene, had kept her on the watch for an
opportunity of finding out where Gwendolen had put the key, of stealing
it from the discovered drawer when the rest of the family were out, and
getting on a stool to unlock the panel. While she was indulging her
thirst for knowledge in this way, a noise which she feared was an
approaching footstep alarmed her: she closed the door and attempted
hurriedly to lock it, but failing and not daring to linger, she
withdrew the key and trusted that the panel would stick, as it seemed
well inclined to do. In this confidence she had returned the key to its
former place, stilling any anxiety by the thought that if the door were
discovered to be unlocked nobody would know how the unlocking came
about. The inconvenient Isabel, like other offenders, did not foresee
her own impulse to confession, a fatality which came upon her the
morning after the party, when Gwendolen said at the breakfast-table, "I
know the door was locked before the housekeeper gave me the key, for I
tried it myself afterward. Some one must have been to my drawer and
taken the key."
It seemed to Isabel that Gwendolen's awful eyes had rested on her more
than on the other sisters, and without any time for resolve, she said,
with a trembling lip:
"Please forgive me, Gwendolen."
The forgiveness was sooner bestowed than it would have been if
Gwendolen had not desired to dismiss from her own and every one else's
memory any case in which she had shown her susceptibility to terror.
She wondered at herself in these occasional experiences, which seemed
like a brief remembered madness, an unexplained exception from her
normal life; and in this instance she felt a peculiar vexation that her
helpless fear had shown itself, not, as usual, in solitude, but in
well-lit company. Her ideal was to be daring in speech and reckless in
braving dangers, both moral and physical; and though her practice fell
far behind her ideal, this shortcoming seemed to be due to the
pettiness of circumstances, the narrow theatre which life offers to a
girl of twenty, who cannot conceive herself as anything else than a
lady, or as in any position which would lack the tribute of respect.
She had no permanent consciousness of other fetters, or of more
spiritual restraints, having always disliked whatever was presented to
her under the name of religion, in the same way that some people
dislike arithmetic and accounts: it had raised no other emotion in her,
no alarm, no longing; so that the question whether she believed it had
not occurred to her any more than it had occurred to her to inquire
into the conditions of colonial property and banking, on which, as she
had had many opportunities of knowing, the family fortune was
dependent. All these facts about herself she would have been ready to
admit, and even, more or less indirectly, to state. What she
unwillingly recognized, and would have been glad for others to be
unaware of, was that liability of hers to fits of spiritual dread,
though this fountain of awe within her had not found its way into
connection with the religion taught her or with any human relations.
She was ashamed and frightened, as at what might happen again, in
remembering her tremor on suddenly feeling herself alone, when, for
example, she was walking without companionship and there came some
rapid change in the light. Solitude in any wide scene impressed her
with an undefined feeling of immeasurable existence aloof from her, in
the midst of which she was helplessly incapable of asserting herself.
The little astronomy taught her at school used sometimes to set her
imagination at work in a way that made her tremble: but always when
some one joined her she recovered her indifference to the vastness in
which she seemed an exile; she found again her usual world in which her
will was of some avail, and the religious nomenclature belonging to
this world was no more identified for her with those uneasy impressions
of awe than her uncle's surplices seen out of use at the rectory. With
human ears and eyes about her, she had always hitherto recovered her
confidence, and felt the possibility of winning empire.
To her mamma and others her fits of timidity or terror were
sufficiently accounted for by her "sensitiveness" or the "excitability
of her nature"; but these explanatory phrases required conciliation
with much that seemed to be blank indifference or rare self-mastery.
Heat is a great agent and a useful word, but considered as a means of
explaining the universe it requires an extensive knowledge of
differences; and as a means of explaining character "sensitiveness" is
in much the same predicament. But who, loving a creature like
Gwendolen, would not be inclined to regard every peculiarity in her as
a mark of preeminence? That was what Rex did. After the Hermione scene
he was more persuaded than ever that she must be instinct with all
feeling, and not only readier to respond to a worshipful love, but able
to love better than other girls. Rex felt the summer on his young wings
and soared happily.
""Perigot". As the bonny lasse passed by,
"Willie". Hey, ho, bonnilasse!
"P". She roode at me with glauncing eye,
"W". As clear as the crystal glasse.
"P". All as the sunny beame so bright,
"W". Hey, ho, the sunnebeame!
"P". Glaunceth from Phoebus' face forthright,
"W". So love into thy heart did streame."
--SPENSER: "Shepard's Calendar".
"The kindliest symptom, yet the most alarming crisis in the ticklish
state of youth; the nourisher and destroyer of hopeful wits; * * * the
servitude above freedom; the gentle mind's religion; the liberal
The first sign of the unimagined snow-storm was like the transparent
white cloud that seems to set off the blue. Anna was in the secret of
Rex's feeling; though for the first time in their lives he had said
nothing to her about what he most thought of, and he only took it for
granted that she knew it. For the first time, too, Anna could not say
to Rex what was continually in her mind. Perhaps it might have been a
pain which she would have had to conceal, that he should so soon care
for some one else more than for herself, if such a feeling had not been
thoroughly neutralized by doubt and anxiety on his behalf. Anna admired
her cousin--would have said with simple sincerity, "Gwendolen is always
very good to me," and held it in the order of things for herself to be
entirely subject to this cousin; but she looked at her with mingled
fear and distrust, with a puzzled contemplation as of some wondrous and
beautiful animal whose nature was a mystery, and who, for anything Anna
knew, might have an appetite for devouring all the small creatures that
were her own particular pets. And now Anna's heart was sinking under
the heavy conviction which she dared not utter, that Gwendolen would
never care for Rex. What she herself held in tenderness and reverence
had constantly seemed indifferent to Gwendolen, and it was easier to
imagine her scorning Rex than returning any tenderness of his. Besides,
she was always thinking of being something extraordinary. And poor Rex!
Papa would be angry with him if he knew. And of course he was too young
to be in love in that way; and she, Anna had thought that it would be
years and years before any thing of that sort came, and that she would
be Rex's housekeeper ever so long. But what a heart must that be which
did not return his love! Anna, in the prospect of his suffering, was
beginning to dislike her too fascinating cousin.
It seemed to her, as it did to Rex, that the weeks had been filled with
a tumultuous life evident to all observers: if he had been questioned
on the subject he would have said that he had no wish to conceal what
he hoped would be an engagement which he should immediately tell his
father of: and yet for the first time in his life he was reserved not
only about his feelings but--which was more remarkable to Anna--about
certain actions. She, on her side, was nervous each time her father or
mother began to speak to her in private lest they should say anything
about Rex and Gwendolen. But the elders were not in the least alive to
this agitating drama, which went forward chiefly in a sort of pantomime
extremely lucid in the minds thus expressing themselves, but easily
missed by spectators who were running their eyes over the "Guardian" or
the "Clerical Gazette", and regarded the trivialities of the young ones
with scarcely more interpretation than they gave to the action of
"Where are you going, Rex?" said Anna one gray morning when her father
had set off in his carriage to the sessions, Mrs. Gascoigne with him,
and she had observed that her brother had on his antigropelos, the
utmost approach he possessed to a hunting equipment.
"Going to see the hounds throw off at the Three Barns."
"Are you going to take Gwendolen?" said Anna, timidly.
"She told you, did she?"
"No, but I thought--Does papa know you are going?"
"Not that I am aware of. I don't suppose he would trouble himself about
"You are going to use his horse?"
"He knows I do that whenever I can."
"Don't let Gwendolen ride after the hounds, Rex," said Anna, whose
fears gifted her with second-sight.
"Why not?" said Rex, smiling rather provokingly.
"Papa and mamma and aunt Davilow all wish her not to. They think it is
not right for her."
"Why should you suppose she is going to do what is not right?"
"Gwendolen minds nobody sometimes," said Anna getting bolder by dint of
a little anger.
"Then she would not mind me," said Rex, perversely making a joke of
poor Anna's anxiety.
"Oh Rex, I cannot bear it. You will make yourself very unhappy." Here
Anna burst into tears.
"Nannie, Nannie, what on earth is the matter with you?" said Rex, a
little impatient at being kept in this way, hat on and whip in hand.
"She will not care for you one bit--I know she never will!" said the
poor child in a sobbing whisper. She had lost all control of herself.
Rex reddened and hurried away from her out of the hall door, leaving
her to the miserable consciousness of having made herself disagreeable
He did think of her words as he rode along; they had the unwelcomeness
which all unfavorable fortune-telling has, even when laughed at; but he
quickly explained them as springing from little Anna's tenderness, and
began to be sorry that he was obliged to come away without soothing
her. Every other feeling on the subject, however, was quickly merged in
a resistant belief to the contrary of hers, accompanied with a new
determination to prove that he was right. This sort of certainty had
just enough kinship to doubt and uneasiness to hurry on a confession
which an untouched security might have delayed.
Gwendolen was already mounted and riding up and down the avenue when
Rex appeared at the gate. She had provided herself against
disappointment in case he did not appear in time by having the groom
ready behind her, for she would not have waited beyond a reasonable
time. But now the groom was dismissed, and the two rode away in
delightful freedom. Gwendolen was in her highest spirits, and Rex
thought that she had never looked so lovely before; her figure, her
long white throat, and the curves of her cheek and chin were always set
off to perfection by the compact simplicity of her riding dress. He
could not conceive a more perfect girl; and to a youthful lover like
Rex it seems that the fundamental identity of the good, the true and
the beautiful, is already extant and manifest in the object of his
love. Most observers would have held it more than equally accountable
that a girl should have like impressions about Rex, for in his handsome
face there was nothing corresponding to the undefinable stinging
quality--as it were a trace of demon ancestry--which made some
beholders hesitate in their admiration of Gwendolen.
It was an exquisite January morning in which there was no threat of
rain, but a gray sky making the calmest background for the charms of a
mild winter scene--the grassy borders of the lanes, the hedgerows
sprinkled with red berries and haunted with low twitterings, the purple
bareness of the elms, the rich brown of the furrows. The horses' hoofs
made a musical chime, accompanying their young voices. She was laughing
at his equipment, for he was the reverse of a dandy, and he was
enjoying her laughter; the freshness of the morning mingled with the
freshness of their youth; and every sound that came from their clear
throats, every glance they gave each other, was the bubbling outflow
from a spring of joy. It was all morning to them, within and without.
And thinking of them in these moments one is tempted to that futile
sort of wishing--if only things could have been a little otherwise
then, so as to have been greatly otherwise after--if only these two
beautiful young creatures could have pledged themselves to each other
then and there, and never through life have swerved from that pledge!
For some of the goodness which Rex believed in was there. Goodness is a
large, often a prospective word; like harvest, which at one stage when
we talk of it lies all underground, with an indeterminate future; is
the germ prospering in the darkness? at another, it has put forth
delicate green blades, and by-and-by the trembling blossoms are ready
to be dashed off by an hour of rough wind or rain. Each stage has its
peculiar blight, and may have the healthy life choked out of it by a
particular action of the foul land which rears or neighbors it, or by
damage brought from foulness afar.
"Anna had got it into her head that you would want to ride after the
hounds this morning," said Rex, whose secret associations with Anna's
words made this speech seem quite perilously near the most momentous of
"Did she?" said Gwendolen, laughingly. "What a little clairvoyant she
"Shall you?" said Rex, who had not believed in her intending to do it
if the elders objected, but confided in her having good reasons.
"I don't know. I can't tell what I shall do till I get there.
Clairvoyants are often wrong: they foresee what is likely. I am not
fond of what is likely: it is always dull. I do what is unlikely."
"Ah, there you tell me a secret. When once I knew what people in
general would be likely to do, I should know you would do the opposite.
So you would have come round to a likelihood of your own sort. I shall
be able to calculate on you. You couldn't surprise me."
"Yes, I could. I should turn round and do what was likely for people in
general," said Gwendolen, with a musical laugh.
"You see you can't escape some sort of likelihood. And
contradictoriness makes the strongest likelihood of all. You must give
up a plan."
"No, I shall not. My plan is to do what pleases me." (Here should any
young lady incline to imitate Gwendolen, let her consider the set of
her head and neck: if the angle there had been different, the chin
protrusive, and the cervical vertebrae a trifle more curved in their
position, ten to one Gwendolen's words would have had a jar in them for
the sweet-natured Rex. But everything odd in her speech was humor and
pretty banter, which he was only anxious to turn toward one point.)
"Can you manage to feel only what pleases you?" said he.
"Of course not; that comes from what other people do. But if the world
were pleasanter, one would only feel what was pleasant. Girls' lives
are so stupid: they never do what they like."
"I thought that was more the case of the men. They are forced to do
hard things, and are often dreadfully bored, and knocked to pieces too.
And then, if we love a girl very dearly we want to do as she likes, so
after all you have your own way."
"I don't believe it. I never saw a married woman who had her own way."
"What should you like to do?" said Rex, quite guilelessly, and in real
"Oh, I don't know!--go to the North Pole, or ride steeple-chases, or go
to be a queen in the East like Lady Hester Stanhope," said Gwendolen,
flightily. Her words were born on her lips, but she would have been at
a loss to give an answer of deeper origin.
"You don't mean you would never be married?"
"No; I didn't say that. Only when I married, I should not do as other
"You might do just as you liked if you married a man who loved you more
dearly than anything else in the world," said Rex, who, poor youth, was
moving in themes outside the curriculum in which he had promised to win
distinction. "I know one who does."
"Don't talk of Mr. Middleton, for heaven's sake," said Gwendolen,
hastily, a quick blush spreading over her face and neck; "that is
Anna's chant. I hear the hounds. Let us go on."
She put her chestnut to a canter, and Rex had no choice but to follow
her. Still he felt encouraged. Gwendolen was perfectly aware that her
cousin was in love with her; but she had no idea that the matter was of
any consequence, having never had the slightest visitation of painful
love herself. She wished the small romance of Rex's devotion to fill up
the time of his stay at Pennicote, and to avoid explanations which
would bring it to an untimely end. Besides, she objected, with a sort
of physical repulsion, to being directly made love to. With all her
imaginative delight in being adored, there was a certain fierceness of
maidenhood in her.
But all other thoughts were soon lost for her in the excitement of the
scene at the Three Barns. Several gentlemen of the hunt knew her, and
she exchanged pleasant greetings. Rex could not get another word with
her. The color, the stir of the field had taken possession of Gwendolen
with a strength which was not due to habitual associations, for she had
never yet ridden after the hounds--only said she should like to do it,
and so drawn forth a prohibition; her mamma dreading the danger, and
her uncle declaring that for his part he held that kind of violent
exercise unseemly in a woman, and that whatever might be done in other
parts of the country, no lady of good position followed the Wessex
hunt: no one but Mrs. Gadsby, the yeomanry captain's wife, who had been
a kitchenmaid and still spoke like one. This last argument had some
effect on Gwendolen, and had kept her halting between her desire to
assert her freedom and her horror of being classed with Mrs. Gadsby.
Some of the most unexceptionable women in the neighborhood occasionally
went to see the hounds throw off; but it happened that none of them
were present this morning to abstain from following, while Mrs. Gadsby,
with her doubtful antecedents, grammatical and otherwise, was not
visible to make following seem unbecoming. Thus Gwendolen felt no check
on the animal stimulus that came from the stir and tongue of the
hounds, the pawing of the horses, the varying voices of men, the
movement hither and thither of vivid color on the background of green
and gray stillness:--that utmost excitement of the coming chase which
consists in feeling something like a combination of dog and horse, with
the superadded thrill of social vanities and consciousness of
centaur-power which belongs to humankind.
Rex would have felt more of the same enjoyment if he could have kept
nearer to Gwendolen, and not seen her constantly occupied with
acquaintances, or looked at by would-be acquaintances, all on lively
horses which veered about and swept the surrounding space as
effectually as a revolving lever.
"Glad to see you here this fine morning, Miss Harleth," said Lord
Brackenshaw, a middle-aged peer of aristocratic seediness in stained
pink, with easy-going manners which would have made the threatened
deluge seem of no consequence. "We shall have a first-rate run. A pity
you didn't go with us. Have you ever tried your little chestnut at a
ditch? you wouldn't be afraid, eh?"
"Not the least in the world," said Gwendolen. And that was true: she
was never fearful in action and companionship. "I have often taken him
at some rails and a ditch too, near--"
"Ah, by Jove!" said his lordship, quietly, in notation that something
was happening which must break off the dialogue: and as he reined off
his horse, Rex was bringing his sober hackney up to Gwendolen's side
when--the hounds gave tongue, and the whole field was in motion as if
the whirl of the earth were carrying it; Gwendolen along with
everything else; no word of notice to Rex, who without a second thought
followed too. Could he let Gwendolen go alone? under other
circumstances he would have enjoyed the run, but he was just now
perturbed by the check which had been put on the impetus to utter his
love, and get utterance in return, an impetus which could not at once
resolve itself into a totally different sort of chase, at least with
the consciousness of being on his father's gray nag, a good horse
enough in his way, but of sober years and ecclesiastical habits.
Gwendolen on her spirited little chestnut was up with the best, and
felt as secure as an immortal goddess, having, if she had thought of
risk, a core of confidence that no ill luck would happen to her. But
she thought of no such thing, and certainly not of any risk there might
be for her cousin. If she had thought of him, it would have struck her
as a droll picture that he should be gradually falling behind, and
looking round in search of gates: a fine lithe youth, whose heart must
be panting with all the spirit of a beagle, stuck as if under a
wizard's spell on a stiff clerical hackney, would have made her laugh
with a sense of fun much too strong for her to reflect on his
mortification. But Gwendolen was apt to think rather of those who saw
her than of those whom she could not see; and Rex was soon so far
behind that if she had looked she would not have seen him. For I grieve
to say that in the search for a gate, along a lane lately mended,
Primrose fell, broke his knees, and undesignedly threw Rex over his
Fortunately a blacksmith's son who also followed the hounds under
disadvantages, namely, on foot (a loose way of hunting which had struck
some even frivolous minds as immoral), was naturally also in the rear,
and happened to be within sight of Rex's misfortune. He ran to give
help which was greatly needed, for Rex was a great deal stunned, and
the complete recovery of sensation came in the form of pain. Joel Dagge
on this occasion showed himself that most useful of personages, whose
knowledge is of a kind suited to the immediate occasion: he not only
knew perfectly well what was the matter with the horse, how far they
were both from the nearest public-house and from Pennicote Rectory, and
could certify to Rex that his shoulder was only a bit out of joint, but
also offered experienced surgical aid.
"Lord, sir, let me shove it in again for you! I's seen Nash, the
bone-setter, do it, and done it myself for our little Sally twice over.
It's all one and the same, shoulders is. If you'll trusten to me and
tighten your mind up a bit, I'll do it for you in no time."
"Come then, old fellow," said Rex, who could tighten his mind better
than his seat in the saddle. And Joel managed the operation, though not
without considerable expense of pain to his patient, who turned so
pitiably pale while tightening his mind, that Joel remarked, "Ah, sir,
you aren't used to it, that's how it is. I's see lots and lots o'
joints out. I see a man with his eye pushed out once--that was a rum go
as ever I see. You can't have a bit o' fun wi'out such sort o' things.
But it went in again. I's swallowed three teeth mysen, as sure as I'm
alive. Now, sirrey" (this was addressed to Primrose), "come alonk--you
musn't make believe as you can't."
Joel being clearly a low character, it is, happily, not necessary to
say more of him to the refined reader, than that he helped Rex to get
home with as little delay as possible. There was no alternative but to
get home, though all the while he was in anxiety about Gwendolen, and
more miserable in the thought that she, too, might have had an
accident, than in the pain of his own bruises and the annoyance he was
about to cause his father. He comforted himself about her by reflecting
that every one would be anxious to take care of her, and that some
acquaintance would be sure to conduct her home.
Mr. Gascoigne was already at home, and was writing letters in his
study, when he was interrupted by seeing poor Rex come in with a face
which was not the less handsome and ingratiating for being pale and a
little distressed. He was secretly the favorite son, and a young
portrait of the father; who, however, never treated him with any
partiality--rather, with an extra rigor. Mr. Gascoigne having inquired
of Anna, knew that Rex had gone with Gwendolen to the meet at the Three
"What is the matter?" he said hastily, not laying down his pen.
"I'm very sorry, sir; Primrose has fallen down and broken his knees."
"Where have you been with him?" said Mr. Gascoigne, with a touch of
severity. He rarely gave way to temper.
"To the Three Barns to see the hounds throw off."
"And you were fool enough to follow?"
"Yes, sir. I didn't go at any fences, but the horse got his leg into a
"And you got hurt yourself, I hope, eh!"
"I got my shoulder put out, but a young blacksmith put it in again for
me. I'm just a little battered, that's all."
"Well, sit down."
"I'm very sorry about the horse, sir; I knew it would be a vexation to
"And what has become of Gwendolen?" said Mr. Gascoigne, abruptly. Rex,
who did not imagine that his father had made any inquiries about him,
answered at first with a blush, which was the more remarkable for his
previous paleness. Then he said, nervously--
"I am anxious to know--I should like to go or send at once to
Offendene--but she rides so well, and I think she would keep up--there
would most likely be many round her."
"I suppose it was she who led you on, eh?" said Mr. Gascoigne, laying
down his pen, leaning back in his chair, and looking at Rex with more
"It was natural for her to want to go: she didn't intend it
beforehand--she was led away by the spirit of the thing. And, of
course, I went when she went."
Mr. Gascoigne left a brief interval of silence, and then said, with
quiet irony,--"But now you observe, young gentleman, that you are not
furnished with a horse which will enable you to play the squire to your
cousin. You must give up that amusement. You have spoiled my nag for
me, and that is enough mischief for one vacation. I shall beg you to
get ready to start for Southampton to-morrow and join Stilfox, till you
go up to Oxford with him. That will be good for your bruises as well as
Poor Rex felt his heart swelling and comporting itself as if it had
been no better than a girl's.
"I hope you will not insist on my going immediately, sir."
"Do you feel too ill?"
"No, not that--but--" here Rex bit his lips and felt the tears
starting, to his great vexation; then he rallied and tried to say more
firmly, "I want to go to Offendene, but I can go this evening."
"I am going there myself. I can bring word about Gwendolen, if that is
what you want."
Rex broke down. He thought he discerned an intention fatal to his
happiness, nay, his life. He was accustomed to believe in his father's
penetration, and to expect firmness. "Father, I can't go away without
telling her that I love her, and knowing that she loves me."
Mr. Gascoigne was inwardly going through some self-rebuke for not being
more wary, and was now really sorry for the lad; but every
consideration was subordinate to that of using the wisest tactics in
the case. He had quickly made up his mind and to answer the more
"My dear boy, you are too young to be taking momentous, decisive steps
of that sort. This is a fancy which you have got into your head during
an idle week or two: you must set to work at something and dismiss it.
There is every reason against it. An engagement at your age would be
totally rash and unjustifiable; and moreover, alliances between first
cousins are undesirable. Make up your mind to a brief disappointment.
Life is full of them. We have all got to be broken in; and this is a
mild beginning for you."
"No, not mild. I can't bear it. I shall be good for nothing. I
shouldn't mind anything, if it were settled between us. I could do
anything then," said Rex, impetuously. "But it's of no use to pretend
that I will obey you. I can't do it. If I said I would, I should be
sure to break my word. I should see Gwendolen again."
"Well, wait till to-morrow morning, that we may talk of the matter
again--you will promise me that," said Mr. Gascoigne, quietly; and Rex
did not, could not refuse.
The rector did not even tell his wife that he had any other reason for
going to Offendene that evening than his desire to ascertain that
Gwendolen had got home safely. He found her more than safe--elated. Mr.
Quallon, who had won the brush, had delivered the trophy to her, and
she had brought it before her, fastened on the saddle; more than that,
Lord Brackenshaw had conducted her home, and had shown himself
delighted with her spirited riding. All this was told at once to her
uncle, that he might see how well justified she had been in acting
against his advice; and the prudential rector did feel himself in a
slight difficulty, for at that moment he was particularly sensible that
it was his niece's serious interest to be well regarded by the
Brackenshaws, and their opinion as to her following the hounds really
touched the essence of his objection. However, he was not obliged to
say anything immediately, for Mrs. Davilow followed up Gwendolen's
brief triumphant phrases with--
"Still, I do hope you will not do it again, Gwendolen. I should never
have a moment's quiet. Her father died by an accident, you know."
Here Mrs. Davilow had turned away from Gwendolen, and looked at Mr.
"Mamma, dear," said Gwendolen, kissing her merrily, and passing over
the question of the fears which Mrs. Davilow had meant to account for,
"children don't take after their parents in broken legs."
Not one word had yet been said about Rex. In fact there had been no
anxiety about him at Offendene. Gwendolen had observed to her mamma,
"Oh, he must have been left far behind, and gone home in despair," and
it could not be denied that this was fortunate so far as it made way
for Lord Brackenshaw's bringing her home. But now Mr. Gascoigne said,
with some emphasis, looking at Gwendolen--
"Well, the exploit has ended better for you than for Rex."
"Yes, I dare say he had to make a terrible round. You have not taught
Primrose to take the fences, uncle," said Gwendolen, without the
faintest shade of alarm in her looks and tone.
"Rex has had a fall," said Mr. Gascoigne, curtly, throwing himself into
an arm-chair resting his elbows and fitting his palms and fingers
together, while he closed his lips and looked at Gwendolen, who said--
"Oh, poor fellow! he is not hurt, I hope?" with a correct look of
anxiety such as elated mortals try to super-induce when their pulses
are all the while quick with triumph; and Mrs. Davilow, in the same
moment, uttered a low "Good heavens! There!"
Mr. Gascoigne went on: "He put his shoulder out, and got some bruises,
I believe." Here he made another little pause of observation; but
Gwendolen, instead of any such symptoms as pallor and silence, had only
deepened the compassionateness of her brow and eyes, and said again,
"Oh, poor fellow! it is nothing serious, then?" and Mr. Gascoigne held
his diagnosis complete. But he wished to make assurance doubly sure,
and went on still with a purpose.
"He got his arm set again rather oddly. Some blacksmith--not a
parishioner of mine--was on the field--a loose fish, I suppose, but
handy, and set the arm for him immediately. So after all, I believe, I
and Primrose come off worst. The horse's knees are cut to pieces. He
came down in a hole, it seems, and pitched Rex over his head."
Gwendolen's face had allowably become contented again, since Rex's arm
had been reset; and now, at the descriptive suggestions in the latter
part of her uncle's speech, her elated spirits made her features less
unmanageable than usual; the smiles broke forth, and finally a
descending scale of laughter.
"You are a pretty young lady--to laugh at other people's calamities,"
said Mr. Gascoigne, with a milder sense of disapprobation than if he
had not had counteracting reasons to be glad that Gwendolen showed no
deep feeling on the occasion.
"Pray forgive me, uncle. Now Rex is safe, it is so droll to fancy the
figure he and Primrose would cut--in a lane all by themselves--only a
blacksmith running up. It would make a capital caricature of 'Following
Gwendolen rather valued herself on her superior freedom in laughing
where others might only see matter for seriousness. Indeed, the
laughter became her person so well that her opinion of its gracefulness
was often shared by others; and it even entered into her uncle's course
of thought at this moment, that it was no wonder a boy should be
fascinated by this young witch--who, however, was more mischievous than
could be desired.
"How can you laugh at broken bones, child?" said Mrs. Davilow, still
under her dominant anxiety. "I wish we had never allowed you to have
the horse. You will see that we were wrong," she added, looking with a
grave nod at Mr. Gascoigne--"at least I was, to encourage her in asking
"Yes, seriously, Gwendolen," said Mr. Gascoigne, in a judicious tone of
rational advice to a person understood to be altogether rational, "I
strongly recommend you--I shall ask you to oblige me so far--not to
repeat your adventure of to-day. Lord Brackenshaw is very kind, but I
feel sure that he would concur with me in what I say. To be spoken of
as 'the young lady who hunts' by way of exception, would give a tone to
the language about you which I am sure you would not like. Depend upon
it, his lordship would not choose that Lady Beatrice or Lady Maria
should hunt in this part of the country, if they were old enough to do
so. When you are married, it will be different: you may do whatever
your husband sanctions. But if you intend to hunt, you must marry a man
who can keep horses."
"I don't know why I should do anything so horrible as to marry without
"that" prospect, at least," said Gwendolen, pettishly. Her uncle's
speech had given her annoyance, which she could not show more directly;
but she felt that she was committing herself, and after moving
carelessly to another part of the room, went out.
"She always speaks in that way about marriage," said Mrs. Davilow; "but
it will be different when she has seen the right person."
"Her heart has never been in the least touched, that you know of?" said
Mrs. Davilow shook her head silently. "It was only last night she said
to me, 'Mamma, I wonder how girls manage to fall in love. It is easy to
make them do it in books. But men are too ridiculous.'"
Mr. Gascoigne laughed a little, and made no further remark on the
subject. The next morning at breakfast he said--
"How are your bruises, Rex?"
"Oh, not very mellow yet, sir; only beginning to turn a little."
"You don't feel quite ready for a journey to Southampton?"
"Not quite," answered Rex, with his heart metaphorically in his mouth.
"Well, you can wait till to-morrow, and go to say goodbye to them at
Mrs. Gascoigne, who now knew the whole affair, looked steadily at her
coffee lest she also should begin to cry, as Anna was doing already.
Mr. Gascoigne felt that he was applying a sharp remedy to poor Rex's
acute attack, but he believed it to be in the end the kindest. To let
him know the hopelessness of his love from Gwendolen's own lips might
be curative in more ways than one.
"I can only be thankful that she doesn't care about him," said Mrs.
Gascoigne, when she joined her husband in his study. "There are things
in Gwendolen I cannot reconcile myself to. My Anna is worth two of her,
with all her beauty and talent. It looks very ill in her that she will
not help in the schools with Anna--not even in the Sunday-school. What
you or I advise is of no consequence to her: and poor Fannie is
completely under her thumb. But I know you think better of her," Mrs.
Gascoigne ended with a deferential hesitation.
"Oh, my dear, there is no harm in the girl. It is only that she has a
high spirit, and it will not do to hold the reins too tight. The point
is, to get her well married. She has a little too much fire in her for
her present life with her mother and sisters. It is natural and right
that she should be married soon--not to a poor man, but one who can
give her a fitting position."
Presently Rex, with his arm in a sling, was on his two miles' walk to
Offendene. He was rather puzzled by the unconditional permission to see
Gwendolen, but his father's real ground of action could not enter into
his conjectures. If it had, he would first have thought it horribly
cold-blooded, and then have disbelieved in his father's conclusions.
When he got to the house, everybody was there but Gwendolen. The four
girls, hearing him speak in the hall, rushed out of the library, which
was their school-room, and hung round him with compassionate inquiries
about his arm. Mrs. Davilow wanted to know exactly what had happened,
and where the blacksmith lived, that she might make him a present;
while Miss Merry, who took a subdued and melancholy part in all family
affairs, doubted whether it would not be giving too much encouragement
to that kind of character. Rex had never found the family troublesome
before, but just now he wished them all away and Gwendolen there, and
he was too uneasy for good-natured feigning. When at last he had said,
"Where is Gwendolen?" and Mrs. Davilow had told Alice to go and see if
her sister were come down, adding, "I sent up her breakfast this
morning. She needed a long rest." Rex took the shortest way out of his
endurance by saying, almost impatiently, "Aunt, I want to speak to
Gwendolen--I want to see her alone."
"Very well, dear; go into the drawing-room. I will send her there,"
said Mrs. Davilow, who had observed that he was fond of being with
Gwendolen, as was natural, but had not thought of this as having any
bearing on the realities of life: it seemed merely part of the
Christmas holidays which were spinning themselves out.
Rex for his part thought that the realities of life were all hanging on
this interview. He had to walk up and down the drawing-room in
expectation for nearly ten minutes--ample space for all imaginative
fluctuations; yet, strange to say, he was unvaryingly occupied in
thinking what and how much he could do, when Gwendolen had accepted
him, to satisfy his father that the engagement was the most prudent
thing in the world, since it inspired him with double energy for work.
He was to be a lawyer, and what reason was there why he should not rise
as high as Eldon did? He was forced to look at life in the light of his
But when the door opened and she whose presence he was longing for
entered, there came over him suddenly and mysteriously a state of
tremor and distrust which he had never felt before. Miss Gwendolen,
simple as she stood there, in her black silk, cut square about the
round white pillar of her throat, a black band fastening her hair which
streamed backward in smooth silky abundance, seemed more queenly than
usual. Perhaps it was that there was none of the latent fun and
tricksiness which had always pierced in her greeting of Rex. How much
of this was due to her presentiment from what he had said yesterday
that he was going to talk of love? How much from her desire to show
regret about his accident? Something of both. But the wisdom of ages
has hinted that there is a side of the bed which has a malign influence
if you happen to get out on it; and this accident befalls some charming
persons rather frequently. Perhaps it had befallen Gwendolen this
morning. The hastening of her toilet, the way in which Bugle used the
brush, the quality of the shilling serial mistakenly written for her
amusement, the probabilities of the coming day, and, in short, social
institutions generally, were all objectionable to her. It was not that
she was out of temper, but that the world was not equal to the demands
of her fine organism.
However it might be, Rex saw an awful majesty about her as she entered
and put out her hand to him, without the least approach to a smile in
eyes or mouth. The fun which had moved her in the evening had quite
evaporated from the image of his accident, and the whole affair seemed
stupid to her. But she said with perfect propriety, "I hope you are not
much hurt, Rex; I deserve that you should reproach me for your
"Not at all," said Rex, feeling the soul within him spreading itself
like an attack of illness. "There is hardly any thing the matter with
me. I am so glad you had the pleasure: I would willingly pay for it by
a tumble, only I was sorry to break the horse's knees."
Gwendolen walked to the hearth and stood looking at the fire in the
most inconvenient way for conversation, so that he could only get a
side view of her face.
"My father wants me to go to Southampton for the rest of the vacation,"
said Rex, his baritone trembling a little.
"Southampton! That's a stupid place to go to, isn't it?" said
"It would be to me, because you would not be there." Silence.
"Should you mind about me going away, Gwendolen?"
"Of course. Every one is of consequence in this dreary country," said
Gwendolen, curtly. The perception that poor Rex wanted to be tender
made her curl up and harden like a sea-anemone at the touch of a finger.
"Are you angry with me, Gwendolen? Why do you treat me in this way all
at once?" said Rex, flushing, and with more spirit in his voice, as if
he too were capable of being angry.
Gwendolen looked round at him and smiled. "Treat you? Nonsense! I am
only rather cross. Why did you come so very early? You must expect to
find tempers in dishabille."
"Be as cross with me as you like--only don't treat me with
indifference," said Rex, imploringly. "All the happiness of my life
depends on your loving me--if only a little--better than any one else."
He tried to take her hand, but she hastily eluded his grasp and moved
to the other end of the hearth, facing him.
"Pray don't make love to me! I hate it!" she looked at him fiercely.
Rex turned pale and was silent, but could not take his eyes off her,
and the impetus was not yet exhausted that made hers dart death at him.
Gwendolen herself could not have foreseen that she should feel in this
way. It was all a sudden, new experience to her. The day before she had
been quite aware that her cousin was in love with her; she did not mind
how much, so that he said nothing about it; and if any one had asked
her why she objected to love-making speeches, she would have said,
laughingly, "Oh I am tired of them all in the books." But now the life
of passion had begun negatively in her. She felt passionately averse to
this volunteered love.
To Rex at twenty the joy of life seemed at an end more absolutely than
it can do to a man at forty. But before they had ceased to look at each
other, he did speak again.
"Is that last word you have to say to me, Gwendolen? Will it always be
She could not help seeing his wretchedness and feeling a little regret
for the old Rex who had not offended her. Decisively, but yet with some
return of kindness, she said--
"About making love? Yes. But I don't dislike you for anything else."
There was just a perceptible pause before he said a low "good-bye." and
passed out of the room. Almost immediately after, she heard the heavy
hall door bang behind him.
Mrs. Davilow, too, had heard Rex's hasty departure, and presently came
into the drawing-room, where she found Gwendolen seated on the low
couch, her face buried, and her hair falling over her figure like a
garment. She was sobbing bitterly. "My child, my child, what is it?"
cried the mother, who had never before seen her darling struck down in
this way, and felt something of the alarmed anguish that women, feel at
the sight of overpowering sorrow in a strong man; for this child had
been her ruler. Sitting down by her with circling arms, she pressed her
cheek against Gwendolen's head, and then tried to draw it upward.
Gwendolen gave way, and letting her head rest against her mother, cried
out sobbingly, "Oh, mamma, what can become of my life? there is nothing
worth living for!"
"Why, dear?" said Mrs. Davilow. Usually she herself had been rebuked by
her daughter for involuntary signs of despair.
"I shall never love anybody. I can't love people. I hate them."
"The time will come, dear, the time will come."
Gwendolen was more and more convulsed with sobbing; but putting her
arms round her mother's neck with an almost painful clinging, she said
brokenly, "I can't bear any one to be very near me but you."
Then the mother began to sob, for this spoiled child had never shown
such dependence on her before: and so they clung to each other.
What name doth Joy most borrow
When life is fair?
What name doth best fit Sorrow
In young despair?
There was a much more lasting trouble at the rectory. Rex arrived there
only to throw himself on his bed in a state of apparent apathy,
unbroken till the next day, when it began to be interrupted by more
positive signs of illness. Nothing could be said about his going to
Southampton: instead of that, the chief thought of his mother and Anna
was how to tend this patient who did not want to be well, and from
being the brightest, most grateful spirit in the household, was
metamorphosed into an irresponsive, dull-eyed creature who met all
affectionate attempts with a murmur of "Let me alone." His father
looked beyond the crisis, and believed it to be the shortest way out of
an unlucky affair; but he was sorry for the inevitable suffering, and
went now and then to sit by him in silence for a few minutes, parting
with a gentle pressure of his hand on Rex's blank brow, and a "God
bless you, my boy." Warham and the younger children used to peep round
the edge of the door to see this incredible thing of their lively
brother being laid low; but fingers were immediately shaken at them to
drive them back. The guardian who was always there was Anna, and her
little hand was allowed to rest within her brother's, though he never
gave it a welcoming pressure. Her soul was divided between anguish for
Rex and reproach of Gwendolen.
"Perhaps it is wicked of me, but I think I never "can" love her again,"
came as the recurrent burden of poor little Anna's inward monody. And
even Mrs. Gascoigne had an angry feeling toward her niece which she
could not refrain from expressing (apologetically) to her husband.
"I know of course it is better, and we ought to be thankful that she is
not in love with the poor boy; but really. Henry, I think she is hard;
she has the heart of a coquette. I can not help thinking that she must
have made him believe something, or the disappointment would not have
taken hold of him in that way. And some blame attaches to poor Fanny;
she is quite blind about that girl."
Mr. Gascoigne answered imperatively: "The less said on that point the
better, Nancy. I ought to have been more awake myself. As to the boy,
be thankful if nothing worse ever happens to him. Let the thing die out
as quickly as possible; and especially with regard to Gwendolen--let it
be as if it had never been."
The rector's dominant feeling was that there had been a great escape.
Gwendolen in love with Rex in return would have made a much harder
problem, the solution of which might have been taken out of his hands.
But he had to go through some further difficulty.
One fine morning Rex asked for his bath, and made his toilet as usual.
Anna, full of excitement at this change, could do nothing but listen
for his coming down, and at last hearing his step, ran to the foot of
the stairs to meet him. For the first time he gave her a faint smile,
but it looked so melancholy on his pale face that she could hardly help
"Nannie!" he said gently, taking her hand and leading her slowly along
with him to the drawing-room. His mother was there, and when she came
to kiss him, he said: "What a plague I am!"
Then he sat still and looked out of the bow-window on the lawn and
shrubs covered with hoar-frost, across which the sun was sending faint
occasional gleams:--something like that sad smile on Rex's face, Anna
thought. He felt as if he had had a resurrection into a new world, and
did not know what to do with himself there, the old interests being
left behind. Anna sat near him, pretending to work, but really watching
him with yearning looks. Beyond the garden hedge there was a road where
wagons and carts sometimes went on field-work: a railed opening was
made in the hedge, because the upland with its bordering wood and clump
of ash-trees against the sky was a pretty sight. Presently there came
along a wagon laden with timber; the horses were straining their grand
muscles, and the driver having cracked his whip, ran along anxiously to
guide the leader's head, fearing a swerve. Rex seemed to be shaken into
attention, rose and looked till the last quivering trunk of the timber
had disappeared, and then walked once or twice along the room. Mrs.
Gascoigne was no longer there, and when he came to sit down again,
Anna, seeing a return of speech in her brother's eyes, could not resist
the impulse to bring a little stool and seat herself against his knee,
looking up at him with an expression which seemed to say, "Do speak to
me." And he spoke.
"I'll tell you what I'm thinking of, Nannie. I will go to Canada, or
somewhere of that sort." (Rex had not studied the character of our
"Oh, Rex, not for always!"
"Yes, to get my bread there. I should like to build a hut, and work
hard at clearing, and have everything wild about me, and a great wide
"And not take me with you?" said Anna, the big tears coming fast.
"How could I?"
"I should like it better than anything; and settlers go with their
families. I would sooner go there than stay here in England. I could
make the fires, and mend the clothes, and cook the food; and I could
learn how to make the bread before we went. It would be nicer than
anything--like playing at life over again, as we used to do when we
made our tent with the drugget, and had our little plates and dishes."
"Father and mother would not let you go."
"Yes, I think they would, when I explained everything. It would save
money; and papa would have more to bring up the boys with."
There was further talk of the same practical kind at intervals, and it
ended in Rex's being obliged to consent that Anna should go with him
when he spoke to his father on the subject.
Of course it was when the rector was alone in his study. Their mother
would become reconciled to whatever he decided on, but mentioned to her
first, the question would have distressed her.
"Well, my children!" said Mr. Gascoigne, cheerfully, as they entered.
It was a comfort to see Rex about again.
"May we sit down with you a little, papa?" said Anna. "Rex has
something to say."
"With all my heart."
It was a noticeable group that these three creatures made, each of them
with a face of the same structural type--the straight brow, the nose
suddenly straightened from an intention of being aquiline, the short
upper lip, the short but strong and well-hung chin: there was even the
same tone of complexion and set of the eye. The gray-haired father was
at once massive and keen-looking; there was a perpendicular line in his
brow which when he spoke with any force of interest deepened; and the
habit of ruling gave him an air of reserved authoritativeness. Rex
would have seemed a vision of his father's youth, if it had been
possible to imagine Mr. Gascoigne without distinct plans and without
command, smitten with a heart sorrow, and having no more notion of
concealment than a sick animal; and Anna was a tiny copy of Rex, with
hair drawn back and knotted, her face following his in its changes of
expression, as if they had one soul between them.
"You know all about what has upset me, father," Rex began, and Mr.
"I am quite done up for life in this part of the world. I am sure it
will be no use my going back to Oxford. I couldn't do any reading. I
should fail, and cause you expense for nothing. I want to have your
consent to take another course, sir."
Mr. Gascoigne nodded more slowly, the perpendicular line on his brow
deepened, and Anna's trembling increased.
"If you would allow me a small outfit, I should like to go to the
colonies and work on the land there." Rex thought the vagueness of the
phrase prudential; "the colonies" necessarily embracing more
advantages, and being less capable of being rebutted on a single ground
than any particular settlement.
"Oh, and with me, papa," said Anna, not bearing to be left out from the
proposal even temporarily. "Rex would want some one to take care of
him, you know--some one to keep house. And we shall never, either of
us, be married. And I should cost nothing, and I should be so happy. I
know it would be hard to leave you and mamma; but there are all the
others to bring up, and we two should be no trouble to you any more."
Anna had risen from her seat, and used the feminine argument of going
closer to her papa as she spoke. He did not smile, but he drew her on
his knee and held her there, as if to put her gently out of the
question while he spoke to Rex.
"You will admit that my experience gives me some power of judging for
you, and that I can probably guide you in practical matters better than
you can guide yourself?"
Rex was obliged to say, "Yes, sir."
"And perhaps you will admit--though I don't wish to press that
point--that you are bound in duty to consider my judgment and wishes?"
"I have never yet placed myself in opposition to you, sir." Rex in his
secret soul could not feel that he was bound not to go to the colonies,
but to go to Oxford again--which was the point in question.
"But you will do so if you persist in setting your mind toward a rash
and foolish procedure, and deafening yourself to considerations which
my experience of life assures me of. You think, I suppose, that you
have had a shock which has changed all your inclinations, stupefied
your brains, unfitted you for anything but manual labor, and given you
a dislike to society? Is that what you believe?"
"Something like that. I shall never be up to the sort of work I must do
to live in this part of the world. I have not the spirit for it. I
shall never be the same again. And without any disrespect to you,
father, I think a young fellow should be allowed to choose his way of
life, if he does nobody any harm. There are plenty to stay at home, and
those who like might be allowed to go where there are empty places."
"But suppose I am convinced on good evidence--as I am--that this state
of mind of yours is transient, and that if you went off as you propose,
you would by-and-by repent, and feel that you had let yourself slip
back from the point you have been gaining by your education till now?
Have you not strength of mind enough to see that you had better act on
my assurance for a time, and test it? In my opinion, so far from
agreeing with you that you should be free to turn yourself into a
colonist and work in your shirt-sleeves with spade and hatchet--in my
opinion you have no right whatever to expatriate yourself until you
have honestly endeavored to turn to account the education you have
received here. I say nothing of the grief to your mother and me."
"I'm very sorry; but what can I do? I can't study--that's certain,"
"Not just now, perhaps. You will have to miss a term. I have made
arrangements for you--how you are to spend the next two months. But I
confess I am disappointed in you, Rex. I thought you had more sense
than to take up such ideas--to suppose that because you have fallen
into a very common trouble, such as most men have to go through, you
are loosened from all bonds of duty--just as if your brain had softened
and you were no longer a responsible being."
What could Rex say? Inwardly he was in a state of rebellion, but he had
no arguments to meet his father's; and while he was feeling, in spite
of any thing that might be said, that he should like to go off to "the
colonies" to-morrow, it lay in a deep fold of his consciousness that he
ought to feel--if he had been a better fellow he would have felt--more
about his old ties. This is the sort of faith we live by in our soul
Rex got up from his seat, as if he held the conference to be at an end.
"You assent to my arrangement, then?" said Mr. Gascoigne, with that
distinct resolution of tone which seems to hold one in a vise.
There was a little pause before Rex answered, "I'll try what I can do,
sir. I can't promise." His thought was, that trying would be of no use.
Her father kept Anna, holding her fast, though she wanted to follow
Rex. "Oh, papa," she said, the tears coming with her words when the
door had closed; "it is very hard for him. Doesn't he look ill?"
"Yes, but he will soon be better; it will all blow over. And now, Anna,
be as quiet as a mouse about it all. Never let it be mentioned when he
"No, papa. But I would not be like Gwendolen for any thing--to have
people fall in love with me so. It is very dreadful."
Anna dared not say that she was disappointed at not being allowed to go
to the colonies with Rex; but that was her secret feeling, and she
often afterward went inwardly over the whole affair, saying to herself,
"I should have done with going out, and gloves, and crinoline, and
having to talk when I am taken to dinner--and all that!"
I like to mark the time, and connect the course of individual lives
with the historic stream, for all classes of thinkers. This was the
period when the broadening of gauge in crinolines seemed to demand an
agitation for the general enlargement of churches, ball-rooms, and
vehicles. But Anna Gascoigne's figure would only allow the size of
skirt manufactured for young ladies of fourteen.
I'll tell thee, Berthold, what men's hopes are like:
A silly child that, quivering with joy,
Would cast its little mimic fishing-line
Baited with loadstone for a bowl of toys
In the salt ocean.
Eight months after the arrival of the family at Offendene, that is to
say in the end of the following June, a rumor was spread in the
neighborhood which to many persons was matter of exciting interest. It
had no reference to the results of the American war, but it was one
which touched all classes within a certain circuit round Wanchester:
the corn-factors, the brewers, the horse-dealers, and saddlers, all
held it a laudable thing, and one which was to be rejoiced in on
abstract grounds, as showing the value of an aristocracy in a free
country like England; the blacksmith in the hamlet of Diplow felt that
a good time had come round; the wives of laboring men hoped their
nimble boys of ten or twelve would be taken into employ by the
gentlemen in livery; and the farmers about Diplow admitted, with a
tincture of bitterness and reserve that a man might now again perhaps
have an easier market or exchange for a rick of old hay or a wagon-load
of straw. If such were the hopes of low persons not in society, it may
be easily inferred that their betters had better reasons for
satisfaction, probably connected with the pleasures of life rather than
its business. Marriage, however, must be considered as coming under
both heads; and just as when a visit of majesty is announced, the dream
of knighthood or a baronetcy is to be found under various municipal
nightcaps, so the news in question raised a floating indeterminate
vision of marriage in several well-bred imaginations.
The news was that Diplow Hall, Sir Hugo Mallinger's place, which had
for a couple of years turned its white window-shutters in a painfully
wall-eyed manner on its fine elms and beeches, its lilied pool and
grassy acres specked with deer, was being prepared for a tenant, and
was for the rest of the summer and through the hunting season to be
inhabited in a fitting style both as to house and stable. But not by
Sir Hugo himself: by his nephew, Mr. Mallinger Grandcourt, who was
presumptive heir to the baronetcy, his uncle's marriage having produced
nothing but girls. Nor was this the only contingency with which fortune
flattered young Grandcourt, as he was pleasantly called; for while the
chance of the baronetcy came through his father, his mother had given a
baronial streak to his blood, so that if certain intervening persons
slightly painted in the middle distance died, he would become a baron
and peer of this realm.
It is the uneven allotment of nature that the male bird alone has the
tuft, but we have not yet followed the advice of hasty philosophers who
would have us copy nature entirely in these matters; and if Mr.
Mallinger Grandcourt became a baronet or a peer, his wife would share
the title--which in addition to his actual fortune was certainly a
reason why that wife, being at present unchosen, should be thought of
by more than one person with a sympathetic interest as a woman sure to
be well provided for.
Some readers of this history will doubtless regard it as incredible
that people should construct matrimonial prospects on the mere report
that a bachelor of good fortune and possibilities was coming within
reach, and will reject the statement as a mere outflow of gall: they
will aver that neither they nor their first cousins have minds so
unbridled; and that in fact this is not human nature, which would know
that such speculations might turn out to be fallacious, and would
therefore not entertain them. But, let it be observed, nothing is here
narrated of human nature generally: the history in its present stage
concerns only a few people in a corner of Wessex--whose reputation,
however, was unimpeached, and who, I am in the proud position of being
able to state, were all on visiting terms with persons of rank.
There were the Arrowpoints, for example, in their beautiful place at
Quetcham: no one could attribute sordid views in relation to their
daughter's marriage to parents who could leave her at least half a
million; but having affectionate anxieties about their Catherine's
position (she having resolutely refused Lord Slogan, an unexceptionable
Irish peer, whose estate wanted nothing but drainage and population),
they wondered, perhaps from something more than a charitable impulse,
whether Mr. Grandcourt was good-looking, of sound constitution,
virtuous, or at least reformed, and if liberal-conservative, not too
liberal-conservative; and without wishing anybody to die, thought his
succession to the title an event to be desired.
If the Arrowpoints had such ruminations, it is the less surprising that
they were stimulated in Mr. Gascoigne, who for being a clergyman was
not the less subject to the anxieties of a parent and guardian; and we
have seen how both he and Mrs. Gascoigne might by this time have come
to feel that he was overcharged with the management of young creatures
who were hardly to be held in with bit or bridle, or any sort of
metaphor that would stand for judicious advice.
Naturally, people did not tell each other all they felt and thought
about young Grandcourt's advent: on no subject is this openness found
prudently practicable--not even on the generation of acids, or the
destination of the fixed stars: for either your contemporary with a
mind turned toward the same subjects may find your ideas ingenious and
forestall you in applying them, or he may have other views on acids and
fixed stars, and think ill of you in consequence. Mr. Gascoigne did not
ask Mr. Arrowpoint if he had any trustworthy source of information
about Grandcourt considered as a husband for a charming girl; nor did
Mrs. Arrowpoint observe to Mrs. Davilow that if the possible peer
sought a wife in the neighborhood of Diplow, the only reasonable
expectation was that he would offer his hand to Catherine, who,
however, would not accept him unless he were in all respects fitted to
secure her happiness. Indeed, even to his wife the rector was silent as
to the contemplation of any matrimonial result, from the probability
that Mr. Grandcourt would see Gwendolen at the next Archery Meeting;
though Mrs. Gascoigne's mind was very likely still more active in the
same direction. She had said interjectionally to her sister, "It would
be a mercy, Fanny, if that girl were well married!" to which Mrs.
Davilow discerning some criticism of her darling in the fervor of that
wish, had not chosen to make any audible reply, though she had said
inwardly, "You will not get her to marry for your pleasure"; the mild
mother becoming rather saucy when she identified herself with her
To her husband Mrs. Gascoigne said, "I hear Mr. Grandcourt has got two
places of his own, but he comes to Diplow for the hunting. It is to be
hoped he will set a good example in the neighborhood. Have you heard
what sort of a young man he is, Henry?"
Mr. Gascoigne had not heard; at least, if his male acquaintances had
gossiped in his hearing, he was not disposed to repeat their gossip, or
to give it any emphasis in his own mind. He held it futile, even if it
had been becoming, to show any curiosity as to the past of a young man
whose birth, wealth, and consequent leisure made many habits venial
which under other circumstances would have been inexcusable. Whatever
Grandcourt had done, he had not ruined himself; and it is well-known
that in gambling, for example, whether of the business or holiday sort,
a man who has the strength of mind to leave off when he has only ruined
others, is a reformed character. This is an illustration merely: Mr.
Gascoigne had not heard that Grandcourt had been a gambler; and we can
hardly pronounce him singular in feeling that a landed proprietor with
a mixture of noble blood in his veins was not to be an object of
suspicious inquiry like a reformed character who offers himself as your
butler or footman. Reformation, where a man can afford to do without
it, can hardly be other than genuine. Moreover, it was not certain on
any other showing hitherto, that Mr. Grandcourt had needed reformation
more than other young men in the ripe youth of five-and-thirty; and, at
any rate, the significance of what he had been must be determined by
what he actually was.
Mrs. Davilow, too, although she would not respond to her sister's
pregnant remark, could not be inwardly indifferent to an advent that
might promise a brilliant lot for Gwendolen. A little speculation on
"what may be" comes naturally, without encouragement--comes inevitably
in the form of images, when unknown persons are mentioned; and Mr.
Grandcourt's name raised in Mrs. Davilow's mind first of all the
picture of a handsome, accomplished, excellent young man whom she would
be satisfied with as a husband for her daughter; but then came the
further speculation--would Gwendolen be satisfied with him? There was
no knowing what would meet that girl's taste or touch her
affections--it might be something else than excellence; and thus the
image of the perfect suitor gave way before a fluctuating combination
of qualities that might be imagined to win Gwendolen's heart. In the
difficulty of arriving at the particular combination which would insure
that result, the mother even said to herself, "It would not signify
about her being in love, if she would only accept the right person."
For whatever marriage had been for herself, how could she the less
desire it for her daughter? The difference her own misfortunes made
was, that she never dared to dwell much to Gwendolen on the
desirableness of marriage, dreading an answer something like that of
the future Madame Roland, when her gentle mother urging the acceptance
of a suitor, said, "Tu seras heureuse, ma chère." "Oui, maman, comme
In relation to the problematic Mr. Grandcourt least of all would Mrs.
Davilow have willingly let fall a hint of the aerial castle-building
which she had the good taste to be ashamed of; for such a hint was
likely enough to give an adverse poise to Gwendolen's own thought, and
make her detest the desirable husband beforehand. Since that scene
after poor Rex's farewell visit, the mother had felt a new sense of
peril in touching the mystery of her child's feeling, and in rashly
determining what was her welfare: only she could think of welfare in no
other shape than marriage.
The discussion of the dress that Gwendolen was to wear at the Archery
Meeting was a relevant topic, however; and when it had been decided
that as a touch of color on her white cashmere, nothing, for her
complexion, was comparable to pale green--a feather which she was
trying in her hat before the looking-glass having settled the
question--Mrs. Davilow felt her ears tingle when Gwendolen, suddenly
throwing herself into the attitude of drawing her bow, said with a look
of comic enjoyment--
"How I pity all the other girls at the Archery Meeting--all thinking of
Mr. Grandcourt! And they have not a shadow of a chance."
Mrs. Davilow had not the presence of mind to answer immediately, and
Gwendolen turned round quickly toward her, saying, wickedly--
"Now you know they have not, mamma. You and my uncle and aunt--you all
intend him to fall in love with me."
Mrs. Davilow, piqued into a little stratagem, said, "Oh, my, dear, that
is not so certain. Miss Arrowpoint has charms which you have not."
"I know, but they demand thought. My arrow will pierce him before he
has time for thought. He will declare himself my slave--I shall send
him round the world to bring me back the wedding ring of a happy
woman--in the meantime all the men who are between him and the title
will die of different diseases--he will come back Lord Grandcourt--but
without the ring--and fall at my feet. I shall laugh at him--he will
rise in resentment--I shall laugh more--he will call for his steed and
ride to Quetcham, where he will find Miss Arrowpoint just married to a
needy musician, Mrs. Arrowpoint tearing her cap off, and Mr. Arrowpoint
standing by. Exit Lord Grandcourt, who returns to Diplow, and, like M.
Jabot, "change de linge"."
Was ever any young witch like this? You thought of hiding things from
her--sat upon your secret and looked innocent, and all the while she
knew by the corner of your eye that it was exactly five pounds ten you
were sitting on! As well turn the key to keep out the damp! It was
probable that by dint of divination she already knew more than any one
else did of Mr. Grandcourt. That idea in Mrs. Davilow's mind prompted
the sort of question which often comes without any other apparent
reason than the faculty of speech and the not knowing what to do with
"Why, what kind of a man do you imagine him to be, Gwendolen?"
"Let me see!" said the witch, putting her forefinger to her lips, with
a little frown, and then stretching out the finger with decision.
"Short--just above my shoulder--crying to make himself tall by turning
up his mustache and keeping his beard long--a glass in his right eye to
give him an air of distinction--a strong opinion about his waistcoat,
but uncertain and trimming about the weather, on which he will try to
draw me out. He will stare at me all the while, and the glass in his
eye will cause him to make horrible faces, especially when he smiles in
a flattering way. I shall cast down my eyes in consequence, and he will
perceive that I am not indifferent to his attentions. I shall dream
that night that I am looking at the extraordinary face of a magnified
insect--and the next morning he will make an offer of his hand; the
sequel as before."
"That is a portrait of some one you have seen already, Gwen. Mr.
Grandcourt may be a delightful young man for what you know."
"Oh, yes," said Gwendolen, with a high note of careless admission,
taking off her best hat and turning it round on her hand
contemplatively. "I wonder what sort of behavior a delightful young man
would have? I know he would have hunters and racers, and a London house
and two country-houses--one with battlements and another with a
veranda. And I feel sure that with a little murdering he might get a
The irony of this speech was of the doubtful sort that has some genuine
belief mixed up with it. Poor Mrs. Davilow felt uncomfortable under it.
Her own meanings being usually literal and in intention innocent; and
she said with a distressed brow:
"Don't talk in that way, child, for heaven's sake! you do read such
books--they give you such ideas of everything. I declare when your aunt
and I were your age we knew nothing about wickedness. I think it was
"Why did you not bring me up in that way, mamma?" said Gwendolen. But
immediately perceiving in the crushed look and rising sob that she had
given a deep wound, she tossed down her hat and knelt at her mother's
"Mamma, mamma! I was only speaking in fun. I meant nothing."
"How could I, Gwendolen?" said poor Mrs. Davilow, unable to hear the
retraction, and sobbing violently while she made the effort to speak.
"Your will was always too strong for me--if everything else had been
This disjoined logic was intelligible enough to the daughter. "Dear
mamma, I don't find fault with you--I love you," said Gwendolen, really
compunctious. "How can you help what I am? Besides, I am very charming.
Come, now." Here Gwendolen with her handkerchief gently rubbed away her
mother's tears. "Really--I am contented with myself. I like myself
better than I should have liked my aunt and you. How dreadfully dull
you must have been!"
Such tender cajolery served to quiet the mother, as it had often done
before after like collisions. Not that the collisions had often been
repeated at the same point; for in the memory of both they left an
association of dread with the particular topics which had occasioned
them: Gwendolen dreaded the unpleasant sense of compunction toward her
mother, which was the nearest approach to self-condemnation and
self-distrust that she had known; and Mrs. Davilow's timid maternal
conscience dreaded whatever had brought on the slightest hint of
reproach. Hence, after this little scene, the two concurred in
excluding Mr. Grandcourt from their conversation.
When Mr. Gascoigne once or twice referred to him, Mrs. Davilow feared
least Gwendolen should betray some of her alarming keen-sightedness
about what was probably in her uncle's mind; but the fear was not
justified. Gwendolen knew certain differences in the characters with
which she was concerned as birds know climate and weather; and for the
very reason that she was determined to evade her uncle's control, she
was determined not to clash with him. The good understanding between
them was much fostered by their enjoyment of archery together: Mr.
Gascoigne, as one of the best bowmen in Wessex, was gratified to find
the elements of like skill in his niece; and Gwendolen was the more
careful not to lose the shelter of his fatherly indulgence, because
since the trouble with Rex both Mrs. Gascoigne and Anna had been unable
to hide what she felt to be a very unreasonable alienation from her.
Toward Anna she took some pains to behave with a regretful
affectionateness; but neither of them dared to mention Rex's name, and
Anna, to whom the thought of him was part of the air she breathed, was
ill at ease with the lively cousin who had ruined his happiness. She
tried dutifully to repress any sign of her changed feeling; but who in
pain can imitate the glance and hand-touch of pleasure.
This unfair resentment had rather a hardening effect on Gwendolen, and
threw her into a more defiant temper. Her uncle too might be offended
if she refused the next person who fell in love with her; and one day
when that idea was in her mind she said--
"Mamma, I see now why girls are glad to be married--to escape being
expected to please everybody but themselves."
Happily, Mr. Middleton was gone without having made any avowal; and
notwithstanding the admiration for the handsome Miss Harleth, extending
perhaps over thirty square miles in a part of Wessex well studded with
families whose numbers included several disengaged young men, each glad
to seat himself by the lively girl with whom it was so easy to get on
in conversation,--notwithstanding these grounds for arguing that
Gwendolen was likely to have other suitors more explicit than the
cautious curate, the fact was not so.
Care has been taken not only that the trees should not sweep the stars
down, but also that every man who admires a fair girl should not be
enamored of her, and even that every man who is enamored should not
necessarily declare himself. There are various refined shapes in which
the price of corn, known to be potent cause in their relation, might,
if inquired into, show why a young lady, perfect in person,
accomplishments, and costume, has not the trouble of rejecting many
offers; and nature's order is certainly benignant in not obliging us
one and all to be desperately in love with the most admirable mortal we
have ever seen. Gwendolen, we know, was far from holding that supremacy
in the minds of all observers. Besides, it was but a poor eight months
since she had come to Offendene, and some inclinations become manifest
slowly, like the sunward creeping of plants.
In face of this fact that not one of the eligible young men already in
the neighborhood had made Gwendolen an offer, why should Mr. Grandcourt
be thought of as likely to do what they had left undone?
Perhaps because he was thought of as still more eligible; since a great
deal of what passes for likelihood in the world is simply the reflex of
a wish. Mr. and Mrs. Arrowpoint, for example, having no anxiety that
Miss Harleth should make a brilliant marriage, had quite a different
likelihood in their minds.
"1st Gent." What woman should be? Sir, consult the taste
Of marriageable men. This planet's store
In iron, cotton, wool, or chemicals--
All matter rendered to our plastic skill,
Is wrought in shapes responsive to demand;
The market's pulse makes index high or low,
By rule sublime. Our daughters must be wives,
And to the wives must be what men will choose;
Men's taste is woman's test. You mark the phrase?
'Tis good, I think?--the sense well-winged and poised
With t's and s's.
"2nd Gent." Nay, but turn it round;
Give us the test of taste. A fine "menu"--
Is it to-day what Roman epicures
Insisted that a gentleman must eat
To earn the dignity of dining well?
Brackenshaw Park, where the Archery Meeting was held, looked out from
its gentle heights far over the neighboring valley to the outlying
eastern downs and the broad, slow rise of cultivated country, hanging
like a vast curtain toward the west. The castle which stood on the
highest platform of the clustered hills, was built of rough-hewn
limestone, full of lights and shadows made by the dark dust of lichens
and the washings of the rain. Masses of beech and fir sheltered it on
the north, and spread down here and there along the green slopes like
flocks seeking the water which gleamed below. The archery-ground was a
carefully-kept enclosure on a bit of table-land at the farthest end of
the park, protected toward the southwest by tall elms and a thick
screen of hollies, which kept the gravel walk and the bit of newly-mown
turf where the targets were placed in agreeable afternoon shade. The
Archery Hall with an arcade in front showed like a white temple against
the greenery on the north side.
What could make a better background for the flower-groups of ladies,
moving and bowing and turning their necks as it would become the
leisurely lilies to do if they took to locomotion. The sounds too were
very pleasant to hear, even when the military band from Wanchester
ceased to play: musical laughs in all the registers and a harmony of
happy, friendly speeches, now rising toward mild excitement, now
sinking to an agreeable murmur.
No open-air amusement could be much freer from those noisy, crowding
conditions which spoil most modern pleasures; no Archery Meeting could
be more select, the number of friends accompanying the members being
restricted by an award of tickets, so as to keep the maximum within the
limits of convenience for the dinner and ball to be held in the castle.
Within the enclosure no plebeian spectators were admitted except Lord
Brackenshaw's tenants and their families, and of these it was chiefly
the feminine members who used the privilege, bringing their little boys
and girls or younger brothers and sisters. The males among them
relieved the insipidity of the entertainment by imaginative betting, in
which the stake was "anything you like," on their favorite archers; but
the young maidens, having a different principle of discrimination, were
considering which of those sweetly-dressed ladies they would choose to
be, if the choice were allowed them. Probably the form these rural
souls would most have striven for as a tabernacle, was some other than
Gwendolen's--one with more pink in her cheeks and hair of the most
fashionable yellow; but among the male judges in the ranks immediately
surrounding her there was unusual unanimity in pronouncing her the
finest girl present.
No wonder she enjoyed her existence on that July day. Pre-eminence is
sweet to those who love it, even under mediocre circumstances. Perhaps
it was not quite mythical that a slave has been proud to be bought
first; and probably a barn-door fowl on sale, though he may not have
understood himself to be called the best of a bad lot, may have a
self-informed consciousness of his relative importance, and strut
consoled. But for complete enjoyment the outward and the inward must
concur. And that concurrence was happening to Gwendolen.
Who can deny that bows and arrows are among the prettiest weapons in
the world for feminine forms to play with? They prompt attitudes full
of grace and power, where that fine concentration of energy seen in all
markmanship, is freed from associations of bloodshed. The time-honored
British resource of "killing something" is no longer carried on with
bow and quiver; bands defending their passes against an invading nation
fight under another sort of shade than a cloud of arrows; and poisoned
darts are harmless survivals either in rhetoric or in regions
comfortably remote. Archery has no ugly smell of brimstone; breaks
nobody's shins, breeds no athletic monsters; its only danger is that of
failing, which for generous blood is enough to mould skilful action.
And among the Brackenshaw archers the prizes were all of the nobler
symbolic kind; not properly to be carried off in a parcel, degrading
honor into gain; but the gold arrow and the silver, the gold star and
the silver, to be worn for a long time in sign of achievement and then
transferred to the next who did excellently. These signs of
pre-eminence had the virtue of wreaths without their inconveniences,
which might have produced a melancholy effect in the heat of the
ball-room. Altogether the Brackenshaw Archery Club was an institution
framed with good taste, so as not to have by necessity any ridiculous
And to-day all incalculable elements were in its favor. There was mild
warmth, and no wind to disturb either hair or drapery or the course of
the arrow; all skillful preparation had fair play, and when there was a
general march to extract the arrows, the promenade of joyous young
creatures in light speech and laughter, the graceful movement in common
toward a common object, was a show worth looking at. Here Gwendolen
seemed a Calypso among her nymphs. It was in her attitudes and
movements that every one was obliged to admit her surpassing charm.
"That girl is like a high-mettled racer," said Lord Brackenshaw to
young Clintock, one of the invited spectators.
"First chop! tremendously pretty too," said the elegant Grecian, who
had been paying her assiduous attention; "I never saw her look better."
Perhaps she had never looked so well. Her face was beaming with young
pleasure in which there was no malign rays of discontent; for being
satisfied with her own chances, she felt kindly toward everybody and
was satisfied with the universe. Not to have the highest distinction in
rank, not to be marked out as an heiress, like Miss Arrowpoint, gave an
added triumph in eclipsing those advantages. For personal
recommendation she would not have cared to change the family group
accompanying her for any other: her mamma's appearance would have
suited an amiable duchess; her uncle and aunt Gascoigne with Anna made
equally gratifying figures in their way; and Gwendolen was too full of
joyous belief in herself to feel in the least jealous though Miss
Arrowpoint was one of the best archeresses.
Even the reappearance of the formidable Herr Klesmer, which caused some
surprise in the rest of the company, seemed only to fall in with
Gwendolen's inclination to be amused. Short of Apollo himself, what
great musical "maestro" could make a good figure at an archery meeting?
There was a very satirical light in Gwendolen's eyes as she looked
toward the Arrowpoint party on their first entrance, when the contrast
between Klesmer and the average group of English country people seemed
at its utmost intensity in the close neighborhood of his hosts--or
patrons, as Mrs. Arrowpoint would have liked to hear them called, that
she might deny the possibility of any longer patronizing genius, its
royalty being universally acknowledged. The contrast might have amused
a graver personage than Gwendolen. We English are a miscellaneous
people, and any chance fifty of us will present many varieties of
animal architecture or facial ornament; but it must be admitted that
our prevailing expression is not that of a lively, impassioned race,
preoccupied with the ideal and carrying the real as a mere make-weight.
The strong point of the English gentleman pure is the easy style of his
figure and clothing; he objects to marked ins and outs in his costume,
and he also objects to looking inspired.
Fancy an assemblage where the men had all that ordinary stamp of the
well-bred Englishman, watching the entrance of Herr Klesmer--his mane
of hair floating backward in massive inconsistency with the chimney-pot
hat, which had the look of having been put on for a joke above his
pronounced but well-modeled features and powerful clear-shaven mouth
and chin; his tall, thin figure clad in a way which, not being strictly
English, was all the worse for its apparent emphasis of intention.
Draped in a loose garment with a Florentine "berretta" on his head, he
would have been fit to stand by the side of Leonardo de Vinci; but how
when he presented himself in trousers which were not what English
feeling demanded about the knees?--and when the fire that showed itself
in his glances and the movements of his head, as he looked round him
with curiosity, was turned into comedy by a hat which ruled that
mankind should have well-cropped hair and a staid demeanor, such, for
example, as Mr. Arrowsmith's, whose nullity of face and perfect
tailoring might pass everywhere without ridicule? One feels why it is
often better for greatness to be dead, and to have got rid of the
Many present knew Klesmer, or knew of him; but they had only seen him
on candle-light occasions when he appeared simply as a musician, and he
had not yet that supreme, world-wide celebrity which makes an artist
great to the most ordinary people by their knowledge of his great
expensiveness. It was literally a new light for them to see him
in--presented unexpectedly on this July afternoon in an exclusive
society: some were inclined to laugh, others felt a little disgust at
the want of judgment shown by the Arrowpoints in this use of an
"What extreme guys those artistic fellows usually are?" said young
Clintock to Gwendolen. "Do look at the figure he cuts, bowing with his
hand on his heart to Lady Brackenshaw--and Mrs. Arrowpoint's feather
just reaching his shoulder."
"You are one of the profane," said Gwendolen. "You are blind to the
majesty of genius. Herr Klesmer smites me with awe; I feel crushed in
his presence; my courage all oozes from me."
"Ah, you understand all about his music."
"No, indeed," said Gwendolen, with a light laugh; "it is he who
understands all about mine and thinks it pitiable." Klesmer's verdict
on her singing had been an easier joke to her since he had been struck
by her "plastik".
"It is not addressed to the ears of the future, I suppose. I'm glad of
that: it suits mine."
"Oh, you are very kind. But how remarkably well Miss Arrowpoint looks
to-day! She would make quite a fine picture in that gold-colored dress."
"Too splendid, don't you think?"
"Well, perhaps a little too symbolical--too much like the figure of
Wealth in an allegory."
This speech of Gwendolen's had rather a malicious sound, but it was not
really more than a bubble of fun. She did not wish Miss Arrowpoint or
any one else to be out of the way, believing in her own good fortune
even more than in her skill. The belief in both naturally grew stronger
as the shooting went on, for she promised to achieve one of the best
scores--a success which astonished every one in a new member; and to
Gwendolen's temperament one success determined another. She trod on
air, and all things pleasant seemed possible. The hour was enough for
her, and she was not obliged to think what she should do next to keep
her life at the due pitch.
"How does the scoring stand, I wonder?" said Lady Brackenshaw, a
gracious personage who, adorned with two little girls and a boy of
stout make, sat as lady paramount. Her lord had come up to her in one
of the intervals of shooting. "It seems to me that Miss Harleth is
likely to win the gold arrow."
"Gad, I think she will, if she carries it on! she is running Juliet
Fenn hard. It is wonderful for one in her first year. Catherine is not
up to her usual mark," continued his lordship, turning to the heiress's
mother who sat near. "But she got the gold arrow last time. And there's
a luck even in these games of skill. That's better. It gives the hinder
ones a chance."
"Catherine will be very glad for others to win," said Mrs. Arrowpoint,
"she is so magnanimous. It was entirely her considerateness that made
us bring Herr Klesmer instead of Canon Stopley, who had expressed a
wish to come. For her own pleasure, I am sure she would rather have
brought the Canon; but she is always thinking of others. I told her it
was not quite "en règle" to bring one so far out of our own set; but
she said, 'Genius itself is not "en règle"; it comes into the world to
make new rules.' And one must admit that."
"Ay, to be sure," said Lord Brackenshaw, in a tone of careless
dismissal, adding quickly, "For my part, I am not magnanimous; I should
like to win. But, confound it! I never have the chance now. I'm getting
old and idle. The young ones beat me. As old Nestor says--the gods
don't give us everything at one time: I was a young fellow once, and
now I am getting an old and wise one. Old, at any rate; which is a gift
that comes to everybody if they live long enough, so it raises no
jealousy." The Earl smiled comfortably at his wife.
"Oh, my lord, people who have been neighbors twenty years must not talk
to each other about age," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "Years, as the Tuscans
say, are made for the letting of houses. But where is our new neighbor?
I thought Mr. Grandcourt was to be here to-day."
"Ah, by the way, so he was. The time's getting on too," said his
lordship, looking at his watch. "But he only got to Diplow the other
day. He came to us on Tuesday and said he had been a little bothered.
He may have been pulled in another direction. Why, Gascoigne!"--the
rector was just then crossing at a little distance with Gwendolen on
his arm, and turned in compliance with the call--"this is a little too
bad; you not only beat us yourself, but you bring up your niece to beat
all the archeresses."
"It "is" rather scandalous in her to get the better of elder members,"
said Mr. Gascoigne, with much inward satisfaction curling his short
upper lip. "But it is not my doing, my lord. I only meant her to make a
tolerable figure, without surpassing any one."
"It is not my fault, either," said Gwendolen, with pretty archness. "If
I am to aim, I can't help hitting."
"Ay, ay, that may be a fatal business for some people," said Lord
Brackenshaw, good-humoredly; then taking out his watch and looking at
Mrs. Arrowpoint again--"The time's getting on, as you say. But
Grandcourt is always late. I notice in town he's always late, and he's
no bowman--understands nothing about it. But I told him he must come;
he would see the flower of the neighborhood here. He asked about
you--had seen Arrowpoint's card. I think you had not made his
acquaintance in town. He has been a good deal abroad. People don't know
"No; we are strangers," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "But that is not what
might have been expected. For his uncle Sir Hugo Mallinger and I are
great friends when we meet."
"I don't know; uncles and nephews are not so likely to be seen together
as uncles and nieces," said his lordship, smiling toward the rector.
"But just come with me one instant, Gascoigne, will you? I want to
speak a word about the clout-shooting."
Gwendolen chose to go too and be deposited in the same group with her
mamma and aunt until she had to shoot again. That Mr. Grandcourt might
after all not appear on the archery-ground, had begun to enter into
Gwendolen's thought as a possible deduction from the completeness of
her pleasure. Under all her saucy satire, provoked chiefly by her
divination that her friends thought of him as a desirable match for
her, she felt something very far from indifference as to the impression
she would make on him. True, he was not to have the slightest power
over her (for Gwendolen had not considered that the desire to conquer
is itself a sort of subjection); she had made up her mind that he was
to be one of those complimentary and assiduously admiring men of whom
even her narrow experience had shown her several with various-colored
beards and various styles of bearing; and the sense that her friends
would want her to think him delightful, gave her a resistant
inclination to presuppose him ridiculous. But that was no reason why
she could spare his presence: and even a passing prevision of trouble
in case she despised and refused him, raised not the shadow of a wish
that he should save her that trouble by showing no disposition to make
her an offer. Mr. Grandcourt taking hardly any notice of her, and
becoming shortly engaged to Miss Arrowpoint, was not a picture which
flattered her imagination.
Hence Gwendolen had been all ear to Lord Brackenshaw's mode of
accounting for Grandcourt's non-appearance; and when he did arrive, no
consciousness--not even Mrs. Arrowpoint's or Mr. Gascoigne's--was more
awake to the fact than hers, although she steadily avoided looking
toward any point where he was likely to be. There should be no
slightest shifting of angles to betray that it was of any consequence
to her whether the much-talked-of Mr. Mallinger Grandcourt presented
himself or not. She became again absorbed in the shooting, and so
resolutely abstained from looking round observantly that, even
supposing him to have taken a conspicuous place among the spectators,
it might be clear she was not aware of him. And all the while the
certainty that he was there made a distinct thread in her
consciousness. Perhaps her shooting was the better for it: at any rate,
it gained in precision, and she at last raised a delightful storm of
clapping and applause by three hits running in the gold--a feat which
among the Brackenshaw archers had not the vulgar reward of a shilling
poll-tax, but that of a special gold star to be worn on the breast.
That moment was not only a happy one to herself--it was just what her
mamma and her uncle would have chosen for her. There was a general
falling into ranks to give her space that she might advance
conspicuously to receive the gold star from the hands of Lady
Brackenshaw; and the perfect movement of her fine form was certainly a
pleasant thing to behold in the clear afternoon light when the shadows
were long and still. She was the central object of that pretty picture,
and every one present must gaze at her. That was enough: she herself
was determined to see nobody in particular, or to turn her eyes any way
except toward Lady Brackenshaw, but her thoughts undeniably turned in
other ways. It entered a little into her pleasure that Herr Klesmer
must be observing her at a moment when music was out of the question,
and his superiority very far in the back-ground; for vanity is as ill
at ease under indifference as tenderness is under a love which it
cannot return; and the unconquered Klesmer threw a trace of his malign
power even across her pleasant consciousness that Mr. Grandcourt was
seeing her to the utmost advantage, and was probably giving her an
admiration unmixed with criticism. She did not expect to admire "him",
but that was not necessary to her peace of mind.
Gwendolen met Lady Brackenshaw's gracious smile without blushing (which
only came to her when she was taken by surprise), but with a charming
gladness of expression, and then bent with easy grace to have the star
fixed near her shoulder. That little ceremony had been over long enough
for her to have exchanged playful speeches and received congratulations
as she moved among the groups who were now interesting themselves in
the results of the scoring; but it happened that she stood outside
examining the point of an arrow with rather an absent air when Lord
Brackenshaw came up to her and said:
"Miss Harleth, here is a gentleman who is not willing to wait any
longer for an introduction. He has been getting Mrs. Davilow to send me
with him. Will you allow me to introduce Mr. Mallinger Grandcourt?"
BOOK II--MEETING STREAMS.
The beginning of an acquaintance whether with persons or things is to
get a definite outline for our ignorance.
Mr. Grandcourt's wish to be introduced had no suddenness for Gwendolen;
but when Lord Brackenshaw moved aside a little for the prefigured
stranger to come forward and she felt herself face to face with the
real man, there was a little shock which flushed her cheeks and
vexatiously deepened with her consciousness of it. The shock came from
the reversal of her expectations: Grandcourt could hardly have been
more unlike all her imaginary portraits of him. He was slightly taller
than herself, and their eyes seemed to be on a level; there was not the
faintest smile on his face as he looked at her, not a trace of
self-consciousness or anxiety in his bearing: when he raised his hat he
showed an extensive baldness surrounded with a mere fringe of
reddish-blonde hair, but he also showed a perfect hand; the line of
feature from brow to chin undisguised by beard was decidedly handsome,
with only moderate departures from the perpendicular, and the slight
whisker too was perpendicular. It was not possible for a human aspect
to be freer from grimace or solicitous wrigglings: also it was perhaps
not possible for a breathing man wide awake to look less animated. The
correct Englishman, drawing himself up from his bow into rigidity,
assenting severely, and seemed to be in a state of internal drill,
suggests a suppressed vivacity, and may be suspected of letting go with
some violence when he is released from parade; but Grandcourt's bearing
had no rigidity, it inclined rather to the flaccid. His complexion had
a faded fairness resembling that of an actress when bare of the
artificial white and red; his long narrow gray eyes expressed nothing
but indifference. Attempts at description are stupid: who can all at
once describe a human being? even when he is presented to us we only
begin that knowledge of his appearance which must be completed by
innumerable impressions under differing circumstances. We recognize the
alphabet; we are not sure of the language. I am only mentioning the
point that Gwendolen saw by the light of a prepared contrast in the
first minutes of her meeting with Grandcourt: they were summed up in
the words, "He is not ridiculous." But forthwith Lord Brackenshaw was
gone, and what is called conversation had begun, the first and constant
element in it being that Grandcourt looked at Gwendolen persistently
with a slightly exploring gaze, but without change of expression, while
she only occasionally looked at him with a flash of observation a
little softened by coquetry. Also, after her answers there was a longer
or shorter pause before he spoke again.
"I used to think archery was a great bore," Grandcourt began. He spoke
with a fine accent, but with a certain broken drawl, as of a
distinguished personage with a distinguished cold on his chest.
"Are you converted to-day?" said Gwendolen.
(Pause, during which she imagined various degrees and modes of opinion
about herself that might be entertained by Grandcourt.)
"Yes, since I saw you shooting. In things of this sort one generally
sees people missing and simpering."
"I suppose you are a first-rate shot with a rifle."
(Pause, during which Gwendolen, having taken a rapid observation of
Grandcourt, made a brief graphic description of him to an indefinite
"I have left off shooting."
"Oh then you are a formidable person. People who have done things once
and left them off make one feel very contemptible, as if one were using
cast-off fashions. I hope you have not left off all follies, because I
practice a great many."
(Pause, during which Gwendolen made several interpretations of her own
"What do you call follies?"
"Well, in general I think, whatever is agreeable is called a folly. But
you have not left off hunting, I hear."
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen recalled what she had heard about
Grandcourt's position, and decided that he was the most
aristocratic-looking man she had ever seen.)
"One must do something."
"And do you care about the turf?--or is that among the things you have
(Pause, during which Gwendolen thought that a man of extremely calm,
cold manners might be less disagreeable as a husband than other men,
and not likely to interfere with his wife's preferences.)
"I run a horse now and then; but I don't go in for the thing as some
men do. Are you fond of horses?"
"Yes, indeed: I never like my life so well as when I am on horseback,
having a great gallop. I think of nothing. I only feel myself strong
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen wondered whether Grandcourt would like what
she said, but assured herself that she was not going to disguise her
"Do you like danger?"
"I don't know. When I am on horseback I never think of danger. It seems
to me that if I broke my bones I should not feel it. I should go at
anything that came in my way."
(Pause during which Gwendolen had run through a whole hunting season
with two chosen hunters to ride at will.)
"You would perhaps like tiger-hunting or pig-sticking. I saw some of
that for a season or two in the East. Everything here is poor stuff
""You" are fond of danger, then?"
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen speculated on the probability that the men of
coldest manners were the most adventurous, and felt the strength of her
own insight, supposing the question had to be decided.)
"One must have something or other. But one gets used to it."
"I begin to think I am very fortunate, because everything is new to me:
it is only that I can't get enough of it. I am not used to anything
except being dull, which I should like to leave off as you have left
(Pause, during which it occurred to Gwendolen that a man of cold and
distinguished manners might possibly be a dull companion; but on the
other hand she thought that most persons were dull, that she had not
observed husbands to be companions--and that after all she was not
going to accept Grandcourt.)
"Why are you dull?"
"This is a dreadful neighborhood. There is nothing to be done in it.
That is why I practiced my archery."
(Pause, during which Gwendolen reflected that the life of an unmarried
woman who could not go about and had no command of anything must
necessarily be dull through all degrees of comparison as time went on.)
"You have made yourself queen of it. I imagine you will carry the first
"I don't know that. I have great rivals. Did you not observe how well
Miss Arrowpoint shot?"
(Pause, wherein Gwendolen was thinking that men had been known to
choose some one else than the woman they most admired, and recalled
several experiences of that kind in novels.)
"Miss Arrowpoint. No--that is, yes."
"Shall we go now and hear what the scoring says? Every one is going to
the other end now--shall we join them? I think my uncle is looking
toward me. He perhaps wants me."
Gwendolen found a relief for herself by thus changing the situation:
not that the "tete-à-tete" was quite disagreeable to her; but while it
lasted she apparently could not get rid of the unwonted flush in her
cheeks and the sense of surprise which made her feel less mistress of
herself than usual. And this Mr. Grandcourt, who seemed to feel his own
importance more than he did hers--a sort of unreasonableness few of us
can tolerate--must not take for granted that he was of great moment to
her, or that because others speculated on him as a desirable match she
held herself altogether at his beck. How Grandcourt had filled up the
pauses will be more evident hereafter.
"You have just missed the gold arrow, Gwendolen," said Mr. Gascoigne.
"Miss Juliet Fenn scores eight above you."
"I am very glad to hear it. I should have felt that I was making myself
too disagreeable--taking the best of everything," said Gwendolen, quite
It was impossible to be jealous of Juliet Fenn, a girl as middling as
mid-day market in everything but her archery and plainness, in which
last she was noticeable like her father: underhung and with receding
brow resembling that of the more intelligent fishes. (Surely,
considering the importance which is given to such an accident in female
offspring, marriageable men, or what the new English calls "intending
bridegrooms," should look at themselves dispassionately in the glass,
since their natural selection of a mate prettier than themselves is not
certain to bar the effect of their own ugliness.)
There was now a lively movement in the mingling groups, which carried
the talk along with it. Every one spoke to every one else by turns, and
Gwendolen, who chose to see what was going on around her now, observed
that Grandcourt was having Klesmer presented to him by some one unknown
to her--a middle-aged man, with dark, full face and fat hands, who
seemed to be on the easiest terms with both, and presently led the way
in joining the Arrowpoints, whose acquaintance had already been made by
both him and Grandcourt. Who this stranger was she did not care much to
know; but she wished to observe what was Grandcourt's manner toward
others than herself. Precisely the same: except that he did not look
much at Miss Arrowpoint, but rather at Klesmer, who was speaking with
animation--now stretching out his long fingers horizontally, now
pointing downward with his fore-finger, now folding his arms and
tossing his mane, while he addressed himself first to one and then to
the other, including Grandcourt, who listened with an impassive face
and narrow eyes, his left fore-finger in his waistcoat-pocket, and his
right slightly touching his thin whisker.
"I wonder which style Miss Arrowpoint admires most," was a thought that
glanced through Gwendolen's mind, while her eyes and lips gathered
rather a mocking expression. But she would not indulge her sense of
amusement by watching, as if she were curious, and she gave all her
animation to those immediately around her, determined not to care
whether Mr. Grandcourt came near her again or not.
He did not come, however, and at a moment when he could propose to
conduct Mrs. Davilow to her carriage, "Shall we meet again in the
ball-room?" she said as he raised his hat at parting. The "yes" in
reply had the usual slight drawl and perfect gravity.
"You were wrong for once Gwendolen," said Mrs. Davilow, during their
few minutes' drive to the castle.
"In what, mamma?"
"About Mr. Grandcourt's appearance and manners. You can't find anything
ridiculous in him."
"I suppose I could if I tried, but I don't want to do it," said
Gwendolen, rather pettishly; and her mother was afraid to say more.
It was the rule on these occasions for the ladies and gentlemen to dine
apart, so that the dinner might make a time of comparative ease and
rest for both. Indeed, the gentlemen had a set of archery stories about
the epicurism of the ladies, who had somehow been reported to show a
revolting masculine judgment in venison, even asking for the fat--a
proof of the frightful rate at which corruption might go on in women,
but for severe social restraint, and every year the amiable Lord
Brackenshaw, who was something of a "gourmet", mentioned Byron's
opinion that a woman should never be seen eating,--introducing it with
a confidential--"The fact is" as if he were for the first time
admitting his concurrence in that sentiment of the refined poet.
In the ladies' dining-room it was evident that Gwendolen was not a
general favorite with her own sex: there were no beginnings of intimacy
between her and other girls, and in conversation they rather noticed
what she said than spoke to her in free exchange. Perhaps it was that
she was not much interested in them, and when left alone in their
company had a sense of empty benches. Mrs. Vulcany once remarked that
Miss Harleth was too fond of the gentlemen; but we know that she was
not in the least fond of them--she was only fond of their homage--and
women did not give her homage. The exception to this willing aloofness
from her was Miss Arrowpoint, who often managed unostentatiously to be
by her side, and talked to her with quiet friendliness.
"She knows, as I do, that our friends are ready to quarrel over a
husband for us," thought Gwendolen, "and she is determined not to enter
into the quarrel."
"I think Miss Arrowpoint has the best manners I ever saw," said Mrs.
Davilow, when she and Gwendolen were in a dressing-room with Mrs.
Gascoigne and Anna, but at a distance where they could have their talk
"I wish I were like her," said Gwendolen.
"Why? Are you getting discontented with yourself, Gwen?"
"No; but I am discontented with things. She seems contented."
"I am sure you ought to be satisfied to-day. You must have enjoyed the
shooting. I saw you did."
"Oh, that is over now, and I don't know what will come next," said
Gwendolen, stretching herself with a sort of moan and throwing up her
arms. They were bare now; it was the fashion to dance in the archery
dress, throwing off the jacket; and the simplicity of her white
cashmere with its border of pale green set off her form to the utmost.
A thin line of gold round her neck, and the gold star on her breast,
were her only ornaments. Her smooth soft hair piled up into a grand
crown made a clear line about her brow. Sir Joshua would have been glad
to take her portrait; and he would have had an easier task than the
historian at least in this, that he would not have had to represent the
truth of change--only to give stability to one beautiful moment.
"The dancing will come next," said Mrs. Davilow "You are sure to enjoy
"I shall only dance in the quadrille. I told Mr. Clintock so. I shall
not waltz or polk with any one."
"Why in the world do you say that all on a sudden?"
"I can't bear having ugly people so near me."
"Whom do you mean by ugly people?"
"Mr. Clintock, for example, is not ugly." Mrs. Davilow dared not
"Well, I hate woolen cloth touching me."
"Fancy!" said Mrs. Davilow to her sister who now came up from the other
end of the room. "Gwendolen says she will not waltz or polk."
"She is rather given to whims, I think," said Mrs. Gascoigne, gravely.
"It would be more becoming in her to behave as other young ladies do on
such an occasion as this; especially when she has had the advantage of
first-rate dancing lessons."
"Why should I dance if I don't like it, aunt? It is not in the
"My "dear"!" said Mrs. Gascoigne, in a tone of severe check, and Anna
looked frightened at Gwendolen's daring. But they all passed on without
saying any more.
Apparently something had changed Gwendolen's mood since the hour of
exulting enjoyment in the archery-ground. But she did not look the
worse under the chandeliers in the ball-room, where the soft splendor
of the scene and the pleasant odors from the conservatory could not but
be soothing to the temper, when accompanied with the consciousness of
being preeminently sought for. Hardly a dancing man but was anxious to
have her for a partner, and each whom she accepted was in a state of
melancholy remonstrance that she would not waltz or polk.
"Are you under a vow, Miss Harleth?"--"Why are you so cruel to us
all?"--"You waltzed with me in February."--"And you who waltz so
perfectly!" were exclamations not without piquancy for her. The ladies
who waltzed naturally thought that Miss Harleth only wanted to make
herself particular; but her uncle when he overheard her refusal
supported her by saying--
"Gwendolen has usually good reasons." He thought she was certainly more
distinguished in not waltzing, and he wished her to be distinguished.
The archery ball was intended to be kept at the subdued pitch that
suited all dignities clerical and secular; it was not an escapement for
youthful high spirits, and he himself was of opinion that the
fashionable dances were too much of a romp.
Among the remonstrant dancing men, however, Mr. Grandcourt was not
numbered. After standing up for a quadrille with Miss Arrowpoint, it
seemed that he meant to ask for no other partner. Gwendolen observed
him frequently with the Arrowpoints, but he never took an opportunity
of approaching her. Mr. Gascoigne was sometimes speaking to him; but
Mr. Gascoigne was everywhere. It was in her mind now that she would
probably after all not have the least trouble about him: perhaps he had
looked at her without any particular admiration, and was too much used
to everything in the world to think of her as more than one of the
girls who were invited in that part of the country. Of course! It was
ridiculous of elders to entertain notions about what a man would do,
without having seen him even through a telescope. Probably he meant to
marry Miss Arrowpoint. Whatever might come, she, Gwendolen, was not
going to be disappointed: the affair was a joke whichever way it
turned, for she had never committed herself even by a silent confidence
in anything Mr. Grandcourt would do. Still, she noticed that he did
sometimes quietly and gradually change his position according to hers,
so that he could see her whenever she was dancing, and if he did not
admire her--so much the worse for him.
This movement for the sake of being in sight of her was more direct
than usual rather late in the evening, when Gwendolen had accepted
Klesmer as a partner; and that wide-glancing personage, who saw
everything and nothing by turns, said to her when they were walking,
"Mr. Grandcourt is a man of taste. He likes to see you dancing."
"Perhaps he likes to look at what is against his taste," said
Gwendolen, with a light laugh; she was quite courageous with Klesmer
now. "He may be so tired of admiring that he likes disgust for variety."
"Those words are not suitable to your lips," said Klesmer, quickly,
with one of his grand frowns, while he shook his hand as if to banish
the discordant sounds.
"Are you as critical of words as of music?"
"Certainly I am. I should require your words to be what your face and
form are--always among the meanings of a noble music."
"That is a compliment as well as a correction. I am obliged for both.
But do you know I am bold enough to wish to correct "you", and require
you to understand a joke?"
"One may understand jokes without liking them," said the terrible
Klesmer. "I have had opera books sent me full of jokes; it was just
because I understood them that I did not like them. The comic people
are ready to challenge a man because he looks grave. 'You don't see the
witticism, sir?' 'No, sir, but I see what you meant.' Then I am what we
call ticketed as a fellow without "esprit". But, in fact," said
Klesmer, suddenly dropping from his quick narrative to a reflective
tone, with an impressive frown, "I am very sensible to wit and humor."
"I am glad you tell me that," said Gwendolen, not without some
wickedness of intention. But Klesmer's thoughts had flown off on the
wings of his own statement, as their habit was, and she had the
wickedness all to herself. "Pray, who is that standing near the
card-room door?" she went on, seeing there the same stranger with whom
Klesmer had been in animated talk on the archery ground. "He is a
friend of yours, I think."
"No, no; an amateur I have seen in town; Lush, a Mr. Lush--too fond of
Meyerbeer and Scribe--too fond of the mechanical-dramatic."
"Thanks. I wanted to know whether you thought his face and form
required that his words should be among the meanings of noble music?"
Klesmer was conquered, and flashed at her a delightful smile which made
them quite friendly until she begged to be deposited by the side of her
Three minutes afterward her preparations for Grandcourt's indifference
were all canceled. Turning her head after some remark to her mother,
she found that he had made his way up to her.
"May I ask if you are tired of dancing, Miss Harleth?" he began,
looking down with his former unperturbed expression.
"Not in the least."
"Will you do me the honor--the next--or another quadrille?"
"I should have been very happy," said Gwendolen looking at her card,
"but I am engaged for the next to Mr. Clintock--and indeed I perceive
that I am doomed for every quadrille; I have not one to dispose of."
She was not sorry to punish Mr. Grandcourt's tardiness, yet at the same
time she would have liked to dance with him. She gave him a charming
smile as she looked up to deliver her answer, and he stood still
looking down at her with no smile at all.
"I am unfortunate in being too late," he said, after a moment's pause.
"It seemed to me that you did not care for dancing," said Gwendolen. "I
thought it might be one of the things you had left off."
"Yes, but I have not begun to dance with you," said Grandcourt. Always
there was the same pause before he took up his cue. "You make dancing a
new thing, as you make archery."
"Is novelty always agreeable?"
"No, no--not always."
"Then I don't know whether to feel flattered or not. When you had once
danced with me there would be no more novelty in it."
"On the contrary, there would probably be much more."
"That is deep. I don't understand."
"It is difficult to make Miss Harleth understand her power?" Here
Grandcourt had turned to Mrs. Davilow, who, smiling gently at her
"I think she does not generally strike people as slow to understand."
"Mamma," said Gwendolen, in a deprecating tone, "I am adorably stupid,
and want everything explained to me--when the meaning is pleasant."
"If you are stupid, I admit that stupidity is adorable," returned
Grandcourt, after the usual pause, and without change of tone. But
clearly he knew what to say.
"I begin to think that my cavalier has forgotten me," Gwendolen
observed after a little while. "I see the quadrille is being formed."
"He deserves to be renounced," said Grandcourt.
"I think he is very pardonable," said Gwendolen.
"There must have been some misunderstanding," said Mrs. Davilow. "Mr.
Clintock was too anxious about the engagement to have forgotten it."
But now Lady Brackenshaw came up and said, "Miss Harleth, Mr. Clintock
has charged me to express to you his deep regret that he was obliged to
leave without having the pleasure of dancing with you again. An express
came from his father, the archdeacon; something important; he was to
go. He was "au désespoir"."
"Oh, he was very good to remember the engagement under the
circumstances," said Gwendolen. "I am sorry he was called away." It was
easy to be politely sorrowful on so felicitous an occasion.
"Then I can profit by Mr. Clintock's misfortune?" said Grandcourt. "May
I hope that you will let me take his place?"
"I shall be very happy to dance the next quadrille with you."
The appropriateness of the event seemed an augury, and as Gwendolen
stood up for the quadrille with Grandcourt, there was a revival in her
of the exultation--the sense of carrying everything before her, which
she had felt earlier in the day. No man could have walked through the
quadrille with more irreproachable ease than Grandcourt; and the
absence of all eagerness in his attention to her suited his partner's
taste. She was now convinced that he meant to distinguish her, to mark
his admiration of her in a noticeable way; and it began to appear
probable that she would have it in her power to reject him, whence
there was a pleasure in reckoning up the advantages which would make
her rejection splendid, and in giving Mr. Grandcourt his utmost value.
It was also agreeable to divine that this exclusive selection of her to
dance with, from among all the unmarried ladies present, would attract
observation; though she studiously avoided seeing this, and at the end
of the quadrille walked away on Grandcourt's arm as if she had been one
of the shortest sighted instead of the longest and widest sighted of
mortals. They encountered Miss Arrowpoint, who was standing with Lady
Brackenshaw and a group of gentlemen. The heiress looked at Gwendolen
invitingly and said, "I hope you will vote with us, Miss Harleth, and
Mr. Grandcourt too, though he is not an archer." Gwendolen and
Grandcourt paused to join the group, and found that the voting turned
on the project of a picnic archery meeting to be held in Cardell Chase,
where the evening entertainment would be more poetic than a ball under,
chandeliers--a feast of sunset lights along the glades and through the
branches and over the solemn tree-tops.
Gwendolen thought the scheme delightful--equal to playing Robin Hood
and Maid Marian: and Mr. Grandcourt, when appealed to a second time,
said it was a thing to be done; whereupon Mr. Lush, who stood behind
Lady Brackenshaw's elbow, drew Gwendolen's notice by saying with a
familiar look and tone to Grandcourt, "Diplow would be a good place for
the meeting, and more convenient: there's a fine bit between the oaks
toward the north gate."
Impossible to look more unconscious of being addressed than Grandcourt;
but Gwendolen took a new survey of the speaker, deciding, first, that
he must be on terms of intimacy with the tenant of Diplow, and,
secondly, that she would never, if she could help it, let him come
within a yard of her. She was subject to physical antipathies, and Mr.
Lush's prominent eyes, fat though not clumsy figure, and strong black
gray-besprinkled hair of frizzy thickness, which, with the rest of his
prosperous person, was enviable to many, created one of the strongest
of her antipathies. To be safe from his looking at her, she murmured to
Grandcourt, "I should like to continue walking."
He obeyed immediately; but when they were thus away from any audience,
he spoke no word for several minutes, and she, out of a half-amused,
half-serious inclination for experiment, would not speak first. They
turned into the large conservatory, beautifully lit up with Chinese
lamps. The other couples there were at a distance which would not have
interfered with any dialogue, but still they walked in silence until
they had reached the farther end where there was a flush of pink light,
and the second wide opening into the ball-room. Grandcourt, when they
had half turned round, paused and said languidly--
"Do you like this kind of thing?"
If the situation had been described to Gwendolen half an hour before,
she would have laughed heartily at it, and could only have imagined
herself returning a playful, satirical answer. But for some mysterious
reason--it was a mystery of which she had a faint wondering
consciousness--she dared not be satirical: she had begun to feel a wand
over her that made her afraid of offending Grandcourt.
"Yes," she said, quietly, without considering what "kind of thing" was
meant--whether the flowers, the scents, the ball in general, or this
episode of walking with Mr. Grandcourt in particular. And they returned
along the conservatory without farther interpretation. She then
proposed to go and sit down in her old place, and they walked among
scattered couples preparing for the waltz to the spot where Mrs.
Davilow had been seated all the evening. As they approached it her seat
was vacant, but she was coming toward it again, and, to Gwendolen's
shuddering annoyance, with Mr. Lush at her elbow. There was no avoiding
the confrontation: her mamma came close to her before they had reached
the seats, and, after a quiet greeting smile, said innocently,
"Gwendolen, dear, let me present Mr. Lush to you." Having just made the
acquaintance of this personage, as an intimate and constant companion
of Mr. Grandcourt's, Mrs. Davilow imagined it altogether desirable that
her daughter also should make the acquaintance.
It was hardly a bow that Gwendolen gave--rather, it was the slightest
forward sweep of the head away from the physiognomy that inclined
itself toward her, and she immediately moved toward her seat, saying,
"I want to put on my burnous." No sooner had she reached it, than Mr.
Lush was there, and had the burnous in his hand: to annoy this
supercilious young lady, he would incur the offense of forestalling
Grandcourt; and, holding up the garment close to Gwendolen, he said,
"Pray, permit me?" But she, wheeling away from him as if he had been a
muddy hound, glided on to the ottoman, saying, "No, thank you."
A man who forgave this would have much Christian feeling, supposing he
had intended to be agreeable to the young lady; but before he seized
the burnous Mr. Lush had ceased to have that intention. Grandcourt
quietly took the drapery from him, and Mr. Lush, with a slight bow,
moved away. "You had perhaps better put it on," said Mr. Grandcourt,
looking down on her without change of expression.
"Thanks; perhaps it would be wise," said Gwendolen, rising, and
submitting very gracefully to take the burnous on her shoulders.
After that, Mr. Grandcourt exchanged a few polite speeches with Mrs.
Davilow, and, in taking leave, asked permission to call at Offendene
the next day. He was evidently not offended by the insult directed
toward his friend. Certainly Gwendolen's refusal of the burnous from
Mr. Lush was open to the interpretation that she wished to receive it
from Mr. Grandcourt. But she, poor child, had no design in this action,
and was simply following her antipathy and inclination, confiding in
them as she did in the more reflective judgments into which they
entered as sap into leafage. Gwendolen had no sense that these men were
dark enigmas to her, or that she needed any help in drawing conclusions
about them--Mr. Grandcourt at least. The chief question was, how far
his character and ways might answer her wishes; and unless she were
satisfied about that, she had said to herself that she would not accept
Could there be a slenderer, more insignificant thread in human history
than this consciousness of a girl, busy with her small inferences of
the way in which she could make her life pleasant?--in a time, too,
when ideas were with fresh vigor making armies of themselves, and the
universal kinship was declaring itself fiercely; when women on the
other side of the world would not mourn for the husbands and sons who
died bravely in a common cause, and men stinted of bread on our side of
the world heard of that willing loss and were patient: a time when the
soul of man was walking to pulses which had for centuries been beating
in him unfelt, until their full sum made a new life of terror or of joy.
What in the midst of that mighty drama are girls and their blind
visions? They are the Yea or Nay of that good for which men are
enduring and fighting. In these delicate vessels is borne onward
through the ages the treasure of human affections.
"O gentlemen, the time of life is short;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour."
--SHAKESPEARE: "Henry IV".
On the second day after the Archery Meeting, Mr. Henleigh Mallinger
Grandcourt was at his breakfast-table with Mr. Lush. Everything around
them was agreeable: the summer air through the open windows, at which
the dogs could walk in from the old green turf on the lawn; the soft,
purplish coloring of the park beyond, stretching toward a mass of
bordering wood; the still life in the room, which seemed the stiller
for its sober antiquated elegance, as if it kept a conscious, well-bred
silence, unlike the restlessness of vulgar furniture.
Whether the gentlemen were agreeable to each other was less evident.
Mr. Grandcourt had drawn his chair aside so as to face the lawn, and
with his left leg over another chair, and his right elbow on the table,
was smoking a large cigar, while his companion was still eating. The
dogs--half-a-dozen of various kinds were moving lazily in and out,
taking attitudes of brief attention--gave a vacillating preference
first to one gentleman, then to the other; being dogs in such good
circumstances that they could play at hunger, and liked to be served
with delicacies which they declined to put in their mouths; all except
Fetch, the beautiful liver-colored water-spaniel, which sat with its
forepaws firmly planted and its expressive brown face turned upward,
watching Grandcourt with unshaken constancy. He held in his lap a tiny
Maltese dog with a tiny silver collar and bell, and when he had a hand
unused by cigar or coffee-cup, it rested on this small parcel of animal
warmth. I fear that Fetch was jealous, and wounded that her master gave
her no word or look; at last it seemed that she could bear this neglect
no longer, and she gently put her large silky paw on her master's leg.
Grandcourt looked at her with unchanged face for half a minute, and
then took the trouble to lay down his cigar while he lifted the
unimpassioned Fluff close to his chin and gave it caressing pats, all
the while gravely watching Fetch, who, poor thing, whimpered
interruptedly, as if trying to repress that sign of discontent, and at
last rested her head beside the appealing paw, looking up with piteous
beseeching. So, at least, a lover of dogs must have interpreted Fetch,
and Grandcourt kept so many dogs that he was reputed to love them; at
any rate, his impulse to act just in that way started from such an
interpretation. But when the amusing anguish burst forth in a howling
bark, Grandcourt pushed Fetch down without speaking, and, depositing
Fluff carelessly on the table (where his black nose predominated over a
salt-cellar), began to look to his cigar, and found, with some
annoyance against Fetch as the cause, that the brute of a cigar
required relighting. Fetch, having begun to wail, found, like others of
her sex, that it was not easy to leave off; indeed, the second howl was
a louder one, and the third was like unto it.
"Turn out that brute, will you?" said Grandcourt to Lush, without
raising his voice or looking at him--as if he counted on attention to
the smallest sign.
And Lush immediately rose, lifted Fetch, though she was rather heavy,
and he was not fond of stooping, and carried her out, disposing of her
in some way that took him a couple of minutes before he returned. He
then lit a cigar, placed himself at an angle where he could see
Grandcourt's face without turning, and presently said--
"Shall you ride or drive to Quetcham to-day?"
"I am not going to Quetcham."
"You did not go yesterday."
Grandcourt smoked in silence for half a minute, and then said--
"I suppose you sent my card and inquiries."
"I went myself at four, and said you were sure to be there shortly.
They would suppose some accident prevented you from fulfilling the
intention. Especially if you go to-day."
Silence for a couple of minutes. Then Grandcourt said, "What men are
invited here with their wives?"
Lush drew out a note-book. "The Captain and Mrs. Torrington come next
week. Then there are Mr. Hollis and Lady Flora, and the Cushats and the
"Rather a ragged lot," remarked Grandcourt, after a while. "Why did you
ask the Gogoffs? When you write invitations in my name, be good enough
to give me a list, instead of bringing down a giantess on me without my
knowledge. She spoils the look of the room."
"You invited the Gogoffs yourself when you met them in Paris."
"What has my meeting them in Paris to do with it? I told you to give me
Grandcourt, like many others, had two remarkably different voices.
Hitherto we have heard him speaking in a superficial interrupted drawl
suggestive chiefly of languor and "ennui". But this last brief speech
was uttered in subdued inward, yet distinct, tones, which Lush had long
been used to recognize as the expression of a peremptory will.
"Are there any other couples you would like to invite?"
"Yes; think of some decent people, with a daughter or two. And one of
your damned musicians. But not a comic fellow."
"I wonder if Klesmer would consent to come to us when he leaves
Quetcham. Nothing but first-class music will go down with Miss
Lush spoke carelessly, but he was really seizing an opportunity and
fixing an observant look on Grandcourt, who now for the first time,
turned his eyes toward his companion, but slowly and without speaking
until he had given two long luxuriant puffs, when he said, perhaps in a
lower tone than ever, but with a perceptible edge of contempt--
"What in the name of nonsense have I to do with Miss Arrowpoint and her
"Well, something," said Lush, jocosely. "You need not give yourself
much trouble, perhaps. But some forms must be gone through before a man
can marry a million."
"Very likely. But I am not going to marry a million."
"That's a pity--to fling away an opportunity of this sort, and knock
down your own plans."
""Your" plans, I suppose you mean."
"You have some debts, you know, and things may turn out inconveniently
after all. The heirship is not "absolutely" certain."
Grandcourt did not answer, and Lush went on.
"It really is a fine opportunity. The father and mother ask for nothing
better, I can see, and the daughter's looks and manners require no
allowances, any more than if she hadn't a sixpence. She is not
beautiful; but equal to carrying any rank. And she is not likely to
refuse such prospects as you can offer her."
"The father and mother would let you do anything you like with them."
"But I should not like to do anything with them."
Here it was Lush who made a little pause before speaking again, and
then he said in a deep voice of remonstrance, "Good God, Grandcourt!
after your experience, will you let a whim interfere with your
comfortable settlement in life?"
"Spare your oratory. I know what I am going to do."
"What?" Lush put down his cigar and thrust his hands into his side
pockets, as if he had to face something exasperating, but meant to keep
"I am going to marry the other girl."
"Have you fallen in love?" This question carried a strong sneer.
"I am going to marry her."
"You have made her an offer already, then?"
"She is a young lady with a will of her own, I fancy. Extremely well
fitted to make a rumpus. She would know what she liked."
"She doesn't like you," said Grandcourt, with the ghost of a smile.
"Perfectly true," said Lush, adding again in a markedly sneering tone.
"However, if you and she are devoted to each other, that will be
Grandcourt took no notice of this speech, but sipped his coffee, rose,
and strolled out on the lawn, all the dogs following him.
Lush glanced after him a moment, then resumed his cigar and lit it, but
smoked slowly, consulting his beard with inspecting eyes and fingers,
till he finally stroked it with an air of having arrived at some
conclusion, and said in a subdued voice--
"Check, old boy!"
Lush, being a man of some ability, had not known Grandcourt for fifteen
years without learning what sort of measures were useless with him,
though what sort might be useful remained often dubious. In the
beginning of his career he held a fellowship, and was near taking
orders for the sake of a college living, but not being fond of that
prospect accepted instead the office of traveling companion to a
marquess, and afterward to young Grandcourt, who had lost his father
early, and who found Lush so convenient that he had allowed him to
become prime minister in all his more personal affairs. The habit of
fifteen years had made Grandcourt more and more in need of Lush's
handiness, and Lush more and more in need of the lazy luxury to which
his transactions on behalf of Grandcourt made no interruption worth
reckoning. I cannot say that the same lengthened habit had intensified
Grandcourt's want of respect for his companion since that want had been
absolute from the beginning, but it had confirmed his sense that he
might kick Lush if he chose--only he never did choose to kick any
animal, because the act of kicking is a compromising attitude, and a
gentleman's dogs should be kicked for him. He only said things which
might have exposed himself to be kicked if his confidant had been a man
of independent spirit. But what son of a vicar who has stinted his wife
and daughters of calico in order to send his male offspring to Oxford,
can keep an independent spirit when he is bent on dining with high
discrimination, riding good horses, living generally in the most
luxuriant honey-blossomed clover--and all without working? Mr. Lush had
passed for a scholar once, and had still a sense of scholarship when he
was not trying to remember much of it; but the bachelor's and other
arts which soften manners are a time-honored preparation for sinecures;
and Lush's present comfortable provision was as good a sinecure in not
requiring more than the odor of departed learning. He was not
unconscious of being held kickable, but he preferred counting that
estimate among the peculiarities of Grandcourt's character, which made
one of his incalculable moods or judgments as good as another. Since in
his own opinion he had never done a bad action, it did not seem
necessary to consider whether he should be likely to commit one if his
love of ease required it. Lush's love of ease was well-satisfied at
present, and if his puddings were rolled toward him in the dust, he
took the inside bits and found them relishing.
This morning, for example, though he had encountered more annoyance
than usual, he went to his private sitting-room and played a good hour
on the violoncello.
"Philistia, be thou glad of me!"
Grandcourt having made up his mind to marry Miss Harleth, showed a
power of adapting means to ends. During the next fortnight there was
hardly a day on which by some arrangement or other he did not see her,
or prove by emphatic attentions that she occupied his thoughts. His
cousin, Mrs. Torrington, was now doing the honors of his house, so that
Mrs. Davilow and Gwendolen could be invited to a large party at Diplow
in which there were many witnesses how the host distinguished the
dowerless beauty, and showed no solicitude about the heiress. The
world--I mean Mr. Gascoigne and all the families worth speaking of
within visiting distance of Pennicote--felt an assurance on the subject
which in the rector's mind converted itself into a resolution to do his
duty by his niece and see that the settlements were adequate. Indeed
the wonder to him and Mrs. Davilow was that the offer for which so many
suitable occasions presented themselves had not been already made; and
in this wonder Grandcourt himself was not without a share. When he had
told his resolution to Lush he had thought that the affair would be
concluded more quickly, and to his own surprise he had repeatedly
promised himself in a morning that he would to-day give Gwendolen the
opportunity of accepting him, and had found in the evening that the
necessary formality was still unaccomplished. This remarkable fact
served to heighten his determination on another day. He had never
admitted to himself that Gwendolen might refuse him, but--heaven help
us all!--we are often unable to act on our certainties; our objection
to a contrary issue (were it possible) is so strong that it rises like
a spectral illusion between us and our certainty; we are rationally
sure that the blind worm can not bite us mortally, but it would be so
intolerable to be bitten, and the creature has a biting look--we
decline to handle it.
He had asked leave to have a beautiful horse of his brought for
Gwendolen to ride. Mrs. Davilow was to accompany her in the carriage,
and they were to go to Diplow to lunch, Grandcourt conducting them. It
was a fine mid-harvest time, not too warm for a noonday ride of five
miles to be delightful; the poppies glowed on the borders of the
fields, there was enough breeze to move gently like a social spirit
among the ears of uncut corn, and to wing the shadow of a cloud across
the soft gray downs; here the sheaves were standing, there the horses
were straining their muscles under the last load from a wide space of
stubble, but everywhere the green pasture made a broader setting for
the corn-fields, and the cattle took their rest under wide branches.
The road lay through a bit of country where the dairy-farms looked much
as they did in the days of our forefathers--where peace and permanence
seemed to find a home away from the busy change that sent the railway
train flying in the distance.
But the spirit of peace and permanence did not penetrate poor Mrs.
Davilow's mind so as to overcome her habit of uneasy foreboding.
Gwendolen and Grandcourt cantering in front of her, and then slackening
their pace to a conversational walk till the carriage came up with them
again, made a gratifying sight; but it served chiefly to keep up the
conflict of hopes and fears about her daughter's lot. Here was an
irresistible opportunity for a lover to speak and put an end to all
uncertainties, and Mrs. Davilow could only hope with trembling that
Gwendolen's decision would be favorable. Certainly if Rex's love had
been repugnant to her, Mr. Grandcourt had the advantage of being in
complete contrast with Rex; and that he had produced some quite novel
impression on her seemed evident in her marked abstinence from
satirical observations, nay, her total silence about his
characteristics, a silence which Mrs. Davilow did not dare to break.
"Is he a man she would be happy with?"--was a question that inevitably
arose in the mother's mind. "Well, perhaps as happy as she would be
with any one else--or as most other women are"--was the answer with
which she tried to quiet herself; for she could not imagine Gwendolen
under the influence of any feeling which would make her satisfied in
what we traditionally call "mean circumstances."
Grandcourt's own thought was looking in the same direction: he wanted
to have done with the uncertainty that belonged to his not having
spoken. As to any further uncertainty--well, it was something without
any reasonable basis, some quality in the air which acted as an
irritant to his wishes.
Gwendolen enjoyed the riding, but her pleasure did not break forth in
girlish unpremeditated chat and laughter as it did on that morning with
Rex. She spoke a little, and even laughed, but with a lightness as of a
far-off echo: for her too there was some peculiar quality in the
air--not, she was sure, any subjugation of her will by Mr. Grandcourt,
and the splendid prospects he meant to offer her; for Gwendolen desired
every one, that dignified gentleman himself included, to understand
that she was going to do just as she liked, and that they had better
not calculate on her pleasing them. If she chose to take this husband,
she would have him know that she was not going to renounce her freedom,
or according to her favorite formula, "not going to do as other women
Grandcourt's speeches this morning were, as usual, all of that brief
sort which never fails to make a conversational figure when the speaker
is held important in his circle. Stopping so soon, they give signs of a
suppressed and formidable ability so say more, and have also the
meritorious quality of allowing lengthiness to others.
"How do you like Criterion's paces?" he said, after they had entered
the park and were slacking from a canter to a walk.
"He is delightful to ride. I should like to have a leap with him, if it
would not frighten mamma. There was a good wide channel we passed five
minutes ago. I should like to have a gallop back and take it."
"Pray do. We can take it together."
"No, thanks. Mamma is so timid--if she saw me it might make her ill."
"Let me go and explain. Criterion would take it without fail."
"No--indeed--you are very kind--but it would alarm her too much. I dare
take any leap when she is not by; but I do it and don't tell her about
"We can let the carriage pass and then set off."
"No, no, pray don't think of it any more: I spoke quite randomly," said
Gwendolen; she began to feel a new objection to carrying out her own
"But Mrs. Davilow knows I shall take care of you."
"Yes, but she would think of you as having to take care of my broken
There was a considerable pause before Grandcourt said, looking toward
her, "I should like to have the right always to take care of you."
Gwendolen did not turn her eyes on him; it seemed to her a long while
that she was first blushing, and then turning pale, but to Grandcourt's
rate of judgment she answered soon enough, with the lightest flute-tone
and a careless movement of the head, "Oh, I am not sure that I want to
be taken care of: if I chose to risk breaking my neck, I should like to
be at liberty to do it."
She checked her horse as she spoke, and turned in her saddle, looking
toward the advancing carriage. Her eyes swept across Grandcourt as she
made this movement, but there was no language in them to correct the
carelessness of her reply. At that very moment she was aware that she
was risking something--not her neck, but the possibility of finally
checking Grandcourt's advances, and she did not feel contented with the
"Damn her!" thought Grandcourt, as he too checked his horse. He was not
a wordy thinker, and this explosive phrase stood for mixed impressions
which eloquent interpreters might have expanded into some sentences
full of an irritated sense that he was being mystified, and a
determination that this girl should not make a fool of him. Did she
want him to throw himself at her feet and declare that he was dying for
her? It was not by that gate that she could enter on the privileges he
could give her. Or did she expect him to write his proposals? Equally a
delusion. He would not make his offer in any way that could place him
definitely in the position of being rejected. But as to her accepting
him, she had done it already in accepting his marked attentions: and
anything which happened to break them off would be understood to her
disadvantage. She was merely coquetting, then?
However, the carriage came up, and no further "tete-à-tete" could well
occur before their arrival at the house, where there was abundant
company, to whom Gwendolen, clad in riding-dress, with her hat laid
aside, clad also in the repute of being chosen by Mr. Grandcourt, was
naturally a centre of observation; and since the objectionable Mr. Lush
was not there to look at her, this stimulus of admiring attention
heightened her spirits, and dispersed, for the time, the uneasy
consciousness of divided impulses which threatened her with repentance
of her own acts. Whether Grandcourt had been offended or not there was
no judging: his manners were unchanged, but Gwendolen's acuteness had
not gone deeper than to discern that his manners were no clue for her,
and because these were unchanged she was not the less afraid of him.
She had not been at Diplow before except to dine; and since certain
points of view from the windows and the garden were worth showing, Lady
Flora Hollis proposed after luncheon, when some of the guests had
dispersed, and the sun was sloping toward four o'clock, that the
remaining party should make a little exploration. Here came frequent
opportunities when Grandcourt might have retained Gwendolen apart, and
have spoken to her unheard. But no! He indeed spoke to no one else, but
what he said was nothing more eager or intimate than it had been in
their first interview. He looked at her not less than usual; and some
of her defiant spirit having come back, she looked full at him in
return, not caring--rather preferring--that his eyes had no expression
But at last it seemed as if he entertained some contrivance. After they
had nearly made the tour of the grounds, the whole party stopped by the
pool to be amused with Fetch's accomplishment of bringing a water lily
to the bank like Cowper's spaniel Beau, and having been disappointed in
his first attempt insisted on his trying again.
Here Grandcourt, who stood with Gwendolen outside the group, turned
deliberately, and fixing his eyes on a knoll planted with American
shrubs, and having a winding path up it, said languidly--
"This is a bore. Shall we go up there?"
"Oh, certainly--since we are exploring," said Gwendolen. She was rather
pleased, and yet afraid.
The path was too narrow for him to offer his arm, and they walked up in
silence. When they were on the bit of platform at the summit,
"There is nothing to be seen here: the thing was not worth climbing."
How was it that Gwendolen did not laugh? She was perfectly silent,
holding up the folds of her robe like a statue, and giving a harder
grasp to the handle of her whip, which she had snatched up
automatically with her hat when they had first set off.
"What sort of a place do you prefer?" said Grandcourt.
"Different places are agreeable in their way. On the whole, I think, I
prefer places that are open and cheerful. I am not fond of anything
"Your place of Offendene is too sombre."
"It is, rather."
"You will not remain there long, I hope."
"Oh, yes, I think so. Mamma likes to be near her sister."
Silence for a short space.
"It is not to be supposed that "you" will always live there, though
Mrs. Davilow may."
"I don't know. We women can't go in search of adventures--to find out
the North-West Passage or the source of the Nile, or to hunt tigers in
the East. We must stay where we grow, or where the gardeners like to
transplant us. We are brought up like the flowers, to look as pretty as
we can, and be dull without complaining. That is my notion about the
plants; they are often bored, and that is the reason why some of them
have got poisonous. What do you think?" Gwendolen had run on rather
nervously, lightly whipping the rhododendron bush in front of her.
"I quite agree. Most things are bores," said Grandcourt, his mind
having been pushed into an easy current, away from its intended track.
But, after a moment's pause, he continued in his broken, refined drawl--
"But a woman can be married."
"Some women can."
"You, certainly, unless you are obstinately cruel."
"I am not sure that I am not both cruel and obstinate." Here Gwendolen
suddenly turned her head and looked full at Grandcourt, whose eyes she
had felt to be upon her throughout their conversation. She was
wondering what the effect of looking at him would be on herself rather
than on him.
He stood perfectly still, half a yard or more away from her; and it
flashed through her mind what a sort of lotus-eater's stupor had begun
in him and was taking possession of her. Then he said--
"Are you as uncertain about yourself as you make others about you?"
"I am quite uncertain about myself; I don't know how uncertain others
"And you wish them to understand that you don't care?" said Grandcourt,
with a touch of new hardness in his tone.
"I did not say that," Gwendolen replied, hesitatingly, and turning her
eyes away whipped the rhododendron bush again. She wished she were on
horseback that she might set off on a canter. It was impossible to set
off running down the knoll.
"You do care, then," said Grandcourt, not more quickly, but with a
"Ha! my whip!" said Gwendolen, in a little scream of distress. She had
let it go--what could be more natural in a slight agitation?--and--but
this seemed less natural in a gold-handled whip which had been left
altogether to itself--it had gone with some force over the immediate
shrubs, and had lodged itself in the branches of an azalea half-way
down the knoll. She could run down now, laughing prettily, and
Grandcourt was obliged to follow; but she was beforehand with him in
rescuing the whip, and continued on her way to the level ground, when
she paused and looked at Grandcourt with an exasperating brightness in
her glance and a heightened color, as if she had carried a triumph, and
these indications were still noticeable to Mrs. Davilow when Gwendolen
and Grandcourt joined the rest of the party.
"It is all coquetting," thought Grandcourt; "the next time I beckon she
will come down."
It seemed to him likely that this final beckoning might happen the very
next day, when there was to be a picnic archery meeting in Cardell
Chase, according to the plan projected on the evening of the ball.
Even in Gwendolen's mind that result was one of two likelihoods that
presented themselves alternately, one of two decisions toward which she
was being precipitated, as if they were two sides of a boundary-line,
and she did not know on which she should fall. This subjection to a
possible self, a self not to be absolutely predicted about, caused her
some astonishment and terror; her favorite key of life--doing as she
liked--seemed to fail her, and she could not foresee what at a given
moment she might like to do. The prospect of marrying Grandcourt really
seemed more attractive to her than she had believed beforehand that any
marriage could be: the dignities, the luxuries, the power of doing a
great deal of what she liked to do, which had now come close to her,
and within her choice to secure or to lose, took hold of her nature as
if it had been the strong odor of what she had only imagined and longed
for before. And Grandcourt himself? He seemed as little of a flaw in
his fortunes as a lover and husband could possibly be. Gwendolen wished
to mount the chariot and drive the plunging horses herself, with a
spouse by her side who would fold his arms and give her his countenance
without looking ridiculous. Certainly, with all her perspicacity, and
all the reading which seemed to her mamma dangerously instructive, her
judgment was consciously a little at fault before Grandcourt. He was
adorably quiet and free from absurdities--he would be a husband to suit
with the best appearance a woman could make. But what else was he? He
had been everywhere, and seen everything. "That" was desirable, and
especially gratifying as a preamble to his supreme preference for
Gwendolen Harleth. He did not appear to enjoy anything much. That was
not necessary: and the less he had of particular tastes, or desires,
the more freedom his wife was likely to have in following hers.
Gwendolen conceived that after marriage she would most probably be able
to manage him thoroughly.
How was it that he caused her unusual constraint now?--that she was
less daring and playful in her talk with him than with any other
admirer she had known? That absence of demonstrativeness which she was
glad of, acted as a charm in more senses than one, and was slightly
benumbing. Grandcourt after all was formidable--a handsome lizard of a
hitherto unknown species, not of the lively, darting kind. But
Gwendolen knew hardly anything about lizards, and ignorance gives one a
large range of probabilities. This splendid specimen was probably
gentle, suitable as a boudoir pet: what may not a lizard be, if you
know nothing to the contrary? Her acquaintance with Grandcourt was such
that no accomplishment suddenly revealed in him would have surprised
her. And he was so little suggestive of drama, that it hardly occurred
to her to think with any detail how his life of thirty-six years had
been passed: in general, she imagined him always cold and dignified,
not likely ever to have committed himself. He had hunted the tiger--had
he ever been in love or made love? The one experience and the other
seemed alike remote in Gwendolen's fancy from the Mr. Grandcourt who
had come to Diplow in order apparently to make a chief epoch in her
destiny--perhaps by introducing her to that state of marriage which she
had resolved to make a state of greater freedom than her girlhood. And
on the whole she wished to marry him; he suited her purpose; her
prevailing, deliberate intention was, to accept him.
But was she going to fulfill her deliberate intention? She began to be
afraid of herself, and to find out a certain difficulty in doing as she
liked. Already her assertion of independence in evading his advances
had been carried farther than was necessary, and she was thinking with
some anxiety what she might do on the next occasion.
Seated according to her habit with her back to the horses on their
drive homeward, she was completely under the observation of her mamma,
who took the excitement and changefulness in the expression of her
eyes, her unwonted absence of mind and total silence, as unmistakable
signs that something unprecedented had occurred between her and
Grandcourt. Mrs. Davilow's uneasiness determined her to risk some
speech on the subject: the Gascoignes were to dine at Offendene, and in
what had occurred this morning there might be some reason for
consulting the rector; not that she expected him anymore than herself
to influence Gwendolen, but that her anxious mind wanted to be
"Something has happened, dear?" she began, in a tender tone of question.
Gwendolen looked round, and seeming to be roused to the consciousness
of her physical self, took off her gloves and then her hat, that the
soft breeze might blow on her head. They were in a retired bit of the
road, where the long afternoon shadows from the bordering trees fell
across it and no observers were within sight. Her eyes continued to
meet her mother's, but she did not speak.
"Mr. Grandcourt has been saying something?--Tell me, dear." The last
words were uttered beseechingly.
"What am I to tell you, mamma?" was the perverse answer.
"I am sure something has agitated you. You ought to confide in me,
Gwen. You ought not to leave me in doubt and anxiety." Mrs. Davilow's
eyes filled with tears.
"Mamma, dear, please don't be miserable," said Gwendolen, with pettish
remonstrance. "It only makes me more so. I am in doubt myself."
"About Mr. Grandcourt's intentions?" said Mrs. Davilow, gathering
determination from her alarms.
"No; not at all," said Gwendolen, with some curtness, and a pretty
little toss of the head as she put on her hat again.
"About whether you will accept him, then?"
"Have you given him a doubtful answer?"
"I have given him no answer at all."
"He "has" spoken so that you could not misunderstand him?"
"As far as I would let him speak."
"You expect him to persevere?" Mrs. Davilow put this question rather
anxiously, and receiving no answer, asked another: "You don't consider
that you have discouraged him?"
"I dare say not."
"I thought you liked him, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, timidly.
"So I do, mamma, as liking goes. There is less to dislike about him
than about most men. He is quiet and "distingué"." Gwendolen so far
spoke with a pouting sort of gravity; but suddenly she recovered some
of her mischievousness, and her face broke into a smile as she
added--"Indeed he has all the qualities that would make a husband
tolerable--battlement, veranda, stable, etc., no grins and no glass in
"Do be serious with me for a moment, dear. Am I to understand that you
mean to accept him?"
"Oh, pray, mamma, leave me to myself," said Gwendolen, with a pettish
distress in her voice.
And Mrs. Davilow said no more.
When they got home Gwendolen declared that she would not dine. She was
tired, and would come down in the evening after she had taken some
rest. The probability that her uncle would hear what had passed did not
trouble her. She was convinced that whatever he might say would be on
the side of her accepting Grandcourt, and she wished to accept him if
she could. At this moment she would willingly have had weights hung on
her own caprice.
Mr. Gascoigne did hear--not Gwendolen's answers repeated verbatim, but
a softened generalized account of them. The mother conveyed as vaguely
as the keen rector's questions would let her the impression that
Gwendolen was in some uncertainty about her own mind, but inclined on
the whole to acceptance. The result was that the uncle felt himself
called on to interfere; he did not conceive that he should do his duty
in witholding direction from his niece in a momentous crisis of this
kind. Mrs. Davilow ventured a hesitating opinion that perhaps it would
be safer to say nothing--Gwendolen was so sensitive (she did not like
to say willful). But the rector's was a firm mind, grasping its first
judgments tenaciously and acting on them promptly, whence
counter-judgments were no more for him than shadows fleeting across the
solid ground to which he adjusted himself.
This match with Grandcourt presented itself to him as a sort of public
affair; perhaps there were ways in which it might even strengthen the
establishment. To the rector, whose father (nobody would have suspected
it, and nobody was told) had risen to be a provincial corn-dealer,
aristocratic heirship resembled regal heirship in excepting its
possessor from the ordinary standard of moral judgments, Grandcourt,
the almost certain baronet, the probable peer, was to be ranged with
public personages, and was a match to be accepted on broad general
grounds national and ecclesiastical. Such public personages, it is
true, are often in the nature of giants which an ancient community may
have felt pride and safety in possessing, though, regarded privately,
these born eminences must often have been inconvenient and even
noisome. But of the future husband personally Mr. Gascoigne was
disposed to think the best. Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from
the dirty tobacco-pipes of of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing
but the bad taste of the smoker. But if Grandcourt had really made any
deeper or more unfortunate experiments in folly than were common in
young men of high prospects, he was of an age to have finished them.
All accounts can be suitably wound up when a man has not ruined
himself, and the expense may be taken as an insurance against future
error. This was the view of practical wisdom; with reference to higher
views, repentance had a supreme moral and religious value. There was
every reason to believe that a woman of well-regulated mind would be
happy with Grandcourt.
It was no surprise to Gwendolen on coming down to tea to be told that
her uncle wished to see her in the dining-room. He threw aside the
paper as she entered and greeted her with his usual kindness. As his
wife had remarked, he always "made much" of Gwendolen, and her
importance had risen of late. "My dear," he said, in a fatherly way,
moving a chair for her as he held her hand, "I want to speak to you on
a subject which is more momentous than any other with regard to your
welfare. You will guess what I mean. But I shall speak to you with
perfect directness: in such matters I consider myself bound to act as
your father. You have no objection, I hope?"
"Oh dear, no, uncle. You have always been very kind to me," said
Gwendolen, frankly. This evening she was willing, if it were possible,
to be a little fortified against her troublesome self, and her
resistant temper was in abeyance. The rector's mode of speech always
conveyed a thrill of authority, as of a word of command: it seemed to
take for granted that there could be no wavering in the audience, and
that every one was going to be rationally obedient.
"It is naturally a satisfaction to me that the prospect of a marriage
for you--advantageous in the highest degree--has presented itself so
early. I do not know exactly what has passed between you and Mr.
Grandcourt, but I presume there can be little doubt, from the way in
which he has distinguished you, that he desires to make you his wife."
Gwendolen did not speak immediately, and her uncle said with more
"Have you any doubt of that yourself, my dear?"
"I suppose that is what he has been thinking of. But he may have
changed his mind to-morrow," said Gwendolen.
"Why to-morrow? Has he made advances which you have discouraged?"
"I think he meant--he began to make advances--but I did not encourage
them. I turned the conversation."
"Will you confide in me so far as to tell me your reasons?"
"I am not sure that I had any reasons, uncle." Gwendolen laughed rather
"You are quite capable of reflecting, Gwendolen. You are aware that
this is not a trivial occasion, and it concerns your establishment for
life under circumstances which may not occur again. You have a duty
here both to yourself and your family. I wish to understand whether you
have any ground for hesitating as to your acceptance of Mr. Grandcourt."
"I suppose I hesitate without grounds." Gwendolen spoke rather
poutingly, and her uncle grew suspicious.
"Is he disagreeable to you personally?"
"Have you heard anything of him which has affected you disagreeably?"
The rector thought it impossible that Gwendolen could have heard the
gossip he had heard, but in any case he must endeavor to put all things
in the right light for her.
"I have heard nothing about him except that he is a great match," said
Gwendolen, with some sauciness; "and that affects me very agreeably."
"Then, my dear Gwendolen, I have nothing further to say than this: you
hold your fortune in your own hands--a fortune such as rarely happens
to a girl in your circumstances--a fortune in fact which almost takes
the question out of the range of mere personal feeling, and makes your
acceptance of it a duty. If Providence offers you power and
position--especially when unclogged by any conditions that are
repugnant to you--your course is one of responsibility, into which
caprice must not enter. A man does not like to have his attachment
trifled with: he may not be at once repelled--these things are matters
of individual disposition. But the trifling may be carried too far. And
I must point out to you that in case Mr. Grandcourt were repelled
without your having refused him--without your having intended
ultimately to refuse him, your situation would be a humiliating and
painful one. I, for my part, should regard you with severe
disapprobation, as the victim of nothing else than your own coquetry
Gwendolen became pallid as she listened to this admonitory speech. The
ideas it raised had the force of sensations. Her resistant courage
would not help her here, because her uncle was not urging her against
her own resolve; he was pressing upon her the motives of dread which
she already felt; he was making her more conscious of the risks that
lay within herself. She was silent, and the rector observed that he had
produced some strong effect.
"I mean this in kindness, my dear." His tone had softened.
"I am aware of that, uncle," said Gwendolen, rising and shaking her
head back, as if to rouse herself out of painful passivity. "I am not
foolish. I know that I must be married some time--before it is too
late. And I don't see how I could do better than marry Mr. Grandcourt.
I mean to accept him, if possible." She felt as if she were reinforcing
herself by speaking with this decisiveness to her uncle.
But the rector was a little startled by so bare a version of his own
meaning from those young lips. He wished that in her mind his advice
should be taken in an infusion of sentiments proper to a girl, and such
as are presupposed in the advice of a clergyman, although he may not
consider them always appropriate to be put forward. He wished his niece
parks, carriages, a title--everything that would make this world a
pleasant abode; but he wished her not to be cynical--to be, on the
contrary, religiously dutiful, and have warm domestic affections.
"My dear Gwendolen," he said, rising also, and speaking with benignant
gravity, "I trust that you will find in marriage a new fountain of duty
and affection. Marriage is the only true and satisfactory sphere of a
woman, and if your marriage with Mr. Grandcourt should be happily
decided upon, you will have, probably, an increasing power, both of
rank and wealth, which may be used for the benefit of others. These
considerations are something higher than romance! You are fitted by
natural gifts for a position which, considering your birth and early
prospects, could hardly be looked forward to as in the ordinary course
of things; and I trust that you will grace it, not only by those
personal gifts, but by a good and consistent life."
"I hope mamma will be the happier," said Gwendolen, in a more cheerful
way, lifting her hands backward to her neck and moving toward the door.
She wanted to waive those higher considerations.
Mr. Gascoigne felt that he had come to a satisfactory understanding
with his niece, and had furthered her happy settlement in life by
furthering her engagement to Grandcourt. Meanwhile there was another
person to whom the contemplation of that issue had been a motive for
some activity, and who believed that he, too, on this particular day
had done something toward bringing about a favorable decision in "his"
sense--which happened to be the reverse of the rector's.
Mr. Lush's absence from Diplow during Gwendolen's visit had been due,
not to any fear on his part of meeting that supercilious young lady, or
of being abashed by her frank dislike, but to an engagement from which
he expected important consequences. He was gone, in fact, to the
Wanchester station to meet a lady, accompanied by a maid and two
children, whom he put into a fly, and afterward followed to the hotel
of the Golden Keys, in that town. An impressive woman, whom many would
turn to look at again in passing; her figure was slim and sufficiently
tall, her face rather emaciated, so that its sculpturesque beauty was
the more pronounced, her crisp hair perfectly black, and her large,
anxious eyes what we call black. Her dress was soberly correct, her
age, perhaps, physically more advanced than the number of years would
imply, but hardly less than seven-and-thirty. An uneasy-looking woman:
her glance seemed to presuppose that the people and things were going
to be unfavorable to her, while she was, nevertheless, ready to meet
them with resolution. The children were lovely--a dark-haired girl of
six or more, a fairer boy of five. When Lush incautiously expressed
some surprise at her having brought the children, she said, with a
"Did you suppose I should come wandering about here by myself? Why
should I not bring all four if I liked?"
"Oh, certainly," said Lush, with his usual fluent "nonchalance".
He stayed an hour or so in conference with her, and rode back to Diplow
in a state of mind that was at once hopeful and busily anxious as to
the execution of the little plan on which his hopefulness was based.
Grandcourt's marriage to Gwendolen Harleth would not, he believed, be
much of a good to either of them, and it would plainly be fraught with
disagreeables to himself. But now he felt confident enough to say
inwardly, "I will take, nay, I will lay odds that the marriage will
I will not clothe myself in wreck--wear gems
Sawed from cramped finger-bones of women drowned;
Feel chilly vaporous hands of ireful ghosts
Clutching my necklace: trick my maiden breast
With orphans' heritage. Let your dead love
Marry it's dead.
Gwendolen looked lovely and vigorous as a tall, newly-opened lily the
next morning: there was a reaction of young energy in her, and
yesterday's self-distrust seemed no more than the transient shiver on
the surface of a full stream. The roving archery match in Cardell Chase
was a delightful prospect for the sport's sake: she felt herself
beforehand moving about like a wood-nymph under the beeches (in
appreciative company), and the imagined scene lent a charm to further
advances on the part of Grandcourt--not an impassioned lyrical Daphnis
for the wood-nymph, certainly: but so much the better. To-day Gwendolen
foresaw him making slow conversational approaches to a declaration, and
foresaw herself awaiting and encouraging it according to the rational
conclusion which she had expressed to her uncle.
When she came down to breakfast (after every one had left the table
except Mrs. Davilow) there were letters on her plate. One of them she
read with a gathering smile, and then handed it to her mamma, who, on
returning it, smiled also, finding new cheerfulness in the good spirits
her daughter had shown ever since waking, and said--
"You don't feel inclined to go a thousand miles away?"
"Not exactly so far."
"It was a sad omission not to have written again before this. Can't you
write how--before we set out this morning?"
"It is not so pressing. To-morrow will do. You see they leave town
to-day. I must write to Dover. They will be there till Monday."
"Shall I write for you, dear--if it teases you?"
Gwendolen did not speak immediately, but after sipping her coffee,
answered brusquely, "Oh no, let it be; I will write to-morrow." Then,
feeling a touch of compunction, she looked up and said with playful
tenderness, "Dear, old, beautiful mamma!"
"Old, child, truly."
"Please don't, mamma! I meant old for darling. You are hardly
twenty-five years older than I am. When you talk in that way my life
shrivels up before me."
"One can have a great deal of happiness in twenty-five years, my dear."
"I must lose no time in beginning," said Gwendolen, merrily. "The
sooner I get my palaces and coaches the better."
"And a good husband who adores you, Gwen," said Mrs. Davilow,
Gwendolen put out her lips saucily and said nothing.
It was a slight drawback on her pleasure in starting that the rector
was detained by magistrate's business, and would probably not be able
to get to Cardell Chase at all that day. She cared little that Mrs.
Gascoigne and Anna chose not to go without him, but her uncle's
presence would have seemed to make it a matter of course that the
decision taken would be acted on. For decision in itself began to be
formidable. Having come close to accepting Grandcourt, Gwendolen felt
this lot of unhoped-for fullness rounding itself too definitely. When
we take to wishing a great deal for ourselves, whatever we get soon
turns into mere limitation and exclusion. Still there was the
reassuring thought that marriage would be the gate into a larger
The place of meeting was a grassy spot called Green Arbor, where a bit
of hanging wood made a sheltering amphitheatre. It was here that the
coachful of servants with provisions had to prepare the picnic meal;
and the warden of the Chase was to guide the roving archers so as to
keep them within the due distance from this centre, and hinder them
from wandering beyond the limit which had been fixed on--a curve that
might be drawn through certain well-known points, such as the double
Oak, the Whispering Stones, and the High Cross. The plan was to take
only a preliminary stroll before luncheon, keeping the main roving
expedition for the more exquisite lights of the afternoon. The muster
was rapid enough to save every one from dull moments of waiting, and
when the groups began to scatter themselves through the light and
shadow made here by closely neighboring beeches and there by rarer
oaks, one may suppose that a painter would have been glad to look on.
This roving archery was far prettier than the stationary game, but
success in shooting at variable marks were less favored by practice,
and the hits were distributed among the volunteer archers otherwise
than they would have been in target-shooting. From this cause, perhaps,
as well as from the twofold distraction of being preoccupied and
wishing not to betray her preoccupation, Gwendolen did not greatly
distinguish herself in these first experiments, unless it were by the
lively grace with which she took her comparative failure. She was in
white and green as on the day of the former meeting, when it made an
epoch for her that she was introduced to Grandcourt; he was continually
by her side now, yet it would have been hard to
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