Part 1 out of 9
"Vitae post-scenia celant."--Lucretius.
This etext was produced by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
THE HAND OF ETHELBERTA -- A COMEDY IN CHAPTERS
by Thomas Hardy.
This somewhat frivolous narrative was produced as an interlude
between stories of a more sober design, and it was given the sub-
title of a comedy to indicate--though not quite accurately--the aim
of the performance. A high degree of probability was not attempted
in the arrangement of the incidents, and there was expected of the
reader a certain lightness of mood, which should inform him with a
good-natured willingness to accept the production in the spirit in
which it was offered. The characters themselves, however, were
meant to be consistent and human.
On its first appearance the novel suffered, perhaps deservedly, for
what was involved in these intentions--for its quality of
unexpectedness in particular--that unforgivable sin in the critic's
sight--the immediate precursor of 'Ethelberta' having been a purely
rural tale. Moreover, in its choice of medium, and line of
perspective, it undertook a delicate task: to excite interest in a
drama--if such a dignified word may be used in the connection--
wherein servants were as important as, or more important than, their
masters; wherein the drawing-room was sketched in many cases from
the point of view of the servants' hall. Such a reversal of the
social foreground has, perhaps, since grown more welcome, and
readers even of the finer crusted kind may now be disposed to pardon
a writer for presenting the sons and daughters of Mr. and Mrs.
Chickerel as beings who come within the scope of a congenial regard.
1. A STREET IN ANGLEBURY - A HEATH NEAR IT - INSIDE THE 'RED LION' INN
2. CHRISTOPHER'S HOUSE - SANDBOURNE TOWN - SANDBOURNE MOOR
3. SANDBOURNE MOOR (continued)
4. SANDBOURNE PIER - ROAD TO WYNDWAY - BALLROOM IN WYNDWAY HOUSE
5. AT THE WINDOW - THE ROAD HOME
6. THE SHORE BY WYNDWAY
7. THE DINING-ROOM OF A TOWN HOUSE - THE BUTLER'S PANTRY
8. CHRISTOPHER'S LODGINGS - THE GROUNDS ABOUT ROOKINGTON
9. A LADY'S DRAWING-ROOMS - ETHELBERTA'S DRESSING-ROOM
10. LADY PETHERWIN'S HOUSE
11. SANDBOURNE AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD - SOME LONDON STREETS
12. ARROWTHORNE PARK AND LODGE
13. THE LODGE (continued) - THE COPSE BEHIND
14. A TURNPIKE ROAD
15. AN INNER ROOM AT THE LODGE
16. A LARGE PUBLIC HALL
17. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE
18. NEAR SANDBOURNE - LONDON STREETS - ETHELBERTA'S
19. ETHELBERTA'S DRAWING-ROOM
20. THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE HALL - THE ROAD HOME
21. A STREET - NEIGH'S ROOMS - CHRISTOPHER'S ROOMS
22. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE
23. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE (continued)
24. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE (continued) - THE BRITISH MUSEUM
25. THE ROYAL ACADEMY - THE FARNFIELD ESTATE
26. ETHELBERTA'S DRAWING-ROOM
27. MRS. BELMAINE'S - CRIPPLEGATE CHURCH
28. ETHELBERTA'S - MR. CHICKEREL'S ROOM
29. ETHELBERTA'S DRESSING-ROOM - MR. DONCASTLE'S HOUSE
30. ON THE HOUSETOP
31. KNOLLSEA - A LOFTY DOWN - A RUINED CASTLE
32. A ROOM IN ENCKWORTH COURT
33. THE ENGLISH CHANNEL - NORMANDY
34. THE HOTEL BEAU SEJOUR, AND SPOTS NEAR IT
35. THE HOTEL (continued), AND THE QUAY IN FRONT
36. THE HOUSE IN TOWN
37. KNOLLSEA - AN ORNAMENTAL VILLA
38. ENCKWORTH COURT
39. KNOLLSEA - MELCHESTER
40. MELCHESTER (continued)
41. WORKSHOPS - AN INN - THE STREET
42. THE DONCASTLES' RESIDENCE, AND OUTSIDE THE SAME
43. THE RAILWAY - THE SEA - THE SHORE BEYOND
44. SANDBOURNE - A LONELY HEATH - THE 'RED LION' - THE HIGHWAY
45. KNOLLSEA - THE ROAD THENCE - ENCKWORTH
46. ENCKWORTH (continued) - THE ANGLEBURY HIGHWAY
47. ENCKWORTH AND ITS PRECINCTS - MELCHESTER
SEQUEL. ANGLEBURY - ENCKWORTH - SANDBOURNE
The Hand of Ethelberta
1. A STREET IN ANGLEBURY - A HEATH NEAR IT - INSIDE THE 'RED LION' INN
Young Mrs. Petherwin stepped from the door of an old and well-
appointed inn in a Wessex town to take a country walk. By her look
and carriage she appeared to belong to that gentle order of society
which has no worldly sorrow except when its jewellery gets stolen;
but, as a fact not generally known, her claim to distinction was
rather one of brains than of blood. She was the daughter of a
gentleman who lived in a large house not his own, and began life as
a baby christened Ethelberta after an infant of title who does not
come into the story at all, having merely furnished Ethelberta's
mother with a subject of contemplation. She became teacher in a
school, was praised by examiners, admired by gentlemen, not admired
by gentlewomen, was touched up with accomplishments by masters who
were coaxed into painstaking by her many graces, and, entering a
mansion as governess to the daughter thereof, was stealthily married
by the son. He, a minor like herself, died from a chill caught
during the wedding tour, and a few weeks later was followed into the
grave by Sir Ralph Petherwin, his unforgiving father, who had
bequeathed his wealth to his wife absolutely.
These calamities were a sufficient reason to Lady Petherwin for
pardoning all concerned. She took by the hand the forlorn
Ethelberta--who seemed rather a detached bride than a widow--and
finished her education by placing her for two or three years in a
boarding-school at Bonn. Latterly she had brought the girl to
England to live under her roof as daughter and companion, the
condition attached being that Ethelberta was never openly to
recognize her relations, for reasons which will hereafter appear.
The elegant young lady, as she had a full right to be called if she
cared for the definition, arrested all the local attention when she
emerged into the summer-evening light with that diadem-and-sceptre
bearing--many people for reasons of heredity discovering such graces
only in those whose vestibules are lined with ancestral mail,
forgetting that a bear may be taught to dance. While this air of
hers lasted, even the inanimate objects in the street appeared to
know that she was there; but from a way she had of carelessly
overthrowing her dignity by versatile moods, one could not calculate
upon its presence to a certainty when she was round corners or in
little lanes which demanded no repression of animal spirits.
'Well to be sure!' exclaimed a milkman, regarding her. 'We should
freeze in our beds if 'twere not for the sun, and, dang me! if she
isn't a pretty piece. A man could make a meal between them eyes and
chin--eh, hostler? Odd nation dang my old sides if he couldn't!'
The speaker, who had been carrying a pair of pails on a yoke,
deposited them upon the edge of the pavement in front of the inn,
and straightened his back to an excruciating perpendicular. His
remarks had been addressed to a rickety person, wearing a waistcoat
of that preternatural length from the top to the bottom button which
prevails among men who have to do with horses. He was sweeping
straws from the carriage-way beneath the stone arch that formed a
passage to the stables behind.
'Never mind the cursing and swearing, or somebody who's never out of
hearing may clap yer name down in his black book,' said the hostler,
also pausing, and lifting his eyes to the mullioned and transomed
windows and moulded parapet above him--not to study them as features
of ancient architecture, but just to give as healthful a stretch to
the eyes as his acquaintance had done to his back. 'Michael, a old
man like you ought to think about other things, and not be looking
two ways at your time of life. Pouncing upon young flesh like a
carrion crow--'tis a vile thing in a old man.'
''Tis; and yet 'tis not, for 'tis a naterel taste,' said the
milkman, again surveying Ethelberta, who had now paused upon a
bridge in full view, to look down the river. 'Now, if a poor needy
feller like myself could only catch her alone when she's dressed up
to the nines for some grand party, and carry her off to some lonely
place--sakes, what a pot of jewels and goold things I warrant he'd
find about her! 'Twould pay en for his trouble.'
'I don't dispute the picter; but 'tis sly and untimely to think such
roguery. Though I've had thoughts like it, 'tis true, about high
women--Lord forgive me for't.'
'And that figure of fashion standing there is a widow woman, so I
'Lady--not a penny less than lady. Ay, a thing of twenty-one or
'A widow lady and twenty-one. 'Tis a backward age for a body who's
so forward in her state of life.'
'Well, be that as 'twill, here's my showings for her age. She was
about the figure of two or three-and-twenty when a' got off the
carriage last night, tired out wi' boaming about the country; and
nineteen this morning when she came downstairs after a sleep round
the clock and a clane-washed face: so I thought to myself, twenty-
one, I thought.'
'And what's the young woman's name, make so bold, hostler?'
'Ay, and the house were all in a stoor with her and the old woman,
and their boxes and camp-kettles, that they carry to wash in because
hand-basons bain't big enough, and I don't know what all; and
t'other folk stopping here were no more than dirt thencefor'ard.'
'I suppose they've come out of some noble city a long way herefrom?'
'And there was her hair up in buckle as if she'd never seen a clay-
cold man at all. However, to cut a long story short, all I know
besides about 'em is that the name upon their luggage is Lady
Petherwin, and she's the widow of a city gentleman, who was a man of
valour in the Lord Mayor's Show.'
'Who's that chap in the gaiters and pack at his back, come out of
the door but now?' said the milkman, nodding towards a figure of
that description who had just emerged from the inn and trudged off
in the direction taken by the lady--now out of sight.
'Chap in the gaiters? Chok' it all--why, the father of that
nobleman that you call chap in the gaiters used to be hand in glove
with half the Queen's court.'
'What d'ye tell o'?'
'That man's father was one of the mayor and corporation of
Sandbourne, and was that familiar with men of money, that he'd slap
'em upon the shoulder as you or I or any other poor fool would the
clerk of the parish.'
'O, what's my lordlin's name, make so bold, then?'
'Ay, the toppermost class nowadays have left off the use of wheels
for the good of their constitutions, so they traipse and walk for
many years up foreign hills, where you can see nothing but snow and
fog, till there's no more left to walk up; and if they reach home
alive, and ha'n't got too old and weared out, they walk and see a
little of their own parishes. So they tower about with a pack and a
stick and a clane white pocket-handkerchief over their hats just as
you see he's got on his. He's been staying here a night, and is off
now again. "Young man, young man," I think to myself, "if your
shoulders were bent like a bandy and your knees bowed out as mine
be, till there is not an inch of straight bone or gristle in 'ee,
th' wouldstn't go doing hard work for play 'a b'lieve."'
'True, true, upon my song. Such a pain as I have had in my lynes
all this day to be sure; words don't know what shipwreck I suffer in
these lynes o' mine--that they do not! And what was this young
widow lady's maiden name, then, hostler? Folk have been peeping
after her, that's true; but they don't seem to know much about her
'And while I've tended horses fifty year that other folk might
straddle 'em, here I be now not a penny the better! Often-times,
when I see so many good things about, I feel inclined to help myself
in common justice to my pocket.
"Work hard and be poor,
Do nothing and get more."
But I draw in the horns of my mind and think to myself, "Forbear,
John Hostler, forbear!"--Her maiden name? Faith, I don't know the
woman's maiden name, though she said to me, "Good evening, John;"
but I had no memory of ever seeing her afore--no, no more than the
dead inside church-hatch--where I shall soon be likewise--I had not.
"Ay, my nabs," I think to myself, "more know Tom Fool than Tom Fool
'More know Tom Fool--what rambling old canticle is it you say,
hostler?' inquired the milkman, lifting his ear. 'Let's have it
again--a good saying well spit out is a Christmas fire to my
withered heart. More know Tom Fool--'
'Than Tom Fool knows,' said the hostler.
'Ah! That's the very feeling I've feeled over and over again,
hostler, but not in such gifted language. 'Tis a thought I've had
in me for years, and never could lick into shape!--O-ho-ho-ho!
Splendid! Say it again, hostler, say it again! To hear my own poor
notion that had no name brought into form like that--I wouldn't ha'
lost it for the world! More know Tom Fool than--than--h-ho-ho-ho-
'Don't let your sense o' vitness break out in such uproar, for
heaven's sake, or folk will surely think you've been laughing at the
lady and gentleman. Well, here's at it again--Night t'ee, Michael.'
And the hostler went on with his sweeping.
'Night t'ee, hostler, I must move too,' said the milkman,
shouldering his yoke, and walking off; and there reached the inn in
a gradual diminuendo, as he receded up the street, shaking his head
convulsively, 'More know--Tom Fool--than Tom Fool--ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!'
The 'Red Lion,' as the inn or hotel was called which of late years
had become the fashion among tourists, because of the absence from
its precincts of all that was fashionable and new, stood near the
middle of the town, and formed a corner where in winter the winds
whistled and assembled their forces previous to plunging helter-
skelter along the streets. In summer it was a fresh and pleasant
spot, convenient for such quiet characters as sojourned there to
study the geology and beautiful natural features of the country
The lady whose appearance had asserted a difference between herself
and the Anglebury people, without too clearly showing what that
difference was, passed out of the town in a few moments and,
following the highway across meadows fed by the Froom, she crossed
the railway and soon got into a lonely heath. She had been watching
the base of a cloud as it closed down upon the line of a distant
ridge, like an upper upon a lower eyelid, shutting in the gaze of
the evening sun. She was about to return before dusk came on, when
she heard a commotion in the air immediately behind and above her
head. The saunterer looked up and saw a wild-duck flying along with
the greatest violence, just in its rear being another large bird,
which a countryman would have pronounced to be one of the biggest
duck-hawks that he had ever beheld. The hawk neared its intended
victim, and the duck screamed and redoubled its efforts.
Ethelberta impulsively started off in a rapid run that would have
made a little dog bark with delight and run after, her object being,
if possible, to see the end of this desperate struggle for a life so
small and unheard-of. Her stateliness went away, and it could be
forgiven for not remaining; for her feet suddenly became as quick as
fingers, and she raced along over the uneven ground with such force
of tread that, being a woman slightly heavier than gossamer, her
patent heels punched little D's in the soil with unerring accuracy
wherever it was bare, crippled the heather-twigs where it was not,
and sucked the swampy places with a sound of quick kisses.
Her rate of advance was not to be compared with that of the two
birds, though she went swiftly enough to keep them well in sight in
such an open place as that around her, having at one point in the
journey been so near that she could hear the whisk of the duck's
feathers against the wind as it lifted and lowered its wings. When
the bird seemed to be but a few yards from its enemy she saw it
strike downwards, and after a level flight of a quarter of a minute,
vanish. The hawk swooped after, and Ethelberta now perceived a
whitely shining oval of still water, looking amid the swarthy level
of the heath like a hole through to a nether sky.
Into this large pond, which the duck had been making towards from
the beginning of its precipitate flight, it had dived out of sight.
The excited and breathless runner was in a few moments close enough
to see the disappointed hawk hovering and floating in the air as if
waiting for the reappearance of its prey, upon which grim pastime it
was so intent that by creeping along softly she was enabled to get
very near the edge of the pool and witness the conclusion of the
episode. Whenever the duck was under the necessity of showing its
head to breathe, the other bird would dart towards it, invariably
too late, however; for the diver was far too experienced in the
rough humour of the buzzard family at this game to come up twice
near the same spot, unaccountably emerging from opposite sides of
the pool in succession, and bobbing again by the time its adversary
reached each place, so that at length the hawk gave up the contest
and flew away, a satanic moodiness being almost perceptible in the
motion of its wings.
The young lady now looked around her for the first time, and began
to perceive that she had run a long distance--very much further than
she had originally intended to come. Her eyes had been so long
fixed upon the hawk, as it soared against the bright and mottled
field of sky, that on regarding the heather and plain again it was
as if she had returned to a half-forgotten region after an absence,
and the whole prospect was darkened to one uniform shade of
approaching night. She began at once to retrace her steps, but
having been indiscriminately wheeling round the pond to get a good
view of the performance, and having followed no path thither, she
found the proper direction of her journey to be a matter of some
'Surely,' she said to herself, 'I faced the north at starting:' and
yet on walking now with her back where her face had been set, she
did not approach any marks on the horizon which might seem to
signify the town. Thus dubiously, but with little real concern, she
walked on till the evening light began to turn to dusk, and the
shadows to darkness.
Presently in front of her Ethelberta saw a white spot in the shade,
and it proved to be in some way attached to the head of a man who
was coming towards her out of a slight depression in the ground. It
was as yet too early in the evening to be afraid, but it was too
late to be altogether courageous; and with balanced sensations
Ethelberta kept her eye sharply upon him as he rose by degrees into
view. The peculiar arrangement of his hat and pugree soon struck
her as being that she had casually noticed on a peg in one of the
rooms of the 'Red Lion,' and when he came close she saw that his
arms diminished to a peculiar smallness at their junction with his
shoulders, like those of a doll, which was explained by their being
girt round at that point with the straps of a knapsack that he
carried behind him. Encouraged by the probability that he, like
herself, was staying or had been staying at the 'Red Lion,' she
said, 'Can you tell me if this is the way back to Anglebury?'
'It is one way; but the nearest is in this direction,' said the
tourist--the same who had been criticized by the two old men.
At hearing him speak all the delicate activities in the young lady's
person stood still: she stopped like a clock. When she could again
fence with the perception which had caused all this, she breathed.
'Mr. Julian!' she exclaimed. The words were uttered in a way which
would have told anybody in a moment that here lay something
connected with the light of other days.
'Ah, Mrs. Petherwin!--Yes, I am Mr. Julian--though that can matter
very little, I should think, after all these years, and what has
No remark was returned to this rugged reply, and he continued
unconcernedly, 'Shall I put you in the path--it is just here?'
'If you please.'
'Come with me, then.'
She walked in silence at his heels, not a word passing between them
all the way: the only noises which came from the two were the
brushing of her dress and his gaiters against the heather, or the
smart rap of a stray flint against his boot.
They had now reached a little knoll, and he turned abruptly: 'That
is Anglebury--just where you see those lights. The path down there
is the one you must follow; it leads round the hill yonder and
directly into the town.'
'Thank you,' she murmured, and found that he had never removed his
eyes from her since speaking, keeping them fixed with mathematical
exactness upon one point in her face. She moved a little to go on
her way; he moved a little less--to go on his.
'Good-night,' said Mr. Julian.
The moment, upon the very face of it, was critical; and yet it was
one of those which have to wait for a future before they acquire a
definite character as good or bad.
Thus much would have been obvious to any outsider; it may have been
doubly so to Ethelberta, for she gave back more than she had got,
replying, 'Good-bye--if you are going to say no more.'
Then in struck Mr. Julian: 'What can I say? You are nothing to me.
. . . I could forgive a woman doing anything for spite, except
marrying for spite.'
'The connection of that with our present meeting does not appear,
unless it refers to what you have done. It does not refer to me.'
'I am not married: you are.'
She did not contradict him, as she might have done. 'Christopher,'
she said at last, 'this is how it is: you knew too much of me to
respect me, and too little to pity me. A half knowledge of
another's life mostly does injustice to the life half known.'
'Then since circumstances forbid my knowing you more, I must do my
best to know you less, and elevate my opinion of your nature by
forgetting what it consists in,' he said in a voice from which all
feeling was polished away.
'If I did not know that bitterness had more to do with those words
than judgment, I--should be--bitter too! You never knew half about
me; you only knew me as a governess; you little think what my
'I have guessed. I have many times told myself that your early life
was superior to your position when I first met you. I think I may
say without presumption that I recognize a lady by birth when I see
her, even under reverses of an extreme kind. And certainly there is
this to be said, that the fact of having been bred in a wealthy home
does slightly redeem an attempt to attain to such a one again.'
Ethelberta smiled a smile of many meanings.
'However, we are wasting words,' he resumed cheerfully. 'It is
better for us to part as we met, and continue to be the strangers
that we have become to each other. I owe you an apology for having
been betrayed into more feeling than I had a right to show, and let
us part friends. Good night, Mrs. Petherwin, and success to you.
We may meet again, some day, I hope.'
'Good night,' she said, extending her hand. He touched it, turned
about, and in a short time nothing remained of him but quick regular
brushings against the heather in the deep broad shadow of the moor.
Ethelberta slowly moved on in the direction that he had pointed out.
This meeting had surprised her in several ways. First, there was
the conjuncture itself; but more than that was the fact that he had
not parted from her with any of the tragic resentment that she had
from time to time imagined for that scene if it ever occurred. Yet
there was really nothing wonderful in this: it is part of the
generous nature of a bachelor to be not indisposed to forgive a
portionless sweetheart who, by marrying elsewhere, has deprived him
of the bliss of being obliged to marry her himself. Ethelberta
would have been disappointed quite had there not been a comforting
development of exasperation in the middle part of his talk; but
after all it formed a poor substitute for the loving hatred she had
When she reached the hotel the lamp over the door showed a face a
little flushed, but the agitation which at first had possessed her
was gone to a mere nothing. In the hall she met a slender woman
wearing a silk dress of that peculiar black which in sunlight
proclaims itself to have once seen better days as a brown, and days
even better than those as a lavender, green, or blue.
'Menlove,' said the lady, 'did you notice if any gentleman observed
and followed me when I left the hotel to go for a walk this
The lady's-maid, thus suddenly pulled up in a night forage after
lovers, put a hand to her forehead to show that there was no mistake
about her having begun to meditate on receiving orders to that
effect, and said at last, 'You once told me, ma'am, if you
recollect, that when you were dressed, I was not to go staring out
of the window after you as if you were a doll I had just
manufactured and sent round for sale.'
'Yes, so I did.'
'So I didn't see if anybody followed you this evening.'
'Then did you hear any gentleman arrive here by the late train last
'O no, ma'am--how could I?' said Mrs. Menlove--an exclamation which
was more apposite than her mistress suspected, considering that the
speaker, after retiring from duty, had slipped down her dark skirt
to reveal a light, puffed, and festooned one, put on a hat and
feather, together with several pennyweights of metal in the form of
rings, brooches, and earrings--all in a time whilst one could count
a hundred--and enjoyed half-an-hour of prime courtship by an
honourable young waiter of the town, who had proved constant as the
magnet to the pole for the space of the day and a half that she had
Going at once upstairs, Ethelberta ran down the passage, and after
some hesitation softly opened the door of the sitting-room in the
best suite of apartments that the inn could boast of.
In this room sat an elderly lady writing by the light of two candles
with green shades. Well knowing, as it seemed, who the intruder
was, she continued her occupation, and her visitor advanced and
stood beside the table. The old lady wore her spectacles low down
her cheek, her glance being depressed to about the slope of her
straight white nose in order to look through them. Her mouth was
pursed up to almost a youthful shape as she formed the letters with
her pen, and a slight move of the lip accompanied every downstroke.
There were two large antique rings on her forefinger, against which
the quill rubbed in moving backwards and forwards, thereby causing a
secondary noise rivalling the primary one of the nib upon the paper.
'Mamma,' said the younger lady, 'here I am at last.'
A writer's mind in the midst of a sentence being like a ship at sea,
knowing no rest or comfort till safely piloted into the harbour of a
full stop, Lady Petherwin just replied with 'What,' in an occupied
tone, not rising to interrogation. After signing her name to the
letter, she raised her eyes.
'Why, how late you are, Ethelberta, and how heated you look!' she
said. 'I have been quite alarmed about you. What do you say has
The great, chief, and altogether eclipsing thing that had happened
was the accidental meeting with an old lover whom she had once
quarrelled with; and Ethelberta's honesty would have delivered the
tidings at once, had not, unfortunately, all the rest of her
attributes been dead against that act, for the old lady's sake even
more than for her own.
'I saw a great cruel bird chasing a harmless duck!' she exclaimed
innocently. 'And I ran after to see what the end of it would be--
much further than I had any idea of going. However, the duck came
to a pond, and in running round it to see the end of the fight, I
could not remember which way I had come.'
'Mercy!' said her mother-in-law, lifting her large eyelids, heavy as
window-shutters, and spreading out her fingers like the horns of a
snail. 'You might have sunk up to your knees and got lost in that
swampy place--such a time of night, too. What a tomboy you are!
And how did you find your way home after all!'
'O, some man showed me the way, and then I had no difficulty, and
after that I came along leisurely.'
'I thought you had been running all the way; you look so warm.'
'It is a warm evening. . . . Yes, and I have been thinking of old
times as I walked along,' she said, 'and how people's positions in
life alter. Have I not heard you say that while I was at Bonn, at
school, some family that we had known had their household broken up
when the father died, and that the children went away you didn't
'Do you mean the Julians?'
'Yes, that was the name.'
'Why, of course you know it was the Julians. Young Julian had a day
or two's fancy for you one summer, had he not?--just after you came
to us, at the same time, or just before it, that my poor boy and you
were so desperately attached to each other.'
'O yes, I recollect,' said Ethelberta. 'And he had a sister, I
think. I wonder where they went to live after the family collapse.'
'I do not know,' said Lady Petherwin, taking up another sheet of
paper. 'I have a dim notion that the son, who had been brought up
to no profession, became a teacher of music in some country town--
music having always been his hobby. But the facts are not very
distinct in my memory.' And she dipped her pen for another letter.
Ethelberta, with a rather fallen countenance, then left her mother-
in-law, and went where all ladies are supposed to go when they want
to torment their minds in comfort--to her own room. Here she
thoughtfully sat down awhile, and some time later she rang for her
'Menlove,' she said, without looking towards a rustle and half a
footstep that had just come in at the door, but leaning back in her
chair and speaking towards the corner of the looking-glass, 'will
you go down and find out if any gentleman named Julian has been
staying in this house? Get to know it, I mean, Menlove, not by
directly inquiring; you have ways of getting to know things, have
you not? If the devoted George were here now, he would help--'
'George was nothing to me, ma'am.'
'And I only had James for a week or ten days: when I found he was a
married man, I encouraged his addresses very little indeed.'
'If you had encouraged him heart and soul, you couldn't have fumed
more at the loss of him. But please to go and make that inquiry,
will you, Menlove?'
In a few minutes Ethelberta's woman was back again. 'A gentleman of
that name stayed here last night, and left this afternoon.'
'Will you find out his address?'
Now the lady's-maid had already been quick-witted enough to find out
that, and indeed all about him; but it chanced that a fashionable
illustrated weekly paper had just been sent from the bookseller's,
and being in want of a little time to look it over before it reached
her mistress's hands, Mrs. Menlove retired, as if to go and ask the
question--to stand meanwhile under the gas-lamp in the passage,
inspecting the fascinating engravings. But as time will not wait
for tire-women, a natural length of absence soon elapsed, and she
returned again and said,
'His address is, Upper Street, Sandbourne.'
'Thank you, that will do,' replied her mistress.
The hour grew later, and that dreamy period came round when ladies'
fancies, that have lain shut up close as their fans during the day,
begin to assert themselves anew. At this time a good guess at
Ethelberta's thoughts might have been made from her manner of
passing the minutes away. Instead of reading, entering notes in her
diary, or doing any ordinary thing, she walked to and fro, curled
her pretty nether lip within her pretty upper one a great many
times, made a cradle of her locked fingers, and paused with fixed
eyes where the walls of the room set limits upon her walk to look at
nothing but a picture within her mind.
2. CHRISTOPHER'S HOUSE - SANDBOURNE TOWN - SANDBOURNE MOOR
During the wet autumn of the same year, the postman passed one
morning as usual into a plain street that ran through the less
fashionable portion of Sandbourne, a modern coast town and watering-
place not many miles from the ancient Anglebury. He knocked at the
door of a flat-faced brick house, and it was opened by a slight,
thoughtful young man, with his hat on, just then coming out. The
postman put into his hands a book packet, addressed, 'Christopher
Christopher took the package upstairs, opened it with curiosity, and
discovered within a green volume of poems, by an anonymous writer,
the title-page bearing the inscription, 'Metres by E.' The book was
new, though it was cut, and it appeared to have been looked into.
The young man, after turning it over and wondering where it came
from, laid it on the table and went his way, being in haste to
fulfil his engagements for the day.
In the evening, on returning home from his occupations, he sat
himself down cosily to read the newly-arrived volume. The winds of
this uncertain season were snarling in the chimneys, and drops of
rain spat themselves into the fire, revealing plainly that the young
man's room was not far enough from the top of the house to admit of
a twist in the flue, and revealing darkly a little more, if that
social rule-of-three inverse, the higher in lodgings the lower in
pocket, were applicable here. However, the aspect of the room,
though homely, was cheerful, a somewhat contradictory group of
furniture suggesting that the collection consisted of waifs and
strays from a former home, the grimy faces of the old articles
exercising a curious and subduing effect on the bright faces of the
new. An oval mirror of rococo workmanship, and a heavy cabinet-
piano with a cornice like that of an Egyptian temple, adjoined a
harmonium of yesterday, and a harp that was almost as new. Printed
music of the last century, and manuscript music of the previous
evening, lay there in such quantity as to endanger the tidiness of a
retreat which was indeed only saved from a chronic state of litter
by a pair of hands that sometimes played, with the lightness of
breezes, about the sewing-machine standing in a remote corner--if
any corner could be called remote in a room so small.
Fire lights and shades from the shaking flames struck in a butterfly
flutter on the underparts of the mantelshelf, and upon the reader's
cheek as he sat. Presently, and all at once, a much greater
intentness pervaded his face: he turned back again, and read anew
the subject that had arrested his eyes. He was a man whose
countenance varied with his mood, though it kept somewhat in the
rear of that mood. He looked sad when he felt almost serene, and
only serene when he felt quite cheerful. It is a habit people
acquire who have had repressing experiences.
A faint smile and flush now lightened his face, and jumping up he
opened the door and exclaimed, 'Faith! will you come here for a
A prompt step was heard on the stairs, and the young person
addressed as Faith entered the room. She was small in figure, and
bore less in the form of her features than in their shades when
changing from expression to expression the evidence that she was his
'Faith--I want your opinion. But, stop, read this first.' He laid
his finger upon a page in the book, and placed it in her hand.
The girl drew from her pocket a little green-leather sheath, worn at
the edges to whity-brown, and out of that a pair of spectacles,
unconsciously looking round the room for a moment as she did so, as
if to ensure that no stranger saw her in the act of using them.
Here a weakness was uncovered at once; it was a small, pretty, and
natural one; indeed, as weaknesses go in the great world, it might
almost have been called a commendable trait. She then began to
read, without sitting down.
These 'Metres by E.' composed a collection of soft and marvellously
musical rhymes, of a nature known as the vers de societe. The lines
presented a series of playful defences of the supposed strategy of
womankind in fascination, courtship, and marriage--the whole teeming
with ideas bright as mirrors and just as unsubstantial, yet forming
a brilliant argument to justify the ways of girls to men. The
pervading characteristic of the mass was the means of forcing into
notice, by strangeness of contrast, the single mournful poem that
the book contained. It was placed at the very end, and under the
title of 'Cancelled Words,' formed a whimsical and rather affecting
love-lament, somewhat in the tone of many of Sir Thomas Wyatt's
poems. This was the piece which had arrested Christopher's
attention, and had been pointed out by him to his sister Faith.
'It is very touching,' she said, looking up.
'What do you think I suspect about it--that the poem is addressed to
me! Do you remember, when father was alive and we were at Solentsea
that season, about a governess who came there with a Sir Ralph
Petherwin and his wife, people with a sickly little daughter and a
'I never saw any of them. I think I remember your knowing something
about a young man of that name.'
'Yes, that was the family. Well, the governess there was a very
attractive woman, and somehow or other I got more interested in her
than I ought to have done (this is necessary to the history), and we
used to meet in romantic places--and--and that kind of thing, you
know. The end of it was, she jilted me and married the son.'
'You were anxious to get away from Solentsea.'
'Was I? Then that was chiefly the reason. Well, I decided to think
no more of her, and I was helped to do it by the troubles that came
upon us shortly afterwards; it is a blessed arrangement that one
does not feel a sentimental grief at all when additional grief comes
in the shape of practical misfortune. However, on the first
afternoon of the little holiday I took for my walking tour last
summer, I came to Anglebury, and stayed about the neighbourhood for
a day or two to see what it was like, thinking we might settle there
if this place failed us. The next evening I left, and walked across
the heath to Flychett--that's a village about five miles further on-
-so as to be that distance on my way for next morning; and while I
was crossing the heath there I met this very woman. We talked a
little, because we couldn't help it--you may imagine the kind of
talk it was--and parted as coolly as we had met. Now this strange
book comes to me; and I have a strong conviction that she is the
writer of it, for that poem sketches a similar scene--or rather
suggests it; and the tone generally seems the kind of thing she
would write--not that she was a sad woman, either.'
'She seems to be a warm-hearted, impulsive woman, to judge from
these tender verses.'
'People who print very warm words have sometimes very cold manners.
I wonder if it is really her writing, and if she has sent it to me!'
'Would it not be a singular thing for a married woman to do? Though
of course'--(she removed her spectacles as if they hindered her from
thinking, and hid them under the timepiece till she should go on
reading)--'of course poets have morals and manners of their own, and
custom is no argument with them. I am sure I would not have sent it
to a man for the world!'
'I do not see any absolute harm in her sending it. Perhaps she
thinks that, since it is all over, we may as well die friends.'
'If I were her husband I should have doubts about the dying. And
"all over" may not be so plain to other people as it is to you.'
'Perhaps not. And when a man checks all a woman's finer sentiments
towards him by marrying her, it is only natural that it should find
a vent somewhere. However, she probably does not know of my
downfall since father's death. I hardly think she would have cared
to do it had she known that. (I am assuming that it is Ethelberta--
Mrs. Petherwin--who sends it: of course I am not sure.) We must
remember that when I knew her I was a gentleman at ease, who had not
the least notion that I should have to work for a living, and not
only so, but should have first to invent a profession to work at out
of my old tastes.'
'Kit, you have made two mistakes in your thoughts of that lady.
Even though I don't know her, I can show you that. Now I'll tell
you! the first is in thinking that a married lady would send the
book with that poem in it without at any rate a slight doubt as to
its propriety: the second is in supposing that, had she wished to
do it, she would have given the thing up because of our misfortunes.
With a true woman the second reason would have had no effect had she
once got over the first. I'm a woman, and that's why I know.'
Christopher said nothing, and turned over the poems.
He lived by teaching music, and, in comparison with starving,
thrived; though the wealthy might possibly have said that in
comparison with thriving he starved. During this night he hummed
airs in bed, thought he would do for the ballad of the fair poetess
what other musicians had done for the ballads of other fair
poetesses, and dreamed that she smiled on him as her prototype
Sappho smiled on Phaon.
The next morning before starting on his rounds a new circumstance
induced him to direct his steps to the bookseller's, and ask a
question. He had found on examining the wrapper of the volume that
it was posted in his own town.
'No copy of the book has been sold by me,' the bookseller's voice
replied from far up the Alpine height of the shop-ladder, where he
stood dusting stale volumes, as was his habit of a morning before
customers came. 'I have never heard of it--probably never shall;'
and he shook out the duster, so as to hit the delicate mean between
stifling Christopher and not stifling him.
'Surely you don't live by your shop?' said Christopher, drawing
The bookseller's eyes rested on the speaker's; his face changed; he
came down and placed his hand on the lapel of Christopher's coat.
'Sir,' he said, 'country bookselling is a miserable, impoverishing,
exasperating thing in these days. Can you understand the rest?'
'I can; I forgive a starving man anything,' said Christopher.
'You go a long way very suddenly,' said the book seller. 'Half as
much pity would have seemed better. However, wait a moment.' He
looked into a list of new books, and added: 'The work you allude to
was only published last week; though, mind you, if it had been
published last century I might not have sold a copy.'
Although his time was precious, Christopher had now become so
interested in the circumstance that the unseen sender was somebody
breathing his own atmosphere, possibly the very writer herself--the
book being too new to be known--that he again passed through the
blue shadow of the spire which stretched across the street to-day,
and went towards the post-office, animated by a bright intention--to
ask the postmaster if he knew the handwriting in which the packet
Now the postmaster was an acquaintance of Christopher's, but, as
regarded putting that question to him, there was a difficulty.
Everything turned upon whether the postmaster at the moment of
asking would be in his under-government manner, or in the manner
with which mere nature had endowed him. In the latter case his
reply would be all that could be wished; in the former, a man who
had sunk in society might as well put his tongue into a mousetrap as
make an inquiry so obviously outside the pale of legality as was
So he postponed his business for the present, and refrained from
entering till he passed by after dinner, when pleasant malt liquor,
of that capacity for cheering which is expressed by four large
letter X's marching in a row, had refilled the globular trunk of the
postmaster and neutralized some of the effects of officiality. The
time was well chosen, but the inquiry threatened to prove fruitless:
the postmaster had never, to his knowledge, seen the writing before.
Christopher was turning away when a clerk in the background looked
up and stated that some young lady had brought a packet with such an
address upon it into the office two days earlier to get it stamped.
'Do you know her?' said Christopher.
'I have seen her about the neighbourhood. She goes by every
morning; I think she comes into the town from beyond the common, and
returns again between four and five in the afternoon.'
'What does she wear?'
'A white wool jacket with zigzags of black braid.'
Christopher left the post-office and went his way. Among his other
pupils there were two who lived at some distance from Sandbourne--
one of them in the direction indicated as that habitually taken by
the young person; and in the afternoon, as he returned homeward,
Christopher loitered and looked around. At first he could see
nobody; but when about a mile from the outskirts of the town he
discerned a light spot ahead of him, which actually turned out to be
the jacket alluded to. In due time he met the wearer face to face;
she was not Ethelberta Petherwin--quite a different sort of
individual. He had long made up his mind that this would be the
case, yet he was in some indescribable way disappointed.
Of the two classes into which gentle young women naturally divide,
those who grow red at their weddings, and those who grow pale, the
present one belonged to the former class. She was an April-natured,
pink-cheeked girl, with eyes that would have made any jeweller in
England think of his trade--one who evidently took her day in the
daytime, frequently caught the early worm, and had little to do with
yawns or candlelight. She came and passed him; he fancied that her
countenance changed. But one may fancy anything, and the pair
receded each from each without turning their heads. He could not
speak to her, plain and simple as she seemed.
It is rarely that a man who can be entered and made to throb by the
channel of his ears is not open to a similar attack through the
channel of his eyes--for many doors will admit to one mansion--
allowance being made for the readier capacity of chosen and
practised organs. Hence the beauties, concords, and eloquences of
the female form were never without their effect upon Christopher, a
born musician, artist, poet, seer, mouthpiece--whichever a
translator of Nature's oracles into simple speech may be called.
The young girl who had gone by was fresh and pleasant; moreover, she
was a sort of mysterious link between himself and the past, which
these things were vividly reviving in him.
The following week Christopher met her again. She had not much
dignity, he had not much reserve, and the sudden resolution to have
a holiday which sometimes impels a plump heart to rise up against a
brain that overweights it was not to be resisted. He just lifted
his hat, and put the only question he could think of as a beginning:
'Have I the pleasure of addressing the author of a book of very
melodious poems that was sent me the other day?'
The girl's forefinger twirled rapidly the loop of braid that it had
previously been twirling slowly, and drawing in her breath, she
said, 'No, sir.'
'The sender, then?'
She somehow presented herself as so insignificant by the combined
effect of the manner and the words that Christopher lowered his
method of address to her level at once. 'Ah,' he said, 'such an
atmosphere as the writer of "Metres by E." seems to breathe would
soon spoil cheeks that are fresh and round as lady-apples--eh,
little girl? But are you disposed to tell me that writer's name?'
By applying a general idea to a particular case a person with the
best of intentions may find himself immediately landed in a
quandary. In saying to the country girl before him what would have
suited the mass of country lasses well enough, Christopher had
offended her beyond the cure of compliment.
'I am not disposed to tell the writer's name,' she replied, with a
dudgeon that was very great for one whose whole stock of it was a
trifle. And she passed on and left him standing alone.
Thus further conversation was checked; but, through having
rearranged the hours of his country lessons, Christopher met her the
next Wednesday, and the next Friday, and throughout the following
week--no further words passing between them. For a while she went
by very demurely, apparently mindful of his offence. But effrontery
is not proved to be part of a man's nature till he has been guilty
of a second act: the best of men may commit a first through
accident or ignorance--may even be betrayed into it by over-zeal for
experiment. Some such conclusion may or may not have been arrived
at by the girl with the lady-apple cheeks; at any rate, after the
lapse of another week a new spectacle presented itself; her redness
deepened whenever Christopher passed her by, and embarrassment
pervaded her from the lowest stitch to the tip of her feather. She
had little chance of escaping him by diverging from the road, for a
figure could be seen across the open ground to the distance of half
a mile on either side. One day as he drew near as usual, she met
him as women meet a cloud of dust--she turned and looked backwards
till he had passed.
This would have been disconcerting but for one reason: Christopher
was ceasing to notice her. He was a man who often, when walking
abroad, and looking as it were at the scene before his eyes,
discerned successes and failures, friends and relations, episodes of
childhood, wedding feasts and funerals, the landscape suffering
greatly by these visions, until it became no more than the patterned
wall-tints about the paintings in a gallery; something necessary to
the tone, yet not regarded. Nothing but a special concentration of
himself on externals could interrupt this habit, and now that her
appearance along the way had changed from a chance to a custom he
began to lapse again into the old trick. He gazed once or twice at
her form without seeing it: he did not notice that she trembled.
He sometimes read as he walked, and book in hand he frequently
approached her now. This went on till six weeks had passed from the
time of their first encounter. Latterly might have been once or
twice heard, when he had moved out of earshot, a sound like a small
gasping sigh; but no arrangements were disturbed, and Christopher
continued to keep down his eyes as persistently as a saint in a
The last day of his engagement had arrived, and with it the last of
his walks that way. On his final return he carried in his hand a
bunch of flowers which had been presented to him at the country-
house where his lessons were given. He was taking them home to his
sister Faith, who prized the lingering blossoms of the seeding
season. Soon appeared as usual his fellow-traveller; whereupon
Christopher looked down upon his nosegay. 'Sweet simple girl,' he
thought, 'I'll endeavour to make peace with her by means of these
flowers before we part for good.'
When she came up he held them out to her and said, 'Will you allow
me to present you with these?'
The bright colours of the nosegay instantly attracted the girl's
hand--perhaps before there had been time for thought to thoroughly
construe the position; for it happened that when her arm was
stretched into the air she steadied it quickly, and stood with the
pose of a statue--rigid with uncertainty. But it was too late to
refuse: Christopher had put the nosegay within her fingers.
Whatever pleasant expression of thanks may have appeared in her eyes
fell only on the bunch of flowers, for during the whole transaction
they reached to no higher level than that. To say that he was
coming no more seemed scarcely necessary under the circumstances,
and wishing her 'Good afternoon' very heartily, he passed on.
He had learnt by this time her occupation, which was that of pupil-
teacher at one of the schools in the town, whither she walked daily
from a village near. If he had not been poor and the little teacher
humble, Christopher might possibly have been tempted to inquire more
briskly about her, and who knows how such a pursuit might have
ended? But hard externals rule volatile sentiment, and under these
untoward influences the girl and the book and the truth about its
author were matters upon which he could not afford to expend much
time. All Christopher did was to think now and then of the pretty
innocent face and round deep eyes, not once wondering if the mind
which enlivened them ever thought of him.
3. SANDBOURNE MOOR (continued)
It was one of those hostile days of the year when chatterbox ladies
remain miserably in their homes to save the carriage and harness,
when clerks' wives hate living in lodgings, when vehicles and people
appear in the street with duplicates of themselves underfoot, when
bricklayers, slaters, and other out-door journeymen sit in a shed
and drink beer, when ducks and drakes play with hilarious delight at
their own family game, or spread out one wing after another in the
slower enjoyment of letting the delicious moisture penetrate to
their innermost down. The smoke from the flues of Sandbourne had
barely strength enough to emerge into the drizzling rain, and hung
down the sides of each chimney-pot like the streamer of a becalmed
ship; and a troop of rats might have rattled down the pipes from
roof to basement with less noise than did the water that day.
On the broad moor beyond the town, where Christopher's meetings with
the teacher had so regularly occurred, were a stream and some large
pools; and beside one of these, near some hatches and a weir, stood
a little square building, not much larger inside than the Lord
Mayor's coach. It was known simply as 'The Weir House.' On this
wet afternoon, which was the one following the day of Christopher's
last lesson over the plain, a nearly invisible smoke came from the
puny chimney of the hut. Though the door was closed, sounds of
chatting and mirth fizzed from the interior, and would have told
anybody who had come near--which nobody did--that the usually empty
shell was tenanted to-day.
The scene within was a large fire in a fireplace to which the whole
floor of the house was no more than a hearthstone. The occupants
were two gentlemanly persons, in shooting costume, who had been
traversing the moor for miles in search of wild duck and teal, a
waterman, and a small spaniel. In the corner stood their guns, and
two or three wild mallards, which represented the scanty product of
their morning's labour, the iridescent necks of the dead birds
replying to every flicker of the fire. The two sportsmen were
smoking, and their man was mostly occupying himself in poking and
stirring the fire with a stick: all three appeared to be pretty
One of the gentlemen, by way of varying the not very exhilarating
study of four brick walls within microscopic distance of his eye,
turned to a small square hole which admitted light and air to the
hut, and looked out upon the dreary prospect before him. The wide
concave of cloud, of the monotonous hue of dull pewter, formed an
unbroken hood over the level from horizon to horizon; beneath it,
reflecting its wan lustre, was the glazed high-road which stretched,
hedgeless and ditchless, past a directing-post where another road
joined it, and on to the less regular ground beyond, lying like a
riband unrolled across the scene, till it vanished over the
furthermost undulation. Beside the pools were occasional tall
sheaves of flags and sedge, and about the plain a few bushes, these
forming the only obstructions to a view otherwise unbroken.
The sportsman's attention was attracted by a figure in a state of
gradual enlargement as it approached along the road.
'I should think that if pleasure can't tempt a native out of doors
to-day, business will never force him out,' he observed. 'There is,
for the first time, somebody coming along the road.'
'If business don't drag him out pleasure'll never tempt en, is more
like our nater in these parts, sir,' said the man, who was looking
into the fire.
The conversation showed no vitality, and down it dropped dead as
before, the man who was standing up continuing to gaze into the
moisture. What had at first appeared as an epicene shape the
decreasing space resolved into a cloaked female under an umbrella:
she now relaxed her pace, till, reaching the directing-post where
the road branched into two, she paused and looked about her.
Instead of coming further she slowly retraced her steps for about a
'That's an appointment,' said the first speaker, as he removed the
cigar from his lips; 'and by the lords, what a day and place for an
appointment with a woman!'
'What's an appointment?' inquired his friend, a town young man, with
a Tussaud complexion and well-pencilled brows half way up his
forehead, so that his upper eyelids appeared to possess the uncommon
quality of tallness.
'Look out here, and you'll see. By that directing-post, where the
two roads meet. As a man devoted to art, Ladywell, who has had the
honour of being hung higher up on the Academy walls than any other
living painter, you should take out your sketch-book and dash off
Where nothing particular is going on, one incident makes a drama;
and, interested in that proportion, the art-sportsman puts up his
eyeglass (a form he adhered to before firing at game that had risen,
by which merciful arrangement the bird got safe off), placed his
face beside his companion's, and also peered through the opening.
The young pupil-teacher--for she was the object of their scrutiny--
re-approached the spot whereon she had been accustomed for the last
many weeks of her journey home to meet Christopher, now for the
first time missing, and again she seemed reluctant to pass the hand-
post, for that marked the point where the chance of seeing him
ended. She glided backwards as before, this time keeping her face
still to the front, as if trying to persuade the world at large, and
her own shamefacedness, that she had not yet approached the place at
'Query, how long will she wait for him (for it is a man to a
certainty)?' resumed the elder of the smokers, at the end of several
minutes of silence, when, full of vacillation and doubt, she became
lost to view behind some bushes. 'Will she reappear?' The smoking
went on, and up she came into open ground as before, and walked by.
'I wonder who the girl is, to come to such a place in this weather?
There she is again,' said the young man called Ladywell.
'Some cottage lass, not yet old enough to make the most of the value
set on her by her follower, small as that appears to be. Now we may
get an idea of the hour named by the fellow for the appointment,
for, depend upon it, the time when she first came--about five
minutes ago--was the time he should have been there. It is now
getting on towards five--half-past four was doubtless the time
'She's not come o' purpose: 'tis her way home from school every
day,' said the waterman.
'An experiment on woman's endurance and patience under neglect. Two
to one against her staying a quarter of an hour.'
'The same odds against her not staying till five would be nearer
probability. What's half-an-hour to a girl in love?'
'On a moorland in wet weather it is thirty perceptible minutes to
any fireside man, woman, or beast in Christendom--minutes that can
be felt, like the Egyptian plague of darkness. Now, little girl, go
home: he is not worth it.'
Twenty minutes passed, and the girl returned miserably to the hand-
post, still to wander back to her retreat behind the sedge, and lead
any chance comer from the opposite quarter to believe that she had
not yet reached this ultimate point beyond which a meeting with
Christopher was impossible.
'Now you'll find that she means to wait the complete half-hour, and
then off she goes with a broken heart.'
All three now looked through the hole to test the truth of the
prognostication. The hour of five completed itself on their
watches; the girl again came forward. And then the three in
ambuscade could see her pull out her handkerchief and place it to
'She's grieving now because he has not come. Poor little woman,
what a brute he must be; for a broken heart in a woman means a
broken vow in a man, as I infer from a thousand instances in
experience, romance, and history. Don't open the door till she is
gone, Ladywell; it will only disturb her.'
As they had guessed, the pupil-teacher, hearing the distant town-
clock strike the hour, gave way to her fancy no longer, and launched
into the diverging path. This lingering for Christopher's arrival
had, as is known, been founded on nothing more of the nature of an
assignation than lay in his regular walk along the plain at that
time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the six previous weeks.
It must be said that he was very far indeed from divining that his
injudicious peace-offering of the flowers had stirred into life such
a wearing, anxious, hopeful, despairing solicitude as this, which
had been latent for some time during his constant meetings with the
She vanished in the mist towards the left, and the loiterers in the
hut began to move and open the door, remarking, 'Now then for
Wyndway House, a change of clothes, and a dinner.'
4. SANDBOURNE PIER - ROAD TO WYNDWAY - BALL-ROOM IN WYNDWAY HOUSE
The last light of a winter day had gone down behind the houses of
Sandbourne, and night was shut close over all. Christopher, about
eight o'clock, was standing at the end of the pier with his back
towards the open sea, whence the waves were pushing to the shore in
frills and coils that were just rendered visible in all their bleak
instability by the row of lights along the sides of the jetty, the
rapid motion landward of the wavetips producing upon his eye an
apparent progress of the pier out to sea. This pier-head was a spot
which Christopher enjoyed visiting on such moaning and sighing
nights as the present, when the sportive and variegated throng that
haunted the pier on autumn days was no longer there, and he seemed
alone with weather and the invincible sea.
Somebody came towards him along the deserted footway, and rays from
the nearest lamp streaked the face of his sister Faith.
'O Christopher, I knew you were here,' she said eagerly. 'You are
wanted; there's a servant come from Wyndway House for you. He is
sent to ask if you can come immediately to play at a little dance
they have resolved upon this evening--quite suddenly it seems. If
you can come, you must bring with you any assistant you can lay your
hands upon at a moment's notice, he says.'
'Wyndway House; why should the people send for me above all other
musicians in the town?'
Faith did not know. 'If you really decide to go,' she said, as they
walked homeward, 'you might take me as your assistant. I should
answer the purpose, should I not, Kit? since it is only a dance or
two they seem to want.'
'And your harp I suppose you mean. Yes; you might be competent to
take a part. It cannot be a regular ball; they would have had the
quadrille band for anything of that sort. Faith--we'll go.
However, let us see the man first, and inquire particulars.'
Reaching home, Christopher found at his door a horse and wagonette
in charge of a man-servant in livery, who repeated what Faith had
told her brother. Wyndway House was a well-known country-seat three
or four miles out of the town, and the coachman mentioned that if
they were going it would be well that they should get ready to start
as soon as they conveniently could, since he had been told to return
by ten if possible. Christopher quickly prepared himself, and put a
new string or two into Faith's harp, by which time she also was
dressed; and, wrapping up herself and her instrument safe from the
night air, away they drove at half-past nine.
'Is it a large party?' said Christopher, as they whizzed along.
'No, sir; it is what we call a dance--that is, 'tis like a ball, you
know, on a small scale--a ball on a spurt, that you never thought of
till you had it. In short, it grew out of a talk at dinner, I
believe; and some of the young people present wanted a jig, and
didn't care to play themselves, you know, young ladies being an idle
class of society at the best of times. We've a house full of
sleeping company, you understand--been there a week some of 'em--
most of 'em being mistress's relations.'
'They probably found it a little dull.'
'Well, yes--it is rather dull for 'em--Christmas-time and all. As
soon as it was proposed they were wild for sending post-haste for
somebody or other to play to them.'
'Did they name me particularly?' said Christopher.
'Yes; "Mr. Christopher Julian," she says. "The gent who's turned
music-man?" I said. "Yes, that's him," says she.'
'There were music-men living nearer to your end of the town than I.'
'Yes, but I know it was you particular: though I don't think
mistress thought anything about you at first. Mr. Joyce--that's the
butler--said that your name was mentioned to our old party, when he
was in the room, by a young lady staying with us, and mistress says
then, "The Julians have had a downfall, and the son has taken to
music." Then when dancing was talked of, they said, "O, let's have
him by all means."'
'Was the young lady who first inquired for my family the same one
who said, "Let's have him by all means?"'
'O no; but it was on account of her asking that the rest said they
would like you to play--at least that's as I had it from Joyce.'
'Do you know that lady's name?'
Christopher did not like to question the man any further, though
what he had heard added new life to his previous curiosity; and they
drove along the way in silence, Faith's figure, wrapped up to the
top of her head, cutting into the sky behind them like a sugar-loaf.
Such gates as crossed the roads had been left open by the
forethought of the coachman, and, passing the lodge, they proceeded
about half-a-mile along a private drive, then ascended a rise, and
came in view of the front of the mansion, punctured with windows
that were now mostly lighted up.
'What is that?' said Faith, catching a glimpse of something that the
carriage-lamp showed on the face of one wall as they passed, a
marble bas-relief of some battle-piece, built into the stonework.
'That's the scene of the death of one of the squire's forefathers--
Colonel Sir Martin Jones, who was killed at the moment of victory in
the battle of Salamanca--but I haven't been here long enough to know
the rights of it. When I am in one of my meditations, as I wait
here with the carriage sometimes, I think how many more get killed
at the moment of victory than at the moment of defeat. This is the
entrance for you, sir.' And he turned the corner and pulled up
before a side door.
They alighted and went in, Christopher shouldering Faith's harp, and
she marching modestly behind, with curly-eared music-books under her
arm. They were shown into the house-steward's room, and ushered
thence along a badly-lit passage and past a door within which a hum
and laughter were audible. The door next to this was then opened
for them, and they entered.
Scarcely had Faith, or Christopher either, ever beheld a more
shining scene than was presented by the saloon in which they now
found themselves. Coming direct from the gloomy park, and led to
the room by that back passage from the servants' quarter, the light
from the chandelier and branches against the walls, striking on
gilding at all points, quite dazzled their sight for a minute or
two; it caused Faith to move forward with her eyes on the floor, and
filled Christopher with an impulse to turn back again into some
dusky corner where every thread of his not over-new dress suit--
rather moth-eaten through lack of feasts for airing it--could be
counted less easily.
He was soon seated before a grand piano, and Faith sat down under
the shadow of her harp, both being arranged on a dais within an
alcove at one end of the room. A screen of ivy and holly had been
constructed across the front of this recess for the games of the
children on Christmas Eve, and it still remained there, a small
creep-hole being left for entrance and exit.
Then the merry guests tumbled through doors at the further end, and
dancing began. The mingling of black-coated men and bright ladies
gave a charming appearance to the groups as seen by Faith and her
brother, the whole spectacle deriving an unexpected novelty from the
accident of reaching their eyes through interstices in the tracery
of green leaves, which added to the picture a softness that it would
not otherwise have possessed. On the other hand, the musicians,
having a much weaker light, could hardly be discerned by the
performers in the dance.
The music was now rattling on, and the ladies in their foam-like
dresses were busily threading and spinning about the floor, when
Faith, casually looking up into her brother's face, was surprised to
see that a change had come over it. At the end of the quadrille he
leant across to her before she had time to speak, and said quietly,
'Who?' said Faith, for she had not heard the words of the coachman.
'Which is she?' asked Faith, peeping through with the keenest
'The one who has the skirts of her dress looped up with convolvulus
flowers--the one with her hair fastened in a sort of Venus knot
behind; she has just been dancing with that perfumed piece of a man
they call Mr. Ladywell--it is he with the high eyebrows arched like
a girl's.' He added, with a wrinkled smile, 'I cannot for my life
see anybody answering to the character of husband to her, for every
man takes notice of her.'
They were interrupted by another dance being called for, and then,
his fingers tapping about upon the keys as mechanically as fowls
pecking at barleycorns, Christopher gave himself up with a curious
and far from unalloyed pleasure to the occupation of watching
Ethelberta, now again crossing the field of his vision like a
returned comet whose characteristics were becoming purely
historical. She was a plump-armed creature, with a white round neck
as firm as a fort--altogether a vigorous shape, as refreshing to the
eye as the green leaves through which he beheld her. She danced
freely, and with a zest that was apparently irrespective of
partners. He had been waiting long to hear her speak, and when at
length her voice did reach his ears, it was the revelation of a
strange matter to find how great a thing that small event had become
to him. He knew the old utterance--rapid but not frequent, an
obstructive thought causing sometimes a sudden halt in the midst of
a stream of words. But the features by which a cool observer would
have singled her out from others in his memory when asking himself
what she was like, was a peculiar gaze into imaginary far-away
distance when making a quiet remark to a partner--not with
contracted eyes like a seafaring man, but with an open full look--a
remark in which little words in a low tone were made to express a
great deal, as several single gentlemen afterwards found.
The production of dance-music when the criticizing stage among the
dancers has passed, and they have grown full of excitement and
animal spirits, does not require much concentration of thought in
the producers thereof; and desultory conversation accordingly went
on between Faith and her brother from time to time.
'Kit,' she said on one occasion, 'are you looking at the way in
which the flowers are fastened to the leaves?--taking a mean
advantage of being at the back of the tapestry? You cannot think
how you stare at them.'
'I was looking through them--certainly not at them. I have a
feeling of being moved about like a puppet in the hands of a person
who legally can be nothing to me.'
'That charming woman with the shining bunch of hair and
'Yes: it is through her that we are brought here, and through her
writing that poem, "Cancelled Words," that the book was sent me, and
through the accidental renewal of acquaintance between us on
Anglebury Heath, that she wrote the poem. I was, however, at the
moment you spoke, thinking more particularly of the little teacher
whom Ethelberta must have commissioned to send the book to me; and
why that girl was chosen to do it.'
'There may be a hundred reasons. Kit, I have never yet seen her
look once this way.'
Christopher had certainly not yet received look or gesture from her;
but his time came. It was while he was for a moment outside the
recess, and he caught her in the act. She became slightly confused,
turned aside, and entered into conversation with a neighbour.
It was only a look, and yet what a look it was! One may say of a
look that it is capable of division into as many species, genera,
orders, and classes, as the animal world itself. Christopher saw
Ethelberta Petherwin's performance in this kind--the well-known
spark of light upon the well-known depths of mystery--and felt
something going out of him which had gone out of him once before.
Thus continually beholding her and her companions in the giddy
whirl, the night wore on with the musicians, last dances and more
last dances being added, till the intentions of the old on the
matter were thrice exceeded in the interests of the young. Watching
the couples whirl and turn, advance and recede as gently as spirits,
knot themselves like house-flies and part again, and lullabied by
the faint regular beat of their footsteps to the tune, the players
sank into the peculiar mesmeric quiet which comes over
impressionable people who play for a great length of time in the
midst of such scenes; and at last the only noises that Christopher
took cognizance of were those of the exceptional kind, breaking
above the general sea of sound--a casual smart rustle of silk, a
laugh, a stumble, the monosyllabic talk of those who happened to
linger for a moment close to the leafy screen--all coming to his
ears like voices from those old times when he had mingled in similar
scenes, not as servant but as guest.
5. AT THE WINDOW - THE ROAD HOME
The dancing was over at last, and the radiant company had left the
room. A long and weary night it had been for the two players,
though a stimulated interest had hindered physical exhaustion in one
of them for a while. With tingling fingers and aching arms they
came out of the alcove into the long and deserted apartment, now
pervaded by a dry haze. The lights had burnt low, and Faith and her
brother were waiting by request till the wagonette was ready to take
them home, a breakfast being in course of preparation for them
Christopher had crossed the room to relieve his cramped limbs, and
now, peeping through a crevice in the window curtains, he said
suddenly, 'Who's for a transformation scene? Faith, look here!'
He touched the blind, up it flew, and a gorgeous scene presented
itself to her eyes. A huge inflamed sun was breasting the horizon
of a wide sheet of sea which, to her surprise and delight, the
mansion overlooked. The brilliant disc fired all the waves that lay
between it and the shore at the bottom of the grounds, where the
water tossed the ruddy light from one undulation to another in
glares as large and clear as mirrors, incessantly altering them,
destroying them, and creating them again; while further off they
multiplied, thickened, and ran into one another like struggling
armies, till they met the fiery source of them all.
'O, how wonderful it is!' said Faith, putting her hand on
Christopher's arm. 'Who knew that whilst we were all shut in here
with our puny illumination such an exhibition as this was going on
outside! How sorry and mean the grand and stately room looks now!'
Christopher turned his back upon the window, and there were the
hitherto beaming candle-flames shining no more radiantly than
tarnished javelin-heads, while the snow-white lengths of wax showed
themselves clammy and cadaverous as the fingers of a corpse. The
leaves and flowers which had appeared so very green and blooming by
the artificial light were now seen to be faded and dusty. Only the
gilding of the room in some degree brought itself into keeping with
the splendours outside, stray darts of light seizing upon it and
lengthening themselves out along fillet, quirk, arris, and moulding,
till wasted away.
'It seems,' said Faith, 'as if all the people who were lately so
merry here had died: we ourselves look no more than ghosts.' She
turned up her weary face to her brother's, which the incoming rays
smote aslant, making little furrows of every wrinkle thereon, and
shady ravines of every little furrow.
'You are very tired, Faith,' he said. 'Such a heavy night's work
has been almost too much for you.'
'O, I don't mind that,' said Faith. 'But I could not have played so
long by myself.'
'We filled up one another's gaps; and there were plenty of them
towards the morning; but, luckily, people don't notice those things
when the small hours draw on.'
'What troubles me most,' said Faith, 'is not that I have worked, but
that you should be so situated as to need such miserable assistance
as mine. We are poor, are we not, Kit?'
'Yes, we know a little about poverty,' he replied.
While thus lingering
'In shadowy thoroughfares of thought,'
Faith interrupted with, 'I believe there is one of the dancers now!-
-why, I should have thought they had all gone to bed, and wouldn't
get up again for days.' She indicated to him a figure on the lawn
towards the left, looking upon the same flashing scene as that they
'It is your own particular one,' continued Faith. 'Yes, I see the
blue flowers under the edge of her cloak.'
'And I see her squirrel-coloured hair,' said Christopher.
Both stood looking at this apparition, who once, and only once,
thought fit to turn her head towards the front of the house they
were gazing from. Faith was one in whom the meditative somewhat
overpowered the active faculties; she went on, with no abundance of
love, to theorize upon this gratuitously charming woman, who,
striking freakishly into her brother's path, seemed likely to do him
no good in her sisterly estimation. Ethelberta's bright and shapely
form stood before her critic now, smartened by the motes of sunlight
from head to heel: what Faith would have given to see her so
'Without doubt she is already a lady of many romantic experiences,'
she said dubiously.
'And on the way to many more,' said Christopher. The tone was just
of the kind which may be imagined of a sombre man who had been up
all night piping that others might dance.
Faith parted her lips as if in consternation at possibilities.
Ethelberta, having already become an influence in Christopher's
system, might soon become more--an indestructible fascination--to
drag him about, turn his soul inside out, harrow him, twist him, and
otherwise torment him, according to the stereotyped form of such
They were interrupted by the opening of a door. A servant entered
and came up to them.
'This is for you, I believe, sir,' he said. 'Two guineas;' and he
placed the money in Christopher's hand. 'Some breakfast will be
ready for you in a moment if you like to have it. Would you wish it
brought in here; or will you come to the steward's room?'
'Yes, we will come.' And the man then began to extinguish the
lights one by one. Christopher dropped the two pounds and two
shillings singly into his pocket, and looking listlessly at the
footman said, 'Can you tell me the address of that lady on the lawn?
Ah, she has disappeared!'
'She wore a dress with blue flowers,' said Faith.
'And remarkable bright in her manner? O, that's the young widow,
Mrs--what's that name--I forget for the moment.'
'Widow?' said Christopher, the eyes of his understanding getting
wonderfully clear, and Faith uttering a private ejaculation of
thanks that after all no commandments were likely to be broken in
this matter. 'The lady I mean is quite a girlish sort of woman.'
'Yes, yes, so she is--that's the one. Coachman says she must have
been born a widow, for there is not time for her ever to have been
made one. However, she's not quite such a chicken as all that.
Mrs. Petherwin, that's the party's name.'
'Does she live here?'
'No, she is staying in the house visiting for a few days with her
mother-in-law. They are a London family, I don't know her address.'
'Is she a poetess?'
'That I cannot say. She is very clever at verses; but she don't
lean over gates to see the sun, and goes to church as regular as you
or I, so I should hardly be inclined to say that she's the complete
thing. When she's up in one of her vagaries she'll sit with the
ladies and make up pretty things out of her head as fast as sticks
a-breaking. They will run off her tongue like cotton from a reel,
and if she can ever be got in the mind of telling a story she will
bring it out that serious and awful that it makes your flesh creep
upon your bones; if she's only got to say that she walked out of one
door into another, she'll tell it so that there seems something
wonderful in it. 'Tis a bother to start her, so our people say
behind her back, but, once set going, the house is all alive with
her. However, it will soon be dull enough; she and Lady Petherwin
are off to-morrow for Rookington, where I believe they are going to
stay over New Year's Day.'
'Where do you say they are going?' inquired Christopher, as they
followed the footman.
'Rookington Park--about three miles out of Sandbourne, in the
opposite direction to this.'
'A widow,' Christopher murmured.
Faith overheard him. 'That makes no difference to us, does it?' she
Forty minutes later they were driving along an open road over a
ridge which commanded a view of a small inlet below them, the sands
of this nook being sheltered by crumbling cliffs. Here at once they
saw, in the full light of the sun, two women standing side by side,
their faces directed over the sea.
'There she is again!' said Faith. 'She has walked along the shore
from the lawn where we saw her before.'
'Yes,' said the coachman, 'she's a curious woman seemingly. She'll
talk to any poor body she meets. You see she had been out for a
morning walk instead of going to bed, and that is some queer mortal
or other she has picked up with on her way.'
'I wonder she does not prefer some rest,' Faith observed.
The road then dropped into a hollow, and the women by the sea were
no longer within view from the carriage, which rapidly neared
Sandbourne with the two musicians.
6. THE SHORE BY WYNDWAY
The east gleamed upon Ethelberta's squirrel-coloured hair as she
said to her companion, 'I have come, Picotee; but not, as you
imagine, from a night's sleep. We have actually been dancing till
daylight at Wyndway.'
'Then you should not have troubled to come! I could have borne the
disappointment under such circumstances,' said the pupil-teacher,
who, wearing a dress not so familiar to Christopher's eyes as had
been the little white jacket, had not been recognized by him from
the hill. 'You look so tired, Berta. I could not stay up all night
for the world!'
'One gets used to these things,' said Ethelberta quietly. 'I should
have been in bed certainly, had I not particularly wished to use
this opportunity of meeting you before you go home to-morrow. I
could not have come to Sandbourne to-day, because we are leaving to
return again to Rookington. This is all that I wish you to take to
mother--only a few little things which may be useful to her; but you
will see what it contains when you open it.' She handed to Picotee
a small parcel. 'This is for yourself,' she went on, giving a small
packet besides. 'It will pay your fare home and back, and leave you
something to spare.'
'Thank you,' said Picotee docilely.
'Now, Picotee,' continued the elder, 'let us talk for a few minutes
before I go back: we may not meet again for some time.' She put
her arm round the waist of Picotee, who did the same by Ethelberta;
and thus interlaced they walked backwards and forwards upon the firm
flat sand with the motion of one body animated by one will.
'Well, what did you think of my poems?'
'I liked them; but naturally, I did not understand all the
experience you describe. It is so different from mine. Yet that
made them more interesting to me. I thought I should so much like
to mix in the same scenes; but that of course is impossible.'
'I am afraid it is. And you posted the book as I said?'
'Yes.' She added hurriedly, as if to change the subject, 'I have
told nobody that we are sisters, or that you are known in any way to
me or to mother or to any of us. I thought that would be best, from
what you said.'
'Yes, perhaps it is best for the present.'
'The box of clothes came safely, and I find very little alteration
will be necessary to make the dress do beautifully for me on
Sundays. It is quite new-fashioned to me, though I suppose it was
old-fashioned to you. O, and Berta, will the title of Lady
Petherwin descend to you when your mother-in-law dies?'
'No, of course not. She is only a knight's widow, and that's
'The lady of a knight looks as good on paper as the lady of a lord.'
'Yes. And in other places too sometimes. However, about your
journey home. Be very careful; and don't make any inquiries at the
stations of anybody but officials. If any man wants to be friendly
with you, try to find out if it is from a genuine wish to assist
you, or from admiration of your fresh face.'
'How shall I know which?' said Picotee.
Ethelberta laughed. 'If Heaven does not tell you at the moment I
cannot,' she said. 'But humanity looks with a different eye from
love, and upon the whole it is most to be prized by all of us. I
believe it ends oftener in marriage than do a lover's flying smiles.
So that for this and other reasons love from a stranger is mostly
worthless as a speculation; and it is certainly dangerous as a game.
Well, Picotee, has any one paid you real attentions yet?'
'There is something going on.'
'Only a wee bit.'
'I thought so. There was a dishonesty about your dear eyes which
has never been there before, and love-making and dishonesty are
inseparable as coupled hounds. Up comes man, and away goes
innocence. Are you going to tell me anything about him?'
'I would rather not, Ethelberta; because it is hardly anything.'
'Well, be careful. And mind this, never tell him what you feel.'
'But then he will never know it.'
'Nor must he. He must think it only. The difference between his
thinking and knowing is often the difference between your winning
and losing. But general advice is not of much use, and I cannot
give more unless you tell more. What is his name?'
Picotee did not reply.
'Never mind: keep your secret. However, listen to this: not a
kiss--not so much as the shadow, hint, or merest seedling of a
'There is no fear of it,' murmured Picotee; 'though not because of
'You see, my dear Picotee, a lover is not a relative; and he isn't
quite a stranger; but he may end in being either, and the way to
reduce him to whichever of the two you wish him to be is to treat
him like the other. Men who come courting are just like bad cooks:
if you are kind to them, instead of ascribing it to an exceptional
courtesy on your part, they instantly set it down to their own
'But I ought to favour him just a little, poor thing? Just the
smallest glimmer of a gleam!'
'Only a very little indeed--so that it comes as a relief to his
misery, not as adding to his happiness.'
'It is being too clever, all this; and we ought to be harmless as
'Ah, Picotee! to continue harmless as a dove you must be wise as a
serpent, you'll find--ay, ten serpents, for that matter.'
'But if I cannot get at him, how can I manage him in these ways you
'Get at him? I suppose he gets at you in some way, does he not?--
tries to see you, or to be near you?'
'No--that's just the point--he doesn't do any such thing, and
there's the worry of it!'
'Well, what a silly girl! Then he is not your lover at all?'
'Perhaps he's not. But I am his, at any rate--twice over.'
'That's no use. Supply the love for both sides? Why, it's worse
than furnishing money for both. You don't suppose a man will give
his heart in exchange for a woman's when he has already got hers for
nothing? That's not the way old Adam does business at all.'
Picotee sighed. 'Have you got a young man, too, Berta?'
'A young man?'
'A lover I mean--that's what we call 'em down here.'
'It is difficult to explain,' said Ethelberta evasively. 'I knew
one many years ago, and I have seen him again, and--that is all.'
'According to my idea you have one, but according to your own you
have not; he does not love you, but you love him--is that how it
'I have not quite considered how it is.'
'Do you love him?'
'I have never seen a man I hate less.'
'A great deal lies covered up there, I expect!'
'He was in that carriage which drove over the hill at the moment we
'Ah-ah--some great lord or another who has his day by candlelight,
and so on. I guess the style. Somebody who no more knows how much
bread is a loaf than I do the price of diamonds and pearls.'
'I am afraid he's only a commoner as yet, and not a very great one
either. But surely you guess, Picotee? But I'll set you an example
of frankness by telling his name. My friend, Mr. Julian, to whom
you posted the book. Such changes as he has seen!--from affluence
to poverty. He and his sister have been playing dances all night at
Wyndway--What is the matter?'
'Only a pain!'
'My dear Picotee--'
'I think I'll sit down for a moment, Berta.'
'What--have you over-walked yourself, dear?'
'Yes--and I got up very early, you see.'
'I hope you are not going to be ill, child. You look as if you
ought not to be here.'
'O, it is quite trifling. Does not getting up in a hurry cause a
sense of faintness sometimes?'
'Yes, in people who are not strong.'
'If we don't talk about being faint it will go off. Faintness is
such a queer thing that to think of it is to have it. Let us talk
as we were talking before--about your young man and other
indifferent matters, so as to divert my thoughts from fainting, dear
Berta. I have always thought the book was to be forwarded to that
gentleman because he was a connection of yours by marriage, and he
had asked for it. And so you have met this--this Mr. Julian, and
gone for walks with him in evenings, I suppose, just as young men
and women do who are courting?'
'No, indeed--what an absurd child you are!' said Ethelberta. 'I
knew him once, and he is interesting; a few little things like that
make it all up.'
'The love is all on one side, as with me.'
'O no, no: there is nothing like that. I am not attached to any
one, strictly speaking--though, more strictly speaking, I am not
''Tis a delightful middle mind to be in. I know it, for I was like
it once; but I had scarcely been so long enough to know where I was
before I was gone past.'
'You should have commanded yourself, or drawn back entirely; for let
me tell you that at the beginning of caring for a man--just when you
are suspended between thinking and feeling--there is a hair's-
breadth of time at which the question of getting into love or not
getting in is a matter of will--quite a thing of choice. At the
same time, drawing back is a tame dance, and the best of all is to
stay balanced awhile.'
'You do that well, I'll warrant.'
'Well, no; for what between continually wanting to love, to escape
the blank lives of those who do not, and wanting not to love, to
keep out of the miseries of those who do, I get foolishly warm and
foolishly cold by turns.'
'Yes--and I am like you as far as the "foolishly" goes. I wish we
poor girls could contrive to bring a little wisdom into our love by
way of a change!'
'That's the very thing that leading minds in town have begun to do,
but there are difficulties. It is easy to love wisely, but the rich
man may not marry you; and it is not very hard to reject wisely, but
the poor man doesn't care. Altogether it is a precious problem.
But shall we clamber out upon those shining blocks of rock, and find
some of the little yellow shells that are in the crevices? I have
ten minutes longer, and then I must go.'
7. THE DINING-ROOM OF A TOWN HOUSE - THE BUTLER'S PANTRY
A few weeks later there was a friendly dinner-party at the house of
a gentleman called Doncastle, who lived in a moderately fashionable
square of west London. All the friends and relatives present were
nice people, who exhibited becoming signs of pleasure and gaiety at
being there; but as regards the vigour with which these emotions
were expressed, it may be stated that a slight laugh from far down
the throat and a slight narrowing of the eye were equivalent as
indices of the degree of mirth felt to a Ha-ha-ha! and a shaking of
the shoulders among the minor traders of the kingdom; and to a Ho-
ho-ho! contorted features, purple face, and stamping foot among the
gentlemen in corduroy and fustian who adorn the remoter provinces.
The conversation was chiefly about a volume of musical, tender, and
humorous rhapsodies lately issued to the world in the guise of
verse, which had been reviewed and talked about everywhere. This
topic, beginning as a private dialogue between a young painter named
Ladywell and the lady on his right hand, had enlarged its ground by
degrees, as a subject will extend on those rare occasions when it
happens to be one about which each person has thought something
beforehand, instead of, as in the natural order of things, one to
which the oblivious listener replies mechanically, with earnest
features, but with thoughts far away. And so the whole table made
the matter a thing to inquire or reply upon at once, and isolated
rills of other chat died out like a river in the sands.
'Witty things, and occasionally Anacreontic: and they have the
originality which such a style must naturally possess when carried
out by a feminine hand,' said Ladywell.
'If it is a feminine hand,' said a man near.
Ladywell looked as if he sometimes knew secrets, though he did not
wish to boast.
'Written, I presume you mean, in the Anacreontic measure of three
feet and a half--spondees and iambics?' said a gentleman in
spectacles, glancing round, and giving emphasis to his inquiry by
causing bland glares of a circular shape to proceed from his glasses
towards the person interrogated.
The company appeared willing to give consideration to the words of a
man who knew such things as that, and hung forward to listen. But
Ladywell stopped the whole current of affairs in that direction by
'O no; I was speaking rather of the matter and tone. In fact, the
Seven Days' Review said they were Anacreontic, you know; and so they
are--any one may feel they are.'
The general look then implied a false encouragement, and the man in
spectacles looked down again, being a nervous person, who never had