The Yellow Book
An Illustrated Quarterly
Volume III October 1894
I. Women — Wives or Mothers By A Woman . . Page 11
II. “Tell Me Not Now” William Watson . . 19
III. The Headswoman . . Kenneth Grahame . . 25
IV. Credo . . . . Arthur Symons . . 48
V. White Magic . . . Ella D’Arcy . . . 59
VI. Fleurs de Feu . José Maria de Hérédia, of the French Academy . 69
VII. Flowers of Fire, a Translation Ellen M. Clerke . . 70
VIII. When I am King . . Henry Harland . . 71
IX. To a Bunch of Lilac . Theo Marzials . . 87
X. Apple-Blossom in Brittany Ernest Dowson . . 93
XI. To Salome at St. James’s Theodore Wratislaw . 110
XII. Second Thoughts . . Arthur Moore . . 112
XIII. Twilight . . . Olive Custance . . 134
XIV. Tobacco Clouds . . Lionel Johnson . . 143
XV. Reiselust . . . Annie Macdonell . . 153
XVI. To Every Man a Damsel or Two C.S. . . . . 155
XVII. A Song and a Tale . . Nora Hopper . . . 158
XVIII. De Profundis . . . S. Cornish Watkins . 167
XIX. A Study in Sentimentality Hubert Crackanthorpe . 175
XX. George Meredith . . Morton Fullerton . . 210
XXI. Jeanne-Marie . . Leila Macdonald . . 215
XXII. Parson Herrick’s Muse . C.W. Dalmon . . 241
XXIII. A Note on George the Fourth Max Beerbohm . . 247
XXIV. The Ballad of a Nun . John Davidson . . 273
The Yellow Book—Vol. III.—October, 1894
I. Mantegna . . . By Philip
Broughton . Page 7
II. From a Lithograph . . George Thomson . . 21
III. Portrait of Himself . Aubrey Beardsley . . 50
IV. Lady Gold’s Escort
V. The Wagnerites .
VI. La Dame aux Camélias
VII. From a Pastel . . Albert Foschter . . 89
VIII. Collins’ Music Hall, Islington Walter Sickert . . 136
IX. The Lion Comique
X. Charley’s Aunt .
XI. The Mirror . .P. Wilson Steer . . 169
XII. Skirt-Dancing .
XII. A Sunset . . . William Hyde . . 211
XIV. George the Fourth . . Max Beerbohm . . 243
XV. Study of a Head . . An Unknown Artist . 270
Women—Wives or Mothers
WE believe it to be well within the truth to say that most
men cherish, hidden away in an inner pocket of conscious-
ness, their own particular ideal of the perfect woman. Sole
sovereign she of that unseen kingdom, and crowned and sceptred
she remains long after her faithful subject has put aside the other
playthings of his youth. The fetish is from time to time regarded
rapturously, though sorrowfully, by its possessor, but it is never
brought forth for public exhibition. If to worship and adore
were the beginning and end of the pastime, no cavilling word
need be said, for the power to worship is a great and good gift,
and, save in the fabulous region of politics, is nowadays so rare an
one, that when discovered in the actual world its steady encour-
agement becomes a duty. But to this apparently innocent diver-
sion there is another side. Somewhat grave consequences are apt
to follow, and it is to this point of view that we wish to call
When the woman uncreate becomes the measuring rod by which
her unconscious living rivals are judged, and are mostly found
wanting, then we are minded to lift up our voice and put in
a plea for fair-play. To the shrined deity are given by the acolo-
thyst, not only all the perfections of person demanded by a severely
aesthetic sense, but all the moral qualities as well. Every grace of
every fair woman he has ever met—the best attributes of his
mother, his sister, and his aunt—are freely hers. None of the
slight blemishes which occasionally tarnish the high lustre of
virtue, none of the caprices to which sirens are constitutionally
liable, are permitted. Faultless wife and faultless mother must she
be, faithful lover and long-suffering friend, or he will have none
of her in his temple. Now, this is surely a wholly unreasonable,
an utterly extravagant demand on the part of man, and if analysed
carefully, will, we believe, be found to yield egoism and gluttony
in about equal parts. How, we venture to inquire, would he meet
a like claim, were it in turn presented to him ? A witty and light-
hearted lady—a remnant yet remains, in spite of the advent of the
leaping, bounding, new womanhood—once startled a selected
audience by the general statement, “All men are widowers.”
But even if this generous utterance can be accepted as absolutely
accurate, it can hardly be taken as a proof of man’s fitness for
both the important roles involved.
For our own part, we are convinced that, broadly speaking,
the exception only proving the rule—whatever that supporting
phrase may mean—woman, fresh from Nature’s moulding, is, so far
as first intention is concerned, a predestined wife or mother. She
is not both, though doubtless by constant endeavour, art and duty
taking it turn and turn about, the dual end may, with hardness, be
attained unto. For Nature is not economic. Far from her is
the fatal utilitarian spirit which too often prompts the improver
man (or—dare we confess it ?—still more frequently woman) to
attempt to make one object do the work of two. From all such
sorry makeshifts Nature, the great modeller in clay, turns contemp-
tuously away. Not long ago we read in a lady’s journal of a
‘combination gown’ which by some cunning arrangement, the
secret whereof was only known to its lucky possessor, would do
alternate day and night duty with equal credit and despatch. We
have no desire to disparage the varied merits of this ingenious con-
trivance, but at the best it must remain an unlovely hybrid thing.
Probably it knew this well, for gowns, too, have their feelings, and
before now have been seen to go limp in a twinkling, overcome
by a sudden access of despondency. Such a moment must certainly
have come to the omnibus garment referred to above, when it
found itself breakfasting with a severe and one-idea’d “tailor-made,”
or, more cruel experience still, dining skirt by skirt with a
“mysterious miracle”—the latest label—in gossamer and satin.
We dare to go even further, and to declare that every woman
knows in her heart—though never, never will she admit it to you—
within which fold she was intended to pass. Is it an exaggeration
to say that many a girl marries out of the superabundance of the
maternal instinct, though she may the while be absolutely ignorant
of the motive power at work ? Believing herself to be wildly
enamoured of the man of her (or her parents’) choice, she is in
reality only in love with the nursery of an after-day. Of worship
between husband and wife, as a factor in the transaction, she
knows nothing, or likely enough she imagines it present when it
is the sweet passion of pity, or the more subtle patronage of
bestowal, one or both, which are urging her forward into marriage.
Gratitude, none the less real because unrealised, towards the man
who thus enables her to fulfil her true destiny—the saving of souls
alive—has also its share in the complex energy. Well for the
husband of this wife if he allows himself gradually to occupy the
position of eldest and most important of her children, to whom
indeed a somewhat larger liberty is accorded, but from whom also
more is required. In return for this submission boundless will be
the care and devotion bestowed upon his upbringing day by day.
He will be foolish if he utters aloud, or even says in the silence of
his heart, that motherhood is good, but that wifehood was what he
wanted. It would be but a bootless kicking against the pricks.
For he has chosen the mother-woman, and it is beyond his
power, or that of any other specialist, to effect the fundamental
change for which his soul may long. It only remains for him to
make the best of a very good bargain, and one to which it is very
probable his strict personal merits may hardly have entitled him.
If such a marriage is childless, it may still be a very useful one.
Nature’s accommodations often verge on the miraculous. The
unemployed maternal instincts of the wife easily work themselves
out in an unlimited and universal auntdom. It must be confessed
that bad blunders are apt to ensue, but where the intentions are
good, the pavement should not be too closely scanned. In fiction
these are the Dinahs, the Romolas, the Dorotheas, the Mary
Garths. Dear to the soul of the female writer is the maternal
type. With loving, if tiresome frequency, she is presented to us
again and yet again. In truth we sometimes grow a little weary
of her saintly monotony. But as it is given to few of us to have
the courage of our tastes, we bear with her, as we bear with other
not altogether pleasing appliances, presented to us by earnest
friends, with the assurance that they are for our good, or for our
education, or some other equally superfluous purpose.
With the male artist this female model is not nearly so popular.
It may be that he feels himself wholly unequal to cope with her
countless perfections. Certain it is that he makes but a sad
muddle of it when he tries. Witness Thackeray’s faded, bloodless
Lady Esmond, as set against his glowing wayward Trix—she,
by the way, a beautifully-marked specimen of the wife-woman—
though whether it would be pure wisdom to take her to wife
must be left an open question. Still, we have in our time loved
her well, and some of us have found it hard to forgive the black
treachery done in bringing her back in her old age, a painted
and scolding harridan. For these, well-loved of the gods, should, in
fiction at least, die young.
Truth compels us to own regretfully that man in his self-indul-
gence shrinks from both the giving and receiving of dull moments,
whilst woman, believing devoutly in their saving grace, is altruistic
enough to devote herself with enthusiasm to the task of their ad-
ministration. Now, dull moments are apt to lie hidden about the
creases of the severely classic robe, which, in the story-books at
any rate, these heroines always wear. We must all agree that
during the last twenty years this type, with its portentous accumu-
lation of self-conscious responsibility has increased alarmingly.
To what is the increase to be attributed ? The too rapid growth
of the female population stands out plainly as prime cause. Legis-
lators are athirst for things practical. Is it beyond their power to
devise some method of dealing with this problem ? The Chinese
plan is painfully obvious, but only as a last and despairful resource,
when the wise men of Westminster sitting on committees and
commissions have failed, can it be mentioned for adoption in
Europe. We are, alas ! Science-ridden, and are likely to remain
thus bridled and saddled for weary years to come. Every bush
and every bug grows its own specialist, and yet we, the patient,
the long-suffering public, are left to endure both the fogs that
make of London one murky pit, and the redundant female birth-
rate which threatens more revolutions than all the forces of the
Anarchists in active combination. Meanwhile these devotees of
the abstract play about with all sorts of trifles, masquerading as
grave thinkers, hoping thus to escape their certain judgment-day.
The identification of criminals by the variation of thumb-prints
is a pretty conceit ; so too is the record of the influence of the
moon on the tides, which, we are informed, employs all to itself a
whole and highly paid professor with a yearly average of three
pupils at Cambridge. But what are these save mere fads, on a par
with leapfrog and skittles, in the presence of the momentous
problems about and around us ? Let these gentlemen jockeys look
to it. The hour is not far distant when public opinion shall
discover their uselessness and send them about their business.
In humbler ways, too, much might be done to stem the morbid
activity of the collective female conscience. Big sins lie at the
doors of the hosts of good men and women who turn out year by
year tons of “books for the young” to serve as nutriment for the
hungry nestlings of culpable, thoughtless parents. It is hard to
overstate the pernicious effect of this class of motif literature.
Féerie in old or new dress is the only nourishing food for the
happy child who is to remain happy. The little girl, aged seven,
who lately wrote in her diary before going to bed, “Of what real
use am I in the world ?” had, it is certain, been denied her
Andersen, her Grimm, her Carroll, even her Blue fairy book.
Turned in to browse on ” Ministering Children,” “Agatha’s First
Prayer,” and the fatal “Eric”—into how many editions has this
last well-meaning but poisonous romance not passed—the little
victim of parental stupidity is thus left with an organ damaged for
life by over-much stimulation at the start. This new massacre of
the innocents is of purely nineteenth-century growth. It dates
from the era of the awakened conscience, and is coincident
with the formation of all the societies for the regeneration of the
Per contra, the wife-woman, though but seldom to be
with in the multitudinous pages written by women, is the well-
beloved, the chosen of the male artist. Week-days and Sundays
he paints her portrait. Shakespeare returns to her again and again,
as though it were hard to part from her. Wicked Trix stands out
as bold leader of one bad band. Tess belongs to the family, though
she is of another branch ; so does Cathy of Wuthering Heights,
and Lyndall of the African Farm ; whilst latest and slightest scamp
of the lot comes dancing Dodo of Lambeth. Save in a strictly
specialised sense, none of this class can be said to contrive the
greatest good of the greatest number. These are the women to
whom the nursery is at best but an interlude, and at worst a real
interruption of their life’s strongest interests. They are not
skilled in dealing with early teething troubles, nor in the rival
merits of Welsh and Saxony flannel stuffs. Their crass ignorance
of all this deep lore may, it is true, go far to kill off superfluous
offspring, but, unjust as it would appear, these are the mothers
who each succeeding year become more and more adored of their
sons. Fribblers though they be, they sweeten the world’s corners
with the perfume of their charm. And the bit of world’s work in
which they excel is the keeping alive the tradition of woman’s
witchery. Who, then, can deny them their plain uses ? When
Fate is kind and bestows the fitting partner, the fires of their love
never die down. They remain lovers to the end. Their husbands
need fear no rival, not even in the person of their own superior
son. When Fate is unkind and things go crookedly, these are the
women whose wreckage strews life’s high road, and from whom
their wiser sisters turn reprovingly away. For the good woman
who has to “work for her living,” and who pretends to enjoy the
healthful after-pains in her moral system, is rarely tolerant of the
existence of the leichtsinriige sister for whom, as to Elijah at the
brook, dainty morsels without labour are cheerfully provided by
that inconsequent raven, man. This lady goes gaily, wearing
what she has not spun, reaping where she has not sown. Sad
reflections these for the high-souled woman whose enlightened
demand for justice turns in its present day impotency to wrath and
Wisdom and foresight are never the “attributes of the wife-
woman. Charm, beguilement, fascination of sorts, form her poor
equipment for life’s selective struggle. These gifts cannot be said
to promise, save when the stars are in happiest conjunction, long
life and useful days for her intimates. Variations of the two types
of Primitive Woman may abound, but the broad distinction
between them is clearly cut and readily to be made out by
the dullest groper after truth. We can imagine a modern Daniel
addressing (quite uselessly) a modem disciple thus :
“Look to it now, O young man ! that your feet go straight, and
slip not in search for the pearl that may be hid away for you.
For she who loveth you best may work you all evil, and she who
loveth her own soul’s travail best will hardly fail you in the days
and the years. But Love remaineth, and the way of return
“Tell me not Now”
By William Watson
TELL me not now, if love for love
Thou canst return,
Now while around us and above
Day’s flambeaux burn.
Not in clear noon, with speech as clear,
Thy heart avow,
For every gossip wind to hear ;
Tell me not now !
Tell me not now the tidings sweet,
The news divine ;
A little longer at thy feet
Leave me to pine.
I would not have the gadding bird
Hear from his bough ;
Nay, though I famish for a word,
Tell me not now !
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. B
But when deep trances of delight
All Nature seal ;
When round the world the arms of Night
Caressing steal ;
When rose to dreaming rose says, “Dear,
Dearest ;” and when
Heaven sighs her secret in Earth’s ear,
Ah, tell me then !
IT was a bland sunny morning of a mediaeval May—an old-style
May of the most typical quality ; and the Council of the little
town of St. Radegonde were assembled, as was their wont at that
hour, in the picturesque upper chamber of the Hotel de Ville, for
the dispatch of the usual municipal business. Though the date was
early sixteenth century, the members of this particular town-
council possessed some resemblance to those of similar assemblies
in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and even the nineteenth centuries,
in a general absence of any characteristic at all—unless a pervading
hopeless insignificance can be considered as such. All the character,
indeed, in the room seemed to be concentrated in the girl who
stood before the table, erect, yet at her ease, facing the members in
general and Mr. Mayor in particular ; a delicate-handed, handsome
girl of some eighteen summers, whose tall, supple figure was well set
off by the quiet, though tasteful mourning in which she was clad.
“Well, gentlemen,” the Mayor was saying ; “this little business
appears to be—er—quite in order, and it only remains for me to—
er—review the facts. You are aware that the town has lately had
the misfortune to lose its executioner—a gentleman who, I may
say, performed the duties of his office with neatness and dispatch,
and gave the fullest satisfaction to all with whom he—er—came in
contact. But the Council has already, in a vote of condolence,
expressed its sense of the—er—striking qualities of the deceased.
You are doubtless also aware that the office is hereditary, being
secured to a particular family in this town, so long as any one of its
members is ready and willing to take it up. The deed lies before
me, and appears to be—er—quite in order. It is true that on this
occasion the Council might have been called upon to consider and
examine the title of the claimant, the late lamented official having
only left a daughter—she who now stands before you ; but I am
happy to say that Jeanne—the young lady in question—with what
I am bound to call great good-feeling on her part, has saved us all
trouble in that respect, by formally applying for the family post,
with all its—er—duties, privileges, and emoluments ; and her
application appears to be—er—quite in order. There is therefore,
under the circumstances, nothing left for us to do but to declare
the said applicant duly elected. I would wish, however, before I—
er—sit down, to make it quite clear to the—er—fair petitioner,
that if a laudable desire to save the Council trouble in the matter
has led her to a—er—hasty conclusion, it is quite open to her to
reconsider her position. Should she determine not to press her
claim, the succession to the post would then apparently devolve
upon her cousin Enguerrand, well known to you all as a practising
advocate in the courts of this town. Though the youth has not,
I admit, up to now proved a conspicuous success in the profession
he has chosen, still there is no reason why a bad lawyer should
not make an excellent executioner ; and in view of the close friend-
ship—may I even say attachment ?—existing between the cousins,
it is possible that this young lady may, in due course, practically
enjoy the solid emoluments of the position without the necessity
of discharging its (to some girls) uncongenial duties. And so,
though not the rose herself, she would still be—er—near the
rose !” And the Mayor resumed his seat, chuckling over his little
pleasantry, which the keener wits of the Council proceeded to
explain at length to the more obtuse.
“Permit me, Mr. Mayor,” said the girl, quietly, “first to thank
you for what was evidently the outcome of a kindly though mis-
directed feeling on your part ; and then to set you right as to the
grounds of my application for the post to which you admit my
hereditary claim. As to my cousin, your conjecture as to the
feeling between us is greatly exaggerated ; and I may further say
at once, from my knowledge of his character, that he is little quali-
fied either to adorn or to dignify an important position such as this.
A man who has achieved such indifferent success in a minor and
less exacting walk of life, is hardly likely to shine in an occupation
demanding punctuality, concentration, judgment—all the qualities,
in fine, that go to make a good business man. But this is beside
the question. My motives, gentlemen, in demanding what is my
due, are simple and (I trust) honest, and I desire that you should
know them. It is my wish to be dependent on no one. I am
both willing and able to work, and I only ask for what is the
common right of humanity—admission to the labour market.
How many poor toiling women would simply jump at a chance
like this which fortune lays open to me ! And shall I, from any
false deference to that conventional voice which proclaims this
thing as “nice,” and that thing as “not nice,” reject a handicraft
which promises me both artistic satisfaction and a competence ?
No, gentlemen ; my claim is a small one—only a fair day’s wage
for a fair day’s work. But I can accept nothing less, nor consent
to forgo my rights, even or any contingent remainder of possible
cousinly favour !”
There was a touch of scorn in her fine contralto voice as she
finished speaking ; the Mayor himself beamed approval. He was
not wealthy, and had a large family of daughters ; so Jeanne’s
sentiments seemed to him entirely right and laudable.
“Well, gentlemen,” he began, briskly, “then all we’ve got to
do, is to——”
“Beg pardon, your worship,” put in Master Robinet, the
tanner, who had been sitting with a petrified, Bill-the-Lizard sort
of expression during the speechifying ; “but are we to understand
as how this here young lady is going to be the public
“Really, neighbour Robinet,” said the Mayor somewhat
pettishly, “you’ve got ears like the rest of us, I suppose ; and
you know the contents of the deed ; and you ve had my assurance
that it’s—er—quite in order ; and as it’s getting towards lunch-
“But it’s unheard-of,” protested honest Robinet. “There
hasn’t ever been no such thing—leastways not as I’ve heard
“Well, well, well,” said the Mayor, “everything must have a
beginning, I suppose. Times are different now, you know.
There’s the march of intellect, and—er—all that sort of thing.
We must advance with the times—don’t you see, Robinet ?—
advance with the times !”
“Well I’m——” began the tanner.
But no one heard, on this occasion, the tanner’s opinion as to
his condition, physical or spiritual ; for the clear contralto cut
short his obtestations.
“If there’s really nothing more to be said, Mr. Mayor,” she
remarked, “I need not trespass longer on your valuable time. I
propose to take up the duties of my office to-morrow morning, at
the usual hour. The salary will, I assume, be reckoned from the
same date ; and I shall make the customary quarterly application
for such additional emoluments as may have accrued to me during
that period. You see I am familiar with the routine. Good
morning, gentlemen !” And as she passed from the Council
chamber, her small head held erect, even the tanner felt that she
took with her a large portion of the May sunshine which was
condescending that morning to gild their deliberations.
One evening, a few weeks later, Jeanne was taking a stroll on
the ramparts of the town, a favourite and customary walk of hers
when business cares were over. The pleasant expanse of country
that lay spread beneath her—the rich sunset, the gleaming sinuous
river, and the noble old château that dominated both town and
pasture from its adjacent height—all served to stir and bring out
in her those poetic impulses which had lain dormant during the
working day ; while the cool evening breeze smoothed out and
obliterated any little jars or worries which might have ensued
during the practice of a profession in which she was still something
of a novice. This evening she felt fairly happy and content.
True, business was rather brisk, and her days had been fully
occupied ; but this mattered little so long as her modest efforts
were appreciated, and she was now really beginning to feel that,
with practice, her work was creditably and artistically done. In
a satisfied, somewhat dreamy mood, she was drinking in the
various sweet influences of the evening, when she perceived her
“Good evening, Enguerrand,” cried Jeanne pleasantly ; she
was thinking that since she had begun to work for her living, she
had hardly seen him—and they used to be such good friends.
Could anything have occurred to offend him ?
Enguerrand drew near somewhat moodily, but could not help
relaxing his expression at sight of her fair young face, set in its
framework of rich brown hair, wherein the sunset seemed to have
tangled itself and to cling, reluctant to leave it.
“Sit down, Enguerrand,” continued Jeanne, “and tell me what
you’ve been doing this long time. Been very busy, and winning
forensic fame and gold ? ”
“Well, not exactly,” said Enguerrand, moody once more.
“The fact is, there’s so much interest required nowadays at
the courts, that unassisted talent never gets a chance. And you,
“Oh, I don’t complain,” answered Jeanne, lightly. “Of course
it’s fair-time just now, you know, and we’re always busy then.
But work will be lighter soon, and then I’ll get a day off, and
we’ll have a delightful ramble and picnic in the woods, as we
used to do when we were children. What fun we had in
those old days, Enguerrand ! Do you remember when we
were quite little tots, and used to play at executions in the back-
garden, and you were a bandit and a buccaneer, and all sorts of
dreadful things, and I used to chop off your head with a paper-
knife ? How pleased dear father used to be !”
“Jeanne,” said Enguerrand, with some hesitation, “you’ve
touched upon the very subject that I came to speak to you about.
Do you know, dear, I can’t help feeling—it may be unreasonable,
but still the feeling is there—that the profession you have adopted
is not quite—is just a little——”
“Now, Enguerrand !” said Jeanne, an angry flash sparkling in
her eyes. She was a little touchy on this subject, the word she
most affected to despise being also the one she most dreaded—the
“Don’t misunderstand me, Jeanne,” went on Enguerrand,
imploringly : “You may naturally think that, because I should
have succeeded to the post, with its income and perquisites, had
you relinquished your claim, there is therefore some personal
feeling in my remonstrances. Believe me, it is not so. My own
interests do not weigh with me for a moment. It is on your own
account, Jeanne, and yours alone, that I ask you to consider
whether the higher aesthetic qualities, which I know you possess,
may not become cramped and thwarted by ‘the trivial round, the
common task,’ which you have lightly undertaken. However
laudable a professional life may be, one always feels that with a
delicate organism such as woman, some of the bloom may possibly
get rubbed off the peach.”
“Well, Enguerrand,” said Jeanne, composing herself with an
effort, though her lips were set hard, “I will do you the justice
to belive that personal advantage does not influence you, and I will
try to reason calmly with you, and convince you that you are
simply hide-bound by old-world prejudice. Now, take yourself,
for instance, who come here to instruct me : what does your pro-
fession amount to, when all’s said and done ? A mass of lies,
quibbles, dodges, and tricks, that would make any self-respecting
executioner blush ! And even with the dirty weapons at your
command, you make but a poor show of it. There was that
wretched fellow you defended only two days ago. (I was in
court during the trial professional interest, you know.) Well,
he had his regular alibi all ready, as clear as clear could be ; only
you must needs go and mess and bungle the thing up, so that, as I
expected all along, he was passed on to me for treatment in due
course. You may like to have his opinion—that of a shrewd,
though unlettered person. ‘It’s a real pleasure, miss,’ he said,
‘to be handled by you. You knows your work, and you does your
work—though p’raps I ses it as shouldn’t. If that blooming fool
of a mouthpiece of mine’—he was referring to you, dear, in your
capacity of advocate—’had known his business half as well as you
do yours, I shouldn’t a bin here now !’ And you know,
Enguerrand, he was perfectly right.”
“Well, perhaps he was,” admitted Enguerrand. “You see, I
had been working at a sonnet the night before, and I couldn’t get
the rhymes right, and they would keep coming into my head in
court and mixing themselves up with the alibi. But look here,
Jeanne, when you saw I was going off the track, you might have
given me a friendly hint, you know—for old times’ sake, if not
for the prisoner’s !”
“I daresay,” replied Jeanne, calmly : “perhaps you’ll tell me
why I should sacrifice my interests because you’re unable to look
after yours. You forget that I receive a bonus, over and above
my salary, upon each exercise of my functions !”
“True,” said Enguerrand, gloomily : “I did forget that. I
wish I had your business aptitudes, Jeanne.”
“I daresay you do,” remarked Jeanne. “But you see, dear,
how all your arguments fall to the ground. You mistake a
prepossession for a logical base. Now if I had gone, like that
Clairette you used to dangle after, and been waiting-woman to
some grand lady in a château—a thin-blooded compound of drudge
and sycophant—then, I suppose, you’d have been perfectly satisfied.
So feminine ! So genteel !”
“She’s not a bad sort of girl, little Claire,” said Enguerrand,
reflectively (thereby angering Jeanne afresh) : “but putting her
aside,—of course you could always beat me at argument, Jeanne ;
you’d have made a much better lawyer than I. But you know,
dear, how much I care about you ; and I did hope that on that
account even a prejudice, however unreasonable, might have some
little weight. And I’m not alone, let me tell you, in my views.
There was a fellow in court only to-day, who was saying that
yours was only a succès d’estime and that woman, as a naturally
talkative and hopelessly unpunctual animal, could never be more
than a clever amateur in the profession you have chosen.”
“That will do, Enguerrand,” said Jeanne, proudly ; “it seems
that when argument fails, you can stoop so low as to insult me
through my sex. You men are all alike—steeped in brutish
masculine prejudice. Now go away, and don’t mention the
subject to me again till you’re quite reasonable and nice.”
Jeanne passed a somewhat restless night after her small scene
with her cousin, waking depressed and unrefreshed. Though she
had carried matters with so high a hand, and had scored so
distinctly all around, she had been more agitated than she had
cared to show. She liked Enguerrand ; and more especially did
she like his admiration for her ; and that chance allusion to
Clairette contained possibilities that were alarming. In embracing
a professional career, she had never thought for a moment that it
could militate against that due share of admiration to which, as a
girl, she was justly entitled ; and Enguerrand’s views seemed this
morning all the more narrow and inexcusable. She rose languidly,
and as soon as she was dressed sent off a little note to the Mayor,
saying that she had a nervous headache and felt out of sorts, and
begging to be excused from attendance on that day ; and the
missive reached the Mayor just as he was taking his usual place at
the head of the Board.
“Dear, dear,” said the kind-hearted old man, as soon as he had
read the letter to his fellow-councilmen : “I’m very sorry. Poor
girl ! Here, one of you fellows, just run round and tell the gaoler
there won’t be any business to-day. Jeanne’s seedy. It’s put off
till to-morrow. And now, gentlemen, the agenda——”
“Really, your worship,” exploded Robinet, “this is simply
“Upon my word, Robinet,” said the Mayor, “I don’t know
what’s the matter with you. Here’s a poor girl unwell—and a
more hardworking girl isn’t in the town—and instead of sym-
pathising with her, and saying you re sorry, you call it ridiculous !
Suppose you had a headache yourself! You wouldn’t like——”
“But it is ridiculous,” maintained the tanner
ever heard of an executioner having a nervous headache ? There’s
no precedent for it. And ‘out of sorts,’ too! Suppose the
criminals said they were out of sorts, and didn’t feel up to being
“Well, suppose they did,” replied the Mayor, “we’d try and
meet them halfway, I daresay. They’d have to be executed
some time or other, you know. Why on earth are you so
captious about trifles ? The prisoners won’t mind, and I don’t
mind : nobody’s inconvenienced, and everybody’s happy !”
“You’re right there, Mr. Mayor,” put in another councilman.
“This executing business used to give the town a lot of trouble
and bother ; now it’s all as easy as kiss-your-hand. Instead of
objecting, as they used to do, and wanting to argue the point and
kick up a row, the fellows as is told off for execution come
skipping along in the morning, like a lot of lambs in Maytime.
And then the fun there is on the scaffold ! The jokes, the back-
answers, the repartees ! And never a word to shock a baby !
Why, my little girl, as goes through the market-place every morn-
ing—on her way to school, you know—she says to me only
yesterday, she says, ‘Why, father,’ she says, ‘it’s as good as the
play-actors,’ she says.”
“There again,” persisted Robinet, “I object to that too.
They ought to show a properer feeling. Playing at mummers is
one thing, and being executed is another, and people ought to
keep ’em separate. In my father’s time, that sort of thing wasn’t
thought good taste, and I don’t hold with new-fangled notions.”
“Well, really, neighbour,” said the Mayor, “I think you’re out
of sorts yourself to-day. You must have got out of bed the
wrong side this morning. As for a little joke, more or less, we
all know a maiden loves a merry jest when she’s certain of having
the last word ! But I’ll tell you what I’ll do, if it’ll please you ;
I’ll go round and see Jeanne myself on my way home, and tell
her—quite nicely, you know—that once in a way doesn’t matter,
but that if she feels her health won’t let her keep regular
business hours, she mustn’t think of going on with anything that’s
bad for her. Like that, don’t you see ? And now, gentlemen,
let’s read the minutes !”
Thus it came about that Jeanne took her usual walk that
evening with a ruffled brow and a swelling heart ; and her little
hand opened and shut angrily as she paced the ramparts. She
couldn’t stand being found fault with. How could she help
having a headache ? Those clods of citizens didn’t know what a
highly-strung sensitive organisation was. Absorbed in her re-
flections, she had taken several turns up and down the grassy foot-
way, before she became aware that she was not alone. A youth,
of richer dress and more elegant bearing than the general run of
the Radegundians, was leaning in an embrasure, watching the
graceful figure with evident interest.
“Something has vexed you, fair maiden ?” he observed, coming
forward deferentially as soon as he perceived he was noticed ;
“and care sits but awkwardly on that smooth young brow.”
“Nay, it is nothing, kind sir,” replied Jeanne ; “we girls who
work for our living must not be too sensitive. My employers
have been somewhat exigent, that is all. I did wrong to take it
“Tis the way of the bloated capitalist,” rejoined the young
man lightly, as he turned to walk by her side. “They grind us,
they grind us ; perhaps some day they will come under your hands
in turn, and then you can pay them out. And so you toil and
spin, fair lily ! And yet methinks those delicate hands show little
trace of labour ?”
“You wrong me, indeed, sir,” replied Jeanne merrily. “These
hands of mine, that you are so good as to admire, do great execu-
“I can well believe that your victims are numerous,” he
replied ; “may I be permitted to rank myself among the latest of
“I wish you a better fortune, kind sir,” answered Jeanne
“I can imagine no more delightful one,” he replied; “and
where do you ply your daily task, fair mistress ? Not entirely out
of sight and access, I trust ?”
“Nay, sir,” laughed Jeanne, “I work in the market-place most
mornings, and there is no charge for admission ; and access is far
from difficult. Indeed, some complain—but that is no business
of mine. And now I must be wishing you a good evening.
Nay”—for he would have detained her—”it is not seemly for an
unprotected maiden to tarry in converse with a stranger at this
hour. Au revoir, sir ! If you should happen to be in the market-
place any morning”——And she tripped lightly away. The youth,
gazing after her retreating figure, confessed himself strangely
fascinated by this fair unknown, whose particular employment, by
the way, he had forgotten to ask ; while Jeanne, as she sped
homewards, could not help reflecting that for style and distinction,
this new acquaintance threw into the shade all the Enguerrands
and others she had met hitherto—even in the course of business.
The next morning was bright and breezy, and Jeanne was early
at her post, feeling quite a different girl. The busy little market-
place was full of colour and movement, and the gay patches of
flowers and fruit, the strings of fluttering kerchiefs, and the piles
of red and yellow pottery, formed an artistic setting to the quiet
impressive scaffold which they framed. Jeanne was in short
sleeves, according to the etiquette of her office, and her round
graceful arms showed snowily against her dark blue skirt and
scarlet tight-fitting bodice. Her assistant looked at her with
“Hope you’re better, miss,” he said respectfully. “It was just
as well you didn’t put yourself out to come yesterday ; there was
nothing particular to do. Only one fellow, and he said he didn’t
care ; anything to oblige a lady !”
“Well, I wish he’d hurry up now, to oblige a lady,” said
Jeanne, swinging her axe carelessly to and fro : “ten minutes past
the hour ; I shall have to talk to the Mayor about this.”
The Yellow Book—Vol. III.C
“It’s a pity there ain’t a better show this morning,” pursued
the assistant, as he leant over the rail of the scaffold and spat
meditatively into the busy throng below. “They do say as how
the young Seigneur arrived at the Château yesterday—him as has
been finishing his education in Paris, you know. He’s as likely as
not to be in the market-place to-day ; and if he’s disappointed, he
may go off to Paris again, which would be a pity, seeing the
Château’s been empty so long. But he may go to Paris, or
anywheres else he’s a mind to, he won t see better workmanship
than in this here little town !”
“Well, my good Raoul,” said Jeanne, colouring slightly at the
obvious compliment, “quality, not quantity, is what we aim at
here, you know. If a Paris education has been properly assimi-
lated by the Seigneur, he will not fail to make all the necessary
allowances. But see, the prison-doors are opening at last !”
They both looked across the little square to the prison, which
fronted the scaffold ; and sure enough, a small body of men, the
Sheriff at their head, was issuing from the building, conveying, or
endeavouring to convey, the tardy prisoner to the scaffold. That
gentleman, however, seemed to be in a different and less obliging
frame of mind from that of the previous day ; and at every pace
one or other of the guards was shot violently into the middle of
the square, propelled by a vigorous kick or blow from the struggling
captive. The crowd, unaccustomed of late to such demonstrations
of feeling, and resenting the prisoner’s want of taste, hooted
loudly ; but it was not until that ingenious mediaeval arrangement
known as la marche aux crapauds had been brought to bear
on him, that the reluctant convict could be prevailed upon
to present himself before the young lady he had already so
Jeanne’s profession had both accustomed her to surprises
and taught her the futility of considering her clients as drawn
from any one particular class : yet she could hardly hel
feeling some astonishment on recognising her new acquaintance
of the previous evening. That, with all his evident amiability of
character, he should come to this end, was not in itself a special
subject for wonder ; but that he should have been conversing with
her on the ramparts at the hour when—after courteously excusing
her attendance on the scaffold— he was cooling his heels in prison
for another day, seemed hardly to be accounted for, at first sight.
Jeanne, however, reflected that the reconciling of apparent contra-
dictions was not included in her official duties.
The Sheriff, wiping his heated brow, now read the formal
procѐs delivering over the prisoner to the executioner’s hands ;
“and a nice job we’ve had to get him here,” he added on
his own account. And the young man, who had remained
perfectly tractable since his arrival, stepped forward and bowed
“Now that we have been properly introduced,” said he
courteously, “allow me to apologise for any inconvenience you
have been put to by my delay. The fault was entirely mine, and
these gentlemen are in no way to blame. Had I known whom I
was to have the pleasure of meeting, wings could not have con-
veyed me swiftly enough.”
“Do not mention, I pray, the word inconvenience,” replied
Jeanne with that timid grace which so well became her : “I only
trust that any slight discomfort it may be my duty to cause you
before we part, will be as easily pardoned. And now—for the
morning, alas ! advances—any little advice or assistance that I
can offer is quite at your service ; for the situation is possibly new,
and you may have had but little experience.”
“Faith, none worth mentioning,” said the prisoner, gaily.
“Treat me as a raw beginner. Though our acquaintance has been
but brief, I have the utmost confidence in you.”
“Then, sir,” said Jeanne, blushing, “suppose I were to assist
you in removing this gay doublet, so as to give both of us more
freedom and less responsibility ?”
“A perquisite of the office ?” queried the prisoner with a smile,
as he slipped one arm out of the sleeve.
A flush came over Jeanne’s fair brow. “That was un-
generous,” she said.
“Nay, pardon me, sweet one,” said he, laughing : “twas but a
poor jest of mine—in bad taste, I willingly admit.”
“I was sure you did not mean to hurt me,” she replied kindly,
while her fingers were busy in turning back the collar of his shirt.
It was composed, she noticed, of the finest point lace ; and she
could not help a feeling of regret that some slight error—as must,
from what she knew, exist somewhere—should compel her to take
a course so at variance with her real feelings. Her only comfort
was that the youth himself seemed entirely satisfied with his
situation. He hummed the last air from Paris during her minis-
trations, and when she had quite finished, kissed the pretty fingers
with a metropolitan grace.
“And now, sir,” said Jeanne, “if you will kindly come this
way : and please to mind the step—so. Now, if you will have
the goodness to kneel here—nay, the sawdust is perfectly clean ;
you are my first client this morning. On the other side of the
block you will find a nick, more or less adapted to the human chin,
though a perfect fit cannot of course be guaranteed in every case.
So ! Are you pretty comfortable ?”
“A bed of roses,” replied the prisoner. “And what a really
admirable view one gets of the valley and the river, from just this
particular point !”
“Charming, is it not ?” replied Jeanne. ” I’m so glad you do
justice to it. Some of your predecessors have really quite vexed
me by their inability to appreciate that view. It’s worth coming
here to see it. And now, to return to business for one moment,
—would you prefer to give the word yourself ? Some people do ;
it’s a mere matter of taste. Or will you leave yourself entirely
in my hands ?”
“Oh, in your fair hands,” replied her client, “which I beg you
to consider respectfully kissed once more by your faithful servant
Jeanne, blushing rosily, stepped back a pace, moistening her
palms as she grasped her axe, when a puffing and blowing behind
caused her to turn her head, and she perceived the Mayor hastily
ascending the scaffold.
“Hold on a minute, Jeanne, my girl,” he gasped. “Don’t be
in a hurry. There’s been some little mistake.”
Jeanne drew herself up with dignity. “I’m afraid I don’t
quite understand you, Mr. Mayor,” she replied in freezing
accents. “There’s been no little mistake on my part that I’m
“No, no, no,” said the Mayor, apologetically ; “but on some-
body else’s there has. You see it happened in this way : this
here young fellow was going round the town last night ; and he’d
been dining, I should say, and he was carrying on rather free. I
will only say so much in your presence, that he was carrying on
decidedly free. So the town-guard happened to come across him,
and he was very high and very haughty, he was, and wouldn’t
give his name nor yet his address—as a gentleman should, you
know, when he’s been dining and carrying on free. So our
fellows just ran him in—and it took the pick of them all their
time to do it, too. Well, then, the other chap who was in prison—
the gentleman who obliged you yesterday, you know—what does
he do but slip out and run away in the middle of all the row
and confusion ; and very inconsiderate and ungentlemanly it was
of him to take advantage of us in that mean way, just when we
wanted a little sympathy and forbearance. Well, the Sheriff
comes this morning to fetch out his man for execution, and he
knows there’s only one man to execute, and he sees there’s only
one man in prison, and it all seems as simple as A B C—he never
was much of a mathematician, you know—so he fetches our friend
here along, quite gaily. And—and that’s how it came about, you
see ; hinc illae lachrymae as the Roman poet has it. So now I
shall just give this young fellow a good talking to, and discharge
him with a caution ; and we shan’t require you any more to-day,
Jeanne, my girl.”
“Now, look here, Mr. Mayor,” said Jeanne severely, “you
utterly fail to grasp the situation in its true light. All these little
details may be interesting in themselves, and doubtless the press
will take note of them ; but they are entirely beside the point.
With the muddleheadedness of your officials (which I have
frequently remarked upon) I have nothing whatever to do. All I
know is, that this young gentleman has been formally handed over
to me for execution, with all the necessary legal requirements ; and
executed he has got to be. When my duty has been performed,
you are at liberty to re-open the case if you like ; and any ‘little
mistake’ that may have occurred through your stupidity you can
then rectify at your leisure. Meantime, you’ve no locus standi
here at all ; in fact, you’ve no business whatever lumbering up my
scaffold. So shut up and clear out.”
“Now, Jeanne, do be reasonable,” implored the Mayor. “You
women are so precise. You never will make any allowance for
the necessary margin of error in things.”
“If I were to allow the necessary margin for all your errors,
Mayor,” replied Jeanne, coolly, ” the edition would have to be a
large-paper one, and even then the text would stand a poor chance.
And now, if you don t allow me the necessary margin to swing
my axe, there may be another ‘little mistake’—”
But at this point a hubbub arose at the foot of the scaffold, and
Jeanne, leaning over, perceived sundry tall fellows, clad in the
livery of the Seigneur, engaged in dispersing the municipal guard
by the agency of well-directed kicks, applied with heartiness
and anatomical knowledge. A moment later, there strode on to the
scaffold, clad in black velvet, and adorned with his gold chain of
office, the stately old seneschal of the Château, evidently in a
“Now, mark my words, you miserable little bladder-o’-lard,” he
roared at the Mayor (whose bald head certainly shone provokingly
in the morning sun), “see if I don’t take this out of your skin
presently !” And he passed on to where the youth was still
kneeling, apparently quite absorbed in the view.
“My lord,” he said, firmly though respectfully, “your hair-
brained folly really passes all bounds. Have you entirely lost your
“Faith, nearly,” said the young man, rising and stretching him-
self. “Is that you, old Thibault ? Ow, what a crick I’ve got
in my neck ! But that view of the valley was really de-
“Did you come here simply to admire the view, my lord ?”
inquired Thibault severely.
“I came because my horse would come,” replied the young
Seigneur lightly : “that is, these gentlemen here were so pressing ;
they would not hear of any refusal ; and besides, they forgot to
mention what my attendance was required in such a hurry for.
And when I got here, Thibault, old fellow, and saw that divine
creature—nay, a goddess, dea certé—so graceful, so modest, so
anxious to acquit herself with credit—— Well, you know my
weakness ; I never could bear to disappoint a woman. She had
evidently set her heart on taking my head ; and as she had my
“I think, my lord,” said Thibault with some severity, “you
had better let me escort you back to the Château. This appears
to be hardly a safe place for light-headed and susceptible persons !”
Jeanne, as was natural, had the last word. “Understand me,
Mr. Mayor,” said she, ” these proceedings are entirely irregular.
I decline to recognise them, and when the quarter expires I shall
claim the usual bonus !”
When, an hour or two later, an invitation arrived—courteously
worded, but significantly backed by an escort of half-a-dozen tall
archers—for both Jeanne and the Mayor to attend at the Château
without delay, Jeanne for her part received it with neither sur-
prise nor reluctance. She had felt it especially hard that the only
two interviews fate had granted her with the one man who had
made some impression on her heart, should be hampered, the one
by considerations of propriety, the other by the conflicting claims
of her profession and its duties. On this occasion, now, she
would have an excellent chaperon in the Mayor ; and business
being over for the day, they could meet and unbend on a common
social footing. The Mayor was not at all surprised either, consider-
ing what had gone before ; but he was exceedingly terrified, and
sought some consolation from Jeanne as they proceeded together
to the Château. That young lady’s remarks, however, could
hardly be called exactly comforting.
“I always thought you’d put your foot in it some day, Mayor,”
she said. “You are so hopelessly wanting in system and method.
Really, under the present happy-go-lucky police arrangements, I
never know whom I may not be called upon to execute. Between
you and my cousin Enguerrand, life is hardly safe in this town.
And the worst of it is, that we other officials on the staff have to
share in the discredit.”
“What do you think they’ll do to me, Jeanne ?” whimpered
the Mayor, perspiring freely.
“Can’t say, I’m sure,” pursued the candid Jeanne. “Of course,
if it’s anything in the rack line of business, I shall have to super-
intend the arrangements, and then you can feel sure you’re in
capable hands. But probably they’ll only fine you pretty smartly,
give you a month or two in the dungeons, and dismiss you from
your post ; and you will hardly grudge any slight personal incon-
venience resulting from an arrangement so much to the advantage
of the town.”
This was hardly reassuring, but the Mayor’s official reprimand
of the previous day still rankled in this unforgiving young person’s
On their reaching the Château, the Mayor was conducted aside,
to be dealt with by Thibault ; and from the sounds of agonised
protestation and lament which shortly reached Jeanne’s ears, it
was evident that he was having a mauvais quart d’heure. The
young lady was shown respectfully into a chamber apart, where
she had hardly had time to admire sufficiently the good taste of
the furniture and the magnificence of the tapestry with which the
walls were hung, when the Seigneur entered and welcomed her
with a cordial grace that put her entirely at her ease.
“Your punctuality puts me to shame, fair mistress,” he said,
“considering how unwarrantably I kept you waiting this morning,
and how I tested your patience by my ignorance and awkward-
He had changed his dress, and the lace round his neck was even
richer than before. Jeanne had always considered one of the
chief marks of a well-bred man to be a fine disregard for the
amount of his washing-bill ; and then with what good taste he
referred to recent events—putting himself in the wrong, as a
gentleman should !
“Indeed, my lord,” she replied modestly, “I was only too
anxious to hear from your own lips that you bore me no ill-will
for the part forced on me by circumstances in our recent interview.
Your lordship has sufficient critical good sense, I feel sure, to
distinguish between the woman and the official.”
“True, Jeanne,” he replied, drawing nearer; “and while I
shrink from expressing, in their fulness, all the feelings that the
woman inspires in me, I have no hesitation—for I know it will
give you pleasure—in acquainting you with the entire artistic
satisfaction with which I watched you at your task !”
“But, indeed” said Jeanne, “you did not see me at my best.
In fact, I can’t help wishing—it’s ridiculous, I know, because the
thing is hardly practicable—but if I could only have carried my
performance quite through, and put the last finishing touches to
it, you would not have been judging me now by the mere
‘blocking-in’ of what promised to be a masterpiece !”
“Yes, I wish it could have been arranged somehow,” said the
Seigneur reflectively; “but perhaps it’s better as it is. I am con-
tent to let the artist remain for the present on trust, if I may only
take over, fully paid up, the woman I adore !”
Jeanne felt strangely weak. The official seemed oozing out at
her fingers and toes, while the woman’s heart beat even more dis-
“I have one little question to ask,” he murmured (his arm
was about her now). “Do I understand that you still claim your
Jeanne felt like water in his strong embrace ; but she nerved
herself to answer faintly but firmly : “Yes !”
“Then so do I,” he replied, as his lips met hers.
Executions continued to occur in St. Radegonde ; the Rade-
gundians being conservative and very human. But much of the
innocent enjoyment that formerly attended them departed after
the fair Chatelaine had ceased to officiate. Enguerrand, on suc-
ceeding to the post, wedded Clairette, she being (he was heard to
say) a more suitable match in mind and temper than others of
whom he would name no names. Rumour had it, that he found
his match and something over ; while as for temper—and mind
(which she gave him in bits)—— But the domestic trials of high-
placed officials have a right to be held sacred. The profession, in
spite of his best endeavours, languished nevertheless. Some said
that the scaffold lacked its old attraction for criminals of spirit ;
others, more unkindly, that the headsman was the innocent cause,
and that Enguerrand was less fatal in his new sphere than
formerly, when practising in the criminal court as advocate for
By Arthur Symons
EACH, in himself, his hour to be and cease
Endures alone, yet few there be who dare
Sole with himself his single burden bear,
All the long day until the night’s release.
Yet, ere the night fall, and the shadows close,
This labour of himself is each man’s lot ;
All a man hath, yet living, is forgot,
Himself he leaves behind him when he goes.
If he have any valiancy within,
If he have made his life his very own,
If he have loved and laboured, and have known
A strenuous virtue, and the joy of sin ;
Then, being dead, he has not lived in vain,
For he has saved what most desire to lose,
And he has chosen what the few must choose,
Since life, once lived, returns no more again.
For of our time we lose so large a part
In serious trifles, and so oft let slip
The wine of every moment at the lip
Its moment, and the moment of the heart.
We are awake so little on the earth,
And we shall sleep so long, and rise so late,
If there is any knocking at that gate
Which is the gate of death, the gate of birth.
I. Portrait of Himself
II. Lady Gold’s Escort
III. The Wagnerites
IV. La Dame aux Camelias
I SPENT one evening last summer with my friend Mauger,
pharmacien in the little town of Jacques-le-Port. He pro-
nounces his name Major, by-the-bye, it being a quaint custom of
the Islands to write proper names one way and speak them another,
thus serving to bolster up that old, old story of the German
savant’s account of the difficulties of the English language “where
you spell a man’s name Verulam,” says he reproachfully, “and
pronounce it Bacon.”
Mauger and I sat in the pleasant wood-panelled parlour behind
the shop, from whence all sorts of aromatic odours found their
way in through the closed door to mingle with the fragrance of
figs, Ceylon tea, and hot gôches-à-beurre constituting the excellent
meal spread before us. The large old-fashioned windows were
wide open, and I looked straight out upon the harbour, filled with
holiday yachts, and the wonderful azure sea.
Over against the other islands, opposite, a gleam of white
streaked the water, white clouds hung motionless in the blue sky,
and a tiny boat with white sails passed out round Falla Point. A
white butterfly entered the room to flicker in gay uncertain curves
above the cloth, and a warm reflected light played over the slender
rat-tailed forks and spoons, and raised by a tone or two the colour
of Mauger’s tanned face and yellow beard. For, in spite of a
sedentary profession, his preferences lie with an out-of-door life,
and he takes an afternoon off whenever practicable, as he had done
that day, to follow his favourite pursuit over the golf-links at Les
While he had been deep in the mysteries of teeing and putting,
with no subtler problem to be solved than the judicious selection of
mashie and cleek, I had explored some of the curious cromlechs or
pouquelayes scattered over this part of the island, and my thoughts
and speech harked back irresistibly to the strange old religions and
usages of the past.
“Science is all very well in its way,” said I ; “and of course
it’s an inestimable advantage to inhabit this so-called nineteenth
century ; but the mediaeval want of science was far more pic-
turesque. The once universal belief in charms and portents, in
wandering saints, and fighting fairies, must have lent an interest
to life which these prosaic days sadly lack. Madelon then would
steal from her bed on moonlight nights in May, and slip across the
dewy grass with naked feet, to seek the reflection of her future
husband’s face in the first running stream she passed ; now, Miss
Mary Jones puts on her bonnet and steps round the corner, on
no more romantic errand than the investment of her month’s
wages in the savings bank at two and a half per cent.”
Mauger laughed. “I wish she did anything half so prudent !
That has not been my experience of the Mary Joneses.”
“Well, anyhow,” I insisted, “the Board school has rationalised
them. It has pulled up the innate poetry of their nature to replace
it by decimal fractions.”
To which Mauger answered “Rot !” and offered me his
cigarette-case. After the first few silent whiffs, he went on as
follows : “The innate poetry of Woman ! Confess now, there is
no more unpoetic creature under the sun. Offer her the sublimest
poetry ever written and the Daily Telegraph’s latest article on
fashions, or a good sound murder or reliable divorce, and there’s no
betting on her choice, for it’s a dead certainty. Many men have
a love of poetry, but I’m inclined to think that a hundred women
out of ninety-nine positively dislike it.”
Which struck me as true. “We’ll drop the poetry, then,” I
answered ; “but my point remains, that if the girl of to-day has no
superstitions, the girl of to-morrow will have no beliefs. Teach
her to sit down thirteen to table, to spill the salt, and walk under
a ladder with equanimity, and you open the door for Spencer and
Huxley, and—and all the rest of it,” said I, coming to an impotent
“Oh, if superstition were the salvation of woman—but you are
thinking of young ladies in London, I suppose ? Here, in the
Islands, I can show you as much superstition as you please. I’m
not sure that the country-people in their heart of hearts don’t still
worship the old gods of the pouquelayes. You would not, of
course, find any one to own up to it, or to betray the least glimmer
of an idea as to your meaning, were you to question him, for ours is
a shrewd folk, wearing their orthodoxy bravely ; but possibly the
old beliefs are cherished with the more ardour for not being openly
avowed. Now you like bits of actuality. I’ll give you one, and
a proof, too, that the modern maiden is still separated by many a
fathom of salt sea-water from these fortunate isles.
“Some time ago, on a market morning, a girl came into
the shop, and asked for some blood from a dragon. ‘Some what ?’
said I, not catching her words. ‘Well, just a little blood from a
dragon,’ she answered very tremulously, and blushing. She meant
of course, ‘dragon’s blood,’ a resinous powder, formerly much used
in medicine, though out of fashion now.
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. D
“She was a pretty young creature, with pink cheeks and dark
eyes, and a forlorn expression of countenance which didn’t seem at
all to fit in with her blooming health. Not from the town, or I
should have known her face ; evidently come from one of the
country parishes to sell her butter and eggs. I was interested to
discover what she wanted the ‘dragon’s blood’ for, and after a
certain amount of hesitation she told me. ‘They do say it’s good,
sir, if anything should have happened betwixt you an’ your young
man. ‘Then you have a young man ?’ said I. ‘Yes, sir.’
‘And you’ve fallen out with him ?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ And tears rose
to her eyes at the admission, while her mouth rounded with awe
at my amazing perspicacity. And you mean to send him some
dragon’s blood as a love potion ?’ ‘No, sir ; you’ve got to mix
it with water you ve fetched from the Three Sisters Well, and
drink it yourself in nine sips on nine nights running, and get into
bed without once looking in the glass, and then if you’ve done
everything properly, and haven’t made any mistake, he’ll come
back to you, an’ love you twice as much as before.’ ‘And la
mѐre Todevinn (Tostevin) gave you that precious recipe, and
made you cross her hand with silver into the bargain,’ said I
severely ; on which the tears began to flow outright.
“You know the old lady,” said Mauger, breaking off his narra-
tion, ” who lives in the curious stone house at the corner of the
market-place ? A reputed witch who learned both black and
white magic from her mother, who was a daughter of Hélier
Mouton, the famous sorcerer of Cakeuro. I could tell you some
funny stories relating to la Mѐre Todevinn, who numbers more
clients among the officers and fine ladies here than in any other
class ; and very curious, too, is the history of that stone house, with
the Brancourt arms still sculptured on the side. You can see them,
if you turn down by the Water-gate. This old sinister-looking
building, or rather portion of a building, for more modern houses
have been built over the greater portion of the site, and now press
upon it from either hand, once belonged to one of the finest man-
sions in the islands, but through a curse and a crime has been
brought down to its present condition ; while the Brancourt
family have long since been utterly extinct. But all this isn’t the
story of Elsie Mahy, which turned out to be the name of my little
“The Mahys are of the Vauvert parish, and Pierre Jean, the
father of this girl, began life as a day-labourer, took to tomato-
growing on borrowed capital, and now owns a dozen glass-houses
of his own. Mrs. Mahy does some dairy-farming on a minute
scale, the profits of which she and Miss Elsie share as pin-money.
The young man who is courting Elsie is a son of Toumes the
builder. He probably had something to do with the putting up of
Mahy’s greenhouses, but anyhow, he has been constantly over at
Vauvert during the last six months, superintending the alterations
at de Câterelle’s place.
“Toumes, it would seem, is a devoted but imperious lover, and
the Persian and Median laws are as butter compared with the
inflexibility of his decisions. The little rift within the lute, which
has lately turned all the music to discord, occurred last Monday
week—bank-holiday, as you may remember. The Sunday school
to which Elsie belongs—and it’s a strange anomaly, isn’t it, that
a girl going to Sunday school should still have a rooted belief in
white magic ?—the school was to go for an outing to Prawn Bay,
and Toumes had arranged to join his sweetheart at the starting-
point. But he had made her promise that if by any chance he
should be delayed, she would not go with the others, but would
wait until he came to fetch her.
“Of course, it so happened that he was detained, and, equally of
course, Elsie, like a true woman, went off without him. She did
all she knew to make me believe she went quite against her own
wishes, that her companions forced her to go. The beautifully
yielding nature of a woman never comes out so conspicuously as
when she is being coerced into following her own secret desires.
Anyhow, Toumes, arriving some time later, found her gone. He
followed on, and under ordinary circumstances, I suppose, a sharp
reprimand would have been considered sufficient. Unfortunately,
the young man arrived on the scene to find his truant love deep
in the frolics of kiss-in-the-ring. After tea in the Câterelle
Arms, the whole party had adjourned to a neighbouring meadow,
and were thus whiling away the time to the exhilarating strains of
a French horn and a concertina. Elsie was led into the centre of
the ring by various country bumpkins, and kissed beneath the eyes
of heaven, of her neighbours, and of her embittered swain.
“You may have been amongst us long enough to know that
the Toumes family are of a higher social grade than the Mahys,
and I suppose the Misses Toumes never in their lives stooped to
anything so ungenteel as public kiss-in-the-ring. It was not sur-
prising, therefore, to hear that after this incident ‘me an’ my
young man had words,’ as Elsie put it.
“Note,” said Mauger, “the descriptive truth of this expression
‘having words.’ Among the unlettered, lovers only do have
words when vexed. At other times they will sit holding hands
throughout a long summer’s afternoon, and not exchange two
remarks an hour. Love seals their tongue ; anger alone unlooses
it, and, naturally, when unloosened, it runs on, from sheer want of
practice, a great deal faster and farther than they desire.
“So, life being thorny and youth being vain, they parted late
that same evening, with the understanding that they would meet
no more ; and to be wroth with one we love worked its usual
harrowing effects. Toumes took to billiards and brandy, Elsie to
tears and invocations of Beelzebub ; then came Mѐre Todevinn’s
recipe, my own more powerful potion, and now once more all is
silence and balmy peace.”
“Do you mean to tell me you sold the child a charm, and
didn’t enlighten her as to its futility ?”
“I sold her some bicarbonate of soda worth a couple of
doubles, and charged her five shillings for it into the bargain,”
said Mauger unblushingly. ” A wrinkle I learned from once over-
hearing an old lady I had treated for nothing expatiating to a
crony, ‘Eh, but, my good, my good ! dat Mr. Major, I don’t
t’ink much of him. He give away his add-vice an’ his meddecines
for nuddin. Dey not wort nuddin’ neider, for sure.’ So I
made Elsie hand me over five British shillings, and gave her the
powder, and told her to drink it with her meals. But I threw
in another prescription, which, if less important, must nevertheless
be punctiliously carried out, if the charm was to have any effect.
‘The very next time,’ I told her, ‘that you meet your young
man in the street, walk straight up to him without looking to the
right or to the left, and hold out your hand, saying these words :
“Please, I so want to be friends again !” Then if you’ve been a
good girl, have taken the powder regularly, and not forgotten
one of my directions, you’ll find that all will come right.’
“Now, little as you may credit it,” said Mauger, smiling, “the
charm worked, for all that we live in the so-called nineteenth
century. Elsie came into the shop only yesterday to tell me the
results, and to thank me very prettily. ‘I shall always come to
you now, sir,’ she was good enough to say, ‘I mean, if anything
was to go wrong again. You know a great deal more than Mѐre
Todevinn, I’m sure.’ ‘Yes, I’m a famous sorcerer,’ said I, ‘but
you had better not speak about the powder. You are wise enough
to see that it was just your own conduct in meeting your young
man rather more than halfway, that did the trick—eh ?’ She
looked at me with eyes brimming over with wisdom. ‘You
needn’t be afraid, sir, I’ll not speak of it. Mѐre Todevinn
always made me promise to keep silence too. But of course I
know it was the powder that worked the charm.’
“And to that belief the dear creature will stick to the last day
of her life. Women are wonderful enigmas. Explain to them
that tight-lacing displaces all the internal organs, and show them
diagrams to illustrate your point, they smile sweetly, say, ‘Oh,
how funny !’ and go out to buy their new stays half an inch
smaller than their old ones. But tell them they must never pass
a pin in the street for luck’s sake, if it lies with its point towards
them, and they will sedulously look for and pick up every such
confounded pin they see. Talk to a woman of the marvels of
science, and she turns a deaf ear, or refuses point-blank to believe
you ; yet she is absolutely all ear for any old wife’s tale, drinks
it greedily in, and never loses hold of it for the rest of her
“But does she ?” said I; “that’s the point in dispute, and
though your story shows there’s still a commendable amount of
superstition in the Islands, I’m afraid if you were to come to
London, you would not find sufficient to cover a threepenny-
“Woman is woman all the world over,” said Mauger senten-
tiously, “no matter what mental garb happens to be in fashion at
the time. Grattez la femme et vous trouvez la folle. For see here :
if I had said to Mademoiselle Elsie, ‘Well, you were in the wrong ;
it’s your place to take the first step towards reconciliation,’ she
would have laughed in my face, or flung out of the shop in a rage.
But because I sold her a little humbugging powder under the
guise of a charm, she submitted herself with the docility of a pet
lambkin. No ; one need never hope to prevail through wisdom
with a woman, and if I could have realised that ten years ago, it
would have been better for me.”
He fell silent, thinking of his past, which to me, who knew it,
seemed almost an excuse for his cynicism. I sought a change of
idea. The splendour of the pageant outside supplied me with
The sun had set ; and all the eastern world of sky and water,
stretching before us, was steeped in the glories of the after-glow.
The ripples seemed painted in dabs of metallic gold upon a
surface of polished blue-grey steel. Over the islands opposite hung
a far-reaching golden cloud, with faint-drawn, up-curled edges, as
though thinned out upon the sky by some monster brush ; and
while I watched it, this cloud changed from gold to rose-colour,
and instantly the steel mirror of the sea glowed rosy too, and was
streaked and shaded with a wonderful rosy-brown. As the colour
grew momentarily more intense in the sky above, so did the sea
appear to pulse to a more vivid copperish-rose, until at last it was
like nothing so much as a sea of flowing fire. And the cloud
flamed fiery too, yet all the while its up-curled edges rested
in exquisite contrast upon a background of most cool cerulean
The little sailing-boat, which I had noticed an hour previously,
reappeared from behind the Point. The sail was lowered as it
entered the harbour, and the boatman took to his oars. I watched
it creep over the glittering water until it vanished beneath the
window-sill. I got up and went over to the window to hold it
still in sight. It was sculled by a young man in rosy shirt-sleeves,
and opposite to him, in the stern, sat a girl in a rosy gown.
So long as I had observed them, not one word had either spoken.
In silence they had crossed the harbour, in silence the sculler had
brought his craft alongside the landing-stage, and secured her to a
ring in the stones. Still silent, he helped his companion to step
out upon the quay.
“Here,” said I, to Mauger, “is a couple confirming your
‘silent’ theory with a vengeance. We must suppose that much
love has rendered them absolutely dumb.”
He came, and leaned from the window too.
“It’s not a couple, but the couple,” said he ; “and after all, in
spite of cheap jesting, there are some things more eloquent
than speech.” For at this instant, finding themselves alone upon
the jetty, the young man had taken the girl into his arms, and she had
lifted a frank responsive mouth to return his kiss.
Five minutes later the sea had faded into dull greys and sober
browns, starved white clouds moved dispiritedly over a vacant sky,
and by cricking the back of my neck I was able to follow
Toumes’ black coat and the white frock of Miss Elsie until they
reached Poidevin’s wine-vaults, and, turning up the Water-gate,
were lost to view.
Fleurs de Feu
By José Maria de Hérédia,
of the French Academy
BIEN des siѐcles depuis les siѐcles du Chaos,
La flamme par torrents jaillit de ce cratѐre
Et le panache igné du volcan solitaire
Flamba encore plus haut que les Chimborazos.
Nul bruit n’éveille plus la cime sans échos.
Où la cendre pleuvait l’oiseau se désaltѐre ;
Le sol est immobile, et le sang de la Terre
La lave, en se figeant, lui laissa le repos.
Pourtant, suprême effort de l’antique incendie,
A l’orle de la gueule à jamais refroidie,
Éclatant a travers les rocs pulvérisés.
Comme un coup de tonnerre au milieu du silence,
Dans le poudroîement d’or du pollen qu’elle lance,
S’épanouit la fleur des cactus embrasés.
Flowers of Fire
A Translation, by
Ellen M. Clerke
FOR ages since the age of Chaos passed,
Flame shot in torrents from this crater pyre,
And the red plume of the volcano’s ire
Higher than Chimborazo’s crown was cast.
No sound awakes the summit, voiceless, vast,
The bird now sips where rained the ashes dire,
The soil is moveless, and Earth’s blood on fire,
The lava—hardening—gives it peace at last.
But, crowning effort of the fires of old,
Close by the gaping jaws, for ever cold,
Gleaming ‘mid rocks that crumble in the gloom,
As with a thunderclap in hush profound,
‘Mid golden dust of pollen hurled around,
The burning cactus blazes into bloom.
When I am King
By Henry Harland
“Qu’y faire, mon Dieu, qu’y faire ? “
I HAD wandered into a tangle of slummy streets, and began to
think it time to inquire my way back to the hotel ; then,
turning a corner, I came out upon the quays. At one hand there
was the open night, with the dim forms of many ships, and stars
hanging in a web of masts and cordage ; at the other, the garish
illumination of a row of public-houses : Au Bonheur du Matelot,
Café de la Marine, Brasserie des Quatre Vents, and so forth ;
rowdy-looking shops enough, designed for the entertainment of
the forecastle. But they seemed to promise something in the
nature of local colour ; and I entered the Brasserie des Quatre
It proved to be a brasserie-à-femmes ; you
were waited upon by
ladies, lavishly rouged and in regardless toilets, who would sit
with you and chat, and partake of refreshments at your expense.
The front part of the room was filled up with tables, where half a
hundred customers, talking at the top of their voices, raised a
horrid din—sailors, soldiers, a few who might be clerks or trades-
men, and an occasional workman in his blouse. Beyond, there
was a cleared space, reserved for dancing, occupied by a dozen
couples, clumsily toeing it ; and on a platform, at the far end, a
man pounded a piano. All this in an atmosphere hot as a furnace-
blast, and poisonous with the fumes of gas, the smells of bad
tobacco, of musk, alcohol, and humanity.
The musician faced away from the company, so that only his
shoulders and the back of his grey head were visible, bent over his
keyboard. It was sad to see a grey head in that situation ; and
one wondered what had brought it there, what story of vice or
weakness or evil fortune. Though his instrument was harsh, and
he had to bang it violently to be heard above the roar of conversa-
tion, the man played with a kind of cleverness, and with certain
fugitive suggestions of good style. He had once studied an art,
and had hopes and aspirations, who now, in his age, was come to
serve the revels of a set of drunken sailors, in a disreputable tavern,
where they danced with prostitutes. I don’t know why, but from
the first he drew my attention ; and I left my handmaid to count
her charms neglected, while I sat and watched him, speculating
about him in a melancholy way, with a sort of vicarious shame.
But presently something happened to make me forget him—
something of his own doing. A dance had ended, and after a
breathing spell he began to play an interlude. It was an instance
of how tunes, like perfumes, have the power to wake sleeping
memories. The tune he was playing now, simple and dreamy
like a lullaby, and strangely at variance with the surroundings,
whisked me off in a twinkling, far from the actual—ten, fifteen
years backwards—to my student life in Paris, and set me to
thinking, as I had not thought for many a long day, of my hero,
friend, and comrade, Edmund Pair ; for it was a tune of Pair’s
composition, a melody he had written to a nursery rhyme, and
used to sing a good deal, half in fun, half in earnest, to his lady-
love, Godelinette :
“Lavender’s blue, diddle-diddle,
Lavender’s green ;
When I am king, diddle-diddle,
You shall be queen.”
It is certain he meant very seriously that if he ever came into his
kingdom Godelinette should be queen. The song had been
printed, but, so far as I knew, had never had much vogue ; and it
seemed an odd chance that this evening, in a French seaport town
where I was passing a single night, I should stray by hazard into
a sailors pothouse and hear it again.
Edmund Pair lived in the Latin Quarter when I did, but he
was no longer a mere student. He had published a good many
songs ; articles had been written about them in the newspapers ;
and at his rooms you would meet the men who had “arrived”—
actors, painters, musicians, authors, and now and then a politician
— who thus recognised him as more or less one of themselves.
Everybody liked him ; everybody said, “He is splendidly gifted ;
he will go far.” A few of us already addressed him, half-playfully
perhaps, as cher maître.
He was three or four years older than I—eight or nine
and twenty to my twenty-five—and I was still in the schools ; but for
all that we were great chums. Quite apart from his special talent,
he was a remarkable man—amusing in talk, good-looking, generous,
affectionate. He had read ; he had travelled ; he had hob-and-
nobbed with all sorts and conditions of people. He had wit,
imagination, humour, and a voice that made whatever he said a
cordial to the ear. For myself I admired him, enjoyed him, loved
him, with equal fervour ; he had all of my hero-worship and the
lion’s share of my friendship ; perhaps I was vain as well as glad
to be distinguished by his intimacy. We used to spend two or
three evenings a week together, at his place or at mine, or over
the table of a café, talking till the small hours—Elysian sessions,
at which we smoked more cigarettes and emptied more bocks than
I should care to count. On Sundays and holidays we would take
long walks arm-in-arm in the Bois, or, accompanied by Gode-
linette, go to Viroflay or Fontainebleau, lunch in the open, bedeck
our hats with wildflowers, and romp like children. He was tall
and slender, with dark waving hair, a delicate aquiline profile, a
clear brown skin, and grey eyes, alert, intelligent, kindly. I fancy
the Boulevard St. Michel, flooded with sunshine, broken here and
there by long crisp shadows ; trams and omnibuses toiling up the
hill, tooting their horns ; students and étudiantes sauntering gaily
backwards and forwards on the trottoir ; an odour of asphalte, of
caporal tobacco ; myself one of the multitude on the terrace of a
café ; and Edmund and Godelinette coming to join me—he with
his swinging stride, a gesture of salutation, a laughing face ; she
in the freshest of bright-coloured spring toilets : I fancy this, and
it seems an adventure of the golden age. Then we would drink
our apéritifs, our Turin bitter, perhaps our absinthe, and go off to
dine together in the garden at Lavenue’s.
Godelinette was a child of the people, but Pair had done
wonders by way of civilising her. She had learned English, and
prattled it with an accent so quaint and sprightly as to give point
to her otherwise perhaps somewhat commonplace observations.
She was fond of reading ; she could play a little ; she was an
excellent housewife, and generally a very good-natured and quite
presentable little person. She was Parisian and adaptable. To
meet her, you would never have suspected her origin ; you would
have found it hard to believe that she had been the wife of a
drunken tailor, who used to beat her. One January night, four
or five years before, Pair had surprised this gentleman publicly
pummelling her in the Rue Gay-Lussac. He hastened to remon-
strate ; and the husband went off, hiccoughing of his outraged
rights, and calling the universe to witness that he would have the
law of the meddling stranger. Pair picked the girl up (she was
scarcely eighteen then, and had only been married a sixmonth), he
picked her up from where she had fallen, half fainting, on the
pavement, carried her to his lodgings, which were at hand, and
sent for a doctor. In his manuscript-littered study for rather
more than nine weeks she lay on a bed of fever, the consequence
of blows, exhaustion, and exposure. When she got well there
was no talk of her leaving. Pair couldn’t let her go back to her
tailor ; he couldn’t turn her into the streets. Besides, during the
months that he had nursed her, he had somehow conceived a great
tenderness for her ; it made his heart burn with grief and anger
to think of what she had suffered in the past, and he yearned to
sustain and protect and comfort her for the future. This perhaps
was no more than natural ; but, what rather upset the calculations
of his friends, she, towards whom he had established himself in the
relation of a benefactor, bore him, instead of a grudge therefor, a
passionate gratitude and affection. So, Pair said, they were only
waiting till her tailor should drink himself to death, to get married;
and meanwhile, he exacted for her all the respect that would have
been due to his wife ; and everybody called her by his name. She
was a pretty little thing, very daintily formed, with tiny hands and
feet, and big gipsyish brown eyes ; and very delicate, very fragile—
she looked as if anything might carry her off. Her name, Gode-
leine, seeming much too grand and mediaeval for so small and actual
a person, Pair had turned it into Godelinette.
We all said, “He is splendidly gifted ; he will do great things.”
He had studied at Cambridge and at Leipsic before coming to
Paris. He was learned, enlightened, and extremely modern ; he
was a hard worker. We said he would do great things ; but I
thought in those days, and indeed I still think—and, what is more
to the purpose, men who were themselves musicians and composers,
men whose names are known, were before me in thinking—that
he had already done great things, that the songs he had already
published were achievements. They seemed to us original in
conception, accomplished and felicitous in treatment ; they were
full of melody and movement, full of harmonic surprises ; they had
style and they had “go.” One would have imagined they must
please at once the cultivated and the general public. I could never
understand why they weren’t popular. They would be printed ;
they would be praised at length, and under distinguished signatures,
in the reviews ; they would enjoy an unusual success of appro-
bation ; but—they wouldn’t sell, and they wouldn’t get themselves
sung at concerts. If they had been too good, if they had been
over the heads of people—but they weren’t. Plenty of work quite
as good, quite as modern, yet no whit more tuneful or interesting,
was making its authors rich. We couldn’t understand it, we had
to conclude it was a fluke, a question of chance, of accident. Pair
was still a very young man ; he must go on knocking, and some
day—to-morrow, next week, next year, but some day certainly—
the door of public favour would be opened to him. Meanwhile
his position was by no means an unenviable one, goodness knows.
To have your orbit in the art world of Paris, and to be recognised
there as a star ; to be written about in the Revue des Deux-
Mondes ; to possess the friendship of the masters, to know that
they believe in you, to hear them prophesy, “He will do great
things”—all that is something, even if your wares don’t “take
on” in the market-place.
“It’s a good job, though, that I haven’t got to live by them,”
Pair said ; and there indeed he touched a salient point. His
people were dead ; his father had been a younger son ; he had
no money of his own. But his father’s elder brother, a squire
in Hampshire, made him rather a liberal allowance, something like
six hundred a year, I believe, which was opulence in the Latin
Quarter. Now, the squire had been aware of Pair’s relation with
Godelinette from its inception, and had not disapproved. On his
visits to Paris he had dined with them, given them dinners, and
treated her with the utmost complaisance. But when, one fine
morning, her tailor died, and my quixotic friend announced his
intention of marrying her, dans les délais légaux, the squire
protested. I think I read the whole correspondence, and I
remember that in the beginning the elder man took the tone of
paradox and banter.” Behave dishonourably, my dear fellow. I
have winked at your mistress heretofore, because boys will be
boys ; but it is the man who marries. And, anyhow, a woman is
so much more interesting in a false position.” But he soon
became serious, presently furious, and, when the marriage was an
accomplished fact, cut off the funds.
“Never mind, my dear,” said Pair. “We will go to London
and seek our fortune. We will write the songs of the people,
and let who will make the laws. We will grow rich and famous,
‘When I am king, diddle-diddle,
You shall be queen !'”
So they went to London to seek their fortune, and—that was the
last I ever saw of them, nearly the last I heard. I had two letters
from Pair, written within a month of their hegira—gossipy,
light-hearted letters, describing the people they were meeting,
reporting Godelinette’s quaint observations upon England and
English things, explaining his hopes, his intentions, all very
The Yellow Book—Vol. III.E
confidently—and then I had no more. I wrote again, and still
again, till, getting no answer, of course I ceased to write. I
was hurt and puzzled ; but in the spring we should meet in
London, and could have it out. When the spring came, however,
my plans were altered : I had to go to America. I went by way
of Havre, expecting to stay six weeks, and was gone six years.
On my return to England I said to people, “You have a
brilliant young composer named Pair. Can you put me in the
way of procuring his address ?” The fortune he had come to
seek he would surely have found ; he would be a known man.
But people looked blank, and declared they had never heard of him.
I applied to music-publishers—with the same result. I wrote to
his uncle in Hampshire ; the squire did not reply. When I
reached Paris I inquired of our friends there ; they were as
ignorant as I. “He must be dead,” I concluded. “If he had
lived, it is impossible we should not have heard of him.” And I
wondered what had become of Godelinette.
Then another eight or ten years passed, and now, in a water-
side public at Bordeaux, an obscure old pianist was playing Pair’s
setting of “Lavender’s blue,” and stirring a hundred bitter-sweet
far-away memories of my friend. It was as if fifteen years were
erased from my life. The face of Godelinette was palpable before
me—pale, with its sad little smile, its bright appealing eyes.
Edmund might have been smoking across the table—I could hear
his voice, I could have put out my hand and touched him. And
all round me were the streets, the lights, the smells, the busy
youthful va-et-vient of the Latin Quarter ; and in my heart the
yearning, half joy and all despair and anguish, with which we
think of the old days when we were young, of how real and dear
they were, of how irrecoverable they are.
And then the music stopped, the Brasserie des Quatre Vents
became a glaring reality, and the painted female sipping eau-de-vie
at my elbow remarked plaintively, “Tu n’es pas rigolo, toi.
Vieux-tu faire une valse ?”
“I must speak to your musician,” I said. ” Excuse me.”
He had played a bit of Pair’s music. It was one chance in a
thousand, but I wanted to ask him whether he could tell me
anything about the composer. So I penetrated to the bottom
of the shop, and approached his platform. He was bending
over some sheets of music—making his next selection, doubt-
“I beg your pardon——” I began.
He turned towards me. You will not be surprised—I was
looking into Pair’s own face.
You will not be surprised, but you will imagine what it was
for me. Oh, yes, I recognised him instantly ; there could be no
mistake. And he recognised me, for he flushed, and winced, and
I suppose for a little while we were both of us speechless,
speechless and motionless, while our hearts stopped beating. By-
and-by I think I said—something had to be said to break the
situation—I think I said, “It’s you, Edmund?” I remember he
fumbled with a sheet of music, and kept his eyes bent on it, and
muttered something inarticulate. Then there was another speech-
less, helpless suspension. He continued to fumble his music,
without looking up. At last I remember saying, through a sort
of sickness and giddiness, “Let us get out of here—where we
“I can’t leave yet. I’ve got another dance,” he answered.
“Well, I’ll wait,” said I.
I sat down near him and waited, trying to create some kind of
order out of the chaos in my mind, and half automatically watching
and considering him as he played his dance—Edmund Pair playing
a dance for prostitutes and drunken sailors. He was not greatly
changed. There were the same grey eyes, deep-set and wide
apart, under the same broad forehead ; the same fine nose and
chin, the same sensitive mouth. The whole face was pretty much
the same, only thinner perhaps, and with a look of apathy, of
inanimation, that was foreign to my recollection of it. His hair
had turned quite white, but otherwise he appeared no older than
his years. His figure, tall, slender, well-knit, retained its vigour
and its distinction. Though he wore a shabby brown Norfolk
jacket, and his beard was two days old, you could in no circum-
stances have taken him for anything but a gentleman. I waited
anxiously for the time when we should be alone—anxiously,
yet with a sort of terror. I was burning to understand, and yet
I shrunk from doing so. If to conjecture even vaguely what
experiences could have brought him to this, what dark things
suffered or done, had been melancholy when he was a nameless
old musician, now it was appalling, and I dreaded the explana-
tion that I longed to hear.
At last he struck his final chord, and rose from the piano. Then
he turned to me and said, composedly enough, “Well, I’m ready.”
He, apparently, had in some measure pulled himself together. In
the street he took my arm. “Let’s walk in this direction,” he
said, leading off, “towards the Christian quarter of the town.”
And in a moment he went on : “This has been an odd meeting.
What brings you to Bordeaux ?”
I explained that I was on my way to Biarritz, stopping for the
night between two trains.
“Then it’s all the more surprising that you should have
stumbled into the Brasserie des Quatre Vents. You’ve altered
very slightly. The world wags well with you ? You look
I cried out some incoherent protest. Afterwards I said, “You
know what I want to hear. What does this mean ?”
He laughed nervously. “Oh, the meaning’s clear enough. It
speaks for itself.”
“I don’t understand,” said I.
“I’m pianist to the Brasserie des Quatre Vents. You saw me
in the discharge of my duties.”
“I don’t understand,” I repeated helplessly.
“And yet the inference is plain. What could have brought a
man to such a pass save drink or evil courses ?”
“Oh, don’t trifle,” I implored him.
“I’m not trifling. That’s the worst of it. For I don’t drink,
and I’m not conscious of having pursued any especially evil courses.”
“Well ?” I questioned. “Well ?”
“The fact of the matter simply is that I m what they call a
failure. I never came off.”
“I don’t understand,” I repeated for a third time.
“No more do I, if you come to that. It’s the will of Heaven,
I suppose. Anyhow, it can’t puzzle you more than it puzzles
me. It seems contrary to the whole logic of circumstances, but
it’s the fact.”
Thus far he had spoken listlessly, with a sort of bitter levity,
an affectation of indifference ; but after a little silence his mood
appeared to change. His hand upon my arm tightened its grasp,
and he began to speak rapidly, feelingly.
“Do you realise that it is nearly fifteen years since we have
seen each other ? The history of those fifteen years, so far as I
am concerned, has been the history of a single uninterrupted
déveine—one continuous run of ill-luck, against every probability
of the game, against every effort I could make to play my cards
effectively. When I started out, one might have thought, I had
the best of chances. I had studied hard ; I worked hard. I
surely had as much general intelligence, as much special know-
ledge, as much apparent talent, as my competitors. And the
stuff I produced seemed good to you, to my friends, and not
wholly bad to me. It was musicianly, it was melodious, it was
sincere ; the critics all praised it ; but—it never took on ! The
public wouldn’t have it. What did it lack ? I don’t know. At
last I couldn’t even get it published—invisible ink ! And I had a
wife to support.”
He paused for a minute ; then : “You see,” he said, “we made
the mistake, when we were young, of believing, against wise
authority, that it was in mortals to command success, that he
could command it who deserved it. We believed that the race
would be to the swift, the battle to the strong ; that a man was
responsible for his own destiny, that he’d get what he merited.
We believed that honest labour couldn t go unrewarded. An
immense mistake. Success is an affair of temperament, like faith,
like love, like the colour of your hair. Oh, the old story about
industry, resolution, and no vices ! I was industrious, I was
resolute, and I had no more than the common share of vices.
But I had the unsuccessful temperament ; and here I am. If my
motives had been ignoble—but I can’t see that they were. I
wanted to earn a decent living ; I wanted to justify my existence
by doing something worthy of the world’s acceptance. But the
stars in their courses fought against me. I have tried hard to con-
vince myself that the music I wrote was rubbish. It had its
faults, no doubt. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t epoch-making. But,
as music goes nowadays, it was jolly good. It was a jolly sight
better than the average.”
“Oh, that is certain, that is certain,” I exclaimed, as he paused
“Well, anyhow, it didn’t sell, and at last I couldn’t even get it
published. So then I tried to find other work. I tried every-
thing. I tried to teach—harmony and the theory of composition.
I couldn’t get pupils. So few people want to study that sort of
thing, and there were good masters already in the place. If I had
known how to play, indeed ! But I was never better than a fifth-
rate executant ; I had never gone in for that ; my ‘lay’ was com-
position. I couldn’t give piano lessons, I couldn’t play in public—
unless in a gargotte like the hole we have just left. Oh, I tried
everything. I tried to get musical criticism to do for the news-
papers. Surely I was competent to do musical criticism. But
no—they wouldn’t employ me. I had ill luck, ill luck, ill luck—
nothing but ill luck, defeat, disappointment. Was it the will of
Heaven ? I wondered what unforgiveable sin I had committed to
be punished so. Do you know what it is like to work and pray
and wait, day after day, and watch day after day come and go and
bring you nothing ? Oh, I tasted the whole heart-sickness of
hope deferred ; Giant Despair was my constant bed-fellow.”
“But—with your connections——” I began.
“Oh, my connections !” he cried. “There was the rub,
London is the cruellest town in Europe. For sheer cold blood
and heartlessness give Londoners the palm. I had connections
enough for the first month or so, and then people found out
things that didn’t concern them. They found out some things
that were true, and they imagined other things that were false.
They wouldn’t have my wife ; they told the most infamous lies
about her ; and I wouldn’t have them. Could I be civil to people
who insulted and slandered her ? I had no connections in London,
except with the underworld. I got down to copying parts for
theatrical orchestras ; and working twelve hours a day, earned
about thirty shillings a week.”
“You might have come back to Paris.”
“And fared worse. I couldn’t have earned thirty pence in
Paris. Mind you, the only trade I had learned was that of a
musical composer ; and I couldn’t compose music that people
would buy. I should have starved as a copyist in Paris, where
copyists are more numerous and worse paid. Teach there ? But
to one competent master of harmony in London there are ten in
Paris. No ; it was a hopeless case.”
“It is incomprehensible—incomprehensible,” said I.
“But wait—wait till you’ve heard the end. One would think
I had had enough—not so ? One would think my cup of bitterness
was full. No fear ! There was a stronger cup still a-brewing
for me. When Fortune takes a grudge against a man, she never lets
up. She exacts the uttermost farthing. I was pretty badly off,
but I had one treasure left—I had Godelinette. I used to think
that she was my compensation. I would say to myself, ‘A fellow
can’t have all blessings. How can you expect others, when you’ve
got her ? And I would accuse myself of ingratitude for com-
plaining of my unsuccess. Then she fell ill. My God, how I
watched over, prayed over her ! It seemed impossible—I could
not believe—that she would be taken from me. Yet, Harry, do
you know what that poor child was thinking ? Do you know
what her dying thoughts were—her wishes ? Throughout her
long painful illness she was thinking that she was an obstacle in
my way, a weight upon me ; that if it weren’t for her, I should
get on, have friends, a position ; that it would be a good thing for
me if she should die ; and she was hoping in her poor little heart
that she wouldn’t get well ! Oh, I know it, I knew it—and you
see me here alive. She let herself die for my sake—as if I could
care for anything without her ! That’s what brought us here, to
France, to Bordeaux—her illness. The doctors said she must pass
the spring out of England, away from the March winds, in the
South ; and I begged and borrowed money enough to take her.
And we were on our way to Arcachon ; but when we reached
Bordeaux she was too ill to continue the journey, and—she died
We walked on for some distance in silence, then he added :
“That was four years ago. You wonder why I live to tell you
of it, why I haven’t cut my throat. I don’t know whether it’s
cowardice or conscientious scruples. It seems rather inconsequent
to say that I believe in a God, doesn’t it ?—that I believe one’s life
is not one’s own to make an end of? Anyhow, here I am, keeping
body and soul together as musician to a brasserie-à-femmes. I
can’t go back to England, I can’t leave Bordeaux—she’s buried
here. I’ve hunted high and low for work, and found it nowhere
save in the brasserie-à-femmes. With that, and a little copying
now and then, I manage to pay my way.”
“But your uncle ?” I asked.
“Do you think I would touch a penny of his money ?” Pair
retorted, almost fiercely. “It was he who began it. My wife
let herself die. It was virtual suicide. It was he who created the
situation that drove her to it.”
“You are his heir, though, aren’t you ?”
“No, the estates are not entailed.”
We had arrived at the door of my hotel. “Well, good-night
and bon voyage,” he said.
“You needn’t wish me bon voyage,” I answered.
I’m not leaving Bordeaux for the present.”
“Oh, yes, you are. You’re going on to Biarritz to-morrow
morning, as you intended.”
And herewith began a long and most painful struggle. I could
persuade him to accept no help of any sort from me. “What I
can’t do for myself,” he declared, “I’ll do without. My dear fellow,
all that you propose is contrary to the laws of Nature. One man
can’t keep another—it’s an impossible relation. And I won’t be
kept ; I won’t be a burden. Besides, to tell you the truth, I’ve
got past caring. The situation you find me in seems terrible to
you ; to me it’s no worse than another. You see, I’m hardened ;
I ve got past caring.”
“At any rate,” I insisted, “I shan’t go on to Biarritz. I’ll
spend my holiday here, and we can see each other every day.
What time shall we meet to-morrow ?”
“No, no, I can’t meet you again. Don’t ask me to ; you
mean it kindly, I know, but you’re mistaken. It’s done me good
to talk it all out to you, but I can’t meet you again. I’ve got
no heart for friendship, and—you remind me too keenly of many
“But if I come to the brasserie to-morrow night ?”
“Oh, if you do that, you’ll oblige me to throw up my employ-
ment there, and hide from you. You must promise not to come
again—you must respect my wishes.”
“You’re cruel, you know.”
“Perhaps, perhaps. But I think I’m only reasonable. Any-
He shook my hand hurriedly, and moved off. What could I
do ? I stood looking after him till he had vanished in the night,
with a miserable baffled recognition of my helplessness to help
To a Bunch of Lilac
By Theo Marzials
“Dis-moi la fleur, je te dirai la femme “
Is it the April springing,
Or the bird in the breeze above ?
My throat is full of singing,
My heart is full of love.
O heart, are you not yet broken ?
O dream, so done with and dead,
Is life’s one word not spoken,
And the rede of it all not read ?
No hope in the whole world over !
No hope in the infinite blue !
Yet I sing and laugh out like a lover—
Oh, who is it, April—who ?
And the glad young year is springing ;
And the birds, and the breeze above,
And the shrill tree-tops, are singing—
And I am singing—of love.
* * * *
O beautiful lilac flowers,
Oh, say, is it you, is it you
The sun-struck, love-sick hours
Go faint for murmuring through ?
O full of ineffable yearning,
So balmy, mystical, deep,
And faint beyond any discerning,
Like far-off voices in sleep—
1 love you, O lilac, I love you !
Till life goes swooning by,
I breathe and enwreathe and enfold you,
And long but to love, and die.
Apple Blossom in Brittany
IT was the feast of the Assumption in Ploumariel, at the hottest
part of the afternoon. Benedict Campion, who had just
assisted at vespers, in the little dove-cotted church—like every-
thing else in Ploumariel, even vespers were said earlier than is the
usage in towns—took up his station in the market-place to watch
the procession pass by. The head of it was just then emerging
into the Square : a long file of men from the neighbouring
villages, bare-headed and chaunting, followed the crucifer. They
were all clad in the picturesque garb of the Morbihan peasantry,
and were many of them imposing, quite noble figures with their
clear-cut Breton features, and their austere type of face. After
them a troop of young girls, with white veils over their heads,
carrying banners—children from the convent school of the
Ursulines ; and then, two and two in motley assemblage (peasant
women with their white coifs walking with the wives and
daughters of prosperous bourgeois in costumes more civilised but
far less pictorial) half the inhabitants of Ploumariel—all, indeed,
who had not, with Campion, preferred to be spectators, taking
refuge from a broiling sun under the grateful shadow of the chest-
nuts in the market-place. Last of all a muster of clergy, four
or five strong, a small choir of bullet-headed boys, and the Curé or
the parish himself, Monsieur Letêtre chaunting from his book,
who brought up the rear.
Campion, leaning against his chestnut tree, watched them
defile. Once a smile of recognition flashed across his face, which
was answered by a girl in the procession. She just glanced from
her book, and the smile with which she let her eyes rest upon him
for a moment, before she dropped them, did not seem to detract
from her devotional air. She was very young and slight—she
might have been sixteen—and she had a singularly pretty face ;
her white dress was very simple, and her little straw hat, but both
of these she wore with an air which at once set her apart from her
companions, with their provincial finery and their rather common-
place charms. Campion’s eyes followed the little figure until it
was lost in the distance, disappearing with the procession down a
by-street on its return journey to the church. And after they
had all passed, the singing, the last verse of the “Ave Maris
Stella,” was borne across to him, through the still air, the voices of
children pleasantly predominating. He put on his hat at last, and
moved away ; every now and then he exchanged a greeting with
somebody—the communal doctor, the mayor ; while here and there
a woman explained him to her gossip in whispers as he passed, “It
is the Englishman of Mademoiselle Marie-Ursule—it is M. le
Curé’s guest.” It was to the dwelling of M. le Curé, indeed,
that Campion now made his way. Five minutes’ walk brought
him to it ; an unpretentious white house, lying back in its large
garden, away from the dusty road. It was an untidy garden,
rather useful than ornamental ; a very little shade was offered by
one incongruous plane-tree, under which a wooden table was placed
and some chairs. After déjeûner, on those hot August days,
Campion and the Curé took their coffee here ; and in the evening
it was here that they sat and talked while Mademoiselle Hortense,
the Curé’s sister, knitted, or appeared to knit, an interminable
shawl ; the young girl, Marie-Ursule, placidly completing
the quartet with her silent, felicitous smile of a convent-bred child,
which seemed sometimes, at least to Campion, to be after all a
finer mode of conversation. He threw himself down now on the
bench, wondering when his hosts would have finished their de-
votions, and drew a book from his pocket as if he would read.
But he did not open it, but sat for a long time holding it idly in
his hand, and gazing out at the village, at the expanse of dark pine-
covered hills, and at the one trenchant object in the foreground,
the white façade of the convent of the Ursuline nuns. Once and
again he smiled, as though his thoughts, which had wandered a
long way, had fallen upon extraordinarily pleasant things. He was
a man of barely forty, though he looked slightly older than his
age : his little, peaked beard was grizzled, and a life spent in
literature, and very studiously, had given him the scholar’s
premature stoop. He was not handsome, but, when he smiled,
his smile was so pleasant that people credited him with good looks.
It brought, moreover, such a light of youth into his eyes, as to
suggest that if his avocations had unjustly aged his body, that had
not been without its compensations—his soul had remained re-
markably young. Altogether, he looked shrewd, kindly and
successful, and he was all these things, while if there was also a
certain sadness in his eyes—lines of lassitude about his mouth—
this was an idiosyncracy of his temperament, and hardly justified
by his history, which had always been honourable and smooth.
He was sitting in the same calm and presumably agreeable reverie,
when the garden gate opened, and a girl—the young girl of the
procession, fluttered towards him.
The Yellow Book.—Vol. III. F
“Are you quite alone?” she asked brightly, seating herself at
his side. “Has not Aunt Hortense come back ?”
Campion shook his head, and she continued speaking in English,
very correctly, but with a slight accent, which gave to her pretty
young voice the last charm.
“I suppose she has gone to see la mѐre
Guémené. She will not
live another night they say. Ah ! what a pity,” she cried, clasping
her hands ; “to die on the Assumption—that is hard.”
Campion smiled softly. “Dear child, when one’s time comes,
when one is old as that, the day does not matter much.” Then
he went on : “But how is it you are back ; were you not going to
your nuns ?”
She hesitated a moment. “It is your last day, and I wanted to
make tea for you. You have had no tea this year. Do you think
I have forgotten how to make it, while you have been away, as I
forget my English words ?”
“It’s I who am forgetting such an English habit,” he pro-
tested. “But run away and make it, if you like. I am sure it
will be very good.”
She stood for a moment looking down at him, her fingers
smoothing a little bunch of palest blue ribbons on her white dress.
In spite of her youth, her brightness, the expression of her face in
repose was serious and thoughtful, full of unconscious wistfulness.
This, together with her placid manner, the manner of a child who
has lived chiefly with old people and quiet nuns, made her beauty
to Campion a peculiarly touching thing. Just then her eyes fell
upon Campion’s wide-awake, lying on the seat at his side, and
travelled to his uncovered head. She uttered a protesting cry :
“Are you not afraid of a coup de soleil? See—you are not
fit to be a guardian if you can be so foolish as that. It is I
who have to look after you.” She took up the great grey hat and
set it daintily on his head ; then with a little laugh she
into the house.
When Campion raised his head again, his eyes were smiling,
and in the light of a sudden flush which just died out of it, his
face looked almost young.
This girl, so foreign in her education and traditions, so foreign
in the grace of her movements, in everything except the shade of
her dark blue eyes, was the child of an English father ; and she
was Benedict Campion’s ward. This relation, which many
persons found incongruous, had befallen naturally enough. Her
father had been Campion’s oldest and most familiar friend ; and
when Richard Heath’s romantic marriage had isolated him from so
many others, from his family and from his native land, Campion’s
attachment to him had, if possible, only been increased. From
his heart he had approved, had prophesied nothing but good of an
alliance, which certainly, while it lasted, had been an wholly ideal
relation. There had seemed no cloud on the horizon—and yet
less than two years had seen the end of it. The birth of the
child, Marie-Ursule, had been her mother’s death ; and six months
later, Richard Heath, dying less from any defined malady than
because he lacked any longer the necessary motive to live,
was laid by the side of his wife. The helpless child remained, in
the guardianship of Hortense, her mother’s sister, and elder by
some ten years, who had already composed herself contentedly, as
some women do, to the prospect of perpetual spinsterhood, and the
care of her brother’s house—an ecclesiastic just appointed curé
of Ploumariel. And here, ever since, in this quiet corner of Brittany,
in the tranquil custody of the priest and his sister, Marie-Ursule
had grown up.
Campion’s share in her guardianship had not been onerous,
although it was necessarily maintained ; for the child had inherited,
and what small property would come to her was in England, and
in English funds. To Hortense Letêtre and her brother such
responsibilities in an alien land were not for a moment to be
entertained. And gradually, this connection, at first formal and
impersonal, between Campion and the Breton presbytery, had
developed into an intimacy, into a friendship singularly satisfying
on both sides. Separate as their interests seemed, those of the
French country-priest, and of the Englishman of letters, famous
already in his own department, they had, nevertheless, much
community of feeling apart from their common affection for a
child. Now, for many years, he had been established in their
good graces, so that it had become an habit with him to spend his
holiday—it was often a very extended one—at Ploumariel ;
while to the Letêtres, as well as to Marie-Ursule herself, this
annual sojourn of Campion’s had become the occasion of the year,
the one event which pleasantly relieved the monotony of life in
this remote village ; though that, too, was a not unpleasant routine.
Insensibly Campion had come to find his chief pleasure in con-
sideration of this child of an old friend, whose gradual growth
beneath influences which seemed to him singularly exquisite and
fine, he had watched so long ; whose future, now that her child-
hood, her schooldays at the convent had come to an end, threatened
to occupy him with an anxiety more intimate than any which
hitherto he had known. Marie-Ursule’s future ! They had
talked much of it that summer, the priest and the Englishman,
who accompanied him in his long morning walks, through green
lanes, and over white, dusty roads, and past fields perfumed with
the pungently pleasant smell of the blood-red sarrasin, when he
paid visits to the sick who lived on the outskirts of his scattered
parish. Campion became aware then of an increasing difficulty
in discussing this matter impersonally, in the impartial manner
becoming a guardian. Odd thrills of jealousy stirred within him
when he was asked to contemplate Marie-Ursule’s possible suitors.
And yet, it was with a very genuine surprise, at least for the
moment, that he met the Curé’s sudden pressing home of a more
personal contingency—he took this freedom of an old friend with
a shrewd twinkle in his eye, which suggested that all along this
had been chiefly in his mind. “Mon bon ami, why should you
not marry her yourself ? That would please all of us so much.”
And he insisted, with kindly insistence, on the propriety of the
thing : dwelling on Campion’s established position, their long
habit of friendship, his own and his sister’s confidence and esteem,
taking for granted, with that sure insight which is the gift of many
women and of most priests, that on the ground of affection alone the
justification was too obvious to be pressed. And he finished with
a smile, stopping to take a pinch of snuff with a sigh of relief—
the relief of a man who has at least seasonably unburdened him-
“Surely, mon ami, some such possibility must
have been in your
Campion hesitated for a moment ; then he proffered his hand,
which the other warmly grasped. “You read me aright,” he said
slowly, “only I hardly realised it before. Even now—no, how
can I believe it possible—that she should care for me. Non sum
dignus, non sum dignus. Consider her youth, her inexperience ;
the best part of my life is behind me.”
But the Curé smiled reassuringly. “The best part is before
you, Campion ; you have the heart of a boy. Do we not know
you ? And for the child—rest tranquil there ! I have the word of
my sister, who is a wise woman, that she is sincerely attached to
you ; not to speak of the evidence of my own eyes. She will be
seventeen shortly, then she can speak for herself. And to whom
else can we trust her ?”
The shadow of these confidences hung over Campion when he
next saw Marie-Ursule, and troubled him vaguely during the
remainder of his visit, which this year, indeed, he considerably
curtailed. Inevitably he was thrown much with the young girl,
and if daily the charm which he found in her presence was
sensibly increased, as he studied her from a fresh point of view, he
was none the less disquieted at the part which he might be called
upon to play. Diffident and scrupulous, a shy man, knowing
little of women ; and at least by temperament, a sad man, he
trembled before felicity, as many at the palpable breath of mis-
fortune. And his difficulty was increased by the conviction,
forced upon him irresistibly, little as he could accuse himself of
vanity, that the decision rested with himself. Her liking for him
was genuine and deep, her confidence implicit. He had but to
ask her and she would place her hand in his and go forth with
him, as trustfully as a child. And when they came to celebrate
her fête, Marie-Ursule’s seventeenth birthday—it occurred a little
before the Assumption— it was almost disinterestedly that he had
determined upon his course. At least it was security which he
could promise her, as a younger man might not ; a constant and
single-minded kindness ; a devotion not the less valuable, because
it was mature and reticent, lacking, perhaps, the jealous ardours of
youth. Nevertheless, he was going back to England without
having revealed himself; there should be no unseasonable haste in
the matter ; he would give her another year. The Curé smiled
deprecatingly at the procrastination ; but on this point Campion
was firm. And on this, his last evening, he spoke only of trivial
things to Marie-Ursule, as they sat presently over the tea—a mild
and flavourless beverage— which the young girl had prepared.
Yet he noticed later, after their early supper, when she strolled up
with him to the hill overlooking the village, a certain new shyness
in her manner, a shadow, half timid, half expectant in her clear
eyes which permitted him to believe that she was partly prepared.
When they reached the summit, stood clear of the pine trees by
an ancient stone Calvary, Ploumariel lay below them, very fair
in the light of the setting sun ; and they stopped to rest themselves,
“Ploumariel is very beautiful,” said Campion after a while.
“Ah ! Marie-Ursule, you are fortunate to be here.”
“Yes.” She accepted his statement simply, then suddenly:
“You should not go away.” He smiled, his eyes turning from
the village in the valley to rest upon her face : after all, she was
the daintiest picture, and Ploumariel with its tall slate roofs, its
sleeping houses, her appropriate frame.
“I shall come back, I shall come back,” he murmured. She
had gathered a bunch of ruddy heather as they walked, and her
fingers played with it now nervously. Campion stretched out his
hand for it. She gave it him without a word.
“I will take it with me to London,” he said ; “I will have
Morbihan in my rooms.”
“It will remind you—make you think of us sometimes ?”
For answer he could only touch her hand lightly with his lips.
“Do you think that was necessary ?” And they resumed their
homeward way silently, although to both of them the air seemed
heavy with unspoken words.
When he was in London—and it was in London that for nine
months out of the twelve Benedict Campion was to be found—he
lived in the Temple, at the top of Hare Court, in the very same
rooms in which he had installed himself, years ago, when he gave
up his Oxford fellowship, electing to follow the profession of
letters. Returning there from Ploumariel, he resumed at once,
easily, his old avocations. He had always been a secluded man,
living chiefly in books and in the past ; but this year he seemed
less than ever inclined to knock at the hospitable doors which were
open to him. For in spite of his reserve, his diffidence, Campion’s
success might have been social, had he cared for it, and not purely
academic. His had come to be a name in letters, in the higher
paths of criticism ; and he had made no enemies. To his success
indeed, gradual and quiet as this was, he had never grown quite
accustomed, contrasting the little he had actually achieved with all
that he had desired to do. His original work was of the slightest,
and a book that was in his head he had never found time to write.
His name was known in other ways, as a man of ripe knowledge,
of impeccable taste ; as a born editor of choice reprints, of
inaccessible classics : above all, as an authority—the greatest, upon
the literature and the life (its flavour at once courtly, and
mystical, had to him an unique charm) of the seventeenth century.
His heart was in that age, and from much lingering over it, he
had come to view modern life with a curious detachment, a sense
of remote hostility : Democracy, the Salvation Army, the novels of
M. Zola—he disliked them all impartially. A Catholic by long
inheritance, he held his religion for something more than an
heirloom ; he exhaled it, like an intimate quality ; his mind being
essentially of that kind to which a mystical view of things comes
This year passed with him much as any other of the last ten years
had passed ; at least the routine of his daily existence admitted little
outward change. And yet inwardly, he was conscious of alteration,
of a certain quiet illumination which was a new thing to him.
Although at Ploumariel when the prospect of such a marriage
had dawned on him, his first impression had been one of strange-
ness, he could reflect now that it was some such possibility as this
which he had always kept vaguely in view. He had prided himself
upon few things more than his patience ; and now it appeared that
this was to be rewarded ; he was glad that he had known how
to wait. This girl, Marie-Ursule, had an immense personal charm
for him, but, beyond that, she was representative—her traditions
were exactly those which the ideal girl of Campion’s imagination
would possess. She was not only personally adorable; she was also
generically of the type which he admired. It was possibly because
this type was, after all, so rare, that looking back, Campion in his
middle age, could drag out of the recesses of his memory no
spectre to compete with her. She was his first love precisely
because the conditions, so choice and admirable, which rendered it
inevitable for him to love her, had never occurred before. And
he could watch the time of his probation gliding away with a
pleased expectancy which contained no alloy of impatience. An
illumination—a quite tranquil illumination : yes, it was under
some such figure, without heart-burning, or adolescent fever,
that love as it came to Campion was best expressed. Yet if
this love was lucent rather than turbulent, that it was also deep
he could remind himself, when a letter from the priest, while
the spring was yet young, had sent him to Brittany, a month
or two before his accustomed time, with an anxiety that was
not solely due to bewilderment.
“Our child is well, mon bon, “ so he wrote.
“Do not alarm
yourself. But it will be good for you to come, if it be only because of
an idea she has, that you may remove. An idea ! Call it rather a
fancy—at least your coming will dispel it. Petites entêtées : I have
no patience with these mystical little girls.”
His musings on the phrase, with its interpretation varying to
his mood, lengthened his long sea-passage, and the interminable
leagues of railway which separated him from Pontivy, whence he
had still some twenty miles to travel by the Courrier, before he
reached his destination. But at Pontivy, the round, ruddy face
of M. Letêtre greeting him on the platform dispelled any serious
misgiving. Outside the post-office the familiar conveyance
awaited them : its yellow inscription “Pontivy-Ploumariel,”
touched Campion electrically, as did the cheery greeting of the
driver, which was that of an old friend. They shared the interior
of the rusty trap—a fossil among vehicles—they chanced to be
the only travellers, and to the accompaniment of jingling harness,
and the clattering hoofs of the brisk little Carhaix horses,
M. Letêtre explained himself.
“A vocation, mon Dieu ! if all the little
girls who fancied them-
selves with one, were to have their way, to whom would our poor
France look for children ? They are good women, nos Ursulines,
ah, yes ; but our Marie-Ursule is a good child, and blessed
matrimony also is a sacrament. You shall talk to her, my Campion.
It is a little fancy, you see, such as will come to young girls; a
convent ague, but when she sees you”… He took snuff with
emphasis, and flipped his broad fingers suggestively. “Craque !
it is a betrothal, and a trousseau, and not the habit of religion, that
Mademoiselle is full of. You will talk to her ?”
Campion assented silently, absently, his eyes had wandered
away, and looked through the little square of window at the sad-
coloured Breton country, at the rows of tall poplars, which
guarded the miles of dusty road like sombre sentinels. And the
priest with a reassured air pulled out his breviary, and began to
say his office in an imperceptible undertone. After a while he
crossed himself, shut the book, and pillowing his head against the
hot, shiny leather of the carriage, sought repose ; very soon his
regular, stertorous breathing, assured his companion that he was
asleep. Campion closed his eyes also, not indeed in search of
slumber, though he was travel weary ; rather the better to isolate
himself with the perplexity of his own thoughts. An indefinable
sadness invaded him, and he could envy the priest’s simple logic,
which gave such short shrift to obstacles that Campion, with his
subtle melancholy, which made life to him almost morbidly an
affair of fine shades and nice distinctions, might easily exaggerate.
Of the two, perhaps the priest had really the more secular mind,
as it certainly excelled Campion’s in that practical wisdom, or
common sense, which may be of more avail than subtlety in the
mere economy of life. And what to the Curé was a simple matter
enough, the removal of the idle fancy of a girl, might be to
Campion, in his scrupulous temper, and his overweening tender-
ness towards just those pieties and renunciations which such a
fancy implied, a task to be undertaken hardly with relish, perhaps
without any real conviction, deeply as his personal wishes might
be implicated in success. And the heart had gone out of his
journey long before a turn of the road brought them in sight of
Up by the great, stone Calvary, where they had climbed nearly
a year before, Campion stood, his face deliberately averted, while
the young girl uttered her hesitating confidences ; hesitating, yet
candid, with a candour which seemed to separate him from the
child by more than a measurable space of years, to set him with
an appealing trustfulness in the seat of judgment—for him, for her.
They had wandered there insensibly, through apple-orchards white
with the promise of a bountiful harvest, and up the pine-clad hill,
talking of little things—trifles to beguile their way—perhaps, in a
sort of vain procrastination. Once, Marie-Ursule had plucked a
branch of the snowy blossom, and he had playfully chided her
that the cider would be less by a litre that year in Brittany.
“But the blossom is so much prettier,” she protested ; “and there
will be apples and apples—always enough apples. But I like the
blossom best—and it is so soon over.”
And then, emerging clear of the trees, with Ploumariel lying in
its quietude in the serene sunshine below them, a sudden strenuous-
ness had supervened, and the girl had unburdened herself, speaking
tremulously, quickly, in an undertone almost passionate ; and
Campion, perforce, had listened. … A fancy ? a whim ? Yes,
he reflected ; to the normal, entirely healthy mind, any choice of
exceptional conditions, any special self-consecration or withdrawal
from the common lot of men and women must draw down upon
it some such reproach, seeming the mere pedantry of inexperience.
Yet, against his reason, and what he would fain call his better
judgment, something in his heart of hearts stirred sympathetically
with this notion of the girl. And it was no fixed resolution, no
deliberate justification which she pleaded. She was soft, and
pliable, and even her plea for renunciation contained pretty,
feminine inconsequences ; and it touched Campion strangely.
Argument he could have met with argument ; an ardent con-
viction he might have assailed with pleading ; but that note of
appeal in her pathetic young voice, for advice, for sympathy,
“Yet the world,” he protested at last, but half-heartedly, with
a sense of self-imposture ; “the world, Marie-Ursule, it has its
disappointments ; but there are compensations.”
“I am afraid, afraid,” she murmured.
Their eyes alike sought instinctively the Convent of the
Ursulines, white and sequestered in the valley—a visible symbol
of security, of peace, perhaps of happiness.
“Even there they have their bad days : do not doubt it.”
“But nothing happens,” she said simply; “one day is like
another. They can never be very sad, you know.”
They were silent for a time: the girl, shading her eyes with one
small white hand, continued to regard the convent ; and Campion
considered her fondly.
“What can I say ?” he exclaimed at last. “What would you
put on me ? Your uncle—he is a priest—surely the most natural
adviser—you know his wishes.”
She shook her head. “With him it is different—I am one of
his family—he is not a priest for me. And he considers me a
little girl—and yet I am old enough to marry. Many young
girls have had a vocation before my age. Ah, help me, decide
for me !” she pleaded ; “you are my tuteur.”
“And a very old friend, Marie-Ursule.” He smiled rather
sadly. Last year seemed so long ago, and the word, which he had
almost spoken then, was no longer seasonable. A note in his
voice, inexplicable, might have touched her. She took his hand
impulsively, but he withdrew it quickly, as though her touch had
“You look very tired ; you are not used to our Breton rambles
in this sun. See, I will run down to the cottage by the chapel
and fetch you some milk. Then you shall tell me.”
When he was alone the smile faded from his face and was
succeeded by a look of lassitude, as he sat himself beneath the
shadow of the Calvary to wrestle with his responsibility. Perhaps
it was a vocation : the phrase, sounding strangely on modern ears,
to him, at least, was no anachronism. Women of his race, from
generation to generation, had heard some such voice and had
obeyed it. That it went unheeded now was, perhaps, less a
proof that it was silent, than that people had grown hard and deaf,
in a world that had deteriorated. Certainly the convent had to
him no vulgar, Protestant significance, to be combated for its
intrinsic barbarism ; it suggested nothing cold nor narrow nor
mean, was veritably a gracious choice, a generous effort after
perfection. Then it was for his own sake, on an egoistic impulse,
that he should dissuade her ? And it rested with him ; he had no
doubt that he could mould her, even yet, to his purpose. The
child ! how he loved her…. But would it ever be quite the
same with them after that morning ? Or must there be hence-
forth a shadow between them ; the knowledge of something
missed, of the lower end pursued, the higher slighted ? Yet, if
she loved him ? He let his head drop on his hands, murmured
aloud at the hard chance which made him at once judge and
advocate in his own cause. He was not conscious of praying, but
his mind fell into that condition of aching blankness which is,
perhaps, an extreme prayer. Presently he looked down again at
Ploumariel, with its coronal of faint smoke ascending in the
perfectly still air, at the white convent of the Dames Ursulines,
which seemed to dominate and protect it. How peaceful it was !
And his thought wandered to London : to its bustle and noise, its
squalid streets, to his life there, to its literary coteries, its politics,
its society ; vulgar and trivial and sordid they all seemed from
this point of vantage. That was the world he had pleaded for, and
it was into that he would bring the child…. And suddenly,
with a strange reaction, he was seized with a sense of the wisdom
of her choice, its pictorial fitness, its benefit for both of them.
He felt at once and finally, that he acquiesced in it ; that any
other ending to his love had been an impossible grossness, and that
to lose her in just that fashion was the only way in which he
could keep her always. And his acquiescence was without bitter-
ness, and attended only by that indefinable sadness which to a
man of his temper was but the last refinement of pleasure. He
had renounced, but he had triumphed ; for it seemed to him that
his renunciation would be an aegis to him always against the
sordid facts of life, a protest against the vulgarity of instinct, the
tyranny of institutions. And he thought of the girl’s life, as it
should be, with a tender appreciation—as of something precious
laid away in lavender. He looked up to find her waiting before
him with a basin half full of milk, warm still, fresh from the cow ;
and she watched him in silence while he drank. Then their eyes
met, and she gave a little cry.
“You will help me ? Ah, I see that you will ! And you
think I am right ?”
“I think you are right, Marie-Ursule.”
“And you will persuade my uncle ?”
“I will persuade him.”
She took his hand in silence, and they stood so for a minute,
gravely regarding each other. Then they prepared to descend.
To Salomé at St. James’s
FLOWER of the ballet’s nightly mirth,
Pleased with a trinket or a gown,
Eternal as eternal earth
You dance the centuries down.
For you, my plaything, slight and light,
Capricious, petulant and proud,
With whom I sit and sup to-night
Among the tawdry crowd,
Are she whose swift and sandalled feet
And postured girlish beauty won
A pagan prize, for you unmeet,
The head of Baptist John.
And after ages, when you sit
A princess less in birth than power,
Freed from the theatre’s fume and heat
To kill an idle hour,
Here in the babbling room agleam
With scarlet lips and naked arms
And such rich jewels as beseem
The painted damzel’s charms,
Even now your tired and subtle face
Bears record to the wondrous time
When from your limbs’ lascivious grace
Sprang forth your splendid crime.
And though none deem it true, of those
Who watch you in our banal age
Like some stray fairy glide and pose
Upon a London stage,
Yet I to whom your frail caprice
Turns for the moment ardent eyes
Have seen the strength of love release
Your sleeping memories.
I too am servant to your glance,
I too am bent beneath your sway,
My wonder ! My desire ! who dance
Men’s heads and hearts away.
Sweet arbitress of love and death,
Unchanging on time’s changing sands,
You hold more lightly than a breath
The world between your hands !
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. G
By Arthur Moore
As the clock struck eight Sir Geoffrey Vincent cast aside the
dull society journal with which he had been beguiling the
solitude of his after-dinner coffee and cigar, and abandoned, with
an alacrity eloquent of long boredom, his possession of one of the
capacious chairs which invited repose in the dingy smoking-room
of an old-fashioned club. It had been reserved for him, after
twenty monotonous years of almost unbroken exile, spent, for the
most part, amid the jungles and swamps of Lower Burma, to
realise that a friendless man, alone in the most populous city of the
world, may encounter among thousands of his peers a desolation
more supreme than the solitude of the most ultimate wilderness ;
and he found himself wondering, a little savagely, why, after all,
he had expected his home-coming to be so different from the
reality that now confronted him. When he landed at Brindisi, a
short ten days ago, misgivings had already assailed him vaguely ;
the fact that he was practically homeless, that, although not
altogether bereft of kith and kin, he had no family circle to
welcome him as an addition to its circumference, had made it
inevitable that his rapid passage across the Continent should be
haunted by forebodings to which he had not cared to assign a
shape too definite ; phantoms which he exorcised hopefully, with
a tacit reliance on a trick of falling on his feet which had seldom
failed his need. He consoled himself with the thought that
London was home, England was home ; he would meet old
comrades in the streets perhaps, assuredly at his club, and such
encounters would be so much the more delightful if they were
fortuitous, unexpected. The plans which he had laid so carefully
pacing the long deck of the P. and O. boat in the starlight, or,
more remotely, lying awake through the hot night hours under a
whining punkah in his lonely bungalow, had all implied, however
vaguely and impersonally, a certain companionship. He was dimly
conscious that he had cousins somewhere in the background ; he
had long since lost touch with them, but he would look them up.
He had two nieces, still in their teens, the children of his only
sister who had died ten years ago ; he had never seen them, but
their photographs were charming—they should be overwhelmed
with such benefactions as a bachelor uncle with a well-lined purse
may pleasantly bestow. His friends—the dim legion that was to
rise about his path—should take him to see Sarah Bernhardt (a
mere name to him as yet) at the Gaiety, to the new Gilbert and
Sullivan opera at the Savoy ; they should enlighten him as to the
latent merits of the pictures at Burlington House ; they should
dine with him, shoot with him, be introduced to his Indian
falcons ; in a word, he would keep open house, in town and
country too, for all good fellows and their pretty wives. It had
even occurred to him, as a possibility neither remote nor unattrac-
tive, that he might himself one day possess a pretty wife to
His sanguine expectations encountered their first rebuff when
he found the Piccadilly Club, which had figured so often in the
dreams of its exiled member, abandoned to a horde of workmen,
a mere wilderness of paint and whitewash ; and it was with a
touch of resentment that he accepted the direction of an indifferent
hall-porter to an unfamiliar edifice in Pall Mall as its temporary
substitute. Entering the smoking-room, a little diffidently, on
the evening of his arrival in London, he found himself eyed, at
first with faint curiosity, by two or three of the men upon whom
his gaze rested expectantly, but in no case was this curiosity—
prompted doubtless by that touch of the exotic which sometimes
clings to dwellers in the East—the precursor of the kindly
recognition, the surprised, incredulous greeting which he had
hoped for. After a few days he was simply ignored ; his face,
rather stern, with its distinctive Indian tan through which the
grey eyes looked almost blue, his erect figure, and dark hair
sparsely flecked with a frosty white, had become familiar ; he had
visited his tailor, and his garments no longer betrayed him to the
curious by their fashion of Rangoon.
The Blue-book, which he had been quick to interrogate,
informed him that his old friend Hibbert lived in Portman Square,
and that the old lady who was the guardian of his nieces had a
house at Hampstead : further inquiry at the addresses thus
obtained left him baffled by the intelligence that Colonel
Hibbert was in Norway, his nieces at school in Switzerland.
Mackinnon, late of the Woods and Forests, whom he met at
Burlington House, raised his hopes for an instant by a greeting
which sounded precisely the note of cordiality that he yearned for,
only to dash them by expressing a hope that he should see more
of his old friend in the autumn ; he was off to Southampton to
join a friend’s yacht on the morrow, and after his cruise he had
designs on Scotland and the grouse.
Sir Geoffrey, chained to the neighbourhood of London by legal
business, already too long deferred, connected with the succession
which had made him a rich man and brought him home, could
only rebel mutely against the ill-fortune which left him solitary
at a time when he most longed for fellowship, acknowledging the
while, with a touch of self-reproach, that the position which he
resented was very largely due to his own shortcomings ; he had
always figured as a lamentably bad correspondent, and his invete-
rate aversion to letter-writing had allowed the links of many old
friendships to fall asunder, had operated to leave such friends as
were still in touch with him in ignorance of his home-coming.
Now, as he paused in the hall of his club to light a cigarette
before passing out into the pleasant July twilight, he told himself
that for the present he had done with London ; he would shake
the dust of the inhospitable city from off his feet, and go down to
the place in Wiltshire which was learning to call him master, to
await better days in company with his beloved falcons. He even
found himself taking comfort from this prospect while a hansom
bore him swiftly to the Savoy Theatre, and when he was safely
ensconced in his stall he beguiled the interval before the rising of
the curtain—a period which his impatience to escape from the club
rather than any undue passion for punctuality had made somewhat
lengthy—by considering, speculatively, the chances of society
which the Willescombe neighbourhood seemed to afford. He
enjoyed the first act of the extravaganza with the zest of a man to
whom the work of the famous collaborators was an entire novelty,
his pleasure unalloyed by the fact, of which he was blissfully uncon-
scious, that one of the principal parts was played by an understudy.
His ennui returning with the fall of the curtain, he prepared to
spend the entr’acte in contemplation of the people who composed
the house, rather than to incur the resentment of the placid
dowagers who were his neighbours, by passing and repassing, like
the majority of his fellow-men, in search of the distant haven where
cigarettes and drinks, obtained with difficulty, could be hastily
appreciated. More than once his wandering eyes returned to a
box next the stage on a dress-circle tier, and finally they rested
rather wistfully on its occupants, or, to be more accurate, on the
younger of the two ladies who were seated in front. It was not
simply because the girl was pretty, though her beauty, the flower-
like charm of a young Englishwoman fresh from the schoolroom,
a fine example of a type not particularly rare, would have furnished
a sufficient pretext : he was struck by a resemblance, a haunting
reminiscence, which at first exercised his curiosity, and ended by
baffling and tantalising him. There was something vaguely
familiar, he thought, in the manner of her smile, the inclination of
her head as she turned now and then to address a remark to her
companion, the lady in grey, whose face was hidden from him by
the drapery at the side of the box. When she laughed, furling a
feathery fan, and throwing a bright glance back at the gentleman
whose white shirt-front was dimly visible in the background, Sir
Geoffrey felt himself on the verge of solving his riddle, but at this
point, while a name seemed to tremble on his lips, the lights of the
auditorium were lowered, and the rising of the curtain on the
fairyland of the second scene diverted his attention to the stage.
Later, when he had passed into the crowded lobby, and was making
his way slowly through a jungle of pretty dresses towards the
door, he recognised in front of him the amber-coloured hair and
dainty, pale-blue opera cloak of the damsel who had puzzled him.
The two ladies (her companion of the grey dress was close at
hand) halted near the door while their cavalier passed out in search
of their carriage ; the elder lady turned, adjusting a cloud of soft
lace about her shoulders, and Sir Geoffrey was struck on the instant
by a swift thrill. Here, at last, was an old friend—that face could
belong to no one else than Margaret Addison. It was natural that
her maiden name should first occur to him, but he remembered, as
he edged his way laboriously towards her, that she had married just
after he sailed for Burma ; yes, she had married that amiable scape-
grace Dick Vandeleur, who had met his death in the hunting-field
nearly fifteen years ago.
As he drew near, Mrs. Vandeleur’s gaze fell upon him for a
brief instant ; he thought that she had not recognised him, but
before his spirits had time to suffer any consequent depression, her
eyes returned to him, and as he smiled in answer to the surprise
which he read in them, he saw her face flush, and then grow a little
pale, before a responsive light of recognition dawned upon it. She
took his hand silently when he offered it, eyeing him with the
same faint smile, an expression in which welcome seemed to be
gleaming through a cloud of apprehension.
“I’m not a ghost,” he said, laughing ; “I’m Geoffrey Vincent.
Don’t be ashamed of owning that you had quite forgotten me !”
“I knew you at once,” she said simply. “So you are home at
last : you must come and see me as soon as you can. This is my
daughter Dorothy, and here is my brother—of course you re-
member Philip ?—coming to tell us that the carriage is waiting.
You will come, to-morrow—to prove that you are not a ghost ?
We shall expect you.”
A fortnight later Sir Geoffrey was sitting in a punt, beguiling
the afternoon of a rainy day by luring unwary roach to their de-
struction with a hair-line and pellets of paste, delicately kneaded
by the taper fingers of Miss Dorothy Vandeleur. He was the
guest of Mrs. Vandeleur’s brother, his school friend, Philip Addison
the Q.C., and Mrs. Vandeleur and her daughter were also staying
at the delighful old Elizabethan house which nestled, with such an
air of immemorial occupation, halfway down the wooded side of
one of the Streatley hills, its spotless lawn sloping steeply to the
margin of the fairest river in the world. Miss Vandeleur had
enshrined herself among a pile of rugs and cushions at the stern of
the punt, where the roof of her uncle’s boat-house afforded shelter
from the persistent rain. She was arrayed in the blue serge dear
to the modern water-nymph ; and at intervals she relieved her feel-
ings by shaking a small fist at the leaden vault of sky. For the
rest, her attention was divided impartially between her novel, with
which she did not seem to make much progress, her fox-terrier
Sancho, and the slowly decreasing lump of paste, artfully compounded
with cotton-wool for consistency, with which, as occasion arose, she
ministered to her companion’s predatory needs. The capture of a
fish was followed inevitably by a disarrangement of her nest of
cushions, and a pathetic petition for its instant release and restora-
tion to the element from which it had been untimely inveigled.
Occasionally, the rain varied the monotony of the dolorous drizzle
by a vehement and spirited downpour, lasting for some minutes,
prompting one of the occupants of the punt to remark, with mis-
placed confidence, that it must clear up soon, after that. Then
Sir Geoffrey would abandon his rod, and beat a retreat to the stern
of the punt ; and during these interludes, much desultory conver-
sation ensued. Once, Miss Vandeleur startled her companion by
asking, suddenly, how it was that he seemed so absurdly young ?
“I hope I am not rude ?” she added, “but really you do strike
me as almost the youngest person I know. You are much younger
than Jack—Mr. Wilgress—for instance, and it’s only about three
years since he left Eton.”
Sir Geoffrey smiled, wondering a little whether the girl was
laughing at him ; for though a man of forty-seven, who has for
twenty years successfully resisted a trying climate, may consider
himself as very far from the burden of old age, it was conceivable
that the views of a maiden in her teens might be very different.
“It’s because I am having such a good time,” he hazarded.
“You and your mother are responsible, you know ; before I met
you at the Savoy, on that memorable evening, I was feeling as
blue as—as the sky ought to be if it had any decency, and at least
as old as the river. I suppose it’s true that youth and good spirits
Dorothy gazed at him for a moment reflectively.”How lucky
it was that Uncle Philip took us to the theatre on that evening !
It was just a chance. And we might never have met you.”
“It was lucky for me!” declared the other simply. “But
would you have cared ?”
“Of course!” said the girl promptly, but lowering her blue
eyes. “You see, I have never known a real live hero before.
Do tell me about your fight in the hill-fort, or how you caught
the Dacoits ! Uncle Philip says that you ought to have had the
Sir Geoffrey replied by a little disparaging murmur. “Oh, it
was quite a commonplace affair—all in the day’s work. Any one
else would have done the same.”
Dorothy settled herself back among her cushions resentfully,
clasping her hands, rather sunburned, across her knees.
“I should like to see them !” she declared contemptuously.
“That’s just what that Jack Wilgress said—at least he implied
it. It is true, he apologised afterwards. How I despise Oxford
“I thought he was a very good fellow,” said Sir Geoffrey,
diplomatically turning the subject from his own achievements,
“I suppose it might improve him to have something to do ; but he
strikes me as a very good specimen of the ornamental young
“Ornamental !” echoed Dorothy sarcastically. ” It would do
him good to have to work for his living.”
“Poor beggar, he couldn’t help being born with a silver spoon
in his mouth—it isn’t his fault.”
“Spoon!” exclaimed Miss Vandeleur. “A whole dinner
service I should think. A soup-ladle at the very least. It’s quite
big enough : perhaps that accounts for it !”
The girl laughed, swaying back, with the grace of her years,
against her cushions ; then, observing that her companion’s grave
grey eyes were fixed upon her, she grew suddenlv demure, sighing
with a little air of penitence.
“I am very wicked to-day,” she confessed. “It’s the rain, I
suppose, and want of exercise. Do you ever feel like that, Sir
Geoffrey ? Do you ever get into an omnibus and simply loathe
and detest every single person in it ? Do you long to swear—
real swears, like our army in Flanders—at everybody you meet,
just because it’s rainy or foggy, and because they are all so ugly
and horrid ? I do, frequently.”
“I know, I know,” said the other sympathetically, while he
reeled in his line and deftly untied the tiny hook. “Only, the
omnibus has not figured very often in my case ; it has generally
been a hot court-house, or a dusty dak-bungalow full of com-
mercial travellers. But I don’t feel like that now, at all. I hope
I am not responsible for your frame of mind ?”
“Oh,” protested Dorothy, “don’t make me feel such an
abandoned wretch ! I should have been much worse if you had
not been here. I should have quarrelled with Uncle Phil, or
been rude to my mother, or something dreadful. I’m perfectly
horrid to her sometimes. And as it is, I have let her go up to
town all alone—to see my dressmaker.”
Sir Geoffrey stood up and began to take his rod to pieces.
“And are you quite sure that you haven’t been ‘loathing and
detesting’ me all the afternoon ?”
Dorothy picked up her novel and smoothed its leaves reflectively.
“I—— But no. I won’t make you too conceited. Look, the
sun is actually coming out ! Don’t you think we might take the
Canadian up to the weir ? You really ought to be introduced to
the big chub under the bridge.”
The rain had almost ceased, and when they had transferred
themselves into the dainty canoe, a few strokes of the paddle
which Miss Vandeleur wielded with such effective grace swept
them out into a full flood of delicate evening sunlight. The sky
smiled blue through rapidly increasing breaks in the clouds ; the
sunbeams, slanting from the west, touched with pale gold the
quivering trees, which seemed to lift their wet branches and
spread their leaves to court the warm caress. A new radiance of
colour crept into the landscape, as if it had been a picture from
which a smoky glass was withdrawn ; the water grew very still—
this too was in the manner of a picture—with the peace of a
summer evening, brimming with an unbroken surface luminously
from bank to bank. Strange guttural cries of water-birds
sounded from the reed-beds ; from the next reach came the
rhythmic pulse of oars, faint splashes, and the brisk rattle of row-
locks ; voices and laughter floated down from the lock, travelling
far beyond belief in the hushed stillness of the evening. The
wake of the light canoe trailed unbroken to the shadows of the
boathouse, and the wet paddle gleamed as it slid through the
water. Presently Dorothy stayed her hand.
“What an enchanting world it is !” she murmured, with wide eyes
full of the glamour of the setting sun. “Beautiful, beautiful——!
How soon one forgets the fogs, and rain, and cold ! I feel as if I
had lived in this fairyland always.”
Her lips trembled a little as she spoke, and Sir Geoffrey found
something in the pathos of her youth which held him silent.
When they broke the spell of silence, their words were trivial,
perhaps, but the language was that of old friends, simple and
direct. Sir Geoffrey at least, for whom the charm of the occasion
was a gift so rare that he scarcely dared to desecrate it by mental
criticism, was far from welcoming the interruption which presently
occurred, in the shape of a youth, arrayed in immaculate flannels and
the colours of a popular rowing club, who hailed them cheerfully
from a light skiff, resting on his sculls and drifting alongside while
he rolled a cigarette.
Dorothy sank down, rather wearily, in the low basket-chair
which stood near the open window of her mother’s bedroom—
a tall French window, with a wide balcony overrun by climbing
roses, and a view of the river, and waited for Mrs. Vandeleur to
dismiss her maid. As she lay there, adjusting absently the loose
tresses of her hair, she could feel the breath of the faint breeze as
it wandered, gathering a light burden of fragrance, through the
dusky roses ; she could see the river, dimly, where the moonbeams
touched its ripples, and once or twice the sound of voices reached
her from the distant smoking-room. The closing of the door as
the maid went out disturbed her reverie, and turning a little in her
chair she found her mother regarding her thoughtfully.
“No,” said Dorothy, swiftly interpreting her mother’s glance.
“You mustn’t send me away, my pretty little mother. I’ll promise
not to catch cold. I haven’t been able to talk to you all day.”
Mrs. Vandeleur half closed the window, and then seated herself
with an expression of resignation on the arm of her daughter’s
chair. In the dim light shed by the two candles on the dressing-
table, one would have thought them two sisters, plotting innocently
the discomfiture of man. The occasion did not prove so stimu-
lating to conversation as might have been expected. For a few
minutes both were silent ; Dorothy began to hum an air from the
Savoy opera, rather recklessly ; she kicked off one of her slippers,
and it fell on the polished oak floor with a little clatter.
“Little donkey !” murmured her mother sweetly. “So much
for your talking. I’m going to bed at once.” Then she added,
carelessly, “Did you see Jack to-day ?”
The humming paused abruptly ; then it went on for a second,
and paused again.
“Oh yes, the inevitable Mr. Wilgress was on the river, as
usual. He nearly ran us down in that idiotic skiff of his.”
Mrs. Vandeleur raised her eyebrows, gazing at her unconscious
“You didn’t see him alone, then ?” she inquired presently.
“Who ? Mr. Wilgress ? Ye-es, I think so. When we got
back to the boathouse he insisted on taking me out again in the
canoe, to show me the correct Indian stroke. Much he knows
about it ! That’s why I was so late for dinner. Oh, please
don’t talk about Mr. Wilgress.”
“Mr. Wilgress again?” murmured Mrs. Vandeleur. “I
thought it always used to be ‘Jack.'”
“Only, only by accident, said the girl weakly. “And when
he wasn’t there.”
“Well, he isn’t here now. At least I hope not. You—you
haven’t quarrelled, have you Dolly ?”
“No—yes. I don’t know. He—he asked me—oh, he was
ridiculous. How I hate boys—and jealousy.”
Mrs. Vandeleur shivered, then rose abruptly and closed the
window against which she leaned, gazing down at the formless
mass of the shrubs which cowered over their shadows on the lawn.
Her mind, vaguely troubled for some days past, and now keenly on
the alert, travelled swiftly back, bridging a space of nearly twenty
years, to a scene strangely like this, in which she and her mother
had held the stage. She too, a girl then of Dorothy’s eighteen
years, had brought the halting story of her doubts and scruples to
her natural counsellor : she could remember still how the instinct
of reticence had struggled with the yearning for sympathy, for the
comfort of the confessional. She could recall now and appreciate
her mother’s tact and patient questioning, her own perversity, the
dumbness which seemed independent of her own volition. A
commonplace page of life. Two men at her feet, and the girl
unskilled to read her heart : one had spoken—that was Dick
Vandeleur, careless, brilliant, the heir to half a county ; the other
— her old friend ; she could not bear to think of him now.
Knowledge had come too late, and the light which made her
wonder scornfully at her blindness. And her mother—she of
course had played the worldly part ; but her counsel had been
honest, without bias : it were cruel to blame her now. Loyal
though she was, Margaret Vandeleur had asked herself an hundred
times, yielding to that love of threading a labyrinth which rules
most women, what would have been the story of her life if she had
steeled herself to stand or fall by her own judgment, if she had
refused to allow her mother to drop into the wavering scale the
words which had turned it, ever so slightly, in favour of the
richer man, the man whom she had married, whose name she
It seemed plain enough, to a woman’s keen vision—what sense
so subtle, yet so easily beguiled—that Dorothy’s choice was
embarrassed, just as her own had been. The girl and her two
admirers—how the old story repeated itself !—one, Jack Wilgress,
the good-natured, good-looking idler, whose devotion to the river
threatened to make him amphibious, and whose passion for
scribbling verse bade fair to launch him adrift among the cockle-
shell fleet of Minor Poets ; the other—Geoffrey Vincent ! To
call upon Margaret Vandeleur to guide her daughter’s choice
between two men of whom Geoffrey Vincent was one—surely
here was the end and crown of Fate’s relentless irony. She felt
herself blushing as she pressed her forehead against the cool
window-pane, put to shame by the thoughts which the comparison
suggested, which would not be stifled. Right or wrong, at least
her mother had been impartial : there was a sting in this, a
failure of her precedent. She sighed, concluding mutely that silence
was her only course ; even if she would, she could not follow in her
mother’s footsteps—the girl must abide by her own judgment.
When she turned, smiling faintly, the light of the flickering
candles fell upon her face, betraying a pallor which startled
Dorothy from her reverie. She sprang from her chair, reproaching
“You poor, tired, little mother,” she murmured penitently, with
a hasty kiss. “How could I be so cruel as to keep you up after
your journey ! I’m a wretch, but I’m really going now. Good-
“Good-night,” said her mother, caressing the vagrant coils of the
girl’s amber-coloured hair. “Don’t worry yourself; everything
will come right if—if you listen to your own heart.”
Dorothy’s answer was precluded by another kiss. “It’s so full
of you that it can’t be bothered to think of any one else,” she
declared plaintively, as she turned towards the door. Then she
paused, fingering nervously a little heap of books which lay upon
a table. “He—he isn’t so very old, you know,” she murmured
softly before she made her escape.
When she was alone Mrs. Vandeleur sank into the chair which
her daughter had just quitted, nestling among the cushions and
knitting her brows in thought. The clock on the mantelpiece
had struck twelve before she rose, and then she paused for an
instant in front of the looking-glass, gazing into it half timidly
before she extinguished the candles. The face which she saw
there was manifestly pretty, in spite of the trouble which lurked in
the tired eyes, and when she turned away, a hovering smile was
struggling with the depression at the corners of the delicate,
When Sir Geoffrey returned to Riverside, three days later,
after a brief sojourn in London, spent for the most part at the
office of his solicitor in Lincoln’s Inn, he found Mrs. Vandeleur
presiding over a solitary tea-table in a shady corner of the garden.
A few chairs sociably disposed under the gnarled walnut-tree, and
a corresponding number of empty tea-cups, suggested that her
solitude had not been of long duration, and this impression was
confirmed when Mrs. Vandeleur told her guest that if he had
presented himself a short quarter of an hour earlier he would have
been welcomed in a manner more worthy of his deserts.
Sir Geoffrey drew one of the low basket chairs up to the table,
protesting, as he accepted a cup of tea, that he could not have
wished for better fortune.
“This is very delightful,” he declared. “I don’t regret the
tardiness of my train in the least. The other charming people are
on the river, I suppose ?”
Mrs. Vandeleur nodded. “Yes, the Patersons have just taken
up their quarters in that house-boat, which you must have noticed,
near the lock, and my brother and Dorothy have gone with Jack
Wilgress and his sisters to call upon them. You ought to have
seen Daisy Wilgress ; she is very pretty.”
Sir Geoffrey smiled gravely, sipping his tea.
“If she is prettier than your daughter, Miss Wilgress must be
very dangerous. But I must see her with my own eyes before I
“Oh, she is !” declared Mrs. Vandeleur, laughing lightly, but
throwing a quick glance at him. “Ask Philip; he is more
wrapped up in her than he has been in anything since his first
“Poor Philip !” said the other quietly, stooping to pick a fallen
leaf from the grass at his feet. “I—I have a fellow-feeling for
“You know you may smoke if you want to,” interposed Mrs.
Vandeleur, rather hurriedly. “And perhaps—if you really won’t
have any more tea—you might like to go in pursuit of the other
people ; I don’t think they have taken all the boats. But I
daresay you are tired ? London is so fatiguing—and business.”
Sir Geoffrey smiled, his white teeth showing pleasantly against
the tan of his lean, good-humoured face.
“I am rather tired, I believe,” he owned. “I
spending a great deal of time in my solicitor’s waiting-room,
pretending to read The Times. And I have been thinking—that is
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. H
always fatiguing. If I am not in your way, I should like to stay
Mrs. Vandeleur professed her satisfaction by a polite little
murmur, leaning forward in her chair to marshal the scattered
tea-cups on the tray, while Sir Geoffrey watched her askance,
rather timidly, with a keen appreciation of the subtle charm of her
personality ; her face, like a perfect cameo, or some rare pale flower,
seeming to have gained rather in beauty by the deliberate passage
from youth ; winning, just as some pictures do, an added grace of
refinement, a delicacy, which the slight modification of contours
served only to intensify.
“I told you just now that I had been thinking,” he said
presently, when she had resumed her task of embroidering initials
in the corner of a handkerchief : “would it surprise you if I said
that I had been thinking of you ?”
Mrs. Vandeleur raised her eyebrows slightly, her gaze still intent
upon her patient needle.
“Perhaps it was natural that you should think of us,” she
“But I meant you,” he continued ; “you, the Margaret of the
old days, before I went away. For I used to call you ‘Margaret’
then. We were great friends, you know.”
“I have always thought of you as a friend,” she said simply.
“Yes, we were great friends before—before you went away.”
“It doesn’t seem so long ago to me,” he declared, almost plain-
tively, struck by something in the tone of her voice. Mrs.
Vandeleur smiled tolerantly, scrutinising her embroidery, with
her head poised on one side, a little after the manner of a
“And now that I have found you again,” he added with inten-
tion, dropping his eyes till they rested on the river, rippling past
the wooden landing-stage below in the sunshine, “I—I don’t
want to lose you, Margaret !”
Mrs. Vandeleur met this declaration with a smile, which was
courteous rather than cordial, merely acknowledging, as of right,
the propriety of the aspiration, treating it as quite conventional.
The simplicity of the gesture testified eloquently of the discipline
of twenty years ; only a woman would have detected the shadow
of apprehension in her eyes, the trembling of the hands which
seemed so placidly occupied. Her mind was already anxiously on the
alert, racing rapidly over the now familiar ground which she had
quartered of late so heedfully. For her, his words were ominous ;
it was of Dorothy surely that he wished to speak, and yet——!
In the stress of expectation her thoughts took strange flights,
following vague clues fantastically. The inveterate habit of retro-
spection carried her back, in spite of her scruples; her honest desire
to think singly of Dorothy, regarding the fortune of her own
life as irrevocably settled, impelled her irresistibly to call to the
stage of her imagination a scene which she had often set upon it,
a duologue, entirely fictive, which might, but for her perversity,
have been enacted—twenty years ago.
Sir Geoffrey rose, and stood leaning with one hand on the back
of his chair. This interruption—or perhaps it was the sound of
oars and voices which floated in growing volume from the river—
served to recall his companion to the present. The silence, of
brief duration actually, seemed intolerable. She must break it,
and when she spoke it was to name her daughter, aimlessly.
“Dorothy ?” repeated Sir Geoffrey, as she paused. “She is
extraordinarily like you were before I went away. Not that you
are changed—it is delightful to come back and find you the same.
It’s only when she is with you that I can realise that there is a
“I was never so good as Dorothy,” put in Mrs. Vandeleur
quickly ; “she will never have the same reason to blame her-
self—— I don’t think you could imagine what she has been
“I think I can,” said Sir Geoffrey simply. Then he added,
rather shyly : “Really, we seem to be very good friends already :
it’s very nice of her—it would be so natural for her to—to resent
the intrusion of an old fellow like me.”
“You need not be afraid of that ; she looks upon you as—as a
“Thank you !” murmured the other. “And you think she
might grow to—to like me, in time ?”
Mrs. Vandeleur nodded mutely. Sir Geoffrey followed for a
moment the deliberate entry and re-entry of her needle, reflect-
ively ; then, as his eyes wandered, he realised vaguely that a boat
had reached the landing-stage, and that people were there : he
recognised young Wilgress and Miss Vandeleur.
“You said just now that you always thought of me as a friend,”
he began. “I wonder—— Oh ! it’s no good,” he added quickly,
with a nervous movement of his hands, “I can’t make pretty
speeches ! After all, it’s simple ; why should I play the coward ?
I can take ‘no’ for answer, if the worst comes to the worst,
and—— Margaret, I know it’s asking a great deal, but—I
want you to marry me.”
She cast a swift, startled glance at him, turning in her chair,
and then dropped her eyes, asking herself bewilderedly whether this
was still some fantasy. The words which he murmured now,
pleading incoherently with her silence, confirmed the hopes which,
in spite of her scrupulous devotion, refused to be gainsaid, thrusting
themselves shamelessly into the foreground of her troubled thoughts.
An inward voice, condemned by her wavering resolution as a
whisper from the lips of treachery, suggested plausibly that after
all Dorothy might have made a mistake ; she repelled it fiercely,
taking a savage pleasure in her pain, accusing herself, with vehe-
ment blame, as one who would fain stand in the way of her
daughter’s happiness. Even if she had deserved these fruits of late
harvest which seemed to dangle within her grasp, even if her
right to garner them had not been forfeited long ago by her
folly of the past, how could she endure to figure as a rival,
triumphing in her own daughter’s discomfiture ? Womanly
pride and a thousand scruples barred the way.
“I love you,” she heard him say again ; “I believe I have
always loved you since—— But you know how it was in the
“Don’t remind me of that !” she pleaded, almost fiercely ; “I
was—I can’t bear to think of what I did ! You ought not to
forgive me ; I don’t deserve it.”
“Forgive ?” he echoed, blankly.
“Oh, you are generous—but it is impossible, impossible ; it is
all a mistake ; let us forget it.”
“I don’t understand ! Is it that—that you don’t care for me ?”
Margaret gave a despairing little sigh, dropping her hands on
the sides of her chair.
“You don’t know,” she murmured. “It isn’t right. No—
oh, it must be No !”
Sir Geoffrey echoed her sigh. As he watched her silently, the
instinct of long reticence making his forbearance natural, he saw
a new expression dawn into her troubled face. Her eyes were
fixed intently on the river ; that they should be fixed was not
strange, but there was a light of interest in them which induced
Sir Geoffrey, half involuntarily, to bend his gaze in the same
direction. He saw that Dorothy had now disembarked, and was
standing, a solitary figure, close to the edge of the landing-stage.
Something in her pose seemed to imply that she was talking, and
just at this moment she moved to one side, revealing the head and
shoulders of Jack Wilgress, which overtopped the river-bank in
such a manner as to suggest that he was standing in the punt, of
which the bamboo pole rose like a slender mast above his head.
The group was certainly pictorial : the silhouette of Dorothy’s
pretty figure telling well against the silvery river, and the young
man’s pose, too, lending itself to an effective bit of composition ;
but Sir Geoffrey felt puzzled, and even a little hurt, by the interest
that Margaret displayed at a moment which he at least had found
sufficiently strenuous. He turned, stooping to pick up his hat ;
then he paused, and was about to speak, when Mrs. Vandeleur
interrupted him, mutely, with a glance, followed swiftly by the
return of her eyes to the river. Acquiescing patiently, Sir
Geoffrey perceived that a change had occurred in the grouping of
the two young people. Wilgress had drawn nearer to the girl ;
his figure stood higher against the watery background, apparently
he had one foot on the step of the landing-stage. Dorothy
extended a hand, which he clasped and held longer than one would
have reckoned for in the ordinary farewell. The girl shook her
head ; another movement, and the punt began to glide reluctantly
from the shore ; then it turned slowly, swinging round and
heading down-stream. Dorothy raised one hand to the bosom of
her dress, and before she dropped it to her side threw something
maladroitly towards her departing companion. Wilgress caught
the flower—it was evidently a flower—making a dash which
involved the loss of his punt-pole ; a ripple of laughter, and
Dorothy, unconscious of the four eyes which watched her from
the shadows of the walnut tree, turned slowly, and began to climb
the grassy slope.
Mrs. Vandeleur’s eyelids drooped, and her lips, which had been
parted for an instant in a pensive smile, trembled a little ; she
sighed, tapping the ground lightly with her foot, then sank back in
her chair and seemed lost in contemplation of the needlework that
lay upon her lap. Sir Geoffrey began to move away, but turned
suddenly, and stooping, took one of her hands reverently in his
own, clasping it as it lay upon the arm of her chair.
“Margaret,” he said, “forgive me; but must it be good-bye,
after all these years, or is there a chance for me ?”
Mrs. Vandeleur’s reply was inaudible ; but her hand, though it
fluttered for a moment, was not withdrawn.
By Olive Custance
Mother of the dews, dark eyelashed Twilight !
Low-lidded Twilight o’er the valley’s brim.
SPIRIT of Twilight, through your folded wings
I catch a glimpse of your averted face,
And rapturous on a sudden, my soul sings
“Is not this common earth a holy place ?”
Spirit of Twilight, you are like a song
That sleeps, and waits a singer, like a hymn
That God finds lovely and keeps near Him long,
Till it is choired by aureoled cherubim.
Spirit of Twilight, in the golden gloom
Of dreamland dim I sought you, and I found
A woman sitting in a silent room
Full of white flowers that moved and made no sound.
These white flowers were the thoughts you bring to all,
And the room’s name is Mystery where you sit,
Woman whom we call Twilight, when night’s pall
You lift across our Earth to cover it.
By Lionel Johnson
CLOUD upon cloud : and, if I were to think that an image of
life can lie in wreathing, blue tobacco smoke, pleasant
were the life so fancied. Its fair changes in air, its gentle
motions, its quiet dying out and away at last, should symbolise
something more than perfect idleness. Cloud upon cloud : and I
will think, as I have said : it is amusing to think so.
It is that death, out and away upon the air, which charms me :
charms more than the manner of the blown red rose, full of dew
at morning, upon the grass at sunset. The clouds’ end, their
death in air, fills me with a very beauty of desire ; it has no
violence in it, and it is almost invisible. Think of it ! While
the cloud lived, it was seemly and various ; and with a graceful
change it passed away : the image of a reasonable life is there,
hanging among tobacco clouds. An image and a test : an image,
because elaborated by fancy : a true and appealing image, and so,
to my present way of life, a test.
That way is, to walk about the old city, with “a spirit in my
feet,” as Shelley and Catullus have it, of joyous aims and energies ;
and to speed home to my solitary room over the steep High
Street ; in an arm-chair, to read Milton and Lucretius, with
others. There is nothing unworthy in all this : there is open air,
an ancient city, a lonely chamber, perfect poets. Those should
make up a passing life well : for death ! I can watch tobacco
clouds, exploring the secret of their beautiful conclusion. And,
indeed, I think that already this life has something of their
manner, those wheeling clouds ! It has their light touch upon
the world, and certainly their harmlessness. Early morning,
when the dew sparkles red ; honey, and coffee, and eggs for a
breakfast ; the quick, eager walk between the limes, through the
Close of fine grass, to the river fields ; then the blithe return to
my poets ; all that, together, comes to resemble the pleasant
spheres of tobacco cloud ; I mean, the circling hours, in their
passage, and in their change, have something of a dreamy order
and progression. Such little incidents ! Now, grey air and
whistling leaves : now, a marketing crowd of country folk
round the Cross : and presently, clear candles ; with Milton, in
rich Baskervile type, or Lucretius, in the exquisite print of early
Such little incidents, in a world of battles and of plagues : of
violent death by sea and land ! Yet this quiet life, too, has diffi-
culties and needs : its changes must be gone through with a
ready pleasure and a mind unhesitating. For, trivial though they
be in aspect and amount, yet the consecration of them, to be an
holy discipline of experience, is so much the greater an attempt :
it is an art. Each thing, be it man, or book, or place, should
have its rights, when it encounters me : each has its proper
quality, its peculiar spirit, not to be misinterpreted by me in
carelessness, nor overlooked with impatience. That is clear : but
neither must I vaunt my just view of common life. Meditation,
at twilight, by the window looking toward the bare downs, is
very different from that anxious examination of motives, dear to
sedulous souls. My meditation is only still life : the clouds of
smoke go up, grey and blue ; the earlier stars come out, above
the sunset and the melancholy downs ; and deep, mournful bells
ring slowly among the valley trees. Then, if my day have been
successful, what peace follows, and how profound a charm ! The
little things of the day, sudden glances of light upon grey stone,
pleasant snatches of organ music from the church, quaint rustic
sights in some near village : they come back upon me, gentle
touches of happiness, airs of repose. And when the mysteries
come about me, the fearfulness of life, and the shadow of night ;
then, have I not still the blue, grey clouds, occultis de rebus quo
referam? So I escape the tribulations of doubt, those gloomy
tribulations : and I live in the strength of dreams, which never
Is it all a delusion ? But that is a foolish wonder : nothing is
a delusion, except the extremes of pleasure and of pain. Take
what you will of the world ; its crowds, or its calms : there is
nothing altogether wrong to every one. Lucretius, upon his
watch-tower, deny it as he may, found some exultation and
delight in the lamentable prospect below : it filled him with a
magnificent darkness of soul, a princely compassion at heart.
And Milton, in his evil days, felt himself to be tragic and austere :
he knew it, not as a proud boast, but as a proud fact. No ! life
is never wrong, altogether, to every one : you and I, he and she,
priest and penitent, master and slave : one with another, we
compose a very glory of existence before the unseen Powers.
Therefore, I believe in my measured way of life ; its careful
felicities, fashioned out of little things : to you, the change of
Ministries, and the accomplishment of conquests, bring their
wealth of rich emotion : to me, who am apart from the louder
concerns of life, the flowering of the limes, and the warm autumn
rains, bring their pensive beauty and a store of memories.
Is it I, am indolent ? Is it you, are clamorous ? Why should
it be either ? Let us say, I am the lover of quiet things, and
you are enamoured of mighty events. Each, without undue
absorption in his taste, relishes the savour of a different ex-
But I think, I am no egoist : no melancholy spectator of
things, cultivating his intellect with old poetry, nourishing his
senses upon rural nature. There are times, when the swarms of
men press hard upon a solitary ; he hears the noise of the streets,
the heavy vans of merchandise, the cry of the railway whistle :
and in a moment, his thoughts travel away, to London, to Liver-
pool ; to great docks and to great ships ; and away, till he is
watching the dissimilar bustle of Eastern harbours, and hearing the
discordant sounds of Chinese workmen. The blue smoke curls
and glides away, with blue pagodas, and snowy almond bloom, and
cherry flowers, circling and gleaming in it, like a narcotic vision.
O magic of tobacco ! Dreams are there, and superb images, and
a somnolent paradise. Sometimes, the swarms of humanity press
wearily and hardly ; with a cruel insistence, crushing out my right
to happiness. I think, rather I brood, upon the fingers that
deftly rolled the cigarette, upon the people in tobacco plantations,
upon all the various commerce involved in its history : how do
they all fare, those many workers ? Strolling up and down,
devouring my books through their lettered backs ; remembering
the workers with leather, paper, ink, who toiled at them, they
frighten me from the peace. What a full world it is ! What
endless activities there are ! And, oh, Nicomachean Ethics !
how much conscious pleasure is in them all ! Things, mere
tangible things, have a terrible power of education : of calling out
from the mind innumerable thoughts and sympathies. Like
childish catechisms and categories—Whence have we sago?—plain
substances introduce me to swarms of men, before unrealised.
And they all lived and died, and cared for their children, or not,
and led reasonable lives, or not : and, without any alternative, had
casual thoughts and constant passions. Did each one of them
ever stop in his work, and think that the world revolved about
him alone ; and all was his, and for him ? Most men may have
thought so, and shivered a little afterwards ; and worked on
steadily. Or did each one of them ever think that he was always
beset with companions, hordes of men and women, necessary and
inevitable ? Then, he must have struggled a little in his mind, as
a man fights for air, and worked on steadily. It does not do :
this interrogation of mysteries, which are also facts. Nor am I
called upon, from without or from within, to write an Essay upon
the Problem of Economic Distribution. Praesentia temnis !
Nature says to me : it is the stir of the world, and the great play
of forces, that I am wailing, to no end. Let the great life
continue, and the sun shine upon bright palaces ; and geraniums,
red geraniums, glow at the windows of dingy courts ; death and
sorrow come upon both, and upon me. And on all sides there is
infinite tenderness ; the invincible good-will, which says kind and
cheerful things to every one sometimes, by a friend’s mouth ; the
humane pieties of the world, which make glad the Civitas Dei,
and make endurable the Regnum Hominis. I need not make
Full night at last ; the dead of night, as dull folk have it ;
ignorant persons, who know nothing of nocturnal beauty, of night’s
lively magic. It was a good thought, to come out of my lonely
room, to look at the cloisters by moonlight, and to wander round
the Close, under the black shadows of the buttresses, while the
moon is white upon their strange pinnacles. There is no noise,
but only a silence, which seems very old ; old, as the grey monu-
ments and the weathered arches. The wreathing, blue tobacco
clouds look thin and pale, like breath upon a dark frosty night ;
they drift about these old precincts, with a kind of uncertainty and
discomfort ; one would think, they wanted a rich Mediterranean
night, heavy odours of roses, and very fiery stars. Instead, they break
upon mouldering traceries, and doleful cherubs of the last century;
upon sunken headstones, and black oak doors with ironwork over
them. Perhaps the cigarette is southern and Latin, southern and
Oriental, after all; and I am a dreamer, out of place in this northern
grey antiquity. If it be so, I can taste the subtle pleasures of contrast:
and, dwelling upon the singular features of this old town, I can
make myself a place in it, as its conscious critic and adopted
alien. There is a curious apprehension of enjoyment, a genuine
touch of luxury, in this nocturnal visit to these old northern
things ! I consider, with satisfaction, how the Stuart king, who
spurned tobacco contumeliously, put a devoted faith in witches,
those northern daughters of the devil ; northern, and very different
from the dames of Thessaly ; from the crones of Propertius, and
of Horace, and of Apuleius the Golden. Who knows, but I may
hear strange voices in the near aisle before cockcrow ? By
night, night in the north, happen cold and dismal things ; and
then, what a night is this ! Chilly stars, and wild, grey clouds,
flying over a misty moon.
At last, here comes a great and solemn sound ; the commanding
bells of the cathedral tower, in their iron, midnight toll. Through
the sombre strokes, and striking into their long echoes, pierce
the thin cries of bats, that wheel in air, like lost creatures who
hate themselves ; the uncanny flitter-mice ! They trace superb,
invisibles circles on the night ; crying out faintly and plaintively,
with no sort of delight in their voices : things of keen teeth, furry
bodies, and skeleton wings covered scantily in leather. The big
moths, too : they blunder against my face, and dash red trails of
fire off my cigarette ; so busily they spin about the darkness.
Sadducismus triumphatus ! Yes, truly : here are little, white
spirits awake and at some faery work ; white, as heather upon the
Cornish cliffs is white, and all innocent, rare things in heaven and
earth. There is nothing dreadful, it seems, about this night, and
this place ; no glorious fury of evil spirits, doing foul and ugly
things ; only the quiet town asleep under a wild sky, and gentle
creatures of the night moving about ancient places. And the
wind rises, with a sound of the sea, murmuring over the earth
and sighing away to the sea : the trembling sea, beyond the downs,
which steals into the land by great creeks and glimmering
channels ; with swaying, taper masts along them, and lantern
lights upon black barges. Certainly, this is no Lucretian night :
not that tremendous
Nox, et noctis signa severa
Noctivagaeque faces caeli, flammaeque volantes.
Rather, it reminds me of the Miltonic night, which is peopled
Whose midnight revels by a forest side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams he sees, while overhead the moon
Sits arbitress :”
a Miltonic night, and a Shakespearean dawn ; for the white
morning has just peered along the horizon, white morning, with
dusky flames behind it ; and the spirits, the visions, vanish away,
“following darkness, like a dream.”
The streets are very still, with that silence of sleeping cities,
which seems ready to start into confused cries ; as though the
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. I
Smiter of the Firstborn were travelling through the households.
There is the Catholic chapel, in its Georgian, quaint humility ;
recalling an age of beautiful, despised simplicity ; the age of
French emigrant old priests and vicars-apostolic, who stood for
the Supreme Pontiff, in grey wigs. The sweet limes are swaying
against its singular, umbered windows, with their holy saints and
prophets in last-century design ; ruffled, querulous persons looking
very bluff and blown. I wonder, how it would be inside ; I
suppose, night has a little weakened that lingering smell of daily
incense, which seems so immemorial and so sad. Wonderful
grace of the mighty Roman Church ! This low square place,
where the sanctuary is poor and open, without any mystical touch
of retirement and of loftiness, has yet the unfailing charm, the
venerable mystery, which attend the footsteps of the Church ; the
same air of command, the same look of pleading, fill this homely,
comfortable shrine, which simple country gentlemen set up for the
ministrations of harassed priests, in an age of no enthusiasm. I like
to think that this quiet chapel, in the obedience of Rome, in
communion with that supreme apostolate, is always open to me
upon this winding little by-street ; it fills me with perfect
memories, and it seems to bless me.
But here is a benediction of light ! the quick sun, reddening
half the heavens, and rising gloriously. In the valley, clusters of
elm rock and swing with the breeze, quivering for joy : far away,
the bare uplands roll against the sunrise, calm and pastoral; otia dia
of the morning. Surely the hours have gone well, and according
to my preference ; one dying into another, as the tobacco clouds
die. My meditations, too, have been peaceful enough ; and,
though solitary, I have had fine companions. What would the
moral philosophers, those puzzled sages, think of me ? An harm-
less hedonist ? An amateur in morals, who means well, though
meaning very little ? Nay ! let the moralist by profession give, to
whom he will, sa musique, sa flamme : to any practical person, who
is a wise shareholder and zealous vestryman. For myself, my
limited and dreamy self, I eschew these upright businesses ; upright
memories and meditations please me more, and to live with as
little action as may be. Action : why do they talk of action ?
Match me, for pure activity, one evening of my dreams, when life
and death fill my mind with their messengers, and the days of old
come back to me. And now, homewards, for a little sleep ; that
profound and rich slumber at early dawn which is my choice
delight. A sleep, bathed in musical impressions, and filled with
fresh dreams, all impossible and happy ; four hours, and five, and
six perhaps : then the cathedral matin bell will chime in with my
fancies, and I shall wake harmoniously. I shall feel infinitely
cheerful, after the spirit of the Compleat Angler ; I shall remember
that I was once at Ware, and at Am well, those placid haunts of
Walton. A conviction of beauty, and contentment in life will lay
hold on me, more than commonly ; it is probable that I shall read
The Spectator, and Addison, rather than Steele, at breakfast. And
I know which paper it will be : it will be about Will Wimble
coming up to the house, with two or three hazel twigs in his hand,
fresh cut in Sir Roger’s woods. Or, if I prove faithful to my great
Lucretius : the man, not the book, for I read him in the Giuntine :
I will read that marvellous It ver et Venus ; that dancing masque
of beauty. For L’Allegro, I do not read that ; it is read aloud to
me by the morning, with exquisite, bright cadences. After my
honey from the flowers of a very rustic farm, and my coffee, from
some wonderful Eastern place ; and my eggs, marked by the careful
housewife as she took them from her henhouse, covered with
stonecrop over its old tiles ; after all these delicates, now comes the
first cigarette, pungent and exhilarating. As the grey blue
clouds go up, the ruddy sunlight glows through them, straight as
an arrow through the gold. Away they wander, out of the window,
flung back upon the air, against the roses, and disappear in the
My thoughts go with them, into the morning, into all the
mornings over the world. They travel through the lands, and
across the seas, and are everywhere at home, enjoying the presence
of life. And past things, old histories, are turned to pleasant
recollections : a pot-pourri, justly seasoned, and subtly scented ;
the evil humours and the monstrous tyrannies pass away, and leave
only the happiness and the peace.
Call me, my dear friend, what reproachful name you please ;
but, by your leave, the world is better for my cheerfulness. True,
should the terrible issues come upon me, demanding high courage,
and finding but good temper, then give me your prayers, for I
have my misdoubts. Till then, let me cultivate my place in life,
nurturing its comelier flowers ; taking the little things of time
with a grateful relish and a mind at rest. So hours and years pass
into hours and years, gently, and surely, and orderly ; as these
clouds, grey and blue clouds, of tobacco smoke, pass up to the
air, and away upon the wind ; incense of a goodly savour, cheering
the thoughts of my heart, before passing away, to disappear at
By Annie Macdonell
“To Every Man a Damsel or Two”
HE wandered up the carpeted steps, rather afraid all the while of
the two tall men in uniform who opened the great doors wide
to let him into the soft warm light and babble of voices within. At
the top he paused, and slowly unbuttoned his overcoat, not know-
ing which way to turn ; but the crowd swept him up, and carried
him round, until he found himself leaning against a padded wall
of plush, looking over a sea of heads at the stage far beneath.
He turned round, and stood watching the happy crowd, which
laughed, and talked, and nodded ceaselessly to itself. Near him,
on a sofa, with a table before her, was a woman spreading herself
out like some great beautiful butterfly on a bed of velvet pansies.
He stood admiring her half unconsciously for some time, and at
last, remembering that he was tired and sleepy, and seeing that
there was still plenty of room, he threaded his way across and sat
The butterfly began tossing a wonderful little brown satin shoe,
and tapping it against the leg of the table. Then the parasol
slipped across him, and fell to the ground. He hastened to pick
it up, lifting his hat as he did so. She seemed surprised, and
glancing at a man leaning against the wall, caught his eye, and
they both laughed. He blushed a good deal, and wondered what
he had done wrong. She spread herself out still further in his
direction, and cast side glances at him from under her Gains-
“What were you laughing at just now ?” he said impulsively.
“My dear boy, when ?”
“With that man.”
“Which man ?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, blushing again.
She looked up, and winked at the man leaning against the
“Have I offended you by speaking to you ?” he said, looking
with much concern into her eyes.
She put a little scented net of a handkerchief up to her mouth,
and went into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
“What a funny boy you are !” she gasped. “Do do it again.”
He looked at her in amazement, and moved a little further
“I’m going to tell the waiter to bring me a port—after that
last bit of business.”
“I don’t understand all this,” he said desperately : “I wish I
had never spoken to you ; I wish I had never come in here
“You’re very rude all of a sudden. Now don’t be troublesome
and say you’re too broke to pay for drinks,” she added as the
waiter put the port down with great deliberation opposite her, and
held out the empty tray respectfully to him. He stared.
“Why don’t you pay, you cuckoo ?”
Mechanically he put down a florin, and the waiter counted out
There was a pause. She fingered the stem of her wine-glass,
taking little sips, and watching him all the while.
“How often have you been here before ?” she said, suddenly
catching at his sleeve. “You must tell me. I fancy I know your
face : surely I’ve met you before somewhere ?”
“This is the first time I have ever been to a music-hall,” he
She drank off her port directly.
“Come—come away at once. Yes, all right—I’m coming with
you ; so go along.”
“But I’ve only just paid to come in,” he said hesitatingly.
“Never mind the paying,” and she stamped her little satin foot,
“but do as I tell you, and go.” And taking his arm, she led him
through the doors down to the steps, where the wind blew cold,
and the gas jets roared fitfully above.
“Go,” she said, pushing him out, “and never come here again ;
stick to the theatres, you will like them best.” And she ran up
the steps and was gone.
He rushed after her. The two tall men in uniform stepped
before the doors.
“No re-admission, sir,” said one, bowing respectfully and
touching his cap.
“But that lady,” he said, bewildered, and looking from one to
The men laughed, and one of them, shrugging his shoulders,
pointed to the box-office.
He turned, and walked down the steps. Was it all a dream ?
He glanced at his coat. The flower in his buttonhole had gone.
A Song and a Tale
By Nora Hopper
I—Lament of the Last Leprechaun
FOR the red shoon of the Shee,
For the falling o’ the leaf,
For the wind among the reeds,
My grief !
For the sorrow of the sea,
For the song’s unquickened seeds,
For the sleeping of the Shee,
My grief !
For dishonoured whitethorn-tree,
For the runes that no man reads,
Where the grey stones face the sea,
My grief !
Lissakeole, that used to be
Filled with music night and noon,
For their ancient revelry,
My grief !
For the empty fairy shoon,
Hollow rath and yellow leaf;
Hands unkissed to sun or moon :
My grief—my grief !
AINAN-NA-RIGH they called him in Tir Ailella*—”Darling
of the King”—but it was in idle sport, for Cathal the Red
hated the son of his old age as men now have forgotten to hate ;
and once Aonan had sprung from his sleep with a sharp skene
thrust through his arm, that had meant to drink his life-blood ;
and once again he had found himself alone in the heart of the
battle, and he had scarcely won out of the press with his life—and
with the standard of the Danish enemy. Thus it was seen that
neither did the Danish spears love the “King’s Darling”; and
the sennachies made a song of this, and it was chanted before the
King for the first time when he sat robed and crowned for the
Beltane feast, and Aonan stood at his left hand, pouring out
honey-wine into his father’s cup. And before he drank, Cathal
the King stared hard at the cup-bearer, and the red light that
burned in his eyes was darkened because of the likeness in
Aonan’s face to his mother Acaill (dead and buried long since),
whom Cathal had loved better than his first wife Eiver, who was
a king’s daughter, and better than the Danish slave Astrild, who
bore him five sons, elder and better-loved than Aonan, for all the
base blood in their veins. And of these, two were dead in the
battle that had spared Aonan, and there were left to Cathal the
* Now Tirerrill, Co. Sligo.
King only the Druid Coloman, and Toran the boaster, and
Guthbinn of the sweet voice, who as yet was too young to fight.
“Drink, Aonan-na-Righ,” shrilled Astrild from her seat at the
King’s left hand. “Drink : lest there be death in the cup.”
Aonan took up the golden cup, and gave her back smile for
smile. “I drink,” he said, “to my mother, Acaill of Orgiall.”
But the King snatched the cup from his fingers, and dashed it
down on the board, so that the yellow mead spilled and stained
Astrild’s cloak ; but she did not dare complain, for there was the
red light in Cathal’s eyes that was wont to make the boldest
“Bring me another cup,” he said to one that stood near.
“And now, will none of ye do honour to the toast of Aonan-na-
Righ ? Bring ye also a cup for the prince ; and, Guthbinn, put
your harp aside.”
So in silence they drank to the memory of Acaill of Orgiall,
and afterwards they sought to spin together the threads of their
broken mirth, but not easily, for Astrild, who was wont to be
gayest, sat pale, with her hand on the knife hidden in her breast ;
and the King sat dumb and frowning, thinking, as Astrild knew,
of dead Acaill : how he had loved and hated her, and, having slain
her father and brothers, and brought her to Dunna Scaith a Golden
Hostage wearing a golden chain, he had wedded her for her
beauty’s sake ; and how until her child was born she had never so
much as smiled or frowned for him ; and how, when her babe lay
in her arms, she sent for her husband, and said : “I thank thee,
Cathal, who hast set me free by means of this babe. I bless thee
for this last gift of thine, who for all thine other gifts have cursed
thee.” And Cathal remembered how he had held babe and
mother to his heart, and said : “Good to hear soft words from thy
mouth at last, O Acaill ! Speak again to me, and softly. But
she had not answered, for her first soft words to him were her
last. And Astrild, watching him, saw his face grow black and
angry, and she smiled softly to herself, and aloud she said :
“Oh, Guthbinn, sing again, and sing of thy brothers who fell
to-day—sing of Oscar, the swift in battle, and Uaithne, of the
dark eyes. And will my lord give leave that I, their mother, go
to weep for them in my own poor house where they were born ?”
“No,” said Cathal. “I bought you and your tears, girl, with
gold rings, from Ocaill of Connaught. Sing to me now, and keep
thy tears for to-morrow.” So Astrild drove back her sorrow, and
began to sing, while her son Guthbinn plucked slow music from his
“Earrach, Samhradh, Foghmhar, and Geimhridh,
Are over all and done :
And now the web forgets the weaver,
And earth forgets the sun.
I sowed no seed, and pulled no blossom,
Ate not of the green corn :
With empty hands and empty bosom,
Behold, I stand forlorn.
Windflower I sang, and Flower o’ Sorrow,
Half-Summer, World’s Delight :
I took no thought o’ the coming morrow,
No care for the coming night.”
Guthbinn’s hand faltered on the harpstrings, and the singer stopped
swiftly : but King Cathal stayed the tears in her heart with an
angry word. “Have I had not always had my will ? And it is
not my will now for you to weep.” So Astrild sat still, and she
looked at her sons : but Toran was busy boasting of the white
neck and blue eyes of the new slave-girl he had won, and Coloman
was dreaming, as he sat with his eyes on the stars that showed
through the open door : and only Guthbinn met her eyes and
answered them, though he seemed to be busy with his harp. And
presently Cathal rose up, bidding all keep their seats and finish
out the feast, but Astrild and Aonan he bade follow him. And
so they went into the farthest chamber of the House of Shields,
which looked upon a deep ditch. Now the end of the chamber
was a wall of wattles, and here there was cut a door that led out
on a high bank which overlooked the ditch. And the King went
out upon the bank, where there was a chair placed ready for him,
and Astrild sat at his knee, and Aonan-na-Righ stood a little
way off. And Cathal sat still for a time, holding Astrild’s hand
in his, and presently he said : “Who put the death in the cup
to-night, Astrild, thou or Guthbinn ?” And Astrild tried to
draw her hand away and to rise, but he held her in her place, and
asked again, “Guthbinn, or thou ?” until she answered him
sullenly as she knelt, “King, it was I.”
“Belike, Guthbinn’s hand did thy bidding,” he said, in laughing
fashion. “Was the death for me or for Aonan yonder, thou Red-
And Astrild laughed as she answered, “For Aonan-na-Righ,
my lord.” And then she shrieked and sought to rise, for she saw
death in the king’s face as it bent over her.
“If thou hadst sought to slay thy master, Red-Hair, I might
have forgiven thee,” Cathal said ; “but what had my son to do
with thee, my light-o’-love ?”
“Give me a day,” Astrild said desperately, “and I will kill father
and son, and set the light-o’-love’s children on your throne, Cathal.”
“I doubt it not, my wild-cat, but I will not give ye the day :”
Cathal laughed. “Good courage, girl—and call thy Danish gods
to aid, for there is none other to help thee, now.”
“What will my lord do?” Aonan said quickly, as the Dane
turned a white face and flaming eyes to him. “Wouldst kill
“Ay,” said Cathal the King. “But first she shall leave her
beauty behind her, lest she meet thy mother in the Land of Youth,
and Acaill be jealous.”
“Leave her beauty and breath, lord,” Aonan said, drawing
nearer. “If my mother Acaill lived she would not have her slain.
My king, she pleased thee once ; put her from thee if she vexes
thee now ; but leave her life, since something thou owest
“She would have slain thee to-day, Aonan, and if I have dealt
ill by thee, I let no other deal thus. Yet if thou prayest me for
thy life, girl, for love of Acaill I will give it thee.”
And Cathal laughed, for he knew the Dane would not plead in
that name. Astrild laughed too. “Spare thy breath, son of
Acaill,” she said scornfully. “To-morrow the cord may be round
thy neck, and thou be in need of breath ; now lord, the cord for
Cathal smiled grimly.
“Blackheart,” he said, “thou hast no lack of courage. Now
up,” and he loosened her hands, “and fly if thou wilt—swim the
ditch, and get thee to Drumcoll-choille—and Guthbinn shall die
in thy stead. What ! Thou wouldst liefer die ? Back then to
yonder chamber, where my men will deal with thee as I have
ordered, and be as patient as in thee lies. A kiss first, Red-Hair ;
and hearken from yonder chamber if thou wilt, while Aonan sings
a dirge for thee.”
She went ; and presently there rang from within the chamber
the shrill scream of a woman’s agony, and Cathal laughed to see
Aonan’s face turn white. “She is not as patient as thou,” he
said, “but she will learn. Keep thou my word to her, Aonan ;
sing a dirge for her beauty a-dying.”
“I cannot sing,” Aonan-na-Righ said, shivering as there rose
another shriek. “Let them slay her, my lord, and have done.”
“My will runs otherwise,” said Cathal, smiling. “Sing, if
thou lovest thy life.”
“My lord knows that I do not,” Aonan answered ; and Cathal
“Belike not ; but sing and lessen the Dane’s punishment.
When the song is finished she shall be released, and even tended
So Aonan sang the song of the Dane-land over the water, and
the Danes that died in the Valley of Keening—which is now called
Waterford ; of the white skin and red hair of Astrild ; of her
grace and daring ; of the sons that lay dead on the battle-place ;
of Coloman the dreamer that read the stars ; and of the beautiful
boy whose breast was a nest of nightingales. And then he sang—
more softly—of the Isle of the Noble where Acaill dwelt, and how
she would have shadowed Astrild with her pity if she had lived ;
and then he stopped singing and knelt before the King, dumb for
a moment with the passion of his pity, for from the open door
they could hear a woman moaning still.
“Lord,” he said, “make an end. My life for hers—if a life
the King must have ; or my pain for hers—if the King must needs
feed his ears with cries.”
“Graciously spoken, and like Acaill’s son,” King Cathal said.
“And Astrild shall be set free. You within the chamber take
the Dane to her son the lord Coloman’s keeping ; and thou, my
son Aonan, tarry here till I return. I may have a fancy to send
thee with a message to thy mother before dawn. Nay, but come
with me, and we will go see Coloman, and ask how his mother
does. Give me thine arm to lean on ; I am tired, Aonan, I am old,
and an end has come to my pleasure in slaying …. Coloman !”
They were in Coloman’s chamber now, and the Druid turned
from star-gazing to greet the King, with a new dark look in his
gentle face. “Coloman, how does thy mother do now ? She had
grown too bold in her pride, but we did not slay her because of
Aonan here. How works our medicine that we designed to
temper her beauty ?”
“Well, lord. No man will kiss my mother’s beauty more.”
“Good : now she will turn her feet into ways of gentleness,
perhaps. Thou boldest me a grudge for this medicine o’ mine,
my son Coloman ?”
“Lord, she is my mother,” the Druid said, looking down.
“The scars will heal,” Cathal said ; “but—Aonan here has only
seen her beautiful. Coloman, wouldst thou have him see her
scarred and foul to see ?”
“No, lord,” the Druid said fiercely. Cathal laughed.
“Have a gift of me, then, O Coloman,” he said. “Spare him
from sight of a marred beauty, in what way thou canst. I give
thee his eyes for thy mother’s scars.”
The two young men looked at each other steadily : then
Aonan spoke. “Take the payment that the King offers thee,
Coloman, without fear : a debt is a debt.”
“And the debt is heavy.”
Coloman said hoarsely : “Lord, wilt thou go and leave Aonan-
na-Righ to me ? And wilt thou send to me thy cunning men,
Flathartach and Fadhar ? I must have help.”
“Aonan-na-Righ will not hinder thee, Coloman,” said the
King, mockingly. “He desires greatly to meet with his mother :
and do thou commend me also to the Lady Eivir, whom I wedded
first, and who loved me well.”
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. K
“Call me also to thy mother’s memory,” Toran the boaster
cried presently, when all was made ready, and Coloman bade draw
the irons from the brazier—”if thou goest so far, Darling of the
“I will remember,” Aonan said : and then fire and flesh met.
* * * * *
At the next Beltane feast Cathal the Red slept beside Acaill in
the burial-place of the kings at Brugh, and Guthbinn sat in the
high seat, Toran the boaster at his right hand. But Coloman the
Druid stood on the tower-top, reading the faces of the stars ; and
along the road that wound its dusty way to the country of the
Golden Hostages there toiled two dark figures : a woman and a
man. Now the woman was hooded and masked, but under the
grey hood the moonlight found a gleam of ruddy hair ; and the
man she led by the hand and watched over as a mother watches
her son. Yet the woman was Danish Astrild, and the blind man
By S. Cornish Watkins
THE hot white road winds on and on before,
The hot white road fades into haze behind,
With clinging dust each hedge is powdered o’er,
The sun is high, no shelter can we find.
A dusty bird upon a dusty spray
Sings o’er and o’er a little dreary song,
There is no rest, no rest, the livelong day,
And we are weary, and the way is long.
We know not whence we come, or whither wend,
What goal may be to which our journey draws,
Fate binds this burden on us, and the end
We know not, care not, and we must not pause.
A motley train we move. The young, the old,
Women and men, with feeble steps or strong,
Driven, like herded sheep, from fold to fold—
Oh, we are weary, and the way is long.
Vain whispers have we known, and hopes as vain ;
And one, he bore a banner with a cross,
And spake wild words of comfort after pain,
And future gain to balance present loss.
But where he is we wot not. We have lost
All hopes we had, all faiths or right or wrong,
We have been shaken, shattered, tempest-tost,
And we are weary, and the way is long.
Yet still, within each bosom smoulders there
Some little spark that might have been divine,
Something that will not let us quite despair,
Something we cannot, if we would, resign.
Some day the spark may quicken and may guide,
And fire the soul within us, dead so long,
So may there be, when falls the eventide,
A joyous ending to a grievous song.
A Study in Sentimentality
A PHANTOM regiment of giant mist-pillars swept silently
across the valley ; beaded drops loaded each tuft of coarse,
dull-tinted grass ; the peat-hags gaped like black, dripping flesh-
wounds in the earth’s side; the distance suggested rectangular fields
and wooded slopes—vague, grey, phantasmagoric ; and down over
everything floated the damp of fine rain.
Alec’s heavy tread crunched the turfed bridle-path rhythmically,
and from the stiff rim of his clerical hat the water dribbled on to
It was a rugged, irregular, almost uncouth face, and now the
features were vacantly huddled in a set expression, obviously
habitual. The cheeks were hunched up, almost concealing the
small eyes ; a wet wisp of hair straggled over the puckered
forehead, and the ragged, fair moustache was spangled by the
At his approach the sheep scampered up the fell-side ; then,
stood staring through the mist in anxious stupidity. And Alec,
shaking the water from his hat, strode forward with an almost
imperceptible gleam on his face. It was so that he liked the valley
—all colourless and blurred, with the sky close overhead, like a low,
By-and-by, a cluster of cottages loomed ahead—a choppy pool
of black slate roofs, wanly a-glimmer in the wet. As he entered
the village, a group of hard-featured men threw him a curt
chorus of greetings, to which he raised his stick in response,
He mounted the hill. Three furnace-chimneys craned their
thin necks to grime the sky with a dribbling, smoky breath ;
high on a bank of coal-dust, blurred silhouettes of trucks stood
waiting in forlorn strings ; women, limp, with unkempt hair,
and loose, bedraggled skirts, stood round the doorways in gossiping
“Which is Mrs. Matheson’s ?” he stopped to ask.
“There—oop there, Mr. Burkett—by yon ash—where them
childer’s standin’,” they answered, all speaking together, eagerly.
“Look ye ! that be Mrs. Matheson herself.”
Alec went up to the woman. His face clouded a little, and the
puffs from his pipe came briskly in rapid succession.
“Mrs. Matheson, I’ve only just heard——Tell me, how did
it happen ?” he asked gently.
She was a stout, red-faced woman, and her eyes were all bloodshot
with much crying. She wiped them hastily with the corner of
her apron before answering.
“It was there, Mr. Burkett, by them rails. He was jest playin’
aboot in t’road wi’ Arnison’s childer. At half-past one, t’grand-
moother stepped across to fetch me a jug o’ fresh water an’
she see’d him settin’ in door there. Then—mabbee twenty minutes
later—t’ rain coome on an’ I thought to go to fetch him in.
But I could’na see na sign of him anywhere. We looked oop
and doon, and thought, mabbee, he’d toddled roond to t’ back.
An’ then, all at once, Dan Arnison called to us that he was leein’
in t’ water, doon in beck-pool. An’ Dan ran straight doon, an’
carried him oop to me ; but t’was na use. He was quite cold
and drownded. An’ I went——” But the sobs, rising thickly,
swallowed the rest.
Alec put his hand on her shoulder soothingly.
“Ay, I know’d ye’d be grieved, Mr. Burkett. He was the
bonniest boy in all t’ parish.”
She lifted the apron to her eyes again, while he crossed to the
railings. The wood of the posts was splintered and worm-eaten,
and the lower rail was broken away. Below, the rock shelved
down some fifteen feet to the beck-pool, black and oily-looking.
“It’s a very dangerous place,” he said, half to himself.
“Ay, Mr. Burkett, you’re right,” interrupted a bent and
wizened old woman, tottering forward.
“This be grandmoother, Mr. Burkett,” Mrs. Matheson ex-
plained. “‘Twas grandmoother that see’d him last——”
“Ay, Mr. Burkett,” the old woman began in a high, tremulous
treble. “When I went fer to fill t’ jug fer Maggie he was
a-settin’ on t’ steps there playin with t’ kitten, an’ he called after
me, ‘Nanny !’ quite happy-like ; but I took na notice, but jest
went on fer t’ water. I shawed Mr. Allison the broken rail
last month, when he was gittin’ t’ rents, and I told him he
ought to put it into repair, with all them wee childer playin’ all
daytime on t’ road. Didn’t I, Maggie?” Mrs. Matheson
assented incoherently. “An’ he was very civil-like, was Mr.
Allison, and he said he’d hev’ it seen to. It’s alus that way,
Mr. Burkett,” the old woman concluded, shaking her head wisely.
“Folks wait till some accident occurs, and then they think to
Alec turned to the mother, and touched her thick, nerveless hand.
“There, there, Mrs. Matheson, don’t take on so,” he said.
At his touch her sobbing suddenly ceased, and she let her apron
“Will ye na coome inside, Mr. Burkett ?” she asked.
And they all three went in together.
The little room had been scrubbed and tidied, and a number of
chairs, ranged round the table, blocked the floor.
“We’ve bin busy all marnin’, gitting’ things a bit smartened
oop for t’inquest. T’ coroner’s cooming at twelve,” the grand-
“Will ye coome oopstairs, Mr. Burkett—jest—jest to tak’ a
look at him ? ” Mrs. Matheson asked in a subdued voice.
Alec followed her, squeezing his burly frame up the narrow,
The child lay on the clean, white bed. A look of still serenity
slept on his pallid face. His tawny curls were smoothed back,
and some snowdrops were scattered over the coverlet. All was
Mrs. Matheson stood in the doorway, struggling noisily with
“It is God’s will,” Alec said quietly.
“He was turned four last week,” she blurted out. “Ye’ll
excuse me, Mr. Burkett, but I’m that overdone that I jest canna’
help myself,” and she sank into a chair.
He knelt by the dead child’s side and prayed, while the slow
rise and fall of the mother’s sobs rilled the room. When he rose
his eyes were all moist.
“God will help you, if you ask Him. His ways are secret. We
cannot understand His purpose. But have faith in Him. He has
done it for the best,” he said.
“Ay, I know, I know, Mr. Burkett. But ye see he was the
youngest, and that bonny——”
“Let me try to comfort you,” he said.
When they came downstairs again, her face was calmer and her
voice steadier. The coroner, a dapper man with a bright-red tie,
was taking off his gloves and macintosh ; the room was fast filling
with silent figures, and the old grandmother was hobbling to and
fro with noisy, excited importance.
“Will ye na’ stay for t’ inquest ?”
Alec shook his head. “No, I can’t stop now. I have a School-
board meeting to go to. But I will come up this afternoon.”
“Thank’ee, Mr. Burkett, God bless thee,” said Mrs. Matheson.
He shook hands with the coroner, who was grumbling con-
cerning the weather ; then strode out back down the valley.
Though long since he had grown familiar with the aspects of
suffering, that scene in the cottage, by reason of its very simplicity,
had affected him strangely. His heart was full of slow sorrow for
the woman’s trouble, and the image of the child, lying beautiful
in its death-sleep, passed and repassed in his mind.
By-and-bye, the moaning of the wind, the whirling of lost
leaves, the inky shingle-beds that stained the fell-sides, inclined his
thoughts to a listless brooding.
Life seemed dull, inevitable, draped in sombre, drifting shadows,
like the valley-head. Yet in all good he saw the hand of God, a
mysterious, invisible force, ever imperiously at work beneath the
ravages of suffering and of sin.
It was close upon six o’ clock when he reached home. He was
drenched to the skin, and as he sat before the fire, dense clouds of
steam rose from his mud-stained boots and trousers.
“Now, Mr. Burkett, jest ye gang and tak off them things,
while I make yer tea. Ye’ll catch yer death one of these days—
I know ye will. I sometimes think ye haven’t more sense than
a boy, traipsin’ about all t’ day in t’ wet, and niver takin’ yer
A faint smile flickered across his face. He was used to his
“A child was drowned yesterday in the beck up at Beda
Cottages. I had to go back there this afternoon to arrange about
the funeral,” he mumbled, half-apologetically.
Mrs. Parkin snorted defiantly, bustling round the table as she
spread the cloth. Presently she broke out again :
“An’ noo, ye set there lookin’ as white as a bogle. Why
don’t ye go an’ git them wet clothes off. Ye’re fair wringin’.”
He obeyed ; though the effort to rise was great. He felt
curiously cold : his teeth were clacking, and the warmth from the
flames seemed delicious.
In his bedroom a dizziness caught him, and it was a moment
before he could recognise the familiar objects. And he realised
that he was ill, and looked at himself in the glass with a dull, scared
expression. He struggled through his dressing however, and went
back to his tea. But, though he had eaten nothing since the
morning, he had no appetite ; so, from sheer force of habit, he lit
a pipe, wheeling his chair close to the fire.
And, as the heat penetrated him, his thoughts spun aimlessly
round the day’s events, till these gradually drifted into the back-
ground of his mind, as it were, and he and they seemed to have
become altogether detached. His forehead was burning, and a
drowsy, delicious sense of physical weakness was stealing over his
limbs. He was going to be ill, he remembered ; and it was with
vague relief that he looked forward to the prospect of long days of
monotonous inactivity, long days of repose from the daily routine
of fatigue. The details of each day’s work, the accomplishment
of which, before, had appeared so indispensable, now, he felt in his
lassitude, had faded to insignificance. Mrs. Parkin was right :
he had been overdoing himself; and with a clear conscience he
would take a forced holiday in bed. Things in the parish would
get along without him till the end of the week. There was
only the drowned child’s funeral, and, if he could not go, Milner,
the neighbouring vicar, would take it for him. His pipe slipped
from his hand to the hearthrug noiselessly, and his head sank
forward. . . .
He was dreaming of the old churchyard. The trees were
rocking their slim, bare arms ; drip, drip, drip, the drops pattered
on to the tombstones, tight-huddled in the white, wet light of the
moon ; the breath of the old churchyard tasted warm and moist,
like the reek of horses after a long journey.
The child’s funeral was finished. Mrs. Matheson had cried
noisily into her apron ; the mourners were all gone now ; and
alone, he sat down on the fresh-dug grave. By the moonlight he
tried to decipher the names carved on the slabs ; but most of the
letters had faded away, and moss-cushions had hidden the rest.
Then he found it—”George Matheson, aged four years and five
days,” and underneath were carved Mrs. Matheson’s words :
“He was the bonniest boy in all the parish.” He sat on, with
the dread of death upon him, the thought of that black senseless-
ness ahead, possessing him, so sudden, so near, so intimate, that it
seemed entirely strange to have lived on, forgetful of it. By-
and-bye, he saw her coming towards him—Ethel, like a figure
from a picture, wearing a white dress that trailed behind her,
a red rose pinned at the waist, and the old smile on her lips. And
she came beside, him, and told him how her husband had gone
away for ever, and he understood at once that he and she were
betrothed again, as it had been five years ago. He tried to answer
her, but somehow the words would not come ; and, as he was
striving to frame them, there came a great crash. A bough
clattered down on the tombstones ; and with a start he awoke.
A half-burned coal was smoking in the fender. He felt as if he
had been sleeping for many hours.
He fell to stupidly watching the red-heat, as it pulsed through
the caves of coal, to imagining himself climbing their ashen
mountain-ridges, across dark defiles, up the face of treacherous
precipices. . . .
Hundreds of times, here, in this room, in this chair, before this
fire, he had sat smoking, picturing the old scenes to himself,
musing of Ethel Fulton (Ethel Winn she had been then ; but,
after her marriage, he had forced himself to think of her as bearing
her husband’s name—that was a mortification from which he had
derived a sort of bitter satisfaction). But now, with the long
accumulation of his solitude—five years he had been vicar of
Scarsdale—he had grown so unconscious of self, so indifferent to
the course of his own existence, that every process of his mind
had, from sheer lack of external stimulation, stagnated, till, little
by little, the growth of mechanical habit had come to mould its
shape and determine its limitations. And hence, not for a
moment had he ever realised the grip that this habit of senti-
mental reminiscence had taken on him, nor the grotesque extent
of its futile repetition. Such was the fervour of his attitude
towards his single chapter of romance.
Five years ago, she and he had promised their lives to one
another. And the future had beckoned them onward, gaily,
belittling every obstacle in its suffusion of glad, alluring colour.
He was poor : he had but his curate’s stipend, and she was used to
a regular routine of ease. But he would have tended her wants,
waiting on her, watching over her, indefatigably ; chastening all
the best that was in him, that he might lay it at her feet. And
together, hand in hand, they would have laboured in God’s service.
At least so it seemed to him now.
Then had come an enforced separation ; and later, after a
prolonged, unaccountable delay, a letter from her explaining, in
trite, discursive phrases, how it could never be—it was a mistake
—she had not known her own mind—now she could see things
clearer—she hoped he would forgive and forget her.
A wild determination to go at once to her, to plead with her,
gripped him ; but for three days he was helpless, bound fast by
parish duties. And when at last he found himself free, he had
already begun to perceive the hopelessness of such an errand, and,
with crushed and dogged despair, to accept his fate as irrevocable.
In his boyhood—at the local grammar-school, where his ugli-
ness had made him the butt of his class, and later, at an insignificant
Oxford college, where, to spare his father, whose glebe was at the
time untenanted, he had set himself grimly to live on an impossibly
slender allowance—at every turn of his life, he had found himself
at a disadvantage with his fellows. Thus he had suffered much,
dumbly—meekly many would have said—without a sign of resent-
ment, or desire for retaliation. But all the while, in his tenacious,
long-suffering way, he was stubbornly inuring himself to an
acceptance of his own disqualifications. And so, once rudely
awakened from his dream of love, he wondered with heavy
curiosity at his faith in its glamorous reality, and, remembering
the tenour of his life, suffered bitterly like a man befooled by his
Some months after the shattering of his romance, the rumour
reached him that James Fulton, a prosperous solicitor in the town,
was courting her. The thing was impossible, a piece of idle
gossip, he reasoned with himself. Before long, however, he heard
it again, in a manner that left no outlet for doubt.
It seemed utterly strange, unaccountable, that she, whose eager
echoing of all his own spiritual fervour and enthusiasm for the
work of the Church still rang in his ears, should have chosen a
man, whose sole talk had seemed to be of dogs and of horses, of
guns and of game ; a man thick-minded, unthinking, self-com-
placent ; a man whom he himself had carelessly despised as devoid
of any spark of spirituality.
And, at this moment, when the first smartings of bitter bewil-
derment were upon him, the little living of Scarsdale fell vacant,
and his rector, perhaps not unmindful of his trouble, suggested
that he should apply for it.
The valley was desolate and full of sombre beauty ; the parish,
sparsely-peopled but extensive ; the life there would be monotonous,
almost grim, with long hours of lonely brooding. The living was
offered to him. He accepted it excitedly.
And there, busied with his new responsibilities, throwing him-
self into the work with a suppressed, ascetic ardour, news of the
outside world reached him vaguely, as if from afar.
He read of her wedding in the local newspaper : later, a few
trite details of her surroundings ; and then, nothing more.
But her figure remained still resplendent in his memory, and, as
time slipped by, grew into a sort of gleaming shrine, incarnating
for him all the beauty of womanhood. And gradually, this incar-
nation grew detached, as it were, from her real personality, so that,
when twice a year he went back to spend Sunday with his old
rector, to preach a sermon in the parish church, he felt no shrink-
ing dread lest he should meet her. He had long ceased to bear any
resentment against her, or to doubt that she had done what was
right. The part that had been his in the little drama seemed
altogether of lesser importance.
All night he lay feverishly tossing, turning his pillow aglow
with heat, from side to side ; anxiously reiterating whole inco-
herent conversations and jumbled incidents.
At intervals, he was dimly conscious of the hiss of wind-swept
leaves outside, and of rain-gusts rattling the window-panes ; and
later, of the sickly light of early morning streaking the ceiling
with curious patterns. By-and-bye, he dropped into a fitful sleep,
and forgot the stifling heat of his bed.
Then the room had grown half full of daylight, and Mrs.
Parkin was there, fidgetting with the curtains. She said some-
thing which he did not hear, and he mumbled that he had slept
badly, and that his head was aching.
Some time later—how long he did not know—she appeared again,
and a man, whom he presently understood to be a doctor, and who
put a thermometer, the touch of which was deliciously cool, under
his armpit, and sat down at the table to write. Mrs. Parkin
and he talked in whispers at the foot of the bed : they went away ;
Mrs. Parkin brought him a cup of beef-tea and some toast ; and
then he remembered only the blurred memories of queer, un-
Consciousness seemed to return to him all of a sudden ; and,
when it was come, he understood dimly that, somehow, the fatigue of
long pain was over, and he tasted the peaceful calm of utter lassitude.
He lay quite still, his gaze following Mrs. Parkin, as she moved
to and fro across the room, till it fell on a basket-full of grapes
that stood by the bedside. They were unfamiliar, inexplicable ;
they puzzled him ; and for awhile he feebly turned the matter
over in his mind. Presently she glanced at him, and he lifted his
hand towards the basket.
“Would ye fancy a morsel o’ fruit noo ? ‘Twas Mrs. Fulton
that sent ’em,” she said.
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. L
She held the basket towards him, and he lifted a bunch from it.
They were purple grapes, large and luscious-looking. Ethel had
sent them. How strange that was ! For an instant he doubted
if he were awake, and clutched the pillow to make sure that it was
“Mrs. Fulton sent them ?” he repeated.
“Ay, her coachman came yesterday in t’ forenoon to inquire
how ye were farin’, and left that fruit for ye. Ay, Mr. Burkett,
but ye’ve had a mighty quantity o’ callers. Most all t’ parish has
been askin for news o’ ye. An’ that poor woman from t’ factory
cottages has been doon forenoon and night.”
“How long have I been in bed ?” he asked after a pause.
“Five days and five nights. Ye’ve bin nigh at death’s door,
ravin’ and moanin’ like a madman. But, noo, I must’na keep ye
chatterin’. Ye should jest keep yeself quiet till t’ doctor coomes.
He’ll be mighty surprised to find ye so much improved, and in
possession of yer faculties.”
And she left him alone.
He lay staring at the grapes, while excitement quickened every
pulse. Ethel had sent them—they were from Ethel—Ethel had
sent them through his brain, to and fro, boisterously, the thought
danced. And then, he started to review the past, dispassionately,
critically, as if it were another man’s ; and soon, every detail, as he
lingered on it, seemed to disentangle itself, till it all achieved a curious
simplification. The five years at Scarsdale became all blurred : they
resembled an eventless waste-level, through which he had been
mechanically trudging. But the other day, it seemed, he was with
her—he and she betrothed to one another. A dozen scenes passed
before his eyes : with a flush of hot, intolerable shame, he saw
himself, clumsy, uncouth, devoid of personal charm, viewing her
bluntly, selfishly through the cumbrous medium of his own
personality. And her attitude was clear too : the glamour, woven
of habitual, sentimental reminiscence, faded, as it were, from her
figure, and she appeared to him simply and beautifully human ;
living, vibrating, frail. Now he knew the meaning of that last
letter of hers—the promptings of each phrase ; the outpourings of
his ideals, enthusiasms, aspirations—callow, blatant, crude, he
named them bitterly—had scared her : she had felt herself unequal
to the strain of the life he had offered her : in her loveable,
womanish frailty, she had grown to dread it ; and he realised all
that she had suffered before she had brought herself to end it—the
long struggles with doubt and suspense. The veil that had
clogged his view was lifted : he knew her now : he could read
the writing on her soul : he was securely equipped for loving her ;
and now, she had passed out of his life, beyond recall. In his
blindness he had not recognised her, and had driven her away.
How came it that to-day, for the first time, all these things were
made clear ?
The clock struck ; and while he was listening to its fading
note, the door-handle clicked briskly, and the doctor walked in.
He talked cheerily of the crops damaged by the storm, and the
sound of his voice seemed to vibrate harshly through the
“There’s a heavy shower coming up,” he remarked. “By the
way, you’re quite alone here, Mr. Burkett, I believe. Have you
no relatives whom you would like to send for ?”
“No—no one,” Alec answered. “Mrs. Parkin will look after
“Yes—but you see,” and he came and sat down by the bedside,
“I don’t say there’s any immediate danger ; but you’ve had a very
near touch of it. Now isn’t there any old friend ?—you ought
not to be alone like this.” He spoke the last words with emphasis.
Alec shook his head. His gaze had fallen on the basket of
grapes again : he was incoherently musing of Ethel.
“Mind, I don’t say there’s any immediate danger,” he heard the
man repeating; “but I must tell you that you’re not altogether
out of the wood yet.”
“You ought to be prepared for the worst, Mr. Burkett.”
The last phrase lingered in Alec’s mind ; and slowly its
meaning dawned upon him.
“You mean I might die at any moment ? ” he asked.
“No, no—I don’t say that,” the other answered evasively.
“But you see the fever has left you very weak ; and of course in
such cases one can never be quite sure——”
The rest did not reach Alec’s ears ; he was only vaguely aware
of the murmur of the man’s voice.
Presently he perceived that he had risen.
“I will come back in the afternoon,” he was saying. “I’ll tell
Mrs.—Mrs. Parker to bring you in some breakfast.”
After the doctor had gone he dozed a little . . .
Then remembered the man’s words—”No immediate danger,
but you must be prepared for the worst.” The sense of it all
flashed upon him : he understood what the man had meant : that
was the way doctors always told such things he guessed. So the
end was near . . . He wondered, a little curiously, if it would
come before to-night, or to-morrow … It was near, quite near,
he repeated to himself; and gradually, a peacefulness permeated
his whole being, and he was vaguely glad to be alone. . . .
A little while, and he would be near God. He felt himself
detached from the world, and at peace with all men.
His life, as he regarded it trailing behind him, across the stretch
of past years, seemed inadequate, useless, pitiable almost ; of his
own personality, as he now realised it, he was ashamed—petty
mortifications, groping efforts, a grotesque capacity for futile,
melancholy brooding—he rejoiced that he was to have done with
it. The end was near, quite near, he repeated once again.
Then, afterwards, would come rest—the infinite rest of the
Saviour’s tenderness, and the strange, wonderful expectation
of the mysterious life to come . . . A glimpse of his own serenity, of
his own fearlessness, came to him ; and he was moved by a quick
flush of gratitude towards God. He thought of the terror of the
atheist’s death—the world, a clod of dead matter blindly careering
through space ; humanity, a casual, senseless growth, like the
pullulating insects on a rottening tree. . . .
A little while, only a little while, and he would be near God.
And, softly, under his breath, he implored pardon for the countless
shortcomings of his service. . . .
The German clock on the mantel-piece ticked with methodical
fussiness : the flames in the grate flickered lower and lower ; and one
by one dropped, leaving dull-red cinders. Through the window,
under the half-drawn blind, was the sky, cold with the hard, white
glare of the winter sun, flashing above the bare, bony mountain-
backs ; and he called to mind spots in the little, desolate parish,
which, with a grim, clinging love, he had come to regard as his
own for always. Who would come after him, live in this house
of his, officiate in the square, grey-walled church, move and work
in God’s service among the people ? . . .
And, while he lay drowsily musing on the unfinished dream,
a muffled murmur of women’s voices reached his ears. By an
intuition, akin perhaps to animal instinct, he knew all at once
that it was she, talking with Mrs. Parkin down in the room below.
Prompted by a rush of imperious impulse he raised himself on his
elbow to listen.
There was a rustling of skirts in the passage and the sound of
the voices grew clearer.
“Good day, ma’am, and thank ye very kindly, I’m sure,” Mrs.
Parkin was saying.
No reply came, though he was straining every nerve to
catch it … At last, subdued, but altogether distinct, her
“You’re sure there’s nothing else I can send ?”
The door of his room was ajar. He dug his nails into the
panel-edge, and tried to swing it open. But he could scarcely
move it, and in a moment she would be gone.
Suddenly he heard his own voice—loud and queer it sounded:
Hurried steps mounted the stairs, and Mrs. Parkin’s white cap
and spectacled face appeared.
“What be t’matter, Mr. Burkett ?” she asked breathlessly.
“Stop her—tell her.”
“Dearie, dearie me, he’s off wanderin’ agin.”
“No, no ; I’m all right—tell—ask Mrs. Fulton if she would
come up to see me ?”
“There, there, Mr. Burkett, don’t ye excite yeself. Ye’re not
fit to see any one, ye know that. Lie ye doon agin, or ye’ll be
catchin’ yer death o’ cauld.”
“Ask her to come, please—just for a minute.”
“For Heaven’s sake lie doon. Ye’ll be workin’ yeself into a
fever next. There, there, I’ll ask her for ye, though I’ve na
notion what t’doctor ‘ud say.”
She drew down the blind and retired, closing the door quietly
The next thing he saw was Ethel standing by his bedside.
He lay watching her without speaking. She wore a red dress
trimmed with fur ; a gold bracelet was round her gloved wrist, and
a veil half-hid her features.
Presently he perceived that she was very white, that her mouth
was twitching, and that her eyes were full of tears.
“Alec—I’m so sorry you’re so ill … Are you in pain ?”
He shook his head absently. Her veil and the fur on her cloak
looked odd, he thought, in the half-light of the room.
“You will be better soon : the worst is over.”
“No,” he answered, with a dreary smile. “I am going to
She burst into sobs.
“No, no, Alec . . . You must not think that.”
He stretched his arm over the coverlet towards her, and felt the
soft pressure of her gloved hand.
“Forgive me, Ethel, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pain you.
But it is so ; the doctor told me this morning.”
She sat down by the bedside, still crying, pressing her handker-
chief to her eyes.
“Ethel, how strange it seems. Do you know I haven’t seen
you since I left Cockermouth ?” The words came deliberately,
for his mind had grown quite calm. “How the time has
Her grasp on his hand tightened, but she made no answer.
“It was very kind of you to come all this way, Ethel, to
see me. Will you stay a little and let me talk to you ? It’s
more than five years since we ve talked together, you know,” and
he smiled faintly. “Don’t cry so, Ethel, dear. I did not mean
to make you cry. There’s no cause to cry, dear ; you’ve made
me so happy.”
“My poor, poor Alec,” she sobbed.
“You’d almost forgotten the old days, perhaps,” he continued
dreamily, talking half to himself; “for it’s a long while ago now.
But to me it seems as if it had all just happened. You see I’ve
been vegetating rather, here in this lonely, little place . . . Don’t
go on crying, Ethel dear … let me tell you about things a little.
There’s no harm in it now, because you know I’m——”
“Oh ! don’t—don’t say that. You’ll get better. I know you
“No, Ethel, I sha’n’t. Something within me tells me that my
course is done. Besides, I don’t want to get better. I’m so
happy . . . Stay a little with me, Ethel … I wanted to
explain … I was stupid, selfish, in the old days——”
“It was I—I who—” she protested through her tears.
“No, you were quite right to write me that letter. I’ve
thought that almost from the first . . . I’m sure of it,” he added,
as if convincing himself definitely. “It could never be . . . it was
my fault … I was stupid and boorish and wrapped up in myself.
I did not try to understand your nature … I didn’t understand
anything about women … I never had a sister … I took
for granted that you were always thinking and feeling just as I
was. I never tried to understand you, Ethel … I was not fit
to be entrusted with you.”
“Alec, Alec, it is not true. You were too good, too noble-
hearted. I felt you were far above me. Beside you I felt I
was silly and frivolous. Your standards about everything seemed
But he interrupted, unheeding her :
“You don’t know, Ethel, how happy you’ve made me. … I
have thought of you every day. In the evenings, I used to sit
alone, remembering you and all the happy days we had together,
and the remembrance of them has been a great joy to me. I used
to go over them all, again and again. The day that we all went
to Morecambe, and that walk along the seashore, when the tide
caught us, and I carried you across the water . . . the time that
we went to those ruins, and you wore the primroses I picked for
you. And I used to read over all your letters, and remember all
the things you used to say. Downstairs, under the writing-table,
there is a black, tin cash-box—the key is on my bunch—Mrs.
Parkin will give it you. It’s where I’ve kept everything that has
reminded me of you, all this time. Will you take it back with
you ? . . . You don’t know how you’ve helped me all these years—
I wanted to tell you that . . . When I was in difficulties, I used to
wonder how you would have liked me to act . . . When I was
lonely and low-spirited, I used to tell myself that you were happy.”
He paused for breath, and his voice died slowly in the stillness of
the room. “You were quite right,” he murmured almost inaudibly,
“I see it all quite clearly now.”
She was bending over him, and was framing his face in her two
“Say I was wrong,” she pleaded passionately. “Say I was
wicked, wrong. I loved you, Alec … I was promised to you. I
should have been so happy with you, dear . . . Alec, my Alec,
do not die . . . God will not let you die . . . He cannot be so
cruel . . . Come back, Alec … I love you . . . Do you hear,
my Alec ? I love you . . . Ethel loves you . . . Before God I
love you … I was promised to you … I broke my word . . .
I loved you all the time, but I did not know it … Forgive me,
my Alec . . . forgive me … I shall love you always.”
He passed his fingers over her forehead tentatively, as if he were
“Ethel, every day, every hour, all these years, you have been
with me. And now I am going away. Kiss me—just once—
just once. There can be no wrong in it now.”
She tore her veil from her face : their lips met, and her head
rested a moment, sobbing on his shoulder.
“Hush ! don’t cry, Ethel dear, don’t cry. You have made me
so glad. . . . And you will remember to take the box . . . And
you will think of me sometimes . . . And I shall pray God to
make you happy, and I shall wait for you, Ethel, and be with you
in thought, and if you have trouble, you will know that I shall be
sorrowing with you. Isn’t it so, dear ? . . . Now, good-bye,
dear one—good-bye. May God watch over you.”
She had moved away. She came back again, however, and
kissed his forehead reverently. But he was not aware of her
return, for his mind had begun to wander.
She brushed past Mrs. Parkin in the passage, bidding her an
incoherent good-bye : she was instinctively impatient to escape to
the protection of familiar surroundings. Inside the house, she felt
helpless, dizzy : the melodrama of the whole scene had stunned
her senses, and pity for him was rushing through her in waves of
As she passed the various landmarks, which she had noted on
her outward journey—a group of Scotch firs, a roofless cattle-shed,
a pile of felled trees—each seemed to wear an altered aspect.
With what a strange suddenness it had all happened ! Yesterday
the groom had brought back word that he was in delirium, and
had told her of the loneliness of the house. It had seemed so sad,
his lying ill, all alone : the thought had preyed on her conscience,
till she had started to drive out there to inquire if there were any-
thing she could do to help him. Now, every corner round which
the cart swung, lengthened the stretch of road that separated her
from that tragic scene in his room . . . Perhaps it was not right for
her to drive home and leave him? But she couldn’t bear to stay :
it was all so dreadful. Besides, she assured herself, she could do
no good. There was the doctor, and that old woman who nursed
him—they would see to everything . . . Poor, poor Alec—alone in
that grey-walled cottage, pitched at the far end of this long, bleak
valley—the half-darkened room—his wasted, feverish face—and his
knowing that he could not live—it all came back to her vividly, and
she shivered as if with cold. Death seemed hideous, awful, almost
wicked in the cruelty of its ruthlessness. And the homeward
drive loomed ahead, interminably—for two hours she would have
to wait with the dreadful, flaring remembrance of it all—two
hours—for the horse was tired, and it was thirteen miles, a man by
the roadside had told her. . . .
He was noble-hearted, saint-like . . . Her pity for him welled up
once more, and she convinced herself that she could have loved
him, worshipped him, been worthy of him as a husband—and now
he lay dying. He had revealed his whole nature to her, it seemed.
No one had ever understood, as she did now, what a fine character
he was in reality. Her cheeks grew hot with indignation and
shame, as she remembered how she had heard people laugh at him
behind his back, refer to him mockingly as the ‘love-sick curate.’
And all this while—for five whole years—he had gone on caring
for her—thinking of her each day, reading her letters, recalling
the things she used to say—yes, those were his very words.
Before, she had never suspected that it was in his nature to
take it so horribly tragically ; yet, somehow, directly he had
fixed his eyes on her in that excited way, she had half-guessed
it. . . .
The horse’s trot slackened to a walk, and the wheels crunched
over a bed of newly-strewn stones . . . She was considering how
much of what had happened she could relate to Jim. Oh ! the
awfulness of his knowing beforehand like that ! She had kissed
him : she had told him that she cared for him : she hadn’t
been able to help doing that. There was no harm in it ;
she had made him happier—he had said so himself . . . But
Jim wouldn’t understand : he would be angry with her for
having gone, perhaps. He wouldn’t see that she couldn’t have
done anything else. No, she couldn’t bear to tell him : besides,
it seemed somehow like treachery to Alec . . . Oh ! it must be
awful to know beforehand like that ! . . . The doctor should never
have told him. It was horrible, cruel … In the past how she
had been to blame—she saw that now : thoughtless, selfish, alto-
gether beneath him.
It was like a chapter in a novel. His loving her silently all
these years, and telling her about it on his deathbed. At the
thought of it she thrilled with subtle pride : it illuminated the
whole ordinariness of her life. The next moment the train of
her own thoughts shamed her. Poor, poor Alec. . . . And to
reinforce her pity, she recalled the tragic setting of the scene.
That woman—his landlady—could she have heard anything, she
wondered with a twinge of dread ? No, the door was shut, and
his voice had been very low.
The horse turned on to the main road, and pricking his ears,
quickened his pace.
She would remember him always. Every day, she would think
of him, as he had asked her to do—she would never forget to do
that. And, if she were in trouble, or difficulty, she would turn
her thoughts towards him, just as he had told her he used to do.
She would try to become better—more religious—for his sake.
She would read her Bible each morning, as she knew had been his
habit. These little things were all she could do now. Her
attitude in the future she would make worthy of his in the
past … He would become the secret guiding-star of her life : it
would be her hidden chapter of romance. . . .
The box that box which he had asked her to take. She had
promised, and she had forgotten it. How could she get it ? It
was too late to turn back now. Jim would be waiting for her.
She would only just be in time for dinner as it was . . . How
could she get it ? If she wrote to his landlady, and asked her to
send it it was under the writing-table in the sitting-room he
had said . . . She must get it, somehow. . . .
It was dark before she reached home. Jim was angry with her
for being late, and for having driven all the way without a servant.
She paid no heed to his upbraiding ; but told him shortly that
Alec was still in great danger. He muttered some perfunctory
expression of regret, and went off to the stables to order a bran-
mash for the horse. His insensibility to the importance of the
tragedy she had been witnessing, exasperated her : she felt bitterly
mortified that he could not divine all that she had been suffering.
The last of the winter months went, and life in the valley swept
its sluggish course onwards. The bleak, spring winds rollicked,
hooting from hill to hill. The cattle waited for evening, huddled
under the walls of untrimmed stone ; and before the fireside, in
every farmhouse, new-born lambs lay helplessly bleating. On
Sundays the men would loaf in churlish groups about the church
door, jerk curt greetings at one another, and ask for news of
Parson Burkett. It was a curate from Cockermouth who took
the services in his stead—one of the new-fangled sort ; a young
gentleman from London way, who mouthed his words like a girl,
carried company manners, and had a sight of strange clerical
Alec was slowly recovering. The fever had altogether left
him : a straw-coloured beard now covered his chin, and his cheeks
were grown hollow and peaky-looking. But by the hay-harvest,
the doctor reckoned, he would be as strong as ever again—so it was
Mrs. Parkin declared that the illness had done him a world o’
good. “It’s rested his mind like, and kept him from frettin’.
He was alus ower given to studyin’ on his own thoughts, till he got
dazed like and took na notice o’ things. An’ noo,” she would
conclude, “ye should jest see him, smilin’ as free as a child.”
So, day after day, floated vaguely by, and to Alec the calm of
their unbroken regularity was delicious. He was content to lie
still for hours, thinking of nothing, remembering nothing, tasting
the torpor of dreamy contemplation ; watching through the
window the slow drifting of the shadows ; listening to the cackling
of geese, and the plaintive bleating of sheep. . . .
By-and-bye, with returning strength, his senses quickened, and
grew sensitive to every passing impression. To eat with elaborate
deliberation his invalid meals ; to watch the myriad specks of gold
dancing across a bar of sunlight—these were sources of keen,
exciting delight. But in the foreground of his mind, transfiguring
with its glamour every trivial thought, flashed the memory of Ethel’s
visit. He lived through the whole scene again and again, picturing
her veiled figure as it had stood by the bedside, wrapped in the red,
fur cloak ; and her protesting words, her passionate tears, seemed
to form a mystic, indissoluble bond between them, that brightened
all the future with rainbow colours.
God had given him back to her. Whether circumstances
brought them together frequently, or whether they were forced to
live their lives almost wholly apart, would, he told himself, matter
but little. Their spiritual communion would remain unbroken.
Indeed, the prospect of such separations, proving, as it did to him,
the sureness of the bond between them, almost elated him. There
would be unquestioning trust between them, and, though the
world had separated them, the best that was in him belonged to
her. When at length they met, there would be no need for
insistance on common points of feeling, for repeated handling of
past threads, as was customary with ordinary friendships. Since
each could read the other’s heart, that sure intuition born of
chastened, spiritual love would be theirs. If trouble came to her,
he would be there to sacrifice all at a moment’s bidding, after the
fashion of the knights of old. Because she knew him, she would
have faith in him. To do her service would be his greatest
At first the immobile, isolated hours of his convalescence made
all these things appear simple and inevitable, like the events of a
great dream. As time went on, however, he grew to chafe
against his long confinement, to weary of his weakness, and of the
familiar sight of every object in the room ; and in the mornings,
when Mrs. Parkin brought him his breakfast, he found himself
longing for a letter from her—some brief word of joy that he was
recovering. He yearned for some material object, the touch of
which would recall her to him, as if a particle of her personality
had impregnated the atoms.
Sometimes, he would force himself into believing that she would
appear again, drive out to learn the progress of his recovery . . .
After luncheon she would leave home . . . about half-past one,
probably . . . soon after three, he would see her . . . Now,
she was nearing the cross-roads . . . now climbing the hill past
Longrigg’s farm . . . she would have to walk the horse there . . .
now, crossing the old bridge. He would lie watching the clock ;
and when the suspense grew intolerable, to cheat it, he would bury
his head in the pillow to count up to a thousand, before glancing at
the hands again. So would slip by the hour of her arrival ; still,
he would struggle to delude himself with all manner of excuses
for her—she had been delayed—she had missed the turning, and
had been compelled to retrace her steps. And, when at length
the twilight had come, he would start to assure himself that
it was to be to-morrow, and sink into a fitful dozing, recounting
waking dreams of her, subtly intoxicating. . . .
In April came a foretaste of summer, and, for an hour or two
every day, he was able to hobble downstairs. He perceived the
box at once, lying in its accustomed place, and concluded that on
learning that he was out of danger, she had sent it back to him.
The sight of it cheered him with indefinable hope : it seemed to
signify a fresh token of her faith in him: it had travelled with her
back to Cockermouth on that wonderful day which had brought
them together ; and now, in his eyes, it was invested with a new
preciousness. He unlocked it, and, somehow, to discover that its
contents had not been disturbed, was a keen disappointment. He
longed for proof that she had been curious to look into it, that she
had thus been able to realise how he had prized every tiny object
that had been consecrated for him by her. Then it flashed across
him that she herself might have brought the box back, and
fearing to disturb him, had gone home again without asking to
see him. All that evening he brooded over this supposition ; yet
shrank from putting any question to Mrs. Parkin. But the
following morning, a sudden impulse overcame his repugnance ;
and the next moment he had learned the truth. Untouched,
unmoved, the box had remained all the while—she had never
taken it—she had forgotten it. And depression swept through
him ; for it seemed that his ideal had tottered.
His prolonged isolation and his physical lassitude had quickened
his emotions to an abnormal sensibility, and had led him to a
constant fingering, as it were, of his successive sentimental phases.
And these, since they constituted his sole diversion, he had un-
consciously come to regard as of supreme importance. The cum-
bersome, complex details of life in the outside world had assumed
the simplification of an indistinct background : in his vision of
her figure he had perceived no perspective.
But now the grain of doubt was sown : it germinated in-
sidiously ; and soon, the whole complexion of his attitude
towards her was transformed. All at once he saw a whole net-
work of unforeseen obstacles, besetting each detail of the prospect
he had been planning. Swarming uncertainty fastened on him at
every turn ; till at last, goaded to desperation, he stripped the gilding
from the accumulated fabric of his idealised future.
And then his passion for her flamed up—ardent, unreasoning,
human. After all, he loved as other men loved—that was the
truth : the rest was mere calfish meandering. Stubbornly he
vindicated to himself his right to love her . . . He was a man—
a creature of flesh and blood, and every fibre within him was
crying out for her—for the sight of her face ; the sound of her
voice ; the clasp of her hand. Body and soul he loved her ; body
and soul he yearned for her . . . She had come back to him—
she was his again—with passionate tears she had told him that she
loved him. To fight for her, he was ready to abandon all else.
At the world’s laws he jibed bitterly ; before God they were man
The knowledge that it lay in his power to make her his for life,
to bind her to him irrevocably, brought him intoxicating relief.
Henceforward he would live on, but for that end. Existence
without her would be dreary, unbearable. He would resign his
living and leave the church. Together they would go away,
abroad : he would find some work to do in the great cities of
Australia . . . She was another man’s wife—but the sin would
The Yellow Book.—Vol. III. M
be his—his, not hers—God would so judge it ;
and for her sake he
would suffer the punishment. Besides, he told himself exultantly,
the sin was it not already committed ? “Whosoever looketh on a
woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already
in his heart.”
He would go to her, say to her simply that he was come for
her. It should be done openly, honestly in the full light of day.
New strength and deep-rooted confidence glowed within him.
The wretched vacillation of his former self was put away like an
old garment. Once more he sent her words of love sounding
in his ears—the words that had made them man and wife before
God. And on, the train of his thoughts whirled : visions
of a hundred scenes flitted before his eyes—he and she together as
man and wife, in a new home across the seas, where the past
was all forgotten, and the present was redolent of the sure joy of
perfect love. . . .
He was growing steadily stronger. Pacing the floor of his
room, or the gravel-path before the house, when the sun was
shining, each day he would methodically measure the progress of
his strength. He hinted of a long sea voyage to the doctor : the
man declared that it would be madness to start before ten days had
elapsed. Ten days—the stretch of time seemed absurd, intolerable.
But a quantity of small matters relating to the parish remained to
be set in order : he had determined to leave no confusion behind
him. So he mapped out a daily task for himself: thus he could
already begin to work for her : thus each day’s accomplishment
would bring him doubly nearer to her. The curate, who had
been taking his duty, came once or twice at his request to help him ;
for he was jealously nursing his small stock of strength. He broke
the news of his approaching departure to Mrs. Parkin, and asked her
to accept the greater portion of his furniture, as an inadequate
of his gratitude towards her for all she had done for him. The
good creature wept copiously, pestered him with questions
concerning his destination, and begged him to give her news of
him in the future. Next he sent for a dealer from Cockermouth
to buy the remainder, and disputed with him the price of each
One afternoon his former rector appeared, and with tremulous
cordiality wished him God-speed, assuming that the sea voyage
was the result of doctor’s advice. And it was when the old man
was gone, and he was alone again, that, for the first time, with a
spasm of pain, he caught a glimpse of the deception he was prac-
tising. But some irresistible force within him urged him forward—
he was powerless—to look back was impossible now—there was
more yet to be done—he must go on—there was no time to stop
to think. So to deaden the rising conscience-pangs, he fiercely
reminded himself that now, but five days more separated her from
him. He sat down to write to his bishop and resign his living,
struggling with ambiguous, formal phrases, impetuously attributing
to his physical weakness his inability to frame them.
The letter at length finished, instinctively dreading fresh
gnawings of uneasiness, he forced himself feverishly into thinking
of plans for the future, busying his mind with, time-tables, searching
for particulars of steamers, turning over the leaves of his bank-
book. All the money which his father had left to him had
remained untouched : for three years they could live comfortably on
the capital ; meanwhile he would have found some work.
At last, when, with the growing twilight, the hills outside were
hurriedly darkening, he sank back wearily in his chair. And all
at once he perceived with dismay that nothing remained for him
to do, nothing with which he could occupy his mind. For the
moment he was alone with himself, and looking backwards,
realisation of the eager facility with which he had successively
severed each link, and the rapidity with which he had set himself
drifting towards a future, impenetrable, with mysterious uncertainty,
stole over him. He had done it all, he told himself, deliberately,
unaided ; bewildered, he tried to bring himself face to face with
his former self, to survey himself as he had been before the fever—
that afternoon when he had gone up to Beda Cottages—plodding
indifferently through life in the joyless, walled-in valley, which, he
now understood, had in a measure reflected the spirit of his own
listless broodings. Scared remorse seized him. The prospect of
departure, now that it was close at hand, frightened him ; left him
aching as with the burden of dead weight, so that, for a while, he
remained inert, dully acquiescing in his accumulating disquietude.
Then, in desperation, he invoked her figure, imagining a dozen
incoherent versions of the coming scene—the tense words of
greeting, his passionate pleading, her impulsive yielding, and the
acknowledgment of her trust in him. . . .
By-and-bye, Mrs. Parkin brought him his dinner. He chatted
to her with apparent unconcern, jested regarding his appetite ; for
a curious calm, the lucidity evoked by suppressed elation, pervaded
But through the night he tossed restlessly, waking in the dark-
ness to find himself throbbing with triumphant exhilaration ; each
time striking matches to examine the face of his watch, and
beginning afresh to calculate the hours that separated him from the
moment that was to bind them together—the irrevocable starting
towards the future years.
She stood in the bow-window of her drawing-room, arranging
some cut flowers in slender pink and blue vases, striped with enamel
of imitation gold. Behind her, the room, uncomfortably orna-
mental, repeated the three notes of colour—gilt paper shavings
filling the grate ; gilt-legged chairs and tables ; stiff, shiny, pink
chintzes encasing the furniture ; on the wall a blue-patterned
paper, all speckled with stars of gold.
Outside, the little lawn, bathed in the fresh morning sunlight,
glowed a luscious green, and the trim flower-beds swelled with
heightened colours. A white fox-terrier came waddling along the
garden path : she lifted the animal inside the window, stroking his
sleek sides with an effusive demonstration of affection. Would
Jim remember to be home in good time, she was idly wondering ;
she had forgotten to remind him before he went to his office, that
to-night she was to sing at a local concert.
Suddenly, she caught sight of a man’s figure crossing the lawn.
For an instant she thought it was an old clerk, whom Jim some-
times employed to carry messages. Then she saw that it was
Alec—coming straight towards her. Her first impulse was to
escape from him ; but noticing that his gaze was fixed on the
ground, she retreated behind an angle of the window, and stood
watching him . . . Poor Alec ! He was going away on a sea-
voyage for his health, so Jim had heard it said in the town ; and
she formed a hasty resolve to be very kind to the poor fellow.
Yet her vanity felt a prick of pique, as she noticed that his gait
was grown more gaunt, more ungainly than ever ; and she resented
that his haggard face, his stubbly beard, which, when he lay ill,
had signified tense tragedy, should now seem simply uncouth.
Still, she awaited his appearance excitedly ; anticipating a renewed
proof of his touching, dog-like devotion to her, and with a fresh
thrill of unconscious gratitude to him for having supplied that
scene to which she could look back with secret, sentimental pride.
The maid let him into the room. As he advanced towards
her, she saw him brush his forehead with his hand impatiently,
as if to rid his brain of an importunate thought. He took her
outstretched hand : the forced cheeriness of her phrase of
greeting died away, as she felt his gaze searching her face.
“Let us sit down,” he said abruptly.
“I’m all right again, now,” he began with a brisk, level laugh ;
and it occurred to her that perhaps the illness had affected his mind.
“I’m so glad of that,” she stammered in reply ; “so very glad.
. . . And you’re going away, aren’t you, for a long sea voyage ?
That will do you ever so much good——”
But before she had finished speaking, he was kneeling on the
carpet before her, pouring out incoherent phrases. Bewildered,
she gazed at him, only noticing the clumsy breadth of his shoulders.
“Listen to me, Ethel, listen,” he was saying. “Everything
is ready—I’ve given it all up—my living—the Church. I
can’t bear it any longer—life without you, I mean . . . You are
everything to me—I only want you—I care for nothing else
now. I am going away to Australia. You will come with me,
Ethel—you said you loved me . . . We love one another—come
with me—let us start life afresh. I can’t go on living without
you … I thought it would be easy for you to come ; I see now
that perhaps it’s difficult. You have your home : I see that . . .
But have trust in me—I will make it up to you. Together we
will start afresh— make a new home—a new life. I will give you
every moment ; I will be your slave . . . Listen to me, Ethel ; let
us go away. Everything is ready—I’ve got money—I’ve arranged
everything. We can go up to London to-morrow. The steamer
starts on Thursday.”
The sound of his voice ceased. She was staring at the door,
filled with dread lest it should open, and the maid should see him
kneeling on the carpet.
“Don’t,” she exclaimed, grasping his coat. “Get up, quick.”
He rose, awkwardly she thought, and stood before her.
“We were so happy together once, dear—do you remember—
in the first days, when you promised yourself to me ? And now I
know that in your heart you still care for me. You said so. Say
you will come—say you will trust me—you will start to-morrow.
If you can’t come so soon I will wait, wait till you can come,”
he added, and she felt the trembling touch of his hands on hers,
and his breath beating on her face.
“Don’t, please,” and she pushed back his hands. “Some one
“What does it matter, my darling ? We are going to belong
to one another for always. I am going to wait for you, darling—
to be your slave—to give up every moment of my life to you . . .
It’s the thought of you that’s made me live, dear . . . You
brought me back to life, that day you came . . . I’ve thought of
nothing but you since. I’ve been arranging it all——”
“It’s impossible,” she interrupted.
“No, dear, it’s not impossible,” he pleaded.
“You’ve resigned your living—left the Church?” she asked
“Yes, everything,” he answered proudly.
“And all because you cared so for me ?”
“I can’t begin to live again without you. I would suffer
eternal punishment gladly to win you . . . You will trust yourself
to me darling ; say you will trust me.”
“Of course, Alec, I trust you. But you ve no right to——”
“Oh ! because you’re married, and it’s a sin, and I’m a
clergyman. But I’m a man first. And for you I’ve given it
all up—everything. You don’t understand my love for you.”
“Yes, yes, I do,” she answered quickly, alarmed by the earnest-
ness of his passion, yet remembering vaguely that she had read of
such things in books.
“You will come to-morrow, darling—you will have trust in
“You are mad, Alec. You don’t know what you are saying.
It would be absurd.”
“It’s because you don’t understand how I love you, that you
say that,” he broke out fiercely. “You can’t understand—you
“Yes, I can,” she protested, instinctively eager to vie with his
display of emotion.
“Then say you will come—promise it promise it,” he cried ;
and his features were all distorted by suspense.
But at this climax of his insistance, she lost consciousness of
her own attitude. She seemed suddenly to see all that clumsiness
which had made her refuse him before.
“It’s altogether ridiculous,” she answered shortly.
He recoiled from her: he seemed to stiffen a little all over ;
and she felt rising impatience at his grotesque denseness in per-
“You say it’s altogether ridiculous ?” he repeated after her
“Yes, of course it’s ridiculous,” she repeated with uneasy
emphasis. “I’m very sorry you should mind—feel it so—but it
isn’t my fault.”
“Why did you say than that before God you loved me,
when you came that day ?” he burst out with concentrated
“Because I thought you were dying.” The bald statement
of the truth sprang to her lips—a spontaneous, irresistible
“I see—I see,” he muttered. His hands clenched till
the knuckles showed white.
“I’m very sorry,” she added lamely. Her tone was gentler, for
his dumb suffering moved her sensibilities. In her agitation, the
crudity of her avowal had slipped her notice.
“That’s no use,” he answered wearily.
“Alec, don’t be angry with me. Can’t we be friends? Don’t
you see yourself now that it was mad, absurd?” she argued, eager
to reinstate herself in his eyes. Then, as he made no answer,
“Let us be friends, Alec, and you will go back to Scarsdale, when
you are well and strong. You will give up nothing for my sake.
I should not wish that, you know, Alec.”
“Yes,” he assented mechanically, “I shall go back.”
“I shall always think of this morning,” she continued,
growing sentimentally remorseful as the sensation of rising relief pervaded
her. “And you will soon forget all about it,” she added, with a
cheeriness of tone that rang false ; and pause, awaiting his answer.
“And I shall forget all about it,” he repeated after her.
To mask her disappointment, she assumed a silly, nervous
“And I shall keep it quite secret that you were so naughty as
to ask me to run away with you. I sha’n’t even tell Jim.”
He nodded stupidly.
With a thin, empty smile on her face, she was debating how best
to part with him, when, of a sudden, he rose, and, without a word,
walked out of the room.
He strode away across the lawn, and, as she watched his retreating
figure, she felt for him a shallow compassion, not unmingled with
By Morton Fullerton
DEEPEST and keenest of our time who pace
The variant by-paths of the uncertain heart,
In undiscerned mysterious ways apart,
Thou huntest on the Assyrian monster’s trace :
That sweeping-pinioned Thing—with human face,
Poor Man, with wings hoof-weighted lest they start
To try the breeze above this human mart,
In heights pre-occupied of a god-like race.
Among the stammering sophists of the age
Thy words are absolute, thy vision true ;
No hand but thine is found to fit the gage
The Titan, Shakespeare, to a whole world threw.
Till thou hadst boldly to his challenge sprung,
No rival had he in our English tongue.
By Leila Macdonald
JEANNE-MARIE lived alone in the white cottage at the far end of
the village street.
It was a long narrow street of tall houses, stretching each side
of the white shining road, for two hundred yards or more. A
street that was cool and shadeful even in the shadeless summer
days, when the sun burned most hotly, when the broad roads
dazzled between their avenues of plane-tree and poplar, and the
mountains disappeared from the horizon in the blue haze of
From her little garden Jeanne-Marie liked to look at the
mountains each morning, and, when for two or three days follow-
ing they were not to be seen, she would shake her head reproach-
fully, as at the failing of old friends.
“My boys, Jeanne-Marie is only thirty-seven,” Bourdet the
innkeeper said to his companions, as they sat, one May afternoon,
smoking under the chestnut-trees in front of the café. They all
looked up as he spoke, and watched Jeanne-Marie, as she walked
slowly past them to her cottage.
“Bourdet has been paying court,” said Leguillon, the fat, red-
faced butcher, with a chuckle, as he puffed at his long pipe.
“You see, he is anxious we should think her of an age suitable,
before he tells us the betrothals are arranged.”
“For my part I should give many congratulations,” said the
village postman and tobacconist, gruffly. “Jeanne-Marie is worth
any of our girls of the village, with their bright dresses and silly
Bourdet laughed. “You shall come to the wedding, my
friends,” he said, with a wink and a nod of the head to the
retreating figure ; “and since our friend Minaud there finds the
girls so distasteful, he shall wait till our babies are old enough, and
be betrothed to one of them.”
The postmaster laughed with the rest. “But seriously,” he
said, “Bourdet will pardon me if I tell him our Jeanne-Marie is a
good deal past the thirties.”
Laurent, the good-looking young farmer, who stood leaning
against the tree round which their chairs were gathered, answered
him gravely. “Wait, beau-pѐre, till you see her on Sunday
coming from Mass on M. Bourdet’s arm ; the cap that hides the
grey knot of hair at the back of the head is neat and bright—oh !
so bright—pink or blue for choice, and if M. Bourdet chances
to compliment the colour of the stockings—he is gay, you know,
always—the yellow face turns rosy and all the wrinkles go.”
And laughing maliciously at Bourdet, the young fellow turned
Bourdet looked grave. “‘Tis your son-in-law that speaks like
that, Minaud,” he said, “otherwise I would say that in my day
the young fellows found it better to amuse themselves with the
young girls than to mock at the old ones.”
“You are right, my friend,” said Minaud. “Tis the regiment
that taught Laurent this, and many other things. But it is a
good boy, though with a sharp tongue. To these young ones it
seems all foolishness to be an old girl.”
And the others nodded agreement.
So they sat, chatting, and drawing at their long pipes, while the
afternoon sun gleamed on the little gardens and on the closed
green shutters of the houses ; and the slow, large oxen lumbered
through the village street, their yoked heads pressed well down,
and their tails flicking unceasingly at the swarm of flies.
Jeanne-Marie stood in her garden, blinking thoughtfully at the
flowers, while she shaded her eyes with her hand. On her bare
head the sparse brown hair was parted severely and neatly to each
side, and the deep southern eyes looked steadily out of the tanned
and wrinkled face. Her light cotton bodice fell away from the
thin lines of her neck and shoulders, and her sabots clicked harshly
as she moved about the garden.
“At least the good God has given me a fine crab-apple bloom
this year,” Jeanne-Marie said, as she looked at the masses of rich
blossom. On the wall the monthly roses were flowering thickly,
and the Guelder roses bent their heads under the weight of their
heavy bunches. ” In six days I shall have the peonies, and the
white rose-bush in the corner is coming soon,” said Jeanne-Marie
It was four and a half years ago that Jeanne-Marie had come to
the white cottage next to the mill, with the communal school
opposite. Till that autumn day, when a pair of stout oxen had
brought her goods to the door, she had lived with her brother, who
was métayer to M. François, the owner of the big villa a quarter
of a mile beyond the village. Her father had been métayer ; and
when he died, his son Firman—a fine-looking young man, not
long home from his service—had taken his place. So the change
at the métairie had very little affected Jeanne-Marie.
But she missed her father sorely every day at mid-day, when she
remembered that there was one less to cook for ; that the tall,
straight old figure would not come in at the door, and that the
black pudding might remain uncooked for all Firman’s noticing ;
and Jeanne-Marie would put the bouillon by the fire, and sit down
and cry softly to herself.
They were very kind to her at the villa, and at night, when
Firman was at the café, she would take the stockings and the
linen and darn them in the kitchen, while she listened to the
servants’ talk, and suppressed her patois as much as possible, for
they were from the North, and would not understand.
Two years after her father’s death, Jeanne-Marie began to
notice that Firman went no more to the café in the evening,
and had always his shirt clean, and his best black smocked
cape for the market in the town on Mondays, and for Mass on
“It astonishes me,” she had said, when she was helping
M. François’ cook that day the château-folk had come to
déjeûner, unexpectedly—for Jeanne-Marie’s cooking was very
good indeed— “because, you understand, that is not his way at
all. Now, if it were Paul Puyoo or the young André, it would
be quite ordinary ; but with Firman, I doubt with him it is a
And Anna had nodded her black head sagely over the omelette
aux fines herbes as she answered : “Jeanne-Marie, Firman wishes
to marry ; Jeanne-Marie, for my own part, I say it’s that little
fat blue-eyed Suzanne from the métairie on the hill.”
Suzanne looked very pretty the day she came home to Mr.
François’ métairie, leaning on her husband’s arm ; but Jeanne-Marie
was not there to see ; she was sitting in the large chair in the
kitchen of the white cottage, and she was sobbing with her head
in her hands. “And indeed the blessed Virgin herself must have
thought me crazy, to see me sitting sobbing there, with the house
in confusion, and not a thing to cook with in the kitchen,” she
said, shamefacedly, to Marthe Legrand from the mill, when she
came in, later, to help her. “You should have remained,” Marthe
answered, nodding at her pityingly. “You should have remained,
Jeanne-Marie ; the old house is the old house, and the good God
never meant the wedding of the young ones to drive away the old
ones from the door.”
Jeanne-Marie drew in her breath at the words “old ones.”
“But the book says I am only thirty-four!” she told herself;
and that night she looked in the old Mass-book, to be sure if it
could be true ; and there was the date set down very clearly, in
the handwriting of Dubois, her father’s oldest friend ; for Jeanne-
Marie’s father himself could neither read nor write—he was, as he
said with pride, of the old school, “that kissed our sweethearts,
and found that better than writing them long scribbles on white
paper, as the young ones do now ; and thought a chat with a
friend on Sundays and holidays worth more than sitting cramped
up, reading the murders and the adulteries in the newspapers.”
So it was Dubois who wrote down the children’s births in the old
Mass book. Yes, there they were. Catherine first of all ; poor
Catherine, who was so bright and pretty, and died that rainy
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. N
winter when she was just twelve years old. Then “Jeanne-Marie,
née le 28 Novembre 1854, à minuit,” and added, in the same hand-
writing, “On nous raconte qu’à cette heure-là nous étions en
train de gagner une grande bataille en Russie ! Que ça lui porte
bonheur !” Eight years later; “Jacques Firman, né le 12
Fѐvrier à midi.” It all came back to Jeanne-Marie as she read ;
that scene of his birth, when she was just eight years old. She
was sitting alone in the kitchen, crying, for they had told her her
mother was very ill, and had been ill all the night, and just as the
big clock was striking twelve she heard the voice of the neighbour
who had spent the night there, calling to her ; “Jeanne-Marie,
viens vite, ta mere veut te voir” ; and she had gone, timid and
hesitating, into the darkened room. The first thing she noticed
was the large fire blazing on the open hearth—she had never
known her father and mother have a fire before—and she wondered
much whether it was being too cold that had made her mother ill,
as it had little Catherine. She looked towards the bed and saw
her mother lying there, her eyes closed, and very pale—so pale
that Jeanne-Marie was frightened and ran towards her father ; but
he was smiling where he stood by the bed, and the child was
reassured. She saw him stoop and kiss his wife on the forehead,
and call her his “bonne petite femme,” and taking Jeanne-Marie
by the hand he showed her the sage-femme—the sage-femme who
had come the night before to make her mother well—sitting near
the fire with a white bundle in her arms, and thanked the good
God aloud that he had sent him a fine boy at last. Old Dubois
had come in gently, his béret in his hand, as Jeanne-Marie’s father
was speaking, and turning to the bed had reiterated emphatically,
“Tu as bien fait, chѐre dame, tu as bien fait.”
Jeanne-Marie sat silently going over it all in her mind. “Té,”
she murmured, “how quickly they all go ; the father, the mother,
old Dubois, even Jeanne the voisine, is gone.
I alone am left,
and the good God knows if there will be any to cry for me when
my turn comes to go.” She shut the old Mass-book, and put it
carefully back on the shelf, and she went to the old looking-glass
and the tanned wrinkled face met its reflection very calmly and
patiently. “I think it was the hard work in the fields when I
was young,” she said; “certainly Marthe was right. It is the
face of an old woman, a face more worn than hers, though she is
beyond forty and has borne so many children.”
Firman had urged his sister to stay on at the métairie after his
marriage. “You should not go, it is not natural,” he said one
evening a few weeks before his wedding, while they were piling
the small wood in the shed. “The old house will not be the old
house without you. Suzanne wishes it also. Parbleu ! Is it
the custom for the fathers to turn their sons out, when they marry ?
Then, why should I let the old sister go, now my time for
marrying has come ? Suzanne is a good girl and pretty ; and has
never even looked at any young fellow in the village—for I, as you
know, am particular, and I like not the manners in some villages,
where a girl’s modesty is counted nothing—but blood is worth the
most, ma foi, as the old father used to say ; and badly must he
think of me to see the old sister making room even for the little
But Jeanne-Marie shook her head. “I cannot well explain it,
Firman,” she said. “It’s not that your Suzanne comes unwelcome
to me—no, the good God knows it’s not that—but it would be
so strange. I should see the old mother’s shadow, at the table
where you sat, and in the bed where you lay. I might get foolish,
and angry, Firman. So let me go, and, when the little ones come,
I shall be their grandmother, and Suzanne will forgive me.”
That was four and a half years ago, and it was a very lonely
four and a half years at the white cottage. Even the cooking,
when it was for herself alone, became uninteresting, and the zest
went out of it. Jeanne-Marie, in her loneliness, hungered for the
animal life that had unconsciously formed a great part of her
existence at the métairie. Every springtime she would sit, some-
times for hours, in her garden, watching the flocks of callow geese,
as they wandered along the road in front of the mill, pecking at
the ground as they went, and uttering all the time their little
plaintive cries, that soothed her with its echo of the old home.
When the boys in their bérets, with their long poles and their loud
cries of “guà, guà,” drove the cows and the oxen home from the
fields at sunset, Jeanne-Marie would come out of her cottage, and
watch the patient, sleek beasts, as they dawdled along. And she
would think longingly of the evenings at the métairie, when she
never missed going out to see the oxen, as they lay contentedly on
their prickly bedding, moving their heavy jaws slowly up
and down, too lazy even to look up as she entered.
Firman loved his oxen, for they were well trained and strong,
and did good work ; but Jeanne-Marie would have laughed in
those days, had she been told she loved the animals of the farm.
“I remember,” she said to Marthe of the mill one day, “how I
said to the old father years ago : When the children of M.
François came to the métairie, it is—”Oh, Jeanne-Marie, you will
not kill that pretty little grey hen with the feathered legs,” and “Oh !
Jeanne-Marie, you must not drown so many kittens this time” :
but I say to them always : “My children, the rich have their toys
and have the time and money to make toys of their animals ; but
to us poor folk they are the useful creatures God has given us
for food and work, and they are not playthings.”‘ : So I said then ; but
now, ah, now Marthe, it is different. Do you remember how
old Dubois for ever quarrelled with young Baptiste, but when they
wrote from the regiment to tell him the boy was dead of fever,
during the great manoeuvres, do you remember how the old father
mourned, and lay on his bed for a whole day, fasting ? So it
always is, Marthe. The cow butts the calf with her horns, but
when the calf is gone, the mother moans for it all the day.”
Firman was too busy with his farm and his new family ties to
come much to see his sister, or to notice how rarely she came
up to the métairie now. For Suzanne had never forgiven, and
that was why Jeanne-Marie walked up so seldom to M. François’s
Did not all the village say that it was Suzanne’s doing that
Firman’s sister left the farm on his marriage ? That Suzanne’s
jealousy had driven Jeanne-Marie away ? And when this came
to the ears of Firman’s wife, and the old folks shook their heads in
her presence over the strange doings of young couples now-a-
days, the relief that the dreaded division of supremacy with her
husband’s sister was spared her, was lost in anger against Jeanne-
Marie, as the cause of this village scandal. The jealousy that she
had always felt for the “chѐre soeur,” whom Firman loved and
respected, leapt up within her. “People say he loves his sister,
and that it is I who part them ; they shall see—yes, they shall
And bit by bit, with all a woman’s subtle diplomacy, she drew
her husband away from his sister’s affection, until in a year or two
their close intimacy had weakened to a gradually slackening
At night-time, when Firman’s passionate southern nature lay
under the thrall of his wife’s beauty, she would whisper to him in
her soft patois, “Love me well, my husband, for I have only you
to love ; others are jealous of my happiness, and even Jeanne-
Marie is envious of your wife, and of the babe that is to come.”
And the hot Spanish blood, that his mother had given him,
would leap to Firman’s face as he took her in his arms, and swore
that all he loved, loved her ; and those who angered her, he cared
In the first year of their marriage, when Jeanne-Marie came
almost every day, Suzanne would show her with pride all the
changes and alterations in the old house. “See here, my sister,”
she said to her one day, only six months after the wedding, when
she was taking her over the house, “this room that was yours, we
have dismantled for the time ; did it not seem a pity to keep an
unused room all furnished, for the sun to tarnish, and the damp to
spoil ?” And Jeanne-Marie, as she looked round on the bare
walls and the empty corners of the little room, where she and
Catherine had slept together in the old days, answered quietly,
“Quite true, Suzanne, quite true ; it would be a great pity.”
That night when she and Marthe sat together in the kitchen
she told her of the incident.
“But, Jeanne-Marie,” Marthe interrupted eagerly, “how was
it you had left your furniture there, since it was yours ?”
“How was it? But because little Catherine had slept in the
old bed, and sat in the old chairs, and how could I take them
away from the room ?”
“Better that than let Suzanne break them up for firewood,”
Marthe replied shortly.
When little Henri was born, a year after the marriage, Suzanne
would not let Jeanne-Marie be at the métairie, and she sent
Firman down beforehand to tell her that she feared the excitement
of her presence. Jeanne-Marie knew she was disliked and dis-
trusted ; but this blow fell very heavily : though she raised her
head proudly and looked her brother full in the face when he
stammered out his wife’s wishes.
“For the sake of our name, and what they will say in the
village, I am sorry for this,” she said ; and Firman went without a
But when he was gone Jeanne-Marie’s pride broke down, and
in the darkness of the evening she gathered her shawl round her,
and crept up to the métairie door.
Hour after hour she sat there, not heeding the cold or the damp,
her head buried in her hands, her body rocked backwards and
forwards. “I pray for Firman’s child,” she muttered without
ceasing. “O dear Virgin! O blessed Virgin! I pray for my
brother’s child.” And when at length an infant’s feeble cry pierced
through the darkness, Jeanne-Marie rose and tottered home, saying
to herself contentedly, “The good God himself tells me that all is
Perhaps the pangs of maternity quickened the capabilities for
compassion in Suzanne’s peasant mind. She sent for Jeanne-
Marie two days later, and watched her with silent wonder, but
without a sneer, as she knelt weeping and trembling before the
small new bundle of humanity.
From that day little Henri was the idol of Jeanne-Marie’s
heart. All the sane instincts of wifehood and motherhood, shut
up irrevocably within the prison of her maiden life, found vent in
her devotion to her brother’s child. The natural impulses, so
long denied freedom, of whose existence and force she was not
even aware, avenged their long suppression in this worship of
To watch the growth of the childish being, the unveiling of
his physical comeliness, and the gradual awakening of his percep-
tions, became the interest and fascination of her life. Every
morning at eleven o’clock, when the cottage showed within the
open door all white and shining after her energetic scrubbings, she
would put on a clean bodice, and a fresh pink handkerchief for
the little coil of hair at the back of her head, and sit ready and
impatient, knitting away the time, till one o’clock struck, and she
could start for the farm.
She would always arrive at the same hour, when the métairie
dinner was finished, and Suzanne’s fretful complaints: “Jeanne-
Marie, you are so proud, you will not come for the dinner or stay
for the supper,” met only a smile and a deprecating shake of the
On her arrival, if Suzanne were in a good temper, she would
surrender Henri to her, and Jeanne-Marie’s hour of heaven
reached her. If it were cold, she would sit in the kitchen,
crooning snatches of old tunes, or chattering soft nothings in
patois to the sleeping child. If fine, she would wander round the
garden with him in her arms, sometimes as far as the road, where
a chance passer’s exclamation of “Oh, le beau bébé !” would
flush her face with pleasure.
If Suzanne’s temper chanced to be ruffled, if Firman had dis-
pleased her, or if the fitful jealousy that sprang up at times against
her belle-soeur, happened to be roused, she would insist that little
Henri was tired, and must not be moved ; and Jeanne-Marie would
sit for hours sadly watching the cot, in which the child lay, not
daring to touch him or comfort him, even when he moaned and
moved his arms restlessly in his sleep.
So her life went on till Henri was about a year old, when
Suzanne’s gradually increasing exasperation reached an ungovern-
able pitch. To her jealous imagination it had seemed for some
time that the boy clung more to her sister than to her, and one
day things reached a climax.
Jeanne-Marie had arrived with a toy bought for three sous from
a travelling pedlar, and the child had screamed, and cried, because
his mother, alleging that he was tired, refused to allow Jeanne-
Marie to take him or show him the toy. The boy screamed
louder and louder, and Jeanne-Marie sat, silent and troubled, in her
corner. Even Firman, who was yoking his oxen in the yard,
came in hurriedly, hearing the noise, and finding nothing wrong,
pleaded with his wife. “Mais, voyons, Suzanne,” he began,
persuasively, “if le petit wants to see his toy, la tante may show
it him, n’est ce pas ?” And Suzanne, unable to bear it any
longer, almost threw her child into Jeanne-Marie’s lap, bursting
out, “Take him, then, and draw my baby’s love from me, as you
please. I want no child who hates his mother.” And sobbing
loudly, she rushed out. Firman followed her, his handsome face
puckered with perplexity, and Jeanne-Marie and the baby were
left alone. She bent low down over the deep Spanish eyes that
were so like her own, and, while her tears dropped on his face,
she held him to her feverishly. “Adieu,” she whispered,
“adieu, petit Henri. La tante must not come to see him any
more, and Henri must be a good boy and love his mother.”
And with one long look at the child’s eyes fixed on her so
wonderingly, Jeanne-Marie rose softly and left the farm.
From that day started the great conflict between her love and
her pride. Though, to her simple nature, the jealousy of a woman
who seemed to her to have in abundance everything that made life
worth living, was utterly incomprehensible, she said to herself
over and over as she went home, that such a scene as that should
never happen again. And as she lay in her narrow bed that night,
and made her resolution for the future, she seemed to feel the very
fibres of her heart break within her.
Firman came down next day to beg his sister to behave as if
nothing had happened. “You are pale and your face is all drawn,
chѐre soeur,” he told her reproachfully ; “but you must not take
the things like that. If poor Suzanne were herself and well, she
would never have spoken as she did.” But Jeanne-Marie smiled
“If I am pale, Firman, it is not for worrying over Suzanne.
Tell her from me, I have been selfish all this time. I will not be
so again. When she can spare the little Henri, she shall send him
to play here with me, by Anna.” Anna was Suzanne’s sixteen-
year-old sister, who lived almost entirely at the métairie since her
sister’s marriage. “And every Sunday afternoon I will come up,
and will sit with him in the garden as I used to do. Tell this to
Suzanne, with my love.”
And Firman told her ; and mingled with the relief that
Suzanne felt, that the face and figure which had become like a
nightmare to her strained nerves, would appear only once a week
at the farm, was gratitude that her sister had taken things so well.
“Anna shall take him every other day,” she observed to Firman,
“she shall see I am not jealous; it was the pain that took me
suddenly yesterday, while you were speaking. For that matter,
in the afternoon there is always much for me to do, and little
Henri can very well go with Anna to the cottage.”
And no doubt she meant to keep her promise, but she was
occupied mind and body with other things. The second baby
would be born in a month, and in the afternoons, when she sat,
languid and tired, she liked to have her sister Anna by her, and
Henri playing by her side.
And after little Catherine was born, there was much for Anna
to do. “I could not well spare her if I would,” Suzanne would
say to herself; “what with two babies and me so long in getting
on my feet this time.”
And Jeanne-Marie put on the clean white bodice every day
before her dinner, and sat in the little garden with her eyes fixed
on the turning in the white road that led to M. François’s métairie,
but it was not more than one day a week that Anna would come
in sight, with little Henri in her arms. The other days Jeanne-
Marie would sit, shading her eyes and watching, till long after the
hour when she could expect them to appear.
At first, after the quarrel, she had believed in Suzanne’s
assurances that “Anna would come every other day or so,” and
many were the wasted afternoons of disappointment that she courted
in her little garden. Sometimes she would rise to her feet, and a
sudden impulse to go up to the farm, not a mile away, if only to
kiss le petit and come home again, laid hold of her ; but the memory
of Suzanne’s cold looks of surprise, and the “Is anything wrong,
Jeanne-Marie ?” that would meet her, was sufficient to force her
into her chair again with a little hopeless sigh. “When the calf
is gone, the mother mourns for it all the day,” Marthe said grimly,
when she surprised her one day watching the white turning.
But Jeanne-Marie answered her miserably: “Ah, but I never
butt at my calf, and they have taken it from me all the
There was great rejoicing in the cottage the day that Anna’s
white blouse and large green umbrella came in sight, and the three
sat in the kitchen together : Anna eating smilingly the cakes and
biscuits that grateful Jeanne-Marie made specially for her, and
Henri crawling happily on the floor. “He said ‘Maman’ to
Suzanne yesterday,” Anna would announce, as Jeanne-Marie
hurried to meet her at the gate ; or, “Firman says he heard
him say ‘Menou,’ when the white cat ran across the yard this
morning.” And many were the attempts to induce Henri to
make these utterances again. “Je t’aime, je t’aime,” Jeanne-
Marie would murmur to him, as she kissed him again and again,
and the little boy would look up at her with his dark eyes, and
All too quickly the time would go, and all too soon would come
Anna’s glance at the clock, and the dreaded words : “Suzanne
will make herself angry ; we must go.”
And as Jeanne-Marie watched them disappear along the white
road, the clouds of her loneliness would gather round her again.
The Sunday afternoons at the farm were looked forward to
through all the week. There was little Catherine to admire,
and in the summer days there was the orchard, where
Henri loved to play, and where he and his aunt would sit
together all the afternoon. If Suzanne were in a good temper,
she would bring Catherine out in her arms, and the children would
tumble about together in the long grass.
And so the time wore on, and as Henri grew in mind and
body, and was able to prattle and run about the fields, Jeanne-
Marie hungered for him with a love more absorbing than
Two years had passed since Catherine’s birth, and for the last
year Anna would often bring her, when she came down to Jeanne-
Marie’s cottage. The one day a week had dropped gradually to
every ten days ; it was sometimes only every fortnight that one
or both children would appear, and the days that little Henri came
were marked white days on the simple calendar of Jeanne-Marie’s
Now, as Jeanne-Marie stood in her garden this hot May after-
noon, and shaded her eyes, as she gazed at the broad white road, her
face was troubled, and there was a drawn line of apprehension round
the corners of her mouth. For lately Suzanne’s jealous temper
had flamed up again, and this alert jealousy boded evil days for
Several times within the last two months, little Henri—now
going on for four years old—had come toddling down to the
cottage by himself, to his aunt’s unbounded amazement and delight.
“Maman is at market,” he explained with dignity the first time,
in answer to the wondering queries. “Papa yoked the oxen to
the big cart after dinner, and they went ; Anna is talking all the
afternoon to Pierre Puyoo in the road ; and Henri was alone. So
Henri came ; Henri loves his aunt, and would like some biscuits.”
Great was the content of that hour in the cottage, when Jeanne-
Marie sat in the big arm-chair, and the boy prattled and ate his
biscuits on her knee. Anna’s hard young smile, that scorned
emotion, was always a gêne to this harmony of old and young ;
also, there was no need to glance anxiously at the clock ;
for the oxen take two hours to get home from the market, and
who leaves the town till late in the afternoon ? “Anna will miss
le petit,” Jeanne-Marie suggested the first time ; but he answered
proudly : “She will think le petit takes care of the geese in
the meadow ; do I not have charge of all the geese many
afternoons ? And when I am six years old, papa has pro-
mised I may guard the cows, and bring them home to milk
at sundown, as André Puyoo and Georges Vidal do, each
day. Also, why cannot Henri come to see la
tante when he
But nevertheless, the second and third occasions of these happy
visits, always on market-days, Jeanne-Marie became uneasy. Did
Suzanne know of the boy’s absences ? Were those fitful jealousies
she now displayed almost every Sunday, the result of her know-
ledge ? And if she did not know, would there not be a burst of
rage when she heard ? Should Jeanne-Marie risk this joy by
telling her of its existence, and asking her permission for its con-
tinuance ? How well the hard tones of Suzanne’s voice, framing
each plausible objection, came to her mind, as she thought. No,
she could not do it. Let the child come, and go on coming every
market-day, for as long as he could. She would say no word to
encourage his keeping it secret from his mother ; he would tell her
one day, if he had not told her already, and then, if anger there
was, surely the simple words, “May not your child visit his aunt
alone ?” must bring peace again.
So Jeanne-Marie reasoned away her fears. But now, as she
stood in her garden, her lips were trembling with anxiety.
Last Sunday she had been too ill to go up to the farm. A
sudden agonising breathlessness, together with great dizziness,
had forced her to bed, and Marthe’s boy had gone up with the
message. But neither that day nor the next, which was market-
day, nor any following day, had Suzanne, or Anna, or little Henri
come to see her. And to-day was Saturday. And she realised
wearily that to-morrow she could not get to the farm ; she felt too
ill and feeble. “My heart aches,” she said to Marthe each day,
“my heart aches.”
The afternoon waned slowly, and the little group at the café
increased in numbers, as the men sauntered through the village at
sundown. The women stood at their doors, laughing and chatting
with one another. M. le Curé passed down the street, smiling at
the children. From the meadows came the cows and oxen, driven
slowly along, their bells beating low harmonies as they went.
The festive air of evening after a hot day touched all the tiny
town. And Jeanne-Marie stood in her garden, waiting.
Suddenly, while she watched, her heart bounded within her,
and a spasm of sudden pain drove the colour from her face, for she
recognised the figure that was passing from the white turning
into the broad road. Suzanne—Suzanne, who had not been near
her cottage for a year—Suzanne, alone. She pressed her two hands
under her left breast, and moved forward to the gate. She felt
now she had known it for long. All the suspense of many days
had given way to a dull certainty : little Henri was ill, was
dying perhaps, and Suzanne had come with the news.
Jeanne-Marie had her hand on the latch to let her through ;
but she stood outside the gate, and said hoarsely, “I will not come
in.” Her face was flushed, there was no cap over her coil of
brown hair, and she had on the dark dress she never wore except
at the farm. All this Jeanne-Marie noticed mechanically, while
that suffocating hurry at her heart seemed to eat away her energy
and her power of speech.
But Suzanne was going to speak. The colour flamed into her
face, and her teeth ground together, as if to force down the violence
of her feeling, and then she spoke : “Jeanne-Marie, you have
done your work well. We knew you loved our boy. You were
careful always to show us how far greater was your love for him
than ours. And as you could not well turn him against me
before my eyes, you waited—ma foi, how well you did it !—you
waited till I was well away, and then, you taught him to sneak
down to see you, and sneak home again before my return. Mon
Dieu ! it was a worthy son to us you wished to make of him.
But it could not be, Jeanne-Marie. Your good God, you love
so well, would not have it and so ;”—there came a sob in her voice
that she choked down, and Jeanne-Marie’s face went a shade greyer
as she listened—”it happened that I was long at the market last
week, and you, knowing this would be so, because it was a big
market, brought him home late, when the fever was springing
from the marshes—it was Marguerite Vallée saw him and came
and told me—and now these four days he has lain with fever, and
the officier de santé tells us there grows something in his throat
that may kill him in four days.”
The hard tones left her voice in the last phrase. A shadow
of the love she persuaded herself she felt for Henri sprang up, and
choked her anger. She forgot Jeanne-Marie for the moment, and
saw only the little figure tossing with fever and delirium, and
pity for her own sorrow filled her eyes with tears. She was
surprised at the calm cruelty of her own words. Looking up
curiously to see how her sister would take it, she started, for
Jeanne-Marie’s face seemed suddenly to have grown old and grey.
She was struggling breathlessly to speak, and when her voice
came, it sounded far off, and weak like the voice of a sick child :
“You know well that in your anger you have lied to me.
Henri may be ill—and dying ; it is not I who have made him so.
You shall listen to me now, though I will not keep you here
long ; for the hand that struck my mother suddenly through
the heart, struck me while you were speaking. You have kept
me all these days in suspense, and now you have given the
blow. Be satisfied, Suzanne.”
She paused, and the sound of her heavy breathing struck
Suzanne’s frightened senses like the knell of a doom.
“Listen to me. Henri came to me of his own will, and
never did I persuade him or suggest to him to come. Never
did he go home later than four o’clock; there was nothing done in
secret ; neither I, nor any in the village, thought it a crime he
came to visit me. Often I have seen him keeping the geese in
the long grass of the meadows at six, at seven o’clock. Seek
the fever there—not on the village road before the sunset. As
the good God hears me, never have I stood between that boy
and his mother. Gradually you took from me every privilege
my affection knew ; but I said nothing. Ah, I loved him
dearly ; I was content to wait. But all that is over. If God
grants me life—but He is good, and I think He knows my
suffering all these years—I swear before Him your house shall be
to me a house of strangers, Henri the child of strangers, and my
brother’s face unknown to me. Never shall my father’s daughter
hear again what I have heard from you to-day. All these years
you have played upon my heart. You have watched the suffering;
you have known how each word seemed so innocent, but stabbed
so deep. You have seen your child wind himself round my
heart, and every day, every hour, you have struggled to pluck
him from me. Now, I tell you I tear your children from my
heart ; you have killed not only my body, but my love. Go,
and leave me for ever, or by my father, I will curse you where
She tottered forward, and with one horrified look at the agony of
her menacing face, Suzanne turned and ran.
And Jeanne-Marie fell all her length on the garden soil.
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. o
The miller’s boy saw her there, when he came past a few
minutes later, and not daring to touch her, ran to the mill
for help. Marthe and her husband came immediately and carried
her into the cottage. At first, they thought she was dead, her
face was so grey and sunken ; but she came to herself, as they
laid her on the bed, and shook her head faintly when Marthe
suggested fetching the officier de santé.
As soon as she could speak she whispered : “No, Marthe, it
is the illness of the heart that killed my mother. The doctor
told her she might have lived to be old, with much care, and if
no great trouble or excitement had come to her ; but, you see, I
was much troubled just now, and so it has come earlier. Do
not send for any doctor ; he could but call it by the long name
they called it when my mother died, and trouble one with vain
touches and questions.”
So Marthe helped her to undress, and to get to bed quickly.
The breathlessness and the pain had gone for a time, though she
was very feeble, and could scarcely stand on her feet. But it was
the grey look of her face that frightened Marthe, and her strained
quietness. No questions could get out of her the story of the
“Suzanne came to tell me little Henri was ill,” was all she
would say ; but Marthe only shook her head, and made her own
Jeanne-Marie would not hear of her staying with her for the
night, and leaving her young children alone, and so it was settled
the miller’s boy should sleep below in the kitchen, and if Jeanne-
Marie felt ill in the night, she would call to him, and he would
fetch Marthe immediately.
Also, Marthe promised to call at the house of M. le Curé on
her way home. He would be out late, since he had started only an
hour ago to take the Host to old Goupé, who lay dying four
kilometres away ; but she would leave a message, and certainly,
when he returned, however late, he would come round. It was
nine o’clock before Marthe would leave, and even then she
stopped reluctantly at the door, with a last look at the thin figure
propped up on her pillows. “Let me stay, Jeanne-Marie,” she
said ; “you are so pale, and yet your eyes burn. I do not like to
think of the long night and you sitting here.”
“It is easier than when I lie down, which brings the breathless-
ness. Do not worry yourself, Marthe, I shall sleep perhaps, and
if I need anything, I have but to call to Jean below. Good-night,
and thank you, Marthe.”
The little house was very quiet. Jean had been asleep on his
chair this hour past, and not a sound came from the slumbering
village. There was no blind to the window of the bedroom, and
Jeanne-Marie watched the moon, as it escaped slowly from the
unwilling clouds, and threw its light on to the foot of the narrow bed.
For a long while she lay there, without moving, while through
all her troubled, confused thoughts ran like an under-current the
dull pain that wrenched at her heart. It seemed to take the
coherency from her thinking, and to be the one unquiet factor in
the calm that had come over her. She was surprised, herself, at
this strange fatigue that had swept away even her suffering.
She thought of little Henri and his illness without a pang. He
seemed like some far-off person she had read about, or heard of,
She thought to herself, vaguely, that she must be dying, since
she seemed to have lost all feeling.
Bit by bit, various little scenes between her and Henri came to
her mind, with an extraordinary vividness. He was sitting on her
knee in the cottage, and his clear child’s voice rang like a bell in
the silent room—so clearly, that Jeanne-Marie started, and
wondered if she were light-headed or had been dreaming. Then
the voice faded away, and she saw the cool, high grass of the
orchard, and there was Henri laughing at her, and rolling among
the flowers. How cool and fresh it looked ; and Henri was
asking her to come and play : “Tante Jeanne-Marie, viens jouer
avec ton petit. Tante Jeanne-Marie, tante Jeanne-Marie !” She
must throw herself on the grass with him—on the cool, waving
grass. And she bent forward with outstretched arms ; but the
movement brought her to herself, and as she lay back on her
pillows, suddenly the reality of suffering rushed back upon her,
with the agonising sense of separation and of loss. Little Henri
was dying ; was dead perhaps ; never to hear his voice, or feel his
warm little arms round her neck. She could do nothing for him ;
he must die without her. “Tante Jeanne-Marie ! Tante Jeanne-
Marie !” Was he calling her, from his feverish little bed ? If he
called, she must go to him, she could not lie here, this suffering
was choking her. She must have air, and space to breathe in; this
room was suffocating her. She must go to Henri. With a
desperate effort she struggled to her feet, and stood supporting
herself by the bed-post. The moon, that had hidden itself in the
clouds, struggled out, the long, old-fashioned glass hanging on the
wall opposite the bed became one streak of light, and Jeanne-
Marie, gazing at herself, met the reflection of her own face, and
knew that no power on earth could make her reach the farm where
little Henri lay.
She stood, as if spell-bound, marking the sunken look of the
eyes, the grey-blue colour of the cheeks, the face that was the face
of an old woman.
A sudden, fierce revolt against her starved life swept through
her at the sight, and conquered even the physical pain raging at
her heart. Still struggling for breath, she threw up her arms and
tore the cotton nightgown from her shoulders, and stood there
beating her breast with her hands.
“Oh, good God ! good God ! see here what I am. How old
and shrunken before my time ! Cursed be these breasts, that no
child has ever suckled ; cursed be this withered body, that no man
has ever embraced. I could have loved, and lived long, and been
made beautiful by happiness. Ah, why am I accursed ? I die,
unloved and neglected by my own people. No children’s tears,
no husband to close my eyes ; old, worn out, before my time. A
woman only in name—not wife, not mother. Despised and
hideous before God and men—God and men.”
Her voice died away in a moan, her head fell forward on her
breast, and she stumbled against the bed. For a long time she
lay crouched there, insensible from mere exhaustion, until, just
as the clocks were striking midnight, the door opened gently,
and Marthe and M. le Curé came in. Jean, awakened by the
sounds overhead, had run quickly for Marthe, and coming back
together, they had met M. le Curé on his way.
They raised her gently, and laid her on the bed, and finding
she still breathed, Marthe ran to fetch brandy, and the Curé knelt
by the bed in prayer.
Presently, the eyes opened quietly, and M. le Curé saw her
lips move. He bent over her, and whispered : “You are troubled,
Jeanne-Marie ; you wish for the absolution ?”
But her voice came back to her, and she said clearly :
“To die unloved, unmourned ; a woman, but no wife ; no
She closed her eyes again. There were noises singing in her
head, louder and louder ; but the pain at her heart had ceased,
She was conscious only of a great loneliness, as if a curtain had
risen, and shut her off from the room ; and again the words came,
whispered from her lips : “A woman, accursed and wasted ; no
mother and no wife.”
But some one was speaking, speaking so loudly that the sounds
in her head seemed to die away. She opened her eyes, and saw
M. le Curé, where he knelt, with his eyes shining on her face, and
heard his voice saying : “And God said, ‘Blessed be the virgins
above all women ; give unto them the holy places ; let them be
exalted and praised by My church, before all men, and before Me.
Worthy are they to sit at My feet—worthy are they above all
A smile of infinite happiness and of supreme relief lit up Jeanne-
“Above all women,” she whispered : “above all women.”
And Jeanne-Marie bowed her head, and died.
Parson Herrick’s Muse
By C. W. Dalmon
THE parson dubs us, in our cups,
“A tipsy, good-for-nothing crew !”
It matters not—it may be false ;
It matters not—it may be true.
But here’s to parson Herrick’s Muse !
Drink to it, dear old comrades, please !
And, prithee, for my tombstone choose
A verse from his “Hesperides.”
The parson’s rich, but we are poor ;
And we are wrong, but he is right—
Who knows how much his cellar holds,
Or how he goes to bed at night ?
But here’s to parson Herrick’s Muse !
Drink to it, dear old comrades, please !
And, prithee, for my tombstone choose
A verse from his “Hesperides.”
The landlord shall our parson be ;
The tavern-door our churchyard gate ;
And we will fill the landlord’s till
Before we fill the parson’s plate !
But here’s to parson Herrick’s Muse !
Drink to it, dear old comrades, please !
And, prithee, for my tombstone choose
A verse from his “Hesperides.”
A Note on George the Fourth
THEY say that when King George was dying, a special form
of prayer for his recovery, composed by one of the Arch-
bishops, was read aloud to him, and that his Majesty, after saying
Amen “thrice, with great fervour,” begged that his thanks
might be conveyed to its author. To the student of royalty in
modern times there is something rather suggestive in this
incident. I like to think of the drug-scented room at Windsor,
and of the King, livid and immobile among his pillows, waiting,
in superstitious awe, for the near moment when he must stand, a
spirit, in the presence of a perpetual King. I like to think of him
following the futile prayer with eyes and lips, and then, custom
resurgent in him and a touch of pride that, so long as the
blood moved ever so little in his veins, he was still a king,
expressing a desire that the dutiful feeling and admirable taste of
the Prelate should receive a suitable acknowledgment. It would
have been impossible for a real monarch like George, even after
the gout had turned his thoughts heavenward, really to abase him-
self before his Maker. But he could, so to say, treat with him,
as he might have treated with a fellow-sovereign, long after
diplomacy was quite useless. How strange it must be to be a king !
How delicate and difficult a task it is to judge him ! So far
as I know, no fair attempt has been made to form an estimate
of George the Fourth. The hundred and one eulogies and
lampoons, published irresponsibly during and immediately after
his reign, are not worth a wooden hoop in Hades. Mr. Percy
Fitzgerald has published a history of George’s reign, in which
he has so artistically subordinated his own personality to his
subject, that I can scarcely find from beginning to end of the
two bulky volumes a single opinion expressed, a single idea, a
single deduction from the admirably arranged facts. All that
most of us know of George is from Thackeray’s brilliant denun-
ciation. Now, I yield to few in my admiration of Thackeray’s
powers. He had a charming style. We never find him searching
for the mot juste as for a needle in a bottle of hay. Could he
have looked through a certain window by the river at Croisset,
or in the quadrangle at Brasenose, how he would have laughed !
He blew on his pipe, and words came tripping round him, like
children, like pretty little children who are perfectly drilled for
the dance, or came, did he will it, treading in their precedence,
like kings, gloomily. And I think it is to the credit of the
reading mob that, by reason of his beautiful style, all that he
said was taken for the truth, without questioning. But truth
after all is eternal, and style transient, and now that Thackeray’s
style is becoming, if I may say so, a trifle 1860, it may not
be amiss that we should inquire whether his estimate of George
is in substance and fact worth anything at all. It seems to me
that, as in his novels, so in his history of the four Georges,
Thackeray made no attempt at psychology. He dealt simply
with types. One George he insisted upon regarding as a buffoon,
another as a yokel. The Fourth George he chose to hold up
for reprobation as a drunken, vapid cad. Every action, every
phase of his life that went to disprove this view, he either
suppressed or distorted utterly. “History,” he would seem to
have chuckled, “has nothing to do with the First Gentleman.
But I will give him a niche in Natural History. He shall be
king of the Beasts.” He made no allowance for the extraordinary
conditions under which any monarch finds himself, none for the
unfortunate circumstances by which George was from the first
hampered. He judged him as he judged Barnes Newcome and
all the scoundrels he created. Moreover, he judged him by the
moral standard of the Victorian Age. In fact he applied to
his subject the wrong method in the wrong manner, and at the
wrong time. And yet every one has taken him at his word. I
feel that my essay may be scouted as a paradox ; but I hope
that many may recognise that I am not, out of mere boredom,
endeavouring to stop my ears against popular platitude, but rather,
in a spirit of real earnestness, to point out to the mob how it has
been cruel to George. I do not despair of success. I think I
shall make converts. For the mob is notoriously fickle, and so
occasionally cheers the truth.
None, at all events, will deny that England to-day stands other-
wise than she stood a hundred and thirty-two years ago, when
George was born. We to-day are living a decadent life. All
the while that we are prating of progress, we are really so deterio-
rate ! There is nothing but feebleness in us. Our youths who
spend their days in trying to build up their constitutions by sport or
athletics, and their evenings in undermining them with poisonous
and dyed drinks, our daughters who are ever searching for some
new quack remedy for new imaginary megrim, what strength is
there in them ? We have our societies for the prevention of this
and the promotion of that and the propagation of the other, because
there are no individuals among us. Our sexes are already nearly
assimilate. Real women are becoming nearly as rare as real ladies,
and it is only at the music halls that we are privileged to see
strong men. We are born into a poor, weak age. We are not
strong enough to be wicked, and the Nonconformist Conscience
makes cowards of us all.
But this was not so in the days when George was walking by
his tutor’s side in the gardens of Kew or of Windsor. London
must have been a splendid place in those days—full of life and
colour and wrong and revelry. There was no absurd press nor
vestry to see that everything should be neatly ordered, nor to
protect the poor at the expense of the rich. Every man had to
shift for himself and, in consequence, men were, as Mr. Clement
Scott would say, manly, and women, as Mr. Clement Scott would
say, womanly. A young man of wealth and family in that period
found open to him a vista of such license as had been unknown
to any since the barbatuli of the Roman Empire. To spend the
early morning with his valet, gradually assuming the rich apparel
that was not then tabooed by a false sumptuary standard ; to
saunter round to White’s for ale and tittle-tattle and the making
of wagers ; to attend a “drunken déjeûner” in honour of “la
très belle Rosaline” or the Strappini ; to drive a friend out into
the country in his pretty curricle, “followed by two well-dressed
and well-mounted grooms, of singular elegance certainly,” and stop
at every tavern on the road to curse the host for not keeping better
ale and a wench of more charm ; to reach St. James’ in time for
a random toilet and so off to dinner. Which of our dandies could
survive a day of pleasures such as this ? Which would be ready,
dinner done, to scamper off again to Ranelagh and dance and skip
and sup in the rotunda there ? Yet the youth of this period would
not dream of going to bed before he had looked in at White’s or
Crockford’s for a few hours’ faro.
This was the kind of life that young George found opened to
him, when, in his nineteenth year, he at length was given an estab-
lishment of his own in Buckingham House. How his young eyes
must have sparkled, and with what glad gasps must he have taken
the air of freedom into his lungs. Rumour had long been busy
with the confounded surveillance under which his childhood had
been passed. A paper of the time says significantly that “the
Prince of Wales, with a spirit which does him honour, has three
times requested a change in that system.” For a long time King
George had postponed permission for his son to appear at any balls,
and the year before had only given it, lest he should offend the
Spanish Minister, who begged it as a personal favour. I know few
pictures more pathetic than that of George, then an overgrown
boy of fourteen, tearing the childish frill from around his neck
and crying to one of the royal servants, “See how they treat
me !” Childhood has always seemed to me the tragic period of
life—to be subject to the most odious espionage at the one age when
you never dream of doing wrong, to be deceived by your parents,
thwarted of your smallest wish, oppressed by the terrors of manhood
and of the world to come, and to believe, as you are told, that child-
hood is the only happiness known : all this is quite terrible. And all
Royal children, of whom I have read, particularly George, seem to
have passed through greater trials in childhood than do the children
of any other class. Mr. Fitzgerald, hazarding for once an opinion,
thinks that “the stupid, odious, German, sergeant-system of disci-
pline that had been so rigorously applied, was, in fact, responsible for
the blemishes of the young Prince’s character.” Even Thackeray,
in his essay upon George III., asks what wonder that the son,
finding himself free at last, should have plunged, without looking,
into the vortex of dissipation. In Torrens’s “Life of Lord Mel-
bourne” we learn that Lord Essex, riding one day with the King,
met the young prince wearing a wig, and that the culprit, being
sternly reprimanded by his father, replied that he had “been
ordered by his doctor to wear a wig, for he was subject to cold.”
Whereupon the King, whether to vent the aversion he already felt
for his son or in complacence at the satisfactory result of his
discipline, turned to Lord Essex and remarked, “A lie is ever
ready when it is wanted.” George never lost this early-engrained
habit of lies. It is to George’s childish fear of his guardians
that we must trace that extraordinary power of bamboozling his
courtiers, his ministry and his mistresses that distinguished him
through his long life. It is characteristic of the man that he
should himself have bitterly deplored his own untruthfulness.
When, in after years, he was consulting Lady Spencer upon the
choice of a governess for his child he made this remarkable speech,
“Above all, she must be taught the truth. You know that I
don’t speak the truth and my brothers don’t, and I find it a great
defect, from which I would have my daughter free. We have
been brought up badly, the Queen having taught us to equivocate.”
You may laugh at the picture of the little chubby, curly-heeded
fellows learning to equivocate at their mother’s knee, but you
must remember that the wisest master of ethics himself, in his
theory of έξεις άποϭείκτικαι, similarly raised virtues, such as telling
the truth, to the level of regular accomplishments, and before you
judge poor George harshly, in his entanglements of lying, re-
member the cruelly unwise education he had undergone.
However much we may deplore this exaggerated tyranny, by
reason of its evil effect upon his moral nature, we cannot but feel
glad that it existed, to afford a piquant contrast to the life awaiting
him. Had he passed through the callow dissipations of Eton and
Oxford, like other young men of his age, he would assuredly have
lacked much of that splendid pent vigour with which he rushed
headlong into London life. He was so young and so handsome,
and so strong, that can we wonder if all the women fell at his feet
“The graces of his person,” says one whom he honoured by an
intrigue, “the irresistible sweetness of his smile, the tenderness of
his melodious, yet manly voice, will be remembered by me till every
vision of this changing scene are forgotten. The polished and
fascinating ingenuousness of his manners contributed not a little
to enliven our promenade. He sang with exquisite taste, and the
tones of his voice, breaking on the silence of the night, have often
appeared to my entranced senses like more than mortal melody.”
But besides his graces of person, he had a most delightful wit, he
was a scholar who could bandy quotations with Fox or Sheridan ;
and, like the young men of to-day, he knew all about Art. He
spoke French, Italian, and German perfectly, and Crossdill had
taught him the violoncello. At first, as was right for one of
his age, he cared more for the pleasures of the table and of the
ring, for cards and love. He was wont to go down to Ranelagh
surrounded by a retinue of bruisers—rapscallions, such as used to
follow Clodius through the streets of Rome, and he loved to join
in the scuffles like any commoner. He learnt to box from Angelo,
and was considered by some to be a fine performer. On one
occasion, too, at an exposition d’escrime, he handled the foils against
the maître, and “was highly complimented upon his graceful
postures.” In fact, in spite of his accomplishments, he seems to
have been a thoroughly manly young fellow. He was just the
kind of figure-head Society had long been in need of. A certain
lack of tone had crept into the amusements of the haut monde,
and this was doubtless due to the lack of an acknowledged
leader. The King was not yet mad, but he was always bucolic,
and socially out of the question. So at the coming of his son
Society broke into a gallop. Balls and masquerades were given in
his honour night after night. Good Samaritans must have
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. P
approved when they found that at these entertainments great
ladies and courtesans brushed beautiful shoulders in utmost
familiarity, but those who delighted in the high charm of society
doubtless shook their heads. We need not, however, find it a
flaw in George’s social bearing that he did not check this kind of
freedom. At the first, as a young man full of life, of course he
took everything as it came, joyfully. No one knew better than
he did, in later life, that there is a time for laughing with great
ladies and a time for laughing with courtesans. But as yet it
was not possible for him to exert influence. How great that
influence became I will indicate later on.
I like to think of him as he was at this period, charging about,
in pursuit of pleasure, like a young bull. The splendid taste for
building had not yet come to him. His father would not hear of
him patronising the turf. But already he was implected with a
passion for dress, and seems to have erred somewhat on the side
of dressing up, as is the way of young men. It is fearful to think
of him, as Cyrus Redding saw him, “arrayed in deep-brown
velvet, silver embroidered, with cut-steel buttons, and a gold net
thrown over all.” Before that “gold net thrown over all,” all the
mistakes of his after-life seem to me to grow almost insignificant.
Time, however, toned his too florid sense of costume, and we
should at any rate be thankful that his imagination never deserted
him. All the delightful munditis? that we find in the contem-
porary “fashion-plates for gentlemen” can be traced to George
himself. His were the much-approved “quadruple stock of great
dimension,” the “cocked grey-beaver,” the pantaloons of mauve
silk “negligently crinkled” and any number of other little pomps
and foibles of the kind. As he grew older and was obliged to
abandon many of his more vigorous pastimes, he grew more and
more enamoured of the pleasures of the wardrobe. He would
spend hours, it is said, in designing coats for his friends and
liveries for his servants, and even uniforms. Nor did he ever
make the mistake of giving away outmoded clothes to his valets,
but kept them to form what must have been the finest collection
of clothes that has been seen in modern times. With a sentiment-
ality that is characteristic of him he would often, as he sat,
crippled by gout, in his room at Windsor, direct his servant to
bring him this or that coat, which he had worn ten or twenty or
thirty years before, and, when it was brought to him, spend much
time in laughing or sobbing over the memories that lay in its
folds. It is pleasant to know that George, during his long and
various life, never forgot a coat, however long ago worn, however
But in the early days of which I speak he had not yet touched
that self-conscious note which, in manner and mode of life, as well
as in costume, he was to touch later. He was too violently
enamoured of all around him to think very deeply of himself.
But he had already realised the tragedy of the voluptuary, which
is, after a little time, not that he must go on living, but that he
cannot live in two places at once. We have, at this end of the
century, tempered this tragedy by the perfection of railways,
and it is possible for that splendid exemplar of the delectable life,
our good Prince, whom Heaven bless, to waken to the sound of the
Braemar bagpipes, while the music of Mdlle. Guilbert’s latest song,
cooed over the footlights of the Concerts Parisiens, still rings in his
ears. But in the time of our Prince’s illustrious great-uncle there
were not railways ; and we find George perpetually driving, for
wagers, to Brighton and back (he had already acquired that taste
for Brighton which was one of his most loveable qualities) in
incredibly short periods of time. The rustics who lived along the
road were well accustomed to the sight of a high, tremulous
phaeton, flashing past them, and the crimson face of the young
prince bending over the horses. There is something absurd in
representing George as, even before he came of age, a hardened
and cynical profligate, an Elagabalus in trousers. His blood
flowed fast enough through his veins. All his escapades were those
of a healthful young man of the time. Need we blame him if
he sought, every day, to live faster and more fully ?
In a brief essay like this, I cannot attempt to write, as I hope
one day to do, in any detail a history of George’s career, during
the time when he was successively Prince of Wales and Regent
and King. Merely is it my wish at present to examine some of the
principal accusations that have been brought against him, and
to point out in what ways he has been harshly and hastily judged.
Perhaps the greatest indignation against him was, and is to this
day, felt by reason of his treatment of his two wives, Mrs.
Fitzherbert and Queen Caroline. There are some scandals that
never grow old, and I think the story of George’s married life is
one of them. I can feel it. It has vitality. Often have I
wondered whether the blood with which the young Prince’s shirt
was covered when Mrs. Fitzherbert first was induced to visit
him at Carlton House, was merely red paint, or if, in a frenzy
of love, he had truly gashed himself with a razor. Certain
it is that his passion for the virtuous and obdurate lady was
a very real one. Lord Holland describes how the Prince used
to visit Mrs. Fox, and there indulge in “the most extravagant
expressions and actions—rolling on the floor, striking his fore-
head, tearing his hair, falling into hysterics, and swearing that
he would abandon the country, forego the crown, &c.” He
was indeed still a child, for royalties, not being ever brought
inco contact with the realities of life, remain young longer than
most people. He had a truly royal lack of self-control, and
was unable to bear the idea of being thwarted in any wish. Every
day he sent off couriers to Holland, whither Mrs. Fitzherbert
had retreated, imploring her to return to him, offering her formal
marriage. At length, as we know, she yielded to his importunity
and returned. It is difficult indeed to realise exactly what was
Mrs. Fitzherbert’s feeling in the matter. The marriage must be,
as she knew, illegal, and would lead, as Charles James Fox pointed
out in his powerful letter to the Prince, to endless and intricate
difficulties. For the present she could only live with him as his
mistress. If, when he reached the legal age of twenty-five, he
were to apply to Parliament for permission to marry her, how
could permission be given, when she had been living with him
irregularly ? Doubtless, she was flattered by the attentions of the
Heir to the Throne, but, had she really returned his passion, she
would surely have preferred “any other species of connection
with His Royal Highness to one leading to so much misery and
mischief.” Really to understand her marriage, one must look at
the portraits of her that are extant. That beautiful and silly face
explains much. One can well fancy such a lady being pleased to
live after the performance of a mock-ceremony with a prince for
whom she felt no passion. Her view of the matter can only
have been social, for, in the eyes of the Church, she could
only live with the Prince as his mistress. Society, however, once
satisfied that a ceremony of some kind had been enacted, never
regarded her as anything but his wife. The day after Fox,
inspired by the Prince, had formally denied that any ceremony
had taken place, “the knocker of her door,” to quote her own
complacent phrase, “was never still.” The Duchesses of
Portland, Devonshire, and Cumberland were among her visitors.
Now, much pop-limbo has been talked about the Prince’s
denial of the marriage. I grant that it was highly improper
to marry Mrs. Fitzherbert at all. But George was always weak
and wayward, and he did, in his great passion, marry her. That
he should afterwards deny it officially seems to me to have been
utterly inevitable. His denial did her not the faintest damage, as
I have pointed out. It was, so to speak, an official quibble,
rendered necessary by the circumstances of the case. Not to
have denied the marriage in the House of Commons would have
meant ruin to both of them. As months passed, more serious
difficulties awaited the unhappily wedded pair. The story of the
Prince’s great debts and desperation need not be repeated. It was
clear that there was but one way of getting his head above water,
and that was to yield to his father’s wishes and contract a real
marriage with a foreign princess. Fate was dogging his footsteps
relentlessly. Placed as he was, George could not but offer to
marry, as his father willed. It is well, also, to remember that
George was not ruthlessly and suddenly turning his shoulder upon
Mrs. Fitzherbert. For some time before the British pleni-
potentiary went to fetch him a bride from over the waters, his
name had been associated with that of the beautiful and un-
scrupulous Countess of Jersey.
Poor George ! Half-married to a woman whom he no longer
worshipped, compelled to marry a woman whom he was to hate at
first sight ! Surely we should not judge a prince harshly.
“Princess Caroline very gauche at cards,” “Princess Caroline
very missish at supper,” are among the entries made in his diary
by Lord Malmesbury while he was at the little German Court.
I can conceive no scene more tragic than that of her presentation
to the Prince, as related by the same nobleman. “I, accordingly
to the established etiquette,” so he writers, “introduced the
Princess Caroline to him. She, very properly, in consequence of
my saying it was the right mode of proceeding, attempted to
kneel to him. He raised her gracefully enough, and embraced
her, said barely one word, turned round, retired to a distant part of
the apartment, and, calling to me, said: ‘Harris, I am not well :
pray get me a glass of brandy.'” At dinner that evening, in the
presence of her betrothed, the Princess was “flippant, rattling,
affecting wit.” Poor George, I say again ! Deportment was
his ruling passion, and his bride did not know how to behave.
Vulgarity—hard, implacable, German vulgarity—was in every-
thing she did to the very day of her death. The marriage was
solemnised on Wednesday, April 8th, 1795, and the royal bride-
groom was drunk.
So soon as they were seperated, George became implected with
a morbid hatred for his wife, that was hardly in accord with his
light and variant nature, and shows how bitterly he had been
mortified by his marriage of necessity. It is sad that so much of
his life should have been wasted in futile strainings after divorce.
Yet we can scrcely blame him for seizing upon every scrap of
scandal that was whispered of his wife. Besides his not unnatural
wish to be free, it was derogatory to the dignity of a Prince and a
Regent that his wife should be living an eccentric life at Black-
heath with a family of singers named Sapio. Indeed, Caroline’s
conduct during this time was as indiscreet as ever. Wherever
she went she made ribald jokes about her husband, “in such a
voice that all, by-standing, might hear.” “After dinner,” writes
one of her servants, “Her Royal Highness made a wax figure as
usual, and gave it an amiable pair of large horns ; then took three
pins out of her garment and stuck them through and through, and
put the figure to roast and melt at the fire. What a silly piece of
spite! Yet it is impossible not to laugh when one sees it done.”
Imagine the feelings of the First Gentleman in Europe when
such pranks were whispered to him!
For my own part, I fancy Caroline was innocent of any in-
fidelity to her unhappy husband. But that is neither here nor
there. Her behaviour was certainly not above suspicion. It
fully justified him in trying to establish a case for her divorce.
When, at length, she went abroad, her vagaries were such that
the whole of her English suite left her, and we hear of her
travelling about the Holy Land attended by another family,
named Bergami. When her husband succeeded to the throne,
and her name was struck out of the liturgy, she despatched
expostulations in absurd English to Lord Liverpool. Receiving
no answer, she decided to return and claim her right to be
crowned Queen of England. Whatever the unhappy lady did,
she always was ridiculous. One cannot but smile as one reads of
her posting along the French roads in a yellow travelling-chariot
drawn by cart-horses, with a retinue that included an alderman, a
reclaimed lady-in-waiting, an Italian Count, the eldest son of the
alderman, and “a fine little female child, about three years old,
whom her Majesty, in conformity with her benevolent practices
on former occasions, had adopted.” The breakdown of her
impeachment, and her acceptance of an income, formed a fitting
anti-climax to the terrible absurdities of her position. She died
from the effects of a chill caught when she was trying vainly
to force a way to her husband’s coronation. Unhappy woman !
Our sympathy for her is not misplaced. Fate wrote her a most
tremendous tragedy, and she played it in tights. Let us pity
her, but not forget to pity her husband, the King, also. It is
another common accusation against George that he was an
undutiful and unfeeling son. If this was so, it is certain that not
all the blame is to be laid upon him alone. There is more than
one anecdote which shows that King George disliked his eldest
son, and took no trouble to conceal his dislike, long before the
boy had been freed from his tutors. It was the coldness of his
father and the petty restrictions he loved to enforce that first
drove George to seek the companionship of such men as the
Duke of Cumberland and the Duc d’Orleans, each of whom were
quick to inflame his impressionable mind to angry resentment.
Yet when Margaret Nicholson attempted the life of the King, the
Prince immediately posted off from Brighton that he might wait
upon his father at Windsor—a graceful act of piety that was
rewarded by his father’s refusal to see him. Hated by the Queen,
who at this time did all she could to keep her husband and his son
apart, surrounded by intriguers, who did all they could to set him
against his father, George seems to have behaved with great
discretion. In the years that follow, I can conceive no position
more difficult than that in which he found himself every time his
father relapsed into lunacy. That he should have by every means
opposed those who through jealousy stood between him and the
regency was only natural. It cannot be said that at any time did
he show anxiety to rule, so long as there was any immediate
chance of the King’s recovery. On the contrary, all impartial
seers of that chaotic Court agreed that the Prince bore himself
throughout the intrigues, wherein he himself was bound to be, in
a notably filial way.
There are many things that I regret in the career of George IV.,
and what I most of all regret is the part that he played in
the politics of the period. Englishmen to-day have at length
decided that royalty shall not set foot in the political arena. I do
not despair that some day we shall place politics upon a sound
commercial basis, as they have already done in America and
France, or leave them entirely in the hands of the police, as they
do in Russia. It is horrible to think that under our existing
régime all the men of noblest blood and highest intellect should
waste their time in the sordid atmosphere of the House of
Commons, listening for hours to nonentities talking nonsense, or
searching enormous volumes to prove that somebody said some-
thing some years ago that does not quite tally with something he
said the other day, or standing tremulous before the whips in the
lobbies and the scorpions in the constituencies. In the political
machine are crushed and lost all our best men. That Mr. Glad-
stone did not choose to be a cardinal is a blow under which the
Roman Catholic Church still staggers. In Mr. Chamberlain
Scotland Yard missed its smartest detective. What a fine volup-
tuary might Lord Rosebery have been ! It is a platitude that
the country is ruled best by the permanent officials, and I look
forward to the time when Mr. Keir Hardie shall hang his cap
in the hall of No. 10 Downing Street, and a Conservative
working man shall lead her Majesty’s Opposition. In the life-
time of George, politics were not a whit finer than they are
to-day. I feel a genuine indignation that he should have
wasted so much of tissue in mean intrigues about ministries and
bills. That he should have been fascinated by that splendid
fellow, Fox, is quite right. That he should have thrown himself
with all his heart into the storm of the Westminster election is
most natural. But it is inverideed sad to find him, long after
he had reached man’s estate, indulging in back-stair intrigues with
Whigs and Tories. It is, of course, absurd to charge him with
deserting his first friends, the Whigs. His love and fidelity were
given, not to the Whigs, but to the men who led them. Even
after the death of Fox, he did, in misplaced piety, do all he could
for Fox’s party. What wonder that, when he found he was
ignored by the Ministry that owed its existence to him, he turned
his back upon that sombre couple, the “Lords G. and G.,” whom
he had always hated, and went over to the Tories ? Among the
Tories he hoped to find men who would faithfully perform their
duties and leave him leisure to live his own beautiful life. I
regret immensely that his part in politics did not cease here.
The state of the country and of his own finances, and also, I
fear, a certain love that he had imbibed for political manipula-
tion, prevented him from standing aside. How useless was all the
finesse he displayed in the long-drawn question of Catholic
Emancipation ! How lamentable his terror of Lord Wellesley’s
rude dragooning ! And is there not something pitiable in the
thought of the Regent at a time of ministerial complications
lying prone on his bed with a sprained ankle, and taking, as was
whispered, in one day as many as seven hundred drops of lauda-
num ? Some said he took these doses to deaden the pain. But
others, and among them his brother Cumberland, declared that
the sprain was all a sham. I hope it was. The thought of a
voluptuary in pain is very terrible. In any case, I cannot but
feel angry, for George’s own sake and that of his kingdom,
that he found it impossible to keep further aloof from the
wearisome troubles of political life. His wretched indecision
of character made him an easy prey to unscrupulous ministers,
while his extraordinary diplomatic powers and almost extrava-
gant tact made them, in their turn, an easy prey to him. In
these two processes much of his genius was uselessly spent. I
must confess that he did not quite realise where his duties ended.
He wished always to do too much. If you read his repeated
appeals to his father that he might be permitted to serve actively
in the British army against the French, you will acknowledge
that it was through no fault of his own that he did not fight. It
touches me to think that in his declining years he actually thought
that he had led one of the charges at Waterloo. He would often
describe the whole scene as it appeared to him at that supreme
moment, and refer to the Duke of Wellington, saying, “Was it
not so, Duke ?” “I have often heard you say so, your Majesty,”
the old soldier would reply, grimly. I am not sure that the old
soldier was at Waterloo himself. In a room full of people he
once referred to the battle as having been won upon the playing-
fields of Eton. This was certainly a most unfortunate slip,
seeing that all historians are agreed that it was fought on a
certain field situate a few miles from Brussels.
In one of his letters to the King, craving for a military appoint-
ment, George urges that, whilst his next brother, the Duke of
York, commanded the army, and the younger branches of the
family were either generals or lieutenant-generals, he, who was
Prince of Wales, remained colonel of dragoons. And herein,
could he have known it, lay the right limiting of his life. As
royalty was and is constituted, it is for the younger sons to take
an active part in the services, whilst the eldest son is left as the
ruler of Society. Thousands and thousands of guineas were given
by the nation that the Prince of Wales, the Regent, the King,
might be, in the best sense of the word, ornamental. It is not for
us, at this moment, to consider whether Royalty, as a wholly Pagan
institution, is not out of place in a community of Christians. It
is enough that we should inquire whether the god whom our
grandfathers set up and worshipped and crowned with offerings,
gave grace to his worshippers.
That George was a moral man, in our modern sense, I do not for
one moment pretend. When he died there were found in one of
his cabinets more than a hundred locks of women’s hair. Some of
these were still plastered with powder and pomatum, others were
mere little golden curls, such as grow low down upon a girl’s neck,
others were streaked with grey. The whole of this collection
subsequently passed into the hands of Adam, the famous Scotch
henchman of the Regent, and in his family, now resident in
Glasgow, it is treasured as an heirloom. I myself have been
privileged to look at all these locks of hair, and I have seen a
clairvoyante take them one by one, and, pinching them between
her lithe fingers, tell of the love that each symbolised. I have
heard her tell of long rides by night, of a boudoir hung with
grass-green satin, and of a tryst at Windsor ; of one, the wife of a
hussar at York, whose little lap-dog used to bark angrily whenever
the Regent came near his mistress ; of a milk-maid who, in her
great simpleness, thought that her child would one day be king of
England ; of an arch-duchess with blue eyes, and a silly little
flautist from Portugal ; of women that were wantons and fought
for his favour, great ladies that he loved dearly, girls that gave
themselves to him humbly. If we lay all pleasures at the feet of
our prince, we can scarcely hope he will remain virtuous. Indeed,
we do not wish our prince to be an exemplar of godliness, but a
perfect type of happiness. It may be foolish of us to insist upon
apolaustic happiness, but that is the kind of happiness that we can
ourselves, most of us, best understand, and so we offer it to our
ideal. In Royalty we find our Bacchus, our Venus.
Certainly George was, in the practical sense of the word, a fine
king. His wonderful physique, his wealth, his brilliant talents, he
gave them all without stint to Society. His development from the
time when, at Madame Cornely’s, he gallivanted with rips and
demireps, to the time when he sat, a stout and solitary old king,
fishing in the artificial pond at Windsor, was beautifully ordered.
During his life he indulged himself to the full in all the delights
that life could offer him. That he should have, in his old age,
suddenly abandoned his career of vigorous enjoyment is, I confess,
rather surprising. The royal voluptuary generally remains young
to the last. No one ever tires of pleasure. It is the pursuit of
pleasure, the trouble to grasp it, that makes us old. Only the
soldiers who enter Capua with wounded feet leave it demoralised.
And yet George, who never had to wait or fight for a pleasure,
most certainly broke up long before his death. I can but attribute
this to the constant persecution to which he was subjected by
duns and ministers, parents and wives.
Not that I regret the manner in which he spent his last years.
On the contrary, I think it was exceedingly cosy. I like to think
of the King, at Windsor, lying a-bed all the morning in his dark-
ened room, with all the newspapers scattered over his quilt, and a
little decanter of the favourite cherry-brandy within easy reach.
I like to think of him sitting by his fire in the afternoon and
hearing his ministers asking for him at the door and piling
another log upon the fire, as he hears them sent away by his ser-
vant. After all, he had lived his life ; he had lived more fully than
any other man.
And it is right that we should remember him first as a
voluptuary. Only let us note that his nature never became, as do
the natures of most voluptuaries, corroded by a cruel indifference
to the happiness of others. When all the town was agog for the
fête to be given by the Regent in honour of the French King,
Sheridan sent a forged card of invitation to Romeo Coates, the
half-witted dandy, who used at this time to walk about in absurd
ribbons and buckles, and was the butt of all the streetsters. When
the poor fellow arrived at the entrance of Carlton House, proud as
a peacock, he was greeted with a tremendous cheer from the by-
standing mob, but when he came to the lacqueys he was told that
his card was a hoax, and was sent about his business. The tears
were rolling down his cheeks as he shambled back into the street.
The Regent heard later in the evening of this sorry joke, and next
day despatched a kindly-worded message, in which he prayed that
Mr. Coates would not refuse to come and “view the decorations,
nevertheless.” Though he does not appear to have treated his
inferiors with that extreme servility that is now in vogue, George
was beloved by the whole of his household, and many are the little
tales that are told to illustrate the kindliness and consideration
he showed to his valets and his jockeys and his stable-boys. That
from time to time he dropped certain of his favourites is no cause
for blaming him. Remember that a Great Personage, like a great
genius, is dangerous to his fellow-creatures. The favourites of
Royalty live in an intoxicant atmosphere. They become
unaccountable for their behaviour. Either they get beyond them-
selves, and, like Brummel, forget that the King, their friend,
is also their master ; or they outrun the constable, and go bankrupt,
or cheat at cards in order to keep up their position, or do some
other foolish thing that makes it impossible for the King to
favour them more. Remember, too, that old friends are generally
the refuge of unsociable persons, and how great must be the
temptation besetting the head of Society to form fresh friendships,
when all the cleverest and most charming persons in the land are
standing ready, like supers at the wings, to come on and please
him. At Carlton House there was a constant succession of wits.
Minds were preserved for the Prince of Wales, as coverts are
preserved for him to-day. For him Sheridan would say his best
bon-mot, and Theodore Hook contrive his most practical jokes,
his swiftest chansonette. And Fox would talk, as only he could,
of Liberty and of Patriotism, and Byron would look more than
ever like Isidore de Lara as he recited his own bad verses, and Sir
Walter Scott would “pour out with an endless generosity his
store of old-world learning, kindness, and humour.” Of such men
George was a splendid patron. He did not merely sit in his chair,
gaping princely at their wit and their wisdom, but quoted with the
scholars, and argued with the statesmen, and jested with the wits.
Doctor Burney, an impartial observer, says that he was amazed by
the knowledge of music that the Regent displayed in a half-
hour’s discussion over the wine. Croker says that “the Prince
and Scott were the two most brilliant story-tellers, in their
several ways, he had ever happened to meet. Both exerted them-
selves, and it was hard to say which shone the most.” The
Prince seems indeed to have been a fine conversationalist, with a
wide range of knowledge and great humour. We, who have
come at length to look upon stupidity as one of the most sacred
prerogatives of Royalty, can scarcely realise that, if George’s
birth had been never so humble, he would have been known to us
as a fine scholar and wit or as a connoisseur of the arts. It is
pleasing to think of his love for the Flemish school of painting,
for Wilkie and Sir Thomas Lawrence. The splendid portraits of
foreign potentates that hang in the Banqueting Room at Windsor
bear witness to his sense of the canvas. In his later years he
exerted himself strenuously in raising the tone of the drama.
His love of the classics never left him. We know he was fond of
quoting those incomparable poets, Homer, at great length, and
that he was prominent in the “papyrus-craze.” Indeed, he
inspired Society with a love of something more than mere
pleasure, a love of the “humaner delights.” He was a giver of
tone. The bluff, disgusting ways of the Tom and Jerry period
gave way to those florid graces that are still called Georgian.
A pity that George’s predecessor was not a man, like the Prince
Consort, of strong chastening influence ! Then might the bright
flamboyance which George gave to Society have made his reign
more beautiful than any other—a real renaissance. But he found
London a wild city of taverns and cock-pits, and the grace which
in the course of years he gave to his subjects never really entered
into them. The cock-pits were gilded and the taverns painted
with colour, but the heart of the city was vulgar, even as before.
The simulation of higher things did indeed give the note of a
very interesting period, but how shallow that simulation was, and
how merely it was due to George’s own influence, we may see in
the light of what happened after his death. The good that he
had done died with him. The refinement he had laid upon vul-
garity fell away, like enamel from withered cheeks. It was only
George himself who had made the sham endure. The Victorian
Era came soon, and the angels rushed in and drove the nymphs
away and hung the land with reps.
I have often wondered whether it was with a feeling that his
influence would be no more than life-long, that George allowed
Carlton House, that dear structure, the very work of his life and
symbol of his being, to be rased. I wish that Carlton House were
still standing. I wish we could still walk through those corridors,
whose walls were “crusted with ormolu,” and parquet-floors were
“so glossy that, were Narcissus to come down from heaven, he
would, I maintain, need no other mirror for his beauté.” I wish
that we could see the pier-glasses and the girandoles and the
twisted sofas, the fauns foisted upon the ceiling and the rident
goddesses along the wall. These things would make George’s
memory dearer to us, help us to a fuller knowledge of him. I am
glad that the Pavilion still stands here in Brighton. Its trite
lawns and cheeky minarets have taught me much. As I write
this essay, I can see them from my window. Last night I sat
there in a crowd of vulgar people, whilst a band played us tunes.
Once I fancied I saw the shade of a swaying figure and of a wine-
The Yellow Book—Vol. III. Q
Ballad of a Nun
FROM Eastertide to Eastertide
For ten long years her patient knees
Engraved the stones—the fittest bride
Of Christ in all the diocese.
She conquered every earthly lust ;
The abbess loved her more and more ;
And, as a mark of perfect trust,
Made her the keeper of the door.
High on a hill the convent hung
Across a duchy looking down,
Where everlasting mountains flung
Their shadows over tower and town.
The jewels of their lofty snows
In constellations flashed at night ;
Above their crests the moon arose ;
The deep earth shuddered with delight.
Long ere she left her cloudy bed,
Still dreaming in the orient land,
On many a mountain’s happy head
Dawn lightly laid her rosy hand.
The adventurous sun took Heaven by storm ;
Clouds scattered largesses of rain ;
The sounding cities rich and warm,
Smouldered and glittered in the plain.
Sometimes it was a wandering wind,
Sometimes the fragrance of the pine,
Sometimes the thought how others sinned,
That turned her sweet blood into wine.
Sometimes she heard a serenade
Complaining sweetly far away :
She said, “A young man woos a maid” ;
And dreamt of love till break of day.
Then would she ply her knotted scourge
Until she swooned ; but evermore
She had the same red sin to purge,
Poor, passionate keeper of the door !
For still night’s starry scroll unfurled,
And still the day came like a flood :
It was the greatness of the world
That made her long to use her blood.
In winter-time when Lent drew nigh,
And hill and plain were wrapped in snow,
She watched beneath the frosty sky
The nearest city nightly glow.
Like peals of airy bells outworn
Faint laughter died above her head
In gusts of broken music borne :
“They keep the Carnival,” she said.
Her hungry heart devoured the town :
“Heaven save me by a miracle !
Unless God sends an angel down,
Thither I go though it were Hell.”
She dug her nails deep in her breast,
Sobbed, shrieked, and straight withdrew the bar :
A fledgling flying from the nest,
A pale moth rushing to a star.
Fillet and veil in strips she tore ;
Her golden tresses floated wide ;
The ring and bracelet that she wore
As Christ’s betrothed, she cast aside.
“Life’s dearest meaning I shall probe ;
Lo ! I shall taste of love at last !
Away !” She doffed her outer robe,
And sent it sailing down the blast.
Her body seemed to warm the wind ;
With bleeding feet o’er ice she ran :
“I leave the righteous God behind ;
I go to worship sinful man.”
She reached the sounding city’s gate ;
No question did the warder ask :
He passed her in : “Welcome, wild mate !”
He thought her some fantastic mask.
Half-naked through the town she went ;
Each footstep left a bloody mark ;
Crowds followed her with looks intent ;
Her bright eyes made the torches dark.
Alone and watching in the street
There stood a grave youth nobly dressed ;
To him she knelt and kissed his feet ;
Her face her great desire confessed.
Straight to his house the nun he led :
“Strange lady, what would you with me ?”
“Your love, your love, sweet lord,” she said ;
“I bring you my virginity.”
He healed her bosom with a kiss ;
She gave him all her passion’s hoard ;
And sobbed and murmured ever, “This
Is life’s great meaning, dear, my lord.
“I care not for my broken vow,
Though God should come in thunder soon ;
I am sister to the mountains now,
And sister to the sun and moon.”
Through all the towns of Belmarie,
She made a progress like a queen.
“She is,” they said, “whate’er she be,
The strangest woman ever seen.
“From fairyland she must have come,
Or else she is a mermaiden.”
Some said she was a ghoul, and some
A heathen goddess born again.
But soon her fire to ashes burned ;
Her beauty changed to haggardness ;
Her golden hair to silver turned ;
The hour came of her last caress.
At midnight from her lonely bed
She rose, and said : “I have had my will.”
The old ragged robe she donned, and fled
Back to the convent on the hill.
Half-naked as she went before,
She hurried to the city wall,
Unnoticed in the rush and roar
And splendour of the Carnival.
No question did the warder ask :
Her ragged robe, her shrunken limb,
Her dreadful eyes ! “It is no mask ;
It is a she-wolf, gaunt and grim !”
She ran across the icy plain ;
Her worn blood curdled in the blast ;
Each footstep left a crimson stain ;
The white-faced moon looked on aghast.
She said between her chattering jaws,
“Deep peace is mine, I cease to strive ;
Oh, comfortable convent laws,
That bury foolish nuns alive !
“A trowel for my passing-bell,
A little bed within the wall,
A coverlet of stones ; how well
I there shall keep the Carnival !”
Like tired bells chiming in their sleep,
The wind faint peals of laughter bore ;
She stopped her ears and climbed the steep,
And thundered at the convent door.
It opened straight : she entered in,
And at the wardress’ feet fell prone :
“I come to purge away my sin,
Bury me, close me up in stone.”
The wardress raised her tenderly ;
She touched her wet and fast-shut eyes ;
“Look, sister ; sister, look at me ;
Look ; can you see through my disguise ?”
She looked and saw her own sad face,
And trembled, wondering, “Who art thou ?”
“God sent me down to fill your place :
I am the Virgin Mary now.”
And with the word, God’s mother shone ;
The wanderer whispered, “Mary, hail !”
The vision helped her to put on
Bracelet and fillet, ring and veil.
“You are sister to the mountains now,
And sister to the day and night ;
Sister to God ;” and on the brow
She kissed her thrice, and left her sight.
While dreaming in her cloudy bed,
Far in the crimson orient land,
On many a mountain’s happy head
Dawn lightly laid her rosy hand.
The Yellow Book
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Contents of Yellow Book, Vol. II. . . . 8
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The Yellow Book, vol. 3, October 1894. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021. https://1890s.ca/YBV3_all