LORD ORMONT AND HIS AMINTA - V4
LORD ORMONT AND HIS AMINTA - V4
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks or pointers at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
XVII. LADY CHARLOTTE'S TRIUMPH
XVIII. A SCENE ON THE ROAD BACK
XIX. THE PURSUERS
XX. AT THE SIGN OF THE JOLLY CRICKETERS
XXI. UNDER-CURRENTS IN THE MINDS OF LADY CHARLOTTE AND LORD ORMONT
XXII. TREATS OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE CONTENTION OF BROTHER AND SISTER
XXIII. THE ORMONT JEWELS
LADY CHARLOTTE'S TRIUMPH
One of the days of sovereign splendour in England was riding down the
heavens and drawing the royal mantle of the gold-fringed shadows over
plain and wavy turf blue water and woods of the country round Steignton.
A white mansion shone to a length of oblong lake that held the sun-ball
suffused in mild yellow.
'There's the place' Lady Charlotte said to Weyburn as they had view of
it at a turn of the park. She said to herself--where I was born and
bred! and her sight gloated momentarily on the house and side avenues
a great plane standing to the right of the house the sparkle of a little
river running near; all the scenes she knew all young and lively. She
sprang on her seat for a horse beneath her and said 'But this is
healthy excitement' as in reply to her London physician's remonstrances.
'And there's my brother Rowsley talking to one of the keepers' she
cried. 'You see Lord Ormont? I can see a mile. Sight doesn't fail with
me. He 's insisting. 'Ware poachers when Rowsley's on his ground! You
smell the air here? Nobody dies round about Steignton. Their legs wear
out and they lie down to rest them. It 's the finest air in the world.
Now look the third window left of the porch first floor. That was my
room before I married. Strangers have been here and called the place
home. It can never be home to any but me and Rowsley. He sees the
carriage. He little thinks! He's dressed in his white corduroy and
knee-breeches. Age! he won't know age till he's ninety. Here he comes
marching. He can't bear surprises. I'll wave my hand and call.'
She called his name.
In a few strides he was at the carriage window. 'You Charlotte?'
'Home again Rowsley! Bring down your eyebrows and let me hear you're
glad I 've come.'
'What made you expect you would find me here?'
'Anything-cats on the tiles at night. You can't keep a secret from me.
Here's Mr. Weyburn good enough to be my escort. I 'll get out.'
She alighted scorning help; Weyburn at her heels. The earl nodded to
him politely and not cordially. He was hardly cordial to Lady Charlotte.
That had no effect on her. 'A glorious day for Steignton' she said.
'Ah there's the Buridon group of beeches; grander trees than grow at
Buridon. Old timber now. I knew them slim as demoiselles. Where 's the
ash? We had a splendid ash on the west side.'
'Dead and cut down long since' replied the earl.
'So we go!'
She bent her steps to the spot: a grass-covered heave of the soil.
'Dear old tree!' she said in a music of elegy: and to Weyburn: 'Looks
like a stump of an arm lopped off a shoulder in bandages. Nature does it
so. All the tenants doing well Rowsley?'
'About the same amount of trouble with them.'
'Ours at Olmer get worse.'
'It's a process for the extirpation of the landlords.'
'Then down goes the country.'
'They 've got their case their papers tell us.'
'I know they have; but we've got the soil and we'll make a fight of
'They can fight too they say.'
'I should be sorry to think they couldn't if they're Englishmen.'
She spoke so like his old Charlotte of the younger days that her brother
'Parliamentary fighting 's not much to your taste or mine. They 've lost
their stomach for any other. The battle they enjoy is the battle that
goes for the majority. Gauge their valour by that.'
'To be sure' said his responsive sister. She changed her note. 'But
what I say is let the nobles keep together and stick to their class.
There's nothing to fear then. They must marry among themselves think
of the blood: it's their first duty. Or better a peasant girl! Middle
courses dilute it to the stuff in a publican's tankard. It 's an
adulterous beast who thinks of mixing old wine with anything.'
'Hulloa!' said the earl; and she drew up.
'You'll have me here till over to-morrow Rowsley so that I may have one
clear day at Steignton?'
He bowed. 'You will choose your room. Mr. Weyburn is welcome.'
Weyburn stated the purport of his visit and was allowed to name an early
day for the end of his term of service.
Entering the house Lady Charlotte glanced at the armour and stag
branches decorating corners of the hall and straightway laid her head
forward pushing after it in the direction of the drawing room. She went
in stood for a minute and came out. Her mouth was hard shut.
At dinner she had tales of uxorious men of men who married mistresses
of the fearful incubus the vulgar family of a woman of the inferior
classes ever must be; and her animadversions were strong in the matter of
gew-gaw modern furniture. The earl submitted to hear.
She was however keenly attentive whenever he proffered any item of
information touching Steignton. After dinner Weyburn strolled to the
points of view she cited as excellent for different aspects of her old
He found her waiting to hear his laudation when he came back; and in the
early morning she was on the terrace impatient to lead him down to the
lake. There at the boat-house she commanded him to loosen a skiff and
give her a paddle. Between exclamations designed to waken louder from
him and not so successful as her cormorant hunger for praise of
Steignton required she plied him to confirm with his opinion an opinion
that her reasoning mind had almost formed in the close neighbourhood of
the beloved and honoured person providing it; for abstract ideas were
unknown to her. She put it however as in the abstract:--
'How is it we meet people brave as lions before an enemy and rank
cowards where there's a botheration among their friends at home? And
tell me too if you've thought the thing over what's the meaning of
this? I 've met men in high places and they've risen to distinction by
their own efforts and they head the nation. Right enough you'd say.
Well I talk with them and I find they've left their brains on the
ladder that led them up; they've only the ideas of their grandfather on
general subjects. I come across a common peasant or craftsman and he
down there has a mind more open--he's wiser in his intelligence than his
rulers and lawgivers up above him. He understands what I say and I
learn from him. I don't learn much from our senators or great lawyers
great doctors professors members of governing bodies--that lot. Policy
seems to petrify their minds when they 've got on an eminence. Now
explain it if you can.'
'Responsibility has a certain effect on them no doubt' said Weyburn.
'Eminent station among men doesn't give a larger outlook. Most of them
confine their observation to their supports. It happens to be one of the
questions I have thought over. Here in England and particularly on a
fortnight's run in the lowlands of Scotland once I have like you my
lady come now and then across the people we call common men and women
old wayside men especially; slow-minded but hard in their grasp of
facts and ready to learn and logical large in their ideas though
going a roundabout way to express them. They were at the bottom of
wisdom for they had in their heads the delicate sense of justice upon
which wisdom is founded. That is what their rulers lack. Unless we have
the sense of justice abroad like a common air there 's no peace and no
steady advance. But these humble people had it. They reasoned from it
and came to sound conclusions. I felt them to be my superiors. On the
other hand I have not felt the same with "our senators rulers and
lawgivers." They are for the most part deficient in the liberal mind.'
'Ha! good so far. How do you account for it?' said Lady Charlotte.
'I read it in this way: that the world being such as it is at present
demanding and rewarding with honours and pay special services the men
called great who have risen to distinction are not men of brains but
the men of aptitudes. These men of aptitudes have a poor conception of
the facts of life to meet the necessities of modern expansion. They are
serviceable in departments. They go as they are driven or they resist.
In either case they explain how it is that we have a world moving so
sluggishly. They are not the men of brains the men of insight and
outlook. Often enough they are foes of the men of brains.'
'Aptitudes; yes that flashes a light into me' said Lady Charlotte.
'I see it better. It helps to some comprehension of their muddle. A man
may be a first-rate soldier doctor banker--as we call the usurer now-a
-days---or brewer orator anything that leads up to a figure-head and
prove a foolish fellow if you sound him. I 've thought something like
it but wanted the word. They say themselves "Get to know and you see
with what little wisdom the world is governed!" You explain how it is.
I shall carry "aptitudes" away.'
She looked straight at Weyburn. 'If I were a younger woman I could kiss
you for it.'
He bowed to her very gratefully.
'Remember my lady there's a good deal of the Reformer in that
'I stick to my class. But they shall hear a true word when there's one
abroad I can tell them. That reminds me---you ought to have asked; let
me tell you I'm friendly with the Rev. Mr. Hampton-Evey. We had a
wrestle for half an hour and I threw him and helped him up and he
apologized for tumbling and I subscribed to one of his charities and
gave up about the pew but had an excuse for not sitting under the
sermon. A poor good creature. He 's got the aptitudes for his office.
He won't do much to save his Church. I knew another who had his aptitude
for the classics and he has mounted. He was my tutor when I was a girl.
He was fond of declaiming passages from Lucian and Longus and Ovid. One
day he was at it with a piece out of Daphnis and Chloe and I said "Now
translate." He fetched a gurgle to say he couldn't and I slapped his
check. Will you believe it? the man was indignant. I told him if he
would like to know why I behaved in "that unmaidenly way" he had better
apply at home. I had no further intimations of his classical aptitudes;
but he took me for a cleverer pupil than I was. I hadn't a notion of the
stuff he recited. I read by his face. That was my aptitude--always has
been. But think of the donkeys parents are when they let a man have a
chance of pouring his barley-sugar and sulphur into the ears of a girl.
Lots of girls have no latent heckles and prickles to match his villany.
--There's my brother come back to breakfast from a round. You and I 'll
have a drive before lunch and a ride or a stroll in the afternoon.
There's a lot to see. I mean you to get the whole place into your head.
I 've ordered the phaeton and you shall take the whip with me beside
you. That's how my husband and I spent three-quarters of our honeymoon.'
Each of the three breakfasted alone.
They met on the terrace. It was easily perceived that Lord Ormont stood
expecting an assault at any instant; prepared also to encounter and do
battle with his redoubtable sister. Only he wished to defer the
engagement. And he was magnanimous: he was in the right she in the
wrong; he had no desire to grapple with her fling and humiliate. The
Sphinx of Mrs. Pagnell had been communing with himself unwontedly during
the recent weeks.
What was the riddle of him? That he did not read. But expecting an
assault and relieved by his sister Charlotte's departure with Weyburn
he went to the drawing-room where he had seen her sniff her strong
suspicions of a lady coming to throne it. Charlotte could believe that
he flouted the world with a beautiful young woman on his arm; she would
not believe him capable of doing that in his family home and native
county; so then her shrewd wits had nothing or little to learn. But
her vehement fighting against facts; her obstinate aristocratic
prejudices which he shared; her stinger of a tongue: these in ebullition
formed a discomforting prospect. The battle might as well be conducted
through the post. Come it must!
Even her writing of the pointed truths she would deliver was an
unpleasant anticipation. His ears heated. Undoubtedly he could crush
her. Yet supposing her to speak to his ears she would say: 'You
married a young woman and have been foiling and fooling her ever since
giving her half a title to the name of wife and allowing her in
consequence to be wholly disfigured before the world--your family
naturally her chief enemies who would otherwise (Charlotte would
proclaim it) have been her friends. What! your intention was (one could
hear Charlotte's voice) to smack the world in the face and you smacked
your young wife's instead!'
His intention had been nothing of the sort. He had married in a foreign
city a young woman who adored him whose features manners and carriage
of her person satisfied his exacting taste in the sex; and he had
intended to cast gossipy England over the rail and be a traveller for the
remainder of his days. And at the first she had acquiesced tacitly
accepted it as part of the contract. He bore with the burden of an
intolerable aunt of hers for her sake. The two fell to work to conspire.
Aminta 'tired of travelling' Aminta must have a London house. She
continually expressed a hope that 'she might set her eyes on Steignton
some early day.' In fact she as good as confessed her scheme to plot for
the acknowledged position of Countess of Ormont in the English social
world. That was a distinct breach of the contract.
As to the babble of the London world about a 'very young wife' he
scorned it completely but it belonged to the calculation. 'A very
handsome young wife' would lay commands on a sexagenarian vigilance
while adding to his physical glory. The latter he could forego among
a people he despised. It would however be an annoyance to stand
constantly hand upon sword-hilt. There was besides the conflict with
his redoubtable sister. He had no dread of it in contemplation of the
necessity; he could crush his Charlotte. The objection was that his
Aminta should be pressing him to do it. Examine the situation at
present. Aminta has all she needs--every luxury. Her title as Countess
of Ormont is not denied. Her husband justly refuses to put foot into
English society. She choosing to go where she may be received
dissociates herself from him and he does not complain. She does
complain. There is a difference between the two.
He had always shunned the closer yoke with a woman because of these
vexatious dissensions. For not only are women incapable of practising
they cannot comprehend magnanimity.
Lord Ormont's argumentative reverie to the above effect had been pursued
over and over. He knew that the country which broke his military career
and ridiculed his newspaper controversy was unforgiven by him. He did
not reflect on the consequences of such an unpardoning spirit in its
operation on his mind.
If he could but have passed the injury he would ultimately--for his
claims of service were admitted--have had employment of some kind.
Inoccupation was poison to him; travel juggled with his malady of
restlessness; really a compression of the warrior's natural forces.
His Aminta pushed to it by the woman Pagnell declined to help him in
softening the virulence of the disease. She would not travel; she would
fix in this London of theirs and scheme to be hailed the accepted
Countess of Ormont. She manoeuvred; she threw him on the veteran
soldier's instinct and it resulted spontaneously that he manoeuvred.
Hence their game of Pull which occupied him a little tickled him and
amused. The watching of her pretty infantile tactics amused him too much
to permit of a sidethought on the cruelty of the part he played. She had
every luxury more than her station by right of birth would have
But he was astonished to find that his Aminta proved herself clever
though she had now and then said something pointed. She was in awe of
him: notwithstanding which clearly she meant to win and pull him over.
He did not dislike her for it; she might use her weapons to play her
game; and that she should bewitch men--a man like Morsfield--was not
wonderful. On the other hand her conquest of Mrs. Lawrence Finchley
scored tellingly: that was unaccountably queer. What did Mrs. Lawrence
expect to gain? the sage lord asked. He had not known women devoid of a
positive practical object of their own when they bestirred themselves to
do a friendly deed.
Thanks to her conquest of Mrs. Lawrence his Aminta was gaining ground
--daily she made an advance; insomuch that he had heard of himself as
harshly blamed in London for not having countenanced her recent and
rather imprudent move. In other words whenever she gave a violent tug
at their game of Pull he was expected to second it. But the world of
these English is too monstrously stupid in what it expects for any of
its extravagances to be followed by interjections.
All the while he was trimming and rolling a field of armistice at
Steignton where they could discuss the terms he had a right to dictate
having yielded so far. Would she be satisfied with the rule of his
ancestral hall and the dispensing of hospitalities to the county?
No one may guess: no woman is ever satisfied. But she would have to
relinquish her game counting her good round half of the honours.
Somewhat more on the whole. Without beating she certainly had
accomplished the miracle of bending him. To time and a wife it is no
disgrace for a man to bend. It is the form of submission of the bulrush
to the wind of courtesy in the cavalier to a lady.
'Oh here you are Rowsley' Lady Charlotte exclaimed at the drawing room
door. 'Well and I don't like those Louis Quinze cabinets; and that
modern French mantelpiece clock is hideous. You seem to furnish in
downright contempt of the women you invite to sit in the room. Lord help
the wretched woman playing hostess in such a pinchbeck bric-a-brac shop
if there were one! She 's spared at all events.'
He stepped at slow march to one of the five windows. Lady Charlotte went
to another near by. She called to Weyburn--
'We had a regatta on that water when Lord Ormont came of age. I took an
oar in one of the boats and we won a prize; and when I was landing I
didn't stride enough to the spring-plank and plumped in.'
Some labourers of the estate passed in front.
Lord Ormont gave out a broken laugh. 'See those fellows walk! That 's
the raw material of the famous English infantry. They bend their knees
five-and-forty degrees for every stride; and when you drill them out of
that they 're stiff as ramrods. I gymnasticized them in my regiment.
I'd have challenged any French regiment to out-walk or out-jump us or
any crack Tyrolese Jagers to out-climb though we were cavalry.'
'Yes my lord and exercised crack corps are wanted with us' Weyburn
replied. 'The English authorities are adverse to it but it 's against
nature--on the supposition that all Englishmen might enrol untrained in
Caesar's pet legion. Virgil shows knowledge of men when he says of the
row-boat straining in emulation 'Possunt quia posse videntur.''
He talked on rapidly; he wondered that he did not hear Lady Charlotte
exclaim at what she must be seeing. From the nearest avenue a lady had
issued. She stood gazing at the house erect--a gallant figure of a
woman--one hand holding her parasol the other at her hip. He knew her.
She was a few paces ahead of Mrs. Pagnell beside whom a gentleman
The cry came: 'It's that man Morsfield! Who brings that man Morsfield
here? He hunted me on the road; he seemed to be on the wrong scent. Who
are those women? Rowsley are your grounds open every day of the week?
She threatens to come in!'
Lady Charlotte had noted that the foremost and younger of 'those women'
understood how to walk and how to dress to her shape and colour. She
inclined to think she was having to do with an intrepid foreign-bred
Aminta had been addressed by one of her companions and had hastened
forward. It looked like the beginning of a run to enter the house.
Mrs. Pagnell ran after her. She ran cow-like.
The earl's gorge rose at the spectacle Charlotte was observing.
With Morsfield he could have settled accounts at any moment despatching
Aminta to her chamber for an hour. He had though he was offended an
honourable guess that she had not of her free will travelled with the man
and brought him into the grounds. It was the presence of the intolerable
Pagnell under Charlotte's eyes which irritated him beyond the common
anger he felt at Aminta's pursuit of him right into Steignton. His mouth
locked. Lady Charlotte needed no speech from him for sign of the
boiling; she was too wary to speak while that went on.
He said to Weyburn loud enough for his Charlotte to heir. 'Do me the
favour to go to the Countess of Ormont. Conduct her back to London. You
will say it is my command. Inform Mr. Morsfield with my compliments I
regret I have no weapons here. I understand him to complain of having to
wait. I shall be in town three days from this date.'
'My lord' said Mr. Weyburn; and actually he did mean to supplicate. He
could imagine seeing Lord Ormont's eyebrows rising to alpine heights.
Lady Charlotte seized his arm.
'Go at once. Do as you are told. I'll have your portmanteau packed and
sent after you--the phaeton's out in the yard--to Rowsley or Ashead or