THE AMAZING MARRIAGE - V5
THE AMAZING MARRIAGE - V5
XXXIX. THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR
XL. A RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS
XLI. IN WHICH THE FATES ARE SEEN AND A CHOICE OF THE REFUGES FROM
XLII. THE RETARDED COURTSHIP
XLIII. ON THE ROAD TO THE ACT OF PENANCE
XLIV. BETWEEN THE EARL; THE COUNTESS AND HER BROTHER AND OF A SILVER
XLV. CONTAINS A RECORD OF WHAT WAS FEARED WHAT WAS HOPED AND WHAT
XLVI. A CHAPTER OF UNDERCURRENTS AND SOME SURFACE FLASHES
XLVII. THE LAST: WITH A CONCLUDING WORD BY THE DAME
THE RED WARNING FROM A SON OF VAPOUR
Desiring loneliness or else Lord Feltre's company Fleetwood had to grant
a deferred audience at home to various tradesmen absurdly fussy about
having the house of his leased estate of Calesford furnished complete and
habitable on the very day stipulated by his peremptory orders that the
place should be both habitable and hospitable. They were right they
were excused; grand entertainments of London had been projected and he
fell into the weariful business with them thinking of Henrietta's
insatiable appetite for the pleasures. He had taken the lease of this
burdensome Calesford at an eight-miles' drive from the Northwest of
town to gratify the devouring woman's taste which was to have all the
luxuries of the town in a framework of country scenery.
Gower Woodseer and he were dining together in the evening. The
circumstance was just endurable but Gower would play the secretary
and doggedly subjected him to hear a statement of the woeful plight of
Countess Livia's affairs. Gower commissioned to examine them remarked:
'If we have all the figures!'
'If we could stop the bleeding!' Fleetwood replied. 'Come to the Opera
to-night; I promised. I promised Abrane for to-morrow. There's no end
to it. This gambling mania's a flux. Not one of them except your old
enemy Corby keeps clear of it; and they're at him for subsidies as
they are at me and would be at you or any passenger on the suspected of
a purse. Corby shines among them.'
That was heavy judgement enough Gower thought. No allusion to Esslemont
ensued. The earl ate sparely and silently for the most part.
He was warmed a little at the Opera by hearing Henrietta's honest
raptures over her Columelli in the Pirata. But Lord Brailstone sat
behind her and their exchange of ecstasies upon the tattered pathos of
E il mio tradito amor
was not moderately offensive.
His countenance in Henrietta's presence had to be studied and interpreted
by Livia. Why did it darken? The demurest of fuliginous intriguers
argued that Brail stone was but doing the spiriting required of him
and would have to pay the penalty unrewarded let him Italianize as much
as he pleased. Not many months longer and there would be the bit of an
outburst the whiff of scandal perhaps a shot and the rupture of an
improvident alliance followed by Henrietta's free hand to the moody
young earl who would then have possession of the only woman he could
ever love: and at no cost. Jealousy of a man like Brailstone however
infatuated the man was too foolish. He must perceive how matters were
tending? The die-away acid eyeballs-at-the-ceiling of a pair of fanatics
per la musica might irritate a husband but the lover should read and
know. Giddy as the beautiful creature deprived of her natural aliment
seems in her excuseable hunger for it she has learnt her lesson she is
not a reeling libertine.
Brailstone peered through his eyelashes at the same shadow of a frown
where no frown sat on his friend's brows. Displeasure was manifest and
why? Fleetwood had given him the dispossessing shrug of the man out of
the run and the hint of the tip for winning with the aid of operatic
arias; and though he was in Fleetwood's books ever since the prize-fight
neither Fleetwood nor the husband nor any skittishness of a timorous wife
could stop the pursuer bent to capture the fairest and most inflaming
woman of her day.
'I prefer your stage Columelli' Fleetwood said.
'I come from exile!' said Henrietta; and her plea in excuse of ecstatics
wrote her down as confessedly treasonable to the place quitted.
Ambrose Mallard entered the box beholding only his goddess Livia.
Their eyebrows and inaudible lips conversed eloquently. He retired
like a trumped card on the appearance of M. de St. Ombre. The courtly
Frenchman won the ladies to join him in whipping the cream of the world
for five minutes and passed out before his flavour was exhausted.
Brailstone took his lesson and departed to spy at them from other
boxes and heave an inflated shirt-front. Young Cressett the bottle
of effervescence dashed in and for him Livia's face was motherly.
He rattled a tale of the highway robbery of Sir Meeson Corby on one of
his Yorkshire moors. The picture of the little baronet arose upon the
narration and it amused. Chumley Potts came to 'confirm every item'
as he said. 'Plucked Corby clean. Pistol at his head. Quite old style.
Time ten P.M. Suspects Great Britain King Lords and Commons and
buttons twenty times tighter. Brosey Mallard down on him for a few
fighting men. Perfect answer to Brosey.'
'Mr. Mallard did not mention the robbery' Henrietta remarked.
'Feared to shock: Corby such a favoured swain' Potts accounted for the
'Brosey spilling last night?' Fleetwood asked.
'At the palazzo we were' said Potts. 'Luck pretty fair first off.
Brosey did his trick and away and away and away went he! More old
Brosey wins the wiser he gets. I stayed.' He swung to Gower: 'Don't
drink dry Sillery after two A.M. You read me?'
'Egyptian but decipherable' said Gower.
The rising of the curtain drew his habitual groan from Potts and he fled
to collogue with the goodly number of honest fellows in the house of
music who detested 'squallery.' Most of these afflicted pilgrims to the
London conservatory were engaged upon the business of the Goddess richly
inspiring the Heliconian choir but rendering the fountain-waters heady.
Here they had to be if they would enjoy the spectacle of London's
biggest and choicest bouquet: and in them too there was an unattached
air during Potts' cooling discourse of turf and tables except when he
tossed them a morsel of tragedy or the latest joke not yet past the
full gallop on its course. Their sparkle was transient; woman had them
fast. Compelled to think of them as not serious members of our group he
assisted at the crush-room exit and the happy riddance of the beautiful
cousins dedicated to the merry London midnights' further pastures.
Fleetwood's word was extracted that he would visit the 'palazzo' within
a couple of hours.
Potts exclaimed: 'Good. You promise. Hang me if I don't think it 's
the only certain thing a man can depend upon in this world.'
He left the earl and Gower Woodseer to their lunatic talk. He still had
his ideas about the association of the pair. 'Hard-headed player of his
own game that Woodseer spite of his Mumbo-Jumbo-oracle kind of talk.'
Mallard's turn of luck downward to the deadly drop had come under Potts'
first inspection of the table. Admiring his friend's audacity deploring
his rashness reproving his persistency Potts allowed his verdict to go
by results; for it was clear that Mallard and Fortune were in opposition.
Something like real awe of the tremendous encounter kept him from a
plunge or a bet. Mallard had got the vertigo he reported the gambler's
launch on dementedness to the earl. Gower's less experienced optics
perceived it. The plainly doomed duellist with the insensible Black
Goddess offered her all the advantages of the Immortals challenged by
flesh. His effort to smile was a line cut awry in wood; his big eyes
were those of a cat for sociability; he looked cursed and still he
wore the smile. In this condition the gambler runs to emptiness of
everything he has his money his heart his brains like a coal-truck
on the incline of the rails to a collier.
Mallard applied to the earl for a loan of fifty guineas. He had them
and lost them and he came not begging blustering for a second supply;
quite in the wrong tone Potts knew. Fleetwood said: 'Back it with
pistols Brosey'; and as Potts related subsequently 'Old Brosey had the
look of a staked horse.'
Fortune and he having now closed the struggle perforce of his total
disarmament he regained the wits we forfeit when we engage her.
He said to his friend Chummy: 'Abrane tomorrow? Ah yes punts a Thames
waterman. Start of--how many yards? Sunbury-Walton: good reach. Course
of two miles: Braney in good training. Straight business? I mayn't be
there. But you Chummy you mind old Chums all cases of the kind
safest back the professional. Unless--you understand!'
Fleetwood could not persuade Gower to join the party. The philosopher's
pretext of much occupation masked a bashfully sentimental dislike of the
flooding of quiet country places by the city's hordes. 'You're right
right' said Fleetwood in sympathy resigned to the prospect of
despising his associates without a handy helper. He named Esslemont
once shot up a look at the sky and glanced it Eastward.
Three coaches were bound for Sunbury from a common starting-point at nine
of the morning. Lord Fleetwood Lord Brailstone and Lord Simon Pitscrew
were the whips. Two hours in advance of them the earl's famous
purveyors of picnic feasts bowled along to pitch the riverside tent and
spread the tables. Our upper and lower London world reported the earl as
out on another of his expeditions: and say what we will we must think
kindly of a wealthy nobleman ever to the front to enliven the town's
dusty eyes and increase Old England's reputation for pre-eminence in the
He is the husband of the Whitechapel Countess--got himself into
that mess; but whatever he does he puts the stamp of style on it.
He and the thing he sets his hand to they're neat they're finished
they're fitted to trot together and they've a shining polish natural
like a lily of the fields; or say Nature and Art like the coat of a
thoroughbred led into the paddock by his groom if you're of that mind.
Present at the start in Piccadilly Gower took note of Lord Fleetwood's
military promptitude to do the work he had no taste for and envied the
self-compression which could assume so pleasant an air. He heard here
and there crisp comments on his lordship's coach and horses and personal
smartness; the word 'style' which reflects handsomely on the connoisseur
conferring it and the question whether one of the ladies up there was
the countess. His task of unearthing and disentangling the monetary
affairs of 'one of the ladies' compelled the wish to belong to the party
soon to be towering out of the grasp of bricks and delightfully gay
spirited quick for fun. A fellow he thought may brood upon Nature
but the real children of Nature--or she loves them best--are those who
have the careless chatter the ready laugh bright welcome for a holiday.
In catching the hour we are surely the bloom of the hour? Why yes and
no need to lose the rosy wisdom of the children when we wrap ourselves in
the patched old cloak of the man's.
On he went to his conclusions; but the Dame will have none of them
though here was a creature bent on masonry-work in his act of thinking
to build a traveller's-rest for thinkers behind him; while the volatile
were simply breaking their bubbles.
He was discontented all day both with himself and the sentences he
coined. A small street-boy at his run along the pavement nowhither
distanced him altogether in the race for the great Secret; precipitating
the thought that the conscious are too heavily handicapped. The
unburdened unconscious win the goal. Ay but they leave no legacy.
So we must fret and stew and look into ourselves and seize the brute
and scourge him just to make one serviceable step forward: that is
utter a single sentence worth the pondering for guidance.
Gower imagined the fun upon middle Thames: the vulcan face of Captain
Abrane; the cries of his backers the smiles of the ladies Lord
Fleetwood's happy style in the teeth of tattlean Aurora's chariot for
overriding it. One might hope might almost see that he was coming to
his better senses on a certain subject. As for style overriding the
worst of indignities has not Scotia given her poet to the slack
dependant of the gallows-tree who so rantingly played his jig and
wheeled it round in the shadow of that institution? Style was his
he hit on the right style to top the situation and perpetually will
he slip his head out of the noose to dance the poet's verse.
In fact style is the mantle of greatness; and say that the greatness is
beyond our reach we may at least pray to have the mantle.
Strangest of fancies most unphilosophically Gower conceived a woman's
love as that which would bestow the gift upon a man so bare of it as he.
Where was the woman? He embraced the idea of the sex and found it
resolving to a form of one. He stood humbly before the one and she
waned into swarms of her sisters. So did she charge him with the loving
of her sex not her. And could it be denied if he wanted a woman's love
just to give him a style? No not that but to make him feel proud of
himself. That was the heart's way of telling him a secret in owning to
a weakness. Within it the one he had thought of forthwith obtained her
lodgement. He discovered this truth in this roundabout way and knew it
a truth by the warm fireside glow the contemplation of her cast over him.
Dining alone as he usually had to do he was astonished to see the earl
enter his room.
'Ah you always make the right choice!' Fleetwood said and requested
him to come to the library when he had done eating.
Gower imagined an accident. A metallic ring was in the earl's voice.
One further mouthful finished dinner for Gower was anxious concerning
the ladies. He joined the earl and asked.
'Safe. Oh yes. We managed to keep it from them' said Fleetwood.
'Nothing particular perhaps you'll think. Poor devil of a fellow!
Father and mother alive too! He did it out of hearing that 'a one
merit. Mallard: Ambrose Mallard. He has blown his brains out.'
Seated plunged in the armchair with stretched legs and eyes at the black
fire-grate Fleetwood told of the gathering under the tent and Mallard
seen seen drinking champagne; Mallard no longer seen not missed.
'He killed himself three fields off. He must have been careful to deaden
the sound. Small pocket-pistol hardly big enough to--but anything
serves. Couple of brats came running up to Chummy Potts:--"Gentleman's
body bloody in a ditch." Chummy came to me and we went. Clean dead;
--in the mouth pointed up; hole through the top of the skull. We're
crockery! crockery! I had to keep Chummy standing. I couldn't bring
him back to our party. We got help at a farm; the body lies there. And
that's not the worst. We found a letter to me in his pocket pencilled
his last five minutes. I don't see what he could have done except to go.
I can't tell you more. I had to keep my face rowing and driving back.
"But where is Mr. Potts? Where can Mr. Mallard be?" Queer sensation to
hear the ladies ask! Give me your hand.'
The earl squeezed Gower's hand an instant; and it was an act unknown for
him to touch or bear a touch; it said a great deal.
Late at night he mounted to Gower's room. The funeral of the day's
impressions had not been skaken off. He kicked at it and sunk under it
as his talk rambled. 'Add five thousand' he commented on the spread of
Livia's papers over the table. 'I've been having an hour with her. Two
thousand more she says. Better multiply by two and a half for a woman's
confession. We have to trust to her for some of the debts of honour.
See her in the morning. No one masters her but you. Mind the first to
be clear of must be St. Ombre. I like the fellow; but these Frenchmen
--they don't spare women. Ambrose'--the earl's eyelids quivered.
'Jealousy fired that shot. Quite groundless. She 's cool as a marble
Venus as you said. Go straight from her house to Esslemont. I don't
plead a case. Make the best account you can of it. Say--you may say
my eyes are opened. I respect her. If you think that says little say
more. It can't mean more. Whatever the Countess of Fleetwood may think
due to her let her name it. Say my view of life way of life
everything in me has changed. I shall follow you. I don't expect to
march over the ground. She has a heap to forgive. Her father owns or
boasts in that book of his Rose Mackrell lent me he never forgave an
Gower helped the quotation rubbing his hands over it for cover of his
glee at the words he had been hearing. 'Never forgave an injury without
a return blow for it. The blow forgives. Good for the enemy to get it.
He called his hearty old Pagan custom "an action of the lungs" with him.
And it's not in nature for injuries to digest in us. They poison the
blood if we try. But then there's a manner of hitting back. It is not
to go an inch beyond the exact measure Captain Kirby warns us.'
Fleetwood sighed down to a low groan.
'Lord Feltre would have an answer for you. She's a wife; and a wife
hitting back is not a pleasant--well petticoats make the difference.
If she's for amends she shall exact them; and she may be hard to
satisfy she shall have her full revenge. Call it by any other term
you like. I did her a wrong. I don't defend myself; it 's not yet in
the Law Courts. I beg to wipe it out rectify it--choose your phrase--
to the very fullest. I look for the alliance with her to . . .'
He sprang up and traversed the room: 'We're all guilty of mistakes at
starting: I speak of men. Women are protected; and if they're not
there's the convent for them Feltre says. But a man has to live it on
before the world; and this life with these flies of fellows . . .
I fell into it in some way. Absolutely like the first bird I shot as a
youngster and stood over the battered head and bloody feathers
wondering! There was Ambrose Mallard--the same splintered bones--blood
--come to his end; and for a woman; that woman the lady bearing the title
of half-mother to me. God help me! What are my sins? She feels
nothing or about as much as the mortuary paragraph of the newspapers
for the dead man; and I have Ambrose Mallard's look at her and St. Ombre
talking together before he left the tent to cross the fields. Borrow
beg or steal for money to play for her! and not a glimpse of the winning
St. Ombre 's a cool player; that 's at the bottom of the story. He's
cool because play doesn't bite him as it did Ambrose. I should say the
other passion has never bitten him. And he's alive and presentable;
Ambrose under a sheet with Chummy Potts to watch. Chummy cried like a
brat in the street for his lost mammy. I left him crying and sobbing.
They have their feelings these "children of vapour" as you call them.
But how did I fall into the line with a set I despised? She had my
opinion of her gamblers and retorted that young Cressett's turn for
the fling is my doing. I can't swear it's not. There's one of my sins.
What's to wipe them out! She has a tender feeling for the boy; confessed
she wanted governing. Why; she's young in a way. She has that
particular vice of play. She might be managed. Here's a lesson for her!
Don't you think she might? The right man--the man she can respect
fancy incorruptible! He must let her see he has an eye for tricks.
She's not responsible for--his mad passion was the cause cause of
everything he did. The kind of woman to send the shaft. You called her
"Diana seated." You said "She doesn't hunt she sits and lets fly her
arrow." Well she showed feeling for young Cressett and her hit at me
was an answer. It struck me on the mouth. But she's an eternal anxiety.
A man she respects! A man to govern her!'
Fleetwood hurried his paces. 'I couldn't have allowed poor Ambrose.
Besides he had not a chance--never had in anything. It wants a head
wants the man who can say no to her. "The Reveller's Aurora" you called
her. She has her beauty yes. She respects you. I should be relieved
--a load off me! Tell her all debts paid; fifty thousand invested in
her name and her husband's. Tell her speak it there's my consent--if
only the man to govern her! She has it from me but repeat it as from
me. That sum and her portion would make a fair income for the two.
Relieved? By heaven what a relief! Go early. Coach to Esslemont at
eleven. Do my work there. I haven't to repeat my directions. I shall
present myself two days after. I wish Lady Fleetwood to do the part of
hostess at Calesford. Tell her I depute you to kiss my son for me. Now
I leave you. Good-night. I shan't sleep. I remember your saying "bad
visions come under the eyelids." I shall keep mine open and read--read
her father's book of the Maxims; I generally find two or three at a dip
to stimulate. No wonder she venerates him. That sort of progenitor is
your "permanent aristocracy." Hard enemy. She must have some of her
mother in her too. Abuse me to her admit the justice of reproaches
but say reason good feeling--I needn't grind at it. Say I respect her.
Advise her to swallow the injury--not intended for insult. I don't
believe anything higher than respect can be offered to a woman. No
defence of me to her but I'll tell you that when I undertook to keep my
word with her I plainly said--never mind; good-night. If we meet in the
morning let this business rest until it 's done. I must drive to help
poor Chums and see about the Inquest.'
Fleetwood nodded from the doorway. Gower was left with humming ears.
RECORD OF MINOR INCIDENTS
They went to their beds doomed to lie and roam as the solitaries of a
sleepless night. They met next day like a couple emerging from sirocco
deserts indisposed for conversation or even short companionship much of
the night's dry turmoil in their heads. Each would have preferred the
sight of an enemy; and it was hardly concealed by them for they inclined
to regard one another as the author of their infernal passage through the
drear night's wilderness.
Fleetwood was the civiller; his immediate prospective duties being clear
however abhorrent. But he had inflicted a monstrous disturbance on the
man he meant in his rash decisive way to elevate if not benefit.
Gower's imagination foreign to his desires and his projects was playing
juggler's tricks with him dramatizing upon hypotheses which mounted in