Littell's Living Age/Volume 133/Issue 1713/The Marquis of Lossie - Part XIII
THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.
BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.
ST. RONAN'S WELL.
The next day the reading was resumed, and for several days was regularly continued. Each day, as their interest grew, longer time was devoted to it. They were all simple enough to accept what the author gave them, nor, had a critic of the time been present to instruct them that in this last he had fallen off, would they have heeded him much: for Malcolm, it was the first story by the Great Unknown he had seen. A question however occurring, not of art but of morals, he was at once on the alert. It arose when they reached that portion of the tale in which the true heir to an earldom and its wealth offers to leave all in the possession of the usurper, on the one condition of his ceasing to annoy a certain lady, whom, by villainy of the worst, he had gained the power of rendering unspeakably miserable. Naturally enough, at this point Malcolm's personal interest was suddenly excited: here were elements strangely correspondent with the circumstances of his present position. Tyrrel's offer of acquiescence in things as they were, and abandonment of his rights, which in the story is so amazing to the man of the world to whom it is first propounded, drew an exclamation of delight from both ladies — from Clementina because of its unselfishness, from Florimel because of its devotion: neither of them was at any time ready to raise a moral question, and least of all where the heart approved. But Malcolm was interested after a different fashion from theirs. Often during the reading he had made remarks and given explanations — not so much to the annoyance of Lady Clementina as she had feared, for since his rescue of the swift she had been more favorably disposed toward him, and had judged him a little more justly; not that she understood him, but that the gulf between them had contracted. He paused a moment, then said, "Do you think it was right, my ladies? Ought Mr. Tyrrel to have made such an offer?"
"It was most generous of him," said Clementina, not without indignation, and with the tone of one whose answer should decide the question.
"Splendidly generous," replied Malcolm; "but I so well remember when Mr. Graham first made me see that the question of duty does not always lie between a good thing and a bad thing: there would be no room for casuistry then, he said. A man has very often to decide between one good thing and another. But indeed I can hardly tell, without more time to think, whether that comes in here. If a man wants to be generous, it must at least be at his own expense."
"But surely," said Florimel, not in the least aware that she was changing sides, "a man ought to hold by the rights that birth and inheritance give him."
"That is by no means so clear, my lady," returned Malcolm, "as you seem to think. A man may be bound to hold by things that are his rights, but certainly not because they are rights. One of the grandest things in having rights is that, being your rights, you may give them up; except, of course, they involve duties with the performance of which the abnegation would interfere."
"I have been trying to think," said Lady Clementina, "what can be the two good things here to choose between."
"That is the right question, and logically put, my lady," rejoined Malcolm, who from his early training could not help sometimes putting on the schoolmaster. "The two good things are — let me see — yes — on the one hand the protection of the lady to whom he owed all possible devotion of man to woman, and on the other what he owed to his tenants, and perhaps to society in general — yes — as the holder of wealth and position. There is generosity on the one side and dry duty on the other."
"But this was no case of mere love to the lady, I think," said Clementina. "Did Mr. Tyrrel not owe Miss Mowbray what reparation lay in his power? Was it not his tempting of her to a secret marriage, while yet she was nothing more than a girl, that brought the mischief upon her?"
"That is the point," said Malcolm, "that makes the one difficulty. Still, I do not see how there can. be much of a question. He could have no right to do fresh wrong for the mitigation of the consequences of preceding wrong — to sacrifice others to atone for injuries done by himself."
"Where would be the wrong to others?" said Florimel, now back to her former position. "What could it matter to tenants or society which of the brothers happened to be earl?"
"Only this, that in the one case the landlord of his tenants, the earl in society, would be an honorable man; in the other a villain — a difference which might have consequences."
"But," said Lady Clementina, "is not generosity something more than duty — something higher, something beyond it?"
"Yes," answered Malcolm, "so long as it does not go against duty, but keeps in the same direction — is in harmony with it. I doubt much, though, whether, as we grow in what is good, we shall not come soon to see that generosity is but our duty, and nothing very grand and beyond it. But the man who chooses to be generous at the expense of justice, even if he give up at the same time everything of his own, is but a poor creature beside him who for the sake of the right will not only consent to appear selfish in the eyes of men, but will go against his own heart and the comfort of those dearest to him. The man who accepts a crown may be more noble than he who lays one down and retires to the desert. Of the worthies who do things by faith, some are sawn asunder and some subdue kingdoms. The look of the thing is nothing."
Florimel made a neat little yawn over her work. Clementina's hands rested a moment in her lap, and she looked thoughtful. But she resumed her work and said no more. Malcolm began to read again. Presently Clementina interrupted him. She had not been listening. "Why should a man want to be better than his neighbors, any more than to be richer?" she said, as if uttering her thoughts aloud.
"Why, indeed," responded Malcolm, "except he wants to become a hypocrite?"
"Then why do you talk for duty against generosity?"
"Oh!" said Malcolm, for a moment perplexed. He did not at once catch the relation of her ideas. "Does a man ever do his duty," he rejoined at length, "in order to be better than his neighbors? If he does, he won't do it long. A man does his duty because he must: he has no choice but do it."
"If a man has no choice, how is it that so many men choose to do wrong?" asked Clementina.
"In virtue of being slaves and stealing the choice," replied Malcolm.
"You are playing with words," said Clementina.
"If I am, at least I am not playing with things," returned Malcolm. "If you like it better, my lady, I will say that in declaring he has no choice the man with all his soul chooses the good, recognizing it as the very necessity of his nature."
"If I know in myself that I have a choice, all you say goes for nothing," persisted Clementina. "I am not at all sure I would not do wrong for the sake of another. The more one preferred what was right, the greater would be the sacrifice."
"If it was for the grandeur of it, my lady, that would be for the man's own sake, not his friends."
"Leave that out, then," said Clementina.
"The more a man loved another, then — say a woman, as here in the story — it seems to me the more willing would he be that she should continue to suffer rather than cease by wrong. Think, my lady: the essence of wrong is injustice: to help another by wrong is to do injustice to somebody you do not know well enough to love, for the sake of one you do know well enough to love. What honest man could think of that twice? The woman capable of accepting such a sacrifice would be contemptible."
"She need not know of it."
"He would know that she needed but to know of it to despise him."
"Then might it not be noble in him to consent for her sake to be contemptible in her eyes?"
"If no others were concerned. And then there would be no injustice, therefore nothing wrong, and nothing contemptible."
"Might not what he did be wrong in the abstract, without having reference to any person?"
"There is no wrong man can do but is a thwarting of the living right. Surely you believe, my lady, that there is a living power of right, whose justice is the soul of our justice, who will have right done, and causes even our own souls to take up arms against us when we do wrong?"
"In plain language, I suppose you mean, Do I believe in a God?"
"That is what I mean, if by a God you mean a being who cares about us and loves justice — that is, fair play — one whom therefore we wrong to the very heart when we do a thing that is not just."
"I would gladly believe in such a being if things were so that I could. As they are, I confess it seems to me the best thing to doubt it. I do doubt it very much. How can I help doubting it when I see so much suffering, oppression, and cruelty in the world? If there were such a being as you say, would he permit the horrible things we hear of on every hand?"
"I used to find that a difficulty. Indeed, it troubled me sorely until I came to understand things better. I remember Mr. Graham saying once something like this — I did not understand it for months after: 'Every kind-hearted person who thinks a great deal of being comfortable, and takes prosperity to consist in being well off, must be tempted to doubt the existence of a God. — And perhaps it is well they should be so tempted,' he added."
"Why did he add that?"
"I think, because such are in danger of believing in an evil God. And if men believed in an evil God, and had not the courage to defy him, they must sink to the very depths of savagery. At least that is what I ventured to suppose he meant."
Clementina opened her eyes wide, but said nothing. Religious people, she found, could think as boldly as she.
"I remember all about it so well!" Malcolm added thoughtfully. "We had been talking about the Prometheus of Æschylus — how he would not give in to Jupiter."
"I am trying to understand," said Clementina, and ceased: and a silence fell which for a few moments Malcolm could not break. For suddenly he felt as if he had fallen under the power of a spell. Something seemed to radiate from her silence which invaded his consciousness. It was as if the wind which dwells in the tree of life had waked in the twilight of heaven and blew upon his spirit. It was not that now first he saw that she was beautiful: the moment his eyes fell upon her that morning in the park he saw her beautiful as he had never seen woman before. Neither was it that now first he saw her good: even in that first interview her heart had revealed itself to him as very lovely. But the foolishness which flowed from her lips, noble and unselfish as it was, had barred the way betwixt his feelings and her individuality as effectually as if she had been the loveliest of Venuses lying uncarved in the lunar marble of Carrara. There are men to whom silliness is an absolute freezing-mixture — to whose hearts a plain sensible woman at once appeals as a woman, while no amount of beauty can serve as sweet oblivious antidote to counteract the nausea produced by folly. Malcolm had found Clementina irritating, and the more irritating that she was so beautiful. But at the first sound from her lips that indicated genuine and truthful thought the atmosphere had begun to change; and at the first troubled gleam in her eyes, revealing that she pursued some dim seen thing of the world of reality, a nameless potency throbbed into the spiritual space betwixt her and him, and embraced them in an aether of entrancing relation. All that had been needed to awake love to her was, that her soul, her self, should look out of its windows; and now at length he had caught a glimpse of it. Not all her beauty, not all her heart, not all her courage, could draw him while she would ride only a hobby-horse, however tight its skin might be stuffed with emotions. But now who could tell how soon she might be charging in the front line of the Amazons of the Lord — on as real a horse as any in the heavenly army? For was she not thinking, the rarest human operation in the world?
"I will try to speak a little more clearly, my lady," said Malcolm. "If ease and comfort and the pleasures of animal and intellectual being were the best things to be had, as they are the only things most people desire, then that Maker who did not care that his creatures should possess or were deprived of such could not be a good God. But if the need with the lack of such things should be the means, the only means, of their gaining something in its very nature so much better that ——"
"But," interrupted Clementina, "if they don't care about anything better — if they are content as they are?"
"Should he, then, who called them into existence be limited in his further intents for the perfecting of their creation by their notions concerning themselves who cannot add to their life one cubit, such notions being often consciously dishonest? If he knows them worthless without something that he can give, shall he withhold his hand because they do not care that he should stretch it forth? Should a child not be taught to ride because he is content to run on foot?"
"But the means, according to your own theory, are so frightful!" said Clementina.
"But suppose he knows that the barest beginnings of the good he intends them would not merely reconcile them to those means, but cause them to choose his will at any expense of suffering? I tell you, Lady Clementina," continued Malcolm, rising, and approaching her a step or two, "if I had not the hope of one day being good like God himself, if I thought there was no escape out of the wrong and badness I feel within me, and know I am not able to rid myself of without supreme help, not all the wealth and honors of the world could reconcile me to life."
"You do not know what you are talking of," said Clementina coldly and softly, without lifting her head.
"I do," said Malcolm.
"You mean you would kill yourself but for your belief in God?"
"By life I meant being, my lady. If there were no God, I dared not kill myself, lest worse should be waiting me in the awful voids beyond. If there be a God, living or dying is all one — so it be what he pleases."
"I have read of saints," said Clementina, with cool dissatisfaction in her tone, uttering such sentiments" ("Sentiments!" said Malcolm to himself), "and I do not doubt such were felt or at least imagined by them; but I fail to understand how, even supposing these things true, a young man like yourself should, in the midst of a busy world, and with an occupation which, to say the least ——"
Here she paused. After a moment Malcolm ventured to help her: "Is so far from an ideal one, would you say, my lady?"
"Something like that," answered Clementina, and concluded, "I wonder how you can have arrived at such ideas?"
"There is nothing wonderful in it, my lady," returned Malcolm. "Why should not a youth, a boy, a child — for as a child I thought about what the kingdom of heaven could mean — desire with all his might that his heart and mind should be clean, his will strong, his thoughts just, his head clear, his soul dwelling in the place of life? Why should I not desire that my life should be a complete thing, and an outgoing of life to my neighbor? Some people are content not to do mean actions: I want to become incapable of a mean thought or feeling; and so I shall be before all is done."
"Still, how did you come to begin so much earlier than others?"
"All I know as to that, my lady, is that I had the best man in the world to teach me."
"And why did not I have such a man to teach me? I could have learned of such a man too."
"If you are able now, my lady, it does not follow that it would have been the best thing for you sooner. Some children learn far better for not being begun early, and will get before others who have been at it for years. As you grow ready for it, somewhere or other you will find what is needful for you in a book or a friend, or, best of all, in your own thoughts — the eternal thought speaking in your thought."
It flashed through her mind, "Can it be that I have found it now — on the lips of a groom?" Was it her own spirit or another that laughed strangely within her. "Well, as you seem to know so much better than other people," she said, "I want you to explain to me how the God in whom you profess to believe can make use of such cruelties. They seem to me more like the revelling of a demon'
"My lady," remonstrated Malcolm, "I never pretended to explain. All I say is, that if I had reasons for hoping there was a God, and if I found, from my own experience and the testimony of others, that suffering led to valued good, I should think, hope, expect to find, that he caused suffering for reasons of the highest, purest, and kindest import, such as when understood must be absolutely satisfactory to the sufferers themselves. If a man cannot believe that, and if he thinks pain the worst evil of all, then of course he cannot believe there is a good God. Still, even then, if he would lay claim to being a lover of truth, he ought to give the idea — the mere idea — of God fair play, lest there should be a good God after all, and he all his life doing him the injustice of refusing him his trust and obedience."
"And how are we to give the mere idea of him fair play?" asked Clementina, rather contemptuously. But I think she was fighting emotion, confused and troublesome.
"By looking to the heart of whatever claims to be a revelation of him."
"It would take a lifetime to read the half of such."
"I will correct myself, and say 'Whatever of the sort has best claims on your regard, whatever any person you look upon as good believes and would have you believe;' at the same time doing diligently what you know to be right; for, if there be a God, that must be his will, and if there be not, it remains our duty."
All this time Florimel was working away at her embroidery, a little smile of satisfaction flickering on her face. She was pleased to hear her clever friend talking so with her strange vassal. As to what they were saying, she had no doubt it was all right, but to her it was not interesting. She was mildly debating with herself whether she should tell her friend about Lenorme.
Clementina's work now lay on her lap and her hands on her work, while her eyes at one time gazed on the grass at her feet, at another searching Malcolm's face with a troubled look. The light of Malcolm's candle was beginning to penetrate into her dusky room, the power of his faith to tell upon the weakness of her unbelief. There is no strength in unbelief. Even the unbelief of what is false is no source of might. It is the truth shining from behind that gives the strength to disbelieve. But into the house where the refusal of the bad is followed by no embracing of the good — the house empty and swept and garnished — the bad will return, bringing with it seven evils that are worse.
If something of that sacred mystery, holy in the heart of the Father, which draws together the souls of man and woman, was at work between them, let those scoff at the mingling of love and religion who know nothing of either; but man or woman, who, loving woman or man, has never in that love lifted the heart to the divine Father, and every one whose love has not yet cast at least an arm around the human love, must take heed what they think of themselves, for they are yet but paddlers in the tide of the eternal ocean. Love is a lifting no less than a swelling of the heart. What changes, what metamorphoses, transformations, purifications, glorifications, must this or that love undergo ere it take its eternal place in the kingdom of heaven, through all its changes yet remaining, in its one essential root, the same, let the coming redemption reveal. The hope of all honest lovers will lead them to the vision. Only let them remember that love must dwell in the will as well as in the heart.
But whatever the nature of Malcolm's influence upon Lady Clementina, she resented it, thinking toward and speaking to him repellently. Something in her did not like him. She knew he did not approve of her, and she did not like being disapproved of. Neither did she approve of him. He was pedantic, and far too good for an honest and brave youth: not that she could say she had seen dishonesty or cowardice in him, or that she could have told which vice she would prefer to season his goodness withal and bring him to the level of her ideal. And then, for all her theories of equality, he was a groom — therefore to a lady ought to be repulsive, at least when she found him intruding into the chambers of her thoughts — personally intruding, yes — and met there by some traitorous feelings whose behavior she could not understand. She resented it all, and felt toward Malcolm as if he were guilty of forcing himself into the sacred presence of her bosom's queen; whereas it was his angel that did so, his idea, over which he had no control. Clementina would have turned that idea out; and when she found she could not, her soul started up wrathful, in maidenly disgust with her heart, and cast resentment upon everything in him whereon it would hang. She had not yet, however, come to ask herself any questions: she had only begun to fear that a woman to whom a person from the stables could be interesting, even in the form of an unexplained riddle, must be herself a person of low tastes, and that, for all her pride in coming of honest people, there must be a drop of bad blood in her somewhere.
For a time her eyes had been fixed on her work, and there had been silence in the little group.
"My lady!" said Malcolm, and drew a step nearer to Clementina.She looked up. How lovely she was with the trouble in her eyes! Thought Malcolm, "If only she were what she might be! If the form were but filled with the spirit! the body with life!"
"My lady!" he repeated, just a little embarrassed, "I should like to tell you one thing that came to me only lately — came to me when thinking over the hard words you spoke to me that day in the park. But it is something so awful that I dare not speak of it except you will make your heart solemn to hear it."
He stopped, with his eyes questioning hers. Clementina's first thought once more was madness, but as she steadily returned his look, her face grew pale, and she gently bowed her head in consent.
"I will try, then," said Malcolm. "Everybody knows what few think about, that once there lived a man who, in the broad face of prejudiced respectability, truth-hating hypocrisy, commonplace religion, and dull book-learning, affirmed that he knew the secret of life and understood the heart and history of men — who wept over their sorrows, yet worshipped the God of the whole earth, saying that he had known him from eternal days. The same said that he came to do what the Father did, and that he did nothing but what he had learned of the Father. They killed him, you know, my lady, in a terrible way that one is afraid even to think of. But he insisted that he laid down his life — that he allowed them to take it. Now, I ask whether that grandest thing crowning his life, the yielding of it to the hand of violence, he had not learned also from his Father. Was his death the only thing he had not so learned? If I am right — and I do not say if in doubt — then the suffering of those three terrible hours was a type of the suffering of the Father himself in bringing sons and daughters through the cleansing and glorifying fires without which the created cannot be made the very children of God, partakers of the divine nature and peace. Then from the lowest, weakest tone of suffering up to the loftiest pitch, the divinest acme of pain, there is not one pang to which the sensorium of the universe does not respond; never an untuneful vibration of nerve or spirit but thrills beyond the brain or the heart of the sufferer to the brain, the heart, of the universe; and God, in the simplest, most literal, fullest sense, and not by sympathy alone, suffers with his creatures."
"Well, but he is able to bear it: they are not. I cannot bring myself to see the right of it."
"Nor will you, my lady, so long as you cannot bring yourself to see the good they get by it. My lady, when I was trying my best with poor Kelpie, you would not listen to me."
"You are ungenerous," said Clementina, flushing.
"My lady," persisted Malcolm, "you would not understand me. You denied me a heart because of what seemed in your eyes cruelty. I knew that I was saving her from death at the least, probably from a life of torture. God may be good, though to you his government may seem to deny it. There is but one way God cares to govern — the way of the Father-King — and that way is at hand. But I have yet given you only the one half of my theory: if God feels pain, then he puts forth his will to bear and subject that pain: if the pain comes to him from his creature, living in him, will the endurance of God be confined to himself, and not, in its turn, pass beyond the bounds of his individuality and react upon the sufferer to his sustaining? I do not mean that sustaining which a man feels from knowing his will one with God's and God with him, but such sustaining as those his creatures also may have who do not or cannot know whence the sustaining comes. I believe that the endurance of God goes forth to uphold, that his patience is strength to his creatures, and that while the whole creation may well groan, its suffering is more bearable therefore than it seems to the repugnance of our regard."
"That is a dangerous doctrine," said Clementina.
"Will it then make the cruel man more cruel to be told that God is caring for the tortured creature from the citadel of whose life he would force an answer to save his own from the sphinx that must at last devour him, let him answer never so wisely? Or will it make the tender less pitiful to be consoled a little in the agony of beholding what they cannot alleviate? Many hearts are from sympathy as sorely in need of comfort as those with whom they suffer. And to such I have one word more — to your heart, my lady, if it will consent to be consoled: the animals, I believe, suffer less than we, because they scarcely think of the past, and not at all of the future. It is the same with children, Mr. Graham says: they suffer less than grown people, and for the same reason. To get back something of this privilege of theirs we have to be obedient and take no thought for the morrow."
Clementina took up her work. Malcolm walked away.
"Malcolm," cried his mistress, "are you not going on with the book?"
"I hope your ladyship will excuse me," said Malcolm. "I would rather not read more just at present."
It may seem incredible that one so young as Malcolm should have been able to talk thus; and indeed my report may have given words more formal and systematic than his really were. For the matter of them, it must be remembered that he was not young in the effort to do and understand, and that the advantage to such a pupil of such a teacher as Mr. Graham is illimitable.
After Malcolm's departure Clementina attempted to find what Florimel thought of the things her strange groom had been saying: she found only that she neither thought at all about them, nor had a single true notion concerning the matter of their conversation. Seeking to interest her in it, and failing, she found, however, that she had greatly deepened its impression upon herself.
Florimel had not yet quite made up her mind whether or not she should open her heart to Clementina, but she approached the door of it in requesting her opinion upon the matter of marriage between persons of social conditions widely parted — "frightfully sundered," she said. Now, Clementina was a radical of her day, a reformer, a leveller — one who complained bitterly that some should be so rich and some so poor. In this she was perfectly honest. Her own wealth, from a vague sense of unrighteousness in the possession of it, was such a burden to her that she threw it away where often it made other people stumble if not fall. She professed to regard all men as equal, and believed that she did so. She was powerful in her contempt of the distinctions made between certain of the classes, but had signally failed in some bold endeavors to act as if they had no existence except in the whims of society. As yet, no man had sought her nearer regard for whom she would deign to cherish even friendship. As to marriage, she professed, right honestly, an entire disinclination, even aversion, to it, saying to herself that if ever she should marry it must be, for the sake of protest and example, one notably beneath her in social condition. He must be a gentleman, but his claims to that rare distinction should lie only in himself, not his position — in what he was, not what he had. But it is one thing to have opinions, and another to be called upon to show them beliefs; it is one thing to declare all men equal, and another to tell the girl who looks up to you for advice that she ought to feel herself at perfect liberty to marry — say, a groom; and when Florimel proposed the general question, Clementina might well have hesitated. And indeed she did hesitate, but in vain she tried to persuade herself that it was solely for the sake of her young and inexperienced friend that she did so. As little could she honestly say that it was from doubt of the principles she had so long advocated. Had Florimel been open with her, and told her what sort of inferior was in her thoughts, instead of representing the gulf between them as big enough to swallow the city of Rome — had she told her that he was a gentleman, a man of genius and gifts, noble and large-hearted, and indeed better bred than any other man she knew — the fact of his profession would only have clenched Lady Clementina's decision in his favor; and if Florimel had been honest enough to confess the encouragement she had given him — nay, the absolute love-passages there had been — Clementina would at once have insisted that her friend should write an apology for her behavior to him, should dare the dastard world and offer to marry him when he would. But, Florimel putting the question as she did, how should Clementina imagine anything other than that it referred to Malcolm? and a strange confusion of feeling was the consequence. Her thoughts heaved in her like the half-shaped monsters of a spiritual chaos, and amongst them was one she could not at all identify. A direct answer she found impossible. She found also that in presence of Florimel, so much younger than herself, and looking up to her for advice, she dared not even let the questions now pressing for entrance appear before her consciousness. She therefore declined giving an answer of any sort — was not prepared with one, she said: much was to be considered; no two cases were just alike.
They were summoned to tea, after which she retired to her room, shut the door and began to think — an operation which, seldom easy if worth anything, was in the present case peculiarly difficult, both because Clementina was not used to it, and the subject-object of it was herself. I suspect that self-examination is seldom the most profitable, certainly it is sometimes the most unpleasant, and always the most difficult, of moral actions — that is, to perform after a genuine fashion. I know that very little of what passes for it has the remotest claim to reality, and I will not say it has never to be done; but I am certain that a good deal of the energy spent by some devout and upright, people on trying to understand themselves and their own motives would be expended to better purpose, and with far fuller attainment even in regard to that object itself, in the endeavor to understand God, and what he would have us do.
Lady Clementina's attempt was as honest as she dared make it. It went something after this fashion: "How is it possible I should counsel a young creature like that, with all her gifts and privileges, to marry a groom — to bring the stable into her chamber? If I did, if she did, has she the strength to hold her face to it? Yes, I know how different he is from any other groom that ever rode behind a lady. But does she understand him? Is she capable of such a regard for him as could outlast a week of closer intimacy? At her age it is impossible she should know what she was doing in daring such a thing. It would be absolute ruin to her. And how could I advise her to do what I could not do myself? But then if she is in love with him?"
She rose and paced the room; not hurriedly — she never did anything hurriedly — but yet with unleisurely steps, until, catching sight of herself in the glass, she turned away as from an intruding and unwelcome presence, and threw herself on her couch, burying her face in the pillow. Presently, however, she rose again, her face glowing, and again walked up and down the room — almost swiftly now. I can but indicate the course of her thoughts: "If what he says be true! — It opens another and higher life. — What a man he, is! and so young! — Has he not convicted me of feebleness and folly, and made me ashamed of myself? — What better thing could man or woman do for another than lower her in her own haughty eyes, and give her a chance of becoming such as she had but dreamed of the shadow of? — He is a gentleman — every inch! Hear him talk! — Scotch, no doubt — and — well — a little long-winded — a bad fault at his age! But see him ride! see him swim — and to save a bird! — But then he is hard — severe at best! All religious people are so severe! They think they are safe themselves, and so can afford to be hard on others! He would serve his wife the same as his mare, if he thought she required it! — And I have known women for whom it might be the best thing. I am a fool! a soft-hearted idiot! He told me I would give a baby a lighted candle if it cried for it. — Or didn't he? I believe he never uttered a word of the sort: he only thought it." As she said this there came a strange light in her eyes, and the light seemed to shine from all around them as well as from the orbs themselves.
Suddenly she stood still as a statue in the middle of the room, and her face grew white as the marble of one. For a minute she stood thus, without a definite thought in her brain. The first that came was something like this: "Then Florimel does love him! and wants help to decide whether she shall marry him or not! Poor weak little wretch! — Then if I were in love with him I would marry him. — Would I? — It is well, perhaps, that I'm not! But she! he is ten times to good for her! He would be utterly thrown away on her! But I am her counsel, not his; and what better could come to her than have such a man for a husband, and instead of that contemptible Liftore, with his grand earldom ways and proud nose? He has little to be proud of that must take to his rank for it! Fancy a right man condescending to be proud of his own rank! Pooh! But this groom is a man! all a man! grand from the centre out, as the great God made him! — Yes, it must be a great God that made such a man as that! that is, if he is the same he looks — the same all through! — Perhaps there are more Gods than one, and one of them is the devil, and made Liftore! — But am I bound to give her advice? Surely not, I may refuse. And rightly too! A woman that marries from advice, instead of from a mighty love, is wrong. I need not speak. I shall just tell her to consult her own heart and conscience, and follow them. But gracious me! am I then going to fall in love with the fellow? — this stableman who pretends to know his Maker! — Certainly not. There is nothing of the kind in my thoughts. Besides, how should I know what falling in love means? I never was in love in my life, and don't mean to be. If I were so foolish as imagine myself in any danger, would I be such a fool as be caught in it? I should think not, indeed! What if I do think of this man in a way I never thought of any one before, is there anything odd in that? How should I help it when he is unlike any one I ever saw before? One must think of people as one finds them. Does it follow that I have power over myself no longer, and must go where any chance feeling may choose to lead me?"
Here came a pause. Then she started, and once more began walking up and down the room, now hurriedly indeed. "I will not have it!" she cried aloud, and checked herself, dashed at the sound of her own voice. But her soul went on loud enough for the thought-universe to hear: "There can't be a God, or he would never subject his women to what they don't choose. If a God had made them, he would have them queens over themselves at least; and I will be queen, and then perhaps a God did make me. A slave to things inside myself! — thoughts and feelings I refuse, and which I ought to have control over! I don't want this in me, yet I can't drive it out! I will drive it out. It is not me. A slave on my own ground! — worst slavery of all! It will not go. — That must be because I do not will it strong enough. And if I don't will it — my God! — what does that mean? — That I am a slave already?"
Again she threw herself on her couch, but only to rise and yet again pace the room: "Nonsense! it is not love. It is merely that nobody could help thinking about one who had been so much before her mind for so long — one, too, who had made her think. Ah! there, I do believe, lies the real secret of it all! — There's the main cause of my trouble — and nothing worse! I must not be foolhardy, though, and remain in danger, especially as, for anything I can tell, he may be in love with that foolish child. People, they say, like people that are not at all like themselves. Then I am sure he might like me! — She seems to be in love with him! I know she cannot be half a quarter in real love with him: it's not in her."
She did not rejoin Florimel that evening: it was part of the understanding between the ladies that each should be at absolute liberty. She slept little during the night, starting awake as often as she began to slumber, and before the morning came was a good deal humbled. All sorts of means are kept at work to make the children obedient and simple and noble. Joy and sorrow are servants in God's nursery; pain and delight, ecstacy and despair, minister in it; but amongst them there is none more marvellous in its potency than that mingling of all pains and pleasures to which we specially give the name of love.
When she appeared at breakfast her countenance bore traces of her suffering, but a headache, real enough, though little heeded in the commotion upon whose surface it floated, gave answer to the not very sympathetic solicitude of Florimel. Happily, the day of their return was near at hand. Some talk there had been of protracting their stay, but to that Clementina avoided any further allusion. She must put an end to an intercourse which she was compelled to admit, was, at least, in danger of becoming dangerous. This much she had with certainty discovered concerning her own feelings, that her head grew hot and her heart cold at the thought of the young man belonging more to the mistress who could not understand him than to herself who imagined she could; and it wanted no experience in love to see that it was therefore time to be on her guard against herself, for to herself she was growing perilous.