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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSandra Belloni - Book 7 - Chapter 55. The Tragedy Of Sentiment
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Sandra Belloni - Book 7 - Chapter 55. The Tragedy Of Sentiment Post by :rthur Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :1889

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Sandra Belloni - Book 7 - Chapter 55. The Tragedy Of Sentiment

BOOK VII CHAPTER LV. THE TRAGEDY OF SENTIMENT

There is a man among our actors here who may not be known to you. It had become the habit of Sir Purcell Barren's mind to behold himself as under a peculiarly malign shadow. Very young men do the same, if they are much afflicted: but this is because they are still boys enough to have the natural sense to be ashamed of ill-luck, even when they lack courage to struggle against it. The reproaching of Providence by a man of full growth, comes to some extent from his meanness, and chiefly from his pride. He remembers that the old Gods selected great heroes whom to persecute, and it is his compensation for material losses to conceive himself a distinguished mark for the Powers of air. One who wraps himself in this delusion may have great qualities; he cannot be of a very contemptible nature; and in this place we will discriminate more closely than to call him fool. Had Sir Purcell sunk or bent under the thong that pursued him, he might, after a little healthy moaning, have gone along as others do. Who knows?--though a much persecuted man, he might have become so degraded as to have looked forward with cheerfulness to his daily dinner; still despising, if he pleased, the soul that would invent a sauce. I mean to say, he would, like the larger body of our sentimentalists, have acquiesced in our simple humanity, but without sacrificing a scruple to its grossness, or going arm-in-arm with it by any means. Sir Purcell, however, never sank, and never bent. He was invariably erect before men, and he did not console himself with a murmur in secret. He had lived much alone; eating alone; thinking alone. To complain of a father is, to a delicate mind, a delicate matter, and Sir Purcell was a gentleman to all about him. His chief affliction in his youth, therefore, kept him dumb. A gentleman to all about him, he unhappily forgot what was due to his own nature. Must we not speak under pressure of a grief? Little people should know that they must: but then the primary task is to teach them that they are little people. For, if they repress the outcry of a constant irritation, and the complaint against injustice, they lock up a feeding devil in their hearts, and they must have vast strength to crush him there. Strength they must have to kill him, and freshness of spirit to live without him, after he has once entertained them with his most comforting discourses. Have you listened to him, ever? He does this:--he plays to you your music (it is he who first teaches thousands that they have any music at all, so guess what a dear devil he is!); and when he has played this ravishing melody, he falls to upon a burlesque contrast of hurdy-gurdy and bag-pipe squeal and bellow and drone, which is meant for the music of the world. How far sweeter was yours! This charming devil Sir Purcell had nursed from childhood.

As a child, between a flighty mother and a father verging to insanity from caprice, he had grown up with ideas of filial duty perplexed, and with a fitful love for either, that was not attachment: a baffled natural love, that in teaching us to brood on the hardness of our lot, lays the foundation for a perniciously mystical self-love. He had waged precociously philosophic, when still a junior. His father had kept him by his side, giving him no profession beyond that of the obedient expectant son and heir. His first allusion to the youth's dependency had provoked their first breach, which had been widened by many an ostentatious forgiveness on the one hand, and a dumbly-protesting submission on the other. His mother died away from her husband's roof. The old man then sought to obliterate her utterly. She left her boy a little money, and the injunction of his father was, that he was never to touch it. He inherited his taste for music from her, and his father vowed, that if ever he laid hand upon a musical instrument again, he would be disinherited. All these signs of a vehement spiteful antagonism to reason, the young man might have treated more as his father's misfortune than his own, if he could only have brought himself to acknowledge that such a thing as madness stigmatized his family. But the sentimental mind conceived it as 'monstrous impiety' to bring this accusation against a parent who did not break windows, or grin to deformity. He behaved toward him as to a reasonable person, and felt the rebellious rancour instead of the pity. Thus sentiment came in the way of pity. By degrees, Sir Purcell transferred all his father's madness to the Fates by whom he was persecuted. There was evidently madness somewhere, as his shuddering human nature told him. It did not offend his sentiment to charge this upon the order of the universe.

Against such a wild-hitting madness, or concentrated ire of the superior Powers, Sir Purcell stood up, taking blow upon blow. As organist of Hillford Church, he brushed his garments, and put a polish on his apparel, with an energetic humility that looked like unconquerable patience; as though he had said: "While life is left in me, I will be seen for what I am." We will vary it--"For what I think myself." In reality, he fought no battle. He had been dead-beaten from his boyhood. Like the old Spanish Governor, the walls of whose fortress had been thrown down by an earthquake, and who painted streets to deceive the enemy, he was rendered safe enough by his astuteness, except against a traitor from within.

One who goes on doggedly enduring, doggedly doing his best, must subsist on comfort of a kind that is likely to be black comfort. The mere piping of the musical devil shall not suffice. In Sir Purcell's case, it had long seemed a magnanimity to him that he should hold to a life so vindictively scourged, and his comfort was that he had it at his own disposal. To know so much, to suffer, and still to refrain, flattered his pride. "The term of my misery is in my hand," he said, softened by the reflection. It is our lowest philosophy.

But, when the heart of a man so fashioned is stirred to love a woman, it has a new vital force, new health, and cannot play these solemn pranks. The flesh, and all its fatality, claims him. When Sir Purcell became acquainted with Cornelia, he found the very woman his heart desired, or certainly a most admirable picture of her. It was, perhaps, still more to the lady's credit, if she was only striving to be what he was learning to worship. The beneficial change wrought in him, made him enamoured of healthy thinking and doing. Had this, as a result of sharp mental overhauling, sprung from himself, there would have been hope for him. Unhappily, it was dependent on her who inspired it. He resolved that life should be put on a fresh trial in her person; and expecting that naturally to fail, of which he had always entertained a base conception, he was perforce brought to endow her with unexampled virtues, in order to keep any degree of confidence tolerably steadfast in his mind. The lady accepted the decorations thus bestowed on her, with much grace and willingness. She consented, little aware of her heroism, to shine forth as an 'ideal;' and to this he wantonly pinned his faith. Alas! in our world, where all things must move, it becomes, by-and-by, manifest that an 'ideal,' or idol, which you will, has not been gifted with two legs. What is, then, the duty of the worshipper? To make, as I should say, some compromise between his superstitious reverence and his recognition of facts. Cornelia, on her pedestal, could not prefer such a request plainly; but it would have afforded her exceeding gratification, if the man who adored her had quietly taken her up and fixed her in a fresh post, of his own choosing entirely, in the new circles of changeing events. Far from doing that, he appeared to be unaware that they went, with the varying days, through circles, forming and reforming. He walked rather as a man down a lengthened corridor, whose light to which he turns is in one favourite corner, visible till he reaches the end. What Cornelia was, in the first flaming of his imagination around her, she was always, unaffected by circumstance, to remain. It was very hard. The 'ideal' did feel the want--if not of legs--of a certain tolerant allowance for human laws on the part of her worshipper; but he was remorselessly reverential, both by instinct and of necessity. Women are never quite so mad in sentimentalism as men.

We have now looked into the hazy interior of their systems--our last halt, I believe, and last examination of machinery, before Emilia quits England.

About the time of the pairing of the birds, and subsequent to the Brookfield explosion, Cornelia received a letter from her lover, bearing the tone of a summons. She was to meet him by the decayed sallow--the 'fruitless tree,' as he termed it. Startled by this abruptness, her difficulties made her take counsel of her dignity. "He knows that these clandestine meetings degrade me. He is wanting in faith, to require constant assurances. He will not understand my position!" She remembered the day at Besworth, of which Adela (somewhat needlessly, perhaps) had told her; that it had revealed two of the family, in situations censurable before a gossiping world, however intrinsically blameless. That day had been to the ladies a lesson of deference to opinion. It was true that Cornelia had met her lover since, but she was then unembarrassed. She had now to share in the duties of the household--duties abnormal, hideous, incredible. Her incomprehensible father was absent in town. Daily Wilfrid conducted Adela thither on mysterious business, and then Mrs. Chump was left to Arabella and herself in the lonely house. Numberless things had to be said for the quieting of this creature, who every morning came downstairs with the exclamation that she could no longer endure her state of uncertainty, and was "off to a lawyer." It was useless to attempt the posture of a reply. Words, and energetic words, the woman demanded, not expostulations--petitions that she would be respectful to the house before the household. Yes, occasionally (so gross was she!) she had to be fed with lies. Arabella and Cornelia heard one another mouthing these dreadful things, with a wretched feeling of contemptuous compassion. The trial was renewed daily, and it was a task, almost a physical task, to hold the woman back from London, till the hour of lunch came. If they kept her away from her bonnet till then they were safe.

At this meal they had to drink champagne with her. Diplomatic Wilfrid had issued the order, with the object, first, of dazzling her vision; and secondly, to set the wheels of her brain in swift motion. The effect was marvellous; and, had it not been for her determination never to drink alone, the miserable ladies might have applauded it. Adela, on the rare days when she was fortunate enough to reach Brookfield in time for dinner, was surprised to hear her sisters exclaim, "Oh, the hatefulness of that champagne!" She enjoyed it extremely. She, poor thing, had again to go through a round of cabs and confectioners' shops in London. "If they had said, 'Oh, the hatefulness of those buns and cold chickens!'" she thought to herself. Not objecting to champagne at lunch with any particular vehemence, she was the less unwilling to tell her sisters what she had to do for Wilfrid daily.

"Three times a week I go to see Emilia at Lady Gosstre's town-house. Mr. Powys has gone to Italy, and Miss Ford remains, looking, if I can read her, such a temper. On the other days I am taken by Wilfrid to the arcades, or we hire a brougham to drive round the park,--for nothing but the chance of seeing that girl an instant. Don't tell me it's to meet Lady Charlotte! That lovely and obliging person it is certainly not my duty to undeceive. She's now at Stornley, and speaks of our affairs to everybody, I dare say. Twice a week Wilfrid--oh! quite casually!--calls on Miss Ford, and is gratified, I suppose; for this is the picture:--There sits Emilia, one finger in her cheek, and the thumb under her chin, and she keeps looking down so. Opposite is Miss Ford, doing some work--making lint for patriots, probably. Then Wilfrid, addressing commonplaces to her; and then Emilia's father--a personage, I assure you! up against the window, with a violin. I feel a bitter edge on my teeth still! What do you think he does to please his daughter for one while hour! He draws his fingers--does nothing else; she won't let him; she won't hear a tune-up the strings in the most horrible caterwaul, up and down. It is really like a thousand lunatics questioning and answering, and is enough to make you mad; but there that girl sits, listening. Exactly in this attitude--so. She scarcely ever looks up. My brother talks, and occasionally steals a glance that way. We passed one whole hour as I have described. In the middle of it, I happened to look at Wilfrid's face, while the violin was wailing down. I fancied I heard the despair of one of those huge masks in a pantomime. I was almost choked."

When Adela had related thus much, she had to prevent downright revolt, and spoil her own game, by stating that Wilfrid did not leave the house for his special pleasure, and a word, as to the efforts he was making to see Mr. Pericles, convinced the ladies that his situation was as pitiable as their own.

Cornelia refused to obey her lover's mandate, and wrote briefly. She would not condescend to allude to the unutterable wretchedness afflicting her, but spoke of her duty to her father being foremost in her prayers for strength. Sir Purcell interpreted this as indicating the beginning of their alienation. He chided her gravely in an otherwise pleasant letter. She was wrong to base her whole reply upon the little sentence of reproach, but self-justification was necessary to her spirit. Indeed, an involuntary comparison of her two suitors was forced on her, and, dry as was Sir Twickenham's mind, she could not but acknowledge that he had behaved with an extraordinary courtesy, amounting to chivalry, in his suit. On two occasions he had declined to let her be pressed to decide. He came to the house, and went, like an ordinary visitor. She was indebted to him for that splendid luxury of indecision, which so few of the maids of earth enjoy for a lengthened term. The rude shakings given her by Sir Purcell, at a time when she needed all her power of dreaming, to support the horror of accumulated facts, was almost resented. "He as much as says he doubts me, when this is what I endure!" she cried to herself, as Mrs. Chump ordered her champagne-glass to be filled, with "Now, Cornelia, my dear; if it's bad luck we're in for, there's nothin' cheats ut like champagne," and she had to put the (to her) nauseous bubbles to her lips. Sir Purcell had not been told of her tribulations, and he had not expressed any doubt of her truth; but sentimentalists can read one another with peculiar accuracy through their bewitching gauzes. She read his unwritten doubt, and therefore expected her unwritten misery to be read.

So it is when you play at Life! When you will not go straight, you get into this twisting maze. Now he wrote coldly, and she had to repress a feeling of resentment at that also. She ascribed the changes of his tone fundamentally to want of faith in her, and absolutely, during the struggle she underwent, she by this means somehow strengthened her idea of her own faithfulness. She would have phrased her projected line of conduct thus: "I owe every appearance of assent to my poor father's scheme, that will spare his health. I owe him everything, save the positive sacrifice of my hand." In fact, she meant to do her duty to her father up to the last moment, and then, on the extreme verge, to remember her duty to her lover. But she could not write it down, and tell her lover as much. She knew instinctively that, facing the eyes, it would not look well. Perhaps, at another season, she would have acted and thought with less folly; but the dull pain of her great uncertainty, and the little stinging whips daily applied to her, exaggerated her tendency to self-deception. "Who has ever had to bear so much?--what slave?" she would exclaim, as a refuge from the edge of his veiled irony. For a slave has, if not selection of what he will eat and drink, the option of rejecting what is distasteful. Cornelia had not. She had to act a part every day with Mrs. Chump, while all those she loved, and respected, and clung to, were in the same conspiracy. The consolation of hating, or of despising, her tormentress was denied. The thought that the poor helpless creature had been possibly ruined by them, chastened Cornelia's reflections mightily, and taught her to walk very humbly through the duties of the day. Her powers of endurance were stretched to their utmost. A sublime affliction would, as she felt bitterly, have enlarged her soul. This sordid misery narrowed it. Why did not her lover, if his love was passionate, himself cut the knot claim her, and put her to a quick decision? She conceived that were he to bring on a supreme crisis, her heart would declare itself. But he appeared to be wanting in that form of courage. Does it become a beggar to act such valiant parts? perhaps he was even then replying from his stuffy lodgings.

The Spring was putting out primroses,--the first handwriting of the year,--as Sir Purcell wrote to er prettily. Deire for fresh air, and the neighbourhood of his beloved, sent him on a journey down to Hillford. Near the gates of the Hillford station, he passed Wilfrid and Adela, hurrying to catch the up-train, and received no recognition. His face scarcely changed colour, but the birds on a sudden seemed to pipe far away from him. He asked himself, presently, what were those black circular spots which flew chasing along the meadows and the lighted walks. It was with an effort that he got the landscape close about his eyes, and remembered familiar places. He walked all day, making occupation by directing his steps to divers eminences that gave a view of the Brookfield chimneys. After night-fall he found himself in the firwood, approaching the 'fruitless tree.' He had leaned against it musingly, for a time, when he heard voices, as of a couple confident in their privacy.

The footman, Gainsford, was courting a maid of the Tinley's, and here, being midway between the two houses, they met. He had to obtain pardon for tardiness, by saying that dinner at Brookfield had been delayed for the return of Mr. Pole. The damsel's questions showed her far advanced in knowledge of affairs at Brookfield and may account for Laura Tinley's gatherings of latest intelligence concerning those 'odd girls,' as she impudently called the three.

"Oh! don't you listen!" was the comment pronounced on Gainsford's stock of information. But, he told nothing signally new. She wished to hear something new and striking, "because," she said, "when I unpin Miss Laura at night, I'm as likely as not to get a silk dress that ain't been worn more than half-a-dozen times--if I manage. When I told her that Mr. Albert, her brother, had dined at your place last Thursday--demeaning of himself, I do think--there!--I got a pair of silk stockings,--not letting her see I knew what it was for, of coursed and about Mrs. Dump,--Stump;--I can't recollect the woman's name; and her calling of your master a bankrupt, right out, and wanting her money of him,--there! if Miss Laura didn't give me a pair of lavender kid-gloves out of her box!--and I wish you would leave my hands alone, when you know I shouldn't be so silly as to wear them in the dark; and for you, indeed!"

But Gainsford persisted, upon which there was fooling. All this was too childish for Sir Purcell to think it necessary to give warning of his presence. They passed, and when they had gone a short way the damsel cried, "Well, that is something," and stopped. "Married in a month!" she exclaimed. "And you don't know which one?"

"No," returned Gainsford; "master said 'one of you' as they was at dinner, just as I come into the room. He was in jolly spirits, and kept going so: 'What's a month! champagne, Gainsford,' and you should have sees Mrs.--not Stump, but Chump. She'll be tipsy to-night, and I shall bust if I have to carry of her upstairs. Well, she is fun!--she don't mind handin' you a five-shilling piece when she's done tender: but I have nearly lost my place two or three time along of that woman. She'd split logs with laughing:--no need of beetle and wedges! 'Och!' she sings out, 'by the piper!'--and Miss Cornelia sitting there--and, 'Arrah!'--bother the woman's Irish," (thus Gainsford gave up the effort at imitation, with a spirited Briton's mild contempt for what he could not do) "she pointed out Miss Cornelia and said she was like the tinker's dog:--there's the bone he wants himself, and the bone he don't want anybody else to have. Aha! ain't it good?"

"Oh! the tinker's dog! won't I remember that!" said the damsel, "she can't be such a fool."

"Well, I don't know," Gainsford meditated critically. "She is; and yet she ain't, if you understand me. What I feel about her is--hang it! she makes ye laugh."

Sir Purcell moved from the shadow of the tree as noiselessly as he could, so that this enamoured couple might not be disturbed. He had already heard more than he quite excused himself for hearing in such a manner, and having decided not to arrest the man and make him relate exactly what Mr. Pole had spoken that evening at the Brookfield dinner-table, he hurried on his return to town.

It was not till he had sight of his poor home; the solitary company of chairs; the sofa looking bony and comfortless as an old female house drudge; the table with his desk on it; and, through folding-doors, his cold and narrow bed; not till then did the fact of his great loss stand before him, and accuse him of living. He seated himself methodically and wrote to Cornelia. His fancy pictured her now as sharp to every turn of language and fall of periods: and to satisfy his imagined, rigorous critic, he wrote much in the style of a newspaper leading article. No one would have thought that tragic meaning underlay those choice and sounding phrases. On reperusing the composition, he rejected it, but only to produce one of a similar cast. He could not get to nature in his tone. He spoke aloud a little sentence now and then, that had the ring of a despairing tenderness. Nothing of the sort inhabited his written words, wherein a strained philosophy and ironic resignation went on stilts. "I should desire to see you once before I take a step that some have not considered more than commonly serious," came toward the conclusion; and the idea was toyed with till he signed his name. "A plunge into the deep is of little moment to one who has been stripped of all clothing. Is he not a wretch who stands and shivers still?" This letter, ending with a short and not imperious, or even urgent, request for an interview, on the morrow by the 'fruitless tree,' he sealed for delivery into Cornelia's hands some hours before the time appointed. He then wrote a clear business letter to his lawyer, and one of studied ambiguity to a cousin on his mother's side. His father's brother, Percival Barrett, to whom the estates had gone, had offered him an annuity of five hundred pounds: "though he had, as his nephew was aware, a large family." Sir Purcell had replied: "Let me be the first to consider your family," rejecting the benevolence. He now addressed his cousin, saying: "What would you think of one who accepts such a gift?--of me, were you to hear that I had bowed my head and extended my hand? Think this, if ever you hear of it: that I have acceded for the sake of winning the highest prize humanity can bestow: that I certainly would not have done it for aught less than the highest." After that he went to his narrow bed. His determination was to write to his uncle, swallowing bitter pride, and to live a pensioner, if only Cornelia came to her tryst, "the last he would ask of her," as he told her. Once face to face with his beloved, he had no doubt of his power; and this feeling which he knew her to share, made her reluctance to meet him more darkly suspicious.

As he lay in the little black room, he thought of how she would look when a bride, and of the peerless beauty towering over any shades of earthliness which she would present. His heated fancy conjured up every device and charm of sacredness and adoring rapture about that white veiled shape, until her march to the altar assumed the character of a religious procession--a sight to awe mankind! And where, when she stood before the minister in her saintly humility, grave and white, and tall--where was the man whose heart was now racing for that goal at her right hand? He felt at the troubled heart and touched two fingers on the rib, mock-quietingly, and smiled. Then with great deliberation he rose, lit a candle, unlocked a case of pocket-pistols, and loaded them: but a second idea coming into his head, he drew the bullet out of one, and lay down again with a luxurious speculation on the choice any hand might possibly make of the life-sparing or death-giving of those two weapons. In his neat half-slumber he was twice startled by a report of fire-arms in a church, when a crowd of veiled women and masked men rushed to the opening, and a woman throwing up the veil from her face knelt to a corpse that she lifted without effort, and weeping, laid it in a grave, where it rested and was at peace, though multitudes hurried over it, and new stars came and went, and the winds were strange with new tongues. The sleeper saw the morning upon that corpse when light struck his eyelids, and he awoke like a man who knew no care.

His landlady's little female scrubber was working at the grate in his sitting-room. He had endured many a struggle to prevent service of this nature being done for him by one of the sex--at least, to prevent it within his hearing and sight. He called to her to desist; but she replied that she had her mistress's orders. Thereupon he maintained that the grate did not want scrubbing. The girl took this to be a matter of opinion, not a challenge to controversy, and continued her work in silence. Irritated by the noise, but anxious not to seem harsh, he said: "What on earth are you about, when there was no fire there yesterday?"

"There ain't no stuff for afire now, sir," said she.

"I tell you I did not light it."

"It's been and lit itself then," she mumbled.

"Do you mean to say you found the fire burnt out, when you entered the room this morning?"

She answered that she had found it so, and lots of burnt paper lying about.

The symbolism of this fire burnt out, that had warmed and cheered none, oppressed his fancy, and he left the small maid-of-all-work to triumph with black-lead and brushes.

She sang out, when she had done: "If you please, sir, missus have had a hamper up from the country, and would you like a country aig, which is quite fresh, and new lay. And missus say, she can't trust the bloaters about here bein' Yarmouth, but there's a soft roe in one she've squeezed; and am I to stop a water-cress woman, when the last one sold you them, and all the leaves jellied behind 'em, so as no washin' could save you from swallowin' some, missus say?"

Sir Purcell rolled over on his side. "Is this going to be my epitaph?" he groaned; for he was not a man particular in his diet, or exacting in choice of roes, or panting for freshness in an egg. He wondered what his landlady could mean by sending up to him, that morning of all others, to tempt his appetite after her fashion. "I thought I remembered eating nothing but toast in this place;" he observed to himself. A grunting answer had to be given to the little maid, "Toast as usual." She appeared satisfied, but returned again, when he was in his bath, to ask whether he had said "No toast to-day?"

"Toast till the day of my death--tell your mistress that!" he replied; and partly from shame at his unaccountable vehemence, he paused in his sponging, meditated, and chilled. An association of toast with spectral things grew in his mind, when presently the girl's voice was heard: "Please, sir, did say you'd have toast, or not, this morning?" It cost him an effort to answer simply, "Yes."

That she should continue, "Not sir?" appeared like perversity. "No aig?" was maddening.

"Well, no; never mind it this morning," said he.

"Not this morning," she repeated.

"Then it will not be till the day of your death, as you said," she is thinking that, was the idea running in his brain, and he was half ready to cry out "Stop," and renew his order for toast, that he might seem consecutive. The childishness of the wish made him ask himself what it mattered. "I said 'Not till the day;' so, none to-day would mean that I have reached the day." Shivering with the wet on his pallid skin, he thought this over.

His landlady had used her discretion, and there was toast on the table. A beam of Spring's morning sunlight illuminated the toast-rack. He sat, and ate, and munched the doubt whether "not till" included the final day, or stopped short of it. By this the state of his brain may be conceived. A longing for beauty, and a dark sense of an incapacity to thoroughly enjoy it, tormented him. He sent for his landlady's canary, and the ready shrill song of the bird persuaded him that much of the charm of music is wilfully swelled by ourselves, and can be by ourselves withdrawn: that is to say, the great chasm and spell of sweet sounds is assisted by the force of our imaginations. What is that force?--the heat and torrent of the blood. When that exists no more--to one without hope, for instance--what is music or beauty? Intrinsically, they are next to nothing. He argued it out so, and convinced himself of his own delusions, till his hand, being in the sunlight, gave him a pleasant warmth. "That's something we all love," he said, glancing at the blue sky above the roofs. "But there's little enough of it in this climate," he thought, with an eye upon the darker corners of his room. When he had eaten, he sent word to his landlady to make up his week's bill. The week was not at an end, and that good woman appeased before him, astonished, saying: "To be sure, your habits is regular, but there's little items one I'll guess at, and how make out a bill, Sir Purcy, and no items?"

He nodded his head.

"The country again?" she asked smilingly.

"I am going down there," he said.

"And beautiful at this time of the year, it is! though, for market gardening, London beats any country I ever knew; and if you like creature comforts, I always say, stop in London! And then the policemen! who really are the greatest comfort of all to us poor women, and seem sent from above especially to protect our weakness. I do assure you, Sir Purcy, I feel it, and never knew a right-minded woman that did not. And how on earth our grandmothers contrived to get about without them! But there! people who lived before us do seem like the most uncomfortable! When--my goodness! we come to think there was some lived before tea! Why, as I say over almost every cup I drink, it ain't to be realized. It seems almost wicked to say it, Sir Purcy; but it's my opinion there ain't a Christian woman who's not made more of a Christian through her tea. And a man who beats his wife my first question is, 'Do he take his tea regular?' For, depend upon it, that man is not a tea-drinker at all."

He let her talk away, feeling oddly pleased by this mundane chatter, as was she to pour forth her inmost sentiments to a baronet.

When she said: "Your fire shall be lighted to-night to welcome you," the man looked up, and was going to request that the trouble might be spared, but he nodded. His ghost saw the burning fire awaiting him. Or how if it sparkled merrily, and he beheld it with his human eyes that night? His beloved would then have touched him with her hand--yea, brought the dead to life! He jumped to his feet, and dismissed the worthy dame. On both sides of him, 'Yes,' and 'No,' seemed pressing like two hostile powers that battled for his body. They shrieked in his ears, plucked at his fingers. He heard them hushing deeply as he went to his pistol-case, and drew forth one--he knew not which.

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Sandra Belloni - Book 7 - Chapter 54. The Explosion At Brookfield Sandra Belloni - Book 7 - Chapter 54. The Explosion At Brookfield

Sandra Belloni - Book 7 - Chapter 54. The Explosion At Brookfield
BOOK VII CHAPTER LIV. THE EXPLOSION AT BROOKFIELD"Let me hear to-morrow." Wilfrid repeated Emilia's petition in the tone she had used, and sent a delight through his veins even with that clumsy effort of imitation. He walked from the railway to Brookfield through the circle of firs, thinking of some serious tale of home to invent for her ears to-morrow. Whatever it was, he was able to conclude it--"But all's right now." He noticed that the dwarf pine, under whose spreading head his darling sat when he saw her first, had been cut down. Its absence gave him an ominous chill.
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