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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 8 - Chapter 53. The Heiress Proves That She Inherits The Feud And I Go Drifting
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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 8 - Chapter 53. The Heiress Proves That She Inherits The Feud And I Go Drifting Post by :tessaru Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :2952

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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 8 - Chapter 53. The Heiress Proves That She Inherits The Feud And I Go Drifting


My grandfather lived eight months after a scene that had afforded him high gratification at the heaviest cost a plain man can pay for his pleasures: it killed him.

My father's supple nature helped him to survive it in apparently unimpeded health, so that the world might well suppose him unconquerable, as he meant that it should. But I, who was with him, knew, though he never talked of his wounds, they had been driven into his heart. He collapsed in speech, and became what he used to call 'one of the ordinary nodding men,' forsaken of his swamping initiative. I merely observed him; I did not invite his confidences, being myself in no mood to give sympathy or to receive it. I was about as tender in my care of him as a military escort bound to deliver up a captive alive.

I left him at Bulsted on my way to London to face the creditors. Adversity had not lowered the admiration of the captain and his wife for the magnificent host of those select and lofty entertainments which I was led by my errand to examine in the skeleton, and with a wonder as big as theirs, but of another complexion: They hung about him, and perused and petted him quaintly; it was grotesque; they thought him deeply injured: by what, by whom, they could not say; but Julia was disappointed in me for refraining to come out with a sally on his behalf. He had quite intoxicated their imaginations. Julia told me of the things he did not do as marvellingly as of the things he did or had done; the charm, it seemed, was to find herself familiar with him to the extent of all but nursing him and making him belong to her. Pilgrims coming upon the source of the mysteriously-abounding river, hardly revere it the less because they love it more when they behold the babbling channels it issues from; and the sense of possession is the secret, I suppose. Julia could inform me rapturously that her charge had slept eighteen hours at a spell. His remarks upon the proposal to fetch a doctor, feeble in themselves, were delicious to her, because they recalled his old humour to show his great spirit, and from her and from Captain William in turn I was condemned to hear how he had said this and that of the doctor, which in my opinion might have been more concise. 'Really, deuced good indeed!' Captain William would exclaim. 'Don't you see it, Harry, my boy? He denies the doctor has a right to cast him out of the world on account of his having been the official to introduce him, and he'll only consent to be visited when he happens to be as incapable of resisting as upon their very first encounter.'

The doctor and death and marriage, I ventured to remind the captain, had been riddled in this fashion by the whole army of humourists and their echoes.

He and Julia fancied me cold to my father's merits. Fond as they were of the squire, they declared war against him in private, they criticized Janet, they thought my aunt Dorothy slightly wrong in making a secret of her good deed: my father was the victim. Their unabated warmth consoled me in the bitterest of seasons. He found a home with them at a time when there would have been a battle at every step. The world soon knew that my grandfather had cast me off, and with this foundation destroyed, the entire fabric of the Grand Parade fell to the ground at once. The crash was heavy. Jorian DeWitt said truly that what a man hates in adversity is to see 'faces'; meaning that the humanity has gone out of them in their curious observation of you under misfortune. You see neither friends nor enemies. You are too sensitive for friends, and are blunted against enemies. You see but the mask of faces: my father was sheltered from that. Julia consulted his wishes in everything; she set traps to catch his whims, and treated them as birds of paradise; she could submit to have the toppling crumpled figure of a man, Bagenhope, his pensioner and singular comforter, in her house. The little creature was fetched out of his haunts in London purposely to soothe my father with performances on his ancient clarionet, a most querulous plaintive instrument in his discoursing, almost the length of himself; and she endured the nightly sound of it in the guest's blue bedroom, heroically patient, a model to me. Bagenhope drank drams: she allowanced him. He had known my father's mother, and could talk of her in his cups: his playing, and his aged tunes, my father said, were a certification to him that he was at the bottom of the ladder. Why that should afford him peculiar comfort, none of us could comprehend. 'He was the humble lover of my mother, Richie,' I heard with some confusion, and that he adored her memory. The statement was part of an entreaty to me to provide liberally for Bagenhope's pension before we quitted England. 'I am not seriously anxious for much else,' said my father. Yet was he fully conscious of the defeat he had sustained and the catastrophe he had brought down upon me: his touch of my hand told me that, and his desire for darkness and sleep. He had nothing to look to, nothing to see twinkling its radiance for him in the dim distance now; no propitiating Government, no special Providence. But he never once put on a sorrowful air to press for pathos, and I thanked him. He was a man endowed to excite it in the most effective manner, to a degree fearful enough to win English sympathies despite his un-English faults. He could have drawn tears in floods, infinite pathetic commiseration, from our grangousier public, whose taste is to have it as it may be had to the mixture of one-third of nature in two-thirds of artifice. I believe he was expected to go about with this beggar's petition for compassion, and it was a disappointment to the generous, for which they punished him, that he should have abstained. And moreover his simple quietude was really touching to true-hearted people. The elements of pathos do not permit of their being dispensed from a stout smoking bowl. I have to record no pathetic field-day. My father was never insincere in emotion.

I spared his friends, chums, associates, excellent men of a kind, the trial of their attachment by shunning them. His servants I dismissed personally, from M. Alphonse down to the coachman Jeremy, whose speech to me was, that he should be happy to serve my father again, or me, if he should happen to be out of a situation when either of us wanted him, which at least showed his preference for employment: on the other hand, Alphonse, embracing the grand extremes of his stereotyped national oratory, where 'SI JAMAIS,' like the herald Mercury new-mounting, takes its august flight to set in the splendour of 'ausqu'n LA MORT,' declared all other service than my father's repugnant, and vowed himself to a hermitage, remote from condiments. They both meant well, and did but speak the diverse language of their blood. Mrs. Waddy withdrew a respited heart to Dipwell; it being, according to her experiences, the third time that my father had relinquished house and furniture to go into eclipse on the Continent after blazing over London. She strongly recommended the Continent for a place of restoration, citing his likeness to that animal the chameleon, in the readiness with which he forgot himself among them that knew nothing of him. We quitted Bulsted previous to the return of the family to Riversley. My grandfather lay at the island hotel a month, and was brought home desperately ill. Lady Edbury happened to cross the channel with us. She behaved badly, I thought; foolishly, my father said. She did as much as obliqueness of vision and sharpness of feature could help her to do to cut him in the presence of her party: and he would not take nay. It seemed in very bad taste on his part; he explained to me off-handedly that he insisted upon the exchange of a word or two for the single purpose of protecting her from calumny. By and by it grew more explicable to me how witless she had been to give gossip a handle in the effort to escape it. She sent for him in Paris, but he did not pay the visit.

My grandfather and I never saw one another again. He had news of me from various quarters, and I of him from one; I was leading a life in marked contrast from the homely Riversley circle of days: and this likewise was set in the count of charges against my father. Our Continental pilgrimage ended in a course of riotousness that he did not participate in, and was entirely innocent of, but was held accountable for, because he had been judged a sinner.

'I am ordered to say,' Janet wrote, scrupulously obeying the order, 'that if you will leave Paris and come home, and not delay in doing it, your grandfather will receive you on the same footing as heretofore.'

As heretofore! in a letter from a young woman supposed to nourish a softness!

I could not leave my father in Paris, alone; I dared not bring him to London. In wrath at what I remembered, I replied that I was willing to return to Riversley if my father should find a welcome as well.

Janet sent a few dry lines to summon me over in April, a pleasant month on heath-lands when the Southwest sweeps them. The squire was dead. I dropped my father at Bulsted. I could have sworn to the terms of the Will; Mr. Burgin had little to teach me. Janet was the heiress; three thousand pounds per annum fell to the lot of Harry Lepel Richmond, to be paid out of the estate, and pass in reversion to his children, or to Janet's should the aforesaid Harry die childless.

I was hard hit, and chagrined, but I was not at all angry, for I knew what the Will meant. My aunt Dorothy supplied the interlining eagerly to mollify the seeming cruelty. 'You have only to ask to have it all, Harry.' The sturdy squire had done his utmost to forward his cherished wishes after death. My aunt received five-and-twenty thousand pounds, the sum she had thrown away. 'I promised that no money of mine should go where the other went,' she said.

The surprise in store for me was to find how much this rough-worded old man had been liked by his tenantry, his agents and servants. I spoke of it to Janet. 'They loved him,' she said. 'No one who ever met him fairly could help loving him.' They followed him to his grave in a body. From what I chanced to hear among them, their squire was the man of their hearts: in short, an Englishman of the kind which is perpetually perishing out of the land. Janet expected me to be enthusiastic likewise, or remorseful. She expected sympathy; she read me the long list of his charities. I was reminded of Julia Bulsted commenting on my father, with her this he did and that. 'He had plenty,' I said, and Janet shut her lips. Her coldness was irritating.

What ground of accusation had she against me? Our situation had become so delicate that a cold breath sundered us as far as the Poles. I was at liberty to suspect that now she was the heiress, her mind was simply obedient to her grandada's wish; but, as I told my aunt Dorothy, I would not do her that injustice.

'No,' said Dorothy; 'it is the money that makes her position so difficult, unless you break the ice.'

I urged that having steadily refused her before, I could hardly advance without some invitation now.

'What invitation?' said my aunt.

'Not a corpse-like consent,' said I.

'Harry,' she twitted me, 'you have not forgiven her.' That was true.

Sir Roderick and Lady Ilchester did not conceal their elation at their daughter's vast inheritance, though the lady appealed to my feelings in stating that her son Charles was not mentioned in the Will. Sir Roderick talked of the squire with personal pride:--'Now, as to his management of those unwieldy men, his miners they sent him up the items of their complaints. He took them one by one, yielding here, discussing there, and holding to his point. So the men gave way; he sent them a month's pay to reward them for their good sense. He had the art of moulding the men who served him in his own likeness. His capacity for business was extraordinary; you never expected it of a country gentleman. He more than quadrupled his inheritance--much more!' I state it to the worthy Baronet's honour, that although it would have been immensely to his satisfaction to see his daughter attracting the suitor proper to an heiress of such magnitude, he did not attempt to impose restriction upon my interviews with Janet: Riversley was mentioned as my home. I tried to feel at home; the heir of the place seemed foreign, and so did Janet. I attributed it partly to her deep mourning dress that robed her in so sedate a womanliness, partly, in spite of myself, to her wealth.

'Speak to her kindly of your grandfather,' said my aunt Dorothy. To do so, however, as she desired it, would be to be guilty of a form of hypocrisy, and I belied my better sentiments by keeping silent. Thus, having ruined myself through anger, I allowed silly sensitiveness to prevent the repair.

It became known that my father was at Bulsted.

I saw trouble one morning on Janet's forehead.

We had a conversation that came near to tenderness; at last she said: 'Will you be able to forgive me if I have ever the misfortune to offend you?'

'You won't offend me,' said I.

She hoped not.

I rallied her: 'Tut, tut, you talk like any twelve-years-old, Janet.'

'I offended you then!'

'Every day! it's all that I care much to remember.'

She looked pleased, but I was so situated that I required passion and abandonment in return for a confession damaging to my pride. Besides, the school I had been graduating in of late unfitted me for a young English gentlewoman's shades and intervolved descents of emotion. A glance up and a dimple in the cheek, were pretty homely things enough, not the blaze I wanted to unlock me, and absolutely thought I had deserved.

Sir Roderick called her to the library on business, which he was in the habit of doing ten times a day, as well as of discussing matters of business at table, ostentatiously consulting his daughter, with a solemn countenance and a transparently reeling heart of parental exultation. 'Janet is supreme,' he would say: 'my advice is simple advice; I am her chief agent, that is all.' Her chief agent, as director of three Companies and chairman of one, was perhaps competent to advise her, he remarked. Her judgement upon ordinary matters he agreed with my grandfather in thinking consummate.

Janet went to him, and shortly after drove him to the station for London. My aunt Dorothy had warned me that she was preparing some deed in my favour, and as I fancied her father to have gone to London for that purpose, and supposed she would now venture to touch on it, I walked away from the East gates of the park as soon as I heard the trot of her ponies, and was led by an evil fate (the stuff the fates are composed of in my instance I have not kept secret) to walk Westward. Thither my evil fate propelled me, where accident was ready to espouse it and breed me mortifications innumerable. My father chanced to have heard the particulars of Squire Beltham's will that morning: I believe Captain William's coachman brushed the subject despondently in my interests; it did not reach him through Julia.

He stood outside the Western gates, and as I approached, I could perceive a labour of excitement on his frame. He pulled violently at the bars of the obstruction.

'Richie, I am interdicted house and grounds!' he called, and waved his hand toward the lodge: 'they decline to open to me.'

'Were you denied admission?' I asked him.

'--Your name, if you please, sir?--Mr. Richmond Roy.--We are sorry we have orders not to admit you. And they declined; they would not admit me to see my son.'

'Those must be the squire's old orders,' I said, and shouted to the lodge-keeper.

My father, with the forethoughtfulness which never forsook him, stopped me.

'No, Richie, no; the good woman shall not have the responsibility of letting me in against orders; she may be risking her place, poor soul! Help me, dear lad.'

He climbed the bars to the spikes, tottering, and communicating a convulsion to me as I assisted him in the leap down: no common feat for one of his age and weight.

He leaned on me, quaking.

'Impossible! Richie, impossible!' he cried, and reviewed a series of interjections.

It was some time before I discovered that they related to the Will. He was frenzied, and raved, turning suddenly from red to pale under what I feared were redoubtable symptoms, physical or mental. He came for sight of the Will; he would contest it, overthrow it. Harry ruined? He would see Miss Beltham and fathom the plot;--angel, he called her, and was absurdly exclamatory, but in dire earnest. He must have had the appearance of a drunken man to persons observing him from the Grange windows.

My father was refused admission at the hall-doors.

The butler, the brute Sillabin, withstood me impassively.

Whose orders had he?

Miss Ilchester's.

'They are afraid of me!' my father thundered.

I sent a message to Janet.

She was not long in coming, followed by a footman who handed a twist of note-paper from my aunt Dorothy to my father. He opened it and made believe to read it, muttering all the while of the Will.

Janet dismissed the men-servants. She was quite colourless.

'We have been stopped in the doorway,' I said.

She answered: 'I wish it could have been prevented.'

'You take it on yourself, then?'

She was inaudible.

'My dear Janet, you call Riversley my home, don't you?'

'It is yours.'

'Do you intend to keep up this hateful feud now my grandfather is dead?'

'No, Harry, not I.'

'Did you give orders to stop my father from entering the house and grounds?'

'I did.'

'You won't have him here?'

'Dear Harry, I hoped he would not come just yet.'

'But you gave the orders?'


'You're rather incomprehensible, my dear Janet.'

'I wish you could understand me, Harry.'

'You arm your servants against him!'

'In a few days--' she faltered.

'You insult him and me now,' said I, enraged at the half indication of her relenting, which spoiled her look of modestly--resolute beauty, and seemed to show that she meant to succumb without letting me break her. 'You are mistress of the place.'

'I am. I wish I were not.'

'You are mistress of Riversley, and you refuse to let my father come in!'

'While I am the mistress, yes.'

'Anywhere but here, Harry! If he will see me or aunty, if he will kindly appoint any other place, we will meet him, we shall be glad.'

'I request you to let him enter the house. Do you consent or not?'

'He was refused once at these doors. Do you refuse him a second time?'

'I do.'

'You mean that?'

'I am obliged to.'

'You won't yield a step to me?'

'I cannot.'

The spirit of an armed champion was behind those mild features, soft almost to supplication to me, that I might know her to be under a constraint. The nether lip dropped in breathing, the eyes wavered: such was her appearance in open war with me, but her will was firm.

Of course I was not so dense as to be unable to perceive her grounds for refusing.

She would not throw the burden on her grandada, even to propitiate me--the man she still loved.

But that she should have a reason, and think it good, in spite of me, and cling to it, defying me, and that she should do hurt to a sentient human creature, who was my father, for the sake of blindly obeying to the letter the injunction of the dead, were intolerable offences to me and common humanity. I, for my own part, would have forgiven her, as I congratulated myself upon reflecting. It was on her account--to open her mind, to enlighten her concerning right and wrong determination, to bring her feelings to bear upon a crude judgement--that I condescended to argue the case. Smarting with admiration, both of the depths and shallows of her character, and of her fine figure, I began:--She was to consider how young she was to pretend to decide on the balance of duties, how little of the world she had seen; an oath sworn at the bedside of the dead was a solemn thing, but was it Christian to keep it to do an unnecessary cruelty to the living? if she had not studied philosophy, she might at least discern the difference between just resolves and insane--between those the soul sanctioned, and those hateful to nature; to bind oneself to carry on another person's vindictiveness was voluntarily to adopt slavery; this was flatly-avowed insanity, and so forth, with an emphatic display of patience.

The truth of my words could not be controverted. Unhappily I confounded right speaking with right acting, and conceived, because I spoke so justly, that I was specially approved in pressing her to yield.

She broke the first pause to say, 'It's useless, Harry. I do what I think I am bound to do.'

'Then I have spoken to no purpose!'

'If you will only be kind, and wait two or three days?'

'Be sensible!'

'I am, as much as I can be.'

'Hard as a flint--you always were! The most grateful woman alive, I admit. I know not another, I assure you, Janet, who, in return for millions of money, would do such a piece of wanton cruelty. What! You think he was not punished enough when he was berated and torn to shreds in your presence? They would be cruel, perhaps--we will suppose it of your sex--but not so fond of their consciences as to stamp a life out to keep an oath. I forget the terms of the Will. Were you enjoined in it to force him away?'

My father had stationed himself in the background. Mention of the Will caught his ears, and he commenced shaking my aunt Dorothy's note, blinking and muttering at a great rate, and pressing his temples.

'I do not read a word of this,' he said,--'upon my honour, not a word; and I know it is her handwriting. That Will!--only, for the love of heaven, madam,'--he bowed vaguely to Janet 'not a syllable of this to the princess, or we are destroyed. I have a great bell in my head, or I would say more. Hearing is out of the question.'

Janet gazed piteously from him to me.

To kill the deer and be sorry for the suffering wretch is common.

I begged my father to walk along the carriage-drive. He required that the direction should be pointed out accurately, and promptly obeyed me, saying: 'I back you, remember. I should certainly be asleep now but for this extraordinary bell.' After going some steps, he turned to shout 'Gong,' and touched his ear. He walked loosely, utterly unlike the walk habitual to him even recently in Paris.

'Has he been ill?' Janet asked.

'He won't see the doctor; the symptoms threaten apoplexy or paralysis, I 'm told. Let us finish. You were aware that you were to inherit Riversley?'

'Yes, Riversley, Harry; I knew that; I knew nothing else.'

'The old place was left to you that you might bar my father out?'

'I gave my word.'

'You pledged it--swore?'


'Well, you've done your worst, my dear. If the axe were to fall on your neck for it, you would still refuse, would you not?'

Janet answered softly: 'I believe so.'

'Then, good-bye,' said I.

That feminine softness and its burden of unalterable firmness pulled me two ways, angering me all the more that I should feel myself susceptible to a charm which came of spiritual rawness rather than sweetness; for she needed not to have made the answer in such a manner; there was pride in it; she liked the soft sound of her voice while declaring herself invincible: I could see her picturing herself meek but fixed.

'Will you go, Harry? Will you not take Riversley?' she said.

I laughed.

'To spare you the repetition of the dilemma?'

'No, Harry; but this might be done.'

'But--my fullest thanks to you for your generosity: really! I speak in earnest: it would be decidedly against your grandada's wishes, seeing that he left the Grange to you, and not to me.'

'Grandada's wishes! I cannot carry out all his wishes,' she sighed.

'Are you anxious to?'

We were on the delicate ground, as her crimson face revealed to me that she knew as well as I.

I, however, had little delicacy in leading her on it. She might well feel that she deserved some wooing.

I fancied she was going to be overcome, going to tremble and show herself ready to fall on my bosom, and I was uncertain of the amount of magnanimity in store there.

She replied calmly, 'Not immediately.'

'You are not immediately anxious to fulfil his wishes?'

'Harry, I find it hard to do those that are thrust on me.'

'But, as a matter of serious obligation, you would hold yourself bound by and by to perform them all?'

'I cannot speak any further of my willingness, Harry.'

'The sense of duty is evidently always sufficient to make you act upon the negative--to deny, at least?'

'Yes, I daresay,' said Janet.

We shook hands like a pair of commercial men.

I led my father to Bulsted. He was too feverish to remain there. In the evening, after having had a fruitless conversation with my aunt Dorothy upon the event of the day, I took him to London that he might visit his lawyers, who kindly consented to treat him like doctors, when I had arranged to make over to them three parts of my annuity, and talked of his Case encouragingly; the effect of which should not have astonished me. He closed a fit of reverie resembling his drowsiness, by exclaiming: 'Richie will be indebted to his dad for his place in the world after all!' Temporarily, he admitted, we must be fugitives from creditors, and as to that eccentric tribe, at once so human and so inhuman, he imparted many curious characteristics gained of his experience. Jorian DeWitt had indeed compared them to the female ivy that would ultimately kill its tree, but inasmuch as they were parasites, they loved their debtor; he was life and support to them, and there was this remarkable fact about them: by slipping out of their clutches at critical moments when they would infallibly be pulling you down, you were enabled to return to them fresh, and they became inspired with another lease of lively faith in your future: et caetera. I knew the language. It was a flash of himself, and a bad one, but I was not the person whom he meant to deceive with it. He was soon giving me other than verbal proof out of England that he was not thoroughly beaten. We had no home in England. At an hotel in Vienna, upon the close of the aristocratic season there, he renewed an acquaintance with a Russian lady, Countess Kornikoff, and he and I parted. She disliked the Margravine of Rippau, who was in Vienna, and did not recognize us. I heard that it was the Margravine who had despatched Prince Hermann to England as soon as she discovered Ottilia's flight thither. She commissioned him to go straightway to Roy in London, and my father's having infatuatedly left his own address for Prince Ernest's in the island, brought Hermann down: he only met Eckart in the morning train. I mention it to show the strange working of events.

Janet sent me a letter by the hands of Temple in August. It was moderately well written for so blunt a writer, and might have touched me but for other news coming simultaneously that shook the earth under my feet.

She begged my forgiveness for her hardness, adding characteristically that she could never have acted in any other manner. The delusion, that what she was she must always be, because it was her nature, had mastered her understanding, or rather it was one of the doors of her understanding not yet opened: she had to respect her grandada's wishes. She made it likewise appear that she was ready for further sacrifices to carry out the same.

'At least you will accept a division of the property, Harry. It should be yours. It is an excess, and I feel it a snare to me. I was a selfish child: I may not become an estimable woman. You have not pardoned my behaviour at the island last year, and I cannot think I was wrong: perhaps I might learn: I want your friendship and counsel. Aunty will live with me: she says that you would complete us. At any rate I transfer Riversley to you. Send me your consent. Papa will have it before the transfer is signed.'

The letter ended with an adieu, a petition for an answer, and 'yours affectionately.'

On the day of its date, a Viennese newspaper lying on the Salzburg Hotel table chronicled Ottilia's marriage with Prince Hermann.

I turned on Temple to walk him off his legs if I could.

Carry your fever to the Alps, you of minds diseased not to sit down in sight of them ruminating, for bodily ease and comfort will trick the soul and set you measuring our lean humanity against yonder sublime and infinite; but mount, rack the limbs, wrestle it out among the peaks; taste danger, sweat, earn rest: learn to discover ungrudgingly that haggard fatigue is the fair vision you have run to earth, and that rest is your uttermost reward. Would you know what it is to hope again, and have all your hopes at hand?--hang upon the crags at a gradient: that makes your next step a debate between the thing you are and the thing you may become. There the merry little hopes grow for the climber like flowers and food, immediate, prompt to prove their uses, sufficient: if just within the grasp, as mortal hopes should be. How the old lax life closes in about you there! You are the man of your faculties, nothing more. Why should a man pretend to more? We ask it wonderingly when we are healthy. Poetic rhapsodists in the vales below may tell you of the joy and grandeur of the upper regions, they cannot pluck you the medical herb. He gets that for himself who wanders the marshy ledge at nightfall to behold the distant Sennhiittchen twinkle, who leaps the green-eyed crevasses, and in the solitude of an emerald alp stretches a salt hand to the mountain kine.

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