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The hand of ethelberta

TheHandofEthelberta,byThomasHardy
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Title:TheHandofEthelberta
Author:ThomasHardy
ReleaseDate:October28,2004[eBook#3469]
Language:English
Charactersetencoding:ISO-646-US(US-ASCII)

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THEHANDOFETHELBERTA—A

COMEDYINCHAPTERS
byThomasHardy.
“Vitaepost-sceniacelant.”—Lucretius.


PREFACE
Thissomewhatfrivolousnarrativewasproducedasaninterludebetweenstories
ofamoresoberdesign,anditwasgiventhesub-titleofacomedytoindicate—
thoughnotquiteaccurately—theaimoftheperformance.Ahighdegreeof
probabilitywasnotattemptedinthearrangementoftheincidents,andtherewas
expectedofthereaderacertainlightnessofmood,whichshouldinformhim
withagood-naturedwillingnesstoaccepttheproductioninthespiritinwhichit
wasoffered.Thecharactersthemselves,however,weremeanttobeconsistent
andhuman.
Onitsfirstappearancethenovelsuffered,perhapsdeservedly,forwhatwas
involvedintheseintentions—foritsqualityofunexpectednessinparticular—
thatunforgivablesininthecritic’ssight—theimmediateprecursorof
‘Ethelberta’havingbeenapurelyruraltale.Moreover,initschoiceofmedium,
andlineofperspective,itundertookadelicatetask:toexciteinterestinadrama
—ifsuchadignifiedwordmaybeusedintheconnection—whereinservants
wereasimportantas,ormoreimportantthan,theirmasters;whereinthe
drawing-roomwassketchedinmanycasesfromthepointofviewofthe
servants’hall.Suchareversalofthesocialforegroundhas,perhaps,since
grownmorewelcome,andreadersevenofthefinercrustedkindmaynowbe
disposedtopardonawriterforpresentingthesonsanddaughtersofMr.and
Mrs.Chickerelasbeingswhocomewithinthescopeofacongenialregard.
T.H.
December1895.


CONTENTS
1.ASTREETINANGLEBURY—AHEATHNEARIT—INSIDETHE‘RED
LION’INN
2.CHRISTOPHER’SHOUSE—SANDBOURNETOWN—SANDBOURNE
MOOR
3.SANDBOURNEMOOR(continued)
4.SANDBOURNEPIER—ROADTOWYNDWAY—BALLROOMIN
WYNDWAYHOUSE
5.ATTHEWINDOW—THEROADHOME
6.THESHOREBYWYNDWAY


7.THEDINING-ROOMOFATOWNHOUSE—THEBUTLER’SPANTRY
8.CHRISTOPHER’SLODGINGS—THEGROUNDSABOUT
ROOKINGTON
9.ALADY’SDRAWING-ROOMS—ETHELBERTA’SDRESSING-ROOM
10.LADYPETHERWIN’SHOUSE
11.SANDBOURNEANDITSNEIGHBOURHOOD—SOMELONDON
STREETS
12.ARROWTHORNEPARKANDLODGE
13.THELODGE(continued)—THECOPSEBEHIND
14.ATURNPIKEROAD
15.ANINNERROOMATTHELODGE
16.ALARGEPUBLICHALL
17.ETHELBERTA’SHOUSE
18.NEARSANDBOURNE—LONDONSTREETS—ETHELBERTA’S
19.ETHELBERTA’SDRAWING-ROOM
20.THENEIGHBOURHOODOFTHEHALL—THEROADHOME
21.ASTREET—NEIGH’SROOMS—CHRISTOPHER’SROOMS
22.ETHELBERTA’SHOUSE
23.ETHELBERTA’SHOUSE(continued)
24.ETHELBERTA’SHOUSE(continued)—THEBRITISHMUSEUM
25.THEROYALACADEMY—THEFARNFIELDESTATE
26.ETHELBERTA’SDRAWING-ROOM


27.MRS.BELMAINE’S—CRIPPLEGATECHURCH
28.ETHELBERTA’S—MR.CHICKEREL’SROOM
29.ETHELBERTA’SDRESSING-ROOM—MR.DONCASTLE’SHOUSE
30.ONTHEHOUSETOP
31.KNOLLSEA—ALOFTYDOWN—ARUINEDCASTLE
32.AROOMINENCKWORTHCOURT
33.THEENGLISHCHANNEL—NORMANDY
34.THEHÔTELBEAUSÉJOUR,ANDSPOTSNEARIT
35.THEHOTEL(continued),ANDTHEQUAYINFRONT
36.THEHOUSEINTOWN
37.KNOLLSEA—ANORNAMENTALVILLA
38.ENCKWORTHCOURT
39.KNOLLSEA—MELCHESTER
40.MELCHESTER(continued)
41.WORKSHOPS—ANINN—THESTREET
42.THEDONCASTLES’RESIDENCE,ANDOUTSIDETHESAME
43.THERAILWAY—THESEA—THESHOREBEYOND
44.SANDBOURNE—ALONELYHEATH—THE‘REDLION’—THE
HIGHWAY
45.KNOLLSEA—THEROADTHENCE—ENCKWORTH
46.ENCKWORTH(continued)—THEANGLEBURYHIGHWAY
47.ENCKWORTHANDITSPRECINCTS—MELCHESTER
SEQUEL.ANGLEBURY—ENCKWORTH—SANDBOURNE


1.ASTREETINANGLEBURY—AHEATHNEAR
IT—INSIDETHE‘REDLION’INN
YoungMrs.Petherwinsteppedfromthedoorofanoldandwell-appointedinnin
aWessextowntotakeacountrywalk.Byherlookandcarriagesheappearedto
belongtothatgentleorderofsocietywhichhasnoworldlysorrowexceptwhen
itsjewellerygetsstolen;but,asafactnotgenerallyknown,herclaimto
distinctionwasratheroneofbrainsthanofblood.Shewasthedaughterofa
gentlemanwholivedinalargehousenothisown,andbeganlifeasababy
christenedEthelbertaafteraninfantoftitlewhodoesnotcomeintothestoryat
all,havingmerelyfurnishedEthelberta’smotherwithasubjectof
contemplation.Shebecameteacherinaschool,waspraisedbyexaminers,
admiredbygentlemen,notadmiredbygentlewomen,wastouchedupwith
accomplishmentsbymasterswhowerecoaxedintopainstakingbyhermany
graces,and,enteringamansionasgovernesstothedaughterthereof,was
stealthilymarriedbytheson.He,aminorlikeherself,diedfromachillcaught
duringtheweddingtour,andafewweekslaterwasfollowedintothegraveby
SirRalphPetherwin,hisunforgivingfather,whohadbequeathedhiswealthto
hiswifeabsolutely.
ThesecalamitieswereasufficientreasontoLadyPetherwinforpardoningall
concerned.ShetookbythehandtheforlornEthelberta—whoseemedrathera
detachedbridethanawidow—andfinishedhereducationbyplacingherfortwo
orthreeyearsinaboarding-schoolatBonn.Latterlyshehadbroughtthegirlto
Englandtoliveunderherroofasdaughterandcompanion,thecondition
attachedbeingthatEthelbertawasneveropenlytorecognizeherrelations,for
reasonswhichwillhereafterappear.
Theelegantyounglady,asshehadafullrighttobecalledifshecaredforthe
definition,arrestedallthelocalattentionwhensheemergedintothesummereveninglightwiththatdiadem-and-sceptrebearing—manypeopleforreasonsof
hereditydiscoveringsuchgracesonlyinthosewhosevestibulesarelinedwith
ancestralmail,forgettingthatabearmaybetaughttodance.Whilethisairof


herslasted,eventheinanimateobjectsinthestreetappearedtoknowthatshe
wasthere;butfromawayshehadofcarelesslyoverthrowingherdignityby
versatilemoods,onecouldnotcalculateuponitspresencetoacertaintywhen
shewasroundcornersorinlittlelaneswhichdemandednorepressionofanimal
spirits.
‘Welltobesure!’exclaimedamilkman,regardingher.‘Weshouldfreezeinour
bedsif’twerenotforthesun,and,dangme!ifsheisn’taprettypiece.Aman
couldmakeamealbetweenthemeyesandchin—eh,hostler?Oddnationdang
myoldsidesifhecouldn’t!’
Thespeaker,whohadbeencarryingapairofpailsonayoke,depositedthem
upontheedgeofthepavementinfrontoftheinn,andstraightenedhisbacktoan
excruciatingperpendicular.Hisremarkshadbeenaddressedtoaricketyperson,
wearingawaistcoatofthatpreternaturallengthfromthetoptothebottombutton
whichprevailsamongmenwhohavetodowithhorses.Hewassweeping
strawsfromthecarriage-waybeneaththestonearchthatformedapassagetothe
stablesbehind.
‘Nevermindthecursingandswearing,orsomebodywho’sneveroutofhearing
mayclapyernamedowninhisblackbook,’saidthehostler,alsopausing,and
liftinghiseyestothemullionedandtransomedwindowsandmouldedparapet
abovehim—nottostudythemasfeaturesofancientarchitecture,butjusttogive
ashealthfulastretchtotheeyesashisacquaintancehaddonetohisback.
‘Michael,aoldmanlikeyououghttothinkaboutotherthings,andnotbe
lookingtwowaysatyourtimeoflife.Pouncinguponyoungfleshlikeacarrion
crow—’tisavilethinginaoldman.’
‘’Tis;andyet’tisnot,for’tisanatereltaste,’saidthemilkman,againsurveying
Ethelberta,whohadnowpauseduponabridgeinfullview,tolookdownthe
river.‘Now,ifapoorneedyfellerlikemyselfcouldonlycatchheralonewhen
she’sdresseduptotheninesforsomegrandparty,andcarryherofftosome
lonelyplace—sakes,whatapotofjewelsandgooldthingsIwarranthe’dfind
abouther!’Twouldpayenforhistrouble.’
‘Idon’tdisputethepicter;but’tisslyanduntimelytothinksuchroguery.
ThoughI’vehadthoughtslikeit,’tistrue,abouthighwomen—Lordforgiveme
for’t.’
‘Andthatfigureoffashionstandingthereisawidowwoman,soIhear?’


‘Lady—notapennylessthanlady.Ay,athingoftwenty-oneorthereabouts.’
‘Awidowladyandtwenty-one.’Tisabackwardageforabodywho’sso
forwardinherstateoflife.’
‘Well,bethatas’twill,here’smyshowingsforherage.Shewasaboutthe
figureoftwoorthree-and-twentywhena’gotoffthecarriagelastnight,tiredout
wi’boamingaboutthecountry;andnineteenthismorningwhenshecame
downstairsafterasleeproundtheclockandaclane-washedface:soIthoughtto
myself,twenty-one,Ithought.’
‘Andwhat’stheyoungwoman’sname,makesobold,hostler?’
‘Ay,andthehousewereallinastoorwithherandtheoldwoman,andtheir
boxesandcamp-kettles,thattheycarrytowashinbecausehand-basonsbain’t
bigenough,andIdon’tknowwhatall;andt’otherfolkstoppingherewereno
morethandirtthencefor’ard.’
‘Isupposethey’vecomeoutofsomenoblecityalongwayherefrom?’
‘Andtherewasherhairupinbuckleasifshe’dneverseenaclay-coldmanat
all.However,tocutalongstoryshort,allIknowbesidesabout’emisthatthe
nameupontheirluggageisLadyPetherwin,andshe’sthewidowofacity
gentleman,whowasamanofvalourintheLordMayor’sShow.’
‘Who’sthatchapinthegaitersandpackathisback,comeoutofthedoorbut
now?’saidthemilkman,noddingtowardsafigureofthatdescriptionwhohad
justemergedfromtheinnandtrudgedoffinthedirectiontakenbythelady—
nowoutofsight.
‘Chapinthegaiters?Chok’itall—why,thefatherofthatnoblemanthatyoucall
chapinthegaitersusedtobehandinglovewithhalftheQueen’scourt.’
‘Whatd’yetello’?’
‘Thatman’sfatherwasoneofthemayorandcorporationofSandbourne,and
wasthatfamiliarwithmenofmoney,thathe’dslap’emupontheshoulderas
youorIoranyotherpoorfoolwouldtheclerkoftheparish.’
‘O,what’smylordlin’sname,makesobold,then?’
‘Ay,thetoppermostclassnowadayshaveleftofftheuseofwheelsforthegood
oftheirconstitutions,sotheytraipseandwalkformanyyearsupforeignhills,


whereyoucanseenothingbutsnowandfog,tillthere’snomorelefttowalkup;
andiftheyreachhomealive,andha’n’tgottoooldandwearedout,theywalk
andseealittleoftheirownparishes.Sotheytoweraboutwithapackanda
stickandaclanewhitepocket-handkerchiefovertheirhatsjustasyouseehe’s
gotonhis.He’sbeenstayinghereanight,andisoffnowagain.“Youngman,
youngman,”Ithinktomyself,“ifyourshoulderswerebentlikeabandyand
yourkneesbowedoutasminebe,tillthereisnotaninchofstraightboneor
gristlein’ee,th’wouldstn’tgodoinghardworkforplay’ab’lieve.”’
‘True,true,uponmysong.SuchapainasIhavehadinmylynesallthisdayto
besure;wordsdon’tknowwhatshipwreckIsufferintheselyneso’mine—that
theydonot!Andwhatwasthisyoungwidowlady’smaidenname,then,
hostler?Folkhavebeenpeepingafterher,that’strue;buttheydon’tseemto
knowmuchaboutherfamily.’
‘AndwhileI’vetendedhorsesfiftyyearthatotherfolkmightstraddle’em,here
Ibenownotapennythebetter!Often-times,whenIseesomanygoodthings
about,Ifeelinclinedtohelpmyselfincommonjusticetomypocket.
“Workhardandbepoor,
Donothingandgetmore.”
ButIdrawinthehornsofmymindandthinktomyself,“Forbear,JohnHostler,
forbear!”—Hermaidenname?Faith,Idon’tknowthewoman’smaidenname,
thoughshesaidtome,“Goodevening,John;”butIhadnomemoryofever
seeingherafore—no,nomorethanthedeadinsidechurch-hatch—whereIshall
soonbelikewise—Ihadnot.“Ay,mynabs,”Ithinktomyself,“moreknowTom
FoolthanTomFoolknows.”’
‘MoreknowTomFool—whatramblingoldcanticleisityousay,hostler?’
inquiredthemilkman,liftinghisear.‘Let’shaveitagain—agoodsayingwell
spitoutisaChristmasfiretomywitheredheart.MoreknowTomFool—’
‘ThanTomFoolknows,’saidthehostler.
‘Ah!That’stheveryfeelingI’vefeeledoverandoveragain,hostler,butnotin
suchgiftedlanguage.’TisathoughtI’vehadinmeforyears,andnevercould
lickintoshape!—O-ho-ho-ho!Splendid!Sayitagain,hostler,sayitagain!To
hearmyownpoornotionthathadnonamebroughtintoformlikethat—I
wouldn’tha’lostitfortheworld!MoreknowTomFoolthan—than—h-ho-hoho-ho!’


‘Don’tletyoursenseo’vitnessbreakoutinsuchuproar,forheaven’ssake,or
folkwillsurelythinkyou’vebeenlaughingattheladyandgentleman.Well,
here’satitagain—Nightt’ee,Michael.’Andthehostlerwentonwithhis
sweeping.
‘Nightt’ee,hostler,Imustmovetoo,’saidthemilkman,shoulderinghisyoke,
andwalkingoff;andtherereachedtheinninagradualdiminuendo,ashe
recededupthestreet,shakinghisheadconvulsively,‘Moreknow—TomFool—
thanTomFool—ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!’
The‘RedLion,’astheinnorhotelwascalledwhichoflateyearshadbecome
thefashionamongtourists,becauseoftheabsencefromitsprecinctsofallthat
wasfashionableandnew,stoodnearthemiddleofthetown,andformedacorner
whereinwinterthewindswhistledandassembledtheirforcespreviousto
plunginghelter-skelteralongthestreets.Insummeritwasafreshandpleasant
spot,convenientforsuchquietcharactersassojournedtheretostudythe
geologyandbeautifulnaturalfeaturesofthecountryround.
Theladywhoseappearancehadassertedadifferencebetweenherselfandthe
Angleburypeople,withouttooclearlyshowingwhatthatdifferencewas,passed
outofthetowninafewmomentsand,followingthehighwayacrossmeadows
fedbytheFroom,shecrossedtherailwayandsoongotintoalonelyheath.She
hadbeenwatchingthebaseofacloudasitcloseddownuponthelineofa
distantridge,likeanupperuponalowereyelid,shuttinginthegazeofthe
eveningsun.Shewasabouttoreturnbeforeduskcameon,whenshehearda
commotionintheairimmediatelybehindandaboveherhead.Thesaunterer
lookedupandsawawild-duckflyingalongwiththegreatestviolence,justinits
rearbeinganotherlargebird,whichacountrymanwouldhavepronouncedtobe
oneofthebiggestduck-hawksthathehadeverbeheld.Thehawknearedits
intendedvictim,andtheduckscreamedandredoubleditsefforts.
Ethelbertaimpulsivelystartedoffinarapidrunthatwouldhavemadealittle
dogbarkwithdelightandrunafter,herobjectbeing,ifpossible,toseetheend
ofthisdesperatestruggleforalifesosmallandunheard-of.Herstatelinesswent
away,anditcouldbeforgivenfornotremaining;forherfeetsuddenlybecame
asquickasfingers,andsheracedalongovertheunevengroundwithsuchforce
oftreadthat,beingawomanslightlyheavierthangossamer,herpatentheels
punchedlittleD’sinthesoilwithunerringaccuracywhereveritwasbare,
crippledtheheather-twigswhereitwasnot,andsuckedtheswampyplaceswith
asoundofquickkisses.


Herrateofadvancewasnottobecomparedwiththatofthetwobirds,though
shewentswiftlyenoughtokeepthemwellinsightinsuchanopenplaceasthat
aroundher,havingatonepointinthejourneybeensonearthatshecouldhear
thewhiskoftheduck’sfeathersagainstthewindasitliftedandloweredits
wings.Whenthebirdseemedtobebutafewyardsfromitsenemyshesawit
strikedownwards,andafteralevelflightofaquarterofaminute,vanish.The
hawkswoopedafter,andEthelbertanowperceivedawhitelyshiningovalofstill
water,lookingamidtheswarthyleveloftheheathlikeaholethroughtoanether
sky.
Intothislargepond,whichtheduckhadbeenmakingtowardsfromthe
beginningofitsprecipitateflight,ithaddivedoutofsight.Theexcitedand
breathlessrunnerwasinafewmomentscloseenoughtoseethedisappointed
hawkhoveringandfloatingintheairasifwaitingforthereappearanceofits
prey,uponwhichgrimpastimeitwassointentthatbycreepingalongsoftlyshe
wasenabledtogetveryneartheedgeofthepoolandwitnesstheconclusionof
theepisode.Whenevertheduckwasunderthenecessityofshowingitsheadto
breathe,theotherbirdwoulddarttowardsit,invariablytoolate,however;forthe
diverwasfartooexperiencedintheroughhumourofthebuzzardfamilyatthis
gametocomeuptwicenearthesamespot,unaccountablyemergingfrom
oppositesidesofthepoolinsuccession,andbobbingagainbythetimeits
adversaryreachedeachplace,sothatatlengththehawkgaveupthecontestand
flewaway,asatanicmoodinessbeingalmostperceptibleinthemotionofits
wings.
Theyoungladynowlookedaroundherforthefirsttime,andbegantoperceive
thatshehadrunalongdistance—verymuchfurtherthanshehadoriginally
intendedtocome.Hereyeshadbeensolongfixeduponthehawk,asitsoared
againstthebrightandmottledfieldofsky,thatonregardingtheheatherand
plainagainitwasasifshehadreturnedtoahalf-forgottenregionafteran
absence,andthewholeprospectwasdarkenedtooneuniformshadeof
approachingnight.Shebeganatoncetoretracehersteps,buthavingbeen
indiscriminatelywheelingroundthepondtogetagoodviewoftheperformance,
andhavingfollowednopaththither,shefoundtheproperdirectionofher
journeytobeamatterofsomeuncertainty.
‘Surely,’shesaidtoherself,‘Ifacedthenorthatstarting:’andyetonwalking
nowwithherbackwhereherfacehadbeenset,shedidnotapproachanymarks
onthehorizonwhichmightseemtosignifythetown.Thusdubiously,butwith
littlerealconcern,shewalkedontilltheeveninglightbegantoturntodusk,and


theshadowstodarkness.
PresentlyinfrontofherEthelbertasawawhitespotintheshade,anditproved
tobeinsomewayattachedtotheheadofamanwhowascomingtowardsher
outofaslightdepressionintheground.Itwasasyettooearlyintheeveningto
beafraid,butitwastoolatetobealtogethercourageous;andwithbalanced
sensationsEthelbertakepthereyesharplyuponhimasherosebydegreesinto
view.Thepeculiararrangementofhishatandpugreesoonstruckherasbeing
thatshehadcasuallynoticedonapeginoneoftheroomsofthe‘RedLion,’and
whenhecamecloseshesawthathisarmsdiminishedtoapeculiarsmallnessat
theirjunctionwithhisshoulders,likethoseofadoll,whichwasexplainedby
theirbeinggirtroundatthatpointwiththestrapsofaknapsackthathecarried
behindhim.Encouragedbytheprobabilitythathe,likeherself,wasstayingor
hadbeenstayingatthe‘RedLion,’shesaid,‘Canyoutellmeifthisistheway
backtoAnglebury?’
‘Itisoneway;butthenearestisinthisdirection,’saidthetourist—thesamewho
hadbeencriticizedbythetwooldmen.
Athearinghimspeakallthedelicateactivitiesintheyounglady’spersonstood
still:shestoppedlikeaclock.Whenshecouldagainfencewiththeperception
whichhadcausedallthis,shebreathed.
‘Mr.Julian!’sheexclaimed.Thewordswereutteredinawaywhichwouldhave
toldanybodyinamomentthatherelaysomethingconnectedwiththelightof
otherdays.
‘Ah,Mrs.Petherwin!—Yes,IamMr.Julian—thoughthatcanmatterverylittle,
Ishouldthink,afteralltheseyears,andwhathaspassed.’
Noremarkwasreturnedtothisruggedreply,andhecontinuedunconcernedly,
‘ShallIputyouinthepath—itisjusthere?’
‘Ifyouplease.’
‘Comewithme,then.’
Shewalkedinsilenceathisheels,notawordpassingbetweenthemalltheway:
theonlynoiseswhichcamefromthetwowerethebrushingofherdressandhis
gaitersagainsttheheather,orthesmartrapofastrayflintagainsthisboot.
Theyhadnowreachedalittleknoll,andheturnedabruptly:‘ThatisAnglebury


—justwhereyouseethoselights.Thepathdownthereistheoneyoumust
follow;itleadsroundthehillyonderanddirectlyintothetown.’
‘Thankyou,’shemurmured,andfoundthathehadneverremovedhiseyesfrom
hersincespeaking,keepingthemfixedwithmathematicalexactnessuponone
pointinherface.Shemovedalittletogoonherway;hemovedalittleless—to
goonhis.
‘Good-night,’saidMr.Julian.
Themoment,upontheveryfaceofit,wascritical;andyetitwasoneofthose
whichhavetowaitforafuturebeforetheyacquireadefinitecharacterasgood
orbad.
Thusmuchwouldhavebeenobvioustoanyoutsider;itmayhavebeendoubly
sotoEthelberta,forshegavebackmorethanshehadgot,replying,‘Good-bye
—ifyouaregoingtosaynomore.’
TheninstruckMr.Julian:‘WhatcanIsay?Youarenothingtome....Icould
forgiveawomandoinganythingforspite,exceptmarryingforspite.’
‘Theconnectionofthatwithourpresentmeetingdoesnotappear,unlessitrefers
towhatyouhavedone.Itdoesnotrefertome.’
‘Iamnotmarried:youare.’
Shedidnotcontradicthim,asshemighthavedone.‘Christopher,’shesaidat
last,‘thisishowitis:youknewtoomuchofmetorespectme,andtoolittleto
pityme.Ahalfknowledgeofanother’slifemostlydoesinjusticetothelifehalf
known.’
‘Thensincecircumstancesforbidmyknowingyoumore,Imustdomybestto
knowyouless,andelevatemyopinionofyournaturebyforgettingwhatit
consistsin,’hesaidinavoicefromwhichallfeelingwaspolishedaway.
‘IfIdidnotknowthatbitternesshadmoretodowiththosewordsthan
judgment,I—shouldbe—bittertoo!Youneverknewhalfaboutme;youonly
knewmeasagoverness;youlittlethinkwhatmybeginningswere.’
‘Ihaveguessed.Ihavemanytimestoldmyselfthatyourearlylifewassuperior
toyourpositionwhenIfirstmetyou.IthinkImaysaywithoutpresumption
thatIrecognizealadybybirthwhenIseeher,evenunderreversesofanextreme


kind.Andcertainlythereisthistobesaid,thatthefactofhavingbeenbredina
wealthyhomedoesslightlyredeemanattempttoattaintosuchaoneagain.’
Ethelbertasmiledasmileofmanymeanings.
‘However,wearewastingwords,’heresumedcheerfully.‘Itisbetterforusto
partaswemet,andcontinuetobethestrangersthatwehavebecometoeach
other.IoweyouanapologyforhavingbeenbetrayedintomorefeelingthanI
hadarighttoshow,andletuspartfriends.Goodnight,Mrs.Petherwin,and
successtoyou.Wemaymeetagain,someday,Ihope.’
‘Goodnight,’shesaid,extendingherhand.Hetouchedit,turnedabout,andina
shorttimenothingremainedofhimbutquickregularbrushingsagainstthe
heatherinthedeepbroadshadowofthemoor.
Ethelbertaslowlymovedoninthedirectionthathehadpointedout.This
meetinghadsurprisedherinseveralways.First,therewastheconjuncture
itself;butmorethanthatwasthefactthathehadnotpartedfromherwithanyof
thetragicresentmentthatshehadfromtimetotimeimaginedforthatsceneifit
everoccurred.Yettherewasreallynothingwonderfulinthis:itispartofthe
generousnatureofabachelortobenotindisposedtoforgiveaportionless
sweetheartwho,bymarryingelsewhere,hasdeprivedhimoftheblissofbeing
obligedtomarryherhimself.Ethelbertawouldhavebeendisappointedquite
hadtherenotbeenacomfortingdevelopmentofexasperationinthemiddlepart
ofhistalk;butafterallitformedapoorsubstituteforthelovinghatredshehad
expected.
Whenshereachedthehotelthelampoverthedoorshowedafacealittleflushed,
buttheagitationwhichatfirsthadpossessedherwasgonetoamerenothing.In
thehallshemetaslenderwomanwearingasilkdressofthatpeculiarblack
whichinsunlightproclaimsitselftohaveonceseenbetterdaysasabrown,and
daysevenbetterthanthoseasalavender,green,orblue.
‘Menlove,’saidthelady,‘didyounoticeifanygentlemanobservedand
followedmewhenIleftthehoteltogoforawalkthisevening?’
Thelady’s-maid,thussuddenlypulledupinanightforageafterlovers,puta
handtoherforeheadtoshowthattherewasnomistakeaboutherhavingbegun
tomeditateonreceivingorderstothateffect,andsaidatlast,‘Youoncetoldme,
ma’am,ifyourecollect,thatwhenyouweredressed,Iwasnottogostaringout
ofthewindowafteryouasifyouwereadollIhadjustmanufacturedandsent


roundforsale.’
‘Yes,soIdid.’
‘SoIdidn’tseeifanybodyfollowedyouthisevening.’
‘Thendidyouhearanygentlemanarriveherebythelatetrainlastnight?’
‘Ono,ma’am—howcouldI?’saidMrs.Menlove—anexclamationwhichwas
moreappositethanhermistresssuspected,consideringthatthespeaker,after
retiringfromduty,hadslippeddownherdarkskirttorevealalight,puffed,and
festoonedone,putonahatandfeather,togetherwithseveralpennyweightsof
metalintheformofrings,brooches,andearrings—allinatimewhilstonecould
countahundred—andenjoyedhalf-an-hourofprimecourtshipbyanhonourable
youngwaiterofthetown,whohadprovedconstantasthemagnettothepolefor
thespaceofthedayandahalfthatshehadknownhim.
Goingatonceupstairs,Ethelbertarandownthepassage,andaftersome
hesitationsoftlyopenedthedoorofthesitting-roominthebestsuiteof
apartmentsthattheinncouldboastof.
Inthisroomsatanelderlyladywritingbythelightoftwocandleswithgreen
shades.Wellknowing,asitseemed,whotheintruderwas,shecontinuedher
occupation,andhervisitoradvancedandstoodbesidethetable.Theoldlady
woreherspectacleslowdownhercheek,herglancebeingdepressedtoaboutthe
slopeofherstraightwhitenoseinordertolookthroughthem.Hermouthwas
purseduptoalmostayouthfulshapeassheformedtheletterswithherpen,and
aslightmoveofthelipaccompaniedeverydownstroke.Thereweretwolarge
antiqueringsonherforefinger,againstwhichthequillrubbedinmoving
backwardsandforwards,therebycausingasecondarynoiserivallingtheprimary
oneofthenibuponthepaper.
‘Mamma,’saidtheyoungerlady,‘hereIamatlast.’
Awriter’smindinthemidstofasentencebeinglikeashipatsea,knowingno
restorcomforttillsafelypilotedintotheharbourofafullstop,LadyPetherwin
justrepliedwith‘What,’inanoccupiedtone,notrisingtointerrogation.After
signinghernametotheletter,sheraisedhereyes.
‘Why,howlateyouare,Ethelberta,andhowheatedyoulook!’shesaid.‘Ihave
beenquitealarmedaboutyou.Whatdoyousayhashappened?’


Thegreat,chief,andaltogethereclipsingthingthathadhappenedwasthe
accidentalmeetingwithanoldloverwhomshehadoncequarrelledwith;and
Ethelberta’shonestywouldhavedeliveredthetidingsatonce,hadnot,
unfortunately,alltherestofherattributesbeendeadagainstthatact,fortheold
lady’ssakeevenmorethanforherown.
‘Isawagreatcruelbirdchasingaharmlessduck!’sheexclaimedinnocently.
‘AndIranaftertoseewhattheendofitwouldbe—muchfurtherthanIhadany
ideaofgoing.However,theduckcametoapond,andinrunningroundittosee
theendofthefight,IcouldnotrememberwhichwayIhadcome.’
‘Mercy!’saidhermother-in-law,liftingherlargeeyelids,heavyaswindowshutters,andspreadingoutherfingerslikethehornsofasnail.‘Youmighthave
sunkuptoyourkneesandgotlostinthatswampyplace—suchatimeofnight,
too.Whatatomboyyouare!Andhowdidyoufindyourwayhomeafterall!’
‘O,somemanshowedmetheway,andthenIhadnodifficulty,andafterthatI
camealongleisurely.’
‘Ithoughtyouhadbeenrunningalltheway;youlooksowarm.’
‘Itisawarmevening....Yes,andIhavebeenthinkingofoldtimesasIwalked
along,’shesaid,‘andhowpeople’spositionsinlifealter.HaveInotheardyou
saythatwhileIwasatBonn,atschool,somefamilythatwehadknownhadtheir
householdbrokenupwhenthefatherdied,andthatthechildrenwentawayyou
didn’tknowwhere?’
‘DoyoumeantheJulians?’
‘Yes,thatwasthename.’
‘Why,ofcourseyouknowitwastheJulians.YoungJulianhadadayortwo’s
fancyforyouonesummer,hadhenot?—justafteryoucametous,atthesame
time,orjustbeforeit,thatmypoorboyandyouweresodesperatelyattachedto
eachother.’
‘Oyes,Irecollect,’saidEthelberta.‘Andhehadasister,Ithink.Iwonder
wheretheywenttoliveafterthefamilycollapse.’
‘Idonotknow,’saidLadyPetherwin,takingupanothersheetofpaper.‘Ihavea
dimnotionthattheson,whohadbeenbroughtuptonoprofession,becamea
teacherofmusicinsomecountrytown—musichavingalwaysbeenhishobby.


Butthefactsarenotverydistinctinmymemory.’Andshedippedherpenfor
anotherletter.
Ethelberta,witharatherfallencountenance,thenlefthermother-in-law,and
wentwhereallladiesaresupposedtogowhentheywanttotormenttheirminds
incomfort—toherownroom.Hereshethoughtfullysatdownawhile,andsome
timelatersherangforhermaid.
‘Menlove,’shesaid,withoutlookingtowardsarustleandhalfafootstepthathad
justcomeinatthedoor,butleaningbackinherchairandspeakingtowardsthe
cornerofthelooking-glass,‘willyougodownandfindoutifanygentleman
namedJulianhasbeenstayinginthishouse?Gettoknowit,Imean,Menlove,
notbydirectlyinquiring;youhavewaysofgettingtoknowthings,haveyou
not?IfthedevotedGeorgewereherenow,hewouldhelp—’
‘Georgewasnothingtome,ma’am.’
‘James,then.’
‘AndIonlyhadJamesforaweekortendays:whenIfoundhewasamarried
man,Iencouragedhisaddressesverylittleindeed.’
‘Ifyouhadencouragedhimheartandsoul,youcouldn’thavefumedmoreatthe
lossofhim.Butpleasetogoandmakethatinquiry,willyou,Menlove?’
InafewminutesEthelberta’swomanwasbackagain.‘Agentlemanofthat
namestayedherelastnight,andleftthisafternoon.’
‘Willyoufindouthisaddress?’
Nowthelady’s-maidhadalreadybeenquick-wittedenoughtofindoutthat,and
indeedallabouthim;butitchancedthatafashionableillustratedweeklypaper
hadjustbeensentfromthebookseller’s,andbeinginwantofalittletimetolook
itoverbeforeitreachedhermistress’shands,Mrs.Menloveretired,asiftogo
andaskthequestion—tostandmeanwhileunderthegas-lampinthepassage,
inspectingthefascinatingengravings.Butastimewillnotwaitfortire-women,
anaturallengthofabsencesoonelapsed,andshereturnedagainandsaid,
‘Hisaddressis,UpperStreet,Sandbourne.’
‘Thankyou,thatwilldo,’repliedhermistress.
Thehourgrewlater,andthatdreamyperiodcameroundwhenladies’fancies,


thathavelainshutupcloseastheirfansduringtheday,begintoassert
themselvesanew.AtthistimeagoodguessatEthelberta’sthoughtsmighthave
beenmadefromhermannerofpassingtheminutesaway.Insteadofreading,
enteringnotesinherdiary,ordoinganyordinarything,shewalkedtoandfro,
curledherprettynetherlipwithinherprettyupperoneagreatmanytimes,made
acradleofherlockedfingers,andpausedwithfixedeyeswherethewallsofthe
roomsetlimitsuponherwalktolookatnothingbutapicturewithinhermind.


2.CHRISTOPHER’SHOUSE—SANDBOURNE
TOWN—SANDBOURNEMOOR
Duringthewetautumnofthesameyear,thepostmanpassedonemorningas
usualintoaplainstreetthatranthroughthelessfashionableportionof
Sandbourne,amoderncoasttownandwatering-placenotmanymilesfromthe
ancientAnglebury.Heknockedatthedoorofaflat-facedbrickhouse,andit
wasopenedbyaslight,thoughtfulyoungman,withhishaton,justthencoming
out.Thepostmanputintohishandsabookpacket,addressed,‘Christopher
Julian,Esq.’
Christophertookthepackageupstairs,openeditwithcuriosity,anddiscovered
withinagreenvolumeofpoems,byananonymouswriter,thetitle-pagebearing
theinscription,‘MetresbyE.’Thebookwasnew,thoughitwascut,andit
appearedtohavebeenlookedinto.Theyoungman,afterturningitoverand
wonderingwhereitcamefrom,laiditonthetableandwenthisway,beingin
hastetofulfilhisengagementsfortheday.
Intheevening,onreturninghomefromhisoccupations,hesathimselfdown
cosilytoreadthenewly-arrivedvolume.Thewindsofthisuncertainseason
weresnarlinginthechimneys,anddropsofrainspatthemselvesintothefire,
revealingplainlythattheyoungman’sroomwasnotfarenoughfromthetopof
thehousetoadmitofatwistintheflue,andrevealingdarklyalittlemore,ifthat
socialrule-of-threeinverse,thehigherinlodgingsthelowerinpocket,were
applicablehere.However,theaspectoftheroom,thoughhomely,wascheerful,
asomewhatcontradictorygroupoffurnituresuggestingthatthecollection
consistedofwaifsandstraysfromaformerhome,thegrimyfacesoftheold
articlesexercisingacuriousandsubduingeffectonthebrightfacesofthenew.
Anovalmirrorofrococoworkmanship,andaheavycabinet-pianowitha
cornicelikethatofanEgyptiantemple,adjoinedaharmoniumofyesterday,and
aharpthatwasalmostasnew.Printedmusicofthelastcentury,andmanuscript
musicofthepreviousevening,laythereinsuchquantityastoendangerthe
tidinessofaretreatwhichwasindeedonlysavedfromachronicstateoflitterby


apairofhandsthatsometimesplayed,withthelightnessofbreezes,aboutthe
sewing-machinestandinginaremotecorner—ifanycornercouldbecalled
remoteinaroomsosmall.
Firelightsandshadesfromtheshakingflamesstruckinabutterflyflutteronthe
underpartsofthemantelshelf,anduponthereader’scheekashesat.Presently,
andallatonce,amuchgreaterintentnesspervadedhisface:heturnedback
again,andreadanewthesubjectthathadarrestedhiseyes.Hewasamanwhose
countenancevariedwithhismood,thoughitkeptsomewhatintherearofthat
mood.Helookedsadwhenhefeltalmostserene,andonlyserenewhenhefelt
quitecheerful.Itisahabitpeopleacquirewhohavehadrepressingexperiences.
Afaintsmileandflushnowlightenedhisface,andjumpingupheopenedthe
doorandexclaimed,‘Faith!willyoucomehereforamoment?’
Apromptstepwasheardonthestairs,andtheyoungpersonaddressedasFaith
enteredtheroom.Shewassmallinfigure,andborelessintheformofher
featuresthanintheirshadeswhenchangingfromexpressiontoexpressionthe
evidencethatshewashissister.
‘Faith—Iwantyouropinion.But,stop,readthisfirst.’Helaidhisfingerupona
pageinthebook,andplaceditinherhand.
Thegirldrewfromherpocketalittlegreen-leathersheath,wornattheedgesto
whity-brown,andoutofthatapairofspectacles,unconsciouslylookinground
theroomforamomentasshedidso,asiftoensurethatnostrangersawherin
theactofusingthem.Hereaweaknesswasuncoveredatonce;itwasasmall,
pretty,andnaturalone;indeed,asweaknessesgointhegreatworld,itmight
almosthavebeencalledacommendabletrait.Shethenbegantoread,without
sittingdown.
These‘MetresbyE.’composedacollectionofsoftandmarvellouslymusical
rhymes,ofanatureknownastheversdesociété.Thelinespresentedaseriesof
playfuldefencesofthesupposedstrategyofwomankindinfascination,
courtship,andmarriage—thewholeteemingwithideasbrightasmirrorsandjust
asunsubstantial,yetformingabrilliantargumenttojustifythewaysofgirlsto
men.Thepervadingcharacteristicofthemasswasthemeansofforcinginto
notice,bystrangenessofcontrast,thesinglemournfulpoemthatthebook
contained.Itwasplacedattheveryend,andunderthetitleof‘Cancelled
Words,’formedawhimsicalandratheraffectinglove-lament,somewhatinthe
toneofmanyofSirThomasWyatt’spoems.Thiswasthepiecewhichhad


arrestedChristopher’sattention,andhadbeenpointedoutbyhimtohissister
Faith.
‘Itisverytouching,’shesaid,lookingup.
‘WhatdoyouthinkIsuspectaboutit—thatthepoemisaddressedtome!Do
youremember,whenfatherwasaliveandwewereatSolentseathatseason,
aboutagovernesswhocametherewithaSirRalphPetherwinandhiswife,
peoplewithasicklylittledaughterandagrown-upson?’
‘Ineversawanyofthem.IthinkIrememberyourknowingsomethingabouta
youngmanofthatname.’
‘Yes,thatwasthefamily.Well,thegovernesstherewasaveryattractive
woman,andsomehoworotherIgotmoreinterestedinherthanIoughttohave
done(thisisnecessarytothehistory),andweusedtomeetinromanticplaces—
and—andthatkindofthing,youknow.Theendofitwas,shejiltedmeand
marriedtheson.’
‘YouwereanxioustogetawayfromSolentsea.’
‘WasI?Thenthatwaschieflythereason.Well,Idecidedtothinknomoreof
her,andIwashelpedtodoitbythetroublesthatcameuponusshortly
afterwards;itisablessedarrangementthatonedoesnotfeelasentimentalgrief
atallwhenadditionalgriefcomesintheshapeofpracticalmisfortune.
However,onthefirstafternoonofthelittleholidayItookformywalkingtour
lastsummer,IcametoAnglebury,andstayedabouttheneighbourhoodforaday
ortwotoseewhatitwaslike,thinkingwemightsettlethereifthisplacefailed
us.ThenexteveningIleft,andwalkedacrosstheheathtoFlychett—that’sa
villageaboutfivemilesfurtheron—soastobethatdistanceonmywayfornext
morning;andwhileIwascrossingtheheaththereImetthisverywoman.We
talkedalittle,becausewecouldn’thelpit—youmayimaginethekindoftalkit
was—andpartedascoollyaswehadmet.Nowthisstrangebookcomestome;
andIhaveastrongconvictionthatsheisthewriterofit,forthatpoemsketches
asimilarscene—orrathersuggestsit;andthetonegenerallyseemsthekindof
thingshewouldwrite—notthatshewasasadwoman,either.’
‘Sheseemstobeawarm-hearted,impulsivewoman,tojudgefromthesetender
verses.’
‘Peoplewhoprintverywarmwordshavesometimesverycoldmanners.I


wonderifitisreallyherwriting,andifshehassentittome!’
‘Woulditnotbeasingularthingforamarriedwomantodo?Thoughof
course’—(sheremovedherspectaclesasiftheyhinderedherfromthinking,and
hidthemunderthetimepiecetillsheshouldgoonreading)—‘ofcoursepoets
havemoralsandmannersoftheirown,andcustomisnoargumentwiththem.I
amsureIwouldnothavesentittoamanfortheworld!’
‘Idonotseeanyabsoluteharminhersendingit.Perhapsshethinksthat,since
itisallover,wemayaswelldiefriends.’
‘IfIwereherhusbandIshouldhavedoubtsaboutthedying.And“allover”
maynotbesoplaintootherpeopleasitistoyou.’
‘Perhapsnot.Andwhenamanchecksallawoman’sfinersentimentstowards
himbymarryingher,itisonlynaturalthatitshouldfindaventsomewhere.
However,sheprobablydoesnotknowofmydownfallsincefather’sdeath.I
hardlythinkshewouldhavecaredtodoithadsheknownthat.(Iamassuming
thatitisEthelberta—Mrs.Petherwin—whosendsit:ofcourseIamnotsure.)
WemustrememberthatwhenIknewherIwasagentlemanatease,whohadnot
theleastnotionthatIshouldhavetoworkforaliving,andnotonlyso,but
shouldhavefirsttoinventaprofessiontoworkatoutofmyoldtastes.’
‘Kit,youhavemadetwomistakesinyourthoughtsofthatlady.EventhoughI
don’tknowher,Icanshowyouthat.NowI’lltellyou!thefirstisinthinking
thatamarriedladywouldsendthebookwiththatpoeminitwithoutatanyrate
aslightdoubtastoitspropriety:thesecondisinsupposingthat,hadshewished
todoit,shewouldhavegiventhethingupbecauseofourmisfortunes.Witha
truewomanthesecondreasonwouldhavehadnoeffecthadsheoncegotover
thefirst.I’mawoman,andthat’swhyIknow.’
Christophersaidnothing,andturnedoverthepoems.
*****
Helivedbyteachingmusic,and,incomparisonwithstarving,thrived;though
thewealthymightpossiblyhavesaidthatincomparisonwiththrivinghe
starved.Duringthisnighthehummedairsinbed,thoughthewoulddoforthe
balladofthefairpoetesswhatothermusicianshaddonefortheballadsofother
fairpoetesses,anddreamedthatshesmiledonhimasherprototypeSappho
smiledonPhaon.


Thenextmorningbeforestartingonhisroundsanewcircumstanceinducedhim
todirecthisstepstothebookseller’s,andaskaquestion.Hehadfoundon
examiningthewrapperofthevolumethatitwaspostedinhisowntown.
‘Nocopyofthebookhasbeensoldbyme,’thebookseller’svoicerepliedfrom
faruptheAlpineheightoftheshop-ladder,wherehestooddustingstale
volumes,aswashishabitofamorningbeforecustomerscame.‘Ihavenever
heardofit—probablynevershall;’andheshookouttheduster,soastohitthe
delicatemeanbetweenstiflingChristopherandnotstiflinghim.
‘Surelyyoudon’tlivebyyourshop?’saidChristopher,drawingback.
Thebookseller’seyesrestedonthespeaker’s;hisfacechanged;hecamedown
andplacedhishandonthelapelofChristopher’scoat.‘Sir,’hesaid,‘country
booksellingisamiserable,impoverishing,exasperatingthinginthesedays.Can
youunderstandtherest?’
‘Ican;Iforgiveastarvingmananything,’saidChristopher.
‘Yougoalongwayverysuddenly,’saidthebookseller.‘Halfasmuchpity
wouldhaveseemedbetter.However,waitamoment.’Helookedintoalistof
newbooks,andadded:‘Theworkyoualludetowasonlypublishedlastweek;
though,mindyou,ifithadbeenpublishedlastcenturyImightnothavesolda
copy.’
Althoughhistimewasprecious,Christopherhadnowbecomesointerestedin
thecircumstancethattheunseensenderwassomebodybreathinghisown
atmosphere,possiblytheverywriterherself—thebookbeingtoonewtobe
known—thatheagainpassedthroughtheblueshadowofthespirewhich
stretchedacrossthestreetto-day,andwenttowardsthepost-office,animatedby
abrightintention—toaskthepostmasterifheknewthehandwritinginwhich
thepacketwasaddressed.
NowthepostmasterwasanacquaintanceofChristopher’s,but,asregarded
puttingthatquestiontohim,therewasadifficulty.Everythingturnedupon
whetherthepostmasteratthemomentofaskingwouldbeinhisundergovernmentmanner,orinthemannerwithwhichmerenaturehadendowed
him.Inthelattercasehisreplywouldbeallthatcouldbewished;intheformer,
amanwhohadsunkinsocietymightaswellputhistongueintoamousetrapas
makeaninquirysoobviouslyoutsidethepaleoflegalityaswasthis.


Sohepostponedhisbusinessforthepresent,andrefrainedfromenteringtillhe
passedbyafterdinner,whenpleasantmaltliquor,ofthatcapacityforcheering
whichisexpressedbyfourlargeletterX’smarchinginarow,hadrefilledthe
globulartrunkofthepostmasterandneutralizedsomeoftheeffectsof
officiality.Thetimewaswellchosen,buttheinquirythreatenedtoprove
fruitless:thepostmasterhadnever,tohisknowledge,seenthewritingbefore.
Christopherwasturningawaywhenaclerkinthebackgroundlookedupand
statedthatsomeyoungladyhadbroughtapacketwithsuchanaddressuponit
intotheofficetwodaysearliertogetitstamped.
‘Doyouknowher?’saidChristopher.
‘Ihaveseenherabouttheneighbourhood.Shegoesbyeverymorning;Ithink
shecomesintothetownfrombeyondthecommon,andreturnsagainbetween
fourandfiveintheafternoon.’
‘Whatdoesshewear?’
‘Awhitewooljacketwithzigzagsofblackbraid.’
Christopherleftthepost-officeandwenthisway.Amonghisotherpupilsthere
weretwowholivedatsomedistancefromSandbourne—oneoftheminthe
directionindicatedasthathabituallytakenbytheyoungperson;andinthe
afternoon,ashereturnedhomeward,Christopherloiteredandlookedaround.At
firsthecouldseenobody;butwhenaboutamilefromtheoutskirtsofthetown
hediscernedalightspotaheadofhim,whichactuallyturnedouttobethejacket
alludedto.Induetimehemetthewearerfacetoface;shewasnotEthelberta
Petherwin—quiteadifferentsortofindividual.Hehadlongmadeuphismind
thatthiswouldbethecase,yethewasinsomeindescribablewaydisappointed.
Ofthetwoclassesintowhichgentleyoungwomennaturallydivide,thosewho
growredattheirweddings,andthosewhogrowpale,thepresentonebelonged
totheformerclass.ShewasanApril-natured,pink-cheekedgirl,witheyesthat
wouldhavemadeanyjewellerinEnglandthinkofhistrade—onewhoevidently
tookherdayinthedaytime,frequentlycaughttheearlyworm,andhadlittleto
dowithyawnsorcandlelight.Shecameandpassedhim;hefanciedthather
countenancechanged.Butonemayfancyanything,andthepairrecededeach
fromeachwithoutturningtheirheads.Hecouldnotspeaktoher,plainand
simpleassheseemed.
Itisrarelythatamanwhocanbeenteredandmadetothrobbythechannelof


hisearsisnotopentoasimilarattackthroughthechannelofhiseyes—formany
doorswilladmittoonemansion—allowancebeingmadeforthereadiercapacity
ofchosenandpractisedorgans.Hencethebeauties,concords,andeloquencesof
thefemaleformwereneverwithouttheireffectuponChristopher,aborn
musician,artist,poet,seer,mouthpiece—whicheveratranslatorofNature’s
oraclesintosimplespeechmaybecalled.Theyounggirlwhohadgonebywas
freshandpleasant;moreover,shewasasortofmysteriouslinkbetweenhimself
andthepast,whichthesethingswerevividlyrevivinginhim.
ThefollowingweekChristophermetheragain.Shehadnotmuchdignity,he
hadnotmuchreserve,andthesuddenresolutiontohaveaholidaywhich
sometimesimpelsaplumphearttoriseupagainstabrainthatoverweightsitwas
nottoberesisted.Hejustliftedhishat,andputtheonlyquestionhecouldthink
ofasabeginning:‘HaveIthepleasureofaddressingtheauthorofabookofvery
melodiouspoemsthatwassentmetheotherday?’
Thegirl’sforefingertwirledrapidlytheloopofbraidthatithadpreviouslybeen
twirlingslowly,anddrawinginherbreath,shesaid,‘No,sir.’
‘Thesender,then?’
‘Yes.’
Shesomehowpresentedherselfassoinsignificantbythecombinedeffectofthe
mannerandthewordsthatChristopherloweredhismethodofaddresstoher
levelatonce.‘Ah,’hesaid,‘suchanatmosphereasthewriterof“MetresbyE.”
seemstobreathewouldsoonspoilcheeksthatarefreshandroundaslady-apples
—eh,littlegirl?Butareyoudisposedtotellmethatwriter’sname?’
Byapplyingageneralideatoaparticularcaseapersonwiththebestof
intentionsmayfindhimselfimmediatelylandedinaquandary.Insayingtothe
countrygirlbeforehimwhatwouldhavesuitedthemassofcountrylasseswell
enough,Christopherhadoffendedherbeyondthecureofcompliment.
‘Iamnotdisposedtotellthewriter’sname,’shereplied,withadudgeonthat
wasverygreatforonewhosewholestockofitwasatrifle.Andshepassedon
andlefthimstandingalone.
Thusfurtherconversationwaschecked;but,throughhavingrearrangedthe
hoursofhiscountrylessons,ChristophermetherthenextWednesday,andthe
nextFriday,andthroughoutthefollowingweek—nofurtherwordspassing


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