Read CHAPTER XII - AN INTERVIEW WITH THE INFAMOUS DR. SHRAPNEL of Beauchamp Career, free online book, by George Meredith, on ReadCentral.com.

In the High street of the ancient and famous town and port of Bevisham, Rosamund met the military governor of a neighbouring fortress, General Sherwin, once colonel of her husband’s regiment in India; and by him, as it happened, she was assisted in finding the whereabout of the young Liberal candidate, without the degrading recourse of an application at the newspaper-office of his party.  The General was leisurely walking to a place of appointment to fetch his daughter home from a visit to an old school-friend, a Miss Jenny Denham, no other than a ward, or a niece, or an adoption of Dr. Shrapnel’s:  ‘A nice girl; a great favourite of mine,’ the General said.  Shrapnel he knew by reputation only as a wrong-headed politician; but he spoke of Miss Denham pleasantly two or three times, praising her accomplishments and her winning manners.  His hearer suspected that it might be done to dissociate the idea of her from the ruffling agitator.  ‘Is she pretty?’ was a question that sprang from Rosamund’s intimate reflections.  The answer was, ‘Yes.’

‘Very pretty?’

‘I think very pretty,’ said the General.

‘Captivatingly?’

’Clara thinks she is perfect; she is tall and slim, and dresses well.  The girls were with a French Madam in Paris.  But, if you are interested about her, you can come on with me, and we shall meet them somewhere near the head of the street.  I don’t,’ the General hesitated and hummed ­’I don’t call at Shrapnel’s.’

‘I have never heard her name before to-day,’ said Rosamund.

‘Exactly,’ said the General, crowing at the aimlessness of a woman’s curiosity.

The young ladies were seen approaching, and Rosamund had to ask herself whether the first sight of a person like Miss Denham would be of a kind to exercise a lively influence over the political and other sentiments of a dreamy sailor just released from ship-service.  In an ordinary case she would have said no, for Nevil enjoyed a range of society where faces charming as Miss Denham’s were plentiful as roses in the rose-garden.  But, supposing him free of his bondage to the foreign woman, there was, she thought and feared, a possibility that a girl of this description might capture a young man’s vacant heart sighing for a new mistress.  And if so, further observation assured her Miss Denham was likely to be dangerous far more than professedly attractive persons, enchantresses and the rest.  Rosamund watchfully gathered all the superficial indications which incite women to judge of character profoundly.  This new object of alarm was, as the General had said of her, tall and slim, a friend of neatness, plainly dressed, but exquisitely fitted, in the manner of Frenchwomen.  She spoke very readily, not too much, and had the rare gift of being able to speak fluently with a smile on the mouth.  Vulgar archness imitates it.  She won and retained the eyes of her hearer sympathetically, it seemed.  Rosamund thought her as little conscious as a woman could be.  She coloured at times quickly, but without confusion.  When that name, the key of Rosamund’s meditations, chanced to be mentioned, a flush swept over Miss Denham’s face.  The candour of it was unchanged as she gazed at Rosamund, with a look that asked, ’Do you know him?’

Rosamund said, ‘I am an old friend of his.’

‘He is here now, in this town.’

‘I wish to see him very much.’

General Sherwin interposed:  ’We won’t talk about political characters just for the present.’

‘I wish you knew him, papa, and would advise him,’ his daughter said.

The General nodded hastily.  ‘By-and-by, by-and-by.’

They had in fact taken seats at a table of mutton pies in a pastrycook’s shop, where dashing military men were restrained solely by their presence from a too noisy display of fascinations before the fashionable waiting-women.

Rosamund looked at Miss Denham.  As soon as they were in the street the latter said, ‘If you will be good enough to come with me, madam...?’ Rosamund bowed, thankful to have been comprehended.  The two young ladies kissed cheeks and parted.  General Sherwin raised his hat, and was astonished to see Mrs. Culling join Miss Denham in accepting the salute, for they had not been introduced, and what could they have in common?  It was another of the oddities of female nature.

’My name is Mrs. Culling, and I will tell you how it is that I am interested in Captain Beauchamp,’ Rosamund addressed her companion.  ’I am his uncle’s housekeeper.  I have known him and loved him since he was a boy.  I am in great fear that he is acting rashly.’

‘You honour me, madam, by speaking to me so frankly,’ Miss Denham answered.

‘He is quite bent upon this Election?’

’Yes, madam.  I am not, as you can suppose, in his confidence, but I hear of him from Dr. Shrapnel.’

‘Your uncle?’

‘I call him uncle:  he is my guardian, madam.’

It is perhaps excuseable that this communication did not cause the doctor to shine with added lustre in Rosamund’s thoughts, or ennoble the young lady.

‘You are not relatives, then?’ she said.

‘No, unless love can make us so.’

‘Not blood-relatives?’

‘No.’

‘Is he not very... extreme?’

‘He is very sincere.’

‘I presume you are a politician?’

Miss Denham smiled.  ’Could you pardon me, madam, if I said that I was?’ The counter-question was a fair retort enfolding a gentler irony.  Rosamund felt that she had to do with wits as well as with vivid feminine intuitions in the person of this Miss Denham.

She said, ’I really am of opinion that our sex might abstain from politics.’

‘We find it difficult to do justice to both parties,’ Miss Denham followed.  ’It seems to be a kind of clanship with women; hardly even that.’

Rosamund was inattentive to the conversational slipshod, and launched one of the heavy affirmatives which are in dialogue full stops.  She could not have said why she was sensible of anger, but the sentiment of anger, or spite (if that be a lesser degree of the same affliction), became stirred in her bosom when she listened to the ward of Dr. Shrapnel.  A silly pretty puss of a girl would not have excited it, nor an avowed blood-relative of the demagogue.

Nevil’s hotel was pointed out to Rosamund, and she left her card there.  He had been absent since eight in the morning.  There was the probability that he might be at Dr. Shrapnel’s, so Rosamund walked on.

‘Captain Beauchamp gives himself no rest,’ Miss Denham said.

‘Oh!  I know him, when once his mind is set on anything,’ said Rosamund.

‘Is it not too early to begin to ­canvass, I think, is the word?’

’He is studying whatever the town can teach him of its wants; that is, how he may serve it.’

‘Indeed!  But if the town will not have him to serve it?’

’He imagines that he cannot do better, until that has been decided, than to fit himself for the post.’

’Acting upon your advice?  I mean, of course, your uncle’s; that is, Dr. Shrapnel’s.’

’Dr. Shrapnel thinks it will not be loss of time for Captain Beauchamp to grow familiar with the place, and observe as well as read.’

’It sounds almost as if Captain Beauchamp had submitted to be Dr. Shrapnel’s pupil.’

’It is natural, madam, that Dr. Shrapnel should know more of political ways at present than Captain Beauchamp.’

’To Captain Beauchamp’s friends and relatives it appears very strange that he should have decided to contest this election so suddenly.  May I inquire whether he and Dr. Shrapnel are old acquaintances?’

’No, madam, they are not.  They had never met before Captain Beauchamp landed, the other day.’

’I am surprised, I confess.  I cannot understand the nature of an influence that induces him to abandon a profession he loves and shines in, for politics, at a moment’s notice.’

Miss Denham was silent, and then said: 

’I will tell you, madam, how it occurred, as far as circumstances explain it.  Dr. Shrapnel is accustomed to give a little country feast to the children I teach, and their parents if they choose to come, and they generally do.  They are driven to Northeden Heath, where we set up a booth for them, and try with cakes and tea and games to make them spend one of their happy afternoons and evenings.  We succeed, I know, for the little creatures talk of it and look forward to the day.  When they are at their last romp, Dr. Shrapnel speaks to the parents.’

‘Can he obtain a hearing?’ Rosamund asked.

’He has not so very large a crowd to address, madam, and he is much beloved by those that come.’

‘He speaks to them of politics on those occasions?’

’Adouci a leur intention.  It is not a political speech, but Dr. Shrapnel thinks, that in a so-called free country seeking to be really free, men of the lowest class should be educated in forming a political judgement.’

‘And women too?’

’And women, yes.  Indeed, madam, we notice that the women listen very creditably.’

‘They can put on the air.’

’I am afraid, not more than the men do.  To get them to listen is something.  They suffer like the men, and must depend on their intelligence to win their way out of it.’

Rosamund’s meditation was exclamatory:  What can be the age of this pretentious girl?

An afterthought turned her more conciliatorily toward the person, but less to the subject.  She was sure that she was lending ear to the echo of the dangerous doctor, and rather pitied Miss Denham for awhile, reflecting that a young woman stuffed with such ideas would find it hard to get a husband.  Mention of Nevil revived her feeling of hostility.

We had seen a gentleman standing near and listening attentively,’ Miss Denham resumed, ’and when Dr. Shrapnel concluded a card was handed to him.  He read it and gave it to me, and said, “You know that name.”  It was a name we had often talked about during the war.

He went to Captain Beauchamp and shook his hand.  He does not pay many compliments, and he does not like to receive them, but it was impossible for him not to be moved by Captain Beauchamp’s warmth in thanking him for the words he had spoken.  I saw that Dr. Shrapnel became interested in Captain Beauchamp the longer they conversed.  We walked home together.  Captain Beauchamp supped with us.  I left them at half-past eleven at night, and in the morning I found them walking in the garden.  They had not gone to bed at all.  Captain Beauchamp has remained in Bevisham ever since.  He soon came to the decision to be a candidate for the borough.’

Rosamund checked her lips from uttering:  To be a puppet of Dr. Shrapnel’s!

She remarked, ‘He is very eloquent ­Dr. Shrapnel?’

Miss Denham held some debate with herself upon the term.

‘Perhaps it is not eloquence; he often... no, he is not an orator.’

Rosamund suggested that he was persuasive, possibly.

Again the young lady deliberately weighed the word, as though the nicest measure of her uncle or adoptor’s quality in this or that direction were in requisition and of importance ­an instance of a want of delicacy of perception Rosamund was not sorry to detect.  For good-looking, refined-looking, quick-witted girls can be grown; but the nimble sense of fitness, ineffable lightning-footed tact, comes of race and breeding, and she was sure Nevil was a man soon to feel the absence of that.

’Dr. Shrapnel is persuasive to those who go partly with him, or whose condition of mind calls on him for great patience,’ Miss Denham said at last.

’I am only trying to comprehend how it was that he should so rapidly have won Captain Beauchamp to his views,’ Rosamund explained; and the young lady did not reply.

Dr. Shrapnel’s house was about a mile beyond the town, on a common of thorn and gorse, through which the fir-bordered highway ran.  A fence waist-high enclosed its plot of meadow and garden, so that the doctor, while protecting his own, might see and be seen of the world, as was the case when Rosamund approached.  He was pacing at long slow strides along the gravel walk, with his head bent and bare, and his hands behind his back, accompanied by a gentleman who could be no other than Nevil, Rosamund presumed to think; but drawing nearer she found she was mistaken.

‘That is not Captain Beauchamp’s figure,’ she said.

‘No, it is not he,’ said Miss Denham.

Rosamund saw that her companion was pale.  She warmed to her at once; by no means on account of the pallor in itself.

‘I have walked too fast for you, I fear.’

‘Oh no; I am accused of being a fast walker.’

Rosamund was unwilling to pass through the demagogue’s gate.  On second thoughts, she reflected that she could hardly stipulate to have news of Nevil tossed to her over the spikes, and she entered.

While receiving Dr. Shrapnel’s welcome to a friend of Captain Beauchamp, she observed the greeting between Miss Denham and the younger gentleman.  It reassured her.  They met like two that have a secret.

The dreaded doctor was an immoderately tall man, lean and wiry, carelessly clad in a long loose coat of no colour, loose trowsers, and huge shoes.

He stooped from his height to speak, or rather swing the stiff upper half of his body down to his hearer’s level and back again, like a ship’s mast on a billowy sea.  He was neither rough nor abrupt, nor did he roar bullmouthedly as demagogues are expected to do, though his voice was deep.  He was actually, after his fashion, courteous, it could be said of him, except that his mind was too visibly possessed by distant matters for Rosamund’s taste, she being accustomed to drawing-room and hunting and military gentlemen, who can be all in the words they utter.  Nevertheless he came out of his lizard-like look with the down-dropped eyelids quick at a resumption of the dialogue; sometimes gesturing, sweeping his arm round.  A stubborn tuft of iron-grey hair fell across his forehead, and it was apparently one of his life’s labours to get it to lie amid the mass, for his hand rarely ceased to be in motion without an impulsive stroke at the refractory forelock.  He peered through his eyelashes ordinarily, but from no infirmity of sight.  The truth was, that the man’s nature counteracted his spirit’s intenser eagerness and restlessness by alternating a state of repose that resembled dormancy, and so preserved him.  Rosamund was obliged to give him credit for straightforward eyes when they did look out and flash.  Their filmy blue, half overflown with grey by age, was poignant while the fire in them lasted.  Her antipathy attributed something electrical to the light they shot.

Dr. Shrapnel’s account of Nevil stated him to have gone to call on Colonel Halkett, a new resident at Mount Laurels, on the Otley river.  He offered the welcome of his house to the lady who was Captain Beauchamp’s friend, saying, with extraordinary fatuity (so it sounded in Rosamund’s ears), that Captain Beauchamp would certainly not let an evening pass without coming to him.  Rosamund suggested that he might stay late at Mount Laurels.

‘Then he will arrive here after nightfall,’ said the doctor.  ’A bed is at your service, ma’am.’

The offer was declined.  ’I should like to have seen him to-day; but he will be home shortly.’

’He will not quit Bevisham till this Election’s decided unless to hunt a stray borough vote, ma’am.’

’He goes to Mount Laurels.

‘For that purpose.’

’I do not think he will persuade Colonel Halkett to vote in the Radical interest.’

’That is the probability with a landed proprietor, ma’am.  We must knock, whether the door opens or not.  Like,’ the doctor laughed to himself up aloft, ’like a watchman in the night to say that he smells smoke on the premises.’

’Surely we may expect Captain Beauchamp to consult his family about so serious a step as this he is taking,’ Rosamund said, with an effort to be civil.

Why should he?’ asked the impending doctor.

His head continued in the interrogative position when it had resumed its elevation.  The challenge for a definite reply to so outrageous a question irritated Rosamund’s nerves, and, loth though she was to admit him to the subject, she could not forbear from saying, ’Why?  Surely his family have the first claim on him!’

’Surely not, ma’am.  There is no first claim.  A man’s wife and children have a claim on him for bread.  A man’s parents have a claim on him for obedience while he is a child.  A man’s uncles, aunts, and cousins have no claim on him at all, except for help in necessity, which he can grant and they require.  None ­wife, children, parents, relatives ­none has a claim to bar his judgement and his actions.  Sound the conscience, and sink the family!  With a clear conscience, it is best to leave the family to its own debates.  No man ever did brave work who held counsel with his family.  The family view of a man’s fit conduct is the weak point of the country.  It is no other view than, “Better thy condition for our sakes.”  Ha!  In this way we breed sheep, fatten oxen:  men are dying off.  Resolution taken, consult the family means ­waste your time!  Those who go to it want an excuse for altering their minds.  The family view is everlastingly the shopkeeper’s!  Purse, pence, ease, increase of worldly goods, personal importance ­the pound, the English pound!  Dare do that, and you forfeit your share of Port wine in this world; you won’t be dubbed with a title; you’ll be fingered at!  Lord, Lord! is it the region inside a man, or out, that gives him peace?  Out, they say; for they have lost faith in the existence of an inner.  They haven’t it.  Air-sucker, blood-pump, cooking machinery, and a battery of trained instincts, aptitudes, fill up their vacuum.  I repeat, ma’am, why should young Captain Beauchamp spend an hour consulting his family?  They won’t approve him; he knows it.  They may annoy him; and what is the gain of that?  They can’t move him; on that I let my right hand burn.  So it would be useless on both sides.  He thinks so.  So do I. He is one of the men to serve his country on the best field we can choose for him.  In a ship’s cabin he is thrown away.  Ay, ay, War, and he may go aboard.  But now we must have him ashore.  Too few of such as he!’

‘It is matter of opinion,’ said Rosamund, very tightly compressed; scarcely knowing what she said.

How strange, besides hateful, it was to her to hear her darling spoken of by a stranger who not only pretended to appreciate but to possess him!  A stranger, a man of evil, with monstrous ideas!  A terribly strong inexhaustible man, of a magical power too; or would he otherwise have won such a mastery over Nevil?

Of course she could have shot a rejoinder, to confute him with all the force of her indignation, save that the words were tumbling about in her head like a world in disruption, which made her feel a weakness at the same time that she gloated on her capacity, as though she had an enormous army, quite overwhelming if it could but be got to move in advance.  This very common condition of the silent-stricken, unused in dialectics, heightened Rosamund’s disgust by causing her to suppose that Nevil had been similarly silenced, in his case vanquished, captured, ruined; and he dwindled in her estimation for a moment or two.  She felt that among a sisterhood of gossips she would soon have found her voice, and struck down the demagogue’s audacious sophisms:  not that they affected her in the slightest degree for her own sake.

Shrapnel might think what he liked, and say what he liked, as far as she was concerned, apart from the man she loved.  Rosamund went through these emotions altogether on Nevil’s behalf, and longed for her affirmatizing inspiring sisterhood until the thought of them threw another shade on him.

What champion was she to look to?  To whom but to Mr. Everard Romfrey?

It was with a spasm of delighted reflection that she hit on Mr. Romfrey.  He was like a discovery to her.  With his strength and skill, his robust common sense and rough shrewd wit, his prompt comparisons, his chivalry, his love of combat, his old knightly blood, was not he a match, and an overmatch, for the ramping Radical who had tangled Nevil in his rough snares?  She ran her mind over Mr. Romfrey’s virtues, down even to his towering height and breadth.  Could she but once draw these two giants into collision in Nevil’s presence, she was sure it would save him.  The method of doing it she did not stop to consider:  she enjoyed her triumph in the idea.

Meantime she had passed from Dr. Shrapnel to Miss Denham, and carried on a conversation becomingly.

Tea had been made in the garden, and she had politely sipped half a cup, which involved no step inside the guilty house, and therefore no distress to her antagonism.  The sun descended.  She heard the doctor reciting.  Could it be poetry?  In her imagination the sombre hues surrounding an incendiary opposed that bright spirit.  She listened, smiling incredulously.  Miss Denham could interpret looks, and said, ’Dr. Shrapnel is very fond of those verses.’

Rosamund’s astonishment caused her to say, ’Are they his own?’ ­a piece of satiric innocency at which Miss Denham laughed softly as she answered, ‘No.’

Rosamund pleaded that she had not heard them with any distinctness.

‘Are they written by the gentleman at his side?’

‘Mr. Lydiard?  No.  He writes, but the verses are not his.’

‘Does he know ­has he met Captain Beauchamp?’

‘Yes, once.  Captain Beauchamp has taken a great liking to his works.’

Rosamund closed her eyes, feeling that she was in a nest that had determined to appropriate Nevil.  But at any rate there was the hope and the probability that this Mr. Lydiard of the pen had taken a long start of Nevil in the heart of Miss Denham:  and struggling to be candid, to ensure some meditative satisfaction, Rosamund admitted to herself that the girl did not appear to be one of the wanton giddy-pated pusses who play two gentlemen or more on their line.  Appearances, however, could be deceptive:  never pretend to know a girl by her face, was one of Rosamund’s maxims.

She was next informed of Dr. Shrapnel’s partiality for music toward the hour of sunset.  Miss Denham mentioned it, and the doctor, presently sauntering up, invited Rosamund to a seat on a bench near the open window of the drawing-room.  He nodded to his ward to go in.

‘I am a fire-worshipper, ma’am,’ he said.  ’The God of day is the father of poetry, medicine, music:  our best friend.  See him there!  My Jenny will spin a thread from us to him over the millions of miles, with one touch of the chords, as quick as he shoots a beam on us.  Ay! on her wretched tinkler called a piano, which tries at the whole orchestra and murders every instrument in the attempt.  But it’s convenient, like our modern civilization ­a taming and a diminishing of individuals for an insipid harmony!’

‘You surely do not object to the organ? ­I fear I cannot wait, though,’ said Rosamund.

Miss Denham entreated her.  ’Oh! do, madam.  Not to hear me ­I am not so perfect a player that I should wish it ­but to see him.  Captain Beauchamp may now be coming at any instant.’

Mr. Lydiard added, ’I have an appointment with him here for this evening.’

‘You build a cathedral of sound in the organ,’ said Dr. Shrapnel, casting out a league of leg as he sat beside his only half-persuaded fretful guest.  ’You subject the winds to serve you; that’s a gain.  You do actually accomplish a resonant imitation of the various instruments; they sing out as your two hands command them ­trumpet, flute, dulcimer, hautboy, drum, storm, earthquake, ethereal quire; you have them at your option.  But tell me of an organ in the open air?  The sublimity would vanish, ma’am, both from the notes and from the structure, because accessories and circumstances produce its chief effects.  Say that an organ is a despotism, just as your piano is the Constitutional bourgeois.  Match them with the trained orchestral band of skilled individual performers, indoors or out, where each grasps his instrument, and each relies on his fellow with confidence, and an unrivalled concord comes of it.  That is our republic each one to his work; all in union!  There’s the motto for us!  Then you have music, harmony, the highest, fullest, finest!  Educate your men to form a band, you shame dexterous trickery and imitation sounds.  Then for the difference of real instruments from clever shams!  Oh, ay, one will set your organ going; that is, one in front, with his couple of panting air-pumpers behind ­his ministers!’ Dr. Shrapnel laughed at some undefined mental image, apparently careless of any laughing companionship.  ’One will do it for you, especially if he’s born to do it.  Born!’ A slap of the knee reported what seemed to be an immensely contemptuous sentiment.  ’But free mouths blowing into brass and wood, ma’am, beat your bellows and your whifflers; your artificial choruses ­crash, crash! your unanimous plebiscitums!  Beat them?  There’s no contest:  we’re in another world; we’re in the sun’s world, ­yonder!’

Miss Denham’s opening notes on the despised piano put a curb on the doctor.  She began a Mass of Mozart’s, without the usual preliminary rattle of the keys, as of a crier announcing a performance, straight to her task, for which Rosamund thanked her, liking that kind of composed simplicity:  she thanked her more for cutting short the doctor’s fanatical nonsense.  It was perceptible to her that a species of mad metaphor had been wriggling and tearing its passage through a thorn-bush in his discourse, with the furious urgency of a sheep in a panic; but where the ostensible subject ended and the metaphor commenced, and which was which at the conclusion, she found it difficult to discern ­much as the sheep would, be when he had left his fleece behind him.  She could now have said, ‘Silly old man!’

Dr. Shrapnel appeared most placable.  He was gazing at his Authority in the heavens, tangled among gold clouds and purple; his head bent acutely on one side, and his eyes upturned in dim speculation.  His great feet planted on their heels faced him, suggesting the stocks; his arms hung loose.  Full many a hero of the alehouse, anciently amenable to leg-and-foot imprisonment in the grip of the parish, has presented as respectable an air.  His forelock straggled as it willed.

Rosamund rose abruptly as soon as the terminating notes of the Mass had been struck.

Dr. Shrapnel seemed to be concluding his devotions before he followed her example.

‘There, ma’am, you have a telegraphic system for the soul,’ he said.  ’It is harder work to travel from this place to this’ (he pointed at ear and breast) ‘than from here to yonder’ (a similar indication traversed the distance between earth and sun).  ’Man’s aim has hitherto been to keep men from having a soul for this world:  he takes it for something infernal.  He? ­I mean, they that hold power.  They shudder to think the conservatism of the earth will be shaken by a change; they dread they won’t get men with souls to fetch and carry, dig, root, mine, for them.  Right! ­what then?  Digging and mining will be done; so will harping and singing.  But then we have a natural optimacy!  Then, on the one hand, we whip the man-beast and the man-sloth; on the other, we seize that old fatted iniquity ­that tyrant! that tempter! that legitimated swindler cursed of Christ! that palpable Satan whose name is Capital! by the neck, and have him disgorging within three gasps of his life.  He is the villain!  Let him live, for he too comes of blood and bone.  He shall not grind the faces of the poor and helpless ­that’s all.’

The comicality of her having such remarks addressed to her provoked a smile on Rosamund’s lips.

‘Don’t go at him like Samson blind,’ said Mr. Lydiard; and Miss Denham, who had returned, begged her guardian to entreat the guest to stay.

She said in an undertone, ’I am very anxious you should see Captain Beauchamp, madam.’

‘I too; but he will write, and I really can wait no longer,’ Rosamund replied, in extreme apprehension lest a certain degree of pressure should overbear her repugnance to the doctor’s dinner-table.  Miss Denham’s look was fixed on her; but, whatever it might mean, Rosamund’s endurance was at an end.  She was invited to dine; she refused.  She was exceedingly glad to find herself on the high-road again, with a prospect of reaching Steynham that night; for it was important that she should not have to confess a visit to Bevisham now when she had so little of favourable to tell Mr. Everard Romfrey of his chosen nephew.  Whether she had acted quite wisely in not remaining to see Nevil, was an agitating question that had to be silenced by an appeal to her instincts of repulsion, and a further appeal for justification of them to her imaginary sisterhood of gossips.  How could she sit and eat, how pass an evening in that house, in the society of that man?  Her tuneful chorus cried, ‘How indeed.’  Besides, it would have offended Mr. Romfrey to hear that she had done so.  Still she could not refuse to remember Miss Denham’s marked intimations of there being a reason for Nevil’s friend to seize the chance of an immediate interview with him; and in her distress at the thought, Rosamund reluctantly, but as if compelled by necessity, ascribed the young lady’s conduct to a strong sense of personal interests.

’Evidently she has no desire he should run the risk of angering a rich uncle.’

This shameful suspicion was unavoidable:  there was no other opiate for Rosamund’s blame of herself after letting her instincts gain the ascendancy.

It will be found a common case, that when we have yielded to our instincts, and then have to soothe conscience, we must slaughter somebody, for a sacrificial offering to our sense of comfort.