Read CHAPTER XXV - THE ADVENTURE OF THE BOAT of Beauchamp Career, free online book, by George Meredith, on ReadCentral.com.

Madame d’Auffray passed Renee, whispering on her way to take her seat at the breakfast-table.

Renee did not condescend to whisper.  ‘Roland will be glad,’ she said aloud.

Her low eyelids challenged Beauchamp for a look of indifference.  There was more for her to unbosom than Madame d’Auffray had revealed, but the comparative innocence of her position in this new light prompted her to meet him defiantly, if he chose to feel injured.  He was attracted by a happy contrast of colour between her dress and complexion, together with a cavalierly charm in the sullen brows she lifted; and seeing the reverse of a look of indifference on his face, after what he had heard of her frivolousness, she had a fear that it existed.

‘Are we not to have M. d’Henriel to-day? he amuses me,’ the baronne d’Orbec remarked.

‘If he would learn that he was fashioned for that purpose!’ exclaimed little M. Livret.

’Do not ask young men for too much head, my friend; he would cease to be amusing.’

‘D’Henriel should have been up in the fields at ten this morning,’ said M. d’Orbec.  ‘As to his head, I back him for a clever shot.’

‘Or a duelling-sword,’ said Renee.  ’It is a quality, count it for what we will.  Your favourite, Madame la Baronne, is interdicted from presenting himself here so long as he persists in offending me.’

She was requested to explain, and, with the fair ingenuousness which outshines innocence, she touched on the story of the glove.

Ah! what a delicate, what an exciting, how subtle a question!

Had M. d’Henriel the right to possess it? and, having that, had he the right to wear it at his breast?

Beauchamp was dragged into the discussion of the case.

Renee waited curiously for his judgement.

Pleading an apology for the stormy weather, which had detained him, and for his ignorance that so precious an article was at stake, he held, that by the terms of the wager, the glove was lost; the claim to wear it was a matter of taste.

’Matters of taste, monsieur, are not, I think, decided by weapons in your country?’ said M. d’Orbec.

‘We have no duelling,’ said Beauchamp.

The Frenchman imagined the confession to be somewhat humbling, and generously added, ’But you have your volunteers ­a magnificent spectacle of patriotism and national readiness for defence!’

A shrewd pang traversed Beauchamp’s heart, as he looked back on his country from the outside and the inside, thinking what amount of patriotic readiness the character of the volunteering signified, in the face of all that England has to maintain.  Like a politic islander, he allowed the patriotic spectacle to be imagined; reflecting that it did a sort of service abroad, and had only to be unmasked at home.

‘But you surrendered the glove, marquise!’ The baronne d’Orbec spoke judicially.

‘I flung it to the ground:  that made it neutral,’ said Renee.

‘Hum.  He wears it with the dust on it, certainly.’

‘And for how long a time,’ M. Livret wished to know, ’does this amusing young man proclaim his intention of wearing the glove?’

‘Until he can see with us that his Order of Merit is utter kid,’ said Madame d’Auffray; and as she had spoken more or less neatly, satisfaction was left residing in the ear of the assembly, and the glove was permitted to be swept away on a fresh tide of dialogue.

The admirable candour of Renee in publicly alluding to M. d’Henriel’s foolishness restored a peep of his holiday to Beauchamp.  Madame d’Auffray took note of the effect it produced, and quite excused her sister-in-law for intending to produce is; but that speaking out the half-truth that we may put on the mask of the whole, is no new trick; and believing as she did that Renee was in danger with the handsome Count Henri, the practice of such a kind of honesty on her part appeared alarming.

Still it is imprudent to press for confidences when our friend’s heart is manifestly trifling with sincerity.  Who knows but that some foregone reckless act or word may have superinduced the healthy shame which cannot speak, which must disguise itself, and is honesty in that form, but roughly troubled would resolve to rank dishonesty?  So thought the patient lady, wiser in that than in her perceptions.

Renee made a boast of not persuading her guest to stay, avowing that she would not willingly have him go.  Praising him equably, she listened to praise of him with animation.  She was dumb and statue-like when Count Henri’s name was mentioned.  Did not this betray liking for one, subjection to the other?  Indeed, there was an Asiatic splendour of animal beauty about M. d’Henriel that would be serpent with most women, Madame d’Auffray conceived; why not with the deserted Renee, who adored beauty of shape and colour, and was compassionate toward a rashness of character that her own unnatural solitariness and quick spirit made her emulous of?

Meanwhile Beauchamp’s day of adieu succeeded that of his holiday, and no adieu was uttered.  The hours at Tourdestelle had a singular turn for slipping.  Interlinked and all as one they swam by, brought evening, brought morning, never varied.  They might have varied with such a division as when flame lights up the night or a tempest shades the day, had Renee chosen; she had that power over him.  She had no wish to use it; perhaps she apprehended what it would cause her to forfeit.  She wished him to respect her; felt that she was under the shadow of the glove, slight though it was while it was nothing but a tale of a lady and a glove; and her desire, like his, was that they should meet daily and dream on, without a variation.  He noticed how seldom she led him beyond the grounds of the chateau.  They were to make excursions when her brother came, she said.  Roland de Croisnel’s colonel, Coin de Grandchamp, happened to be engaged in a duel, which great business detained Roland.  It supplied Beauchamp with an excuse for staying, that he was angry with himself for being pleased to have; so he attacked the practice of duelling, and next the shrug, wherewith M. Livret and M. d’Orbec sought at first to defend the foul custom, or apologize for it, or plead for it philosophically, or altogether cast it off their shoulders; for the literal interpretation of the shrug in argument is beyond human capacity; it is the point of speech beyond our treasury of language.  He attacked the shrug, as he thought, very temperately; but in controlling his native vehemence he grew, perforce of repression, and of incompetency to deliver himself copiously in French, sarcastic.  In fine, his contrast of the pretence of their noble country to head civilization, and its encouragement of a custom so barbarous, offended M. d’Orbec and irritated M. Livret.

The latter delivered a brief essay on Gallic blood; the former maintained that Frenchmen were the best judges of their own ways and deeds.  Politeness reigned, but politeness is compelled to throw off cloak and jacket when it steps into the arena to meet the encounter of a bull.  Beauchamp drew on their word ‘solidaire’ to assist him in declaring that no civilized nation could be thus independent.  Imagining himself in the France of brave ideas, he contrived to strike out sparks of Legitimist ire around him, and found himself breathing the atmosphere of the most primitive nursery of Toryism.  Again he encountered the shrug, and he would have it a verbal matter.  M. d’Orbec gravely recited the programme of the country party in France.  M. Livret carried the war across Channel.  You English have retired from active life, like the exhausted author, to turn critic ­the critic that sneers:  unless we copy you abjectly we are execrable.  And what is that sneer?  Materially it is an acrid saliva, withering where it drops; in the way of fellowship it is a corpse-emanation.  As to wit, the sneer is the cloak of clumsiness; it is the Pharisee’s incense, the hypocrite’s pity, the post of exaltation of the fat citizen, etc.; but, said M. Livret, the people using it should have a care that they keep powerful:  they make no friends.  He terminated with this warning to a nation not devoid of superior merit.  M. d’Orbec said less, and was less consoled by his outburst.

In the opinion of Mr. Vivian Ducie, present at the discussion, Beauchamp provoked the lash; for, in the first place, a beautiful woman’s apparent favourite should be particularly discreet in all that he says:  and next, he should have known that the Gallic shrug over matters political is volcanic ­it is the heaving of the mountain, and, like the proverbial Russ, leaps up Tartarly at a scratch.  Our newspapers also had been flea-biting M. Livret and his countrymen of late; and, to conclude, over in old England you may fly out against what you will, and there is little beyond a motherly smile, a nurse’s rebuke, or a fool’s rudeness to answer you.  In quick-blooded France you have whip for whip, sneer, sarcasm, claw, fang, tussle, in a trice; and if you choose to comport yourself according to your insular notion of freedom, you are bound to march out to the measured ground at an invitation.  To begin by saying that your principles are opposed to it, naturally excites a malicious propensity to try your temper.

A further cause, unknown to Mr. Ducie, of M. Livret’s irritation was, that Beauchamp had vexed him on a subject peculiarly dear to him.  The celebrated Chateau Dianet was about to be visited by the guests at Tourdestelle.  In common with some French philosophers and English matrons, he cherished a sentimental sad enthusiasm for royal concubines; and when dilating upon one among them, the ruins of whose family’s castle stood in the neighbourhood-Agrees, who was really a kindly soul, though not virtuous ­M.  Livret had been traversed by Beauchamp with questions as to the condition of the people, the peasantry, that were sweated in taxes to support these lovely frailties.  They came oddly from a man in the fire of youth, and a little old gentleman somewhat seduced by the melting image of his theme might well blink at him to ask, of what flesh are you, then?  His historic harem was insulted.  Personally too, the fair creature picturesquely soiled, intrepid in her amorousness, and ultimately absolved by repentance (a shuddering narrative of her sins under showers of salt drops), cried to him to champion her.  Excited by the supposed cold critical mind in Beauchamp, M. Livret painted and painted this lady, tricked her in casuistical niceties, scenes of pomp and boudoir pathos, with many shifting sidelights and a risky word or two, until Renee cried out, ’Spare us the esprit Gaulois, M. Livret!’ There was much to make him angry with this Englishman.

’The esprit Gaulois is the sparkle of crystal common sense, madame, and may we never abandon it for a Puritanism that hides its face to conceal its filthiness, like a stagnant pond,’ replied M. Livret, flashing.

‘It seems, then, that there are two ways of being objectionable,’ said Renee.

‘Ah!  Madame la Marquise, your wit is French,’ he breathed low; ’keep your heart so!’

Both M. Livret and M. d’Orbec had forgotten that when Count Henri d’Henriel was received at Tourdestelle, the arrival of the Englishman was pleasantly anticipated by them as an eclipse of the handsome boy; but a foreign interloper is quickly dispossessed of all means of pleasing save that one of taking his departure; and they now talked of Count Henri’s disgrace and banishment in a very warm spirit of sympathy, not at all seeing why it should be made to depend upon the movements of this M. Beauchamp, as it appeared to be.  Madame d’Auffray heard some of their dialogue, and hurried with a mouth full of comedy to Renee, who did not reproach them for silly beings, as would be done elsewhere.  On the contrary, she appreciated a scene of such absolute comedy, recognizing it instantly as a situation plucked out of human nature.  She compared them to republicans that regretted the sovereign they had deposed for a pretender to start up and govern them.

‘Who hurries them round to the legitimate king again!’ said Madame d’Auffray.

Renee cast her chin up.  ‘How, my dear?’

‘Your husband.’

‘What of him?’

‘He is returning.’

‘What brings him?’

’You should ask who, my Renee!  I was sure he would not hear of M. Beauchamp’s being here, without an effort to return and do the honours of the chateau.’

Renee looked hard at her, saying, ’How thoughtful of you!  You must have made use of the telegraph wires to inform him that M. Beauchamp was with us.’

‘More; I made use of them to inform him that M. Beauchamp was expected.’

’And that was enough to bring him!  He pays M. Beauchamp a wonderful compliment.’

’Such as he would pay to no other man, my Renee.  Virtually it is the highest of compliments to you.  I say that to M. Beauchamp’s credit; for Raoul has met him, and, whatever his personal feeling may be, must know your friend is a man of honour.’

‘My friend is... yes, I have no reason to think otherwise,’ Renee replied.  Her husband’s persistent and exclusive jealousy of Beauchamp was the singular point in the character of one who appeared to have no sentiment of the kind as regarded men that were much less than men of honour.  ‘So, then, my sister Agnes,’ she said, ’you suggested the invitation of M. Beauchamp for the purpose of spurring my husband to return!  Apparently he and I are surrounded by plotters.’

‘Am I so very guilty?’ said Madame d’Auffray.

’If that mad boy, half idiot, half panther, were by chance to insult M. Beauchamp, you would feel so.’

’You have taken precautions to prevent their meeting; and besides, M. Beauchamp does not fight.’

Renee flushed crimson.

Madame d’Auffray added, ’I do not say that he is other than a perfectly brave and chivalrous gentleman.’

‘Oh!’ cried Renee, ’do not say it, if ever you should imagine it.  Bid Roland speak of him.  He is changed, oppressed:  I did him a terrible wrong ....’  She checked herself.  ’But the chief thing to do is to keep M. d’Henriel away from him.  I suspect M. d’Orbec of a design to make them clash:  and you, my dear, will explain why, to flatter me.  Believe me, I thirst for flattery; I have had none since M. Beauchamp came:  and you, so acute, must have seen the want of it in my face.  But you, so skilful, Agnes, will manage these men.  Do you know, Agnes, that the pride of a woman so incredibly clever as you have shown me you are should resent their intrigues and overthrow them.  As for me, I thought I could command M. d’Henriel, and I find he has neither reason in him nor obedience.  Singular to say, I knew him just as well a week back as I do now, and then I liked him for his qualities ­or the absence of any.  But how shall we avoid him on the road to Dianet?  He is aware that we are going.’

‘Take M. Beauchamp by boat,’ said Madame d’Auffray.

‘The river winds to within a five minutes’ walk of Dianet; we could go by boat,’ Renee said musingly.  ’I thought of the boat.  But does it not give the man a triumph that we should seem to try to elude him?  What matter!  Still, I do not like him to be the falcon, and Nevil Beauchamp the... little bird.  So it is, because we began badly, Agnes!’

‘Was it my fault?’

‘Mine.  Tell me:  the legitimate king returns when?’

‘In two days or three.’

‘And his rebel subjects are to address him ­how?’

Madame d’Auffray smote the point of a finger softly on her cheek.

‘Will they be pardoned?’ said Renee.

‘It is for him to kneel, my dearest.’

’Legitimacy kneeling for forgiveness is a painful picture, Agnes.  Legitimacy jealous of a foreigner is an odd one.  However, we are women, born to our lot.  If we could rise en masse! ­but we cannot.  Embrace me.’

Madame d’Auffray embraced her, without an idea that she assisted in performing the farewell of their confidential intimacy.

When Renee trifled with Count Henri, it was playing with fire, and she knew it; and once or twice she bemoaned to Agnes d’Auffray her abandoned state, which condemned her, for the sake of the sensation of living, to have recourse to perilous pastimes; but she was revolted, as at a piece of treachery, that Agnes should have suggested the invitation of Nevil Beauchamp with the secret design of winning home her husband to protect her.  This, for one reason, was because Beauchamp gave her no notion of danger; none, therefore, of requiring protection; and the presence of her husband could not but be hateful to him, an undeserved infliction.  To her it was intolerable that they should be brought into contact.  It seemed almost as hard that she should have to dismiss Beauchamp to preclude their meeting.  She remembered, nevertheless, a certain desperation of mind, scarce imaginable in the retrospect, by which, trembling, fever-smitten, scorning herself, she had been reduced to hope for Nevil Beauchamp’s coming as for a rescue.  The night of the storm had roused her heart.  Since then his perfect friendliness had lulled, his air of thoughtfulness had interested it; and the fancy that he, who neither reproached nor sentimentalized, was to be infinitely compassionated, stirred up remorse.  She could not tell her friend Agnes of these feelings while her feelings were angered against her friend.  So she talked lightly of ‘the legitimate king,’ and they embraced:  a situation of comedy quite as true as that presented by the humble admirers of the brilliant chatelaine.

Beauchamp had the pleasure of rowing Madame la Marquise to the short shaded walk separating the river from Chateau Dianet, whither M. d’Orbec went on horseback, and Madame d’Auffray and M. Livret were driven.  The portrait of Diane of Dianet was praised for the beauty of the dame, a soft-fleshed acutely featured person, a fresh-of-the-toilette face, of the configuration of head of the cat, relieved by a delicately aquiline nose; and it could only be the cat of fairy metamorphosis which should stand for that illustration:  brows and chin made an acceptable triangle, and eyes and mouth could be what she pleased for mice or monarchs.  M. Livret did not gainsay the impeachment of her by a great French historian, tender to women, to frailties in particular ­yes, she was cold, perhaps grasping:  but dwell upon her in her character of woman; conceive her existing, to estimate the charm of her graciousness.  Name the two countries which alone have produced the woman, the ideal woman, the woman of art, whose beauty, grace, and wit offer her to our contemplation in an atmosphere above the ordinary conditions of the world:  these two countries are France and Greece!  None other give you the perfect woman, the woman who conquers time, as she conquers men, by virtue of the divinity in her blood; and she, as little as illustrious heroes, is to be judged by the laws and standards of lesser creatures.  In fashioning her, nature and art have worked together:  in her, poetry walks the earth.  The question of good or bad is entirely to be put aside:  it is a rustic’s impertinence ­a bourgeois’ vulgarity.  She is preeminent, voila tout.  Has she grace and beauty?  Then you are answered:  such possessions are an assurance that her influence in the aggregate must be for good.  Thunder, destructive to insects, refreshes earth:  so she.  So sang the rhapsodist.  Possibly a scholarly little French gentleman, going down the grey slopes of sixty to second childishness, recovers a second juvenility in these enthusiasms; though what it is that inspires our matrons to take up with them is unimaginable.  M. Livret’s ardour was a contrast to the young Englishman’s vacant gaze at Diane, and the symbols of her goddesship running along the walls, the bed, the cabinets, everywhere that the chaste device could find frontage and a corner.

M. d’Orbec remained outside the chateau inspecting the fish-ponds.  When they rejoined him he complimented Beauchamp semi-ironically on his choice of the river’s quiet charms in preference to the dusty roads.  Madame de Rouaillout said, ’Come, M. d’Orbec; what if you surrender your horse to M. Beauchamp, and row me back?’ He changed colour, hesitated, and declined he had an engagement to call on M. d’Henriel.

‘When did you see him?’ said she.

He was confused.  ‘It is not long since, madame.’

‘On the road?’

‘Coming along-the road.’

‘And our glove?’

’Madame la Marquise, if I may trust my memory, M. d’Henriel was not in official costume.’

Renee allowed herself to be reassured.

A ceremonious visit that M. Livret insisted on was paid to the chapel of
Diane, where she had worshipped and laid her widowed ashes, which, said
M. Livret, the fiends of the Revolution would not let rest.

He raised his voice to denounce them.

It was Roland de Croisnel that answered:  ’The Revolution was our grandmother, monsieur, and I cannot hear her abused.’

Renee caught her brother by the hand.  He stepped out of the chapel with Beauchamp to embrace him; then kissed Renee, and, remarking that she was pale, fetched flooding colour to her cheeks.  He was hearty air to them after the sentimentalism they had been hearing.  Beauchamp and he walked like loving comrades at school, questioning, answering, chattering, laughing, ­a beautiful sight to Renee, and she looked at Agrnes d’Auffray to ask her whether ‘this Englishman’ was not one of them in his frankness and freshness.

Roland stopped to turn to Renee.  ‘I met d’Henriel on my ride here,’ he said with a sharp inquisitive expression of eye that passed immediately.

‘You rode here from Tourdestelle, then,’ said Renee.

‘Has he been one of the company, marquise?’

‘Did he ride by you without speaking, Roland?’

‘Thus.’  Roland described a Spanish caballero’s formallest salutation, saying to Beauchamp, ’Not the best sample of our young Frenchman; ­woman-spoiled!  Not that the better kind of article need be spoiled by them ­heaven forbid that!  Friend Nevil,’ he spoke lower, ’do you know, you have something of the prophet in you?  I remember:  much has come true.  An old spoiler of women is worse than one spoiled by them!  Ah, well:  and Madame Culling? and your seven-feet high uncle?  And have you a fleet to satisfy Nevil Beauchamp yet?  You shall see a trial of our new field-guns at Rouen.’

They were separated with difficulty.

Renee wished her brother to come in the boat; and he would have done so, but for his objection to have his Arab bestridden by a man unknown to him.

‘My love is a four-foot, and here’s my love,’ Roland said, going outside the gilt gate-rails to the graceful little beast, that acknowledged his ownership with an arch and swing of the neck round to him.

He mounted and called, ‘Au revoir, M. Capitaine.’

‘Au revoir, M. Commandant,’ cried Beauchamp.

‘Admiral and marshal, each of us in good season,’ said Roland.  ’Thanks to your promotion, I had a letter from my sister.  Advance a grade, and I may get another.’

Beauchamp thought of the strange gulf now between him and the time when he pined to be a commodore, and an admiral.  The gulf was bridged as he looked at Renee petting Roland’s horse.

‘Is there in the world so lovely a creature?’ she said, and appealed fondlingly to the beauty that brings out beauty, and, bidding it disdain rivalry, rivalled it insomuch that in a moment of trance Beauchamp with his bodily vision beheld her, not there, but on the Lido of Venice, shining out of the years gone.

Old love reviving may be love of a phantom after all.  We can, if it must revive, keep it to the limits of a ghostly love.  The ship in the Arabian tale coming within the zone of the magnetic mountain, flies all its bolts and bars, and becomes sheer timbers, but that is the carelessness of the ship’s captain; and hitherto Beauchamp could applaud himself for steering with prudence, while Renee’s attractions warned more than they beckoned.  She was magnetic to him as no other woman was.  Then whither his course but homeward?

After they had taken leave of their host and hostess of Chateau Dianet, walking across a meadow to a line of charmilles that led to the river-side, he said, ’Now I have seen Roland I shall have to decide upon going.’

‘Wantonly won is deservedly lost,’ said Renee.  ’But do not disappoint my Roland much because of his foolish sister.  Is he not looking handsome?  And he is young to be a commandant, for we have no interest at this Court.  They kept him out of the last war!  My father expects to find you at Tourdestelle, and how account to him for your hurried flight? save with the story of that which brought you to us!’

‘The glove?  I shall beg for the fellow to it before I depart, marquise.’

’You perceived my disposition to light-headedness, monsieur, when I was a girl.’

‘I said that I ­But the past is dust.  Shall I ever see you in England?’

’That country seems to frown on me.  But if I do not go there, nor you come here, except to imperious mysterious invitations, which will not be repeated, the future is dust as well as the past:  for me, at least.  Dust here, dust there! ­if one could be like a silk-worm, and live lying on the leaf one feeds on, it would be a sort of answer to the riddle ­living out of the dust, and in the present.  I find none in my religion.  No doubt, Madame de Breze did:  why did you call Diane so to M. Livret?’

She looked at him smiling as they came out of the shadow of the clipped trees.  He was glancing about for the boat.

‘The boat is across the river,’ Renee said, in a voice that made him seek her eyes for an explanation of the dead sound.  She was very pale.  ‘You have perfect command of yourself?  For my sake!’ she said.

He looked round.

Standing up in the boat, against the opposite bank, and leaning with crossed legs on one of the sculls planted in the gravel of the river, Count Henri d’Henriel’s handsome figure presented itself to Beauchamp’s gaze.

With a dryness that smacked of his uncle Everard Romfrey, Beauchamp said of the fantastical posture of the young man, ’One can do that on fresh water.’

Renee did not comprehend the sailor-sarcasm of the remark; but she also commented on the statuesque appearance of Count Henri:  ’Is the pose for photography or for sculpture?’

Neither of them showed a sign of surprise or of impatience.

M. d’Henriel could not maintain the attitude.  He uncrossed his legs deliberately, drooped hat in hand, and came paddling over; apologized indolently, and said, ’I am not, I believe, trespassing on the grounds of Tourdestelle, Madame la Marquise!’

‘You happen to be in my boat, M. Comte,’ said Renee.

‘Permit me, madame.’  He had set one foot on shore, with his back to Beauchamp, and reached a hand to assist her step into the boat.

Beauchamp caught fast hold of the bows while Renee laid a finger on Count Henri’s shoulder to steady herself.

The instant she had taken her seat, Count Henri dashed the scull’s blade at the bank to push off with her, but the boat was fast.  His manoeuvre had been foreseen.  Beauchamp swung on board like the last seaman of a launch, and crouched as the boat rocked away to the stream; and still Count Henri leaned on the scull, not in a chosen attitude, but for positive support.  He had thrown his force into the blow, to push off triumphantly, and leave his rival standing.  It occurred that the boat’s brief resistance and rocking away agitated his artificial equipoise, and, by the operation of inexorable laws, the longer he leaned across an extending surface the more was he dependent; so that when the measure of the water exceeded the length of his failing support on land, there was no help for it:  he pitched in.  His grimace of chagrin at the sight of Beauchamp securely established, had scarcely yielded to the grimness of feature of the man who feels he must go, as he took the plunge; and these two emotions combined to make an extraordinary countenance.

He went like a gallant gentleman; he threw up his heels to clear the boat, dropping into about four feet of water, and his first remark on rising was, ’I trust, madame, I have not had the misfortune to splash you.’

Then he waded to the bank, scrambled to his feet, and drew out his moustachios to their curving ends.  Renee nodded sharply to Beauchamp to bid him row.  He, with less of wisdom, having seized the floating scull abandoned by Count Henri, and got it ready for the stroke, said a word of condolence to the dripping man.

Count Henri’s shoulders and neck expressed a kind of negative that, like a wet dog’s shake of the head, ended in an involuntary whole length shudder, dog-like and deplorable to behold.  He must have been conscious of this miserable exhibition of himself; he turned to Beauchamp:  ’You are, I am informed, a sailor, monsieur.  I compliment you on your naval tactics:  our next meeting will be on land.  Au revoir, monsieur.  Madame la Marquise, I have the honour to salute you.’

With these words he retreated.

‘Row quickly, I beg of you,’ Renee said to Beauchamp.  Her desire was to see Roland, and open her heart to her brother; for now it had to be opened.  Not a minute must be lost to prevent further mischief.  And who was guilty? she.  Her heart clamoured of her guilt to waken a cry of innocence.  A disdainful pity for the superb young savage just made ludicrous, relieved him of blame, implacable though he was.  He was nothing; an accident ­a fool.  But he might become a terrible instrument of punishment.  The thought of that possibility gave it an aspect of retribution, under which her cry of innocence was insufferable in its feebleness.  It would have been different with her if Beauchamp had taken advantage of her fever of anxiety, suddenly appeased by the sight of him on the evening of his arrival at Tourdestelle after the storm, to attempt a renewal of their old broken love-bonds.  Then she would have seen only a conflict between two men, neither of whom could claim a more secret right than the other to be called her lover, and of whom both were on a common footing, and partly despicable.  But Nevil Beauchamp had behaved as her perfect true friend, in the character she had hoped for when she summoned him.  The sense of her guilt lay in the recognition that he had saved her.  From what?  From the consequences of delirium rather than from love ­surely delirium, founded on delusion; love had not existed.  She had said to Count Henri, ’You speak to me of love.  I was beloved when I was a girl, before my marriage, and for years I have not seen or corresponded with the man who loved me, and I have only to lift my finger now and he will come to me, and not once will he speak to me of love.’  Those were the words originating the wager of the glove.  But what of her, if Nevil Beauchamp had not come?

Her heart jumped, and she blushed ungovernably in his face, ­as if he were seeing her withdraw her foot from the rock’s edge, and had that instant rescued her.  But how came it she had been so helpless?  She could ask; she could not answer.

Thinking, talking to her heart, was useless.  The deceiver simply feigned utter condemnation to make partial comfort acceptable.  She burned to do some act of extreme self-abasement that should bring an unwonted degree of wrath on her externally, and so re-entitle her to consideration in her own eyes.  She burned to be interrogated, to have to weep, to be scorned, abused, and forgiven, that she might say she did not deserve pardon.  Beauchamp was too English, evidently too blind, for the description of judge-accuser she required; one who would worry her without mercy, until-disgraced by the excess of torture inflicted ­he should reinstate her by as much as he had overcharged his accusation, and a little more.  Reasonably enough, instinctively in fact, she shunned the hollow of an English ear.  A surprise was in reserve for her.

Beauchamp gave up rowing.  As he rested on the sculls, his head was bent and turned toward the bank.  Renee perceived an over-swollen monster gourd that had strayed from a garden adjoining the river, and hung sliding heavily down the bank on one greenish yellow cheek, in prolonged contemplation of its image in the mirror below.  Apparently this obese Narcissus enchained his attention.

She tapped her foot.  ‘Are you tired of rowing, monsieur?’

‘It was exactly here,’ said he, ’that you told me you expected your husband’s return.’

She glanced at the gourd, bit her lip, and, colouring, said, ’At what point of the river did I request you to congratulate me on it?’

She would not have said that, if she had known the thoughts at work within him.

He set the boat swaying from side to side, and at once the hugeous reflection of that conceivably self-enamoured bulk quavered and distended, and was shattered in a thousand dancing fragments, to re-unite and recompose its maudlin air of imaged satisfaction.

She began to have a vague idea that he was indulging grotesque fancies.

Very strangely, the ridiculous thing, in the shape of an over-stretched likeness, that she never would have seen had he indicated it directly, became transfused from his mind to hers by his abstract, half-amused observation of the great dancing gourd ­that capering antiquity, lumbering volatility, wandering, self-adored, gross bald Cupid, elatest of nondescripts!  Her senses imagined the impressions agitating Beauchamp’s, and exaggerated them beyond limit; and when he amazed her with a straight look into her eyes, and the words, ’Better let it be a youth ­and live, than fall back to that!’ she understood him immediately; and, together with her old fear of his impetuosity and downrightness, came the vivid recollection, like a bright finger pointing upon darkness, of what foul destiny, magnified by her present abhorrence of it, he would have saved her from in the days of Venice and Touraine, and unto what loathly example of the hideous grotesque she, in spite of her lover’s foresight on her behalf, had become allied.

Face to face as they sat, she had no defence for her scarlet cheeks; her eyes wavered.

‘We will land here; the cottagers shall row the boat up,’ she said.

‘Somewhere ­anywhere,’ said Beauchamp.  ’But I must speak.  I will tell you now.  I do not think you to blame ­barely; not in my sight; though no man living would have suffered as I should.  Probably some days more and you would have been lost.  You looked for me!  Trust your instinct now I’m with you as well as when I’m absent.  Have you courage? that ’s the question.  You have years to live.  Can you live them in this place ­with honour? and alive really?’

Renee’s eyes grew wide; she tried to frown, and her brows merely twitched; to speak, and she was inarticulate.  His madness, miraculous penetration, and the super-masculine charity in him, unknown to the world of young men in their treatment of women, excited, awed, and melted her.  He had seen the whole truth of her relations with M. d’Henriel! ­the wickedness of them in one light, the innocence in another; and without prompting a confession he forgave her.  Could she believe it?  This was love, and manly love.

She yearned to be on her feet, to feel the possibility of an escape from him.

She pointed to a landing.  He sprang to the bank.  ’It could end in nothing else,’ he said, ’unless you beat cold to me.  And now I have your hand, Renee!  It’s the hand of a living woman, you have no need to tell me that; but faithful to her comrade!  I can swear it for her ­faithful to a true alliance!  You are not married, you are simply chained:  and you are terrorized.  What a perversion of you it is!  It wrecks you.  But with me?  Am I not your lover?  You and I are one life.  What have we suffered for but to find this out and act on it?  Do I not know that a woman lives, and is not the rooted piece of vegetation hypocrites and tyrants expect her to be?  Act on it, I say; own me, break the chains, come to me; say, Nevil Beauchamp or death!  And death for you?  But you are poisoned and thwart-eddying, as you live now:  worse, shaming the Renee I knew.  Ah-Venice!  But now we are both of us wiser and stronger:  we have gone through fire.  Who foretold it?  This day, and this misery and perversion that we can turn to joy, if we will ­if you will!  No heart to dare is no heart to love! ­answer that!  Shall I see you cower away from me again?  Not this time!’

He swept on in a flood, uttered mad things, foolish things, and things of an insight electrifying to her.  Through the cottager’s garden, across a field, and within the park gates of Tourdestelle it continued unceasingly; and deeply was she won by the rebellious note in all that he said, deeply too by his disregard of the vulgar arts of wooers:  she detected none.  He did not speak so much to win as to help her to see with her own orbs.  Nor was it roughly or chidingly, though it was absolutely, that he stripped her of the veil a wavering woman will keep to herself from her heart’s lord if she can.

They arrived long after the boat at Tourdestelle, and Beauchamp might believe he had prevailed with her, but for her forlorn repetition of the question he had put to her idly and as a new idea, instead of significantly, with a recollection and a doubt ‘Have I courage, Nevil?’

The grain of common sense in cowardice caused her to repeat it when her reason was bedimmed, and passion assumed the right to show the way of right and wrong.