Read CHAPTER XLVIII - OF THE TRIAL AWAITING THE EARL OF ROMFREY of Beauchamp Career, free online book, by George Meredith, on

Cecilia softly dropped her father’s arm, and went into the house.  The exceeding pallor of Beauchamp’s face haunted her in her room.  She heard the controversy proceeding below, and an exclamation of Blackburn Tuckham’s:  ’Immorality of meat-eating?  What nonsense are they up to now?’

Beauchamp was inaudible, save in a word or two.  As usual, he was the solitary minority.

But how mournfully changed he was!  She had not noticed it, agitated by her own emotions as she had been, and at one time three parts frozen.  He was the ghost of the Nevil Beauchamp who had sprung on the deck of the Esperanza out of Lieutenant Wilmore’s boat, that sunny breezy day which was the bright first chapter of her new life ­of her late life, as it seemed to her now, for she was dead to it, and another creature, the coldest of the women of earth.  She felt sensibly cold, coveted warmth, flung a shawl on her shoulders, and sat in a corner of her room, hidden and shivering beside the open window, till long after the gentlemen had ceased to speak.

How much he must have suffered of late!  The room she had looked to as a refuge from Nevil was now her stronghold against the man whom she had incredibly accepted.  She remained there, the victim of a heart malady, under the term of headache.  Feeling entrapped, she considered that she must have been encircled and betrayed.  She looked back on herself as a giddy figure falling into a pit:  and in the pit she lay.

And how vile to have suspected of unfaithfulness and sordidness the generous and stedfast man of earth!  He never abandoned a common friendship.  His love of his country was love still, whatever the form it had taken.  His childlike reliance on effort and outspeaking, for which men laughed at him, was beautiful.

Where am I? she cried amid her melting images of him, all dominated by his wan features.  She was bound fast, imprisoned and a slave.  Even Mr. Austin had conspired against him:  for only she read Nevil justly.  His defence of Dr. Shrapnel filled her with an envy that no longer maligned the object of it, but was humble, and like the desire of the sick to creep into sunshine.

The only worthy thing she could think of doing was (it must be mentioned for a revelation of her fallen state, and, moreover, she was not lusty of health at the moment) to abjure meat.  The body loathed it, and consequently the mind of the invalided lady shrank away in horror of the bleeding joints, and the increasingly fierce scramble of Christian souls for the dismembered animals:  she saw the innocent pasturing beasts, she saw the act of slaughter.  She had actually sweeping before her sight a spectacle of the ludicrous-terrific, in the shape of an entire community pursuing countless herds of poor scampering animal life for blood:  she, meanwhile, with Nevil and Dr. Shrapnel, stood apart contemning.  For whoso would not partake of flesh in this kingdom of roast beef must be of the sparse number of Nevil’s execrated minority in politics.

The example will show that she touched the borders of delirium.  Physically, the doctor pronounces her bilious.  She was in earnest so far as to send down to the library for medical books, and books upon diet.  These, however, did not plead for the beasts.  They treated the subject without question of man’s taking that which he has conquered.  Poets and philosophers did the same.  Again she beheld Nevil Beauchamp solitary in the adverse rank to the world; ­to his countrymen especially.  But that it was no material cause which had wasted his cheeks and lined his forehead, she was sure:  and to starve with him, to embark with him in his little boat on the seas he whipped to frenzy, would have been a dream of bliss, had she dared to contemplate herself in a dream as his companion.

It was not to be thought of.

No:  but this was, and to be thought of seriously:  Cecilia had said to herself for consolation that Beauchamp was no spiritual guide; he had her heart within her to plead for him, and the reflection came to her, like a bubble up from the heart, that most of our spiritual guides neglect the root to trim the flower:  and thence, turning sharply on herself, she obtained a sudden view of her allurement and her sin in worshipping herself, and recognized that the aim at an ideal life closely approaches, or easily inclines, to self-worship; to which the lady was woman and artist enough to have had no objection, but that therein visibly she discerned the retributive vain longings, in the guise of high individual superiority and distinction, that had thwarted her with Nevil Beauchamp, never permitting her to love single-mindedly or whole-heartedly, but always in reclaiming her rights and sighing for the loss of her ideal; adoring her own image, in fact, when she pretended to cherish, and regret that she could not sufficiently cherish, the finer elements of nature.  What was this ideal she had complained of losing?  It was a broken mirror:  she could think of it in no other form.

Dr. Shrapnel’s ‘Ego-Ego’ yelped and gave chase to her through the pure beatitudes of her earlier days down to her present regrets.  It hunted all the saints in the calendar till their haloes top-sided on their heads-her favourite St. Francis of Assisi excepted.

The doctor was called up from Bevisham next day, and pronounced her bilious.  He was humorous over Captain Beauchamp, who had gone to the parents of the dead girl, and gathered the information that they were a consumptive family, to vindicate Dr. Shrapnel.  ’The very family to require strong nourishment,’ said the doctor.

Cecilia did not rest in her sick-room before, hunting through one book and another, she had found arguments on the contrary side; a waste of labour that heaped oppression on her chest, as with the world’s weight.  Apparently one had only to be in Beauchamp’s track to experience that.  She horrified her father by asking questions about consumption.  Homoeopathy, hydropathy, ­the revolutionaries of medicine attracted her.  Blackburn Tuckham, a model for an elected lover who is not beloved, promised to procure all sorts of treatises for her:  no man could have been so deferential to a diseased mind.  Beyond calling her by her Christian name, he did nothing to distress her with the broad aspect of their new relations together.  He and Mr. Austin departed from Mount Laurels, leaving her to sink into an agreeable stupor, like one deposited on a mudbank after buffeting the waves.  She learnt that her father had seen Captain Baskelett, and remembered, marvelling, how her personal dread of an interview, that threatened to compromise her ideal of her feminine and peculiar dignity, had assisted to precipitate her where she now lay helpless, almost inanimate.

She was unaware of the passage of time save when her father spoke of a marriage-day.  It told her that she lived and was moving.  The fear of death is not stronger in us, nor the desire to put it off, than Cecilia’s shunning of such a day.  The naming of it numbed her blood like a snakebite.  Yet she openly acknowledged her engagement; and, happily for Tuckham, his visits, both in London and at Mount Laurels, were few and short, and he inflicted no foretaste of her coming subjection to him to alarm her.

Under her air of calm abstraction she watched him rigorously for some sign of his ownership that should tempt her to revolt from her pledge, or at least dream of breaking loose:  the dream would have sufficed.  He was never intrusive, never pressing.  He did not vex, because he absolutely trusted to the noble loyalty which made her admit to herself that she belonged irrevocably to him, while her thoughts were upon Beauchamp.  With a respectful gravity he submitted to her perusal a collection of treatises on diet, classed pro and con., and paged and pencil-marked to simplify her study of the question.  They sketched in company; she played music to him, he read poetry to her, and read it well.  He seemed to feel the beauty of it sensitively, as she did critically.  In other days the positions had been reversed.  He invariably talked of Beauchamp with kindness, deploring only that he should be squandering his money on workmen’s halls and other hazy projects down in Bevisham.

’Lydiard tells me he has a very sound idea of the value of money, and has actually made money by cattle breeding; but he has flung ten thousand pounds on a single building outside the town, and he’ll have to endow it to support it ­a Club to educate Radicals.  The fact is, he wants to jam the business of two or three centuries into a life-time.  These men of their so-called progress are like the majority of religious minds:  they can’t believe without seeing and touching.  That is to say, they don’t believe in the abstract at all, but they go to work blindly by agitating, and proselytizing, and persecuting to get together a mass they can believe in.  You see it in their way of arguing; it’s half done with the fist.  Lydiard tells me he left him last in a horrible despondency about progress.  Ha! ha!  Beauchamp’s no Radical.  He hasn’t forgiven the Countess of Romfrey for marrying above her rank.  He may be a bit of a Republican:  but really in this country Republicans are fighting with the shadow of an old hat and a cockhorse.  I beg to state that I have a reverence for constituted authority:  I speak of what those fellows are contending with.’

‘Right,’ said Colonel Halkett.  ’But “the shadow of an old hat and a cockhorse”:  what does that mean?’

‘That’s what our Republicans are hitting at, sir.’

‘Ah! so; yes,’ quoth the colonel.  ’And I say this to Nevil Beauchamp, that what we’ve grown up well with, powerfully with, it’s base ingratitude and dangerous folly to throw over.’

He blamed Beauchamp for ingratitude to the countess, who had, he affirmed of his own knowledge, married Lord Romfrey to protect Beauchamp’s interests.

A curious comment on this allegation was furnished by the announcement of the earl’s expectations of a son and heir.  The earl wrote to Colonel Halkett from Romfrey Castle inviting him to come and spend some time there.

‘Now, that’s brave news!’ the colonel exclaimed.

He proposed a cruise round by the Cornish coast to the Severn, and so to Romfrey Castle, to squeeze the old lord’s hand and congratulate him with all his heart.  Cecilia was glad to acquiesce, for an expedition of any description was a lull in the storm that hummed about her ears in the peace of home, where her father would perpetually speak of the day to be fixed.  Sailing the sea on a cruise was like the gazing at wonderful colours of a Western sky:  an oblivion of earthly dates and obligations.  What mattered it that there were gales in August?  She loved the sea, and the stinging salt spray, and circling gull and plunging gannet, the sun on the waves, and the torn cloud.  The revelling libertine open sea wedded her to Beauchamp in that veiled cold spiritual manner she could muse on as a circumstance out of her life.

Fair companies of racing yachts were left behind.  The gales of August mattered frightfully to poor Blackburn Tuckham, who was to be dropped at a town in South Wales, and descended greenish to his cabin as soon as they had crashed on the first wall-waves of the chalk-race, a throw beyond the peaked cliffs edged with cormorants, and were really tasting sea.  Cecilia reclined on deck, wrapped in shawl and waterproof.  As the Alpine climber claims the upper air, she had the wild sea to herself through her love of it; quite to herself.  It was delicious to look round and ahead, and the perturbation was just enough to preserve her from thoughts too deep inward in a scene where the ghost of Nevil was abroad.

The hard dry gale increased.  Her father, stretched beside her, drew her attention to a small cutter under double-reefed main-sail and small jib on the Esperanza’s weather bow ­a gallant boat carefully handled.  She watched it with some anxiety, but the Esperanza was bound for a Devon bay, and bore away from the black Dorsetshire headland, leaving the little cutter to run into haven if she pleased.  The passing her was no event. ­In a representation of the common events befalling us in these times, upon an appreciation of which this history depends, one turns at whiles a languishing glance toward the vast potential mood, pluperfect tense.  For Nevil Beauchamp was on board the cutter, steering her, with Dr. Shrapnel and Lydiard in the well, and if an accident had happened to cutter or schooner, what else might not have happened?  Cecilia gathered it from Mrs. Wardour-Devereux, whom, to her surprise and pleasure, she found at Romfrey Castle.  Her friend Louise received a letter from Mr. Lydiard, containing a literary amateur seaman’s log of a cruise of a fifteen-ton cutter in a gale, and a pure literary sketch of Beauchamp standing drenched at the helm from five in the morning up to nine at night, munching a biscuit for nourishment.  The beautiful widow prepared the way for what was very soon to be publicly known concerning herself by reading out this passage of her correspondent’s letter in the breakfast room.

‘Yes, the fellow’s a sailor!’ said Lord Romfrey.

The countess rose from her chair and walked out.

‘Now, was that abuse of the fellow?’ the old lord asked Colonel Halkett.  ’I said he was a sailor, I said nothing else.  He is a sailor, and he’s fit for nothing else, and no ship will he get unless he bends his neck never ‘s nearer it.’

He hesitated a moment, and went after his wife.

Cecilia sat with the countess, in the afternoon, at a window overlooking the swelling woods of Romfrey.  She praised the loveliness of the view.

‘It is fire to me,’ said Rosamund.

Cecilia looked at her, startled.  Rosamund said no more.

She was an excellent hostess, nevertheless, unpretending and simple in company; and only when it chanced that Beauchamp’s name was mentioned did she cast that quick supplicating nervous glance at the earl, with a shadow of an elevation of her shoulders, as if in apprehension of mordant pain.

We will make no mystery about it.  I would I could.  Those happy tales of mystery are as much my envy as the popular narratives of the deeds of bread and cheese people, for they both create a tide-way in the attentive mind; the mysterious pricking our credulous flesh to creep, the familiar urging our obese imagination to constitutional exercise.  And oh, the refreshment there is in dealing with characters either contemptibly beneath us or supernaturally above!  My way is like a Rhone island in the summer drought, stony, unattractive and difficult between the two forceful streams of the unreal and the over-real, which delight mankind ­honour to the conjurors!  My people conquer nothing, win none; they are actual, yet uncommon.  It is the clock-work of the brain that they are directed to set in motion, and ­poor troop of actors to vacant benches! ­the conscience residing in thoughtfulness which they would appeal to; and if you are there impervious to them, we are lost:  back I go to my wilderness, where, as you perceive, I have contracted the habit of listening to my own voice more than is good:  The burden of a child in her bosom had come upon Rosamund with the visage of the Angel of Death fronting her in her path.  She believed that she would die; but like much that we call belief, there was a kernel of doubt in it, which was lively when her frame was enlivened, and she then thought of the giving birth to this unloved child, which was to disinherit the man she loved, in whose interest solely (so she could presume to think, because it had been her motive reason) she had married the earl.  She had no wish to be a mother; but that prospect, and the dread attaching to it at her time of life, she could have submitted to for Lord Romfrey’s sake.  It struck her like a scoffer’s blow that she, the one woman on earth loving Nevil, should have become the instrument for dispossessing him.  The revulsion of her feelings enlightened her so far as to suggest, without enabling her to fathom him, that instead of having cleverly swayed Lord Romfrey, she had been his dupe, or a blind accomplice; and though she was too humane a woman to think of punishing him, she had so much to forgive that the trifles daily and at any instant added to the load, flushed her resentment, like fresh lights showing new features and gigantic outlines.  Nevil’s loss of Cecilia she had anticipated; she had heard of it when she was lying in physical and mental apathy at Steynham.  Lord Romfrey had repeated to her the nature of his replies to the searching parental questions of Colonel Halkett, and having foreseen it all, and what was more, foretold it, she was not aroused from her torpor.  Latterly, with the return of her natural strength, she had shown herself incapable of hearing her husband speak of Nevil; nor was the earl tardy in taking the hint to spare the mother of his child allusions that vexed her.  Now and then they occurred perforce.  The presence of Cecilia exasperated Rosamund’s peculiar sensitiveness.  It required Louise Wardour-Devereux’s apologies and interpretations to account for what appeared to Cecilia strangely ill-conditioned, if not insane, in Lady Romfrey’s behaviour.  The most astonishing thing to hear was, that Lady Romfrey had paid Mrs. Devereux a visit at her Surrey house unexpectedly one Sunday in the London season, for the purpose, as it became evident, of meeting Mr. Blackburn Tuckham:  and how she could have known that Mr. Tuckham would be there, Mrs. Devereux could not tell, for it was, Louise assured Cecilia, purely by chance that he and Mr. Lydiard were present:  but the countess obtained an interview with him alone, and Mr. Tuckham came from it declaring it to have been more terrible than any he had ever been called upon to endure.  The object of the countess was to persuade him to renounce his bride.

Louise replied to the natural inquiry ­’Upon what plea?’ with a significant evasiveness.  She put her arms round Cecilia’s neck:  ’I trust you are not unhappy.  You will get no release from him.’

‘I am not unhappy,’ said Cecilia, musically clear to convince her friend.

She was indeed glad to feel the stout chains of her anchor restraining her when Lady Romfrey talked of Nevil; they were like the safety of marriage without the dreaded ceremony, and with solitude to let her weep.  Bound thus to a weaker man than Blackburn Tuckham, though he had been more warmly esteemed, her fancy would have drifted away over the deeps, perhaps her cherished loyalty would have drowned in her tears ­for Lady Romfrey tasked it very severely:  but he from whom she could hope for no release, gave her some of the firmness which her nature craved in this trial.

From saying quietly to her:  ‘I thought once you loved him,’ when alluding to Nevil, Lady Romfrey passed to mournful exclamations, and by degrees on to direct entreaties.  She related the whole story of Renee in England, and appeared distressed with a desperate wonderment at Cecilia’s mildness after hearing it.  Her hearer would have imagined that she had no moral sense, if it had not been so perceptible that the poor lady’s mind was distempered on the one subject of Nevil Beauchamp.  Cecilia’s high conception of duty, wherein she was a peerless flower of our English civilization, was incommunicable:  she could practise, not explain it.  She bowed to Lady Romfrey’s praises of Nevil, suffered her hands to be wrung, her heart to be touched, all but an avowal of her love of him to be wrested from her, and not the less did she retain her cold resolution to marry to please her father and fulfil her pledge.  In truth, it was too late to speak of Renee to her now.  It did not beseem Cecilia to remember that she had ever been a victim of jealousy; and while confessing to many errors, because she felt them, and gained a necessary strength from them ­in the comfort of the consciousness of pain, for example, which she sorely needed, that the pain in her own breast might deaden her to Nevil’s jealousy, the meanest of the errors of a lofty soul, yielded no extract beyond the bare humiliation proper to an acknowledgement that it had existed:  so she discarded the recollection of the passion which had wrought the mischief.  Since we cannot have a peerless flower of civilization without artificial aid, it may be understood how it was that Cecilia could extinguish some lights in her mind and kindle others, and wherefore what it was not natural for her to do, she did.  She had, briefly, a certain control of herself.

Our common readings in the fictitious romances which mark out a plot and measure their characters to fit into it, had made Rosamund hopeful of the effect of that story of Renee.  A wooden young woman, or a galvanized (sweet to the writer, either of them, as to the reader ­so moveable they are!) would have seen her business at this point, and have glided melting to reconciliation and the chamber where romantic fiction ends joyously.  Rosamund had counted on it.

She looked intently at Cecilia.  ’He is ruined, wasted, ill, unloved; he has lost you ­I am the cause!’ she cried in a convulsion of grief.

‘Dear Lady Romfrey!’ Cecilia would have consoled her.  ’There is nothing to lead us to suppose that Nevil is unwell, and you are not to blame for anything:  how can you be?’

’I spoke falsely of Dr. Shrapnel; I am the cause.  It lies on me! it pursues me.  Let me give to the poor as I may, and feel for the poor, as I do, to get nearer to Nevil ­I cannot have peace!  His heart has turned from me.  He despises me.  If I had spoken to Lord Romfrey at Steynham, as he commanded me, you and he ­Oh! cowardice:  he is right, cowardice is the chief evil in the world.  He is ill; he is desperately ill; he will die.’

‘Have you heard he is very ill, Lady Romfrey?’

‘No! no!’ Rosamund exclaimed; ‘it is by not hearing that I know it!’

With the assistance of Louise Devereux, Cecilia gradually awakened to what was going on in the house.  There had been a correspondence between Miss Denham and the countess.  Letters from Bevisham had suddenly ceased.  Presumably the earl had stopped them:  and if so it must have been for a tragic reason.

Cecilia hinted some blame of Lord Romfrey to her father.

He pressed her hand and said:  ’You don’t know what that man suffers.  Romfrey is fond of Nevil too, but he must guard his wife; and the fact is Nevil is down with fever.  It ’s in the papers now; he may be able to conceal it, and I hope he will.  There’ll be a crisis, and then he can tell her good news ­a little illness and all right now!  Of course,’ the colonel continued buoyantly, ’Nevil will recover; he’s a tough wiry young fellow, but poor Romfrey’s fears are natural enough about the countess.  Her mind seems to be haunted by the doctor there ­Shrapnel, I mean; and she’s exciteable to a degree that threatens the worst ­in case of any accident in Bevisham.’

‘Is it not a kind of cowardice to conceal it?’ Cecilia suggested.

‘It saves her from fretting,’ said the colonel.

’But she is fretting!  If Lord Romfrey would confide in her and trust to her courage, papa, it would be best.’

Colonel Halkett thought that Lord Romfrey was the judge.

Cecilia wished to leave a place where this visible torture of a human soul was proceeding, and to no purpose.  She pointed out to her father, by a variety of signs, that Lady Romfrey either knew or suspected the state of affairs in Bevisham, and repeated her remarks upon Nevil’s illness.  But Colonel Halkett was restrained from departing by the earl’s constant request to him to stay.  Old friendship demanded it of him.  He began to share his daughter’s feelings at the sight of Lady Romfrey.  She was outwardly patient and submissive; by nature she was a strong healthy woman; and she attended to all her husband’s prescriptions for the regulating of her habits, walked with him, lay down for the afternoon’s rest, appeared amused when he laboured to that effect, and did her utmost to subdue the worm devouring her heart but the hours of the delivery of the letter-post were fatal to her.  Her woeful:  ’No letter for me!’ was piteous.  When that was heard no longer, her silence and famished gaze chilled Cecilia.  At night Rosamund eyed her husband expressionlessly, with her head leaning back in her chair, to the sorrow of the ladies beholding her.  Ultimately the contagion of her settled misery took hold of Cecilia.  Colonel Halkett was induced by his daughter and Mrs. Devereux to endeavour to combat a system that threatened consequences worse than those it was planned to avert.  He by this time was aware of the serious character of the malady which had prostrated Nevil.  Lord Romfrey had directed his own medical man to go down to Bevisham, and Dr. Gannet’s report of Nevil was grave.  The colonel made light of it to his daughter, after the fashion he condemned in Lord Romfrey, to whom however he spoke earnestly of the necessity for partially taking his wife into his confidence to the extent of letting her know that a slight fever was running its course with Nevil.

‘There will be no slight fever in my wife’s blood,’ said the earl.  ’I stand to weather the cape or run to wreck, and it won’t do to be taking in reefs on a lee-shore.  You don’t see what frets her, colonel.  For years she has been bent on Nevil’s marriage.  It’s off:  but if you catch Cecilia by the hand and bring her to us ­I swear she loves the fellow! ­that’s the medicine for my wife.  Say:  will you do it?  Tell Lady Romfrey it shall be done.  We shall stand upright again!’

‘I’m afraid that’s impossible, Romfrey,’ said the colonel.

’Play at it, then!  Let her think it.  You’re helping me treat an invalid.  Colonel! my old friend!  You save my house and name if you do that.  It’s a hand round a candle in a burst of wind.  There’s Nevil dragged by a woman into one of their reeking hovels ­so that Miss Denham at Shrapnel’s writes to Lady Romfrey ­because the woman’s drunken husband voted for him at the Election, and was kicked out of employment, and fell upon the gin-bottle, and the brats of the den died starving, and the man sickened of a fever; and Nevil goes in and sits with him!  Out of that tangle of folly is my house to be struck down?  It looks as if the fellow with his infernal “humanity,” were the bad genius of an old nurse’s tale.  He’s a good fellow, colonel, he means well.  This fever will cure him, they say it sobers like bloodletting.  He’s a gallant fellow; you know that.  He fought to the skeleton in our last big war.  On my soul, I believe he’s good for a husband.  Frenchwoman or not, that affair’s over.  He shall have Steynham and Holdesbury.  Can I say more?  Now, colonel, you go in to the countess.  Grasp my hand.  Give me that help, and God bless you!  You light up my old days.  She’s a noble woman:  I would not change her against the best in the land.  She has this craze about Nevil.  I suppose she’ll never get over it.  But there it is:  and we must feed her with the spoon.’

Colonel Halkett argued stutteringly with the powerful man:  ’It’s the truth she ought to hear, Romfrey; indeed it is, if you ’ll believe me.  It ‘s his life she is fearing for.  She knows half.’

’She knows positively nothing, colonel.  Miss Denham’s first letter spoke of the fellow’s having headaches, and staggering.  He was out on a cruise, and saw your schooner pass, and put into some port, and began falling right and left, and they got him back to Shrapnel’s:  and here it is ­that if you go to him you’ll save him, and if you go to my wife you’ll save her:  and there you have it:  and I ask my old friend, I beg him to go to them both.’

’But you can’t surely expect me to force my daughter’s inclinations, my dear Romfrey?’

‘Cecilia loves the fellow!’

‘She is engaged to Mr. Tuckham.’

‘I’ll see the man Tuckham.’

‘Really, my dear lord!’

’Play at it, Halkett, play at it!  Tide us over this!  Talk to her:  hint it and nod it.  We have to round November.  I could strangle the world till that month’s past.  You’ll own,’ he added mildly after his thunder, ’I’m not much of the despot Nevil calls me.  She has not a wish I don’t supply.  I’m at her beck, and everything that’s mine.  She’s a brave good woman.  I don’t complain.  I run my chance.  But if we lose the child ­good night!  Boy or girl! ­boy!’

Lord Romfrey flung an arm up.  The child of his old age lived for him already:  he gave it all the life he had.  This miracle, this young son springing up on an earth decaying and dark, absorbed him.  This reviver of his ancient line must not be lost.  Perish every consideration to avert it!  He was ready to fear, love, or hate terribly, according to the prospects of his child.

Colonel Halkett was obliged to enter into a consultation, of a shadowy sort, with his daughter, whose only advice was that they should leave the castle.  The penetrable gloom there, and the growing apprehension concerning the countess and Nevil, tore her to pieces.  Even if she could have conspired with the earl to hoodwink his wife, her strong sense told her it would be fruitless, besides base.  Father and daughter had to make the stand against Lord Romfrey.  He saw their departure from the castle gates, and kissed his hand to Cecilia, courteously, without a smile.

‘He may well praise the countess, papa,’ said Cecilia, while they were looking back at the castle and the moveless flag that hung in folds by the mast above it.  ’She has given me her promise to avoid questioning him and to accept his view of her duty.  She said to me that if Nevil should die she...’

Cecilia herself broke down, and gave way to sobs in her father’s arms.