Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Love's cross-currents; a year's letters, by Algernon Charles Swinburne online

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relieve the anxious feeling I might have given
you by the tone of my first sentences. It would
be unpardonable to excite uneasiness or pity to
no purpose. False alarms, especially in the
posthumous way, are never things to be excused
on any hand. You can just let Frank know that
we none of us apprehend any actual risk : which
is more than I, at least, would have said a
month since. She is miserably reticent and
depressed. I must end now, with all loves, as
people used to say ages ago. Take good care of
them all, and still better care of yourself on
many accounts and think in the kindest way
you can of

Yours most affectionately,

H. MIDHURST.



XXII

CAPTAIN HAREWOOD TO REGINALD

Plessey, Oct zzd.

MY DEAR REGINALD:

You will at once begin preparing for your
work, unless you wish to throw this chance too
over, and incur my still more serious displeasure.
That is all the answer I shall make you. You
must be very well aware that for years back you
have disgracefully disappointed me in every
hope and every plan I have formed with regard
to you. Of your school and college career I
shall have a few words to say presently. It is
against my expressed wish and expectation that
you are now in London instead of being here
under my eye : and even after all past experience
of your utter disregard of discipline and duty, I
cannot but feel surprise at your present proposal.
If you do visit the Radworths before returning
home, you will do so in direct defiance of my
desire. That course, understand, is distinctly
forbidden you. After our last interview on the
subject I can only consider the very suggestion
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Love's Cross-currents

as an act of an insolent and rebellious nature.
I know the construction to which your conduct
towards your cousin has not unnaturally ex-
posed you ; and you know that I know it. Upon
her and upon yourself your inexcusable and
puerile behaviour has already drawn down re-
mark and reproach. I am resolved, and I in-
tend that you shall remember I am, to put an
end to this. I have come upon a letter from
your grandmother, dated some time back I
think before the miserable catastrophe in which
you were mixed up at Portsmouth bearing im-
mediately in every line upon this affair: and I
have read it with attention. Secrets of that
kind you have no right to have or to keep ; and
I have every right and reason to investigate
them. Another time, if you intend to pursue a
furtive line of action, you will do well to make
it a more cautious one : the letter I speak of was
left actually under my hand, not so much as
put away among other papers. Upon the style
of Lady Midhurst's address to you I shall not
here remark; but you must expect, I should
think, to hear that my view of such things is far
enough from being the same as hers. Rightly
or wrongly, I consider the sort of relationship
she appears to contemplate in that letter as at
once criminal and contemptible: and I cannot
pretend to observe it with indifference or toler-
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A Year's Letters

ation. You seem to me to have written and
acted childishly indeed, but not the less sinfully.
However, I am not now about to preach to you.
The One safeguard against natural evil and
antidote to natural unwisdom you have long
been encouraged to neglect and overlook. All
restrictions placed around you by the care of
others and of myself you have even thus early
chosen to discard. It is poor comfort to re-
flect that, as far as I know, you have not as
yet fallen into the more open and gross vices
which many miserable young fools think it
almost laudable to indulge in. This can but be
at best the working of a providential accident,
not the outcome of any real self-denial or manly
self-restraint on your part. Without this I
count all fortuitous abstinence from sin worth
very little. In a wiser eye than man's many a
seemingly worse character may be purer than
yours. From childhood upwards, I must once
for all remind you, you have thwarted my wishes
and betrayed my trust. Prayer, discipline,
confidence, restraint, hourly vigilance, untiring
attention, one after another, failed to work upon
you. Affectionate enough by nature, and with
no visibly vicious tendencies, but unstable,
luxurious, passionate, and indolent, you set at
naught all guidance, and never in your life
would let the simple noble sense of duty take



Love's Cross-currents

hold of you. At school you were incessantly
under punishment ; at home you were constant-
ly in disgrace. Pain and degradation could not
keep you right; to disgrace the most frequent,
to pain the most severe, you opposed a deadly
strength of sloth and tacit vigour of rebellion.
So your boyhood passed ; I have yet in my ear
the remark of one of your tutors "Severity
can do little for the boy; indulgence, nothing."
What the upshot of your college career was you
must remember only too well, and I still hope
not without some regret and shame. Absolute
inert idleness and wilful vanity, after a long
course of violated discipline in small matters,
brought you in time to the dishonourable failure
you had been at no pains to avoid.

And yet you know well enough whether or
no I have done and purpose, even yet, to do all
for you that I can ; whether I have not always
been but too ready to palliate and indulge;
whether, from the very first, the utmost, ten-
derest allowance has not been made for you,
and the least possible share of your own faults
laid to your own charge. This, I say, you do,
in your conscience and heart, know, and must
needs bear me witness to the truth of it. I
must confess I have not now much hope left.
Little comfort and little pleasure have you ever
given me, and I expect to get less and less from
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A Year's Letters

you as our lives go on. One thing, though, I
can, at worst, be sure of: that my own duty
shall be done. As long as I can hold them at all,
I will not throw the reins upon your neck. I will
not, while I can help it, allow you to speak, to
act, if possible to think, in a way likely to injure
others. I desire you not to go to the house of a
man whom I know you profess, out of your own
inordinate impertinence and folly, to dislike
and contemn ; I trust you, at least, as a gentle-
man, to respect my opinion and my confidence,
if I cannot count on your obedience as my son ;
on these grounds I do believe and expect you
will not visit Blocksham. Mr. Ernest Rad-
worth is a man infinitely your superior in every
way. For many years he has led a most pure,
laborious, and earnest life. The truly great and
genuine talents accorded to him at his birth he
has submitted to the most conscientious cult-
ure, and turned to the utmost possible advan-
tage. To himself he has been consistently and
admirably true; to others I believe he has
invariably been most helpful, beneficent, exem-
plary in all his dealings. By one simple proc-
ess of life he has kept himself pure and made
all near him happy. From first to last he was
the stay and pride of his family; and since he
has been left alone in his father's place he has
nobly kept up the distinction which, in earliest
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Love's Cross-currents

youth, and even boyhood, he very deservedly
acquired. A fit colleague and a fit successor,
this one, (as you would acknowledge if you were
capable of seeing) for the greatest labourers in
the field of English science. Excellent and
admirable in all things, he is in none more
worthy of respect than in his private and domes-
tic relations. There is not a man living for
whom I entertain a more heartfelt regard I
had well nigh said reverence than for Mr.
Radworth. I verily believe he has not a thing,
humanly speaking, to be ashamed of in look-
ing back upon his past life. Every hour, so
to say, has had its share of noble toil and,
therefore, also its share of immediate reward.
For these men work for the world's sake, not for
their own : and from the world, not from them-
selves, they do in time receive their full wages.
There is no more unsullied and unselfish glory
on earth than that of the faithful and reverent
scientific workman : and to such one can always
reasonably hope that the one thing which may
perhaps be wanting will in due time be supplied.
The contempt or disrelish of a young, idle, far
from noteworthy man for such a character as
that of Ernest Radworth is simply a ludicrous
and deplorable phenomenon. You are incom-
petent to appreciate for one moment even a
tenth part of his excellence. But I am resolved
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A Year's Letters

you shall make no unworthy use of a friendship
you are incapable of deserving. Of your cousin
I will here say only that I trust she may in time
learn fully to apprehend the value of such a
heart and such a mind. By no other path than
this of both repentant and retrospective humil-
ity can she ever hope to attain real happiness or
honour. I should, for Ernest's sake, truly re-
gret being compelled to adopt Lady Midhurst's
sufficiently apparent opinion that she is not
worthy to perceive and decide on such a path.

You now know my desire; and I do not
choose to add any further appeal. Expecting,
for the sake at least of your own immediate
prospects, that you will follow it,

I remain your anxious and affectionate father,

PHILIP HAREWOOD.



XXIII
FRANCIS CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH

Lidcombe, Nov. ijth.

I HAVE just read your letter. Come by all
means next month, and stay as long as you can.
Every day spent here by myself is a heavier
and more subtle irritation to me than the one
before. Reginald will come for a few days, at
least; his foreign outlook seems to have fallen
back into vapour and remote chance. The
Captain was over here lately, looking pinched
and hard a head to make children recoil and
wince at the sight of it. He is still of great help
to me. As to Madame de Rochelaurier, to be
quite open, I had rather not meet her just now ;
so you will not look for me before the day they
leave you. Afterwards I may come over to
escort you and Ernest, if it turns out worth
while. Anything to get about a little, without
going out of reach. News, I suppose, must
come from Ashton Hildred before very long.
At such a time I have no heart to spare for
thinking over plans or people. Your praise of

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A Year's Letters

Mademoiselle de Rochelaurier is, of course,
all right and just. She is a very jolly sort of
girl, and sufficiently handsome; and if Redgie
does marry her I shall just stop short of envy-
ing him. Does Madame really want me to take
such a gift at her hand ? Well and good ; it is
incomparably obliging; but then, when I am
looking at Mademoiselle Philomene, and letting
myself go to the sound of her voice like a song
to the tune, unhappily there gets up between us
such an invincible exquisite memory of a face
ten times more beautiful and loveable to have in
sight of one ; pale when I saw it last, as if drawn
down by its hair, heavily weighted about the
eyes with a presage of tears, sealed with sorrow,
and piteous with an infinite unaccomplished
desire. The old deep-gold hair and luminous
grey-green eyes shot through with colours of sea-
water in sunlight, and threaded with faint keen
lines of fire and light about the pupil, beat for
me the blue-black of Mademoiselle de Roche-
laurier 's. Then that mouth of hers and the
shadow made almost on the chin by the underlip
such sad perfect lips, full of tender power
and faith,, and her wonderful way of lifting and
dropping her face imperceptibly, flower-fashion,
when she begins or leaves off speaking; I shall
never hear such a voice in the world, either.
I cannot, and need not now, pretend to dissem-
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Love's Cross-currents

ble or soften down what I feel about her. I do
love her with all my heart and might. And now
that, after happy years, she is fallen miserable
and ill, dangerously ill, for aught I know, and
incurably miserable who can say? it is not
possible for me, sitting here in her house that
I have had to drive her out of, to think very
much of anything else, or to think at all of any
other woman in the way of liking. This is mere
bare truth, not sentiment or excited fancy by
any means, and you will not take it for such a
sort of thing. If I can never marry the one
woman perfectly pleasant to me and faultlessly
fit for me in the whole beautiful nature of her,
I will never insult her and my own heart by
marrying at all. Aunt Midhurst's view of the
Rochelaurier family has no great weight with
me ; but I have a little hope now, after reading
what she says to you, that, as she is clearly set
against the chance of any other marriage for me,
she may, perhaps, be some day brought to
think of the one desire of my whole life as a
possible thing to fulfil. Even to you I dare not
well hint at such a hope as that ; but you must
now understand for good how things are with
me; if not that, then nothing. You take her
reference to Redgie Harewood to be a feint, and
meant spitefully. I think not; she has the
passion of intrigue and management still strong;
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A Year's Letters

likes nothing so well, evidently, as the sense
of power to make and break matches, build
schemes and overset them. I should like to see
Harewood married, and peace again at Plessey;
he is not a bad fellow ; and she was always fond
of him. I will say he earned that at Ports-
mouth, but I hate to hear of his being able to
write to her now, and then see and think how
much there is between us to get over. If I
could get at her by any way possible, I could
keep her up still but I can hardly see how he is
to help her much. Then, again, if he were to
marry, they might see each other; and in no
end of ways it would be a good thing for him.
His idolatry is becoming a bore, if not worse;
you should find him an ideal to draw his worship
off you a little. I know so well now how miser-
able it is to feel on a sudden the thing turn
serious, and have to fight it before one has time
to see how. If it were fair to tell you all I have
had to remember and regret only since this year
began, and only because I knew how, after
Cheyne's death, her gentle goodness would
make* her wretched at the thought of past dis-
content with him and Heaven knows she
could not but have felt him to be less than she
was; and perfect she was to him always. I
wish people would blame her to me, and let me
fight them. I can't fight her for blaming her-
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Love's Cross-currents

self. I write the awfullest stuff, because I am
really past writing at all. If I could fall to
work and forget, leave off thinking for good,
turn brute, it would be only rational for me. I,
who have helped to hurt her, and would have
set myself against the world to spare her, what
do you conceive she thinks of me? This air
that has nothing of her left it chafes me to
breathe. I know how sometimes somewhere
she remembers and misses things that she had
got used to little chance things that were
about her in her husband's time. A book or
two of hers were left; you will see them when
you come ; I cannot write, and cannot send them
without a word. I am more thoroughly afraid
of hearing from Lady M. again than I ever was
of anything on earth no child could dread any
torture as I do that. It is quite clear, you
know, that they expect a confinement in some
months' time, perhaps. God knows I wish
there had been a son! Only they will not say
it; so I must stay here and take my trouble.
It does not startle me : nothing can well be worse
for me or better than it is now. There is no
such pleasure to be had out of my name or
house that I need want to fight for it or hold to
it. I do hope they will make things good to her.
You need hardly express anger about the poor
aunt. Those two are her children, and she
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A Year's Letters

always rather hated us for their sakes. In-
deed, as about Reginald, I am not sure she is
so far out of the way. You must see that
Ernest flinches now and then when he is talked
of; and, without any fear of scandal, one may
want to avoid the look of it. He is not the sort
of fellow to be sure of; not that he is a bad sort.
Enfin (as she says), you know what it means
Ernest is not great in the way of company,
and Redgie and you are just good friends; the
woman is not really fool enough to think evil,
though she is rather of the vulturine order as to
beak and diet. For the rest, I know how wise
and kind you are it is a shame to lean on you
as I do, but you are safe to come to.



XXIV

LADY CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH

Ashton Hildred, Nov. azd.

MY DEAR CLARA:

I HAVE got leave to write and thank you.
Nothing has made me so happy for a long time
as to know how kind you have been, and that
you are still such good friends with me. It
was no want of thankfulness to you that made
me leave Portsmouth in that horrid way to get
home here. I knew how good you had been,
and you are not to make me out too bad. To
hear from you, even such a little word, was
nicer than to get the things you sent. But I
was as glad as I could be to have some of them
back. I would never have let any one send
for them to Lidcombe, so it was all the kinder
of you to do it this way. I hope you will all
be well there, and quite happy while you stay.
It is nice to think of people about the poor
house. They are all bent on making me out
ill. I am not ill in the least; only faint now
and then, and always very tired. I am terribly

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A Year's Letters

tired now all my life through, awake and
asleep. I feel as if there was nothing nice to
tjhink of in the world, and as if it were easier to
begin crying than thinking. It is only because
I am foolish naturally and afraid to face things.
If people were less good to me I should be just
as afraid to feel at all, or at least to say I did.
But good as they are now, my own nearest
friends here could not have been better to me
than I know you were then writing letters and
nursing and saving me all sorts of wretched
things. You were as good as Reginald, and I
had only you two to help me through, but you
did all that could be done, both of you, and I
knew you did. When I am most tired and
would like to let go of everything else, I try to
hold on to my remembrance of that. If I had
not been a little worthy to be pitied, I hope now
and then you would not have been quite so
good.

I am sorrier than I can say to hear how
foolish you think him. Ever since that I have
thought of you two together. You say it so
kindly, too, that it is wretched to hear said. I
do hope it is only his silly candid habit of
showing things he feels and thinks he always
thought about you so much and in such an
excited way. You are so much beyond me,
and except us two he never had any close ally
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Love's Cross-currents

among his own relations; there are hardly any
other women, you know. If I had been like
you it would have been different; but so few
people will take him at his best, poor boy,
and I am so little use, though he is fond of
me.

I had got a sort of hint from my grand-
mother which broke the surprise of the news
you send me. I hope, as you seem to wish for
it, that Mademoiselle de Rochelaurier and your
brother may have all things turn out as they
would like ; and I shall be as happy as possible
to know they do. It is not the least a painful
hearing to me that there will be a wedding at
the right time. I am only too glad there should
be some one there, and I am sure, if you both
are so fond of her, she must be perfectly nice.
Tell me when to congratulate. I wish I had
ever seen her; nobody here knows at all what
she is like. But I seem to have heard people
say her mother is not pretty.

They will not let me write any more my pen
is to be dragged off if I try. And really there
is this much reason in it, that I am most stupidly
tired, and see myself opposite too hideous to
speak of. I feel as if I were running down; but
I don't mean to run out for some time yet. So
don't let there be any one put out on such a
foolish account as that. I hope Mr. Radworth's
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A Year's Letters

head and eyes keep better; they are of rather
more value than mine, and I am always sorry to
hear of his going back in health. My love to
Redgie, and try to make him good.



XXV

REGINALD HAREWOOD TO EDWARD AUDLEY

Lidcombe. Dec. 1 5th.

I AM not coming out at all. I can't now;
the whole concern is blown up. I have had a
most awful row with my father ; you know the
sort of way he always does write and talk ; and
two months ago he gave me the most incredible
blowing up I suppose no fellow ever got such
a letter. So I just dropped into him by return
of post, and let the whole thing lie over. He
chose to pitch into her too, in the most offen-
sive way. Now I'm not going to behave like
a sneak to her because she is too good for them.
She trusts me in the most beautiful way. I
would give up the whole earth for her. Frank
would have made an end of that fellow long
ago if he had the right sort of pluck. And you
see a man can't let himself be bullied into
skulking. It's all fair chaffing about it if you
please, but you don't in the least know what
the real thing is like. Here she is tied down
and obliged to let that sort of animal talk to
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A Year's Letters

her, and go about with her, and take her by
the hand or arm I tell you I have seen it. It
was like seeing a stone thrown at her. And
she speaks to him without wincing. I do think
the courage of women is something unknown.
I should run twenty times a day if I couldn't
fight. He brings her specimens of things.
You can't conceive what a voice and face and
manner the fellow has. She lets him talk
about his symptoms. He tells me he wishes
he could eat what I can. It would be all very
well if he had anything great about him. I
suppose women can put up with men that
have; but a mere ingenious laborious pedant
and prig, and a fellow that has hardly human
ways, imagine worshipping that! I believe he
is a clever sort of half-breed between ape and
beaver. But the sort of thing cannot go on.
I found her yesterday by herself in the li-
brary here, looking out references for him. The
man was by way of being ill up-stairs. She
spoke to me with a sort of sad laugh in her
eyes, not smiling; and her brows winced, as
they never do for him, whatever he says. She
is so gentle and perfect when he is there; and
I feel like getting mad. Well, somehow I let
her see I knew what an infernal shame it was,
and she said wives were meant for the work.
Then I began and told her she had no sort of
14 J 97



Love's Cross-currents

right to take it in that way, and she couldn't
expect any fellow to stand and look on while
such things were and I would as soon have
looked on at Haynau any day. I dare say I
talked no end of folly, but I was regularly off
my head. Unless she throws me over I will
never give her up. She never will let her
brother know how things are with her. But
to see him sit by her ought to be enough for a
man with eyes and a heart. I know you were
a good deal in love last year, but Miss Charn-
worth couldn't have put anybody into such a
tender fever of pity as this one puts me; you
can't be sorry for her; and I don't think you
can absolutely worship anything you are not
a little sorry for. To have to pity what is such
a way above you, no one could stand that. It
gives one the wish to be hurt for her. I think
I should let him insult me and strike me if she
wanted it. Nothing hurts me now but the
look of her. She has sweet heavy eyes, like an
angel's in some great strange pain; eyes with-
out fear or fault in them, which look out over
coming tears that never come. There is a
sort of look about her lips and under the eye-
lids as if some sorrow had pressed there with
his finger, out of love for her beauty, and left
the mark. I believe she knew I wanted her
to come away. If there were only somewhere
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A Year's Letters

to take her to and hide her, and let her live in
her own way, out of all their sight and reach,
that would do for me. I tell you, she took my
hands sadly into hers and never said a word,
but looked sideways at the floor, and gave a
little beginning kind of sigh twice; and I got
mad. I don't know how I prayed to her to
come then. But she turned on me with her
face trembling and shining, and eyes that
looked wet without crying, and made me stop.
Then she took the books and went out, and up
to him. Do you imagine I can be off and on,
or play tricks with my love, for such a woman
as that? Because of my father, perhaps, or
Ernest Radworth? She has a throat like
pearl-colour, with flower-colour over that; and


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