novelist. " I like your novel exceedingly," said a
lady; "the characters are so natural all but the
baronet, and he surely is overdrawn: it is impos-
sible to find such coarseness in his rank of life ! "
The artist laughed.
" And that character," said
he, " is almost the only exact portrait in the whole
So it is. People do not see the strange things
which pass them every day. " The romance of
real life " is only one to the romantic spirit. And
then they set up for critics, instead of pupils ; as
if the artist's business was not just to see what they
cannot see to open their eyes to the harmonies
and the discords, the miracles and the absurdities,
which seem to them one uniform gray fog of
Then let the reader believe, that whatsoever is
commonplace in my story is my own invention.
Whatsoever may seem extravagant or startling is
most likely to be historic fact, else I should not
have dared to write it down, finding God's actual
dealings here much too wonderful to dare to
invent many fresh ones for myself.
Lancelot, who had had a severe concussion of
the brain and a broken leg, kept his bed for a few
weeks, and his room for a few more. Colonel
Bracebridge installed himself at the Priory, and
nursed him with indefatigable good-humor and
few thanks. He brought Lancelot his breakfast
before hunting, described the run to him when he
returned, read him to sleep, told him stories of
grizzly bear and buffalo hunts, made him laugh in
spite of himself at extempore comic medleys, kept
his tables covered with flowers from the conserva-
tory, warmed his chocolate and even his bed.
Nothing came amiss to him, and he to nothing.
Lancelot longed at first every hour to be rid of
him, and eyed him about the room as a bulldog
does the monkey who rides him. In his dreams
he was Sinbad the Sailor, and Bracebridge the Old
Man of the Sea ; but he could not hold out against
the colonel's merry bustling kindliness, and the
almost womanish tenderness of his nursing. The
ice thawed rapidly; and one evening it split up
altogether, when Bracebridge, who was sitting
drawing by Lancelot's sofa, instead of amusing
himself with the ladies below, suddenly threw his
pencil into the fire, and broke out, Apropos de rien :
"What a strange pair we are, Smith! I think
you just the best fellow I ever met, and you hate
me like poison you can't deny it."
There was something in the colonel's tone so
utterly different from his usual courtly and
measured speech, that Lancelot was taken com-
pletely by surprise, and stammered out:
"I I I no no. I know I am very fool-
ish ungrateful. But I do hate you," he said,
with a sudden impulse, " and I '11 tell you why."
Spring Yearnings 21
" Give me your hand," quoth the colonel : " I like
that Now we shall see our way with each other,
" Because," said Lancelot, slowly, " because you
are cleverer than I, readier than I, superior to me
in every point."
The colonel laughed, not quite merrily. Lance-
lot went on, holding down his shaggy brows.
" I am a brute and an ass ! And yet I do not
like to tell you so. For if I am an ass, what are
you ? "
"Look here. I am wasting my time and brains
on ribaldry, but I am worth nothing better at
least, I think so at times; but you, who can do
anything you put your hand to, what business
have you, in the devil's name, to be throwing your-
self away on gimcracks and fox-hunting foolery?
Heavens ! If I had your talents, I 'd be I 'd
make a name for myself before I died, if I died to
The colonel griped his hand hard, rose, and
looked out of the window for a few minutes.
There was a dead, brooding silence, till he turned
" Mr. Smith, I thank you for your honesty, but
good advice may come too late. I am no saint,
and God only knows how much less of one I may
become; but mark my words, if you are ever
tempted by passion, and vanity, and fine ladies,
to form liaisons, as the Jezebels call them, snares,
and nets, and labyrinths of blind ditches, to keep
you down through life, stumbling and grovelling,
hating yourself and hating the chain to which you
cling in that hour pray pray as if the devil
had you by the throat to Almighty God, to
help you out of that cursed slough ! There is
nothing else for it ! pray, I tell you ! "
There was a terrible earnestness about the
guardsman's face which could not be mistaken.
Lancelot looked at him for a moment, and then
dropped his eyes ashamed, as if he had intruded
on the speaker's confidence by witnessing his
In a moment the colonel had returned to his
smile and his polish.
"And now, my dear invalid, I must beg your
pardon for sermonizing. What do you say to a
game of tcarti ' ? We must play for love, or we
shall excite ourselves, and scandalize Mrs. Laving-
ton's piety." And the colonel pulled a pack of
cards out of his pocket, and seeing that Lancelot
was too thoughtful for play, commenced all man-
ner of juggler's tricks, and chuckled over them
like any schoolboy.
" Happy man ! " thought Lancelot, " to have
the strength of will which can thrust its thoughts
away once and for all."
No, Lancelot ! more happy are they whom God
will not allow to thrust their thoughts from them
till the bitter draught has done its work.
From that day, however, there was a cordial
understanding between the two. They never al-
luded to the subject; but they had known the
bottom of each other's heart. Lancelot's sick-
room was now pleasant enough, and he drank in
daily his new friend's perpetual stream of anec-
dote, till March and hunting were past, and April
was half over. The old squire came up after
dinner regularly (during March he had hunted
Spring Yearnings 23
every day, and slept every evening) ; and the trio
chatted along merrily enough, by the help of whist
and backgammon, upon the surface of this little
island of life, which is, like Sinbad's, after all
only the back of a floating whale, ready to dive at
any moment. And then ?
But what was Argemone doing all this time?
Argemone was busy in her boudoir (too often a
true boudoir to her) among books and statuettes,
and dried flowers, fancying herself, and not un-
fairly, very intellectual. She had four new manias
every year; her last winter's one had been that
bottle-and-squirt mania, miscalled chemistry; her
spring madness was for the Greek drama. She
had devoured Schlegel's lectures, and thought
them divine; and now she was hard at work on
Sophocles, with a little help from translations, and
thought she understood him every word. Then
she was somewhat High-Church in her notions,
and used to go up every Wednesday and Friday
to the chapel in the hills, where Lancelot had met
her, for an hour's mystic devotion, set off by a
little graceful asceticism. As for Lancelot, she
never thought of him but as an empty-headed fox-
hunter who had met with his deserts; and the
brilliant accounts which the all-smoothing colonel
gave at dinner of Lancelot's physical well-doing
and agreeable conversation only made her set him
down the sooner as a twin clever-do-nothing to
the despised Bracebridge, whom she hated for
keeping her father in a roar of laughter.
But her sister, little Honoria, had all the while
been busy messing and cooking with her own
hands for the invalid, and almost fell in love with
the colonel for his watchful kindness. And here a
word about Honoria, to whom Nature, according
to her wont with sisters, had given almost every-
thing which Argemone wanted, and denied almost
everything which Argemone had, except beauty.
And even in that, the many-sided mother had
made her a perfect contrast to her sister, tiny
and luscious, dark-eyed and dark-haired ; as full
of wild simple passion as an Italian, thinking little,
except where she felt much which was indeed
everywhere; for she lived in a perpetual April-
shower of exaggerated sympathy for all suffering,
whether in novels or in life ; and daily gave the lie
to that shallow old calumny that "fictitious sor-
rows harden the heart to real ones."
Argemone was almost angry with her some-
times, when she trotted whole days about the
village from school to sick-room: perhaps con-
science hinted to her that her duty, too, lay rather
there than among her luxurious day-dreams. But,
alas ! though she would have indignantly repelled
the accusation of selfishness, yet in self and for
self alone she lived; and while she had force of
will for any so-called " self-denial," and would fast
herself cross and stupefied, and quite enjoy kneel-
ing thinly clad and barefoot on the freezing
chapel-floor on a winter's morning, yet her fas-
tidious delicacy revolted at sitting, like Honoria,
beside the bed of the ploughman's consumptive
daughter, in a reeking, stifling, lean-to garret, in
which had slept the night before, the father, mother,
and two grown-up boys, not to mention a new-
married couple, the sick girl, and, alas ! her baby.
And of such bedchambers there were too many in
The first evening that Lancelot came downstairs,
Spring Yearnings 25
Honoria clapped her hands outright for joy as he
entered, and ran up and down for ten minutes,
fetching and carrying endless unnecessary cushions
and footstools ; while Argemone greeted him with
a cold distant bow, aiid a fine-lady drawl of care-
fully commonplace congratulations. Her heart
smote her, though, as she saw the wan face and
the wild, melancholy, moon-struck eyes once more
glaring through and through her; she found a
comfort in thinking his stare impertinent, drew
herself up, and turned away; once, indeed, she
could not help listening, as Lancelot thanked Mrs.
Lavington for all the pious and edifying books
with which the good lady had kept his room
rather than his brain furnished for the last six
weeks ; he was going to say more, but he saw the
colonel's quaint foxy eye peering at him, remem-
bered St. Francis de Sales, and held his tongue.
But, as her destiny was, Argemone found her-
self, in the course of the evening, alone with Lance-
lot, at the open window. It was a still, hot, heavy
night, after long easterly drought; sheet-lightning
glimmered on the far horizon over the dark wood-
lands ; the coming shower had sent forward as his
herald a whispering draught of fragrant air.
" What a delicious shiver is creeping over those
limes ! " said Lancelot, half to himself.
The expression struck Argemone: it was the
right one, and it seemed to open vistas of feeling
and observation in the speaker which she had not
suspected. There was a rich melancholy in the
voice ; she turned to look at him.
" Ay," he went on ; " and the same heat which
crisps those thirsty leaves must breed the thunder-
shower which cools them? But so it is through-
out the universe : every yearning proves the
existence of an object meant to satisfy it; the
same law creates both the giver and the receiver,
the longing and its home."
" If one could but know sometimes what it is
for which one is longing ! " said Argemone, with-
out knowing that she was speaking from her
inmost heart : but thus does the soul involuntarily
lay bare its most unspoken depths in the presence
of its yet unknown mate, and then shudders at its
own abandon as it first tries on the wedding-garment
Lancelot was not yet past the era at which young
geniuses are apt to " talk book " at little.
"For what?" he answered, flashing up accord-
ing to his fashion. " To be ; to be great ; to
have done one mighty work before we die, and
live, unloved or loved, upon the lips of men. For
this all long who are not mere apes and wall-flies."
" So longed the founders of Babel," answered
Argemone, carelessly, to this tirade. She had
risen a strange fish, the cunning beauty, and now
she was trying her fancy flies over him one by
"And were they so far wrong? " answered he.
" From the Babel society sprung our architecture,
our astronomy, politics, and colonization. No
doubt the old Hebrew sheiks thought them im-
pious enough, for daring to build brick walls
instead of keeping to the good old-fashioned tents,
and gathering themselves into a nation instead of
remaining a mere family horde ; and gave their
own account of the myth, just as the antediluvian
savages gave theirs of that strange Eden scene, by
the common interpretation of which the devil is
Spring Yearnings 27
made the first inventor of modesty. Men are all
conservatives; everything new is impious, till we
get accustomed to it; and if it fails, the mob
piously discover a divine vengeance in the mis-
chance, from Babel to Catholic Emancipation."
Lancelot had stuttered horribly during the latter
part of this most heterodox outburst, for he had be-
gun to think about himself, and try to say a fine thing,
suspecting all the while that it might not be true.
But Argemone did not remark the stammering:
the new thoughts startled and pained her; but
there was a daring grace about them. She tried, as
women will, to answer him with arguments, and
failed, as women will fail. She was accustomed
to lay down the law a la Madame de Stael, to
savants and non-savants and be heard with rev-
erence, as a woman should be. But poor truth-
seeking Lancelot did not see what sex had to do
with logic ; he flew at her as if she had been a
very barrister, and hunted her mercilessly up and
down through all sorts of charming sophisms,
as she begged the question, and shifted her ground,
as thoroughly right in her conclusion as she was
wrong in her reasoning, till she grew quite con-
fused and pettish. And then Lancelot suddenly
shrank into his shell, claws and all, like an affrighted
soldier-crab, hung down his head, and stammered
out some incoherencies, " N-n-not accustomed
to talk to women ladies, I mean. F-forgot
myself. Pray forgive me ! " And he looked up,
and her eyes, half-amused, met his, and she saw
that they were filled with tears.
" What have I to forgive ? " she said, more gently,
wondering on what sort of strange sportsman she
had fallen. " You treat me like an equal ; you will
deign to argue with me. But men in general
oh, they hide their contempt for us, if not their
own ignorance, under that mask of chivalrous
deference ! " and then in the nasal fine ladies' key,
which was her shell, as bitter brusquerie was his,
she added, with an Amazon queen's toss of the
head, " You must come and see us often. We
shall suit each other, I see, better than most whom
we see here."
A sneer and a blush passed together over
" What, better than the glib Colonel Bracebridge
" Oh, he is witty enough, but he lives on the
surface of everything! He is altogether shallow
and blase. His good-nature is the fruit of want of
feeling; between his gracefulness and his sneer-
ing persiflage he is a perfect Mephistopheles-
What a snare a decently good nickname is !
Out it must come, though it carry a lie on its back.
But the truth was, Argemone thought herself in-
finitely superior to the colonel, for which simple
reason she could not in the least understand
[By the by, how subtly Mr. Tennyson has
embodied all this in " The Princess." How he shows
us the woman, when she takes her stand on the
false masculine ground of intellect, working out
her own moral punishment, by destroying in her-
self the tender heart of flesh, which is either
woman's highest blessing or her bitterest curse;
how she loses all feminine sensibility to the under-
current of feeling in us poor world-worn, case-
hardened men, and falls from pride to sternness,
Spring Yearnings 29
from sternness to sheer inhumanity. I should
have honored myself by pleading guilty to stealing
much of Argemone's character from " The Princess,"
had not the idea been conceived, and fairly worked
out, long before the appearance of that noble
They said no more to each other that evening.
Argemone was called to the piano ; and Lancelot
took up the " Sporting Magazine," and read himself
to sleep till the party separated for the night.
Argemone went up thoughtfully to her own
room. The shower had fallen, and the moon was
shining bright, while every budding leaf and knot
of mould steamed up cool perfume, borrowed from
the treasures of the thundercloud. All around
was working the infinite mystery of birth and
growth, of giving and taking, of beauty and use.
All things were harmonious all things reciprocal
without. Argemone felt herself needless, lonely,
and out of tune with herself and nature.
She sat in the window, and listlessly read over
to herself a fragment of her own poetry :
She lay among the myrtles on the cliff;
Above her glared the moon ; beneath, the sea.
Upon the white horizon Athos' peak
Weltered in burning haze ; all airs were dead ;
The sicale slept among the tamarisk's hair ;
The birds sat dumb and drooping. Far below
The lazy sea-weed glistened in the sun :
The lazy sea-fowl dried their steaming wings ;
The lazy swell crept whispering up the ledge,
And sank again. Great Pan was laid to rest;
And mother Earth watched by him as he slept,
And hushed her myriad children for awhile.
She lay among the myrtles on the cliff;
And sighed for sleep, for sleep that would not hear,
But left her tossing still : for night and day
A mighty hunger yearned within her heart,
Till all her veins ran fever, and her cheek,
Her long thin hands, and ivory-channell'd feet,
Were wasted with the wasting of her soul.
Then peevishly she flung her on her face,
And hid her eyeballs from the blinding glare,
And fingered at the grass, and tried to cool
Her crisp hot lips against the crisp hot sward :
And then she raised her head, and upward cast
Wild looks from homeless eyes, whose liquid light
Gleamed out between- deep f Ids of blue-black hair,
As gleam twin lakes between the purple peaks
Of deep Parnassus, at the mournful moon.
Beside her lay a lyre. She snatched the shell,
And waked wild music from its silver strings ;
Then tossed it sadly by, " Ah, hush ! " she cries.
" Dead offspring of the tortoise and the mine !
Why mock my discords with thine harmonies?
Although a thrice-Olympian lot be thine,
Only to echo back in every tone,
The moods of nobler natures than thine own."
" No ! " she said. " That soft and rounded rhyme
suits ill with Sappho's fitful and wayward agonies.
She should burst out at once into wild passionate
life-weariness, and disgust at that universe, with
whose beauty she has filled her eyes in vain, to
find it always a dead picture, unsatisfying, unlov-
ing as I have found it."
Sweet self-deceiver ! had you no other reason
for choosing as your heroine Sappho, the victim
of the idolatry of intellect -trying in vain to fill
her heart with the friendship of her own sex, and
then sinking into mere passion for a handsome
boy, and so down into self-contempt and suicide?
She was conscious, I do believe, of no other
Spring Yearnings 31
reason than that she gave ; but consciousness is a
dim candle over a deep mine.
" After all," she said pettishly, " people will call it
a mere imitation of Shelley's ' Alastor.' And what
harm if it is? Is there to be no female Alastor?
Has not the woman as good a right as the man to
long after ideal beauty to pine and die if she
cannot find it; and regenerate herself in its
" Yo-hoo-oo-oo ! Youp, youp ! Oh-hooo ! "
arose doleful through the echoing shrubbery.
Argemone started and looked out. It was not
a banshee, but a forgotten fox-hound puppy, sit-
ting mournfully on the gravel-walk beneath, star-
ing at the clear ghastly moon.
She laughed and blushed there was a rebuke
in it. She turned to go to rest ; and as she knelt
and prayed at her velvet faldstool, among all the
nicknacks which nowadays make a luxury of de-
votion, was it strange if, after she had prayed for
the fate of nations and churches, and for those
who, as she thought, were fighting at Oxford the
cause of universal truth and reverent antiquity,
she remembered in her petitions the poor godless
youth, with his troubled and troubling eloquence?
But it was strange that she blushed when she
mentioned his name why should she not pray
for him as she prayed for others?
Perhaps she felt that she did not pray for him
as she prayed for others.
She left the ^Eolian harp in the window, as a
luxury if she should wake, and coiled herself up
among lace pillows and eider blemos; and the
hound coiled himself up on the gravel-walk, after
a solemn vesper ceremony of three turns round in
3 2 Yeast
his own length, looking vainly for a " soft stone."
The finest of us are animals after all, and live by-
eating and sleeping; and, taken as animals, not so
badly off either unless we happen to be Dorset-
shire laborers or Spitalfields weavers or col-
liery children or marching soldiers or, I am
afraid, one half of English souls this day.
And Argemone dreamed ; that she was a fox,
flying for her life through a churchyard and
Lancelot was a hound, yelling and leaping, in a
red coat and white buckskins, close upon her
and she felt his hot breath, and saw his white teeth
glare. . . . And then her father was there: and
he was an Italian boy, and played the organ
and Lancelot was a dancing dog, and stood up and
danced to the tune of " Cest I'amour, I' amour,
I' amour" pitifully enough, in his red coat and
she stood up and danced too ; but she found her
fox-fur dress insufficient, and begged hard for a
paper frill which was denied her: whereat she
cried bitterly and woke ; and saw the Night peep-
ing in with her bright diamond eyes, and blushed,
and hid her beautiful face in the pillows, and fell
What the little imp, who managed this puppet-
show on Argemone's brain-stage, may have in-
tended to symbolize thereby, and whence he stole
his actors and stage-properties, and whether he
got up the interlude for his own private fun, or
for that of a choir of brother Eulenspiegels, or,
finally, for the edification of Argemone as to her
own history, past, present, or future, are questions
which we must leave unanswered, till physicians
have become a little more of metaphysicians, and
have given up their present plan of ignoring for
Spring Yearnings 33
nine hundred and ninety-nine pages that most
awful and significant custom of dreaming, and
then in the thousandth page talking the boldest
materialist twaddle about it.
In the meantime, Lancelot, contrary to the
colonel's express commands, was sitting up to
indite the following letter to his cousin, the
" You complain that I waste my time in field-sports :
how do you know that I waste my time ? I find within
myself certain appetites ; and I suppose that the God
whom you say made me, made those appetites as a part
of me. Why are they to be crushed any more than any
other part of me ? I am the whole of what I find in
myself am I to pick and choose myself out of myself?
And besides, I feel that the exercise of freedom, activity,
foresight, daring, independent self-determination, even
in a few minutes' burst across country, strengthens me
in mind as well as in body. It might not do so to you ;
but you are of a different constitution, and, from all I
see, the power of a man's muscles, the excitability of his
nerves, the shape and balance of his brain, make him
what he is. Else what is the meaning of physiognomy?
Every man's destiny, as the Turks say, stands written
on his forehead. One does not need two glances at
your face to know that you would not enjoy fox-hunting,
that you would enjoy book-learning and ' refined repose,'
as they are pleased to call it. Every man carries his
character in his brain. You all know that, and act
upon it when you have to deal with a man for sixpence ;
but your religious dogmas, which make out that every
man comes into the world equally brutish and fiendish,
make you afraid to confess it. I don't quarrel with a
' douce ' man like you, with a large organ of veneration,
for following your bent. But if I am fiery, with a huge
C Vol. V
cerebellum, why am I not to follow mine ? For that
is what you do, after all what you like best. It is all
very easy for a man to talk of conquering his appetites,
when he has none to conquer. Try and conquer your
organ of veneration, or of benevolence, or of calculation
then I will call you an ascetic. Why not ! The
same Power which made the front of one's head made
the back, I suppose?
" And, I tell you, hunting does me good. It awakens