Chapter 40


Such was the force of law and custom in Raglan that as soon as any commotion ceased things settled at once. It was so now. The minds of the marquis and lord Charles being at rest both as regarded the gap in the defences of the castle and the character of its inmates, the very next day all was order again. The fate of Amanda was allowed gradually to ooze out, but the greater portion both of domestics and garrison continued firm in the belief that she had been carried off by Satan. Young Delaware, indeed, who had been revelling late--I mean in the chapel with the organ--and who was always the more inclined to believe a thing the stranger it was, asserted that he SAW devil fly away with her--a testimony which gained as much in one way as it lost in another by the fact that he could not see at all. To Scudamore her absence, however caused, was only a relief. She had ceased to interest him, while Dorothy had become to him like an enchanted castle, the spell of which he flattered himself he was the knight born to break. All his endeavours, however, to attract from her a single look such as indicated intelligence, not to say response, were disappointed. She seemed absolutely unsuspicious of what he sought, neither, having so long pretermitted what claim he might once have established to cousinly relations with her, could he now initiate any intimacy on that ground. Had she become an inmate of Raglan immediately after he first made her acquaintance, that might have ripened to something more hopeful; but when she came she was in sorrow, nor felt that there was any comfort in him, while he was beginning to yield to the tightening bonds mistress Amanda had flung around him. Nor since had he afforded her any ground for altering her first impressions, or favourably modifying a feature of the portrait lady Margaret had presented of him. Strange to say, however, poorly grounded as was the orignal interest he had taken in her, and little as he was capable of understanding her, he soon began, even while yet confident in his proved advantages of person and mind and power persuasive, to be vaguely wrought upon by the superiority of her nature. With this the establishment of her innocence in the eyes of the household had little to do; indeed, that threatened at first to destroy something of her attraction; a passionate, yielding, even erring nature, had of necessity for such as he far more enchantment than a nature that ruled its own emotions, and would judge such as might be unveiled to it. Neither was it that her cold courtesy and kind indifference roused him to call to the front any of the more valuable endowments of his being; something far better had commenced: unconsciously to himself, the dim element of truth that flitted vaporous about in him had begun to respond to the great pervading and enrounding orb of her verity. He began to respect her, began to feel drawn as if by another spiritual sense than that of which Amanda had laid hold. He found in her an element of authority. The conscious influences to whose triumph he had been so perniciously accustomed, had proved powerless upon her, while those that in her resided unconscious were subduing him. Her star was dominant over his. At length he began to be aware that this was no light preference, no passing fancy, but something more serious than he had hitherto known--that in fact he was really, though uncomfortably and unsatisfactorily, in love with her. He felt she was not like any other girl he had made his shabby love to, and would have tried to make beter to her, but she kept him at a distance, and that he began to find tormenting. One day, for example, meeting her in the court as she was crossing towards the keep,-- 'I would thou didst take apprentices, cousin,' he said, 'so I might be one, and learn of thee the mysteries of thy trade.' 'Wherefore, cousin?' 'That I might spare thee something of thy labour.' 'That were no kindness. I am not like thee; I find labour a thing to be courted rather than spared; I am not overwrought.' Scudamore gazed into her grey eyes, but found there nothing to contradict, nothing to supplement the indifference of her words. There was no lurking sparkle of humour, no acknowledgment of kindness. There was a something, but he could not understand it, for his poor shapeless soul might not read the cosmic mystery embodied in their depths. He stammered--who had never known himself stammer before, broke the joints of an ill-fitted answer, swept the tiles with the long feather in his hat, and found himself parted from her, with the feeling that he had not of himself left her, but had been borne away by some subtle force emanating from her. Lord Herbert had again left the castle. More soldiers and more must still be raised for the king. Now he would be paying his majesty a visit at Oxford, and inspecting the life-guards he had provided him, now back in South Wales, enlisting men, and straining every power in him to keep the district of which his father was governor in good affection and loyal behaviour. Winter drew nigh, and stayed somewhat the rushx of events, clogged the wheels of life as they ran towards death, brought a little sleep to the world and coolness to men's hearts--led in another Christmas, and looked on for a while. Nor did the many troubles heaped on England, the drained purses, the swollen hearts, the anxious minds, the bereaved houses, the ruptures, the sorrows, and the hatreds, yet reach to dull in any large measure the merriment of the season at Raglan. Customs are like carpets, for ever wearing out whether we mark it or no, but Lord Worcester's patriarchal prejudices, cleaving to the old and looking askance on the new, caused them to last longer in Raglan than almost anywhere else: the old were the things of his fathers which he had loved from his childhood; the new were the things of his children which he had not proven. What a fire that was that blazed on the hall-hearth under the great chimney, which, dividing in two, embraced a fine window, then again becoming one, sent the hot blast rushing out far into the waste of wintry air! No one could go within yards of it for the fierce heat of the blazing logs, now and then augmented by huge lumps of coal. And when, on the evenings of special merry-making, the candles were lit, the musicians were playing, and a country dance was filling the length of the great floor, in which the whole household, from the marquis himself, if his gout permitted, to the grooms and kitchen- maids, would take part, a finer outburst of homely splendour, in which was more colour than gilding, more richness than shine, was not to be seen in all the island. On such an occasion Rowland had more than once attempted nearer approach to Dorothy, but had gained nothing. She neither repelled nor encouraged him, but smiled at his better jokes, looked grave at his silly ones, and altogether treated him like a boy, young--or old--enough to be troublesome if encouraged. He grew desperate, and so one night summoned up courage as they stood together waiting for the next dance. 'Why will you never talk to me, cousin Dorothy?' he said. 'Is it so, Mr. Scudamore? I was not aware. If thou spoke and I answered not, I am sorry.' 'No, I mean not that,' returned Scudamore. 'But when I venture to speak, you always make me feel as if I ought not to have spoken. When I call you COUSIN DOROTHY, you reply with MR. SCUDAMORE.' 'The relation is hardly near enough to justify a less measure of observance.' 'Our mothers loved each other.' 'They found each other worthy.' 'And you do not find me such?' sighed Scudamore, with a smile meant to be both humble and bewitching. 'N-n-o. Thou hast not made me desire to hold with thee much converse.' 'Tell me why, cousin, that I may reform that which offends thee.' 'If a man see not his faults with his own eyes, how shall he see them with the eyes of another?' 'Wilt thou never love me, Dorothy?--not even a little?' 'Wherefore should I love thee, Rowland?' 'We are commanded to love even our enemies.' 'Art thou then mine enemy, cousin?' 'No, forsooth! I am the most loving friend thou hast.' 'Then am I sorely to be pitied.' 'For having my love?' 'Nay; for having none better than thine. But thank God, it is not so.' 'Must I then be thine enemy indeed before thou wilt love me?' 'No, cousin: cease to be thine own enemy and I will call thee my friend.' 'Marry! wherein then am I mine own enemy? I lead a sober life enough--as thou seest, ever under the eye of my lord.' 'But what wouldst thou an' thou wert from under the eye of thy lord? I know thee better than thou thinkest, cousin. I have read thy title-page, if not thy whole book.' 'Tell me then how runneth my title-page, cousin.' 'The art of being wilfully blind, or The way to see no farther than one would.' 'Fair preacher,--' began Rowland, but Dorothy interrupted him. 'Nay then, an' thou betake thee to thy jibes, I have done,' she said. 'Be not angry with me; it is but my nature, which for thy sake I will control. If thou canst not love me, wilt thou not then pity me a little?' 'That I may pity thee, answer me what good thing is there in thee wherefore I should love thee.' 'Wouldst thou have a man trumpet his own praises?' 'I fear not that of thee who hast but the trumpet--I will tell thee this much: I have never seen in thee that thou didst love save for the pastime thereof. I doubt if thou lovest thy master for more than thy place.' 'Oh cousin!' 'Be honest with thyself, Rowland. If thou would have me for thy cousin, it must be on the ground of truth.' Rowland possessed at least goodnature: few young men would have borne to be so severely handled. But then, while one's good opinion of himself remains untroubled, confesses no touch, gives out no hollow sound, shrinks not self-hurt with the doubt of its own reality, hostile criticism will not go very deep, will not reach to the quick. The thing that hurts is that which sets trembling the ground of self-worship, lays bare the shrunk cracks and wormholes under the golden plates of the idol, shows the ants running about in it, and renders the foolish smile of the thing hateful. But he who will then turn away from his imagined self, and refer his life to the hidden ideal self, the angel that ever beholds the face of the Father, shall therein be made whole and sound, alive and free. The dance called them, and their talk ceased. When it was over, Dorothy left the hall and sought her chamber. But in the fountain court her cousin overtook her, and had the temerity to resume the conversation. The moth would still at any risk circle the candle. It was a still night, and therefore not very cold, although icicles hung from the mouth of the horse, and here and there from the eaves. They stood by the marble basin, and the dim lights and scarce dimmer shadows from many an upper window passed athwart them as they stood. The chapel was faintly lighted, but the lantern-window on the top of the hall shone like a yellow diamond in the air. 'Thou dost me scant justice, cousin,' said Rowland, 'maintaining that I love but myself or for mine own ends. I know that love thee better than so.' 'For thine own sake, I would, might I but believe it, be glad of the assurance. But--' Amanda's behaviour to her having at last roused counter observation and speculation on Dorothy's part, she had become suddenly aware that there was an understanding between her and Rowland. It was gradually, however, that the question rose in her mind: could these two have been the nightly intruders on the forbidden ground of the workshop, and afterwards the victims of the watershoot? But the suspicion grew to all but a conviction. Latterly she had observed that their behaviour to each other was changed, also that Amanda's aversion to herself seemed to have gathered force. And one thing she had found remarkable--that Rowland revealed no concern for Amanda's misfortunes, or anxiety about her fate. With all these things potentially present in her mind, she came all at once to the resolution of attempting a bold stroke. '--But,' Dorothy went on, 'when I think how thou didst bear thee with mistress Amanda--' 'My precious Dorothy!' exclaimed Scudamore, filled with a sudden gush of hope, 'thou wilt never be so unjust to thyself as to be jealous of her! She is to me as nothing--as if she had never been; nor care I forsooth if the devil hath indeed flown away with her bodily, as they will have it in the hall and the guard-room.' 'Thou didst seem to hold friendly enough converse with her while she was yet one of us.' 'Ye-e-s. But she had no heart like thee, Dorothy, as I soon discovered. She had indeed a pretty wit of her own, but that was all. And then she was spiteful. She hated thee, Dorothy.' He spoke of her as one dead. 'How knewest thou that? Wast thou then so far in her confidence, and art now able to talk of her thus? Where is thine own heart, Mr. Scudamore?' 'In thy bosom, lovely Dorothy.' 'Thou mistakest. But mayhap thou dost imagine I picked it up that night thou didst lay it at mistress Amanda's feet in my lord's workshop in the keep?' Dorothy's hatred of humbug--which was not the less in existence then that they had not the ugly word to express the uglier thing--enabled her to fix her eyes on him as she spoke, and keep them fixed when she had ended. He turned pale--visibly pale through the shadowy night, nor attempted to conceal his confusion. It is strange how self-conviction will wait upon foreign judgment, as if often only the general conscience were powerful enough to wake the individual one. 'Or perhaps,' she continued, 'it was torn from thee by the waters that swept thee from the bridge, as thou didst venture with her yet again upon the forbidden ground.' He hung his head, and stood before her like a chidden child. 'Think'st thou,' she went on, 'that my lord would easily pardon such things?' 'Thou knewest it, and didst not betray me! Oh Dorothy!' murmured Scudamore. 'Thou art a very angel of light, Dorothy.' He seized her hand, and but for the possible eyes upon them, he would have flung himself at her feet. Dorothy, however, would not yet lay aside the part she had assumed as moral physician--surgeon rather. 'But notwithstanding all this, cousin Rowland, when trouble came upon the young lady, what comfort was there for her in thee? Never hadst thou loved her, although I doubt not thou didst vow and swear thereto an hundred times.' Rowland was silent. He began to fear her. 'Or what love thou hadst was of such sort that thou didst encourage in her that which was evil, and then let her go like a haggard hawk. Thou marvellest, forsooth, that I should be so careless of thy merits! Tell me, cousin, what is there in thee that I should love? Can there be love for that which is nowise lovely? Thou wilt doubtless say in thy heart, "She is but a girl, and how then should she judge concerning men and their ways?" But I appeal to thine own conscience, Rowland, when I ask thee--is this well? And if a maiden truly loved thee, it were all one. Thou wouldst but carry thyself the same to her--if not to-day, then to-morrow, or a year hence.' 'Not if she were good, Dorothy, like thee,' he murmured. 'Not if thou wert good, Rowland, like Him that made thee.' 'Wilt thou not teach me then to be good like thee, Dorothy?' 'Thou must teach thyself to be good like the Rowland thou knowest in thy better heart, when it is soft and lowly.' 'Wouldst thou then love me a little, Dorothy, if I vowed to be thy scholar, and study to be good? Give me some hope to help me in the hard task.' 'He that is good is good for goodness' sake, Rowland. Yet who can fail to love that which is good in king or knave?' 'Ah! but do not mock me, Dorothy: such is not the love I would have of thee.' 'It is all thou ever canst have of me, and methinks it is not like thou wilt ever have it, for verily thou art of nature so light that any wind may blow thee into the Dead Sea.' From a saint it was enough to anger any sinner. 'I see!' cried Scudamore. 'For all thy fine reproof, thou too canst spurn a heart at thy feet. I will lay my life thou lovest the round-head, and art but a traitress for all thy goodness.' 'I am indeed traitress enough to love any roundhead gentleman better than a royalist knave,' said Dorothy; and turning from him she sought the grand staircase.