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Celt and Saxon -- Volume 1 By George Meredith Characters: 8391

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

Barely had the door shut behind them when Patrick let his heart out: 'The princess?' He had a famished look, and Caroline glided along swiftly with her head bent, like one musing; his tone alarmed her; she lent him her ear, that she might get some understanding of his excitement, suddenly as it seemed to have come on him; but he was all in his hungry interrogation, and as she reached her piano and raised the lid, she saw it on tiptoe straining for her answer.

'I thought you were aware of my cousin's marriage.'

'Was I?' said Patrick, asking it of himself, for his conscience would not acknowledge an absolute ignorance. 'No: I fought it, I wouldn't have a blot on her be suspected. She's married! She's married to one of their princes!-married for a title!-and changed her religion! And Miss Adister, you're speaking of Adiante?'

'My cousin Adiante.'

'Well did I hate the name! I heard it first over in France. Our people wrote to me of her; and it's a name to set you thinking: Is she tender, or nothing like a woman,-a stone? And I put it to my best friend there, Father Clement, who's a scholar, up in everything, and he said it was a name with a pretty sound and an ill meaning-far from tender; and a bad history too, for she was one of the forty-nine Danaides who killed their husbands for the sake of their father and was not likely to be the fiftieth, considering the name she bore. It was for her father's sake she as good as killed her lover, and the two Adiantes are like enough: they're as like as a pair of hands with daggers. So that was my brother Philip's luck! She's married! It's done; it's over, like death: no hope. And this time it's against her father; it's against her faith. There's the end of Philip! I could have prophesied it; I did; and when they broke, from her casting him off-true to her name! thought I. She cast him off, and she couldn't wait for him, and there's his heart broken. And I ready to glorify her for a saint! And now she must have loved the man, or his title, to change her religion. She gives him her soul! No praise to her for that: but mercy! what a love it must be. Or else it's a spell. But wasn't she rather one for flinging spells than melting? Except that we're all of us hit at last, and generally by our own weapon. But she loved Philip: she loved him down to shipwreck and drowning: she gave battle for him, and against her father; all the place here and the country's alive with their meetings and partings:-she can't have married! She wouldn't change her religion for her lover: how can she have done it for this prince? Why, it's to swear false oaths!- unless it's possible for a woman to slip out of herself and be another person after a death like that of a love like hers.'

Patrick stopped: the idea demanded a scrutiny.

'She's another person for me,' he said. 'Here's the worst I ever imagined of her!-thousands of miles and pits of sulphur beyond the worst and the very worst! I thought her fickle, I thought her heartless, rather a black fairy, perched above us, not quite among the stars of heaven. I had my ideas. But never that she was a creature to jump herself down into a gulf and be lost for ever. She's gone, extinguished -there she is, under the penitent's hoodcap with eyeholes, before the faggots! and that's what she has married!-a burning torment, and none of the joys of martyrdom. Oh! I'm not awake. But I never dreamed of such a thing as this-not the hard, bare, lump-of-earth-fact:-and that's the only thing to tell me I'm not dreaming now.'

He subsided again; then deeply beseeching asked:

'Have you by chance a portrait of the gentleman, Miss Adister? Is there one anywhere?'

Caroline stood at her piano, turning over the leaves of a music-book, with a pressure on her eyelids. She was near upon being thrilled in spite of an astonishment almost petrifying: and she could nearly have smiled, so strange was his fraternal adoption, amounting to a vivification-of his brother's passion. He seemed quite naturally to impersonate Philip. She wondered, too, in the coolness of her alien blood, whether he was a character, or merely an Irish character. As to the unwontedness of the sce

ne, Ireland was chargeable with that; and Ireland also, a little at his expense as a citizen of the polite world, relieved him of the extreme ridicule attached to his phrases and images.

She replied: 'We have no portrait.'

'May I beg to know, have you seen him?' said Patrick. Caroline shook her head.

'Is there no telling what he is like, Miss Adister?'

'He is not young.'

'An old man!'

She had not said that, and she wished to defend her cousin from the charge of contracting such an alliance, but Patrick's face had brightened out of a gloom of stupefaction; he assured her he was now ready to try his voice with hers, only she was to excuse a touch of hoarseness; he felt it slightly in his throat: and could he, she asked him, wonder at it after his morning's bath?

He vindicated the saneness of the bath as well as he was able, showing himself at least a good reader of music. On the whole, he sang pleasantly, particularly French songs. She complimented him, with an emphasis on the French. He said, yes, he fancied he did best in French, and he had an idea of settling in France, if he found that he could not live quietly in his own country.

'And becoming a Frenchman?'said Caroline.

'Why not?' said he. 'I 'm more at home with French people; they're mostly of my creed; they're amiable, though they weren't quite kind to poor Lally Tollendal. I like them. Yes, I love France, and when I'm called upon to fix myself, as I suppose I shall be some day, I shan't have the bother over there that I should find here.'

She spoke reproachfully: 'Have you no pride in the title of Englishman?'

'I 'm an Irishman.'

'We are one nation.'

'And it's one family where the dog is pulled by the collar.'

There was a retort on him: she saw, as it were, the box, but the lid would not open to assist her to it, and she let it go by, thinking in her patriotic derision, that to choose to be likened to the unwilling dog of the family was evidence of a want of saving pride.

Besides, she could not trust to the glibness of her tongue in a contest with a young gentleman to whom talking was as easy as breathing, even if sometimes his volubility exposed him to attack. A superior position was offered her by her being silent and critical. She stationed herself on it: still she was grieved to think of him as a renegade from his country, and she forced herself to say: 'Captain O'Donnell talks in that manner.'

'Captain Con is constitutionally discontented because he's a bard by nature, and without the right theme for his harp,' said Patrick. 'He has a notion of Erin as the unwilling bride of Mr. Bull, because her lord is not off in heroics enough to please her, and neglects her, and won't let her be mistress of her own household, and she can't forget that he once had the bad trick of beating her: she sees the marks. And you mayn't believe it, but the Captain's temper is to praise and exalt. It is. Irony in him is only eulogy standing on its head: a sort of an upside down; a perversion: that's our view of him at home. All he desires is to have us on the march, and he'd be perfectly happy marching, never mind the banner, though a bit of green in it would put him in tune, of course. The banner of the Cid was green, Miss Adister: or else it's his pennon that was. And there's a quantity of our blood in Spain too. We've watered many lands.'

The poor young English lady's brain started wildly on the effort to be with him, and to understand whether she listened to humour or emotion: she reposed herself as well as she could in the contemplation of an electrically-flashing maze, where every line ran losing itself in another.

He added: 'Old Philip!' in a visible throb of pity for his brother; after the scrupulous dubitation between the banner and the pennon of the Cid!

It would have comforted her to laugh. She was closer upon tears, and without any reason for them in her heart.

Such a position brings the hesitancy which says that the sitting is at an end.

She feared, as she laid aside her music-books, that there would be more to come about Adiante, but he spared her. He bowed to her departing, and strolled off by himself.

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