ONE fine, frosty Sunday in November,
Frances and I took a long walk;
we made the tour of the city
by the Boulevards; and, afterwards,
Frances being a little tired,
we sat down on one of those wayside
seats placed under the trees,
at intervals, for the accommodation
of the weary. Frances was telling
me about Switzerland; the subject
animated her; and I was just
thinking that her eyes spoke
full as eloquently as her tongue,
stopped and remarked--
there is a gentleman who knows
I looked up; three fashionably
dressed men were just then passing--Englishmen,
I knew by their air and gait
as well as by their features;
in the tallest of the trio I
at once recognized Mr. Hunsden;
he was in the act of lifting
his hat to Frances; afterwards,
he made a grimace at me, and
"Who is he?"
"A person I
knew in England."
"Why did he
bow to me? He does not know
"Yes, he does
know you, in his way."
"How, monsieur?" (She still
called me "monsieur"; I could
not persuade her to adopt any
more familiar term.)
"Did you not
read the expression of his
"Of his eyes?
No. What did they say?"
"To you they
said, 'How do you do, Wilhelmina,
To me, 'So you have found your
counterpart at last; there she
sits, the female of your kind!'"
you could not read all that
in his eyes; He was
so soon gone."
"I read that
and more, Frances; I read that
he will probably
call on me this evening, or on
some future occasion shortly;
and I have no doubt he will insist
on being introduced to you; shall
I bring him to your rooms?"
"If you please,
monsieur--I have no objection;
I think, indeed,
I should rather like to see him
nearer; he looks so original."
As I had anticipated, Mr. Hunsden
came that evening. The first
thing he said was:--
"You need not begin boasting,
Monsieur le Professeur; I know
about your appointment to --
College, and all that; Brown
has told me." Then he intimated
that he had returned from Germany
but a day or two since; afterwards,
he abruptly demanded whether
that was Madame Pelet-Reuter
with whom he had seen me on the
Boulevards. I was going to utter
a rather emphatic negative, but
on second thoughts I checked
myself, and, seeming to assent,
asked what he thought of her?
"As to her,
I'll come to that directly;
but first I've a word
for you. I see you are a scoundrel;
you've no business to be promenading
about with another man's wife.
I thought you had sounder sense
than to get mixed up in foreign
hodge-podge of this sort."
"But the lady?"
good for you evidently; she
is like you, but something
better than you--no beauty, though;
yet when she rose (for I looked
back to see you both walk away)
I thought her figure and carriage
good. These foreigners understand
grace. What the devil has she
done with Pelet? She has not
been married to him three months--he
must be a spoon!"
I would not let the mistake
go too far; I did not like it
your head runs on Mons. and
Madame Pelet! You
are always talking about them.
I wish to the gods you had wed
Mdlle. Zoraide yourself!"
"Was that young
gentlewoman not Mdlle. Zoraide?"
"No; nor Madame
"Why did you
tell a lie, then?"
"I told no
lie; but you are is such a
hurry. She is a pupil
of mine--a Swiss girl."
"And of course
you are going to be married
to her? Don't deny
think I shall--if Fate spares
us both ten weeks
longer. That is my little wild
strawberry, Hunsden, whose sweetness
made me careless of your hothouse
"Stop! No boasting--no
heroics; I won't hear them.
What is she?
To what caste does she belong?"
I smiled. Hunsden unconsciously
laid stress on the word caste,
and, in fact, republican, lordhater
as he was, Hunsden was as proud
of his old ---shire blood, of
his descent and family standing,
respectable and respected through
long generations back, as any
peer in the realm of his Norman
race and Conquest-dated title.
Hunsden would as little have
thought of taking a wife from
a caste inferior to his own,
as a Stanley would think of mating
with a Cobden. I enjoyed the
surprise I should give; I enjoyed
the triumph of my practice over
his theory; and leaning over
the table, and uttering the words
slowly but with repressed glee,
I said concisely--
"She is a lace-mender."
Hunsden examined me. He did
not SAY he was surprised, but
surprised he was; he had his
own notions of good breeding.
I saw he suspected I was going
to take some very rash step;
but repressing declamation or
remonstrance, he only answered--
are the best; judge of your
own affairs. A lace-mender
may make a good wife as well
as a lady; but of course you
have taken care to ascertain
thoroughly that since she has
not education, fortune or station,
she is well furnished with such
natural qualities as you think
most likely to conduce to your
happiness. Has she many relations?"
"None in Brussels."
"That is better.
Relations are often the real
evil in such
cases. I cannot but think that
a train of inferior connections
would have been a bore to you
to your life's end."
After sitting in silence a
little while longer, Hunsden
rose, and was quietly bidding
me good evening; the polite,
considerate manner in which he
offered me his hand (a thing
he had never done before), convinced
me that he thought I had made
a terrible fool of myself; and
that, ruined and thrown away
as I was, it was no time for
sarcasm or cynicism, or indeed
for anything but indulgence and
"Good night, William," he said,
in a really soft voice, while
his face looked benevolently
compassionate. "Good night, lad.
I wish you and your future wife
much prosperity; and I hope she
will satisfy your fastidious
I had much ado to refrain from
laughing as I beheld the magnanimous
pity of his mien; maintaining,
however, a grave air, I said:--
you would have liked to have
seen Mdlle. Henri?"
"Oh, that is the name! Yes--if
it would be convenient, I should
like to see her--but----." He
"I should on
no account wish to intrude."
"Come, then," said
I. We set out. Hunsden no doubt
me as a rash, imprudent man,
thus to show my poor little grisette
sweetheart, in her poor little
unfurnished grenier; but he prepared
to act the real gentleman, having,
in fact, the kernel of that character,
under the harsh husk it pleased
him to wear by way of mental
mackintosh. He talked affably,
and even gently, as we went along
the street; he had never been
so civil to me in his life. We
reached the house, entered, ascended
the stair; on gaining the lobby,
Hunsden turned to mount a narrower
stair which led to a higher story;
I saw his mind was bent on the
"Here, Mr. Hunsden," said
I quietly, tapping at Frances'
door. He turned; in his genuine
politeness he was a little disconcerted
at having made the mistake; his
eye reverted to the green mat,
but he said nothing.
We walked in, and Frances rose
from her seat near the table
to receive us; her mourning attire
gave her a recluse, rather conventual,
but withal very distinguished
look; its grave simplicity added
nothing to beauty, but much to
dignity; the finish of the white
collar and manchettes sufficed
for a relief to the merino gown
of solemn black; ornament was
forsworn. Frances curtsied with
sedate grace, looking, as she
always did, when one first accosted
her, more a woman to respect
than to love; I introduced Mr.
Hunsden, and she expressed her
happiness at making his acquaintance
in French. The pure and polished
accent, the low yet sweet and
rather full voice, produced their
effect immediately; Hunsden spoke
French in reply; I had not heard
him speak that language before;
he managed it very well. I retired
to the window-seat; Mr. Hunsden,
at his hostess's invitation,
occupied a chair near the hearth;
from my position I could see
them both, and the room too,
at a glance. The room was so
clean and bright, it looked like
a little polished cabinet; a
glass filled with flowers in
the centre of the table, a fresh
rose in each china cup on the
mantelpiece gave it an air of
FETE, Frances was serious, and
Mr. Hunsden subdued, but both
mutually polite; they got on
at the French swimmingly: ordinary
topics were discussed with great
state and decorum; I thought
I had never seen two such models
of propriety, for Hunsden (thanks
to the constraint of the foreign
tongue) was obliged to shape
his phrases, and measure his
sentences, with a care that forbade
any eccentricity. At last England
was mentioned, and Frances proceeded
to ask questions. Animated by
degrees, she began to change,
just as a grave night-sky changes
at the approach of sunrise: first
it seemed as if her forehead
cleared, then her eyes glittered,
her features relaxed, and became
quite mobile; her subdued complexion
grew warm and transparent; to
me, she now looked pretty; before,
she had only looked ladylike.
She had many things to say
to the Englishman just fresh
from his island-country, and
she urged him with an enthusiasm
of curiosity, which ere long
thawed Hunsden's reserve as fire
thaws a congealed viper. I use
this not very flattering comparison
because he vividly reminded me
of a snake waking from torpor,
as he erected his tall form,
reared his head, before a little
declined, and putting back his
hair from his broad Saxon forehead,
showed unshaded the gleam of
almost savage satire which his
interlocutor's tone of eagerness
and look of ardour had sufficed
at once to kindle in his soul
and elicit from his eyes: he
was himself; as Frances was herself,
and in none but his own language
would he now address her.
"You understand English?" was
the prefatory question.
"Well, then, you shall have
plenty of it; and first, I see
you've not much more sense than
some others of my acquaintance" (indicating
me with his thumb), "or else
you'd never turn rabid about
that dirty little country called
England; for rabid, I see you
are; I read Anglophobia in your
looks, and hear it in your words.
Why, mademoiselle, is it possible
that anybody with a grain of
rationality should feel enthusiasm
about a mere name, and that name
England? I thought you were a
lady-abbess five minutes ago,
and respected you accordingly;
and now I see you are a sort
of Swiss sibyl, with high Tory
and high Church principles!"
"England is your country?" asked
"And you don't
"I'd be sorry
to like it! A little corrupt,
nation, full or mucky pride (as
they say in ---shire), and helpless
pauperism; rotten with abuses,
worm-eaten with prejudices!"
say so of almost every state;
there are abuses
and prejudices everywhere, and
I thought fewer in England than
in other countries."
"Come to England
and see. Come to Birmingham
come to St. Giles' in London,
and get a practical notion of
how our system works. Examine
the footprints of our august
aristocracy; see how they walk
in blood, crushing hearts as
they go. Just put your head in
at English cottage doors; get
a glimpse of Famine crouched
torpid on black hearthstones;
of Disease lying bare on beds
without coverlets, of Infamy
wantoning viciously with Ignorance,
though indeed Luxury is her favourite
paramour, and princely halls
are dearer to her than thatched
"I was not
thinking of the wretchedness
and vice in England;
I was thinking of the good side--of
what is elevated in your character
as a nation."
"There is no
good side--none at least of
which you can have
any knowledge; for you cannot
appreciate the efforts of industry,
the achievements of enterprise,
or the discoveries of science:
narrowness of education and obscurity
of position quite incapacitate
you from understanding these
points; and as to historical
and poetical associations, I
will not insult you, mademoiselle,
by supposing that you alluded
to such humbug."
"But I did
Hunsden laughed--his laugh
of unmitigated scorn.
"I did, Mr.
Hunsden. Are you of the number
of those to whom
such associations give no pleasure?"
what is an association? I never
saw one. What is its
length, breadth, weight, value--ay,
VALUE? What price will it bring
in the market?"
to any one who loved you, would,
sake of association, be without
That inscrutable Hunsden heard
this remark and felt it rather
acutely, too, somewhere; for
he coloured--a thing not unusual
with him, when hit unawares on
a tender point. A sort of trouble
momentarily darkened his eye,
and I believe he filled up the
transient pause succeeding his
antagonist's home-thrust, by
a wish that some one did love
him as he would like to be loved
--some one whose love he could
The lady pursued her temporary
"If your world is a world without
associations, Mr. Hunsden, I
no longer wonder that you hate
England so. I don't clearly know
what Paradise is, and what angels
are; yet taking it to be the
most glorious region I can conceive,
and angels the most elevated
existences--if one of them--if
Abdiel the Faithful himself" (she
was thinking of Milton) "were
suddenly stripped of the faculty
of association, I think he would
soon rush forth from 'the ever-during
gates,' leave heaven, and seek
what he had lost in hell. Yes,
in the very hell from which he
turned 'with retorted scorn.'"
in saying this was as marked
as her language,
and it was when the word "hell" twanged
off from her lips, with a somewhat
startling emphasis, that Hunsden
deigned to bestow one slight
glance of admiration. He liked
something strong, whether in
man or woman; he liked whatever
dared to clear conventional limits.
He had never before heard a lady
say "hell" with that uncompromising
sort of accent, and the sound
pleased him from a lady's lips;
he would fain have had Frances
to strike the string again, but
it was not in her way. The display
of eccentric vigour never gave
her pleasure, and it only sounded
in her voice or flashed in her
countenance when extraordinary
circumstances --and those generally
painful--forced it out of the
depths where it burned latent.
To me, once or twice, she had
in intimate conversation, uttered
venturous thoughts in nervous
language; but when the hour of
such manifestation was past,
I could not recall it; it came
of itself and of itself departed.
Hunsden's excitations she put
by soon with a smile, and recurring
to the theme of disputation,
is nothing, why do the continental
respect her so?"
"I should have thought no child
would have asked that question," replied
Hunsden, who never at any time
gave information without reproving
for stupidity those who asked
it of him. "If you had been my
pupil, as I suppose you once
had the misfortune to be that
of a deplorable character not
a hundred miles off, I would
have put you in the corner for
such a confession of ignorance.
Why, mademoiselle, can't you
see that it is our GOLD which
buys us French politeness, German
good-will, and Swiss servility?" And
he sneered diabolically.
"Swiss?" said Frances, catching
the word "servility." "Do you
call my countrymen servile?" and
she started up. I could not suppress
a low laugh; there was ire in
her glance and defiance in her
attitude. "Do you abuse Switzerland
to me, Mr. Hunsden? Do you think
I have no associations? Do you
calculate that I am prepared
to dwell only on what vice and
degradation may be found in Alpine
villages, and to leave quite
out of my heart the social greatness
of my countrymen, and our blood-earned
freedom, and the natural glories
of our mountains? You're mistaken--you're
Call it what you will, your
are sensible fellows; they make
a marketable article of what
to you is an abstract idea; they
have, ere this, sold their social
greatness and also their blood-earned
freedom to be the servants of
were in Switzerland?"
been there twice."
"You know nothing
"And you say
the Swiss are mercenary, as
a parrot says 'Poor
Poll,' or as the Belgians here
say the English are not brave,
or as the French accuse them
of being perfidious: there is
no justice in your dictums."
"There is truth."
"I tell you,
Mr. Hunsden, you are a more
unpractical man than
I am an unpractical woman, for
you don't acknowledge what really
exists; you want to annihilate
individual patriotism and national
greatness as an atheist would
annihilate God and his own soul,
by denying their existence."
you flying to? You are off
at a tangent--I thought
we were talking about the mercenary
nature of the Swiss."
if you proved to me that the
Swiss are mercenary
to-morrow (which you cannot do)
I should love Switzerland still."
be mad, then--mad as a March
hare--to indulge in
a passion for millions of shiploads
of soil, timber, snow, and ice."
"Not so mad
as you who love nothing."
method in my madness; there's
none in yours."
is to squeeze the sap out of
creation and make
manure of the refuse, by way
of turning it to what you call
"You cannot reason at all," said
Hunsden; "there is no logic in
"Better to be without logic
than without feeling," retorted
Frances, who was now passing
backwards and forwards from her
cupboard to the table, intent,
if not on hospitable thoughts,
at least on hospitable deeds,
for she was laying the cloth,
and putting plates, knives and
"Is that a
hit at me, mademoiselle? Do
you suppose I am without feeling
you are always interfering
with your own feelings,and
of other people, and dogmatizing
about the irrationality of this,
that, and the other sentiment,
and then ordering it to be suppressed
because you imagine it to be
inconsistent with logic."
"I do right."
Frances had stepped out of
sight into a sort of little pantry;
she soon reappeared.
"You do right? Indeed, no!
You are much mistaken if you
think so. Just be so good as
to let me get to the fire, Mr.
Hunsden; I have something to
cook." (An interval occupied
in settling a casserole on the
fire; then, while she stirred
its contents:) "Right! as if
it were right to crush any pleasurable
sentiment that God has given
to man, especially any sentiment
that, like patriotism, spreads
man's selfishness in wider circles" (fire
stirred, dish put down before
"Were you born
"I should think
so, or else why should I call
it my country?"
did you get your English features
"I am English,
too; half the blood in my veins
thus I have a right to a double
power of patriotism, possessing
an interest in two noble, free,
and fortunate countries."
"You had an
and you, I suppose, had a mother
from the moon or
from Utopia, since not a nation
in Europe has a claim on your
"On the contrary,
I'm a universal patriot, if
you could understand
me rightly: my country is the
"Sympathies so widely diffused
must be very shallow: will you
have the goodness to come to
table. Monsieur" (to me who appeared
to be now absorbed in reading
by moonlight)--"Monsieur, supper
This was said in quite a different
voice to that in which she had
been bandying phrases with Mr.
Hunsden--not so short, graver
do you mean by preparing, supper?
no intention of staying."
but you have stayed, and supper
you have only the alternative
of eating it."
The meal was
a foreign one, of course; it
consisted in two
small but tasty dishes of meat
prepared with skill and served
with nicety; a salad and "fromage
francais," completed it. The
business of eating interposed
a brief truce between the belligerents,
but no sooner was supper disposed
of than they were at it again.
The fresh subject of dispute
ran on the spirit of religious
intolerance which Mr. Hunsden
affirmed to exist strongly in
the professed attachment of the
Swiss to freedom. Here Frances
had greatly the worst of it,
not only because she was unskilled
to argue, but because her own
real opinions on the point in
question happened to coincide
pretty nearly with Mr. Hunsden's,
and she only contradicted him
out of opposition. At last she
gave in, confessing that she
thought as he thought, but bidding
him take notice that she did
not consider herself beaten.
"No more did the French at
Waterloo," said Hunsden.
"There is no comparison between
the cases," rejoined Frances; " mine
was a sham fight."
"Sham or real,
it's up with you."
I have neither logic nor wealth
of words, yet
in a case where my opinion really
differed from yours, I would
adhere to it when I had not another
word to say in its defence; you
should be baffled by dumb determination.
You speak of Waterloo; your Wellington
ought to have been conquered
there, according to Napoleon;
but he persevered in spite of
the laws of war, and was victorious
in defiance of military tactics.
I would do as he did."
"I'll be bound
for it you would; probably
you have some of the
same sort of stubborn stuff in
"I should be
sorry if I had not; he and
Tell were brothers,
and I'd scorn the Swiss, man
or woman, who had none of the
much-enduring nature of our heroic
William in his soul."
"If Tell was
like Wellington, he was an
"Does not ASS mean BAUDET?" asked
Frances, turning to me.
"No, no," replied I, "it means
an ESPRIT-FORT; and now," I continued,
as I saw that fresh occasion
of strife was brewing between
these two, "it is high time to
Hunsden rose. "Good bye," said
he to Frances; "I shall be off
for this glorious England to-morrow,
and it may be twelve months or
more before I come to Brussels
again; whenever I do come I'll
seek you out, and you shall see
if I don't find means to make
you fiercer than a dragon. You've
done pretty well this evening,
but next interview you shall
challenge me outright. Meantime
you're doomed to become Mrs.
William Crimsworth, I suppose;
poor young lady? but you have
a spark of spirit; cherish it,
and give the Professor the full
"Are you married. Mr. Hunsden?" asked
"No. I should
have thought you might have
guessed I was
a Benedict by my look."
you marry don't take a wife
out of Switzerland;
for if you begin blaspheming
Helvetia, and cursing the cantons
--above all, if you mention the
word ASS in the same breath with
the name Tell (for ass IS baudet,
I know; though Monsieur is pleased
to translate it ESPRIT-FORT)
your mountain maid will some
night smother her Breton-bretonnant,
even as your own Shakspeare's
Othello smothered Desdemona."
"I am warned," said Hunsden; "and
so are you, lad," (nodding to
me). "I hope yet to hear of a
travesty of the Moor and his
gentle lady, in which the parts
shall be reversed according to
the plan just sketched--you,
however, being in my nightcap.
Farewell, mademoiselle!" He bowed
on her hand, absolutely like
Sir Charles Grandison on that
of Harriet Byron; adding--"Death
from such fingers would not be
"Mon Dieu!" murmured Frances,
opening her large eyes and lifting
her distinctly arched brows; "c'est
qu'il fait des compliments! je
ne m'y suis pas attendu." She
smiled, half in ire, half in
mirth, curtsied with foreign
grace, and so they parted.
No sooner had we got into the
street than Hunsden collared
"And that is your lace-mender?" said
he; "and you reckon you have
done a fine, magnanimous thing
in offering to marry her? You,
a scion of Seacombe, have proved
your disdain of social distinctions
by taking up with an ouvriere!
And I pitied the fellow, thinking
his feelings had misled him,
and that he had hurt himself
by contracting a low match!"
"Just let go
my collar, Hunsden."
"On the contrary,
he swayed me to and fro; so
him round the waist. It was dark;
the street lonely and lampless.
We had then a tug for it; and
after we had both rolled on the
pavement, and with difficulty
picked ourselves up, we agreed
to walk on more soberly.
"Yes, that's my lace-mender," said
I; "and she is to be mine for
"God is not
willing--you can't suppose
it; what business have
you to be suited so well with
a partner? And she treats you
with a sort of respect, too,
and says, 'Monsieur' and modulates
her tone in addressing you, actually,
as if you were something superior!
She could not evince more deference
to such a one as I, were she
favoured by fortune to the supreme
extent of being my choice instead
a puppy. But you've only seen
of my happiness; you don't know
the tale that follows; you cannot
conceive the interest and sweet
variety and thrilling excitement
of the narrative."
Hunsden--speaking low and deep,
for we had now entered a busier
street--desired me to hold my
peace, threatening to do something
dreadful if I stimulated his
wrath further by boasting. I
laughed till my sides ached.
We soon reached his hotel; before
he entered it, he said--
"Don't be vainglorious. Your
lace-mender is too good for you,
but not good enough for me; neither
physically nor morally does she
come up to my ideal of a woman.
No; I dream of something far
beyond that pale-faced, excitable
little Helvetian (by-the-by she
has infinitely more of the nervous,
mobile Parisienne in her than
of the the robust 'jungfrau').
Your Mdlle. Henri is in person "chetive",
in mind "sans caractere", compared
with the queen of my visions.
You, indeed, may put up with
that "minois chiffone"; but when
I marry I must have straighter
and more harmonious features,
to say nothing of a nobler and
better developed shape than that
perverse, ill-thriven child can
"Bribe a seraph to fetch you
a coal of fire from heaven, if
you will," said I, "and with
it kindle life in the tallest,
fattest, most boneless, fullest-blooded
of Ruben's painted women--leave
me only my Alpine peri, and I'll
not envy you."
With a simultaneous
movement, each turned his back
on the other.
Neither said " God bless you;" yet
on the morrow the sea was to
roll between us.