Mr. Crewe's Career
By request of one who has read thus far, and is still curious.
Yes, and another who, in spite of himself, has fallen in love with Victoria
and would like to linger a while longer, even though it were with the paltry
excuse of discussing that world-old question of hers—Can sublime happiness and
achievement go together? Novels on the problem of sex nowadays often begin with
marriages, but rarely discuss the happy ones; and many a woman is forced to sit
wistfully at home while her companion soars.
"Yet may I look with heart unshook
On blow brought home or missed—
Yet may I hear with equal ear
The clarions down the List;
Yet set my lance above mischance
And ride the barriere—
Oh, hit or miss, how little 'tis,
My Lady is not there!"
A verse, in this connection, which may be a perversion of Mr. Kipling's
meaning, but not so far from it, after all. And yet, would the eagle attempt the
great flights if contentment were on the plain? Find the mainspring of
achievement, and you hold in your hand the secret of the world's mechanism. Some
aver that it is woman.
Do the gods ever confer the rarest of gifts upon him to whom they have given
pinions? Do they mate him, ever, with another who soars as high as he, who
circles higher that he may circle higher still? Who can answer? Must those who
soar be condemned to eternal loneliness, and was it a longing they did not
comprehend which bade them stretch their wings toward the sun? Who can say?
Alas, we cannot write of the future of Austen and Victoria Vane! We can only
surmise, and hope, and pray,—yes, and believe. Romance walks with parted lips
and head raised to the sky; and let us follow her, because thereby our eyes are
raised with hers. We must believe, or perish.
Postscripts are not fashionable. The satiated theatre goer leaves before the
end of the play, and has worked out the problem for himself long before the end
of the last act. Sentiment is not supposed to exist in the orchestra seats. But
above (in many senses) is the gallery, from whence an excited voice cries out
when the sleeper returns to life, "It's Rip Van Winkle!" The gallery, where are
the human passions which make this world our world; the gallery, played upon by
anger, vengeance, derision, triumph, hate, and love; the gallery, which lingers
and applauds long after the fifth curtain, and then goes reluctantly home—to
dream. And he who scorns the gallery is no artist, for there lives the soul of
art. We raise our eyes to it, and to it we dedicate this our play;—and for it we
lift the curtain once more after those in the orchestra have departed.
It is obviously impossible, in a few words, to depict the excitement in
Ripton, in Leith, in the State at large, when it became known that the daughter
of Mr. Flint was to marry Austen Vane,—a fitting if unexpected climax to a
drama. How would Mr. Flint take it? Mr. Flint, it may be said, took it
philosophically; and when Austen went up to see him upon this matter, he shook
hands with his future son-in-law,—and they agreed to disagree. And beyond this
it is safe to say that Mr. Flint was relieved; for in his secret soul he had for
many years entertained a dread that Victoria might marry a foreigner. He had
this consolation at any rate.
His wife denied herself for a day to her most intimate friends,—for it was
she who had entertained visions of a title; and it was characteristic of the
Rose of Sharon that she knew nothing of the Vanes beyond the name. The discovery
that the Austens were the oldest family in the State was in the nature of a
balm; and henceforth, in speaking of Austen, she never failed to mention the
fact that his great-grandfather was Minister to Spain in the '30's,—a period
when her own was engaged in a far different calling.
And Hilary Vane received the news with a grim satisfaction, Dr. Tredway
believing that it had done more for him than any medicine or specialists. And
when, one warm October day, Victoria herself came and sat beside the canopied
bed, her conquest was complete: he surrendered to her as he had never before
surrendered to man or woman or child, and the desire to live surged back into
his heart,—the desire to live for Austen and Victoria. It became her custom to
drive to Ripton in the autumn mornings and to sit by the hour reading to Hilary
in the mellow sunlight in the lee of the house, near Sarah Austen's little
garden. Yes, Victoria believed she had developed in him a taste for reading;
although he would have listened to Emerson from her lips.
And sometimes, when she paused after one of his long silences to glance at
him, she would see his eyes fixed, with a strange rapt look, on the garden or
the dim lavender form of Sawanec through the haze, and knew that he was thinking
of a priceless thing which he had once possessed, and missed. Then Victoria
would close the volume, and fall to dreaming, too.
What was happiness? Was it contentment? If it were, it might
endure,—contentment being passive. But could active, aggressive, exultant joy
exist for a lifetime, jealous of its least prerogative, perpetually watchful for
its least abatement, singing unending anthems on its conquest of the world? The
very intensity of her feelings at such times sobered Victoria—alarmed her. Was
not perfection at war with the world's scheme, and did not achievement spring
from a void?
But when Austen appeared, with Pepper, to drive her home to Fairview, his
presence never failed to revive the fierce faith that it was his destiny to make
the world better, and hers to help him. Wondrous afternoons they spent together
in that stillest and most mysterious of seasons in the hill country—autumn!
Autumn and happiness! Happiness as shameless as the flaunting scarlet maples on
the slopes, defiant of the dying year of the future, shadowy and unreal as the
hills before them in the haze. Once, after a long silence, she started from a
revery with the sudden consciousness of his look intent upon her, and turned
with parted lips and eyes which smiled at him out of troubled depths.
"Dreaming, Victoria?" he said.
"Yes," she answered simply, and was silent once more. He loved these silences
of hers,—hinting, as they did, of unexplored chambers in an inexhaustible
treasure-house which by some strange stroke of destiny was his. And yet he felt
at times the vague sadness of them, like the sadness of the autumn, and longed
to dispel it.
"It is so wonderful," she went on presently, in a low voice, "it is so
wonderful I sometimes think that it must be like—like this; that it cannot last.
I have been wondering whether we shall be as happy when the world discovers that
you are great."
He shook his head at her slowly, in mild reproof.
"Isn't that borrowing trouble, Victoria?" he said. "I think you need have no
fear of finding the world as discerning as yourself."
She searched his face.
"Will you ever change?" she asked.
"Yes," he said. "No man can stand such flattery as that without
deteriorating, I warn you. I shall become consequential, and pompous, and
altogether insupportable, and then you will leave me and never realize that it
has been all your fault."
Victoria laughed. But there was a little tremor in her voice, and her eyes
still rested on his face.
"But I am serious, Austen," she said. "I sometimes feel that, in the future,
we shall not always have many such days as these. It's selfish, but I can't help
it. There are so many things you will have to do without me. Don't you ever
think of that?"
His eyes grew grave, and he reached out and took her hand in his.
"I think, rather, of the trials life may bring, Victoria," he answered, "of
the hours when judgment halts, when the way is not clear. Do you remember the
last night you came to Jabe Jenney's? I stood in the road long after you had
gone, and a desolation such as I had never known came over me. I went in at
last, and opened a book to some verses I had been reading, which I shall never
forget. Shall I tell you what they were?"
"Yes," she whispered.
"They contain my answer to your question," he said.
"What became of all the hopes,
Words and song and lute as well?
Say, this struck you 'When life gropes
Feebly for the path where fell
Light last on the evening slopes,
"'One friend in that path shall be,
To secure my step from wrong;
One to count night day for me,
Patient through the watches long,
Serving most with none to see.'"
"Victoria, can you guess who that friend is?"
She pressed his hand and smiled at him, but her eyes were wet.
"I have thought of it in that way, too, dear. But—but I did not know that you
had. I do not think that many men have that point of view, Austen."
"Many men," he answered, "have not the same reason to be thankful as I."
There is a time, when the first sharp winds which fill the air with flying
leaves have come and gone, when the stillness has come again, and the sunlight
is tinged with a yellower gold, and the pastures are still a vivid green, and
the mountain stained with a deeper blue than any gem, called Indian summer. And
it was in this season that Victoria and Austen were married, in a little church
at Tunbridge, near Fairview, by the bishop of the diocese, who was one of
Victoria's dearest friends. Mr. Thomas Gaylord (for whose benefit there were
many rehearsals) was best man, Miss Beatrice Chillingham maid of honour; and it
was unanimously declared by Victoria's bridesmaids, who came up from New York,
that they had fallen in love with the groom.
How describe the wedding breakfast and festivities at Fairview House, on a
November day when young ladies could walk about the lawns in the filmiest of
gowns! how recount the guests and leave out no friends—for none were left out!
Mr. Jabe Jenney and Mrs. Jenney, who wept as she embraced both bride and groom;
and Euphrasia, in a new steel-coloured silk and a state of absolute subjection
and incredulous happiness. Would that there were time to chronicle that most
amazing of conquests of Victoria over Euphrasia! And Mrs. Pomfret, who,
remarkable as it may seem, not only recognized Austen without her lorgnette, but
quite overwhelmed him with an unexpected cordiality, and declared her intention
of giving them a dinner in New York.
"My dear," she said, after kissing Victoria twice, "he is most
distinguished-looking—I had no idea—and a person who grows upon one. And I am
told he is descended from Channing Austen, of whom I have often heard my
grandfather speak. Victoria, I always had the greatest confidence in your
Although Victoria had a memory (what woman worth her salt has not?), she was
far too happy to remind Mrs. Pomfret of certain former occasions, and merely
smiled in a manner which that lady declared to be enigmatic. She maintained that
she had never understood Victoria, and it was characteristic of Mrs. Pomfret
that her respect increased in direct proportion to her lack of understanding.
Mr. Thomas Gaylord, in a waistcoat which was the admiration of all who beheld
it, proposed the health of the bride; and proved indubitably that the best of
oratory has its origin in the heart and not in the mind,—for Tom had never been
regarded by his friends as a Demosthenes. He was interrupted from time to time
by shouts of laughter; certain episodes in the early career of Mr. Austen Vane
(in which, if Tom was to be believed, he was an unwilling participant) were
particularly appreciated. And shortly after that, amidst a shower of
miscellaneous articles and rice, Mr. and Mrs. Vane took their departure.
They drove through the yellow sunlight to Ripton, with lingering looks at the
hills which brought back memories of boys and sorrows, and in Hanover Street
bade good-by to Hilary Vane. A new and strange contentment shone in his face as
he took Victoria's hands in his, and they sat with him until Euphrasia came. It
was not until they were well on their way to New York that they opened the
letter he had given them, and discovered that it contained something which would
have enabled them to remain in Europe the rest of their lives had they so
We must leave them amongst the sunny ruins of Italy and Greece and southern
France, on a marvellous journey that was personally conducted by Victoria.
Mr. Crewe was unable to go to the wedding, having to attend a directors'
meeting of some importance in the West. He is still in politics, and still
hopeful; and he was married, not long afterwards, to Miss Alice Pomfret.