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Chapter 6 A warning

  • In the spring list of Mr Jedwood's publications, announcement was made of _ew work by Alfred Yule. It was called 'English Prose in the Nineteent_entury,' and consisted of a number of essays (several of which had alread_een the light in periodicals) strung into continuity. The final chapter deal_ith contemporary writers, more especially those who served to illustrate th_uthor's theme—that journalism is the destruction of prose style: on certai_opular writers of the day there was an outpouring of gall which was no_ikely to be received as though it were sweet ointment. The book met wit_ather severe treatment in critical columns; it could scarcely be ignored (th_afest mode of attack when one's author has no expectant public), and only th_ost skilful could write of it in a hostile spirit without betraying that som_f its strokes had told. An evening newspaper which piqued itself o_ndependence indulged in laughing appreciation of the polemical chapter, an_he next day printed a scornful letter from a thinly-disguised corresponden_ho assailed both book and reviewer. For the moment people talked more o_lfred Yule than they had done since his memorable conflict with Clemen_adge.
  • The publisher had hoped for this. Mr Jedwood was an energetic and sanguin_an, who had entered upon his business with a determination to rival in a yea_r so the houses which had slowly risen into commanding stability. He had n_reat capital, but the stroke of fortune which had wedded him to a popula_ovelist enabled him to count on steady profit from one source, and boundles_aith in his own judgment urged him to an initial outlay which made th_rudent shake their heads. He talked much of 'the new era,' foresa_evolutions in publishing and book-selling, planned every week a score o_ntried ventures which should appeal to the democratic generation jus_aturing; in the meantime, was ready to publish anything which seemed likel_o get talked about.
  • The May number of The Current, in its article headed 'Books of the Month,'
  • devoted about half a page to 'English Prose in the Nineteenth Century.' Thi_otice was a consummate example of the flippant style of attack. Flippancy, the most hopeless form of intellectual vice, was a characterising note of M_adge's periodical; his monthly comments on publications were already looke_or with eagerness by that growing class of readers who care for nothing bu_hat can be made matter of ridicule. The hostility of other reviewers wa_wkward and ineffectual compared with this venomous banter, which entertaine_y showing that in the book under notice there was neither entertainment no_ny other kind of interest. To assail an author without increasing the numbe_f his readers is the perfection of journalistic skill, and The Current, ha_t stood alone, would fully have achieved this end. As it was, silence migh_ave been better tactics. But Mr Fadge knew that his enemy would smart unde_he poisoned pin-points, and that was something gained.
  • On the day that The Current appeared, its treatment of Alfred Yule wa_iscussed in Mr Jedwood's private office. Mr Quarmby, who had intimat_elations with the publisher, happened to look in just as a young man (one o_r Jedwood's 'readers') was expressing a doubt whether Fadge himself was th_uthor of the review.
  • 'But there's Fadge's thumb-mark all down the page,' cried Mr Quarmby.
  • 'He inspired the thing, of course; but I rather think it was written by tha_ellow Milvain.'
  • 'Think so?' asked the publisher.
  • 'Well, I know with certainty that the notice of Markland's novel is hi_riting, and I have reasons for suspecting that he did Yule's book as well.'
  • 'Smart youngster, that,' remarked Mr Jedwood. 'Who is he, by-the- bye?'
  • 'Somebody's illegitimate son, I believe,' replied the source of trustworth_nformation, with a laugh. 'Denham says he met him in New York a year or tw_go, under another name.
  • 'Excuse me,' interposed Mr Quarmby, 'there's some mistake in all that.'
  • He went on to state what he knew, from Yule himself, concerning Milvain'_istory. Though in this instance a corrector, Mr Quarmby took an opportunity, a few hours later, of informing Mr Hinks that the attack on Yule in Th_urrent was almost certainly written by young Milvain, with the result tha_hen the rumour reached Yule's ears it was delivered as an undoubted and well- known fact.
  • It was a month prior to this that Milvain made his call upon Marian Yule, o_he Sunday when her father was absent. When told of the visit, Yule assumed _anner of indifference, but his daughter understood that he was annoyed. Wit_egard to the sisters who would shortly be living in London, he merely sai_hat Marian must behave as discretion directed her. If she wished to invit_he Miss Milvains to St Paul's Crescent, he only begged that the times an_easons of the household might not be disturbed.
  • As her habit was, Marian took refuge in silence. Nothing could have been mor_elcome to her than the proximity of Maud and Dora, but she foresaw that he_wn home would not be freely open to them; perhaps it might be necessary t_ehave with simple frankness, and let her friends know the embarrassments o_he situation. But that could not be done in the first instance; th_nkindness would seem too great. A day after the arrival of the girls, sh_eceived a note from Dora, and almost at once replied to it by calling at he_riends' lodgings. A week after that, Maud and Dora came to St Paul'_rescent; it was Sunday, and Mr Yule purposely kept away from home. They ha_nly been once to the house since then, again without meeting Mr Yule. Marian, however, visited them at their lodgings frequently; now and then she me_asper there. The latter never spoke of her father, and there was no questio_f inviting him to repeat his call.
  • In the end, Marian was obliged to speak on the subject with her mother. Mr_ule offered an occasion by asking when the Miss Milvains were coming again.
  • 'I don't think I shall ever ask them again,' Marian replied.
  • Her mother understood, and looked troubled.
  • 'I must tell them how it is, that's all,' the girl went on. 'They ar_ensible; they won't be offended with me.'
  • 'But your father has never had anything to say against them,' urged Mrs Yule.
  • 'Not a word to me, Marian. I'd tell you the truth if he had.'
  • 'It's too disagreeable, all the same. I can't invite them here with pleasure.
  • Father has grown prejudiced against them all, and he won't change. No, I shal_ust tell them.'
  • 'It's very hard for you,' sighed her mother. 'If I thought I could do any goo_y speaking—but I can't, my dear.'
  • 'I know it, mother. Let us go on as we did before.'
  • The day after this, when Yule came home about the hour of dinner, he calle_arian's name from within the study. Marian had not left the house to-day; he_ork had been set, in the shape of a long task of copying from disorderl_anuscript. She left the sitting-room in obedience to her father's summons.
  • 'Here's something that will afford you amusement,' he said, holding to her th_ew number of The Current, and indicating the notice of his book.
  • She read a few lines, then threw the thing on to the table.
  • 'That kind of writing sickens me,' she exclaimed, with anger in her eyes.
  • 'Only base and heartless people can write in that way. You surely won't let i_rouble you?'
  • 'Oh, not for a moment,' her father answered, with exaggerated show of calm.
  • 'But I am surprised that you don't see the literary merit of the work. _hought it would distinctly appeal to you.'
  • There was a strangeness in his voice, as well as in the words, which cause_er to look at him inquiringly. She knew him well enough to understand tha_uch a notice would irritate him profoundly; but why should he go out of hi_ay to show it her, and with this peculiar acerbity of manner?
  • 'Why do you say that, father?'
  • 'It doesn't occur to you who may probably have written it?'
  • She could not miss his meaning; astonishment held her mute for a moment, the_he said:
  • 'Surely Mr Fadge wrote it himself?'
  • 'I am told not. I am informed on very good authority that one of his youn_entlemen has the credit of it.'
  • 'You refer, of course, to Mr Milvain,' she replied quietly. 'But I think tha_an't be true.'
  • He looked keenly at her. He had expected a more decided protest.
  • 'I see no reason for disbelieving it.'
  • 'I see every reason, until I have your evidence.'
  • This was not at all Marian's natural tone in argument with him. She was won_o be submissive.
  • 'I was told,' he continued, hardening face and voice, 'by someone who had i_rom Jedwood.'
  • Yule was conscious of untruth in this statement, but his mood would not allo_im to speak ingenuously, and he wished to note the effect upon Marian of wha_e said. There were two beliefs in him: on the one hand, he recognised Fadg_n every line of the writing; on the other, he had a perverse satisfaction i_onvincing himself that it was Milvain who had caught so successfully th_aster's manner. He was not the kind of man who can resist an opportunity o_ustifying, to himself and others, a course into which he has been led b_ingled feelings, all more or less unjustifiable.
  • 'How should Jedwood know?' asked Marian.
  • Yule shrugged his shoulders.
  • 'As if these things didn't get about among editors and publishers!'
  • 'In this case, there's a mistake.'
  • 'And why, pray?' His voice trembled with choler. 'Why need there be _istake?'
  • 'Because Mr Milvain is quite incapable of reviewing your book in such _pirit.'
  • 'There is your mistake, my girl. Milvain will do anything that's asked of him, provided he's well enough paid.'
  • Marian reflected. When she raised her eyes again they were perfectly calm.
  • 'What has led you to think that?'
  • 'Don't I know the type of man? Noscitur ex sociis—have you Latin enough fo_hat?'
  • 'You'll find that you are misinformed,' Marian replied, and therewith wen_rom the room.
  • She could not trust herself to converse longer. A resentment such as he_ather had never yet excited in her—such, indeed, as she had seldom, if ever, conceived—threatened to force utterance for itself in words which would chang_he current of her whole life. She saw her father in his worst aspect, and he_eart was shaken by an unnatural revolt from him. Let his assurance of what h_eported be ever so firm, what right had he to make this use of it? Hi_ehaviour was spiteful. Suppose he entertained suspicions which seemed to mak_t his duty to warn her against Milvain, this was not the way to go about it.
  • A father actuated by simple motives of affection would never speak and loo_hus.
  • It was the hateful spirit of literary rancour that ruled him; the spirit tha_ade people eager to believe all evil, that blinded and maddened. Never ha_he felt so strongly the unworthiness of the existence to which she wa_ondemned. That contemptible review, and now her father's ignoble passion—suc_hings were enough to make all literature appear a morbid excrescence upo_uman life.
  • Forgetful of the time, she sat in her bedroom until a knock at the door, an_er mother's voice, admonished her that dinner was waiting. An impulse all bu_aused her to say that she would rather not go down for the meal, that sh_ished to be left alone. But this would be weak peevishness. She just looke_t the glass to see that her face bore no unwonted signs, and descended t_ake her place as usual.
  • Throughout the dinner there passed no word of conversation. Yule was at hi_lackest; he gobbled a few mouthfuls, then occupied himself with the evenin_aper. On rising, he said to Marian:
  • 'Have you copied the whole of that?'
  • The tone would have been uncivil if addressed to an impertinent servant.
  • 'Not much more than half,' was the cold reply.
  • 'Can you finish it to-night?'
  • 'I'm afraid not. I am going out.'
  • 'Then I must do it myself'
  • And he went to the study.
  • Mrs Yule was in an anguish of nervousness.
  • 'What is it, dear?' she asked of Marian, in a pleading whisper. 'Oh, don'_uarrel with your father! Don't!'
  • 'I can't be a slave, mother, and I can't be treated unjustly.'
  • 'What is it? Let me go and speak to him.'
  • 'It's no use. We CAN'T live in terror.'
  • For Mrs Yule this was unimaginable disaster. She had never dreamt that Marian, the still, gentle Marian, could be driven to revolt. And it had come with th_uddenness of a thunderclap. She wished to ask what had taken place betwee_ather and daughter in the brief interview before dinner; but Marian gave he_o chance, quitting the room upon those last trembling words.
  • The girl had resolved to visit her friends, the sisters, and tell them that i_uture they must never come to see her at home. But it was no easy thing fo_er to stifle her conscience, and leave her father to toil over that copyin_hich had need of being finished. Not her will, but her exasperated feeling, had replied to him that she would not do the work; already it astonished he_hat she had really spoken such words. And as the throbbing of her pulse_ubsided, she saw more clearly into the motives of this wretched tumult whic_ossessed her. Her mind was harassed with a fear lest in defending Milvain sh_ad spoken foolishly. Had he not himself said to her that he might be guilt_f base things, just to make his way? Perhaps it was the intolerable pain o_magining that he had already made good his words, which robbed her of self- control and made her meet her father's rudeness with defiance.
  • Impossible to carry out her purpose; she could not deliberately leave th_ouse and spend some hours away with the thought of such wrath and misery lef_ehind her. Gradually she was returning to her natural self; fear an_enitence were chill at her heart.
  • She went down to the study, tapped, and entered.
  • 'Father, I said something that I did not really mean. Of course I shall go o_ith the copying and finish it as soon as possible.'
  • 'You will do nothing of the kind, my girl.' He was in his usual place, alread_orking at Marian's task; he spoke in a low, thick voice. 'Spend your evenin_s you choose, I have no need of you.'
  • 'I behaved very ill-temperedly. Forgive me, father.'
  • 'Have the goodness to go away. You hear me?'
  • His eyes were inflamed, and his discoloured teeth showed themselves savagely.
  • Marian durst not, really durst not approach him. She hesitated, but once mor_ sense of hateful injustice moved within her, and she went away as quietly a_he had entered.
  • She said to herself that now it was her perfect right to go whither she would.
  • But the freedom was only in theory; her submissive and timid nature kept he_t home—and upstairs in her own room; for, if she went to sit with her mother, of necessity she must talk about what had happened, and that she felt unabl_o do. Some friend to whom she could unbosom all her sufferings would now hav_een very precious to her, but Maud and Dora were her only intimates, and t_hem she might not make the full confession which gives solace.
  • Mrs Yule did not venture to intrude upon her daughter's privacy. That Maria_either went out nor showed herself in the house proved her troubled state, but the mother had no confidence in her power to comfort. At the usual tim_he presented herself in the study with her husband's coffee; the face whic_as for an instant turned to her did not invite conversation, but distres_bliged her to speak.
  • 'Why are you cross with Marian, Alfred?'
  • 'You had better ask what she means by her extraordinary behaviour.'
  • A word of harsh rebuff was the most she had expected. Thus encouraged, sh_imidly put another question.
  • 'How has she behaved?'
  • 'I suppose you have ears?'
  • 'But wasn't there something before that? You spoke so angry to her.'
  • 'Spoke so angry, did I? She is out, I suppose?'
  • 'No, she hasn't gone out.'
  • 'That'll do. Don't disturb me any longer.'
  • She did not venture to linger.
  • The breakfast next morning seemed likely to pass without any interchange o_ords. But when Yule was pushing back his chair, Marian—who looked pale an_ll—addressed a question to him about the work she would ordinarily hav_ursued to-day at the Reading-room. He answered in a matter-of-fact tone, an_or a few minutes they talked on the subject much as at any other time. Hal_n hour after, Marian set forth for the Museum in the usual way. Her fathe_tayed at home.
  • It was the end of the episode for the present. Marian felt that the best thin_ould be to ignore what had happened, as her father evidently purposed doing.
  • She had asked his forgiveness, and it was harsh in him to have repelled her; but by now she was able once more to take into consideration all his trial_nd toils, his embittered temper and the new wound he had received. That h_hould resume his wonted manner was sufficient evidence of regret on his part.
  • Gladly she would have unsaid her resentful words; she had been guilty of _hildish outburst of temper, and perhaps had prepared worse sufferings for th_uture.
  • And yet, perhaps it was as well that her father should be warned. She was no_ll submission, he might try her beyond endurance; there might come a day whe_erforce she must stand face to face with him, and make it known she had he_wn claims upon life. It was as well he should hold that possibility in view.
  • This evening no work was expected of her. Not long after dinner she prepare_or going out; to her mother she mentioned she should be back about te_'clock.
  • 'Give my kind regards to them, dear—if you like to,' said Mrs Yule just abov_er breath.
  • 'Certainly I will.'