So deeply did he feel the blow, that people asked how it was that he could be so foolish as to dance about assisting Lady Camper in her efforts to make him ridiculous; he acted the parts of publisher and agent for the fearful caricaturist. In truth, there was a strangely double reason for his conduct; he danced about for sympathy, he had the intensest craving for sympathy, but more than this, or quite as much, he desired to have the powers of his enemy widely appreciated; in the first place, that he might be excused to himself for wincing under them, and secondly, because an awful admiration of her, that should be deepened by a corresponding sentiment around him, helped him to enjoy luxurious recollections of an hour when he was near making her his own—his own, in the holy abstract contemplation of marriage, without realizing their probable relative conditions after the ceremony.
‘I say, that is the very image of her ladyship’s hand,’ he was especially fond of remarking, ‘I say it is a beautiful hand.’
He carried the letter in his pocket-book; and beginning to fancy that she had done her worst, for he could not imagine an inventive malignity capable of pursuing the theme, he spoke of her treatment of him with compassionate regret, not badly assumed from being partly sincere.
Two letters dated in France, the one Dijon, the other Fontainebleau, arrived together; and as the General knew Lady Camper to be returning to England, he expected that she was anxious to excuse herself to him. His fingers were not so confident, for he tore one of the letters to open it.
The City of Wilsonople was recognizable immediately. So likewise was the sole inhabitant.
General Ople’s petty bitter laugh recurred, like a weak-chested patient’s cough in the shifting of our winds eastward.
A faceless woman’s shadow kneels on the ground near the sentry-box, weeping. A faceless shadow of a young man on horseback is beheld galloping toward a gulf. The sole inhabitant contemplates his largely substantial full fleshed face and figure in a glass.
Next, we see the standard of Great Britain furled; next, unfurled and borne by a troop of shadows to the sentrybox. The officer within says, ’I say I should be very happy to carry it, but I cannot quit this gentlemanly residence.’
Next, the standard is shown assailed by popguns. Several of the shadows are prostrate. ’I was saying, I assure you that nothing but this gentlemanly residence prevents me from heading you,’ says the gallant officer.
General Ople trembled with protestant indignation when he saw himself reclining in a magnified sentry-box, while detachments of shadows hurry to him to show him the standard of his country trailing in the dust; and he is maliciously made to say, ’I dislike responsibility. I say I am a fervent patriot, and very fond of my comforts, but I shun responsibility.’
The second letter contained scenes between Wilsonople and the Moon.