Night and Morning, Volume 4
Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 1 out of 2
This eBook was produced by David Widger [firstname.lastname@example.org]
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
NIGHT AND MORNING
"O that sweet gleam of sunshine on the lake!"
WILSON'S _City of the Plague_
If, reader, you have ever looked through a solar microscope at the
monsters in a drop of water, perhaps you have wondered to yourself how
things so terrible have been hitherto unknown to you--you have felt a
loathing at the limpid element you hitherto deemed so pure--you have half
fancied that you would cease to be a water-drinker; yet, the next day you
have forgotten the grim life that started before you, with its countless
shapes, in that teeming globule; and, if so tempted by your thirst, you
have not shrunk from the lying crystal, although myriads of the horrible
Unseen are mangling, devouring, gorging each other in the liquid you so
tranquilly imbibe; so is it with that ancestral and master element called
Life. Lapped in your sleek comforts, and lolling on the sofa of your
patent conscience--when, perhaps for the first time, you look through the
glass of science upon one ghastly globule in the waters that heave
around, that fill up, with their succulence, the pores of earth, that
moisten every atom subject to your eyes or handled by your touch--you are
startled and dismayed; you say, mentally, "Can such things be? I never
dreamed of this before! I thought what was invisible to me was non-
existent in itself--I will remember this dread experiment." The next day
the experiment is forgotten.--The Chemist may purify the Globule--can
Science make pure the World?
Turn we now to the pleasant surface, seen in the whole, broad and fair to
the common eye. Who would judge well of God's great designs, if he could
look on no drop pendent from the rose-tree, or sparkling in the sun,
without the help of his solar microscope?
It is ten years after the night on which William Gawtrey perished:--I
transport you, reader, to the fairest scenes in England,--scenes
consecrated by the only true pastoral poetry we have known to
Contemplation and Repose.
Autumn had begun to tinge the foliage on the banks of Winandermere. It
had been a summer of unusual warmth and beauty; and if that year you had
visited the English lakes, you might, from time to time, amidst the
groups of happy idlers you encountered, have singled out two persons for
interest, or, perhaps, for envy. Two who might have seemed to you in
peculiar harmony with those serene and soft retreats, both young--both
beautiful. Lovers you would have guessed them to be; but such lovers as
Fletcher might have placed under the care of his "Holy Shepherdess"--
forms that might have reclined by
"The virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed fairies dance their rounds
By the pale moonshine."
For in the love of those persons there seemed a purity and innocence that
suited well their youth and the character of their beauty. Perhaps,
indeed, on the girl's side, love sprung rather from those affections
which the spring of life throws upward to the surface, as the spring of
earth does its flowers, than from that concentrated and deep absorption
of self in self, which alone promises endurance and devotion, and of
which first love, or rather the first fancy, is often less susceptible
than that which grows out of the more thoughtful fondness of maturer
years. Yet he, the lover, was of so rare and singular a beauty, that he
might well seem calculated to awake, to the utmost, the love which wins
the heart through the eyes.
But to begin at the beginning. A lady of fashion had, in the autumn
previous to the year in which our narrative re-opens, taken, with her
daughter, a girl then of about eighteen, the tour of the English lakes.
Charmed by the beauty of Winandermere, and finding one of the most
commodious villas on its banks to be let, they had remained there all the
winter. In the early spring a severe illness had seized the elder lady,
and finding herself, as she slowly recovered, unfit for the gaieties of a
London season, nor unwilling, perhaps,--for she had been a beauty in her
day--to postpone for another year the debut of her daughter, she had
continued her sojourn, with short intervals of absence, for a whole year.
Her husband, a busy man of the world, with occupation in London, and fine
estates in the country, joined them only occasionally, glad to escape the
still beauty of landscapes which brought him no rental, and therefore
afforded no charm to his eye.
In the first month of their arrival at Winandermere, the mother and
daughter had made an eventful acquaintance in the following manner.
One evening, as they were walking on their lawn, which sloped to the
lake, they heard the sound of a flute, played with a skill so exquisite
as to draw them, surprised and spellbound, to the banks. The musician
was a young man, in a boat, which he had moored beneath the trees of
their demesne. He was alone, or, rather, he had one companion, in a
large Newfoundland dog, that sat watchful at the helm of the boat, and
appeared to enjoy the music as much as his master. As the ladies
approached the spot, the dog growled, and the young man ceased, though
without seeing the fair causes of his companion's displeasure. The sun,
then setting, shone full on his countenance as he looked round; and that
countenance was one that might have haunted the nymphs of Delos; the face
of Apollo, not as the hero, but the shepherd--not of the bow, but of the
lute--not the Python-slayer, but the young dreamer by shady places--he
whom the sculptor has portrayed leaning idly against the tree--the boy-
god whose home is yet on earth, and to whom the Oracle and the Spheres
are still unknown.
At that moment the dog leaped from the boat, and the elder lady uttered a
faint cry of alarm, which, directing the attention of the musician,
brought him also ashore. He called off his dog, and apologised, with a
not ungraceful mixture of diffidence and ease, for his intrusion. He was
not aware the place was inhabited--it was a favourite haunt of his--he
lived near. The elder lady was pleased with his address, and struck with
his appearance. There was, indeed, in his manner that indefinable charm,
which is more attractive than mere personal appearance, and which can
never be imitated or acquired. They parted, however, without
establishing any formal acquaintance. A few days after, they met at
dinner at a neighbouring house, and were introduced by name. That of the
young man seemed strange to the ladies; not so theirs to him. He turned
pale when he heard it, and remained silent and aloof the rest of the
evening. They met again and often; and for some weeks--nay, even for
months--he appeared to avoid, as much as possible, the acquaintance so
auspiciously begun; but, by little and little, the beauty of the younger
lady seemed to gain ground on his diffidence or repugnance. Excursions
among the neighbouring mountains threw them together, and at last he
fairly surrendered himself to the charm he had at first determined to
This young man lived on the opposite side of the lake, in a quiet
household, of which he was the idol. His life had been one of almost
monastic purity and repose; his tastes were accomplished, his character
seemed soft and gentle; but beneath that calm exterior, flashes of
passion--the nature of the poet, ardent and sensitive--would break forth
at times. He had scarcely ever, since his earliest childhood, quitted
those retreats; he knew nothing of the world, except in books--books of
poetry and romance. Those with whom he lived--his relations, an old
bachelor, and the cold bachelor's sisters, old maids--seemed equally
innocent and inexperienced. It was a family whom the rich respected and
the poor loved--inoffensive, charitable, and well off. To whatever their
easy fortune might be, he appeared the heir. The name of this young man
was Charles Spencer; the ladies were Mrs. Beaufort, and Camilla her
Mrs. Beaufort, though a shrewd woman, did not at first perceive any
danger in the growing intimacy between Camilla and the younger Spencer.
Her daughter was not her favourite--not the object of her one thought or
ambition. Her whole heart and soul were wrapped in her son Arthur, who
lived principally abroad. Clever enough to be considered capable, when
he pleased, of achieving distinction, good-looking enough to be thought
handsome by all who were on the _qui vive_ for an advantageous match,
good-natured enough to be popular with the society in which he lived,
scattering to and fro money without limit,--Arthur Beaufort, at the age
of thirty, had established one of those brilliant and evanescent
reputations, which, for a few years, reward the ambition of the fine
gentleman. It was precisely the reputation that the mother could
appreciate, and which even the more saving father secretly admired,
while, ever respectable in phrase, Mr. Robert Beaufort seemed openly to
regret it. This son was, I say, everything to them; they cared little,
in comparison, for their daughter. How could a daughter keep up the
proud name of Beaufort? However well she might marry, it was another
house, not theirs, which her graces and beauty would adorn. Moreover,
the better she might marry the greater her dowry would naturally be,--the
dowry, to go out of the family! And Arthur, poor fellow! was so
extravagant, that really he would want every sixpence. Such was the
reasoning of the father. The mother reasoned less upon the matter. Mrs.
Beaufort, faded and meagre, in blonde and cashmere, was jealous of the
charms of her daughter; and she herself, growing sentimental and
lachrymose as she advanced in life, as silly women often do, had
convinced herself that Camilla was a girl of no feeling.
Miss Beaufort was, indeed, of a character singularly calm and placid; it
was the character that charms men in proportion, perhaps, to their own
strength and passion. She had been rigidly brought up--her affections
had been very early chilled and subdued; they moved, therefore, now, with
ease, in the serene path of her duties. She held her parents, especially
her father, in reverential fear, and never dreamed of the possibility of
resisting one of their wishes, much less their commands. Pious, kind,
gentle, of a fine and never-ruffled temper, Camilla, an admirable
daughter, was likely to make no less admirable a wife; you might depend
on her principles, if ever you could doubt her affection. Few girls were
more calculated to inspire love. You would scarcely wonder at any folly,
any madness, which even a wise man might commit for her sake. This did
not depend on her beauty alone, though she was extremely lovely rather
than handsome, and of that style of loveliness which is universally
fascinating: the figure, especially as to the arms, throat, and bust, was
exquisite; the mouth dimpled; the teeth dazzling; the eyes of that velvet
softness which to look on is to love. But her charm was in a certain
prettiness of manner, an exceeding innocence, mixed with the most
captivating, because unconscious, coquetry. With all this, there was a
freshness, a joy, a virgin and bewitching candour in her voice, her
laugh--you might almost say in her very movements. Such was Camilla
Beaufort at that age. Such she seemed to others. To her parents she was
only a great girl rather in the way. To Mrs. Beaufort a rival, to Mr.
Beaufort an encumbrance on the property.
* * * "The moon
Saddening the solemn night, yet with that sadness
Mingling the breath of undisturbed Peace."
WILSON: _City of the Plague_
* * * "Tell me his fate.
Say that he lives, or say that he is dead
But tell me--tell me!
* * * * * *
I see him not--some cloud envelopes him."--Ibid.
One day (nearly a year after their first introduction) as with a party of
friends Camilla and Charles Spencer were riding through those wild and
romantic scenes which lie between the sunny Winandermere and the dark and
sullen Wastwater, their conversation fell on topics more personal than it
had hitherto done, for as yet, if they felt love, they had never spoken
The narrowness of the path allowed only two to ride abreast, and the two
to whom I confine my description were the last of the little band.
"How I wish Arthur were here!" said Camilla; "I am sure you would like
"Are you? He lives much in the world--the world of which I know nothing.
Are we then characters to suit each other?"
"He is the kindest--the best of human beings!" said Camilla, rather
evasively, but with more warmth than usually dwelt in her soft and low
"Is he so kind?" returned Spencer, musingly. "Well, it may be so. And
who would not be kind to you? Ah! it is a beautiful connexion that of
brother and sister--I never had a sister!"
"Have you then a brother?" asked Camilla, in some surprise, and turning
her ingenuous eyes full on her companion.
Spencer's colour rose--rose to his temples: his voice trembled as he
answered, "No;--no brother!" then, speaking in a rapid and hurried tone,
he continued, "My life has been a strange and lonely one. I am an
orphan. I have mixed with few of my own age: my boyhood and youth have
been spent in these scenes; my education such as Nature and books could
bestow, with scarcely any guide or tutor save my guardian--the dear old
man! Thus the world, the stir of cities, ambition, enterprise,--all seem
to me as things belonging to a distant land to which I shall never
wander. Yet I have had my dreams, Miss Beaufort; dreams of which these
solitudes still form a part--but solitudes not unshared. And lately I
have thought that those dreams might be prophetic. And you--do you love
"I, like you, have scarcely tried it," said Camilla, with a sweet laugh.
"but I love the country better,--oh! far better than what little I have
seen of towns. But for you," she continued with a charming hesitation,
"a man is so different from us,--for you to shrink from the world--you,
so young and with talents too--nay, it is true!--it seems to me strange."
"It may be so, but I cannot tell you what feelings of dread--what vague
forebodings of terror seize me if I carry my thoughts beyond these
retreats. Perhaps my good guardian--"
"Your uncle?" interrupted Camilla.
"Ay, my uncle--may have contributed to engender feelings, as you say,
strange at my age; but still--"
"My earlier childhood," continued Spencer, breathing hard and turning
pale, "was not spent in the happy home I have now; it was passed in a
premature ordeal of suffering and pain. Its recollections have left a
dark shadow on my mind, and under that shadow lies every thought that
points towards the troublous and labouring career of other men. But," he
resumed after a pause, and in a deep, earnest, almost solemn voice,--"
but after all, is this cowardice or wisdom? I find no monotony--no
tedium in this quiet life. Is there not a certain morality--a certain
religion in the spirit of a secluded and country existence? In it we do
not know the evil passions which ambition and strife are said to arouse.
I never feel jealous or envious of other men; I never know what it is to
hate; my boat, my horse, our garden, music, books, and, if I may dare to
say so, the solemn gladness that comes from the hopes of another life,--
these fill up every hour with thoughts and pursuits, peaceful, happy, and
without a cloud, till of late, when--when--"
"When what?" said Camilla, innocently.
"When I have longed, but did not dare to ask another, if to share such a
lot would content her!"
He bent, as he spoke, his soft blue eyes full upon the blushing face of
her whom he addressed, and Camilla half smiled and half sighed:
"Our companions are far before us," said she, turning away her face, "and
see, the road is now smooth." She quickened her horse's pace as she said
this; and Spencer, too new to women to interpret favourably her evasion
of his words and looks, fell into a profound silence which lasted during
the rest of their excursion.
As towards the decline of day he bent his solitary way home, emotions and
passions to which his life had hitherto been a stranger, and which, alas!
he had vainly imagined a life so tranquil would everlastingly restrain,
swelled his heart.
"She does not love me," he muttered, half aloud; "she will leave me, and
what then will all the beauty of the landscape seem in my eyes? And how
dare I look up to her? Even if her cold, vain mother--her father, the
man, they say, of forms and scruples, were to consent, would they not
question closely of my true birth and origin? And if the one blot were
overlooked, is there no other? His early habits and vices, his?--a
brother's--his unknown career terminating at any day, perhaps, in shame,
in crime, in exposure, in the gibbet,--will they overlook this?" As he
spoke, he groaned aloud, and, as if impatient to escape himself, spurred
on his horse and rested not till he reached the belt of trim and sober
evergreens that surrounded his hitherto happy home.
Leaving his horse to find its way to the stables, the young man passed
through rooms, which he found deserted, to the lawn on the other side,
which sloped to the smooth waters of the lake.
Here, seated under the one large tree that formed the pride of the lawn,
over which it cast its shadow broad and far, he perceived his guardian
poring idly over an oft-read book, one of those books of which literary
dreamers are apt to grow fanatically fond--books by the old English
writers, full of phrases and conceits half quaint and half sublime,
interspersed with praises of the country, imbued with a poetical rather
than orthodox religion, and adorned with a strange mixture of monastic
learning and aphorisms collected from the weary experience of actual
To the left, by a greenhouse, built between the house and the lake, might
be seen the white dress and lean form of the eldest spinster sister, to
whom the care of the flowers--for she had been early crossed in love--was
consigned; at a little distance from her, the other two were seated at
work, and conversing in whispers, not to disturb their studious brother,
no doubt upon the nephew, who was their all in all. It was the calmest
hour of eve, and the quiet of the several forms, their simple and
harmless occupations--if occupations they might be called--the breathless
foliage rich in the depth of summer; behind, the old-fashioned house,
unpretending, not mean, its open doors and windows giving glimpses of the
comfortable repose within; before, the lake, without a ripple and
catching the gleam of the sunset clouds,--all made a picture of that
complete tranquillity and stillness, which sometimes soothes and
sometimes saddens us, according as we are in the temper to woo CONTENT.
The young man glided to his guardian and touched his shoulder,--"Sir, may
I speak to you?--Hush! they need not see us now! it is only you I would
The elder Spencer rose; and, with his book still in his hand, moved side
by side with his nephew under the shadow of the tree and towards a walk
to the right, which led for a short distance along the margin of the
lake, backed by the interlaced boughs of a thick copse.
"Sir!" said the young man, speaking first, and with a visible effort,
"your cautions have been in vain! I love this girl--this daughter of the
haughty Beauforts! I love her--better than life I love her!"
"My poor boy," said the uncle tenderly, and with a simple fondness
passing his arm over the speaker's shoulder, "do not think I can chide
you--I know what it is to love in vain!"
"In vain!--but why in vain?" exclaimed the younger Spencer, with a
vehemence that had in it something of both agony and fierceness. "She
may love me--she shall love me!" and almost for the first time in his
life, the proud consciousness of his rare gifts of person spoke in his
kindled eye and dilated stature. "Do they not say that Nature has been
favourable to me?--What rival have I here?--Is she not young?--And
(sinking his voice till it almost breathed like music) is not love
"I do not doubt that she may love you--who would not?--but--but--the
parents, will they ever consent?" "Nay!" answered the lover, as with
that inconsistency common to passion, he now argued stubbornly against
those fears in another to which he had just before yielded in himself,--
"Nay!--after all, am I not of their own blood?--Do I not come from the
elder branch?--Was I not reared in equal luxury and with higher hopes?--
And my mother--my poor mother--did she not to the last maintain our
birthright--her own honour?--Has not accident or law unjustly stripped us
of our true station?--Is it not for us to forgive spoliation?--Am I not,
in fact, the person who descends, who forgets the wrongs of the dead--the
heritage of the living?"
The young man had never yet assumed this tone--had never yet shown that
he looked back to the history connected with his birth with the feelings
of resentment and the remembrance of wrong. It was a tone contrary to
his habitual calm and contentment--it struck forcibly on his listener--
and the elder Spencer was silent for some moments before he replied, "If
you feel thus (and it is natural), you have yet stronger reason to
struggle against this unhappy affection."
"I have been conscious of that, sir," replied the young man, mournfully.
"I have struggled!--and I say again it is in vain! I turn, then, to face
the obstacles! My birth--let us suppose that the Beauforts overlook it.
Did you not tell me that Mr. Beaufort wrote to inform you of the abrupt
and intemperate visit of my brother--of his determination never to
forgive it? I think I remember something of this years ago."
"It is true!" said the guardian; "and the conduct of that brother is, in
fact, the true cause why you never ought to reassume your proper name!--
never to divulge it, even to the family with whom you connect yourself by
marriage; but, above all, to the Beauforts, who for that cause, if that
cause alone, would reject your suit."
The young man groaned--placed one hand before his eyes, and with the
other grasped his guardian's arm convulsively, as if to check him from
proceeding farther; but the good man, not divining his meaning, and
absorbed in his subject, went on, irritating the wound he had touched.
"Reflect!--your brother in boyhood--in the dying hours of his mother,
scarcely saved from the crime of a thief, flying from a friendly pursuit
with a notorious reprobate; afterwards implicated in some discreditable
transaction about a horse, rejecting all--every hand that could save him,
clinging by choice to the lowest companions and the meanest-habits,
disappearing from the country, and last seen, ten years ago--the beard
not yet on his chin--with that same reprobate of whom I have spoken, in
Paris; a day or so only before his companion, a coiner--a murderer--fell
by the hands of the police! You remember that when, in your seventeenth
year, you evinced some desire to retake your name--nay, even to re-find
that guilty brother--I placed before you, as a, sad, and terrible duty,
the newspaper that contained the particulars of the death and the former
adventures of that wretched accomplice, the notorious Gawtrey. And,--
telling you that Mr. Beaufort had long since written to inform me that
his own son and Lord Lilburne had seen your brother in company with the
miscreant just before his fate--nay, was, in all probability, the very
youth described in the account as found in his chamber and escaping the
pursuit--I asked you if you would now venture to leave that disguise--
that shelter under which you would for ever be safe from the opprobrium
of the world--from the shame that, sooner or later, your brother must
bring upon your name!"
"It is true--it is true!" said the pretended nephew, in a tone of great
anguish, and with trembling lips which the blood had forsaken. "Horrible
to look either to his past or his future! But--but--we have heard of him
no more--no one ever has learned his fate. Perhaps--perhaps" (and he
seemed to breathe more freely)--"my brother is no more!"
And poor Catherine--and poor Philip---had it come to this? Did the one
brother feel a sentiment of release, of joy, in conjecturing the death--
perhaps the death of violence and shame--of his fellow-orphan? Mr.
Spencer shook his head doubtingly, but made no reply. The young man
sighed heavily, and strode on for several paces in advance of his
protector, then, turning back, he laid his hand on his shoulder.
"Sir," he said in a low voice and with downcast eyes, you are right: this
disguise--this false name--must be for ever borne! Why need the
Beauforts, then, ever know who and what I am? Why not as your nephew--
nephew to one so respected and exemplary--proffer my claims and plead my
"They are proud--so it is said--and worldly;--you know my family was in
trade--still--but--" and here Mr. Spencer broke off from a tone of doubt
into that of despondency, "but, recollect, though Mrs. Beaufort may not
remember the circumstance, both her husband and her son have seen me--
have known my name. Will they not suspect, when once introduced to you,
the stratagem that has been adopted?--Nay, has it not been from that very
fear that you have wished me to shun the acquaintance of the family?
Both Mr. Beaufort and Arthur saw you in childhood, and their suspicion
once aroused, they may recognise you at once; your features are
developed, but not altogether changed. Come, come!--my adopted, my dear
son, shake off this fantasy betimes: let us change the scene: I will
travel with you--read with you--go where--"
"Sir--sir!" exclaimed the lover, smiting his breast, "you are ever kind,
compassionate, generous; but do not--do not rob me of hope. I have
never--thanks to you--felt, save in a momentary dejection, the curse of
my birth. Now how heavily it falls! Where shall I look for comfort?"
As he spoke, the sound of a bell broke over the translucent air and the
slumbering lake: it was the bell that every eve and morn summoned that
innocent and pious family to prayer. The old man's face changed as he
heard it--changed from its customary indolent, absent, listless aspect,
into an expression of dignity, even of animation.
"Hark!" he said, pointing upwards; "Hark! it chides you. Who shall say,
'Where shall I look for comfort' while God is in the heavens?"
The young man, habituated to the faith and observance of religion, till
they had pervaded his whole nature, bowed his head in rebuke; a few tears
stole from his eyes.
"You are right, father--," he said tenderly, giving emphasis to the
deserved and endearing name. "I am comforted already!"
So, side by side, silently and noiselessly, the young and the old man
glided back to the house. When they gained the quiet room in which the
family usually assembled, the sisters and servants were already gathered
round the table. They knelt as the loiterers entered. It was the wonted
duty of the younger Spencer to read the prayers; and, as he now did so,
his graceful countenance more hushed, his sweet voice more earnest than
usual, in its accents: who that heard could have deemed the heart within
convulsed by such stormy passions? Or was it not in that hour--that
solemn commune--soothed from its woe? O beneficent Creator! thou who
inspirest all the tribes of earth with the desire to pray, hast Thou not,
in that divinest instinct, bestowed on us the happiest of Thy gifts?
"Bertram. I mean the business is not ended, as fearing to hear of
"1st Soldier. Do you know this Captain Dumain?"
_All's Well that Ends Well_.
One evening, some weeks after the date of the last chapter, Mr. Robert
Beaufort sat alone in his house in Berkeley Square. He had arrived that
morning from Beaufort Court, on his way to Winandermere, to which he was
summoned by a letter from his wife. That year was an agitated and
eventful epoch in England; and Mr. Beaufort had recently gone through the
bustle of an election--not, indeed, contested; for his popularity and his
property defied all rivalry in his own county.
The rich man had just dined, and was seated in lazy enjoyment by the side
of the fire, which he had had lighted, less for the warmth--though it was
then September--than for the companionship;--engaged in finishing his
madeira, and, with half-closed eyes, munching his devilled biscuits.
"I am sure," he soliloquised while thus employed, "I don't know exactly
what to do,--my wife ought to decide matters where the girl is concerned;
a son is another affair--that's the use of a wife. Humph!"
"Sir," said a fat servant, opening the door, "a gentleman wishes to see
you upon very particular business."
"Business at this hour! Tell him to go to Mr. Blackwell."
"Stay! perhaps he is a constituent, Simmons. Ask him if he belongs to
"A great estate is a great plague," muttered Mr. Beaufort; "so is a great
constituency. It is pleasanter, after all, to be in the House of Lords.
I suppose I could if I wished; but then one must rat--that's a bore. I
will consult Lilburne. Humph!"
The servant re-appeared. "Sir, he says he does belong to the county."
"Show him in!--What sort of a person?"
"A sort of gentleman, sir; that is," continued the butler, mindful of
five shillings just slipped within his palm by the stranger, "quite the
"More wine, then-stir up the fire."
In a few moments the visitor was ushered into the apartment. He was a
man between fifty and sixty, but still aiming at the appearance of youth.
His dress evinced military pretensions; consisting of a blue coat,
buttoned up to the chin, a black stock, loose trousers of the fashion
called Cossacks, and brass spurs. He wore a wig, of great luxuriance in
curl and rich auburn in hue; with large whiskers of the same colour
slightly tinged with grey at the roots. By the imperfect light of the
room it was not perceptible that the clothes were somewhat threadbare,
and that the boots, cracked at the side, admitted glimpses of no very
white hosiery within. Mr. Beaufort, reluctantly rising from his repose
and gladly sinking back to it, motioned to a chair, and put on a doleful
and doubtful semi-smile of welcome. The servant placed the wine and
glasses before the stranger;--the host and visitor were alone.
"So, sir," said Mr. Beaufort, languidly, "you are from ------shire; I
suppose about the canal,--may I offer you a glass of wine?"
"Most hauppy, sir--your health!" and the stranger, with evident
satisfaction, tossed off a bumper to so complimentary a toast.
"About the canal?" repeated Mr. Beaufort.
"No, sir, no! You parliament gentlemen must hauve a vaust deal of
trouble on your haunds--very foine property I understaund yours is, sir.
Sir, allow me to drink the health of your good lady!"
"I thank you, Mr.--, Mr.--, what did you say your name was?--I beg you a
"No offaunce in the least, sir; no ceremony with me--this is perticler
"May I ask how I can serve you?" said Mr. Beaufort, struggling between
the sense of annoyance and the fear to be uncivil. "And pray, had I the
honour of your vote in the last election!"
"No, sir, no! It's mauny years since I have been in your part of the
world, though I was born there."
"Then I don't exactly see--" began Mr. Beaufort, and stopped with
"Why I call on you," put in the stranger, tapping his boots with his
cane; and then recognising the rents, he thrust both feet under the
"I don't say that; but at this hour I am seldom at leisure--not but what
I am always at the service of a constituent, that is, a voter! Mr.--, I
beg your pardon, I did not catch your name."
"Sir," said the stranger, helping himself to a third glass of wine;
"here's a health to your young folk! And now to business." Here the
visitor, drawing his chair nearer to his host, assuming a more grave
aspect, and dropping something of his stilted pronunciation, continued,
"You had a brother?"
"Well, sir," said Mr. Beaufort, with a very changed countenance.
"And that brother had a wife!"
Had a cannon gone off in the ear of Mr. Robert Beaufort, it could not
have shocked or stunned him more than that simple word with which his
companion closed his sentence. He fell back in his chair--his lips
apart, his eyes fixed on the stranger. He sought to speak, but his
tongue clove to his mouth.
"That wife had two sons, born in wedlock!"
"It is false!" cried Mr. Beaufort, finding a voice at length, and
springing to his feet. "And who are you, sir? and what do you mean
"Hush!" said the stranger, perfectly unconcerned, and regaining the
dignity of his haw-haw enunciation, "better not let the servants hear
aunything. For my pawt, I think servants hauve the longest pair of ears
of auny persons, not excepting jauckasses; their ears stretch from the
pauntry to the parlour. Hush, sir!--perticler good madeira, this!"
"Sir!" said Mr. Beaufort, struggling to preserve, or rather recover, his
temper, "your conduct is exceedingly strange; but allow me to say that
you are wholly misinformed. My brother never did marry; and if you have
anything to say on behalf of those young men--his natural sons--I refer
you to my solicitor, Mr. Blackwell, of Lincoln's Inn. I wish you a good
"Sir!--the same to you--I won't trouble you auny farther; it was only out
of koindness I called--I am not used to be treated so--sir, I am in his
maujesty's service--sir, you will foind that the witness of the marriage
is forthcoming; you will think of me then, and, perhaps, be sorry. But
I've done, 'Your most obedient humble, sir!'" And the stranger, with a
flourish of his hand, turned to the door. At the sight of this
determination on the part of his strange guest, a cold, uneasy, vague
presentiment seized Mr. Beaufort. There, not flashed, but rather froze,
across him the recollection of his brother's emphatic but disbelieved
assurances--of Catherine's obstinate assertion of her son's alleged
rights--rights which her lawsuit, undertaken on her own behalf, had not
compromised;--a fresh lawsuit might be instituted by the son, and the
evidence which had been wanting in the former suit might be found at
last. With this remembrance and these reflections came a horrible train
of shadowy fears,--witnesses, verdict, surrender, spoliation--arrears--
The man, who had gained the door, turned back and looked at him with a
complacent, half-triumphant leer upon his impudent, reckless face.
"Sir," then said Mr. Beaufort, mildly, "I repeat that you had better see
The tempter saw his triumph. "I have a secret to communicate which it is
best for you to keep snug. How mauny people do you wish me to see about
it? Come, sir, there is no need of a lawyer; or, if you think so, tell
him yourself. Now or never, Mr. Beaufort."
"I can have no objection to hear anything you have to say, sir," said the
rich man, yet more mildly than before; and then added, with a forced
smile, "though my rights are already too confirmed to admit of a doubt."
Without heeding the last assertion, the stranger coolly walked back,
resumed his seat, and, placing both arms on the table and looking Mr.
Beaufort full in the face, thus proceeded,--
"Sir, of the marriage between Philip Beaufort and Catherine Morton there
were two witnesses: the one is dead, the other went abroad--the last is
"If so," said Mr. Beaufort, who, not naturally deficient in cunning and
sense, felt every faculty now prodigiously sharpened, and was resolved to
know the precise grounds for alarm,--"if so, why did not the man--it was
a servant, sir, a man-servant, whom Mrs. Morton pretended to rely on--
appear on the trial?"
"Because, I say, he was abroad and could not be found; or, the search
after him miscaurried, from clumsy management and a lack of the rhino."
"Hum!" said Mr. Beaufort--"one witness--one witness, observe, there _is_
only one!--does not alarm me much. It is not what a man deposes, it is
what a jury believe, sir! Moreover, what has become of the young men?
They have never been heard of for years. They are probably dead; if so,
I am heir-at-law!"
"I know where one of them is to be found at all events."
"The elder?--Philip?" asked Mr. Beaufort anxiously, and with a fearful
remembrance of the energetic and vehement character prematurely exhibited
by his nephew.
"Pawdon me! I need not aunswer that question."
"Sir! a lawsuit of this nature, against one in possession, is very
doubtful, and," added the rich man, drawing himself up--"and, perhaps
"The young man I speak of does not want friends, who will not grudge the
"Sir!" said Mr. Beaufort, rising and placing his back to the fire--"sir!
what is your object in this communication? Do you come, on the part of
the young man, to propose a compromise? If so, be plain!"
"I come on my own pawt. It rests with you to say if the young men shall
never know it!"
"And what do you want?"
"Five hundred a year as long as the secret is kept."
"And how can you prove that there is a secret, after all?"
"By producing the witness if you wish."
"Will he go halves in the L500. a year?" asked Mr. Beaufort artfully.
"That is moy affair, sir," replied the stranger.
"What you say," resumed Mr. Beaufort, "is so extraordinary--so
unexpected, and still, to me, seems so improbable, that I must have time
to consider. If you will call on me in a week, and produce your facts, I
will give you my answer. I am not the man, sir, to wish to keep any one
out of his true rights, but I will not yield, on the other hand, to
"If you don't want to keep them out of their rights, I'd best go and tell
my young gentlemen," said the stranger, with cool impudence.
"I tell you I must have time," repeated Beaufort, disconcerted.
"Besides, I have not myself alone to look to, sir," he added, with
dignified emphasis--"I am a father!"
"This day week I will call on you again. Good evening, Mr. Beaufort!"
And the man stretched out his hand with an air of amicable condescension.
The respectable Mr. Beaufort changed colour, hesitated, and finally
suffered two fingers to be enticed into the grasp of the visitor, whom he
ardently wished at that bourne whence no visitor returns.
The stranger smiled, stalked to the door, laid his finger on his lip,
winked knowingly, and vanished, leaving Mr. Beaufort a prey to such
feelings of uneasiness, dread, and terror, as may be experienced by a man
whom, on some inch or two of slippery rock, the tides have suddenly
He remained perfectly still for some moments, and then glancing round the
dim and spacious room, his eyes took in all the evidences of luxury and
wealth which it betrayed. Above the huge sideboard, that on festive days
groaned beneath the hoarded weight of the silver heirlooms of the
Beauforts, hung, in its gilded frame, a large picture of the family seat,
with the stately porticoes--the noble park--the groups of deer; and
around the wall, interspersed here and there with ancestral portraits of
knight and dame, long since gathered to their rest, were placed
masterpieces of the Italian and Flemish art, which generation after
generation had slowly accumulated, till the Beaufort Collection had
become the theme of connoisseurs and the study of young genius.
The still room, the dumb pictures--even the heavy sideboard seemed to
gain voice, and speak to him audibly. He thrust his hand into the folds
of his waistcoat, and griped his own flesh convulsively; then, striding
to and fro the apartment, he endeavoured to re-collect his thoughts.
"I dare not consult Mrs. Beaufort," he muttered; "no--no,--she is a fool!
Besides, she's not in the way. No time to lose--I will go to Lilburne."
Scarce had that thought crossed him than he hastened to put it into
execution. He rang for his hat and gloves and sallied out on foot to
Lord Lilburne's house in Park Lane,--the distance was short, and
impatience has long strides.
He knew Lord Lilburne was in town, for that personage loved London for
its own sake; and even in September he would have said with the old Duke
of Queensberry, when some one observed that London was very empty--"Yes;
but it is fuller than the country."
Mr. Beaufort found Lord Lilburne reclined on a sofa, by the open window
of his drawing-room, beyond which the early stars shone upon the
glimmering trees and silver turf of the deserted park. Unlike the simple
dessert of his respectable brother-in-law, the costliest fruits, the
richest wines of France, graced the small table placed beside his sofa;
and as the starch man of forms and method entered the room at one door, a
rustling silk, that vanished through the aperture of another, seemed to
betray tokens of a _tete-a-tete_, probably more agreeable to Lilburne
than the one with which only our narrative is concerned.
It would have been a curious study for such men as love to gaze upon the
dark and wily features of human character, to have watched the contrast
between the reciter and the listener, as Beaufort, with much
circumlocution, much affected disdain and real anxiety, narrated the
singular and ominous conversation between himself and his visitor.
The servant, in introducing Mr. Beaufort, had added to the light of the
room; and the candles shone full on the face and form of Mr. Beaufort.
All about that gentleman was so completely in unison with the world's
forms and seemings, that there was something moral in the very sight of
him! Since his accession of fortune he had grown less pale and less
thin; the angles in his figure were filled up. On his brow there was no
trace of younger passion. No able vice had ever sharpened the
expression--no exhausting vice ever deepened the lines. He was the beau-
ideal of a county member,--so sleek, so staid, so business-like; yet so
clean, so neat, so much the gentleman. And now there was a kind of
pathos in his grey hairs, his nervous smile, his agitated hands, his
quick and uneasy transition of posture, the tremble of his voice. He
would have appeared to those who saw, but heard not, The Good Man in
trouble. Cold, motionless, speechless, seemingly apathetic, but in truth
observant, still reclined on the sofa, his head thrown back, but one eye
fixed on his companion, his hands clasped before him, Lord Lilburne
listened; and in that repose, about his face, even about his person,
might be read the history of how different a life and character! What
native acuteness in the stealthy eye! What hardened resolve in the full
nostril and firm lips! What sardonic contempt for all things in the
intricate lines about the mouth. What animal enjoyment of all things so
despised in that delicate nervous system, which, combined with original
vigour of constitution, yet betrayed itself in the veins on the hands and
temples, the occasional quiver of the upper lip! His was the frame above
all others the most alive to pleasure--deep-chested, compact, sinewy, but
thin to leanness--delicate in its texture and extremities, almost to
effeminacy. The indifference of the posture, the very habit of the dress
--not slovenly, indeed, but easy, loose, careless--seemed to speak of the
man's manner of thought and life--his profound disdain of externals.
Not till Beaufort had concluded did Lord Lilburne change his position or
open his lips; and then, turning to his brother-in-law his calm face, he
"I always thought your brother had married that woman; he was the sort of
man to do it. Besides, why should she have gone to law without a vestige
of proof, unless she was convinced of her rights? Imposture never
proceeds without some evidence. Innocence, like a fool as it is, fancies
it has only to speak to be believed. But there is no cause for alarm."
"No cause!--And yet you think there was a marriage."
"It is quite clear," continued Lilburne, without heeding this
interruption; "that the man, whatever his evidence, has not got
sufficient proofs. If he had, he would go to the young men rather than
you: it is evident that they would promise infinitely larger rewards than
he could expect from yourself. Men are always more generous with what
they expect than with what they have. All rogues know this. 'Tis the
way Jews and usurers thrive upon heirs rather than possessors; 'tis the
philosophy of post-obits. I dare say the man has found out the real
witness of the marriage, but ascertained, also, that the testimony of
that witness would not suffice to dispossess you. He might be
discredited--rich men have a way sometimes of discrediting poor
witnesses. Mind, he says nothing of the lost copy of the register--
whatever may be the value of that document, which I am not lawyer enough
to say--of any letters of your brother avowing the marriage. Consider,
the register itself is destroyed--the clergyman dead. Pooh! make
"True," said Mr. Beaufort, much comforted; "what a memory you have!"
"Naturally. Your wife is my sister--I hate poor relations--and I was
therefore much interested in your accession and your lawsuit. No--you
may feel--at rest on this matter, so far as a successful lawsuit is
concerned. The next question is, Will you have a lawsuit at all? and is
it worth while buying this fellow? That I can't say unless I see him
"I wish to Heaven you would!"
"Very willingly: 'tis a sort of thing I like--I'm fond of dealing with
rogues--it amuses me. This day week? I'll be at your house--your proxy;
I shall do better than Black well. And since you say you are wanted at
the Lakes, go down, and leave all to me."
"A thousand thanks. I can't say how grateful I am. You certainly are
the kindest and cleverest person in the world."
"You can't think worse of the world's cleverness and kindness than I do,"
was Lilburne's rather ambiguous answer to the compliment. "But why does
my sister want to see you?"
"Oh, I forgot!--here is her letter. I was going to ask your advice in
Lord Lilburne took the letter, and glanced over it with the rapid eye of
a man accustomed to seize in everything the main gist and pith.
"An offer to my pretty niece--Mr. Spencer--requires no fortune--his uncle
will settle all his own--(poor silly old man!) All! Why that's only
L1000. a year. You don't think much of this, eh? How my sister can even
ask you about it puzzles me."
"Why, you see, Lilburne," said Mr. Beaufort, rather embarrassed, "there
is no question of fortune--nothing to go out of the family; and, really,
Arthur is so expensive, and, if she were to marry well, I could not give
her less than fifteen or twenty thousand pounds."
"Aha!--I see--every man to his taste: here a daughter--there a dowry.
You are devilish fond of money, Beaufort. Any pleasure in avarice,--eh?"
Mr. Beaufort coloured very much at the remark and the question, and,
forcing a smile, said,--
"You are severe. But you don't know what it is to be father to a young
"Then a great many young women have told me sad fibs! But you are right
in your sense of the phrase. No, I never had an heir apparent, thank
Heaven! No children imposed upon me by law--natural enemies, to count
the years between the bells that ring for their majority, and those that
will toll for my decease. It is enough for me that I have a brother and
a sister--that my brother's son will inherit my estates--and that, in the
meantime, he grudges me every tick in that clock. What then? If he had
been my uncle, I had done the same. Meanwhile, I see as little of him as
good breeding will permit. On the face of a rich man's heir is written
the rich man's _memento mori_! But _revenons a nos moutons_. Yes, if
you give your daughter no fortune, your death will be so much the more
profitable to Arthur!"
"Really, you take such a very odd view of the matter," said Mr. Beaufort,
exceedingly shocked. "But I see you don't like the marriage; perhaps you
"Indeed, I have no choice in the matter; I never interfere between father
and children. If I had children myself, I will, however, tell you, for
your comfort, that they might marry exactly as they pleased--I would
never thwart them. I should be too happy to get them out of my way. If
they married well, one would have all the credit; if ill, one would have
an excuse to disown them. As I said before, I dislike poor relations.
Though if Camilla lives at the Lakes when she is married, it is but a
letter now and then; and that's your wife's trouble, not yours. But,
Spencer--what Spencer!--what family? Was there not a Mr. Spencer who
lived at Winandermere--who----"
"Who went with us in search of these boys, to be sure. Very likely the
same--nay, he must be so. I thought so at the first."
"Go down to the Lakes to-morrow. You may hear something about your
nephews;" at that word Mr. Beaufort winced.
"'Tis well to be forearmed."
"Many thanks for all your counsel," said Beaufort, rising, and glad to
escape; for though both he and his wife held the advice of Lord Lilburne
in the highest reverence, they always smarted beneath the quiet and
careless stings which accompanied the honey. Lord Lilburne was singular
in this,--he would give to any one who asked it, but especially a
relation, the best advice in his power; and none gave better, that is,
more worldly advice. Thus, without the least benevolence, he was often
of the greatest service; but he could not help mixing up the draught with
as much aloes and bitter-apple as possible. His intellect delighted in
exhibiting itself even gratuitously. His heart equally delighted in that
only cruelty which polished life leaves to its tyrants towards their
equals,--thrusting pins into the feelings and breaking self-love upon the
wheel. But just as Mr. Beaufort had drawn on his gloves and gained the
doorway, a thought seemed to strike Lord Lilburne:
"By the by," he said, "you understand that when I promised I would try
and settle the matter for you, I only meant that I would learn the exact
causes you have for alarm on the one hand, or for a compromise with this
fellow on the other. If the last be advisable you are aware that I
cannot interfere. I might get into a scrape; and Beaufort Court is not
"I don't quite understand you."
"I am plain enough, too. If there is money to be given it is given in
order to defeat what is called justice--to keep these nephews of yours
out of their inheritance. Now, should this ever come to light, it would
have an ugly appearance. They who risk the blame must be the persons who
possess the estate."
"If you think it dishonourable or dishonest--" said Beaufort,
"I! I never can advise as to the feelings; I can only advise as to the
policy. If you don't think there ever was a marriage, it may, still, be
honest in you to prevent the bore of a lawsuit."
"But if he can prove to me that they were married?"
"Pooh!" said Lilburne, raising his eyebrows with a slight expression of
contemptuous impatience; "it rests on yourself whether or not he prove it
to YOUR satisfaction! For my part, as a third person, I am persuaded the
marriage did take place. But if I had Beaufort Court, my convictions
would be all the other way. You understand. I am too happy to serve
you. But no man can be expected to jeopardise his character, or coquet
with the law, unless it be for his own individual interest. Then, of
course, he must judge for himself. Adieu! I expect some friends
foreigners--Carlists--to whist. You won't join them?"
"I never play, you know. You will write to me at Winandermere: and, at
all events, you will keep off the man till I return?"
Beaufort, whom the latter part of the conversation had comforted far less
than the former, hesitated, and turned the door-handle three or four
times; but, glancing towards his brother-in-law, he saw in that cold face
so little sympathy in the struggle between interest and conscience, that
he judged it best to withdraw at once.
As soon as he was gone, Lilburne summoned his valet, who had lived with
him many years, and who was his confidant in all the adventurous
gallantries with which he still enlivened the autumn of his life.
"Dykeman," said he, "you have let out that lady?"
"Yes, my lord."
"I am not at home if she calls again. She is stupid; she cannot get the
girl to come to her again. I shall trust you with an adventure, Dykeman
--an adventure that will remind you of our young days, man. This
charming creature--I tell you she is irresistible--her very oddities
bewitch me. You must--well, you look uneasy. What would you say?"
"My lord, I have found out more about her--and--and----"
The valet drew near and whispered something in his master's ear.
"They are idiots who say it, then," answered Lilburne. "And," faltered
the man, with the shame of humanity on his face, "she is not worthy your
lordship's notice--a poor--"
"Yes, I know she is poor; and, for that reason, there can be no
difficulty, if the thing is properly managed. You never, perhaps, heard
of a certain Philip, king of Macedon; but I will tell you what he once
said, as well as I can remember it: 'Lead an ass with a pannier of gold;
send the ass through the gates of a city, and all the sentinels will run
away.' Poor!--where there is love, there is charity also, Dykeman.
Here Lilburne's countenance assumed a sudden aspect of dark and angry
passion,--he broke off abruptly, rose, and paced the room, muttering to
himself. Suddenly he stopped, and put his hand to his hip, as an
expression of pain again altered the character of his face.
"The limb pains me still! Dykeman--I was scarce twenty-one--when I became
a cripple for life." He paused, drew a long breath, smiled, rubbed his
hands gently, and added: "Never fear--you shall be the ass; and thus
Philip of Macedon begins to fill the pannier." And he tossed his purse
into the hands of the valet, whose face seemed to lose its anxious
embarrassment at the touch of the gold. Lilburne glanced at him with a
quiet sneer: "Go!--I will give you my orders when I undress."
"Yes!" he repeated to himself, "the limb pains me still. But he died!--
shot as a man would shoot a jay or a polecat!
"I have the newspaper still in that drawer. He died an outcast--a felon--
a murderer! And I blasted his name--and I seduced his mistress--and I--
am John Lord Lilburne!"
About ten o'clock, some half-a-dozen of those gay lovers of London, who,
like Lilburne, remain faithful to its charms when more vulgar worshippers
desert its sunburnt streets--mostly single men--mostly men of middle age
--dropped in. And soon after came three or four high-born foreigners,
who had followed into England the exile of the unfortunate Charles X.
Their looks, at once proud and sad--their moustaches curled downward--
their beards permitted to grow--made at first a strong contrast with the
smooth gay Englishmen. But Lilburne, who was fond of French society, and
who, when he pleased, could be courteous and agreeable, soon placed the
exiles at their ease; and, in the excitement of high play, all
differences of mood and humour speedily vanished. Morning was in the
skies before they sat down to supper.
"You have been very fortunate to-night, milord," said one of the
Frenchmen, with an envious tone of congratulation.
"But, indeed," said another, who, having been several times his host's
partner, had won largely, "you are the finest player, milord, I ever
"Always excepting Monsieur Deschapelles and--," replied Lilburne,
indifferently. And, turning the conversation, he asked one of the guests
why he had not introduced him to a French officer of merit and
distinction; "With whom," said Lord Lilburne, "I understand that you are
intimate, and of whom I hear your countrymen very often speak."
"You mean De Vaudemont. Poor fellow!" said a middle-aged Frenchman, of
a graver appearance than the rest.
"But why 'poor fellow!' Monsieur de Liancourt?"
"He was rising so high before the revolution. There was not a braver
officer in the army. But he is but a soldier of fortune, and his career
"Till the Bourbons return," said another Carlist, playing with his
"You will really honour me much by introducing me to him," said Lord
Lilburne. "De Vaudemont--it is a good name,--perhaps, too, he plays at
"But," observed one of the Frenchmen, "I am by no means sure that he has
the best right in the world to the name. 'Tis a strange story."
"May I hear it?" asked the host.
"Certainly. It is briefly this: There was an old Vicomte de Vaudemont
about Paris; of good birth, but extremely poor--a mauvais sujet. He had
already had two wives, and run through their fortunes. Being old and
ugly, and men who survive two wives having a bad reputation among
marriageable ladies at Paris, he found it difficult to get a third.
Despairing of the noblesse he went among the bourgeoisie with that hope.
His family were kept in perpetual fear of a ridiculous mesalliance.
Among these relations was Madame de Merville, whom you may have heard
"Madame de Merville! Ah, yes! Handsome, was she not?"
"It is true. Madame de Merville, whose failing was pride, was known more
than once to have bought off the matrimonial inclinations of the amorous
vicomte. Suddenly there appeared in her circles a very handsome young
man. He was presented formally to her friends as the son of the Vicomte
de Vaudemont by his second marriage with an English lady, brought up in
England, and now for the first time publicly acknowledged. Some scandal
"Sir," interrupted Monsieur de Liancourt, very gravely, "the scandal was
such as all honourable men must stigmatise and despise--it was only to be
traced to some lying lackey--a scandal that the young man was already the
lover of a woman of stainless reputation the very first day that he
entered Paris! I answer for the falsity of that report. But that report
I own was one that decided not only Madame de Merville, who was a
sensitive--too sensitive a person, but my friend young Vaudemont, to a
marriage, from the pecuniary advantages of which he was too high-spirited
not to shrink."
"Well," said Lord Lilburne, "then this young De Vaudemont married Madame
"No," said Liancourt somewhat sadly, "it was not so decreed; for
Vaudemont, with a feeling which belongs to a gentleman, and which I
honour, while deeply and gratefully attached to Madame de Merville,
desired that he might first win for himself some honourable distinction
before he claimed a hand to which men of fortunes so much higher had
aspired in vain. I am not ashamed," he added, after a slight pause, "to
say that I had been one of the rejected suitors, and that I still revere
the memory of Eugenie de Merville. The young man, therefore, was to have
entered my regiment. Before, however, he had joined it, and while yet in
the full flush of a young man's love for a woman formed to excite the
strongest attachment, she--she---" The Frenchman's voice trembled, and he
resumed with affected composure: "Madame de Merville, who had the best
and kindest heart that ever beat in a human breast, learned one day that
there was a poor widow in the garret of the hotel she inhabited who was
dangerously ill--without medicine and without food--having lost her only
friend and supporter in her husband some time before. In the impulse of
the moment, Madame de Merville herself attended this widow--caught the
fever that preyed upon her--was confined to her bed ten days--and died as
she bad lived, in serving others and forgetting self.--And so much, sir,
for the scandal you spoke of!"
"A warning," observed Lord Lilburne, "against trifling with one's health
by that vanity of parading a kind heart, which is called charity. If
charity, _mon cher_, begins at home, it is in the drawing-room, not the
The Frenchman looked at his host in some disdain, bit his lip, and was
"But still," resumed Lord Lilburne, "still it is so probable that your
old vicomte had a son; and I can so perfectly understand why he did not
wish to be embarrassed with him as long as he could help it, that I do
not understand why there should be any doubt of the younger De
"Because," said the Frenchman who had first commenced the narrative,--
"because the young man refused to take the legal steps to proclaim his
birth and naturalise himself a Frenchman; because, no sooner was Madame
de Merville dead than he forsook the father he had so newly discovered--
forsook France, and entered with some other officers, under the brave,
in the service of one of the native princes of India."
"But perhaps he was poor," observed Lord Lilburne. "A father is a very
good thing, and a country is a very good thing, but still a man must have
money; and if your father does not do much for you, somehow or other,
your country generally follows his example."
"My lord," said Liancourt, "my friend here has forgotten to say that
Madame de Merville had by deed of gift; (though unknown to her lover),
before her death, made over to young Vaudemont the bulk of her fortune;
and that, when he was informed of this donation after her decease, and
sufficiently recovered from the stupor of his grief, he summoned her
relations round him, declared that her memory was too dear to him for
wealth to console him for her loss, and reserving to himself but a,
modest and bare sufficiency for the common necessaries of a gentleman,
he divided the rest amongst them, and repaired to the East; not only to
conquer his sorrow by the novelty and stir of an exciting life, but to
carve out with his own hand the reputation of an honourable and brave
man. My friend remembered the scandal long buried--he forgot the
"Your friend, you see, my dear Monsieur de Liancourt," remarked Lilburne,
"is more a man of the world than you are!"
"And I was just going to observe," said the friend thus referred to,
"that that very action seemed to confirm the rumour that there had been
some little manoeuvring as to this unexpected addition to the name of De
Vaudemont; for, if himself related to Madame de Merville, why have such
scruples to receive her gift?"
"A very shrewd remark," said Lord Lilburne, looking with some respect at
the speaker; "and I own that it is a very unaccountable proceeding, and
one of which I don't think you or I would ever have been guilty. Well,
and the old Vicomte?"
"Did not live long!" said the Frenchman, evidently gratified by his
host's compliment, while Liancourt threw himself back in his chair in
grave displeasure. "The young man remained some years in India, and when
he returned to Paris, our friend here, Monsieur de Liancourt (then in
favour with Charles X.), and Madame de Merville's relations took him up.
He had already acquired a reputation in this foreign service, and he
obtained a place at the court, and a commission in the king's guards. I
allow that he would certainly have made a career, had it not been for the
Three Days. As it is, you see him in London, like the rest of us, an
"And I suppose, without a sous."
"No, I believe that he had still saved, and even augmented, in India, the
portion he allotted to himself from Madame de Merville's bequest."
"And if he don't play whist, he ought to play it," said Lilburne. "You
have roused my curiosity; I hope you will let me make his acquaintance,
Monsieur de Liancourt. I am no politician, but allow me to propose this
toast, 'Success to those who have the wit to plan, and the strength to
execute.' In other words, 'the Right Divine!'"
Soon afterwards the guests retired.
"Ros. Happily, he's the second time come to them."--Hamlet.
It was the evening after that in which the conversations recorded in our
last chapter were held;--evening in the quiet suburb of H------. The
desertion and silence of the metropolis in September had extended to its
neighbouring hamlets;--a village in the heart of the country could
scarcely have seemed more still; the lamps were lighted, many of the
shops already closed, a few of the sober couples and retired spinsters of
the place might, here and there, be seen slowly wandering homeward after
their evening walk: two or three dogs, in spite of the prohibitions of
the magistrates placarded on the walls,--(manifestoes which threatened
with death the dogs, and predicted more than ordinary madness to the
public,)--were playing in the main road, disturbed from time to time as
the slow coach, plying between the city and the suburb, crawled along the
thoroughfare, or as the brisk mails whirled rapidly by, announced by the
cloudy dust and the guard's lively horn. Gradually even these evidences
of life ceased--the saunterers disappeared, the mails had passed, the
dogs gave place to the later and more stealthy perambulations of their
feline successors "who love the moon." At unfrequent intervals, the more
important shops--the linen-drapers', the chemists', and the gin-palace--
still poured out across the shadowy road their streams of light from
windows yet unclosed: but with these exceptions, the business of the
place stood still.
At this time there emerged from a milliner's house (shop, to outward
appearance, it was not, evincing its gentility and its degree above the
Capelocracy, to use a certain classical neologism, by a brass plate on an
oak door, whereon was graven, "Miss Semper, Milliner and Dressmaker,
from Madame Devy,")--at this time, I say, and from this house there
emerged the light and graceful form of a young female. She held in her
left hand a little basket, of the contents of which (for it was empty)
she had apparently just disposed; and, as she stepped across the road,
the lamplight fell on a face in the first bloom of youth, and
characterised by an expression of childlike innocence and candour. It
was a face regularly and exquisitely lovely, yet something there was in
the aspect that saddened you; you knew not why, for it was not sad
itself; on the contrary, the lips smiled and the eyes sparkled. As she
now glided along the shadowy street with a light, quick step, a man, who
had hitherto been concealed by the portico of an attorney's house,
advanced stealthily, and followed her at a little distance. Unconscious
that she was dogged, and seemingly fearless of all danger, the girl went
lightly on, swinging her basket playfully to and fro, and chaunting, in a
low but musical tone, some verses that seemed rather to belong to the
nursery than to that age which the fair singer had attained.
As she came to an angle which the main street formed with a lane, narrow
and partially lighted, a policeman, stationed there, looked hard at her,
and then touched his hat with an air of respect, in which there seemed
also a little of compassion.
"Good night to you," said the girl, passing him, and with a frank, gay
"Shall I attend you home, Miss?" said the man.
"What for? I am very well!" answered the young woman, with an accent
and look of innocent surprise.
Just at this time the man, who had hitherto followed her, gained the
spot, and turned down the lane.
"Yes," replied the policeman; "but it is getting dark, Miss."
"So it is every night when I walk home, unless there's a moon.--Good-
bye.--The moon," she repeated to herself, as she walked on, "I used to be
afraid of the moon when I was a little child;" and then, after a pause,
she murmured, in a low chaunt:
"'The moon she is a wandering ghost,
That walks in penance nightly;
How sad she is, that wandering moon,
For all she shines so brightly!
"'I watched her eyes when I was young,
Until they turned my brain,
And now I often weep to think
'Twill ne'er be right again.'"
As the murmur of these words died at a distance down the lane in which
the girl had disappeared, the policeman, who had paused to listen, shook
his head mournfully, and said, while he moved on,--
"Poor thing! they should not let her always go about by herself; and yet,
who would harm her?"
Meanwhile the girl proceeded along the lane, which was skirted by small,
but not mean houses, till it terminated in a cross-stile that admitted
into a church yard. Here hung the last lamp in the path, and a few dint
stars broke palely over the long grass, and scattered gravestones,
without piercing the deep shadow which the church threw over a large
portion of the sacred ground. Just as she passed the stile, the man,
whom we have before noticed, and who had been leaning, as if waiting for
some one, against the pales, approached, and said gently,--
"Ah, Miss! it is a lone place for one so beautiful as you are to be
alone. You ought never to be on foot."
The girl stopped, and looked full, but without any alarm in her eyes,
into the man's face.
"Go away!" she said, with a half-peevish, half-kindly tone of command.
"I don't know you."
"But I have been sent to speak to you by one who does know you, Miss--one
who loves you to distraction--he has seen you before at Mrs. West's. He
is so grieved to think you should walk--you ought, he says, to have every
luxury--that he has sent his carriage for you. It is on the other side
of the yard. Do come now;" and he laid his hand, though very lightly, on
"At Mrs. West's!" she said; and, for the first time, her voice and look
showed fear. "Go away directly! How dare you touch me!"
"But, my dear Miss, you have no idea how my employer loves you, and how
rich he is. See, he has sent you all this money; it is gold--real gold.
You may have what you like, if you will but come. Now, don't be silly,
Miss." The girl made no answer, but, with a sudden spring, passed the
man, and ran lightly and rapidly along the path, in an opposite direction
from that to which the tempter had pointed, when inviting her to the
carriage. The man, surprised, but not baffled, reached her in an
instant, and caught hold of her dress.
"Stay! you must come--you must!" he said, threateningly; and, loosening
his grasp on her shawl, he threw his arm round her waist.
"Don't!" cried the girl, pleadingly, and apparently subdued, turning her
fair, soft face upon her pursuer, and clasping her hands. "Be quiet!
Fanny is silly! No one is ever rude to poor Fanny!"
"And no one will be rude to you, Miss," said the man, apparently touched;
"but I dare not go without you. You don't know what you refuse. Come;"
and he attempted gently to draw her back.
"No, no!" said the girl, changing from supplication to anger, and
raising her voice into a loud shriek, "No! I will--"
"Nay, then," interrupted the man, looking round anxiously, and, with a
quick and dexterous movement he threw a large handkerchief over her face,
and, as he held it fast to her lips with one hand, he lifted her from the
ground. Still violently struggling, the girl contrived to remove the
handkerchief, and once more her shriek of terror rang through the
At that instant a loud deep voice was heard, "Who calls?" And a tall
figure seemed to rise, as from the grave itself, and emerge from the
shadow of the church. A moment more, and a strong gripe was laid on the
shoulder of the ravisher. "What is this? On God's ground, too! Release
The man, trembling, half with superstitious, half with bodily fear, let
go his captive, who fell at once at the knees of her deliverer. "Don't
you hurt me too," she said, as the tears rolled down her eyes. "I am a
good girl-and my grandfather's blind."
The stranger bent down and raised her; then looking round for the
assailant with an eye whose dark fire shone through the gloom, he
perceived the coward stealing off. He disdained to pursue.
"My poor child," said he, with that voice which the strong assume to the
weak--the man to some wounded infant--the voice of tender superiority and
compassion, "there is no cause for fear now. Be soothed. Do you live
near? Shall I see you home?"
"Thank you! That's kind. Pray do!" And, with an infantine confidence
she took his hand, as a child does that of a grown-up person;--so they
walked on together.
"And," said the stranger, "do you know that man? Has he insulted you
"No--don't talk of him: _ce me fait mal_!" And she put her hand to her
The French was spoken with so French an accent, that, in some curiosity,
the stranger cast his eye over her plain dress.
"You speak French well."
"Do I? I wish I knew more words--I only recollect a few. When I am very
happy or very sad they come into my head. But I am happy now. I like
your voice--I like you--Oh! I have dropped my basket!"
"Shall I go back for it, or shall I buy you another?"
"Another!--Oh, no! come back for it. How kind you are!--Ah! I see it!"
and she broke away and ran forward to pick it up.
When she had recovered it, she laughed-she spoke to it--she kissed it.
Her companion smiled as he said: "Some sweetheart has given you that
basket--it seems but a common basket too."
"I have had it--oh, ever since--since--I don't know how long! It came
with me from France--it was full of little toys. They are gone--I am so
"How old are you?"
"I don't know."
"My pretty one," said the stranger, with deep pity in his rich voice,
"your mother should not let you go out alone at this hour."
"Mother!--mother!" repeated the girl, in a tone of surprise.
"Have you no mother?"
"No! I had a father once. But he died, they say. I did not see him die.
I sometimes cry when I think that I shall never, never see him again!
But," she said, changing her accent from melancholy almost to joy, "he is
to have a grave here like the other girl's fathers--a fine stone upon it
--and all to be done with my money!"
"Your money, my child?"
"Yes; the money I make. I sell my work and take the money to my
grandfather; but I lay by a little every week for a gravestone for my
"Will the gravestone be placed in that churchyard?" They were now in
another lane; and, as he spoke, the stranger checked her, and bending
down to look into her face, he murmured to himself, "Is it possible?--it
must be--it must!"
"Yes! I love that churchyard--my brother told me to put flowers there;
and grandfather and I sit there in the summer, without speaking. But I
don't talk much, I like singing better:--
"'All things that good and harmless are
Are taught, they say, to sing
The maiden resting at her work,
The bird upon the wing;
The little ones at church, in prayer;
The angels in the sky
The angels less when babes are born
Than when the aged die.'"
And unconscious of the latent moral, dark or cheering, according as we
estimate the value of this life, couched in the concluding rhyme, Fanny
turned round to the stranger, and said, "Why should the angels be glad
when the aged die?"
"That they are released from a false, unjust, and miserable world, in
which the first man was a rebel, and the second a murderer!" muttered
the stranger between his teeth, which he gnashed as he spoke.
The girl did not understand him: she shook her head gently, and made no
reply. A few moments, and she paused before a small house.
"This is my home."
"It is so," said her companion, examining the exterior of the house with
an earnest gaze; "and your name is Fanny."
"Yes--every one knows Fanny. Come in;" and the girl opened the door with
The stranger bowed his stately height as he crossed the low threshold and
followed his guide into a little parlour. Before a table on which burned
dimly, and with unheeded wick, a single candle, sat a man of advanced
age; and as he turned his face to the door, the stranger saw that he was
The girl bounded to his chair, passed her arms round the old man's neck,
and kissed his forehead; then nestling herself at his feet, and leaning
her clasped hands caressingly on his knee, she said,--
"Grandpapa, I have brought you somebody you must love. He has been so
kind to Fanny."
"And neither of you can remember me!" said the guest.
The old man, whose dull face seemed to indicate dotage, half raised
himself at the sound of the stranger's voice. "Who is that?" said he,
with a feeble and querulous voice. "Who wants me?"
"I am the friend of your lost son. I am he who, ten years go, brought
Fanny to your roof, and gave her to your care--your son's last charge.
And you blessed your son, and forgave him, and vowed to be a father to
his Fanny." The old man, who had now slowly risen to his feet, trembled
violently, and stretched out his hands.
"Come near--near--let me put my hands on your head. I cannot see you;
but Fanny talks of you, and prays for you; and Fanny--she has been an
angel to me!"
The stranger approached and half knelt as the old man spread his hands
over his head, muttering inaudibly. Meanwhile Fanny, pale as death--her
lips apart--an eager, painful expression on her face--looked inquiringly
on the dark, marked countenance of the visitor, and creeping towards him
inch by inch, fearfully touched his dress--his arms--his countenance.
"Brother," she said at last, doubtingly and timidly, "Brother, I thought
I could never forget you! But you are not like my brother; you are
older;--you are--you are!--no! no! you are not my brother!"
"I am much changed, Fanny; and you too!"
He smiled as he spoke; and the smile-sweet and pitying--thoroughly
changed the character of his face, which was ordinarily stern, grave, and
"I know you now!" exclaimed Fanny, in a tone of wild joy. "And you come
back from that grave! My flowers have brought you back at last! I knew
they would! Brother! Brother!"
And she threw herself on his breast and burst into passionate tears.
Then, suddenly drawing herself back, she laid her finger on his arm, and
looked up at him beseechingly.
"Pray, now, is he really dead? He, my father!--he, too, was lost like
you. Can't he come back again as you have done?"
"Do you grieve for him still, then? Poor girl!" said the stranger,
evasively, and seating himself. Fanny continued to listen for an answer
to her touching question; but finding that none was given, she stole away
to a corner of the room, and leaned her face on her hands, and seemed to
think--till at last, as she so sat, the tears began to flow down her
cheeks, and she wept, but silently and unnoticed.
"But, sir," said the guest, after a short pause, "how is this? Fanny
tells me she supports you by her work. Are you so poor, then? Yet I
left you your son's bequest; and you, too, I understood, though not rich,
were not in want!"
"There was a curse on my gold," said the old man, sternly. "It was
stolen from us."
There was another pause. Simon broke it.
"And you, young man--how has it fared with you? You have prospered,
"I am as I have been for years--alone in the world, without kindred and
without friends. But, thanks to Heaven, I am not a beggar!"
"No kindred and no friends!" repeated the old man. "No father--no
brother--no wife--no sister!"
"None! No one to care whether I live or die," answered the stranger,
with a mixture of pride and sadness in his voice. "But, as the song has
"'I care for nobody--no, not I,
For nobody cares for me!'"
There was a certain pathos in the mockery with which he repeated the
homely lines, although, as he did, he gathered himself up, as if
conscious of a certain consolation and reliance on the resources not
dependent on others which he had found in his own strong limbs and his
own stout heart.
At that moment he felt a soft touch upon his hand, and he saw Fanny
looking at him through the tears that still flowed.
"You have no one to care for you? Don't say so! Come and live with us,
brother; we'll care for you. I have never forgotten the flowers--never!
Do come! Fanny shall love you. Fanny can work for three!"
"And they call her an idiot!" mumbled the old man, with a vacant smile
on his lips.
"My sister! You shall be my sister! Forlorn one--whom even Nature has
fooled and betrayed! Sister!--we, both orphans! Sister!" exclaimed
that dark, stern man, passionately, and with a broken voice; and he
opened his arms, and Fanny, without a blush or a thought of shame, threw
herself on his breast. He kissed her forehead with a kiss that was,
indeed, pure and holy as a brother's: and Fanny felt that he had left
upon her cheek a tear that was not her own.
"Well," he said, with an altered voice, and taking the old man's hand,
"what say you? Shall I take up my lodging with you? I have a little
money; I can protect and aid you both. I shall be often away--in London
or else where--and will not intrude too much on you. But you blind, and
she--(here he broke off the sentence abruptly and went on)--you should
not be left alone. And this neighbourhood, that burial-place, are dear
to me. I, too, Fanny, have lost a parent; and that grave--"
He paused, and then added, in a trembling voice, "And you have placed
flowers over that grave?"
"Stay with us," said the blind man; "not for our sake, but your own. The
world is a bad place. I have been long sick of the world. Yes! come and
live near the burial-ground--the nearer you are to the grave, the safer
you are;--and you have a little money, you say!"
"I will come to-morrow, then. I must return now. Tomorrow, Fanny, we
shall meet again."
"Must you go?" said Fanny, tenderly. "But you will come again; you know
I used to think every one died when he left me. I am wiser now. Yet
still, when you do leave me, it is true that you die for Fanny!"
At this moment, as the three persons were grouped, each had assumed a
posture of form, an expression of face, which a painter of fitting
sentiment and skill would have loved to study. The visitor had gained
the door; and as he stood there, his noble height--the magnificent
strength and health of his manhood in its full prime--contrasted alike
the almost spectral debility of extreme age and the graceful delicacy of
Fanny--half girl, half child. There was something foreign in his air--
and the half military habit, relieved by the red riband of the Bourbon
knighthood. His complexion was dark as that of a Moor, and his raven
hair curled close to the stately head. The soldier-moustache--thick, but
glossy as silk-shaded the firm lip; and the pointed beard, assumed by the
exiled Carlists, heightened the effect of the strong and haughty features
and the expression of the martial countenance.
But as Fanny's voice died on his ear, he half averted that proud face;
and the dark eyes--almost Oriental in their brilliancy and depth of
shade--seemed soft and humid. And there stood Fanny, in a posture of
such unconscious sadness--such childlike innocence; her arms drooping--
her face wistfully turned to his--and a half smile upon the lips, that
made still more touching the tears not yet dried upon her cheeks. While
thin, frail, shadowy, with white hair and furrowed cheeks, the old man
fixed his sightless orbs on space; and his face, usually only animated
from the lethargy of advancing dotage by a certain querulous cynicism,
now grew suddenly earnest, and even thoughtful, as Fanny spoke of Death!
"Ulyss. Time hath a wallet at his back
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion.
* * Perseverance, dear my lord,
Keeps honour bright."--_Troilus and Cressida_.
I have, not sought--as would have been easy, by a little ingenuity in the
earlier portion of this narrative--whatever source of vulgar interest
might be derived from the mystery of names and persons. As in Charles
Spencer the reader is allowed at a glance to detect Sidney Morton, so in
Philip de Vaudemont (the stranger who rescued Fanny) the reader at once
recognises the hero of my tale; but since neither of these young men has
a better right to the name resigned than to the name adopted, it will be
simpler and more convenient to designate them by those appellations by
which they are now known to the world. In truth, Philip de Vaudemont was
scarcely the same being as Philip Morton. In the short visit he had paid
to the elder Gawtrey, when he consigned Fanny to his charge, he had given
no name; and the one he now took (when, towards the evening of the next
day he returned to Simon's house) the old man heard for the first time.
Once more sunk into his usual apathy, Simon did not express any surprise
that a Frenchman should be so well acquainted with English--he scarcely
observed that the name was French. Simon's age seemed daily to bring him
more and more to that state when life is mere mechanism, and the soul,
preparing for its departure, no longer heeds the tenement that crumbles
silently and neglected into its lonely dust. Vaudemont came with but
little luggage (for he had an apartment also in London), and no
attendant,--a single horse was consigned to the stables of an inn at
hand, and he seemed, as soldiers are, more careful for the comforts of
the animal than his own. There was but one woman servant in the humble
household, who did all the ruder work, for Fanny's industry could afford
it. The solitary servant and the homely fare sufficed for the simple and
Fanny, with a countenance radiant with joy, took his hand and led him to
his room. Poor child! with that instinct of woman which never deserted
her, she had busied herself the whole day in striving to deck the chamber
according to her own notions of comfort. She had stolen from her little
hoard wherewithal to make some small purchases, on which the Dowbiggin of
the suburb had been consulted. And what with flowers on the table, and a
fire at the hearth, the room looked cheerful.
She watched him as he glanced around, and felt disappointed that he did
not utter the admiration she expected. Angry at last with the
indifference which, in fact, as to external accommodation, was habitual
to him, she plucked his sleeve, and said,--
"Why don't you speak? Is it not nice?--Fanny did her best."
"And a thousand thanks to Fanny! It is all I could wish."
"There is another room, bigger than this, but the wicked woman who robbed
us slept there; and besides, you said you liked the churchyard. See!"
and she opened the window and pointed to the church-tower rising dark
against the evening sky.
"This is better than all!" said Vaudemont; and he looked out from the
window in a silent reverie, which Fanny did not disturb.
And now he was settled! From a career so wild, agitated, and various,
the adventurer paused in that humble resting-nook. But quiet is not
repose--obscurity is not content. Often as, morn and eve, he looked
forth upon the spot, where his mother's heart, unconscious of love and
woe, mouldered away, the indignant and bitter feelings of the wronged
outcast and the son who could not clear the mother's name swept away the
subdued and gentle melancholy into which time usually softens regret for
the dead, and with which most of us think of the distant past, and the
once joyous childhood!
In this man's breast lay, concealed by his external calm, those memories
and aspirations which are as strong as passions. In his earlier years,
when he had been put to hard shifts for existence, he had found no
leisure for close and brooding reflection upon that spoliation of just
rights--that calumny upon his mother's name, which had first brought the
Night into his Morning. His resentment towards the Beauforts, it is
true, had ever been an intense but a fitful and irregular passion. It
was exactly in proportion as, by those rare and romantic incidents which
Fiction cannot invent, and which Narrative takes with diffidence from the
great Store-house of Real Life, his steps had ascended in the social
ladder--that all which his childhood had lost--all which the robbers of
his heritage had gained, the grandeur and the power of WEALTH--above all,
the hourly and the tranquil happiness of a stainless name, became
palpable and distinct. He had loved Eugenie as a boy loves for the first
time an accomplished woman. He regarded her, so refined--so gentle--so
gifted, with the feelings due to a superior being, with an eternal
recollection of the ministering angel that had shone upon him when he
stood on the dark abyss. She was the first that had redeemed his fate--
the first that had guided aright his path--the first that had tamed the
savage at his breast:--it was the young lion charmed by the eyes of Una.
The outline of his story had been truly given at Lord Lilburne's.
Despite his pride, which revolted from such obligations to another, and a
woman--which disliked and struggled against a disguise which at once and
alone saved him from the detection of the past and the terrors of the
future--he had yielded to her, the wise and the gentle, as one whose
judgment he could not doubt; and, indeed, the slanderous falsehoods
circulated by the lackey, to whose discretion, the night of Gawtrey's
death, Eugenie had preferred to confide her own honour, rather than
another's life, had (as Liancourt rightly stated) left Philip no option
but that which Madame de Merville deemed the best, whether for her
happiness or her good name. Then had followed a brief season--the
holiday of his life--the season of young hope and passion, of brilliancy
and joy, closing by that abrupt death which again left him lonely in the
When, from the grief that succeeded to the death of Eugenie, he woke to
find himself amidst the strange faces and exciting scenes of an Oriental
court, he turned with hard and disgustful contempt from Pleasure, as an
infidelity to the dead. Ambition crept over him--his mind hardened as
his cheek bronzed under those burning suns--his hardy frame, his energies
prematurely awakened, his constitutional disregard to danger,--made him
a brave and skilful soldier. He acquired reputation and rank. But, as
time went on, the ambition took a higher flight--he felt his sphere
circumscribed; the Eastern indolence that filled up the long intervals
between Eastern action chafed a temper never at rest: he returned to
France: his reputation, Liancourt's friendship, and the relations of
Eugenie--grateful, as has before been implied, for the generosity with
which he surrendered the principal part of her donation--opened for him a
new career, but one painful and galling. In the Indian court there was
no question of his birth--one adventurer was equal with the rest. But in
Paris, a man attempting to rise provoked all the sarcasm of wit, all the
cavils of party; and in polished and civil life, what valour has weapons
against a jest? Thus, in civilisation, all the passions that spring from
humiliated self-love and baffled aspiration again preyed upon his breast.
He saw, then, that the more he struggled from obscurity, the more acute
would become research into his true origin; and his writhing pride almost
stung to death his ambition. To succeed in life by regular means was
indeed difficult for this man; always recoiling from the name he bore--
always strong in the hope yet to regain that to which he conceived
himself entitled--cherishing that pride of country which never deserts
the native of a Free State, however harsh a parent she may have proved;
and, above all, whatever his ambition and his passions, taking, from the
very misfortunes he had known, an indomitable belief in the ultimate
justice of Heaven;--he had refused to sever the last ties that connected
him with his lost heritage and his forsaken land--he refused to be
naturalised--to make the name he bore legally undisputed--he was
contented to be an alien. Neither was Vaudemont fitted exactly for that
crisis in the social world when the men of journals and talk bustle aside
the men of action. He had not cultivated literature, he had no book-
knowledge--the world had been his school, and stern life his teacher.
Still, eminently skilled in those physical accomplishments which men
admire and soldiers covet, calm and self-possessed in manner, of great
personal advantages, of much ready talent and of practised observation in
character, he continued to breast the obstacles around him, and to
establish himself in the favour of those in power. It was natural to a
person so reared and circumstanced to have no sympathy with what is
called the popular cause. He was no citizen in the state--he was a
stranger in the land. He had suffered and still suffered too much from
mankind to have that philanthropy, sometimes visionary but always noble,
which, in fact, generally springs from the studies we cultivate, not in
the forum, but the closet. Men, alas! too often lose the Democratic
Enthusiasm in proportion as they find reason to suspect or despise their
kind. And if there were not hopes for the Future, which this hard,
practical daily life does not suffice to teach us, the vision and the
glory that belong to the Great Popular Creed, dimmed beneath the
injustice, the follies, and the vices of the world as it is, would fade
into the lukewarm sectarianism of temporary Party. Moreover, Vaudemont's
habits of thought and reasoning were those of the camp, confirmed by the
systems familiar to him in the East: he regarded the populace as a
soldier enamoured of discipline and order usually does. His theories,
therefore, or rather his ignorance of what is sound in theory, went with
Charles the Tenth in his excesses, but not with the timidity which
terminated those excesses by dethronement and disgrace. Chafed to the
heart, gnawed with proud grief, he obeyed the royal mandates, and
followed the exiled monarch: his hopes overthrown, his career in France
annihilated forever. But on entering England, his temper, confident and
ready of resource, fastened itself on new food. In the land where he had
no name he might yet rebuild his fortunes. It was an arduous effort--an
improbable hope; but the words heard by the bridge of Paris--words that
had often cheered him in his exile through hardships and through dangers
which it is unnecessary to our narrative to detail--yet rung again in his
ear, as he leaped on his native land,--"Time, Faith, Energy."
While such his character in the larger and more distant relations of
life, in the closer circles of companionship many rare and noble
qualities were visible. It is true that he was stern, perhaps imperious
--of a temper that always struggled for command; but he was deeply
susceptible of kindness, and, if feared by those who opposed, loved by
those who served him. About his character was that mixture of tenderness
and fierceness which belonged, of old, to the descriptions of the
warrior. Though so little unlettered, Life had taught him a certain
poetry of sentiment and idea--More poetry, perhaps, in the silent
thoughts that, in his happier moments, filled his solitude, than in half
the pages that his brother had read and written by the dreaming lake. A
certain largeness of idea and nobility of impulse often made him act the
sentiments of which bookmen write. With all his passions, he held
licentiousness in disdain; with all his ambition for the power of wealth,
he despised its luxury. Simple, masculine, severe, abstemious, he was of
that mould in which, in earlier times, the successful men of action have
been cast. But to successful action, circumstance is more necessary than
to triumphant study.
It was to be expected that, in proportion as he had been familiar with
a purer and nobler life, he should look with great and deep self-
humiliation at his early association with Gawtrey. He was in this
respect more severe on himself than any other mind ordinarily just and
candid would have been,--when fairly surveying the circumstances of
penury, hunger, and despair, which had driven him to Gawtrey's roof, the
imperfect nature of his early education, the boyish trust and affection
he had felt for his protector, and his own ignorance of, and exemption
from, all the worst practices of that unhappy criminal. But still, when,
with the knowledge he had now acquired, the man looked calmly back, his
cheek burned with remorseful shame at his unreflecting companionship in a
life of subterfuge and equivocation, the true nature of which, the boy
(so circumstanced as we have shown him) might be forgiven for not at that
time comprehending. Two advantages resulted, however, from the error and
the remorse: first, the humiliation it brought curbed, in some measure,
a pride that might otherwise have been arrogant and unamiable, and,
secondly, as I have before intimated, his profound gratitude to Heaven
for his deliverance from the snares that had beset his youth gave his
future the guide of an earnest and heartfelt faith. He acknowledged in
life no such thing as accident. Whatever his struggles, whatever his
melancholy, whatever his sense of worldly wrong, he never despaired; for
nothing now could shake his belief in one directing Providence.
The ways and habits of Vaudemont were not at discord with those of the
quiet household in which he was now a guest. Like most men of strong
frames, and accustomed to active, not studious pursuits, he rose early;
--and usually rode to London, to come back late at noon to their frugal
meal. And if again, perhaps after the hour when Fanny and Simon retired,
he would often return to London, his own pass-key re-admitted him, at
whatever time he came back, without disturbing the sleep of the
household. Sometimes, when the sun began to decline, if the air was
warm, the old man would crawl out, leaning on that strong arm, through
the neighbouring lanes, ever returning through the lonely burial-ground;
or when the blind host clung to his fireside, and composed himself to
sleep, Philip would saunter forth along with Fanny; and on the days when
she went to sell her work, or select her purchases, he always made a
point of attending her. And her cheek wore a flush of pride when she saw
him carrying her little basket, or waiting without, in musing patience,
while she performed her commissions in the shops. Though in reality
Fanny's intellect was ripening within, yet still the surface often misled
the eye as to the depths. It was rather that something yet held back the
faculties from their growth than that the faculties themselves were
wanting. Her weakness was more of the nature of the infant's than of one
afflicted with incurable imbecility. For instance, she managed the
little household with skill and prudence; she could calculate in her
head, as rapidly as Vaudemont himself, the arithmetic necessary to her
simple duties; she knew the value of money, which is more than some of us
wise folk do. Her skill, even in her infancy so remarkable, in various
branches of female handiwork, was carried, not only by perseverance, but
by invention and peculiar talent, to a marvellous and exquisite
perfection. Her embroidery, especially in what was then more rare than
at present, viz., flowers on silk, was much in request among the great
modistes of London, to whom it found its way through the agency of Miss
Semper. So that all this had enabled her, for years, to provide every
necessary comfort of life for herself and her blind protector. And her
care for the old man was beautiful in its minuteness, its vigilance.
Wherever her heart was interested, there never seemed a deficiency of
mind. Vaudemont was touched to see how much of affectionate and pitying
respect she appeared to enjoy in the neighbourhood, especially among the
humbler classes--even the beggar who swept the crossings did not beg of
her, but bade God bless her as she passed; and the rude, discontented
artisan would draw himself from the wall and answer, with a softened
brow, the smile with which the harmless one charmed his courtesy. In
fact, whatever attraction she took from her youth, her beauty, her
misfortune, and her affecting industry, was heightened, in the eyes of
the poorer neighbours, by many little traits of charity and kindness;
many a sick child had she tended, and many a breadless board had stolen
something from the stock set aside for her father's grave.
"Don't you think," she once whispered to Vaudemont, "that God attends to
us more if we are good to those who are sick and hungry?"
"Certainly we are taught to think so."
"Well, I'll tell you a secret--don't tell again. Grandpapa once said
that my father had done bad things; now, if Fanny is good to those she
can help, I think that God will hear her more kindly when she prays him
to forgive what her father did. Do you think so too? Do say--you are
"Fanny, you are wiser than all of us; and I feel myself better and
happier when I hear you speak."
There were, indeed, many moments when Vaudemont thought that her
deficiencies of intellect might have been repaired, long since, by
skilful culture and habitual companionship with those of her own age;
from which companionship, however, Fanny, even when at school, had shrunk
aloof. At other moments there was something so absent and distracted
about her, or so fantastic and incoherent, that Vaudemont, with the man's
hard, worldly eye, read in it nothing but melancholy confusion.
Nevertheless, if the skein of ideas was entangled, each thread in itself
was a thread of gold.
Fanny's great object--her great ambition--her one hope--was a tomb for
her supposed father. Whether from some of that early religion attached
to the grave, which is most felt in Catholic countries, and which she had
imbibed at the convent; or from her residence so near the burial ground,
and the affection with which she regarded the spot;--whatever the cause,
she had cherished for some years, as young maidens usually cherish the
desire of the Altar--the dream of the Gravestone. But the hoard was
amassed so slowly;--now old Gawtrey was attacked by illness;--now there
was some little difficulty in the rent; now some fluctuation in the price
of work; and now, and more often than all, some demand on her charity,
which interfered with, and drew from, the pious savings. This was a
sentiment in which her new friend sympathised deeply; for he, too,
remembered that his first gold had bought that humble stone which still
preserved upon the earth the memory of his mother.
Meanwhile, days crept on, and no new violence was offered to Fanny.
Vaudemont learned, then, by little and little--and Fanny's account was
very confused--the nature of the danger she had run.
It seemed that one day, tempted by the fineness of the weather up the
road that led from the suburb farther into the country, Fanny was stopped
by a gentleman in a carriage, who accosted her, as she said, very kindly:
and after several questions, which she answered with her usual
unsuspecting innocence, learned her trade, insisted on purchasing some
articles of work which she had at the moment in her basket, and promised
to procure her a constant purchaser, upon much better terms than she had
hitherto obtained, if she would call at the house of a Mrs. West, about a
mile from the suburb towards London. This she promised to do, and this
she did, according to the address he gave her. She was admitted to a
lady more gaily dressed than Fanny had ever seen a lady before,--the
gentleman was also present,--they both loaded her with compliments, and
bought her work at a price which seemed about to realise all the hopes of
the poor girl as to the gravestone for William Gawtrey,--as if his evil
fate pursued that wild man beyond the grave, and his very tomb was to be
purchased by the gold of the polluter! The lady then appointed her to
call again; but, meanwhile, she met Fanny in the streets, and while she
was accosting her, it fortunately chanced that Miss Semper the milliner
passed that way--turned round, looked hard at the lady, used very angry
language to her, seized Fanny's hand, led her away while the lady slunk
off; and told her that the said lady was a very bad woman, and that Fanny
must never speak to her again. Fanny most cheerfully promised this.
And, in fact, the lady, probably afraid, whether of the mob or the
magistrates, never again came near her.
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