Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Ernest Maltravers — Complete
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron, 1803-1873
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ernest Maltravers — Complete" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



ERNEST MALTRAVERS

BY EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
(Lord Lytton)



DEDICATION:

   TO
   THE GREAT GERMAN PEOPLE,
   A race of thinkers and of critics;
   A foreign but familiar audience,
   Profound in judgment, candid in reproof, generous in appreciation,
   This work is dedicated
   By an English Author.



PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1840.

HOWEVER numerous the works of fiction with which, my dear Reader, I have
trespassed on your attention, I leave published but three, of any
account, in which the plot has been cast amidst the events, and coloured
by the manner, of our own times. The first of these, _Pelham_, composed
when I was little more than a boy, has the faults, and perhaps the
merits, natural to a very early age,--when the novelty itself of life
quickens the observation,--when we see distinctly, and represent
vividly, what lies upon the surface of the world,--and when, half
sympathising with the follies we satirise, there is a gusto in our
paintings which atones for their exaggeration. As we grow older we
observe less, we reflect more; and, like Frankenstein, we dissect in
order to create.

The second novel of the present day,* which, after an interval of some
years, I submitted to the world, was one I now, for the first time,
acknowledge, and which (revised and corrected) will be included in this
series, viz., _Godolphin_;--a work devoted to a particular portion of
society, and the development of a peculiar class of character. The
third, which I now reprint, is _Ernest Maltravers_,** the most mature,
and, on the whole, the most comprehensive of all that I have hitherto
written.

* For _The Disowned_ is cast in the time of our grandfathers, and _The
Pilgrims of the Rhine_ had nothing to do with actual life, and is not,
therefore, to be called a novel.

** At the date of this preface _Night and Morning_ had not appeared.

For the original idea, which, with humility, I will venture to call the
philosophical design of a moral education or apprenticeship, I have left
it easy to be seen that I am indebted to Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister_.
But, in _Wilhelm Meister_, the apprenticeship is rather that of
theoretical art. In the more homely plan that I set before myself, the
apprenticeship is rather that of practical life. And, with this view,
it has been especially my study to avoid all those attractions lawful in
romance, or tales of pure humour or unbridled fancy, attractions that,
in the language of reviewers, are styled under the head of "most
striking descriptions," "scenes of extraordinary power," etc.; and are
derived from violent contrasts and exaggerations pushed into caricature.
It has been my aim to subdue and tone down the persons introduced, and
the general agencies of the narrative, into the lights and shadows of
life as it is. I do not mean by "life as it is," the vulgar and the
outward life alone, but life in its spiritual and mystic as well as its
more visible and fleshly characteristics. The idea of not only
describing, but developing character under the ripening influences of
time and circumstance, is not confined to the apprenticeship of
Maltravers alone, but pervades the progress of Cesarini, Ferrers, and
Alice Darvil.

The original conception of Alice is taken from real life--from a person
I never saw but twice, and then she was no longer young--but whose
history made on me a deep impression. Her early ignorance and home--her
first love--the strange and affecting fidelity that she maintained, in
spite of new ties--her final re-meeting, almost in middle-age, with one
lost and adored almost in childhood--all this, as shown in the novel, is
but the imperfect transcript of the true adventures of a living woman.

In regard to Maltravers himself, I must own that I have but inadequately
struggled against the great and obvious difficulty of representing an
author living in our own times, with whose supposed works or alleged
genius and those of any one actually existing, the reader can establish
no identification, and he is therefore either compelled constantly to
humour the delusion by keeping his imagination on the stretch, or lazily
driven to confound the Author _in_ the Book with the Author _of_ the
Book.* But I own, also, I fancied, while aware of this objection, and in
spite of it, that so much not hitherto said might be conveyed with
advantage through the lips or in the life of an imaginary writer of our
own time, that I was contented, on the whole, either to task the
imagination, or submit to the suspicions of the reader. All that my own
egotism appropriates in the book are some occasional remarks, the
natural result of practical experience. With the life or the character,
the adventures or the humours, the errors or the good qualities, of
Maltravers himself, I have nothing to do, except as the narrator and
inventor.

* In some foreign journal I have been much amused by a credulity of this
latter description, and seen the various adventures of Mr. Maltravers
gravely appropriated to the embellishment of my own life, including the
attachment to the original of poor Alice Darvil; who now, by the way,
must be at least seventy years of age, with a grandchild nearly as old
as myself.

E. B. L.



A WORD TO THE READER
PREFIXED TO THE FIRST EDITION OF 1837.

THOU must not, my old and partial friend, look into this work for that
species of interest which is drawn from stirring adventures and a
perpetual variety of incident. To a Novel of the present day are
necessarily forbidden the animation, the excitement, the bustle, the
pomp, and the stage effect which History affords to Romance. Whatever
merits, in thy gentle eyes, _Rienzi_, or _The Last Days of Pompeii_, may
have possessed, this Tale, if it please thee at all, must owe that happy
fortune to qualities widely different from those which won thy favour to
pictures of the Past. Thou must sober down thine imagination, and
prepare thyself for a story not dedicated to the narrative of
extraordinary events--nor the elucidation of the characters of great
men. Though there is scarcely a page in this work episodical to the
main design, there may be much that may seem to thee wearisome and
prolix, if thou wilt not lend thyself, in a kindly spirit, and with a
generous trust, to the guidance of the Author. In the hero of this tale
thou wilt find neither a majestic demigod, nor a fascinating demon. He
is a man with the weaknesses derived from humanity, with the strength
that we inherit from the soul; not often obstinate in error, more often
irresolute in virtue; sometimes too aspiring, sometimes too despondent;
influenced by the circumstances to which he yet struggles to be
superior, and changing in character with the changes of time and fate;
but never wantonly rejecting those great principles by which alone we
can work the Science of Life--a desire for the Good, a passion for the
Honest, a yearning after the True. From such principles, Experience,
that severe Mentor, teaches us at length the safe and practical
philosophy which consists of Fortitude to bear, Serenity to enjoy, and
Faith to look beyond!

It would have led, perhaps, to more striking incidents, and have
furnished an interest more intense, if I had cast Maltravers, the Man of
Genius, amidst those fierce but ennobling struggles with poverty and
want to which genius is so often condemned. But wealth and lassitude
have their temptations as well as penury and toil. And for the rest--I
have taken much of my tale and many of my characters from real life, and
would not unnecessarily seek other fountains when the Well of Truth was
in my reach.

The Author has said his say, he retreats once more into silence and into
shade; he leaves you alone with the creations he has called to life--the
representatives of his emotions and his thoughts--the intermediators
between the individual and the crowd. Children not of the clay, but of
the spirit, may they be faithful to their origin!--so should they be
monitors, not loud but deep, of the world into which they are cast,
struggling against the obstacles that will beset them, for the heritage
of their parent--the right to survive the grave!

LONDON, August 12th, 1837.



ERNEST MALTRAVERS.



BOOK I.

 "Youth pastures in a valley of its own:
  The glare of noon--the rains and winds of heaven
  Mar not the calm yet virgin of all care.
  But ever with sweet joys it buildeth up
  The airy halls of life."
   SOPH. _Trachim_. 144-147.



CHAPTER I.

 "My meaning in't, I protest, was very honest in the behalf of the
  maid * * * * yet, who would have suspected an ambush where I was
  taken?"
   _All's Well that Ends Well_, Act iv. Sc. 3.

SOME four miles distant from one of our northern manufacturing towns, in
the year 18--, was a wide and desolate common; a more dreary spot it is
impossible to conceive--the herbage grew up in sickly patches from the
midst of a black and stony soil. Not a tree was to be seen in the whole
of the comfortless expanse. Nature herself had seemed to desert the
solitude, as if scared by the ceaseless din of the neighbouring forges;
and even Art, which presses all things into service, had disdained to
cull use or beauty from these unpromising demesnes. There was something
weird and primeval in the aspect of the place; especially when in the
long nights of winter you beheld the distant fires and lights which give
to the vicinity of certain manufactories so preternatural an appearance,
streaming red and wild over the waste. So abandoned by man appeared the
spot, that you found it difficult to imagine that it was only from human
fires that its bleak and barren desolation was illumined. For miles
along the moor you detected no vestige of any habitation; but as you
approached the verge nearest to the town, you could just perceive at a
little distance from the main road, by which the common was intersected,
a small, solitary, and miserable hovel.

Within this lonely abode, at the time in which my story opens, were
seated two persons. The one was a man of about fifty years of age, and
in a squalid and wretched garb, which was yet relieved by an affectation
of ill-assorted finery. A silk handkerchief, which boasted the ornament
of a large brooch of false stones, was twisted jauntily round a muscular
but meagre throat; his tattered breeches were also decorated by buckles,
one of pinchbeck, and one of steel. His frame was lean, but broad and
sinewy, indicative of considerable strength. His countenance was
prematurely marked by deep furrows, and his grizzled hair waved over a
low, rugged, and forbidding brow, on which there hung an everlasting
frown that no smile from the lips (and the man smiled often) could chase
away. It was a face that spoke of long-continued and hardened vice--it
was one in which the Past had written indelible characters. The brand
of the hangman could not have stamped it more plainly, nor have more
unequivocally warned the suspicion of honest or timid men.

He was employed in counting some few and paltry coins, which, though an
easy matter to ascertain their value, he told and retold, as if the act
could increase the amount. "There must be some mistake here, Alice," he
said in a low and muttered tone: "we can't be so low--you know I had two
pounds in the drawer but Monday, and now--Alice, you must have stolen
some of the money--curse you."

The person thus addressed sat at the opposite side of the smouldering
and sullen fire; she now looked quietly up, and her face singularly
contrasted that of the man.

She seemed about fifteen years of age, and her complexion was remarkably
pure and delicate, even despite the sunburnt tinge which her habits of
toil had brought it. Her auburn hair hung in loose and natural curls
over her forehead, and its luxuriance was remarkable even in one so
young. Her countenance was beautiful, nay, even faultless, in its small
and child-like features, but the expression pained you--it was so
vacant. In repose it was almost the expression of an idiot--but when
she spoke or smiled, or even moved a muscle, the eyes, colour, lips,
kindled into a life, which proved that the intellect was still there,
though but imperfectly awakened.

"I did not steal any, father," she said in a quiet voice; "but I should
like to have taken some, only I knew you would beat me if I did."

"And what do you want money for?"

"To get food when I'm hungered."

"Nothing else?"

"I don't know."

The girl paused.--"Why don't you let me," she said, after a while, "why
don't you let me go and work with the other girls at the factory? I
should make money there for you and me both."

The man smiled--such a smile--it seemed to bring into sudden play all
the revolting characteristics of his countenance. "Child," he said,
"you are just fifteen, and a sad fool you are: perhaps if you went to
the factory, you would get away from me; and what should I do without
you? No, I think, as you are so pretty, you might get more money
another way."

The girl did not seem to understand this allusion: but repeated,
vacantly, "I should like to go to the factory."

"Stuff!" said the man, angrily; "I have three minds to--"

Here he was interrupted by a loud knock at the door of the hovel.

The man grew pale. "What can that be?" he muttered. "The hour is
late--near eleven. Again--again! Ask who knocks, Alice."

The girl stood for a moment or so at the door; and as she stood, her
form, rounded yet slight, her earnest look, her varying colour, her
tender youth, and a singular grace of attitude and gesture, would have
inspired an artist with the very ideal of rustic beauty.

After a pause, she placed her lips to a chink in the door, and repeated
her father's question.

"Pray pardon me," said a clear, loud, yet courteous voice, "but seeing a
light at your window, I have ventured to ask if any one within will
conduct me to ------; I will pay the service handsomely."

"Open the door, Alley," said the owner of the hut.

The girl drew a large wooden bolt from the door; and a tall figure
crossed the threshold.

The new-comer was in the first bloom of youth, perhaps about eighteen
years of age, and his air and appearance surprised both sire and
daughter. Alone, on foot, at such an hour, it was impossible for any
one to mistake him for other than a gentleman; yet his dress was plain
and somewhat soiled by dust, and he carried a small knapsack on his
shoulder. As he entered, he lifted his hat with somewhat of foreign
urbanity, and a profusion of fair brown hair fell partially over a high
and commanding forehead. His features were handsome, without being
eminently so, and his aspect was at once bold and prepossessing.

"I am much obliged by your civility," he said, advancing carelessly and
addressing the man, who surveyed him with a scrutinising eye; "and
trust, my good fellow, that you will increase the obligation by
accompanying me to ------."

"You can't miss well your way," said the man surlily: "the lights will
direct you."

"They have rather misled me, for they seem to surround the whole common,
and there is no path across it that I can see; however, if you will put
me in the right road, I will not trouble you further."

"It is very late," replied the churlish landlord, equivocally.

"The better reason why I should be at ------. Come, my good friend, put
on your hat, and I will give you half a guinea for your trouble."

The man advanced, then halted; again surveyed his guest, and said, "Are
you quite alone, sir?"

"Quite."

"Probably you are known at ------?"

"Not I. But what matters that to you? I am a stranger in these parts."

"It is full four miles."

"So far, and I am fearfully tired already!" exclaimed the young man with
impatience. As he spoke he drew out his watch. "Past eleven too!"

The watch caught the eye of the cottager; that evil eye sparkled. He
passed his hand over his brow. "I am thinking, sir," he said in a more
civil tone than he had yet assumed, "that as you are so tired and the
hour is so late, you might almost as well--"

"What?" exclaimed the stranger, stamping somewhat petulantly.

"I don't like to mention it; but my poor roof is at your service, and I
would go with you to ------ at daybreak to-morrow."

The stranger stared at the cottager, and then at the dingy walls of the
hut. He was about, very abruptly, to reject the hospitable proposal,
when his eye rested suddenly on the form of Alice, who stood eager-eyed
and open-mouthed, gazing on the handsome intruder. As she caught his
eye, she blushed deeply and turned aside. The view seemed to change the
intentions of the stranger. He hesitated a moment, then muttered
between his teeth: and sinking his knapsack on the ground, he cast
himself into a chair beside the fire, stretched his limbs, and cried
gaily, "So be it, my host: shut up your house again. Bring me a cup of
beer, and a crust of bread, and so much for supper! As for bed, this
chair will do vastly well."

"Perhaps we can manage better for you than that chair," answered the
host. "But our best accommodation must seem bad enough to a gentleman:
we are very poor people--hard-working, but very poor."

"Never mind me," answered the stranger, busying himself in stirring the
fire; "I am tolerably well accustomed to greater hardships than sleeping
on a chair in an honest man's house; and though you are poor, I will
take it for granted you are honest."

The man grinned: and turning to Alice, bade her spread what their larder
would afford. Some crusts of bread, some cold potatoes, and some
tolerably strong beer, composed all the fare set before the traveller.

Despite his previous boasts, the young man made a wry face at these
Socratic preparations, while he drew his chair to the board. But his
look grew more gay as he caught Alice's eye; and as she lingered by the
table, and faltered out some hesitating words of apology, he seized her
hand, and pressing it tenderly--"Prettiest of lasses," said he--and
while he spoke he gazed on her with undisguised admiration--"a man who
has travelled on foot all day, through the ugliest country within the
three seas, is sufficiently refreshed at night by the sight of so fair a
face."

Alice hastily withdrew her hand, and went and seated herself in a corner
of the room, when she continued to look at the stranger with her usual
vacant gaze, but with a half-smile upon her rosy lips.

Alice's father looked hard first at one, then at the other.

"Eat, sir," said he, with a sort of chuckle, "and no fine words; poor
Alice is honest, as you said just now."

"To be sure," answered the traveller, employing with great zeal a set of
strong, even, and dazzling teeth at the tough crusts; "to be sure she
is. I did not mean to offend you; but the fact is, that I am half a
foreigner; and abroad, you know, one may say a civil thing to a pretty
girl without hurting her feelings, or her father's either."

"Half a foreigner! why, you talk English as well as I do," said the
host, whose intonation and words were, on the whole, a little above his
station.

The stranger smiled. "Thank you for the compliment," said he. "What I
meant was, that I have been a great deal abroad; in fact, I have just
returned from Germany. But I am English born."

"And going home?"

"Yes."

"Far from hence?"

"About thirty miles, I believe."

"You are young, sir, to be alone."

The traveller made no answer, but finished his uninviting repast and
drew his chair again to the fire. He then thought he had sufficiently
ministered to his host's curiosity to be entitled to the gratification
of his own.

"You work at the factories, I suppose?" said he.

"I do, sir. Bad times."

"And your pretty daughter?"

"Minds the house."

"Have you no other children?"

"No; one mouth besides my own is as much as I can feed, and that
scarcely. But you would like to rest now; you can have my bed, sir; I
can sleep here."

"By no means," said the stranger, quickly; "just put a few more coals on
the fire, and leave me to make myself comfortable."

The man rose, and did not press his offer, but left the room for a
supply of fuel. Alice remained in her corner.

"Sweetheart," said the traveller, looking round and satisfying himself
that they were alone: "I should sleep well if I could get one kiss from
those coral lips."

Alice hid her face with her hands.

"Do I vex you?"

"Oh no, sir."

At this assurance the traveller rose, and approached Alice softly. He
drew away her hands from her face, when she said gently, "Have you much
money about you?"

"Oh, the mercenary baggage!" said the traveller to himself; and then
replied aloud, "Why, pretty one? Do you sell your kisses so high then?"

Alice frowned and tossed the hair from her brow. "If you have money,"
she said, in a whisper, "don't say so to father. Don't sleep if you can
help it. I'm afraid--hush--he comes!"

The young man returned to his seat with an altered manner. And as his
host entered, he for the first time surveyed him closely. The imperfect
glimmer of the half-dying and single candle threw into strong lights and
shades the marked, rugged, and ferocious features of the cottager; and
the eye of the traveller, glancing from the face to the limbs and frame,
saw that whatever of violence the mind might design, the body might well
execute.

The traveller sank into a gloomy reverie. The wind howled--the rain
beat--through the casement shone no solitary star--all was dark and
sombre. Should he proceed alone--might he not suffer a greater danger
upon that wide and desert moor--might not the host follow--assault him
in the dark? He had no weapon save a stick. But within he had at least
a rude resource in the large kitchen poker that was beside him. At all
events it would be better to wait for the present. He might at any
time, when alone, withdraw the bolt from the door, and slip out
unobserved. Such was the fruit of his meditations while his host plied
the fire.

"You will sleep sound to-night," said his entertainer, smiling.

"Humph! Why, I am _over_-fatigued; I dare say it will be an hour or two
before I fall asleep; but when I once am asleep, I sleep like a rock!"

"Come, Alice," said her father, "let us leave the gentleman. Goodnight,
sir."

"Good night--good night," returned the traveller, yawning.

The father and daughter disappeared through a door in the corner of the
room. The guest heard them ascend the creaking stairs--all was still.

"Fool that I am," said the traveller to himself, "will nothing teach me
that I am no longer a student at Gottingen, or cure me of these
pedestrian adventures? Had it not been for that girl's big blue eyes, I
should be safe at ------ by this time, if, indeed, the grim father had
not murdered me by the road. However, we'll baulk him yet: another
half-hour, and I am on the moor: we must give him time. And in the
meanwhile here is the poker. At the worst it is but one to one; but the
churl is strongly built."

Although the traveller thus endeavoured to cheer his courage, his heart
beat more loudly than its wont. He kept his eyes stationed on the door
by which the cottagers had vanished, and his hand on the massive poker.

While the stranger was thus employed below, Alice, instead of turning to
her own narrow cell, went into her father's room.

The cottager was seated at the foot of his bed muttering to himself, and
with eyes fixed on the ground.

The girl stood before him, gazing on his face, and with her arms lightly
crossed above her bosom.

"It must be worth twenty guineas," said the host, abruptly to himself.

"What is it to you, father, what the gentleman's watch is worth?"

The man started.

"You mean," continued Alice, quietly, "you mean to do some injury to
that young man; but you shall not."

The cottager's face grew black as night. "How," he began in a loud
voice, but suddenly dropped the tone into a deep growl--"how dare you
talk to me so?--go to bed--go to bed."

"No, father."

"No?"

"I will not stir from this room until daybreak."

"We will soon see that," said the man, with an oath.

"Touch me, and I will alarm the gentleman, and tell him that--"

"What?"

The girl approached her father, placed her lips to his ear, and
whispered, "That you intend to murder him."

The cottager's frame trembled from head to foot; he shut his eyes, and
gasped painfully for breath. "Alice," said he, gently, after a
pause--"Alice, we are often nearly starving."

"_I_ am--_you_ never!"

"Wretch, yes, if I do drink too much one day, I pinch for it the next.
But go to bed, I say--I mean no harm to the young man. Think you I
would twist myself a rope?--no, no; go along, go along."

Alice's face, which had before been earnest and almost intelligent, now
relapsed into its wonted vacant stare.

"To be sure, father, they would hang you if you cut his throat. Don't
forget that;--good night;" and so saying, she walked to her own opposite
chamber.

Left alone, the host pressed his hand tightly to his forehead, and
remained motionless for nearly half an hour.

"If that cursed girl would but sleep," he muttered at last, turning
round, "it might be done at once. And there's the pond behind, as deep
as a well; and I might say at daybreak that the boy had bolted. He
seems quite a stranger here--nobody'll miss him. He must have plenty of
blunt to give half a guinea to a guide across a common! I want money,
and I won't work--if I can help it, at least."

While he thus soliloquised the air seemed to oppress him; he opened the
window, he leant out--the rain beat upon him. He closed the window with
an oath; took off his shoes, stole to the threshold, and, by the candle,
which he shaded with his hand, surveyed the opposite door. It was
closed. He then bent anxiously forward and listened.

"All's quiet," thought he, "perhaps he sleeps already. I will steal
down. If Jack Walters would but come tonight, the job would be done
charmingly."

With that he crept gently down the stairs. In a corner, at the foot of
the staircase, lay sundry matters, a few faggots, and a cleaver. He
caught up the last. "Aha," he muttered; "and there's the sledge-hammer
somewhere for Walters." Leaning himself against the door, he then
applied his eye to a chink which admitted a dim view of the room within,
lighted fitfully by the fire.



CHAPTER II.

 "What have we here?
  A carrion death!"
   _Merchant of Venice_, Act ii. Sc. 7.

IT was about this time that the stranger deemed it advisable to commence
his retreat. The slight and suppressed sound of voices, which at first
he had heard above in the conversation of the father and child, had died
away. The stillness at once encouraged and warned him. He stole to the
front door, softly undid the bolt, and found the door locked, and the
key missing. He had not observed that during his repast, and ere his
suspicions had been aroused, his host, in replacing the bar, and
relocking the entrance, had abstracted the key. His fears were now
confirmed. His next thought was the window--the shutter only protected
it half-way, and was easily removed; but the aperture of the lattice,
which only opened in part like most cottage casements, was far too small
to admit his person. His only means of escape was in breaking the whole
window; a matter not to be effected without noise and consequent risk.

He paused in despair. He was naturally of a strong-nerved and gallant
temperament, nor unaccustomed to those perils of life and limb which
German students delight to brave; but his heart well-nigh failed him at
that moment. The silence became distinct and burdensome to him, and a
chill moisture gathered to his brow. While he stood irresolute and in
suspense, striving to collect his thoughts, his ear, preternaturally
sharpened by fear, caught the faint muffled sound of creeping
footsteps--he heard the stairs creak. The sound broke the spell. The
previous vague apprehension gave way, when the danger became actually at
hand. His presence of mind returned at once. He went back quickly to
the fireplace, seized the poker, and began stirring the fire, and
coughing loud, and indicating as vigorously as possible that he was wide
awake.

He felt that he was watched--he felt that he was in momently peril. He
felt that the appearance of slumber would be the signal for a mortal
conflict. Time passed, all remained silent; nearly half an hour had
elapsed since he had heard the steps upon the stairs. His situation
began to prey upon his nerves, it irritated them--it became intolerable.
It was not now fear that he experienced, it was the overwrought sense of
mortal enmity--the consciousness that a man may feel who knows that the
eye of a tiger is on him, and who, while in suspense he has regained his
courage, foresees that sooner or later the spring must come; the
suspense itself becomes an agony, and he desires to expedite the deadly
struggle he cannot shun.

Utterly incapable any longer to bear his own sensations, the traveller
rose at last, fixed his eyes upon the fatal door, and was about to cry
aloud to the listener to enter, when he heard a slight tap at the
window; it was twice repeated; and at the third time a low voice
pronounced the name of Darvil. It was clear, then, that accomplices had
arrived; it was no longer against one man that he would have to contend.
He drew his breath hard, and listened with throbbing ears. He heard
steps without upon the plashing soil; they retired--all was still.

He paused a few minutes, and walked deliberately and firmly to the inner
door, at which he fancied his host stationed; with a steady hand he
attempted to open the door; it was fastened on the opposite side.
"So!" said he, bitterly, and grinding his teeth, "I must die like a rat
in a cage. Well, I'll die biting."

He returned to his former post, drew himself up to his full height, and
stood grasping his homely weapon, prepared for the worst, and not
altogether unelated with a proud consciousness of his own natural
advantages of activity, stature, strength and daring. Minutes rolled
on; the silence was broken by some one at the inner door; he heard the
bolt gently withdrawn. He raised his weapon with both hands; and
started to find the intruder was only Alice. She came in with bare
feet, and pale as marble, her finger on her lips.

She approached--she touched him.

"They are in the shed behind," she whispered, "looking for the
sledge-hammer--they mean to murder you; get you gone--quick."

"How?--the door is locked."

"Stay. I have taken the key from his room."

She gained the door, applied the key--the door yielded. The traveller
threw his knapsack once more over his shoulder, and made but one stride
to the threshold. The girl stopped him. "Don't say anything about it;
he is my father, they would hang him."

"No, no. But you?--are safe, I trust?--depend on my gratitude.--I shall
be at ------ to-morrow--the best inn--seek me if you can. Which way
now?"

"Keep to the left."

The stranger was already several paces distant; through the darkness,
and in the midst of the rain, he fled on with the speed of youth. The
girl lingered an instant, sighed, then laughed aloud; closed and
re-barred the door, and was creeping back, when from the inner entrance
advanced the grim father, and another man, of broad, short, sinewy
frame, his arms bare, and wielding a large hammer.

"How?" asked the host; "Alice here, and--hell and the devil! have you
let him go?"

"I told you that you should not harm him."

With a violent oath the ruffian struck his daughter to the ground,
sprang over her body, unbarred the door, and, accompanied by his
comrade, set off in vague pursuit of his intended victim.



CHAPTER III.

 "You knew--none so well, of my daughter's flight."
   _Merchant of Venice_, Act iii. Sc. 1.

THE day dawned; it was a mild, damp, hazy morning; the sod sank deep
beneath the foot, the roads were heavy with mire, and the rain of the
past night lay here and there in broad shallow pools. Towards the town,
waggons, carts, pedestrian groups were already moving; and, now and
then, you caught the sharp horn of some early coach, wheeling its
be-cloaked outside and be-nightcapped inside passengers along the
northern thoroughfare.

A young man bounded over a stile into the road just opposite to the
milestone, that declared him to be one mile from ------.

"Thank Heaven!" he said, almost aloud. "After spending the night
wandering about morasses like a will-o'-the-wisp, I approach a town at
last. Thank Heaven again, and for all its mercies this night! I
breathe freely. I AM SAFE."

He walked on somewhat rapidly; he passed a slow waggon---he passed a
group of mechanics--he passed a drove of sheep, and now he saw walking
leisurely before him a single figure. It was a girl, in a worn and
humble dress, who seemed to seek her weary way with pain and languor.
He was about also to pass her, when he heard a low cry. He turned, and
beheld in the wayfarer his preserver of the previous night.

"Heavens! is it indeed you? Can I believe my eyes?"

"I was coming to seek you, sir," said the girl, faintly. "I too have
escaped; I shall never go back to father; I have no roof to cover my
head now."

"Poor child! but how is this? Did they ill use you for releasing me?"

"Father knocked me down, and beat me again when he came back; but that
is not all," she added, in a very low tone.

"What else?"

The girl grew red and white by turns. She set her teeth rigidly,
stopped short, and then walking on quicker than before, replied: "It
don't matter; I will never go back--I'm alone now. What, what shall I
do?" and she wrung her hands.

The traveller's pity was deeply moved. "My good girl," said he,
earnestly, "you have saved my life, and I am not ungrateful. Here" (and
he placed some gold in her hand), "get yourself a lodging, food and
rest; you look as if you wanted them; and see me again this evening when
it is dark and we can talk unobserved."

The girl took the money passively, and looked up in his face while he
spoke; the look was so unsuspecting, and the whole countenance was so
beautifully modest and virgin-like, that had any evil passion prompted
the traveller's last words, it must have fled scared and abashed as he
met the gaze.

"My poor girl," said he, embarrassed, and after a short pause; "you are
very young, and very, very pretty. In this town you will be exposed to
many temptations: take care where you lodge; you have, no doubt, friends
here?"

"Friends?--what are friends?" answered Alice.

"Have you no relations?--no _mother's kin_?"

"None."

"Do you know where to ask shelter?"

"No, sir; for I can't go where father goes, lest he should find me out."

"Well, then, seek some quiet inn, and meet me this evening just here,
half a mile from the town, at seven. I will try and think of something
for you in the meanwhile. But you seem tired, you walk with pain;
perhaps it will fatigue you to come--I mean, you had rather perhaps rest
another day."

"Oh no, no! it will do me good to see you again, sir."

The young man's eyes met hers, and hers were not withdrawn; their soft
blue was suffused with tears--they penetrated his soul. He turned away
hastily, and saw that they were already the subject of curious
observation to the various passengers that overtook them. "Don't
forget!" he whispered, and strode on with a pace that soon brought him
to the town.

He inquired for the principal hotel--entered it with an air that bespoke
that nameless consciousness of superiority which belongs to those
accustomed to purchase welcome wherever welcome is bought and sold--and
before a blazing fire and no unsubstantial breakfast, forgot all the
terrors of the past night, or rather felt rejoiced to think he had added
a new and strange hazard to the catalogue of adventures already
experienced by Ernest Maltravers.



CHAPTER IV.

 "Con una Dama tenia
  Un galan conversacion."*
   MORATIN: _El Teatro Espanol_.--Num. 15.

* With a dame he held a gallant conversation.

MALTRAVERS was first at the appointed place. His character was in most
respects singularly energetic, decided, and premature in its
development; but not so in regard to women: with them he was the
creature of the moment; and, driven to and fro by whatever impulse, or
whatever passion, caught the caprice of a wild, roving, and all-poetical
imagination, Maltravers was, half unconsciously, a poet--a poet of
action, and woman was his muse.

He had formed no plan of conduct towards the poor girl he was to meet.
He meant no harm to her. If she had been less handsome, he would have
been equally grateful; and her dress, and youth, and condition, would
equally have compelled him to select the hour of dusk for an interview.

He arrived at the spot. The winter night had already descended; but a
sharp frost had set in: the air was clear, the stars were bright, and
the long shadows slept, still and calm, along the broad road, and the
whitened fields beyond.

He walked briskly to and fro, without much thought of the interview, or
its object, half chanting old verses, German and English, to himself,
and stopping to gaze every moment at the silent stars.

At length he saw Alice approach: she came up to him timidly and gently.
His heart beat more quickly; he felt that he was young and alone with
beauty. "Sweet girl," he said, with involuntary and mechanical
compliment, "how well this light becomes you. How shall I thank you for
not forgetting me?"

Alice surrendered her hand to his without a struggle.

"What is your name?" said he, bending his face down to hers.

"Alice Darvil."

"And your terrible father,--_is_ he, in truth, your father?"

"Indeed he is my father and mother too!"

"What made you suspect his intention to murder me? Has he ever
attempted the like crime?"

"No; but lately he has often talked of robbery. He is very poor, sir.
And when I saw his eye, and when afterwards, while your back was turned,
he took the key from the door, I felt that--that you were in danger."

"Good girl--go on."

"I told him so when we went up-stairs. I did not know what to believe,
when he said he would not hurt you; but I stole the key of the front
door, which he had thrown on the table, and went to my room. I listened
at my door; I heard him go down the stairs--he stopped there for some
time; and I watched him from above. The place where he was opened to
the field by the back-way. After some time, I heard a voice whisper
him; I knew the voice, and then they both went out by the back-way; so I
stole down, and went out and listened; and I knew the other man was John
Walters. I'm afraid of _him_, sir. And then Walters said, says he, 'I
will get the hammer, and, sleep or wake, we'll do it.' And father said,
'It's in the shed.' So I saw there was no time to be lost, sir,
and--and--but you know all the rest."

"But how did you escape?"

"Oh, my father, after talking to Walters, came to my room, and beat
and--and--frightened me; and when he was gone to bed, I put on my
clothes, and stole out; it was just light; and I walked on till I met
you."

"Poor child, in what a den of vice you have been brought up!"

"Anan, sir."

"She don't understand me. Have you been taught to read and write?"

"Oh no!"

"But I suppose you have been taught, at least, to say your
catechism--and you pray sometimes?"

"I have prayed to father not to beat me."

"But to God?"

"God, sir--what is that?"*

* This ignorance--indeed the whole sketch of Alice--is from the life;
nor is such ignorance, accompanied by what almost seems an instinctive
or intuitive notion of right or wrong, very uncommon, as our police
reports can testify. In the _Examiner_ for, I think, the year 1835,
will be found the case of a young girl ill-treated by her father, whose
answers to the interrogatories of the magistrate are very similar to
those of Alice to the questions of Maltravers.

Maltravers drew back, shocked and appalled. Premature philosopher as he
was, this depth of ignorance perplexed his wisdom. He had read all the
disputes of schoolmen, whether or not the notion of a Supreme Being is
innate; but he had never before been brought face to face with a living
creature who was unconscious of a God.

After a pause, he said: "My poor girl, we misunderstand each other. You
know that there is a God?"

"No, sir."

"Did no one ever tell you who made the stars you now survey--the earth
on which you tread?"

"No."

"And have you never thought about it yourself?"

"Why should I? What has that to do with being cold and hungry?"

Maltravers looked incredulous. "You see that great building, with the
spire rising in the starlight?"

"Yes, sir, sure."

"What is it called?"

"Why, a church."

"Did you never go into it?"

"No."

"What do people do there?"

"Father says one man talks nonsense, and the other folk listen to him."

"Your father is--no matter. Good heavens! what shall I do with this
unhappy child?"

"Yes, sir, I am very unhappy," said Alice, catching at the last words;
and the tears rolled silently down her cheeks.

Maltravers never was more touched in his life. Whatever thoughts of
gallantry might have entered his young head, had he found Alice such as
he might reasonably have expected, he now felt that there was a kind of
sanctity in her ignorance; and his gratitude and kindly sentiment
towards her took almost a brotherly aspect.--"You know, at least, what
school is?" he asked.

"Yes, I have talked with girls who go to school."

"Would you like to go there, too?"

"Oh, no, sir, pray not!"

"What should you like to do, then? Speak out, child. I owe you so
much, that I should be too happy to make you comfortable and contented
in your own way."

"I should like to live with you, sir." Maltravers started, and half
smiled, and coloured. But looking on her eyes, which were fixed
earnestly on his, there was so much artlessness in their soft,
unconscious gaze, that he saw she was wholly ignorant of the
interpretation that might be put upon so candid a confession.

I have said that Maltravers was a wild, enthusiastic, odd being--he was,
in fact, full of strange German romance and metaphysical speculations.
He had once shut himself up for months to study astrology--and been even
suspected of a serious hunt after the philosopher's stone; another time
he had narrowly escaped with life and liberty from a frantic conspiracy
of the young republicans of his university, in which, being bolder and
madder than most of them, he had been an active ringleader; it was,
indeed, some such folly that had compelled him to quit Germany sooner
than himself or his parents desired. He had nothing of the sober
Englishman about him. Whatever was strange and eccentric had an
irresistible charm for Ernest Maltravers. And agreeably to this
disposition, he now revolved an idea that enchanted his mobile and
fantastic philosophy. He himself would educate this charming girl--he
would write fair and heavenly characters upon this blank page--he would
act the Saint Preux to this Julie of Nature. Alas, he did not think of
the result which the parallel should have suggested. At that age,
Ernest Maltravers never damped the ardour of an experiment by the
anticipation of consequences.

"So," he said, after a short reverie, "so you would like to live with
me? But, Alice, we must not fall in love with each other."

"I don't understand, sir."

"Never mind," said Maltravers, a little disconcerted.

"I always wished to go into service."

"Ha!"

"And you would be a kind master."

Maltravers was half disenchanted.

"No very flattering preference," thought he: "so much the safer for us.
Well, Alice, it shall be as you wish. Are you comfortable where you
are, in your new lodgings?"

"No."

"Why, they do not insult you?"

"No; but they make a noise, and I like to be quiet to think of you."

The young philosopher was reconciled again to his scheme.

"Well, Alice--go back--I will take a cottage to-morrow, and you shall be
my servant, and I will teach you to read and write and say your prayers,
and know that you have a Father above who loves you better than he
below. Meet me again at the same hour to-morrow. Why do you cry,
Alice? why do you cry?"

"Because--because," sobbed the girl, "I am so happy, and I shall live
with you and see you."

"Go, child--go, child," said Maltravers, hastily; and he walked away
with a quicker pulse than became his new character of master and
preceptor.

He looked back, and saw the girl gazing at him; he waved his hand, and
she moved on and followed him slowly back to the town.

Maltravers, though not an elder son, was the heir of affluent fortunes;
he enjoyed a munificent allowance that sufficed for the whims of a youth
who had learned in Germany none of the extravagant notions common to
young Englishmen of similar birth and prospects. He was a spoiled
child, with no law but his own fancy,--his return home was not
expected,--there was nothing to prevent the indulgence of his new
caprice. The next day he hired a cottage in the neighbourhood, which
was one of those pretty thatched edifices, with verandas and monthly
roses, a conservatory and a lawn, which justify the English proverb
about a cottage and love. It had been built by a mercantile bachelor
for some Fair Rosamond, and did credit to his taste. An old woman, let
with the house, was to cook and do the work. Alice was but a nominal
servant. Neither the old woman nor the landlord comprehended the
Platonic intentions of the young stranger. But he paid his rent in
advance, and they were not particular. He, however, thought it prudent
to conceal his name. It was one sure to be known in a town not very
distant from the residence of his father, a wealthy and long-descended
country gentleman. He adopted, therefore, the common name of Butler;
which, indeed, belonged to one of his maternal connections, and by that
name alone was he known in the neighbourhood and to Alice. From her he
would not have sought concealment,--but somehow or other no occasion
ever presented itself to induce him to talk much to her of his parentage
or birth.



CHAPTER V.

 "Thought would destroy their Paradise."--GRAY.

MALTRAVERS found Alice as docile a pupil as any reasonable preceptor
might have desired. But still, reading and writing--they are very
uninteresting elements! Had the groundwork been laid, it might have
been delightful to raise the fairy palace of knowledge; but the digging
the foundations and the constructing the cellars is weary labour.
Perhaps he felt it so; for in a few days Alice was handed over to the
very oldest and ugliest writing-master that the neighbouring town could
afford. The poor girl at first wept much at the exchange; but the grave
remonstrances and solemn exhortations of Maltravers reconciled her at
last, and she promised to work hard and pay every attention to her
lessons. I am not sure, however, that it was the tedium of the work
that deterred the idealist--perhaps he felt its danger--and at the
bottom of his sparkling dreams and brilliant follies lay a sound,
generous, and noble heart. He was fond of pleasure, and had been
already the darling of the sentimental German ladies. But he was too
young and too vivid, and too romantic, to be what is called a
sensualist. He could not look upon a fair face, and a guileless smile,
and all the ineffable symmetry of a woman's shape, with the eye of a man
buying cattle for base uses. He very easily fell in love, or fancied he
did, it is true,--but then he could not separate desire from fancy, or
calculate the game of passion without bringing the heart or the
imagination into the matter. And though Alice was very pretty and very
engaging, he was not yet in love with her, and he had no intention of
becoming so.

He felt the evening somewhat long, when for the first time Alice
discontinued her usual lesson; but Maltravers had abundant resources in
himself. He placed Shakespeare and Schiller on his table, and lighted
his German meerschaum--he read till he became inspired, and then he
wrote--and when he had composed a few stanzas he was not contented till
he had set them to music, and tried their melody with his voice. For he
had all the passion of a German for song, and music--that wild
Maltravers!--and his voice was sweet, his taste consummate, his science
profound. As the sun puts out a star, so the full blaze of his
imagination, fairly kindled, extinguished for the time his fairy fancy
for his beautiful pupil.

It was late that night when Maltravers went to bed--and as he passed
through the narrow corridor that led to his chamber he heard a light
step flying before him, and caught the glimpse of a female figure
escaping through a distant door. "The silly child," thought he, at once
divining the cause; "she has been listening to my singing. I shall
scold her." But he forgot that resolution.

The next day, and the next, and many days passed, and Maltravers saw but
little of the pupil for whose sake he had shut himself up in a country
cottage, in the depth of winter. Still he did not repent his purpose,
nor was he in the least tired of his seclusion--he would not inspect
Alice's progress, for he was certain he should be dissatisfied with its
slowness--and people, however handsome, cannot learn to read and write
in a day. But he amused himself, notwithstanding. He was glad of an
opportunity to be alone with his own thoughts, for he was at one of
those periodical epochs of life when we like to pause and breathe a
while, in brief respite from that methodical race in which we run to the
grave. He wished to re-collect the stores of his past experience, and
repose on his own mind, before he started afresh upon the active world.
The weather was cold and inclement; but Ernest Maltravers was a hardy
lover of nature, and neither snow nor frost could detain him from his
daily rambles. So, about noon, he regularly threw aside books and
papers, took his hat and staff, and went whistling or humming his
favourite airs through the dreary streets, or along the bleak waters, or
amidst the leafless woods, just as the humour seized him; for he was not
an Edwin or Harold, who reserved speculation only for lonely brooks and
pastoral hills. Maltravers delighted to contemplate nature in men as
well as in sheep or trees. The humblest alley in a crowded town had
something poetical for him; he was ever ready to mix in a crowd, if it
were only gathered round a barrel-organ or a dog-fight, and listen to
all that was said and notice all that was done. And this I take to be
the true poetical temperament essential to every artist who aspires to
be something more than a scene-painter. But, above all things, he was
most interested in any display of human passions or affections; he loved
to see the true colours of the heart, where they are most
transparent--in the uneducated and poor--for he was something of an
optimist, and had a hearty faith in the loveliness of our nature.
Perhaps, indeed, he owed much of the insight into and mastery over
character that he was afterwards considered to display, to his disbelief
that there is any wickedness so dark as not to be susceptible of the
light in some place or another. But Maltravers had his fits of
unsociability, and then nothing but the most solitary scenes delighted
him. Winter or summer, barren waste or prodigal verdure, all had beauty
in his eyes; for their beauty lay in his own soul, through which he
beheld them. From these walks he would return home at dusk, take his
simple meal, rhyme or read away the long evenings with such alternation
as music or the dreamy thoughts of a young man with gay life before him
could afford. Happy Maltravers!--youth and genius have luxuries all the
Rothschilds cannot purchase! And yet, Maltravers, you are
ambitious!--life moves too slowly for you!--you would push on the wheels
of the clock!--Fool--brilliant fool!--you are eighteen, and a
poet!--What more can you desire?--Bid Time stop for ever!

One morning Ernest rose earlier than his wont, and sauntered carelessly
through the conservatory which adjoined his sitting-room; observing the
plants with placid curiosity (for besides being a little of a botanist,
he had odd visionary notions about the life of plants, and he saw in
them a hundred mysteries which the herbalists do not teach us), when he
heard a low and very musical voice singing at a little distance. He
listened, and recognised, with surprise, words of his own, which he had
lately set to music, and was sufficiently pleased with to sing nightly.

When the song ended, Maltravers stole softly through the conservatory,
and as he opened the door which led into the garden, he saw at the open
window of a little room which was apportioned to Alice, and jutted out
from the building in the fanciful irregularity common to ornamental
cottages, the form of his discarded pupil. She did not observe him, and
it was not till he twice called her by name, that she started from her
thoughtful and melancholy posture.

"Alice," said he, gently, "put on your bonnet, and walk with me in the
garden: you look pale, child; the fresh air will do you good."

Alice coloured and smiled, and in a few moments was by his side.
Maltravers, meanwhile, had gone in and lighted his meerschaum, for it
was his great inspirer whenever his thoughts were perplexed, or he felt
his usual fluency likely to fail him, and such was the case now. With
this faithful ally he awaited Alice in the little walk that circled the
lawn, amidst shrubs and evergreens.

"Alice," said he after a pause; but he stopped short.

Alice looked up at him with grave respect.

"Tush!" said Maltravers; "perhaps the smoke is unpleasant to you. It is
a bad habit of mine."

"No, sir," answered Alice; and she seemed disappointed. Maltravers
paused, and picked up a snowdrop.

"It is pretty," he said; "do you love flowers?"

"Oh, dearly," answered Alice, with some enthusiasm; "I never saw many
till I came here."

"Now then I can go on," thought Maltravers; why, I cannot say, for I do
not see the _sequitur_; but on he went _in medias res_. "Alice, you
sing charmingly."

"Ah! sir, you--you--" she stopped abruptly, and trembled visibly.

"Yes, I overheard you, Alice."

"And you are angry?"

"I!--Heaven forbid! It is a _talent_--but you don't know what that is;
I mean it is an excellent thing to have an ear; and a voice, and a heart
for music; and you have all three."

He paused, for he felt his hand touched; Alice suddenly clasped and
kissed it. Maltravers thrilled through his whole frame; but there was
something in the girl's look that showed she was wholly unaware that she
had committed an unmaidenly or forward action.

"I was so afraid you would be angry," she said, wiping her eyes as she
dropped his hand; "and now I suppose you know all."

"All!"

"Yes; how I listened to you every evening, and lay awake the whole night
with the music ringing in my ears, till I tried to go over it myself;
and so at last I ventured to sing aloud. I like that much better than
learning to read."

All this was delightful to Maltravers: the girl had touched upon one of
his weak points; however, he remained silent. Alice continued:

"And now, sir, I hope you will let me come and sit outside the door
every evening and hear you; I will make no noise--I will be so quiet."

"What, in that cold corridor, these bitter nights?"

"I am used to cold, sir. Father would not let me have a fire when he
was not at home."

"No, Alice, but you shall come into the room while I play, and I will
give you a lesson or two. I am glad you have so good an ear; it may be
a means of your earning your own honest livelihood when you leave me."

"When I--but I never intend to leave you, sir!" said Alice, beginning
fearfully and ending calmly.

Maltravers had recourse to the meerschaum.

Luckily, perhaps, at this time, they were joined by Mr. Simcox, the old
writing-master. Alice went in to prepare her books; but Maltravers laid
his hand upon the preceptor's shoulder.

"You have a quick pupil, I hope, sir?" said he.

"Oh, very, very, Mr. Butler. She comes on famously. She practises a
great deal when I am away, and I do my best."

"And," asked Maltravers, in a grave tone, "have you succeeded in
instilling into the poor child's mind some of those more sacred notions
of which I spoke to you at our first meeting?"

"Why, sir, she was indeed quite a heathen--quite a Mahometan, I may say;
but she is a little better now."

"What have you taught her?"

"That God made her."

"That is a great step."

"And that He loves good girls, and will watch over them."

"Bravo! You beat Plato."

"No, sir, I never beat any one, except little Jack Turner; but he is a
dunce."

"Bah! What else do you teach her?"

"That the devil runs away with bad girls, and--"

"Stop there, Mr. Simcox. Never mind the devil yet a while. Let her
first learn to do good, that God may love her; the rest will follow. I
would rather make people religious through their best feelings than
their worst,--through their gratitude and affections, rather than their
fears and calculations of risk and punishment."

Mr. Simcox stared.

"Does she say her prayers?"

"I have taught her a short one."

"Did she learn it readily?"

"Lord love her, yes! When I told her she ought to pray to God to bless
her benefactor, she would not rest till I had repeated a prayer out of
our Sunday School book, and she got it by heart at once."

"Enough, Mr. Simcox. I will not detain you longer."

Forgetful of his untasted breakfast, Maltravers continued his meerschaum
and his reflections: he did not cease, till he had convinced himself
that he was but doing his duty to Alice, by teaching her to cultivate
the charming talent she evidently possessed, and through which she might
secure her own independence. He fancied that he should thus relieve
himself of a charge and responsibility which often perplexed him. Alice
would leave him, enabled to walk the world in an honest professional
path. It was an excellent idea. "But there is danger," whispered
Conscience. "Ay," answered Philosophy and Pride, those wise dupes that
are always so solemn and always so taken in; "but what is virtue without
trial?"

And now every evening, when the windows were closed, and the hearth
burnt clear, while the winds stormed, and the rain beat without, a lithe
and lovely shape hovered about the student's chamber; and his wild songs
were sung by a voice which Nature had made even sweeter than his own.

Alice's talent for music was indeed surprising; enthusiastic and quick
as he himself was in all he undertook, Maltravers was amazed at her
rapid progress. He soon taught her to play by ear; and Maltravers could
not but notice that her hand, always delicate in shape, had lost the
rude colour and roughness of labour. He thought of that pretty hand
more often than he ought to have done, and guided it over the keys when
it could have found its way very well without him.

On coming to the cottage he had directed the old servant to provide
suitable and proper clothes for Alice; but now that she was admitted "to
sit with the gentleman," the crone had the sense, without waiting for
new orders, to buy the "pretty young woman" garments, still indeed
simple, but of better materials and less rustic fashion; and Alice's
redundant tresses were now carefully arranged into orderly and glossy
curls, and even the texture was no longer the same; and happiness and
health bloomed on her downy cheeks, and smiled from the dewy lips, which
never quite closed over the fresh white teeth, except when she was
sad--but that seemed never, now she was not banished from Maltravers.

To say nothing of the unusual grace and delicacy of Alice's form and
features, there is nearly always something of Nature's own gentility in
very young women (except, indeed, when they get together and fall
a-giggling); it shames us men to see how much sooner they are polished
into conventional shape than our rough, masculine angles. A vulgar boy
requires Heaven knows what assiduity to make three steps--I do not say
like a gentleman, but like a body that has a soul in it; but give the
least advantage of society or tuition to a peasant girl, and a hundred
to one but she will glide into refinement before the boy can make a bow
without upsetting the table. There is sentiment in all women, and
sentiment gives delicacy to thought, and tact to manner. But sentiment
with men is generally acquired, an offspring of the intellectual
quality, not, as with the other sex, of the moral.

In the course of his musical and vocal lessons, Maltravers gently took
the occasion to correct poor Alice's frequent offences against grammar
and accent: and her memory was prodigiously quick and retentive. The
very tones of her voice seemed altered in the ear of Maltravers; and,
somehow or other, the time came when he was no longer sensible of the
difference in their rank.

The old woman-servant, when she had seen how it would be from the first,
and taken a pride in her own prophecy, as she ordered Alice's new
dresses, was a much better philosopher than Maltravers; though he was
already up to his ears in the moonlit abyss of Plato, and had filled a
dozen commonplace books with criticisms on Kant.



CHAPTER VI.

 "Young man, I fear thy blood is rosy red,
  Thy heart is soft."
   D'AGUILAR'S _Fiesco_, Act iii. Sc. 1.

As education does not consist in reading and writing only, so Alice,
while still very backward in those elementary arts, forestalled some of
their maturest results in her intercourse with Maltravers. Before the
inoculation took effect, she caught knowledge in the natural way. For
the refinement of a graceful mind and a happy manner is very contagious.
And Maltravers was encouraged by her quickness in music to attempt such
instruction in other studies as conversation could afford. It is a
better school than parents and masters think for: there was a time when
all information was given orally; and probably the Athenians learned
more from hearing Aristotle than we do from reading him. It was a
delicious revival of Academe--in the walks, or beneath the rustic
porticoes of that little cottage--the romantic philosopher and the
beautiful disciple! And his talk was much like that of a sage of the
early world, with some wistful and earnest savage for a listener: of the
stars and their courses--of beasts, and birds, and fishes, and plants,
and flowers--the wide family of Nature--of the beneficence and power of
God;--of the mystic and spiritual history of Man.

Charmed by her attention and docility, Maltravers at length diverged
from lore into poetry; he would repeat to her the simplest and most
natural passages he could remember in his favourite poets; he would
himself compose verses elaborately adapted to her understanding; she
liked the last the best, and learned them the easiest. Never had young
poet a more gracious inspiration, and never did this inharmonious world
more complacently resolve itself into soft dreams, as if to humour the
novitiate of the victims it must speedily take into its joyless
priesthood. And Alice had now quietly and insensibly carved out her own
avocations--the tenor of her service. The plants in the conservatory
had passed under her care, and no one else was privileged to touch
Maltravers's books, or arrange the sacred litter of a student's
apartment. When he came down in the morning, or returned from his
walks, everything was in order, yet, by a kind of magic, just as he
wished it; the flowers he loved best bloomed, fresh-gathered, on his
table; the very position of the large chair, just in that corner by the
fireplace, whence, on entering the roof, its hospitable arms opened with
the most cordial air of welcome, bespoke the presiding genius of a
woman; and then, precisely as the clock struck eight, Alice entered, so
pretty and smiling, and happy-looking, that it was no wonder the single
hour at first allotted to her extended into three.

Was Alice in love with Maltravers?--she certainly did not exhibit the
symptoms in the ordinary way--she did not grow more reserved, and
agitated, and timid--there was no worm in the bud of her damask check:
nay, though from the first she had been tolerably bold; she was more
free and confidential, more at her ease every day; in fact, she never
for a moment suspected that she ought to be otherwise; she had not the
conventional and sensitive delicacy of girls who, whatever their rank of
life, have been taught that there is a mystery and a peril in love; she
had a vague idea about girls going wrong, but she did not know that love
had anything to do with it; on the contrary, according to her father, it
had connection with money, not love; all that she felt was so natural
and so very sinless. Could she help being so delighted to listen to
him, and so grieved to depart? What thus she felt she expressed, no
less simply and no less guilelessly: candour sometimes completely
blinded and misled him. No, she could not be in love, or she could not
so frankly own that she loved him--it was a sisterly and grateful
sentiment.

"The dear girl--I am rejoiced to think so," said Maltravers to himself;
"I knew there would be no danger."

Was he not in love himself?--The reader must decide.

"Alice," said Maltravers, one evening after a long pause of thought and
abstraction on his side, while she was unconsciously practising her last
lesson on the piano--"Alice,--no, don't turn round--sit where you are,
but listen to me. We cannot live always in this way."

Alice was instantly disobedient--she did turn round, and those great
blue eyes were fixed on his own with such anxiety and alarm, that he had
no resource but to get up and look round for the meerschaum. But Alice,
who divined by an instinct his lightest wish, brought it to him, while
he was yet hunting, amidst the further corners of the room, in places
where it was certain not to be. There it was, already filled with the
fragrant Salonica glittering with the gilt pastile, which, not too
healthfully, adulterates the seductive weed with odours that pacify the
repugnant censure of the fastidious--for Maltravers was an epicurean
even in his worst habits;--there it was, I say, in that pretty hand
which he had to touch as he took it; and while he lit the weed he had
again to blush and shrink beneath those great blue eyes.

"Thank you, Alice," he said; "thank you. Do sit down there--out of the
draught. I am going to open the window, the night is so lovely."

He opened the casement overgrown with creepers, and the moonlight lay
fair and breathless upon the smooth lawn. The calm and holiness of the
night soothed and elevated his thoughts; he had cut himself off from the
eyes of Alice, and he proceeded with a firm, though gentle voice:

"My dear Alice, we cannot always live together in this way; you are now
wise enough to understand me, so listen patiently. A young woman never
wants a fortune so long as she has a good character; she is always poor
and despised without one. Now a good character in this world is lost as
much by imprudence as guilt; and if you were to live with me much
longer, it would be imprudent, and your character would suffer so much
that you would not be able to make your own way in the world; far, then,
from doing you a service, I should have done you a deadly injury, which
I could not atone for: besides, Heaven knows what may happen worse than
imprudence; for, I am very sorry to say," added Maltravers, with great
gravity, "that you are much too pretty and engaging to--to--in short, it
won't do. I must go home; my friends will have a right to complain of
me if I remain thus lost to them many weeks longer. And you, my dear
Alice, are now sufficiently advanced to receive better instruction than
I or Mr. Simcox can give you. I therefore propose to place you in some
respectable family, where you will have more comfort and a higher
station than you have here. You can finish your education, and, instead
of being taught, you will be thus enabled to become a teacher to others.
With your beauty, Alice" (and Maltravers sighed), "and natural talents,
and amiable temper, you have only to act well and prudently to secure at
last a worthy husband and a happy home. Have you heard me, Alice? Such
is the plan I have formed for you."

The young man thought as he spoke, with honest kindness and upright
honour; it was a bitterer sacrifice than perhaps the reader thinks for.
But Maltravers, if he had an impassioned, had not a selfish heart; and
he felt, to use his own expression, more emphatic than eloquent, that
"it would not do" to live any longer alone with this beautiful girl,
like the two children whom the good Fairy kept safe from sin and the
world in the Pavilion of Roses.

But Alice comprehended neither the danger to herself nor the temptations
that Maltravers, if he could not resist, desired to shun. She rose,
pale and trembling--approached Maltravers and laid her hand gently on
his arm.

"I will go away, when and where you wish--the sooner the
better--to-morrow--yes, to-morrow; you are ashamed of poor Alice; and it
has been very silly in me to be so happy." (She struggled with her
emotion for a moment, and went on.) "You know Heaven can hear me, even
when I am away from you, and when I know more I can pray better; and
Heaven will bless you, sir, and make you happy, for I never can pray for
anything else."

With these words she turned away, and walked proudly towards the door.
But when she reached the threshold, she stopped and looked round, as if
to take a last farewell. All the associations and memories of that
beloved spot rushed upon her--she gasped for breath,--tottered,--and
fell to the ground insensible.

Maltravers was already by her side; he lifted her light weight in his
arms; he uttered wild and impassioned exclamations--"Alice, beloved
Alice--forgive me; we will never part!" He chafed her hands in his own,
while her head lay on his bosom, and he kissed again and again those
beautiful eyelids, till they opened slowly upon him, and the tender arms
tightened round him involuntarily.

"Alice," he whispered--"Alice, dear Alice, I love thee." Alas, it was
true: he loved--and forgot all but that love. He was eighteen.



CHAPTER VII.

 "How like a younker or a prodigal,
  The scarfed bark puts from her native bay!"
   _Merchant of Venice_.

WE are apt to connect the voice of Conscience with the stillness of
midnight. But I think we wrong that innocent hour. It is that terrible
"NEXT MORNING," when reason is wide awake, upon which remorse fastens
its fangs. Has a man gambled away his all, or shot his friend in a
duel--has he committed a crime or incurred a laugh--it is the _next
morning_, when the irretrievable Past rises before him like a spectre;
then doth the churchyard of memory yield up its grisly dead--then is the
witching hour when the foul fiend within us can least tempt perhaps, but
most torment. At night we have one thing to hope for, one refuge to fly
to--oblivion and sleep! But at morning, sleep is over, and we are
called upon coldly to review, and re-act, and live again the waking
bitterness of self-reproach. Maltravers rose a penitent and unhappy
man--remorse was new to him, and he felt as if he had committed a
treacherous and fraudulent as well as guilty deed. This poor girl,
she was so innocent, so confiding, so unprotected, even by her own
sense of right. He went down-stairs listless and dispirited. He
longed yet dreaded to encounter Alice. He heard her step in the
conservatory--paused, irresolute, and at length joined her. For the
first time she blushed and trembled, and her eyes shunned his. But when
he kissed her hand in silence, she whispered, "And am I now to leave
you?" And Maltravers answered fervently, "Never!" and then her face
grew so radiant with joy that Maltravers was comforted despite himself.
Alice knew no remorse, though she felt agitated and ashamed; as she had
not comprehended the danger, neither was she aware of the fall. In
fact, she never thought of herself. Her whole soul was with him; she
gave him back in love the spirit she had caught from him in knowledge.

 * * * * *

And they strolled together through the garden all that day, and
Maltravers grew reconciled to himself. He had done wrong, it is true;
but then perhaps Alice had already suffered as much as she could in the
world's opinion, by living with him alone, though innocent, so long.
And now she had an everlasting claim to his protection--she should never
know shame or want. And the love that had led to the wrong should, by
fidelity and devotion, take from it the character of sin.

Natural and commonplace sophistries! _L'homme se pique!_ as old
Montaigne said; Man is his own sharper! The conscience is the most
elastic material in the world. To-day you cannot stretch it over a
mole-hill, to-morrow it hides a mountain.

O how happy they were now--that young pair! How the days flew like
dreams! Time went on, winter passed away, and the early spring, with
its flowers and sunshine, was like a mirror to their own youth. Alice
never accompanied Maltravers in his walks abroad, partly because she
feared to meet her father, and partly because Maltravers himself was
fastidiously averse to all publicity. But then they had all that little
world of three acres--lawn and fountain, shrubbery and terrace, to
themselves, and Alice never asked if there was any other world without.
She was now quite a scholar, as Mr. Simcox himself averred. She could
read aloud and fluently to Maltravers, and copied out his poetry in a
small, fluctuating hand, and he had no longer to chase throughout his
vocabulary for short Saxon monosyllables to make the bridge of
intercourse between their ideas. Eros and Psyche are ever united, and
Love opens all the petals of the soul. On one subject alone, Maltravers
was less eloquent than of yore. He had not succeeded as a moralist, and
he thought it hypocritical to preach what he did not practise. But
Alice was gentler and purer, and as far as she knew, sweet fool! better
than ever--she had invented a new prayer for herself; and she prayed as
regularly and as fervently as if she were doing nothing amiss. But the
code of Heaven is gentler than that of earth, and does not declare that
ignorance excuseth not the crime.



CHAPTER VIII.

 "Some clouds sweep on as vultures for their prey.

 * * * * *

  No azure more shall robe the firmament,
  Nor spangled stars be glorious."
   BYRON, _Heaven and Earth_.

IT was a lovely evening in April, the weather was unusually mild and
serene for the time of year, in the northern districts of our isle, and
the bright drops of a recent shower sparkled upon the buds of the lilac
and laburnum that clustered round the cottage of Maltravers. The little
fountain that played in the centre of a circular basin, on whose clear
surface the broad-leaved water-lily cast its fairy shadow, added to the
fresh green of the lawn;

 "And softe as velvet the yonge grass,"

on which the rare and early flowers were closing their heavy lids. That
twilight shower had given a racy and vigorous sweetness to the air which
stole over many a bank of violets, and slightly stirred the golden
ringlets of Alice as she sate by the side of her entranced and silent
lover. They were seated on a rustic bench just without the cottage, and
the open window behind them admitted the view of that happy room--with
its litter of books and musical instruments--eloquent of the POETRY of
HOME.

Maltravers was silent, for his flexile and excitable fancy was conjuring
up a thousand shapes along the transparent air, or upon those shadowy
violet banks. He was not thinking, he was imagining. His genius
reposed dreamily upon the calm, but exquisite sense of his happiness.
Alice was not absolutely in his thoughts, but unconsciously she coloured
them all--if she had left his side, the whole charm would have been
broken. But Alice, who was not a poet or a genius, _was_ thinking, and
thinking only of Maltravers. . . . His image was "the broken mirror"
multiplied in a thousand faithful fragments over everything fair and
soft in that lovely microcosm before her. But they were both alike in
one thing--they were not with the Future, they were sensible of the
Present--the sense of the actual life, the enjoyment of the breathing
time was strong within them. Such is the privilege of the extremes of
our existence--Youth and Age. Middle life is never with to-day, its
home is in to-morrow . . . anxious, and scheming, and desiring, and
wishing this plot ripened, and that hope fulfilled, while every wave of
the forgotten Time brings it nearer and nearer to the end of all things.
Half our life is consumed in longing to be nearer death.

"Alice," said Maltravers, waking at last from his reverie, and drawing
that light, childlike form nearer to him, "you enjoy this hour as much
as I do."

"Oh, much more!"

"More! and why so?"

"Because I am thinking of you, and perhaps you are not thinking of
yourself."

Maltravers smiled and stroked those beautiful ringlets, and kissed that
smooth, innocent forehead, and Alice nestled herself in his breast.

"How young you look by this light, Alice!" said he, tenderly looking
down.

"Would you love me less if I were old?" asked Alice.

"I suppose I should never have loved you in the same way if you had been
old when I first saw you."

"Yet I am sure I should have felt the same for you if you had been--oh!
ever so old!"

"What, with wrinkled cheeks, and palsied head, and a brown wig, and no
teeth, like Mr. Simcox?"

"Oh, but you could never be like that! You would always look
young--your heart would be always in your face. That clear smile--ah,
you would look beautiful to the last!"

"But Simcox, though not very lovely now, has been, I dare say, handsomer
than I am, Alice; and I shall be contented to look as well when I am as
old!"

"I should never know you were old, because I can see you just as I
please. Sometimes, when you are thoughtful, your brows meet, and you
look so stern that I tremble; but then I think of you when you last
smiled, and look up again, and though you are frowning still, you seem
to smile. I am sure you are different to other eyes than to mine . . .
and time must kill _me_ before, in my sight, it could alter _you_."

"Sweet Alice, you talk eloquently, for you talk love."

"My heart talks to you. Ah! I wish it could say all I felt. I wish it
could make poetry like you, or that words were music--I would never
speak to you in anything else. I was so delighted to learn music,
because when I played I seemed to be talking to you. I am sure that
whoever invented music did it because he loved dearly and wanted to say
so. I said '_he_,' but I think it was a woman. Was it?"

"The Greeks I told you of, and whose life was music, thought it was a
god."

"Ah, but you say the Greeks made Love a god. Were they wicked for it?"

"Our own God above is Love," said Ernest, seriously, "as our own poets
have said and sung. But it is a love of another nature--divine, not
human. Come, we will go within, the air grows cold for you."

They entered, his arm round her waist. The room smiled upon them its
quiet welcome; and Alice, whose heart had not half vented its fulness,
sat down to the instrument still to "talk love" in her own way.

But it was Saturday evening. Now every Saturday, Maltravers received
from the neighbouring town the provincial newspaper--it was his only
medium of communication with the great world. But it was not for that
communication that he always seized it with avidity, and fed on it with
interest. The county in which his father resided bordered on the shire
in which Ernest sojourned, and the paper included the news of that
familiar district in its comprehensive columns. It therefore satisfied
Ernest's conscience and soothed his filial anxieties to read from time
to time that "Mr. Maltravers was entertaining a distinguished party of
friends at his noble mansion of Lisle Court;" or that "Mr. Maltravers's
foxhounds had met on such a day at something copse;" or that, "Mr.
Maltravers, with his usual munificence, had subscribed twenty guineas to
the new county gaol." . . . And as now Maltravers saw the expected paper
laid beside the hissing urn, he seized it eagerly, tore the envelope,
and hastened to the well-known corner appropriated to the paternal
district. The very first words that struck his eye were these:


   ALARMING ILLNESS OF MR. MALTRAVERS.

"We regret to state that this exemplary and distinguished gentleman was
suddenly seized on Wednesday night with a severe spasmodic affection.
Dr. ------ was immediately sent for, who pronounced it to be gout in the
stomach. The first medical assistance from London has been summoned.

"Postscript.--We have just learned, in answer to our inquiries at Lisle
Court, that the respected owner is considerably worse: but slight hopes
are entertained of his recovery. Captain Maltravers, his eldest son and
heir, is at Lisle Court. An express has been despatched in search of
Mr. Ernest Maltravers, who, involved by his high English spirit in some
dispute with the authorities of a despotic government, had suddenly
disappeared from Gottingen, where his extraordinary talents had highly
distinguished him. He is supposed to be staying at Paris."


The paper dropped on the floor. Ernest threw himself back on the chair,
and covered his face with his hands.

Alice was beside him in a moment. He looked up, and caught her wistful
and terrified gaze. "Oh, Alice!" he cried, bitterly, and almost pushing
her away, "if you could but guess my remorse!" Then springing on his
feet, he hurried from the room.

Presently the whole house was in commotion. The gardener, who was
always in the house about supper-time, flew to the town for post-horses.
The old woman was in despair about the laundress, for her first and only
thought was for "master's shirts." Ernest locked himself in his room.
Alice! poor Alice!

In little more than twenty minutes, the chaise was at the door: and
Ernest, pale as death, came into the room where he had left Alice.

She was seated on the floor, and the fatal paper was on her lap. She
had been endeavouring, in vain, to learn what had so sensibly affected
Maltravers, for, as I said before, she was unacquainted with his real
name, and therefore the ominous paragraph did not even arrest her eye.

He took the paper from her, for he wanted again and again to read it:
some little word of hope or encouragement must have escaped him. And
then Alice flung herself on his breast. "Do not weep," said he; "Heaven
knows I have sorrow enough of my own! My father is dying! So kind, so
generous, so indulgent! O God, forgive me! Compose yourself, Alice.
You will hear from me in a day or two."

He kissed her, but the kiss was cold and forced. He hurried away. She
heard the wheels grate on the pebbles. She rushed to the window; but
that beloved face was not visible. Maltravers had drawn the blinds, and
thrown himself back to indulge his grief. A moment more, and even the
vehicle that bore him away was gone. And before her were the flowers,
and the starlit lawn, and the playful fountain, and the bench where they
had sat in such heartfelt and serene delight. He was gone; and often,
oh, how often, did Alice remember that his last words had been uttered
in estranged tones--that his last embrace had been without love!



CHAPTER IX.

    "Thy due from me
  Is tears: and heavy sorrows of the blood,
  Which nature, love, and filial tenderness
  Shall, O dear father, pay thee plenteously!"
   _Second Part of Henry IV._, Act iv. Sc. 4.

IT was late at night when the chaise that bore Maltravers stopped at the
gates of a park lodge. It seemed an age before the peasant within was
aroused from the deep sleep of labour-loving health. "My father," he
cried, while the gate creaked on its hinges; "my father--is he better?
Is he alive?"

"Oh, bless your heart, Master Ernest, the squire was a little better
this evening."

"Thank Heaven!--On--on!"

The horses smoked and galloped along a road that wound through venerable
and ancient groves. The moonlight slept soft upon the sward, and the
cattle, disturbed from their sleep, rose lazily up, and gazed upon the
unseasonable intruder.

It is a wild and weird scene, one of those noble English parks at
midnight, with its rough forest-ground broken into dell and valley, its
never-innovated and mossy grass, overrun with fern, and its immemorial
trees, that have looked upon the birth, and look yet upon the graves, of
a hundred generations. Such spots are the last proud and melancholy
trace of Norman knighthood and old romance left to the laughing
landscapes of cultivated England. They always throw something of shadow
and solemn gloom upon minds that feels their associations, like that
which belongs to some ancient and holy edifice. They are the cathedral
aisles of Nature with their darkened vistas, and columned trunks, and
arches of mighty foliage. But in ordinary times the gloom is pleasing,
and more delightful than all the cheerful lawns and sunny slopes of the
modern taste. _Now_ to Maltravers it was ominous and oppressive: the
darkness of death seemed brooding in every shadow, and its warning voice
moaning in every breeze.

The wheels stopped again. Lights flitted across the basement story; and
one above, more dim than the rest, shone palely from the room in which
the sick man slept. The bell rang shrilly out from amidst the dark ivy
that clung around the porch. The heavy door swung back--Maltravers was
on the threshold. His father lived--was better--was awake. The son was
in the father's arms.



CHAPTER X.

    "The guardian oak
  Mourn'd o'er the roof it shelter'd: the thick air
  Labour'd with doleful sounds."
   ELLIOTT of _Sheffield_.

MANY days had passed, and Alice was still alone; but she had heard twice
from Maltravers. The letters were short and hurried. One time his
father was better, and there were hopes; another time, and it was not
expected that he could survive the week. They were the first letters
Alice had ever received from him. Those _first_ letters are an event in
a girl's life--in Alice's life they were a very melancholy one. Ernest
did not ask her to write to him; in fact, he felt, at such an hour, a
repugnance to disclose his real name, and receive the letters of
clandestine love in the house in which a father lay in death. He might
have given the feigned address he had previously assumed, at some
distant post-town, where his person was not known. But, then, to obtain
such letters, he must quit his father's side for hours. The thing was
impossible. These difficulties Maltravers did not explain to Alice.

She thought it singular he did not wish to hear from her; but Alice was
humble. What could she say worth troubling him with, and at such an
hour? But how kind in him to write! how precious those letters! and yet
they disappointed her, and cost her floods of tears: they were so
short--so full of sorrow--there was so little love in them; and "dear,"
or even "_dearest_ Alice," that uttered by the voice was so tender,
looked cold upon the lifeless paper. If she but knew the exact spot
where he was it would be some comfort; but she only knew that he was
away, and in grief; and though he was little more than thirty miles
distant, she felt as if immeasurable space divided them. However, she
consoled herself as she could; and strove to shorten the long miserable
day by playing over all the airs he liked, and reading all the passages
he had commended. She should be so improved when he returned; and how
lovely the garden would look; for every day its trees and bouquets
caught a new smile from the deepening spring. Oh, they would be so
happy once more! Alice _now_ learned the life that lies in the future;
and her young heart had not, as yet, been taught that of that future
there is any prophet but Hope!

Maltravers, on quitting the cottage, had forgotten that Alice was
without money, and now that he found his stay would be indefinitely
prolonged, he sent a remittance. Several bills were unpaid--some
portion of the rent was due; and Alice, as she was desired, intrusted
the old servant with a bank note, with which she was to discharge these
petty debts. One evening, as she brought Alice the surplus, the good
dame seemed greatly discomposed. She was pale and agitated; or, as she
expressed it, "had a terrible fit of the shakes."

"What is the matter, Mrs. Jones? you have no news of him--of--of my--of
your master?"

"Dear heart, miss--no," answered Mrs. Jones; "how should I? But I'm
sure I don't wish to frighten you; there has been two sich robberies in
the neighbourhood!"

"Oh, thank Heaven that's all!" exclaimed Alice.

"Oh, don't go for to thank Heaven for that, miss; it's a shocking thing
for two lone females like us, and them 'ere windows all open to the
ground! You sees, as I was taking the note to be changed at Mr.
Harris's, the great grocer's shop, where all the poor folk was a-buying
agin to-morrow" (for it was Saturday night, the second Saturday after
Ernest's departure; from that Hegira Alice dated all her chronology),
"and everybody was a-talking about the robberies last night. La, miss,
they bound old Betty--you know Betty--a most respectable 'oman, who has
known sorrows, and drinks tea with me once a week. Well, miss, they
(only think!) bound Betty to the bedpost, with nothing on her but her
shift--poor old soul! And as Mr. Harris gave me the change (please to
see, miss, it's all right), and I asked for half gould, miss, it's more
convenient, sich an ill-looking fellow was by me, a-buying o' baccy, and
he did so stare at the money, that I vows I thought he'd have rin away
with it from the counter; so I grabbled it up and went away. But, would
you believe, miss, just as I got into the lane, afore you turns through
the gate, I chanced to look back, and there, sure enough, was that ugly
fellow close behind, a-running like mad. Oh, I set up such a screetch;
and young Dobbins was a-taking his cow out of the field, and he perked
up over the hedge when he heard me; and the cow, too, with her horns,
Lord bless her! So the fellow stopped, and I bustled through the gate,
and got home. But la, miss, if we are all robbed and murdered?"

Alice had not heard much of this harangue; but what she did hear very
slightly affected her strong, peasant-born nerves; not half so much
indeed, as the noise Mrs. Jones made in double-locking all the doors,
and barring, as well as a peg and a rusty inch of chain would allow, all
the windows--which operation occupied at least an hour and a half.

All at last was still. Mrs. Jones had gone to bed--in the arms of sleep
she had forgotten her terrors--and Alice had crept up-stairs, and
undressed, and said her prayers, and wept a little; and, with the tears
yet moist upon her dark eyelashes, had glided into dreams of Ernest.
Midnight was passed--the stroke of one sounded unheard from the clock at
the foot of the stars. The moon was gone--a slow, drizzling rain was
falling upon the flowers, and cloud and darkness gathered fast and thick
around the sky.

About this time, a low, regular, grating sound commenced at the thin
shutters of the sitting-room below, preceded by a very faint noise, like
the tinkling of small fragments of glass on the gravel without. At
length it ceased, and the cautious and partial gleam of a lanthorn fell
along the floor; another moment, and two men stood in the room.

"Hush, Jack!" whispered one: "hang out the glim, and let's look about
us."

The dark-lanthorn, now fairly unmuffled, presented to the gaze of the
robbers nothing that could gratify their cupidity.

Books and music, chairs, tables, carpet, and fire-irons, though valuable
enough in a house-agent's inventory, are worthless to the eyes of a
housebreaker. They muttered a mutual curse.

"Jack," said the former speaker, "we must make a dash at the spoons and
forks, and then hey for the money. The old girl had thirty shiners,
besides flimsies."

The accomplice nodded consent; the lanthorn was again partially shaded,
and with noiseless and stealthy steps the men quitted the apartment.
Several minutes elapsed, when Alice was awakened from her slumber by a
loud scream she started, all was again silent: she must have dreamt it:
her little heart beat violently at first, but gradually regained its
tenor. She rose, however, and the kindness of her nature being more
susceptible than her fear, she imagined Mrs. Jones might be ill--she
would go to her. With this idea she began partially dressing herself,
when she distinctly heard heavy footsteps and a strange voice in the
room beyond. She was now thoroughly alarmed--her first impulse was to
escape from the house--her next to bolt the door, and call aloud for
assistance. But who would hear her cries? Between the two purposes,
she halted irresolute . . . and remained, pale and trembling, seated at
the foot of the bed, when a broad light streamed through the chinks of
the door--an instant more, and a rude hand seized her.

"Come, mem, don't be fritted, we won't harm you; but where's the
gold-dust--where's the money?--the old girl says you've got it. Fork it
over."

"O mercy, mercy! John Walters, is that you?"

"Damnation!" muttered the man, staggering back; "so you knows me then;
but you sha'n't peach; you sha'n't scrag me, b---t you."

While he spoke, he again seized Alice, held her forcibly down with one
hand, while with the other he deliberately drew from a side pouch a long
case-knife. In that moment of deadly peril, the second ruffian, who had
been hitherto delayed in securing the servant, rushed forward. He had
heard the exclamation of Alice, he heard the threat of his comrade; he
darted to the bedside, cast a hurried gaze upon Alice, and hurled the
intended murderer to the other side of the room.

"What, man, art mad?" he growled between his teeth. "Don't you know
her? It is Alice;--it is my daughter."

Alice had sprung up when released from the murderer's knife, and now,
with eyes strained and starting with horror, gazed upon the dark and
evil face of her deliverer.

"O God, it is--it is my father!" she muttered, and fell senseless.

"Daughter or no daughter," said John Walters, "I shall not put my scrag
in her power; recollect how she fritted us before, when she run away."

Darvil stood thoughtful and perplexed; and his associate approached
doggedly with a look of such settled ferocity as it was impossible for
even Darvil to contemplate without a shudder.

"You say right," muttered the father, after a pause, but fixing his
strong gripe on his comrade's shoulder,--"the girl must not be left
here--the cart has a covering. We are leaving the country; I have a
right to my daughter--she shall go with us. There, man, grab the
money--it's on the table; . . . . you've got the spoons. Now then--" as
Darvil spoke he seized his daughter in his arms; threw over her a shawl
and a cloak that lay at hand, and was already on the threshold.

"I don't half like it," said Walters, grumblingly--"it been't safe."

"At least it is as safe as murder!" answered Darvil, turning round, with
a ghastly grin. "Make haste."

When Alice recovered her senses, the dawn was breaking slowly along
desolate and sullen hills. She was lying upon rough straw--the cart was
jolting over the ruts of a precipitous, lonely road,--and by her side
scowled the face of that dreadful father.



CHAPTER XI.

 "Yet he beholds her with the eyes of mind--
  He sees the form which he no more shall meet;
  She like a passionate thought is come and gone,
  While at his feet the bright rill bubbles on."
   ELLIOTT _of Sheffield_.

IT was a little more than three weeks after that fearful night, when the
chaise of Maltravers stopped at the cottage door--the windows were shut
up; no one answered the repeated summons of the post-boy. Maltravers
himself, alarmed and amazed, descended from the vehicle: he was in deep
mourning. He went impatiently to the back entrance; that also was
locked; round to the French windows of the drawing-room, always hitherto
half-opened, even in the frosty days of winter,--they were now closed
like the rest. He shouted in terror, "Alice, Alice!"--no sweet voice
answered in breathless joy, no fairy step bounded forward in welcome.
At this moment, however, appeared the form of the gardener coming across
the lawn. The tale was soon told; the house had been robbed--the old
woman at morning found gagged and fastened to her bed-post--Alice flown.
A magistrate had been applied to,--suspicion fell upon the fugitive.
None knew anything of her origin or name, not even the old woman.
Maltravers had naturally and sedulously ordained Alice to preserve that
secret, and she was too much in fear of being detected and claimed by
her father not to obey the injunction with scrupulous caution. But it
was known, at least, that she had entered the house a poor peasant girl;
and what more common than for ladies of a certain description to run
away from their lover, and take some of his property by mistake? And a
poor girl like Alice, what else could be expected? The magistrate
smiled, and the constables laughed. After all, it was a good joke at
the young gentleman's expense! Perhaps, as they had no orders from
Maltravers, and they did not know where to find him, and thought he
would be little inclined to prosecute, the search was not very rigorous.
But two houses had been robbed the night before. Their owners were more
on the alert. Suspicion fell upon a man of infamous character, John
Walters; he had disappeared from the place. He had been last seen with
an idle, drunken fellow, who was said to have known better days, and who
at one time had been a skilful and well-paid mechanic, till his habits
of theft and drunkenness threw him out of employ; and he had been since
accused of connection with a gang of coiners--tried--and escaped from
want of sufficient evidence against him. That man was Luke Darvil. His
cottage was searched; but he also had fled. The trace of cart-wheels by
the gate of Maltravers gave a faint clue to pursuit; and after an active
search of some days, persons answering to the description of the
suspected burglars--with a young female in their company--were tracked
to a small inn, notorious as a resort for smugglers, by the sea-coast.
But there every vestige of their supposed whereabouts disappeared.

And all this was told to the stunned Maltravers; the garrulity of the
gardener precluded the necessity of his own inquiries, and the name of
Darvil explained to him all that was dark to others. And Alice was
suspected of the basest and the blackest guilt! Obscure, beloved,
protected as she had been, she could not escape the calumny from which
he had hoped everlastingly to shield her. But did _he_ share that
hateful thought? Maltravers was too generous and too enlightened.

"Dog!" said he, grinding his teeth, and clenching his hands, at the
startled menial, "dare to utter a syllable of suspicion against her, and
I will trample the breath out of your body!"

The old woman, who had vowed that for the 'varsal world she would not
stay in the house after such a "night of shakes," had now learned the
news of her master's return, and came hobbling up to him. She arrived
in time to hear his menace to her fellow-servant.

"Ah, that's right; give it him, your honour; bless your good
heart!--that's what I says. Miss rob the house! says I--Miss run away.
Oh no--depend on it they have murdered her and buried the body."

Maltravers gasped for breath, but without uttering another word he
re-entered the chaise and drove to the house of the magistrate. He
found that functionary a worthy and intelligent man of the world. To
him he confided the secret of Alice's birth and his own. The magistrate
concurred with him in believing that Alice had been discovered and
removed by her father. New search was made--gold was lavished.
Maltravers himself headed the search in person. But all came to the
same result as before, save that by the descriptions he heard of the
person--the dress--the tears, of the young female who had accompanied
the men supposed to be Darvil and Walters, he was satisfied that Alice
yet lived; he hoped she might yet escape and return. In that hope he
lingered for weeks--for months, in the neighbourhood; but time passed
and no tidings. . . . He was forced at length to quit a neighbourhood at
once so saddened and endeared. But he secured a friend in the
magistrate, who promised to communicate with him if Alice returned, or
her father was discovered. He enriched Mrs. Jones for life, in
gratitude for her vindication of his lost and early love; he promised
the amplest rewards for the smallest clue. And with a crushed and
desponding spirit, he obeyed at last the repeated and anxious summons of
the guardian to whose care, until his majority was attained, the young
orphan was now entrusted.



CHAPTER XII.

 "Sure there are poets that did never dream
  Upon Parnassus."--DENHAM.

 "Walk sober off, before a sprightlier age
  Come tittering on, and shove you from the stage."--POPE.

 "Hence to repose your trust in me was wise."
   DRYDEN'S _Absalom and Achitophel_.

MR. FREDERICK CLEVELAND, a younger son of the Earl of Byrneham, and
therefore entitled to the style and distinction of "Honourable," was the
guardian of Ernest Maltravers. He was now about the age of forty-three;
a man of letters and a man of fashion, if the last half-obsolete
expression be permitted to us, as being at least more classical and
definite than any other which modern euphuism has invented to convey the
same meaning. Highly educated, and with natural abilities considerably
above mediocrity, Mr. Cleveland early in life had glowed with the
ambition of an author. . . . He had written well and gracefully--but his
success, though respectable, did not satisfy his aspirations. The fact
is, that a new school of literature ruled the public, despite the
critics--a school very different from that in which Mr. Cleveland formed
his unimpassioned and polished periods. And as that old Earl, who in
the time of Charles the First was the reigning wit of the court, in the
time of Charles the Second was considered too dull even for a butt, so
every age has its own literary stamp and coinage, and consigns the old
circulation to its shelves and cabinets as neglected curiosities.
Cleveland could not become the fashion with the public as an author,
though the coteries cried him up and the reviewers adored him--and the
ladies of quality and the amateur dilettanti bought and bound his
volumes of careful poetry and cadenced prose. But Cleveland had high
birth and a handsome competence--his manners were delightful, his
conversation fluent--and his disposition was as amiable as his mind was
cultured. He became, therefore, a man greatly sought after in society
both respected and beloved. If he had not genius, he had great good
sense; he did not vex his urbane temper and kindly heart with walking
after a vain shadow, and disquieting himself in vain. Satisfied with an
honourable and unenvied reputation, he gave up the dream of that higher
fame which he clearly saw was denied to his aspirations--and maintained
his good-humour with the world, though in his secret soul he thought it
was very wrong in its literary caprices. Cleveland never married: he
lived partly in town, but principally at Temple Grove, a villa not far
from Richmond. Here, with an excellent library, beautiful grounds, and
a circle of attached and admiring friends, which comprised all the more
refined and intellectual members of what is termed, by emphasis, _Good
Society_--this accomplished and elegant person passed a life perhaps
much happier than he would have known had his young visions been
fulfilled, and it had become his stormy fate to lead the rebellious and
fierce Democracy of Letters.

Cleveland was indeed, if not a man of high and original genius, at least
very superior to the generality of patrician authors. In retiring,
himself, from frequent exercise in the arena, he gave up his mind with
renewed zest to the thoughts and masterpieces of others. From a
well-read man, he became a deeply instructed one. Metaphysics, and some
of the material sciences, added new treasures to information more light
and miscellaneous, and contributed to impart weight and dignity to a
mind that might otherwise have become somewhat effeminate and frivolous.
His social habits, his clear sense, and benevolence of judgment, made
him also an exquisite judge of all those indefinable nothings, or little
things, that, formed into a total, become knowledge of the Great World.
I say the Great World--for of the world without the circle of the great,
Cleveland naturally knew but little. But of all that related to that
subtle orbit in which gentlemen and ladies move in elevated and ethereal
order, Cleveland was a profound philosopher. It was the mode with many
of his admirers to style him the Horace Walpole of the day. But though
in some of the more external and superficial points of character they
were alike, Cleveland had considerably less cleverness, and infinitely
more heart.

The late Mr. Maltravers, a man not indeed of literary habits but an
admirer of those who were--an elegant, high-bred, hospitable _seigneur
de province_--had been one of the earliest of Cleveland's
friends--Cleveland had been his fag at Eton--and he found Hal
Maltravers--(Handsome Hal!) had become the darling of the clubs, when he
made his own _debut_ in society. They were inseparable for a season or
two--and when Mr. Maltravers married, and enamoured of country pursuits,
proud of his old hall, and sensibly enough conceiving that he was a
greater man in his own broad lands than in the republican aristocracy of
London, settled peaceably at Lisle Court, Cleveland corresponded with
him regularly, and visited him twice a year. Mrs. Maltravers died in
giving birth to Ernest, her second son. Her husband loved her tenderly,
and was long inconsolable for her loss. He could not bear the sight of
the child that had cost him so dear a sacrifice. Cleveland and his
sister, Lady Julia Danvers, were residing with him at the time of this
melancholy event; and with judicious and delicate kindness, Lady Julia
proposed to place the unconscious offender amongst her own children for
some months. The proposition was accepted, and it was two years before
the infant Ernest was restored to the paternal mansion. During the
greater part of that time, he had gone through all the events and
revolutions of baby life under the bachelor roof of Frederick Cleveland.

The result of this was, that the latter loved the child like a father.
Ernest's first intelligible word hailed Cleveland as "papa;" and when
the urchin was at length deposited at Lisle Court, Cleveland talked all
the nurses out of breath with admonitions, and cautions, and
injunctions, and promises, and threats, which might have put many a
careful mother to the blush. This circumstance formed a new tie between
Cleveland and his friend. Cleveland's visits were now three times a
year instead of twice. Nothing was done for Ernest without Cleveland's
advice. He was not even breeched till Cleveland gave his grave consent.
Cleveland chose his school, and took him to it,--and he spent a week of
every vacation in Cleveland's house. The boy never got into a scrape,
or won a prize, or wanted _a tip_, or coveted a book, but what Cleveland
was the first to know of it. Fortunately, too, Ernest manifested by
times tastes which the graceful author thought similar to his own. He
early developed very remarkable talents, and a love for learning--though
these were accompanied with a vigour of life and soul--an energy--a
daring--which gave Cleveland some uneasiness, and which did not appear
to him at all congenial with the moody shyness of an embryo genius, or
the regular placidity of a precocious scholar. Meanwhile the relation
between father and son was rather a singular one. Mr. Maltravers had
overcome his first, not unnatural, repugnance to the innocent cause of
his irremediable loss. He was now fond and proud of his boy--as he was
of all things that belonged to him. He spoiled and petted him even more
than Cleveland did. But he interfered very little with his education or
pursuits. His eldest son, Cuthbert, did not engross all his heart, but
occupied all his care. With Cuthbert he connected the heritage of his
ancient name, and the succession of his ancestral estates. Cuthbert was
not a genius, nor intended to be one; he was to be an accomplished
gentleman, and a great proprietor. The father understood Cuthbert, and
could see clearly both his character and career. He had no scruple in
managing his education, and forming his growing mind. But Ernest
puzzled him. Mr. Maltravers was even a little embarrassed in the boy's
society; he never quite overcame that feeling of strangeness towards him
which he had experienced when he first received him back from Cleveland,
and took Cleveland's directions about his health and so forth. It
always seemed to him as if his friend shared his right to the child; and
he thought it a sort of presumption to scold Ernest, though he very
often swore at Cuthbert. As the younger son grew up, it certainly was
evident that Cleveland did understand him better than his own father
did; and so, as I have before said, on Cleveland the father was not
displeased passively to shift the responsibility of the rearing.

Perhaps Mr. Maltravers might not have been so indifferent, had Ernest's
prospects been those of a younger son in general. If a profession had
been necessary for him, Mr. Maltravers would have been naturally anxious
to see him duly fitted for it. But from a maternal relation Ernest
inherited an estate of about four thousand pounds a year; and he was
thus made independent of his father. This loosened another tie between
them; and so by degrees Mr. Maltravers learned to consider Ernest less
as his own son, to be advised or rebuked, praised or controlled, than as
a very affectionate, promising, engaging boy, who, somehow or other,
without any trouble on his part, was very likely to do great credit to
his family, and indulge his eccentricities upon four thousand pounds a
year. The first time that Mr. Maltravers was seriously perplexed about
him was when the boy, at the age of sixteen, having taught himself
German, and intoxicated his wild fancies with _Werter_ and _The
Robbers_, announced his desire, which sounded very like a demand, of
going to Gottingen instead of to Oxford. Never were Mr. Maltravers's
notions of a proper and gentlemanlike finish to education more
completely and rudely assaulted. He stammered out a negative, and
hurried to his study to write a long letter to Cleveland, who, himself
an Oxford prize-man, would, he was persuaded, see the matter in the same
light. Cleveland answered the letter in person: listened in silence to
all the father had to say, and then strolled through the park with the
young man. The result of the latter conference was, that Cleveland
declared in favour of Ernest.

"But, my dear Frederick," said the astonished father, "I thought the boy
was to carry off all the prizes at Oxford?"

"I carried off some, Maltravers; but I don't see what good they did me."

"Oh, Cleveland!"

"I am serious."

"But it is such a very odd fancy."

"Your son is a very odd young man."

"I fear he is so--I fear he is, poor fellow! But what will he learn at
Gottingen?"

"Languages and Independence," said Cleveland.

"And the classics--the classics--you are such an excellent Grecian!"

"There are great Grecians in Germany," answered Cleveland; "and Ernest
cannot well unlearn what he knows already. My dear Maltravers, the boy
is not like most clever young men. He must either go through action,
and adventure, and excitement in his own way, or he will be an idle
dreamer, or an impracticable enthusiast all his life. Let him
alone.--So Cuthbert is gone into the Guards?"

"But he went first to Oxford."

"Humph! What a fine young man he is!"

"Not so tall as Ernest, but--"

"A handsome face," said Cleveland. "He is a son to be proud of in one
way, as I hope Ernest will be in another. Will you show me your new
hunter?"

 * * * * *

It was to the house of this gentleman, so judiciously made his guardian,
that the student of Gottingen now took his melancholy way.



CHAPTER XIII.

 "But if a little exercise you choose,
   Some zest for ease, 'tis not forbidden here;
  Amid the groves you may indulge the Muse,
   Or tend the blooms and deck the vernal year."
     _Castle of Indolence_.

THE house of Mr. Cleveland was an Italian villa adapted to an English
climate. Through an Ionic arch you entered a domain of some eighty or a
hundred acres in extent, but so well planted and so artfully disposed,
that you could not have supposed the unseen boundaries inclosed no
ampler a space. The road wound through the greenest sward, in which
trees of venerable growth were relieved by a profusion of shrubs, and
flowers gathered into baskets intertwined with creepers, or blooming
from classic vases, placed with a tasteful care in such spots as
required the _filling up_, and harmonised well with the object chosen.
Not an old ivy-grown pollard, not a modest and bending willow, but was
brought out, as it were, into a peculiar feature by the art of the
owner. Without being overloaded, or too minutely elaborate (the common
fault of the rich man's villa), the whole place seemed one diversified
and cultivated garden; even the air almost took a different odour from
different vegetation, with each winding of the road; and the colours of
the flowers and foliage varied with every view.

At length, when, on a lawn sloping towards a glassy lake overhung by
limes and chestnuts, and backed by a hanging wood, the house itself came
in sight, the whole prospect seemed suddenly to receive its finishing
and crowning feature. The house was long and low. A deep peristyle
that supported the roof extended the whole length, and being raised
above the basement had the appearance of a covered terrace; broad
flights of steps, with massive balustrades, supporting vases of aloes
and orange-trees, led to the lawn; and under the peristyle were ranged
statues, Roman antiquities and rare exotics. On this side the lake
another terrace, very broad, and adorned, at long intervals, with urns
and sculpture, contrasted the shadowy and sloping bank beyond; and
commanded, through unexpected openings in the trees, extensive views of
the distant landscape, with the stately Thames winding through the
midst. The interior of the house corresponded with the taste without.
All the principal rooms, even those appropriated to sleep, were on the
same floor. A small but lofty and octagonal hall conducted to a suite
of four rooms. At one extremity was a moderately-sized dining-room with
a ceiling copied from the rich and gay colours of Guido's "Hours;" and
landscapes painted by Cleveland himself, with no despicable skill, were
let into the walls. A single piece of sculpture copied from the Piping
Faun, and tinged with a flesh-like glow by purple and orange draperies
behind it, relieved without darkening the broad and arched window which
formed its niche. This communicated with a small picture-room, not
indeed rich with those immortal gems for which princes are candidates;
for Cleveland's fortune was but that of a private gentleman, though,
managed with a discreet if liberal economy, it sufficed for all his
elegant desires. But the pictures had an interest beyond that of art,
and their subjects were within the reach of a collector of ordinary
opulence. They made a series of portraits--some originals, some copies
(and the copies were often the best) of Cleveland's favourite authors.
And it was characteristic of the man, that Pope's worn and thoughtful
countenance looked down from the central place of honour. Appropriately
enough, this room led into the library, the largest room in the house,
the only one indeed that was noticeable from its size, as well as its
embellishments. It was nearly sixty feet in length. The bookcases were
crowned with bronze busts, while at intervals statues, placed in open
arches, backed with mirrors, gave the appearance of galleries, opening
from the book-lined walls, and introduced an inconceivable air of
classic lightness and repose into the apartment; with these arches the
windows harmonised so well, opening on the peristyle, and bringing into
delightful view the sculpture, the flowers, the terraces, and the lake
without, that the actual prospects half seduced you into the belief that
they were designs by some master-hand of the poetical gardens that yet
crown the hills of Rome. Even the colouring of the prospects on a sunny
day favoured the delusion, owing to the deep, rich hues of the simple
draperies, and the stained glass of which the upper panes of the windows
were composed. Cleveland was especially fond of sculpture; he was
sensible, too, of the mighty impulse which that art has received in
Europe within the last half century. He was even capable of asserting
the doctrine, not yet sufficiently acknowledged in this country, that
Flaxman surpassed Canova. He loved sculpture, too, not only for its own
beauty, but for the beautifying and intellectual effect that it produces
wherever it is admitted. It is a great mistake, he was wont to say, in
collectors of statues, to arrange them _pele mele_ in one long
monotonous gallery. The single relief, or statue, or bust, or simple
urn, introduced appropriately in the smallest apartment we inhabit,
charms us infinitely more than those gigantic museums, crowded into
rooms never entered but for show, and without a chill, uncomfortable
shiver. Besides, this practice of galleries, which the herd consider
orthodox, places sculpture out of the patronage of the public. There
are not a dozen people who can afford galleries. But very moderately
affluent gentlemen can afford a statue or a bust. The influence, too,
upon a man's mind and taste, created by the constant and habitual view
of monuments of the only imperishable art which resorts to physical
materials, is unspeakable. Looking upon the Greek marble, we become
acquainted, almost insensibly, with the character of the Greek life and
literature. That Aristides, that Genius of Death, that fragment of the
unrivalled Psyche, are worth a thousand Scaligers!

"Do you ever look at the Latin translation when you read Aeschylus?"
said a schoolboy once to Cleveland.

"That is my Latin translation," said Cleveland, pointing to the Laocoon.

The library opened at the extreme end to a small cabinet for curiosities
and medals, which, still in a straight line, conducted to a long
belvidere, terminating in a little circular summer-house, that, by a
sudden wind of the lake below, hung perpendicularly over its transparent
tide, and, seen from the distance, appeared almost suspended on air, so
light were its slender columns and arching dome. Another door from the
library opened upon a corridor which conducted to the principal
sleeping-chambers; the nearest door was that of Cleveland's private
study communicating with his bedroom and dressing-closet. The other
rooms were appropriated to, and named after, his several friends.

Mr. Cleveland had been advised by a hasty line of the movements of his
ward, and he received the young man with a smile of welcome, though his
eyes were moist and his lips trembled--for the boy was like his
father!--a new generation had commenced for Cleveland!

"Welcome, my dear Ernest," said he; "I am so glad to see you, that I
will not scold you for your mysterious absence. This is your room, you
see your name over the door; it is a larger one than you used to have,
for you are a man now; and there is your German sanctum adjoining--for
Schiller and the meerschaum!--a bad habit that, the meerschaum! but not
worse than the Schiller, perhaps. You see you are in the peristyle
immediately. The meerschaum is good for flowers, I fancy, so have no
scruple. Why, my dear boy, how pale you are! Be cheered--be cheered.
Well, I must go myself, or you will infect me."

Cleveland hurried away; he thought of his lost friend. Ernest sank upon
the first chair, and buried his face in his hands. Cleveland's valet
entered, and bustled about and unpacked the portmanteau, and arranged
the evening dress. But Ernest did not look up nor speak; the first bell
sounded; the second tolled unheard upon his ear. He was thoroughly
overcome by his emotions. The first notes of Cleveland's kind voice had
touched upon a soft chord, that months of anxiety and excitement had
strained to anguish, but had never woke to tears. His nerves were
shattered--those strong young nerves! He thought of his dead father
when he first saw Cleveland; but when he glanced round the room prepared
for him, and observed the care for his comfort, and the tender
recollection of his most trifling peculiarities everywhere visible,
Alice, the watchful, the humble, the loving, the lost Alice rose before
him. Surprised at his ward's delay, Cleveland entered the room; there
sat Ernest still, his face buried in his hands. Cleveland drew them
gently away, and Maltravers sobbed like an infant. It was an easy
matter to bring tears to the eyes of that young man: a generous or a
tender thought, an old song, the simplest air of music, sufficed for
that touch of the mother's nature. But the vehement and awful passion
which belongs to manhood when thoroughly unmanned--this was the first
time in which the relief of that stormy bitterness was known to him!



CHAPTER XIV.

 "Musing full sadly in his sullen mind."--SPENSER.

 "There forth issued from under the altar-smoke
  A dreadful fiend."--_Ibid. on Superstition_.

NINE times out of ten it is over the Bridge of Sighs that we pass the
narrow gulf from Youth to Manhood. That interval is usually occupied by
an ill-placed or disappointed affection. We recover, and we find
ourselves a new being. The intellect has been hardened by the fire
through which it has passed. The mind profits by the wrecks of every
passion, and we may measure our road to wisdom by the sorrows we have
undergone.

But Maltravers was yet on the bridge, and, for a time, both mind and
body were prostrate and enfeebled. Cleveland had the sagacity to
discover that the affections had their share in the change that he
grieved to witness, but he had also the delicacy not to force himself
into the young man's confidence. But by little and little his kindness
so completely penetrated the heart of his ward, that Ernest one evening
told his whole tale. As a man of the world, Cleveland perhaps rejoiced
that it was no worse, for he had feared some existing entanglement
perhaps with a married woman. But as a man who was better than the
world in general, he sympathised with the unfortunate girl whom Ernest
pictured to him in faithful and unflattered colours, and he long forbore
consolations which he foresaw would be unavailing. He felt, indeed,
that Ernest was not a man "to betray the noon of manhood to a
myrtle-shade:"--that with so sanguine, buoyant, and hardy a temperament,
he would at length recover from a depression which, if it could bequeath
a warning, might as well not be wholly divested of remorse. And he also
knew that few become either great authors or great men (and he fancied
Ernest was born to be one or the other) without the fierce emotions and
passionate struggles, through which the Wilhelm Meister of real life
must work out his apprenticeship, and attain the Master Rank. But at
last he had serious misgivings about the health of his ward. A constant
and spectral gloom seemed bearing the young man to the grave. It was in
vain that Cleveland, who secretly desired him to thirst for a public
career, endeavoured to arouse his ambition--the boy's spirit seemed
quite broken--and the visit of a political character, the mention of a
political work, drove him at once into his solitary chamber. At length
his mental disease took a new turn. He became, of a sudden, most
morbidly and fanatically--I was about to say religious: but that is not
the word; let me call it pseudo-religious. His strong sense and
cultivated taste did not allow him to delight in the raving tracts of
illiterate fanatics--and yet out of the benign and simple elements of
the Scripture he conjured up for himself a fanaticism quite as gloomy
and intense. He lost sight of God the Father, and night and day dreamed
only of God the Avenger. His vivid imagination was perverted to raise
out of its own abyss phantoms of colossal terror. He shuddered aghast
at his own creations, and earth and heaven alike seemed black with the
everlasting wrath. These symptoms completely baffled and perplexed
Cleveland. He knew not what remedy to administer--and to his
unspeakable grief and surprise he found that Ernest, in the true spirit
of his strange bigotry, began to regard Cleveland--the amiable, the
benevolent Cleveland--as one no less out of the pale of grace than
himself. His elegant pursuits, his cheerful studies, were considered by
the young but stern enthusiast as the miserable recreations of Mammon
and the world. There seemed every probability that Ernest Maltravers
would die in a madhouse or, at best, succeed to the delusions without
the cheerful intervals of Cowper.



CHAPTER XV.

 "Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit,
  Restless--unfixed in principles and place."--DRYDEN.

 "Whoever acquires a very great number of ideas interesting to
  the society in which he lives, will be regarded in that society
  as a man of abilities."--HELVETIUS.

IT was just when Ernest Maltravers was so bad that he could not be worse
that a young man visited Temple Grove. The name of this young man was
Lumley Ferrers, his age was about twenty-six, his fortune about eight
hundred a year--he followed no profession. Lumley Ferrers had not what
is usually called genius; that is, he had no enthusiasm; and if the word
talent be properly interpreted as meaning the talent of doing something
better than others, Ferrers had not much to boast of on that score. He
had no talent for writing, nor for music, nor painting, nor the ordinary
round of accomplishments; neither at present had he displayed much of
the hard and useful talent for action and business. But Ferrers had
what is often better than either genius or talent; he had a powerful and
most acute mind.

He had, moreover, great animation of manner, high physical spirits, a
witty, odd, racy vein of conversation, determined assurance, and
profound confidence in his own resources. He was fond of schemes,
stratagems, and plots--they amused and excited him--his power of
sarcasm, and of argument, too, was great, and he usually obtained an
astonishing influence over those with whom he was brought in contact.
His high spirits and a most happy frankness of bearing carried off and
disguised his leading vices of character, which were callousness to
whatever was affectionate and insensibility to whatever was moral.
Though less learned than Maltravers, he was on the whole a very
instructed man. He mastered the surfaces of many sciences, became
satisfied of their general principles, and threw the study aside never
to be forgotten (for his memory was like a vice), but never to be
prosecuted any further. To this he added a general acquaintance with
whatever is most generally acknowledged as standard in ancient or modern
literature. What is admired only by a few, Lumley never took the
trouble to read. Living amongst trifles, he made them interesting and
novel by his mode of viewing and treating them. And here indeed was _a_
talent--it was the talent of social life--the talent of enjoyment to the
utmost with the least degree of trouble to himself. Lumley Ferrers was
thus exactly one of those men whom everybody calls exceedingly clever,
and yet it would puzzle one to say in what he was so clever. It was,
indeed, that nameless power which belongs to ability, and which makes
one man superior, on the whole, to another, though in many details by no
means remarkable. I think it is Goethe who says somewhere that, in
reading the life of the greatest genius, we always find that he was
acquainted with some men superior to himself, who yet never attained to
general distinction. To the class of these mystical superior men Lumley
Ferrers might have belonged; for though an ordinary journalist would
have beaten him in the arts of composition, few men of genius, however
eminent, could have felt themselves above Ferrers in the ready grasp and
plastic vigour of natural intellect. It only remains to be said of this
singular young man, whose character as yet was but half developed, that
he had seen a great deal of the world, and could live at ease and in
content with all tempers and ranks; fox-hunters or scholars, lawyers or
poets, patricians or _parvenus_, it was all one to Lumley Ferrers.

Ernest was, as usual, in his own room, when he heard, along the corridor
without, all that indefinable bustling noise which announces an arrival.
Next came a most ringing laugh, and then a sharp, clear, vigorous voice,
that ran through his ears like a dagger. Ernest was immediately aroused
to all the majesty of indignant sullenness. He walked out on the
terrace of the portico, to avoid the repetition of the disturbance: and
once more settled back into his broken and hypochondriacal reveries.
Pacing to and fro that part of the peristyle which occupied the more
retired wing of the house, with his arms folded, his eyes downcast, his
brows knit, and all the angel darkened on that countenance which
formerly looked as if, like truth, it could shame the devil and defy the
world, Ernest followed the evil thought that mastered him, through the
Valley of the Shadow. Suddenly he was aware of something--some obstacle
which he had not previously encountered. He started, and saw before him
a young man, of plain dress, gentlemanlike appearance, and striking
countenance.

"Mr. Maltravers, I think," said the stranger, and Ernest recognised the
voice that had so disturbed him: "this is lucky; we can now introduce
ourselves, for I find Cleveland means us to be intimate. Mr. Lumley
Ferrers, Mr. Ernest Maltravers. There now, I am the elder, so I first
offer my hand, and grin properly. People always grin when they make a
new acquaintance! Well, that's settled. Which way are you walking?"

Maltravers could, when he chose it, be as stately as if he had never
been out of England. He now drew himself up in displeased astonishment;
extricated his hand from the gripe of Ferrers, and saying, very coldly,
"Excuse me, sir, I am busy," stalked back to his chamber. He threw
himself into his chair, and was presently forgetful of his late
annoyance, when, to his inexpressible amazement and wrath, he heard
again the sharp, clear voice close at his elbow.

Ferrers had followed him through the French casement into the room.
"You are busy, you say, my dear fellow. I want to write some letters:
we sha'n't interrupt each other--don't disturb yourself:" and Ferrers
seated himself at the writing-table, dipped a pen into the ink, arranged
blotting-book and paper before him in due order, and was soon employed
in covering page after page with the most rapid and hieroglyphical
scrawl that ever engrossed a mistress or perplexed a dun.

"The presuming puppy!" growled Maltravers, half audibly, but effectually
roused from himself; and examining with some curiosity so cool an
intruder, he was forced to own that the countenance of Ferrers was not
that of a puppy.

A forehead compact and solid as a block of granite, overhung small,
bright, intelligent eyes of a light hazel; the features were handsome,
yet rather too sharp and fox-like; the complexion, though not highly
coloured, was of that hardy, healthy hue which generally betokens a
robust constitution, and high animal spirits; the jaw was massive, and,
to a physiognomist, betokened firmness and strength of character; but
the lips, full and large, were those of a sensualist, and their restless
play, an habitual half smile, spoke of gaiety and humour, though when in
repose there was in them something furtive and sinister.

Maltravers looked at him in grave silence; but when Ferrers, concluding
his fourth letter before another man would have got through his first
page, threw down the pen, and looked full at Maltravers, with a
good-humoured but penetrating stare, there was something so whimsical in
the intruder's expression of face, and indeed in the whole scene, that
Maltravers bit his lip to restrain a smile, the first he had known for
weeks.

"I see you read, Maltravers," said Ferrers, carelessly turning over the
volumes on the table. "All very right: we should begin life with books;
they multiply the sources of employment; so does capital;--but capital
is of no use, unless we live on the interest,--books are waste paper,
unless we spend in action the wisdom we get from thought. Action,
Maltravers, action; that is the life for us. At our age we have
passion, fancy, sentiment; we can't read them away, or scribble them
away;--we must live upon them generously, but economically."

Maltravers was struck; the intruder was not the empty bore he had chosen
to fancy him. He roused himself languidly to reply. "Life, _Mr._
Ferrers--"

"Stop, _mon cher_, stop; don't call me Mister; we are to be friends; I
hate delaying that which _must be_, even by a superfluous dissyllable;
you are Maltravers, I am Ferrers. But you were going to talk about life.
Suppose we _live_ a little while, instead of talking about it? It wants
an hour to dinner; let us stroll into the grounds; I want to get an
appetite;--besides, I like nature when there are no Swiss mountains to
climb before one can arrive at a prospect. _Allons_!"

"Excuse--" again began Maltravers, half interested, half annoyed.

"I'll be shot if I do. Come."

Ferrers gave Maltravers his hat, wound his arm into that of his new
acquaintance, and they were on the broad terrace by the lake before
Ernest was aware of it.

How animated, how eccentric, how easy was Ferrers' talk (for talk it
was, rather than conversation, since he had the ball to himself); books,
and men, and things; he tossed them about and played with them like
shuttlecocks; and then his egotistical narrative of half a hundred
adventures, in which he had been the hero, told so, that you laughed at
him and laughed with him.



CHAPTER XVI.

 "Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
  Comes dancing from the east."--MILTON.

HITHERTO Ernest had never met with any mind that had exercised a strong
influence over his own. At home, at school, at Gottingen, everywhere,
he had been the brilliant and wayward leader of others, persuading or
commanding wiser and older heads than his own: even Cleveland always
yielded to him, though not aware of it. In fact, it seldom happens that
we are very strongly influenced by those much older than ourselves. It
is the senior, of from two to ten years, that most seduces and enthrals
us. He has the same pursuits--views, objects, pleasures, but more art
and experience in them all. He goes with us in the path we are ordained
to tread, but from which the elder generation desires to warn us off.
There is very little influence where there is not great sympathy. It was
now an epoch in the intellectual life of Maltravers. He met for the
first time with a mind that controlled his own. Perhaps the physical
state of his nerves made him less able to cope with the half-bullying,
but thoroughly good-humoured imperiousness of Ferrers. Every day this
stranger became more and more potential with Maltravers. Ferrers, who
was an utter egotist, never asked his new friend to give him his
confidence; he never cared three straws about other people's secrets,
unless useful to some purpose of his own. But he talked with so much
zest about himself--about women and pleasure, and the gay, stirring life
of cities--that the young spirit of Maltravers was roused from its dark
lethargy without an effort of its own. The gloomy phantoms vanished
gradually--his sense broke from its cloud--he felt once more that God
had given the sun to light the day, and even in the midst of darkness
had called up the host of stars.

Perhaps no other person could have succeeded so speedily in curing
Maltravers of his diseased enthusiasm: a crude or sarcastic unbeliever
he would not have listened to; a moderate and enlightened divine he
would have disregarded, as a worldly and cunning adjuster of laws
celestial with customs earthly. But Lumley Ferrers, who, when he
argued, never admitted a sentiment or a simile in reply, who wielded his
plain iron logic like a hammer, which, though its metal seemed dull,
kindled the ethereal spark with every stroke--Lumley Ferrers was just
the man to resist the imagination, and convince the reason, of
Maltravers; and the moment the matter came to argument, the cure was
soon completed: for, however we may darken and puzzle ourselves with
fancies and visions, and the ingenuities of fanatical mysticism, no man
can mathematically or syllogistically contend that the world which a God
made, and a Saviour visited, was designed to be damned.

And Ernest Maltravers one night softly stole to his room and opened the
New Testament, and read its heavenly moralities with purged eyes; and
when he had done, he fell upon his knees, and prayed the Almighty to
pardon the ungrateful heart that, worse than the Atheist's, had
confessed His existence, but denied His goodness. His sleep was sweet
and his dreams were cheerful. Did he rise to find that the penitence
which had shaken his reason would henceforth suffice to save his life
from all error? Alas! remorse overstrained has too often reactions as
dangerous; and homely Luther says well, that "the mind, like the drunken
peasant on horseback, when propped on the one side, nods and falls on
the other."--All that can be said is, that there are certain crises in
life which leave us long weaker; from which the system recovers with
frequent revulsion and weary relapse,--but from which, looking back,
after years have passed on, we date the foundation of strength or the
cure of disease. It is not to mean souls that creation is darkened by a
fear of the anger of Heaven.



CHAPTER XVII.

 "There are times when we are diverted out of errors, but could
  not be preached out of them.--There are practitioners who can cure
  us of one disorder, though, in ordinary cases, they be but poor
  physicians--nay, dangerous quacks."-STEPHEN MONTAGUE.

LUMLEY FERRERS had one rule in life; and it was this: to make all things
and all persons subservient to himself. And Ferrers now intended to go
abroad for some years. He wanted a companion, for he disliked solitude:
besides, a companion shared the expenses; and a man of eight hundred a
year, who desires all the luxuries of life, does not despise a partner
in the taxes to be paid for them. Ferrers, at this period, rather liked
Ernest than not: it was convenient to choose friends from those richer
than himself, and he resolved, when he first came to Temple Grove, that
Ernest should be his travelling companion. This resolution formed, it
was very easy to execute it.

Maltravers was now warmly attached to his new friend, and eager for
change. Cleveland was sorry to part with him; but he dreaded a relapse,
if the young man were again left upon his hands. Accordingly, the
guardian's consent was obtained; a travelling carriage was bought, and
fitted up with every imaginable imperial and _malle_. A Swiss (half
valet and half courier) was engaged, one thousand a year was allowed to
Maltravers;--and one soft and lovely morning, towards the close of
October, Ferrers and Maltravers found themselves midway on the road to
Dover.

"How glad I am to get out of England," said Ferrers: "it is a famous
country for the rich; but here, eight hundred a year, without a
profession, save that of pleasure, goes upon pepper and salt; it is a
luxurious competence abroad."

"I think I have heard Cleveland say that you will be rich some day or
other."

"O yes: I have what are called expectations! You must know that I have
a kind of settlement on two stools, the Well-born and the Wealthy; but
between two stools--you recollect the proverb! The present Lord
Saxingham, once plain Frank Lascelles, and my father, Mr. Ferrers, were
first cousins. Two or three relations good-naturedly died, and Frank
Lascelles became an earl; the lands did not go with the coronet; he was
poor, and married an heiress. The lady died; her estate was settled on
her only child, the handsomest little girl you ever saw. Pretty
Florence, I often wish I could look up to you! Her fortune will be
nearly all at her own disposal, too, when she comes of age; now she is
in the nursery, 'eating bread and honey.' My father, less lucky and
less wise than his cousin, thought fit to marry a Miss Templeton--a
nobody. The Saxingham branch of the family politely dropped the
acquaintance. Now, my mother had a brother, a clever, plodding fellow,
in what is called 'business:' he became richer and richer: but my father
and mother died, and were never the better for it. And I came of age,
and _worth_ (I like that expression) not a farthing more or less than
this often-quoted eight hundred pounds a year. My rich uncle is
married, but has no children. I am, therefore, heir-presumptive,--but
he is a saint, and close, though ostentatious. The quarrel between
Uncle Templeton and the Saxinghams still continues. Templeton is angry
if I see the Saxinghams and the Saxinghams--my Lord, at least--is by no
means so sure that I shall be Templeton's heir as not to feel a doubt
lest I should some day or other sponge upon his lordship for a place.
Lord Saxingham is in the administration, you know. Somehow or other I
have an equivocal amphibious kind of place in London society, which I
don't like; on one side I am a patrician connection, whom the _parvenu_
branches always incline lovingly to--and on the other side I am a
half-dependent cadet, whom the noble relations look civilly shy at.
Some day, when I grow tired of travel and idleness, I shall come back
and wrestle with these little difficulties, conciliate my methodistical
uncle, and grapple with my noble cousin. But now I am fit for something
better than getting on in the world. Dry chips, not green wood, are the
things for making a blaze! How slow this fellow drives! Hollo, you
sir! get on! mind, twelve miles to the hour! You shall have sixpence a
mile. Give me your purse, Maltravers; I may as well be cashier, being
the elder and the wiser man; we can settle accounts at the end of the
journey. By Jove, what a pretty girl!"



BOOK II.

 "He, of wide-blooming youth's fair flower possest,
  Owns the vain thoughts--the heart that cannot rest!"
   SIMONIDES, _in Tit. Hum_.



CHAPTER I.

 "Il y eut certainement quelque chose de singulier dans mes
  sentimens pour cette charmante femme."*--ROUSSEAU.

* There certainly was something singular in my sentiments for this
charming woman.

IT was a brilliant ball at the Palazzo of the Austrian embassy at
Naples: and a crowd of those loungers, whether young or old, who attach
themselves to the reigning beauty, was gathered round Madame de
Ventadour. Generally speaking, there is more caprice than taste in the
election of a beauty to the Italian throne. Nothing disappoints a
stranger more than to see for the first time the woman to whom the world
has given the golden apple. Yet he usually falls at last into the
popular idolatry, and passes with inconceivable rapidity from indignant
scepticism into superstitious veneration. In fact, a thousand things
beside mere symmetry of feature go to make up the Cytherea of the hour.
--tact in society--the charm of manner--nameless and piquant
brilliancy. Where the world find the Graces they proclaim the Venus.
Few persons attain pre-eminent celebrity for anything, without some
adventitious and extraneous circumstances which have nothing to do with
the thing celebrated. Some qualities or some circumstances throw a
mysterious or personal charm about them. "Is Mr. So-and-So really such
a genius?" "Is Mrs. Such-a-One really such a beauty?" you ask
incredulously. "Oh, yes," is the answer. "Do you know all about him or
her? Such a thing is said, or such a thing has happened." The idol is
interesting in itself, and therefore its leading and popular attribute
is worshipped.

Now Madame de Ventadour was at this time the beauty of Naples: and
though fifty women in the room were handsomer, no one would have dared
to say so. Even the women confessed her pre-eminence--for she was the
most perfect dresser that even France could exhibit. And to no
pretensions do ladies ever concede with so little demur, as those which
depend upon that feminine art which all study, and in which few excel.
Women never allow beauty in a face that has an odd-looking bonnet above
it, nor will they readily allow any one to be ugly whose caps are
unexceptionable. Madame de Ventadour had also the magic that results
from intuitive high breeding, polished by habit to the utmost. She
looked and moved the _grande dame_, as if Nature had been employed by
Rank to make her so. She was descended from one of the most illustrious
houses of France; had married at sixteen a man of equal birth, but old,
dull, and pompous--a caricature rather than a portrait of that great
French _noblesse_, now almost if not wholly extinct. But her virtue was
without a blemish--some said from pride, some said from coldness. Her
wit was keen and court-like--lively, yet subdued; for her French high
breeding was very different from the lethargic and taciturn
imperturbability of the English. All silent people can seem
conventionally elegant. A groom married a rich lady; he dreaded the
ridicule of the guests whom his new rank assembled at his table--an
Oxford clergyman gave him this piece of advice, "Wear a black coat and
hold your tongue!" The groom took the hint, and is always considered
one of the most gentlemanlike fellows in the county. Conversation is
the touchstone of the true delicacy and subtle grace which make the
ideal of the moral mannerism of a court. And there sat Madame de
Ventadour, a little apart from the dancers, with the silent English
dandy Lord Taunton, exquisitely dressed and superbly tall, bolt upright
behind her chair; and the sentimental German Baron von Schomberg,
covered with orders, whiskered and wigged to the last hair of
perfection, sighing at her left hand; and the French minister, shrewd,
bland, and eloquent, in the chair at her right; and round on all sides
pressed, and bowed, and complimented, a crowd of diplomatic secretaries
and Italian princes, whose bank is at the gaming-table, whose estates
are in their galleries, and who sell a picture, as English gentlemen cut
down a wood, whenever the cards grow gloomy. The charming De Ventadour!
she had attraction for them all! smiles for the silent, badinage for the
gay, politics for the Frenchman, poetry for the German, the eloquence of
loveliness for all! She was looking her best--the slightest possible
tinge of rouge gave a glow to her transparent complexion, and lighted up
those large dark sparkling eyes (with a latent softness beneath the
sparkle) seldom seen but in the French--and widely distinct from the
unintellectual languish of the Spaniard, or the full and majestic
fierceness of the Italian gaze. Her dress of black velvet, and graceful
hat with its princely plume, contrasted the alabaster whiteness of her
arms and neck. And what with the eyes, the skin, the rich colouring of
the complexion, the rosy lips and the small ivory teeth, no one would
have had the cold hypercriticism to observe that the chin was too
pointed, the mouth too wide, and the nose, so beautiful in the front
face, was far from perfect in the profile.

"Pray was Madame in the Strada Nuova to-day?" asked the German, with as
much sweetness in his voice as if he had been vowing eternal love.

"What else have we to do with our mornings, we women?" replied Madame de
Ventadour. "Our life is a lounge from the cradle to the grave; and our
afternoons are but the type of our career. A promenade and a
crowd,--_voila tout_! We never see the world except in an open
carriage."

"It is the pleasantest way of seeing it," said the Frenchman, drily.

"I doubt it; the worst fatigue is that which comes without exercise."

"Will you do me the honour to waltz?" said the tall English lord, who
had a vague idea that Madame de Ventadour meant she would rather dance
than sit still. The Frenchman smiled.

"Lord Taunton enforces your own philosophy," said the minister.

Lord Taunton smiled because every one else smiled; and, besides, he had
beautiful teeth: but he looked anxious for an answer.

"Not to-night,--I seldom dance. Who is that very pretty woman? What
lovely complexions the English have! And who," continued Madame de
Ventadour, without waiting for an answer to the first question, "who is
that gentleman,--the young one I mean,--leaning against the door?"

"What, with the dark moustache?" said Lord Taunton. "He is a cousin of
mine."

"Oh, no; not Colonel Bellfield; I know him--how amusing he is!--no; the
gentleman I mean wears no moustache."

"Oh, the tall Englishman with the bright eyes and high forehead," said
the French minister. "He is just arrived--from the East, I believe."

"It is a striking countenance," said Madame de Ventadour; "there is
something chivalrous in the turn of the head. Without doubt, Lord
Taunton, he is '_noble_'?"

"He is what you call '_noble_,'" replied Lord Taunton--"that is, what we
call a 'gentleman;' his name is Maltravers. He lately came of age; and
has, I believe, rather a good property."

"Monsieur Maltravers; only Monsieur?" repeated Madame de Ventadour.

"Why," said the French minister, "you understand that the English
_gentilhomme_ does not require a De or a title to distinguish him from
the _roturier_."

"I know that; but he has an air above a simple _gentilhomme_. There is
something _great_ in his look; but it is not, I must own, the
conventional greatness of rank: perhaps he would have looked the same
had he been born a peasant."

"You don't think him handsome?" said Lord Taunton, almost angrily (for
he was one of the Beauty-men, and Beauty-men are sometimes jealous).

"Handsome! I did not say that," replied Madame de Ventadour, smiling;
"it is rather a fine head than a handsome face. Is he clever, I
wonder?--but all you English, milord, are well educated."

"Yes, profound--profound: we are profound, not superficial," replied
Lord Taunton, drawing down his wrist-bands.

"Will Madame de Ventadour allow me to present to her one of my
countrymen?" said the English minister approaching--"Mr. Maltravers."

Madame de Ventadour half smiled and half blushed, as she looked up, and
saw bent admiringly upon her the proud and earnest countenance she had
remarked.

The introduction made--a few monosyllables exchanged. The French
diplomatist rose and walked away with the English one. Maltravers
succeeded to the vacant chair.

"Have you been long abroad?" asked Madame de Ventadour.

"Only four years; yet long enough to ask whether I should not be most
abroad in England."

"You have been in the East--I envy you. And Greece, and Egypt,--all the
associations! You have travelled back into the Past; you have escaped,
as Madame D'Epinay wished, out of civilisation and into romance."

"Yet Madame D'Epinay passed her own life in making pretty romances out
of a very agreeable civilisation," said Maltravers, smiling.

"You know her Memoirs, then," said Madame de Ventadour, slightly
colouring. "In the current of a more exciting literature few have had
time for the second-rate writings of a past century."

"Are not those second-rate performances often the most charming," said
Maltravers, "when the mediocrity of the intellect seems almost as if it
were the effect of a touching, though too feeble, delicacy of sentiment?
Madame D'Epinay's Memoirs are of this character. She was not a virtuous
woman--but she felt virtue and loved it; she was not a woman of
genius--but she was tremblingly alive to all the influences of genius.
Some people seem born with the temperament and the tastes of genius
without its creative power; they have its nervous system, but something
is wanting in the intellectual. They feel acutely, yet express tamely.
These persons always have in their character an unspeakable kind of
pathos--a court civilisation produces many of them--and the French
memoirs of the last century are particularly fraught with such examples.
This is interesting--the struggle of sensitive minds against the
lethargy of a society, dull, yet brilliant, that _glares_ them, as it
were, to sleep. It comes home to us; for," added Maltravers, with a
slight change of voice, "how many of us fancy we see our own image in
the mirror!"

And where was the German baron?--flirting at the other end of the room.
And the English lord?--dropping monosyllables to dandies by the doorway.
And the minor satellites?--dancing, whispering, making love, or sipping
lemonade. And Madame de Ventadour was alone with the young stranger in
a crowd of eight hundred persons; and their lips spoke of sentiment, and
their eyes involuntarily applied it!

While they were thus conversing, Maltravers was suddenly startled by
hearing close behind him, a sharp, significant voice, saying in French,
"Hein, hein! I've my suspicions--I've my suspicions."

Madame de Ventadour looked round with a smile. "It is only my husband,"
said she, quietly; "let me introduce him to you."

Maltravers rose and bowed to a little thin man, most elaborately
dressed, and with an immense pair of spectacles upon a long sharp nose.

"Charmed to make your acquaintance, sir!" said Monsieur de Ventadour.
"Have you been long in Naples? . . . Beautiful weather--won't last
long--hein, hein, I've my suspicions! No news as to your parliament--be
dissolved soon! Bad opera in London this year!--hein, hein--I've my
suspicions."

This rapid monologue was delivered with appropriate gesture. Each new
sentence Mons. de Ventadour began with a sort of bow, and when it
dropped in the almost invariable conclusion affirmative of his
shrewdness and incredulity, he made a mystical sign with his forefinger
by passing it upward in a parallel line with his nose, which at the same
time performed its own part in the ceremony by three convulsive
twitches, that seemed to shake the bridge to its base.

Maltravers looked with mute surprise upon the connubial partner of the
graceful creature by his side, and Mons. de Ventadour, who had said as
much as he thought necessary, wound up his eloquence by expressing the
rapture it would give him to see Mons. Maltravers at his hotel. Then,
turning to his wife, he began assuring her of the lateness of the hour,
and the expediency of departure. Maltravers glided away, and as he
regained the door was seized by our old friend, Lumley Ferrers. "Come,
my dear fellow," said the latter; "I have been waiting for you this half
hour. _Allons_. But, perhaps, as I am dying to go to bed, you have
made up your mind to stay supper. Some people have no regard for other
people's feelings."

"No, Ferrers, I'm at your service;" and the young man descended the
stairs and passed along the Chiaja towards their hotel. As they gained
the broad and open space on which it stood, with the lovely sea before
them, sleeping in the arms of the curving shore, Maltravers, who had
hitherto listened in silence to the volubility of his companion, paused
abruptly.

"Look at that sea, Ferrers. . . . What a scene!--what delicious air!
How soft this moonlight! Can you not fancy the old Greek adventurers,
when they first colonised this divine Parthenope--the darling of the
ocean--gazing along those waves, and pining no more for Greece?"

"I cannot fancy anything of the sort," said Ferrers. . . . "And, depend
upon it, the said gentlemen, at this hour of the night, unless they were
on some piratical excursion--for they were cursed ruffians, those old
Greek colonists--were fast asleep in their beds."

"Did you ever write poetry, Ferrers?"

"To be sure; all clever men have written poetry once in their
lives--small-pox and poetry--they are our two juvenile diseases."

"And did you ever _feel_ poetry!"

"Feel it!"

"Yes, if you put the moon into your verses, did you first feel it
shining into your heart?"

"My dear Maltravers, if I put the moon into my verses, in all
probability it was to rhyme to noon. 'The night was at her noon'--is a
capital ending for the first hexameter--and the moon is booked for the
next stage. Come in."

"No, I shall stay out."

"Don't be nonsensical."

"By moonlight there is no nonsense like common sense."

"What! we--who have climbed the Pyramids, and sailed up the Nile, and
seen magic at Cairo, and been nearly murdered, bagged, and Bosphorized
at Constantinople, is it for us, who have gone through so many
adventures, looked on so many scenes, and crowded into four years events
that would have satisfied the appetite of a cormorant in romance, if it
had lived to the age of a phoenix;--is it for us to be doing the pretty
and sighing to the moon, like a black-haired apprentice without a
neckcloth on board of the Margate hoy? Nonsense, I say--we have lived
too much not to have lived away our green sickness of sentiment."

"Perhaps you are right, Ferrers," said Maltravers, smiling. "But I can
still enjoy a beautiful night."

"Oh, if you like flies in your soup, as the man said to his guest, when
he carefully replaced those entomological blackamoors in the tureen,
after helping himself--if you like flies in your soup, well and
good--_buona notte_."

Ferrers certainly was right in his theory, that when we have known real
adventures we grow less morbidly sentimental. Life is a sleep in which
we dream most at the commencement and the close--the middle part absorbs
us too much for dreams. But still, as Maltravers said, we can enjoy a
fine night, especially on the shores of Naples.

Maltravers paced musingly to and fro for some time. His heart was
softened--old rhymes rang in his ear--old memories passed through his
brain. But the sweet dark eyes of Madame de Ventadour shone forth
through every shadow of the past. Delicious intoxication--the draught
of the rose-coloured phial--which is fancy, but seems love!



CHAPTER II.

 "Then 'gan the Palmer thus--'Most wretched man
  That to affections dost the bridle lend:
  In their beginnings they are weak and wan,
  But soon, through suffrance, growe to fearfull end;
  While they are weak, betimes with them contend.'"
   SPENSER.

MALTRAVERS went frequently to the house of Madame de Ventadour--it was
open twice a week to the world, and thrice a week to friends.
Maltravers was soon of the latter class. Madame de Ventadour had been
in England in her childhood, for her parents had been _emigres_. She
spoke English well and fluently, and this pleased Maltravers; for though
the French language was sufficiently familiar to him, he was like most
who are more vain of the mind than the person, and proudly averse to
hazarding his best thoughts in the domino of a foreign language. We
don't care how faulty the accent, or how incorrect the idiom, in which
we talk nothings; but if we utter any of the poetry within us, we
shudder at the risk of the most trifling solecism.

This was especially the case with Maltravers; for, besides being now
somewhat ripened from his careless boyhood into a proud and fastidious
man, he had a natural love for the Becoming. This love was
unconsciously visible in trifles: it is the natural parent of Good
Taste. And it was indeed an inborn good taste which redeemed Ernest's
natural carelessness in those personal matters in which young men
usually take a pride. An habitual and soldier-like neatness, and a love
of order and symmetry, stood with him in the stead of elaborate
attention to equipage and dress.

Maltravers had not thought twice in his life whether he was handsome or
not; and, like most men who have a knowledge of the gentler sex, he knew
that beauty had little to do with engaging the love of women. The air,
the manner, the tone, the conversation, the something that interests,
and the something to be proud of--these are the attributes of the man
made to be loved. And the Beauty-man is, nine times out of ten, little
more than the oracle of his aunts, and the "_Sich_ a love!" of the
housemaids!

To return from this digression, Maltravers was glad that he could talk
in his own language to Madame de Ventadour; and the conversation between
them generally began in French, and glided away into English. Madame de
Ventadour was eloquent, and so was Maltravers; yet a more complete
contrast in their mental views and conversational peculiarities can
scarcely be conceived. Madame de Ventadour viewed everything as a woman
of the world: she was brilliant, thoughtful, and not without delicacy
and tenderness of sentiment; still all was cast in a worldly mould. She
had been formed by the influences of society, and her mind betrayed its
education. At once witty and melancholy (no uncommon union), she was a
disciple of the sad but caustic philosophy produced by _satiety_. In
the life she led, neither her heart nor her head was engaged; the
faculties of both were irritated, not satisfied or employed. She felt
somewhat too sensitively the hollowness of the great world, and had a
low opinion of human nature. In fact, she was a woman of the French
memoirs--one of those charming and _spirituelles_ Aspasias of the
boudoir, who interest us by their subtlety, tact, and grace, their
exquisite tone of refinement, and are redeemed from the superficial and
frivolous, partly by a consummate knowledge of the social system in
which they move, and partly by a half-concealed and touching discontent
of the trifles on which their talents and affections are wasted. These
are the women who, after a youth of false pleasure, often end by an old
age of false devotion. They are a class peculiar to those ranks and
countries in which shines and saddens that gay and unhappy thing--_a
woman without a home_!

Now this was a specimen of life--this Valerie de Ventadour--that
Maltravers had never yet contemplated, and Maltravers was perhaps
equally new to the Frenchwoman. They were delighted with each other's
society, although it so happened that they never agreed.

Madame de Ventadour rode on horseback, and Maltravers was one of her
usual companions. And oh, the beautiful landscapes through which their
daily excursions lay!

Maltravers was an admirable scholar. The stores of the immortal dead
were as familiar to him as his own language. The poetry, the
philosophy, the manner of thought and habits of life--of the graceful
Greek and the luxurious Roman--were a part of knowledge that constituted
a common and household portion of his own associations and peculiarities
of thought. He had saturated his intellect with the Pactolus of
old--and the grains of gold came down from the classic Tmolus with every
tide. This knowledge of the dead, often so useless, has an
inexpressible charm when it is applied to the places where the dead
lived. We care nothing about the ancients on Highgate Hill--but at
Baiae, Pompeii, by the Virgilian Hades, the ancients are society with
which we thirst to be familiar. To the animated and curious Frenchwoman
what a cicerone was Ernest Maltravers! How eagerly she listened to
accounts of a life more elegant than that of Paris!--of a civilisation
which the world never can know again! So much the better;--for it was
rotten at the core, though most brilliant in the complexion. Those cold
names and unsubstantial shadows which Madame de Ventadour had been
accustomed to yawn over in skeleton histories, took from the eloquence
of Maltravers the breath of life--they glowed and moved--they feasted
and made love--were wise and foolish, merry and sad, like living things.
On the other hand, Maltravers learned a thousand new secrets of the
existing and actual world from the lips of the accomplished and
observant Valerie. What a new step in the philosophy of life does a
young man of genius make, when he first compares his theories and
experience with the intellect of a clever woman of the world! Perhaps
it does not elevate him, but how it enlightens and refines!--what
numberless minute yet important mysteries in human character and
practical wisdom does he drink unconsciously from the sparkling
_persiflage_ of such a companion! Our education is hardly ever complete
without it.

"And so you think these stately Romans were not, after all, so
dissimilar to ourselves?" said Valerie, one day, as they looked over the
same earth and ocean along which had roved the eyes of the voluptuous
but august Lucullus.

"In the last days of their Republic, a _coup-d'oeil_ of their social date
might convey to us a general notion of our own. Their system, like
ours--a vast aristocracy heaved and agitated, but kept ambitious and
intellectual, by the great democratic ocean which roared below and
around it. An immense distinction between rich and poor--a nobility
sumptuous, wealthy, cultivated, yet scarcely elegant or refined; a
people with mighty aspirations for more perfect liberty, but always
liable, in a crisis, to be influenced and subdued by a deep-rooted
veneration for the very aristocracy against which they struggled;--a
ready opening through all the walls of custom and privilege, for every
description of talent and ambition; but so strong and universal a
respect for wealth, that the finest spirit grew avaricious, griping, and
corrupt, almost unconsciously; and the man who rose from the people did
not scruple to enrich himself out of the abuses he affected to lament;
and the man who would have died for his country could not help thrusting
his hands into her pockets. Cassius, the stubborn and thoughtful
patriot, with his heart of iron, had, you remember, an itching palm.
Yet, what a blow to all the hopes and dreams of a world was the
overthrow of the free party after the death of Caesar! What generations
of freemen fell at Philippi! In England, perhaps, we may have
ultimately the same struggle; in France, too (perhaps a larger stage,
with far more inflammable actors), we already perceive the same war of
elements which shook Rome to her centre, which finally replaced the
generous Julius with the hypocritical Augustus, which destroyed the
colossal patricians to make way for the glittering dwarfs of a court,
and cheated the people out of the substance with the shadow of liberty.
How it may end in the modern world, who shall say? But while a nation
has already a fair degree of constitutional freedom, I believe no
struggle so perilous and awful as that between the aristocratic and the
democratic principle. A people against a despot--_that_ contest
requires no prophet; but the change from an aristocratic to a democratic
commonwealth is indeed the wide, unbounded prospect upon which rest
shadows, clouds, and darkness. If it fail--for centuries is the
dial-hand of Time put back; if it succeed--"

Maltravers paused.

"And if it succeed?" said Valerie.

"Why, then, man will have colonised Utopia!" replied Maltravers.

"But at least, in modern Europe," he continued, "there will be fair room
for the experiment. For we have not that curse of slavery which, more
than all else, vitiated every system of the ancients, and kept the rich
and the poor alternately at war; and we have a press, which is not only
the safety-valve of the passions of every party, but the great note-book
of the experiments of every hour--the homely, the invaluable ledger of
losses and of gains. No; the people who keep that tablet well, never
can be bankrupt. And the society of those old Romans; their daily
passions--occupations--humours!--why, the satire of Horace is the glass
of our own follies! We may fancy his easy pages written in the Chaussee
d'Antin, or Mayfair; but there was one thing that will ever keep the
ancient world dissimilar from the modern."

"And what is that?"

"The ancients knew not that delicacy in the affections which
characterises the descendants of the Goths," said Maltravers, and his
voice slightly trembled; "they gave up to the monopoly of the senses
what ought to have had an equal share in the reason and the imagination.
Their love was a beautiful and wanton butterfly; but not the butterfly
which is the emblem of the soul."

Valerie sighed. She looked timidly into the face of the young
philosopher, but his eyes were averted.

"Perhaps," she said, after a short pause, "we pass our lives more
happily without love than with it. And in our modern social system"
(she continued, thoughtfully, and with profound truth, though it is
scarcely the conclusion to which a woman often arrives) "I think we have
pampered Love to too great a preponderance over the other excitements of
life. As children, we are taught to dream of it; in youth, our books,
our conversation, our plays, are filled with it. We are trained to
consider it the essential of life; and yet, the moment we come to actual
experience, the moment we indulge this inculcated and stimulated
craving, nine times out of ten we find ourselves wretched and undone.
Ah, believe me, Mr. Maltravers, this is not a world in which we should
preach up too far the philosophy of Love!"

"And does Madame de Ventadour speak from experience?" asked Maltravers,
gazing earnestly upon the changing countenance of his companion.

"No; and I trust that I never may!" said Valerie, with great energy.

Ernest's lip curled slightly, for his pride was touched.

"I could give up many dreams of the future," said he, "to hear Madame de
Ventadour revoke that sentiment."

"We have outridden our companions, Mr. Maltravers," said Valerie,
coldly, and she reined in her horse. "Ah, Mr. Ferrers," she continued,
as Lumley and the handsome German baron now joined her, "you are too
gallant; I see you imply a delicate compliment to my horsemanship, when
you wish me to believe you cannot keep up with me: Mr. Maltravers is not
so polite."

"Nay," returned Ferrers, who rarely threw away a compliment without a
satisfactory return, "Nay, you and Maltravers appeared lost among the
old Romans; and our friend the baron took that opportunity to tell me of
all the ladies who adored him."

"Ah, Monsieur Ferrare, _que vous etes malin_!" said Schomberg, looking
very much confused.

"_Malin_! no; I spoke from no envy: _I_ never was adored, thank Heaven!
What a bore it must be!"

"I congratulate you on the sympathy between yourself and Ferrers,"
whispered Maltravers to Valerie.

Valerie laughed; but during the rest of the excursion she remained
thoughtful and absent, and for some days their rides were discontinued.
Madame de Ventadour was not well.



CHAPTER III.

 "O Love, forsake me not;
  Mine were a lone dark lot
  Bereft of thee."
   HEMANS, _Genius singing to Love_.

I FEAR that as yet Ernest Maltravers had gained little from Experience,
except a few current coins of worldly wisdom (and not very valuable
those!) while he has lost much of that nobler wealth with which youthful
enthusiasm sets out on the journey of life. Experience is an open
giver, but a stealthy thief. There is, however, this to be said in her
favour, that we retain her gifts; and if ever we demand restitution in
earnest, 'tis ten to one but what we recover her thefts. Maltravers had
lived in lands where public opinion is neither strong in its influence,
nor rigid in its canons; and that does not make a man better. Moreover,
thrown headlong amidst the temptations that make the first ordeal of
youth, with ardent passions and intellectual superiority, he had been
led by the one into many errors, from the consequences of which the
other had delivered him; the necessity of roughing it through the
world--of resisting fraud to-day, and violence to-morrow,--had hardened
over the surface of his heart, though at bottom the springs were still
fresh and living. He had lost much of his chivalrous veneration for
women, for he had seen them less often deceived than deceiving. Again,
too, the last few years had been spent without any high aims or fixed
pursuits. Maltravers had been living on the capital of his faculties
and affections in a wasteful, speculating spirit. It is a bad thing for
a clever and ardent man not to have from the onset some paramount object
of life.

All this considered, we can scarcely wonder that Maltravers should have
fallen into an involuntary system of pursuing his own amusements and
pursuits, without much forethought of the harm or the good they were to
do to others or himself. The moment we lose forethought, we lose sight
of duty; and though it seems like a paradox, we can seldom be careless
without being selfish.

In seeking the society of Madame de Ventadour, Maltravers obeyed but the
mechanical impulse that leads the idler towards the companionship which
most pleases his leisure. He was interested and excited; and Valerie's
manners, which to-day flattered, and to-morrow piqued him, enlisted his
vanity and pride on the side of his fancy. But although Monsieur de
Ventadour, a frivolous and profligate Frenchman, seemed utterly
indifferent as to what his wife chose to do--and in the society in which
Valerie lived, almost every lady had her cavalier,--yet Maltravers would
have started with incredulity or dismay had any one accused him of a
systematic design on her affections. But he was living with the world,
and the world affected him as it almost always does every one else.
Still he had, at times, in his heart, the feeling that he was not
fulfilling his proper destiny and duties; and when he stole from the
brilliant resorts of an unworthy and heartless pleasure, he was ever and
anon haunted by his old familiar aspirations for the Beautiful, the
Virtuous, and the Great. However, hell is paved with good intentions;
and so, in the meanwhile, Ernest Maltravers surrendered himself to the
delicious presence of Valerie de Ventadour.

One evening, Maltravers, Ferrers, the French minister, a pretty Italian,
and the Princess di ------, made the whole party collected at Madame de
Ventadour's. The conversation fell upon one of the tales of scandal
relative to English persons, so common on the Continent.

"Is it true, Monsieur," said the French minister, gravely, to Lumley,
"that your countrymen are much more immoral than other people? It is
very strange, but in every town I enter, there is always some story in
which _les Anglais_ are the heroes. I hear nothing of French
scandal--nothing of Italian--_toujours les Anglais_."

"Because we are shocked at these things, and make a noise about them,
while you take them quietly. Vice is our episode--your epic."

"I suppose it is so," said the Frenchman, with affected seriousness.
"If we cheat at play, or flirt with a fair lady, we do it with decorum,
and our neighbours think it no business of theirs. But you treat every
frailty you find in your countrymen as a public concern, to be discussed
and talked over, and exclaimed against, and told to all the world."

"I like the system of scandal," said Madame de Ventadour, abruptly; "say
what you will, the policy of fear keeps many of us virtuous. Sin might
not be odious, if we did not tremble at the consequence even of
appearances."

"Hein, hein," grunted Monsieur de Ventadour, shuffling into the room.
"How are you?--how are you? Charmed to see you. Dull night--I suspect
we shall have rain. Hein, hein. Aha, Monsieur Ferrers, _comment ca
va-t-il_? Will you give me my revenge at _ecarte_? I have my
suspicions that I am in luck to-night. Hein, hein."

"_Ecarte_!--well, with pleasure," said Ferrers.

Ferrers played well.

The conversation ended in a moment. The little party gathered round the
table--all, except Valerie and Maltravers. The chairs that were vacated
left a kind of breach between them; but still they were next to each
other, and they felt embarrassed, for they felt alone.

"Do you never play?" asked Madame de Ventadour, after a pause.

"I _have_ played," said Maltravers, "and I know the temptation. I dare
not play now. I love the excitement, but I have been humbled at the
debasement: it is a moral drunkenness that is worse than the physical."

"You speak warmly."

"Because I feel keenly. I once won of a man I respected, who was poor.
His agony was a dreadful lesson to me. I went home, and was terrified
to think I had felt so much pleasure in the pain of another. I have
never played since that night."

"So young and so resolute!" said Valerie, with admiration in her voice
and eyes; "you are a strange person. Others would have been cured by
losing, you were cured by winning. It is a fine thing to have principle
at your age, Mr. Maltravers."

"I fear it was rather pride than principle," said Maltravers. "Error is
sometimes sweet; but there is no anguish like an error of which we feel
ashamed. I cannot submit to blush for myself."

"Ah!" muttered Valerie; "this is the echo of my own heart!" She rose
and went to the window. Maltravers paused a moment, and followed her.
Perhaps he half thought there was an invitation in the movement.

There lay before them the still street, with its feeble and unfrequent
lights; beyond, a few stars, struggling through an atmosphere unusually
clouded, brought the murmuring ocean partially into sight. Valerie
leaned against the wall, and the draperies of the window veiled her from
all the guests, save Maltravers; and between her and himself was a large
marble vase filled with flowers; and by that uncertain light Valerie's
brilliant cheek looked pale, and soft, and thoughtful. Maltravers never
before felt so much in love with the beautiful Frenchwoman.

"Ah, madam!" said he, softly; "there is one error, if it be so, that
never can cost me shame."

"Indeed!" said Valerie with an unaffected start, for she was not aware
he was so near her. As she spoke she began plucking (it is a common
woman's trick) the flowers from the vase between her and Ernest. That
small, delicate, almost transparent hand!--Maltravers gazed upon the
hand, then on the countenance, then on the hand again. The scene swam
before him, and, involuntarily and as by an irresistible impulse, the
next moment that hand was in his own.

"Pardon me--pardon me," said he, falteringly; "but that error is in the
feelings that I know for you."

Valerie lifted on him her large and radiant eyes, and made no answer.

Maltravers went on. "Chide me, scorn me, hate me if you will. Valerie,
I love you."

Valerie drew away her hand, and still remained silent.

"Speak to me," said Ernest, leaning forward; "one word, I implore
you--speak to me!"

He paused,--still no reply; he listened breathlessly--he heard her sob.
Yes; that proud, that wise, that lofty woman of the world, in that
moment, was as weak as the simplest girl that ever listened to a lover.
But how different the feelings that made her weak!--what soft and what
stern emotions were blent together!

"Mr. Maltravers," she said, recovering her voice, though it sounded
hollow, yet almost unnaturally firm and clear"--the die is cast, and I
have lost for ever the friend for whose happiness I cannot live, but for
whose welfare I would have died; I should have foreseen this, but I was
blind. No more--no more; see me to-morrow, and leave me now!"

"But, Valerie--"

"Ernest Maltravers," said she, laying her hand lightly on his own;
"_there is no anguish, like an error of which we feel ashamed_!"

Before he could reply to this citation from his own aphorism, Valerie
had glided away; and was already seated at the card-table, by the side
of the Italian princess.

Maltravers also joined the group. He fixed his eyes on Madame de
Ventadour, but her face was calm--not a trace of emotion was
discernible. Her voice, her smile, her charming and courtly manner, all
were as when he first beheld her.

"These women--what hypocrites they are!" muttered Maltravers to himself;
and his lip writhed into a sneer, which had of late often forced away
the serene and gracious expression of his earlier years, ere he knew
what it was to despise. But Maltravers mistook the woman he dared to
scorn.

He soon withdrew from the palazzo, and sought his hotel. There, while
yet musing in his dressing-room, he was joined by Ferrers. The time had
passed when Ferrers had exercised an influence over Maltravers; the boy
had grown up to be the equal of the man, in the exercise of that
two-edged sword--the reason. And Maltravers now felt, unalloyed, the
calm consciousness of his superior genius. He could not confide to
Ferrers what had passed between him and Valerie. Lumley was too _hard_
for a confidant in matters where the heart was at all concerned. In
fact, in high spirits, and in the midst of frivolous adventures, Ferrers
was charming. But in sadness, or in the moments of deep feeling,
Ferrers was one whom you would wish out of the way.

"You are sullen to-eight, _mon cher_," said Lumley, yawning; "I suppose
you want to go to bed--some persons are so ill-bred, so selfish, they
never think of their friends. Nobody asks me what I won at _ecarte_.
Don't be late to-morrow--I hate breakfasting alone, and I am never later
than a quarter before nine--I hate egotistical, ill-mannered people.
Good night."

With this, Ferrers sought his own room; there, as he slowly undressed,
he thus soliloquised: "I think I have put this man to all the use I can
make of him. We don't pull well together any longer; perhaps I myself
am a little tired of this sort of life. That is not right. I shall
grow ambitious by and by; but I think it a bad calculation not to make
the most of youth. At four or five-and-thirty it will be time enough to
consider what one ought to be at fifty."



CHAPTER IV.

     "Most dangerous
  Is that temptation that does goad us on
  To sin in loving virtue."--_Measure for Measure_.

"SEE her to-morrow!--that morrow is come!" thought Maltravers, as he
rose the next day from a sleepless couch. Ere yet he had obeyed the
impatient summons of Ferrers, who had thrice sent to say that "_he_
never kept people waiting," his servant entered with a packet from
England, that had just arrived by one of those rare couriers who
sometimes honour that Naples, which _might_ be so lucrative a mart to
English commerce, if Neapolitan kings cared for trade, or English
senators for "foreign politics." Letters from stewards and bankers were
soon got through; and Maltravers reserved for the last an epistle from
Cleveland. There was much in it that touched him home. After some dry
details about the property to which Maltravers had now succeeded, and
some trifling comments upon trifling remarks in Ernest's former letters,
Cleveland went on thus:

"I confess, my dear Ernest, that I long to welcome you back to England.
You have been abroad long enough to see other countries; do not stay
long enough to prefer them to your own. You are at Naples, too--I
tremble for you. I know well that delicious, dreaming, holiday-life of
Italy, so sweet to men of learning and imagination--so sweet, too, to
youth--so sweet to pleasure! But, Ernest, do you not feel already how
it enervates?--how the luxurious _far niente_ unfits us for grave
exertion? Men may become too refined and too fastidious for useful
purposes; and nowhere can they become so more rapidly than in Italy. My
dear Ernest, I know you well; you are not made to sink down into a
virtuoso, with a cabinet full of cameos and a head full of pictures;
still less are you made to be an indolent _cicisbeo_ to some fair
Italian, with one passion and two ideas: and yet I have known men as
clever as you, whom that bewitching Italy has sunk into one or other of
these insignificant beings. Don't run away with the notion that you
have plenty of time before you. You have no such thing. At your age,
and with your fortune (I wish you were not so rich), the holiday of one
year becomes the custom of the next. In England, to be a useful or a
distinguished man, you must labour. Now, labour itself is sweet, if we
take to it early. We are a hard race, but we are a manly one; and our
stage is the most exciting in Europe for an able and an honest ambition.
Perhaps you will tell me you are not ambitious now; very possibly--but
ambitious you will be; and, believe me, there is no unhappier wretch
than a man who is ambitious but disappointed,--who has the desire for
fame, but has lost the power to achieve it--who longs for the goal, but
will not, and cannot, put away his slippers to walk to it. What I most
fear for you is one of these two evils--an early marriage or a fatal
_liaison_ with some married woman. The first evil is certainly the
least, but for you it would still be a great one. With your sensitive
romance, with your morbid cravings for the ideal, domestic happiness
would soon grow trite and dull. You would demand new excitement, and
become a restless and disgusted man. It is necessary for you to get rid
of all the false fever of life, before you settle down to everlasting
ties. You do not yet know your own mind; you would choose your partner
from some visionary caprice, or momentary impulse, and not from the deep
and accurate knowledge of those qualities which would most harmonize
with your own character. People, to live happily with each other, must
_fit in_, as it were--the proud be mated with the meek, the irritable
with the gentle, and so forth. No, my dear Maltravers, do not think of
marriage yet a while; and if there is any danger of it, come over to me
immediately. But if I warn you against a lawful tie, how much more
against an illicit one? You are precisely at the age, and of the
disposition, which render the temptation so strong and so deadly. With
you it might not be the sin of an hour, but the bondage of a life. I
know your chivalric honour--your tender heart; I know how faithful you
would be to one who had sacrificed for you. But that fidelity,
Maltravers, to what a life of wasted talent and energies would it not
compel you! Putting aside for the moment (for that needs no comment)
the question of the grand immorality--what so fatal to a bold and proud
temper, as to be at war with society at the first entrance into life?
What so withering to manly aims and purposes, as the giving into the
keeping of a woman, who has interest in your love, and interest against
your career which might part you at once from her side--the control of
your future destinies? I could say more, but I trust what I have said
is superfluous; if so, pray assure me of it. Depend upon this, Ernest
Maltravers, that if you do not fulfil what nature intended for
your fate, you will be a morbid misanthrope, or an indolent
voluptuary--wrenched and listless in manhood, repining and joyless in
old age. But if you do fulfil your fate, you must enter soon into your
apprenticeship. Let me see you labour and aspire--no matter what
in--what to. Work, work--that is all I ask of you!

"I wish you would see your old country-house; it has a venerable and
picturesque look, and during your minority they have let the ivy cover
three sides of it. Montaigne might have lived there.

   "Adieu, dearest Ernest,
     "Your anxious and affectionate guardian,
        "FREDERICK CLEVELAND.

"P. S.--I am writing a book--it shall last me ten years--it occupies me,
but does not fatigue. Write a book yourself."

 * * * * *

Maltravers had just finished this letter when Ferrers entered
impatiently. "Will you ride out?" said he. "I have sent the breakfast
away; I saw that breakfast was a vain hope to-day--indeed, my appetite
is gone."

"Pshaw!" said Maltravers.

"Pshaw! Humph! for my part I like well-bred people."

"I have had a letter from Cleveland."

"And what the deuce has that got to do with the chocolate?"

"Oh, Lumley, you are insufferable; you think of nothing but yourself,
and self with you means nothing that is not animal."

"Why, yes; I believe I have some sense," replied Ferrers, complacently.
"I know the philosophy of life. All unfledged bipeds are animals, I
suppose. If Providence had made me graminivorous, I should have eaten
grass; if ruminating, I should have chewed the cud; but as it has made
me a carnivorous, culinary, and cachinnatory animal, I eat a cutlet,
scold about the sauce, and laugh at you; and this is what you call being
selfish!"

It was late at noon when Maltravers found himself at the palazzo of
Madame de Ventadour. He was surprised, but agreeably so, that he was
admitted, for the first time, into that private sanctum which bears the
hackneyed title of boudoir. But there was little enough of the fine
lady's boudoir in the simple morning-room of Madame de Ventadour. It
was a lofty apartment, stored with books, and furnished, not without
claim to grace, but with very small attention to luxury.

Valerie was not there, and Maltravers, left alone, after a hasty glance
around the chamber, leaned abstractedly against the wall, and forgot,
alas! all the admonitions of Cleveland. In a few moments the door
opened, and Valerie entered. She was unusually pale, and Maltravers
thought her eyelids betrayed the traces of tears. He was touched, and
his heart smote him.

"I have kept you waiting, I fear," said Valerie, motioning him to a seat
at a little distance from that on which she placed herself; "but you
will forgive me," she added, with a slight smile. Then, observing he
was about to speak, she went on rapidly; "Hear me, Mr. Maltravers
--before you speak, hear me! You uttered words last night that ought
never to have been addressed to me. You professed to--love me."

"Professed!"

"Answer me," said Valerie, with abrupt energy, "not as man to woman, but
as one human creature to another. From the bottom of your heart, from
the core of your conscience, I call on you to speak the honest and the
simple truth. Do you love me as your heart, your genius, must be
capable of loving?"

"I love you truly--passionately!" said Maltravers, surprised and
confused, but still with enthusiasm in his musical voice and earnest
eyes. Valerie gazed upon him as if she sought to penetrate into his
soul. Maltravers went on. "Yes, Valerie, when we first met, you
aroused a long dormant and delicious sentiment. But, since then, what
deep emotions has that sentiment called forth? Your graceful
intellect--your lovely thoughts, wise yet womanly--have completed the
conquest your face and voice began. Valerie, I love you. And you--you,
Valerie--ah! I do not deceive myself--you also--"

"Love!" interrupted Valerie, deeply blushing, but in a calm voice.
"Ernest Maltravers, I do not deny it; honestly and frankly I confess the
fault. I have examined my heart during the whole of the last sleepless
night, and I confess that I love you. Now, then, understand me--we meet
no more."

"What!" said Maltravers, falling involuntarily at her feet, and seeking
to detain her hand, which he seized. "What! now, when you have given
life a new charm, will you as suddenly blast it? No, Valerie; no, I
will not listen to you."

Madame de Ventadour rose and said, with a cold dignity: "Hear me calmly,
or I quit the room; and all I would now say rests for ever unspoken."

Maltravers rose also, folded his arms haughtily, bit his lips, and stood
erect, and confronting Valerie rather in the attitude of an accuser than
a suppliant.

"Madame," said he, gravely, "I will offend no more; I will trust to your
manner, since I may not believe your words."

"You are cruel," said Valerie, smiling mournfully; "but so are all men.
Now let me make myself understood. I was betrothed to Monsieur de
Ventadour in my childhood. I did not see him till a month before we
married. I had no choice. French girls have none. We were wed. I had
formed no other attachment. I was proud and vain: wealth, ambition, and
social rank for a time satisfied my faculties and my heart. At length I
grew restless and unhappy. I felt that something of life was wanting.
Monsieur de Ventadour's sister was the first to recommend me to the
common resource of our sex--at least, in France--a lover. I was shocked
and startled, for I belong to a family in which women are chaste and men
brave. I began, however, to look around me, and examine the truth of
the philosophy of vice. I found that no woman, who loved honestly and
deeply an illicit lover was happy. I found, too, the hideous profundity
of Rochefoucauld's maxim that a woman--I speak of French women--may live
without a lover; but, a lover once admitted, she never goes through life
with only one. She is deserted; she cannot bear the anguish and the
solitude; she fills up the void with a second idol. For her there is no
longer a fall from virtue: it is a gliding and involuntary descent from
sin to sin, till old age comes on and leaves her without love and
without respect. I reasoned calmly, for my passions did not blind my
reason. I could not love the egotists around me. I resolved upon my
career; and now, in temptation, I will adhere to it. Virtue is my
lover, my pride, my comfort, my life of life. Do you love me, and will
you rob me of this treasure? I saw you, and for the first time I felt a
vague and intoxicating interest in another; but I did not dream of
danger. As our acquaintance advanced I formed to myself a romantic and
delightful vision. I would be your firmest, your truest friend; your
confidant, your adviser--perhaps, in some epochs of life, your
inspiration and your guide. I repeat that I foresaw no danger in your
society. I felt myself a nobler and a better being. I felt more
benevolent, more tolerant, more exalted. I saw life through the medium
of purifying admiration for a gifted nature, and a profound and generous
soul. I fancied we might be ever thus--each to each;--one strengthened,
assured, supported by the other. Nay, I even contemplated with pleasure
the prospect of your future marriage with another--of loving your
wife--of contributing with her to your happiness--my imagination made me
forget that we are made of clay. Suddenly all these visions were
dispelled--the fairy palace was overthrown, and I found myself awake,
and on the brink of the abyss--you loved me, and in the moment of that
fatal confession, the mask dropped from my soul, and I felt that you had
become too dear to me. Be silent still, I implore you. I do not tell
you of the emotions, of the struggles, through which I have passed the
last few hours--the crisis of a life. I tell you only of the resolution
I formed. I thought it due to you, nor unworthy to myself, to speak the
truth. Perhaps it might be more womanly to conceal it; but my heart has
something masculine in its nature. I have a great faith in your
nobleness. I believe you can sympathise with whatever is best in human
weakness. I tell you that I love you--I throw myself upon your
generosity. I beseech you to assist my own sense of right--to think
well of me, to honour me--and to leave me!"

During the last part of this strange and frank avowal, Valerie's voice
had grown inexpressibly touching: her tenderness forced itself into her
manner; and when she ceased, her lip quivered; her tears, repressed by a
violent effort, trembled in her eyes--her hands were clasped--her
attitude was that of humility, not pride.

Maltravers stood perfectly spell-bound. At length he advanced; dropped
on one knee, kissed her hand with an aspect and air of reverential
homage, and turned to quit the room in silence; for he would not dare to
trust himself to speak.

Valerie gazed at him in anxious alarm. "O no, no!" she exclaimed, "do
not leave me yet; this is our last meeting our last. Tell me, at least,
that you understand me; that you see, if I am no weak fool, I am also no
heartless coquette; tell me that you see I am not as hard as I have
seemed; that I have not knowingly trifled with your happiness; that even
now I am not selfish. Your love,--I ask it no more! But your
esteem--your good opinion. Oh, speak--speak, I implore you!"

"Valerie," said Maltravers, "if I was silent, it was because my heart
was too full for words. You have raised all womanhood in my eyes. I
did love you--I now venerate and adore. Your noble frankness, so unlike
the irresolute frailty, the miserable wiles of your sex, has touched a
chord in my heart that has been mute for years. I leave you to think
better of human nature. Oh!" he continued, "hasten to forget all of me
that can cost you a pang. Let me still, in absence and in sadness,
think that I retain in your friendship--let it be friendship only--the
inspiration, the guide of which you spoke; and if, hereafter, men shall
name me with praise and honour, feel, Valerie, feel that I have
comforted myself for the loss of your love by becoming worthy of your
confidence--your esteem. Oh, that we had met earlier, when no barrier
was between us!"

"Go, go, _now_," faltered Valerie, almost choked with her emotions; "may
Heaven bless you! Go!"

Maltravers muttered a few inaudible and incoherent words, and quitted
the apartment.



CHAPTER V.

 "The men of sense, those idols of the shallow, are very inferior
  to the men of Passions. It is the strong passions which, rescuing
  us from sloth, can alone impart to us that continuous and earnest
  attention necessary to great intellectual efforts."--HELVETIUS.

WHEN Ferrers returned that day from his customary ride, he was surprised
to see the lobbies and hall of the apartment which he occupied in common
with Maltravers, littered with bags and _malles_, boxes and books, and
Ernest's Swiss valet directing porters and waiters in a mosaic of
French, English, and Italian.

"Well!" said Lumley, "and what is all this?"

"Il signore va partir, sare, ah! mon Dieu!--_tout_ of a sudden."

"O-h! and where is he now!"

"In his room, sare."

Over the chaos strode Ferrers, and opening the door of his friend's
dressing-room without ceremony, he saw Maltravers buried in a fauteuil,
with his hands drooping on his knees, his head bent over his breast, and
his whole attitude expressive of dejection and exhaustion.

"What is the matter, my dear Ernest? You have not killed a man in a
duel?"

"No."

"What then? Why are you going away, and whither?"

"No matter; leave me in peace."

"Friendly!" said Ferrers; "very friendly! And what is to become of
me--what companion am I to have in this cursed resort of antiquarians
and lazzaroni? You have no feeling, Mr. Maltravers!"

"Will you come with me, then?" said Maltravers, in vain endeavouring to
rouse himself.

"But where are you going?"

"Anywhere; to Paris--to London."

"No; I have arranged my plans for the summer. I am not so rich as some
people. I hate change: it is so expensive."

"But, my dear fellow--"

"Is this fair dealing with me?" continued Lumley, who, for once in his
life, was really angry. "If I were an old coat you had worn for five
years you could not throw me off with more nonchalance."

"Ferrers, forgive me. My honour is concerned. I must leave this place.
I trust you will remain my guest here, though in the absence of your
host. You know that I have engaged the apartment for the next three
months."

"Humph!" said Ferrers, "as that is the case I may as well stay here.
But why so secret? Have you seduced Madame de Ventadour, or has her
wise husband his suspicions? Hein, hein!"

Maltravers smothered his disgust at this coarseness; and, perhaps, there
is no greater trial of temper than in a friend's gross remarks upon the
connection of the heart.

"Ferrers," said he, "if you care for me, breathe not a word
disrespectful to Madame de Ventadour: she is an angel!"

"But why leave Naples?"

"Trouble me no more."

"Good day, sir," said Ferrers, highly offended, and he stalked out of
the chamber; nor did Ernest see him again before his departure.

It was late that evening when Maltravers found himself alone in his
carriage, pursuing by starlight the ancient and melancholy road to Mola
di Gaeta.

His solitude was a luxury to Maltravers; he felt an inexpressible sense
of relief to be freed from Ferrers. The hard sense, the unpliant,
though humorous imperiousness, the animal sensuality of his companion
would have been torture to him in his present state of mind.

The next morning, when he rose, the orange blossoms of Mola di Gaeta
were sweet beneath the window of the inn where he rested. It was now
the early spring, and the freshness of the odour, the breathing health
of earth and air, it is impossible to describe. Italy itself boasts few
spots more lovely than that same Mola di Gaeta--nor does that halcyon
sea wear, even at Naples or Sorrento, a more bland and enchanting smile.

So, after a hasty and scarcely-tasted breakfast, Maltravers strolled
through the orange groves, and gained the beach; and there, stretched at
idle length by the murmuring waves, he resigned himself to thought, and
endeavoured, for the first time since his parting with Valerie, to
collect and examine the state of his mind and feelings. Maltravers, to
his own surprise, did not find himself so unhappy as he had expected.
On the contrary, a soft and almost delicious sentiment, which he could
not well define, floated over all his memories of the beautiful
Frenchwoman. Perhaps the secret was, that while his pride was not
mortified, his conscience was not galled--perhaps, also, he had not
loved Valerie so deeply as he had imagined. The confession and the
separation had happily come before her presence had grown--_the want of
a life_. As it was, he felt as if, by some holy and mystic sacrifice,
he had been made reconciled to himself and mankind. He woke to a juster
and higher appreciation of human nature, and of woman's nature in
especial. He had found honesty and truth where he might least have
expected it--in a woman of a court--in a woman surrounded by vicious and
frivolous circles--in a woman who had nothing in the opinion of her
friends, her country, her own husband, the social system in which she
moved, to keep her from the concessions of frailty--in a woman of the
world--a woman of Paris!--yes, it was his very disappointment that drove
away the fogs and vapours that, arising from the marshes of the great
world, had gradually settled round his soul. Valerie de Ventadour had
taught him not to despise her sex, not to judge by appearances, not to
sicken of a low and a hypocritical world. He looked in his heart for
the love of Valerie, and he found there the love of virtue. Thus, as he
turned his eyes inward, did he gradually awaken to a sense of the true
impressions engraved there. And he felt the bitterest drop of the
fountains was not sorrow for himself, but for her. What pangs must that
high spirit have endured ere it could have submitted to the avowal it
had made! Yet, even in this affliction he found at last a solace. A
mind so strong could support and heal the weakness of the heart. He
felt that Valerie de Ventadour was not a woman to pine away in the
unresisted indulgence of morbid and unholy emotions. He could not
flatter himself that she would not seek to eradicate a love she
repented; and he sighed with a natural selfishness, when he owned also
that sooner or later she would succeed. "But be it so," said he, half
aloud--"I will prepare my heart to rejoice when I learn that she
remembers me only as a friend. Next to the bliss of her love is the
pride of her esteem."

Such was the sentiment with which his reveries closed--and with every
league that bore him further from the south, the sentiment grew
strengthened and confirmed.

Ernest Maltravers felt there is in the affections themselves so much to
purify and exalt, that even an erring love, conceived without a cold
design, and (when its nature is fairly understood) wrestled against with
a noble spirit, leaves the heart more tolerant and tender, and the mind
more settled and enlarged. The philosophy limited to the reason puts
into motion the automata of the closet--but to those who have the world
for a stage, and who find their hearts are the great actors, experience
and wisdom must be wrought from the Philosophy of the Passions.



BOOK III.

 "Not to all men Apollo shows himself--
  Who sees him--_he_ is great!"
   CALLIM. _Ex Hymno in Apollinon_.



CHAPTER I.

 "Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
  Creep in our ears--soft stillness and the night
  Become the touches of sweet harmony."
   SHAKESPEARE.


BOAT SONG ON THE LAKE OF COMO.

I.

The Beautiful Clime!--the Clime of Love!
 Thou beautiful Italy!
Like a mother's eyes, the earnest skies
 Ever have smiles for thee!
Not a flower that blows, not a beam that glows,
 But what is in love with thee!

II.

The beautiful lake, the Larian lake!*
 Soft lake like a silver sea,
The Huntress Queen, with her nymphs of sheen,
 Never had bath like thee.
See, the Lady of night and her maids of light,
 Even now are mid-deep in thee!

* The ancient name of Como.

III.

Beautiful child of the lonely hills,
 Ever blest may thy slumbers be!
No mourner should tread by thy dreamy bed,
 No life bring a care to thee--
Nay, soft to thy bed, let the mourner tread--
 And life be a dream like thee!


Such, though uttered in the soft Italian tongue, and now imperfectly
translated--such were the notes that floated one lovely evening in
summer along the lake of Como. The boat, from which came the song,
drifted gently down the sparkling waters, towards the mossy banks of a
lawn, whence on a little eminence gleamed the white walls of a villa,
backed by vineyards. On that lawn stood a young and handsome woman,
leaning on the arm of her husband, and listening to the song. But her
delight was soon deepened into one of more personal interest, as the
boatmen, nearing the banks, changed their measure, and she felt that the
minstrelsy was in honour of herself.


SERENADE TO THE SONGSTRESS.

I.

CHORUS.

Softly--oh, soft! let us rest on the oar,
And vex not a billow that sighs to the shore:--
For sacred the spot where the starry waves meet
With the beach, where the breath of the citron is sweet.
There's a spell on the waves that now waft us along
To the last of our Muses, the Spirit of Song.

RECITATIVE.

  The Eagle of old renown,
  And the Lombard's iron crown
And Milan's mighty name are ours no more;
  But by this glassy water,
  Harmonia's youngest daughter,
Still from the lightning saves one laurel to our shore.

II.

CHORUS.

They heard thee, Teresa, the Teuton, the Gaul,
Who have raised the rude thrones of the North on our fall;
They heard thee, and bow'd to the might of thy song;
Like love went thy steps o'er the hearts of the strong;
As the moon to the air, as the soul to the clay,
To the void of this earth was the breath of thy lay.

RECITATIVE.

  Honour for aye to her
  The bright interpreter
Of Art's great mysteries to the enchanted throng;
  While tyrants heard thy strains,
  Sad Rome forgot her chains;
The world the sword had lost was conquer'd back by song!


"Thou repentest, my Teresa, that thou hast renounced thy dazzling career
for a dull home, and a husband old enough to be thy father," said the
husband to the wife, with a smile that spoke confidence in the answer.

"Ah, no! even this homage would have no music to me if thou didst not
hear it."

She was a celebrated personage in Italy--the Signora Cesarini, now
Madame de Montaigne. Her earlier youth had been spent upon the stage,
and her promise of vocal excellence had been most brilliant. But after
a brief though splendid career, she married a French gentleman of good
birth and fortune, retired from the stage, and spent her life
alternately in the gay saloons of Paris and upon the banks of the dreamy
Como, on which her husband had purchased a small but beautiful villa.
She still, however, exercised in private her fascinating art; to
which--for she was a woman of singular accomplishment and talent--she
added the gift of the improvvisatrice. She had just returned for the
summer to this lovely retreat, and a party of enthusiastic youths from
Milan had sought the lake of Como to welcome her arrival with the
suitable homage of song and music. It is a charming relic, that custom
of the brighter days of Italy; and I myself have listened, on the still
waters of the same lake, to a similar greeting to a greater genius--the
queenlike and unrivalled Pasta--the Semiramis of Song! And while my
boat paused, and I caught something of the enthusiasm of the serenaders,
the boatman touched me, and, pointing to a part of the lake on which the
setting sun shed its rosiest smile, he said, "There, Signor, was drowned
one of your countrymen 'bellissimo uomo! che fu bello!'"--yes, there, in
the pride of his promising youth, of his noble and almost godlike
beauty, before the very windows--the very eyes--of his bride--the waves
without a frown had swept over the idol of many hearts--the graceful and
gallant Locke.* And above his grave was the voluptuous sky, and over it
floated the triumphant music. It was as the moral of the Roman
poets--calling the living to a holiday over the oblivion of the dead.

* Captain William Locke of the Life Guards (the only son of the
accomplished Mr. Locke of Norbury Park), distinguished by a character
the most amiable, and by a personal beauty that certainly equalled,
perhaps surpassed, the highest masterpiece of Grecian sculpture. He was
returning in a boat from the town of Como to his villa on the banks of
the lake, when the boat was upset by one of the mysterious
under-currents to which the lake is dangerously subjected; and he was
drowned in sight of his bride, who was watching his return from the
terrace or balcony of their home.

As the boat now touched the bank, Madame de Montaigne accosted the
musicians, thanked them with a sweet and unaffected earnestness for the
compliment so delicately offered, and invited them ashore. The
Milanese, who were six in number, accepted the invitation, and moored
their boat to the jutting shore. It was then that Monsieur de Montaigne
pointed out to the notice of his wife a boat, that had lingered under
the shadow of a bank, tenanted by a young man, who had seemed to listen
with rapt attention to the music, and who had once joined in the chorus
(as it was twice repeated), with a voice so exquisitely attuned, and so
rich in its deep power, that it had awakened the admiration even of the
serenaders themselves.

"Does not that gentleman belong to your party?" De Montaigne asked of
the Milanese.

"No, Signor, we know him not," was the answer; "his boat came unawares
upon us as we were singing."

While this question and answer were going on, the young man had quitted
his station, and his oars cut the glassy surface of the lake, just
before the place where De Montaigne stood. With the courtesy of his
country, the Frenchman lifted his hat; and, by his gesture, arrested the
eye and oar of the solitary rower. "Will you honour us," he said, "by
joining our little party?"

"It is a pleasure I covet too much to refuse," replied the boatman, with
a slight foreign accent, and in another moment he was on shore. He was
one of remarkable appearance. His long hair floated with a careless
grace over a brow more calm and thoughtful than became his years; his
manner was unusually quiet and self-collected, and not without a certain
stateliness, rendered more striking by the height of his stature, a
lordly contour of feature, and a serene but settled expression of
melancholy in his eyes and smile. "You will easily believe," said he,
"that, cold as my countrymen are esteemed (for you must have discovered
already that I am an Englishman), I could not but share in the
enthusiasm of those about me, when loitering near the very ground sacred
to the inspiration. For the rest, I am residing for the present in
yonder villa, opposite to your own; my name is Maltravers, and I am
enchanted to think that I am no longer a personal stranger to one whose
fame has already reached me." Madame de Montaigne was flattered by
something in the manner and tone of the Englishman, which said a great
deal more than his words; and in a few minutes, beneath the influence of
the happy continental ease, the whole party seemed as if they had known
each other for years. Wines, and fruits, and other simple and
unpretending refreshments, were brought out and ranged on a rude table
upon the grass, round which the guests seated themselves with their host
and hostess, and the clear moon shone over them, and the lake slept
below in silver. It was a scene for a Boccaccio or a Claude.

The conversation naturally fell upon music; it is almost the only thing
which Italians in general can be said to know--and even that knowledge
comes to them, like Dogberry's reading and writing, by nature--for of
music, as an _art_, the unprofessional amateurs know but little. As
vain and arrogant of the last wreck of their national genius as the
Romans of old were of the empire of all arts and arms, they look upon
the harmonies of other lands as barbarous; nor can they appreciate or
understand appreciation of the mighty German music, which is the proper
minstrelsy of a nation of men--a music of philosophy, of heroism, of the
intellect and the imagination; beside which, the strains of modern Italy
are indeed effeminate, fantastic, and artificially feeble. Rossini is
the Canova of music, with much of the pretty, with nothing of the grand!

The little party talked, however, of music, with an animation and gusto
that charmed the melancholy Maltravers, who for weeks had known no
companion save his own thoughts, and with whom, at all times, enthusiasm
for any art found a ready sympathy. He listened attentively, but said
little; and from time to time, whenever the conversation flagged, amused
himself by examining his companions. The six Milanese had nothing
remarkable in their countenances or in their talk; they possessed the
characteristic energy and volubility of their countrymen, with something
of the masculine dignity which distinguishes the Lombard from the
Southern, and a little of the French polish, which the inhabitants of
Milan seldom fail to contract. Their rank was evidently that of the
middle class; for Milan has a middle class, and one which promises great
results hereafter. But they were noways distinguished from a thousand
other Milanese whom Maltravers had met with in the walks and cafes of
their noble city. The host was somewhat more interesting. He was a
tall, handsome man, of about eight-and-forty, with a high forehead, and
features strongly impressed with the sober character of thought. He had
but little of the French vivacity in his manner; and without looking at
his countenance, you would still have felt insensibly that he was the
eldest of the party. His wife was at least twenty years younger than
himself, mirthful and playful as a child, but with a certain feminine
and fascinating softness in her unrestrained gestures and sparkling
gaiety, which seemed to subdue her natural joyousness into the form and
method of conventional elegance. Dark hair carelessly arranged, an open
forehead, large black laughing eyes, a small straight nose, a complexion
just relieved from the olive by an evanescent, yet perpetually recurring
blush; a round dimpled cheek, an exquisitely-shaped mouth with small
pearly teeth, and a light and delicate figure a little below the
ordinary standard, completed the picture of Madame de Montaigne.

"Well," said Signor Tirabaloschi, the most loquacious and sentimental of
the guests, filling his glass, "these are hours to think of for the rest
of life. But we cannot hope the Signora will long remember what we
never can forget. Paris, says the French proverb, _est le paradis des
femmes_: and in Paradise, I take it for granted, we recollect very
little of what happened on earth."

"Oh," said Madame de Montaigne, with a pretty musical laugh, "in Paris
it is the rage to despise the frivolous life of cities, and to affect
_des sentimens romanesques_. This is precisely the scene which our fine
ladies and fine writers would die to talk of and to describe. Is it not
so, _mon ami_?" and she turned affectionately to De Montaigne.

"True," replied he; "but you are not worthy of such a scene--you laugh
at sentiment and romance."

"Only at French sentiment and the romance of the Chaussee d'Antin. You
English," she continued, shaking her head at Maltravers, "have spoiled
and corrupted us; we are not content to imitate you, we must excel you;
we out-horror horror, and rush from the extravagant into the frantic!"

"The ferment of the new school is, perhaps, better than the stagnation
of the old," said Maltravers. "Yet even you," addressing himself to the
Italians, "who first in Petrarch, in Tasso, and in Ariosto, set to
Europe the example of the Sentimental and the Romantic; who built among
the very ruins of the classic school, amidst its Corinthian columns and
sweeping arches, the spires and battlements of the Gothic--even you are
deserting your old models and guiding literature into newer and wilder
paths. 'Tis the way of the world--eternal progress is eternal change."

"Very possibly," said Signor Tirabaloschi, who understood nothing of
what was said. "Nay, it is extremely profound; on reflection, it is
beautiful--superb! you English are so--so--in short, it is admirable.
Ugo Foscolo is a great genius--so is Monti; and as for Rossini,--you
know his last opera--_cosa stupenda_!"

Madame de Montaigne glanced at Maltravers, clapped her little hands, and
laughed outright. Maltravers caught the contagion, and laughed also.
But he hastened to repair the pedantic error he had committed of talking
over the heads of the company. He took up the guitar, which, among
their musical instruments, the serenaders had brought, and after
touching its chords for a few moments, said: "After all, Madame, in your
society, and with this moonlit lake before us, we feel as if music were
our best medium of conversation. Let us prevail upon these gentlemen to
delight us once more."

"You forestall what I was going to ask," said the ex-singer; and
Maltravers offered the guitar to Tirabaloschi, who was in fact dying to
exhibit his powers again. He took the instrument with a slight grimace
of modesty, and then saying to Madame de Montaigne, "There is a song
composed by a young friend of mine, which is much admired by the ladies;
though to me it seems a little too sentimental," sang the following
stanzas (as good singers are wont to do) with as much feeling as if he
could understand them!


NIGHT AND LOVE.

When stars are in the quiet skies,
  Then most I pine for thee;
Bend on me, then, thy tender eyes!
  As stars look on the sea!

For thoughts, like waves that glide by night,
  Are stillest where they shine;
Mine earthly love lies hushed in light
  Beneath the heaven of thine.

There is an hour when angels keep
  Familiar watch on men;
When coarser souls are wrapt in sleep,--
  Sweet spirit, meet me then.

There is an hour when holy dreams
  Through slumber fairest glide;
And in that mystic hour it seems
  Thou shouldst be by my side.

The thoughts of thee too sacred are
  For daylight's common beam;--
I can but know thee as my star,
  My angel, and my dream!


And now, the example set, and the praises of the fair hostess exciting
general emulation, the guitar circled from hand to hand, and each of the
Italians performed his part; you might have fancied yourself at one of
the old Greek feasts, with the lyre and the myrtle-branch going the
round.

But both the Italians and the Englishman felt the entertainment would be
incomplete without hearing the celebrated vocalist and improvvisatrice
who presided over the little banquet; and Madame de Montaigne, with a
woman's tact, divined the general wish, and anticipated the request that
was sure to be made. She took the guitar from the last singer, and
turning to Maltravers, said, "You have heard, of course, some of our
more eminent improvvisatori, and therefore if I ask you for a subject it
will only be to prove to you that the talent is not general amongst the
Italians."

"Ah," said Maltravers, "I have heard, indeed, some ugly old gentlemen
with immense whiskers, and gestures of the most alarming ferocity, pour
out their vehement impromptus; but I have never yet listened to a young
and a handsome lady. I shall only believe the inspiration when I hear
it direct from the Muse."

"Well, I will do my best to deserve your compliments--you must give me
the theme."

Maltravers paused a moment, and suggested the Influence of Praise on
Genius.

The improvvisatrice nodded assent, and after a short prelude broke forth
into a wild and varied strain of verse, in a voice so exquisitely sweet,
with a taste so accurate, and a feeling so deep that the poetry sounded
to the enchanted listeners like the language that Armida might have
uttered. Yet the verses themselves, like all extemporaneous effusions,
were of a nature both to pass from the memory and to defy transcription.

When Madame de Montaigne's song ceased, no rapturous plaudits
followed--the Italians were too affected by the science, Maltravers by
the feeling, for the coarseness of ready praise;--and ere that delighted
silence which made the first impulse was broken, a new comer, descending
from the groves that clothed the ascent behind the house, was in the
midst of the party.

"Ah, my dear brother," cried Madame Montaigne, starting up, and banging
fondly on the arm of the stranger, "why have you lingered so long in the
wood? You, so delicate! And how are you? How pale you seem!"

"It is but the reflection of the moonlight, Teresa," said the intruder;
"I feel well." So saying, he scowled on the merry party, and turned as
if to slink away.

"No, no," whispered Teresa, "you must stay a moment and be presented to
my guests: there is an Englishman here whom you will like--who will
_interest_ you."

With that she almost dragged him forward, and introduced him to her
guests. Signor Cesarini returned their salutations with a mixture of
bashfulness and _hauteur_, half-awkward and half-graceful, and muttering
some inaudible greeting, sank into a seat and appeared instantly lost in
reverie. Maltravers gazed upon him, and was pleased with his
aspect--which, if not handsome, was strange and peculiar. He was
extremely slight and thin--his cheeks hollow and colourless, with a
profusion of black silken ringlets that almost descended to his
shoulders. His eyes, deeply sunk into his head, were large and
intensely brilliant; and a thin moustache, curling downwards, gave an
additional austerity to his mouth, which was closed with gloomy and
half-sarcastic firmness. He was not dressed as people dress in general,
but wore a frock of dark camlet, with a large shirt-collar turned down,
and a narrow slip of black silk twisted rather than tied round his
throat; his nether garments fitted tight to his limbs, and a pair of
half-hessians completed his costume. It was evident that the young man
(and he was very young--perhaps about nineteen or twenty) indulged that
coxcombry of the Picturesque which is the sign of a vainer mind than is
the commoner coxcombry of the _Mode_.

It is astonishing how frequently it happens, that the introduction of a
single intruder upon a social party is sufficient to destroy all the
familiar harmony that existed there before. We see it even when the
intruder is agreeable and communicative--but in the present instance, a
ghost could scarcely have been a more unwelcoming or unwelcome visitor.
The presence of this shy, speechless, supercilious-looking man threw a
damp over the whole group. The gay Tirabaloschi immediately discovered
that it was time to depart--it had not struck any one before, but it
certainly _was_ late. The Italians began to bustle about, to collect
their music, to make fine speeches and fine professions--to bow and to
smile--to scramble into their boat, and to push towards the inn at Como,
where they had engaged their quarters for the night. As the boat glided
away, and while two of them were employed at the oar, the remaining four
took up their instruments and sang a parting glee. It was quite
midnight--the hush of all things around had grown more intense and
profound--there was a wonderful might of silence in the shining air and
amidst the shadows thrown by the near banks and the distant hills over
the water. So that as the music chiming in with the oars grew fainter
and fainter, it is impossible to describe the thrilling and magical
effect it produced.

The party ashore did not speak; there was a moisture, a grateful one, in
the bright eyes of Teresa, as she leant upon the manly form of De
Montaigne, for whom her attachment was, perhaps, yet more deep and pure
for the difference of their ages. A girl who once loves a man, not
indeed old, but much older than herself, loves him with such a _looking
up_ and venerating love! Maltravers stood a little apart from the
couple, on the edge of the shelving bank, with folded arms and
thoughtful countenance. "How is it," said he, unconscious that he was
speaking half aloud, "that the commonest beings of the world should be
able to give us a pleasure so unworldly? What a contrast between those
musicians and this music. At this distance their forms are dimly seen,
one might almost fancy the creators of those sweet sounds to be of
another mould from us. Perhaps even thus the poetry of the Past rings
on our ears--the deeper and the diviner, because removed from the clay
which made the poets. O Art, Art! how dost thou beautify and exalt us;
what is nature without thee!"

"You are a poet, Signor," said a soft clear voice beside the
soliloquist; and Maltravers started to find that he had had unknowingly
a listener in the young Cesarini.

"No," said Maltravers; "I cull the flowers, I do not cultivate the
soil."

"And why not?" said Cesarini, with abrupt energy; "you are an
Englishman--_you_ have a public--you have a country--you have a living
stage, a breathing audience; we, Italians, have nothing but the dead."

As he looked on the young man, Maltravers was surprised to see the
sudden animation which glowed upon his pale features.

"You asked me a question I would fain put to you," said the Englishman,
after a pause. "_You_, methinks, are a poet?"

"I have fancied that I might be one. But poetry with us is a bird in
the wilderness--it sings from an impulse--the song dies without a
listener. Oh that I belonged to a _living_ country,--France, England,
Germany, Arnerica,--and not to the corruption of a dead giantess--for
such is now the land of the ancient lyre."

"Let us meet again, and soon," said Maltravers, holding out his hand.

Cesarini hesitated a moment, and then accepted and returned the
proffered salutation. Reserved as he was, something in Maltravers
attracted him; and, indeed, there was that in Ernest which fascinated
most of those unhappy eccentrics who do not move in the common orbit of
the world.

In a few moments more the Englishman had said farewell to the owner of
the villa, and his light boat skimmed rapidly over the tide.

"What do you think of the _Inglese_?" said Madame de Montaigne to her
husband, as they turned towards the house. (They said not a word about
the Milanese.)

"He has a noble bearing for one so young," said the Frenchman; "and
seems to have seen the world, and both to have profited and to have
suffered by it."

"He will prove an acquisition to our society here," returned Teresa; "he
interests me; and you, Castruccio?" turning to seek for her brother; but
Cesarini had already, with his usual noiseless step, disappeared within
the house.

"Alas, my poor brother!" she said, "I cannot comprehend him. What does
he desire?"

"Fame!" replied De Montaigne, calmly. "It is a vain shadow; no wonder
that he disquiets himself in vain."



CHAPTER II.

 "Alas! what boots it with incessant care
  To strictly meditate the thankless Muse;
  Were I not better done as others use,
  To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
  Or with the tangles of Neaera's hair?"
   MILTON'S _Lycidas_.

THERE is nothing more salutary to active men than occasional intervals
of repose,--when we look within, instead of without, and examine almost
_insensibly_ (for I hold strict and conscious self-scrutiny a thing much
rarer than we suspect)--what we have done--what we are capable of doing.
It is settling, as it were, a debtor and creditor account with the past,
before we plunge into new speculations. Such an interval of repose did
Maltravers now enjoy. In utter solitude, so far as familiar
companionship is concerned, he had for several weeks been making himself
acquainted with his own character and mind. He read and thought much,
but without any exact or defined object. I think it is Montaigne who
says somewhere: "People talk about thinking--but for my part I never
think, except when I sit down to write." I believe this is not a very
common case, for people who don't write think as well as people who do;
but connected, severe, well-developed thought, in contradistinction to
vague meditation, must be connected with some tangible plan or object;
and therefore we must be either writing men or acting men, if we desire
to test the logic, and unfold into symmetrical design the fused colours
of our reasoning faculty. Maltravers did not yet feel this, but he was
sensible of some intellectual want. His ideas, his memories, his dreams
crowded thick and confused upon him; he wished to arrange them in order,
and he could not. He was overpowered by the unorganised affluence of his
own imagination and intellect. He had often, even as a child, fancied
that he was formed to do something in the world, but he had never
steadily considered what it was to be, whether he was to become a man of
books or a man of deeds. He had written poetry when it poured
irresistibly from the fount of emotion within, but looked at his
effusions with a cold and neglectful eye when the enthusiasm had passed
away.

Maltravers was not much gnawed by the desire of fame--perhaps few men of
real genius are, until artificially worked up to it. There is in a
sound and correct intellect, with all its gifts fairly balanced, a calm
consciousness of power, a certainty that when its strength is fairly put
out, it must be to realise the usual result of strength. Men of
second-rate faculties, on the contrary, are fretful and nervous,
fidgeting after a celebrity which they do not estimate by their own
talents, but by the talents of some one else. They see a tower, but are
occupied only with measuring its shadow, and think their own height
(which they never calculate) is to cast as broad a one over the earth.
It is the short man who is always throwing up his chin, and is as erect
as a dart. The tall man stoops, and the strong man is not always using
the dumb-bells.

Maltravers had not yet, then, the keen and sharp yearning for
reputation; he had not, as yet, tasted its sweets and bitters--fatal
draught, which _once_ tasted, begets too often an insatiable thirst!
neither had he enemies and decriers whom he was desirous of abashing by
merit. And that is a very ordinary cause for exertion in proud minds.
He was, it is true, generally reputed clever, and fools were afraid of
him: but as he actively interfered with no man's pretensions, so no man
thought it necessary to call him a blockhead. At present, therefore, it
was quietly and naturally that his mind was working its legitimate way
to its destiny of exertion. He began idly and carelessly to note down
his thoughts and impressions; what was once put on the paper, begot new
matter; his ideas became more lucid to himself; and the page grew a
looking-glass, which presented the likeness of his own features. He
began by writing with rapidity, and without method. He had no object
but to please himself, and to find a vent for an overcharged spirit;
and, like most writings of the young, the matter was egotistical. We
commence with the small nucleus of passion and experience, to widen the
circle afterwards; and, perhaps, the most extensive and universal
masters of life and character have begun by being egotists. For there
is in a man that has much in him a wonderfully acute and sensitive
perception of his own existence. An imaginative and susceptible person
has, indeed, ten times as much life as a dull fellow, "an he be
Hercules." He multiplies himself in a thousand objects, associates each
with his own identity, lives in each, and almost looks upon the world
with its infinite objects as a part of his individual being.
Afterwards, as he tames down, he withdraws his forces into the citadel,
but he still has a knowledge of, and an interest in, the land they once
covered. He understands other people, for he has lived in other
people--the dead and the living;--fancied himself now Brutus and now
Caesar, and thought how _he_ should act in almost every imaginable
circumstance of life.

Thus, when he begins to paint human characters, essentially different
from his own, his knowledge comes to him almost intuitively. It is as
if he were describing the mansions in which he himself has formerly
lodged, though for a short time. Hence in great writers of History--of
Romance--of the Drama--the _gusto_ with which they paint their
personages; their creations are flesh and blood, not shadows or
machines.

Maltravers was at first, then, an egotist, in the matter of his rude and
desultory sketches--in the manner, as I said before, he was careless and
negligent, as men will be who have not yet found that expression is an
art. Still those wild and valueless essays--those rapt and secret
confessions of his own heart--were a delight to him. He began to taste
the transport, the intoxication of an author. And, oh, what a luxury is
there in that first love of the Muse! that process by which we give
palpable form to the long-intangible visions which have flitted across
us;--the beautiful ghost of the Ideal within us, which we invoke in the
Gadara of our still closets, with the wand of the simple pen!

It was early noon, the day after he had formed his acquaintance with the
De Montaignes, that Maltravers sat in his favourite room;--the one he
had selected for his study from the many chambers of his large and
solitary habitation. He sat in a recess by the open window, which
looked on the lake; and books were scattered on his table, and
Maltravers was jotting down his criticisms on what he read, mingled with
his impressions on what he saw. It is the pleasantest kind of
composition--the note-book of a man who studies in retirement, who
observes in society, who in all things can admire and feel. He was yet
engaged in this easy task, when Cesarini was announced, and the young
brother of the fair Teresa entered his apartment.

"I have availed myself soon of your invitation," said the Italian.

"I acknowledge the compliment," replied Maltravers, pressing the hand
shyly held out to him.

"I see you have been writing--I thought you were attached to literature.
I read it in your countenance, I heard it in your voice," said Cesarini,
seating himself.

"I have been idly beguiling a very idle leisure, it is true," said
Maltravers.

"But you do not write for yourself alone--you have an eye to the great
tribunals--Time and the Public."

"Not so, I assure you honestly," said Maltravers, smiling. "If you look
at the books on my table, you will see that they are the great
masterpieces of ancient and modern lore--these are studies that
discourage tyros--"

"But inspire them."

"I do not think so. Models may form our taste as critics, but do not
excite us to be authors. I fancy that our own emotions, our own sense
of our destiny, make the great lever of the inert matter we accumulate.
'Look in thy heart and write,' said an old English writer,* who did not,
however, practise what he preached. And you, Signor--"

* Sir Philip Sidney.

"Am nothing, and would be something," said the young man, shortly and
bitterly.

"And how does that wish not realise its object?"

"Merely because I am Italian," said Cesarini. "With us there is no
literary public--no vast reading class--we have dilettanti and literati,
and students, and even authors; but these make only a coterie, not a
public. I have written, I have published; but no one listened to me. I
am an author without readers."

"It is no uncommon case in England," said Maltravers.

The Italian continued: "I thought to live in the mouths of men--to stir
up thoughts long dumb--to awaken the strings of the old lyre! In vain.
Like the nightingale, I sing only to break my heart with a false and
melancholy emulation of other notes."

"There are epochs in all countries," said Maltravers, gently, "when
peculiar veins of literature are out of vogue, and when no genius can
bring them into public notice. But you wisely said there were two
tribunals--the Public and Time. You have still the last to appeal to.
Your great Italian historians wrote for the unborn--their works not even
published till their death. That indifference to living reputation has
in it, to me, something of the sublime."

"I cannot imitate them--and they were not poets," said Cesarini,
sharply. "To poets, praise is a necessary aliment; neglect is death."

"My dear Signor Cesarini," said the Englishman, feelingly, "do not give
way to these thoughts. There ought to be in a healthful ambition the
stubborn stuff of persevering longevity; it must live on, and hope for
the day which comes slow or fast, to all whose labours deserve the
goal."

"But perhaps mine do not. I sometimes fear so--it is a horrid thought."

"You are very young yet," said Maltravers; "how few at your age ever
sicken for fame! That first step is, perhaps, the half way to the
prize."

I am not sure that Ernest thought exactly as he spoke; but it was the
most delicate consolation to offer to a man whose abrupt frankness
embarrassed and distressed him. The young man shook his head
despondingly. Maltravers tried to change the subject--he rose and moved
to the balcony, which overhung the lake--he talked of the weather--he
dwelt on the exquisite scenery--he pointed to the minute and more latent
beauties around, with the eye and taste of one who had looked at Nature
in her details. The poet grew more animated and cheerful; he became
even eloquent; he quoted poetry and he talked it. Maltravers was more
and more interested in him. He felt a curiosity to know if his talents
equalled his aspirations: he hinted to Cesarini his wish to see his
compositions--it was just what the young man desired. Poor Cesarini!
It was much to him to get a new listener, and he fondly imagined every
honest listener must be a warm admirer. But with the coyness of his
caste, he affected reluctance and hesitation; he dallied with his own
impatient yearnings. And Maltravers, to smooth his way, proposed an
excursion on the lake.

"One of my men shall row," said he; "you shall recite to me, and I will
be to you what the old housekeeper was to Moliere."

Maltravers had deep good-nature where he was touched, though he had not
a superfluity of what is called good-humour, which floats on the surface
and smiles on all alike. He had much of the milk of human kindness, but
little of its oil.

The poet assented, and they were soon upon the lake. It was a sultry
day, and it was noon; so the boat crept slowly along by the shadow of
the shore, and Cesarini drew from his breast-pocket some manuscripts of
small and beautiful writing. Who does not know the pains a young poet
takes to bestow a fair dress on his darling rhymes!

Cesarini read well and feelingly. Everything was in favour of the
reader. His own poetical countenance--his voice, his enthusiasm,
half-suppressed--the pre-engaged interest of the auditor--the dreamy
loveliness of the hour and scene--(for there is a great deal as to time
in these things). Maltravers listened intently. It is very difficult
to judge of the exact merit of poetry in another language even when we
know that language well--so much is there in the untranslatable magic of
expression, the little subtleties of style. But Maltravers, fresh, as
he himself had said, from the study of great and original writers, could
not but feel that he was listening to feeble though melodious
mediocrity. It was the poetry of words, not things. He thought it
cruel, however, to be hypercritical, and he uttered all the commonplaces
of eulogium that occurred to him. The young man was enchanted: "And
yet," said he with a sigh, "I have no Public. In England they would
appreciate me." Alas! in England, at that moment, there were five
hundred poets as young, as ardent, and yet more gifted, whose hearts
beat with the same desire--whose nerves were broken by the same
disappointments.

Maltravers found that his young friend would not listen to any judgment
not purely favourable. The archbishop in _Gil Blas_ was not more touchy
upon any criticism that was not panegyric. Maltravers thought it a bad
sign, but he recollected Gil Blas, and prudently refrained from bringing
on himself the benevolent wish of "beaucoup de bonheur et un peu, plus
de bon gout." When Cesarini had finished his MS., he was anxious to
conclude the excursion--he longed to be at home, and think over the
admiration he had excited. But he left his poems with Maltravers, and
getting on shore by the remains of Pliny's villa, was soon out of sight.

Maltravers that evening read the poems with attention. His first opinion
was confirmed. The young man wrote without knowledge. He had never
felt the passions he painted, never been in the situations he described.
There was no originality in him, for there was no experience; it was
exquisite mechanism, his verse,--nothing more. It might well deceive
him, for it could not but flatter his ear--and Tasso's silver march rang
not more musically than did the chiming stanzas of Castruccio Cesarini.

The perusal of this poetry, and his conversation with the poet, threw
Maltravers into a fit of deep musing. "This poor Cesarini may warn me
against myself!" thought he. "Better hew wood and draw water than
attach ourselves devotedly to an art in which we have not the capacity
to excel. . . . It is to throw away the healthful objects of life for a
diseased dream,--worse than the Rosicrucians, it is to make a sacrifice
of all human beauty for the smile of a sylphid that never visits us but
in visions." Maltravers looked over his own compositions, and thrust
them into the fire. He slept ill that night. His pride was a little
dejected. He was like a beauty who has seen a caricature of herself.



CHAPTER III.

 "Still follow SENSE, of every art the Soul."
   POPE: _Moral Essays_--Essay iv.

ERNEST MALTRAVERS spent much of his time with the family of De
Montaigne. There is no period of life in which we are more accessible
to the sentiment of friendship than in the intervals of moral exhaustion
which succeed to the disappointments of the passions. There is, then,
something inviting in those gentler feelings which keep alive, but do
not fever, the circulation of the affections. Maltravers looked with
the benevolence of a brother upon the brilliant, versatile, and restless
Teresa. She was the last person in the world he could have been in love
with--for his nature, ardent, excitable, yet fastidious, required
something of repose in the manners and temperament of the woman whom he
could love, and Teresa scarcely knew what repose was. Whether playing
with her children (and she had two lovely ones--the eldest six years
old), or teasing her calm and meditative husband, or pouring out
extempore verses, or rattling over airs which she never finished, on the
guitar or piano--or making excursions on the lake--or, in short, in
whatever occupation she appeared as the Cynthia of the minute, she was
always gay and mobile--never out of humour, never acknowledging a single
care or cross in life--never susceptible of grief, save when her
brother's delicate health or morbid temper saddened her atmosphere of
sunshine. Even then, the sanguine elasticity of her mind and
constitution quickly recovered from the depression; and she persuaded
herself that Castruccio would grow stronger every year, and ripen into a
celebrated and happy man. Castruccio himself lived what romantic
poetasters call the "life of a poet." He loved to see the sun rise over
the distant Alps--or the midnight moon sleeping on the lake. He spent
half the day, and often half the night, in solitary rambles, weaving his
airy rhymes, or indulging his gloomy reveries, and he thought loneliness
made the element of a poet. Alas! Dante, Alfieri, even Petrarch might
have taught him, that a poet must have intimate knowledge of men as well
as mountains, if he desire to become the CREATOR. When Shelley, in one
of his prefaces, boasts of being familiar with Alps and glaciers, and
Heaven knows what, the critical artist cannot help wishing that he had
been rather familiar with Fleet Street or the Strand. Perhaps, then,
that remarkable genius might have been more capable of realizing
characters of flesh and blood, and have composed corporeal and
consummate wholes, not confused and glittering fragments.

Though Ernest was attached to Teresa and deeply interested in
Castruccio, it was De Montaigne for whom he experienced the higher and
graver sentiment of esteem. This Frenchman was one acquainted with a
much larger world than that of the Coteries. He had served in the army,
had been employed with distinction in civil affairs, and was of that
robust and healthful moral constitution which can bear with every
variety of social life, and estimate calmly the balance of our moral
fortunes. Trial and experience had left him that true philosopher who
is too wise to be an optimist, too just to be a misanthrope. He enjoyed
life with sober judgment, and pursued the path most suited to himself,
without declaring it to be the best for others. He was a little hard,
perhaps, upon the errors that belong to weakness and conceit--not to
those that have their source in great natures or generous thoughts.
Among his characteristics was a profound admiration for England. His
own country he half loved, yet half disdained. The impetuosity and
levity of his compatriots displeased his sober and dignified notions.
He could not forgive them (he was wont to say) for having made the two
grand experiments of popular revolution and military despotism in vain.
He sympathised neither with the young enthusiasts who desired a
republic, without well knowing the numerous strata of habits and customs
upon which that fabric, if designed for permanence, should be built--nor
with the uneducated and fierce chivalry that longed for a restoration of
the warrior empire--nor with the dull and arrogant bigots who connected
all ideas of order and government with the ill-starred and worn-out
dynasty of the Bourbons. In fact, GOOD SENSE was with him the
_principium et fons_ of all theories and all practice. And it was this
quality that attached him to the English. His philosophy on this head
was rather curious.

"Good sense," said he one day to Maltravers, as they were walking to and
fro at De Montaigne's villa, by the margin of the lake, "is not a merely
intellectual attribute. It is rather the result of a just equilibrium
of all our faculties, spiritual and moral. The dishonest, or the toys
of their own passions, may have genius; but they rarely, if ever, have
good sense in the conduct of life. They may often win large prizes, but
it is by a game of chance, not skill. But the man whom I perceive
walking an honourable and upright career--just to others, and also to
himself (for we owe justice to ourselves--to the care of our fortunes,
our character--to the management of our passions)--is a more dignified
representative of his Maker than the mere child of genius. Of such a
man we say he has GOOD SENSE; yes, but he has also integrity,
self-respect, and self-denial. A thousand trials which his sense raves
and conquers, are temptations also to his probity--his temper--in a
word, to all the many sides of his complicated nature. Now, I do not
think he will have this _good sense_ any more than a drunkard will have
strong nerves, unless he be in the constant habit of keeping his mind
clear from the intoxication of envy, vanity, and the various emotions
that dupe and mislead us. Good sense is not, therefore, an abstract
quality or a solitary talent; but it is the natural result of the habit
of thinking justly, and therefore seeing clearly, and is as different
from the sagacity that belongs to a diplomatist or attorney, as the
philosophy of Socrates differed from the rhetoric of Gorgias. As a mass
of individual excellences make up this attribute in a man, so a mass of
such men thus characterised give a character to a nation. Your England
is, therefore, renowned for its good sense, but it is renowned also for
the excellences which accompany strong sense in an individual--high
honesty and faith in its dealings, a warm love of justice and fair play,
a general freedom from the violent crimes common on the Continent, and
the energetic perseverance in enterprise once commenced, which results
from a bold and healthful disposition."

"Our wars, our debt--" began Maltravers.

"Pardon me," interrupted De Montaigne, "I am speaking of your people,
not of your government. A government is often a very unfair
representative of a nation. But even in the wars you allude to, if you
examine, you will generally find them originate in the love of justice,
which is the basis of good sense, not from any insane desire of conquest
or glory. A man, however sensible, must have a heart in his bosom, and
a great nation cannot be a piece of selfish clockwork. Suppose you and
I are sensible, prudent men, and we see in a crowd one violent fellow
unjustly knocking another on the head, we should be brutes, not men, if
we did not interfere with the savage; but if we thrust ourselves into a
crowd with a large bludgeon, and belabour our neighbours, with the hope
that the spectators would cry, 'See what a bold, strong fellow that
is!'--then we should be only playing the madman from the motive of the
coxcomb. I fear you will find in the military history of the French and
English the application of my parable."

"Yet still, I confess, there is a gallantry, and a noblemanlike and
Norman spirit in the whole French nation, which make me forgive many of
their excesses, and think they are destined for great purposes, when
experience shall have sobered their hot blood. Some nations, as some
men, are slow in arriving at maturity; others seem men in their cradle.
The English, thanks to their sturdy Saxon origin, elevated, not
depressed, by the Norman infusion, never were children. The difference
is striking, when you regard the representatives of both in their great
men--whether writers or active citizens."

"Yes," said De Montaigne, "in Milton and Cromwell there is nothing of
the brilliant child. I cannot say as much for Voltaire or Napoleon.
Even Richelieu, the manliest of our statesmen, had so much of the French
infant in him as to fancy himself a _beau garcon_, a gallant, a wit, and
a poet. As for the Racine school of writers, they were not out of the
leading-strings of imitation--cold copyists of a pseudo-classic, in
which they saw the form, and never caught the spirit. What so little
Roman, Greek, Hebrew, as their Roman, Greek, and Hebrew dramas? Your
rude Shakespeare's _Julius Caesar_--even his _Troilus and
Cressida_--have the ancient spirit, precisely as they are imitations of
nothing ancient. But our Frenchmen copied the giant images of old just
as the school-girl copies a drawing, by holding it up to the window, and
tracing the lines on silver paper."

"But your new writers--De Stael--Chateaubriand?"*

* At the time of this conversation the later school, adorned by Victor
Hugo, who, with notions of art elaborately wrong, is still a man of
extraordinary genius, had not risen into its present equivocal
reputation.

"I find no fault with the sentimentalists," answered the severe critic,
"but that of exceeding feebleness. They have no bone and muscle in
their genius--all is flaccid and rotund in its feminine symmetry. They
seem to think that vigour consists in florid phrases and little
aphorisms, and delineate all the mighty tempests of the human heart with
the polished prettiness of a miniature-painter on ivory. No!--these two
are children of another kind--affected, tricked-out, well-dressed
children--very clever, very precocious--but children still. Their
whinings, and their sentimentalities, and their egotism, and their
vanity, cannot interest masculine beings who know what life and its
stern objects are."

"Your brother-in-law," said Maltravers with a slight smile, "must find
in you a discouraging censor."

"My poor Castruccio," replied De Montaigne, with a half-sigh; "he is one
of those victims whom I believe to be more common than we dream of--men
whose aspirations are above their powers. I agree with a great German
writer, that in the first walks of Art no man has a right to enter,
unless he is convinced that he has strength and speed for the goal.
Castruccio might be an amiable member of society, nay, an able and
useful man, if he would apply the powers he possesses to the rewards
they may obtain. He has talent enough to win him reputation in any
profession but that of a poet."

"But authors who obtain immortality are not always first-rate."

"First-rate in their way, I suspect; even if that way be false or
trivial. They must be connected with the _history_ of their literature;
you must be able to say of them, 'In this school, be it bad or good,
they exerted such and such an influence;' in a word, they must form a
link in the great chain of a nation's authors, which may be afterwards
forgotten by the superficial, but without which the chain would be
incomplete. And thus, if not first-rate for all time, they have been
first-rate in their own day. But Castruccio is only the echo of
others--he can neither found a school nor ruin one. Yet this" (again
added De Montaigne after a pause)--"this melancholy malady in my
brother-in-law would cure itself, perhaps, if he were not Italian. In
your animated and bustling country, after sufficient disappointment as a
poet, he would glide into some other calling, and his vanity and craving
for effect would find a rational and manly outlet. But in Italy, what
can a clever man do, if he is not a poet or a robber? If he love his
country, that crime is enough to unfit him for civil employment, and his
mind cannot stir a step in the bold channels of speculation without
falling foul of the Austrian or the Pope. No; the best I can hope for
Castruccio is, that he will end in an antiquary, and dispute about ruins
with the Romans. Better that than mediocre poetry."

Maltravers was silent and thoughtful. Strange to say, De Montaigne's
views did not discourage his own new and secret ardour for intellectual
triumphs; not because he felt that he was now able to achieve them, but
because he felt the iron of his own nature, and knew that a man who has
iron in his nature must ultimately hit upon some way of shaping the
metal into use.

The host and guest were now joined by Castruccio himself--silent and
gloomy as indeed he usually was, especially in the presence of De
Montaigne, with whom he felt his "self-love" wounded; for though he
longed to despise his hard brother-in-law, the young poet was compelled
to acknowledge that De Montaigne was not a man to be despised.

Maltravers dined with the De Montaignes, and spent the evening with
them. He could not but observe that Castruccio, who affected in his
verses the softest sentiments--who was, indeed, by original nature,
tender and gentle--had become so completely warped by that worst of all
mental vices--the eternally pondering on his own excellences, talents,
mortifications, and ill-usage, that he never contributed to the
gratification of those around him; he had none of the little arts of
social benevolence, none of the playful youth of disposition which
usually belongs to the good-hearted, and for which men of a
master-genius, however elevated their studies, however stern or reserved
to the vulgar world, are commonly noticeable amidst the friends they
love or in the home they adorn. Occupied with one dream, centred in
self, the young Italian was sullen and morose to all who did not
sympathise with his own morbid fancies. From the children--the
sister--the friend--the whole living earth, he fled to a poem on
Solitude, or stanzas upon Fame. Maltravers said to himself, "I will
never be an author--I will never sigh for renown--if I am to purchase
shadows at such a price!"



CHAPTER IV.

 "It cannot be too deeply impressed on the mind, that application
  is the price to be paid for mental acquisitions, and that it is
  as absurd to expect them without it as to hope for a harvest
  where we have not sown the seed.

 "In everything we do, we may be possibly laying a train of
  consequences, the operation of which may terminate only with
  our existence."

   BAILEY: _Essays on the Formation and Publication of Opinions_.

TIME passed, and autumn was far advanced towards winter; still
Maltravers lingered at Como. He saw little of any other family than
that of the De Montaignes, and the greater part of his time was
necessarily spent alone. His occupation continued to be that of making
experiments of his own powers, and these gradually became bolder and
more comprehensive. He took care, however, not to show his "Diversions
of Como" to his new friends: he wanted no audience--he dreamt of no
Public; he desired merely to practise his own mind. He became aware, of
his own accord, as he proceeded, that a man can neither study with such
depth, nor compose with much art, unless he has some definite object
before him; in the first, some one branch of knowledge to master; in the
last, some one conception to work out. Maltravers fell back upon his
boyish passion for metaphysical speculation; but with what different
results did he now wrestle with the subtle schoolmen, now that he had
practically known mankind. How insensibly new lights broke in upon him,
as he threaded the labyrinth of cause and effect, by which we seek to
arrive at that curious and biform monster--our own nature. His mind
became saturated, as it were, with these profound studies and
meditations; and when at length he paused from them, he felt as if he
had not been living in solitude, but had gone through a process of
action in the busy world: so much juster, so much clearer, had become
his knowledge of himself and others. But though these researches
coloured, they did not limit his intellectual pursuits. Poetry and the
lighter letters became to him not merely a relaxation, but a critical
and thoughtful study. He delighted to penetrate into the causes that
have made the airy webs spun by men's fancies so permanent and powerful
in their influence over the hard, work-day world. And what a lovely
scene--what a sky--what an air wherein to commence the projects of that
ambition which seeks to establish an empire in the hearts and memories
of mankind! I believe it has a great effect on the future labours of a
writer,--the place where he first dreams that it is his destiny to
write!

From these pursuits Ernest was aroused by another letter from Cleveland.
His kind friend had been disappointed and vexed that Maltravers did not
follow his advice, and return to England. He had shown his displeasure
by not answering Ernest's letter of excuses; but lately he had been
seized with a dangerous illness which reduced him to the brink of the
grave; and with a heart softened by the exhaustion of the frame, he now
wrote in the first moments of convalescence to Maltravers, informing him
of his attack and danger, and once more urging him to return. The
thought that Cleveland--the dear, kind gentle guardian of his youth--had
been near unto death, that he might never more have hung upon that
fostering hand, nor replied to that paternal voice, smote Ernest with
terror and remorse. He resolved instantly to return to England, and
made his preparations accordingly.

He went to take leave of the De Montaignes. Teresa was trying to teach
her first-born to read; and seated by the open window of the villa, in
her neat, not precise, _dishabille_--with the little boy's delicate, yet
bold and healthy countenance looking up fearlessly at hers, while she
was endeavouring to initiate him--half gravely, half laughingly--into
the mysteries of monosyllables, the pretty boy and the fair young mother
made a delightful picture. De Montaigne was reading the Essays of his
celebrated namesake, in whom he boasted, I know not with what justice,
to claim an ancestor. From time to time he looked from the page to take
a glance at the progress of his heir, and keep up with the march of
intellect. But he did not interfere with the maternal lecture; he was
wise enough to know that there is a kind of sympathy between a child and
a mother, which is worth all the grave superiority of a father in making
learning palatable to young years. He was far too clever a man not to
despise all the systems of forcing infants under knowledge-frames, which
are the present fashion. He knew that philosophers never made a greater
mistake than in insisting so much upon beginning abstract education from
the cradle. It is quite enough to attend to an infant's temper, and
correct that cursed predilection for telling fibs which falsifies all
Dr. Reid's absurd theory about innate propensities to truth, and makes
the prevailing epidemic of the nursery. Above all, what advantage ever
compensates for hurting a child's health or breaking his spirit? Never
let him learn, more than you can help it, the crushing bitterness of
fear. A bold child who looks you in the face, speaks the truth, and
shames the devil; that is the stuff of which to make good and brave--ay,
and wise men!

Maltravers entered, unannounced, into this charming family party, and
stood unobserved for a few moments, by the open door. The little pupil
was the first to perceive him, and, forgetful of monosyllables, ran to
greet him; for Maltravers, though gentle rather than gay, was a
favourite with children, and his fair, calm, gracious countenance did
more for him with them than if, like Goldsmith's Burchell, his pockets
had been filled with gingerbread and apples. "Ah, fie on you, Mr.
Maltravers!" cried Teresa, rising; "you have blown away all the
characters I have been endeavouring this last hour to imprint upon
sand."

"Not so, Signora," said Maltravers, seating himself, and placing the
child on his knee; "my young friend will set to work again with a
greater gusto after this little break in upon his labours."

"You will stay with us all day, I hope?" said De Montaigne.

"Indeed," said Maltravers, "I am come to ask permission to do so, for
to-morrow I depart for England."

"Is it possible?" cried Teresa. "How sudden! How we shall miss you!
Oh! don't go. But perhaps you have bad news from England?"

"I have news that summon me hence," replied Maltravers; "my guardian and
second father has been dangerously ill. I am uneasy about him, and
reproach myself for having forgotten him so long in your seductive
society."

"I am really sorry to lose you," said De Montaigne, with greater warmth
in his tone than in his words. "I hope heartily we shall meet again
soon: you will come, perhaps, to Paris?"

"Probably," said Maltravers; "and you, perhaps, to England?"

"Ah, how I should like it!" exclaimed Teresa.

"No, you would not," said her husband; "you would not like England at
all; you would call it _triste_ beyond measure. It is one of those
countries of which a native should be proud, but which has no amusement
for a stranger, precisely because full of such serious and stirring
occupations to the citizens. The pleasantest countries for strangers
are the worst countries for natives (witness Italy), and _vice versa_."

Teresa shook her dark curls, and would not be convinced.

"And where is Castruccio?" asked Maltravers.

"In his boat on the lake," replied Teresa. "He will be inconsolable at
your departure: you are the only person he can understand, or who
understand him; the only person in Italy--I had almost said in the whole
world."

"Well, we shall meet at dinner," said Ernest; "meanwhile let me prevail
on you to accompany me to the _Pliniana_. I wish to say farewell to
that crystal spring."

Teresa, delighted at any excursion, readily consented.

"And I too, mamma," cried the child; "and my little sister?"

"Oh, certainly," said Maltravers, speaking for the parents.

So the party was soon ready, and they pushed off in the clear genial
noontide (for November in Italy is as early as September in the North)
across the sparkling and dimpled waters. The children prattled, and the
grown-up people talked on a thousand matters. It was a pleasant day,
that last day at Como! For the farewells of friendship have indeed
something of the melancholy, but not the anguish, of those of love.
Perhaps it would be better if we could get rid of love altogether. Life
would go on smoother and happier without it. Friendship is the wine of
existence, but love is the dram-drinking.

When they returned, they found Castruccio seated on the lawn. He did
not appear so much dejected at the prospect of Ernest's departure as
Teresa had anticipated; for Castruccio Cesarini was a very jealous man,
and he had lately been chagrined and discontented with seeing the
delight that the De Montaignes took in Ernest's society.

"Why is this?" he often asked himself; "why are they more pleased with
this stranger's society than mine? My ideas are as fresh, as original;
I have as much genius, yet even my dry brother-in-law allows _his_
talents, and predicts that _he_ will be an eminent man! while
_I_--No!--one is not a prophet in one's own country!"

Unhappy man! his mind bore all the rank weeds of the morbid poetical
character, and the weeds choked up the flowers that the soil, properly
cultivated, should alone bear. Yet that crisis in life awaited
Castruccio, in which a sensitive and poetical man is made or marred; the
crisis in which a sentiment is replaced by the passions--in which love
for some real object gathers the scattered rays of the heart into a
focus: out of that ordeal he might pass a purer and manlier being--so
Maltravers often hoped. Maltravers then little thought how closely
connected with his own fate was to be that passage in the history of the
Italian. Castruccio contrived to take Maltravers aside, and as he led
the Englishman through the wood that backed the mansion, he said, with
some embarrassment, "You go, I suppose, to London?"

"I shall pass through it--can I execute any commission for you?"

"Why, yes; my poems!--I think of publishing them in England: your
aristocracy cultivate the Italian letters; and, perhaps, I may be read
by the fair and noble--_that_ is the proper audience of poets. For the
vulgar herd--I disdain it!"

"My dear Castruccio, I will undertake to see your poems published in
London, if you wish it; but do not be sanguine. In England we read
little poetry, even in our own language, and we are shamefully
indifferent to foreign literature."

"Yes, foreign literature generally, and you are right; but my poems are
of another kind. They must command attention in a polished and
intelligent circle."

"Well! let the experiment be tried; you can let me have the poems when
we part."

"I thank you," said Castruccio, in a joyous tone, pressing his friend's
hand; and for the rest of that evening, he seemed an altered being; he
even caressed the children, and did not sneer at the grave conversation
of his brother-in-law.

When Maltravers rose to depart, Castruccio gave him the packet; and
then, utterly engrossed with his own imagined futurity of fame, vanished
from the room to indulge his reveries. He cared no longer for
Maltravers--he had put him to use--he could not be sorry for his
departure, for that departure was the Avatar of His appearance to a new
world.

A small dull rain was falling, though, at intervals, the stars broke
through the unsettled clouds, and Teresa did not therefore venture from
the house; she presented her smooth cheek to the young guest to salute,
pressed him by the hand, and bade him adieu with tears in her eyes.
"Ah!" said she, "when we meet again I hope you will be married--I shall
love your wife dearly. There is no happiness like marriage and home!"
and she looked with ingenuous tenderness at De Montaigne.

Maltravers sighed;--his thoughts flew back to Alice. Where now was that
lone and friendless girl, whose innocent love had once brightened a home
for _him_? He answered by a vague and mechanical commonplace, and
quitted the room with De Montaigne, who insisted on seeing him depart.
As they neared the lake, De Montaigne broke the silence.

"My dear Maltravers," he said, with a serious and thoughtful affection
in his voice, "we may not meet again for years. I have a warm interest
in your happiness and career--yes, _career_--I repeat the word. I do
not habitually seek to inspire young men with ambition. Enough for most
of them to be good and honourable citizens. But in your case it is
different. I see in you the earnest and meditative, not rash and
overweening youth, which is usually productive of a distinguished
manhood. Your mind is not yet settled, it is true; but it is fast
becoming clear and mellow from the first ferment of boyish dreams and
passions. You have everything in your favour,--competence, birth,
connections; and, above all, you are an Englishman! You have a mighty
stage, on which, it is true, you cannot establish a footing without
merit and without labour--so much the better; in which strong and
resolute rivals will urge you on to emulation, and then competition will
task your keenest powers. Think what a glorious fate it is, to have an
influence on the vast, but ever-growing mind of such a country,--to
feel, when you retire from the busy scene, that you have played an
unforgotten part--that you have been the medium, under God's great will,
of circulating new ideas throughout the world--of upholding the glorious
priesthood of the Honest and the Beautiful. This is the true ambition;
the desire of mere personal notoriety is vanity, not ambition. Do not
then be lukewarm or supine. The trait I have observed in you," added
the Frenchman, with a smile, "most prejudicial to your chances of
distinction is, that you are _too_ philosophical, too apt to _cui bono_
all the exertions that interfere with the indolence of cultivated
leisure. And you must not suppose, Maltravers, that an active career
will be a path of roses. At present you have no enemies; but the moment
you attempt distinction, you will be abused; calumniated, reviled. You
will be shocked at the wrath you excite, and sigh for your old
obscurity, and consider, as Franklin has it, that 'you have paid too
dear for your whistle.' But in return for individual enemies, what a
noble recompense to have made the Public itself your friend; perhaps
even Posterity your familiar! Besides," added De Montaigne, with almost
a religious solemnity in his voice, "there is a conscience of the head
as well as of the heart, and in old age we feel as much remorse if we
have wasted our natural talents as if we had perverted our natural
virtues. The profound and exultant satisfaction with which a man who
knows that he has not lived in vain--that he has entailed on the world
an heirloom of instruction or delight--looks back upon departed
struggles, is one of the happiest emotions of which the conscience can
be capable. What, indeed, are the petty faults we commit as
individuals, affecting but a narrow circle, ceasing with our own lives,
to the incalculable and everlasting good we may produce as public men by
one book or by one law? Depend upon it that the Almighty, who sums up
all the good and all the evil done by His creatures in a just balance,
will not judge the august benefactors of the world with the same
severity as those drones of society, who have no great services to show
in the eternal ledger, as a set-off to the indulgence of their small
vices. These things rightly considered, Maltravers, you will have every
inducement that can tempt a lofty mind and a pure ambition to awaken
from the voluptuous indolence of the literary Sybarite, and contend
worthily in the world's wide Altis for a great prize."

Maltravers never before felt so flattered--so stirred into high
resolves. The stately eloquence, the fervid encouragement of this man,
usually so cold and fastidious, roused him like the sound of a trumpet.
He stopped short, his breath heaved thick, his cheek flushed. "De
Montaigne," said he, "your words have cleared away a thousand doubts and
scruples--they have gone right to my heart. For the first time I
understand what fame is--what the object, and what the reward of labour!
Visions, hopes, aspirations I may have had before--for months a new
spirit has been fluttering within me. I have felt the wings breaking
from the shell, but all was confused, dim, uncertain. I doubted the
wisdom of effort, with life so short, and the pleasures of youth so
sweet. I now look no longer on life but as a part of the eternity to
which I _feel_ we were born; and I recognise the solemn truth that our
objects, to be worthy life, should be worthy of creatures in whom the
living principle never is extinct. Farewell! come joy or sorrow,
failure or success, I will struggle to deserve your friendship."

Maltravers sprang into his boat, and the shades of night soon snatched
him from the lingering gaze of De Montaigne.



BOOK IV.

 "Strange is the land that holds thee,--and thy couch
  is widow'd of the loved one."
   EURIP. _Med._ 442
    Translation by R. G.



CHAPTER I.

        "I, alas!
  Have lived but on this earth a few sad years;
  And so my lot was ordered, that a father
  First turned the moments of awakening life
  To drops, each poisoning youth's sweet hope."
   "_Cenci_."

FROM accompanying Maltravers along the noiseless progress of mental
education, we are now called awhile to cast our glances back at the
ruder and harsher ordeal which Alice Darvil was ordained to pass. Along
her path poetry shed no flowers, nor were her lonely steps towards the
distant shrine at which her pilgrimage found its rest lighted by the
mystic lamp of science, or guided by the thousand stars which are never
dim in the heavens for those favoured eyes from which genius and fancy
have removed many of the films of clay. Not along the aerial and
exalted ways that wind far above the homes and business of common
men--the solitary Alps of Spiritual Philosophy--wandered the desolate
steps of the child of poverty and sorrow. On the beaten and rugged
highways of common life, with a weary heart, and with bleeding feet, she
went her melancholy course. But the goal which is the great secret of
life, the _summum arcanum_ of all philosophy, whether the Practical or
the Ideal, was, perhaps, no less attainable for that humble girl than
for the elastic step and aspiring heart of him who thirsted after the
Great, and almost believed in the Impossible.

We return to that dismal night in which Alice was torn from the roof of
her lover. It was long before she recovered her consciousness of what
had passed, and gained a full perception of the fearful revolution which
had taken place in her destinies. It was then a grey and dreary morning
twilight; and the rude but covered vehicle which bore her was rolling
along the deep ruts of an unfrequented road, winding among the
uninclosed and mountainous wastes that, in England, usually betoken the
neighbourhood of the sea. With a shudder Alice looked round: Walters,
her father's accomplice, lay extended at her feet, and his heavy
breathing showed that he was fast asleep. Darvil himself was urging on
the jaded and sorry horse, and his broad back was turned towards Alice;
the rain, from which, in his position, he was but ill protected by the
awning, dripped dismally from his slouched hat; and now, as he turned
round, and his sinister and gloomy gaze rested upon the face of Alice,
his bad countenance, rendered more haggard by the cold raw light of the
cheerless dawn, completed the hideous picture of unveiled and ruffianly
wretchedness.

"Ho, ho! Alley, so you are come to your senses," said he, with a kind of
joyless grin. "I am glad of it, for I can have no fainting fine ladies
with me. You have had a long holiday, Alley; you must now learn once
more to work for your poor father. Ah, you have been d----d sly; but
never mind the past--I forgive it. You must not run away again without
my leave; if you are fond of sweethearts, I won't balk you--but your old
father must go shares, Alley."

Alice could hear no more: she covered her face with the cloak that had
been thrown about her, and though she did not faint, her senses seemed
to be locked and paralysed. By and by Walters woke, and the two men,
heedless of her presence, conversed upon their plans. By degrees she
recovered sufficient self-possession to listen, in the instinctive hope
that some plan of escape might be suggested to her. But from what she
could gather of the incoherent and various projects they discussed, one
after another--disputing upon each with frightful oaths and scarce
intelligible slang, she could only learn that it was resolved at all
events to leave the district in which they were--but whither seemed yet
all undecided. The cart halted at last at a miserable-looking hut,
which the signpost announced to be an inn that afforded good
accommodation to travellers; to which announcement was annexed the
following epigrammatic distich:

 "Old Tom, he is the best of gin;
  Drink him once, and you'll drink him _agin_!"

The hovel stood so remote from all other habitations, and the waste
around was so bare of trees, and even shrubs, that Alice saw with
despair that all hope of flight in such a place would be indeed a
chimera. But to make assurance doubly sure, Darvil himself, lifting her
from the cart, conducted her up a broken and unlighted staircase, into a
sort of loft rather than a room, and, rudely pushing her in, turned the
key upon her, and descended. The weather was cold, the livid damps hung
upon the distained walls, and there was neither fire nor hearth; but
thinly clad as she was--her cloak and shawl her principal covering--she
did not feel the cold, for her heart was more chilly than the airs of
heaven. At noon an old woman brought her some food, which, consisting
of fish and poached game, was better than might have been expected in
such a place, and what would have been deemed a feast under her father's
roof. With an inviting leer, the crone pointed to a pewter measure of
raw spirits that accompanied the viands, and assured her, in a cracked
and maudlin voice, that "'Old Tom' was a kinder friend than any of the
young fellers!" This intrusion ended, Alice was again left alone till
dusk, when Darvil entered with a bundle of clothes, such as are worn by
the peasants of that primitive district of England.

"There, Alley," said he, "put on this warm toggery; finery won't do now.
We must leave no scent in the track; the hounds are after us, my little
blowen. Here's a nice stuff gown for you, and a red cloak that would
frighten a turkey-cock. As to the other cloak and shawl, don't be
afraid; they sha'n't go to the pop-shop, but we'll take care of them
against we get to some large town where there are young fellows with
blunt in their pockets; for you seem to have already found out that your
face is your fortune, Alley. Come, make haste, we must be starting. I
shall come up for you in ten minutes. Pish! don't be faint hearted;
here, take 'Old Tom'--take it, I say. What, you won't? Well, here's to
your health, and a better taste to you!"

And now, as the door once more closed upon Darvil, tears for the first
time came to the relief of Alice. It was a woman's weakness that
procured for her that woman's luxury. Those garments--they were
Ernest's gift--Ernest's taste; they were like the last relic of that
delicious life which now seemed to have fled for ever. All traces of
that life--of him, the loving, the protecting, the adored; all trace of
herself, as she had been re-created by love, was to be lost to her for
ever. It was (as she had read somewhere, in the little elementary
volumes that bounded her historic lore) like that last fatal ceremony in
which those condemned for life to the mines of Siberia are clothed with
the slave's livery, their past name and record eternally blotted out,
and thrust into the vast wastes, from which even the mercy of despotism,
should it ever re-awaken, cannot recall them; for all evidence of
them--all individuality--all mark to distinguish them from the universal
herd, is expunged from the world's calendar. She was still sobbing in
vehement and unrestrained passion, when Darvil re-entered. "What, not
dressed yet?" he exclaimed, in a voice of impatient rage; "hark ye,
this won't do. If in two minutes you are not ready, I'll send up John
Walters to help you; and he is a rough hand, I can tell you."

This threat recalled Alice, to herself. "I will do as you wish," said
she meekly.

"Well, then, be quick," said Darvil; "they are now putting the horse to.
And mark me, girl, your father is running away from the gallows, and
that thought does not make a man stand upon scruples. If you once
attempt to give me the slip, or do or say anything that can bring the
bulkies upon us--by the devil in hell!--if, indeed, there be hell or
devil--my knife shall become better acquainted with that throat--so look
to it!"

And this was the father--this the condition--of her whose ear had for
months drunk no other sound than the whispers of flattering love--the
murmurs of Passion from the lips of Poetry.

They continued their journey till midnight; they then arrived at an inn,
little different from the last; but here Alice was no longer consigned
to solitude. In a long room, reeking with smoke, sat from twenty to
thirty ruffians before a table on which mugs and vessels of strong
potations were formidably interspersed with sabres and pistols. They
received Walters and Darvil with a shout of welcome, and would have
crowded somewhat unceremoniously round Alice, if her father, whose
well-known desperate and brutal ferocity made him a man to be respected
in such an assembly, had not said, sternly, "Hands off, messmates, and
make way by the fire for my little girl--she is meat for your masters."

So saying, he pushed Alice down into a huge chair in the chimney-nook,
and, seating himself near her, at the end of the table, hastened to turn
the conversation.

"Well, Captain," said he, addressing a small thin man at the head of the
table, "I and Walters have fairly cut and run--the land has a bad air
for us, and we now want the sea-breeze to cure the rope fever. So,
knowing this was your night, we have crowded sail, and here we are. You
must give the girl there a lift, though I know you don't like such
lumber, and we'll run ashore as soon as we can."

"She seems a quiet little body," replied the captain; "and we would do
more than that to oblige an old friend like you. In half an hour
Oliver* puts on his nightcap, and we must then be off."

* The moon.

"The sooner the better."

The men now appeared to forget the presence of Alice, who sat faint with
fatigue and exhaustion, for she had been too sick at heart to touch the
food brought to her at their previous halting-place, gazing abstractedly
upon the fire. Her father, before their departure, made her swallow
some morsels of sea-biscuit, though each seemed to choke her; and then,
wrapped in a thick boat-cloak, she was placed in a small well-built
cutter; and as the sea-winds whistled round her, the present cold and
the past fatigues lulled her miserable heart into the arms of the
charitable Sleep.



CHAPTER II.

 "You are once more a free woman;
  Here I discharge your bonds."
   _The Custom of the Country_.

AND many were thy trials, poor child; many that, were this book to
germinate into volumes more numerous than monk ever composed upon the
lives of saint or martyr (though a hundred volumes contained the record
of two years only in the life of St. Anthony), it would be impossible to
describe! We may talk of the fidelity of books, but no man ever wrote
even his own biography without being compelled to omit at least
nine-tenths of the most important materials. What are three--what six
volumes? We live six volumes in a day! Thought, emotion, joy, sorrow,
hope, fear, how prolix would they be if they might each tell their
hourly tale! But man's life itself is a brief epitome of that which is
infinite and everlasting; and his most accurate confessions are a
miserable abridgment of a hurried and confused compendium!

It was about three months, or more, from the night in which Alice wept
herself to sleep amongst those wild companions, when she contrived to
escape from her father's vigilant eye. They were then on the coast of
Ireland. Darvil had separated himself from Walters--from his seafaring
companions: he had run through the greater part of the money his crimes
had got together; he began seriously to attempt putting into execution
his horrible design of depending for support upon the sale of his
daughter. Now Alice might have been moulded into sinful purposes before
she knew Maltravers; but from that hour her very error made her
virtuous--she had comprehended, the moment she loved, what was meant by
female honour; and by a sudden revelation, she had purchased modesty,
delicacy of thought and soul, in the sacrifice of herself. Much of our
morality (prudent and right upon system) with respect to the first false
step of women, leads us, as we all know, into barbarous errors as to
individual exceptions. Where, from pure and confiding love, that first
false step has been taken, many a woman has been saved in after life
from a thousand temptations. The poor unfortunates who crowd our
streets and theatres have rarely, in the first instances, been corrupted
by love; but by poverty, and the contagion of circumstance and example.
It is a miserable cant phrase to call them the victims of seduction;
they have been the victims of hunger, of vanity, of curiosity, of evil
_female_ counsels; but the seduction of love hardly ever conducts to a
_life_ of vice. If a woman has once really loved, the beloved object
makes an impenetrable barrier between her and other men; their advances
terrify and revolt--she would rather die than be unfaithful even to a
memory. Though man love the sex, woman loves only the individual; and
the more she loves him, the more cold she is to the species. For the
passion of woman is in the sentiment--the fancy--the heart. It rarely
has much to do with the coarse images with which boys and old men--the
inexperienced and the worn-out--connect it.

But Alice, though her blood ran cold at her terrible father's language,
saw in his very design the prospect of escape. In an hour of
drunkenness he thrust her from the house, and stationed himself to watch
her--it was in the city of Cork. She formed her resolution
instantly--turned up a narrow street, and fled at full speed. Darvil
endeavoured in vain to keep pace with her--his eyes dizzy, his steps
reeling with intoxication. She heard his last curse dying from a
distance on the air, and her fear winged her steps: she paused at last,
and found herself on the outskirts of the town. She paused, overcome,
and deadly faint; and then, for the first time, she felt that a strange
and new life was stirring within her own. She had long since known that
she bore in her womb the unborn offspring of Maltravers, and that
knowledge had made her struggle and live on. But now, the embryo had
quickened into being--it moved--it appealed to her, a--thing unseen,
unknown; but still it was a living creature appealing to a mother! Oh,
the thrill, half of ineffable tenderness, half of mysterious terror, at
that moment!--What a new chapter in the life of a woman did it not
announce:--Now, then, she must be watchful over herself--must guard
against fatigue--must wrestle with despair. Solemn was the trust
committed to her--the life of another--the child of the Adored. It was
a summer night--she sat on a rude stone, the city on one side, with its
lights and lamps;--the whitened fields beyond, with the moon and the
stars above; and _above_ she raised her streaming eyes, and she thought
that God, the Protector, smiled upon her from the face of the sweet
skies. So, after a pause and a silent prayer, she rose and resumed her
way. When she was wearied she crept into a shed in a farmyard, and
slept, for the first time for weeks, the calm sleep of security and
hope.



CHAPTER III.

 "How like a prodigal doth she return,
  With over-weathered ribs and ragged sails."
   _Merchant of Venice_.

 "_Mer._ What are these?
  _Uncle._ The tenants."
   BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.--_Wit without Money_.

IT was just two years from the night in which Alice had been torn from
the cottage: and at that time Maltravers was wandering amongst the ruins
of ancient Egypt, when, upon the very lawn where Alice and her lover had
so often loitered hand in hand, a gay party of children and young people
were assembled. The cottage had been purchased by an opulent and
retired manufacturer. He had raised the low thatched roof another story
high--and blue slate had replaced the thatch--and the pretty verandahs
overgrown with creepers had been taken down because Mrs. Hobbs thought
they gave the rooms a dull look; and the little rustic doorway had been
replaced by four Ionic pillars in stucco; and a new dining-room,
twenty-two feet by eighteen, had been built out at one wing, and a new
drawing-room had been built over the new dining-room. And the poor
little cottage looked quite grand and villa-like. The fountain had been
taken away, because it made the house damp; and there was such a broad
carriage-drive from the gate to the house! The gate was no longer the
modest green wooden gate, ever ajar with its easy latch; but a tall,
cast-iron, well-locked gate, between two pillars to match the porch.
And on one of the gates was a brass plate, on which was graven, "Hobbs'
Lodge--Ring the bell." The lesser Hobbses and the bigger Hobbses were
all on the lawn--many of them fresh from school--for it was the
half-holiday of a Saturday afternoon. There was mirth, and noise, and
shouting and whooping, and the respectable old couple looked calmly on;
Hobbs the father smoking his pipe (alas, it was not the dear
meerschaum); Hobbs the mother talking to her eldest daughter (a fine
young woman, three months married, for love, to a poor man), upon the
proper number of days that a leg of mutton (weight ten pounds) should be
made to last. "Always, my dear, have large joints, they are much the
most saving. Let me see--what a noise the boys do make! No, my love,
the ball's not here."

"Mamma, it is under your petticoats."

"La, child, how naughty you are!"

"Holla, you sir! it's my turn to go in now. Biddy, wait,--girls have no
innings--girls only fag out."

"Bob, you cheat."

"Pa, Ned says I cheat."

"Very likely, my dear, you are to be a lawyer."

"Where was I, my dear?" resumed Mrs. Hobbs, resettling herself, and
readjusting the invaded petticoats. "Oh, about the leg of mutton!--yes,
large joints are the best--the second day a nice hash, with dumplings;
the third, broil the bone--your husband is sure to like broiled
bones!--and then keep the scraps for Saturday's pie;--you know, my dear,
your father and I were worse off than you when we began. But now we
have everything that is handsome about us--nothing like management.
Saturday pies are very nice things, and then you start clear with your
joint on Sunday. A good wife like you should never neglect the
Saturday's pie!"

"Yes," said the bride, mournfully; "but Mr. Tiddy does not like pies."

"Not like pies! that very odd--Mr. Hobbs likes pies--perhaps you don't
have the crust made thick eno'. How somever, you can make it up to him
with a pudding. A wife should always study her husband's tastes--what
is a man's home without love? Still a husband ought not to be
aggravating, and dislike pie on a Saturday!"

"Holla! I say, ma, do you see that 'ere gipsy? I shall go and have my
fortune told."

"And I--and I!"

"Lor, if there ben't a tramper!" cried Mr. Hobbs, rising indignantly;
"what can the parish be about?"

The object of these latter remarks, filial and paternal, was a young
woman in a worn, threadbare cloak, with her face pressed to the openwork
of the gate, and looking wistfully--oh, how wistfully!--within. The
children eagerly ran up to her, but they involuntarily slackened their
steps when they drew near, for she was evidently not what they had taken
her for. No gipsy hues darkened the pale, thin, delicate cheek--no
gipsy leer lurked in those large blue and streaming eyes--no gipsy
effrontery bronzed that candid and childish brow. As she thus pressed
her countenance with convulsive eagerness against the cold bars, the
young people caught the contagion of inexpressible and half-fearful
sadness--they approached almost respectfully--"Do you want anything
here?" said the eldest and boldest of the boys.

"I--I--surely this is Dale Cottage?"

"It was Dale Cottage, it is Hobbs' Lodge now; can't you read?" said the
heir of the Hobbs's honours, losing, in contempt at the girl's
ignorance, his first impression of sympathy.

"And--and--Mr. Butler, is he gone too?"

Poor child! she spoke as if the cottage was gone, not improved; the
Ionic portico had no charm for her!

"Butler!--no such person lives here. Pa, do you know where Mr. Butler
lives?"

Pa was now moving up to the place of conference the slow artillery of
his fair round belly and portly calves. "Butler, no--I know nothing of
such a name--no Mr. Butler lives here. Go along with you--ain't you
ashamed to beg?"

"No Mr. Butler!" said the girl, gasping for breath, and clinging to the
gate for support. "Are you sure, sir?"

"Sure, yes!--what do you want with him?"

"Oh, papa, she looks faint!" said one of the _girls_ deprecatingly--"do
let her have something to eat; I'm sure she's hungry."

Mr. Hobbs looked angry; he had often been taken in, and no rich man
likes beggars. Generally speaking, the rich man is in the right. But
then Mr. Hobbs turned to the suspected tramper's sorrowful face and then
to his fair pretty child--and his good angel whispered something to Mr.
Hobbs's heart--and he said, after a pause, "Heaven forbid that we should
not feel for a poor fellow-creature not so well to do as ourselves.
Come in, my lass, and have a morsel to eat."

The girl did not seem to hear him, and he repeated the invitation,
approaching to unlock the gate.

"No, sir," said she, then; "no, I thank you. I could not come in now.
I could not eat here. But tell me, sir, I implore you, can you not even
guess where I may find Mr. Butler?"

"Butler!" said Mrs. Hobbs, whom curiosity had now drawn to the spot. "I
remember that was the name of the gentleman who hired the place, and was
robbed."

"Robbed!" said Mr. Hobbs, falling back and relocking the gate--"and the
new tea-pot just come home," he muttered inly. "Come, be off, child--be
off; we know nothing of your Mr. Butlers."

The young woman looked wildly in his face, cast a hurried glance over
the altered spot, and then, with a kind of shiver, as if the wind had
smitten her delicate form too rudely, she drew her cloak more closely
round her shoulders, and without saying another word, moved away. The
party looked after her as, with trembling steps, she passed down the
road, and all felt that pang of shame which is common to the human heart
at the sight of a distress it has not sought to soothe. But this
feeling vanished at once from the breast of Mrs. and Mr. Hobbs, when
they saw the girl stop where a turn of the road brought the gate before
her eyes; and for the first time, they perceived, what the worn cloak
had hitherto concealed, that the poor young thing bore an infant in her
arms. She halted, she gazed fondly back. Even at that instant the
despair of her eyes was visible; and then, as she pressed her lips to
the infant's brow, they heard a convulsive sob--they saw her turn away,
and she was gone!

"Well, I declare!" said Mrs. Hobbs.

"News for the parish," said Mr. Hobbs; "and she so young too!--what a
shame!"

"The girls about here are very bad nowadays, Jenny," said the mother to
the bride.

"I see now why she wanted Mr. Butler," quoth Hobbs, with a knowing
wink--"the slut has come to swear!"

And it was for this that Alice had supported her strength--her
courage-during the sharp pangs of childbirth; during a severe and
crushing illness, which for months after her confinement had stretched
her upon a peasant's bed (the object of the rude but kindly charity of
an Irish shealing)--for this, day after day, she had whispered to
herself, "I shall get well, and I will beg my way to the cottage, and
find him there still, and put my little one into his arms, and all will
be bright again;"--for this, as soon as she could walk without aid, had
she set out on foot from the distant land; for this, almost with a dog's
instinct (for she knew not what way to turn--what county the cottage was
placed in; she only knew the name of the neighbouring town; and that,
populous as it was, sounded strange to the ears of those she asked; and
she had often and often been directed wrong),--for this, I say, almost
with a dog's faithful instinct, had she, in cold and heat, in hunger and
in thirst, tracked to her old master's home her desolate and lonely way!
And thrice had she over-fatigued herself--and thrice again been indebted
to humble pity for a bed whereon to lay a feverish and broken frame.
And once, too, her baby--her darling, her life of life, had been
ill--had been near unto death, and she could not stir till the infant
(it was a girl) was well again, and could smile in her face and crow.
And thus many, many months had elapsed, since the day she set out on her
pilgrimage, to that on which she found its goal. But never, save when
the child was ill, had she desponded or abated heart and hope. She
should see him again, and he would kiss her child. And now--no--I
cannot paint the might of that stunning blow! She knew not, she dreamed
not, of the kind precautions Maltravers had taken; and he had not
sufficiently calculated on her thorough ignorance of the world. How
could she divine that the magistrate, not a mile distant from her, could
have told her all she sought to know? Could she but have met the
gardener--or the old woman-servant--all would have been well! These
last, indeed, she had the forethought to ask for. But the woman was
dead, and the gardener had taken a strange service in some distant
county. And so died her last gleam of hope. If one person who
remembered the search of Maltravers had but met and recognised her! But
she had been seen by so few--and now the bright, fresh girl was so sadly
altered! Her race was not yet run, and many a sharp wind upon the
mournful seas had the bark to brave before its haven was found at last.



CHAPTER IV.

        "Patience and sorrow strove
  Which should express her goodliest."--SHAKESPEARE.

 "Je _la_ plains, je _la_ blame, et je suis son appui."*-VOLTAIRE.

* I pity her, I blame her, and am her support.

AND now Alice felt that she was on the wide world alone, with her
child--no longer to be protected, but to protect; and after the first
few days of agony, a new spirit, not indeed of hope, but of endurance,
passed within her. Her solitary wanderings, with God her only guide,
had tended greatly to elevate and confirm her character. She felt a
strong reliance on His mysterious mercy--she felt, too, the
responsibility of a mother. Thrown for so many months upon her own
resources, even for the bread of life, her intellect was unconsciously
sharpened, and a habit of patient fortitude had strengthened a nature
originally clinging and femininely soft. She resolved to pass into some
other county, for she could neither bear the thoughts that haunted the
neighbourhood around her, nor think, without a loathing horror, of the
possibility of her father's return. Accordingly, one day, she renewed
her wanderings--and after a week's travel, arrived at a small village.
Charity is so common in England, it so spontaneously springs up
everywhere, like the good seed by the roadside, that she had rarely
wanted the bare necessaries of existence. And her humble manner, and
sweet, well-tuned voice, so free from the professional whine of
mendicancy, had usually its charm for the sternest. So she generally
obtained enough to buy bread and a night's lodging, and, if sometimes
she failed, she could bear hunger, and was not afraid of creeping into
some shed, or, when by the sea-shore, even into some sheltering cavern.
Her child throve too--for God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb! But
now, so far as physical privation went, the worst was over.

It so happened that as Alice was drawing herself wearily along to the
entrance of the village which was to bound her day's journey, she was
met by a lady, past middle age, in whose countenance compassion was so
visible, that Alice would not beg, for she had a strange delicacy or
pride, or whatever it may be called, and rather begged of the stern than
of those who looked kindly at her--she did not like to lower herself in
the eyes of the last.

The lady stopped.

"My poor girl, where are you going?"

"Where God pleases, madam," said Alice.

"Humph! and is that your own child?--you are almost a child yourself."

"It is mine, madam," said Alice, gazing fondly at the infant; "it is my
all!"

The lady's voice faltered. "Are you married?" she asked.

"Married!--Oh, no, madam!" replied Alice, innocently, yet without
blushing, for she never knew that she had done wrong in loving
Maltravers.

The lady drew gently back, but not in horror--no, in still deeper
compassion; for that lady had virtue, and she knew that the faults of
her sex are sufficiently punished to permit Virtue to pity them without
a sin.

"I am sorry for it," she said, however, with greater gravity. "Are you
travelling to seek the father?"

"Ah, madam! I shall never see him again!" And Alice wept.

"What!--he has abandoned you--so young, so beautiful!" added the lady to
herself.

"Abandoned me!--no, madam; but it is a long tale. Good evening--I thank
you kindly for your pity."

The lady's eyes ran over.

"Stay," said she; "tell me frankly where you are going, and what is your
object."

"Alas! madam, I am going anywhere, for I have no home; but I wish to
live, and work for my living, in order that my child may not want for
anything. I wish I could maintain myself--he used to say I could."

"He!--your language and manner are not those of a peasant. What can you
do? What do you know?"

"Music, and work, and--and--"

"Music!--this is strange! What were your parents?"

Alice shuddered, and hid her face with her hands.

The lady's interest was now fairly warmed in her behalf.

"She has sinned," said she to herself; "but at that age, how can one be
harsh? She must not be thrown upon the world to make sin a habit.
Follow me," she said, after a little pause; "and think you have found a
friend."

The lady then turned from the high-road down a green lane which led to a
park lodge. This lodge she entered; and after a short conversation with
the inmate, beckoned to Alice to join her.

"Janet," said Alice's new protector to a comely and pleasant-eyed woman,
"this is the young person--you will show her and the infant every
attention. I shall send down proper clothing for her to-morrow, and I
shall then have thought what will be best for her future welfare."

With that the lady smiled benignly upon Alice, whose heart was too full
to speak; and the door of the cottage closed upon her, and Alice thought
the day had grown darker.



CHAPTER V.

 "Believe me, she has won me much to pity her.
  Alas! her gentle nature was not made
  To buffet with adversity."--ROWE.

 "Sober he was, and grave from early youth,
  Mindful of forms, but more intent on truth;
  In a light drab he uniformly dress'd,
  And look serene th' unruffled mind express'd.

 * * * * *

 "Yet might observers in his sparkling eye
  Some observation, some acuteness spy
  The friendly thought it keen, the treacherous deem'd it sly;
  Yet not a crime could foe or friend detect,
  His actions all were like his speech correct--
  Chaste, sober, solemn, and devout they named
  Him who was this, and not of this ashamed."--CRABBE.

 "I'll on and sound this secret."--BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.

MRS. LESLIE, the lady introduced to the reader in the last chapter, was
a woman of the firmest intellect combined (no unusual combination) with
the softest heart. She learned Alice's history with admiration and
pity. The natural innocence and honesty of the young mother spoke so
eloquently in her words and looks, that Mrs. Leslie, on hearing her
tale, found much less to forgive than she had anticipated. Still she
deemed it necessary to enlighten Alice as to the criminality of the
connection she had formed. But here Alice was singularly dull--she
listened in meek patience to Mrs. Leslie's lecture; but it evidently
made but slight impression on her. She had not yet seen enough of the
social state to correct the first impressions of the natural: and all
she could say in answer to Mrs. Leslie was: "It may be all very true,
madam, but I have been so much better since I knew him!"

But though Alice took humbly any censure upon herself, she would not
hear a syllable insinuated against Maltravers. When, in a very natural
indignation, Mrs. Leslie denounced him as a destroyer of innocence--for
Mrs. Leslie could not learn all that extenuated his offence--Alice
started up with flashing eyes and heaving heart, and would have hurried
from the only shelter she had in the wide world--she would sooner have
died--she would sooner even have seen her child die, than done that idol
of her soul, who, in her eyes, stood alone on some pinnacle between
earth and heaven, the wrong of hearing him reviled. With difficulty
Mrs. Leslie could restrain, with still more difficulty could she pacify
and soothe her; and for the girl's petulance, which others might have
deemed insolent or ungrateful, the woman-heart of Mrs. Leslie loved her
all the better. The more she saw of Alice, and the more she
comprehended her story and her character, the more was she lost in
wonder at the romance of which this beautiful child had been the
heroine, and the more perplexed she was as to Alice's future prospects.

At length, however, when she became acquainted with Alice's musical
acquirements, which were, indeed, of no common order, a light broke in
upon her. Here was the source of her future independence. Maltravers,
it will be remembered, was a musician of consummate skill as well as
taste, and Alice's natural talent for the art had advanced her, in the
space of months, to a degree of perfection which it cost others--which
it had cost even the quick Maltravers--years to obtain. But we learn so
rapidly when our teachers are those we love: and it may be observed that
the less our knowledge, the less perhaps our genius in other things, the
more facile are our attainments in music, which is a very jealous
mistress of the mind. Mrs. Leslie resolved to have her perfected in
this art, and so enable her to become a teacher to others. In the town
of C------, about thirty miles from Mrs. Leslie's house, though in the
same county, there was no inconsiderable circle of wealthy and
intelligent persons; for it was a cathedral town, and the resident
clergy drew around them a kind of provincial aristocracy. Here, as in
most rural towns in England, music was much cultivated, both among the
higher and middle classes. There were amateur concerts, and glee-clubs,
and subscriptions for sacred music; and once every five years there was
the great C------ Festival. In this town Mrs. Leslie established Alice:
she placed her under the roof of a _ci-devant_ music-master, who, having
retired from his profession, was no longer jealous of rivals, but who,
by handsome terms, was induced to complete the education of Alice. It
was an eligible and comfortable abode, and the music-master and his wife
were a good-natured easy old couple.

Three months of resolute and unceasing perseverance, combined with the
singular ductility and native gifts of Alice, sufficed to render her the
most promising pupil the good musician had ever accomplished; and in
three months more, introduced by Mrs. Leslie to many of the families in
the place, Alice was established in a home of her own; and, what with
regular lessons, and occasional assistance at musical parties, she was
fairly earning what her tutor reasonably pronounced to be "a very
genteel independence."

Now, in these arrangements (for we must here go back a little), there
had been one gigantic difficulty of conscience in one party, of feeling
in another, to surmount. Mrs. Leslie saw at once that unless Alice's
misfortune was concealed, all the virtues and all the talents in the
world could not enable her to retrace the one false step. Mrs. Leslie
was a woman of habitual truth and strict rectitude, and she was sorely
perplexed between the propriety of candour and its cruelty. She felt
unequal to take the responsibility of action on herself; and, after much
meditation, she resolved to confide her scruples to one who, of all whom
she knew, possessed the highest character for moral worth and religious
sanctity. This gentleman, lately a widower, lived at the outskirts of
the town selected for Alice's future residence, and at that time
happened to be on a visit in Mrs. Leslie's neighbourhood. He was an
opulent man, a banker; he had once represented the town in parliament,
and retiring, from disinclination to the late hours and onerous fatigues
even of an unreformed House of Commons, he still possessed an influence
to return one, if not both, of the members for the city of C------. And
that influence was always exerted so as best to secure his own interest
with the powers that be, and advance certain objects of ambition (for he
was both an ostentatious and ambitious man in his own way), which he
felt he might more easily obtain by proxy than by his own votes and
voice in parliament--an atmosphere in which his light did not shine.
And it was with a wonderful address that the banker contrived at once to
support the government, and yet, by the frequent expression of liberal
opinions, to conciliate the Whigs and the Dissenters of his
neighbourhood. Parties, political and sectarian, were not then so
irreconcilable as they are now. In the whole county there was no one so
respected as this eminent person, and yet he possessed no shining
talents, though a laborious and energetic man of business. It was
solely and wholly the force of moral character which gave him his
position in society. He felt this; he was sensitively proud of it; he
was painfully anxious not to lose an atom of a distinction that required
to be vigilantly secured. He was a very _remarkable_, yet not (perhaps
could we penetrate all hearts), a very _uncommon_ character--this
banker! He had risen from, comparatively speaking, a low origin and
humble fortunes, and entirely by the scrupulous and sedate propriety of
his outward conduct. With such a propriety he, therefore, inseparably
connected every notion of worldly prosperity and honour. Thus, though
far from a bad man, he was forced into being something of a hypocrite.
Every year he had grown more starch and more saintly. He was
conscience-keeper to the whole town; and it is astonishing how many
persons hardly dared to make a will or subscribe to a charity without
his advice. As he was a shrewd man of this world, as well as an
accredited guide to the next, his advice was precisely of a nature to
reconcile the Conscience and the Interest; and he was a kind of
negotiator in the reciprocal diplomacy of earth and heaven. But our
banker was really a charitable man, and a benevolent man, and a sincere
believer. How, then, was he a hypocrite? Simply because he professed
to be far _more_ charitable, _more_ benevolent, and _more_ pious than he
really was. His reputation had now arrived to that degree of immaculate
polish that the smallest breath, which would not have tarnished the
character of another man, would have fixed an indelible stain upon his.
As he affected to be more strict than the churchman, and was a great
oracle with all who regarded churchmen as lukewarm, so his conduct was
narrowly watched by all the clergy of the orthodox cathedral, good men,
doubtless, but not affecting to be saints, who were jealous at being so
luminously outshone by a layman and an authority of the sectarians. On
the other hand, the intense homage and almost worship he received from
his followers kept his goodness upon a stretch, if not beyond all human
power, certainly beyond his own. For "admiration" (as it is well said
somewhere) "is a kind of superstition which expects miracles." From
nature this gentleman had received an inordinate share of animal
propensities: he had strong passions, he was by temperament a
sensualist. He loved good eating and good wine--he loved women. The
two former blessings of the carnal life are not incompatible with
canonisation; but St. Anthony has shown that women, however angelic, are
not precisely that order of angels that saints may safely commune with.
If, therefore, he ever yielded to temptations of a sexual nature, it was
with profound secrecy and caution; nor did his right hand know what his
left hand did.

This gentleman had married a woman much older than himself, but her
fortune had been one of the necessary stepping-stones in his career.
His exemplary conduct towards this lady, ugly as well as old, had done
much towards increasing the odour of his sanctity. She died of an ague,
and the widower did not shock probabilities by affecting too severe a
grief.

"The Lord's will be done!" said he; "she was a good woman, but we should
not set our affections too much upon His perishable creatures!"

This was all he was ever heard to say on the matter. He took an elderly
gentlewoman, distantly related to him, to manage his house, and sit at
the head of the table; and it was thought not impossible, though the
widower was past fifty, that he might marry again.

Such was the gentleman called in by Mrs. Leslie, who, of the same
religious opinions, had long known and revered him, to decide the
affairs of Alice and of Conscience.

As this man exercised no slight or fugitive influence over Alice
Darvil's destinies, his counsels on the point in discussion ought to be
fairly related.

"And now," said Mrs. Leslie, concluding the history, "you will perceive,
my dear sir, that this poor young creature has been less culpable than
she appears. From the extraordinary proficiency she has made in music,
in a time that, by her own account, seems incredibly short; I should
suspect her unprincipled betrayer must have been an artist--a
professional man. It is just possible that they may meet again, and (as
the ranks between them cannot be so very disproportionate) that he may
marry her. I am sure that he could not do a better or a wiser thing,
for she loves him too fondly, despite her wrongs. Under these
circumstances, would it be a--a--a culpable disguise of truth to
represent her as a married woman--separated from her husband--and give
her the name of her seducer? Without such a precaution you will see,
sir, that all hope of settling her reputably in life--all chance of
procuring her any creditable independence, is out of the question. Such
is my dilemma. What is your advice?--palatable or not, I shall abide by
it."

The banker's grave and saturnine countenance exhibited a slight degree
of embarrassment at the case submitted to him. He began brushing away,
with the cuff of his black coat, some atoms of dust that had settled on
his drab small-clothes; and, after a slight pause, he replied, "Why,
really, dear madam, the question is one of much delicacy--I doubt if men
could be good judges upon it; your sex's tact and instinct on these
matters are better--much better than our sagacity. There is much in the
dictates of your own heart; for to those who are in the grace of the
Lord He vouchsafes to communicate His pleasure by spiritual hints and
inward suggestions!"

"If so, my dear sir, the matter is decided; for my heart whispers me
that this slight deviation from truth would be a less culpable offence
than turning so young and, I had almost said, so innocent a creature
adrift upon the world. I may take your opinion as my sanction."

"Why, really, I can scarcely say so much as that," said the banker, with
a slight smile. "A deviation from truth cannot be incurred without some
forfeiture of strict duty."

"Not in any case? Alas, I was afraid so!" said Mrs. Leslie,
despondingly.

"In any case! Oh, there _may_ be cases! But had I not better see the
young woman, and ascertain that your benevolent heart has not deceived
you?"

"I wish you would," said Mrs. Leslie; "she is now in the house. I will
ring for her."

"Should we not be alone?"

"Certainly; I will leave you together."

Alice was sent for, and appeared.

"This pious gentleman," said Mrs. Leslie, "will confer with you for a
few moments, my child. Do not be afraid; he is the best of men." With
these words of encouragement the good lady vanished, and Alice saw
before her a tall dark man, with a head bald in front, yet larger behind
than before, with spectacles upon a pair of shrewd, penetrating eyes,
and an outline of countenance that showed he must have been handsome in
earlier manhood.

"My young friend," said the banker, seating himself, after a deliberate
survey of the fair countenance that blushed beneath his gaze, "Mrs.
Leslie and myself have been conferring upon your temporal welfare. You
have been unfortunate, my child."

"Ah--yes."

"Well, well, you are very young; we must not be too severe upon youth.
You will never do so again?"

"Do what, please you, sir?"

"What! Humph! I mean that you will be more rigid, more circumspect.
Men are deceitful; you must be on your guard against them. You are
handsome, child, very handsome--more's the pity." And the banker took
Alice's hand and pressed it with great unction. Alice looked at him
gravely and drew the hand away instinctively.

The banker lowered his spectacles, and gazed at her without their aid;
his eyes were still fine and expressive. "What is your name?" he asked.

"Alice--Alice Darvil, sir."

"Well, Alice, we have been considering what is best for you. You wish
to earn your own livelihood, and perhaps marry some honest man
hereafter."

"Marry, sir--never!" said Alice, with great earnestness, her eyes
filling with tears.

"And why?"

"Because I shall never see _him_ on earth, and they do not marry in
heaven, sir."

The banker was moved, for he was not worse than his neighbours, though
trying to make them believe he was so much better.

"Well, time enough to talk of that; but in the meanwhile you would
support yourself?"

"Yes, sir. His child ought to be a burden to none--nor I either. I
once wished to die, but then who would love my little one? Now I wish
to live."

"But what mode of livelihood would you prefer? Would you go into a
family, in some capacity?--not that of a servant--you are too delicate
for that."

"Oh, no--no!"

"But, again, why?" asked the banker, soothingly, yet surprised.

"Because," said Alice, almost solemnly, "there are some hours when I
feel I must be alone. I sometimes think I am not all right _here_," and
she touched her forehead. "They called me an idiot before I knew
_him_!--No, I could not live with others, for I can only cry when nobody
but my child is with me."

This was said with such unconscious, and therefore with such pathetic,
simplicity, that the banker was sensibly affected. He rose, stirred the
fire, resettled himself, and, after a pause, said emphatically: "Alice,
I will be your friend. Let me believe you will deserve it."

Alice bent her graceful head, and seeing that he had sunk into an
abstracted silence, she thought it time for her to withdraw.

"She is, indeed, beautiful," said the banker, almost aloud, when he
was alone; "and the old lady is right--she is as innocent as if she had
not fallen. I wonder--" Here he stopped short, and walked to the glass
over the mantelpiece, where he was still gazing on his own features,
when Mrs. Leslie returned.

"Well, sir," said she, a little surprised at this seeming vanity in so
pious a man.

The banker started. "Madam, I honour your penetration as much as your
charity; I think that there is so much to be feared in letting all the
world know this young female's past error, that, though I dare not
advise, I cannot blame, your concealment of it."

"But, sir, your words have sunk deep into my thoughts; you said every
deviation from truth was a forfeiture of duty."

"Certainly; but there are some exceptions. The world is a bad world, we
are born in sin; and the children of wrath. We do not tell infants all
the truth, when they ask us questions, the proper answers of which would
mislead, not enlighten them. In some things the whole world are
infants. The very science of government is the science of concealing
truth--so is the system of trade. We could not blame the tradesman for
not telling the public that if all his debts were called in he would be
a bankrupt."

"And he may marry her after all--this Mr. Butler."

"Heaven forbid--the villain!--Well, madam, I will see to this poor young
thing--she shall not want a guide."

"Heaven reward you! How wicked some people are to call you severe!"

"I can bear _that_ blame with a meek temper, madam. Good day."

"Good day. You will remember how strictly confidential has been our
conversation."

"Not a breath shall transpire. I will send you some tracts
to-morrow--so comforting. Heaven bless you!"

This difficulty smoothed, Mrs. Leslie, to her astonishment, found that
she had another to contend with in Alice herself. For, first, Alice
conceived that to change her name and keep her secret was to confess
that she ought to be ashamed, rather than proud, of her love to Ernest,
and she thought that so ungrateful to him!--and, secondly, to take his
name, to pass for his wife--what presumption--he would certainly have a
right to be offended! At these scruples Mrs. Leslie well-nigh lost all
patience; and the banker, to his own surprise, was again called in. We
have said that he was an experienced and skilful adviser, which implies
the faculty of persuasion. He soon saw the handle by which Alice's
obstinacy might always be moved--her little girl's welfare. He put this
so forcibly before her eyes; he represented the child's future fate as
resting so much, not only on her own good conduct, but on her outward
respectability, that he prevailed upon her at last; and, perhaps, one
argument that he incidentally used, had as much effect on her as the
rest. "This Mr. Butler, if yet in England, may pass through our
town--may visit amongst us--may hear you spoken of by a name similar to
his own, and curiosity would thus induce him to seek you. Take his
name, and you will always bear an honourable index to your mutual
discovery and recognition. Besides, when you are respectable, honoured,
and earning an independence, he may not be too proud to marry you. But
take your own name, avow your own history, and not only will your child
be an outcast, yourself a beggar, or, at best, a menial dependant, but
you lose every hope of recovering the object of your too-devoted
attachment."

Thus Alice was convinced. From that time she became close and reserved
in her communications. Mrs. Leslie had wisely selected a town
sufficiently remote from her own abode to preclude any revelations of
her domestics; and, as Mrs. Butler, Alice attracted universal sympathy
and respect from the exercise of her talents, the modest sweetness of
her manners, the unblemished propriety of her conduct. Somehow or other,
no sooner did she learn the philosophy of concealment than she made a
great leap in knowledge of the world. And, though flattered and courted
by the young loungers of C------, she steered her course with so much
address that she was never persecuted. For there are few men in the
world who make advances where there is no encouragement.

The banker observed her conduct with silent vigilance. He met her
often, he visited her often. He was intimate at houses where she
attended to teach or perform. He lent her good books--he advised
her--he preached to her. Alice began to look up to him--to like him--to
consider him as a village girl in Catholic countries may consider a
benevolent and kindly priest. And he--what was his object?--at that
time it is impossible to guess:--he became thoughtful and abstracted.

One day an old maid and an old clergyman met in the High Street of
C------.

"And how do you do, ma'am?" said the clergyman; "how is the rheumatism?"

"Better, thank you, sir. Any news?"

The clergyman smiled, and something hovered on his lips, which he
suppressed.

"Were you," the old maid resumed, "at Mrs. Macnab's last night?
Charming music?"

"Charming! How pretty that Mrs. Butler is! and how humble! Knows her
station--so unlike professional people."

"Yes, indeed!--What attention a certain banker paid her!"

"He! he! he! yes; he is very fatherly--very!"

"Perhaps he will marry again; he is always talking of the holy state of
matrimony--a holy state it may be--but Heaven knows, his wife, poor
woman, did not make it a pleasant one."

"There may be more causes for that than we guess of," said the
clergyman, mysteriously. "I would not be uncharitable, but--"

"But what?"

"Oh, when he was young, our great man was not so correct, I fancy, as he
is now."

"So I have heard it whispered; but nothing against him was ever known."

"Hem--it is very odd!"

"What's very odd?"

"Why, but it's a secret--I dare say it's all very right."

"Oh, I sha'n't say a word. Are you going to the cathedral?--don't let
me keep you standing. Now, pray proceed!"

"Well, then, yesterday I was doing duty in a village more than twenty
miles hence, and I loitered in the village to take an early dinner; and,
afterwards, while my horse was feeding, I strolled down the green."

"Well--well?"

"And I saw a gentleman muffled carefully up, with his hat slouched over
his face, at the door of a cottage, with a little child in his arms, and
he kissed it more fondly than, be we ever so good, we generally kiss
other people's children; and then he gave it to a peasant woman standing
near him, and mounted his horse, which was tied to the gate, and trotted
past me; and who do you think this was?"

"Patience me--I can't guess!"

"Why, our saintly banker. I bowed to him, and I assure you he turned as
red, ma'am, as your waistband."

"My!"

"I just turned into the cottage when he was out of sight, for I was
thirsty, and asked for a glass of water, and I saw the child. I declare
I would not be uncharitable, but I thought it monstrous like--you know
whom!"

"Gracious! you don't say--"

"I asked the woman 'if it was hers?' and she said 'No,' but was very
short."

"Dear me, I must find this out! What is the name of the village?"

"Covedale."

"Oh, I know--I know."

"Not a word of this; I dare say there is nothing in it. But I am not
much in favour of your new lights."

"Nor I neither. What better than the good old Church of England?"

"Madam, your sentiments do you honour; you'll be sure not to say
anything of our little mystery."

"Not a syllable."

Two days after this three old maids made an excursion to the village of
Covedale, and lo! the cottage in question was shut up--the woman and the
child were gone. The people in the village knew nothing about them--had
seen nothing particular in the woman or child--had always supposed them
mother and daughter; and the gentleman identified by the clerical
inquisitor with the banker had never but once been observed in the
place.

"The vile old parson," said the eldest of the old maids, "to take away
so good a man's character!--and the fly will cost one pound two, with
the baiting!"



CHAPTER VI.

 "In this disposition was I, when looking out of my window one
  day to take the air, I perceived a kind of peasant who looked
  at me very attentively."--GIL BLAS.

A SUMMER'S evening in a retired country town has something melancholy in
it. You have the streets of a metropolis without their animated
bustle--you have the stillness of the country without its birds and
flowers. The reader will please to bring before him a quiet street in
the quiet country town of C------, in a quiet evening in quiet June; the
picture is not mirthful--two young dogs are playing in the street, one
old dog is watching by a newly-painted door. A few ladies of middle age
move noiselessly along the pavement, returning home to tea: they wear
white muslin dresses, green spencers a little faded, straw poke bonnets
with green or coffee-coloured gauze veils. By twos and threes they have
disappeared within the thresholds of small neat houses, with little
railings, inclosing little green plots. Threshold, house, railing, and
plot, each as like to the other as are those small commodities called
"nest-tables," which, "even as a broken mirror multiplies," summon to
the bewildered eye countless iterations of one four-legged individual.
Paradise Place was a set of nest houses.

A cow had passed through the streets with a milkwoman behind; two young
and gay shopmen "looking after the gals," had reconnoitred the street,
and vanished in despair. The twilight advanced--but gently; and though
a star or two were up, the air was still clear. At the open window of
one of the tenements in this street sat Alice Darvil. She had been
working (that pretty excuse to women for thinking), and as the thoughts
grew upon her, and the evening waned, the work had fallen upon her knee,
and her hands dropped mechanically on her lap. Her profile was turned
towards the street; but without moving her head or changing her
attitude, her eyes glanced from time to time to her little girl, who
nestled on the ground beside her, tired with play; and wondering,
perhaps, why she was not already in bed, seemed as tranquil as the young
mother herself. And sometimes Alice's eyes filled with tears--and then
she sighed, as if to sigh the tears away. But poor Alice, if she
grieved, hers was now a silent and a patient grief.

The street was deserted of all other passengers, when a man passed along
the pavement on the side opposite to Alice's house. His garb was rude
and homely, between that of a labourer and a farmer; but still there was
an affectation of tawdry show about the bright scarlet handkerchief,
tied, in a sailor or smuggler fashion, round the sinewy throat; the hat
was set jauntily on one side, and, dangling many an inch from the
gaily-striped waistcoat, glittered a watch-chain and seals, which
appeared suspiciously out of character with the rest of his attire. The
passenger was covered with dust; and as the street was in a suburb
communicating with the high-road, and formed one of the entrances into
the town, he had probably, after long day's journey, reached his
evening's destination. The looks of this stranger wore anxious,
restless, and perturbed. In his gait and swagger there was the
recklessness of the professional blackguard; but in his vigilant,
prying, suspicious eyes there was a hang-dog expression of apprehension
and fear. He seemed a man upon whom Crime had set its significant
mark--and who saw a purse with one eye and a gibbet with the other.
Alice did not note the stranger, until she herself had attracted and
centred all his attention. He halted abruptly as he caught a view of
her face--shaded his eyes with his hands as if to gaze more
intently--and at length burst into an exclamation of surprise and
pleasure. At that instant Alice turned, and her gaze met that of the
stranger. The fascination of the basilisk can scarcely more stun and
paralyse its victim than the look of this stranger charmed, with the
appalling glamoury of horror, the eye and soul of Alice Darvil. Her
face became suddenly locked and rigid, her lips as white as marble, her
eyes almost started from their sockets--she pressed her hands
convulsively together, and shuddered--but still she did not move. The
man nodded, and grinned, and then, deliberately crossing the street,
gained the door, and knocked loudly. Still Alice did not stir--her
senses seemed to have forsaken her. Presently the stranger's loud,
rough voice was heard below, in answer to the accents of the solitary
woman-servant whom Alice kept in her employ; and his strong, heavy tread
made the slight staircase creak and tremble. Then Alice rose as by an
instinct, caught her child in her arms, and stood erect and motionless
facing the door. It opened--and the FATHER and DAUGHTER were once more
face to face within the same walls.

"Well, Alley, how are you, my blowen?--glad to see your old dad again,
I'll be sworn. No ceremony, sit down. Ha, ha! snug here--very snug--we
shall live together charmingly. Trade on your own account--eh?
sly!--well, can't desert your poor old father. Let's have something to
eat and drink."

So saying, Darvil threw himself at length upon the neat, prim little
chintz sofa, with the air of a man resolved to make himself perfectly at
home.

Alice gazed, and trembled violently, but still said nothing--the power
of voice had indeed left her.

"Come, why don't you stir your stumps? I suppose I must wait on
myself--fine manners!--But, ho, ho--a bell, by gosh--mighty grand--never
mind--I am used to call for my own wants."

A hearty tug at the frail bell-rope sent a shrill alarum half-way
through the long lath-and-plaster row of Paradise Place, and left the
instrument of the sound in the hand of its creator.

Up came the maid-servant, a formal old woman, most respectable.

"Hark ye, old girl!" said Darvil; "bring up the best you have to
eat--not particular--let there be plenty. And I say--a bottle of
brandy. Come, don't stand there staring like a stuck pig. Budge! Hell
and furies! don't you hear me?"

The servant retreated, as if a pistol had been put to her head, and
Darvil, laughing loud, threw himself again upon the sofa. Alice looked
at him, and, still without saying a word, glided from the room--her
child in her arms. She hurried down-stairs, and in the hall met her
servant. The latter, who was much attached to her mistress, was alarmed
to see her about to leave the house.

"Why, marm, where be you going? Dear heart, you have no bonnet on!
What is the matter? Who is this?"

"Oh!" cried Alice, in agony; "what shall I do?--where shall I fly?" The
door above opened. Alice heard, started, and the next moment was in the
street. She ran on breathlessly, and like one insane. Her mind was,
indeed, for the time, gone; and had a river flowed before her way, she
would have plunged into an escape from a world that seemed too narrow to
hold a father and his child.

But just as she turned the corner of a street that led into the more
public thoroughfares, she felt her arm grasped, and a voice called out
her name in surprised and startled accents.

"Heavens, Mrs. Butler! Alice! What do I see? What is the matter?"

"Oh, sir, save me!--you are a good man--a great man--save me--he is
returned!"

"He! who? Mr. Butler?" said the banker (for that gentleman it was) in a
changed and trembling voice.

"No, no--ah, not he!--I did not say _he_--I said my father--my,
my--ah--look behind--look behind--is he coming?"

"Calm yourself, my dear young friend--no one is near. I will go and
reason with your father. No one shall harm you--I will protect you. Go
back--go back, I will follow--we must not be seen together." And the
tall banker seemed trying to shrink into a nutshell.

"No, no," said Alice, growing yet paler, "I cannot go back."

"Well, then, just follow me to the door--your servant shall get you your
bonnet, and accompany you to my house, where you can wait till I return.
Meanwhile I will see your father, and rid you, I trust, of his
presence."

The banker, who spoke in a very hurried and even impatient voice, waited
for no reply, but took his way to Alice's house. Alice herself did not
follow, but remained in the very place where she was left, till joined
by her servant, who then conducted her to the rich man's residence. . .
But Alice's mind had not recovered its shock, and her thoughts
wandered alarmingly.



CHAPTER VII.

 "_Miramont._--Do they chafe roundly?
  _Andrew._--As they were rubbed with soap, sir,
  And now they swear aloud, now calm again
  Like a ring of bells, whose sound the wind still utters,
  And then they sit in council what to do,
  And then they jar again what shall be done?"
   BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.

OH! what a picture of human nature it was when the banker and the
vagabond sat together in that little drawing-room, facing each
other,--one in the armchair, one on the sofa! Darvil was still employed
on some cold meat, and was making wry faces at the very indifferent
brandy which he had frightened the formal old servant into buying at the
nearest public-house; and opposite sat the respectable--highly
respectable man of forms and ceremonies, of decencies and quackeries,
gazing gravely upon this low, daredevil ruffian:--the well-to-do
hypocrite--the penniless villain;--the man who had everything to
lose--the man who had nothing in the wide world but his own mischievous,
rascally life, a gold watch, chain and seals, which he had stolen the
day before, and thirteen shillings and threepence halfpenny in his left
breeches pocket!

The man of wealth was by no means well acquainted with the nature of the
beast before him. He had heard from Mrs. Leslie (as we remember) the
outline of Alice's history, and ascertained that their joint
_protegee's_ father was a great blackguard; but he expected to find Mr.
Darvil a mere dull, brutish villain--a peasant-ruffian--a blunt serf,
without brains, or their substitute, effrontery. But Luke Darvil was a
clever, half-educated fellow: he did not sin from ignorance, but had wit
enough to have bad principles, and he was as impudent as if he had lived
all his life in the best society. He was not frightened at the banker's
drab breeches and imposing air--not he! The Duke of Wellington would
not have frightened Luke Darvil, unless his grace had had the constables
for his _aides-de-camp_.

The banker, to use a homely phrase, was "taken aback."

"Look you here, Mr. What's-your-name!" said Darvil, swallowing a glass
of the raw alcohol as if it had been water--"look you now--you can't
humbug me. What the devil do you care about my daughter's
respectability or comfort, or anything else, grave old dog as you are!
It is my daughter herself you are licking your brown old chaps at!--and,
'faith, my Alley is a very pretty girl--very--but queer as moonshine.
You'll drive a much better bargain with me than with her."

The banker coloured scarlet--he bit his lips and measured his companion
from head to foot (while the latter lolled on the sofa), as if he were
meditating the possibility of kicking him down-stairs. But Luke Darvil
would have thrashed the banker and all his clerks into the bargain. His
frame was like a trunk of thews and muscles, packed up by that careful
dame, Nature, as tightly as possible; and a prizefighter would have
thought twice before he had entered the ring against so awkward a
customer. The banker was a man prudent to a fault, and he pushed his
chair six inches back, as he concluded his survey.

"Sir," then said he, very quietly, "do not let us misunderstand each
other. Your daughter is safe from your control--if you molest her, the
law will protect--"

"She is not of age," said Darvil. "Your health, old boy."

"Whether she is of age or not," returned the banker, unheeding the
courtesy conveyed in the last sentence, "I do not care three straws--I
know enough of the law to know that if she have rich friends in this
town, and you have none, she will be protected and you will go to the
treadmill."

"That is spoken like a sensible man," said Darvil, for the first time
with a show of respect in his manner; "you now take a practical view of
matters, as we used to say at the spouting-club."

"If I were in your situation, Mr. Darvil, I tell you what I would do. I
would leave my daughter and this town to-morrow morning, and I would
promise never to return, and never to molest her, on condition she
allowed me a certain sum from her earnings, paid quarterly."

"And if I preferred living with her?"

"In that case, I, as a magistrate of this town, would have you sent away
as a vagrant, or apprehended--"

"Ha!"

"Apprehended on suspicion of stealing that gold chain and seals which
you wear so ostentatiously."

"By goles, but you're a clever fellow," said Darvil, involuntarily; "you
know human natur."

The banker smiled: strange to say, he was pleased with the compliment.

"But," resumed Darvil, helping himself to another slice of beef, "you
are in the wrong box--planted in Queer Street, as _we_ say in London;
for if you care a d--n about my daughter's respectability, you will
never muzzle her father on suspicion of theft--and so there's tit for
tat, my old gentleman!"

"I shall deny that you are her father, Mr. Darvil; and I think you will
find it hard to prove the fact in any town where I am a magistrate."

"By goles, what a good prig you would have made! You are as sharp as a
gimlet. Surely you were brought up at the Old Bailey!"

"Mr. Darvil, be ruled. You seem a man not deaf to reason, and I ask you
whether, in any town in this country, a poor man in suspicious
circumstances can do anything against a rich man whose character is
established? Perhaps you are right in the main: I have nothing to do
with that. But I tell you that you shall quit this house in half an
hour--that you shall never enter it again but at your peril; and if you
do--within ten minutes from that time you shall be in the town gaol. It
is no longer a contest between you and your defenceless daughter; it is
a contest between--"

"A tramper in fustian, and a gemman as drives a coach," interrupted
Darvil, laughing bitterly, yet heartily. "Good--good!"

The banker rose. "I think you have made a very clever definition,"
said he. "Half an hour--you recollect--good evening."

"Stay," said Darvil; "you are the first man I have seen for many a year
that I can take a fancy to. Sit down--sit down, I say, and talk a bit,
and we shall come to terms soon, I dare say;--that's right. Lord! how I
should like to have you on the roadside instead of within these four
gimcrack walls. Ha! ha! the argufying would be all in my favour then."

The banker was not a brave man, and his colour changed slightly at the
intimation of this obliging wish. Darvil eyed him grimly and
chucklingly.

The rich man resumed: "That may or may not be, Mr. Darvil, according as
I might happen or not to have pistols about me. But to the point. Quit
this house without further debate, without noise, without mentioning to
any one else your claim upon its owner--"

"Well, and the return?"

"Ten guineas now, and the same sum quarterly, as long as the young lady
lives in this town, and you never persecute her by word or letter."

"That is forty guineas a year. I can't live upon it."

"You will cost less in the House of Correction, Mr. Darvil."

"Come, make it a hundred: Alley is cheap at that."

"Not a farthing more," said the banker, buttoning up his breeches
pockets with a determined air.

"Well, out with the shiners."

"Do you promise or not?"

"I promise."

"There are your ten guineas. If in half an hour you are not gone--why,
then--"

"Then?"

"Why, then you have robbed me of ten guineas, and must take the usual
consequences of robbery."

Darvil started to his feet--his eyes glared--he grasped the
carving-knife before him.

"You are a bold fellow," said the banker, quietly; "but it won't do. It
is not worth your while to murder me; and I am a man sure to be missed."

Darvil sank down, sullen and foiled. The respectable man was more than
a match for the villain.

"Had you been as poor as I,--Gad! what a rogue you would have been!"

"I think not," said the banker; "I believe roguery to be a very bad
policy. Perhaps once I _was_ almost as poor as you are, but I never
turned rogue."

"You never were in my circumstances," returned Darvil, gloomily. "I was
a gentleman's son. Come, you shall hear my story. My father was
well-born, but married a maid-servant when he was at college; his family
disowned him, and left him to starve. He died in the struggle against a
poverty he was not brought up to, and my dam went into service again;
became housekeeper to an old bachelor--sent me to school--but mother had
a family by the old bachelor, and I was taken from school and put to
trade. All hated me--for I was ugly; damn them! Mother cut me--I
wanted money--robbed the old bachelor--was sent to gaol, and learned
there a lesson or two how to rob better in future. Mother died,--I was
adrift on the world. The world was my foe--could not make it up with
the world, so we went to war;--you understand, old boy? Married a poor
woman and pretty;--wife made me jealous--had learned to suspect every
one. Alice born--did not believe her mine: not like me--perhaps a
gentleman's child. I hate--I loathe gentlemen. Got drunk one
night--kicked my wife in the stomach three weeks after her confinement.
Wife died--tried for my life--got off. Went to another county--having
had a sort of education, and being sharp eno', got work as a mechanic.
Hated work just as I hated gentlemen--for was I not by blood a
gentleman? There was the curse. Alice grew up; never looked on her as
my flesh and blood. Her mother was a w----! Why should not _she_ be
one? There, that's enough. Plenty of excuse, I think, for all I have
ever done. Curse the world--curse the rich--curse the handsome--curse
--curse all!"

"You have been a very foolish man," said the banker; "and seem to me to
have had very good cards, if you had known how to play them. However,
that is your lookout. It is not yet too late to repent; age is creeping
on you.--Man, there is another world."

The banker said the last words with a tone of solemn and even dignified
adjuration.

"You think so--do you?" said Darvil, staring at him.

"From my soul I do."

"Then you are not the sensible man I took you for," replied Darvil,
drily; "and I should like to talk to you on that subject."

But our Dives, however sincere a believer, was by no means one

        "At whose control
  Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul."

He had words of comfort for the pious, but he had none for the
sceptic--he could soothe, but he could not convert. It was not in his
way; besides, he saw no credit in making a convert of Luke Darvil.
Accordingly, he again rose with some quickness, and said:

"No, sir; that is useless, I fear, and I have no time to spare; and so
once more good night to you."

"But you have not arranged where my allowance is to be sent."

"Ah! true; I will guarantee it. You will find my name sufficient
security."

"At least, it is the best I can get," returned Darvil, carelessly; "and
after all, it is not a bad chance day's work. But I'm sure I can't say
where the money shall be sent. I don't know a man who would not grab
it."

"Very well, then--the best thing (I speak as a man of business) will be
to draw on me for ten guineas quarterly. Wherever you are staying, any
banker can effect this for you. But mind, if ever you overdraw the
account stops."

"I understand," said Darvil; "and when I have finished the bottle I
shall be off."

"You had better," replied the banker, as he opened the door.

The rich man returned home hurriedly. "So Alice, after all, has some
gentle blood in her veins," thought he. "But that father--no, it will
never do. I wish he were hanged and nobody the wiser. I should very much
like to arrange the matter without marrying; but then--scandal--scandal
--scandal. After all, I had better give up all thoughts of her. She is
monstrous handsome, and so--humph:--I shall never grow an old man."



CHAPTER VIII.

 "Began to bend down his admiring eyes
  On all her touching looks and qualities,
  Turning their shapely sweetness every way
  Till 'twas his food and habit day by day."
   LEIGH HUNT.

THERE must have been a secret something about Alice Darvil singularly
captivating, that (associated as she was with images of the most sordid
and the vilest crimes) left her still pure and lovely alike in the eyes
of a man as fastidious as Ernest Maltravers, and of a man as influenced
by all the thoughts and theories of the world as the shrewd banker of
C------. Amidst things foul and hateful had sprung up this beautiful
flower, as if to preserve the inherent heavenliness and grace of human
nature, and proclaim the handiwork of God in scenes where human nature
had been most debased by the abuses of social art; and where the light
of God Himself was most darkened and obscured. That such contrasts,
though rarely and as by chance, are found, every one who has carefully
examined the wastes and deserts of life must own. I have drawn Alice
Darvil scrupulously from life, and I can declare that I have not
exaggerated hue or lineament in the portrait. I do not suppose, with
our good banker, that she owed anything, unless it might be a greater
delicacy of form and feature, to whatever mixture of gentle blood was in
her veins. But, somehow or other, in her original conformation there
was the happy bias of the plantes towards the Pure and the Bright. For,
despite Helvetius, a common experience teaches us that though education
and circumstances may mould the mass, Nature herself sometimes forms the
individual, and throws into the clay, or its spirit, so much of beauty
or deformity, that nothing can utterly subdue the original elements of
character. From sweets one draws poison--from poisons another extracts
but sweets. But I, often deeply pondering over the psychological
history of Alice Darvil, think that one principal cause why she escaped
the early contaminations around her was in the slow and protracted
development of her intellectual faculties. Whether or not the brutal
violence of her father had in childhood acted through the nerves upon
the brain, certain it is that until she knew Maltravers--until she
loved--till she was cherished--her mind had seemed torpid and locked up.
True, Darvil had taught her nothing, nor permitted her to be taught
anything; but that mere ignorance would have been no preservation to a
quick, observant mind. It was the bluntness of the senses themselves
that operated tike an armour between her mind and the vile things around
her. It was the rough, dull covering of the chrysalis, framed to bear
rude contact and biting weather, that the butterfly might break forth,
winged and glorious, in due season. Had Alice been a quick child, Alice
would have probably grown up a depraved and dissolute woman; but she
comprehended, she understood little or nothing, till she found an
inspirer in that affection which inspires both beast and man; which
makes the dog (in his natural state one of the meanest of the savage
race) a companion, a guardian, a protector, and raises Instinct half-way
to the height of Reason.

The banker had a strong regard for Alice; and when he reached home, he
heard with great pain that she was in a high state of fever. She
remained beneath his roof that night, and the elderly gentlewoman, his
relation and _gouvernante_, attended her. The banker slept but little;
and the next morning his countenance was unusually pale. Towards
daybreak Alice had fallen into a sound and refreshing sleep; and when,
on waking, she found, by a note from her host, that her father had left
her house, and she might return in safety and without fear, a violent
flood of tears, followed by long and grateful prayer, contributed to the
restoration of her mind and nerves. Imperfect as this young woman's
notions of abstract right and wrong still were, she was yet sensible to
the claims of a father (no matter how criminal) upon his child: for
feelings with her were so good and true, that they supplied in a great
measure the place of principles. She knew that she could not have lived
under the same roof with her dreadful parent; but she still felt an
uneasy remorse at thinking he had been driven from that roof in
destitution and want. She hastened to dress herself and seek an
audience with her protector; and the latter found with admiration and
pleasure that he had anticipated her own instantaneous and involuntary
design in the settlement made upon Darvil. He then communicated to
Alice the compact he had already formed with her father, and she wept
and kissed his hand when she heard, and secretly resolved that she would
work hard to be enabled to increase the sum allowed. Oh, if her labours
could serve to retrieve a parent from the necessity of darker resources
for support! Alas! when crime has become a custom, it is like gaming or
drinking--the excitement is wanting; and had Luke Darvil been suddenly
made inheritor of the wealth of a Rothschild, he would either still have
been a villain in one way or the other; or _ennui_ would have awakened
conscience, and he would have died of the change of habit.

Our banker always seemed more struck by Alice's moral feelings than even
by her physical beauty. Her love for her child, for instance, impressed
him powerfully, and he always gazed upon her with softer eyes when he
saw her caressing or nursing the little fatherless creature, whose
health was now delicate and precarious. It is difficult to say whether
he was absolutely in love with Alice; the phrase is too strong, perhaps,
to be applied to a man past fifty, who had gone through emotions and
trials enough to wear away freshness from his heart. His feelings
altogether for Alice, the designs he entertained towards her, were of a
very complicated nature; and it will be long, perhaps, before the reader
can thoroughly comprehend them. He conducted Alice home that day; but
he said little by the way, perhaps because his female relation, for
appearance' sake, accompanied them also. He, however, briefly cautioned
Alice on no account to communicate to any one that it was her father who
had been her visitor; and she still shuddered too much at the
reminiscence to appear likely to converse on it. The banker also judged
it advisable to be so far confidential with Alice's servant as to take
her aside, and tell her that the inauspicious stranger of the previous
evening had been a very distant relation of Mrs. Butler, who, from a
habit of drunkenness, had fallen into evil and disorderly courses. The
banker added with a sanctified air that he trusted, by a little serious
conversation, he had led the poor man to better notions, and that he had
gone home with an altered mind to his family. "But, my good Hannah," he
concluded, "you know you are a superior person, and above the vulgar sin
of indiscriminate gossip; therefore, mention what has occurred to no
one; it can do no good to Mrs. Butler--it may hurt the man himself, who
is well-to-do--better off than he seems; and who, I hope, with grace,
may be a sincere penitent; and it will also--but that is nothing--very
seriously displease me. By the by, Hannah, I shall be able to get your
grandson into the Free School."

The banker was shrewd enough to perceive that he had carried his point;
and he was walking home, satisfied, on the whole, with the way matters
had been arranged, when he was met by a brother magistrate.

"Ha!" said the latter, "and how are you, my good sir? Do you know that
we have had the Bow Street officers here, in search of a notorious
villain who has broken from prison? He is one of the most determined
and dexterous burglars in all England, and the runners have hunted him
into our town. His very robberies have tracked him by the way. He
robbed a gentleman the day before yesterday of his watch, and left him
for dead on the road--this was not thirty miles hence."

"Bless me!" said the banker, with emotion; "and what is the wretch's
name?"

"Why, he has as many aliases as a Spanish grandee; but I believe the
last name he has assumed is Peter Watts."

"Oh!" said our friend, relieved,--"well, have the runners found him?"

"No, but they are on his scent. A fellow answering to his description
was seen by the man at the toll-bar, at daybreak this morning, on the
way to F------; the officers are after him."

"I hope he may meet with his deserts--and crime is never unpunished even
in this world. My best compliments to your lady:--and how is little
Jack?--Well! glad to hear it--fine boy, little Jack! good day."

"Good day, my dear sir. Worthy man, that!"



CHAPTER IX.

 "But who is this? thought he, a demon vile.
  With wicked meaning and a vulgar style;
  Hammond they call him--they can give the name
  Of man to devils. Why am I so tame?
  Why crush I not the viper? Fear replied,
  Watch him a while, and let his strength be tried."
   CRABBE.

THE next morning, after breakfast, the banker took his horse--a
crop-eared, fast-trotting hackney--and merely leaving word that he was
going upon business into the country, and should not return to dinner,
turned his back on the spires of C------.

He rode slowly, for the day was hot. The face of the country, which was
fair and smiling, might have tempted others to linger by the way; but
our hard and practical man of the world was more influenced by the
weather than the loveliness of the scenery. He did not look upon Nature
with the eye of imagination; perhaps a railroad, had it then and there
existed, would have pleased him better than the hanging woods, the
shadowy valleys, and the changeful river that from time to time
beautified the landscape on either side the road. But, after all, there
is a vast deal of hypocrisy in the affected admiration for Nature;--and
I don't think one person in a hundred cares for what lies by the side of
a road, so long as the road itself is good, hills levelled, and
turnpikes cheap.

It was midnoon, and many miles had been passed, when the banker turned
down a green lane and quickened his pace. At the end of about
three-quarters of an hour, he arrived at a little solitary inn, called
"The Angler,"--put up his horse, ordered his dinner at six
o'clock--begged to borrow a basket to hold his fish--and it was then
apparent that a longish cane he had carried with him was capable of
being extended into a fishing-rod. He fitted in the various joints with
care, as if to be sure no accident had happened to the implement by the
journey--pried anxiously into the contents of a black case of lines and
flies--slung the basket behind his back, and while his horse was putting
down his nose and whisking about his tail, in the course of those
nameless coquetries that horses carry on with hostlers--our worthy
brother of the rod strode rapidly through some green fields, gained the
riverside, and began fishing with much semblance of earnest interest in
the sport. He had caught one trout, seemingly by accident--for the
astonished fish was hooked up on the outside of its jaw--probably while
in the act, not of biting, but of gazing at, the bait, when he grew
discontented with the spot he had selected; and, after looking round as
if to convince himself that he was not liable to be disturbed or
observed (a thought hateful to the fishing fraternity), he stole quickly
along the margin, and finally quitting the riverside altogether, struck
into a path that, after a sharp walk of nearly all hour, brought him to
the door of a cottage. He knocked twice, and then entered of his own
accord--nor was it till the summer sun was near its decline that the
banker regained his inn. His simple dinner, which they had delayed in
wonder at the protracted absence of the angler, and in expectation of
the fishes he was to bring back to be fried, was soon despatched; his
horse was ordered to the door, and the red clouds in the west already
betokened the lapse of another day, as he spurred from the spot on the
fast-trotting hackney, fourteen miles an hour.

"That 'ere gemman has a nice bit of blood," said the hostler, scratching
his ear.

"Oiy,--who be he?" said a hanger-on of the stables.

"I dooan't know. He has been here twice afoar, and he never cautches
anything to sinnify--he be mighty fond of fishing, surely."

Meanwhile, away sped the banker--milestone on milestone glided by--and
still, scarce turning a hair, trotted gallantly out the good hackney.
But the evening grew darker, and it began to rain; a drizzling,
persevering rain, that wets a man through ere he is aware of it. After
his fiftieth year, a gentleman who has a tender regard for himself does
not like to get wet; and the rain inspired the banker, who was subject
to rheumatism, with the resolution to take a short cut along the fields.
There were one or two low hedges by this short way, but the banker had
been there in the spring, and knew every inch of the ground. The
hackney leaped easily--and the rider had a tolerably practised seat--and
two miles saved might just prevent the menaced rheumatism: accordingly,
our friend opened a white gate, and scoured along the fields without any
misgivings as to the prudence of his choice. He arrived at his first
leap--there was the hedge, its summit just discernible in the dim light.
On the other side, to the right was a haystack, and close by this
haystack seemed the most eligible place for clearing the obstacle. Now
since the banker had visited this place, a deep ditch, that served as a
drain, had been dug at the opposite base of the hedge, of which neither
horse nor man was aware, so that the leap was far more perilous than was
anticipated. Unconscious of this additional obstacle, the rider set off
in a canter. The banker was high in air, his loins bent back, his rein
slackened, his right hand raised knowingly--when the horse took fright
at an object crouched by the haystack--swerved, plunged midway into the
ditch, and pitched its rider two or three yards over its head. The
banker recovered himself sooner than might have been expected; and,
finding himself, though bruised and shaken, still whole and sound,
hastened to his horse. But the poor animal had not fared so well as its
master, and its off-shoulder was either put out or dreadfully sprained.
It had scrambled its way out of the ditch, and there it stood
disconsolate by the hedge, as lame as one of the trees that, at
irregular intervals, broke the symmetry of the barrier. On ascertaining
the extent of his misfortune, the banker became seriously uneasy; the
rain increased--he was several miles yet from home--he was in the midst
of houseless fields, with another leap before him--the leap he had just
passed behind--and no other egress that he knew of into the main road.
While these thoughts passed through his brain, he became suddenly aware
that he was not alone. The dark object that had frightened his horse
rose slowly from the snug corner it had occupied by the haystack, and a
gruff voice that made the banker thrill to the marrow of his bones,
cried, "Holla, who the devil are you?"

Lame as his horse was, the banker instantly put his foot into the
stirrup; but before he could mount, a heavy gripe was laid on his
shoulder--and turning round with as much fierceness as he could assume,
he saw--what the tone of the voice had already led him to forebode--the
ill-omened and cut-throat features of Luke Darvil.

"Ha! ha! my old annuitant, my clever feelosofer--jolly old boy--how are
you?--give us a fist. Who would have thought to meet you on a rainy
night, by a lone haystack, with a deep ditch on one side, and no
chimney-pot within sight? Why, old fellow, I, Luke Darvil,--I, the
vagabond--I whom you would have sent to the treadmill for being poor,
and calling on my own daughter--I am as rich as you are here--and as
great, and as strong, and as powerful."

And while he spoke, Darvil, who was really an undersized man, seemed to
swell and dilate, till he appeared half a head taller than the shrinking
banker, who was five feet eleven inches without his shoes.

"E-hem!" said the rich man, clearing his throat, which seemed to him
uncommonly husky; "I do not know whether I insulted your poverty, my
dear Mr. Darvil--I hope not; but this is hardly a time for talking--pray
let me mount, and--"

"Not a time for talking!" interrupted Darvil angrily; "it's just the
time to my mind: let me consider,--ay, I told you that whenever we met
by the roadside it would be my turn to have the best of the argufying."

"I dare say--I dare say, my good fellow."

"Fellow not me!--I won't be fellowed now. I say I have the best of it
here--man to man--I am your match."

"But why quarrel with me?" said the banker, coaxingly; "I never meant you
harm, and I am sure you cannot mean me harm."

"No!--and why?" asked Darvil, coolly;--"why do you think I can mean you
no harm?"

"Because your annuity depends on me."

"Shrewdly put--we'll argufy that point. My life is a bad one, not worth
more than a year's purchase; now, suppose you have more than forty
pounds about you--it may be better worth my while to draw my knife
across your gullet than to wait for the quarter-day's ten pounds a time.
You see it's all a matter of calculation, my dear, Mr. What's-your-name!"

"But," replied the banker, and his teeth began to chatter, "I have not
forty pounds about me."

"How do I know that?--you say so. Well, in the town yonder your word
goes for more than mine; I never gainsaid you when you put that to me,
did I? But here, by the haystack, my word is better than yours; and if
I say you must and shall have forty pounds about you, let's see whether
you dare contradict me."

"Look you, Darvil," said the banker, summoning up all his energy and
intellect, for his moral power began now to back his physical cowardice,
and he spoke calmly, and even bravely, though his heart throbbed aloud
against his breast, and you might have knocked him down with a
feather--"the London runners are even now hot after you."

"Ha!--you lie!"

"Upon my honour I speak the truth; I heard the news last evening. They
tracked you to C------; they tracked you out of the town; a word from me
would have given you into their hands. I said nothing--you are
safe--you may yet escape. I will even help you to fly the country, and
live out your natural date of years, secure and in peace."

"You did not say that the other day in the snug drawing-room; you see I
have the best of it now--own that."

"I do," said the banker.

Darvil chuckled, and rubbed his hands.

The man of wealth once more felt his importance, and went on. "This is
one side of the question. On the other, suppose you rob and murder me,
do you think my death will lessen the heat of the pursuit against you?
The whole country will be in arms, and before forty-eight hours are over
you will be hunted down like a mad dog."

Darvil was silent, as if in thought; and after a pause, replied: "Well,
you are a 'cute one after all. What have you got about you? you know
you drove a hard bargain the other day--now it's my market--fustian has
riz--kersey has fell."

"All I have about me shall be yours," said the banker, eagerly.

"Give it me, then."

"There!" said the banker, placing his purse and pocketbook into Darvil's
bands.

"And the watch?"

"The watch?--well there!"

"What's that?"

The banker's senses were sharpened by fear, but they were not so sharp
as those of Darvil; he heard nothing but the rain pattering on the
leaves, and the rush of water in the ditch at hand. Darvil stooped and
listened--till, raising himself again, with a deep-drawn breath, he
said, "I think there are rats in the haystack; they will be running over
me in my sleep; but they are playful creturs, and I like 'em. And now,
my _dear_ sir, I am afraid I must put an end to you!"

"Good Heavens, what do you mean? How?"

"Man, there is another world!" quoth the ruffian, mimicking the banker's
solemn tone in their former interview. "So much the better for you! In
that world they don't tell tales."

"I swear I will never betray you."

"You do?--swear it, then."

"By all my hopes of earth and heaven!"

"What a d-----d coward you be!" said Darvil, laughing scornfully.
"Go--you are safe. I am in good humour with myself again. I crow over
you, for no man can make me tremble. And villain as you think me, while
you fear me you cannot despise--you respect me. Go, I say--go."

The banker was about to obey, when suddenly, from the haystack, a broad,
red light streamed upon the pair, and the next moment Darvil was seized
from behind, and struggling in the gripe of a man nearly as powerful as
himself. The light, which came from a dark-lanthorn, placed on the
ground, revealed the forms of a peasant in a smock-frock, and two
stout-built, stalwart men, armed with pistols--besides the one engaged
with Darvil.

The whole of this scene was brought as by the trick of the
stage--as by a flash of lightning--as by the change of a showman's
phantasmagoria--before the astonished eyes of the banker. He stood
arrested and spell-bound, his hand on his bridle, his foot on his
stirrup. A moment more and Darvil had clashed his antagonist on the
ground; he stood at a little distance, his face reddened by the glare of
the lanthorn and fronting his assailants--that fiercest of all beasts, a
desperate man at bay! He had already succeeded in drawing forth his
pistols, and he held one in each hand--his eyes flashing from beneath
his bent brows and turning quickly from foe to foe! At last those
terrible eyes rested on the late reluctant companion of his solitude.

"So _you_ then betrayed me," he said, very slowly, and directed his
pistol to the head of the dismounted horseman.

"No, no!" cried one of the officers, for such were Darvil's assailants;
"fire away in this direction, my hearty--we're paid for it. The
gentleman knew nothing at all about it."

"Nothing, by G--!" cried the banker, startled out of his sanctity.

"Then I shall keep my shot," said Darvil; "and mind, the first who
approaches me is a dead man."

It so happened that the robber and the officers were beyond the distance
which allows sure mark for a pistol-shot, and each party felt the
necessity of caution.

"Your time is up, my swell cove!" cried the head of the detachment; "you
have had your swing, and a long one it seems to have been--you must now
give in. Throw down your barkers, or we must make mutton of you, and
rob the gallows."

Darvil did not reply, and the officers, accustomed to hold life cheap,
moved on towards him--their pistols cocked and levelled.

Darvil fired--one of the men staggered and fell. With a kind of
instinct Darvil had singled out the one with whom he had before wrestled
for life. The ruffian waited not for the others--he turned and fled
along the fields.

"Zounds, he is off!" cried the other two, and they rushed after him in
pursuit. A pause--a shot--another--an oath--a groan--and all was still.

"It's all up with him now," said one of the runners, in the distance;
"he dies game."

At these words, the peasant, who had before skulked behind the haystack,
seized the lanthorn from the ground, and ran to the spot. The banker
involuntarily followed.

There lay Luke Darvil on the grass--still living, but a horrible and
ghastly spectacle. One ball had pierced his breast, another had shot
away his jaw. His eyes rolled fearfully, and he tore up the grass with
his hands.

The officers looked coldly on. "He was a clever fellow!" said one.

"And has given us much trouble," said the other; "let us see to Will."

"But he's not dead yet," said the banker, shuddering.

"Sir, he cannot live a minute."

Darvil raised himself bolt upright--shook his clenched fist at his
conquerors, and a fearful gurgling howl, which the nature of his wounds
did not allow him to syllable into a curse, came from his breast--with
that he fell flat on his back--a corpse.

"I am afraid, sir," said the elder officer, turning away, "you had a
narrow escape--but how came you here?"

"Rather, how came _you_ here?"

"Honest Hodge there, with the lanthorn, had marked the fellow skulk
behind the haystack, when he himself was going out to snare rabbits. He
had seen our advertisement of Watts' person, and knew that we were then
at a public house some miles off. He came to us--conducted us to the
spot--we heard voices--showed up the glim--and saw our man. Hodge, you
are a good subject, and love justice."

"Yees, but I shall have the rewourd," said Hodge, showing his teeth.

"Talk o' that by and by," said the officer. "Will, how are you, man?"

"Bad," groaned the poor runner, and a rush of blood from the lips
followed the groan.

It was many days before the ex-member for C------ sufficiently recovered
the tone of his mind to think further of Alice; when he did, it was with
great satisfaction that he reflected that Darvil was no more, and that
the deceased ruffian was only known to the neighbourhood by the name of
Peter Watts.



BOOK V.

PARODY.

  My hero, turned author, lies mute in this section,
  You may pass by the place if you're bored by reflection:
  But if honest enough to be fond of the Muse,
  Stay, and read where you're able, and sleep where you choose.
   THEOC. _Epig. in Hippon_.

CHAPTER I.

        "My genius spreads her wing,
  And flies where Britain courts the western spring.

 * * * * *

  Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
  I see the lords of human kind pass by,
  Intent on high designs."-GOLDSMITH.

I HAVE no respect for the Englishman who re-enters London after long
residence abroad without a pulse that beats quick and a heart that
heaves high. The public buildings are few, and, for the most part,
mean; the monuments of antiquity not comparable to those which the
pettiest town in Italy can boast of; the palaces are sad rubbish; the
houses of our peers and princes are shabby and shapeless heaps of brick.
But what of all this? the spirit of London is in her thoroughfares--her
population! What wealth--what cleanliness--what order--what animation!
How majestic, and yet how vivid, is the life that runs through her
myriad veins! How, as the lamps blaze upon you at night, and street
after street glides by your wheels, each so regular in its symmetry, so
equal in its civilization--how all speak of the CITY OF FREEMEN.

Yes, Maltravers felt his heart swell within him as the post-horses
whirled on his dingy carriage--over Westminster Bridge--along
Whitehall--through Regent Street--towards one of the quiet and
private-house-like hotels that are scattered round the neighbourhood of
Grosvenor Square.

Ernest's arrival had been expected. He had written from Paris to
Cleveland to announce it; and Cleveland had, in reply, informed him that
he had engaged apartments for him at Mivart's. The smiling waiters
ushered him into a spacious and well-aired room--the armchair was
already wheeled by the fire--a score or so of letters strewed the table,
together with two of the evening papers. And how eloquently of busy
England do those evening papers speak! A stranger might have felt that
he wanted no friend to welcome him--the whole room smiled on him a
welcome.

Maltravers ordered his dinner and opened his letters: they were of no
importance; one from his steward, one from his banker, another about the
county races, a fourth from a man he had never heard of, requesting the
vote and powerful interest of Mr. Maltravers for the county of B------,
should the rumour of a dissolution be verified; the unknown candidate
referred Mr. Maltravers to his "well-known public character." From
these epistles Ernest turned impatiently, and perceived a little
three-cornered note which had hitherto escaped his attention. It was
from Cleveland, intimating that he was in town; that his health still
precluded his going out, but that he trusted to see his dear Ernest as
soon as he arrived.

Maltravers was delighted at the prospect of passing his evening so
agreeably; he soon despatched his dinner and his newspapers, and walked
in the brilliant lamplight of a clear frosty evening of early December
in London, to his friend's house in Curzon Street: a small house,
bachelor-like and unpretending; for Cleveland spent his moderate though
easy fortune almost entirely at his country villa. The familiar face of
the old valet greeted Ernest at the door, and he only paused to hear
that his guardian was nearly recovered to his usual health, ere he was
in the cheerful drawing-room, and--since Englishmen do not
embrace--returning the cordial gripe of the kindly Cleveland.

"Well, my dear Ernest," said Cleveland, after they had gone through the
preliminary round of questions and answers, "here you are at last:
Heaven be praised; and how well you are looking--how much you are
improved! It is an excellent period of the year for your _debut_ in
London. I shall have time to make you intimate with people before the
whirl of 'the season' commences."

"Why, I thought of going to Burleigh, my country-place. I have not seen
it since I was a child."

"No, no! you have had solitude enough at Como, if I may trust to your
letter; you must now mix with the great London world; and you will enjoy
Burleigh the more in the summer."

"I fancy this great London world will give me very little pleasure; it
may be pleasant enough to young men just let loose from college, but
your crowded ball-rooms and monotonous clubs will be wearisome to one
who has grown fastidious before his time. _J'ai vecu beaucoup dans peu
d'annees_. I have drawn in youth too much upon the capital of existence
to be highly delighted with the ostentatious parsimony with which our
great men economise pleasure."

"Don't judge before you have gone through the trial," said Cleveland:
"there is something in the opulent splendour, the thoroughly sustained
magnificence, with which the leaders of English fashion conduct even the
most insipid amusements, that is above contempt. Besides, you need not
necessarily live with the butterflies. There are plenty of bees that
will be very happy to make your acquaintance. Add to this, my dear
Ernest, the pleasure of being made of--of being of importance in your
own country. For you are young, well-born, and sufficiently handsome to
be an object of interest to mothers and to daughters; while your name,
and property, and interest, will make you courted by men who want to
borrow your money and obtain your influence in your county. No,
Maltravers, stay in London--amuse yourself your first year, and decide
on your occupation and career the next; but reconnoitre before you give
battle."

Maltravers was not ill-pleased to follow his friend's advice, since by
so doing he obtained his friend's guidance and society. Moreover, he
deemed it wise and rational to see, face to face, the eminent men in
England, with whom, if he fulfilled his promise to De Montaigne, he was
to run the race of honourable rivalry. Accordingly, he consented to
Cleveland's propositions.

"And have you," said he, hesitating, as he loitered by the door after
the stroke of twelve had warned him to take his leave--"have you never
heard anything of my--my--the unfortunate Alice Darvil?"

"Who?--Oh, that poor young woman; I remember!--not a syllable."

Maltravers sighed deeply and departed.



CHAPTER II.

 "Je trouve que c'est une folie de vouloir etudier le monde en
  simple spectateur. * * * Dans l'ecole du monde, comme dans
  cette de l'amour, il faut commencer par pratiquer cc qu'on veut
  apprendre."*--ROUSSEAU.

* I find that it is a folly to wish to study the world like a simple
spectator. * * * In the school of the world, as in that of love, it is
necessary to begin by practising what we wish to learn.

ERNEST MALTRAVERS was now fairly launched upon the wide ocean of London.
Amongst his other property was a house in Seamore Place--that quiet, yet
central street, which enjoys the air without the dust of the park. It
had been hitherto let, and, the tenant now quitting very opportunely,
Maltravers was delighted to secure so pleasant a residence: for he was
still romantic enough to desire to look out upon trees and verdure
rather than brick houses. He indulged only in two other luxuries: his
love of music tempted him to an opera-box, and he had that English
feeling which prides itself in the possession of beautiful horses,--a
feeling that enticed him into an extravagance on this head that baffled
the competition and excited the envy of much richer men. But four
thousand a year goes a great way with a single man who does not gamble,
and is too philosophical to make superfluities wants.

The world doubled his income, magnified his old country-seat into a
superb chateau, and discovered that his elder brother, who was only
three or four years older than himself, had no children. The world was
very courteous to Ernest Maltravers.

It was, as Cleveland said, just at that time of year when people are at
leisure to make new acquaintances. A few only of the most difficult
houses in town were open; and their doors were cheerfully expanded to
the accomplished ward of the popular Cleveland. Authors and statesmen,
and orators, and philosophers--to all he was presented;--all seemed
pleased with him, and Ernest became the fashion before he was conscious
of the distinction. But he had rightly foreboded. He had commenced
life too soon; he was disappointed; he found some persons he could
admire, some whom he could like, but none with whom he could grow
intimate, or for whom he could feel an interest. Neither his heart nor
his imagination was touched; all appeared to him like artificial
machines; he was discontented with things like life, but in which
something or other was wanting. He more than ever recalled the
brilliant graces of Valerie de Ventadour, which had thrown a charm over
the most frivolous circles; he even missed the perverse and fantastic
vanity of Castruccio. The mediocre poet seemed to him at least less
mediocre than the worldlings about him. Nay, even the selfish good
spirits and dry shrewdness of Lumley Ferrers would have been an
acceptable change to the dull polish and unrevealed egotism of jealous
wits and party politicians. "If these are the flowers of the parterre,
what must be the weeds?" said Maltravers to himself, returning from a
party at which he had met half a score of the most orthodox lions.

He began to feel the aching pain of satiety.

But the winter glided away--the season commenced, and Maltravers was
whirled on with the rest into the bubbling vortex.



CHAPTER III.

 "And crowds commencing mere vexation,
  Retirement sent its invitation."--SHENSTONE.

THE tench, no doubt, considers the pond in which he lives as the Great
World. There is no place, however stagnant, which is not the great
world to the creatures that move about, in it. People who have lived
all their lives in a village still talk of the world as if they had ever
seen it! An old woman in a hovel does not put her nose out of her door
on a Sunday without thinking she is going amongst the pomps and vanities
of the great world. _Ergo_, the great world is to all of us the little
circle in which we live. But as fine people set the fashion, so the
circle of fine people is called the Great World _par excellence_. Now
this great world is not a bad thing when we thoroughly understand it;
and the London great world is at least as good as any other. But then
we scarcely do understand that or anything else in our _beaux
jours_,--which, if they are sometimes the most exquisite, are also often
the most melancholy and the most wasted portion of our life. Maltravers
had not yet found out either _the set_ that pleased him or the species
of amusement that really amused. Therefore he drifted on and about the
vast whirlpool, making plenty of friends--going to balls and
dinners--and bored with both as men are who have no object in society.
Now the way society is enjoyed is to have a pursuit, a _metier_ of some
kind, and then to go into the world, either to make the individual
object a social pleasure, or to obtain a reprieve from some toilsome
avocation. Thus, if you are a politician--politics at once make an
object in your closet, and a social tie between others and yourself when
you are in the world. The same may be said of literature, though in a
less degree; and though, as fewer persons care about literature than
politics, your companions must be more select. If you are very young,
you are fond of dancing; if you are very profligate, perhaps you are
fond of flirtations with your friend's wife. These last are objects in
their way: but they don't last long, and, even with the most frivolous,
are not occupations that satisfy the whole mind and heart, in which
there is generally an aspiration after something useful. It is not
vanity alone that makes a man of the _mode_ invent a new bit or give his
name to a new kind of carriage; it is the influence of that mystic
yearning after utility, which is one of the master-ties between the
individual and the species.

Maltravers was not happy--that is a lot common enough; but he was not
amused--and that is a sentence more insupportable. He lost a great part
of his sympathy with Cleveland, for, when a man is not amused, he feels
an involuntary contempt for those who are. He fancies they are pleased
with trifles which his superior wisdom is compelled to disdain.
Cleveland was of that age when we generally grow social--for by being
rubbed long and often against the great loadstone of society, we obtain,
in a thousand little minute points, an attraction in common with our
fellows. Their petty sorrows and small joys--their objects of interest
or employment, at some time or other have been ours. We gather up a
vast collection of moral and mental farthings of exchange: and we
scarcely find any intellect too poor, but what we can deal with it in
some way. But in youth, we are egotists and sentimentalists, and
Maltravers belonged to the fraternity who employ

   "The heart in passion and the head in rhymes."

At length--just when London begins to grow most pleasant--when
flirtations become tender, and water-parties numerous--when birds sing
in the groves of Richmond, and whitebait refresh the statesman by the
shores of Greenwich,--Maltravers abruptly fled from the gay metropolis,
and arrived, one lovely evening in July, at his own ivy-grown porch of
Burleigh.

What a soft, fresh, delicious evening it was! He had quitted his
carriage at the lodge, and followed it across the small but picturesque
park alone and on foot. He had not seen the place since childhood--he
had quite forgotten its aspect. He now wondered how he could have lived
anywhere else. The trees did not stand in stately avenues, nor did the
antlers of the deer wave above the sombre fern; it was not the domain of
a grand seigneur, but of an old, long-descended English squire.
Antiquity spoke in the moss-grown palings in the shadowy groves, in the
sharp gable-ends and heavy mullions of the house, as it now came in
view, at the base of a hill covered with wood--and partially veiled by
the shrubs of the neglected pleasure-ground, separated from the park by
the invisible ha-ha. There, gleamed in the twilight the watery face of
the oblong fish-pool, with its old-fashioned willows at each
corner--there, grey and quaint, was the monastic dial--and there was the
long terrace walk, with discoloured and broken vases, now filled with
the orange or the aloe, which, in honour of his master's arrival, the
gardener had extracted from the dilapidated green-house. The very
evidence of neglect around, the very weeds and grass on the
half-obliterated road, touched Maltravers with a sort of pitying and
remorseful affection for his calm and sequestered residence. And it was
not with his usual proud step and erect crest that he passed from the
porch to the solitary library, through a line of his servants:--the two
or three old retainers belonging to the place were utterly unfamiliar to
him, and they had no smile for their stranger lord.



CHAPTER IV.

 "_Lucian._ He that is born to be a man neither should nor can
  be anything nobler, greater, and better than a man.

 "_Peregrine._ But, good Lucian, for the very reason that he may
  not become less than a man, he should be always striving to be
  more."--WIELAND'S _Peregrinus Proteus_.

IT was two years from the date of the last chapter before Maltravers
again appeared in general society. These two years had sufficed to
produce a revolution in his fate. Ernest Maltravers had lost the happy
rights of the private individual; he had given himself to the Public; he
had surrendered his name to men's tongues, and was a thing that all had
a right to praise, to blame, to scrutinise, to spy. Ernest Maltravers
had become an author.

Let no man tempt Gods and Columns, without weighing well the
consequences of his experiment. He who publishes a book, attended with
a moderate success, passes a mighty barrier. He will often look back
with a sigh of regret at the land he has left for ever. The beautiful
and decent obscurity of hearth and home is gone. He can no longer feel
the just indignation of manly pride when he finds himself ridiculed or
reviled. He has parted with the shadow of his life. His motives may be
misrepresented, his character belied; his manners, his person, his
dress, the "very trick of his walk" are all fair food for the cavil and
the caricature. He can never go back, he cannot even pause; he has
chosen his path, and all the natural feelings that make the nerve and
muscle of the active being urge him to proceed. To stop short is to
fail. He has told the world that he will make a name; and he must be
set down as a pretender, or toil on till the boast be fulfilled. Yet
Maltravers thought nothing of all this when, intoxicated with his own
dreams and aspirations, he desired to make a world his confidant; when
from the living nature, and the lore of books, and the mingled result of
inward study and external observation, he sought to draw forth something
that might interweave his name with the pleasurable associations of his
kind. His easy fortune and lonely state gave him up to his own thoughts
and contemplations; they suffused his mind, till it ran over upon the
page which makes the channel that connects the solitary Fountain with
the vast Ocean of Human Knowledge. The temperament of Maltravers was,
as we have seen, neither irritable nor fearful. He formed himself, as a
sculptor forms, with a model before his eyes and an ideal in his heart.
He endeavoured, with labour and patience, to approach nearer and nearer
with every effort to the standard of such excellence as he thought might
ultimately be attained by a reasonable ambition; and when, at last, his
judgment was satisfied, he surrendered the product with a tranquil
confidence to a more impartial tribunal.

His first work was successful; perhaps for this reason--that it bore the
stamp of the Honest and the Real. He did not sit down to report of what
he had never seen, to dilate on what he had never felt. A quiet and
thoughtful observer of life, his descriptions were the more vivid,
because his own first impressions were not yet worn away. His
experience had sunk deep; not on the arid surface of matured age, but in
the fresh soil of youthful emotions. Another reason, perhaps, that
obtained success for his essay was, that he had more varied and more
elaborate knowledge than young authors think it necessary to possess.
He did not, like Cesarini, attempt to make a show of words upon a
slender capital of ideas. Whether his style was eloquent or homely; it
was still in him a faithful transcript of considered and digested
thought. A third reason--and I dwell on these points not more to
elucidate the career of Maltravers than as hints which may be useful to
others--a third reason why Maltravers obtained a prompt and favourable
reception from the public was, that he had not hackneyed his
peculiarities of diction and thought in that worst of all schools for
the literary novice--the columns of a magazine. Periodicals form an
excellent mode of communication between the public and an author
_already_ established, who has lost the charm of novelty, but gained the
weight of acknowledged reputation; and who, either upon politics or
criticism, seeks for frequent and continuous occasions to enforce his
peculiar theses and doctrines. But, upon the young writer, this mode of
communication, if too long continued, operates most injuriously both as
to his future prospects and his own present taste and style. With
respect to the first, it familiarises the public to his mannerism (and
all writers worth reading have mannerism) in a form to which the said
public are not inclined to attach much weight. He forestalls in a few
months what ought to be the effect of years; namely, the wearying a
world soon nauseated with the _toujours perdrix_. With respect to the
last, it induces a man to write for momentary effects; to study a false
smartness of style and reasoning; to bound his ambition of durability to
the last day of the month; to expect immediate returns for labour; to
recoil at the "hope deferred" of serious works on which judgment is
slowly formed. The man of talent who begins young at periodicals, and
goes on long, has generally something crude and stunted about both his
compositions and his celebrity. He grows the oracle of small coteries;
and we can rarely get out of the impression that he is cockneyfied and
conventional. Periodicals sadly mortgaged the claims that Hazlitt, and
many others of his contemporaries, had upon a vast reversionary estate
of Fame. But I here speak too politically; to some the _res angustoe
domi_ leave no option. And, as Aristotle and the Greek proverb have it,
we cannot carve out all things with the knife of the Delphic cutler.

The second work that Maltravers put forth, at an interval of eighteen
months from the first, was one of a graver and higher nature; it served
to confirm his reputation: and that is success enough for a second work,
which is usually an author's "_pons asinorum_." He who, after a
triumphant first book, does not dissatisfy the public with a second, has
a fair chance of gaining a fixed station in literature. But now
commenced the pains and perils of the after-birth. By a maiden effort
an author rarely makes enemies. His fellow-writers are not yet prepared
to consider him as a rival; if he be tolerably rich, they unconsciously
trust that he will not become a regular, or, as they term it, "a
professional" author: he did something just to be talked of; he may
write no more, or his second book may fail. But when that second book
comes out, and does not fail, they begin to look about them; envy
wakens, malice begins. And all the old school--gentlemen who have
retired on their pensions of renown--regard him as an intruder: then the
sneer, then the frown, the caustic irony, the biting review, the
depreciating praise. The novice begins to think that he is further from
the goal than before he set out upon the race.

Maltravers had, upon the whole, a tolerably happy temperament; but he
was a very proud man, and he had the nice soul of a courageous,
honourable, punctilious gentleman. He thought it singular that society
should call upon him, as a gentleman, to shoot his best friend, if that
friend affronted him with a rude word; and yet that, as an author, every
fool and liar might, with perfect impunity, cover reams of paper with
the most virulent personal abuse of him.

It was one evening in the early summer that, revolving anxious and
doubtful thoughts, Ernest sauntered gloomily along his terrace,

   "And watched with wistful eyes the setting sun."

when he perceived a dusty travelling carriage whirled along the road by
the ha-ha, and a hand waved in recognition from the open window. His
guests had been so rare, and his friends were so few, that Maltravers
could not conjecture who was his intended visitant. His brother, he
knew, was in London. Cleveland, from whom he had that day heard, was at
his villa. Ferrers was enjoying himself in Vienna. Who could it be?
We may say of solitude what we please; but, after two years of solitude,
a visitor is a pleasurable excitement. Maltravers retraced his steps,
entered his house, and was just in time to find himself almost in the
arms of De Montaigne.



CHAPTER V.

     "Quid tam dextro pede concipis ut te,
  Conatus non poeniteat, votique peracti?"*--JUV.

* What, under such happy auspices do you conceive that you may not
repent of your endeavour and accomplished wish?

"YES," said De Montaigne, "in my way I also am fulfilling my destiny. I
am a member of the _Chambre des Deputes_, and on a visit to England upon
some commercial affairs. I found myself in your neighbourhood, and, of
course, could not resist the temptation: so you must receive me as your
guest for some days."

"I congratulate you cordially on your senatorial honours. I have
already heard of your rising name."

"I return the congratulations with equal warmth. You are bringing my
prophecies to pass. I have read your works with increased pride at our
friendship."

Maltravers sighed slightly, and half turned away.

"The desire of distinction," said he, after a pause, "grows upon us till
excitement becomes disease. The child who is born with the mariner's
instinct laughs with glee when his paper bark skims the wave of a pool.
By and by nothing will content him but the ship and the ocean.--Like the
child is the author."

"I am pleased with your simile," said De Montaigne, smiling. "Do not
spoil it, but go on with your argument."

Maltravers continued: "Scarcely do we win the applause of a moment, ere
we summon the past and conjecture the future. Our contemporaries no
longer suffice for competitors, our age for the Court to pronounce on
our claims: we call up the Dead as our only true rivals--we appeal to
Posterity as our sole just tribunal. Is this vain in us? Possibly.
Yet such vanity humbles. 'Tis then only we learn all the difference
between Reputation and Fame--between To-Day and Immortality!"

"Do you think," replied De Montaigne, "that the dead did not feel the
same when they first trod the path that leads to the life beyond life?
Continue to cultivate the mind, to sharpen by exercise the genius, to
attempt to delight or to instruct your race; and even supposing you fall
short of every model you set before you--supposing your name moulder
with your dust, still you will have passed life more nobly than the
unlaborious herd. Grant that you win not that glorious accident, 'a
name below,' how can you tell but what you may have fitted yourself for
high destiny and employ in the world not of men, but of spirits? The
powers of the mind are things that cannot be less immortal than the mere
sense of identity; their acquisitions accompany us through the Eternal
Progress; and we may obtain a lower or a higher grade hereafter, in
proportion as we are more or less fitted by the exercise of our
intellect to comprehend and execute the solemn agencies of God. The
wise man is nearer to the angels than the fool is. This may be an
apocryphal dogma, but it is not an impossible theory."

"But we may waste the sound enjoyments of actual life in chasing the
hope you justly allow to be 'apocryphal;' and our knowledge may go for
nothing in the eyes of the Omniscient."

"Very well," said De Montaigne, smiling; "but answer me honestly. By
the pursuits of intellectual ambition do you waste the sound enjoyments
of life? If so, you do not pursue the system rightly. Those pursuits
ought only to quicken your sense for such pleasures as are the true
relaxations of life. And this, with you peculiarly, since you are
fortunate enough not to depend for subsistence upon literature;--did you
do so, I might rather advise you to be a trunkmaker than an author. A
man ought not to attempt any of the highest walks of Mind and Art, as
the mere provision of daily bread; not literature alone, but everything
else of the same degree. He ought not to be a statesman, or an orator,
or a philosopher, as a thing of pence and shillings: and usually all
men, save the poor poet, feel this truth insensibly."

"This may be fine preaching," said Maltravers; "but you may be quite
sure that the pursuit of literature is a pursuit apart from the ordinary
objects of life, and you cannot command the enjoyments of both."

"I think otherwise," said De Montaigne; "but it is not in a country
house eighty miles from the capital, without wife, guests, or friends,
that the experiment can be fairly made. Come, Maltravers, I see before
you a brave career, and I cannot permit you to halt at the onset."

"You do not see all the calumnies that are already put forth against me,
to say nothing of all the assurances (and many by clever men) that there
is nothing in me!"

"Dennis was a clever man, and said the same thing of your Pope. Madame
de Sevigne was a clever woman, but she thought Racine would never be
very famous. Milton saw nothing in the first efforts of Dryden that
made him consider Dryden better than a rhymester. Aristophanes was a
good judge of poetry, yet how ill he judged of Euripides! But all this
is commonplace, and yet you bring arguments that a commonplace answers
in evidence against yourself."

"But it is unpleasant not to answer attacks--not to retaliate on
enemies."

"Then answer attacks, and retaliate on enemies."

"But would that be wise?"

"If it give you pleasure--it would not please _me_."

"Come, De Montaigne, you are reasoning Socratically. I will ask you
plainly and bluntly, would you advise an author to wage war on his
literary assailants, or to despise them?"

"Both; let him attack but few, and those rarely. But it is his policy
to show that he is one whom it is better not to provoke too far. The
author always has the world on his side against the critics, if he
choose his opportunity. And he must always recollect that he is 'A
STATE' in himself, which must sometimes go to war in order to procure
peace. The time for war or for peace must be left to the State's own
diplomacy and wisdom."

"You would make us political machines."

"It would make every man's conduct more or less mechanical; for system
is the triumph of mind over matter; the just equilibrium of all the
powers and passions may seem like machinery. Be it so. Nature meant
the world--the creation--man himself, for machines."

"And one must even be in a passion mechanically, according to your
theories."

"A man is a poor creature who is not in a passion sometimes; but a very
unjust, or a very foolish one, if he be in a passion with the wrong
person, and in the wrong place and time. But enough of this, it is
growing late."

"And when will Madame visit England?"

"Oh, not yet, I fear. But you will meet Cesarini in London this year
or the next. He is persuaded that you did not see justice done to his
poems, and is coming here as soon as his indolence will let him, to
proclaim your treachery in a biting preface to some toothless satire."

"Satire!"

"Yes; more than one of your poets made their way by a satire, and
Cesarini is persuaded he shall do the same. Castruccio is not as
far-sighted as his namesake, the Prince of Lucca. Good night, my dear
Ernest."



CHAPTER VI.

 "When with much pains this boasted learning's got,
  'Tis an affront to those who have it not."
   CHURCHILL: _The Author_.

THERE was something in De Montaigne's conversation, which, without
actual flattery, reconciled Maltravers to himself and his career. It
served less, perhaps, to excite than to sober and brace his mind. De
Montaigne could have made no man rash, but he could have made many men
energetic and persevering. The two friends had some points in common;
but Maltravers had far more prodigality of nature and passion about
him--had more of flesh and blood, with the faults and excellences of
flesh and blood. De Montaigne held so much to his favourite doctrine of
moral equilibrium, that he had really reduced himself in much to a
species of clockwork. As impulses are formed from habits, so the
regularity of De Montaigne's habits made his impulses virtuous and just,
and he yielded to them as often as a hasty character might have done;
but then those impulses never urged to anything speculative or daring.
De Montaigne could not go beyond a certain defined circle of action. He
had no sympathy for any reasonings based purely on the hypotheses of the
imagination: he could not endure Plato, and he was dumb to the eloquent
whispers of whatever was refining in poetry or mystical in wisdom.

Maltravers, on the contrary, not disdaining Reason, ever sought to
assist her by the Imaginative Faculty, and held all philosophy
incomplete and unsatisfactory that bounded its inquiries to the limits
of the Known and Certain. He loved the inductive process; but he
carried it out to Conjecture as well as Fact. He maintained that, by a
similar hardihood, all the triumphs of science, as well as art, had been
accomplished--that Newton, that Copernicus, would have done nothing if
they had not imagined as well as reasoned, guessed as well as
ascertained. Nay, it was an aphorism with him, that the very soul of
philosophy is conjecture. He had the most implicit confidence in the
operations of the mind and the heart properly formed, and deemed that
the very excesses of emotion and thought, in men well trained by
experience and study, are conducive to useful and great ends. But the
more advanced years, and the singularly practical character of De
Montaigne's views, gave him a superiority in argument over Maltravers
which the last submitted to unwillingly. While, on the other hand, De
Montaigne secretly felt that his young friend reasoned from a broader
base, and took in a much wider circumference; and that he was, at once,
more liable to failure and error, and more capable of new discovery and
of intellectual achievement. But their ways in life being different,
they did not clash; and De Montaigne, who was sincerely interested in
Ernest's fate, was contented to harden his friend's mind against the
obstacles in his way, and leave the rest to experiment and to
Providence. They went up to London together: and De Montaigne returned
to Paris. Maltravers appeared once more in the haunts of the gay and
great. He felt that his new character had greatly altered his position.
He was no longer courted and caressed for the same vulgar and
adventitious circumstances of fortune, birth, and connections, as
before--yet for circumstances that to him seemed equally unflattering.
He was not sought for his merit, his intellect, his talents; but for his
momentary celebrity. He was an author in fashion, and run after as
anything else in fashion might have been. He was invited, less to be
talked to than to be stared at. He was far too proud in his temper, and
too pure in his ambition, to feel his vanity elated by sharing the
enthusiasm of the circles with a German prince or an industrious flea.
Accordingly he soon repelled the advances made to him, was reserved and
supercilious to fine ladies, refused to be the fashion, and became very
unpopular with the literary exclusives. They even began to run down the
works, because they were dissatisfied with the author. But Maltravers
had based his experiments upon the vast masses of the general Public.
He had called the PEOPLE of his own and other countries to be his
audience and his judges; and all the coteries in the world could have
not injured him. He was like the member for an immense constituency,
who may offend individuals, so long as he keep his footing with the body
at large. But while he withdrew himself from the insipid and the idle,
he took care not to become separated from the world. He formed his own
society according to his tastes: took pleasure in the manly and exciting
topics of the day; and sharpened his observation and widened his sphere
as an author, by mixing freely and boldly with all classes as a citizen.
But literature became to him as art to the artist--as his mistress to
the lover--an engrossing and passionate delight. He made it his
glorious and divine profession--he loved it as a profession--he devoted
to its pursuits and honours his youth, cares, dreams--his mind, and his
heart, and his soul. He was a silent but intense enthusiast in the
priesthood he had entered. From LITERATURE he imagined had come all
that makes nations enlightened and men humane. And he loved Literature
the more, because her distinctions were not those of the world--because
she had neither ribbands, nor stars, nor high places at her command. A
name in the deep gratitude and hereditary delight of men--this was the
title she bestowed. Hers was the Great Primitive Church of the world,
without Popes or Muftis--sinecures, pluralities and hierarchies. Her
servants spoke to the earth as the prophets of old, anxious only to be
heard and believed. Full of this fanaticism, Ernest Maltravers pursued
his way in the great procession of the myrtle-bearers to the sacred
shrine. He carried the thyrsus, and he believed in the god. By degrees
his fanaticism worked in him the philosophy which De Montaigne would
have derived from sober calculation; it made him indifferent to the
thorns in the path, to the storms in the sky. He learned to despise the
enmity he provoked, the calumnies that assailed him. Sometimes he was
silent, but sometimes he retorted. Like a soldier who serves a cause,
he believed that when the cause was injured in his person, the weapons
confided to his hands might be wielded without fear and without
reproach. Gradually he became feared as well as known. And while many
abused him, none could contemn.

It would not suit the design of this work to follow Maltravers step by
step in his course. I am only describing the principal events, not the
minute details, of his intellectual life. Of the character of his works
it will be enough to say that, whatever their faults, they were
original--they were his own. He did not write according to copy, nor
compile from commonplace books. He was an artist, it is true,--for what
is genius itself but art? but he took laws, and harmony, and order, from
the great code of Truth and Nature: a code that demands intense and
unrelaxing study--though its first principles are few and simple: that
study Maltravers did not shrink from. It was a deep love of truth that
made him a subtle and searching analyst, even in what the dull world
considers trifles; for he knew that nothing in literature is in itself
trifling--that it is often but a hairsbreadth that divides a truism from
a discovery. He was the more original, because he sought rather after
the True than the New. No two minds are ever the same; and therefore
any man who will give us fairly and frankly the results of his own
impressions, uninfluenced by the servilities of imitation, will be
original. But it was not from originality, which really made his
predominant merit, that Maltravers derived his reputation, for his
originality was not of that species which generally dazzles the
vulgar--it was not extravagant nor _bizarre_--he affected no system and
no school. Many authors of his day seemed more novel and _unique_ to
the superficial. Profound and durable invention proceeds by subtle and
fine gradations--it has nothing to do with those jerks and starts, those
convulsions and distortions, which belong not to the vigour and health,
but to the epilepsy and disease, of Literature.



CHAPTER VII.

 "Being got out of town, the first thing I did was to give my
  mule her head."--_Gil Blas_.

ALTHOUGH the character of Maltravers was gradually becoming more hard
and severe,--although as his reason grew more muscular, his imagination
lost something of its early bloom, and he was already very different
from the wild boy who had set the German youths in a blaze, and had
changed into a Castle of Indolence the little cottage tenanted with
Poetry and Alice,--he still preserved many of his old habits; he loved,
at frequent intervals, to disappear from the great world--to get rid of
books and friends, and luxury and wealth, and make solitary excursions,
sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback, through this fair garden of
England.

It was one soft May-day that he found himself on such an expedition,
slowly riding through one of the green lanes of ------shire. His cloak
and his saddle-bags comprised all his baggage, and the world was before
him "where to choose his place of rest." The lane wound at length into
the main road, and just as he came upon it he fell in with a gay party
of equestrians.

Foremost of its cavalcade rode a lady in a dark green habit, mounted on
a thoroughbred English horse, which she managed with so easy a grace
that Maltravers halted in involuntary admiration. He himself was a
consummate horseman, and he had the quick eye of sympathy for those who
shared the accomplishment. He thought, as he gazed, that he had never
seen but one woman whose air and mien on horseback were so full of that
nameless elegance which skill and courage in any art naturally
bestow--that woman was Valerie de Ventadour. Presently, to his great
surprise, the lady advanced from her companions, neared Maltravers, and
said, in a voice which he did not at first distinctly recognise--"Is it
possible?--do I see Mr. Maltravers?"

She paused a moment, and then threw aside her veil, and Ernest
beheld--Madame de Ventadour! By this time a tall, thin gentleman had
joined the Frenchwoman.

"Has _madame_ met with an acquaintance?" said he; "and, if so, will she
permit me to partake her pleasure?"

The interruption seemed a relief to Valerie;--she smiled and coloured.

"Let me introduce you to Mr. Maltravers. Mr. Maltravers, this is my
host, Lord Doningdale."

The two gentlemen bowed, the rest of the cavalcade surrounded the trio,
and Lord Doningdale, with a stately yet frank courtesy, invited
Maltravers to return with the party to his house, which was about four
miles distant. As may be supposed, Ernest readily accepted the
invitation. The cavalcade proceeded, and Maltravers hastened to seek an
explanation from Valerie. It was soon given. Madame de Ventadour had a
younger sister, who had lately married a son of Lord Doningdale. The
marriage had been solemnized in Paris, and Monsieur and Madame de
Ventadour had been in England a week on a visit to the English peer.

The _rencontre_ was so sudden and unexpected that neither recovered
sufficient self-possession for fluent conversation. The explanation
given, Valerie sank into a thoughtful silence, and Maltravers rode by
her side equally taciturn, pondering on the strange chance which, after
the lapse of years, had thrown them again together.

Lord Doningdale, who at first lingered with his other visitors, now
joined them, and Maltravers was struck with his high-bred manner, and a
singular and somewhat elaborate polish in his emphasis and expression.
They soon entered a noble park, which attested far more care and
attention than are usually bestowed upon those demesnes, so peculiarly
English. Young plantations everywhere contrasted the venerable
groves--new cottages of picturesque design adorned the outskirts--and
obelisks and columns, copied from the antique, and evidently of recent
workmanship, gleamed upon them as they neared the house--a large pile,
in which the fashion of Queen Anne's day had been altered into the
French roofs and windows of the architecture of the Tuileries. "You
reside much in the country, I am sure, my lord," said Maltravers.

"Yes," replied Lord Doningdale, with a pensive air, "this place is
greatly endeared to me. Here his Majesty Louis XVIII., when in England,
honoured me with an annual visit. In compliment to him, I sought to
model my poor mansion into an humble likeness of his own palace, so that
he might as little as possible miss the rights he had lost. His own
rooms were furnished exactly like those he had occupied at the
Tuileries. Yes, the place is endeared to me--I think of the old times
with pride. It is something to have sheltered a Bourbon in his
misfortunes."

"It cost _milord_ a vast sum to make these alterations," said Madame de
Ventadour, glancing archly at Maltravers.

"Ah, yes," said the old lord; and his face, lately elated, became
overcast--"nearly three hundred thousand pounds: but what then?--_'Les
souvenirs, madame, sont sans prix_!'"

"Have you visited Paris since the restoration, Lord Doningdale," asked
Maltravers.

His lordship looked at him sharply, and then turned his eye to Madame de
Ventadour.

"Nay," said Valerie; laughing, "I did not dictate the question."

"Yes," said Lord Doningdale, "I have been at Paris."

"His Majesty must have been delighted to return your lordship's
hospitality."

Lord Doningdale looked a little embarrassed, and made no reply, but put
his horse into a canter.

"You have galled our host," said Valerie, smiling. "Louis XVIII. and
his friends lived here as long as they pleased, and as sumptuously as
they could; their visits half ruined the owner, who is the model of a
_gentilhomme_ and _preux chevalier_. He went to Paris to witness their
triumph; he expected, I fancy, the order of the St. Esprit. Lord
Doningdale has royal blood in his veins. His Majesty asked him once to
dinner, and, when he took leave, said to him, 'We are happy, Lord
Doningdale, to have thus requited our obligations to your lordship.'
Lord Doningdale went back in dudgeon, yet he still boasts of his
_souvenirs_, poor man."

"Princes are not grateful, neither are republics," said Maltravers.

"Ah, who is grateful," rejoined Valerie, "except a dog and a woman?"

Maltravers found himself ushered into a vast dressing-room, and was
informed, by a French valet, that in the country Lord Doningdale dined
at six--the first bell would ring in a few minutes. While the valet was
speaking, Lord Doningdale himself entered the room. His lordship had
learned, in the meanwhile, that Maltravers was of the great and ancient
commoner's house whose honours were centred in his brother; and yet
more, that he was the Mr. Maltravers whose writings every one talked of,
whether for praise or abuse. Lord Doningdale had the two
characteristics of a high-bred gentleman of the old school--respect for
birth and respect for talent; he was, therefore, more than ordinarily
courteous to Ernest, and pressed him to stay some days with so much
cordiality, that Maltravers could not but assent. His travelling toilet
was scanty, but Maltravers thought little of dress.



CHAPTER VIII.

 "It is the soul that sees. The outward eyes
  Present the object, but the mind descries;
  And thence delight, disgust, or cool indifference rise.
   "CRABBE.

WHEN Maltravers entered the enormous saloon, hung with damask, and
decorated with the ponderous enrichments and furniture of the time of
Louis XIV. (that most showy and barbarous of all tastes, which has
nothing in it of the graceful, nothing of the picturesque, and which,
nowadays, people who should know better imitate with a ludicrous
servility), he found sixteen persons assembled. His host stepped up
from a circle which surrounded him, and formally presented his new
visitor to the rest. He was struck with the likeness which the sister
of Valerie bore to Valerie herself; but it was a sobered and chastened
likeness--less handsome, less impressive. Mrs. George Herbert--such was
the name she now owned--was a pretty, shrinking, timid girl, fond of her
husband, and mightily awed by her father-in-law. Maltravers sat by her,
and drew her into conversation. He could not help pitying the poor
lady, when he found she was to live altogether at Doningdale
Park--remote from all the friends and habits of her childhood--alone, so
far as the affections were concerned, with a young husband, who was
passionately fond of field-sports, and who, from the few words Ernest
exchanged with him, seemed to have only three ideas--his dogs, his
horses, and his wife. Alas! the last would soon be the least in
importance. It is a sad position--that of a lively young Frenchwoman
entombed in an English country-house! Marriages with foreigners are
seldom fortunate experiments. But Ernest's attention was soon diverted
from the sister by the entrance of Valerie herself, leaning on her
husband's arm. Hitherto he had not very minutely observed what change
time had effected in her--perhaps he was half afraid. He now gazed at
her with curious interest. Valerie was still extremely handsome, but
her face had grown sharper, her form thinner and more angular; there was
something in her eye and lip, discontented, restless, almost
querulous:--such is the too common expression in the face of those born
to love, and condemned to be indifferent. The little sister was more to
be envied of the two--come what may, she loved her husband, such as he
was, and her heart might ache, but it was not with a void.

Monsieur de Ventadour soon shuffled up to Maltravers--his nose longer
than ever.

"Hein--hein--how d'ye do--how d'ye do?--charmed to see you--saw madame
before me--hein--hein--I suspect--I suspect--"

"Mr. Maltravers, will you give Madame de Ventadour your arm?" said Lord
Doningdale, as he stalked on to the dining-room with a duchess on his
own.

"And you have left Naples," said Maltravers: "left it for good?"

"We do not think of returning."

"It was a charming place--how I loved it!--how well I remember it!"
Ernest spoke calmly--it was but a general remark.

Valerie sighed gently.

During dinner, the conversation between Maltravers and Madame de
Ventadour was vague and embarrassed. Ernest was no longer in love with
her--he had outgrown that youthful fancy. She had exercised influence
over him--the new influences that he had created had chased away her
image. Such is life. Long absences extinguish all the false lights,
though not the true ones. The lamps are dead in the banquet-room of
yesterday; but a thousand years hence, and the stars we look on to-night
will burn as brightly. Maltravers was no longer in love with Valerie.
But Valerie--ah, perhaps _hers_ had been true love!

Maltravers was surprised when he came to examine the state of his own
feelings--he was surprised to find that his pulse did not beat quicker
at the touch of one whose very glance had once thrilled him to the
soul--he was surprised, but rejoiced. He was no longer anxious to seek,
but to shun excitement, and he was a better and a higher being than he
had been on the shores of Naples.



CHAPTER IX.

 "Whence that low voice, a whisper from the heart,
  That told of days long past?"--WORDSWORTH.

ERNEST stayed several days at Lord Doningdale's, and every day he rode
out with Valerie, but it was with a large party; and every evening he
conversed with her, but the whole world might have overheard what they
said. In fact, the sympathy that had once existed between the young
dreamer and the proud, discontented woman had in much passed away.
Awakened to vast and grand objects, Maltravers was a dreamer no more.
Inured to the life of trifles she had once loathed, Valerie had settled
down into the usages and thoughts of the common world--she had no longer
the superiority of earthly wisdom over Maltravers, and his romance was
sobered in its eloquence, and her ear dulled to its tone. Still Ernest
felt a deep interest in her, and still she seemed to feel a sensitive
pride in his career.

One evening Maltravers had joined a circle in which Madame de Ventadour,
with more than her usual animation, presided--and to which, in her
pretty, womanly, and thoroughly French way, she was lightly laying down
the law on a hundred subjects--Philosophy, Poetry, Sevres china, and the
balance of power in Europe. Ernest listened to her, delighted, but not
enchanted. Yet Valerie was not natural that night--she was speaking
from forced spirits.

"Well," said Madame de Ventadour at last, tired, perhaps of the part she
had been playing, and bringing to a sudden close an animated description
of the then French court--"well, see now if we ought not to be ashamed
of ourselves--our talk has positively interrupted the music. Did you
see Lord Doningdale stop it with a bow to me, as much as to say, with
his courtly reproof, 'It shall not disturb you, madam'? I will no
longer be accessory to your crime of bad taste!"

With this the Frenchwoman rose, and, gliding through the circle, retired
to the further end of the room. Ernest followed her with his eyes.
Suddenly she beckoned to him, and he approached and seated himself by
her side.

"Mr. Maltravers," said Valerie, then, with great sweetness in her
voice,--"I have not yet expressed to you the delight I have felt from
your genius. In absence you have suffered me to converse with you--your
books have been to me dear friends; as we shall soon part again, let me
now tell you of this, frankly and without compliment."

This paved the way to a conversation that approached more on the
precincts of the past than any they had yet known. But Ernest was
guarded; and Valerie watched his words and looks with an interest she
could not conceal--an interest that partook of disappointment.

"It is an excitement," said Valerie, "to climb a mountain, though it
fatigue; and though the clouds may even deny us a prospect from its
summit--it is an excitement that gives a very universal pleasure, and
that seems almost as if it were the result of a common human instinct
which makes us desire to rise--to get above the ordinary thoroughfares
and level of life. Some such pleasure you must have in intellectual
ambition, in which the mind is the upward traveller."

"It is not the _ambition_ that pleases," replied Maltravers, "it is the
following a path congenial to our tastes, and made dear to us in a short
time by habit. The moments in which we look beyond our work, and fancy
ourselves seated beneath the Everlasting Laurel, are few. It is the
work itself, whether of action or literature, that interests and excites
us. And at length the dryness of toil takes the familiar sweetness of
custom. But in intellectual labour there is another charm--we become
more intimate with our own nature. The heart and the soul grow friends,
as it were, and the affections and the aspirations unite. Thus, we are
never without society--we are never alone; all that we have read,
learned and discovered, is company to us. This is pleasant," added
Maltravers, "to those who have no clear connections in the world
without."

"And is that your case?" asked Valerie, with a timid smile.

"Alas, yes! and since I conquered one affection,--Madame de Ventadour, I
almost think I have outlived the capacity of loving. I believe that
when we cultivate very largely the reason or the imagination, we blunt,
to a certain extent, our young susceptibilities to the fair impressions
of real life. From 'idleness,' says the old Roman poet, 'Love feeds his
torch.'"

"You are too young to talk thus."

"I speak as I feel."

Valerie said no more. Shortly afterwards Lord Doningdale approached
them, and proposed that they should make an excursion the next day to
see the ruins of an old abbey, some few miles distant.



CHAPTER X.

 "If I should meet thee
  After long years,
  How shall I greet thee?"--BYRON.

IT was a smaller party than usual the next day, consisting only of Lord
Doningdale, his son George Herbert, Valerie and Ernest. They were
returning from the ruins, and the sun, now gradually approaching the
west, threw its slant rays over the gardens and houses of a small,
picturesque town, or, perhaps, rather village, on the high North Road.
It is one of the prettiest places in England, that town or village, and
boasts an excellent old-fashioned inn, with a large and quaint
pleasure-garden. It was through the long and straggling street that our
little party slowly rode, when the sky became suddenly overcast, and, a
few large hailstones falling, gave notice of an approaching storm.

"I told you we should not get safely through the day," said George
Herbert. "Now we are in for it."

"George, that is a vulgar expression," said Lord Doningdale, buttoning
up his coat. While he spoke, a vivid flash of lightning darted across
their very path, and the sky grew darker and darker.

"We may as well rest at the inn," said Maltravers: "the storm is coming
on apace, and Madame de Ventadour--"

"You are right," interrupted Lord Doningdale; and he put his horse into
a canter.

They were soon at the door of the old hotel. Bells rang dogs
barked--hostlers ran. A plain, dark, travelling post-chariot was before
the inn-door; and, roused perhaps by the noise below, a lady in the
"first-floor front, No. 2," came to the window. This lady owned the
travelling-carriage, and was at this time alone in that apartment. As
she looked carelessly at the party, her eyes rested on one form--she
turned pale, uttered a faint cry, and fell senseless on the floor.

Meanwhile, Lord Doningdale and his guests were shown into the room next
to that tenanted by the lady. Properly speaking, both the rooms made
one long apartment for balls and county meetings, and the division was
formed by a thin partition, removable at pleasure. The hail now came on
fast and heavy, the trees groaned, the thunder roared; and in the large,
dreary room there was a palpable and oppressive sense of coldness and
discomfort. Valerie shivered--a fire was lighted--and the Frenchwoman
drew near to it.

"You are wet, my dear lady," said Lord Doningdale. "You should take off
that close habit, and have it dried."

"Oh, no; what matters it?" said Valerie bitterly, and almost rudely.

"It matters everything," said Ernest; "pray be ruled."

"And do you care for me?" murmured Valerie.

"Can you ask that question?" replied Ernest, in the same tone, and with
affectionate and friendly warmth.

Meanwhile, the good old lord had summoned the chambermaid, and, with the
kindly imperiousness of a father, made Valerie quit the room. The three
gentlemen, left together, talked of the storm, wondered how long it
would last, and debated the propriety of sending to Doningdale for the
carriage. While they spoke, the hail suddenly ceased, though clouds in
the distant horizon were bearing heavily up to renew the charge. George
Herbert, who was the most impatient of mortals, especially of rainy
weather in a strange place, seized the occasion, and insisted on riding
to Doningdale, and sending back the carriage.

"Surely a groom would do as well, George," said the father.

"My dear father, no; I should envy the rogue too much. I am bored to
death here. Marie will be frightened about us. Brown Bess will take me
back in twenty minutes. I am a hardy fellow, you know. Good-bye."

Away darted the young sportsman, and in two minutes they saw him spur
gaily from the inn-door.

"It is very odd that _I_ should have such a son," said Lord Doningdale,
musingly,--"a son who cannot amuse himself indoors for two minutes
together. I took great pains with his education, too. Strange that
people should weary so much of themselves that they cannot brave the
prospect of a few minutes passed in reflection--that a shower and the
resources of their own thoughts are evils so galling--very strange
indeed. But it is a confounded climate this, certainly. I wonder when
it will clear up."

Thus muttering, Lord Doningdale walked, or rather marched, to and fro
the room, with his hands in his coat pockets, and his whip sticking
perpendicularly out of the right one. Just at this moment the waiter
came to announce that his lordship's groom was without, and desired much
to see him. Lord Doningdale had then the pleasure of learning that his
favourite grey hackney, which he had ridden, winter and summer, for
fifteen years, was taken with shivers, and, as the groom expressed it,
seemed to have "the colic in its bowels!"

Lord Doningdale turned pale, and hurried to the stables without saying a
word.

Maltravers, who, plunged in thought, had not overheard the low and brief
conference between master and groom, remained alone, seated by the fire,
his head buried in his bosom, and his arms folded.

Meanwhile, the lady, who occupied the adjoining chamber, had recovered
slowly from her swoon. She put both hands to her temples, as if trying
to recollect her thoughts. Hers was a fair, innocent, almost childish
face; and now, as a smile shot across it, there was something so sweet
and touching in the gladness it shed over that countenance, that you
could not have seen it without strong and almost painful interest. For
it was the gladness of a person who has known sorrow. Suddenly she
started up, and said: "No, then! I do not dream. He is come back--he
is here--all will be well again! Ha! it is his voice. Oh, bless him,
it is _his_ voice!" She paused, her finger on her lip, her face bent
down. A low and indistinct sound of voices reached her straining ear
through the thin door that divided her from Maltravers. She listened
intently, but she could not overhear the import. Her heart beat
violently. "He is not alone!" she murmured, mournfully. "I will wait
till the sound ceases, and then I will venture in!"

And what was the conversation carried on in that chamber? We must
return to Ernest. He was sitting in the same thoughtful posture when
Madame de Ventadour returned.

The Frenchwoman coloured when she found herself alone with Ernest, and
Ernest himself was not at his ease.

"Herbert has gone home to order the carriage, and Lord Doningdale has
disappeared, I scarce know whither. You do not, I trust, feel the worse
for the rain?"

"No," said Valerie.

"Shall you have any commands in London?" asked Maltravers; "I return to
town to-morrow."

"So soon!" and Valerie sighed. "Ah!" she added, after a pause, "we
shall not meet again for years, perhaps. Monsieur de Ventadour is to be
appointed ambassador to the Court and so--and so--. Well, it is no
matter. What has become of the friendship we once swore to each other?"

"It is here," said Maltravers, laying his hand on his heart. "Here, at
least, lies the half of that friendship which was my charge; and more
than friendship, Valerie de Ventadour--respect--admiration--gratitude.
At a time of life when passion and fancy, most strong, might have left
me an idle and worthless voluptuary, you convinced me that the world has
virtue, and that woman is too noble to be our toy--the idol of to-day,
the victim of to-morrow. Your influence, Valerie, left me a more
thoughtful man--I hope a better one."

"Oh!" said Madame de Ventadour, strongly affected; "I bless you for what
you tell me: you cannot know--you cannot guess how sweet it is to me.
Now I recognise you once more. What--what did my resolution cost me?
Now I am repaid!"

Ernest was moved by her emotion, and by his own remembrances; he took
her hand, and pressing it with frank and respectful tenderness--"I did
not think, Valerie," said he, "when I reviewed the past, I did not think
that you loved me--I was not vain enough for that; but, if so, how much
is your character raised in my eyes--how provident, how wise your
virtue! Happier and better for both, our present feelings, each to
each, than if we had indulged a brief and guilty dream of passion, at
war with all that leaves passion without remorse, and bliss without
alloy. Now--"

"Now," interrupted Valerie, quickly, and fixing on him her dark
eyes--"now you love me no longer! Yet it is better so. Well, I will go
back to my cold and cheerless state of life, and forget once more that
Heaven endowed me with a heart!"

"Ah, Valerie! esteemed, revered, still beloved, not indeed with the
fires of old, but with a deep, undying, and holy tenderness, speak not
thus to me. Let me not believe you unhappy; let me think that, wise,
sagacious, brilliant as you are, you have employed your gifts to
reconcile yourself to a common lot. Still let me look up to you when I
would despise the circles in which you live, and say: 'On that pedestal
an altar is yet placed, to which the heart may bring the offerings of
the soul.'"

"It is in vain--in vain that I struggle," said Valerie, half-choked with
emotion, and clasping her hands passionately. "Ernest, I love you
still--I am wretched to think you love me no more: I would give you
nothing--yet I exact all; my youth is going--my beauty dimmed--my very
intellect is dulled by the life I lead; and yet I ask from you that
which your young heart once felt for me. Despise me, Maltravers, I am
not what I seemed--I am a hypocrite--despise me."

"No," said Ernest, again possessing himself of her hand, and falling on
his knee by her side. "No, never-to-be-forgotten, ever-to-be-honoured
Valerie, hear me." As he spoke, he kissed the hand he held; with the
other, Valerie covered her face and wept bitterly, but in silence.
Ernest paused till the burst of her feelings had subsided, her hand
still in his--still warmed by his kisses--kisses as pure as cavalier
ever impressed on the hand of his queen.

At this time, the door communicating with the next room gently opened.
A fair form--a form fairer and younger than that of Valerie de
Ventadour--entered the apartment; the silence had deceived her--she
believed that Maltravers was alone. She had entered with her heart upon
her lips; love, sanguine, hopeful love, in every vein, in every
thought--she had entered dreaming that across that threshold life would
dawn upon her afresh--that all would be once more as it had been, when
the common air was rapture. Thus she entered; and now she stood
spell-bound, terror-stricken, pale as death--life turned to
stone--youth--hope--bliss were for ever over to her! Ernest kneeling to
another was all she saw! For this had she been faithful and true amidst
storm and desolation; for this had she hoped--dreamed--lived. They did
not note her; she was unseen--unheard. And Ernest, who would have gone
barefoot to the end of the earth to find her, was in the very room with
her, and knew it not!

"Call me again _beloved_!" said Valerie, very softly.

"Beloved Valerie, hear me."

These words were enough for the listener; she turned noiselessly away:
humble as that heart was, it was proud. The door closed on her--she had
obtained the wish of her whole being--Heaven had heard her prayer--she
had once more seen the lover of her youth; and thenceforth all was night
and darkness to her. What matter what became of her? One moment, what
an effect it produces upon years!--ONE MOMENT!--virtue, crime, glory,
shame, woe, rapture, rest upon moments! Death itself is but a moment,
yet Eternity is its successor!

"Hear me!" continued Ernest, unconscious of what had passed--"hear me;
let us be what human nature and worldly forms seldom allow those of
opposite sexes to be--friends to each other, and to virtue also--friends
through time and absence--friends through all the vicissitudes of
life--friends on whose affection shame and remorse never cast a
shade--friends who are to meet hereafter! Oh! there is no attachment so
true, no tie so holy, as that which is founded on the old chivalry of
loyalty and honour; and which is what love would be, if the heart and
the soul were unadulterated by clay."

There was in Ernest's countenance an expression so noble, in his voice a
tone so thrilling, that Valerie was brought back at once to the nature
which a momentary weakness had subdued. She looked at him with an
admiring and grateful gaze, and then said, in a calm but low voice,
"Ernest, I understand you; yes, your friendship is dearer to me than
love."

At this time they heard the voice of Lord Doningdale on the stairs.
Valerie turned away. Maltravers, as he rose, extended his hand; she
pressed it warmly, and the spell was broken, the temptation conquered,
the ordeal passed. While Lord Doningdale entered the room, the
carriage, with Herbert in it, drove to the door. In a few minutes the
little party were within the vehicle. As they drove away, the hostlers
were harnessing the horses to the dark green travelling-carriage. From
the window, a sad and straining eye gazed upon the gayer equipage of the
peer--that eye which Maltravers would have given his whole fortune to
meet again. But he did not look up; and Alice Darvil turned away, and
her fate was fixed!



CHAPTER XI.

 "Strange fits of passion I have known.
   And I will dare to tell."--WORDSWORTH.

 "* * * * * The food of hope
  Is meditated action."--WORDSWORTH.

MALTRAVERS left Doningdale the next day. He had no further conversation
with Valerie; but when he took leave of her, she placed in his hand a
letter, which he read as he rode slowly through the beech avenues of the
park. Translated, it ran thus:


"Others would despise me for the weakness I showed--but you will not!
It is the sole weakness of a life. None can know what I have passed
through--what hours of dejection and gloom. I, whom so many envy!
Better to have been a peasant girl, with love, than a queen whose life
is but a dull mechanism. You, Maltravers, I never forgot in absence;
and your image made yet more wearisome and trite the things around me.
Years passed, and your name was suddenly on men's lips. I heard of you
wherever I went--I could not shut you from me. Your fame was as if you
were conversing by my side. We met at last, suddenly and unexpectedly.
I saw that you loved me no more, and that thought conquered all my
resolves: anguish subdues the nerves of the mind as sickness those of
the body. And thus I forgot, and humbled, and might have undone myself.
Juster and better thoughts are once more awakened within me, and when we
meet again I shall be worthy of your respect. I see how dangerous are
that luxury of thought, that sin of discontent which I indulged. I go
back to life, resolved to vanquish all that can interfere with its
claims and duties. Heaven guide and preserve you, Ernest. Think of me
as one whom you will not blush to have loved--whom you will not blush
hereafter to present to your wife. With so much that is soft, as well
as great within you, you were not formed like me--to be alone.

   "FAREWELL!"


Maltravers read, and re-read this letter; and when he reached his home,
he placed it carefully amongst the things he most valued. A lock of
Alice's hair lay beside it--he did not think that either was dishonoured
by the contact.

With an effort, he turned himself once more to those stern yet high
connections which literature makes with real life. Perhaps there was a
certain restlessness in his heart which induced him ever to occupy his
mind. That was one of the busiest years of his life--the one in which
he did most to sharpen jealousy and confirm fame.



CHAPTER XII.

 "In effect he entered my apartment."--_Gil Blas_.

 "'I am surprised,' said he, 'at the caprice of Fortune,
  who sometimes delights in loading an execrable author
  with favours, whilst she leaves good writers to perish
  for want.'"--_Gil Blas_.

IT was just twelve months after his last interview with Valerie, and
Madame de Ventadour had long since quitted England, when one morning, as
Maltravers sat alone in his study, Castruccio Cesarini was announced.

"Ah, my dear Castruccio, how are you?" cried Maltravers, eagerly, as the
opening door presented the form of the Italian.

"Sir," said Castruccio, with great stiffness, and speaking in French,
which was his wont when he meant to be distant--"sir, I do not come to
renew our former acquaintance--you are a great man [here a bitter
sneer], I an obscure one [here Castruccio drew himself up]--I only come
to discharge a debt to you which I find I have incurred."

"What tone is this, Castruccio; and what debt do you speak of?"

"On my arrival in town yesterday," said the poet solemnly, "I went to
the man whom you deputed some years since to publish my little volume,
to demand an account of its success; and I found that it had cost one
hundred and twenty pounds, deducting the sale of forty-nine copies which
had been sold. _Your_ books sell some thousands, I am told. It is well
contrived--mine fell still-born, no pains were taken with it--no
matter--[a wave of the hand]. You discharged this debt, I repay you:
there is a cheque for the money. Sir, I have done! I wish you a good
day, and health to enjoy _your_ reputation."

"Why, Cesarini, this is folly."

"Sir--"

"Yes, it is folly; for there is no folly equal to that of throwing away
friendship in a world where friendship is so rare. You insinuate that I
am to blame for any neglect which your work experienced. Your publisher
can tell you that I was more anxious about your book than I have ever
been about my own."

"And the proof is that forty-nine copies were sold!"

"Sit down, Castruccio; sit down, and listen to reason;" and Maltravers
proceeded to explain, and soothe, and console. He reminded the poor
poet that his verses were written in a foreign tongue--that even English
poets of great fame enjoyed but a limited sale for their works--that it
was impossible to make the avaricious public purchase what the stupid
public would not take an interest in--in short, he used all those
arguments which naturally suggested themselves as best calculated to
convince and soften Castruccio; and he did this with so much evident
sympathy and kindness, that at length the Italian could no longer
justify his own resentment. A reconciliation took place, sincere on the
part of Maltravers, hollow on the part of Cesarini; for the disappointed
author could not forgive the successful one.

"And how long shall you stay in London?"

"Some months."

"Send for your luggage, and be my guest."

"No; I have taken lodgings that suit me. I am formed for solitude."

"While you stay here, you will, however, go into the world."

"Yes, I have some letters of introduction, and I hear that the English
can honour merit, even in an Italian."

"You hear the truth, and it will amuse you, at least, to see our eminent
men. They will receive you most hospitably. Let me assist you as a
cicerone."

"Oh, your _valuable_ time!"

"Is at your disposal: but where are you going?"

"It is Sunday, and I have had my curiosity excited to hear a celebrated
preacher--Mr. ------, who they tell me, is now more talked of than _any
author_ in London."

"They tell you truly--I will go with you--I myself have not yet heard
him, but proposed to do so this very day."

"Are you not jealous of a man so much spoken of?"

"Jealous!--why, I never set up for a popular preacher!--_ce n'est pas
mon metier_."

"If I were a _successful_ author, I should be jealous if the
dancing-dogs were talked of."

"No, my dear Cesarini, I am sure you would not. You are a little
irritated at present by natural disappointment; but the man who has as
much success as he deserves is never morbidly jealous, even of a rival
in his own line. Want of success sours us; but a little sunshine smiles
away the vapours. Come, we have no time to lose."

Maltravers took his hat, and the two young men bent their way to ------
Chapel. Cesarini still retained the singular fashion of his dress,
though it was now made of handsomer materials, and worn with more
coxcombry and pretension. He had much improved in person--had been
admired in Paris, and told that he looked like a man of genius--and,
with his black ringlets flowing over his shoulders, his long moustache,
his broad Spanish-shaped hat, and eccentric garb, he certainly did not
look like other people. He smiled with contempt at the plain dress of
his companion. "I see," said he, "that you follow the fashion, and look
as if you passed your life with _elegans_ instead of students. I wonder
you condescend to such trifles as fashionably-shaped hats and coats."

"It would be worse trifling to set up for originality in hats and coats,
at least in sober England. I was born a gentleman, and I dress my
outward frame like others of my order. Because I am a writer, why
should I affect to be different from other men?"

"I see that you are not above the weakness of your countryman Congreve,"
said Cesarini, "who deemed it finer to be a gentleman than an author."

"I always thought that anecdote misconstrued. Congreve had a proper and
manly pride, to my judgment, when he expressed a dislike to be visited
merely as a raree-show."

"But is it policy to let the world see that an author is like other
people? Would he not create a deeper personal interest if he showed
that even in person alone he was unlike the herd? He ought to be seen
seldom--not to stale his presence--and to resort to the arts that belong
to the royalty of intellect as well as the royalty of birth."

"I dare say an author, by a little charlatanism of that nature, might be
more talked of--might be more adored in the boarding-schools, and make a
better picture in the exhibition. But I think, if his mind be manly, he
would lose in self-respect at every quackery of the sort. And my
philosophy is, that to respect oneself is worth all the fame in the
world."

Cesarini sneered and shrugged his shoulders; it was quite evident that
the two authors had no sympathy with each other.

They arrived at last at the chapel, and with some difficulty procured
seats.

Presently the service began. The preacher was a man of unquestionable
talent and fervid eloquence; but his theatrical arts, his affected
dress, his artificial tones and gestures; and, above all, the fanatical
mummeries which he introduced into the House of God, disgusted
Maltravers, while they charmed, entranced, and awed Cesarini. The one
saw a mountebank and impostor--the other recognised a profound artist
and an inspired prophet.

But while the discourse was drawing towards a close, while the preacher
was in one of his most eloquent bursts--the ohs! and ahs! of which were
the grand prelude to the pathetic peroration--the dim outline of a
female form, in the distance, riveted the eyes and absorbed the thoughts
of Maltravers. The chapel was darkened, though it was broad daylight;
and the face of the person that attracted Ernest's attention was
concealed by her head-dress and veil. But that bend of the neck, so
simply graceful, so humbly modest, recalled to his heart but one image.
Every one has, perhaps, observed that there is a physiognomy (if the
bull may be pardoned) of _form_ as well as face, which it rarely happens
that two persons possess in common. And this, with most, is peculiarly
marked in the turn of the head, the outline of the shoulders, and the
ineffable something that characterises the postures of each individual
in repose. The more intently he gazed, the more firmly Ernest
was persuaded that he saw before him the long-lost, the
never-to-be-forgotten mistress of his boyish days, and his first love.
On one side of the lady in question sat an elderly gentleman, whose eyes
were fixed upon the preacher; on the other, a beautiful little girl,
with long fair ringlets, and that cast of features which, from its
exquisite delicacy and expressive mildness, painters and poets call the
"angelic." These persons appeared to belong to the same party.
Maltravers literally trembled, so great were his impatience and
agitation. Yet still, the dress of the supposed likeness of Alice, the
appearance of her companions, were so evidently above the ordinary rank,
that Ernest scarcely ventured to yield to the suggestions of his own
heart. Was it possible that the daughter of Luke Darvil, thrown upon
the wide world, could have risen so far beyond her circumstances and
station? At length the moment came when he might resolve his
doubts--the discourse was concluded--the extemporaneous prayer was at an
end--the congregation broke up, and Maltravers pushed his way, as well
as he could, through the dense and serried crowd. But every moment some
vexatious obstruction, in the shape of a fat gentleman or three
close-wedged ladies, intercepted his progress. He lost sight of the
party in question amidst the profusion of tall bonnets and waving
plumes. He arrived at last, breathless and pale as death (so great was
the struggle within him), at the door of the chapel. He arrived in time
to see a plain carriage with servants in grey undress liveries, driving
from the porch--and caught a glimpse, within the vehicle, of the golden
ringlets of a child. He darted forward, he threw himself almost before
the horses. The coachman drew in, and with an angry exclamation, very
much like an oath, whipped his horses aside and went off. But that
momentary pause sufficed.--"It is she--it is! O Heaven, it is Alice!"
murmured Maltravers. The whole place reeled before his eyes, and he
clung, overpowered and unconscious, to a neighbouring lamp-post for
support. But he recovered himself with an agonising effort, as the
thought struck upon this heart that he was about to lose sight of her
again for ever. And he rushed forward, like one frantic, in pursuit of
the carriage. But there was a vast crowd of other carriages, besides
stream upon stream of foot-passengers,--for the great and the gay
resorted to that place of worship, as a fashionable excitement in a dull
day. And after a weary and a dangerous chase, in which he had been
nearly run over three times, Maltravers halted at last, exhausted and in
despair. Every succeeding Sunday, for months, he went to the same
chapel, but in vain; in vain, too, he resorted to every public haunt of
dissipation and amusement. Alice Darvil he beheld no more!



CHAPTER XIII.

        "Tell me, sir,
  Have you cast up your state, rated your land,
  And find it able to endure the charge?"
   _The Noble Gentleman_.

By degrees, as Maltravers sobered down from the first shock of that
unexpected meeting, and from the prolonged disappointment that followed
it, he became sensible of a strange kind of happiness or contentment.
Alice was not in poverty, she was not eating the unhallowed bread of
vice, or earning the bitter wages of laborious penury. He saw her in
reputable, nay, opulent circumstances. A dark nightmare, that had
often, amidst the pleasures of youth, or the triumphs of literature,
weighed upon his breast, was removed. He breathed more freely--he could
sleep in peace. His conscience could no longer say to him, "She who
slept upon thy bosom is a wanderer upon the face of the earth--exposed
to every temptation, perishing perhaps for want." That single sight of
Alice had been like the apparition of the injured Dead conjured up at
Heraclea--whose sight could pacify the aggressor and exorcise the
spectres of remorse. He was reconciled with himself, and walked on to
the Future with a bolder step and a statelier crest. Was she married to
that staid and sober-looking personage whom he had beheld with her? was
that child the offspring of their union? He almost hoped so--it was
better to lose than to destroy her. Poor Alice! could she have dreamed,
when she sat at his feet gazing up into his eyes, that a time would come
when Maltravers would thank Heaven for the belief that she was happy
with another?

Ernest Maltravers now felt a new man: the relief of conscience operated
on the efforts of his genius. A more buoyant and elastic spirit entered
into them--they seemed to breathe as with a second youth.

Meanwhile, Cesarini threw himself into the fashionable world, and to his
own surprise was _feted_ and caressed. In fact, Castruccio was exactly
the sort of person to be made a lion of. The letters of introduction
that he had brought from Paris were addressed to those great personages
in England between whom and personages equally great in France politics
makes a bridge of connection. Cesarini appeared to them as an
accomplished young man, brother-in-law to a distinguished member of the
French Chamber. Maltravers, on the other hand, introduced him to the
literary dilettanti, who admire all authors that are not rivals. The
singular costume of Cesarini, which would have revolted persons in an
Englishman, enchanted them in an Italian. He looked, they said, like a
poet. Ladies like to have verses written to them, and Cesarini, who
talked very little, made up for it by scribbling eternally. The young
man's head soon grew filled with comparisons between himself in London
and Petrarch at Avignon. As he had always thought that fame was in the
gift of lords and ladies, and had no idea of the multitude, he fancied
himself already famous. And, since one of his strongest feelings was
his jealousy of Maltravers, he was delighted at being told he was a much
more interesting creature than that haughty personage, who wore his
neckcloth like other people, and had not even those indispensable
attributes of genius--black curls and a sneer. Fine society, which, as
Madame de Stael well says, depraves the frivolous mind and braces the
strong one, completed the ruin of all that was manly in Cesarini's
intellect. He soon learned to limit his desire of effect or distinction
to gilded saloons; and his vanity contented itself upon the scraps and
morsels from which the lion heart of true ambition turns in disdain.
But this was not all. Cesarini was envious of the greater affluence of
Maltravers. His own fortune was in a small capital of eight or nine
thousand pounds: but, thrown in the midst of the wealthiest society in
Europe, he could not bear to sacrifice a single claim upon its esteem.
He began to talk of the satiety of wealth, and young ladies listened to
him with remarkable interest when he did so--he obtained the reputation
of riches--he was too vain not to be charmed with it. He endeavoured to
maintain the claim by adopting the extravagant excesses of the day. He
bought horses--he gave away jewels--he made love to a marchioness of
forty-two, who was very kind to him and very fond of _ecarte_--he
gambled--he was in the high road to destruction.



BOOK VI.

  Perchance you say that gold's the arch-exceller,
  And to be rich is sweet?--EURIP. _Ion._, line 641.

  * * * 'Tis not to be endured,
  To yield our trodden path and turn aside,
  Giving our place to knaves.--_Ibid._, line 648



CHAPTER I.

 "L'adresse et l'artifice out passe dans mon coeur;
  Qu'ou a sous cet habit et d'esprit et de ruse."*--REGNARD.

* Subtility and craft have taken possession of my heart; but under this
habit one exhibits both shrewdness and wit.

IT was a fine morning in July, when a gentleman who had arrived in town
the night before--after an absence from England of several years--walked
slowly and musingly up the superb thoroughfare which connects the
Regent's park with St. James's.

He was a man, who, with great powers of mind, had wasted his youth in a
wandering vagabond kind of life, but who had worn away the love of
pleasure, and began to awaken to a sense of ambition.

"It is astonishing how this city is improved," said he to himself.
"Everything gets on in this world with a little energy and bustle--and
everybody as well as everything. My old cronies, fellows not half so
clever as I am, are all doing well. There's Tom Stevens, my very fag at
Eton--snivelling little dog he was too!--just made under-secretary of
state. Pearson, whose longs and shorts I always wrote, is now
head-master to the human longs and shorts of a public school--editing
Greek plays, and booked for a bishopric. Collier, I see by the papers,
is leading his circuit--and Ernest Maltravers (but _he_ had some talent)
has made a name in the world. Here am I, worth them all put together,
who have done nothing but spend half my little fortune in spite of all
my economy. Egad, this must have an end. I must look to the main
chance; and yet, just when I want his help the most, my worthy uncle
thinks fit to marry again. Humph--I'm too good for this world."

While thus musing, the soliloquist came in direct personal contact with
a tall gentleman, who carried his head very high in the air, and did not
appear to see that he had nearly thrown our abstracted philosopher off
his legs.

"Zounds, sir, what do you mean?" cried the latter.

"I beg your par--" began the other, meekly, when his arm was seized, and
the injured man exclaimed, "Bless me, sir, is it indeed _you_ whom I
see?"

"Ha!--Lumley?"

"The same; and how fares it, any dear uncle? I did not know you were in
London. I only arrived last night. How well you are looking!"

"Why, yes, Heaven be praised, I am pretty well."

"And happy in your new ties? You must present me to Mrs. Templeton."

"Ehem," said Mr. Templeton, clearing his throat, and with a slight but
embarrassed smile, "I never thought I should marry again."

"_L'homme propose et Dieu dispose_," observed Lumley Ferrers; for it was
he.

"Gently, my dear nephew," replied Mr. Templeton, gravely; "those phrases
are somewhat sacrilegious; I am an old-fashioned person, you know."

"Ten thousand apologies."

"_One_ apology will suffice; these hyperboles of phrase are almost
sinful."

"Confounded old prig!" thought Ferrers; but he bowed sanctimoniously.

"My dear uncle, I have been a wild fellow in my day; but with years
comes reflection; and under your guidance, if I may hope for it, I trust
to grow a wiser and a better man."

"It is well, Lumley," returned the uncle, "and I am very glad to see you
returned to your own country. Will you dine with me to-morrow? I am
living near Fulham. You had better bring your carpet-bag, and stay with
me some days; you will be heartily welcome, especially if you can shift
without a foreign servant. I have a great compassion for papists,
but--"

"Oh, my dear uncle, do not fear; I am not rich enough to have a foreign
servant, and have not travelled over three-quarters of the globe without
learning that it is possible to dispense with a valet."

"As to being rich enough," observed Mr. Templeton, with a calculating
air, "seven hundred and ninety-five pounds ten shillings a year will
allow a man to keep two servants, if he pleases; but I am glad to find
you economical at all events. We meet to-morrow, then, at six o'clock."

"_Au revoir_--I mean, God bless you.

"Tiresome old gentleman that," muttered Ferrers, "and not so cordial as
formerly; perhaps his wife is _enceinte_, and he is going to do me the
injustice of having another heir. I must look to this; for without
riches, I had better go back and live _au cinquieme_ at Paris."

With this conclusion, Lumley quickened his pace, and soon arrived at
Seamore Place. In a few moments more he was in the library well stored
with books, and decorated with marble busts and images from the studios
of Canova and Thorwaldsen.

"My master, sir, will be down immediately," said the servant who
admitted him; and Ferrers threw himself on a sofa, and contemplated the
apartment with an air half envious and half cynical.

Presently the door opened, and "My dear Ferrers!" "Well, _mon cher_,
how are you?" were the salutations hastily exchanged.

After the first sentences of inquiry, gratulation, and welcome, had
cleared the way for more general conversation,--"Well, Maltravers," said
Ferrers, "so here we are together again, and after a lapse of so many
years! both older, certainly; and you, I suppose, wiser. At all events,
people think you so; and that's all that's important in the question.
Why, man, you are looking as young as ever, only a little paler and
thinner; but look at me--I am not very _much_ past thirty, and I am
almost an old man; bald at the temples, crows' feet, too, eh! Idleness
ages one damnably."

"Pooh, Lumley, I never saw you look better. And are you really come to
settle in England?"

"Yes, if I can afford it. But at my age, and after having seen so much,
the life of an idle, obscure _garcon_ does not content me. I feel that
the world's opinion, which I used to despise, is growing necessary to
me. I want to be something. What can I be? Don't look alarmed, I
won't rival you. I dare say literary reputation is a fine thing, but I
desire some distinction more substantial and worldly. You know your own
country; give me a map of the roads to Power."

"To Power! Oh, nothing but law, politics, and riches."

"For law I am too old; politics, perhaps, might suit me; but riches, my
dear Ernest--ah, how I long for a good account with my banker!"

"Well, patience and hope. Are you are not a rich uncle's heir?"

"I don't know," said Ferrers, very dolorously; "the old gentleman has
married again, and may have a family."

"Married!--to whom?"

"A widow, I hear; I know nothing more, except that she has a child
already. So you see she has got into a cursed way of having children.
And perhaps, by the time I'm forty, I shall see a whole covey of cherubs
flying away with the great Templeton property!"

"Ha, ha; your despair sharpens your wit, Lumley; but why not take a leaf
out of your uncle's book, and marry yourself?"

"So I will when I can find an heiress. If that is what you meant to
say--it is a more sensible suggestion than any I could have supposed to
come from a man who writes books, especially poetry: and your advice is
not to be despised. For rich I will be; and as the fathers (I don't
mean of the Church, but in Horace) told the rising generation, the first
thing is to resolve to be rich, it is only the second thing to consider
how."

"Meanwhile, Ferrers, you will be my guest."

"I'll dine with you to-day; but to-morrow I am off to Fulham, to be
introduced to my aunt. Can't you fancy her?--grey _gros-de-Naples_
gown: gold chain with an eyeglass; rather fat; two pugs, and a parrot!
'Start not, this is fancy's sketch!' I have not yet seen the
respectable relative with my physical optics. What shall we have for
dinner? Let me choose, you were always a bad caterer." As Ferrers thus
rattled on, Maltravers felt himself growing younger: old times and old
adventures crowded fast upon him; and the two friends spent a most
agreeable day together. It was only the next morning that Maltravers,
in thinking over the various conversations that had passed between them,
was forced reluctantly to acknowledge that the inert selfishness of
Lumley Ferrers seemed now to have hardened into a resolute and
systematic want of principle, which might, perhaps, make him a dangerous
and designing man, if urged by circumstances into action.



CHAPTER II.

 "_Dauph._ Sir, I must speak to you. I have been long your
  despised kinsman.

 "_Morose._ Oh, what thou wilt, nephew."--EPICENE.

 "Her silence is dowry eno'--exceedingly soft spoken; thrifty
  of her speech, that spends but six words a day."--_Ibid._

THE coach dropped Mr. Ferrers at the gate of a villa about three miles
from town. The lodge-keeper charged himself with the carpet-bag, and
Ferrers strolled, with his hands behind him (it was his favourite mode
of disposing of them), through the beautiful and elaborate
pleasure-grounds.

"A very nice, snug little box (jointure-house, I suppose)! I would not
grudge that, I'm sure, if I had but the rest. But here, I suspect,
comes madam's first specimen of the art of having a family." This last
thought was extracted from Mr. Ferrers's contemplative brain by a lovely
little girl, who came running up to him, fearless and spoilt as she was;
and, after indulging a tolerable stare, exclaimed, "Are you come to see
papa, sir?"

"Papa!--the deuce!"--thought Lumley; "and who is papa, my dear?"

"Why, mamma's husband. He is not my papa by rights."

"Certainly not, my love; not by rights--I comprehend."

"Eh!"

"Yes, I am going to see your papa by wrongs--Mr. Templeton."

"Oh, this way, then."

"You are very fond of Mr. Templeton, my little angel."

"To be sure I am. You have not seen the rocking-horse he is going to
give me."

"Not yet, sweet child! And how is mamma?"

"Oh, poor, dear mamma," said the child, with a sudden change of voice,
and tears in her eyes. "Ah, she is not well!"

"In the family way, to a dead certainty!" muttered Ferrers with a groan:
"but here is my uncle. Horrid name! Uncles were always wicked fellows.
Richard the Third and the man who did something or other to the babes in
the wood were a joke to my hard-hearted old relation, who has robbed me
with a widow! The lustful, liquorish old--My _dear_ sir, I'm so glad to
see you!"

Mr. Templeton, who was a man very cold in his manners, and always either
looked over people's heads or down upon the ground, just touched his
nephew's outstretched hand, and telling him he was welcome, observed
that it was a very fine afternoon.

"Very, indeed; sweet place this; you see, by the way, that I have
already made acquaintance with my fair cousin-in-law. She is very
pretty."

"I really think she is," said Mr. Templeton, with some warmth, and
gazing fondly at the child, who was now throwing buttercups up in the
air, and trying to catch them. Mr. Ferrers wished in his heart that
they had been brickbats!

"Is she like her mother?" asked the nephew.

"Like whom, sir?"

"Her mother--Mrs. Templeton."

"No, not very; there is an air, perhaps, but the likeness is not
remarkably strong. Would you not like to go to your room before
dinner?"

"Thank you. Can I not first be presented to Mrs. Tem--"

"She is at her devotions, Mr. Lumley," interrupted Mr. Templeton,
grimly.

"The she-hypocrite!" thought Ferrers. "Oh, I am delighted that your
pious heart has found so congenial a helpmate!"

"It is a great blessing, and I am grateful for it. This is the way to
the house."

Lumley, now formally installed in a grave bedroom, with dimity curtains
and dark-brown paper with light-brown stars on it, threw himself into a
large chair, and yawned and stretched with as much fervour as if he
could have yawned and stretched himself into his uncle's property. He
then slowly exchanged his morning dress for a quiet suit of black, and
thanked his stars that, amidst all his sins, he had never been a dandy,
and had never rejoiced in a fine waistcoat--a criminal possession that
he well knew would have entirely hardened his uncle's conscience against
him. He tarried in his room till the second bell summoned him to
descend; and then, entering the drawing-room, which had a cold look even
in July, found his uncle standing by the mantelpiece, and a young,
slight, handsome woman, half-buried in a huge but not comfortable
_fauteuil_.

"Your aunt, Mrs. Templeton; madam, my nephew, Mr. Lumley Ferrers," said
Templeton, with a wave of the hand.

"John,--dinner!"

"I hope I am not late!"

"No," said Templeton, gently, for he had always liked his nephew, and
began now to thaw towards him a little on seeing that Lumley put a good
face upon the new state of affairs.

"No, my dear boy--no; but I think order and punctuality cardinal virtues
in a well-regulated family."

"Dinner, sir," said the butler, opening the folding-doors at the end of
the room.

"Permit me," said Lumley, offering his arm to his aunt. "What a lovely
place this is!"

Mrs. Templeton said something in reply, but what it was Ferrers could
not discover, so low and choked was the voice.

"Shy," thought he: "odd for a widow! but that's the way those
husband-buriers take us in!"

Plain as was the general furniture of the apartment, the natural
ostentation of Mr. Templeton broke out in the massive value of the
plate, and the number of the attendants. He was a rich man, and he was
proud of his riches: he knew it was respectable to be rich, and he
thought it was moral to be respectable. As for the dinner, Lumley knew
enough of his uncle's tastes to be prepared for viands and wines that
even he (fastidious gourmand as he was) did not despise.

Between the intervals of eating, Mr. Ferrers endeavoured to draw his
aunt into conversation, but he found all his ingenuity fail him. There
was, in the features of Mrs. Templeton, an expression of deep but calm
melancholy, that would have saddened most persons to look upon,
especially in one so young and lovely. It was evidently something
beyond shyness or reserve that made her so silent and subdued, and even
in her silence there was so much natural sweetness, that Ferrers could
not ascribe her manner to haughtiness or the desire to repel. He was
rather puzzled; "for though," thought he, sensibly enough, "my uncle is
not a youth, he is a very rich fellow; and how any widow, who is married
again to a rich old fellow, can be melancholy, passes my understanding!"

Templeton, as if to draw attention from his wife's taciturnity, talked
more than usual. He entered largely into politics, and regretted that
in times so critical he was not in parliament.

"Did I possess your youth and your health, Lumley, I would not neglect
my country--Popery is abroad."

"I myself should like very much to be in parliament," said Lumley,
boldly.

"I dare say you would," returned the uncle, drily. "Parliament is very
expensive--only fit for those who have a large stake in the country.
Champagne to Mr. Ferrers."

Lumley bit his lip, and spoke little during the rest of the dinner. Mr.
Templeton, however, waxed gracious by the time the dessert was on the
table; and began cutting up a pineapple, with many assurances to Lumley
that gardens were nothing without pineries. "Whenever you settle in the
country, nephew, be sure you have a pinery."

"Oh, yes," said Lumley, almost bitterly, "and a pack of hounds, and a
French cook; they will all suit my fortune very well."

"You are more thoughtful on pecuniary matters than you used to be," said
the uncle.

"Sir," replied Ferrers, solemnly, "in a very short time I shall be what
is called a middle-aged man."

"Humph!" said the host.

There was another silence. Lumley was a man, as we have said, or
implied before, of great knowledge of human nature, at least the
ordinary sort of it, and he now revolved in his mind the various courses
it might be wise to pursue towards his rich relation. He saw that, in
delicate fencing, his uncle had over him the same advantage that a tall
man has over a short one with the physical sword-play;--by holding his
weapon in a proper position, he kept the other at arm's length. There
was a grand reserve and dignity about the man who had something to give
away, of which Ferrers, however actively he might shift his ground and
flourish his rapier, could not break the defence. He determined,
therefore, upon a new game, for which his frankness of manner admirably
adapted him. Just as he formed this resolution, Mrs. Templeton rose,
and with a gentle bow, and soft though languid smile, glided from the
room. The two gentlemen resettled themselves, and Templeton pushed the
bottle to Ferrers.

"Help yourself, Lumley! your travels seem to have deprived you of your
high spirits--you are pensive."

"Sir," said Ferrers, abruptly, "I wish to consult you."

"Oh, young man! you have been guilty of some excess--you have
gambled--you have--"

"I have done nothing, sir, that should make me less worthy your esteem.
I repeat, I wish to consult you; I have outlived the hot days of my
youth--I am now alive to the claims of the world. I have talents, I
believe; and I have application, I know. I wish to fill a position in
the world that may redeem my past indolence, and do credit to my family.
Sir, I set your example before me, and I now ask your counsel, with the
determination to follow it."

Templeton was startled; he half shaded his face with his hand, and gazed
searchingly upon the high forehead and bold eyes of his nephew. "I
believe you are sincere," said he, after a pause.

"You may well believe so, sir."

"Well, I will think of this. I like an honourable ambition--not too
extravagant a one,--_that_ is sinful; but a _respectable_ station in the
world is a proper object of desire, and wealth is a blessing; because,"
added the rich man, taking another slice of the pineapple,--"it enables
us to be of use to our fellow-creatures!"

"Sir, then," said Ferrers, with daring animation--"then I avow that my
ambition is precisely of the kind you speak of. I am obscure, I desire
to be reputably known; my fortune is mediocre, I desire it to be great.
I ask you for nothing--I know your generous heart; but I wish
independently to work out my own career."

"Lumley," said Templeton, "I never esteemed you so much as I do now.
Listen to me--I will confide in you; I think the government are under
obligations to me."

"I know it," exclaimed Ferrers, whose eyes sparkled at the thought of a
sinecure--for sinecures then existed!

"And," pursued the uncle, "I intend to ask them a favour in return."

"Oh, sir!"

"Yes; I think--mark me--with management and address, I may--"

"Well, my dear sir!"

"Obtain a barony for myself and heirs; I trust I shall soon have a
family!"

Had somebody given Lumley Ferrers a hearty cuff on the ear, he would
have thought less of it than of this wind-up of his uncle's ambitious
projects. His jaws fell, his eyes grew an inch larger, and he remained
perfectly speechless.

"Ay," pursued Mr. Templeton, "I have long dreamed this; my character is
spotless, my fortune great. I have ever exerted my parliamentary
influence in favour of ministers; and, in this commercial country, no
man has higher claims than Richard Templeton to the honours of a
virtuous, loyal, and religious state. Yes, my boy,--I like your
ambition--you see I have some of it myself; and since you are sincere in
your wish to tread in my footsteps, I think I can obtain you a junior
partnership in a highly respectable establishment. Let me see; your
capital now is--

"Pardon me, sir," interrupted Lumley, colouring with indignation despite
himself; "I honour commerce much, but my paternal relations are not such
as would allow me to enter into trade. And permit me to add," continued
he, seizing with instant adroitness the new weakness presented to
him--"permit me to add, that those relations, who have been ever kind to
me, would, properly managed, be highly efficient in promoting your own
views of advancement; for your sake I would not break with them. Lord
Saxingham is still a minister--nay, he is in the cabinet."

"Hem--Lumley--hem!" said Templeton, thoughtfully; "we will consider--we
will consider. Any more wine?"

"No, I thank you, sir."

"Then I'll just take my evening stroll, and think over matters. You can
rejoin Mrs. Templeton. And I say, Lumley,--I read prayers at nine
o'clock. Never forget your Maker, and He will not forget you. The
barony will be an excellent thing--eh?--an English peerage--yes--an
English peerage! very different from your beggarly countships abroad!"

So saying, Mr. Templeton rang for his hat and cane, and stepped into the
lawn from the window of the dining-room.

"'The world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open,'" muttered
Ferrers; "I would mould this selfish old man to my purpose; for, since I
have neither genius to write nor eloquence to declaim, I will at least
see whether I have not cunning to plot and courage to act.
Conduct--conduct--conduct--there lies my talent; and what is conduct but
a steady walk from a design to its execution?"

With these thoughts Ferrers sought Mrs. Templeton. He opened the
folding-doors very gently, for all his habitual movements were quick and
noiseless, and perceived that Mrs. Templeton sat by the window, and that
she seemed engrossed with a book which lay open on a little work-table
before her.

"Fordyce's _Advice to Young Married Women_, I suppose. Sly jade!
However, I must not have her against me."

He approached; still Mrs. Templeton did not note him; nor was it till he
stood facing her that he himself observed that her tears were falling
fast over the page.

He was a little embarrassed, and, turning towards the window, affected
to cough, and then said, without looking at Mrs. Templeton, "I fear I
have disturbed you."

"No," answered the same low, stifled voice that had before replied to
Lumley's vain attempts to provoke conversation; "it was a melancholy
employment, and perhaps it is not right to indulge in it."

"May I inquire what author so affected you."

"It is but a volume of poems, and I am no judge of poetry; but it
contains thoughts which--which--" Mrs. Templeton paused abruptly, and
Lumley quietly took up the book.

"Ah!" said he, turning to the title-page--"my friend ought to be much
flattered."

"Your friend?"

"Yes: this, I see, is by Ernest Maltravers, a very intimate ally of
mine."

"I should like to see him," cried Mrs. Templeton, almost with animation.
"I read but little; it was by chance that I met with one of his books,
and they are as if I heard a dear friend speaking to me. Ah! I should
like to see him!"

"I'm sure, madam," said the voice of a third person, in an austere and
rebuking accent, "I do not see what good it would do your immortal soul
to see a man who writes idle verses, which appear to me, indeed, highly
immoral. I just looked into that volume this morning and found nothing
but trash--love-sonnets, and such stuff."

Mrs. Templeton made no reply, and Lumley, in order to change the
conversation, which seemed a little too matrimonial for his taste, said,
rather awkwardly, "You are returned very soon, sir."

"Yes, I don't like walking in the rain!"

"Bless me, it rains, so, it does--I had not observed--"

"Are you wet, sir? had you not better--" began the wife timidly.

"No, ma'am, I'm not wet, I thank you. By the by, nephew, this new
author is a friend of yours. I wonder a man of his family should
condescend to turn author. He can come to no good. I hope you will
drop his acquaintance--authors are very unprofitable associates, I'm
sure. I trust I shall see no more of Mr. Maltravers's books in my
house."

"Nevertheless, he is well thought of, sir, and makes no mean figure in
the world," said Lumley, stoutly; for he was by no means disposed to
give up a friend who might be as useful to him as Mr. Templeton himself.

"Figure or no figure--I have not had many dealings with authors in my
day; and when I had I always repented it. Not sound, sir, not
sound--all cracked somewhere. Mrs. Templeton, have the kindness to get
the Prayer-book--my hassock must be fresh stuffed, it gives me quite a
pain in my knee. Lumley, will you ring the bell? Your aunt is very
melancholy. True religion is not gloomy; we will read a sermon on
Cheerfulness."

"So, so," said Mr. Ferrers to himself, as he undressed that night--"I
see that my uncle is a little displeased with my aunt's pensive face--a
little jealous of her thinking of anything but himself: _tant mieux_. I
must work upon this discovery; it will not do for them to live too
happily with each other. And what with that lever, and what with his
ambitious projects, I think I see a way to push the good things of this
world a few inches nearer to Lumley Ferrers."



CHAPTER III.

 "The pride too of her step, as light
  Along the unconscious earth she went,
  Seemed that of one born with a right
  To walk some heavenlier element."
        _Loves of the Angels._

     "Can it be
  That these fine impulses, these lofty thoughts
  Burning with their own beauty, are but given
  To make me the low slave of vanity?"--_Erinna._

     "Is she not too fair
  Even to think of maiden's sweetest care?
  The mouth and brow are contrasts."--_Ibid._

IT was two or three evenings after the date of the last chapter, and
there was what the newspapers call "a select party" in one of the
noblest mansions in London. A young lady, on whom all eyes were bent,
and whose beauty might have served the painter for a model of Semiramis
or Zenobia, more majestic than became her years, and so classically
faultless as to have something cold and statue-like in its haughty
lineaments, was moving through the crowd that murmured applauses as she
passed. This lady was Florence Lascelles, the daughter of Lumley's
great relation, the Earl of Saxingham, and supposed to be the richest
heiress in England. Lord Saxingham himself drew aside his daughter as
she swept along.

"Florence," said he in a whisper, "the Duke of ------ is greatly struck
with you--be civil to him--I am about to present him."

So saying, the earl turned to a small, dark, stiff-looking man, of about
twenty-eight years of age, at his left, and introduced the Duke of
------ to Lady Florence Lascelles. The duke was unmarried; it was an
introduction between the greatest match and the wealthiest heiress in
the peerage.

"Lady Florence," said Lord Saxingham, "is as fond of horses as yourself,
duke, though not quite so good a judge."

"I confess I _do_ like horses," said the duke, with an ingenuous air.

Lord Saxingham moved away.

Lady Florence stood mute--one glance of bright contempt shot from her
large eyes; her lip slightly curled, and she then half turned aside, and
seemed to forget that her new acquaintance was in existence.

His grace, like most great personages, was not apt to take offence; nor
could he, indeed, ever suppose that any slight towards the Duke of
------ could be intended; still he thought it would be proper in Lady
Florence to begin the conversation; for he himself, though not shy, was
habitually silent, and accustomed to be saved the fatigue of defraying
the small charges of society. After a pause, seeing, however, that Lady
Florence remained speechless, he began:

"You ride sometimes in the Park, Lady Florence?"

"Very seldom."

"It is, indeed, too warm for riding at present."

"I did not say so."

"Hem--I thought you did."

Another pause.

"Did you speak, Lady Florence?"

"No."

"Oh, I beg pardon--Lord Saxingham is looking very well."

"I am glad you think so."

"Your picture in the exhibition scarcely does you justice, Lady
Florence; yet Lawrence is usually happy."

"You are very flattering," said Lady Florence, with a lively and
perceptible impatience in her tone and manner. The young beauty was
thoroughly spoilt--and now all the scorn of a scornful nature was drawn
forth, by observing the envious eyes of the crowd were bent upon one
whom the Duke of ------ was actually talking to. Brilliant as were her
own powers of conversation, she would not deign to exert them--she was
an aristocrat of intellect rather than birth, and she took it into her
head that the duke was an idiot. She was very much mistaken. If she
had but broken up the ice, she would have found that the water below was
not shallow. The duke, in fact, like many other Englishmen, though he
did not like the trouble of showing forth, and had an ungainly manner,
was a man who had read a good deal, possessed a sound head and an
honourable mind, though he did not know what it was to love anybody, to
care much for anything, and was at once perfectly sated and yet
perfectly contented; for apathy is the combination of satiety and
content.

Still Florence judged of him as lively persons are apt to judge of the
sedate; besides, she wanted to proclaim to him and to everybody else,
how little she cared for dukes and great matches; she, therefore, with a
slight inclination of her head, turned away, and extended her hand to a
dark young man, who was gazing on her with that respectful but
unmistakable admiration which proud women are never proud enough to
despise.

"Ah, signor," said she, in Italian, "I am so glad to see you; it is a
relief, indeed, to find genius in a crowd of nothings."

So saying, the heiress seated herself on one of those convenient couches
which hold but two, and beckoned the Italian to her side. Oh, how the
vain heart of Castruccio Cesarini beat!--what visions of love, rank,
wealth, already flitted before him!

"I almost fancy," said Castruccio, "that the old days of romance are
returned, when a queen could turn from princes and warriors to listen to
a troubadour."

"Troubadours are now more rare than warriors and princes," replied
Florence, with gay animation, which contrasted strongly with the
coldness she had manifested to the Duke of ------, "and therefore it
would not now be a very great merit in a queen to fly from dulness and
insipidity to poetry and wit."

"Ah, say not wit," said Cesarini; "wit is incompatible with the grave
character of deep feelings;--incompatible with enthusiasm, with
worship;--incompatible with the thoughts that wait upon Lady Florence
Lascelles."

Florence coloured and slightly frowned; but the immense distinction
between her position and that of the young foreigner, with her own
inexperience, both of real life and the presumption of vain hearts, made
her presently forget the flattery that would have offended her in
another. She turned the conversation, however, into general channels,
and she talked of Italian poetry with a warmth and eloquence worthy of
the theme. While they thus conversed, a new guest had arrived, who,
from the spot where he stood, engaged with Lord Saxingham, fixed a
steady and scrutinising gaze upon the pair.

"Lady Florence has indeed improved," said this new guest. "I could not
have conceived that England boasted any one half so beautiful."

"She certainly is handsome, my dear Lumley,--the Lascelles cast of
countenance," replied Lord Saxingham, "and so gifted! She is positively
learned--quite a _bas bleu_. I tremble to think of the crowd of poets
and painters who will make a fortune out of her enthusiasm. _Entre
nous_, Lumley, I could wish her married to a man of sober sense, like
the Duke of ------; for sober sense is exactly what she wants. Do
observe, she has been sitting just half an hour flirting with that
odd-looking adventurer, a Signor Cesarini, merely because he writes
sonnets and wears a dress like a stage-player!"

"It is the weakness of the sex, my dear lord," said Lumley; "they like
to patronise, and they dote upon all oddities, from China monsters to
cracked poets. But I fancy, by a restless glance cast every now and
then around the room, that my beautiful cousin has in her something of
the coquette."

"There you are quite right, Lumley," returned Lord Saxingham, laughing;
"but I will not quarrel with her for breaking hearts and refusing hands,
if she do but grow steady at last, and settle into the Duchess of
------."

"Duchess of ------!" repeated Lumley, absently; "well, I will go and
present myself. I see she is growing tired of the signor. I will sound
her as to the ducal impressions, my dear lord."

"Do--I dare not," replied the father; "she is an excellent girl, but
heiresses are always contradictory. It was very foolish to deprive me
of all control over her fortune. Come and see me again soon, Lumley. I
suppose you are going abroad?"

"No, I shall settle in England; but of my prospects and plans more
hereafter."

With this, Lumley quietly glided away to Florence. There was something
in Ferrers that was remarkable from its very simplicity. His clear,
sharp features, with the short hair and high brow--the absolute
plainness of his dress, and the noiseless, easy, self-collected calm of
all his motions, made a strong contrast to the showy Italian, by whose
side he now stood. Florence looked up at him with some little surprise
at his intrusion.

"Ah, you don't recollect me!" said Lumley, with his pleasant laugh.
"Faithless Imogen, after all your vows of constancy! Behold your
Alonzo!

   'The worms they crept in and the worms they crept out.'

"Don't you remember how you trembled when I told you that true story, as
we

   'Conversed as we sat on the green"?

"Oh!" cried Florence, "it is indeed you, my dear cousin--my dear Lumley!
What an age since we parted!"

"Don't talk of age--it is an ugly word to a man of my years. Pardon,
signor, if I disturb you."

And here Lumley, with a low bow, slid coolly into the place which
Cesarini, who had shyly risen, left vacant for him. Castruccio looked
disconcerted; but Florence had forgotten him in her delight at seeing
Lumley, and Cesarini moved discontentedly away, and seated himself at a
distance.

"And I come back," continued Lumley, "to find you a confirmed beauty and
a professional coquette--don't blush!"

"Do they, indeed, call me a coquette?"

"Oh, yes,--for once the world is just."

"Perhaps I do deserve the reproach. Oh, Lumley, how I despise all that
I see and hear!"

"What, even the Duke of ------?"

"Yes, I fear even the Duke of ------ is no exception!"

"Your father will go mad if he hear you."

"My father!--my poor father!--yes, he thinks the utmost that I, Florence
Lascelles, am made for, is to wear a ducal coronet, and give the best
balls in London."

"And pray what was Florence Lascelles made for?"

"Ah! I cannot answer the question. I fear for Discontent and Disdain."

"You are an enigma--but I will take pains and not rest till I solve
you."

"I defy you."

"Thanks--better defy than despise.

"Oh, you must be strangely altered, if I can despise you."

"Indeed! what do you remember of me?"

"That you were frank, bold, and therefore, I suppose, true!--that you
shocked my aunts and my father by your contempt for the vulgar
hypocrisies of our conventional life. Oh, no! I cannot despise you."

Lumley raised his eyes to those of Florence--he gazed on her long and
earnestly--ambitious hopes rose high within him.

"My fair cousin," said he, in an altered and serious tone, "I see
something in your spirit kindred to mine; and I am glad that yours is
one of the earliest voices which confirm my new resolves on my return to
busy England!"

"And those resolves?"

"Are an Englishman's--energetic and ambitious."

"Alas, ambition! How many false portraits are there of the great
original!"

Lumley thought he had found a clue to the heart of his cousin, and he
began to expatiate, with unusual eloquence, on the nobleness of that
daring sin which "lost angels heaven." Florence listened to him with
attention, but not with sympathy. Lumley was deceived. His was not an
ambition that could attract the fastidious but high-souled Idealist.
The selfishness of his nature broke out in all the sentiments that he
fancied would seem to her most elevated. Place--power--titles--all
these objects were low and vulgar to one who saw them daily at her feet.

At a distance the Duke of ------ continued from time to time to direct
his cold gaze at Florence. He did not like her the less for not seeming
to court him. He had something generous within him, and could
understand her. He went away at last, and thought seriously of Florence
as a wife. Not a wife for companionship, for friendship, for love; but
a wife who could take the trouble of rank off his hands--do him honour,
and raise him an heir, whom he might flatter himself would be his own.

From his corner also, with dreams yet more vain and daring, Castruccio
Cesarini cast his eyes upon the queen-like brow of the great heiress.
Oh, yes, she had a soul--she could disdain rank and revere genius! What
a triumph over De Montaigne--Maltravers--all the world, if he, the
neglected poet, could win the hand for which the magnates of the earth
sighed in vain! Pure and lofty as he thought himself, it was her birth
and her wealth which Cesarini adored in Florence. And Lumley, nearer
perhaps to the prize than either--yet still far off--went on conversing,
with eloquent lips and sparkling eyes, while his cold heart was planning
every word, dictating every glance, and laying out (for the most worldly
are often the most visionary) the chart for a royal road to fortune.
And Florence Lascelles, when the crowd had dispersed and she sought her
chamber, forgot all three; and with that morbid romance often peculiar
to those for whom Fate smiles the most, mused over the ideal image of
the one she _could_ love--"in maiden meditation _not_ fancy-free!"



CHAPTER IV.

 "In mea vesanas habui dispendia vires,
  Et valui poenas fortis in ipse meas."*--OVID.

* I had the strength of a madman to my own cost, and employed that
strength in my own punishment.

 "Then might my breast be read within,
  A thousand volumes would be written there."
        EARL OF STIRLING.

ERNEST MALTRAVERS was at the height of his reputation; the work which he
had deemed the crisis that was to make or mar him was the most
brilliantly successful of all he had yet committed to the public.
Certainly, chance did as much for it as merit, as is usually the case
with works that become instantaneously popular. We may hammer away at
the casket with strong arm and good purpose, and all in vain; when some
morning a careless stroke hits the right nail on the head, and we secure
the treasure.

It was at this time, when in the prime of youth--rich, courted,
respected, run after--that Ernest Maltravers fell seriously ill. It was
no active or visible disease, but a general irritability of the nerves,
and a languid sinking of the whole frame. His labours began, perhaps,
to tell against him. In earlier life he had been as active as a hunter
of the chamois, and the hardy exercise of his frame counteracted the
effects of a restless and ardent mind. The change from an athletic to a
sedentary habit of life--the wear and tear of the brain--the absorbing
passion for knowledge which day and night kept all his faculties in a
stretch; made strange havoc in a constitution naturally strong. The
poor author! how few persons understand; and forbear with, and pity him!
He sells his health and youth to a rugged taskmaster. And, O blind and
selfish world, you expect him to be as free of manner, and as pleasant
of cheer, and as equal of mood, as if he were passing the most agreeable
and healthful existence that pleasure could afford to smooth the
wrinkles of the mind, or medicine invent to regulate the nerves of the
body. But there was, besides all this, another cause that operated
against the successful man!--His heart was too solitary. He lived
without the sweet household ties--the connections and amities he formed
excited for a moment, but possessed no charm to comfort or to soothe.
Cleveland resided so much in the country, and was of so much calmer a
temperament, and so much more advanced in age, that, with all the
friendship that subsisted between them, there was none of that daily and
familiar interchange of confidence which affectionate natures demand as
the very food of life. Of his brother (as the reader will conjecture
from never having been formally presented to him) Ernest saw but little.
Colonel Maltravers, one of the gayest and handsomest men of his time,
married a fine lady, lived principally at Paris, except when, for a few
weeks in the shooting season, he filled his country house with
companions who had nothing in common with Ernest: the brothers
corresponded regularly every quarter, and saw each other once a
year--this was all their intercourse. Ernest Maltravers stood in the
world alone, with that cold but anxious spectre--Reputation.

It was late at night. Before a table covered with the monuments of
erudition and thought sat a young man with a pale and worn countenance.
The clock in the room told with a fretting distinctness every moment
that lessened the journey to the grave. There was an anxious and
expectant expression on the face of the student, and from time to time
he glanced to the clock, and muttered to himself. Was it a letter from
some adored mistress--the soothing flattery from some mighty arbiter of
arts and letters--that the young man eagerly awaited? No; the aspirer
was forgotten in the valetudinarian. Ernest Maltravers was waiting the
visit of his physician, whom at that late hour a sudden thought had
induced him to summon from his rest. At length the well-known knock was
heard, and in a few moments the physician entered. He was one well
versed in the peculiar pathology of book men, and kindly as well as
skilful.

"My dear Mr. Maltravers, what is this? How are we?--not seriously ill,
I hope--no relapse--pulse low and irregular, I see, but no fever. You
are nervous."

"Doctor," said the student, "I did not send for you at this time of
night from the idle fear or fretful caprice of an invalid. But when I
saw you this morning, you dropped some hints which have haunted me ever
since. Much that it befits the conscience and the soul to attend to
without loss of time depends upon my full knowledge of my real state.
If I understand you rightly, I may have but a short time to live--is it
so?"

"Indeed!" said the doctor, turning away his face; "you have exaggerated
my meaning. I did not say that you were in what we technically call
danger."

"Am I then likely to be a _long_-lived man?"

The doctor coughed--"That is uncertain, my dear young friend," said he,
after a pause.

"Be plain with me. The plans of life must be based upon such
calculations as we can reasonably form of its probable duration. Do not
fancy that I am weak enough or coward enough to shrink from any abyss
which I have approached unconsciously; I desire--I adjure--nay, I
command you to be explicit."

There was an earnest and solemn dignity in his patient's voice and
manner which deeply touched and impressed the good physician.

"I will answer you frankly," said he; "you overwork the nerves and the
brain; if you do not relax, you will subject yourself to confirmed
disease and premature death. For several months--perhaps for years to
come--you should wholly cease from literary labour. Is this a hard
sentence? You are rich and young--enjoy yourself while you can."

Maltravers appeared satisfied--changed the conversation--talked easily
on other matters for a few minutes: nor was it till he had dismissed his
physician that he broke forth with the thoughts that were burning in
him.

"Oh!" cried he aloud, as he rose and paced the room with rapid strides;
"now, when I see before me the broad and luminous path, am I to be
condemned to halt and turn aside? A vast empire rises on my view,
greater than that of Caesars and conquerors--an empire durable and
universal in the souls of men, that time itself cannot overthrow; and
Death marches with me, side by side, and the skeleton hand waves me back
to the nothingness of common men."

He paused at the casement--he threw it open, and leant forth and gasped
for air. Heaven was serene and still, as morning came coldly forth
amongst the waning stars; and the haunts of men, in their thoroughfare
of idleness and of pleasure, were desolate and void. Nothing, save
Nature, was awake.

"And if, O stars!" murmured Maltravers, from the depth of his excited
heart--"if I have been insensible to your solemn beauty--if the Heaven
and the Earth had been to me but as air and clay--if I were one of a
dull and dim-eyed herd--I might live on, and drop into the grave from
the ripeness of unprofitable years. It is because I yearn for the great
objects of an immortal being, that life shrinks and shrivels up like a
scroll. Away! I will not listen to these human and material monitors,
and consider life as a thing greater than the things that I would live
for. My choice is made, glory is more persuasive than the grave."

He turned impatiently from the casement--his eyes flashed--his chest
heaved--he trod the chamber with a monarch's air. All the calculations
of prudence, all the tame and methodical reasonings with which, from
time to time, he had sought to sober down the impetuous man into the
calm machine, faded away before the burst of awful and commanding
passions that swept over his soul. Tell a man, in the full tide of his
triumphs, that he bears death within him; and what crisis of thought can
be more startling and more terrible!

Maltravers had, as we have seen, cared little for fame, till fame had
been brought within his reach: then, with every step he took, new Alps
had arisen. Each new conjecture brought to light a new truth that
demanded enforcement or defence. Rivalry and competition chafed his
blood, and kept his faculties at their full speed. He had the generous
race-horse spirit of emulation. Ever in action, ever in progress,
cheered on by the sarcasms of foes, even more than by the applause of
friends, the desire of glory had become the habit of existence. When we
have commenced a career, what stop is there till the grave?--where is
the definite barrier of that ambition which, like the eastern bird,
seems ever on the wing, and never rests upon the earth? Our names are
not settled till our death: the ghosts of what we have done are made our
haunting monitors--our scourging avengers--if ever we cease to do, or
fall short of the younger past. Repose is oblivion; to pause is to
unravel all the web that we have woven--until the tomb closes over us,
and men, just when it is too late, strike the fair balance between
ourselves and our rivals; and we are measured, not by the least, but by
the greatest triumphs we have achieved. Oh, what a crushing sense of
impotence comes over us, when we feel that our frame cannot support our
mind--when the hand can no longer execute what the soul, actively as
ever, conceives and desires!--the quick life tied to the dead form--the
ideas fresh as immortality, gushing forth rich and golden, and the
broken nerves, and the aching frame, and the weary eyes!--the spirit
athirst for liberty and heaven--and the damning, choking consciousness
that we are walled up and prisoned in a dungeon that must be our
burial-place! Talk not of freedom--there is no such thing as freedom to
a man whose body is the gaol, whose infirmities are the racks, of his
genius!

Maltravers paused at last, and threw himself on his sofa, wearied and
exhausted. Involuntarily, and as a half unconscious means of escaping
from his conflicting and profitless emotions, he turned to several
letters, which had for hours lain unopened on his table. Every one, the
seal of which he broke, seemed to mock his state--every one seemed to
attest the felicity of his fortunes. Some bespoke the admiring sympathy
of the highest and wisest--one offered him a brilliant opening into
public life--another (it was from Cleveland) was fraught with all the
proud and rapturous approbation of a prophet whose auguries are at last
fulfilled. At that letter Maltravers sighed deeply, and paused before
he turned to the others. The last he opened was in an unknown hand, nor
was any name affixed to it. Like all writers of some note, Maltravers
was in the habit of receiving anonymous letters of praise, censure,
warning, and exhortation--especially from young ladies at boarding
schools, and old ladies in the country; but there was that in the first
sentences of the letter, which he now opened with a careless hand, that
riveted his attention. It was a small and beautiful handwriting, yet
the letters were more clear and bold than they usually are in feminine
caligraphy.

"Ernest Maltravers," began this singular effusion, "have you weighed
yourself? Are you aware of your capacities? Do you feel that for you
there may be a more dazzling reputation that that which appears to
content you? You who seem to penetrate into the subtlest windings of
the human heart, and to have examined nature as through a glass--you,
whose thoughts stand forth like armies marshalled in defence of truth,
bold and dauntless, and without a stain upon their glittering
armour;--are you, at your age, and with your advantages, to bury
yourself amidst books and scrolls? Do you forget that action is the
grand career for men who think as you do? Will this word-weighing and
picture-writing--the cold eulogies of pedants--the listless praises of
literary idlers, content all the yearnings of your ambition? You were
not made solely for the closet; 'The Dreams of Pindus, and the Aonian
Maids' cannot endure through the noon of manhood. You are too practical
for the mere poet, and too poetical to sink into the dull tenor of a
learned life. I have never seen you, yet I know you--I read your spirit
in your page; that aspiration for something better and greater than the
great and the good, which colours all your passionate revelations of
yourself and others--cannot be satisfied merely by ideal images. You
cannot be contented, as poets and historians mostly are, by becoming
great only from delineating great men, or imagining great events, or
describing a great era. Is it not worthier of you to be what you fancy
or relate? Awake, Maltravers, awake! Look into your heart, and feel
your proper destinies. And who am I that thus address you?--a woman
whose soul is filled with you--a woman in whom your eloquence has
awakened, amidst frivolous and vain circles, the sense of a new
existence--a woman who would make you, yourself, the embodied ideal of
your own thoughts and dreams, and who would ask from earth no other lot
than that of following you on the road of fame with the eyes of her
heart. Mistake me not; I repeat that I have never seen you, nor do I
wish it; you might be other than I imagine, and I should lose an idol,
and be left without a worship. I am a kind of visionary Rosicrucian: it
is a spirit that I adore, and not a being like myself. You imagine,
perhaps, that I have some purpose to serve in this--I have no object in
administering to your vanity; and if I judge you rightly, this letter is
one that might make you vain without a blush. Oh, the admiration that
does not spring from holy and profound sources of emotion--how it
saddens us or disgusts! I have had my share of vulgar homage, and it
only makes me feel doubly alone. I am richer than you are--I have
youth--I have what they call beauty. And neither riches, youth, nor
beauty ever gave me the silent and deep happiness I experience when I
think of you. This is a worship that might, I repeat, well make even
you vain. Think of these words, I implore you. Be worthy, not of my
thoughts, but of the shape in which they represent you: and every ray of
glory that surrounds you will brighten my own way, and inspire me with a
kindred emulation. Farewell.--I may write to you again, but you will
never discover me; and in life I pray that we may never meet!"



CHAPTER V.

 "Our list of nobles next let Amri grace."
        _Absalom and Achitophel_.

 "Sine me vacivum tempus ne quod dem mihi Laboris."*--TER.

* Suffer me to employ my spare time in some kind of labour.

"I CAN'T think," said one of a group of young men, loitering by the
steps of a clubhouse in St. James's Street--"I can't think what has
chanced to Maltravers. Do you observe (as he walks--there--the other
side of the way) how much he is altered? He stoops like an old man, and
hardly ever lifts his eyes from the ground. He certainly seems sick and
sad."

"Writing books, I suppose."

"Or privately married."

"Or growing too rich--rich men are always unhappy beings."

"Ha, Ferrers, how are you?"

"So-so. What's the news?" replied Lumley.

"Rattler pays forfeit."

"O! but in politics?"

"Hang politics--are you turned politician?"

"At my age, what else is there left to do?"

"I thought so, by your hat; all politicians sport odd-looking hats: it
is very remarkable, but that is the great symptom of the disease."

"My hat!--_is_ it odd?" said Ferrers, taking off the commodity in
question, and seriously regarding it.

"Why, who ever saw such a brim?"

"Glad you think so."

"Why, Ferrers?"

"Because it is a prudent policy in this country to surrender something
trifling up to ridicule. If people can abuse your hat or your carriage,
or the shape of your nose, or a wart on your chin, they let slip a
thousand more important matters. 'Tis the wisdom of the camel-driver,
who gives up his gown for the camel to trample on, that he may escape
himself."

"How droll you are, Ferrers! Well, I shall turn in, and read the
papers; and you--"

"Shall pay my visits and rejoice in my hat."

"Good day to you; by the by, your friend, Maltravers, has just passed,
looking thoughtful, and talking to himself. What's the matter with
him?"

"Lamenting, perhaps, that he, too, does not wear an odd hat for
gentlemen like you to laugh at, and leave the rest of him in peace.
Good day."

On went Ferrers, and soon found himself in the Mall of the Park. Here
he was joined by Mr. Templeton.

"Well, Lumley," said the latter (and it may be here remarked that Mr.
Templeton now exhibited towards his nephew a greater respect of manner
and tone than he had thought it necessary to observe before)--"well,
Lumley, and have you seen Lord Saxingham?"

"I have, sir; and I regret to say--"

"I thought so--I thought it," interrupted Templeton: "no gratitude in
public men--no wish, in high place, to honour virtue!"

"Pardon me; Lord Saxingham declares that he should be delighted to
forward your views--that no man more deserves a peerage; but that--"

"Oh, yes; always _buts_!"

"But that there are so many claimants at present whom it is impossible
to satisfy; and--and--but I feel I ought not to go on."

"Proceed, sir, I beg."

"Why, then, Lord Saxingham is (I must be frank) a man who has a great
regard for his own family. Your marriage (a source, my dear uncle, of
the greatest gratification to _me_) cuts off the probable chance of your
fortune and title, if you acquire the latter, descending to--"

"Yourself!" put in Templeton, drily. "Your relation seems, for the
first time, to have discovered how dear your interests are to him."

"For me, individually, sir, my relation does not care a rush--but he
cares a great deal for any member of his house being rich and in high
station. It increases the range and credit of his connections; and Lord
Saxingham is a man whom connections help to keep great. To be plain
with you, he will not stir in this business, because he does not see how
his kinsman is to be benefited, or his house strengthened."

"Public virtue!" exclaimed Templeton.

"Virtue, my dear uncle, is a female: as long as she is private property,
she is excellent; but public virtue, like any other public lady, is a
common prostitute."

"Pshaw!" grunted Templeton, who was too much out of humour to read his
nephew the lecture he might otherwise have done upon the impropriety of
his simile; for Mr. Templeton was one of those men who hold it vicious
to talk of vice as existing in the world; he was very much shocked to
hear anything called by its proper name.

"Has not Mrs. Templeton some connections that may be useful to you?"

"No, sir!" cried the uncle, in a voice of thunder.

"Sorry to hear it--but we cannot expect all things: you have married for
love--you have a happy home, a charming wife--this is better than a
title and a fine lady."

"Mr. Lumley Ferrers, you may spare me your consolations. My wife--"

"Loves you dearly, I dare say," said the imperturbable nephew. "She has
so much sentiment, is so fond of poetry. Oh, yes, she must love one who
has done so much for her."

"Done so much; what do you mean?"

"Why, with your fortune--your station--your just ambition--you, who
might have married any one; nay, by remaining unmarried, have
conciliated all my interested, selfish relations--hang them--you have
married a lady without connections--and what more could you do for her?"

"Pooh, pooh; you don't know all."

Here Templeton stopped short, as if about to say too much, and frowned;
then, after a pause, he resumed, "Lumley, I have married, it is true.
You may not be my heir, but I will make it up to you--that is, if you
deserve my affection."

"My dear unc--"

"Don't interrupt me, I have projects for you. Let our interests be the
same. The title may yet descend to you. I may have no male
offspring--meanwhile, draw on me to any reasonable amount--young men
have expenses--but be prudent, and if you want to get on in the world,
never let the world detect you in a scrape. There, leave me now."

"My best, my heartfelt thanks!"

"Hush--sound Lord Saxingham again; I must and will have this bauble--I
have set my heart on it." So saying, Templeton waved away his nephew,
and musingly pursued his path towards Hyde Park Corner, where his
carriage awaited him. As soon as he entered his demesnes, he saw his
wife's daughter running across the lawn to greet him. His heart
softened; he checked the carriage and descended: he caressed her, he
played with her, he laughed as she laughed. No parent could be more
fond.

"Lumley Ferrers has talent to do me honour," said he, anxiously, "but
his principles seem unstable. However, surely that open manner is the
sign of a good heart."

Meanwhile, Ferrers, in high spirits, took his way to Ernest's house.
His friend was not at home, but Ferrers never wanted a host's presence
in order to be at home himself. Books were round him in abundance, but
Ferrers was not one of those who read for amusement. He threw himself
into an easy-chair, and began weaving new meshes of ambition and
intrigue. At length the door opened, and Maltravers entered.

"Why, Ernest, how ill you are looking!"

"I have not been well, but I am now recovering. As physicians recommend
change of air to ordinary patients--so I am about to try change of
habit. Active I must be--action is the condition of my being; but I
must have done with books from the present. You see me in a new
character."

"How?"

"That of a public man--I have entered parliament."

"You astonish me!--I have read the papers this morning. I see not even
a vacancy, much less an election."

"It is all managed by the lawyer and the banker. In other words, my
seat is a close borough."

"No bore of constituents. I congratulate you, and envy. I wish I were
in parliament myself."

"You! I never fancied you bitten by the political mania."

"Political!--no. But it is the most respectable way, with luck, of
living on the public. Better than swindling."

"A candid way of viewing the question. But I thought at one time you
were half a Benthamite, and that your motto was, 'The greatest happiness
of the greatest number.'"

"The greatest number to me is number _one_. I agree with the
Pythagoreans--unity is the perfect principle of creation! Seriously,
how can you mistake the principles of opinion for the principles of
conduct? I am a Benthamite, a benevolist, as a logician--but the moment
I leave the closet for the world, I lay aside speculation for others,
and act for myself."

"You are, at least, more frank than prudent in these confessions."

"There you are wrong. It is by affecting to be worse than we are that
we become popular--and we get credit for being both honest and practical
fellows. My uncle's mistake is to be a hypocrite in words: it rarely
answers. Be frank in words, and nobody will suspect hypocrisy in your
designs."

Maltravers gazed hard at Ferrers--something revolted and displeased his
high-wrought Platonism in the easy wisdom of his old friend. But he
felt, almost for the first time, that Ferrers was a man to get on in the
world--and he sighed; I hope it was for the world's sake.

After a short conversation on indifferent matters, Cleveland was
announced; and Ferrers, who could make nothing out of Cleveland, soon
withdrew. Ferrers was now becoming an economist in his time.

"My dear Maltravers," said Cleveland, when they were alone, "I am so
glad to see you; for, in the first place, I rejoice to find you are
extending your career of usefulness."

"Usefulness--ah, let me think so! Life is so uncertain and so short,
that we cannot too soon bring the little it can yield into the great
commonwealth of the Beautiful or the Honest; and both belong to and make
up the Useful. But in politics, and in a highly artificial state, what
doubts beset us! what darkness surrounds! If we connive at abuses, we
juggle with our own reason and integrity--if we attack them, how much,
how fatally we may derange that solemn and conventional ORDER which is
the mainspring of the vast machine! How little, too, can one man, whose
talents may not be in that coarse road--in that mephitic atmosphere, be
enabled to effect!"

"He may effect a vast deal even without eloquence or labour:--he may
effect a vast deal, if he can set one example, amidst a crowd of selfish
aspirants and heated fanatics, of an honest and dispassionate man. He
may effect more, if he may serve among the representatives of that
hitherto unrepresented thing--Literature; if he redeem, by an ambition
above place and emolument, the character for subservience that
court-poets have obtained for letters--if he may prove that speculative
knowledge is not disjoined from the practical world, and maintain the
dignity of disinterestedness that should belong to learning. But the
end of a scientific morality is not to serve others only, but also to
perfect and accomplish our individual selves; our own souls are a solemn
trust to our own lives. You are about to add to your experience of
human motives and active men; and whatever additional wisdom you acquire
will become equally evident and equally useful, no matter whether it be
communicated through action or in books. Enough of this, my dear
Ernest. I have come to dine with you, and make you accompany me
to-night to a house where you will be welcome, and I think interested.
Nay, no excuses. I have promised Lord Latimer that he shall make your
acquaintance, and he is one of the most eminent men with whom political
life will connect you."

And to this change of habits, from the closet to the senate, had
Maltravers been induced by a state of health, which, with most men,
would have been an excuse for indolence. Indolent he could not be; he
had truly said to Ferrers, that "action was the condition of his being."
If THOUGHT, with its fever and aching tension, had been too severe a
taskmaster on the nerves and brain, the coarse and homely pursuit of
practical politics would leave the imagination and intellect in repose,
while it would excite the hardier qualities and gifts, which animate
without exhausting. So, at least, hoped Maltravers. He remembered the
profound saying in one of his favourite German authors, "that to keep
the mind and body in perfect health, it is necessary to mix habitually
and betimes in the common affairs of men." And the anonymous
correspondent;--had her exhortations any influence on his decision? I
know not. But when Cleveland left him, Maltravers unlocked his desk,
and re-perused the last letter he had received from the Unknown. The
_last_ letter!--yes, those epistles had now become frequent.



CHAPTER VI.

 * * * * "Le brillant de votre esprit donne un si grand
  eclat a votre teint et a vos yeux, que quoiqu'il semble
  que l'esprit ne doit toucher que les oreilles, il est
  pourtaut certain que la votre eblouit les yeux."*
        _Lettres de Madame de Sevigne_.

* The brilliancy of your wit gives so great a lustre to your complexion
and your eyes, that, though it seems that wit should only reach the
ears, it is altogether certain that yours dazzles the eyes.

AT Lord Latimer's house were assembled some hundreds of those persons
who are rarely found together in London society; for business, politics,
and literature draught off the most eminent men, and usually leave to
houses that receive the world little better than indolent rank or
ostentatious wealth. Even the young men of pleasure turn up their noses
at parties now-a-days, and find society a bore. But there are some
dozen or two of houses, the owners of which are both apart from and
above the fashion, in which a foreigner may see, collected under the
same roof, many of the most remarkable men of busy, thoughtful, majestic
England. Lord Latimer himself had been a cabinet minister. He retired
from public life on pretence of ill-health; but, in reality, because its
anxious bustle was not congenial to a gentle and accomplished, but
somewhat feeble, mind. With a high reputation and an excellent cook he
enjoyed a great popularity, both with his own party and the world in
general; and he was the centre of a small, but distinguished circle of
acquaintances, who drank Latimer's wine, and quoted Latimer's sayings,
and liked Latimer much better, because, not being author or minister, he
was not in their way.

Lord Latimer received Maltravers with marked courtesy, and even
deference, and invited him to join his own whist-table, which was one of
the highest compliments his lordship could pay to his intellect. But
when his guest refused the proffered honour, the earl turned him over to
the countess, as having become the property of the womankind; and was
soon immersed in his aspirations for the odd trick.

Whilst Maltravers was conversing with Lady Latimer, he happened to raise
his eyes, and saw opposite to him a young lady of such remarkable
beauty, that he could scarcely refrain from an admiring
exclamation.--"And who," he asked, recovering himself, "is that lady?
It is strange that even I, who go so little into the world, should be
compelled to inquire the name of one whose beauty must already have made
her celebrated."

"Oh, Lady Florence Lascelles--she came out last year. She is, indeed,
most brilliant, yet more so in mind and accomplishments than face. I
must be allowed to introduce you."

At this offer, a strange shyness, and as it were reluctant distrust,
seized Maltravers--a kind of presentiment of danger and evil. He drew
back, and would have made some excuse, but Lady Latimer did not heed his
embarrassment, and was already by the side of Lady Florence Lascelles.
A moment more, and beckoning to Maltravers, the countess presented him
to the lady. As he bowed and seated himself beside his new
acquaintance, he could not but observe that her cheeks were suffused
with the most lively blushes, and that she received him with a confusion
not common even in ladies just brought out, and just introduced to "a
lion." He was rather puzzled than flattered by these tokens of an
embarrassment, somewhat akin to his own; and the first few sentences of
their conversation passed off with a certain awkwardness and reserve.
At this moment, to the surprise, perhaps to the relief, of Ernest, they
were joined by Lumley Ferrers.

"Ah, Lady Florence, I kiss your hands--I am charmed to find you
acquainted with my friend Maltravers."

"And Mr. Ferrers, what makes him so late to-night?" asked the fair
Florence, with a sudden ease, which rather startled Maltravers.

"A dull dinner, _voila tout_--I have no other excuse." And Ferrers,
sliding into a vacant chair on the other side of Lady Florence,
conversed volubly and unceasingly, as if seeking to monopolise her
attention.

Ernest had not been so much captivated with the manner of Florence as he
had been struck with her beauty, and now, seeing her apparently engaged
with another, he rose and quietly moved away. He was soon one of a knot
of men who were conversing on the absorbing topics of the day; and as by
degrees the exciting subject brought out his natural eloquence and
masculine sense, the talkers became listeners, the knot widened into a
circle, and he himself was unconsciously the object of general attention
and respect.

"And what think you of Mr. Maltravers?" asked Ferrers, carelessly; "does
he keep up your expectations?"

Lady Florence had sunk into a reverie, and Ferrers repeated his
question.

"He is younger than I imagined him,--and--and--"

"Handsomer, I suppose, you mean."

"No! calmer and less animated."

"He seems animated enough now," said Ferrers; "but your ladylike
conversation failed in striking the Promethean spark. 'Lay that
flattering unction to your soul.'"

"Ah, you are right--he must have thought me very--"

"Beautiful, no doubt."

"Beautiful!--I hate the word, Lumley. I wish I were not handsome--I
might then get some credit for my intellect."

"Humph!" said Ferrers, significantly.

"Oh, you don't think so, sceptic," said Florence, shaking her head with
a slight laugh, and an altered manner.

"Does it matter what I think," said Ferrers, with an attempted touch at
the sentimental, "when Lord This, and Lord That, and Mr. So-and-so, and
Count What-d'ye-call-him, are all making their way to you, to dispossess
me of my envied monopoly?"

While Ferrers spoke, several of the scattered loungers grouped around
Florence, and the conversation, of which she was the cynosure, became
animated and gay. Oh, how brilliant she was, that peerless
Florence!--with what petulant and sparkling grace came wit and wisdom,
and even genius, from those ruby lips! Even the assured Ferrers felt
his subtle intellect as dull and coarse to hers, and shrank with a
reluctant apprehension from the arrows of her careless and prodigal
repartees. For there was a scorn in the nature of Florence Lascelles
which made her wit pain more frequently than it pleased. Educated even
to learning--courageous even to a want of feminacy--she delighted to
sport with ignorance and pretension, even in the highest places; and the
laugh that she excited was like lightning;--no one could divine where
next it might fall.

But Florence, though dreaded and unloved, was yet courted, flattered,
and the rage. For this there were two reasons: first, she was a
coquette, and secondly, she was an heiress.

Thus the talkers in the room were divided into two principal groups,
over one of which Maltravers may be said to have presided; over the
other, Florence. As the former broke up, Ernest was joined by
Cleveland.

"My dear cousin," said Florence, suddenly, and in a whisper, as she
turned to Lumley, "your friend is speaking of me--I see it. Go, I
implore you, and let me know what he says!"

"The commission is not flattering," said Ferrers, almost sullenly.

"Nay, a commission to gratify a woman's curiosity is ever one of the
most flattering embassies with which we can invest an able negotiator."

"Well, I must do your bidding, though I disown the favour." Ferrers
moved away, and joined Cleveland and Maltravers.

"She is, indeed, beautiful: so perfect a contour I never beheld: she is
the only woman I ever saw in whom the aquiline features seem more
classical than even the Greek."

"So, that is your opinion of my fair cousin!" cried Ferrers, "you are
caught."

"I wish he were," said Cleveland. "Ernest is now old enough to settle,
and there is not a more dazzling prize in England--rich, high-born,
lovely, and accomplished."

"And what say you?" asked Lumley, almost impatiently, to Maltravers.

"That I never saw one whom I admire more or could love less," replied
Ernest, as he quitted the rooms.

Ferrers looked after him, and muttered to himself; he then rejoined
Florence, who presently rose to depart, and taking Lumley's arm, said,
"Well, I see my father is looking round for me--and so for once I will
forestall him. Come, Lumley, let us join him; I know he wants to see
you.

"Well?" said Florence, blushing deeply, and almost breathless, as they
crossed the now half-empty apartments.

"Well, my cousin?"

"You provoke me--well, then, what said your friend?"

"That you deserved your reputation of beauty, but that you were not his
style. Maltravers is in love, you know."

"In love?"

"Yes, a pretty Frenchwoman! quite romantic--an attachment of some years'
standing."

Florence turned away her face, and said no more.

"That's a good fellow, Lumley," said Lord Saxingham; "Florence is never
more welcome to my eyes than at half-past one o'clock A.M., when I
associate her with thoughts of my natural rest, and my unfortunate
carriage-horses. By the by, I wish you would dine with me next
Saturday."

"Saturday: unfortunately I am engaged to my uncle."

"Oh! he has behaved handsomely to you?"

"Yes."

"Mrs. Templeton pretty well?"

"I fancy so."

"As ladies wish to be, etc.?" whispered his lordship.

"No, thank Heaven!"

"Well, if the old man could but make you his heir, we might think twice
about the title."

"My dear lord, stop! one favour--write me a line to hint that
delicately."

"No--no letters; letters always get into the papers."

"But cautiously worded--no danger of publication, on my honour."

"I'll think of it. Good night."



BOOK VII.

 Every man should strive to be as good as possible, but not
 suppose himself to be the only thing that is good.
        --PLOTIN. EN. 11. lib. ix. c. 9.



CHAPTER I.

 "Deceit is the strong but subtle chain which runs through
  all the members of a society, and links them together;
  trick or be tricked is the alternative; 'tis the way of
  the world, and without it intercourse would drop."
        _Anonymous writer_ of 1722.

 "A lovely child she was, of looks serene,
  And motions which o'er things indifferent shed
  The grace and gentleness from whence they came."
        PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.

 "His years but young, but his experience old."--SHAKESPEARE.

 "He after honour hunts, I after love."--_Ibid._

LUMLEY FERRERS was one of the few men in the world who act upon a
profound, deliberate, and organized system--he had done so even from a
boy. When he was twenty-one, he had said to himself, "Youth is the
season for enjoyment: the triumphs of manhood, the wealth of age, do not
compensate for a youth spent in unpleasurable toils." Agreeably to this
maxim, he had resolved not to adopt any profession; and being fond of
travel, and of a restless temper, he had indulged abroad in all the
gratifications that his moderate income could afford him: that income
went farther on the Continent than at home, which was another reason for
the prolongation of his travels. Now, when the whims and passions of
youth were sated; and, ripened by a consummate and various knowledge of
mankind, his harder capacities of mind became developed and centred into
such ambition as it was his nature to conceive, he acted no less upon a
regular and methodical plan of conduct, which he carried into details.
He had little or nothing within himself to cross his cold theories by
contradictory practice; for he was curbed by no principles and regulated
but by few tastes: and our tastes are often checks as powerful as our
principles. Looking round the English world, Ferrers saw, that at his
age and with an equivocal position, and no chances to throw away, it was
necessary that he should cast off all attributes of the character of the
wanderer and the _garcon_.

"There is nothing respectable in lodgings and a cab," said Ferrers to
himself--that "_self_" was his grand confidant!--"nothing stationary.
Such are the appliances of a here-to-day-gone-to-morrow kind of life.
One never looks substantial till one pays rates and taxes, and has a
bill with one's butcher!"

Accordingly, without saying a word to anybody, Ferrers took a long lease
of a large house, in one of those quiet streets that proclaim the owners
do not wish to be made by fashionable situations--streets in which, if
you have a large house, it is supposed to be because you can afford one.
He was very particular in its being a respectable street--Great George
Street, Westminster, was the one he selected.

No frippery or baubles, common to the mansions of young bachelors--no
buhl, and marquetrie, and Sevres china, and cabinet pictures,
distinguished the large dingy drawing-rooms of Lumley Ferrers. He
bought all the old furniture a bargain of the late tenant--tea-coloured
chintz curtains, and chairs and sofas that were venerable and solemn
with the accumulated dust of twenty-five years. The only things about
which he was particular were a very long dining-table that would hold
four-and-twenty, and a new mahogany sideboard. Somebody asked him why
he cared about such articles. "I don't know," said he "but I observe
all respectable family-men do--there must be something in it--I shall
discover the secret by and by."

In this house did Mr. Ferrers ensconce himself with two middle-aged
maidservants, and a man out of livery, whom he chose from a multitude of
candidates, because the man looked especially well fed. Having thus
settled himself, and told every one that the lease of his house was for
sixty-three years, Lumley Ferrers made a little calculation of his
probable expenditure, which he found, with good management, might amount
to about one-fourth more than his income.

"I shall take the surplus out of my capital," said he, "and try the
experiment for five years; if it don't do, and pay me profitably, why,
then either men are not to be lived upon, or Lumley Ferrers is a much
duller clog than he thinks himself!"

Mr. Ferrers had deeply studied the character of his uncle, as a prudent
speculator studies the qualities of a mine in which he means to invest
his capital, and much of his present proceedings was intended to act
upon the uncle as well as upon the world. He saw that the more he could
obtain for himself, not a noisy, social, fashionable reputation, but a
good, sober, substantial one, the more highly Mr. Templeton would
consider him, and the more likely he was to be made his uncle's
heir,--that is, provided Mrs. Templeton did not supersede the nepotal
parasite by indigenous olive-branches. This last apprehension died away
as time passed, and no signs of fertility appeared. And, accordingly,
Ferrers thought he might prudently hazard more upon the game on which he
now ventured to rely. There was one thing, however, that greatly
disturbed his peace; Mr. Templeton, though harsh and austere in his
manner to his wife, was evidently attached to her; and, above all, he
cherished the fondest affection for his stepdaughter. He was as anxious
for her health, her education, her little childish enjoyments, as if he
had been not only her parent, but a very doting one. He could not bear
her to be crossed or thwarted. Mr. Templeton, who had never spoiled
anything before, not even an old pen (so careful, and calculating, and
methodical was he), did his best to spoil this beautiful child whom he
could not even have the vain luxury of thinking he had produced to the
admiring world. Softly, exquisitely lovely was that little girl; and
every day she increased in the charm of her person, and in the caressing
fascination of her childish ways. Her temper was so sweet and docile,
that fondness and petting, however injudiciously exhibited, only seemed
yet more to bring out the colours of a grateful and tender nature.
Perhaps the measured kindness of more reserved affection might have been
the true way of spoiling one whose instincts were all for exacting and
returning love. She was a plant that suns less warm might have nipped
and chilled. But beneath an uncapricious and unclouded sunshine she
sprang up in a luxurious bloom of heart and sweetness of disposition.

Every one, even those who did not generally like children, delighted in
this charming creature, excepting only Mr. Lumley Ferrers. But that
gentleman, less mild than Pope's Narcissa,--

   "To make a wash, had gladly stewed the child!"

He had seen how very common it is for a rich man, married late in life,
to leave everything to a young widow and her children by her former
marriage, when once attached to the latter; and he sensibly felt that he
himself had but a slight hold over Templeton by the chain of the
affections. He resolved, therefore, as much as possible, to alienate
his uncle from his young wife; trusting that, as the influence of the
wife was weakened, that of the child would be lessened also; and to
raise in Templeton's vanity and ambition an ally that might supply to
himself the want of love. He pursued his twofold scheme with masterly
art and address. He first sought to secure the confidence and regard of
the melancholy and gentle mother; and in this--for she was peculiarly
unsuspicious and inexperienced, he obtained signal and complete success.
His frankness of manner, his deferential attention, the art with which
he warded off from her the spleen or ill-humour of Mr. Templeton, the
cheerfulness that his easy gaiety threw over a very gloomy house, made
the poor lady hail his visits and trust in his friendship. Perhaps she
was glad of any interruption to _tetes-a-tetes_ with a severe and
ungenial husband, who had no sympathy for the sorrows, of whatever
nature they might be, which preyed upon her, and who made it a point of
morality to find fault wherever he could.

The next step in Lumley's policy was to arm Templeton's vanity against
his wife, by constantly refreshing his consciousness of the sacrifices
he had made by marriage, and the certainty that he would have attained
all his wishes had he chosen more prudently. By perpetually, but most
judiciously, rubbing this sore point, he, as it were, fixed the
irritability into Templeton's constitution, and it reacted on all his
thoughts, aspiring or domestic. Still, however, to Lumley's great
surprise and resentment, while Templeton cooled to his wife, he only
warmed to her child. Lumley had not calculated enough upon the thirst
and craving for affection in most human hearts; and Templeton, though
not exactly an amiable man, had some excellent qualities; if he had less
sensitively regarded the opinion of the world, he would neither have
contracted the vocabulary of cant, nor sickened for a peerage--both his
affectation of saintship, and his gnawing desire of rank, arose from an
extraordinary and morbid deference to opinion, and a wish for worldly
honours and respect, which he felt that his mere talents could not
secure to him. But he was, at bottom, a kindly man--charitable to the
poor, considerate to his servants, and had within him the want to love
and be loved, which is one of the desires wherewith the atoms of the
universe are cemented and harmonised. Had Mrs. Templeton evinced love to
him, he might have defied all Lumley's diplomacy, been consoled for
worldly disadvantages, and been a good and even uxorious husband. But
she evidently did not love him, though an admirable, patient, provident
wife; and her daughter _did_ love him--love him as well even as she
loved her mother; and the hard worldling would not have accepted a
kingdom as the price of that little fountain of pure and ever-refreshing
tenderness. Wise and penetrating as Lumley was, he never could
thoroughly understand this weakness, as he called it; for we never know
men entirely, unless we have complete sympathies with men in all their
natural emotions; and Nature had left the workmanship of Lumley Ferrers
unfinished and incomplete, by denying him the possibility of caring for
anything but himself.

His plan for winning Templeton's esteem and deference was, however,
completely triumphant. He took care that nothing in his _menage_ should
appear "_extravagant_;" all was sober, quiet, and well-regulated. He
declared that he had so managed as to live within his income: and
Templeton receiving no hint for money, nor aware that Ferrers had on the
Continent consumed a considerable portion of his means, believed him.
Ferrers gave a great many dinners, but he did not go on that foolish
plan which has been laid down by persons who pretend to know life, as a
means of popularity--he did not profess to give dinners better than
other people. He knew that, unless you are a very rich or a very great
man, no folly is equal to that of thinking that you soften the hearts of
your friends by soups _a la bisque_, and Johannisberg at a guinea a
bottle. They all go away saying, "What right has that d----d fellow to
give a better dinner than we do? What horrid taste! What ridiculous
presumption."

No; though Ferrers himself was a most scientific epicure, and held the
luxury of the palate at the highest possible price, he dieted his
friends on what he termed "respectable fare." His cook put plenty of
flour into the oyster sauce; cod's head and shoulders made his
invariable fish; and four _entrees_, without flavour or pretence, were
duly supplied by the pastry-cook, and carefully eschewed by the host.
Neither did Mr. Ferrers affect to bring about him gay wits and brilliant
talkers. He confined himself to men of substantial consideration, and
generally took care to be himself the cleverest person present; while he
turned the conversation on serious matters crammed for the
occasion--politics, stocks, commerce, and the criminal code. Pruning
his gaiety, though he retained his frankness, he sought to be known as a
highly-informed, painstaking man, who would be sure to rise. His
connections, and a certain nameless charm about him, consisting chiefly
in a pleasant countenance, a bold yet winning candour, and the absence
of all _hauteur_ or pretence, enabled him to assemble round this plain
table, which, if it gratified no taste, wounded no self-love, a
sufficient number of public men of rank, and eminent men of business, to
answer his purpose. The situation he had chosen, so near the Houses of
Parliament, was convenient to politicians, and, by degrees, the large
dingy drawing-rooms became a frequent resort for public men to talk over
those thousand underplots by which a party is served or attached. Thus,
though not in parliament himself, Ferrers became insensibly associated
with parliamentary men and things, and the ministerial party, whose
politics he espoused, praised him highly, made use of him, and meant,
some day or other, to do something for him.

While the career of this able and unprincipled man thus opened--and of
course the opening was not made in a day--Ernest Maltravers was
ascending by a rough, thorny, and encumbered path, to that eminence on
which the monuments of men are built. His success in public life was
not brilliant nor sudden. For, though he had eloquence and knowledge,
he disdained all oratorical devices; and though he had passion and
energy, he could scarcely be called a warm partisan. He met with much
envy, and many obstacles; and the gracious and buoyant sociality of
temper and manners that had, in early youth, made him the idol of his
contemporaries at school or college, had long since faded away into a
cold, settled, and lofty, though gentle reserve, which did not attract
towards him the animal spirits of the herd. But though he spoke seldom,
and heard many, with half his powers, more enthusiastically cheered, he
did not fail of commanding attention and respect; and though no darling
of cliques and parties, yet in that great body of the people who were
ever the audience and tribunal to which, in letters or in politics,
Maltravers appealed, there was silently growing up, and spreading wide,
a belief in his upright intentions, his unpurchasable honour, and his
correct and well-considered views. He felt that his name was safely
invested, though the return for the capital was slow and moderate. He
was contented to abide his time.

Every day he grew more attached to that true philosophy which makes a
man, as far as the world will permit, a world to himself; and from the
height of a tranquil and serene self-esteem, he felt the sun shine above
him, when malignant clouds spread sullen and ungenial below. He did not
despise or wilfully shock opinion, neither did he fawn upon and flatter
it. Where he thought the world should be humoured, he humoured--where
contemned, he contemned it. There are many cases in which an honest,
well-educated, high-hearted individual is a much better judge than the
multitude of what is right and what is wrong; and in these matters he is
not worth three straws if he suffer the multitude to bully or coax him
out of his judgment. The Public, if you indulge it, is a most damnable
gossip, thrusting its nose into people's concerns, where it has no right
to make or meddle; and in those things, where the Public is impertinent,
Maltravers scorned and resisted its interference as haughtily as he
would the interference of any insolent member of the insolent whole. It
was this mixture of deep love and profound respect for the eternal
PEOPLE, and of calm, passionless disdain for that capricious charlatan,
the momentary PUBLIC, which made Ernest Maltravers an original and
solitary thinker; and an actor, in reality modest and benevolent, in
appearance arrogant and unsocial. "Pauperism, in contradistinction to
poverty," he was wont to say, "is the dependence upon other people for
existence, not on our own exertions; there is a moral pauperism in the
man who is dependent on others for that support of moral
life--self-respect."

Wrapped in this philosophy, he pursued his haughty and lonesome way, and
felt that in the deep heart of mankind, when prejudices and envies
should die off, there would be a sympathy with his motives and his
career. So far as his own health was concerned, the experiment had
answered. No mere drudgery of business--late hours and dull
speeches--can produce the dread exhaustion which follows the efforts of
the soul to mount into the higher air of severe thought or intense
imagination. Those faculties which had been overstrained now lay
fallow--and the frame rapidly regained its tone. Of private comfort and
inspiration Ernest knew but little. He gradually grew estranged from
his old friend Ferrers, as their habits became opposed. Cleveland lived
more and more in the country, and was too well satisfied with his
quondam pupil's course of life and progressive reputation to trouble him
with exhortation or advice. Cesarini had grown a literary lion, whose
genius was vehemently lauded by all the reviews--on the same principle
as that which induces us to praise foreign singers or dead men;--we must
praise something, and we don't like to praise those who jostle
ourselves. Cesarini had therefore grown prodigiously conceited--swore
that England was the only country for true merit; and no longer
concealed his jealous anger at the wider celebrity of Maltravers.
Ernest saw him squandering away his substance, and prostituting his
talents to drawing-room trifles, with a compassionate sigh. He sought
to warn him, but Cesarini listened to him with such impatience that he
resigned the office of monitor. He wrote to De Montaigne, who succeeded
no better. Cesarini was bent on playing his own game. And to one game,
without a metaphor, he had at last come. His craving for excitement
vented itself at Hazard, and his remaining guineas melted daily away.

But De Montaigne's letters to Maltravers consoled him for the loss of
less congenial friends. The Frenchman was now an eminent and celebrated
man; and his appreciation of Maltravers was sweeter to the latter than
would have been the huzzas of crowds. But, all this while, his vanity
was pleased and his curiosity roused by the continued correspondence of
his unseen Egeria. That correspondence (if so it may be called, being
all on one side) had now gone on for a considerable time, and he was
still wholly unable to discover the author: its tone had of late
altered--it had become more sad and subdued--it spoke of the hollowness
as well as the rewards of fame; and, with a touch of true womanly
sentiment, often hinted more at the rapture of soothing dejection, than
of sharing triumph. In all these letters, there was the undeniable
evidence of high intellect and deep feeling; they excited a strong and
keen interest in Maltravers, yet the interest was not that which made
him wish to discover, in order that he might love, the writer. They
were for the most part too full of the irony and bitterness of a man's
spirit, to fascinate one who considered that gentleness was the essence
of a woman's strength. Temper spoke in them, no less than mind and
heart, and it was not the sort of temper which a man who loves women to
be womanly could admire.

"I hear you often spoken of" (ran one of these strange epistles), "and I
am almost equally angry whether fools presume to praise or to blame you.
This miserable world we live in, how I loathe and disdain it!--yet I
desire you to serve and to master it! Weak contradiction, effeminate
paradox! Oh! rather a thousand times that you would fly from its mean
temptations and poor rewards!--if the desert were your dwelling-place
and you wished one minister, I could renounce all--wealth, flattery,
repute, womanhood--to serve you.

 * * * * *

"I once admired you for your genius. My disease has fastened on me, and
I now almost worship you for yourself. I have seen you, Ernest
Maltravers,--seen you often,--and when you never suspected that these
eyes were on you. Now that I have seen, I understand you better. We
can not judge men by their books and deeds. Posterity can know nothing
of the beings of the past. A thousand books never written--a thousand
deeds never done--are in the eyes and lips of the few greater than the
herd. In that cold, abstracted gaze, that pale and haughty brow, I read
the disdain of obstacles, which is worthy of one who is confident of the
goal. But my eyes fill with tears when I survey you!--you are sad, you
are alone! If failures do not mortify you, success does not elevate.
Oh, Maltravers, I, woman as I am, and living in a narrow circle, I, even
I, know at last that to have desires nobler, and ends more august, than
others, is but to surrender waking life to morbid and melancholy dreams.

 * * * * *

"Go more into the world, Maltravers--go more into the world, or quit it
altogether. Your enemies must be met; they accumulate, they grow
strong--you are too tranquil, too slow in your steps towards the prize
which should be yours, to satisfy my impatience, to satisfy your
friends. Be less refined in your ambition that you may be more
immediately useful. The feet of clay after all are the swiftest in the
race. Even Lumley Ferrers will outstrip you if you do not take heed.

 * * * * *

"Why do I run on thus!--you--you love another, yet you are not less the
ideal that I could love--if ever I loved any one. You love--and
yet--well--no matter."



CHAPTER II.

 "Well, but this is being only an official nobleman. No matter,
  'tis still being a nobleman, and that's his aim."
   _Anonymous writer of 1772_.

 "La musique est le seul des talens qui jouissent de lui-meme;
  tons les autres veulent des temoins."*--MARMONTEL.

* Music is the sole talent which gives pleasure of itself; all the
others require witnesses.

 "Thus the slow ox would gaudy trappings claim."--HORACE.

MR. TEMPLETON had not obtained his peerage, and, though he had met with
no direct refusal, nor made even a direct application to headquarters,
he was growing sullen. He had great parliamentary influence, not close
borough, illegitimate influence, but very proper orthodox influence of
character, wealth, and so forth. He could return one member at least
for a city--he could almost return one member for a county, and in three
boroughs any activity on his part could turn the scale in a close
contest. The ministers were strong, but still they could not afford to
lose supporters hitherto zealous--the example of desertion is
contagious. In the town which Templeton had formerly represented, and
which he now almost commanded, a vacancy suddenly occurred--a candidate
started on the opposition side and commenced a canvass; to the
astonishment and panic of the Secretary of the Treasury, Templeton put
forward no one, and his interest remained dormant. Lord Saxingham
hurried to Lumley.

"My dear fellow, what is this?--what can your uncle be about? We shall
lose this place--one of our strongholds. Bets run even."

"Why, you see, you have all behaved very ill to my uncle--I am really
sorry for it, but I can do nothing."

"What, this confounded peerage! Will that content him, and nothing
short of it?"

"Nothing."

"He must have it, by Jove!"

"And even that may come too late."

"Ha! do you think so?"

"Will you leave the matter to me?"

"Certainly--you are a monstrous clever fellow, and we all esteem you."

"Sit down and write as I dictate, my dear lord."

"Well," said Lord Saxingham, seating himself at Lumley's enormous
writing-table--"well, go on."

"_My dear Mr. Templeton_--"

"Too familiar," said Lord Saxingham.

"Not a bit; go on."

"_My dear Mr. Templeton:_--

"_We are anxious to secure your parliamentary influence in C------ to
the proper quarter, namely, to your own family, as the best defenders of
the administration, which you honour by your support. We wish signally,
at the same time, to express our confidence in your principles, and our
gratitude for your countenance._"

"D-----d sour countenance!" muttered Lord Saxingham.

"_Accordingly,_" continued Ferrers, "_as one whose connection with you
permits the liberty, allow me to request that you will suffer our joint
relation, Mr. Ferrers, to be put into immediate nomination._"

Lord Saxingham threw down the pen and laughed for two minutes without
ceasing. "Capital, Lumley, capital--Very odd I did not think of it
before."

"Each man for himself, and God for us all," returned Lumley, gravely:
"pray go on, my dear lord."

"_We are sure you could not have a representative that would, more
faithfully reflect your own opinions and our interests. One word more.
A creation of peers will probably take place in the spring, among which
I am sure your name would be to his Majesty a gratifying addition; the
title will of course be secured to your sons--and failing the latter, to
your nephew._

     "_With great regard and respect,_

        "_Truly yours,_

          "_SAXINGHAM._"

"There, inscribe that 'Private and confidential,' and send it express
to my uncle's villa."

"It shall be done, my dear Lumley--and this contents me as much as it
does you. You are really a man to do us credit. You think it will be
arranged?"

"No doubt of it."

"Well, good day. Lumley, come to me when it is all settled: Florence is
always glad to see you; she says no one amuses her more. And I am sure
that is rare praise, for she is a strange girl,--quite a Timon in
petticoats."

Away went Lord Saxingham.

"Florence glad to see me!" said Lumley, throwing his arms behind him,
and striding to and fro the room--"Scheme the Second begins to smile
upon me behind the advancing shadow of Scheme One. If I can but succeed
in keeping away other suitors from my fair cousin until I am in a
condition to propose myself, why, I may carry off the greatest match in
the three kingdoms. _Courage, mon brave Ferrers, courage!_"

It was late that evening when Ferrers arrived at his uncle's villa. He
found Mrs. Templeton in the drawing-room seated at the piano. He
entered gently; she did not hear him, and continued at the instrument.
Her voice was so sweet and rich, her taste so pure, that Ferrers, who
was a good judge of music, stood in delighted surprise. Often as he had
now been a visitor, even an inmate, at the house, he had never before
heard Mrs. Templeton play any but sacred airs, and this was one of the
popular songs of sentiment. He perceived that her feeling at last
overpowered her voice, and she paused abruptly, and turning round, her
face was so eloquent of emotion, that Ferrers was forcibly struck by its
expression. He was not a man apt to feel curiosity for anything not
immediately concerning himself; but he did feel curious about this
melancholy and beautiful woman. There was in her usual aspect that
inexpressible look of profound resignation which betokens a lasting
remembrance of a bitter past: a prematurely blighted heart spoke in her
eyes, in her smile, her languid and joyless step. But she performed the
routine of her quiet duties with a calm and conscientious regularity
which showed that grief rather depressed than disturbed her thoughts.
If her burden were heavy, custom seemed to have reconciled her to bear
it without repining; and the emotion which Ferrers now traced in her
soft and harmonious features was of a nature he had only once witnessed
before--viz., on the first night he had seen her, when poetry, which is
the key of memory, had evidently opened a chamber haunted by mournful
and troubled ghosts.

"Ah! dear madam," said Ferrers, advancing, as he found himself
discovered, "I trust I do not disturb you. My visit is unseasonable;
but my uncle--where is he?"

"He has been in town all the morning; he said he should dine out, and I
now expect him every minute."

"You have been endeavouring to charm away the sense of his absence.
Dare I ask you to continue to play? It is seldom that I hear a voice so
sweet and skill so consummate. You must have been instructed by the
best Italian masters."

"No," said Mrs. Templeton, with a very slight colour in her delicate
cheek, "I learned young, and of one who loved music and felt it; but who
was not a foreigner."

"Will you sing me that song again?--you give the words a beauty I never
discovered in them; yet they (as well as the music itself), are by my
poor friend whom Mr. Templeton does not like--Maltravers."

"Are they his also?" said Mrs. Templeton, with emotion; "it is strange I
did not know it. I heard the air in the streets, and it struck me much.
I inquired the name of the song and bought it--it is very strange!"

"What is strange?"

"That there is a kind of language in your friend's music and poetry
which comes home to me, like words I have heard years ago! Is he young,
this Mr. Maltravers?"

"Yes, he is still young."

"And, and--"

Here Mrs. Templeton was interrupted by the entrance of her husband. He
held the letter from Lord Saxingham--it was yet unopened. He seemed
moody; but that was common with him. He coldly shook hands with Lumley;
nodded to his wife, found fault with the fire, and throwing himself into
his easy-chair, said, "So, Lumley, I think I was a fool for taking your
advice--and hanging back about this new election. I see by the evening
papers that there is shortly to be a creation of peers. If I had shown
activity on behalf of the government I might have shamed them into
gratitude."

"I think I was right, sir," replied Lumley; "public men are often
alarmed into gratitude, seldom shamed into it. Firm votes, like old
friends, are most valued when we think we are about to lose them; but
what is that letter in your hand?"

"Oh, some begging petition, I suppose."

"Pardon me--it has an official look." Templeton put on his spectacles,
raised the letter, examined the address and seal, hastily opened it, and
broke into an exclamation very like an oath: when he had concluded--
"Give me your hand, nephew--the thing is settled--I am to have the
peerage. You were right--ha, ha!--my dear wife, you will be my lady,
think of that--aren't you glad?--why don't your ladyship smile? Where's
the child--where is she, I say?"

"Gone to bed, sir," said Mrs. Templeton, half frightened.

"Gone to bed! I must go and kiss her. Gone to bed, has she? Light
that candle, Lumley." [Here Mr. Templeton rang the bell.] "John," said
he, as the servant entered,--"John, tell James to go the first thing in
the morning to Baxter's, and tell him not to paint my chariot till he
hears from me. I must go kiss the child--I must, really."

"D--- the child," muttered Lumley, as, after giving the candle to his
uncle, he turned to the fire; "what the deuce has she got to do with the
matter? Charming little girl--yours, madam! how I love her! My uncle
dotes on her--no wonder!"

"He is, indeed, very, very, fond of her," said Mrs. Templeton, with a
sigh that seemed to come from the depth of her heart.

"Did he take a fancy to her before you were married?"

"Yes, I believe--oh yes, certainly."

"Her own father could not be more fond of her."

Mrs. Templeton made no answer, but lighted her candle, and wishing
Lumley good night, glided from the room.

"I wonder if my grave aunt and my grave uncle took a bite at the apple
before they bought the right of the tree. It looks suspicious; yet no,
it can't be; there is nothing of the seducer or the seductive about the
old fellow. It is not likely--here he comes."

In came Templeton, and his eyes were moist, and his brow relaxed.

"And how is the little angel, sir?" asked Ferrers.

"She kissed me, though I woke her up; children are usually cross when
wakened."

"Are they?--little dears! Well, sir, so I was right, then; may I see
the letter?"

"There it is."

Ferrers drew his chair to the fire, and read his own production with all
the satisfaction of an anonymous author.

"How kind!--how considerate!--how delicately put!--a double favour! But
perhaps, after all, it does not express your wishes."

"In what way?"

"Why--why--about myself."

"_You!_--is there anything about _you_ in it?--I did not observe
_that_--let me see."

"Uncles never selfish!--mem. for commonplace book!" thought Ferrers.

The uncle knit his brows as he re-perused the letter. "This won't do,
Lumley," said he very shortly, when he had done.

"A seat in parliament is too much honour for a poor nephew, then, sir?"
said Lumley, very bitterly, though he did not feel at all bitter; but it
was the proper tone. "I have done all in my power to advance your
ambition, and you will not even lend a hand to forward me one step in my
career. But, forgive me, sir, I have no right to expect it."

"Lumley," replied Templeton, kindly, "you mistake me. I think much more
highly of you than I did--much: there is a steadiness, a sobriety about
you most praiseworthy, and you shall go into parliament if you wish it;
but not for C------. I will give my interest there to some other friend
of the government, and in return they can give you a treasury borough!
That is the same thing to you."

Lumley was agreeably surprised--he pressed his uncle's hand warmly, and
thanked him cordially. Mr. Templeton proceeded to explain to him that
it was inconvenient and expensive sitting for places where one's family
was known, and Lumley fully subscribed to all.

"As for the settlement of the peerage, that is all right," said
Templeton; and then he sank into a reverie, from which he broke
joyously--"yes, that is all right. I have projects, objects--this may
unite them all--nothing can be better--you will be the next
lord--what--I say, what title shall we have?"

"Oh, take a sounding one--you have very little landed property, I
think?"

"Two thousand a year in ------shire, bought a bargain."

"What's the name of the place?"

"Grubley."

"Lord Grubley!--Baron Grubley of Grubley--oh, atrocious! Who had the
place before you?"

"Bought it of Mr. Sheepshanks--very old family."

"But surely some old Norman once had the place?"

"Norman, yes! Henry the Second gave it to his barber--Bertram Courval."

"That's it!--that's it! Lord de Courval--singular coincidence!--descent
from the old line. Herald's College soon settle all that. Lord de
Courval!--nothing can sound better. There must be a village or hamlet
still called Courval about the property."

"I am afraid not. There is Coddle End!"

"Coddle End!--Coddle End!--the very thing, sir--the very thing--clear
corruption from Courval!--Lord de Courval of Courval! Superb! Ha! ha!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Templeton, and he had hardly laughed before since he
was thirty.

The relations sat long and conversed familiarly. Ferrers slept at the
villa, and his sleep was sound; for he thought little of plans once
formed and half executed; it was the hunt that kept him awake, and he
slept like a hound when the prey was down. Not so Templeton, who did
not close his eyes all night.--"Yes, yes," thought he, "I must get the
fortune and the title in one line by a prudent management. Ferrers
deserves what I mean to do for him. Steady, good-natured, frank, and
will get on--yes, yes, I see it all. Meanwhile I did well to prevent
his standing for C------; might pick up gossip about Mrs. T., and other
things that might be unpleasant. Ah, I'm a shrewd fellow!"



CHAPTER III.

 "_Lauzun._--There, Marquis, there, I've done it.
  _Montespan._--Done it! yes! Nice doings!"
        _The Duchess de la Valliere_.

LUMLEY hastened to strike while the iron was hot. The next morning he
went straight to the Treasury--saw the managing secretary, a clever,
sharp man, who, like Ferrers, carried off intrigue and manoeuvre by a
blunt, careless, bluff manner.

Ferrers announced that he was to stand for the free, respectable, open
city of C------, with an electoral population of 2,500. A very showy
place it was for a member in the old ante-reform times, and was
considered a thoroughly independent borough. The secretary
congratulated and complimented him.

"We have had losses lately in _our_ elections among the larger
constituencies," said Lumley.

"We have indeed--three towns lost in the last six months. Members do
die so very unseasonably."

"Is Lord Staunch yet provided for?" asked Lumley. Now Lord Staunch was
one of the popular show-fight great guns of the administration--not in
office, but that most useful person to all governments, an out-and-out
supporter upon the most independent principles--who was known to have
refused place and to value himself on independence--a man who helped the
government over the stile when it was seized with a temporary lameness,
and who carried "great weight with him in the country." Lord Staunch
had foolishly thrown up a close borough in order to contest a large
city, and had failed in the attempt. His failure was everywhere cited
as a proof of the growing unpopularity of ministers.

"Is Lord Staunch yet provided for?" asked Lumley.

"Why, he must have his old seat--Three-Oaks. Three-Oaks is a nice, quiet
little place; most respectable constituency--all Staunch's own family."

"Just the thing for him; yet, 'tis a pity that he did not wait to stand
for C------; my uncle's interest would have secured him."

"Ay, I thought so the moment C------ was vacant. However, it is too
late now."

"It would be a great triumph if Lord Staunch could show that a large
constituency volunteered to elect him without expense."

"Without expense!--Ah, yes, indeed! It would prove that purity of
election still exists--that British institutions are still upheld."

"It might be done, Mr. ------."

"Why, I thought that you--"

"Were to stand--that is true--and it will be difficult to manage my
uncle; but he loves me much--you know I am his heir--I believe I could
do it; that is, if you think it would be _a very great advantage_ to the
party, and _a very great service_ to the government."

"Why, Mr. Ferrers, it would indeed be both."

"And in that case I could have Three-Oaks."

"I see--exactly so; but to give up so respectable a seat--really it is a
sacrifice."

"Say no more, it shall be done. A deputation shall wait on Lord Staunch
directly. I will see my uncle, and a despatch shall be sent down to
C------ to-night; at least, I hope so. I must not be too confident. My
uncle is an old man, nobody but myself can manage him; I'll go this
instant."

"You may be sure your kindness will be duly appreciated."

Lumley shook hands cordially with the secretary and retired. The
secretary was not "humbugged," nor did Lumley expect he should be. But
the secretary noted this of Lumley Ferrers (and that gentleman's object
was gained), that Lumley Ferrers was a man who looked out for office,
and if he did tolerably well in parliament, that Lumley Ferrers was a
man who ought to be _pushed_.

Very shortly afterwards the _Gazette_ announced the election of Lord
Staunch for C------, after a sharp but decisive contest. The
ministerial journals rang with exulting paeans; the opposition ones
called the electors of C------ all manner of hard names, and declared
that Mr. Stout, Lord Staunch's opponent, would petition--which he never
did. In the midst of the hubbub, Mr. Lumley Ferrers quietly and
unobservedly crept into the representation of Three-Oaks.

On the night of his election he went to Lord Saxingham's; but what there
happened deserves another chapter.



CHAPTER IV.

 "Je connois des princes du sang, des princes etrangers, des
  grands seigneurs, des ministres d'etat, des magistrats, et
  des philosophes qui fileroient pour l'amour de vous. En
  pouvez-vous demander davantage?"*
        _Lettres de Madame de Sevigne_

* I know princes of the blood, foreign princes, great lords, ministers
of state, magistrates, and philosophers who would even spin for love of
you. What can you ask more?

 "_Lindore._ I--I believe it will choke me. I'm in love * * * Now
hold your tongue. Hold your tongue, I say.

 "_Dalner._ You in love! Ha! ha!

 "_Lind._ There, he laughs.

 "_Dal._ No; I am really sorry for you."

        _German Play (False Delicacy)_.

   *  *  *  "What is here?

            Gold."--SHAKSPEARE.

IT happened that that evening Maltravers had, for the first time,
accepted one of many invitations with which Lord Saxingham had honoured
him. His lordship and Maltravers were of different political parties,
nor were they in other respects adapted to each other. Lord Saxingham
was a clever man in his way, but worldly even to a proverb among worldly
people. That "man was born to walk erect and look upon the stars," is
an eloquent fallacy that Lord Saxingham might suffice to disprove. He
seemed born to walk with a stoop; and if he ever looked upon any stars,
they were those which go with a garter. Though of celebrated and
historical ancestry, great rank, and some personal reputation, he had
all the ambition of a _parvenu_. He had a strong regard for office, not
so much from the sublime affection for that sublime thing,--power over
the destinies of a glorious nation,--as because it added to that vulgar
thing--importance in his own set. He looked on his cabinet uniform as a
beadle looks on his gold lace. He also liked patronage, secured good
things to distant connections, got on his family to the remotest degree
of relationship; in short, he was of the earth, earthy. He did not
comprehend Maltravers; and Maltravers, who every day grew prouder and
prouder, despised him. Still, Lord Saxingham was told that Maltravers
was a rising man, and he thought it well to be civil to rising men, of
whatever party; besides, his vanity was flattered by having men who are
talked of in his train. He was too busy and too great a personage to
think Maltravers could be other than sincere, when he declared himself,
in his notes, "very sorry," or "much concerned," to forego the honour of
dining with Lord Saxingham on the, &c., &c.; and therefore continued his
invitations, till Maltravers, from that fatality which undoubtedly
regulates and controls us, at last accepted the proffered distinction.

He arrived late--most of the guests were assembled; and, after
exchanging a few words with his host, Ernest fell back into the general
group, and found himself in the immediate neighbourhood of Lady Florence
Lascelles. This lady had never much pleased Maltravers, for he was not
fond of masculine or coquettish heroines, and Lady Florence seemed to
him to merit both epithets; therefore, though he had met her often since
the first day he had been introduced to her, he had usually contented
himself with a distant bow or a passing salutation. But now, as he
turned round and saw her, she was, for a miracle, sitting alone; and in
her most dazzling and noble countenance there was so evident an
appearance of ill health, that he was struck and touched by it. In
fact, beautiful as she was, both in face and form, there was something
in the eye and the bloom of Lady Florence, which a skilful physician
would have seen with prophetic pain. And, whenever occasional illness
paled the roses of the cheek, and sobered the play of the lips, even an
ordinary observer would have thought of the old commonplace
proverb--"that the brightest beauty has the briefest life." It was some
sentiment of this kind, perhaps, that now awakened the sympathy of
Maltravers. He addressed her with more marked courtesy than usual, and
took a seat by her side.

"You have been to the House, I suppose, Mr. Maltravers?" said Lady
Florence.

"Yes, for a short time; it is not one of our field nights--no division
was expected; and by this time, I dare say, the House has been counted
out."

"Do you like the life?"

"It has excitement," said Maltravers, evasively.

"And the excitement is of a noble character?"

"Scarcely so, I fear--it is so made up of mean and malignant
motives,--there is in it so much jealousy of our friends, so much
unfairness to our enemies;--such readiness to attribute to others the
basest objects,--such willingness to avail ourselves of the poorest
stratagems! The ends may be great, but the means are very ambiguous."

"I knew _you_ would feel this," exclaimed Lady Florence, with a
heightened colour.

"Did you?" said Maltravers, rather interested as well as surprised. "I
scarcely imagined it possible that you would deign to divine secrets so
insignificant."

"You did not do me justice, then," returned Lady Florence, with an arch
yet half-painful smile; "for--but I was about to be impertinent."

"Nay, say on."

For--then--I do not imagine you to be one apt to do injustice to
yourself."

"Oh, you consider me presumptuous and arrogant; but that is common
report, and you do right, perhaps, to believe it."

"Was there ever any one unconscious of his own merit?" asked Lady
Florence, proudly. "They who distrust themselves have good reason for
it."

"You seek to cure the wound you inflicted," returned Maltravers,
smiling.

"No; what I said was an apology for myself, as well as for you. You
need no words to vindicate you; you are a man, and can bear out all
arrogance with the royal motto _Dieu et mon droit_. With you deeds can
support pretension; but I am a woman--it was a mistake of Nature."

"But what triumphs that man can achieve bring so immediate, so palpable
a reward as those won by a woman, beautiful and admired--who finds every
room an empire, and every class her subjects?"

"It is a despicable realm."

"What!--to command--to win--to bow to your worship--the greatest, and
the highest, and the sternest; to own slaves in those whom men recognise
as their lords! Is such a power despicable? If so, what power is to be
envied?"

Lady Florence turned quickly round to Maltravers, and fixed on him her
large dark eyes, as if she would read into his very heart. She turned
away with a blush and a slight frown--"There is mockery on your lip,"
said she.

Before Maltravers could answer, dinner was announced, and a foreign
ambassador claimed the hand of Lady Florence. Maltravers saw a young
lady with gold oats in her very light hair, fall to his lot, and
descended to the dining-room, thinking more of Lady Florence Lascelles
than he had ever done before.

He happened to sit nearly opposite to the young mistress of the house
(Lord Saxingham, as the reader knows, was a widower and Lady Florence an
only child); and Maltravers was that day in one of those felicitous
moods in which our animal spirits search and carry up, as it were, to
the surface, our intellectual gifts and acquisitions. He conversed
generally and happily; but once, when he turned his eyes to appeal to
Lady Florence for her opinion on some point in discussion, he caught her
gaze fixed upon him with an expression that checked the current of his
gaiety, and cast him into a curious and bewildered reverie. In that
gaze there was earnest and cordial admiration; but it was mixed with so
much mournfulness, that the admiration lost its eloquence, and he who
noticed it was rather saddened than flattered.

After dinner, when Maltravers sought the drawing-rooms, he found them
filled with the customary snob of good society. In one corner he
discovered Castruccio Cesarini, playing on a guitar, slung across his
breast with a blue riband. The Italian sang well; many young ladies
were grouped round him, amongst others Florence Lascelles. Maltravers,
fond as he was of music, looked upon Castruccio's performance as a
disagreeable exhibition. He had a Quixotic idea of the dignity of
talent; and though himself of a musical science, and a melody of voice
that would have thrown the room into ecstasies, he would as soon have
turned juggler or tumbler for polite amusement, as contend for the
bravos of a drawing-room. It was because he was one of the proudest men
in the world, that Maltravers was one of the least _vain_. He did not
care a rush for applause in small things. But Cesarini would have
summoned the whole world to see him play at push-pin, if he thought the
played it well.

"Beautiful! divine! charming!" cried the young ladies, as Cesarini
ceased; and Maltravers observed that Florence praised more earnestly
than the rest, and that Cesarini's dark eye sparkled, and his pale cheek
flushed with unwonted brilliancy. Florence turned to Maltravers, and
the Italian, following her eyes, frowned darkly.

"You know the Signor Cesarini," said Florence, joining Maltravers. "He
is an interesting and gifted person."

"Unquestionably. I grieve to see him wasting his talents upon a soil
that may yield a few short-lived flowers, without one useful plant or
productive fruit."

"He enjoys the passing hour, Mr. Maltravers; and sometimes, when I see
the mortifications that await sterner labour, I think he is right."

"Hush!" said Maltravers; "his eyes are on us--he is listening
breathlessly for every word you utter. I fear that you have made an
unconscious conquest of a poet's heart; and if so, he purchases the
enjoyment of the passing hour at a fearful price."

"Nay," said Lady Florence, indifferently, "he is one of those to whom
the fancy supplies the place of the heart. And if I give him an
inspiration, it will be an equal luxury to him whether his lyre be
strung to hope or disappointment. The sweetness of his verses will
compensate to him for any bitterness in actual life."

"There are two kinds of love," answered Maltravers,--"love and
self-love; the wounds of the last are often most incurable in those who
appear least vulnerable to the first. Ah, Lady Florence, were I
privileged to play the monitor, I would venture on one warning, however
much it might offend you."

"And that is--"

"To forbear coquetry."

Maltravers smiled as he spoke, but it was gravely--and at the same time
he moved gently away. But Lady Florence laid her hand on his arm.

"Mr. Maltravers," said she, very softly, and with a kind of faltering in
her tone, "am I wrong to say that I am anxious for your good opinion?
Do not judge me harshly. I am soured, discontented, unhappy. I have no
sympathy with the world. These men whom I see around me--what are they?
the mass of them unfeeling and silken egotists--ill-judging,
ill-educated, well-dressed: the few who are called distinguished--how
selfish in their ambition, how passionless in their pursuits! Am I to
be blamed if I sometimes exert a power over such as these, which rather
proves my scorn of them than my own vanity?"

"I have no right to argue with you."

"Yes, argue with me, convince me, guide me--Heaven knows that, impetuous
and haughty as I am, I need a guide,"--and Lady Florence's eyes swam
with tears. Ernest's prejudices against her were greatly shaken: he was
even somewhat dazzled by her beauty, and touched by her unexpected
gentleness; but still, his heart was not assailed, and he replied almost
coldly, after a short pause:

"Dear Lady Florence, look round the world--who so much to be envied as
yourself? What sources of happiness and pride are open to you! Why,
then, make to yourself causes of discontent?--why be scornful of those
who cross not your path? Why not look with charity upon God's less
endowed children, beneath you as they may seem? What consolation have
you in hurting the hearts or the vanities of others? Do you raise
yourself even in your own estimation? You affect to be above your
sex--yet what character do you despise more in women than that which you
assume? Semiramis should not be a coquette. There now, I have offended
you--I confess I am very rude."

"I am not offended," said Florence, almost struggling with her tears;
and she added inly, "Ah, I am too happy!"--There are some lips from
which even the proudest women love to hear the censure which appears to
disprove indifference.

It was at this time that Lumley Ferrers, flushed with the success of his
schemes and projects, entered the room; and his quick eye fell upon that
corner, in which he detected what appeared to him a very alarming
flirtation between his rich cousin and Ernest Maltravers. He advanced
to the spot, and, with his customary frankness, extended a hand to each.

"Ah, my dear and fair cousin, give me your congratulations, and ask me
for my first frank, to be bound up in a collection of autographs by
distinguished senators--it will sell high one of these days. Your most
obedient, Mr. Maltravers;--how we shall laugh in our sleeves at the
humbug of politics, when you and I, the best friends in the world, sit
_vis-a-vis_ on opposite benches. But why, Lady Florence, have you never
introduced me to your pet Italian? _Allons_! I am his match in
Alfieri, whom, of course, he swears by, and whose verses, by the way,
seem cut out of box-wood--the hardest material for turning off that sort
of machinery that invention ever hit on."

Thus saying, Ferrers contrived, as he thought, very cleverly, to divide
a pair that he much feared were justly formed to meet by nature--and, to
his great joy, Maltravers shortly afterwards withdrew.

Ferrers, with the happy ease that belonged to his complacent, though
plotting character, soon made Cesarini at home with him; and two or
three slighting expressions which the former dropped with respect to
Maltravers, coupled with some outrageous compliments to the Italian,
completely won the heart of the poet. The brilliant Florence was more
silent and subdued than usual; and her voice was softer, though graver,
when she replied to Castruccio's eloquent appeals. Castruccio was one
of those men who _talk fine_. By degrees, Lumley lapsed into silence,
and listened to what took place between Lady Florence and the Italian,
while appearing to be deep in "The Views of the Rhine," which lay on the
table.

"Ah," said the latter, in his soft native tongue, "could you know how I
watch every shade of that countenance which makes my heaven! Is it
clouded? night is with me!--is it radiant? I am as the Persian gazing on
the sun!"

"Why do you speak thus to me? were you not a poet, I might be angry."

"You were not angry when the English poet, that cold Maltravers, spoke
to you perhaps as boldly."

Lady Florence drew up her haughty head. "Signor," said she, checking,
however, her first impulse, and with mildness, "Mr. Maltravers neither
flatters nor--"

"Presumes, you were about to say," said Cesarini, grinding his teeth.
"But it is well--once you were less chilling to the utterance of my deep
devotion."

"Never, Signor Cesarini, never--but when I thought it was but the common
gallantry of your nation: let me think so still."

"No, proud woman," said Cesarini, fiercely, "no--hear the truth."

Lady Florence rose indignantly.

"Hear me," he continued. "I--I, the poor foreigner, the despised
minstrel, dare to lift up my eyes to you! I love you!"

Never had Florence Lascelles been so humiliated and confounded. However
she might have amused herself with the vanity of Cesarini, she had not
given him, as she thought, the warrant to address her--the great Lady
Florence, the prize of dukes and princes--in this hardy manner; she
almost fancied him insane. But the next moment she recalled the warning
of Maltravers, and felt as if her punishment had commenced.

"You will think and speak more calmly, sir, when we meet again," and so
saying, she swept away.

Cesarini remained rooted to the spot, with his dark countenance
expressing such passions as are rarely seen in the aspects of civilised
men.

"Where do you lodge, Signor Cesarini?" asked the bland, familiar voice
of Ferrers. "Let us walk part of the way together--that is, when you
are tired of these hot rooms."

Cesarini groaned. "You are ill," continued Ferrers; "the air will
revive you--come." He glided from the room, and the Italian
mechanically followed him. They walked together for some moments in
silence, side by side, in a clear, lovely, moonlight night. At length
Ferrers said, "Pardon me, my dear signor, but you may already have
observed that I am a very frank, odd sort of fellow. I see you are
caught by the charms of my cruel cousin. Can I serve you in any way?"

A man at all acquainted with the world in which we live would have been
suspicious of such cordiality in the cousin of an heiress, towards a
very unsuitable aspirant. But Cesarini, like many indifferent poets
(but like few good ones), had no common sense. He thought it quite
natural that a man who admired his poetry so much as Lumley had declared
he did, should take a lively interest in his welfare; and he therefore
replied warmly, "Oh, sir, this is indeed a crushing blow: I dreamed she
loved me. She was ever flattering and gentle when she spoke to me, and
in verse already I had told her of my love, and met with no rebuke."

"Did your verses really and plainly declare love, and in your own
person?"

"Why, the sentiment was veiled, perhaps--put into the mouth of a
fictitious character, or conveyed in an allegory."

"Oh," ejaculated Ferrers, thinking it very likely that the gorgeous
Florence, hymned by a thousand bards, had done little more than cast a
glance over the lines that had cost poor Cesarini such anxious toil, and
inspired him with such daring hope. "Oh!--and to-night she was more
severe--she is a terrible coquette, _la belle Florence_! But perhaps
you have a rival."

"I feel it--I saw it--I know it."

"Whom do you suspect?"

"That accursed Maltravers! He crosses me in every path--my spirit
quails beneath his whenever we encounter. I read my doom."

"If it be Maltravers," said Ferrers, gravely, "the danger cannot be
great. Florence has seen but little of him, and he does not admire her
much; but she is a great match, and he is ambitious. We must guard
against this betimes, Cesarini--for know that I dislike Maltravers as
much as you do, and will cheerfully aid you in any plan to blight his
hopes in that quarter."

"Generous, noble friend!--yet he is richer, better-born than I."

"That may be: but to one in Lady Florence's position, all minor grades
of rank in her aspirants seem pretty well levelled. Come, I don't tell
you that I would not sooner she married a countryman and an equal--but I
have taken a liking to you, and I detest Maltravers. She is very
romantic--fond of poetry to a passion--writes it herself, I fancy. Oh,
you'll just suit her; but, alas! how will you see her?"

"See her! What mean you?"

"Why, have you not declared love to-night? I thought I overheard you.
Can you for a moment fancy that, after such an avowal, Lady Florence
will again receive you--that is, if she mean to reject your suit?"

"Fool that I was! But no--she must, she shall."

"Be persuaded; in this country violence will not do. Take my advice,
write an humble apology, confess your fault, invoke her pity; and,
declaring that you renounce for ever the character of a lover, implore
still to be acknowledged as a friend. Be quiet now, hear me out; I am
older than you; I know my cousin; this will pique her; your modesty will
soothe, while your coldness will arouse, her vanity. Meanwhile you will
watch the progress of Maltravers; I will be by your elbow; and between
us, to use a homely phrase, we will do for him. Then you may have your
opportunity, clear stage, and fair play."

Cesarini was at first rebellious; but, at length, even he saw the policy
of the advice. But Lumley would not leave him till the advice was
adopted. He made Castruccio accompany him to a club, dictated the
letter to Florence, and undertook its charge. This was not all.

"It is also necessary," said Lumley, after a short but thoughtful
silence, "that you should write to Maltravers."

"And for what?"

"I have my reasons. Ask him, in a frank and friendly spirit, his
opinion of Lady Florence; state your belief that she loves you, and
inquire ingenuously what he thinks your chances of happiness in such a
union."

"But why this?"

"His answer may be useful," returned Lumley, musingly. "Stay, I will
dictate the letter."

Cesarini wondered and hesitated, but there was that about Lumley Ferrers
which had already obtained command over the weak and passionate poet.
He wrote, therefore, as Lumley dictated, beginning with some commonplace
doubts as to the happiness of marriage in general, excusing himself for
his recent coldness towards Maltravers, and asking him his confidential
opinion both as to Lady Florence's character and his own chances of
success.

This letter, like the former one, Lumley sealed and despatched.

"You perceive," he then said, briefly, to Cesarini, "that it is the
object of this letter to entrap Maltravers into some plain and honest
avowal of his dislike to Lady Florence; we may make good use of such
expressions hereafter, if he should ever prove a rival. And now go home
to rest: you look exhausted. Adieu, my new friend."

"I have long had a presentiment," said Lumley to his councillor SELF, as
he walked to Great George Street, "that that wild girl has conceived a
romantic fancy for Maltravers. But I can easily prevent such an
accident ripening into misfortune. Meanwhile, I have secured a tool, if
I want one. By Jove, what an ass that poet is! But so was Cassio; yet
Iago made use of him. If Iago had been born now, and dropped that
foolish fancy for revenge, what a glorious fellow he would have been!
Prime minister at least!"

Pale, haggard, exhausted, Castruccio Cesarini, traversing a length of
way, arrived at last at a miserable lodging in the suburb of Chelsea.
His fortune was now gone; gone in supplying the poorest food to a
craving and imbecile vanity: gone, that its owner might seem what nature
never meant him for: the elegant Lothario, the graceful man of pleasure,
the troubadour of modern life! gone in horses, and jewels, and fine
clothes, and gaming, and printing unsaleable poems on gilt-edged vellum;
gone, that he might not be a greater but a more fashionable man than
Ernest Maltravers! Such is the common destiny of those poor adventurers
who confine fame to boudoirs and saloons. No matter whether they be
poets or dandies, wealthy _parvenus_ or aristocratic cadets, all equally
prove the adage that the wrong paths to reputation are strewed with the
wrecks of peace, fortune, happiness, and too often honour! And yet this
poor young man had dared to hope for the hand of Florence Lascelles! He
had the common notion of foreigners, that English girls marry for love,
are very romantic; that, within the three seas, heiresses are as
plentiful as blackberries; and for the rest, his vanity had been so
pampered, that it now insinuated itself into every fibre of his
intellectual and moral system.

Cesarini looked cautiously round, as he arrived at his door; for he
fancied that, even in that obscure place, persons might be anxious to
catch a glimpse of the celebrated poet; and he concealed his residence
from all; dined on a roll when he did not dine out, and left his address
at "The Travellers." He looked round, I say, and he did observe a tall
figure wrapped in a cloak that had indeed followed him from a distant
and more populous part of the town. But the figure turned round, and
vanished instantly. Cesarini mounted to his second floor. And about
the middle of the next day a messenger left a letter at his door,
containing one hundred pounds in a blank envelope. Cesarini knew not
the writing of the address; his pride was deeply wounded. Amidst all
his penury, he had not even applied to his own sister. Could it come
from her, from De Montaigne? He was lost in conjecture. He put the
remittance aside for a few days; for he had something fine in him, the
poor poet! but bills grew pressing, and necessity hath no law.

Two days afterwards, Cesarini brought to Ferrers the answer he had
received from Maltravers. Lumley had rightly foreseen that the high
spirit of Ernest would conceive some indignation at the coquetry of
Florence in beguiling the Italian into hopes never to be realised, and
that he would express himself openly and warmly. He did so, however,
with more gentleness than Lumley had anticipated.

"This is not exactly the thing," said Ferrers, after twice reading the
letter; "still it may hereafter be a strong card in our hands--we will
keep it."

So saying, he locked the letter up in his desk, and Cesarini soon forgot
its existence.



CHAPTER V.

 "She was a phantom of delight,
  When first she gleamed upon my sight:
  A lovely apparition sent
  To be a moment's ornament."--WORDSWORTH.

MALTRAVERS did not see Lady Florence again for some weeks; meanwhile,
Lumley Ferrers made his _debut_ in parliament. Rigidly adhering to his
plan of acting on a deliberate system, and not prone to overrate
himself, Mr. Ferrers did not, like most promising new members, try the
hazardous ordeal of a great first speech. Though bold, fluent, and
ready, he was not eloquent; and he knew that on great occasions, when
great speeches are wanted, great guns like to have the fire to
themselves. Neither did he split upon the opposite rock of "promising
young men," who stick to "the business of the house" like leeches, and
quibble on details; in return for which labour they are generally voted
bores, who can never do anything remarkable. But he spoke frequently,
shortly, courageously, and with a strong dash of good-humoured
personality. He was the man whom a minister could get to say something
which other people did not like to say: and he did so with a frank
fearlessness that carried off any seeming violation of good taste. He
soon became a very popular speaker in the parliamentary clique;
especially with the gentlemen who crowd the bar, and never want to hear
the argument of the debate. Between him and Maltravers a visible
coldness now existed; for the latter looked upon his old friend (whose
principles of logic led him even to republicanism, and who had been
accustomed to accuse Ernest of temporising with plain truths, if he
demurred to their application to artificial states of society) as a
cold-blooded and hypocritical adventurer; while Ferrers, seeing that
Ernest could now be of no further use to him, was willing enough to drop
a profitless intimacy. Nay, he thought it would be wise to pick a
quarrel with him, if possible, as the best means of banishing a supposed
rival from the house of his noble relation, Lord Saxingham. But no
opportunity for that step presented itself; so Lumley kept a fit of
convenient rudeness, or an impromptu sarcasm, in reserve, if ever it
should be wanted.

The season and the session were alike drawing to a close, when
Maltravers received a pressing invitation from Cleveland to spend a week
at his villa, which he assured Ernest would be full of agreeable people;
and as all business productive of debate or division was over,
Maltravers was glad to obtain fresh air, and a change of scene.
Accordingly, he sent down his luggage and favourite books, and one
afternoon in early August rode alone towards Temple Grove. He was much
dissatisfied, perhaps disappointed, with his experience of public life;
and with his high-wrought and over-refining views of the deficiencies of
others more prominent, he was in a humour to mingle also censure of
himself, for having yielded too much to the doubts and scruples that
often, in the early part of their career, beset the honest and sincere,
in the turbulent whirl of politics, and ever tend to make the robust
hues that should belong to action

   "Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."

His mind was working its way slowly towards those conclusions, which
sometimes ripen the best practical men out of the most exalted
theorists, and perhaps he saw before him the pleasing prospect
flatteringly exhibited to another, when he complained of being too
honest for party, viz., "of becoming a very pretty rascal in time!"

For several weeks he had not heard from his unknown correspondent, and
the time was come when he missed those letters, now continued for more
than two years; and which, in their eloquent mixture of complaint,
exhortation, despondent gloom and declamatory enthusiasm, had often
soothed him in dejection, and made him more sensible of triumph. While
revolving in his mind thoughts connected with these subjects--and,
somehow or other, with his more ambitious reveries were always mingled
musings of curiosity respecting his correspondent--he was struck by the
beauty of a little girl, of about eleven years old, who was walking with
a female attendant on the footpath that skirted the road. I said that
he was struck by her beauty, but that is a wrong expression; it was
rather the charm of her countenance than the perfection of her features
which arrested the gaze of Maltravers--a charm that might not have
existed for others, but was inexpressibly attractive to him, and was so
much apart from the vulgar fascination of mere beauty, that it would
have equally touched a chord at his heart, if coupled with homely
features or a bloomless cheek. This charm was in a wonderful innocent
and dove-like softness of expression. We all form to ourselves some
_beau-ideal_ of the "fair spirit" we desire as our earthly "minister,"
and somewhat capriciously gauge and proportion our admiration of living
shapes according as the _beau-ideal_ is more or less embodied or
approached. Beauty, of a stamp that is not familiar to the dreams of
our fancy, may win the cold homage of our judgment, while a look, a
feature, a something that realises and calls up a boyish vision, and
assimilates even distantly to the picture we wear within us, has a
loveliness peculiar to our eyes, and kindles an emotion that almost
seems to belong to memory. It is this which the Platonists felt when
they wildly supposed that souls attracted to each other on earth had
been united in an earlier being and a diviner sphere; and there was in
the young face on which Ernest gazed precisely this ineffable harmony
with his preconceived notions of the beautiful. Many a nightly and
noonday reverie was realised in those mild yet smiling eyes of the
darkest blue; in that ingenuous breadth of brow, with its
slightly-pencilled arches, and the nose, not cut in that sharp and clear
symmetry which looks so lovely in marble, but usually gives to flesh and
blood a decided and hard character, that better becomes the sterner than
the gentler sex--no; not moulded in the pure Grecian, nor in the pure
Roman, cast; but small, delicate, with the least possible inclination to
turn upward, that was only to be detected in one position of the head,
and served to give a prettier archness to the sweet flexile lips, which,
from the gentleness of their repose, seemed to smile unconsciously, but
rather from a happy constitutional serenity than from the giddiness of
mirth. Such was the character of this fair child's countenance, on
which Maltravers turned and gazed involuntarily and reverently, with
something of the admiring delight with which we look upon the Virgin of
a Rafaele, or the sunset landscape of a Claude. The girl did not appear
to feel any premature coquetry at the evident, though respectful
admiration she excited. She met the eyes bent upon her, brilliant and
eloquent as they were, with a fearless and unsuspecting gaze, and
pointed out to her companion, with all a child's quick and unrestrained
impulse, the shining and raven gloss, the arched and haughty neck, of
Ernest's beautiful Arabian.

Now there happened between Maltravers and the young object of his
admiration a little adventure, which served, perhaps, to fix in her
recollection this short encounter with a stranger; for certain it is
that, years after, she did remember both the circumstances of the
adventure and the features of Maltravers. She wore one of those large
straw-hats which look so pretty upon children, and the warmth of the day
made her untie the strings which confined it. A gentle breeze arose, as
by a turn in the road the country became more open, and suddenly wafted
the hat from its proper post, almost to the hoofs of Ernest's horse.
The child naturally made a spring forward to arrest the deserter, and
her foot slipped down the bank, which was rather steeply raised above
the road. She uttered a low cry of pain. To dismount--to regain the
prize--and to restore it to its owner, was, with Ernest, the work of a
moment; the poor girl had twisted her ankle and was leaning upon her
servant for support. But when she saw the anxiety, and almost the
alarm, upon the stranger's face (and her exclamation of pain had
literally thrilled his heart--so much and so unaccountably had she
excited his interest), she made an effort at self-control, not common at
her years, and, with a forced smile, assured him she was not much
hurt--that it was nothing--that she was just at home.

"Oh, miss!" said the servant, "I am sure you are very bad. Dear heart,
how angry master will be! It was not my fault; was it, sir?"

"Oh, no, it was not your fault, Margaret; don't be frightened--papa
sha'n't blame you. But I'm much better now." So saying, she tried to
walk; but the effort was in vain--she turned yet more pale, and though
she struggled to prevent a shriek, the tears rolled down her cheeks.

It was very odd, but Maltravers had never felt more touched--the tears
stood in his own eyes; he longed to carry her in his arms, but, child as
she was, a strange kind of nervous timidity forbade him. Margaret,
perhaps, expected it of him, for she looked hard in his face, before she
attempted a burthen to which, being a small, slight person, she was by
no means equal. However, after a pause, she took up her charge, who,
ashamed of her tears, and almost overcome with pain, nestled her head in
the woman's bosom, and Maltravers walked by her side, while his docile
and well-trained horse followed at a distance, every now and then
putting its fore-legs on the bank and cropping away a mouthful of leaves
from the hedge-row.

"Oh, Margaret!" said the little sufferer, "I cannot bear it--indeed I
cannot."

And Maltravers observed that Margaret had permitted the lame foot to
hang down unsupported, so that the pain must indeed have been scarcely
bearable. He could restrain himself no longer.

"You are not strong enough to carry her," said he, sharply, to the
servant; and the next moment the child was in his arms. Oh, with what
anxious tenderness he bore her! and he was so happy when she turned her
face to him and smiled, and told him she now scarcely felt the pain. If
it were possible to be in love with a child of eleven years old,
Maltravers was almost in love. His pulses trembled as he felt her pure
breath on his cheek, and her rich beautiful hair was waved by the breeze
across his lips. He hushed his voice to a whisper as he poured forth
all the soothing and comforting expressions which give a natural
eloquence to persons fond of children--and Ernest Maltravers was the
idol of children;--he understood and sympathised with them; he had a
great deal of the child himself, beneath the rough and cold husk of his
proud reserve. At length they came to a lodge, and Margaret eagerly
inquiring "whether master and missus were at home," seemed delighted to
hear they were not. Ernest, however, insisted on bearing his charge
across the lawn to the house, which, like most suburban villas, was but
a stone's throw from the lodge; and, receiving the most positive promise
that surgical advice should be immediately sent for, he was forced to
content himself with laying the sufferer on a sofa in the drawing-room;
and she thanked him so prettily, and assured him she was so much easier,
that he would have given the world to kiss her. The child had completed
her conquest over him by being above the child's ordinary littleness of
making the worst of things, in order to obtain the consequence and
dignity of being pitied;--she was evidently unselfish and considerate
for others. He did kiss her, but it was the hand that he kissed, and no
cavalier ever kissed his lady's hand with more respect; and then, for
the first time, the child blushed--then, for the first time, she felt as
if the day would come when she should be a child no longer! Why was
this?--perhaps because it is an era in life--the first sign of a
tenderness that inspires respect, not familiarity!

"If ever again I could be in love," said Maltravers, as he spurred on
his road, "I really think it would be with that exquisite child. My
feeling is more like that of love at first sight than any emotion which
beauty ever caused in me. Alice--Valerie--no; the _first_ sight of them
did not:--but what folly is this--a child of eleven--and I verging upon
thirty!"

Still, however, folly as it might be, the image of that young girl
haunted Maltravers for many days; till change of scene, the distractions
of society, the grave thoughts of manhood, and, above all, a series of
exciting circumstances about to be narrated, gradually obliterated a
strange and most delightful impression. He had learned, however, that
Mr. Templeton was the proprietor of the villa, which was the child's
home. He wrote to Ferrers to narrate the incident, and to inquire after
the sufferer. In due time he heard from that gentleman that the child
was recovered, and gone with Mr. and Mrs. Templeton to Brighton, for
change of air and sea-bathing.



BOOK VIII.

 Whither come Wisdom's queen
 And the snare-weaving Love?
     EURIP. _Iphig. in Aul._ I. 1310.



CHAPTER I.

 "Notitiam primosque gradus vicinia fecit."*--OVID.

* Neighbourhood caused the acquaintance and first introduction.

CLEVELAND'S villa _was_ full, and of persons usually called agreeable.
Amongst the rest was Lady Florence Lascelles. The wise old man had ever
counselled Maltravers not to marry too young; but neither did he wish
him to put off that momentous epoch of life till all the bloom of heart
and emotion was passed away. He thought, with the old lawgivers, that
thirty was the happy age for forming a connection, in the choice of
which, with the reason of manhood, ought, perhaps, to be blended the
passion of youth. And he saw that few men were more capable than
Maltravers of the true enjoyments of domestic life. He had long
thought, also, that none were more calculated to sympathise with
Ernest's views, and appreciate his peculiar character, than the gifted
and brilliant Florence Lascelles. Cleveland looked with toleration on
her many eccentricities of thought and conduct,--eccentricities which he
imagined would rapidly melt away beneath the influence of that
attachment which usually operates so great a change in women; and, where
it is strongly and intensely felt, moulds even those of the most
obstinate character into compliance or similitude with the sentiments or
habits of its object.

The stately self-control of Maltravers was, he conceived, precisely that
quality that gives to men an unconscious command over the very thoughts
of the woman whose affection they win: while, on the other hand, he
hoped that the fancy and enthusiasm of Florence would tend to render
sharper and more practical an ambition, which seemed to the sober man of
the world too apt to refine upon the means, and to _cui bono_ the
objects of worldly distinction. Besides, Cleveland was one who
thoroughly appreciated the advantages of wealth and station; and the
rank and the dower of Florence were such as would force Maltravers into
a position in social life, which could not fail to make new exactions
upon talents which Cleveland fancied were precisely those adapted rather
to command than to serve. In Ferrers he recognised a man to _get_ into
power--in Maltravers one by whom power, if ever attained, would be
wielded with dignity, and exerted for great uses. Something, therefore,
higher than mere covetousness for the vulgar interests of Maltravers
made Cleveland desire to secure to him the heart and hand of the great
heiress; and he fancied that, whatever might be the obstacle, it would
not be in the will of Lady Florence herself. He prudently resolved,
however, to leave matters to their natural course. He hinted nothing to
one party or the other. No place for falling in love like a large
country house, and no time for it, amongst the indolent well-born, like
the close of a London season, when, jaded by small cares, and sickened
of hollow intimacies, even the coldest may well yearn for the tones of
affection--the excitement of an honest emotion.

Somehow or other it happened that Florence and Ernest, after the first
day or two, were constantly thrown together. She rode on horseback, and
Maltravers was by her side--they made excursions on the river, and they
sat on the same bench in the gliding pleasure-boat. In the evenings,
the younger guests, with the assistance of the neighbouring families,
often got up a dance in a temporary pavilion built out of the
dining-room. Ernest never danced. Florence did at first. But once, as
she was conversing with Maltravers, when a gay guardsman came to claim
her promised hand in the waltz, she seemed struck by a grave change in
Ernest's face.

"Do you never waltz?" she asked, while the guardsman was searching for a
corner wherein safely to deposit his hat.

"No," said he; "yet there is no impropriety in _my_ waltzing."

"And you mean that there is in mine?"

"Pardon me--I did not say so."

"But you think it."

"Nay, on consideration, I am glad, perhaps, that you do waltz."

"You are mysterious."

"Well then, I mean, that you are precisely the woman I would never fall
in love with. And I feel the danger is lessened, when I see you destroy
any one of my illusions, or, I ought to say, attack any one of my
prejudices."

Lady Florence coloured; but the guardsman and the music left her no time
for reply. However, after that night she waltzed no more. She was
unwell--she declared she was ordered not to dance, and so quadrilles
were relinquished as well as the waltz.

Maltravers could not but be touched and flattered by this regard for his
opinion; but Florence contrived to testify it so as to forbid
acknowledgment, since another motive had been found for it. The second
evening after that commemorated by Ernest's candid rudeness, they
chanced to meet in the conservatory, which was connected with the
ball-room; and Ernest, pausing to inquire after her health, was struck
by the listless and dejected sadness which spoke in her tone and
countenance as she replied to him.

"Dear Lady Florence," said he, "I fear you are worse than you will
confess. You should shun these draughts. You owe it to your friends to
be more careful of yourself."

"Friends!" said Lady Florence, bitterly--"I have no friends!--even my
poor father would not absent himself from a cabinet dinner a week after
I was dead. But that is the condition of public life--its hot and
searing blaze puts out the lights of all lesser but not unholier
affections.--Friends! Fate, that made Florence Lascelles the envied
heiress, denied her brothers, sisters; and the hour of her birth lost
her even the love of a mother! Friends! where shall I find them?"

As she ceased, she turned to the open casement, and stepped out into the
verandah, and by the trembling of her voice Ernest felt that she had
done so to hide or to suppress her tears.

"Yet," said he, following her, "there is one class of more distant
friends, whose interest Lady Florence Lascelles cannot fail to secure,
however she may disdain it. Among the humblest of that class, suffer me
to rank myself. Come, I assume the privilege of advice--the night air
is a luxury you must not indulge."

"No, no, it refreshes me--it soothes. You misunderstand me, I have no
illness that still skies and sleeping flowers can increase."

Maltravers, as is evident, was not in love with Florence, but he could
not fail, brought, as he had lately been, under the direct influence of
her rare and prodigal gifts, mental and personal, to feel for her a
strong and even affectionate interest--the very frankness with which he
was accustomed to speak to her, and the many links of communion there
necessarily were between himself and a mind so naturally powerful and so
richly cultivated, had already established their acquaintance upon an
intimate footing.

"I cannot restrain you, Lady Florence," said he, half smiling, "but my
conscience will not let me be an accomplice. I will turn king's
evidence, and hunt out Lord Saxingham to send him to you."

Lady Florence, whose face was averted from his, did not appear to hear
him.

"And you, Mr. Maltravers," turning quickly round--"you--have you
friends? Do you feel that there are, I do not say public, but private
affections and duties, for which life is made less a possession than a
trust?"

"Lady Florence--no!--I have friends, it is true, and Cleveland is of the
nearest; but the life within life--the second self, in whom we vest the
right and mastery over our own being--I know it not. But is it," he
added, after a pause, "a rare privation? Perhaps it is a happy one. I
have learned to lean on my own soul, and not look elsewhere for the
reeds that a wind can break."

"Ah, it is a cold philosophy--you may reconcile yourself to its wisdom
in the world, in the hum and shock of men; but in solitude, with
Nature--ah, no! While the mind alone is occupied, you may be contented
with the pride of stoicism; but there are moments when the _heart_
wakens as from a sleep--wakens like a frightened child--to feel itself
alone and in the dark."

Ernest was silent, and Florence continued, in an altered voice: "This is
a strange conversation--and you must think me indeed a wild,
romance-reading person, as the world is apt to call me. But if I
live--I--pshaw!--life denies ambition to women."

"If a woman like you, Lady Florence, should ever love, it will be one in
whose career you may perhaps find that noblest of all ambitions--the
ambition women only feel--the ambition for another!"

"Ah! but I shall never love," said Lady Florence, and her cheek grew
pale as the starlight shone on it; "still, perhaps," she added quickly,
"I may at least know the blessing of friendship. Why now," and here,
approaching Maltravers, she laid her hand with a winning frankness on
his arm--"why now, should not we be to each other as if love, as you
call it, were not a thing for earth--and friendship supplied its
place?--there is no danger of our falling in love with each other! You
are not vain enough to expect it in me, and I, you know, am a coquette;
let us be friends, confidants--at least till you marry, or I give
another the right to control my friendships and monopolise my secrets."

Maltravers was startled--the sentiment Florence addressed to him, he, in
words not dissimilar, had once addressed to Valerie.

"The world," said he, kissing the hand that yet lay on his arm, "the
world will--"

"Oh, you men!--the world, the world!--Everything gentle, everything
pure, everything noble, high-wrought and holy--is to be squared, and
cribbed, and maimed to the rule and measure of the world! The
world--are you, too, its slave? Do you not despise its hollow cant--its
methodical hypocrisy?"

"Heartily!" said Ernest Maltravers, almost with fierceness. "No man ever
so scorned its false gods and its miserable creeds--its war upon the
weak--its fawning upon the great--its ingratitude to benefactors--its
sordid league with mediocrity against excellence. Yes, in proportion as
I love mankind, I despise and detest that worse than Venetian oligarchy
which mankind set over them and call 'THE WORLD.'"

And then it was, warmed by the excitement of released feelings,
long and carefully shrouded, that this man, ordinarily so calm and
self-possessed, poured burningly and passionately forth all those
tumultuous and almost tremendous thoughts, which, however much we
may regulate, control, or disguise them, lurk deep within the souls
of all of us, the seeds of the eternal war between the natural man
and the artificial; between our wilder genius and our social
conventionalities;--thoughts that from time to time break forth into the
harbingers of vain and fruitless revolutions, impotent struggles against
destiny;--thoughts that good and wise men would be slow to promulge and
propagate, for they are of a fire which burns as well as brightens, and
which spreads from heart to heart--as a spark spreads amidst
flax;--thoughts which are rifest where natures are most high, but belong
to truths that virtue dare not tell aloud. And as Maltravers spoke,
with his eyes flashing almost intolerable light--his breast heaving, his
form dilated, never to the eyes of Florence Lascelles did he seem so
great: the chains that bound the strong limbs of his spirit seemed
snapped asunder, and all his soul was visible and towering, as a thing
that has escaped slavery, and lifts its crest to heaven, and feels that
it is free.

That evening saw a new bond of alliance between these two
persons,--young, handsome, and of opposite sexes, they agreed to be
friends, and nothing more. Fools!



CHAPTER II.

 "Idem velle, et idem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est."*
        SALLUST.

*To will the same thing and not to will the same thing, that at length
is firm friendship.

 "_Carlos._ That letter.
  _Princess Eboli._ Oh, I shall die. Return it instantly."
        SCHILLER: _Don Carlos_.

IT seemed as if the compact Maltravers and Lady Florence had entered
into removed whatever embarrassment and reserve had previously existed.
They now conversed with an ease and freedom not common in persons of
different sexes before they have passed their grand climacteric.
Ernest, in ordinary life, like most men of warm emotions and strong
imagination, if not taciturn, was at least guarded. It was as if a
weight were taken from his breast, when he found one person who could
understand him best when he was most candid. His eloquence--his
poetry--his intense and concentrated enthusiasm found a voice. He could
talk to an individual as he would have written to the public--a rare
happiness to the men of books.

Florence seemed to recover her health and spirits as by a miracle; yet
she was more gentle, more subdued, than of old--there was less effort to
shine, less indifference whether she shocked. Persons who had not met
her before, wondered why she was dreaded in society. But at times a
great natural irritability of temper--a quick suspicion of the motives
of those around her--an imperious and obstinate vehemence of will, were
visible to Maltravers, and served, perhaps, to keep him heart-whole. He
regarded her through the eyes of the intellect, not those of the
passions--he thought not of her as a woman--her very talents, her very
grandeur of idea and power of purpose, while they delighted him in
conversation, diverted his imagination from dwelling on her beauty. He
looked on her as something apart from her sex;--a glorious creature
spoilt by being a woman. He once told her so, laughing, and Florence
considered it a compliment. Poor Florence, her scorn of her sex avenged
her sex, and robbed her of her proper destiny!

Cleveland silently observed their intimacy, and listened with a quiet
smile to the gossips who pointed out _tetes-a-tetes_ by the terrace, and
loiterings by the lawn, and predicted what would come of it all. Lord
Saxingham was blind. But his daughter was of age, in possession of her
princely fortune, and had long made him sensible of her independence of
temper. His lordship, however, thoroughly misunderstood the character
of her pride, and felt fully convinced she would marry no one less than
a duke; as for flirtations, he thought them natural and innocent
amusements. Besides, he was very little at Temple Grove. He went to
London every morning, after breakfasting in his own room--came back to
dine, play at whist, and talk good-humoured nonsense to Florence in his
dressing-room, for the three minutes that took place between his sipping
his wine-and-water and the appearance of his valet. As for the other
guests, it was not their business to do more than gossip with each
other; and so Florence and Maltravers went on their way unmolested,
though not unobserved. Maltravers, not being himself in love, never
fancied that Lady Florence loved him, or that she would be in any danger
of doing so. This is a mistake a man often commits--a woman never. A
woman always knows when she is loved, though she often imagines she is
loved when she is not. Florence was not happy, for happiness is a calm
feeling. But she was excited with a vague, wild, intoxicating emotion.

She had learned from Maltravers that she had been misinformed by
Ferrers, and that no other claimed empire over his heart; and whether or
not he loved her, still for the present they seemed all in all to each
other; she lived but for the present day, she would not think of the
morrow.

Since that severe illness which had tended so much to alter Ernest's
mode of life, he had not come before the public as an author. Latterly,
however, the old habit had broken out again. With the comparative
idleness of recent years, the ideas and feelings which crowd so fast on
the poetical temperament, once indulged, had accumulated within him to
an excess that demanded vent. For with some, to write is not a vague
desire, but an imperious destiny. The fire is kindled and must break
forth; the wings are fledged, and the birds must leave their nest. The
communication of thought to man is implanted as an instinct in those
breasts to which Heaven has intrusted the solemn agencies of genius. In
the work which Maltravers now composed he consulted Florence: his
confidence delighted her--it was a compliment she could appreciate.
Wild, fervid, impassioned, was that work--a brief and holiday
creation--the youngest and most beloved of the children of his brain.
And as day by day the bright design grew into shape, and thought and
imagination found themselves "local habitations," Florence felt as if
she were admitted into the palace of the genii, and made acquainted with
the mechanism of those spells and charms with which the preternatural
powers of mind design the witchery of the world. Ah, how different in
depth and majesty were those intercommunications of idea between Ernest
Maltravers and a woman scarcely inferior to himself in capacity and
acquirement, from that bridge of shadowy and dim sympathies which the
enthusiastic boy had once built up between his own poetry of knowledge
and Alice's poetry of love!

It was one late afternoon in September, when the sun was slowly going
down its western way, that Lady Florence, who had been all that morning
in her own room, paying off, as she said, the dull arrears of
correspondence, rather on Lord Saxingham's account than her own; for he
punctiliously exacted from her the most scrupulous attention to cousins
fifty times removed, provided they were rich, clever, well off, or in
any way of consequence:--it was one afternoon that, relieved from these
avocations, Lady Florence strolled through the grounds with Cleveland.
The gentlemen were still in the stubble-fields, the ladies were out in
barouches and pony phaetons, and Cleveland and Lady Florence were alone.

Apropos of Florence's epistolary employment, their conversation fell
upon that most charming species of literature, which joins with the
interest of a novel the truth of a history--the French memoir and
letter-writers. It was a part of literature in which Cleveland was
thoroughly at home.

"Those agreeable and polished gossips," said he, "how well they
contrived to introduce nature into art! Everything artificial seemed so
natural to them. They even feel by a kind of clockwork, which seems to
go better than the heart itself. Those pretty sentiments, those
delicate gallantries, of Madame de Sevigne to her daughter, how amiable
they are; but, somehow or other, I can never fancy them the least
motherly. What an ending for a maternal epistle is that elegant
compliment--'Songez que de tons les coeurs ou vous regnez, il n'y en a
aucun ou votre empire soit si bien etabli que dans le mien.'* I can
scarcely fancy Lord Saxingham writing so to you, Lady Florence."

* Think that of all the hearts over which you reign, there is not one in
which your empire can be so well established as in mine.

"No, indeed," replied Lady Florence, smiling. "Neither papas nor mammas
in England are much addicted to compliment; but I confess I like
preserving a sort of gallantry even in our most familiar
connections--why should we not carry the imagination into all the
affections?"

"I can scarce answer the why," returned Cleveland; "but I think it would
destroy the reality. I am rather of the old school. If I had a
daughter, and asked her to get my slippers, I am afraid I should think
it a little wearisome if I had, in receiving them, to make _des belles
phrases_ in return."

While they were thus talking, and Lady Florence continued to press her
side of the question, they passed through a little grove that conducted
to an arm of the stream which ornamented the grounds, and by its quiet
and shadowy gloom was meant to give a contrast to the livelier features
of the domain. Here they came suddenly upon Maltravers. He was walking
by the side of the brook, and evidently absorbed in thought.

It was the trembling of Lady Florence's hand as it lay on Cleveland's
arm, that induced him to stop short in an animated commentary on
Rochefoucauld's character of Cardinal de Retz, and look round.

"Ha, most meditative Jacques!" said he; "and what new moral hast thou
been conning in our Forest of Ardennes?"

"Oh, I am glad to see you; I wished to consult you, Cleveland. But
first, Lady Florence, to convince you and our host that my rambles have
not been wholly fruitless, and that I could not walk from Dan to
Beersheba and find all barren, accept my offering--a wild rose that I
discovered in the thickest part of the wood. It is not a civilised
rose. Now, Cleveland, a word with you."

"And now, Mr. Maltravers, I am _de trop_," said Lady Florence.

"Pardon me, I have no secrets from you in this matter--or rather these
matters; for there are two to be discussed. In the first place, Lady
Florence, that poor Cesarini,--you know and like him--nay, no blushes."

"Did I blush?--then it was in recollection of an old reproach of yours."

"At its justice?--well, no matter. He is one for whom I always felt a
lively interest. His very morbidity of temperament only increases my
anxiety for his future fate. I have received a letter from De
Montaigne, his brother-in-law, who seems seriously uneasy about
Castruccio. He wishes him to leave England at once, as the sole means
of restoring his broken fortunes. De Montaigne has the opportunity of
procuring him a diplomatic situation, which may not again
occur--and--but you know the man--what shall we do? I am sure he will
not listen to me; he looks on me as an interested rival for fame."

"Do you think I have any subtler eloquence?" said Cleveland. "No, I am
an author, too. Come, I think your ladyship must be the
arch-negotiator."

"He has genius, he has merit," said Maltravers, pleadingly; "he wants
nothing but time and experience to wean him from his foibles. _Will_
you try to save him, Lady Florence?"

"Why? nay, I must not be obdurate; I will see him when I go to town. It
is like you, Mr. Maltravers, to feel this interest in one--"

"Who does not like me, you would say; but he will some day or other.
Besides, I owe him deep gratitude. In his weaker qualities I have seen
many which all literary men might incur, without strict watch over
themselves; and let me add, also, that his family have great claims on
me."

"You believe in the soundness of his heart, and in the integrity of his
honour?" said Cleveland, inquiringly.

"Indeed I do; these are, these must be, the redeeming qualities of
poets."

Maltravers spoke warmly; and such at that time was his influence over
Florence, that his words formed--alas, too fatally!--her estimate of
Castruccio's character, which had at first been high, but which his own
presumption had latterly shaken. She had seen him three or four times
in the interval between the receipt of his apologetic letter and her
visit to Cleveland, and he had seemed to her rather sullen than humbled.
But she felt for the vanity she herself had wounded.

"And now," continued Maltravers, "for my second subject of consultation.
But that is political; will it weary Lady Florence?"

"Oh, no; to politics I am never indifferent: they always inspire me with
contempt or admiration, according to the motives of those who bring the
science into action. Pray say on."

"Well," said Cleveland, "one confidant at a time; you will forgive me,
for I see my guests coming across the lawn, and I may as well make a
diversion in your favour. Ernest can consult _me_ at any time."

Cleveland walked away; but the intimacy between Maltravers and Florence
was of so frank a nature that there was nothing embarrassing in the
thought of a _tete-a-tete_.

"Lady Florence," said Ernest, "there is no one in the world with whom I
can confer so cheerfully as with you. I am almost glad of Cleveland's
absence, for, with all his amiable and fine qualities, 'the world is too
much with him,' and we do not argue from the same data. Pardon my
prelude--now to my position. I have received a letter from Mr. ------.
That statesman, whom none but those acquainted with the chivalrous
beauty of his nature can understand or appreciate, sees before him the
most brilliant career that ever opened in this country to a public man
not born an aristocrat. He has asked me to form one of the new
administration that he is about to create: the place offered to me is
above my merits, nor suited to what I have yet done, though, perhaps, it
be suited to what I may yet do. I make that qualification, for you
know," added Ernest, with a proud smile, "that I am sanguine and
self-confident."

"You accept the proposal?"

"Nay,--should I not reject it? Our politics are the same only for the
moment, our ultimate objects are widely different. To serve with Mr.
------, I must make an unequal compromise--abandon nine opinions to
promote one. Is not this a capitulation of that great citadel, one's
own conscience? No man will call me inconsistent, for, in public life,
to agree with another on a party question is all that is required; the
thousand questions not yet ripened, and lying dark and concealed in the
future, are not inquired into and divined; but I own I shall deem myself
worse than inconsistent. For this is my dilemma,--if I use this noble
spirit merely to advance one object, and then desert him where he halts,
I am treacherous to him; if I halt with him, but one of my objects
effected, I am treacherous to myself. Such are my views. It is with
pain I arrive at them, for, at first, my heart beat with a selfish
ambition."

"You are right, you are right," exclaimed Florence, with glowing cheeks;
"how could I doubt you? I comprehend the sacrifice you make; for a
proud thing is it to soar above the predictions of foes in that palpable
road to honour which the world's hard eyes can see, and the world's cold
heart can measure; but prouder is it to feel that you have never
advanced one step to the goal, which remembrance would retract. No, my
friend, wait your time, confident that it must come, when conscience and
ambition can go hand-in-hand--when the broad objects of a luminous and
enlarged policy lie before you like a chart, and you can calculate every
step of the way without peril of being lost. Ah, let them still call
loftiness of purpose and whiteness of soul the dreams of a
theorist,--even if they be so, the Ideal in this case is better than the
Practical. Meanwhile your position is not one to forfeit lightly.
Before you is that throne in literature which it requires no doubtful
step to win, if you have, as I believe, the mental power to attain it.
An ambition that may indeed be relinquished, if a more troubled career
can better achieve those public purposes at which both letters and
policy should aim, but which is not to be surrendered for the rewards of
a place-man, or the advancement of a courtier."

It was while uttering these noble and inspiring sentiments, that
Florence Lascelles suddenly acquired in Ernest's eyes a loveliness with
which they had not before invested her.

"Oh," he said, as, with a sudden impulse, he lifted her hand to his
lips, "blessed be the hour in which you gave me your friendship! These
are the thoughts I have longed to hear from living lips, when I have
been tempted to believe patriotism a delusion, and virtue but a name."

Lady Florence heard, and her whole form seemed changed,--she was no
longer the majestic sibyl, but the attached, timorous, delighted woman.

It so happened that in her confusion she dropped from her hand the
flower Maltravers had given her, and involuntarily glad of a pretext to
conceal her countenance, she stooped to take it from the ground. In so
doing, a letter fell from her bosom--and Maltravers, as he bent forwards
to forestall her own movement, saw that the direction was to himself,
and in the handwriting of his unknown correspondent. He seized the
letter, and gazed in flattered and entranced astonishment, first on the
writing, next on the detected writer. Florence grew deadly pale, and
covering her face with her hands, burst into tears.

"O fool that I was," cried Ernest, in the passion of the moment, "not to
know--not to have felt that there were not two Florences in the world!
But if the thought had crossed me, I would not have dared to harbour
it."

"Go, go," sobbed Florence; "leave me, in mercy leave me!"

"Not till you bid me rise," said Ernest, in emotion scarcely less deep
than hers, as he sank on his knee at her feet.

Need I go on?--When they left that spot, a soft confession had been
made--deep vows interchanged, and Ernest Maltravers was the accepted
suitor of Florence Lascelles.



CHAPTER III.

 "A hundred fathers would in my situation tell you that, as
  you are of noble extraction, you should marry a nobleman.
  But I do not say so. I will not sacrifice my child to any
  prejudice."
        KOTZEBUE. _Lover's Vows_.

 "Take heed, my lord; the welfare of us all
  Hangs on the cutting short that fraudful man."
        SHAKSPEARE. _Henry VI._

 "Oh, how this spring of love resembleth
  Th' uncertain glory of an April day;
  Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
  And by and by a cloud takes all away!"
        SHAKSPEARE. _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_.

WHEN Maltravers was once more in his solitary apartment, he felt as in a
dream. He had obeyed an impulse, irresistible, perhaps, but one with
which the _conscience of his heart_ was not satisfied. A voice
whispered to him, "Thou hast deceived her and thyself--thou dost not
love her!" In vain he recalled her beauty, her grace, her genius--her
singular and enthusiastic passion for himself--the voice still replied,
"Thou dost not love. Bid farewell for ever to thy fond dreams of a life
more blessed than that of mortals. From the stormy sea of the future
are blotted out eternally for thee--Calypso and her Golden Isle. Thou
canst no more paint on the dim canvas of thy desires the form of her
with whom thou couldst dwell for ever. Thou hast been unfaithful to
thine own ideal--thou hast given thyself for ever and for ever to
another--thou hast renounced hope--thou must live as in a prison, with a
being with whom thou hast not the harmony of love."

"No matter," said Maltravers, almost alarmed, and starting from these
thoughts, "I am betrothed to one who loves me--it is folly and dishonour
to repent and to repine. I have gone through the best years of youth
without finding the Egeria with whom the cavern would be sweeter than a
throne. Why live to the grave a vain and visionary Nympholept? Out of
the real world could I have made a nobler choice?"

While Maltravers thus communed with himself, Lady Florence passed into
her father's dressing-room, and there awaited his return from London.
She knew his worldly views--she knew also the pride of her affianced,
and, she felt that she alone could mediate between the two.

Lord Saxingham at last returned--busy, bustling, important, and
good-humoured as usual. "Well, Flory, well?--glad to see you--quite
blooming, I declare,--never saw you with such a colour--monstrous like
me, certainly. We always had fine complexions and fine eyes in our
family. But I'm rather late--first bell rung--we _ci-devant jeunes
hommes_ are rather long dressing, and you are not dressed yet, I see."

"My dearest father, I wished to speak with you on a matter of much
importance."

"Do you?--what, immediately?"

"Yes."

"Well--what is it?--your Slingsby property, I suppose."

"No, my dear father--pray sit down and hear me patiently."

Lord Saxingham began to be both alarmed and curious--he seated himself
in silence, and looked anxiously in the face of his daughter.

"You have always been very indulgent to me," commenced Florence, with a
half smile, "and I have had my own way more than most young ladies.
Believe me, my dear father. I am most grateful not only for your
affection but your esteem. I have been a strange wild girl, but I am
now about to reform; and as the first step, I ask your consent to give
myself a preceptor and a guide--"

"A what!" cried Lord Saxingham.

"In other words, I am about to--to--well, the truth must out--to marry."

"Has the Duke of ------ been here to-day?"

"Not that I know of. But it is no duke to whom I have promised my
hand--it is a nobler and rarer dignity that has caught my ambition. Mr.
Maltravers has--"

"Mr. Maltravers!--Mr. Devil!--the girl's mad!--don't talk to me, child,
I won't consent to any such nonsense. A country gentleman--very
respectable, very clever, and all that, but it's no use talking--my
mind's made up. With your fortune, too!"

"My dear father, I will not marry without your consent, though my
fortune is settled on me, and I am of age."

"There's a good child--and now let me dress--we shall be late."

"No, not yet," said Lady Florence, throwing her arm carelessly round her
father's neck--"I shall marry Mr. Maltravers, but it will be with your
full approval. Just consider, if I married the Duke of ------, he would
expect all my fortune, such as it is. Ten thousand a year is at my
disposal; if I marry Mr. Maltravers, it will be settled on you--I always
meant it--it is a poor return for your kindness, your indulgence--but it
will show that your own Flory is not ungrateful."

"I won't hear."

"Stop--listen to reason. You are not rich--you are entitled but to a
small pension if you ever resign office, and your official salary, I
have often heard you say, does not prevent you from being embarrassed.
To whom should a daughter give from her superfluities but to a
parent?--from whom should a parent receive, but from a child, who can
never repay his love?--Ah, this is nothing; but you--you who have never
crossed her lightest whim--do not you destroy all the hopes of happiness
your Florence can ever form."

Florence wept, and Lord Saxingham, who was greatly moved, let fall a few
tears also. Perhaps it is too much to say that the pecuniary part of
the proffered arrangement entirely won him over; but still the way it
was introduced softened his heart. He possibly thought that it was
better to have a good and grateful daughter in a country gentleman's
wife, than a sullen and thankless one in a duchess. However that may
be, certain it is, that before Lord Saxingham began his toilet, he
promised to make no obstacle to the marriage, and all he asked in return
was, that at least three months (but that, indeed, the lawyers would
require) should elapse before it took place; and on this understanding
Florence left him, radiant and joyous as Flora herself, when the sun of
spring makes the world a garden. Never had she thought so little of her
beauty, and never had it seemed so glorious, as that happy evening. But
Maltravers was pale and thoughtful, and Florence in vain sought his eyes
during the dinner, which seemed to her insufferably long. Afterwards,
however, they met and conversed apart the rest of the evening; and the
beauty of Florence began to produce upon Ernest's heart its natural
effect; and that evening--ah, how Florence treasured the remembrance of
every hour, every minute of its annals!

It would have been amusing to witness the short conversation between
Lord Saxingham and Maltravers, when the latter sought the earl at night
in his lordship's room. To Lord Saxingham's surprise, not a word did
Maltravers utter of his own subordinate pretensions to Lady Florence's
hand. Coldly, drily, and almost haughtily, did he make the formal
proposals, "as if [as Lord Saxingham afterwards said to Ferrers] the man
were doing me the highest possible honour in taking my daughter, the
beauty of London, with fifty thousand a year, off my hands." But this
was quite Maltravers!--if he had been proposing to the daughter of a
country curate, without a sixpence, he would have been the humblest of
the humble. The earl was embarrassed and discomposed--he was almost
awed by the Siddons-like countenance and Coriolanus-like air of his
future son-in-law-he even hinted nothing of the compromise as to time
which he had made with his daughter. He thought it better to leave it
to Lady Florence to arrange that matter. They shook hands frigidly and
parted. Maltravers went next into Cleveland's room, and communicated
all to the delighted old man, whose congratulations were so fervid that
Maltravers felt it would be a sin not to fancy himself the happiest, man
in the world. That night he wrote his refusal of the appointment
offered him.

The next day, Lord Saxingham went to his office in Downing Street as
usual, and Lady Florence and Ernest found an opportunity to ramble
through the grounds alone.

There it was that occurred those confessions, sweet alike to utter and
to hear. Then did Florence speak of her early years--of her self-formed
and solitary mind--of her youthful dreams and reveries. Nothing around
her to excite interest or admiration, or the more romantic, the higher,
or the softer qualities of her nature, she turned to contemplation and
to books. It is the combination of the faculties with the affections,
exiled from action, and finding no worldly vent, which produces Poetry,
the child of passion and of thought. Hence, before the real cares of
existence claim them, the young, who are abler yet lonelier than their
fellows, are nearly always poets; and Florence was a poetess. In minds
like this, the first book that seems to embody and represent their own
most cherished and beloved trains of sentiment and ideas, ever creates a
reverential and deep enthusiasm. The lonely, and proud, and melancholy
soul of Maltravers, which made itself visible in all his creations,
became to Florence like a revealer of the secrets of her own nature.
She conceived an intense and mysterious interest in the man whose mind
exercised so pervading a power over her own. She made herself
acquainted with his pursuits, his career--she fancied she found a
symmetry and harmony between the actual being and the breathing
genius--she imagined she understood what seemed dark and obscure to
others. He whom she had never seen grew to her a never-absent friend.
His ambition, his reputation, were to her like a possession of her own.
So at length, in the folly of her young romance, she wrote to him, and
dreaming of no discovery, anticipating no result, the habit once
indulged became to her that luxury which writing for the eye of the
world is to an author oppressed with the burthen of his own thoughts.
At length she saw him, and he did not destroy her illusion. She might
have recovered from the spell if she had found him ready at once to
worship at her shrine. The mixture of reserve and frankness--frankness
of language, reserve of manner--which belonged to Maltravers, piqued
her. Her vanity became the auxiliary to her imagination. At length
they met at Cleveland's house; their intercourse became more
unrestrained--their friendship was established, and she discovered that
she had wilfully implicated her happiness in indulging her dreams; yet
even then she believed that Maltravers loved her, despite his silence
upon the subject of love. His manner, his words bespoke his interest in
her, and his voice was ever soft when he spoke to women; for he had much
of the old chivalric respect and tenderness for the sex. What was
general it was natural that she should apply individually--she who had
walked the world but to fascinate and to conquer. It was probable that
her great wealth and social position imposed a check on the delicate
pride of Maltravers--she hoped so--she believed it--yet she felt her
danger, and her own pride at last took alarm. In such a moment she had
resumed the character of the unknown correspondent--she had written to
Maltravers--addressed her letter to his own house, and meant the next
day to have gone to London, and posted it there. In this letter she had
spoken of his visit to Cleveland, of his position with herself. She
exhorted him, if he loved her, to confess, and if not, to fly. She had
written artfully and eloquently--she was desirous of expediting her own
fate; and then, with that letter in her bosom, she had met Maltravers,
and the reader has learned the rest. Something of all this the blushing
and happy Florence now revealed: and when she ended with uttering the
woman's soft fear that she had been too bold, is it wonderful that
Maltravers, clasping her to his bosom, felt the gratitude, and the
delighted vanity, which seemed even to himself like love? And into love
those feelings rapidly and deliciously will merge, if fate and accident
permit!

And now they were by the side of the water; and the sun was gently
setting as on the eve before. It was about the same hour, the fairest
of an autumn day; none were near--the slope of the hill hid the house
from their view. Had they been in the desert they could not have been
more alone. It was not silence that breathed around them, as they sat
on that bench with the broad beech spreading over them its trembling
canopy of leaves;--but those murmurs of living nature which are sweeter
than silence itself--the songs of birds--the tinkling bell of the sheep
on the opposite bank--the wind sighing through the trees, and the gentle
heaving of the glittering waves that washed the odorous reed and
water-lily at their feet. They had both been for some moments silent;
and Florence now broke the pause, but in tones more low than usual.

"Ah!" said she, turning towards him, "these hours are happier than we
can find in that crowded world whither your destiny must call us. For
me, ambition seems for ever at an end. I have found all; I am no longer
haunted with the desire of gaining a vague something,--a shadowy empire,
that we call fame or power. The sole thought that disturbs the calm
current of my soul, is the fear to lose a particle of the rich
possession I have gained."

"May your fears ever be as idle!"

"And you really love me! I repeat to myself ever and ever that one
phrase. I could once have borne to lose you, now it would be my death.
I despaired of ever being loved for myself; my wealth was a fatal dower;
I suspected avarice in every vow, and saw the base world lurk at the
bottom of every heart that offered itself at my shrine. But you,
Ernest,--you, I feel, never could weigh gold in the balance--and you--if
you love--love me for myself."

"And I shall love thee more with every hour."

"I know not that: I dread that you will love me less when you know me
more. I fear I shall seem to you exacting--I am jealous already. I was
jealous even of Lady T------, when I saw you by her side this morning.
I would have your every look--monopolise your every word."

This confession did not please Maltravers, as it might have done if he
had been more deeply in love. Jealousy, in a woman of so vehement and
imperious a nature, was indeed a passion to be dreaded.

"Do not say so, dear Florence," said he, with a very grave smile; "for
love should have implicit confidence as its bond and nature--and
jealousy is doubt, and doubt is the death of love."

A shade passed over Florence's too expressive face, and she sighed
heavily.

It was at this time that Maltravers, raising his eyes, saw the form of
Lumley Ferrers approaching towards them from the opposite end of the
terrace: at the same instant, a dark cloud crept over the sky, the
waters seemed overcast and the breeze fell: a chill and strange
presentiment of evil shot across Ernest's heart, and, like many
imaginative persons, he was unconsciously superstitious as to
presentiments.

"We are no longer alone," said he, rising; "your cousin has doubtless
learned our engagement, and comes to congratulate your suitor."

"Tell me," he continued musingly, as they walked on to meet Ferrers,
"are you very partial to Lumley? what think you of his character?--it is
one that perplexes me; sometimes I think it has changed since we parted
in Italy--sometimes I think it has not changed, but ripened."

"Lumley, I have known from a child," replied Florence, "and see much to
admire and like in him; I admire his boldness and candour; his scorn of
the world's littleness and falsehood; I like his good-nature--his
gaiety--and fancy his heart better than it may seem to the superficial
observer."

"Yet he appears to me selfish and unprincipled."

"It is from a fine contempt for the vices and follies of men that he has
contracted the habit of consulting his own resolute will--and, believing
everything done in this noisy stage of action a cheat, he has
accommodated his ambition to the fashion. Though without what is termed
genius, he will obtain a distinction and power that few men of genius
arrive at."

"Because _genius_ is essentially honest," said Maltravers. "However,
you teach me to look on him more indulgently. I suspect the real
frankness of men whom I know to be hypocrites in public life--but,
perhaps, I judge by too harsh a standard."

"Third persons," said Ferrers, as he now joined them, "are seldom
unwelcome in the country; and I flatter myself that I am the exact thing
wanting to complete the charm of this beautiful landscape."

"You are ever modest, my cousin."

"It is my weak side, I know; but I shall improve with years and wisdom.
What say you, Maltravers?" and Ferrers passed his arm affectionately
through Ernest's.

"By the by, I am too familiar--I am sunk in the world. I am a thing to
be sneered at by you old-family people. I am next heir to a bran-new
Brummagem peerage. 'Gad, I feel brassy already!"

"What, is Mr. Templeton--"

"Mr. Templeton is no more; he is defunct, extinguished--out of the ashes
rises the phoenix Lord Vargrave. We had thought of a more sounding
title; De Courval has a nobler sound,--but my good uncle has nothing of
the Norman about him: so we dropped the De as ridiculous--Vargrave is
euphonious and appropriate. My uncle has a manor of that name--Baron
Vargrave of Vargrave."

"Ah--I congratulate you."

"Thank you. Lady Vargrave may destroy all my hopes yet. But nothing
venture, nothing have. My uncle will be gazetted to-day. Poor man, he
will be delighted; and as he certainly owes it much to me, he will, I
suppose, be very grateful--or hate me ever afterwards--that is a toss
up. A benefit conferred is a complete hazard between the thumb of pride
and the forefinger of affection. Heads gratitude, tails hatred! There,
that's a simile in the fashion of the old writers: 'Well of English
undefiled!' humph!"

"So that beautiful child is Mrs. Templeton's, or rather Lady Vargrave's,
daughter by a former marriage?" said Maltravers, abstractedly.

"Yes, it is astonishing how fond he is of her. Pretty little
creature--confoundedly artful though. By the way, Maltravers, we had an
unexpectedly stormy night the last of the session--strong
division--ministers hard pressed. I made quite a good speech for them.
I suppose, however, there will be some change--the moderates will be
taken in. Perhaps by next session I may congratulate you."

Ferrers looked hard at Maltravers while he spoke. But Ernest replied
coldly, and evasively, and they were now joined by a party of idlers,
lounging along the lawn in expectation of the first dinner-bell.
Cleveland was in high consultation about the proper spot for a new
fountain; and he summoned Maltravers to give his opinion whether it
should spring from the centre of a flower-bed or beneath the drooping
shade of a large willow. While this interesting discussion was going
on, Ferrers drew aside his cousin, and pressing her hand affectionately,
said, in a soft and tender voice:

"My dear Florence--for in such a time permit me to be familiar--I
understand from Lord Saxingham, whom I met in London, that you are
engaged to Maltravers. Busy as I was, I could not rest without coming
hither to offer my best and most earnest wish for your happiness. I may
seem a careless, I am considered a selfish, person; but my heart is warm
to those who really interest it. And never did brother offer up for the
welfare of a beloved sister prayers more anxious and fond, than those
that poor Lumley Ferrers, breathes for Florence Lascelles."

Florence was startled and melted--the whole tone and manner of Lumley
were so different from those he usually assumed. She warmly returned
the pressure of his hand, and thanked him briefly, but with emotion.

"No one is great and good enough for you, Florence," continued
Ferrers--"no one. But I admire your disinterested and generous choice.
Maltravers and I have not been friends lately; but I respect him, as all
must. He has noble qualities, and he has great ambition. In addition
to the deep and ardent love that you cannot fail to inspire, he will owe
you eternal gratitude. In this aristocratic country, your hand secures
to him the most brilliant fortunes, the most proud career. His talents
will now be measured by a very different standard. His merits will not
pass through any subordinate grades, but leap at once into the highest
posts; and, as he is even more proud than ambitious, how he must bless
one who raises him, without effort, into positions of eminent command!"

"Oh, he does not think of such worldly advantages--he, the too pure, the
too refined!" said Florence, with trembling eagerness. "He has no
avarice, nothing mercenary in his nature!"

"No; there you indeed do him justice,--there is not a particle of
baseness in his mind--I did not say there was. The very greatness of
his aspirations, his indignant and scornful pride, lift him above the
thought of your wealth, your rank,--except as means to an end."

"You mistake still," said Florence, faintly smiling, but turning pale.

"No," resumed Ferrers, not appearing to hear her, and as if pursuing his
own thoughts. "I always predicted that Maltravers would make a
distinguished connection in marriage. He would not permit himself to
love the lowborn or the poor. His affections are in his pride as much
as in his heart. He is a great creature--you have judged wisely--and
may Heaven bless you!"

With these words, Ferrers left her, and Florence, when she descended to
dinner, wore a moody and clouded brow. Ferrers stayed three days at the
house. He was peculiarly cordial to Maltravers, and spoke little to
Florence. But that little never failed to leave upon her mind a jealous
and anxious irritability, to which she yielded with morbid facility. In
order perfectly to understand Florence Lascelles, it must be remembered
that, with all her dazzling qualities, she was not what is called a
lovable person. A certain hardness in her disposition, even as a child,
had prevented her winding into the hearts of those around her. Deprived
of her mother's care--having little or no intercourse with children of
her own age--brought up with a starched governess, or female relations,
poor and proud--she never had contracted the softness of manner which
the reciprocation of household affections usually produces. With a
haughty consciousness of her powers, her birth, her position, advantages
always dinned into her ear, she grew up solitary, unsocial, and
imperious. Her father was rather proud than fond of her--her servants
did not love her--she had too little consideration for others, too
little blandness and suavity to be loved by inferiors--she was too
learned and too stern to find pleasure in the conversation and society
of young ladies of her own age:--she had no friends. Now, having really
strong affection, she felt all this, but rather with resentment than
grief--she longed to be loved, but did not seek to be so--she felt as if
it was her fate not to be loved--she blamed Fate, not herself.

When, with all the proud, pure, and generous candour of her nature, she
avowed to Ernest her love for him, she naturally expected the most
ardent and passionate return; nothing less could content her. But the
habit and experience of all the past made her eternally suspicious that
she was not loved; it was wormwood and poison to her to fancy that
Maltravers had ever considered her advantages of fortune, except as a
bar to his pretensions and a check on his passion. It was the same
thing to her, whether it was the pettiest avarice or the loftiest
aspirations that actuated her lover, if he had been actuated in his
heart by any sentiment but love; and Ferrers, to whose eye her foibles
were familiar, knew well how to make his praises of Ernest arouse
against Ernest all her exacting jealousies and irritable doubts.

"It is strange," said he, one evening, as he was conversing with
Florence, "how complete and triumphant a conquest you have effected over
Ernest! Will you believe it?--he conceived a prejudice against you when
he first saw you--he even said that you were made to be admired, not to
be loved."

"Ha!--did he so?--true, true--he has almost said the same thing to me."

"But now how he must love you! Surely he has all the signs."

"And what are the signs, most learned Lumley?" said Florence, forcing a
smile.

"Why, in the first place, you will doubtless observe that he never takes
his eyes from you--with whomsoever he converses, whatever his
occupation, those eyes, restless and pining, wander around for one
glance from you."

Florence sighed, and looked up--at the other end of the room, her lover
was conversing with Cleveland, and his eyes never wandered in search of
her.

Ferrers did not seem to notice this practical contradiction of his
theory, but went on.

"Then surely his whole character is changed--that brow has lost its calm
majesty, that deep voice its assured and tranquil tone. Has he not
become humble, and embarrassed, and fretful, living only on your smile,
reproachful if you look upon another--sorrowful if your lip be less
smiling--a thing of doubt, and dread, and trembling agitation--slave to
a shadow--no longer lord of the creation? Such is love, such is the
love you should inspire, such is the love Maltravers is capable of--for
I have seen him testify it to another. But," added Lumley, quickly,
and as if afraid he had said too much, "Lord Saxingham is looking out
for me to make up his whist-table. I go to-morrow--when shall you be in
town?"

"In the course of the week," said poor Florence mechanically; and Lumley
walked away.

In another moment, Maltravers, who had been more observant than he
seemed, joined her where she sat.

"Dear Florence," said he, tenderly, "you look pale--I fear you are not
so well this evening."

"No affectation of an interest you do not feel, pray," said Florence,
with a scornful lip but swimming eyes.

"Do not feel, Florence!"

"It is the first time, at least, that you have observed whether I am
well or ill. But it is no matter."

"My dear Florence,--why this tone?--how have I offended you? Has Lumley
said--"

"Nothing but in your praise. Oh, be not afraid, you are one of those of
whom all speak highly. But do not let me detain you here; let us join
our host--you have left him alone."

Lady Florence waited for no reply, nor did Maltravers attempt to detain
her. He looked pained, and when she turned round to catch a glance,
that she hoped would be reproachful, he was gone. Lady Florence became
nervous and uneasy, talked she knew not what, and laughed hysterically.
She, however, deceived Cleveland into the notion that she was in the
best possible spirits. By and by she rose, and passed through the suite
of rooms: her heart was with Maltravers--still he was not visible. At
length she entered the conservatory, and there she observed him, through
the open casements, walking slowly, with folded arms, upon the moonlit
lawn. There was a short struggle in her breast between woman's pride
and woman's love; the last conquered, and she joined him.

"Forgive me, Ernest," she said, extending her hand, "I was to blame."

Ernest kissed the fair hand, and answered touchingly:

"Florence, you have the power to wound me, be forbearing in its
exercise. Heaven knows that I would not, from the vain desire of
showing command over you, inflict upon you a single pang. Ah! do not
fancy that in lovers' quarrels there is any sweetness that compensates
the sting."

"I told you I was too exacting, Ernest. I told you you would not love
me so well when you knew me better."

"And were a false prophetess. Florence, every day, every hour I love
you more--better than I once thought I could."

"Then," cried this wayward girl, anxious to pain herself, "then once you
did not love me?"

"Florence, I will be candid--I did not. You are now rapidly obtaining
an empire over me, greater than my reason should allow. But, beware: if
my love be really a possession you desire,--beware how you arm my reason
against you. Florence, I am a proud man. My very consciousness of the
more splendid alliances you could form renders me less humble a lover
than you might find in others. I were not worthy of you if I were not
tenacious of my self-respect."

"Ah!" said Florence, to whose heart these words went home, "forgive me
but this once. I shall not forgive myself so soon."

And Ernest drew her to his heart, and felt that, with all her faults, a
woman whom he feared he could not render as happy as her sacrifices to
him deserved was becoming very dear to him. In his heart he knew that
she was not formed to render him happy; but that was not his thought,
his fear. Her love had rooted out all thought of self from that
generous breast. His only anxiety was to requite her.

They walked along the sward, silent, thoughtful; and Florence
melancholy, yet blessed.

"That serene heaven, those lovely stars," said Maltravers at last, "do
they not preach to us the Philosophy of Peace? Do they not tell us how
much of calm belongs to the dignity of man, and the sublime essence of
the soul. Petty distractions and self-wrought cares are not congenial
to our real nature; their very disturbance is a proof that they are at
war with our natures. Ah, sweet Florence, let us learn from yon skies,
over which, in the faith of the poets of old, brooded the wings of
primaeval and serenest Love, what earthly love should be,--a thing pure
as light, and peaceful as immortality, watching over the stormy world,
that it shall survive, and high above the clouds and vapours that roll
below. Let little minds introduce into the holiest of affections all
the bitterness and tumult of common life! Let us love as beings who
will one day be inhabitants of the stars!"



CHAPTER IV.

 "A slippery and subtle knave; a finder out of occasions, that
  has an eye can stamp and counterfeit advantages."--_Othello_.

 "Knavery's plain face is never seen till used."-_-Ibid._

"You see, my dear Lumley," said Lord Saxingham, as the next day the two
kinsmen were on their way to London in the earl's chariot, "you see that
at the best this marriage of Flory's is a cursed bore."

"Why, indeed, it has its disadvantages. Maltravers is a gentleman and a
man of genius; but gentlemen are plentiful, and his genius only tells
against us, since he is not even of our politics."

"Exactly--my own son-in-law voting against me!"

"A practicable, reasonable man would change; not so Maltravers--and all
the estates, and all the parliamentary influence, and all the wealth
that ought to go with the family and with the party, go out of the
family and against the party. You are quite right, my dear lord--it is
a cursed bore."

"And she might have had the Duke of ------, a man with a rental of
L100,000 a year. It is too ridiculous. This Maltravers, d----d
disagreeable fellow, too, eh?"

"Stiff and stately--much changed for the worse of late years--grown
conceited and set up."

"Do you know, Lumley, I would rather, of the two, have had you for my
son-in-law?"

Lumley half started. "Are you serious, my lord? I have not Ernest's
fortune--I cannot make such settlements: my lineage, too, at least on my
mother's side, is less ancient."

"Oh, as to settlements, Flory's fortune ought to be settled on
herself,--and as compared with that fortune, what could Mr. Maltravers
pretend to settle? Neither she nor any children she may have could want
his L4,000 a year, if he settled it all. As for family, connections
tell more nowadays than Norman descent,--and for the rest, you are
likely to be old Templeton's heir, to have a peerage (a large sum of
ready money is always useful)--are rising in the House--one of our own
set--will soon be in office--and, flattery apart, a devilish good fellow
into the bargain. Oh, I would sooner a thousand times that Flory had
taken a fancy to you."

Lumley Ferrers bowed his head but said nothing. He fell into a reverie,
and Lord Saxingham took up his official red box, became deep in its
contents, and forgot all about the marriage of his daughter.

Lumley pulled the check-string as the carriage entered Pall Mall, and
desired to be set down at "The Travellers." While Lord Saxingham was
borne on to settle the affairs of the nation, not being able to settle
those of his own household, Ferrers was inquiring the address of
Castruccio Cesarini. The porter was unable to give it him. The Signor
generally called every day for his notes, but no one at the club knew
where he lodged. Ferrers wrote, and left with the porter a line
requesting Cesarini to call on him as soon as possible, and he bent his
way to his house in Great George Street. He went straight into his
library, unlocked his escritoire, and took out that letter which, the
reader will remember, Maltravers had written to Cesarini, and which
Lumley had secured; carefully did he twice read over this effusion, and
the second time his face brightened and his eyes sparkled. It is now
time to lay this letter before the reader: it ran thus:--


        _"Private and confidential."_

"MY DEAR CESARINI:

"The assurance of your friendly feelings is most welcome to me. In much
of what you say of marriage, I am inclined, though with reluctance, to
agree. As to Lady Florence herself, few persons are more calculated to
dazzle, perhaps to fascinate. But is she a person to make a home
happy--to sympathise where she has been accustomed to command--to
comprehend, and to yield to the waywardness and irritability common to
our fanciful and morbid race--to content herself with the homage of a
single heart? I do not know her enough to decide the question; but I
know her enough to feel deep solicitude and anxiety for your happiness,
if centred in a nature so imperious and so vain. But you will remind me
of her fortune, her station. You will say that such are the sources
from which, to an ambitious mind, happiness may well be drawn! Alas! I
fear that the man who marries Lady Florence must indeed confine his
dreams of felicity to those harsh and disappointing realities. But,
Cesarini, these are not words which, were we more intimate, I would
address to you. I doubt the reality of those affections which you
ascribe to her and suppose devoted to yourself. She is evidently fond
of conquest. She sports with the victims she makes. Her vanity dupes
others, perhaps to be duped itself at last. I will not say more to you.

   "Yours,
     E. MALTRAVERS."


"Hurrah!" cried Ferrers, as he threw down the letter, and rubbed his
hands with delight. "I little thought, when I schemed for this letter,
that chance would make it so inestimably serviceable. There is less to
alter than I thought for--the clumsiest botcher in the world could
manage it. Let me look again. Hem, hem--the first phrase to alter is
this: 'I know her enough to feel deep solicitude and anxiety for _your_
happiness if centred in a nature so imperious and vain'--scratch out
'your,' and put 'my.' All the rest good, good--till we come to
'affections which you ascribe to her, and suppose devoted to
_yourself_'--for '_yourself_' write '_myself_'--the rest will do. Now,
then, the date--we must change it to the present month, and the work is
done. I wish that Italian blockhead would come. If I can but once make
an irreparable breach between her and Maltravers, I think I cannot fail
of securing his place; her pique, her resentment, will hurry her into
taking the first who offers, by way of revenge. And by Jupiter, even if
I fail (which I am sure I shall not), it will be something to keep Flory
as lady paramount for a duke of our own party. I shall gain immensely
by such a connection; but I lose everything and gain nothing by her
marrying Maltravers--of opposite politics too--whom I begin to hate like
poison. But no duke shall have her--Florence Ferrers, the only
alliteration I ever liked--yet it would sound rough in poetry."

Lumley then deliberately drew towards him his inkstand--"No
penknife!--Ah, true, I never mend pens--sad waste--must send out for
one." He rang the bell, ordered a penknife to be purchased, and the
servant was still out when a knock at the door was heard, and in a
minute more Cesarini entered.

"Ah," said Lumley, assuming a melancholy air, "I am glad that you are
arrived; you will excuse my having written to you so unceremoniously.
You received my note--sit down, pray--and how are you? you look
delicate--can I offer you anything?"

"Wine," said Cesarini, laconically, "wine; your climate requires wine."

Here the servant entered with the penknife, and was ordered to bring
wine and sandwiches. Lumley then conversed lightly on different matters
till the wine appeared; he was rather surprised to observe Cesarini pour
out and drink off glass upon glass, with an evident craving for the
excitement. When he had satisfied himself, he turned his dark eyes to
Ferrers, and said, "You have news to communicate--I see it in your brow.
I am now ready to hear all."

"Well, then listen to me; you were right in your suspicions; jealousy is
ever a true diviner. I make no doubt Othello was quite right, and
Desdemona was no better than she should be. Maltravers has proposed to
my cousin; and been accepted."

Cesarini's complexion grew perfectly ghastly; his whole frame shook like
a leaf--for a moment he seemed paralysed.

"Curse him!" said he, at last, drawing a deep breath, and betwixt his
grinded teeth--"curse him, from the depths of the heart he has broken!"

"And after such a letter to you!--do you remember it?--here it is. He
warns you against Lady Florence, and then secures her to himself--is
this treachery?"

"Treachery black as hell! I am an Italian," cried Cesarini, springing
to his feet, and with all the passions of his climate in his face, "and
I will be avenged! Bankrupt in fortune, ruined in hopes, blasted in
heart--I have still the godlike consolation of the desperate--I have
revenge."

"Will you call him out?" asked Lumley, musingly and calmly. "Are you a
dead shot? If so, it is worth thinking about; if not, it is a
mockery--your shot misses, his goes in the air, seconds interpose, and
you both walk away devilish glad to get off so well. Duels are humbug."

"Mr. Ferrers," said Cesarini, fiercely, "this is not a matter of jest."

"I do not make it a jest; and what is more, Cesarini," said Ferrers,
with a concentrated energy far more commanding than the Italian's fury,
"what is more, I so detest Maltravers, I am so stung by his cold
superiority, so wroth with his success, so loathe the thought of his
alliance, that I would cut off this hand to frustrate that marriage! I
do not jest, man; but I have method and sense in my hatred--it is our
English way."

Cesarini stared at the speaker gloomily, clenched his hand, and strode
rapidly to and fro the room.

"You would be avenged, so would I. Now what shall be the means?" said
Ferrers.

"I will stab him to the heart--I will--"

"Cease these tragic flights. Nay, frown and stamp not; but sit down,
and be reasonable, or leave me and act for yourself."

"Sir," said Cesarini, with an eye that might have alarmed a man less
resolute than Ferrers, "have a care how you presume on my distress."

"You are in distress, and you refuse relief; you are bankrupt in
fortune, and you rave like a poet, when you should be devising and
plotting for the attainment of boundless wealth. Revenge and ambition
may both be yours; but they are prizes never won but by a cautious foot
as well as a bold hand."

"What would you have me do? and what but his life would content me?"

"Take his life if you can--I have no objection--go and take it; only
just observe this, that if you miss your aim, or he, being the stronger
man, strike you down, you will be locked up in a madhouse for the next
year or two at least; and that is not the place in which I should like
to pass the winter--but as you will."

"You!--you!--But what are you to me? I will go. Good day, sir."

"Stay a moment," said Ferrers, when he saw Cesarini about to leave the
room; "stay, take this chair, and listen to me--you had better--"

Cesarini hesitated, and then, as it were, mechanically obeyed.

"Read that letter which Maltravers wrote to you. You have
finished--well--now observe--if Florence sees that letter she will not
and cannot marry the man who wrote it--you must show it to her."

"Ah, my guardian angel, I see it all! Yes, there are words in this
letter no woman so proud could ever pardon. Give me it again, I will go
at once."

"Pshaw! You are too quick; you have not remarked that this letter was
written five months ago, before Maltravers knew much of Lady Florence.
He himself has confessed to her that he did not then love her--so much
the more would she value the conquest she has now achieved. Florence
would smile at this letter, and say, 'Ah, he judges me differently
now.'"

"Are you seeking to madden me? What do you mean? Did you not just now
say that, did she see that letter, she would never marry the writer?"

"Yes, yes, but the letter must be altered. We must erase the date;--we
must date it from to-day;--to-day--Maltravers returns to-day. We must
suppose it written, not in answer to a letter from you, demanding his
advice and opinion as to your marriage with Lady Florence, but in answer
to a letter of yours in which you congratulate him on his approaching
marriage to her. By the substitution of one pronoun for another, in two
places, the letter will read as well one way as another. Read it again,
and see; or stop, I will be the lecturer."

Here Ferrers read over the letter, which, by the trifling substitutions
he proposed, might indeed bear the character he wished to give it.

"Does the light break in upon you now?" said Ferrers. "Are you prepared
to go through a part that requires subtlety, delicacy, address, and,
above all, self-control?--qualities that are the common attributes of
your countrymen."

"I will do all, fear me not. It may be villainous, it may be base; but
I care not, Maltravers shall not rival, master, eclipse me in all
things."

"Where are you lodging?"

"Where?--out of town a little way."

"Take up your home with me for a few days. I cannot trust you out of my
sight. Send for your luggage; I have a room at your service."

Cesarini at first refused; but a man who resolves on a crime feels the
awe of solitude, and the necessity of a companion. He went himself to
bring his effects, and promised to return to dinner.

"I must own," said Lumley, resettling himself at his desk, "this is the
dirtiest trick that ever I played; but the glorious end sanctifies the
paltry means. After all, it is the mere prejudice of gentlemanlike
education."

A very few seconds, and with the aid of the knife to erase, and the pen
to re-write, Ferrers completed his task, with the exception of the
change of date, which, on second thoughts, he reserved as a matter to be
regulated by circumstances.

"I think I have hit off his _m_'s and _y_'s tolerably," said he,
"considering I was not brought up to this sort of thing. But the
alteration would be visible on close inspection. Cesarini must read the
letter to her, then if she glances over it herself it will be with
bewildered eyes and a dizzy brain. Above all, he must not leave it with
her, and must bind her to the closest secresy. She is honourable and
will keep her word; and so now that matter is settled. I have just time
before dinner to canter down to my uncle's and wish the old fellow joy."



CHAPTER V.

 "And then my lord has much that he would state
  All good to you."--CRABBE: _Tales of the Heart_.

LORD VARGRAVE was sitting alone in his library, with his account-books
before him. Carefully did he cast up the various sums which, invested
in various speculations, swelled his income. The result seemed
satisfactory--and the rich man threw down his pen with an air of
triumph.

"I will invest L120,000 in land--only L120,000. I will not be tempted
to sink more. I will have a fine house--a house fitting for a
nobleman--a fine old Elizabethan house--a house of historical interest.
I must have woods and lakes--and a deer-park, above all. Deer are very
gentlemanlike things, very. De Clifford's place is to be sold, I know;
they ask too much for it, but ready money is tempting. I can
bargain--bargain, I am a good hand at a bargain. Should I be now Lord
Baron Vargrave, if I had always given people what they asked? I will
double my subscriptions to the Bible Society and the Philanthropic, and
the building of new churches. The world shall not say Richard Templeton
does not deserve his greatness. I will--Come in. Who's there?--come
in."

The door gently opened--the meek face of the new peeress appeared. "I
disturb you--I beg your pardon--I--"

"Come in, my dear, come in--I want to talk to you--I want to talk to
your ladyship--sit down, pray."

Lady Vargrave obeyed.

"You see," said the peer, crossing his legs, and caressing his left foot
with both hands, while he see-sawed his stately person to and fro in his
chair--"you see that the honour conferred upon me will make a great
change in our mode of life, Mrs. Temple--I mean Lady Vargrave. This
villa is all very well--my country house is not amiss for a country
gentleman--but now we must support our rank. The landed estate I
already possess will go with the title--go to Lumley--I shall buy
another at my own disposal, one that I can feel _thoroughly mine_--it
shall be a splendid place, Lady Vargrave."

"This place is splendid to me," said Lady Vargrave, timidly.

"This place--nonsense--you must learn loftier ideas, Lady Vargrave; you
are young, you can easily contract new habits, more, easily, perhaps,
than myself. You are naturally ladylike, though I say it--you have good
taste, you don't talk much, you don't show your ignorance--quite right.
You must be presented at court, Lady Vargrave--we must give great
dinners, Lady Vargrave. Balls are sinful, so is the opera, at least I
fear so--yet an opera-box would be a proper appendage to your rank, Lady
Vargrave."

"My dear Mr. Templeton--"

"Lord Vargrave, if your ladyship pleases."

"I beg pardon. May you live long to enjoy your honours; but I, my dear
lord--I am not fit to share them: it is only in our quiet life that I
can forget what--what I was. You terrify me when you talk of
court--of--"

"Stuff, Lady Vargrave! stuff; we accustom ourselves to these things. Do
I look like a man who has stood behind a counter? rank is a glove that
stretches to the hand that wears it. And the child, dear child,--dear
Evelyn, she shall be the admiration of London, the beauty, the heiress,
the--oh, she will do me honour!"

"She will, she will!" said Lady Vargrave, and the tears gushed from her
eyes.

Lord Vargrave was softened.

"No mother ever deserved more from a child than you from Evelyn."

"I would hope I have done my duty," said Lady Vargrave, drying her
tears.

"Papa, papa!" cried an impatient voice, tapping at the window, "come and
play, papa--come and play at ball, papa!"

And there, by the window, stood that beautiful child, glowing with
health and mirth--her light hair tossed from her forehead, her sweet
mouth dimpled with smiles.

"My darling, go on the lawn,--don't over-exert yourself--you have not
quite recovered that horrid sprain--I will join you immediately--bless
you!"

"Don't be long, papa--nobody plays so nicely as you do;" and, nodding
and laughing from very glee, away scampered the young fairy. Lord
Vargrave turned to his wife.

"What think you of my nephew--of Lumley?" said he, abruptly.

"He seems all that is amiable, frank, and kind."

Lord Vargrave's brow became thoughtful. "I think so too," he said,
after a short pause; "and I hope you will approve of what I mean to do.
You see Lumley was brought up to regard himself as my heir--I owe
something to him, beyond the poor estate which goes with, but never can
adequately support, _my_ title. Family honours, hereditary rank, must
be properly regarded. But that dear girl--I shall leave her the bulk of
my fortune. Could we not unite the fortune and the title? It would
secure the rank to her, it would incorporate all my desires--all my
duties."

"But," said Lady Vargrave, with evident surprise, "if I understand you
rightly, the disparity of years--"

"And what then, what then, Lady Vargrave? Is there no disparity of
years between _us_?--a greater disparity than between Lumley and that
tall girl. Lumley is a mere youth, a youth still, five-and-thirty; he
will be little more than forty when they marry; I was between fifty and
sixty when I married you, Lady Vargrave. I don't like boy and girl
marriages: a man should be older than his wife. But you are so
romantic, Lady Vargrave. Besides, Lumley is so gay and good-looking,
and wears so well. He has been very nearly forming another attachment;
but that, I trust, is out of his head now. They must like each other.
You will not gainsay me, Lady Vargrave, and if anything happens to
me--life is uncertain--"

"Oh, do not speak so--my friend, my benefactor!"

"Why, indeed," resumed his lordship, mildly, "thank Heaven, I am very
well--feel younger than ever I did--but still life is uncertain; and if
you survive me, you will not throw obstacles in the way of my grand
scheme?"

"I--no,--no--of course you have the right in all things over her
destiny; but so young--so soft-hearted, if she should love one of her
own years--"

"Love!--pooh! love does not come into girls' heads unless it is put
there. We will bring her up to love Lumley. I have another reason--a
cogent one--our secret!--to him it can be confided--it should not go out
of our family. Even in my grave I could not rest if a slur were cast on
my respectability--my name."

Lord Vargrave spoke solemnly and warmly; then muttering to himself,
"Yes, it is for the best," he took up his hat and quitted the room. He
joined his stepchild on the lawn. He romped with her--he played with
her--that stiff, stately man!--he laughed louder than she did, and ran
almost as fast. And when she was fatigued and breathless, he made her
sit down beside him, in a little summer-house, and, fondly stroking down
her disordered tresses, said, "You tire me out, child; I am growing too
old to play with you. Lumley must supply my place. You love Lumley?"

"Oh, dearly, he is so good-humoured, so kind: he has given me such a
beautiful doll, with such eyes!"

"You shall be his little wife--you would like to be his little wife?"

"Wife! why, poor mamma is a wife, and she is not so happy as I am."

"Your mamma has bad health, my dear," said Lord Vargrave, a little
discomposed. "But it is a fine thing to be a wife and have a carriage
of your own, and a fine house, and jewels, and plenty of money, and be
your own mistress; and Lumley will love you dearly."

"Oh, yes, I should like all that."

"And you will have a protector, child, when I am no more."

The tone, rather than the words, of her stepfather struck a damp into
that childish heart. Evelyn lifted her eyes, gazed at him earnestly,
and then, throwing her arms round him, burst into tears.

Lord Vargrave wiped his own eyes, and covered her with kisses.

"Yes, you shall be Lumley's wife, his honoured wife, heiress to my rank
as to my fortunes."

"I will do all that papa wishes."

"You will be Lady Vargrave, then, and Lumley will be your husband," said
the stepfather, impressively. "Think over what I have said. Now let us
join mamma. But, as I live, here is Lumley himself. However, it is not
yet the time to sound him:--I hope that he has no chance with that Lady
Florence."



CHAPTER VI.

          "Fair encounter
  Of two most rare affections."--_Tempest_.

MEANWHILE the betrothed were on their road to London. The balmy and
serene beauty of the day had induced them to perform the short journey
on horseback. It is somewhere said, that lovers are never so handsome
as in each other's company, and neither Florence nor Ernest ever looked
so well as on horseback. There was something in the stateliness and
grace of both, something even in the aquiline outline of their features
and the haughty bend of the neck, that made a sort of likeness between
these young persons, although there was no comparison as to their
relative degrees of personal advantage: the beauty of Florence defied
all comparison. And as they rode from Cleveland's porch, where the
other guests yet lingering were assembled to give the farewell greeting,
there was a general conviction of the happiness destined to the
affianced ones,--a general impression that both in mind and person they
were eminently suited to each other. Their position was that which is
ever interesting, even in more ordinary people, and at that moment they
were absolutely popular with all who gazed on them; and when the good
old Cleveland turned away with tears in his eyes and murmured "Bless
them!" there was not one of the party who would have hesitated to join
the prayer.

Florence felt a nameless dejection as she quitted a spot so consecrated
by grateful recollections.

"When shall we be again so happy?" said she, softly, as she turned back
to gaze upon the landscape, which, gay with flowers and shrubs, and the
bright English verdure, smiled behind them like a garden.

"We will try and make my old hall, and its gloomy shades, remind us of
these fairer scenes, my Florence."

"Ah! describe to me the character of your place. We shall live there
principally, shall we not? I am sure I shall like it much better than
Marsden Court, which is the name of that huge pile of arches and columns
in Vanbrugh's heaviest taste, which will soon be yours."

"I fear we shall never dispose of all your mighty retinue, grooms of the
chamber, and Patagonian footmen, and Heaven knows who besides, in the
holes and corners of Burleigh," said Ernest smiling. And then he went
on to describe the old place with something of a well-born country
gentleman's not displeasing pride; and Florence listened, and they
planned, and altered, and added, and improved, and laid out a map for
the future. From that topic they turned to another, equally interesting
to Florence. The work in which Maltravers had been engaged was
completed, was in the hands of the printer, and Florence amused herself
with conjectures as to the criticisms it would provoke. She was certain
that all that had most pleased her would be _caviare_ to the multitude.
She never would believe that any one could understand Maltravers but
herself. Thus time flew on till they passed that part of the road in
which had occurred Ernest's adventure with Mrs. Templeton's daughter.
Maltravers paused abruptly in the midst of his glowing periods, as the
spot awakened its associations and reminiscences, and looked round
anxiously and inquiringly. But the fair apparition was not again
visible; and whatever impression the place produced, it gradually died
away as they entered the suburbs of the great metropolis. Two other
gentlemen and a young lady of thirty-three (I had almost forgotten them)
were of the party, but they had the tact to linger a little behind
during the greater part of the road, and the young lady, who was a wit
and a flirt, found gossip and sentiment for both the cavaliers.

"Will you come to us this evening?" asked Florence, timidly.

"I fear I shall not be able. I have several matters to arrange before I
leave town for Burleigh, which I must do next week. Three months,
dearest Florence, will scarcely suffice to make Burleigh put on its best
looks to greet its new mistress; and I have already appointed the great
modern magicians of draperies and ormolu to consult how we may make
Aladdin's palace fit for the reception of the new princess. Lawyers,
too!--in short, I expect to be fully occupied. But to-morrow, at three,
I shall be with you, and we can ride out, if the day be fine."

"Surely," said Florence, "yonder is Signor Cesarini--how haggard and
altered he appears!"

Maltravers, turning his eyes towards the spot to which Florence pointed,
saw Cesarini emerging from a lane, with a porter behind him carrying
some books and a trunk. The Italian, who was talking and gesticulating
as to himself, did not perceive them.

"Poor Castruccio! he seems leaving his lodging," thought Maltravers.
"By this time I fear he will have spent the last sum I conveyed to
him--I must remember to find him out and replenish his stores.--Do not
forget," said he aloud, "to see Cesarini, and urge him to accept the
appointment we spoke of."

"I will not forget it--I will see him to-morrow before we meet. Yet it
is a painful task, Ernest."

"I allow it. Alas! Florence, you owe him some reparation. He
undoubtedly once conceived himself entitled to form hopes the vanity of
which his ignorance of our English world and his foreign birth prevented
him from suspecting."

"Believe me, I did not give him the right to form such expectations."

"But you did not sufficiently discourage them. Ah, Florence, never
underrate the pangs of hope crushed, of love contemned."

"Dreadful!" said Florence, almost shuddering. "It is strange, but my
conscience never so smote me before. It is since I loved that I feel,
for the first time, how guilty a creature is--"

"A coquette!" interrupted Maltravers. "Well, let us think of the past
no more; but if we can restore a gifted man, whose youth promised much,
to an honourable independence and a healthful mind, let us do so. Me,
Cesarini never can forgive; he will think I have robbed him of you. But
we men--the woman we have once loved, even after she rejects us, ever
has some power over us, and your eloquence, which has so often roused
me, cannot fail to impress a nature yet more excitable."

Maltravers, on quitting Florence at her own door, went home, summoned
his favourite servant, gave him Cesarini's address at Chelsea, bade him
find out where he was, if he had left his lodgings; and leave at his
present home, or (failing its discovery) at the "Travellers," a cover,
which he made his servant address, inclosing a bank-note of some amount.
If the reader wonder why Maltravers thus constituted himself the unknown
benefactor of the Italian, I must tell him that he does not understand
Maltravers. Cesarini was not the only man of letters whose faults he
pitied, whose wants he relieved. Though his name seldom shone in the
pompous list of public subscriptions--though he disdained to affect the
Maecenas and the patron, he felt the brotherhood of mankind, and a kind
of gratitude for those who aspired to rise or to delight their species.
An author himself, he could appreciate the vast debt which the world
owes to authors, and pays but by calumny in life and barren laurels
after death. He whose profession is the Beautiful succeeds only through
the Sympathies. Charity and compassion are virtues taught with
difficulty to ordinary men; to true genius they are but the instincts
which direct it to the destiny it is born to fulfil-viz., the discovery
and redemption of new tracts in our common nature. Genius--the Sublime
Missionary--goes forth from the serene Intellect of the Author to live
in the wants, the griefs, the infirmities of others, in order that it
may learn their language; and as its highest achievement is Pathos, so
its most absolute requisite is Pity!



CHAPTER VII.

 "_Don John._ How canst thou cross this marriage?

 "_Borachio._ Not honestly, my lord; but so covertly, that no
  dishonesty shall appear in me, my lord."--_Much Ado about Nothing_.

FERRERS and Cesarini were both sitting over their wine, and both had
sunk into silence, for they had only one subject in common, when a note
was brought to Lumley from Lady Florence.--"This is lucky enough!" said
he, as he read it. "Lady Florence wishes to see you, and incloses me a
note for you, which she asks me to address and forward to you. There it
is."

Cesarini took the note with trembling hands: it was very short, and
merely expressed a desire to see him the next day at two o'clock.

"What can it be?" he exclaimed; "can she want to apologise, to explain?"

"No, no, no! Florence will not do that; but, from certain words she
dropped in talking with me, I guess that she has some offer to your
worldly advantage to propose to you. Ha! by the way, a thought strikes
me."

Lumley eagerly rang the bell. "Is Lady Florence's servant waiting for
an answer?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well--detain him."

"Now, Cesarini, assurance is made doubly sure. Come into the next room.
There, sit down at my desk, and write, as I shall dictate, to
Maltravers."

"I!"

"Yes, now do put yourself in my hands--write, write. When you have
finished, I will explain."

Cesarini obeyed, and the letter was as follows:


"DEAR MALTRAVERS,

"I have learned your approaching marriage with Lady Florence Lascelles.
Permit me to congratulate you. For myself, I have overcome a vain and
foolish passion; and can contemplate your happiness without a sigh.

"I have reviewed all my old prejudices against marriage, and believe it
to be a state which nothing but the most perfect congeniality of temper,
pursuits, and minds, can render bearable. How rare is such
congeniality! In your case it may exist. The affections of that
beautiful being are doubtless ardent--and they are yours!

"Write me a line by the bearer to assure me of your belief in my
sincerity.

   "Yours,

     "C. CESARINI."


"Copy out this letter, I want its ditto--quick. Now seal and direct the
duplicate," continued Ferrers; "that's right; go into the hall, give it
yourself to Lady Florence's servant, and beg him to take it to Seamore
Place, wait for an answer, and bring it here; by which time you will
have a note ready for Lady Florence. Say I will mention this to her
ladyship, and give the man half-a-crown. There, begone."

"I do not understand a word of this," said Cesarini, when he returned:
"will you explain?"

"Certainly; the copy of the note you have despatched to Maltravers I
shall show to Lady Florence this evening, as a proof of your sobered and
generous feelings; observe, it is so written, that the old letter of
your rival may seem an exact reply to it. To-morrow a reference to this
note of yours will bring out our scheme more easily; and if you follow
my instructions, you will not seem to _volunteer_ showing our handiwork,
as we at first intended; but rather to yield it to her eyes, from a
generous impulse, from an irresistible desire to save her from an
unworthy husband and a wretched fate. Fortune has been dealing our
cards for us, and has turned up the ace. Three to one now on the odd
trick. Maltravers, too, is at home. I called at his house, on
returning from my uncle's, and learned that he would not stir out all
the evening."

In due time came the answer from Ernest: it was short and hurried; but
full of all the manly kindness of his nature; it expressed admiration
and delight at the tone of Cesarini's letter; it revoked all former
expressions derogatory to Lady Florence; it owned the harshness and
error of his first impressions; it used every delicate argument that
could soothe and reconcile Cesarini; and concluded by sentiments of
friendship and desire of service, so cordial, so honest, so free from
the affectation of patronage, that even Cesarini himself, half insane as
he was with passion, was almost softened. Lumley saw the change in his
countenance--snatched the letter from his hand--read it--threw it into
the fire--and saying, "We must guard against accidents," clapped the
Italian affectionately on the shoulder, and added, "Now you can have no
remorse; for a more Jesuitical piece of insulting hypocritical cant I
never read. Where's your note to Lady Florence? Your compliments, you
will be with her at two. There, now the rehearsal's over, the scenes
arranged, and I'll dress, and open the play for you with a prologue."



CHAPTER VIII.

       "Aestuat ingens
  Imo in corde pudor, mixtoque insania luctu,
  Et furiis agitatus amor, et conscia virtus."*--VIRGIL.

* Deep in her inmost heart is stirred the immense shame, and madness
with commingled grief, and love agitated by rage, and conscious virtue.

THE next day, punctual to his appointment, Cesarini repaired to his
critical interview with Lady Florence. Her countenance, which, like
that of most persons whose temper is not under their command, ever too
faithfully expressed what was within, was unusually flushed. Lumley had
dropped words and hints which had driven sleep from her pillow and
repose from her mind.

She rose from her seat with nervous agitation as Cesarini entered and
made his grave salutation. After a short and embarrassed pause, she
recovered, however, her self-possession, and with all a woman's delicate
and dexterous tact, urged upon the Italian the expediency of accepting
the offer of honourable independence now extended to him.

"You have abilities," she said, in conclusion, "you have friends, you
have youth; take advantage of those gifts of nature and fortune, and
fulfil such a career as," added Lady Florence, with a smile, "Dante did
not consider incompatible with poetry."

"I cannot object to any career," said Cesarini, with an effort, "that
may serve to remove me from a country that has no longer any charms for
me. I thank you for your kindness; I will obey you. May you be happy;
and yet--no, ah! no--happy you must be! Even he, sooner or later, must
see you with my eyes."

"I know," replied Florence, falteringly, "that you have wisely and
generously mastered a past illusion. Mr. Ferrers allowed me to see the
letter you wrote to Er---to Mr. Maltravers; it was worthy of you: it
touched me deeply; but I trust you will outlive your prejudices
against--"

"Stay," interrupted Cesarini; "did Ferrers communicate to you the answer
to that letter?"

"No, indeed."

"I am glad of it."

"Why?"

"Oh, no matter. Heaven bless you; farewell."

"No; I implore you, do not go yet; what was there in that letter that it
could pain me to see? Lumley hinted darkly; but would not speak out: be
more frank."

"I cannot: it would be treachery to Maltravers, cruelty to you; yet
would it be cruel?"

"No, it would not; it would be kindness and mercy; show me the
letter--you have it with you."

"You could not bear it; you would hate me for the pain it would give
you. Let me depart."

"Man, you wrong Maltravers. I see it now. You would darkly slander him
whom you cannot openly defame. Go; I was wrong to listen to you--go!"

"Lady Florence, beware how you taunt me into undeceiving you. Here is
the letter, it is his handwriting; will you read it? I warn you not."

"I will believe nothing but the evidence of my own eyes; give it me."

"Stay then; on two conditions. First, that you promise me sacredly that
you will not disclose to Maltravers, without my consent, that you have
seen this letter. Think not I fear his anger. No! but in the mortal
encounter that must ensue, if you thus betray me, your character would
be lowered in the world's eyes, and even I (my excuse unknown) might not
appear to have acted with honour in obeying your desire, and warning
you, while there is yet time, of bartering love for avarice. Promise
me."

"I do, I do most solemnly."

"Secondly, assure me that you will not ask to keep the letter, but will
immediately restore it to me."

"I promise it. Now then."

"Take the letter."

Florence seized and rapidly read the fatal and garbled document: her
brain was dizzy, her eyes clouded, her ears rang as with the sound of
water, she was sick and giddy with emotion; but she read enough. This
letter was written, then, in answer to Castruccio's of last night; it
avowed dislike of her character; it denied the sincerity of her love; it
more than hinted the mercenary nature of his own feelings. Yes, even
there, where she had garnered up her heart, she was not Florence, the
lovely and beloved woman; but Florence, the wealthy and high-born
heiress. The world which she had built upon the faith and heart of
Maltravers crumbled away at her feet. The letter dropped from her
hands; her whole form seemed to shrink and shrivel up; her teeth were
set, and her cheek was as white as marble.

"O God!" cried Cesarini, stung with remorse. "Speak to me, speak to
me, Florence! I did wrong; forget that hateful letter! I have been
false--false!"

"Ah, false--say so again--no, no, I remember he told me--he, so wise, so
deep a judge of human character, that he would be sponsor for your
faith--, that your honour and heart were incorruptible. It is true; I
thank you--you have saved me from a terrible fate."

"O, Lady Florence, dear--too dear--yet, would that--alas! she does not
listen to me," muttered Castruccio, as Florence, pressing her hands to
her temples, walked wildly to and fro the room. At length she paused
opposite to Cesarini, looked him full in the face, returned him the
letter without a word, and pointed to the door.

"No, no, do not bid me leave you yet," said Cesarini, trembling with
repentant emotion, yet half beside himself with jealous rage at her love
for his rival.

"My friend, go," said Florence, in a tone of voice singularly subdued
and soft. "Do not fear me; I have more pride in me than even affection;
but there are certain struggles in a woman's breast which she could
never betray to any one--any one but a mother. God help me, I have
none! Go; when next we meet, I shall be calm."

She held out her hand as she spoke, the Italian dropped on his knee,
kissed it convulsively, and, fearful of trusting himself further,
vanished from the room.

He had not been long gone before Maltravers was seen riding through the
street. As he threw himself from his horse, he looked up at the window,
and kissed his hand at Lady Florence, who stood there watching his
arrival, with feelings indeed far different from those he anticipated.
He entered the room lightly and gaily.

Florence stirred not to welcome him. He approached and took her hand;
she withdrew it with a shudder.

"Are you not well, Florence?"

"I am well, for I have recovered."

"What do you mean? why do you turn from me?"

Lady Florence fixed her eyes on him, eyes that literally blazed; her lip
quivered with scorn.

"Mr. Maltravers, at length I know you. I understand the feelings with
which you have sought a union between us. O God! why, why was I thus
cursed with riches--why made a thing of barter and merchandise, and
avarice, and low ambition? Take my wealth, take it, Mr. Maltravers,
since that is what you prize. Heaven knows I can cast it willingly
away; but leave the wretch whom you long deceived, and who now, wretch
though she be, renounces and despises you!"

"Lady Florence, do I hear aright? Who has accused me to you?"

"None, sir, none; I would have believed none. Let it suffice that I am
convinced that our union can be happy to neither: question me no
further; all intercourse between us is for ever over!"

"Pause," said Maltravers, with cold and grave solemnity; "another word,
and the gulf will become impassable. Pause."

"Do not," exclaimed the unhappy lady, stung by what she considered the
assurance of a hardened hypocrisy--"do not affect this haughty
superiority; it dupes me no longer. I was your slave while I loved you:
the tie is broken. I am free, and I hate and scorn you! Mercenary and
sordid as you are, your baseness of spirit revives the differences of
our rank. Henceforth, Mr. Maltravers, I am Lady Florence Lascelles, and
by that title alone will you know me. Begone, Sir!"

As she spoke, with passion distorting every feature of her face, all her
beauty vanished away from the eyes of the proud Maltravers, as if by
witchcraft: the angel seemed transformed into the fury; and cold,
bitter, and withering was the eye which he fixed upon that altered
countenance.

"Mark me, Lady Florence Lascelles," said he, very calmly, "you have now
said what you can never recall. Neither in man nor in woman did Ernest
Maltravers ever forget or forgive a sentence which accused him of
dishonour. I bid you farewell for ever; and with my last words I
condemn you to the darkest of all dooms--the remorse that comes too
late!" Slowly he moved away; and as the door closed upon that towering
and haughty form, Florence already felt that his curse was working to
its fulfilment. She rushed to the window--she caught one last glimpse
of him as his horse bore him rapidly away. Ah! when shall they meet
again?



CHAPTER IX.

 "And now I live--O wherefore do I live?
  And with that pang I prayed to be no more."
          WORDSWORTH.

IT was about nine o'clock that evening, and Maltravers was alone in his
room. His carriage was at the door--his servants were arranging the
luggage--he was going that night to Burleigh. London--society-the
world--were grown hateful to him. His galled and indignant spirit
demanded solitude. At this time, Lumley Ferrers entered.

"You will pardon my intrusion," said the latter, with his usual
frankness--"but--"

"But what, sir? I am engaged."

"I shall be very brief. Maltravers, you are my old friend. I retain
regard and affection for you, though our different habits have of late
estranged us. I come to you from my cousin--from Florence--there has
been some misunderstanding between you. I called on her to-day after
you left the house. Her grief affected me. I have only just quitted
her. She has been told by some gossip or other some story or
other--women are credulous, foolish creatures;--undeceive her, and, I
dare say, all may be settled."

"Ferrers, if a man had spoken to me as Lady Florence did, his blood or
mine must have flowed. And do you think that words that might have
plunged me into the guilt of homicide if uttered by a man, I could ever
pardon in one whom I had dreamed of for a wife? Never!"

"Pooh, pooh--women's words are wind. Don't throw away so splendid a
match for such a trifle."

"Do you too, sir, mean to impute mercenary motives to me?"

"Heaven forbid! You know I am no coward, but I really don't want to
fight you. Come, be reasonable."

"I dare say you mean well, but the breach is final--all recurrence to it
is painful and superfluous. I must wish you good evening."

"You have positively decided?"

"I have."

"Even if Lady Florence made the _amende honorable_?"

"Nothing on the part of Lady Florence could alter my resolution. The
woman whom an honourable man--an English gentleman--makes the partner of
his life, ought never to listen to a syllable against his fair name: his
honour is hers, and if her lips, that should breathe comfort in calumny,
only serve to retail the lie--she may be beautiful, gifted, wealthy, and
high-born, but he takes a curse to his arms. That curse I have
escaped."

"And this I am to say to my cousin?"

"As you will. And now stay, Lumley Ferrers, and hear me. I neither
accuse nor suspect you, I desire not to pierce your heart, and in this
case I cannot fathom your motives; but if it should so have happened
that you have, in any way, ministered to Lady Florence Lascelles'
injurious opinions of my faith and honour, you will have much to answer
for, and sooner or later there will come a day of reckoning between you
and me."

"Mr. Maltravers, there can be no quarrel between us, with my cousin's
fair name at stake, or else we should not now part without preparations
for a more hostile meeting. I can bear your language. _I_, too, though
no philosopher, can forgive. Come, man, you are heated--it is very
natural;--let us part friends--your hand."

"If you can take my hand, Lumley, you are innocent, and I have wronged
you."

Lumley smiled, and cordially pressed the hand of his old friend.

As he descended the stairs, Maltravers followed, and just as Lumley
turned into Curzon Street, the carriage whirled rapidly past him, and by
the lamps he saw the pale and stern face of Maltravers.

It was a slow, drizzling rain,--one of those unwholesome nights frequent
in London towards the end of autumn. Ferrers, however, insensible to
the weather, walked slowly and thoughtfully towards his cousin's house.
He was playing for a mighty stake, and hitherto the cast was in his
favour, yet he was uneasy and perturbed. His conscience was tolerably
proof to all compunction, as much from the levity as from the strength
of his nature; and (Maltravers removed) he trusted in his knowledge of
the human heart, and the smooth speciousness of his manner, to win, at
last, in the hand of Lady Florence, the object of his ambition. It was
not on her affection, it was on her pique, her resentment, that he
relied. "When a woman fancies herself slighted by the man she loves,
the first person who proposes must be a clumsy wooer indeed, if he does
not carry her away." So reasoned Ferrers, but yet he was ruffled and
disquieted; the truth must be spoken,--able, bold, sanguine, and
scornful as he was, his spirit quailed before that of Maltravers; he
feared the lion of that nature when fairly aroused: his own character
had in it something of a woman's--an unprincipled, gifted, aspiring, and
subtle woman's,--and in Maltravers--stern, simple, and masculine--he
recognised the superior dignity of the "lords of the creation;" he was
overawed by the anticipation of a wrath and revenge which he felt he
merited, and which he feared might be deadly.

While gradually, however, his spirit recovered its usual elasticity, he
came in the vicinity of Lord Saxingham's house, and suddenly, by a
corner of the street, his arm was seized: to his inexpressible
astonishment he recognised in the muffled figure that accosted him the
form of Florence Lascelles.

"Good heavens!" he cried, "is it possible?--You, alone in the streets,
at this hour, in such a night, too! How very wrong--how very
imprudent!"

"Do not talk to me--I am almost mad as it is: I could not rest--I could
not brave quiet, solitude,--still less, the face of my father--I could
not!--but quick, what says he?--What excuse has he? Tell me
everything--I will cling to a straw."

"And is this the proud Florence Lascelles?"

"No,--it is the humbled Florence Lascelles. I have done with
pride--speak to me!"

"Ah, what a treasure is such a heart! How can he throw it away?"

"Does he deny?"

"He denies nothing--he expresses himself rejoiced to have escaped--such
was his expression--a marriage in which his heart never was engaged. He
is unworthy of you--forget him."

Florence shivered, and as Ferrers drew her arm in his own, her ungloved
hand touched his, and the touch was like that of ice.

"What will the servants think?--what excuse can we make?" said Ferrers,
when they stood beneath the porch. Florence did not reply; but as the
door opened, she said softly,--

"I am ill--ill," and clung to Ferrers with that unnerved and heavy
weight which betokens faintness.

The light glared on her--the faces of the lacqueys betokened their
undisguised astonishment. With a violent effort, Florence recovered
herself, for she had not yet done with pride, swept through the hall
with her usual stately step, slowly ascended the broad staircase, and
gained the solitude of her own room, to fall senseless on the floor.



BOOK IX.

  I go, the bride of Acheron.--SOPH. _Antig._

  These things are in the Future.--_Ib._ 1333.



CHAPTER I.

  * * * "There the action lies
  In its true nature * * * *
  * * *  What then? What rests?
  Try what repentance can!"--_Hamlet_.

 "I doubt he will be dead or ere I come."--_King John_.

IT was a fine afternoon in December, when Lumley Ferrers turned from
Lord Saxingham's door. The knockers were muffled--the windows on the
third story were partially closed. There was sickness in that house.

Lumley's face was unusually grave; it was even sad. "So young--so
beautiful," he muttered. "If ever I loved woman, I do believe I loved
her:--that love must be my excuse. . . . I repent of what I have
done--but I could not foresee that a mere lover's stratagem was to end
in such effects--the metaphysician was very right when he said, 'We only
sympathise with feelings we know ourselves.' A little disappointment in
love could not have hurt me much--it is d----d odd it should hurt her
so. I am altogether out of luck: old Templeton--I beg his pardon, Lord
Vargrave--(by-the-by, he gets heartier every day--what a constitution he
has!) seems cross with me. He did not like the idea that I should marry
Lady Florence--and when I thought that vision might have been realised,
hinted that I was disappointing some expectations he had formed; I can't
make out what he means. Then, too, the government have offered that
place to Maltravers instead of to me. In fact, my star is not in the
ascendant. Poor Florence, though,--I would really give a great deal to
know her restored to health!--I have done a villainous thing, but I
thought it only a clever one. However, regret is a fool's passion. By
Jupiter!--talking of fools, here comes Cesarini."

Wan, haggard, almost spectral, his hat over his brows, his dress
neglected, his air reckless and fierce, Cesarini crossed the way, and
thus accosted Lumley:

"We have murdered her, Ferrers; and her ghost will haunt us to our dying
day!"

"Talk prose; you know I am no poet. What do you mean?"

"She is worse to-day," groaned Cesarini, in a hollow voice. "I wander
like a lost spirit round the house; I question all who come from it.
Tell me--oh, tell me, is there hope?"

"I do, indeed, trust so," replied Ferrers, fervently. "The illness has
only of late assumed an alarming appearance. At first it was merely a
severe cold, caught by imprudent exposure one rainy night. Now they
fear it has settled on the lungs; but if we could get her abroad, all
might be well."

"You think so, honestly?"

"I do. Courage, my friend; do not reproach yourself; it has nothing to
do with us. She was taken ill of a cold, not of a letter, man!"

"No, no; I judge her heart by my own. Oh, that I could recall the past!
Look at me; I am the wreck of what I was; day and night the recollection
of my falsehood haunts me with remorse."

"Pshaw!--we will go to Italy together, and in your beautiful land love
will replace love."

"I am half resolved, Ferrers."

"Ha!--to do what?"

"To write--to reveal all to her."

The hardy complexion of Ferrers grew livid; his brow became dark with a
terrible expression.

"Do so, and fall the next day by my hand; my aim in slighter quarrel
never erred."

"Do you dare to threaten me?"

"Do you dare to betray me? Betray one who, if he sinned, sinned on your
account--in your cause; who would have secured to you the loveliest
bride, and the most princely dower in England; and whose only offence
against you is that he cannot command life and health?"

"Forgive me," said the Italian, with great emotion,--"forgive me, and do
not misunderstand; I would not have betrayed _you_--there is honour
among villains. I would have confessed only my own crime; I would never
have revealed yours--why should I?--it is unnecessary."

"Are you in earnest--are you sincere?"

"By my soul!"

"Then, indeed, you are worthy of my friendship. You will assume the
whole forgery--an ugly word, but it avoids circumlocution--to be your
own?"

"I will."

Ferrers paused a moment, and then stopped suddenly short.

"You will swear this!"

"By all that is holy."

"Then mark me, Cesarini; if to-morrow Lady Florence be worse, I will
throw no obstacle in the way of your confession, should you resolve to
make it; I will even use that influence which you leave me, to palliate
your offence, to win your pardon. And yet to resign your hopes--to
surrender one so loved to the arms of one so hated--it is
magnanimous--it is noble--it is above my standard! Do as you will."

Cesarini was about to reply, when a servant on horseback abruptly turned
the corner, almost at full speed. He pulled in--his eye fell upon
Lumley--he dismounted.

"Oh, Mr. Ferrers," said the man breathlessly, "I have been to your
house; they told me I might find you at Lord Saxingham's--I was just
going there--"

"Well, well, what is the matter?"

"My poor master, sir--my lord, I mean--"

"What of him?"

"Had a fit, sir--the doctors are with him--my mistress--for my lord
can't speak--sent me express for you."

"Lend me your horse--there, just lengthen the stirrups."

While the groom was engaged at the saddle, Ferrers turned to Cesarini.
"Do nothing rashly," said he; "I would say, if I might, nothing at all,
without consulting me; but mind, I rely, at all events, on your
promise--your oath."

"You may," said Cesarini, gloomily.

"Farewell, then," said Lumley, as he mounted; and in a few moments he
was out of sight.



CHAPTER II.

 "O world, thou wast the forest to this hart,

   * * * * *

  Dost thou here lie?"--_Julius Caesar_.

AS Lumley leapt from his horse at his uncle's door, the disorder and
bustle of those demesnes, in which the severe eye of the master usually
preserved a repose and silence as complete as if the affairs of life
were carried on by clockwork, struck upon him sensibly. Upon the trim
lawn the old women employed in cleaning and weeding the walks were all
assembled in a cluster, shaking their heads ominously in concert, and
carrying on their comments in a confused whisper. In the hall, the
housemaid (and it was the first housemaid whom Lumley had ever seen in
that house, so invisibly were the wheels of the domestic machine carried
on) was leaning on her broom, "swallowing with open mouth a footman's
news." It was as if, with the first slackening of the rigid rein, human
nature broke loose from the conventual stillness in which it had ever
paced its peaceful path in that formal mansion.

"How is he?"

"My lord is better, sir; he has spoken, I believe."

At this moment a young face, swollen and red with weeping, looked down
from the stairs; and presently Evelyn rushed breathlessly into the hall.

"Oh, come up--come up--cousin Lumley; he cannot, cannot die in your
presence; you always seem so full of life! He cannot die; you do not
think he will die? Oh, take me with you, they won't let me go to him!"

"Hush, my dear little girl, hush; follow me lightly--that is right."

Lumley reached the door, tapped gently--entered; and the child also
stole in unobserved or at least unprevented. Lumley drew aside the
curtains; the new lord was lying on his bed, with his head propped by
pillows, his eyes wide open, with a glassy, but not insensible stare,
and his countenance fearfully changed.

Lady Vargrave was kneeling on the other side of the bed, one hand
clasped in her husband's, the other bathing his temples, and her tears
falling, without sob or sound, fast and copiously down her pale fair
cheeks.

Two doctors were conferring in the recess of the window; an apothecary
was mixing drugs at a table; and two of the oldest female servants of
the house were standing near the physicians, trying to overhear what was
said.

"My dear, dear uncle, how are you?" asked Lumley.

"Ah, you are come, then," said the dying man, in a feeble yet distinct
voice; "that is well--I have much to say to you."

"But not now--not now--you are not strong enough," said the wife,
imploringly.

The doctors moved to the bedside. Lord Vargrave waved his hand, and
raised his head.

"Gentlemen," said he, "I feel as if death were hastening upon me; I have
much need, while my senses remain, to confer with my nephew. Is the
present a fitting time?--if I delay, are you sure that I shall have
another?"

The doctors looked at each other.

"My lord," said one, "it may perhaps settle and relieve your mind to
converse with your nephew; afterwards you may more easily compose
yourself to sleep."

"Take this cordial, then," said the other doctor.

The sick man obeyed. One of the physicians approached Lumley, and
beckoned him aside.

"Shall we send for his lordship's lawyer?" whispered the leech.

"I am his heir-at-law," thought Lumley. "Why, _no_, my dear sir--no, I
think not, unless he expresses a desire to see him; doubtless my poor
uncle has already settled his worldly affairs. What is his state?"

The doctor shook his head. "I will speak to you, sir, after you have
left his lordship."

"What is the matter there?" cried the patient, sharply and querulously.
"Clear the room--I would be alone with my nephew."

The doctors disappeared; the old women reluctantly followed; when,
suddenly, the little Evelyn sprang forward and threw herself on the
breast of the dying man, sobbing as if her heart would break.

"My poor child!--my sweet child--my own, own darling!" gasped out Lord
Vargrave, folding his weak arms round her; "bless you--bless you! and
God will bless you. My wife," he added, with a voice far more tender
than Lumley had ever before heard him address to Lady Vargrave, "if
these be the last words I utter to you, let them express all the
gratitude I feel for you, for duties never more piously discharged: you
did not love me, it is true; and in health and pride that knowledge
often made me unjust to you. I have been severe--you have had much to
bear--forgive me."

"Oh! do not talk thus; you have been nobler, kinder than my deserts.
How much I owe you--how little I have done in return!"

"I cannot bear this; leave me, my dear, leave me. I may live yet--I
hope I may--I do not want to die. The cup may pass from me.
Go--go--and you, my child."

"Ah, let _me_ stay."

Lord Vargrave kissed the little creature, as she clung to his neck, with
passionate affection, and then, placing her in her mother's arms, fell
back exhausted on his pillow. Lumley, with handkerchief to his eyes,
opened the door to Lady Vargrave, who sobbed bitterly, and carefully
closing it, resumed his station by his uncle.

When Lumley Ferrers left the room, his countenance was gloomy and
excited rather than sad. He hurried to the room which he usually
occupied, and remained there for some hours while his uncle slept--a
long and sound sleep. But the mother and the stepchild (now restored to
the sick-room) did not desert their watch.

It wanted about an hour to midnight, when the senior physician sought
the nephew.

"Your uncle asks for you, Mr. Ferrers; and I think it right to say that
his last moments approach. We have done all that can be done."

"Is he fully aware of his danger?"

"He is; and has spent the last two hours in prayer--it is a Christian's
death-bed, sir."

"Humph!" said Ferrers, as he followed the physician. The room was
darkened--a single lamp, carefully shaded, burned on a table, on which
lay the Book of Life in Death: and with awe and grief on their faces,
the mother and the child were kneeling beside the bed.

"Come here, Lumley," faltered forth the fast-dying man.

"There are none here but you three--nearest and dearest to me?--That is
well. Lumley, then, you know all--my wife, he knows all. My child,
give your hand to your cousin--so you are now plighted. When you grow
up, Evelyn, you will know that it is my last wish and prayer that you
should be the wife of Lumley Ferrers. In giving you this angel, Lumley,
I atone to you for all seeming injustice. And to you, my child, I
secure the rank and honours to which I have painfully climbed, and which
I am forbidden to enjoy. Be kind to her, Lumley--you have a good and
frank heart--let it be her shelter--she has never known a harsh word.
God bless you all, and God forgive me--pray for me. Lumley, to-morrow
you will be Lord Vargrave, and by and by" (here a ghastly, but exultant
smile flitted over the speaker's countenance), "you will be my
Lady--Lady Vargrave. Lady--so--so--Lady Var--"

The words died on his trembling lips; he turned round, and, though he
continued to breathe for more than an hour, Lord Vargrave never uttered
another syllable.



CHAPTER III.

        "Hopes and fears
  Start up alarmed, and o'er life's narrow verge
  Look down--on what?--a fathomless abyss."--YOUNG.

 "Contempt, farewell, and maiden pride, adieu!"
        _Much Ado about Nothing_.

THE wound which Maltravers had received was peculiarly severe and
rankling. It is true that he had never been what is called violently in
love with Florence Lascelles; but from the moment in which he had been
charmed and surprised into the character of a declared suitor, it was
consonant with his scrupulous and loyal nature to view only the bright
side of Florence's gifts and qualities, and to seek to enamour his
grateful fancy with her beauty, her genius, and her tenderness for
himself. He had thus forced and formed his thoughts and hopes to centre
all in one object; and Florence and the Future had grown words which
conveyed the same meaning to his mind. Perhaps he felt more bitterly
her sudden and stunning accusations, couched as they were in language so
unqualified, because they fell upon his pride rather than his affection,
and were not softened away by the thousand excuses and remembrances
which a passionate love would have invented and recalled. It was a
deep, concentrated sense of injury and insult, that hardened and soured
his whole nature--wounded vanity, wounded pride, and wounded honour.

And the blow, too, came upon him at a time when he was most dissatisfied
with all other prospects. He was disgusted with the littleness of the
agents and springs of political life--he had formed a weary contempt for
the barrenness of literary reputation. At thirty years of age he had
necessarily outlived the sanguine elasticity of early youth, and he had
already broken up many of those later toys in business and ambition
which afford the rattle and the hobby-borse to our maturer manhood.
Always asking for something too refined and too exalted for human life,
every new proof of unworthiness in men and things saddened or revolted a
mind still too fastidious for that quiet contentment with the world as
it is, which we must all learn before we can make our philosophy
practical and our genius as fertile of the harvest as it may be prodigal
of the blossom. Haughty, solitary, and unsocial, the ordinary resources
of mortified and disappointed men were not for Ernest Maltravers.
Rigidly secluded in his country retirement, he consumed the days in
moody wanderings; and in the evenings he turned to books with a spirit
disdainful and fatigued. So much had he already learned, that books
taught him little that he did not already know. And the biographies of
authors, those ghost-like beings who seem to have had no life but in the
shadow of their own haunting and imperishable thoughts, dimmed the
inspiration he might have caught from their pages. Those slaves of the
Lamp, those Silkworms of the Closet, how little had they enjoyed, how
little had they lived! Condemned to a mysterious fate by the wholesale
destinies of the world, they seemed born but to toil and to spin
thoughts for the common crowd--and, their task performed in drudgery and
in darkness, to die when no further service could be wrung from their
exhaustion. Names had they been in life, and as names they lived for
ever, in life as in death, airy and unsubstantial phantoms. It pleased
Maltravers at this time to turn a curious eye towards the obscure and
half-extinct philosophies of the ancient world. He compared the Stoics
with the Epicureans--those Epicureans who had given their own version to
the simple and abstemious utilitarianism of their master. He asked
which was the wiser, to sharpen pain or to deaden pleasure--to bear all
or to enjoy all; and, by a natural reaction which often happens to us in
life, this man, hitherto so earnest, active-spirited, and resolved on
great things, began to yearn for the drowsy pleasures of indolence. The
garden grew more tempting than the porch. He seriously revolved the old
alternative of the Grecian demi-god--might it not be wiser to abandon
the grave pursuits to which he had been addicted, to dethrone the august
but severe ideal in his heart, to cultivate the light loves and
voluptuous trifles of the herd, and to plant the brief space of youth
yet left to him with the myrtle and the rose? As water flows over
water, so new schemes rolled upon new--sweeping away every momentary
impression, and leaving the surface facile equally to receive and to
forget. Such is the common state with men of imagination in those
crises of life, when some great revolution of designs and hopes
unsettles elements too susceptible of every changing wind. And thus the
weak are destroyed, while the strong relapse, after terrible but unknown
convulsions, into that solemn harmony and order from which destiny and
God draw their uses to mankind.

It was from this irresolute contest between antagonist principles that
Maltravers was aroused by the following letter from Florence Lascelles:


"For three days and three sleepless nights I have debated with myself
whether or not I ought to address you. Oh, Ernest, were I what I was,
in health, in pride, I might fear that, generous as you are, you would
misconstrue my appeal; but that is now impossible. Our union never can
take place, and my hopes bound themselves to one sweet and melancholy
hope, that you will remove from my last hours the cold and dark shadow
of your resentment. We have both been cruelly deceived and betrayed.
Three days ago I discovered the perfidy that has been practised against
us. And then, ah! then, with all the weak human anguish of discovering
it too late (_your curse is fulfilled_, Ernest!), I had at least one
moment of proud, of exquisite rapture. Ernest Maltravers, the hero of
my dreams, stood pure and lofty as of old--a thing it was not unworthy
to love, to mourn, to die for. A letter in your handwriting had been
shown to me, garbled and altered, as it seems--but I detected not the
imposture--it was yourself, yourself alone, brought in false and
horrible witness against yourself! And could you think that any other
evidence, the words, the oaths of others, would have convicted you in my
eyes? There you wronged me. But I deserved it--I had bound myself to
secrecy--the seal is taken from my lips in order to be set upon my tomb.
Ernest, beloved Ernest--beloved till the last breath is extinct--till
the last throb of this heart is stilled--write me one word of comfort
and of pardon. You will believe what I have imperfectly written, for
you ever trusted my faith, if you have blamed my faults. I am now
comparatively happy--a word from you will, make me blest. And Fate has,
perhaps, been more merciful to both, than in our shortsighted and
querulous human vision, we might, perhaps, believe; for now that the
frame is brought low--and in the solitude of my chamber I can duly and
humbly commune with mine own heart, I see the aspect of those faults
which I once mistook for virtues--and feel that, had we been united, I,
loving you ever, might not have constituted your happiness, and so have
known the misery of losing your affection. May He who formed you for
glorious and yet all unaccomplished purposes strengthen you, when these
eyes can no longer sparkle at your triumphs, or weep at your lightest
sorrow. You will go on in your broad and luminous career:--a few years,
and my remembrance will have left but the vestige of a dream behind.
But, but--I can write no more. God bless you!"



CHAPTER IV.

 "Oh, stop this headlong current of your goodness;
  It comes too fast upon a feeble soul."
        DRYDEN: _Sebastian and Doras_.

THE smooth physician had paid his evening visit; Lord Saxingham had gone
to a cabinet dinner, for Life must ever walk side by side with Death:
and Lady Florence Lascelles was alone. It was a room adjoining her
sleeping-apartment--a room in which, in the palmy days of the brilliant
and wayward heiress, she had loved to display her fanciful and peculiar
taste. There had she been accustomed to muse, to write, to study--there
had she first been dazzled by the novel glow of Ernest's undiurnal and
stately thoughts--there had she first conceived the romance of girlhood,
which had led her to confer with him, unknown--there had she first
confessed to herself that fancy had begotten love--there had she gone
through love's short and exhausting process of lone emotion;--the doubt,
the hope, the ecstasy; the reverse, the terror; the inanimate
despondency, the agonised despair! And there now, sadly and patiently,
she awaited the gradual march of inevitable decay. And books and
pictures, and musical instruments, and marble busts, half shadowed by
classic draperies--and all the delicate elegancies of womanly
refinement--still invested the chamber with a grace as cheerful as if
youth and beauty were to be the occupants for ever--and the dark and
noisome vault were not the only lasting residence for the things of
clay.

Florence Lascelles was dying; but not indeed wholly of that common, if
mystic malady, a broken heart. Her health, always delicate, because
always preyed upon by a nervous, irritable, and feverish spirit, had
been gradually and invisibly undermined, even before Ernest confessed
his love. In the singular lustre of those large-pupilled eyes--in the
luxuriant transparency of that glorious bloom,--the experienced might
long since have traced the seeds which cradled death. In the night when
her restless and maddened heart so imprudently drove her forth to
forestall the communication of Lumley (whom she had sent to Maltravers,
she scarce knew for what object, or with what hope), in that night she
was already in a high state of fever. The rain and the chill struck the
growing disease within--her excitement gave it food and fire--delirium
succeeded; and in that most fearful and fatal of all medical errors,
which robs the frame, when it most needs strength, of the very principle
of life, they had bled her into a temporary calm, and into permanent and
incurable weakness. Consumption seized its victim. The physicians who
attended her were the most renowned in London, and Lord Saxingham was
firmly persuaded that there was no danger. It was not in his nature to
think that death would take so great a liberty with Lady Florence
Lascelles, when there were so many poor people in the world whom there
would be no impropriety in removing from it. But Florence knew her
danger, and her high spirit did not quail before it. Yet, when
Cesarini, stung beyond endurance by the horrors of his remorse, wrote
and confessed all his own share of the fatal treason, though, faithful
to his promise, he concealed that of his accomplice,--then, ah then, she
did indeed repine at her doom, and long to look once more with the eyes
of love and joy upon the face of the beautiful world. But the illness
of the body usually brings out a latent power and philosophy of the
soul, which health never knows; and God has mercifully ordained it as
the customary lot of nature, that in proportion as we decline into the
grave, the sloping path is made smooth and easy to our feet; and every
day, as the films of clay are removed from our eyes, Death loses the
false aspect of the spectre, and we fall at last into its arms as a
wearied child upon the bosom of its mother.

It was with a heavy heart that Lady Florence listened to the monotonous
clicking of the clock that announced the departure of moments few, yet
not precious, still spared to her. Her face buried in her hands, she
bent over the small table beside her sofa, and indulged her melancholy
thoughts. Bowed was the haughty crest, unnerved the elastic shape that
had once seemed born for majesty and command--no friends were near, for
Florence had never made friends. Solitary had been her youth, and
solitary were her dying hours.

As she thus sat and mused, a sound of carriage wheels in the street
below slightly shook the room--it ceased--the carriage stopped at the
door. Florence looked up. "No, no, it cannot be," she muttered; yet,
while she spoke, a faint flush passed over her sunken and faded cheek,
and the bosom heaved beneath the robe, "a world too wide for its shrunk"
proportions. There was a silence, which to her seemed interminable, and
she turned away with a deep sigh, and a chill sinking of the heart.

At this time her woman entered with a meaning and flurried look.

"I beg your pardon, my lady--but--"

"But what?"

"Mr. Maltravers has called, and asked for your ladyship--so, my lady,
Mr. Burton sent for me, and I said, my lady is too unwell to see any
one; but Mr. Maltravers would not be denied; and he is waiting in my
lord's library, and insisted on my coming up and 'nouncing him, my
lady."

Now Mrs. Shinfield's words were not euphonistic, nor her voice
mellifluous; but never had eloquence seemed to Florence so effective.
Youth, love, beauty, all rushed back upon her at once, brightening her
eyes, her cheek, and filling up ruin with sudden and deceitful light.

"Well," she said, after a pause, "let Mr. Maltravers come up."

"Come up, my lady? Bless me!--let me just 'range your hair--your
ladyship is really in such dish-a-bill."

"Best as it is, Shinfield--he will excuse all.--Go."

Mrs. Shinfield shrugged her shoulders, and departed. A few moments
more--a step on the stairs, the creaking of the door,--and Maltravers
and Florence were again alone. He stood motionless on the threshold.
She had involuntarily risen, and so they stood opposite to each other,
and the lamp fell full upon her face. Oh, Heaven! when did that sight
cease to haunt the heart of Maltravers! When shall that altered aspect
not pass as a ghost before his eyes!--there it is, faithful and
reproachful alike in solitude and in crowds--it is seen in the glare of
noon--it passes dim and wan at night beneath the stars and the earth--it
looked into his heart and left its likeness there for ever and for ever!
Those cheeks, once so beautifully rounded, now sunken into lines and
hollows--the livid darkness beneath the eyes--the whitened lip--the
sharp, anxious, worn expression, which had replaced that glorious and
beaming regard from which all the life of genius, all the sweet pride of
womanhood had glowed forth, and in which not only the intelligence, but
the eternity of the soul, seemed visibly wrought.

There he stood, aghast and appalled. At length a low groan broke from
his lips--he rushed forward, sank on his knees beside her, and clasping
both her hands, sobbed aloud as he covered them with kisses. All the
iron of his strong nature was broken down, and his emotions, long
silenced, and now uncontrollable and resistless, were something terrible
to behold!

"Do not--do not weep so," murmured Lady Florence, frightened by his
vehemence; "I am sadly changed, but the fault is mine--Ernest, it is
mine; best, kindest, gentlest, how could I have been so mad! And you
forgive me? I am yours again--a little while yours. Ah, do not grieve
while I am so blessed!"

As she spoke, her tears--tears from a source how different from that
whence broke the scorching and intolerable agony of his own! fell soft
upon his bended head, and the hands that still convulsively strained
hers. Maltravers looked wildly up into her countenance, and shuddered
as he saw her attempt to smile. He rose abruptly, threw himself into a
chair, and covered his face. He was seeking by a violent effort to
master himself, and it was only by the heaving of his chest, and now and
then a gasp as for breath, that he betrayed the stormy struggle within.

Florence gazed at him a moment in bitter, in almost selfish penitence.
"And this was the man who seemed to me so callous to the softer
sympathies--this was the heart I trampled upon--this the nature I
distrusted!"

She came near him, trembling and with feeble steps--she laid her hand
upon his shoulder, and the fondness of love came over her, and she wound
her arms around him.

"It is our fate--it is my fate," said Maltravers at last, awaking as
from a hideous dream, and in a hollow but calm voice--"we are the things
of destiny, and the wheel has crushed us. It is an awful state of being
this human life!--What is wisdom--virtue--faith to men--piety to
Heaven--all the nurture we bestow on ourselves--all our desire to win a
loftier sphere, when we are thus the tools of the merest chance--the
victims of the pettiest villainy; and our very existence--our very
senses almost, at the mercy of every traitor and every fool!"

There was something in Ernest's voice, as well as in his reflections,
which appeared so unnaturally calm and deep that it startled Florence,
with a fear more acute than his previous violence had done. He rose,
and muttering to himself, walked to and fro, as if insensible of her
presence--in fact he was so. At length he stopped short, and fixing his
eyes upon Lady Florence, said in a whispered and thrilling tone:

"Now, then, the name of our undoer?"

"No, Ernest, no--never, unless you promise me to forego the purpose
which I read in your eyes. He has confessed--he is penitent--I have
forgiven him--you will do so too!"

"His name!" repeated Maltravers, and his face, before very flushed, was
unnaturally pale.

"Forgive him--promise me."

"His name, I say,--his name?"

"Is this kind?--you terrify me--you will kill me!" faltered out
Florence, and she sank on the sofa exhausted: her nerves, now so
weakened, were perfectly unstrung by his vehemence, and she wrung her
hands and wept piteously.

"You will not tell me his name?" said Maltravers, softly. "Be it so. I
will ask no more. I can discover it myself. Fate the Avenger will
reveal it."

At the thought he grew more composed; and as Florence wept on, the
unnatural concentration and fierceness of his mind again gave way, and,
seating himself beside her, he uttered all that could soothe, and
comfort, and console. And Florence was soon soothed! And there, while
over their heads the grim skeleton was holding the funeral pall, they
again exchanged their vows, and again, with feelings fonder than of old,
spoke of love.



CHAPTER V.

        "Erichtho, then,
  Breathes her dire murmurs, which enforce him bear
  Her baneful secrets to the spirits of horror."--MARLOWE.

WITH a heavy step Maltravers ascended the stairs of his lonely house
that night, and heavily, with a suppressed groan, did he sink upon the
first chair that proffered rest.

It was intensely cold. During his long interview with Lady Florence,
his servant had taken the precaution to go to Seamore Place, and make
some hasty preparations for the owner's return. But the bedroom looked
comfortless and bare, the curtains were taken down, the carpets were
taken up (a single man's housekeeper is wonderfully provident in these
matters; the moment his back is turned, she bustles, she displaces, she
exults; "things can be put a little to rights!"). Even the fire would
not burn clear, but gleamed sullen and fitful from the smothering fuel.
It was a large chamber, and the lights imperfectly filled it. On the
table lay parliamentary papers, and pamphlets, and bills and
presentation-books from younger authors--evidences of the teeming
business of that restless machine the world. But of all this Maltravers
was not sensible: the winter frost numbed not his feverish veins. His
servant, who loved him, as all who saw much of Maltravers did, fidgeted
anxiously about the room, and plied the sullen fire, and laid out the
comfortable dressing-robe, and placed wine on the table, and asked
questions which were not answered, and pressed service which was not
heeded. The little wheels of life go on, even when the great wheel is
paralysed or broken. Maltravers was, if I may so express it, in a kind
of mental trance. His emotions had left him thoroughly exhausted. He
felt that torpor which succeeds and is again the precursor of great woe.
At length he was alone, and the solitude half unconsciously restored him
to the sense of his heavy misery. For it may be observed, that when
misfortune has stricken us home, the presence of any one seems to
interfere between the memory and the heart. Withdraw the intruder, and
the lifted hammer falls at once upon the anvil! He rose as the door
closed on his attendant--rose with a start, and pushed the hat from his
gathered brows. He walked for some moments to and fro, and the air of
the room, freezing as it was, oppressed him.

There are times when the arrow quivers within us--in which all space
seems too confined. Like the wounded hart, we could fly on for ever;
there is a vague desire of escape--a yearning, almost insane, to get out
from our own selves: the soul struggles to flee away, and take the wings
of the morning.

Impatiently, at last, did Maltravers throw open his window; it
communicated with a balcony, built out to command the wide view which,
from a certain height, that part of the park affords. He stepped into
the balcony and bared his breast to the keen air. The uncomfortable and
icy heavens looked down upon the hoar-rime that gathered over the grass,
and the ghostly boughs of the deathlike trees. All things in the world
without brought the thought of the grave, and the pause of being, and
the withering up of beauty, closer and closer to his soul. In the
palpable and griping winter, death itself seemed to wind around him its
skeleton and joyless arms. And as thus he stood, and, wearied with
contending against, passively yielded to, the bitter passions that wrung
and gnawed his heart,--he heard not a sound at the door--nor the
footsteps on the stairs--nor knew he that a visitor was in his
room--till he felt a hand upon his shoulder, and turning round, he
beheld the white and livid countenance of Castruccio Cesarini.

"It is a dreary night and a solemn hour, Maltravers," said the Italian,
with a distorted smile--"a fitting night and time for my interview with
you."

"Away!" said Maltravers, in an impatient tone. "I am not at leisure for
these mock heroics."

"Ay, but you shall hear me to the end. I have watched your arrival--I
have counted the hours in which you remained with her--I have followed
you home. If you have human passions, humanity itself must be dried up
within you, and the wild beast in his cavern is not more fearful to
encounter. Thus, then, I seek and brave you. Be still. Has Florence
revealed to you the name of him who belied you, and who betrayed herself
to the death?"

"Ha!" said Maltravers, growing very pale, and fixing his eyes on
Cesarini, "you are not the man--my suspicions lighted elsewhere."

"I am the man. Do thy worst."

Scarce were the words uttered, when, with a fierce cry, Maltravers threw
himself on the Italian;--he tore him from his footing--he grasped him in
his arms as a child--he literally whirled him around and on high; and in
that maddening paroxysm, it was, perhaps, but the balance of a feather,
in the conflicting elements of revenge and reason, which withheld
Maltravers from hurling the criminal from the fearful height on which
they stood. The temptation passed--Cesarini leaned safe, unharmed, but
half senseless with mingled rage and fear, against the wall.

He was alone--Maltravers had left him--had fled from himself--fled into
the chamber--fled for refuge from human passions to the wing of the
All-Seeing and All-Present. "Father," he groaned, sinking on his knees,
"support me, save me: without Thee I am lost."

Slowly Cesarini recovered himself, and re-entered the apartment. A
string in his brain was already loosened, and, sullen and ferocious, he
returned again to goad the lion that had spared him. Maltravers had
already risen from his brief prayer. With locked and rigid countenance,
with arms folded on his breast, he stood confronting the Italian, who
advanced towards him with a menacing brow and arm, but halted
involuntarily at the sight of that commanding aspect.

"Well, then," said Maltravers at last, with a tone preternaturally calm
and low, "you then are the man. Speak on--what arts did you employ?"

"Your own letter. When, many months ago, I wrote to tell you of the
hopes it was mine to conceive, and to ask your opinion of her I loved,
how did you answer me? With doubts, with depreciation, with covert and
polished scorn, of the very woman whom, with a deliberate treachery, you
afterwards wrested from my worshipping and adoring love. That letter I
garbled. I made the doubts you expressed of my happiness seem doubts of
your own. I changed the dates--I made the letter itself appear written,
not on your first acquaintance with her, but subsequent to your plighted
and accepted vows. Your own handwriting convicted you of mean
suspicions and of sordid motives. These were my arts."

"They were most noble. Do you abide by them--or repent?"

"For what I have done to _thee_ I have no repentance. Nay, I regard
thee still as the aggressor. Thou hast robbed me of her who was all the
world to me--and, be thine excuses what they may, I hate thee with a
hate that cannot slumber--that abjures the abject name of remorse! I
exult in the very agonies thou endurest. But for her--the stricken--the
dying! O God, O God! The blow falls upon mine own head!"

"Dying!" said Maltravers, slowly and with a shudder. "No, no--not
dying--or what art thou? Her murderer! And what must I be? Her
avenger!"

Overpowered with his own passions, Cesarini sank down and covered his
face with his clasped hands. Maltravers stalked gloomily to and fro the
apartment. There was silence for some moments.

At length Maltravers paused opposite Cesarini and thus addressed him:

"You have come hither not so much to confess the basest crime of which
man can be guilty, as to gloat over my anguish and to brave me to
revenge my wrongs. Go, man, go--for the present you are safe. While
she lives, my life is not mine to hazard--if she recover, I can pity you
and forgive. To me your offence, foul though it be, sinks below
contempt itself. It is the consequences of that crime as they relate
to--to--that noble and suffering woman, which can alone raise the
despicable into the tragic and make your life a worthy and a necessary
offering--not to revenge, but justice:--life for life--victim for
victim! 'Tis the old law--'tis a righteous one."

"You shall not, with your accursed coldness, thus dispose of me as you
will, and arrogate the option to smite or save! No," continued
Cesarini, stamping his foot--"no; far from seeking forbearance at your
hands--I dare and defy you! You think I have injured you--I, on the
other hand, consider that the wrong has come from yourself. But for
you, she might have loved me--have been mine. Let that pass. But for
you, at least, it is certain that I should neither have sullied my soul
with a vile sin, nor brought the brightest of human beings to the grave.
If she dies, the murder may be mine, but you were the cause--the devil
that tempted to the offence. I defy and spit upon you--I have no
softness left in me--my veins are fire--my heart thirsts for blood.
You--you--have still the privilege to see--to bless--to tend her:--and
I--I, who loved her so--who could have kissed the earth she trod
on--I--well, well, no matter--I hate you--I insult you--I call you
villain and dastard--I throw myself on the laws of honour, and I demand
that conflict you defer or deny!"

"Home, doter--home--fall on thy knees, and pray to Heaven for
pardon--make up thy dread account--repine not at the days yet thine to
wash the black spot from thy soul. For, while I speak, I foresee too
well that her days are numbered, and with her thread of life is entwined
thine own. Within twelve hours from her last moment, we shall meet
again: but now I am as ice and stone,--thou canst not move me. Her
closing life shall not be darkened by the aspect of blood--by the
thought of the sacrifice it demands. Begone, or menials shall cast thee
from my door: those lips are too base to breathe the same air as honest
men. Begone, I say, begone!"

Though scarce a muscle moved in the lofty countenance of
Maltravers--though no frown darkened the majestic brow--though no fire
broke from the steadfast and scornful eye--there was a kingly authority
in the aspect, in the extended arm, the stately crest, and a power in
the swell of the stern voice, which awed and quelled the unhappy being
whose own passions exhausted and unmanned him. He strove to fling back
scorn to scorn, but his lips trembled, and his voice died in hollow
murmurs within his breast. Maltravers regarded him with a crushing and
intense disdain. The Italian with shame and wrath wrestled against
himself, but in vain: the cold eye that was fixed upon him was as a
spell, which the fiend within him could not rebel against or resist.
Mechanically he moved to the door,--then turning round, he shook his
clenched hand at Maltravers, and, with a wild, maniacal laugh, rushed
from the apartment.



CHAPTER VI.

 "On some fond breast the parting soul relies."--GRAY.

NOT a day passed in which Maltravers was absent from the side of
Florence. He came early, he went late. He subsided into his former
character of an accepted suitor, without a word of explanation with Lord
Saxingham. That task was left to Florence. She doubtless performed it
well, for his lordship seemed satisfied though grave, and, almost for
the first time in his life, sad. Maltravers never reverted to the cause
of their unhappy dissension. Nor from that night did he once give way
to whatever might be his more agonised and fierce emotions--he never
affected to reproach himself--he never bewailed with a vain despair
their approaching separation. Whatever it cost him, he stood collected
and stoical in the intense power of his self control. He had but one
object, one desire, one hope--to save the last hours of Florence
Lascelles from every pang--to brighten and smooth the passage across the
Solemn Bridge. His forethought, his presence of mind, his care, his
tenderness, never forsook him for an instant: they went beyond the
attributes of men, they went into all the fine, the indescribable
minutiae by which woman makes herself, "in pain and anguish," the
"ministering angel." It was as if he had nerved and braced his whole
nature to one duty--as if that duty were more felt than affection
itself--as if he were resolved that Florence should not remember that
_she had no mother_!

And, oh, then, how Florence loved him! how far more luxurious, in its
grateful and clinging fondness, was that love, than the wild and jealous
fire of their earlier connection! Her own character, as is often the
case in lingering illness, became incalculably more gentle and softened
down, as the shadows closed around it. She loved to make him read and
talk to her--and her ancient poetry of thought now grew mellowed, as it
were, into religion, which is indeed poetry with a stronger wing. . . .
There was a world beyond the grave--there was life out of the chrysalis
sleep of death--they would yet be united. And Maltravers, who was a
solemn and intense believer in the GREAT HOPE, did not neglect the
purest and highest of all the fountains of solace.

Often in that quiet room, in that gorgeous mansion, which had been the
scene of all vain or worldly schemes--of flirtations and feastings, and
political meetings and cabinet dinners, and all the bubbles of the
passing wave--often there did these persons, whose position to each
other had been so suddenly and so strangely changed--converse on those
matters--daring and divine--which "make the bridal of the earth and
sky."

"How fortunate am I," said Florence, one day, "that my choice fell on
one who thinks as you do! How your words elevate and exalt me!--yet
once I never dreamt of asking your creed on these questions. It is in
sorrow or sickness that we learn why Faith was given as a soother to
man--Faith, which is Hope with a holier name--hope that knows neither
deceit nor death. Ah, how wisely do you speak of the _philosophy_ of
belief! It is, indeed, the telescope through which the stars grow large
upon our gaze. And to you, Ernest, my beloved--comprehended and known
at last--to you I leave, when I am gone, that monitor--that friend; you
will know yourself what you teach to me. And when you look not on the
heaven alone but in all space--on all the illimitable creation, you will
know that I am there! For the home of a spirit is wherever spreads the
Universal Presence of God. And to what numerous stages of being, what
paths, what duties, what active and glorious tasks in other worlds may
we not be reserved--perhaps to know and share them together, and mount
age after age higher in the scale of being. For surely in heaven there
is no pause or torpor--we do not lie down in calm and unimprovable
repose. Movement and progress will remain the law and condition of
existence. And there will be efforts and duties for us above as there
have been below."

It was in this theory, which Maltravers shared, that the character of
Florence, her overflowing life and activity of thought--her aspirations,
her ambition, were still displayed. It was not so much to the calm and
rest of the grave that she extended her unreluctant gaze, as to the
light and glory of a renewed and progressive existence.

It was while thus they sat, the low voice of Ernest, tranquil yet half
trembling with the emotions he sought to restrain--sometimes sobering,
sometimes yet more elevating, the thoughts of Florence, that Lord
Vargrave was announced, and Lumley Ferrers, who had now succeeded to
that title, entered the room. It was the first time that Florence had
seen him since the death of his uncle--the first time Maltravers
had seen him since the evening so fatal to Florence. Both
started--Maltravers rose and walked to the window. Lord Vargrave took
the hand of his cousin and pressed it to his lips in silence, while his
looks betokened feelings that for once were genuine.

"You see, Lumley, I am resigned," said Florence, with a sweet smile.
"I am resigned and happy."

Lumley glanced at Maltravers, and met a cold, scrutinising, piercing
eye, from which he shrank with some confusion. He recovered himself in
an instant.

"I am rejoiced, my cousin, I _am_ rejoiced," said he, very earnestly,
"to see Maltravers here again. Let us now hope the best."

Maltravers walked deliberately up to Lumley. "Will you take my hand
_now_, too?" said he, with deep meaning in his tone.

"More willingly than ever," said Lumley; and he did not shrink as he
said it.

"I am satisfied," replied Maltravers, after a pause, and in a voice that
expressed more than his words.

There is in some natures so great a hoard of generosity, that it often
dulls their acuteness. Maltravers could not believe that frankness
could be wholly a mask--it was an hypocrisy he knew not of. He himself
was not incapable, had circumstances so urged him, of great crimes; nay,
the design of one crime lay at that moment deadly and dark within his
heart, for he had some passions which in so resolute a character could
produce, should the wind waken them into storm, dire and terrible
effects. Even at the age of thirty, it was yet uncertain whether Ernest
Maltravers might become an exemplary or an evil man. But he could
sooner have strangled a foe than taken the hand of a man whom he had
once betrayed.

"I love to think you friends," said Florence, gazing at them
affectionately, "and to you, at least, Lumley, such friendship should be
a blessing. I always loved you much and dearly, Lumley--loved you as a
brother, though our characters often jarred."

Lumley winced. "For Heaven's sake," he cried, "do not speak thus
tenderly to me--I cannot bear it, and look on you and think--"

"That I am dying. Kind words become us best when our words are
approaching to the last. But enough of this--I grieved for your loss."

"My poor uncle!" said Lumley, eagerly changing the conversation--"the
shock was sudden; and melancholy duties have absorbed me so till this
day, that I could not come even to you. It soothed me, however, to
learn, in answer to my daily inquiries, that Ernest was here. For my
part," he added with a faint smile, "I have had duties as well as
honours devolved on me. I am left guardian to an heiress, and betrothed
to a child."

"How do you mean?"

"Why, my poor uncle was so fondly attached to his wife's daughter, that
he has left her the bulk of his property: a very small estate--not L2000
a year--goes with the title (a new title, too, which requires twice as
much to carry it off and make its pinchbeck pass for gold). In order,
however, to serve a double purpose, secure to his _protegee_ his own
beloved peerage, and atone to his nephew for the loss of wealth--he has
left it a last request, that I should marry the young lady over whom I
am appointed guardian, when she is eighteen--alas! I shall then be at
the other side of forty! If she does not take to so mature a
bridegroom, she loses thirty--only thirty of the L200,000 settled upon
her, which goes to me as a sugar-plum after the nauseous draught of the
young lady's 'No.' Now, you know all. His widow, really an exemplary
young woman, has a jointure of L1500 a year, and the villa. It is not
much, but she is contented."

The lightness of the new peer's tone revolted Maltravers, and he turned
impatiently away. But Lord Vargrave, resolving not to suffer the
conversation to glide back to sorrowful subjects, which he always hated,
turned round to Ernest, and said, "Well, my dear Ernest, I see by the
papers that you are to have N------'s late appointment--it is a very
rising office. I congratulate you."

"I have refused," said Maltravers, drily.

"Bless me!--indeed!--why?"

Ernest bit his lip, and frowned; but his glance wandering unconsciously
at Florence, Lumley thought he detected the true reply to his question,
and became mute.

The conversation was afterwards embarrassed and broken up; Lumley went
away as soon as he could, and Lady Florence that night had a severe fit,
and could not leave her bed the next day. That confinement she had
struggled against to the last; and now, day by day, it grew more
frequent and inevitable. The steps of Death became accelerated. And
Lord Saxingham, wakened at last to the mournful truth, took his place by
his daughter's side, and forgot that he was a cabinet minister.



CHAPTER VII.

 "Away, my friends, why take such pains to know
  What some brave marble soon in church shall show?"
          CRABBE.

IT may seem strange, but Maltravers had never loved Lady Florence as he
did now. Was it the perversity of human nature that makes the things of
mortality dearer to us in proportion as they fade from our hopes, like
birds whose hues are only unfolded when they take wing and vanish amidst
the skies; or was it that he had ever doted more on loveliness of mind
than that of form, and the first bloomed out the more, the more the last
decayed? A thing to protect, to soothe, to shelter--oh, how dear it is
to the pride of man! The haughty woman who can stand alone and requires
no leaning-place in our heart, loses the spell of her sex.

I pass over those stages of decline gratuitously painful to record; and
which in this case mine cannot be the cold and technical hand to trace.
At length came that time when physicians could define within a few days
the final hour of release. And latterly the mocking pruderies of rank
had been laid aside, and Maltravers had, for some hours at least in the
day, taken his watch beside the couch to which the admired and brilliant
Florence Lascelles was now almost constantly reduced. But her high and
heroic spirit was with her to the last. To the last she could endure
love and hope. One day when Maltravers left his post, she besought him,
with more solemnity than usual, to return that evening. She fixed the
precise hour, and she sighed heavily when he departed. Maltravers
paused in the hall to speak to the physician, who was just quitting Lord
Saxingham's library. Ernest spoke to him for some moments calmly, and
when he heard the fiat, he betrayed no other emotion than a slight
quiver of the lip! "I must not weep for her yet," he muttered, as he
turned from the door. He went thence to the house of a gentleman of his
own age, with whom he had formed that kind of acquaintance which never
amounts to familiar friendship, but rests upon mutual respect, and is
often more ready than professed friendship itself to confer mutual
service. Colonel Danvers was a man who usually sat next to Maltravers
in parliament; they voted together, and thought alike on principles both
of politics and honour: they would have lent thousands to each other
without bond or memorandum; and neither ever wanted a warm and indignant
advocate when he was abused behind his back in the presence of the
other. Yet their tastes and ordinary habits were not congenial; and
when they met in the streets, they never said, as they would to
companions they esteemed less, "Let us spend the day together!" Such
forms of acquaintance are not uncommon among honourable men who have
already formed habits and pursuits of their own, which they cannot
surrender even to friendship. Colonel Danvers was not at home--they
believed he was at his club, of which Ernest also was a member. Thither
Maltravers bent his way. On arriving, he found that Danvers had been at
the club an hour ago, and left word that he should shortly return.
Maltravers entered and quietly sat down. The room was full of its daily
loungers; but he did not shrink from, he did not even heed, the crowd.
He felt not the desire of solitude--there was solitude enough within
him. Several distinguished public men were there, grouped around the
fire, and many of the hangers-on and satellites of political life; they
were talking with eagerness and animation, for it was a season of great
party conflict. Strange as it may seem, though Maltravers was then
scarcely sensible of their conversation, it all came back vividly and
faithfully on him afterwards, in the first hours of reflection on his
own future plans, and served to deepen and consolidate his disgust of
the world. They were discussing the character of a great statesman
whom, warmed but by the loftiest and purest motives, they were unable to
understand. Their gross suspicions, their coarse jealousies, their
calculations of patriotism by place, all that strips the varnish from
the face of that fair harlot--Political Ambition--sank like caustic into
his spirit. A gentleman seeing him sit silent, with his hat over his
moody brows, civilly extended to him the paper he was reading.

"It is the second edition; you will find the last French express."

"Thank you," said Maltravers; and the civil man started as he heard the
brief answer; there was something so inexpressibly prostrate and
broken-spirited in the voice that uttered it.

Maltravers's eyes fell mechanically on the columns, and caught his own
name. That work which, in the fair retirement of Temple Grove it had so
pleased him to compose--in every page and every thought of which
Florence had been consulted--which was so inseparably associated with
her image, and glorified by the light of her kindred genius--was just
published. It had been completed long since; but the publisher had, for
some excellent reason of the craft, hitherto delayed its appearance.
Maltravers knew nothing of its publication; he had meant, after his
return to town, to have sent to forbid its appearance; but his thoughts
of late had crushed everything else out of his memory--he had forgotten
its existence. And now, in all the pomp and parade of authorship, it
was sent into the world! _Now_, _now_, when it was like an indecent
mockery of the Bed of Death--a sacrilege, an impiety! There is a
terrible disconnection between the author and the man---the author's
life and the man's life--the eras of visible triumph may be those of the
most intolerable, though unrevealed and unconjectured anguish. The book
that delighted us to compose may first appear in the hour when all
things under the sun are joyless. This had been Ernest Maltravers's
most favoured work. It had been conceived in a happy hour of great
ambition--it had been executed with that desire of truth, which, in the
mind of genius, becomes ART. How little in the solitary hours stolen
from sleep had he thought of self, and that labourer's hire called
"fame!" how had he dreamt that he was promulgating secrets to make his
kind better, and wiser, and truer to the great aims of life! How had
Florence, and Florence alone, understood the beatings of his heart in
every page! _And now_!--it so chanced that the work was reviewed in the
paper he read--it was not only a hostile criticism, it was a personally
abusive diatribe, a virulent invective. All the motives that can darken
or defile were ascribed to him. All the mean spite of some mean mind
was sputtered forth. Had the writer known the awful blow that awaited
Maltravers at that time, it is not in man's nature but that he would
have shrunk from this petty gall upon the wrung withers; but, as I have
said, there is a terrible disconnection between the author and the man.
The first is always at our mercy--of the last we know nothing. At such
an hour Maltravers could feel none of the contempt that proud--none of
the wrath that vain, minds feel at these stings. He could feel nothing
but an undefined abhorrence of the world, and of the aims and objects he
had pursued so long. Yet that even he did not then feel. He was in a
dream; but as men remember dreams, so when he awoke did he loathe his
own former aspirations, and sicken at their base rewards. It was the
first time since his first year of inexperienced authorship that abuse
had had the power even to vex him for a moment. But here, when the cup
was already full, was the drop that overflowed. The great column of his
past world was gone, and all else seemed crumbling away.

At length Colonel Danvers entered. Maltravers drew him aside, and they
left the club.

"Danvers," said the latter, "the time in which I told you I should need
your services is near at hand; let me see you, if possible, to-night."

"Certainly--I shall be, at the House till eleven. After that hour you
will find me at home."

"I thank you."

"Cannot this matter be arranged amicably?"

"No, it is a quarrel of life and death."

"Yet the world is really growing too enlightened for these old mimicries
of single combat."

"There are some cases in which human nature and its deep wrongs will be
ever stronger than the world and its philosophy. Duels and wars belong
to the same principle; both are sinful on light grounds and poor
pretexts. But it is not sinful for a soldier to defend his country from
invasion, nor for man, with a man's heart, to vindicate truth and honour
with his life. The robber that asks me for money I am allowed to shoot.
Is the robber that tears from me treasures never to be replaced, to go
free? These are the inconsistencies of a pseudo-ethics, which, as long
as we are made of flesh and blood, we can never subscribe to."

"Yet the ancients," said Danvers, with a smile, "were as passionate as
ourselves, and they dispensed with duels."

"Yes, because they resorted to assassination!" answered Maltravers, with
a gloomy frown. "As in revolutions all law is suspended, so are there
stormy events and mighty injuries in life which are as revolutions to
individuals. Enough of this--it is no time to argue like the schoolmen.
When we meet you shall know all, and you will judge like me. Good day!"

"What, are you going already? Maltravers, you look ill, your hand is
feverish--you should take advice."

Maltravers smiled--but the smile was not like his own--shook his head,
and strode rapidly away.

Three of the London clocks, one after the other, had told the hour of
nine, as a tall and commanding figure passed up the street towards
Saxingham House. Five doors before you reach that mansion there is a
crossing, and at this spot stood a young man, in whose face youth itself
looked sapless and blasted. It was then March;--the third of March; the
weather was unusually severe and biting, even for that angry month.
There had been snow in the morning, and it lay white and dreary in
various ridges along the street. But the wind was not still in the keen
but quiet sharpness of frost; on the contrary, it howled almost like a
hurricane through the desolate thoroughfares, and the lamps flickered
unsteadily in the turbulent gusts. Perhaps it was the blasts which
increased the haggardness of aspect in the young man I have mentioned.
His hair, which was much longer than is commonly worn, was tossed wildly
from cheeks preternaturally shrunken, hollow, and livid: and the frail,
thin form seemed scarcely able to support itself against the rush of the
winds.

As the tall figure, which, in its masculine stature and proportions, and
a peculiar and nameless grandeur of bearing, strongly contrasted that of
the younger man, now came to the spot where the streets met, it paused
abruptly.

"You are here once more, Castruccio Cesarini; it is well!" said the low
but ringing voice of Ernest Maltravers. "This, I believe, will not be
our last interview to-night."

"I ask you, sir," said Cesarini, in a tone in which pride struggled with
emotion--"I ask you to tell me how she is; whether you know--I cannot
speak--"

"Your work is nearly done," answered Maltravers. "A few hours more, and
your victim, for she is yours, will bear her tale to the Great Judgment
Seat. Murderer as you are, tremble, for your own hour approaches!"

"She dies and I cannot see her! and you are permitted that last glimpse
of human perfectness; you who never loved her as I did; you--hated and
detested! you--"

Cesarini paused, and his voice died away, choked in his own convulsive
gaspings for breath.

Maltravers looked at him from the height of his erect and lofty form,
with a merciless eye; for in this one quarter, Maltravers had shut out
pity from his soul.

"Weak criminal!" said he, "hear me. You received at my hands
forbearance, friendship, fostering and anxious care. When your own
follies plunged you into penury, mine was the unseen hand that plucked
you from famine, or the prison. I strove to redeem, and save, and raise
you, and endow your miserable spirit with the thirst and the power of
honour and independence. The agent of that wish was Florence Lascelles;
you repaid us well! a base and fraudulent forgery, attaching meanness to
me, fraught with agony and death to her. Your conscience at last smote
you; you revealed to her your crime--one spark of manhood made you
reveal it also to myself. Fresh as I was in that moment from the
contemplations of the ruin you had made, I curbed the impulse that would
have crushed the life from your bosom. I told you to live on while life
was left to her. If she recovered, I could forgive; if she died, I must
avenge. We entered into that solemn compact, and in a few hours the
bond will need the seal: it is the blood of one of us. Castruccio
Cesarini, there is justice in Heaven. Deceive yourself not; you will
fall by my hand. When the hour comes, you will hear from me. Let me
pass--I have no more now to say."

Every syllable of this speech was uttered with that thrilling
distinctness which seems as if the depth of the heart spoke in the
voice. But Cesarini did not appear to understand its import. He seized
Maltravers by the arm, and looked in his face with a wild and menacing
glare.

"Did you tell me she was dying?" he said. "I ask you that question: why
do you not answer me? Oh, by the way, you threaten me with your
vengeance. Know you not that I long to meet you front to front, and to
the death? Did I not tell you so--did I not try to move your slow
blood--to insult you into a conflict in which I should have gloried?
Yet then you were marble."

"Because _my_ wrong I could forgive, and _hers_--there was then a hope
that hers might not need the atonement. Away!"

Maltravers shook the hold of the Italian from his arm, and passed on. A
wild, sharp yell of despair rang after him, and echoed in his ear as he
strode the long, dim, solitary stairs that led to the death-bed of
Florence Lascelles.

Maltravers entered the room adjoining that which contained the
sufferer--the same room, still gay and cheerful, in which had been his
first interview with Florence since their reconciliation.

Here he found the physician dozing in a _fauteuil_. Lady Florence had
fallen asleep during the last two or three hours. Lord Saxingham was in
his own apartment, deeply and noisily affected; for it was not thought
that Florence could survive the night.

Maltravers sat himself quietly down. Before him, on a table, lay
several manuscript books, gaily and gorgeously bound; he mechanically
opened them. Florence's fair, noble Italian characters met his eye in
every page. Her rich and active mind, her love for poetry, her thirst
for knowledge, her indulgence of deep thought, spoke from those pages
like the ghosts of herself. Often, underscored with the marks of her
approbation, he chanced upon extracts from his own works, sometimes upon
reflections by the writer herself, not inferior in truth and depth to
his own; snatches of wild verse never completed, but of a power and
energy beyond the delicate grace of lady-poets; brief, vigorous
criticisms on books, above the common holiday studies of the sex;
indignant and sarcastic aphorisms on the real world, with high and sad
bursts of feeling upon the ideal one; all chequering and enriching the
various volumes, told of the rare gifts with which this singular girl
was endowed--a herbal, as it were, of withered blossoms that might have
borne Hesperian fruits. And sometimes in these outpourings of the full
mind and laden heart were allusions to himself, so tender and so
touching--the pencilled outline of his features, traced by memory in a
thousand aspects--the reference to former interviews and
conversations--the dates and hours marked with a woman's minute and
treasuring care!--all these tokens of genius and of love spoke to him
with a voice that said, "And this creature is lost to you, forever: you
never appreciated her till the time for her departure was irrevocably
fixed!"

Maltravers uttered a deep groan; all the past rushed over him. Her
romantic passion for one yet unknown--her interest in his glory--her
zeal for his life of life, his spotless and haughty name. It was as if
with her, Fame and Ambition were dying also, and henceforth nothing but
common clay and sordid motives were to be left on earth.

How sudden--how awfully sudden had been the blow! True, there had been
an absence of some months in which the change had operated. But absence
is a blank, a nonentity. He had left her in apparent health, in the
time of prosperity and pride. He saw her again--stricken down in body
and temper--chastened--humbled--dying. And this being, so bright and
lofty, how had she loved him! Never had he been so loved, except in
that morning dream, haunted by the vision of the lost and dim-remembered
Alice. Never on earth could he be so loved again. The air and aspect of
the whole chamber grew to him painful and oppressive. It was full of
her--the owner! There the harp, which so well became her muse-like form
that it was associated with her like a part of herself! There the
pictures, fresh and glowing from her hand,-the grace--the harmony--the
classic and simple taste everywhere displayed.

Rousseau has left to us an immortal portrait of the lover waiting for
the first embraces of his mistress. But to wait with a pulse as
feverish, a brain as dizzy, for her last look--to await the moment of
despair, not rapture--to feel the slow and dull time as palpable a load
upon the heart, yet to shrink from your own impatience, and wish that
the agony of suspense might endure for ever--this, oh, this is a picture
of intense passion--of flesh and blood reality--of the rare and solemn
epochs of our mysterious life--which had been worthier the genius of
that "Apostle of Affliction"!

At length the door opened; the favourite attendant of Florence looked
in.

"Is Mr. Maltravers there? Oh, sir, my lady is awake and would see you."

Maltravers rose, but his feet were glued to the ground, his sinking
heart stood still--it was a mortal terror that possessed him. With a
deep sigh he shook off the numbing spell, and passed to the bedside of
Florence.

She sat up, propped by pillows, and as he sank beside her, and clasped
her wan, transparent hand, she looked at him with a smile of pitying
love.

"You have been very, very kind to me," she said, after a pause, and with
a voice which had altered even since the last time he heard it. "You
have made that part of life from which human nature shrinks with dread,
the happiest and the brightest of all my short and vain existence. My
own clear Ernest--Heaven reward you!"

A few grateful tears dropped from her eyes, and they fell on the hand
which she bent her lips to kiss.

"It was not here--nor amidst the streets and the noisy abodes of
anxious, worldly men--nor was it in this harsh and dreary season of the
year, that I could have wished to look my last on earth. Could I have
seen the face of Nature--could I have watched once more with the summer
sun amidst those gentle scenes we loved so well, Death would have had no
difference from sleep. But what matters it? With you there are summer
and Nature everywhere!"

Maltravers raised his face, and their eyes met in silence--it was a
long, fixed gaze, which spoke more than all words could. Her head
dropped on his shoulder, and there it lay, passive and motionless, for
some moments. A soft step glided into the room--it was the unhappy
father's. He came to the other side of his daughter, and sobbed
convulsively.

She then raised herself, and even in the shades of death, a faint blush
passed over her cheek.

"My good dear father, what comfort will it give you hereafter to think
how fondly you spoiled your Florence!"

Lord Saxingham could not answer: he clasped her in his arms and wept
over her. Then he broke away--looked on her with a shudder--

"O God!" he cried, "she is dead--she is dead!"

Maltravers started. The physician kindly approached, and, taking Lord
Saxingham's hand, led him from the room--he went mute and obedient like
a child.

But the struggle was not yet past. Florence once more opened her eyes,
and Maltravers uttered a cry of joy. But along those eyes the film was
darkening rapidly, as still through the mist and shadow they sought the
beloved countenance which hung over her, as if to breathe life into
waning life. Twice her lips moved, but her voice failed her; she shook
her head sadly.

Maltravers hastily held to her mouth a cordial which lay ready on the
table near her, but scarce had it moistened her lips, when her whole
frame grew heavier and heavier, in his clasp. Her head once more sank
upon his bosom--she thrice gasped wildly for breath--and at length,
raising her hand on high, life struggled into its expiring ray.

"_There_--above!--Ernest--that name--Ernest!"

Yes, that name was the last she uttered; she was evidently conscious of
that thought, for a smile, as her voice again faltered--a smile sweet
and serene--that smile never seen but on the faces of the dying and the
dead--borrowed from a light that is not of this world--settled slowly on
her brow, her lips, her whole countenance; still she breathed, but the
breath grew fainter! at length, without murmur, sound, or struggle, it
passed away--the head dropped from his bosom--the form fell from his
arms-all was over!



CHAPTER VIII.

  * * * * "Is this the promised end?"--_Lear_.

IT was two hours after that scene before Maltravers left the house. It
was then just on the stroke of the first hour of morning. To him, while
he walked through the streets, and the sharp winds howled on his path,
it was as if a strange and wizard life had passed into and supported
him--a sort of drowsy, dull existence. He was like a sleepwalker,
unconscious of all around him; yet his steps went safe and free; and the
one thought that possessed his being--into which all intellect seemed
shrunk--the thought, not fiery nor vehement, but calm, stern, and
solemn--the thought of revenge--seemed, as it were, grown his soul
itself. He arrived at the door of Colonel Danvers, mounted the stairs,
and as his friend advanced to meet him, said calmly, "Now, then, the
hour has arrived."

"But what would you do now?"

"Come with me, and you shall learn."

"Very well, my carriage is below. Will you direct the servants?"

Maltravers nodded, gave his orders to the careless footman, and the two
friends were soon driving through the less known and courtly regions of
the giant city. It was then that Maltravers concisely stated to Danvers
the fraud that had been practised by Cesarini.

"You will go with me now," concluded Maltravers, "to his house. To do
him justice, he is no coward; he has not shrunk from giving me his
address, nor will he shrink from the atonement I demand. I shall wait
below while you arrange our meeting--at daybreak for to-morrow."
Danvers was astonished and even appalled by the discovery made to him.
There was something so unusual and strange in the whole affair. But
neither his experience, nor his principles of honour, could suggest any
alternative to the plan proposed. For though not regarding the cause of
quarrel in the same light as Maltravers, and putting aside all question
as to the right of the latter to constitute himself the champion of the
betrothed, or the avenger of the dead, it seemed clear to the soldier
that a man whose confidential letter had been garbled by another for the
purpose of slandering his truth and calumniating his name, had no option
but contempt, or the sole retribution (wretched though it be) which the
customs of the higher class permit to those who live within its pale.
But contempt for a wrong that a sorrow so tragic had followed--was
_that_ option in human philosophy?

The carriage stopped at a door in a narrow lane in an obscure suburb.
Yet, dark as all the houses around were, lights were seen in the upper
windows of Cesarini's residence, passing to and fro; and scarce had the
servant's loud knock echoed through the dim thoroughfare, ere the door
was opened. Danvers descended, and entered the passage--"Oh, sir, I am
so glad you are come!" said an old woman, pale and trembling; "he do
take on so!"

"There is no mistake," asked Danvers, halting; "an Italian gentleman
named Cesarini lodges here?"

"Yes, sir, poor cretur--I sent for you to come to him--for says I to my
boy, says I--"

"Whom do you take me for?"

"Why, la, sir, you be's the doctor, ben't you?"

Danvers made no reply; he had a mean opinion of the courage of one who
could act dishonourably; he thought there was some design to cheat his
friend out of his revenge; accordingly he ascended the stairs, motioning
the woman to precede him.

He came back to the door of the carriage in a few minutes. "Let us go
home, Maltravers," said he, "this man is not in a state to meet you."

"Ha!" cried Maltravers, frowning darkly, and all his long-smothered
indignation rushing like fire through every vein of his body; "would he
shrink from the atonement?" He pushed Danvers impatiently aside, leapt
from the carriage, and rushed up-stairs.

Danvers followed.

Heated, wrought-up, furious, Ernest Maltravers burst into a small and
squalid chamber; from the closed doors of which, through many chinks,
had gleamed the light that told him Cesarini was within. And Cesarini's
eyes, blazing with horrible fire, were the first object that met his
gaze. Maltravers stood still, as if frozen into stone.

"Ha! ha!" laughed a shrill and shrieking voice, which contrasted dreadly
with the accents of the soft Tuscan, in which the wild words were
strung--"who comes here with garments dyed in blood? You cannot accuse
me--for my blow drew no blood, it went straight to the heart--it tore no
flesh by the way; we Italians poison our victims! Where art thou--where
art thou, Maltravers? I am ready. Coward, you do not come! Oh, yes,
yes, here you are; the pistols--I will not fight so. I am a wild beast.
Let us rend each other with our teeth and talons!"

Huddled up like a heap of confused and jointless limbs in the furthest
corner of the room, lay the wretch, a raving maniac;--two men keeping
their firm gripe on him, which, ever and anon, with the mighty strength
of madness, he shook off, to fall back senseless and exhausted; his
strained and bloodshot eyes starting from their sockets, the slaver
gathering round his lips, his raven hair standing on end, his delicate
and symmetrical features distorted into a hideous and Gorgon aspect. It
was, indeed, an appalling and sublime spectacle, full of an awful moral,
the meeting of the foes! Here stood Maltravers, strong beyond the
common strength of men, in health, power, conscious superiority,
premeditated vengeance--wise, gifted; all his faculties ripe, developed,
at his command;--the complete and all-armed man, prepared for defence
and offence against every foe--a man who, once roused in a righteous
quarrel, would not have quailed before an army; and there and thus was
his dark and fierce purpose dashed from his soul, shivered into atoms at
his feet. He felt the nothingness of man and man's wrath--in the
presence of the madman on whose head the thunderbolt of a greater curse
than human anger ever breathes had fallen. In his horrible affliction
the Criminal triumphed over the Avenger!

"Yes! yes!" shouted Cesarini, again; "they tell me she is dying; but he
is by her side;--pluck him thence--he shall not touch her hand--she
shall not bless him--she is mine--if I killed her, I have saved her from
him--she is mine in death. Let me in, I say,--I will come in,--I will,
I will see her, and strangle him at her feet." With that, by a
tremendous effort, he tore himself from the clutch of his holders, and
with a sudden and exultant bound sprang across the room, and stood face
to face with Maltravers. The proud brave than turned pale, and recoiled
a step--"It is he! it is he!" shrieked the maniac, and he leaped like a
tiger at the throat of his rival. Maltravers quickly seized his arm,
and whirled him round. Cesarini fell heavily on the floor, mute,
senseless, and in strong convulsions.

"Mysterious Providence!" murmured Maltravers, "thou hast justly rebuked
the mortal for dreaming he might arrogate to himself thy privilege of
vengeance. Forgive the sinner, O God, as I do--as thou teachest this
stubborn heart to forgive--as she forgave who is now with thee, a
blessed saint in heaven!"

When, some minutes afterwards, the doctor, who had been sent for,
arrived, the head of the stricken patient lay on the lap of his foe, and
it was the hand of Maltravers that wiped the froth from the white lips,
and the voice of Maltravers that strove to soothe, and the tears of
Maltravers that were falling on that fiery brow.

"Tend him, sir, tend him as my brother," said Maltravers, hiding his
face as he resigned the charge. "Let him have all that can alleviate
and cure--remove him hence to some fitter abode--send for the best
advice. Restore him, and--and--" He could say no more, but left the
room abruptly.

It was afterwards ascertained that Cesarini had remained in the streets
after his short interview with Ernest, that at length he had knocked at
Lord Saxingham's door just in the very hour when death had claimed its
victim. He heard the announcement--he sought to force his way
up-stairs--they thrust him from the house, and nothing more of him was
known till he arrived at his own door, an hour before Danvers and
Maltravers came, in raging frenzy. Perhaps by one of the dim erratic
gleams of light which always chequer the darkness of insanity, he
retained some faint remembrance of his compact and assignation with
Maltravers, which had happily guided his steps back to his abode.

 * * * * *

It was two months after this scene, a lovely Sabbath morning, in the
earliest May, as Lumley, Lord Vargrave, sat alone, by the window in his
late uncle's villa, in his late uncle's easy-chair--his eyes were
resting musingly on the green lawn on which the windows opened, or
rather on two forms that were seated upon a rustic bench in the middle
of the sward. One was the widow in her weeds, the other was that fair
and lovely child destined to be the bride of the new lord. The hands of
the mother and daughter were clasped each in each. There was sadness in
the faces of both--deeper if more resigned on that of the elder, for the
child sought to console her parent, and grief in childhood comes with a
butterfly's wing.

Lumley gazed on them both, and on the child more earnestly.

"She is very lovely," he said; "she will be very rich. After all, I am
not to be pitied. I am a peer, and I have enough to live upon at
present. I am a rising man--our party wants peers; and though I could
not have had more than a subaltern's seat at the Treasury Board six
months ago, when I was an active, zealous, able commoner, now that I am
a lord, with what they call a stake in the country, I may open my mouth
and--bless me! I know not how many windfalls may drop in! My uncle was
wiser than I thought in wrestling for this peerage, which he won and I
wear!--Then, by and by, just at the age when I want to marry and have an
heir (and a pretty wife saves one a vast deal of trouble), L200,000 and
a young beauty! Come, come, I have strong cards in my hands if I play
them tolerably. I must take care that she falls desperately in love
with me. Leave me alone for that--I know the sex, and have never failed
except in--ah, that poor Florence! Well, it is no use regretting! Like
thrifty artists, we must paint out the unmarketable picture, and call
luckier creations to fill up the same canvas!"

Here the servant interrupted Lord Vargrave's meditation by bringing in
the letters and the newspapers which had just been forwarded from his
town house. Lord Vargrave had spoken in the Lords on the previous
Friday, and he wished to see what the Sunday newspapers said of his
speech. So he took up one of the leading papers before he opened the
letters. His eyes rested upon two paragraphs in close neighbourhood
with each other: the first ran thus:


"The celebrated Mr. Maltravers has abruptly resigned his seat for the
------ of ------, and left town yesterday on an extended tour on the
Continent. Speculation is busy on the causes of the singular and
unexpected self-exile of a gentleman so distinguished--in the very
zenith of his career."


"So, he has given up the game!" muttered Lord Vargrave; "he was never a
practical man--I am glad he is out of the way. But what's this about
myself?"


"We hear that important changes are to take place in the government---it
is said that ministers are at last alive to the necessity of
strengthening themselves with new talent. Among other appointments
confidently spoken of in the best-informed circles, we learn that Lord
Vargrave is to have the place of ------. It will be a popular
appointment. Lord Vargrave is not a holiday orator, a mere declamatory
rhetorician--but a man of clear business-like views, and was highly
thought of in the House of Commons. He has also the art of attaching
his friends, and his frank, manly character cannot fail to have its due
effect with the English public. In another column of our journal our
readers will see a full report of his excellent maiden speech in the
House of Lords, on Friday last: the sentiments there expressed do the
highest honour to his lordship's patriotism and sagacity."


"Very well, very well indeed!" said Lumley, rubbing his hands; and
turning to his letters, his attention was drawn to one with an enormous
seal, marked "Private and confidential." He knew before he opened it
that it contained the offer of the appointment alluded to in the
newspaper. He read, and rose exultantly; passing through the French
windows, he joined Lady Vargrave and Evelyn on the lawn, and, as he
smiled on the mother and caressed the child, the scene and the group
made a pleasant picture of English domestic happiness.

Here ends the First Portion of this work: it ends in the view that
bounds us when we look on the practical world with the outward
unspiritual eye--and see life that dissatisfies justice,--for life is so
seen but in fragments. The influence of fate seems so small on the man
who, in erring, but errs as the egotist, and shapes out of ill some use
that can profit himself. But Fate hangs a shadow so vast on the heart
that errs but in venturing and knows only in others the sources of
sorrow and joy.

Go alone, O Maltravers, unfriendly, remote--thy present a waste, and thy
past life a ruin, go forth to the future!--Go, Ferrers, light
cynic--with the crowd take thy way,--complacent, elated,--no cloud upon
conscience, for thou seest but sunshine on fortune.--Go forth to the
future!

Human life is compared to the circle.--Is the simile just? All lines
that are drawn from the centre to touch the circumference, by the law of
the circle, are equal. But the lines that are drawn from the heart of
the man to the verge of his destiny--do they equal each other?--Alas!
some seem so brief, and some lengthen on as for ever.

THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ernest Maltravers — Complete" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home