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Title: Dilemmas of Pride, (Vol 3 of 3)
Author: Loudon, Margracia
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 "Dilemmas of Pride, (Vol 3 of 3)" ***

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                         DILEMMAS OF PRIDE.

                         BY MARGRACIA LOUDON

                      THE AUTHOR OF FIRST LOVE.

    IN THREE VOLUMES.

    VOL. III.

    LONDON:

    BULL AND CHURTON, HOLLES STREET.

    1833.



DILEMMAS OF PRIDE.



CHAPTER I.


We shall here pause for a few moments to give a slight sketch of the
principal agent employed by Geoffery in this part of the business, and
indeed in the conduct of the whole affair.

In Arden, the neighbouring county town, there lived a solicitor, who,
unfortunately for the honour of humanity and his own especial calling,
was without exception, the most thorough-paced villain unhanged; nay,
many have been hanged who were not half as bad; for this man was not
only without remorse of conscience, but also without remorse of heart.
His only reason for committing more robberies than murders was, that the
former crime was in general more profitable than the latter; but as to
who died the lingering death of a broken heart, he cared not, so long as
he gained a few pounds by the transaction.

He was known for a mean contemptible fellow, and consequently possessed
but little of the confidence of the higher orders, so that when he could
catch a gentleman to plunder, it was a sort of prize in the lottery to
him; but unfortunate tradesmen in a little way, were his natural prey:
to such, when perishing in the gulf of misery, he pretended to stretch a
helping hand, but with that very hand assisted in the work of
destruction, and finally possessed himself of the wreck of their
fortunes. This fellow, by name Fips, had long been Geoffery Arden's
right-hand man, and for all his services had invariably been one way or
other payed out of Sir Willoughby's pocket. Such was the fitting
coadjutor to whom Geoffery applied for that assistance which the present
momentous occasion demanded, as the following interview will show
without absolutely committing himself.

Fips, who had just dined, was seated in an old-fashioned black-bottomed
mahogany arm-chair, which he filled, or rather over-filled, in much the
same manner as a feather-bed tucked into the same piece of furniture
would have done; and had there been a cord tied round the centre of the
said bed as a convenient mode of carriage, it would have bisected its
yielding rotundity, just as the single middle button of Mr. Fips's
waistcoat did that of the wearer.

With a hand so fat that it could scarcely grasp the decanter, yet
trembling from habitual excess, Fips was helping himself to the last
glass of the bottle of port with which he had followed up liberal
potations of brandy and water, not water and brandy, swallowed during
dinner; while the flabby cheeks, double chin, and bottle-nose of the
sot, his health being none of the best, partook more of the purple hue
than of the lively living red. Beside him sat his only daughter and sole
domestic companion, Miss Fips. She was about six-and-twenty, and but for
the showy vulgarity of her dress, the unshrinking boldness of her
demeanour, and the rouge with which she unnecessarily heightened her
complexion, she would have been extremely handsome, her figure being
well made and showy, though on rather a large scale; her hair redundant,
black, and glossy, and dressed in numberless gigantic bows, which sat _à
merveille_, the tresses of which they were formed being strong in
texture as a horse's mane; her eyes were large, dark and bold; her
features regular--lips full--teeth large but good--and skin, though
coarse, of a snowy white.

"Ha, Fips, how are ye?" said Geoffery entering. He next made his
salutations to the lady, with a marked effort of gallantry in his
manner.--"So you have been making merry alone, I see, old fellow," he
added, turning again to Fips; "and I am just come in time for the empty
bottle."

"Never mind, we'll have it changed for a full one. Come, sit ye down.
Deb, go send us in a bottle of claret. Strange news afloat, Mr. Arden!"
he added, as Deborah disappeared.

"Stranger perhaps than you imagine, Fips," replied Geoffery with well
affected solemnity. "Indeed, the only conclusion at which it is possible
to arrive, after an impartial review of the circumstances," he pursued,
lowering his voice, "is too horrible to be thought of. For myself, I am
as you will allow very painfully situated. If a '_most foul and
unnatural murder_' has been committed, it would be dastardly and
contemptible in me, the nearest in blood, to suffer the murderer to
escape, merely from a want of activity and decision in seeking out and
bringing together sufficient evidence. Yet on the other hand, should my
cousin, as I _sincerely_ hope he may, prove innocent, it might appear
invidious in me, the next heir, to have evinced what, though but a
respect for justice, might be misconstrued into a too great willingness
to find him guilty." Here the entrance of the claret and the consequent
discussion of its merits for a time interrupted the conversation.

"The object of my visit," said Geoffery, when the wine had been
pronounced excellent, "is to crave once more that which I have so often
before found useful--your friendly advice and assistance. What in fact I
at present stand most in need of, is a friend whose disinterested
exertions should ensure the ends of justice being answered, without my
appearing to take an active part in this truly shocking affair."

"Humph," said Fips, who by all this as perfectly understood as though it
had been said in as many words, that the secret service required of him,
and for which, if successful, he should no doubt be munificently
rewarded, was to hang Sir Alfred Arden, whether innocent or guilty; and
by so doing, give Geoffery, who was the inevitable heir, by a strict
male entail, possession of the title and estates.

Geoffery proceeded to give Fips an account of the circumstances
connected with the melancholy event, in a manner ingeniously calculated
to exhibit those features of the case most susceptible of exaggeration
or misrepresentation; he also recapitulated his own examination of the
several servants, thus giving Fips an opportunity of judging what
witnesses might, if necessary, be found most available.

"For that matter," he added, "if you could find an opportunity yourself
of conversing with these people, it might be desirable; you would
understand the subject more fully."

Something was next said of the impropriety of suffering the public mind,
and, through so all-pervading a medium, future judges and juries to be
_prejudiced_ by the _general high_ character and seeming amiability of
Sir Alfred, for such qualities were no palliation of the crime, if
indeed, as he feared there could be no doubt, it had been committed.

There was another point of infinite importance, which was, that the
business should not be allowed to pass over without any investigation,
as might be the case, if, for one reason or other, every one thought it
necessary to be supine. He would himself be glad, if possible, to avoid
taking an active part, yet something must be done; he should never
forgive himself if the time for investigation were allowed to pass by,
and the waves of oblivion to close over so shocking a transaction.
While, on the other hand, if Sir Alfred were perfectly innocent, which,
notwithstanding appearances, he should still be too happy to find the
case, it would be the most cruel injustice to him, not to wipe out this
foul stain from his reputation by a full and fair inquiry. He would have
little reason to thank the friends, who, from false delicacy, had
suffered the proper occasion for so doing to pass over. At the same time
it was very desirable that the necessary steps should be taken with the
greatest possible delicacy; no one should appear to entertain a
suspicion until the force of evidence should compel conviction.

"This is the line of conduct," continued Geoffery, "which I mean to
observe with Sir Alfred, who, I know, has himself at present no
apprehension that any suspicions are afloat. He gives out, it seems, and
expects the public to believe, that his brother died of a fit of
apoplexy. The Doctor, it is true, did allow that the symptoms were such
as might have attended a sudden seizure of the kind."

To keep his unsuspecting kinsman as long as possible in the dark by this
pretended delicacy, was, as we have said, a part of Geoffery's hellish
plot. He had contrived, under the mask of sympathy, to put a few
important questions to Alfred, and the answers to these had been such,
as very materially to increase his hopes of ultimate success. But he
knew that if Alfred were informed that such a surmise, as that of his
having wilfully murdered his poor brother, had found a place in the mind
of any being upon earth, he would of course immediately come forward,
and court the fullest investigation. And though it did not follow that
even this must clear him, his avoiding inquiry, as Geoffery knew he
would continue to do, while under his present impression, would furnish,
when connected with the circumstances that must come out in evidence, a
strong presumption of guilt.

"Humph! humph!" uttered from time to time with the intonation of a fat
pig wallowing in mud, had been the cautious comment of the sagacious Mr.
Fips, during this lengthened tirade, except indeed that an involuntary
exclamation of "No! That's good!" had broken from him on the mention of
the piece of paper marked "_Poison_" having fallen from within the
breast of Sir Alfred's waistcoat, and again, "That's better still,"
accompanied by a resounding stroke of his clenched hand on the table,
when Geoffery came to his having himself seen the missing packet of
arsenic in Sir Alfred's escritoire.

"I am always happy to oblige you, Mr. Arden," at length commenced Mr.
Fips; "but after all, this is a kind of thing which cannot be said to be
much in the way of my business; without, indeed, it could be contrived
that I was to be attorney for the prosecution; for that there will be a
prosecution there can be no doubt from what you tell me. I had heard all
before, certainly in the way of report, but I had no idea it could be at
all true;--I had no notion you had so good a case."

Geoffery undertook to arrange that Fips should be the attorney employed.
"You have often, Fips," he continued, "conducted business for me in the
most liberal and friendly manner, when it was not in my power to
remunerate your services as they merited; should I however have the
misfortune--for misfortune I must call it, taking all the circumstances
into consideration--to succeed to the Arden estates on the _present_
occasion, to repay amply all your past _disinterested_ friendship shall
be my first care. You shall not only have the agency, which is no
trifle, but a handsome annuity beside; and that not only for your own
life, but also secured to your daughter; unless indeed, means can be
devised," he added, smiling, "of identifying her interest with those of
the owner of the estates themselves. I have hitherto been deterred," he
added with an affectation of great candour, "from mentioning this
subject by my poverty, and consequent inability to marry; but my
admiration of Miss Fips, I think you must have seen."

Fips was of course profuse in his thanks for the intended honour; not
that he felt unbounded confidence in the sincerity of the _soi-disant_
lover, of whose pride and ambition he was perfectly aware: he did not
however despair, considering the present aspect of affairs of having his
client in a short time so completely in his power, as to be able to
enforce the fulfilment of any hopes which the latter might at present
think it good policy to hold out. And having now a sufficient "spur" of
self-interest "to prick the sides of his intent," he entered into the
business in good earnest, took down notes of hints to be followed up,
reports to be circulated, persons to be called upon, and especially an
embassy of a most delicate nature to the coroner.

That functionary was to be requested on the part of Mr. Geoffery Arden,
to make use of the information which he felt it his imperative duty to
convey to him, without noticing Mr. Arden's interference, in
consideration of the very painful situation in which the latter found
himself placed; and in short, come forward in his official capacity as
feeling himself called upon so to do, by the nature of the reports which
had gone abroad. After this preamble, Mr. Fips was to inform the coroner
at length of every suspicious circumstance; to indicate to him where the
missing paper of arsenic was to be found; and to request that he would
require the attendance of the medical gentlemen, and enforce the opening
of the body, which had hitherto been resisted. All this was followed up
with hypocritical declarations, that as nothing short of the most
positive proofs could induce Mr. Geoffery Arden to believe his cousin
guilty, he could not, though feeling investigation a duty, endure the
idea of standing forward his accuser, while there remained a possibility
of his being proved innocent.

Each time Fips had occasion to speak, whether in question or reply,
while thus receiving his instructions, he would commit some seeming
inadvertency of expression, almost removing the flimsy veil from the
nature of the services required of him; and whenever he did this, he
would look full in Geoffery's face. But that wary tactician as often
dropped his eyelids, and replied, with hypocritical calmness, in the
same key of caution in which he had commenced.

At length Fips pronounced it time for him to go out; and by the third
effort, succeeding in disengaging himself from his arm-chair; then, with
some difficulty bringing together the lower buttons and button-holes of
his waistcoat, which, while in a sitting position, gaped full half a
yard asunder, he departed, telling Geoffery, he might if he pleased, now
that he had talked business with him over a glass of wine, take the
opportunity of the hour or two he should be absent, to talk love to his
daughter, over a cup of tea.



CHAPTER II.


As Colonel Trump says, "There is nothing forbidding to any man, about a
fine woman." Geoffery, therefore, now that he had placed more serious
concerns in such excellent hands, had no objection to the recreation of
a _tête-a-tête_ on the footing of a received lover, with a young woman,
whose personal attractions were above mediocrity, and whose modesty was
not likely to be troublesome; while from her inferiority of station, her
ideas of the high honour conferred on her by the gentleman's addresses
were calculated to smooth the way to advances, which an equal might have
thought impertinent, or at least premature.

When, therefore, Mr. Fips returned, after an absence of full two hours,
he found the candle-wicks ominously long, and neither the tea-things nor
the lover sent away.

Yet Geoffery had not the most distant thought of making Miss Fips his
wife; unless, indeed, circumstances compelled him so entirely to commit
himself to Mr. Fips, as to be completely in his power, and so make it a
matter of prudence to secure his secrecy, by what, with too many, is the
only infallible bond of good faith, identity of interest. But, if on the
other hand, he should be so fortunate as not to be obliged to make use
of Fips, more than as a tool, with which to work up the material in the
way of extraordinary combinations of circumstances that fate seemed so
liberally to have provided; and that, by the operation of those so
worked, he should succeed in obtaining what had so long been the object,
though for many years back the hopeless one, of his ambition--the Arden
estates, Fips having nothing more to bring against him than surmises
that the acquisition was not disagreeable to him--he should set at
nought the tears of Miss Fips, and merely keep Fips's tongue at bay,
with the agency _at will_: and as that was a thing which some one must
have, it was an excellent way of securing the fellow's services first,
and even his good behaviour afterwards, on very reasonable terms. For
the present, however, while all was yet at stake; while there was no
saying what villany might be necessary to carry him through; it was
highly politic, to give Fips, at the outset, a motive, which would make
him ready to perform any service that might be required of him.

Geoffery's calculations were perfectly just: Fips had indeed been
indefatigable; and, during the two hours he had been out, had not only
performed his delicate mission to the coroner, with consummate skill;
but had contrived to drop in at innumerable houses, and, on pretext of
asking the news, to give circulation to many evil reports and wicked
surmises. He gossiped away, in particular, about there having existed
but little cordiality between the brothers of late, in consequence of an
unfortunate rivalship; in which, too, he said it must be confessed that
Sir Alfred was very ill-treated. And the lady was an heiress too; so
that Sir Alfred being a younger brother, the match was a great object to
him. He had been accepted, in fact (the lawyer declared that he had it
on the best authority), when Sir Willoughby, most ungenerously
interfered, and by the strength of his purse, carried off the prize.



CHAPTER III.


In consequence of the message of Geoffery, as conveyed by his
unprincipled tool, Mr. Fips, together with the reports already in
circulation, the coroner felt it his duty to visit Arden in his official
capacity.

Alfred had hitherto, as we have stated, indulged his mournful feelings,
by remaining entirely secluded.

He had given the necessary orders for the funeral, on that scale of
magnificence, which the rank, but still more the immense fortune of the
deceased called for; and was beginning to flatter himself, that his
endeavours to prevent the idea of a suicide becoming prevalent had been
successful, and that there would be no unpleasant interference.

On being apprized, however, of the arrival of the coroner, he again felt
some uneasiness on this head.

He knew that the suspicion he had himself so long entertained, of
Willoughby's liability to derangement, had been ever buried in his own
bosom. He even knew, strange as it may seem that such should be the
privilege granted to affection, that his brother, though he loved him
better than any one else in the world, had never been half so odd and
inconsistent in temper, towards any one, as towards himself; and still
more, that even latterly, since the actual presence of derangement had
to Alfred been clearly evident, yet, from the turn it had taken, of
seemingly exuberant spirits, it had been apparent only to the anxious,
watchful, constant companion, which was himself; and was not of a nature
to be seen through by the careless apprehensions of servants, during
merely casual attendance; but, on the contrary, was rather calculated to
convey to them the idea that their master enjoyed more than his usual
health and spirits. Altogether, then, it rested on his own single,
unsupported evidence, to prove that his brother had been deranged, and
was therefore entitled to Christian burial. He was probably not aware,
how much the admission of insanity in those cases, is, in general,
matter of form. And little did he think, that it was his own life and
reputation which were at stake, and that the preservation of the one,
and the restoration of the other, rested also on his own single,
unsupported evidence: nay, that every thing he had ever generously or
kindly done, to hide the infirmities, or spare the feelings of others,
would now be ranged in evidence against himself.

The coroner, in consequence of the secret information with which he had
been supplied, came provided with a warrant to search for the missing
packet of poison. His first step was, to demand Sir Alfred's keys; his
next, a request to be shown Sir Alfred's escritoire; on opening which,
he drew forth, to the evident horror of all present, the paper of
arsenic. He held it on the open palm of his extended hand, for some
moments; looking round, as he did so, with a countenance of great
solemnity, and, to do him justice, of sorrow. Then, delivering the
packet into safe keeping, he proceeded, by virtue of his official
authority, to require that the body of the deceased should be opened.

So slow was Alfred in suspecting the truth, that he still believed the
coroner's sole view was to ascertain whether or not his brother had put
a period to his own existence. He was, however, now obliged to submit to
the required examination, the result of which was, a unanimous opinion
on the part of the medical men present, that Sir Willoughby had died
from the effects of poison, probably arsenic, but that this point might
be placed beyond a doubt, the contents of the stomach were reserved to
be subjected to the proper tests.

The coroner then holding his inquest in the very library in which the
melancholy event had taken place, the servants, and all persons
connected or supposed to be connected with the affair were severally
examined. Doctor Harman, on being required so to do, produced the fatal
scrap of paper which he had seen fall from within the breast of Sir
Alfred's waistcoat, and the actual arsenic which, by the test of
reduction he had obtained from the sediment in the glass that Sir Alfred
had attempted to rinse in his presence. The packet of arsenic was
examined: it was perceived that a portion of its outer envelope had been
torn away, the torn part was compared with the piece so seen to fall
from the breast of Sir Alfred. The fitting together of every
irregularity of the sundered portions, the texture of the material, the
peculiar characters, being those of print yet done with a pen, in which
the two words, "_Arsenic, Poison_," were distinctly legible, the one on
the one part, the other on the other, all clearly proved the smaller
piece of paper to have once been a part of that which still contained
the arsenic. The answers of the persons examined then went on to prove
the various facts of the glasses having been wiped the moment before
they were brought in--of the impossibility from the situation of the
arsenic, of any portion of it having fallen accidentally into either of
them--of Sir Alfred having been seen in the afternoon coming from the
saddle-room alone--of his previous knowledge where the arsenic lay--of
the brothers having supped together, and no third person having entered
the room from the time the tray had been carried in, till the alarm had
been given by Sir Alfred, and Sir Willoughby found in the agonies of
death--of the order for antidotes--the attempt to rinse the glass, &c.
&c. &c.--and, finally, of Sir Alfred's having since refused to allow the
body to be opened.

Although it was easily evident to all, but Sir Alfred himself, that the
tendency of this examination was to prove him the wilful murderer of his
brother, so remote was the apprehension of such a suspicion from his
pure, exalted, and preoccupied thoughts, that he was long, indeed, in
comprehending the nature of the proceedings. When, however, it became no
longer possible to avoid drawing from all that was passing, the too
evident conclusion to which every question and reply directly led, his
horror was little short of that with which he would have contemplated
the actual commission of the crime, had some fiend possessed the power
of requiring of him such a service.

We shall not make any attempt to describe the outraged feelings of our
hero on this afflicting occasion; but simply state the result of the
proceedings, which was, that the coroner felt it his painful duty to
commit Sir Alfred.



CHAPTER IV.


The committal of Sir Alfred Arden for the murder of his twin brother
occupied, of course, the attention of the whole country, and became for
a time, almost the sole topic of conversation. The very enormity of the
crime would, with many, have been a sufficient reason for disbelieving
the guilt of the accused; particularly when his amiable temper, gentle
manners, and honourable character were taken into consideration; but the
malignity which was layed at the root of the story at its earliest
promulgation, accompanied the ramifications of report in every
direction. Surmises were ingeniously mingled with facts; motives
confidently attributed to the simplest and most innocent actions, as
well as to those which unfortunately had a suspicious appearance; and
ready-made opinions, prejudging the case, were artfully scattered
abroad, to be picked up by the many who wanted the power or the habit of
thinking for themselves.

Thus, though the personal friends of our hero flocked around him,
offering him their utmost support, and refusing to give credit to any
allegations derogatory to his honour, still among the indifferent and
the slightly acquainted, an almost universal cry of consternation and
horror was got up. People moralized about the temptation of great
riches, quoted scripture to the same effect, but said the passage ought
to have been translated, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye
of a needle than for a _man who covets_ riches to enter into the kingdom
of God." Others, in a more sentimental strain, spoke of the parties
being not only brothers, but twin brothers; and dwelt upon the great
affection Sir Willoughby had always shown to Sir Alfred! recounted every
exaggerated particular of the rivalship; descanted on jealousy, and
repeated from history, ancient and modern, numberless instances of
crimes of the blackest die, of which that passion, from the commencement
of the world to the present day, had been the fruitful source.

Here the report of Sir Alfred having been very ill-treated in the
business, had its effect; and was adduced, though not, of course, in
extenuation of such a crime; yet, as accounting for it on principles
which experience acknowledged.

What passion so savage as revenge; what revenge so dire as that which is
born of jealousy!

Mr. Fips, as a perfectly disinterested person, had, on one pretext or
other, contrived to have some conversation with most of Sir Willoughby's
servants, and in the course of such conversation, to insinuate the
suggestions, and induce the replies, that best suited his purpose; while
with long words, long faces, and terrific-sounding technicalities, he
managed to arouse their selfish fears, to a degree which banished all
better feelings. Then he would shake his head, and allowing his double
chin to hang with hypocritical despondency, most devoutly hope that poor
Sir Alfred might be found innocent. "In that case," he would add, "it
will go hard with some of you, for the poison did not get into the glass
without hands; and more likely, I say, to be by any other hands, than
those of his own brother." By arts like these, instead of the
affectionate respect for our hero, the indignant rejection of the idea
of its being possible that he could have committed such a crime, which
had else been the spontaneous sentiments of all the household, some were
unconsciously rendered almost willing to hear their once beloved young
master proved guilty, as the only means of clearing and saving
themselves. Such thoughts, however, naturally produced an inward
discontent, that, in its turn, gave to their outward demeanour a
sullenness and gloom, which had a most baneful effect on the judgments
of all with whom they came in contact; for it seemed to those who knew
not how it had been produced, to indicate a secret conviction of the
guilt of their master.

A thousand times each day was the butler asked by some one of the party
assembled in the housekeeper's room at Arden, if he were sure the
glasses were quite clean when he took them into the library. Of course
he always declared they were, on which, another of the conclave, in a
stage whisper, and with a face of mystery, would follow it up, by
saying,

"Well, and from that, till we were all called in to see him in the
agonies of death, there was no one near the room but their two selves."

"And wasn't the sediment the Doctor found in the bottom of the glass,
arsenic?" observed a third.

"And didn't he offer to rinse the glass?" a fourth would ask; "and what
could that be for?"

"And so fond of one another as they used to be when they were boys!"
ejaculated a fifth.

"It's never been for the estate," said one of the women, and the rest of
the female committee agreed with her, that it was owing to both brothers
fixing their fancy on the same lady, and that Sir Alfred, that was the
handsomest gentleman of the two by far, could not abide being turned off
for him that had the fortune. There was many a young man, they observed,
that had been the death of the girl that he was fond of, sooner than she
should leave him, to go with another.

"And to give it to him at supper-time, too," said the gardener, who was
a great politician, "thinking it would be put into the newspaper 'found
dead in his bed,' and so hear no more of it."

The old butler could not endure all this, and was so irritated by it,
that he would have quitted the house, but that Lady Arden was expected.
Poor Lewin, who had long been failing, was overwhelmed by the blow; he
became almost childish, at least quite lost his memory, for though he
wept incessantly, he scarcely seemed to know why--sometimes speaking of
Sir Willoughby as still alive, and sometimes of both brothers as already
dead. While at other times, he would attempt to play on the harp, as
though nothing had happened, and seem to think it a great hardship,
when, from respect to decorum, he was checked by the other servants.

Whenever this occurred, he would sit for hours sounding, one by one,
single strings, as if by stealth, with the silent tears of wounded
vanity rolling down his cheeks, fancying, poor old man, that it was his
music that was despised.

Thus, ever ready to poison joy, or add bitterness to grief, _Pride_,
that arch enemy of our peace, still survives, when the mind is else a
wreck.

_Pride_ is surely that evil spirit portrayed in scripture as "wandering
to and fro, seeking whom he may devour;" that is, whom he may make
wicked--whom he may make miserable; deceiving even the generous of
heart, by exalting them in their own opinion, till their _pride_
requires of others a homage which the _pride_ of others will not yield;
and so, resenting the supposed deficiency, they cease to be in charity
with all men.



CHAPTER V.


Lady Arden was in town, and busied in preparations for the marriage of
Madeline, when Alfred's letter, announcing the sudden death of Sir
Willoughby, reached her. The signs and trappings of approaching
festivity were, of course, changed for those of mourning. But who shall
describe the consternation of this affectionate mother, when the
astounding intelligence was brought to her, that her child, her darling,
her favourite, now her only son, was actually committed to a felon's
prison, accused of the murder of his brother.

It was some moments before her comprehension could grasp the whole
extent of the horrors connected with such an intimation. She was
bewildered, she seemed to be in a trance; yet, through it all, her own
perfect knowledge of the utter impossibility of such an accusation
having the slightest foundation in truth, was a kind of upholding to her
spirit, inasmuch as it appeared also impossible to her mind, that any
being could give reception to such a thought. Unable to speak
connectedly, she alternated the expressions, "No, no----Oh no,"
continually, while looking round her with a strange wild eye, that
seemed to flash, yet saw not.

The want she felt was to be with her son; but though she moved rapidly,
and often turned quite round, she was incapable, at the time, of
distinguishing the door from the windows of the apartment she was in.

It was only by the kind intervention of Mrs. Dorothea, that Lady Arden's
wishes were at length understood, and accomplished.

Mrs. Dorothea was in town for the purpose of being present at Madeline's
wedding; which was so far fortunate, as she was, on the present
occasion, a great support to her afflicted sister-in-law; and kindly
accompanied her on her journey to Arden.

On entering the town. Lady Arden was asked where she would choose to go.
"Where?" she repeated, "Take me where he is."

She was driven to the gates of the gaol; she looked at them, and at Mrs.
Dorothea.

When last she had passed through the streets of Arden, the triumphal
arches and laurel wreaths, the remnants of the previous day's
rejoicings, for the coming of age of her twin sons, were not yet taken
down.--Now, one son lay a quarter of a mile distant, within the stately
mansion of his fathers, a yet unburied corse;--she waited at the door of
a common prison for admittance to the other.

Mrs. Dorothea's eyes met hers, but neither spoke. Becoming suddenly
collected, Lady Arden alighted from the carriage with a firm step, and
entered the dismal precincts as proudly as though the portals of a
palace had received her.

Alfred had been warned of her approach. He stood breathless, and with a
beating heart. Without a word uttered on either side, they rushed into
each other's arms. In continued silence the mother held the son to her
bosom, as though she felt, instinctively, that it was his natural
sanctuary.

Though at first melted by the tenderest sorrow, in the embraces of his
parent, our hero soon assumed a noble firmness. He had already passed
eight-and-forty hours in solitary reflection on his extraordinary fate.

"I do not ask you, mother," he said, "not weep, for we have a common
cause of sorrow in the untimely and sudden death of my poor brother: but
add not one tear for me; believe me, there is not, there cannot be, a
shadow of danger in the position in which I stand; although public
opinion, I am told, is against me. Is it not," he added, in an altered
tone, "a degrading view of human nature, to see that so many individuals
should be found ready to believe such a crime possible? As to the result
of a fair and open trial, however, I repeat it, I have no fears!

"In a land professing to prefer mercy before judgment; in a land with
laws so constituted, that lest an error should be committed on the side
of severity, the criminal, whom all know to be guilty, is allowed to
escape unpunished, if but a technicality of legal proof be wanting; in a
land, one of the boasts of which is, that no man is required to prove
his own innocence, but that all are by law innocent until proved guilty;
in such a land it must be quite impossible that, on mere appearances,
they should strip of honour and of life one whose thoughts were never
visited by the conception of a crime! Nay, I speak it not in unchristian
pride, but, compared with that of which they would accuse me, I feel
that I am innocent indeed!"

After a long pause, during which they had gazed silently in each other's
faces, Alfred, as a sort of effort to converse, said, "How much we are
struck with the merest common-places, when they happen to suit our own
individual case: 'innocent as the babe unborn,' now seems to me a
beautiful expression."

Lady Arden felt much comforted by the firmness of her son;--his views
were her own; though within the walls of a prison, and surrounded with
every practical proof of the peril in which he stood, she could not look
at Alfred, his lofty carriage, the nobleness of his brow, and force her
imagination to associate with him the idea of a condemned criminal--it
seemed a thing impossible! "No!" she haughtily exclaimed, "acquitted he
must be, but how have they dared to accuse him?"

Alfred now explained the hitherto unexpressed fears, which he had so
long entertained, respecting his brother's state of mind, and went into
all the particulars of his late return to Arden, and subsequent death.
As he drew up in array the extraordinary circumstances, inexplicable to
any one but himself, on which the accusation against him was founded,
Lady Arden felt a pang of terror paralyse her heart, but as his simple
explanations followed, she would exclaim, "Is not that sufficient? Is
not that sufficient?"

"In the mouth of an impartial witness, such explanations would be
all-sufficient," he replied, "but remember I am the person accused."

"Accused!" she repeated, then gazed with a mother's rapturous love, on
the guileless expression of his parted lip, as to comfort her he tried
to smile, she fondly poured forth expressions of endearment.

"Alfred, my child! my mild, my innocent, my beautiful Alfred! my gentle,
my affectionate, my noble Alfred!" She paused, and, by the working of
her features, terrible thoughts seemed to pass in view before her.

"Oh, impossible!" she suddenly exclaimed, clasping him with convulsive
agony to her breast, "quite impossible! But if they are so mad," she
added, in a hurried tone of subdued agony, "they shall saw these arms
asunder before they take him from me!" He was too much affected to
reply. Again she looked at him in silence for a time, then added, almost
fiercely,

"There must be means, and I will find them! What! allow them to murder
him! No--no--I rave, my son. Dreams of horror belong to these
walls----but I have no fears--no fears--no fears--I say I have no
fears--it is quite, quite impossible!" Even while reiterating that she
had no fears, her voice had faltered, and now she burst into a passion
of tears, which the effort to brave her feelings quickly changed to an
hysterical affection.

This became so serious, and lasted so long, that she was obliged to be
carried home, and conveyed to bed, where the kindhearted Mrs. Dorothea,
took the post of friendship beside her pillow.

Yet this was, by no means, the most agonizing period of this season of
trial. The situation was too novel to be comprehended in its full
extent. There was, as yet, more of incredulous amazement, and of proud
defiance of the accuser, than of despair or even of apprehension in the
feelings both of Lady Arden and of Alfred. They were both at present
more indignant that such an outrage had been offered, and that
submission to insulting and degrading forms was still necessary, than
seriously alarmed as to future consequences.



CHAPTER VI.


In the parlour to which we have already been introduced, sat Mr.
Fips--over his wine it must be confessed, yet apparently uniting the
_utile et dulce_, for beside his bottle of port stood an ink-bottle;
amid walnut-shells and remnants of biscuit lay sundry long-shaped folded
papers, and though he held a glass in his hand, from which he sipped
from time to time, there was a pen behind his ear; his wig was pushed on
one side and Geoffery was his companion.

"Should we not subpoena Lady Arden?" asked Fips.

"By all means," replied Geoffery, "her evidence will be of great
importance: we can prove by it, that Sir Alfred had actually made
proposals to and been accepted by Lady Caroline, the very day before his
brother came to town: and also, that he felt his disappointment much
more bitterly than was generally supposed."

Here Geoffery repeated the particulars of a conversation on the subject,
which it may be remembered he once overheard, between Lady Arden and her
son. And Fips took down notes, for suggesting questions to counsel.

"Do you think," he said, "there would be any use in sending subpoenas
to Lady Palliser and her daughter?"

"No, on the contrary, I have reason to suspect, some circumstances might
come out on their examination, rather calculated to raise a doubt in the
minds of jurors; I am therefore better pleased that they are on the
continent."

"When did they go abroad?"

"A short time before the death of Sir Willoughby; immediately after his
return to Arden."

"Are they likely to be brought forward on the other side, think you?"

"I should say not: from the conversations I have had with Sir Alfred, I
should think that he was not at all aware that their evidence could be
of the slightest service to him."

"You seem to have more reasons for thinking so, Mr. Arden," said Fips,
"than you have been pleased to confide to me. Now 'tis well and wisely
said, that a man, for his own sake, should have no secrets either from
his doctor or his lawyer. That, however, is your look out; I can only
serve you to the best of my ability, as far as my information goes."

"Which is quite as far as mine, I assure you Fips. It was merely my own
surmise, that Sir Willoughby might not have been quite as well received
latterly as his vanity had, at first, led him to believe he should be.
Now, I naturally thought that such an idea being promulgated, might
suggest the possibility of Sir Willoughby's having taken the poison
himself; which idea, though not amounting to evidence on either side,
might, as I said before, raise doubts in the minds of a jury, calculated
to bias their judgments, and so defeat the ends of justice."

"I thought," observed Fips, sulkily, for he fancied he saw that Geoffery
was playing an underhand game, "I understood you to have said, you had
reasons for your opinion."

"Yes, so I have--those I have just stated."

He had others, however, which he had not stated, because, as we have
said, he did not wish to put himself absolutely in Fips's power, unless
there should be no other means of gaining his end.

"His sisters too," continued Geoffery, "and his aunt Mrs. Dorothea, can
be produced to prove so far, that Sir Alfred, before the appearance of
his brother on the stage, was an assiduous, and believed himself to be a
favoured lover. I do not mean to say, that either this or Lady Arden's
evidence would be any proof of Sir Alfred's guilt; but, by adding the
incentives of jealousy and revenge to that of mere avarice, it makes his
having committed the crime much less improbable, and must therefore
influence, more or less, the minds of the jury."

When the various subjects under discussion were arranged and the bottle
of port finished, Mr. Fips repaired to his office--for he was a labourer
at his vocation, late, as well as early--while Geoffery, whom the
strains of a female voice, accompanied by a pianoforte, had been long
inviting to the drawing-room, repaired thither.

Miss Fips, as the only child of Mr. Fips, was destined to be the
receiver of stolen goods to a large amount; or, in other words, to
inherit all the money her father had scraped together. She had therefore
been sent to a London boarding-school, to receive an education
proportionate to her fortune. Her Italian singing-master, called her
voice a made one. He had found it impossible to give her either ear or
taste; while the unshrinking audacity with which she caricatured a
_bravura_, gave to her performance the semblance of having been got up
on purpose for a burlesque: a stranger would seriously have thought,
that the most polite thing they could do was to stand by and laugh
openly. Her shakes were shudders, and seemed to have been produced by a
sort of second-sight view of some approaching horror, invisible to all
beside. Her prolonged notes resembled the howls of a chained dog, on a
moonlight night; while her abrupt changes, and impassioned passages,
were the starts and yells of a maniac.

Without somewhat of the grace of natural timidity, the most splendid
performance could scarcely please; with what feeling then, but that of
unqualified disgust, could such a display as we have just described have
been witnessed; while Geoffery, who had the part of a lover not only of
music, but of the lady to maintain, was thereby called upon to enact
raptures.

Fips's wife had died, in giving birth to this only child. Fips was then
a poor clerk. When the child began to require the aid of a first school,
he lodged in a garret, and dined in a cellar, that he might be able to
defray the expense. Yet, strange to say, notwithstanding this seeming
noble self-denial, his was not a worthy nor a genuine affection; he was
incapable of such. In the first place, he was naturally a man of
parsimonious habits, and imbued with a prudent sense of the necessity of
giving to persons unprovided for, at least an education, that they might
be able to do something for themselves. The sentiment, however, which he
mistook for affection, was little better than gratified vanity. The
child happened to be very beautiful; to which his attention was
particularly drawn, by the circumstance of his being often obliged, for
want of mother or nurse-maid, to walk out with it himself. When he did
so, almost every one they met would turn to look or to make some comment
as they passed. Sometimes, groups would stop and speak to the child;
kiss it, ask it to shake hands, &c. On such occasions Fips would stop
also, and becoming imboldened, desire his little girl to look up, and
show its pretty eyes; to laugh, and show its pretty teeth; then, its
pretty mouth, its rosy lips, its lovely colour, its beautiful skin, its
pretty curls, its pretty foot, would each in succession form a topic for
eulogy, till the poor child was hardened into little better than a
hawked-about show while Fips, to whom his little girl, through the
medium of gratified vanity, otherwise _pride_, thus became a source of
pleasure, fancied himself a fond father. As the child grew, Fips having
no principles himself could not impart any. Meanwhile, his fortunes also
grew rapidly, not without suspicions that he had found out by-ways to
the attainment of riches, which he would have been very sorry to have
pointed out to a fellow-traveller. The possession of wealth, in the
course of time, suggested the necessity for the fashionable
finishing-school already mentioned.

The orders were given, that no pains or expense should be spared in
making Miss Fips highly accomplished. These accomplishments, in all
their various stages, became at each vacation the subjects of new
displays; till at length the young lady came home the perfect singer of
Italian bravuras, performance of which we have just witnessed; and
furthermore imbued with a thorough contempt for her vulgar, and except
in the chicanery of the law, ignorant father. Of this contempt she made
no secret; but on the contrary, laughed at his opinions and scoffed at
his authority, on the plea of being herself a much better judge of every
thing, save, as she expressed it, of musty parchments.

All men, besides a natural dislike to milliners' bills, let them be ever
so clumsy in every thing else, have a sort of notion of what is becoming
to women in dress.

Fips, accordingly, on one occasion ventured to hint to his daughter,
that she looked as handsome again when she had not half so many fine
things on. She was at the moment just equipped to step forth into the
streets of a country town, dressed in a bright green silk pelisse,
extremely short, to display the pretty foot and ancle; her stockings
were of open-work embroidery, the slippers scarlet, the hat (not bonnet)
yellow crape, adorned with white blond and pink ostrich feathers tipped
with scarlet. She also wore, flung across one shoulder, and hung over
the contrary arm, a long flying canary-coloured scarf, and held
perpendicularly above her head, that it might neither conceal nor
derange its trappings, a conspicuous-sized, canopy-shaped, lilac
parasol, deeply bordered with a gold-coloured net-work fringe, and
tasseled at every point. Chains, ear-rings, bracelets, brooches, clasps,
watch, and reticule, were of course none of them forgotten; while the
very backs of the canary-coloured kid gloves were embroidered with lilac
and gold.

Fips's remark was received with a sneer, and "I beg, sir, you'll mind
your parchments, and give me leave to be the best judge of my dress."

"Well, well, my dear, follow your own way."

"That I shall, sir, you may rest assured."

Such a figure as we have described, walking the streets alone, with a
bold erect carriage, it may be believed, drew a good deal of attention,
particularly at assize-time, when there were many strangers and young
barristers in the town, and such of course were the occasions on which
Miss Fips was fondest of making a display. Her generally walking alone,
at least until she had picked up two or three young men, proceeded from
a combination of circumstances: in the first place, Fips had little time
for recreation, and if he had had more, his dutiful daughter would not
have been fond of appearing with so unwieldly and unsightly a companion.
As to other young women, Miss Fips, proud of her beauty, and the fortune
she was taught to expect, treated those in her own sphere with
impertinence, while it was very improbable that ladies in a sphere above
her would be induced to take by the hand an inferior, whose natural
boldness rendered her vulgarity and bad taste so conspicuous. Though we
have used the expression natural boldness, it is most probable that the
unprepossessing quality we have thus described, was in this instance
both produced and strengthened into second nature by that most baneful
and unsexing of lessons to a young female, early _personal_ display.

The remaining traits in the character of this young woman, together with
what we have already said, are quite in accordance with a favourite
theory of ours, that want of personal modesty is more than a presumption
both of want of heart and want of taste or genius; because it is a proof
of the absence of that susceptibility--that acuteness of moral
perception, the presence of which is indispensable to the mental process
by which both the powers of genius and the capability of loving are
developed, almost, we might say, created in the human mind.

Flattery too, with the want of early control, had made the temper of
Miss Fips violent and insolent in the extreme. From the time of her
return from school there was no peace in the house, and little, as far
as their own set went, in the town. She quarrelled with the
neighbours--insulted the boarder clerks--and scolded the servants; and
when Fips was too busy with his own, if not more amiable, at least more
important avocations, to join her in pouring forth invectives against
whoever had provoked her ire, she would stand over his desk and scold
himself; or interrupted in a like tempestuous manner, the quiet
enjoyment of his bottle of port, his only recreation, till his life
became a perfect burden to him.

Still he toiled on--her aggrandizement being the sole object of his
labours; nay, he entered eagerly into projects which he could not but be
aware must condemn his soul to perdition, to secure to her a marriage
above her sphere, and add wealth to wealth still for her! And why?
Because his daughter, undutiful and disrespectful though she was,
happened to be the part and portion of himself, in which his vanity, his
ambition, his _pride_ had centered; and his selfishness, when he
remembered that he could not carry his riches with him to the grave,
sought in her a sort of immortality, at least a prolongation of
existence. Yet did this unprincipled being sanctify to himself, (strange
sophistry) many a sin, by the belief that he was the fondest of fathers,
and did every thing for the love of his only child.



CHAPTER VII.


The death of Sir Willoughby occurred within so short a period of the
assizes, that the immediate approach of Alfred's trial gave to the whole
terrific transaction the character of a sudden and awful thunder-storm.

Lady Arden and her son, desirous of supporting each other, mutually
acted a part painful to both, incessantly concealing their feelings, and
denying themselves the solace of unreserved intercourse: whatever their
separate thoughts were, neither would confess to the other that they had
any apprehensions as to the result of the approaching trial. And yet the
conduct of their legal advisers was by no means calculated to inspire
confidence. These gentlemen looked extremely grave, asked both Alfred
and Lady Arden many questions, and seemed much disappointed at their
replies. They were agreed in opinion that the chain of circumstantial
evidence was unbroken--almost irresistible; and that the only defence
which could be set up was the insanity, and consequently possible
suicide of Sir Willoughby.

While the idea of his being insane, never having been entertained by any
one but Sir Alfred, nor even by Sir Alfred himself suggested to any one,
till after he, Sir Alfred, was actually accused of the murder, it was to
be feared the plea would not even be listened to. And yet the idea of
Sir Willoughby's having wilfully taken poison, while in possession of
his right mind, was still more unlikely to be heard, from his very
advantageous circumstances at all times, and the peculiarly happy
prospects he at that particular crisis enjoyed. The combinations and
coincidences too of trivial events were no less untoward; for all of
those, and they were many, which told against our hero, could be
established by a host of creditable witnesses; whilst the few which were
in his favour were known to no human being but himself; nor had he even
spoken of them to any one, until, as in the former plea, after he had
been accused. Alfred had a faint and rather confused remembrance of
having said something of his motives to Geoffery, in the first moments
of affliction. He mentioned this to his lawyers. They had a conference
with Mr. Arden on the subject. He replied, but without entering into any
explanation, that if they chose to put him in the witness box, he should
esteem himself happy, if any thing he could say with truth, should have
any tendency to exculpate his cousin. He was accordingly subpoened,
and was the only witness for the defence.

The plea of Sir Alfred's amiable and honourable character rendering it
highly improbable that he should have committed such a crime; though it
must be felt by all, and with his immediate circle of friends and
intimates, was all sufficient, could not weigh one feather as evidence.
We had, unhappily, instances of persons previously of unblemished
character, departing from that character in practice, when strongly
tempted by passion, revenge, or avarice; and in this case all these
incentives seemed to have been united.

Opinions so alarming, were of course not distinctly stated by the
lawyers, either to Lady Arden, or to Alfred. To have done so, would have
been an unnecessary degree of cruelty. But such were the sentiments they
entertained, and much of which could be implied, not only from their
whole demeanor, but, as we have already said, both from the anxious
questions they put, and the evasive answers they gave. All this had a
fearful effect on the feelings of Lady Arden: concealed agony, and
constant fever, were devouring the vital energies, while her mind laid
waste, as it were, by so immeasurable, so incomprehensible a calamity,
seemed defenceless against the superstitious impressions and wild images
of horror which wearied her spirit and aggravated her sufferings, by the
ceaseless importunity with which they blended themselves unbidden with
the wretched realities of the hour.

The presence of Geoffery too, which she was occasionally compelled to
endure, was terrible to her feelings. She literally shuddered as she
looked on the man who was destined, should her most horrible
apprehensions be realized, to fill the place of both her sons. And
notwithstanding the subdued air of solemnity and sorrow he
hypocritically assumed in her presence, she found it impossible to
divest herself of the idea that she could detect triumph lurking in the
depths of his sinister eye; and that his hard spare lips were more than
usually compressed, to prevent the corners of his mouth from curling
with a fiendish joy; for of such a feeling she did inwardly accuse him.
With what thoughts would she have viewed him, could she have known that
he was, through his secret emissaries, labouring at the very moment to
fix upon the innocent Alfred that horrible accusation, of which he alone
could have proved him innocent; but this was a degree of wickedness of
which she was incapable of conceiving the idea. She could not suspect
even Geoffery of such.

With the gentlemen of the country too, Geoffery attempted to act a part
which in fact he greatly over-acted. He sought every opportunity to
dwell at great length on the painful and delicate situation in which he
was placed. He sincerely hoped, he said, that Sir Alfred might be fully
cleared of so revolting an accusation; yet he confessed he could not
himself see how the distinct chain of circumstantial evidence, which had
already appeared, was to be got over. He hoped, however, that something
favourable might come out on the trial, and most especially he hoped
that he might not be called upon to take any part whatever. Yet, if it
was indeed possible that Sir Alfred was guilty, he could not wish to see
him escape the just punishment his aggravated crime would, in that case,
so fully merit; nay, such he declared was his indignation when he took
this view of the subject, that if it were not fortunately the duty of
the crown to prosecute, he should feel himself called upon--nay, bound
to do so; bound to sacrifice every private feeling towards the offender,
and as the nearest male relative of poor Sir Willoughby, stand forward
the avenger of his untimely end. Yet as he had, he might say, the
misfortune to be the next heir to the property, he considered it a happy
circumstance that he was not obliged to act, what some might consider an
invidious part. He used the expression misfortune, for it certainly
would be a misfortune to inherit a venerable family property through the
medium of a catastrophe so awful, and what was even worse, so
disgraceful; in fact, should the affair so terminate, it was more than
probable that he should become almost an exile from the family mansion,
at least for many years; he did not know indeed that he should ever be
able to bring himself to live at Arden.

These indelicate communications, though murmured in an under tone, and
given as much as possible the air of individual confidences, were, from
time to time, forced on as many hearers as Geoffery could obtain; for it
was not all who would listen to him--many, and those some of the leading
men of the country, were indignant at the attempt to bring such an
accusation against our hero.

The funeral of Sir Willoughby was naturally delayed by the committal of
Alfred, under whose authority the preparations had been proceeding. No
one seemed aware what was to be done, or whose orders were to be given
and received. Geoffery indeed was disposed to take upon himself the
command, as well as the part of chief mourner, in Alfred's place, but
this Lady Arden arrived in time to prevent.

When appealed to, she clasped her hands and raised her eyes to heaven
for a few moments, as if she there sought counsel, then with admirable
dignity and presence of mind, she ordered that the solemn preparations
should stand still till the necessary forms of law having been gone
through, her son should be at liberty to take his place at the head of
his brother's grave; inferring thus, by her reply, that there existed
not a doubt of Alfred's innocence being established.

Accordingly, in pursuance of these commands, the remains of her eldest
son still lay in state at Arden, when the anxious day arrived on which
her younger son was to stand at the bar of justice, arraigned for the
murder of his brother.

While thus Lady Arden proudly strove to have it thought, nay, if
possible to think herself, that she had no fears for Alfred; how, but by
the absorbing nature of her fears for him was the blunted state of her
feelings on all other subjects to be accounted for. The death of
Willoughby, had it come alone, with what deep sorrow would it have
afflicted her; and how greatly would that sorrow have been aggravated,
by but a suspicion that he had committed the awful act of suicide; yet
to have that suspicion proved beyond a doubt, was now the only hope of
her existence; while the simple fact of Willoughby's death was driven by
the exigences of the hour from its natural position in her mind, and
viewed as it were in the distance of memory, like a sorrow long gone by,
solemnly but calmly. Were Alfred safe, his honour and his precious life
rescued from the frightful peril they were in, her heart told her that
all grief would be forgotten, and joy unspeakable would be her portion.



CHAPTER VIII.


The night before the trial, Lady Arden, by especial favour and kind
connivance, passed in the prison of her son. She knelt at the side of
the bed, on which she had insisted on his laying himself, and, if
possible, sleeping, in order that he might obtain strength and composure
for the task which awaited him.

After many last words and repeated affectionate entreaties, that he
would try the effect of silence and stillness, at length, with a hand
fondly clasped in both his mother's, he did sleep, though but for a
short time, as calmly as an infant. Lady Arden, in the position in which
she knelt, shaded from his countenance the immediate glare of the lamp
which stood on a small table behind her. Sufficient light, however,
still rested on his sleeping features to give to her fond gaze all their
loveliness. The perfect beauty they always possessed, the more than
common share of a mother's love she had ever borne him, the enthusiasm
of every feeling naturally exerted by his impending peril, altogether
called up such emotions, that she seemed to look on the face of an
angel; while fast falling tears unconsciously inundated her cheeks, as
memory pourtrayed the infant years of this her darling son;--the smiling
babe sleeping in her bosom; the laughing child playing at her feet. Then
followed pictures of his boyish sports and gleeful hours, till her heart
bled; then traits of docile obedience and dutiful affection; and, as he
grew in years, of that gentle, noble, self-immolating nature, so
peculiarly his own. All these were remembered with tender yearnings
which no words can describe. A fearful idea next presented itself, that
such beings were but lent to earth: they were not destined to sojourn
with us; in a moment of agony and terror to those left behind, they were
caught up again, and absorbed by that all-perfect spirit of which they
were but emanations. Such thoughts gave, for a time, a character of
wildness to the fervour of her prayers; confusion of every faculty
followed; she became unconscious of the purport of the words she rapidly
uttered; and then her lips ceased to move: a silent statue, with hands
and eyes uplifted, one solitary thought possessed her being; it was,
that in her helplessness she knelt at the foot-stool of Him who had
restored to life the widow's son when he was already dead, and had given
him back to his mother. Her son was still alive; the mercy that had
restored surely could preserve. Alfred smiled in his sleep, and gently
pressing the hand which still held his, suddenly opened his eyes with an
expression which showed that for a second he knew not where he was.
Short was the respite: in a moment more, the shade of pain which passed
over his brow, and the look of anxious, kind inquiry which followed, as
his eye met that of his mother, proved that consciousness had returned.

Morning was near; and though there were still many lingering hours of
suspense to get through, sleep was thought of no more--conversation was
renewed--every minute particular again enumerated--Alfred's defence
reconsidered.

His language, the expression of his countenance as he spoke, had again
the effect of awaking a proud confidence in the mind of Lady Arden, that
it was impossible for any one to believe him guilty. As for Alfred
himself, his confidence was still based on the firm belief that, on full
investigation, what called itself justice, could not so fearfully err as
that life should be forfeited on false grounds.

Thus supported, both, as the time approached, instead of sinking, seemed
to acquire supernatural strength. To part, when the unavoidable moment
came, was indeed a severe pang. But this over, Lady Arden's demeanor,
among the numerous friends who flocked around to offer her their
countenance, attendance and support on the terrible occasion, was calm,
dignified, noble, almost haughty.

Though, of course, no one in her presence volunteered to pronounce, in
so many words, a fear or even a doubt respecting the result of Alfred's
trial, the expression of many a countenance did so; while also the very
excess of almost reverential consideration for himself seemed to infer
such a feeling; and she could not forgive any one, however kind and
well-meaning, who did not spurn with unequivocal contempt, as the breath
of pestilential slander, the thought of an accusation against her son.
Such an accusation, too! and against such a son!



CHAPTER IX.


In consequence of the intense interest naturally excited by the
approaching trial, the court-house was, as may be supposed, crowded to
excess.

There was a pause, however, at the precise moment we are describing in
the public business; for a cause having been just concluded, the judge
had absented himself for a few minutes. Persons were in the mean time
handing across the green table, stuck at the end of long, slight, white
wands, which seemed to be split at the point for the purpose, notes,
letters, and folded papers, to the various individuals who sat round,
out of reach of communication by any other means; some, indeed, employed
the still less ceremonious mode of flinging across the table little
folded notes, not larger than butterflies, of which a pretty constant
flight was thus kept up. The personages round this table we may mention,
for the benefit of those not conversant with the inside of a
court-house, were principally barristers in their wigs and gowns. The
few eminent ones, who had any thing to do, had clerks seated at their
elbows, and all had beside them large green or purple baize or serge
bags, purporting to contain papers, but in many instances, suspected of
harbouring more sandwiches than briefs. Beside the counsel for the
crown, whose business it was to conduct the prosecution of Sir Alfred
Arden, sat wedged with difficulty into the limited space allotted him,
and anxiously poring over his documents, Mr. Fips. A little above, and
immediately behind him, in the lowest row of seats appropriated to
spectators, sat Geoffery Arden, with Miss Fips, whose style of dress, if
possible, was more extravagantly absurd, and indecorously showy than
usual, which, together with the incessant swinging of her hat and
feathers, made her a most conspicuous figure. Indeed she and her
paraphernalia might be said to act most effectually the part of a flying
flag, pointing out to the spectators in general where this group of
principal characters were to be found.

It had been weighed by Lady Arden and her many friends, whether her
ladyship should await in an adjacent retired room, communicating by a
private door with the gallery, or how; or where she had better be placed
to be ready to appear with least exertion, when called upon for her
evidence. She had herself, however, decided that the suspense of not
hearing and knowing what was going on, even at every step, would be more
impossible to endure, than any agony however hard to bear, to which
being present throughout could subject her. She was therefore already
placed in the corner of the gallery, nearest the witness box, but
purposely so surrounded by a group of her own most particular friends,
as to be effectually screened from general observation. With her
ladyship was Mrs. Dorothea, Lady Darlingford, and Madeline, all of whom
had been subpoened as witnesses.

The judge now returning into court, took his seat on the bench, with an
air of even more than usual solemnity. The prisoner was called to the
bar.

"Do not, do not look!" said Mrs. Dorothea, bending across, and
interposing herself between Lady Arden and the view of the dock. But
Lady Arden had already covered her face, naturally shrinking from the
fearful trial of seeing her son enter.

Alfred appeared. He was aware that a great portion of those present must
be persons well known to him. He had no reason to shrink from the
scrutinizing gaze of any one. With quiet dignity, therefore, on his
first entrance, he looked all round the court, and few were found who
had callousness to resist his mild, calm, clear eye, the expression of
which was rather an appeal to the better feelings of humanity than that
angry defiance of his accusers, which his circumstances might have
almost justified; and which, perhaps, even he would have experienced,
had not solemn and tender regret for the fact itself of his brother's
untimely death, softened and subdued his feelings. Such was the
immediate effect, both of his countenance and his noble bearing in every
respect, as far removed from guilty hardness as from guilty fear, that
many who had on hearsay condemned now in their hearts acquitted him.

We speak chiefly of the impression made on persons in Sir Alfred's own
sphere in life; that, however, which was produced upon a much larger
body, the respectable yeomanry of the county, and tradesmen of the town,
was in general very different. Among these a doctrine had been artfully
promulgated, which though in itself perfectly just, was in this
instance, well calculated to prejudice the judgment, namely, that if
gentlemen will commit crimes worthy of ignominious punishment it is the
duty of those in whose hands the administration of justice is entrusted,
to show them that there is not one law for the rich and another for the
poor. It is not because a gentleman can get ninety thousand a-year by
murdering his brother that he is to be allowed to do so with impunity,
when a poor man, who sees his wife and children starving and steals a
sheep to feed them, must be hanged!

This popular proposition, in the abstract so perfectly just, Fips had at
the very first given out, as a sort of text to preach from, to one or
two vulgar, vehement, levelling friends of his own; and from that moment
affected himself, as became the attorney who was to conduct the
prosecution, the most prudent taciturnity possible.

Possessed, then, with these abstract ideas, and doggedly determined to
apply them in the present case, the class of persons alluded to saw in
the beautiful serenity of our hero's aspect no better feeling than a
confidence, which they were determined to show him was ill-founded, that
his rank in life was almost a guarantee against his suffering the
extremity of the law.

The indictment was now read aloud, and poor Alfred heard himself
accused, with awful solemnity, of the wilful murder of his brother, Sir
Willoughby Arden, by maliciously and feloniously administering to him a
certain portion of arsenic, in some wine and water. The prisoner, of
course, pleaded not guilty; and the counsel for the prosecution,
abstaining from opening the case by a speech to the jury, proceeded to
call and examine witnesses. The first of these were the servants who had
been hastily called into the room by Alfred when Sir Willoughby was
dying. They swore to the deceased being insensible, and in convulsions
when they entered the room, to his having been apparently in perfect
health at and after dinner; to Alfred's having, in his first alarm,
called aloud for antidotes against poison, naming arsenic in particular.
Dr. Harman was next examined. He proved, that at the time he arrived Sir
Willoughby was quite dead; that he believed his death to have been
occasioned by poison--that poison arsenic. He then under-went a tedious
cross-examination, as to the tests of arsenic. He had made poisons much
his study. He had attended the opening of the body. The state of the
stomach denoted the presence of some corrosive stimulant. Arsenic is a
corrosive stimulant. He had applied to the contents of the stomach
several tests, such as sulphate of copper, ammoniacal sulphate of
copper, nitrate of silver; ammoniacal nitrate of silver; and
sulphuretted hydrogen gas; the results of all denoted the presence of
arsenic; there was an immense precipitate of arsenic, quite enough to
kill a man. Being asked, had not every test which had been tried for the
last century and half been said to be fallacious, he replied, that if
this were true of the tests separately, yet, when the results of three
were uniform, no chemist could have a doubt, but that he had also had
recourse to the infallible test of reduction, by which he had obtained
crystals of white arsenic. Had he not said that a fit might have been
attended by similar symptoms? He had. What, then, had confirmed him in
his belief, that the deceased had died by the effects of poison? Inward
appearances, on the body being opened, and an examination of the
contents of the stomach.

Parts of this gentleman's evidence were supported by that of several
other medical men.

Some judiciously put questions then drew from the reluctant Doctor the
fact of Alfred's attempt to rinse the glass, in which a sediment of
arsenic was subsequently found, and his having, when the Doctor
interfered, made no attempt to explain conduct so extraordinary. On
this, a kind of murmur passed round the court; almost every face looked
shocked, and many shook their heads, as though they had whispered their
next neighbour, "He must, I fear, be guilty!"

The conviction was still stronger, and the horror still greater, when
Dr. Harman, so evidently an unwilling witness, literally compelled by
stern justice to dole out that portion of the sad truth each question
extracted from him; when he, with a solemn voice, a cheek pale with
emotion, and a moistened eye, described the time and manner, when, as
the prisoner was in the act of bending forward, he had distinctly seen
glide from within the breast of his waistcoat and fall to the ground, a
piece of paper marked poison, and which was found, on being lifted up,
to contain among its folds a few remaining grains of arsenic. He here
produced, being called on so to do, the piece of paper described. The
packet of arsenic being missed on the morning after Sir Willoughby's
death, from where it had lain on the previous day, was next proved by
several servants. That the prisoner knew where it lay was also proved.
The groom then swore to having seen the prisoner coming alone from the
saddle-room (a place he was not in the habit of frequenting) with a
similar packet in his hand. Next was proved the subsequent finding of a
packet of arsenic by the Coroner, in a locked escritoire of the
prisoner's, and of which the prisoner kept the keys about his person.
The packet of arsenic was now produced in court, and identified on oath
by several servants. The piece of paper which Dr. Harman had seen fall
from within the waistcoat of the prisoner, was here shown to the Judge,
and handed from one to another of the Jury, together with the packet,
from the outer covering of which, it was evident to all eyes, that the
smaller piece had been torn, apparently as the readiest vehicle which
offered, for carrying away a portion of the poison. The reluctance of
the prisoner to permit the body of the deceased to be opened, was proved
by several medical gentlemen, as well as by other persons his not, in
short, yielding this point till compelled so to do by the authority of
the Coroner.

The servants of the house, and such persons as had seen Sir Willoughby
since his return to Arden were next strictly examined, and
cross-examined, respecting his health, spirits, and sanity. All swore
without hesitation, that up to the last moment on which each had held
communication with him he had been in good health, in excellent spirits,
and perfectly sane. The elderly squire, who, it may be remembered, had
met the brothers out riding, on the day of the evening on which the
death of Sir Willoughby took place, having chanced, when the sudden
demise became known, to mention the meeting, together with the nature of
the conversation which had passed, Mr. Fips in his diligence and zeal
had made him out and sent him a subpoena.

This gentleman was next examined, and his evidence proved that Sir
Willoughby, a few hours before his death had been in high health and
spirits, and had spoken freely of his intended marriage and projected
tour. This seemed conclusive. After hearing such evidence from a
respectable and disinterested witness, it appeared quite impossible to
believe that Sir Willoughby, a few hours subsequent to this
conversation, should have sought to put a period to his own existence.
Many persons were questioned as to whether the prisoner had expressed
any doubt of the sanity of his brother, or any suspicion of his having
taken poison, previous to the time of the accusation of his having
administered the poison to his brother, having been brought home to
himself on the coroner's inquest; no one had heard him express an
opinion of the kind before the time alluded to, except indeed any
inference might be drawn of a secret knowledge that poison had been
taken or administered, from his having, in the first moments of
confusion, called anxiously for antidotes against the effects of
arsenic. The counsel for the prosecution argued, that this told against
the prisoner. It proved a guilty knowledge of the fact, that arsenic had
been swallowed. A feeling of remorse seemed to have induced the effort
to save his brother's life, even at the risk of exposure; but no sooner
was Sir Willoughby dead, than the prisoner makes every effort to conceal
that poison had been taken. For the acuteness of this remark, the
counsel was indebted to a marginal note annexed to his brief by Mr.
Fips. As a matter of form, persons were next examined as to the amount
of the property to which the prisoner, by the death of his brother
became sole heir.

When the enormous sum was sworn to, many a one sighed involuntarily to
think, from how many anxious cares one year's income of such estates
would relieve them.

Lady Arden's evidence being the next required, and every consideration
being granted to her ladyship's feelings, the Judge had humanely sent a
message round to request that Lady Arden might not be hurried.

A pause therefore ensued, during which were wrought up to the highest
pitch, expectation, compassion, and that strange curiosity incident to
human nature, to see how others can endure when suffering is extreme.



CHAPTER X.


At length, in the midst of perfect stillness, without one preparatory
sound or movement, Lady Arden stood in the witness box, wrapped in the
deep mourning in which the death of her elder son had enveloped her.

The blood ran cold in the veins of all present. A tear startled into
almost every eye; while some of those who were themselves mothers, were
moved by a sympathy so heart-rending, that unconsciously they groaned
aloud.

So pure, so natural, so easily understood are the feelings of the
parent, that every class could enter into them. Nor did the kindly
commiseration of the crowd diminish, when they had leisure to mark the
matronly beauty of her countenance; pride and disdain of the insult
offered to the hitherto unsullied honour of her son, struggling with
agony kindled in her eye, while her cheek was blanched, and her lips
parched: and then the strong resemblance her every feature bore to those
of her son! her favourite child! the prisoner at the bar: while
evidently conscious where he stood, her eye quivered beneath its lid,
longing yet dreading to turn upon him. She could no longer resist--she
looked down at her son--he looked up at her--their eyes met.

To comfort and encourage her he tried almost to smile: it was rather a
radiance from within shining for a moment through all the nobleness of
his countenance, in honour of the dutiful love he bore her; and then a
pang passed across his brow, that he should be to her a source of
suffering. She sank on a chair considerately placed behind her, and for
a few seconds hid her face; lest, however, emotion should be construed
into fear, and fear into acquiescence in the accusation against her son,
she aroused herself and again stood prepared to reply. The judge, from a
feeling of respect, took upon himself a considerable part of the duty of
putting the necessary questions to her ladyship. He did so in the
mildest and most considerate manner, and in a tone of kindly sympathy
which did credit to his heart--the counsel of course assisting, and
assisted himself as hitherto, by the marginal notes to his brief,
supplied by Mr. Fips. These had the effect of drawing from her ladyship
the purport of the confidential conversation overheard by Geoffery,
which, with the remainder of Lady Arden's evidence, clearly proved the
following points; namely--that both brothers had been attached to the
same lady--that Alfred had been accepted previously to the arrival of
his brother--that subsequently he had been discarded and his brother
accepted--that he had felt his disappointment more deeply than he had
suffered to appear--that he had ascribed the fickleness of the lady to
mercenary motives--and that he was in the habit of animadverting
frequently on the unfortunate situation of younger brothers without
fortune, and therefore without pretensions.

In reply to another series of questions, she was compelled to confess,
she had never apprehended that derangement might at any time be the
consequence of the injury Sir Willoughby had in childhood received on
his head--that she had never perceived any symptoms of derangement about
her eldest son--that Alfred had never mentioned to her any apprehensions
of the kind till after the present accusation had been brought against
himself--that in his letter, announcing the sudden death of his brother,
he had ascribed it to a fit of apoplexy, and made no mention of poison
under any circumstances being the supposed cause, or expressed a
suspicion either of insanity or suicide--and lastly, that Sir Willoughby
at the time of his demise was in full possession of a large unencumbered
property, and in expectation of being married to the woman of his
choice, a lady also possessed of large estates, and who, in company with
her mother, he was very shortly to have joined in a tour of pleasure on
the continent.

The evidence of Lady Darlingford, Madeline, and Mrs. Dorothea, were
taken in succession, and though not so full, went to prove the same
points as that of Lady Arden. This closed the prosecution, and the
prisoner was now called upon for his defence.

Who shall describe the throb of his mother's heart, when the first
sounds from those loved lips broke the stillness of the expectant court.
The tones of that voice were harmony itself; they had ever been music to
her ear--what were they now? Oh, how strange is the mingling of agony
with the thrill of love!

A momentary convulsion passed over the mother's features, followed by a
silent flood of tears; yet, with that self-command which dire necessity
alone can teach, no sob that might be heard, no sigh escaped her.

Alfred spoke with solemnity of the melancholy impression which had often
visited his own mind respecting the possibility of his brother becoming
at some time insane; but confessed, that he had never mentioned his
fears to any one. He spoke of a strangeness of temper as the foundation
of the apprehensions to which he alluded; but confessed, that its
ebullitions were confined to private interviews with himself. He spoke
of the state of excitement under which Sir Willoughby laboured on his
last return to Arden; but confessed, that to all less interested
observers than himself, the manner to which he alluded was calculated to
appear but the result of his brother being at the time in particularly
high spirits. He spoke of a great inequality of humour which had
latterly excited his alarm; but confessed, that this inequality had
appeared only in their private interviews. At every but, the solemnity
of the judge's countenance deepened, and the jury looked at each other
with an expression that seemed to say--"That won't do."

Alfred proceeded to state how both the packet of arsenic, and the torn
piece of paper marked poison, had come into his possession, and his
reasons for removing and securing the former;--of his having
subsequently concealed the latter about his own person, he had he said,
from the state of his feelings at the time no recollection.

The judge frowned involuntarily at the vagueness of such a defence.

"People," whispered Mr. Fips to his neighbour, "are not to get off for
committing murder, because they have short memories."

Alfred went on to say, that of the attempt to rinse the glass, he had a
faint remembrance; that the impulse which guided his hand at the moment,
must have been (as far as the thoughts of a season of sudden affliction,
such as that to which he alluded, could be defined) a desire to conceal
the suicide, which he feared had been committed; and that the same
motive, strengthened by the frequently-expressed wishes of the deceased
on the subject, had caused him to oppose, as long as possible, the
examination of his lamented brother's remains.

The testimony of the witnesses had increased the feeling against the
prisoner, while these unsupported attempts at explanation seemed, to
such as were disposed to judge him harshly, but so many ingenious
subterfuges, invented after accusation, to meet each point, and created,
accordingly, in their minds, a strong sense of disgust, arising from the
frightfully powerful contrast between the amiable motives laid claim to,
and the horrible crime of which they still believed him guilty.

The judge demanded to know if the prisoner had, previously to being
himself accused of the murder of the deceased, confided to any person
his alleged belief, that a suicide had been committed, with the reasons
he had now stated to the court for wishing to suppress that supposed
fact?

He had alluded to the subject in conversation with Mr. Geoffery Arden.

Here Geoffery, the sole evidence for the defence was called to the
witness-box.

Did he remember any conversation of the nature referred to?

There was only one occasion on which he could call to mind Sir Alfred
having made allusion to the cause of Sir Willoughby's death.

He was requested to state minutely what had passed on that occasion.

About half an hour after Sir Willoughby had expired, he had followed Sir
Alfred to the bed-chamber of the deceased, where he had found him
reclining his face against the bed, apparently in a state of great
mental suffering. He had made some attempts to calm his agitation, but
without success; when, however, he was about to retire, Sir Alfred had
looked up suddenly, and asked him if the Doctor had not said, that
symptoms similar to those which had attended the dying moments of his
brother, might have been occasioned by a fit of apoplexy. On being
answered in the affirmative, he had added hastily, "Let it be so
supposed then, and discourage all further inquiry;" he then again hid
his face.

Had nothing more passed?

Nothing with which he could charge his memory.

"Bad memories are the fashion," whispered Fips, with a grin of triumph,
and a grunt of approbation.

Here the prisoner's counsel cross-examined Geoffery in the closest and
ablest manner, but could not draw from him that part of the conversation
in which Alfred had expressed a fear of Christian burial being denied,
and his mother's affliction increased, should the suicide be suspected.
Thus mutilated, the evidence of the sole witness for the defence, told
rather against than for the prisoner's cause, but, as there had been no
third person present, the case was without remedy.

The judge asked if the prisoner had any other witnesses to call, or any
thing more to say in his own defence; and on receiving a negative to
both questions, looked disappointed. After a short pause, he commenced
his charge to the jury, in the course of which he clearly and ably
recapitulated the whole of the evidence.

This occupied between two and three hours, so that lights became at
length necessary, though at his lordship's desk only, for the sake of
referring to written notes, the imperfect remains of the daylight being
sufficient for all other purposes.

The feelings of the court were now much excited; the solemn voice of the
judge had for some time been the only sound heard, while the partial
illumination at such a crisis had great effect, rendering more than
ordinarily conspicuous the figure of his lordship; his costume so
strongly associated in our minds with the idea of his being the
arbitrator of life and death; his countenance, which happened to be
peculiarly striking, and, in particular, the flash of his eye, which was
very remarkable; his manner, too, was impressive, the tones of his voice
fine, and his diction clear and forcible; his expositions on points of
law, were luminous even to the humblest apprehensions. He told the jury,
that on such points it was his business to dictate to them, and theirs
to be implicitly guided by his dictum. To decide what facts were proved
in evidence, and the degree of credibility due to such evidence, was, he
told them, their province; and in deliberating on a case which had
naturally excited so intense an interest in the neighbourhood, his
lordship entreated that the jury would dismiss from their consideration
all they might have previously heard, or even thought on the subject,
and confine their whole attention to the evidence delivered in court
this day.

Much, he remarked, had been often and eloquently said respecting the
extreme fallibility of circumstantial evidence; but where all the
circumstances agreed, such might, in his opinion, be even more
conclusive than positive testimony: for, in the one case, we deduced the
fact from known facts, and therefore knew it as it were of our own
knowledge; while in the other case, we staked our belief on the veracity
of a witness or witnesses, which, though generally believed to be
credible, might by possibility be otherwise. In the present instance, he
was sorry to say, that the painful duty of his office compelled him to
point out to their attention, that the chain of circumstantial evidence
seemed more than commonly strong and connected, while every link was
supported by the testimony of a host of, at least credible, and in many
instances more than credible, since they were unwilling witnesses:
still, it was for them to decide whether all the circumstances did
agree, and whether the evidence in support of each circumstance was
undoubted; for, if they felt a doubt, it was their duty to give the
prisoner the benefit of that doubt. It was unfortunately a case so
ultimately connected with the most powerful and agitating feelings, that
it was difficult in the extreme to confine the attention to the naked
force of evidence. He again, therefore, entreated those on whom the
ultimate responsibility of the verdict rested, to lay aside their
feelings, and use only their judgments.

His own feelings were, he confessed, powerfully interested by the
defence of the prisoner; yet, he felt it there again his painful duty,
to point out that there was neither circumstance nor fact, brought
forward in the whole of that defence, based on any evidence whatever;
that all rested on the unsupported assertions of the accused party. That
the plea attempted to be set up, of Sir Willoughby's insanity, was not
only unsustained by evidence, but that the very contrary had been
proved, on the testimony of those most intimately acquainted and closely
connected with the deceased. While there was at least negative proof,
that even the prisoner had never expressed such an opinion, till after
it became necessary to meet the accusation against himself. And lastly,
that the prosperous and peculiarly happy circumstances, in which the
late Sir Willoughby Arden was placed at the time of his sudden demise,
made it wholly incredible, that, being in possession of his reason, he
should of his own will, have taken the poison. It had been proved in
evidence, that Sir Willoughby had been in perfect health, at and for
some time after dinner--that he had supped in company with the prisoner
only--that the remains of arsenic had been found in one of the
glasses--that Sir Willoughby had died immediately after supper--that his
death had been occasioned by arsenic--that the prisoner had attempted to
rinse the glass in which the remains of arsenic were afterwards
found--that a packet containing arsenic had lain on a certain morning,
in a certain apartment--that the prisoner had been seen to come from
that apartment alone, in the afternoon; that it was not an apartment
usually inhabited or visited by the prisoner--that there was evidence
the prisoner was aware the packet of arsenic lay there--that the said
packet was missed the next morning, from the said apartment--that the
said packet was subsequently found in a locked escritoire of the
prisoner's, to which he alone had access--that a torn piece of paper,
visibly a portion of the outer cover of the said packet of arsenic, had
been seen, by a witness whose respectability and credibility were beyond
a doubt, fall from within the breast of the waistcoat of the
prisoner--that the prisoner had resisted the opening of the body--that
Dr. Harman's opinion the deceased had died by the effects of poison,
would not have amounted to evidence, had the body not been opened--and
finally that the defence rested entirely on the unsubstantiated
assertions of the prisoner himself. As probable motives could not become
subjects of proof, though much had been said of them on the trial, he
would say nothing of them here: they were all calculated to awaken
feelings for, or against the prisoner; and once more, he entreated the
jury to dismiss every thing but evidence from their minds, and give
their verdict accordingly. He then told them distinctly what verdict it
was their duty to their country to give, if they considered these facts
proved, and what verdict was due to humanity, and the prisoner, if they
still felt a doubt.

From the circumstance we have already mentioned, of candles being placed
on the desk of the judge only, the twilight-like sort of obscurity
which, by the time his lordship approached the conclusion of his charge,
had stolen over the rest of the court-house, added much to the solemn
effect of this most anxious part of the proceedings. The forms of the
jurymen, but dimly discerned, leaning over with painful eagerness, to
catch, as it were, the very thoughts of the judge; their eyes glancing
in the distant light, as they removed them, from time to time, from his
countenance, to look round on each other; and when he ceased speaking,
the pause that followed--and then--the verdict, which issuing as it now
did, from the gloom in which the whole group was wrapped, sounded more
awfully, more like the condensed, irrecoverable decision of the
_judicial twelve_, than when, in the broad light of day, the foreman,
though in his official capacity in fact the voice of all, still looks
the individual.

The single word pronounced was--Guilty!!!

As though the whole assembly had hitherto held their breath, a sort of
universal gasp was distinctly heard; and during the moment, the judge
was preparing to pronounce the awful sentence of the law, a movement was
observable in the part of the gallery where Lady Arden, though not
visible, was known to be.



CHAPTER XI.


From the first our hero had, as we have already said, many friends whom
no appearances, however strong, could induce to believe him guilty of
the crime of which he was accused. It seemed, however, to be universally
expected that he would be acquitted; and while this was the belief,
there were some who said that in the face of such evidence it would be a
great shame, and that when men of rank offended against the laws, they
ought more especially to be made public examples of.

No sooner, however, was he actually condemned, than almost every one was
shocked; the tide of public opinion, with but few exceptions, turned in
his favour; nay, a sort of tumult arose around the court-house, and in
the streets adjacent. We must, however, return to the feelings of those
more immediately concerned.

The dismay of Lady Arden was as complete as it was astounding; she
seemed as totally unprepared for the event, as though the possibility of
a fatal result to the trial had never been anticipated. Her excitement
was terrible; the pallid cheek was gone, and burning spots of crimson
had succeeded, while the lustre of her eye was rendered supernatural by
a restless sense of the necessity for instant action! There was as yet,
none of the quiescence of desolation; she neither lay nor even sat; she
stood, yet standing wrote, and with her own hand, though in strange,
large characters, unlike her own, a powerful and heart-rending appeal to
royalty itself. "Time! time! at least!" was the prayer of her petition;
"The day of truth may dawn," she said, "when it is too late! Let not my
child be judicially murdered during the frightful darkness of
misjudgment."

Lord Darlingford, who enjoyed the private friendship of his Majesty, set
out with this letter to carry it himself to the foot of the throne;
while applications were also being made through the proper official
channels. Thus was the early part of the night occupied. The latter
portion was spent in deep and secret consultation with Mr. Edwards, now
the chaplain of the gaol, but formerly the private tutor of Willoughby
and Alfred when boys. So thorough was this gentleman's knowledge of our
hero's character, and so entire his conviction of his innocence, that he
had been from the first resolved, should it become necessary, to use
every facility which his sacred and confidential office gave him, to
favour an escape. Indeed his feeling was, that he should be an accessary
to murder, did he omit any means in his power to save the life of our
hero. He had accordingly, before the trial, as a matter of precaution
against the worst, made a journey to *****, and without giving his name,
and of course without assigning his object, got Mrs. ****, the famous
modeller in wax, to make a mask or model of his countenance, so perfect
a resemblance, both of him and of life, that there was nothing wanting
to make the deception complete, but the play of feature requisite in
conversation. The object of the present anxious conference was to mature
the plan of how and when, with least fear of detection, our hero should,
aided by this disguise, attempt to personate Mr. Edwards, and so pass
out of the gaol, while he, Mr. Edwards, remained in his stead. Nothing
could of course have tempted Alfred to contemplate an escape previously
to his trial, to which alone he looked for the justification of his
aspersed character, while the difficulty--nay, the almost impossibility
of escape after condemnation, was awful to contemplate. No friend or
relative would now be admitted to the prisoner, except by a special
order, and in presence of a turnkey, while the difficulty was increased
by the new regulation to prevent suicide, of locking up two other
prisoners for minor offences with the person condemned to suffer death;
so that they were thus never even for a moment alone. The chaplain, no
doubt, had the privilege of conferring with Alfred without witness; on
his appearing, therefore, it was a matter of course to remove the other
two prisoners. By virtue of the same privilege the chaplain could
dismiss the turnkey, not only out of sight, but out of hearing for half
an hour, or an hour, at pleasure; and on these circumstances was every
hope founded. It was also customary for Mr. Edwards on quitting
prisoners, merely to bolt them in himself, and go away, without waiting
the reappearance of the turnkey. This at first sight appears an
irregular proceeding, and would seem to offer another facility; it was,
however, the duty of the dismissed turnkey to be in waiting at the foot
of the stairs, or in some passage by the way. Alfred, indeed, in the
perfect disguise proposed, might (as Mr. Edwards) pass him unobstructed,
but then it became the man's further duty, on seeing the chaplain go by,
to return instantly to the condemned cell, and replace there the two men
appointed to remain with the prisoner. It was thus evident that every
thing depended either on gaining over this one turnkey, or on his being
dilatory in the performance of this last specified duty; for, except the
deception was thus quickly discovered, by the immediate return of this
man to the cell, and the alarm consequently given before Alfred got
clear of the gates, neither any other of the turnkeys, nor the porter,
so long as they believed him to be Mr. Edwards, would think of
interfering with his passing out. These were the facilities. Then again
the difficulties were, that nothing could be attempted during daylight,
and the lock-up hour varied with the season, so as to be always before
dark. During the preparations for the night, too, all persons connected
with the prison were peculiarly vigilant, and on the alert. Mr. Edwards
would certainly be at liberty to remain with the prisoner some time
after dark if he chose; but then, his departure would be so anxiously
waited for, and the identity of the prisoner so promptly looked to by
those whose business it was to make final arrangements for the night,
that any attempt to escape at that hour must, to a certainty, be
discovered before the prisoner could get clear of the gates.

A morning escape, therefore, before daylight, would be the least
impossible, as the governor would not then be up, and probably but one
or two of the turnkeys would be stirring; while, even those, with the
dangers, as it were, of the night over, and the day before them, would
be less fearful, and consequently less vigilant. The difficulty in this
case was, that the chaplain's visiting the prisoner at so early an hour
on any day _but_ that of the execution, would excite so great suspicion,
that it was necessary to put off the attempt until the last morning. To
this Lady Arden was strenuously opposed: to her it appeared like
wilfully casting away every chance, every hope, but the one--and--should
that fail--oh, it was maddening to contemplate the alternative!!!

He did not mean, Mr. Edwards argued, to leave it to the last, if so
doing could be avoided; if any prior opportunity of escape could
possibly be obtained it should be seized; but a rash or unsuccessful
attempt would but close the door against all future hope, and therefore
be much worse than none. To arguments such as these, Lady Arden's
judgment was compelled to yield, though her feelings were still strongly
opposed to the miserable idea of waiting in supineness, and seeing the
terrible hour approach--her son, still in the hands of his murderers!
and to think, that should the attempt at last fail when that hour
arrived, they would then have a right--to----"A right----oh, no!" she
exclaimed, suddenly interrupting herself: then with vehement enthusiasm
she proceeded, "No! not were he, in truth, the veriest of
criminals--man--weak, short-sighted, mortal man, whose own frail tenure
is but a breath of air, and a few drops of blood--what right has he,
with impious hands, to take away that mysterious gift of life which
Heaven, for his own inscrutable ends, has given?"

And although it was strongly excited feelings on her own individual case
which awakened such thoughts in Lady Arden's mind, perhaps she was
right;--perhaps, if even the murderer's bloody hands were but fettered,
and the law itself declared it dared not break into the sacred citadel
of life;--that it dared not prematurely dissolve the mystic union
betwixt body and soul, formed by heaven, and incomprehensible to mortal
ken:--perhaps were there no such thing as legal murder, sanctioning, at
least, the act--reconciling the imagination to the fact of a violent
death by human hands--the slayer of man would become, in the eyes of his
fellow men, so utterly a monster, so thoroughly a fiend, that the crime
of murder would disappear from the face of the earth.

Ere, however, such a happy age can arrive, not only must salutary laws
bind, or civilization change the secret assassin; but rapine, calling
itself conquest, must be banished from the world; and the murderer of
tens of thousands, to gild a sceptre, or gem a crown, cease to be held
on high, with laurel wreaths encircling his brow.



CHAPTER XII.


The next day, which was Saturday, Lady Arden, by means of an order from
the sheriff, obtained an interview with her son; but it was short and
unsatisfactory, and a turnkey was necessarily present.

It was her wish to have remained entirely in the prison, but the
permission could not be obtained. Yet her manner was not characterized
by the lingering of tenderness; instinct or desperation seemed at this
crisis to have awakened in her bosom a fierceness foreign to her
habitual nature. Her attitude, her countenance implied the frantic
conception, that she could afford personal protection to her son: and,
unconsciously directed by the same impulse, she even stood between
Alfred and the door of the prison. Shortly, however, she was obliged to
depart.

Mr. Edwards's visits were as late, as early, and as frequent as usage
would permit. His ingenuity was constantly employed; his vigilance on
the ceaseless watch; but the night of Saturday wore away, and the
morning of Sunday dawned, and no opportunity of making an attempt at
escape affording the slightest prospect of success, had offered. During
the long, wretched day of suspense and agony nothing could be done.
Another interview, if possible more heart-rending than the last, had
been granted to Lady Arden, and evening was again approaching, while no
accounts had yet come from Lord Darlingford. At length a letter did
arrive by express. It did not say, in so many words, that he had failed
in his mission; it even spoke of continued efforts: but it strenuously
recommended that the escape should be attempted at all hazards. Such a
letter, to the feelings of the parties interested, amounted to a
repetition of the sentence of condemnation.

There was now but the one solitary hope left for every thought to cling
around; while it appeared to be reduced in probability to the straw at
which the drowning man catches: for what the two preceding nights had
offered no opportunity of accomplishing, there seemed but little chance
should be compassed on this last remaining one. The evening, too, was
already gone, and the lock-up completed; nay, the night itself was on
the wane; so that now, all seemed to depend on Mr. Edwards's early visit
to the prison, the one last hour before dawn, on the thus fast
approaching morning of the Monday, the day fixed for the execution.

Some hours after midnight, a desperate storm of thunder, hail and rain
came on. And strange it was, that the roaring elements should thus seem,
as it were, to sanction the legendary belief, already mentioned, as
prevalent among the ignorant persons of the neighbourhood, that all
events disastrous to a member of the Arden family were accompanied, or
preceded, by terrible tempests. And, however irrational such an idea,
many inhabitants of Arden, as they lay in their beds that awful night,
and were suddenly awakened by the thunder, ere they slept again,
shuddered involuntarily at the thought, that the old superstition was
being at the very moment fulfilled.

The storm continued, and between five and six in the morning was still
raging. Rejoicing in the din, the confusion, and the prospect of
prolonged darkness it afforded, Mr. Edwards wended his way through its
fury towards the gates of the gaol. He entered, and proceeded to the
condemned cell. From his coming so early it was supposed that he meant
to pray and converse with the prisoner for some hours. In a much shorter
time, however, than was expected, the porter saw him, as he supposed,
approaching, with a somewhat hasty step, along the passage, to take his
departure. It was Alfred: but the disguise was perfect; and the porter
had no suspicion. A moment more and he must have passed safely out--when
a sudden cry was heard--"Stop the prisoner! Stop the prisoner!" And the
turnkeys, running and breathless, appeared in pursuit.



CHAPTER XIII.


During a night of such awful importance, fear and hope both, as its
hours advanced, mounting towards their climax, it will be readily
believed that Lady Arden had not attempted to seek repose.

Regardless of the searching wind and driving rain which beat against
her face and bosom, the blinding flashes of the lightning, and the
thunder's deafening roar, she leaned from the open window of her
sleeping-apartment, and though the darkness was still impenetrable,
continued to gaze with intense anxiety, now in the direction of the town
of Arden, and now in that of the ruined castle; while Mrs. Dorothea,
Lady Darlingford, and Madeline stood behind her, trembling with the
combined effect of fear and cold, and shrinking from each fresh
accession of the storm's fury, against which they were less defended by
the panoply of a fevered mind.

If Lady Arden was at all conscious of the raving of the tempest, it was
rather calculated to yield her satisfaction than otherwise, for it was
highly favourable to the attempt she knew was even then being made for
Alfred's escape.

The window at which she now stood, was the same from which, with an
almost prophetic melancholy, she had looked on the night of the festival
for the coming of age of her sons. "The pitiless pelting of the storm,"
too, was such as it had been on that night--but here the parallel
ceases: changed indeed was all beside!

From time to time she inquired the hour--waited--inquired again--again
waited--and again inquired. "Go, my dear child, go, at any rate," she
said at length, looking anxiously at Madeline, who immediately left the
room; but in about a quarter of an hour returned, accompanied by Mr.
Cameron. He was dripping with wet--covered with mud--and out of breath.
Madeline during her short absence, bad been watching for him at a glass
door which opened from a little boudoir into the lawn; she had just
admitted him, and led him up stairs by a back way. On his entering the
apartment, the door was cautiously closed by Mrs. Dorothea.

Lady Arden laid her hand on his arm and looked in his face.

"He is safe," he replied, "quite safe for the present."

She sank on her knees, and some seconds were devoted to silent, fervent
thanksgiving; when being still unable to articulate, she once more
looked up at Mr. Cameron and motioned him to proceed.

"The alarm was given," he continued, "before he was quite clear of the
gates; but the cry being, 'Stop the prisoner!' and his appearance being
that of Mr. Edwards, the porter did not interfere with his passing out.
The turnkeys, it would seem, had not the presence of mind to say at the
first, 'Stop Mr. Edwards!' and once outside the gate, the din of the
tempest and the darkness with which, though it was past six in the
morning, still exceeded that of most midnights, rendered it
comparatively easy to baffle pursuit. He soon joined me, where we had
appointed, beneath the great beech-tree; for had he been closely
followed, he was to have climbed the trunk and concealed himself among
the branches, while I was to have darted forward, and so led his
pursuers astray: but finding ourselves unmolested as soon as the coast
was clear, we proceeded with all speed to the castle. I have lodged him
safely in the eagle's nest, and am come from thence this moment."

"Thank heaven!" ejaculated from time to time, was the only interruption.
Mr. Cameron's account had met with, "He is so well wrapped up," he
added, good naturedly endeavouring to offer what consolation he could;
"and the turret is so small and the ivy so thick about it that he will
be perfectly dry, and I do not think he will even feel it cold."

"We can see the exact spot from this place," exclaimed Lady Arden,
rising eagerly and leaning from the window. "The eagle's nest looks this
way."

"Were it not so dark," replied Cameron, also leaning out, "I think you
might, the turret is certainly on this side of the building."

"There!" she cried, as a vivid flash gave the remarkable rock, with its
crown of towers to their view; while the flickering movement of the
lightning seemed, as it were, to lift this principal object from its
distant position in the landscape, hold it for a second close to their
sight, then drop it into the impenetrable abyss, over which the thunder
now rolled in darkness.

"That is it!" continued Lady Arden, her outstretched finger also for the
moment rendered visible; "you mean that small projecting tower, which is
called the eagle's nest, do you not?"

"Yes, that little turret, jutting-out from the side of the highest of
the great towers near the top, and appearing from here not larger than a
hand lantern. He must, I should think," he added, "from his present
position discern the light in this window."

"Ah, my poor Alfred!" exclaimed the anxious mother. Another flash made
the group of ruins and small projecting turret again for a second
visible; "if he could have been with us here!" she continued: but the
loud thunder rolled, and the hurricane, as her voice issued from her
lips, swept its sounds away unheard! The next moment of comparative
quiet Mr. Cameron said, in reply to the portion of the sentence he had
caught--

"It would have been unwise; for, had he been in this house, some of the
servants must have known, or at least have suspected the fact; now the
secret of his place of concealment is known only to ourselves."

"You are right--you are right! And we know that there is a fell tiger
couching for the prey."

"Perhaps we judge him harshly," replied Cameron. "I think, however," he
added, "that we have adopted altogether the very best possible course.
But for the extraordinary state of the atmosphere, there should be
already some daylight, so that any attempt to quit the neighbourhood
before evening again closes in would be madness. Nothing can be more
complete, nor at the same time more comfortable, than the place of
concealment we have selected; a spot, too, on which you can keep a
constant watch without causing any suspicion, the only accessible
approach to the ruins being visible from this very window."

While he yet spoke, the grey morning began to dawn. The storm was now
gradually lessening, for though the last flash of the lightning had been
vivid, the last roll of the thunder had been distant, and the rain had
fallen somewhere else. As the dim light increased, therefore, the park,
which in fact bounded the whole prospect, presented a most extraordinary
aspect; so dense a white, low laying, and still moving mist, covered
every ordinary object, that, as far as the eye could reach the landscape
resembled one vast ocean, terminated only by the horizon; while the
ruined castle crowning its rocky eminence, being by its great elevation
lifted above the fog, appeared alone on the surface of this seeming sea,
like the solitary Ark of the Covenant, riding on the waters of the
Deluge!

Such, at least, was the sublime idea it suggested to the imagination of
Lady Arden, while viewing it with the grateful feelings of the moment,
as the refuge of her child.



CHAPTER XIV.


We shall not enter into tedious details of the measures taken to pursue,
or endeavours to discover the prisoner, nor yet of the surmises thrown
out that his escape had been connived at. Neither shall we claim the
sympathy of our readers, for the disappointment of those who flocked to
Arden to witness the expected execution; but rather, confining our
attention to the more interesting persons of our narrative, go on to
say, that through the long hours of that day, whatever were the varied
occupations of others, the eye of Lady Arden still kept watch on that
lonely turret which held her son, and which (hence its title of the
eagle's nest) projecting from the side of the highest of the elevated
group of towers, seemed to have its dwelling among the clouds. So
conspicuous an object had it become in her sight, that though, as Mr.
Cameron said, it appeared in the distance but a speck, not larger than a
hand lantern, and was completely enveloped with ivy, yet the most
unreasonable dread assailed her lest it should draw the attention and
excite the suspicion of every creature who passed by. If but a wandering
mendicant crossed the park, her heart would cease to beat the while, and
her anxious gaze follow the form, till the pathway leading to the rock
on which the castle stood was left behind. Nor did she withdraw
affection's eye, nor cease to be the guardian spirit of the spot, till
the shadows of evening closing round, shut out the ruins from her view.

Alfred had now, she knew, commenced his journey. Her devoted affection
would have led her to accompany her son, but such a step would hamper
his flight, and endanger his safety. Even a farewell interview was not
to be thought of.

In utter desolation of spirit, therefore, our unhappy hero, even at the
moment we are describing, rapidly descended the height on which the
castle stood, and strode across the wide extent of park, thus
abdicating, as it were, the princely domain of his forefathers, with
scarcely a consciousness of where he was, or what his purpose; and when,
after pursuing his journey for a time, he became capable of any approach
to reflection, his thoughts were all of wretchedness. An exile, an
outlaw, dishonoured, beggared, disguised, he was quitting his native
land, probably for ever; unless, indeed, he should be pursued and
dragged back, to suffer an ignominious death. He was, it is true, in the
very act of escaping for the present this last, and in the estimation of
most people worst, because irremediable ill; but accompanying this
reflection were sensations which, perhaps, he could not himself have
defined. For, since his sentence had been pronounced, notwithstanding
the anxious efforts still making in his behalf, he had been strenuously
preparing his mind for the most fatal issue, and, with the assistance of
the pious Mr. Edwards, endeavouring to wean his affections from things
below and to centre all his hopes in heaven. However little understood
such feelings may be by those who are engaged in the busy whirl of
terrestrial concerns, to those who have lately stood on the brink of the
grave, they possess an awful reality not soon to be forgotten.

Compared with views of peace, and rest, and hope so obtained, there was,
as a counterpoise to the mere instinct of self preservation, a strong
sense of distaste to the weary pilgrimage of life renewed; nor will this
seem overstrained, when we remember under what circumstances it was
renewed; when we contemplate the universal blight which had fallen upon
the fair spring of all his earthly prospects.

At an early hour the next morning, the melancholy ceremony of
Willoughby's funeral, which had been so long delayed in the hope of his
brother being able to take with honour his place of chief mourner, was
at length obliged to be performed in all the hopeless misery of present
circumstances. Immediately after the conclusion of the dismal
solemnities the family set out for London.

Lady Arden had determined to remain in England till every effort had
been made to obtain the reprieve of her son; but, if all failed, to join
him under a feigned name at Geneva, the place at which they had
appointed to meet; and become, for the remainder of her sojourn upon
earth, the kind companion and solace of his wanderings.

Two of her daughters were already married; Mr. Cameron had generously
declared his unaltered determination to become the husband of Madeline;
Lady Arden had that morning consigned to the grave the remains of poor
Willoughby; Alfred alone, therefore, now claimed all her care, all her
tenderness, all the consolation her maternal affection could bestow.

How the affair would have concluded had not our hero made his escape,
remains enveloped in mystery; that circumstance might have been supposed
to supersede the necessity for a reprieve. It was, however, generally
believed, that Lady Arden had received an assurance that there should be
no efforts made to pursue her son, or to require him at the hands of
foreign powers, but that unless some circumstances in his favour came to
light, it would be necessary for him to live abroad, and remain unknown.



CHAPTER XV.


How our hero made his way to, and through France, he never afterwards
could clearly call to mind.

Every perception was turned inward; while some mysterious spell seemed
endued with the power of compelling his thoughts to go again and again
the torturing round of remembrances, every one equally fraught with
wretchedness. The miserable end of poor Willoughby--never could that
heart-rending scene be erased from his memory--the devotion of his fond
parent--such a thought might have soothed; but had he not been, and was
he not still doomed to be, to her a source of unparalleled suffering.
Then there was another being, whose idea he dreaded to approach--and she
had once, for one short period, been all his dream of bliss.

There was certainly but little to draw him from his absorbing
reflections in the dull and monotonous plains of Burgundy and French
Compté. In due time, however, he left these behind him, and began to
ascend the heights above Poligni; but he felt not the invigorating
influence of the mountain air. He travelled on through the magnificent
scenery of the great military road; yet scarcely saw its precipices, its
waterfalls, its forests of beech and pine. At length the magnificent
lake itself opened to his view; stretching from Geneva to Chillon, and
reflecting, as in an immense mirror, the surrounding Alps with their
fleecy region of eternal snows, their glacier cliffs, glittering in the
sun-beams, their dark blue zone of wood, rock, precipice, and torrent;
and their smiling fertile base. He completed the winding descent of the
Jura, commanding the whole way to the very verge of the lake, a full
view of the fairy scenery, the fertile slopes, the glowing vine-yards,
the cornfields, orchards, gardens, towns, villages and villas; the
wooded brows, tranquil vales, and sparkling streams, of the enchanting
Pays de Vaud; yet he felt no pleasurable sensations arise: if the
splendour of effect in some measure aroused him, it was rather to a
state of more active suffering than before; as though the wilderness
within were rendered more desolate by comparison with the paradise
without.

He now proceeded by a beautiful drive along the water's edge to the
gates of Geneva; and here found the usually vexatious delays, respecting
passports, &c., peculiarly annoying, from the degrading consciousness of
disguise.

When he succeeded in effecting his entrance, and had retired to rest,
excessive fatigue, both of mind and body, brought sleep; but no sooner
had his weary eyelids closed, than horrors assailed him.

The Rhone flowed with a rapid pace beneath the very street and house in
which he had taken up his abode for the night. The pleasing murmur of
its waters became to his dreaming fancy the tumult of the congregated
multitude, around the foot of the scaffold, on which, with that
extraordinary certitude which sometimes accompanies the visions of
disordered slumber, he thought he was about to suffer an ignominious
death.

The agony of the moment awoke him, and he slept no more. But he felt a
stronger and more grateful sense than he had hitherto done, of the
blessing of having been preserved from such a fate; and even hope, under
the healing influence of a thankful spirit, in some sort revived. The
foul blot might be yet removed; he might yet be restored to the love and
respect of all good men; he might yet, though he could never more know
happiness himself, cease to be a source of misery to the best of
parents.

Fearful, that among the many English at Geneva, there might be some to
whom he was personally known, he remained in the house the whole of the
following day. In the evening, however, tempted by the balmy air, the
weather being unusually fine for the season, he determined to go on the
lake; a situation, in which he should of course be less liable than on
shore to meeting other persons near enough for recognition.

He did so accordingly. The sun had, a short time since, sunk behind the
Jura, while a lingering beam still crowned, as with a regal circlet, the
stately brows of that monarch of the scene, Mont Blanc. The hour was
calm and beautiful; the shores were fairy land; the lake a sea of gold;
while its shining surface was dotted with numerous vessels of every
description, gliding along so smoothly, that but for the changes which
gradually became apparent in their relative positions, they might have
seemed to have stood still.

One of these in particular, with a spell-like power, drew the attention
of our hero, possibly from unconscious sympathy with human misery, as it
seemed to be in some sort the scene of sorrow or of suffering, for
beneath an awning, a portion of the curtains of which were drawn aside,
was partly visible a couch, or bed, on which was laid a recumbent form,
to all appearance motionless; while the other figures in the boat were
evidently only the attendants on this principal one.

The boatman, observing the direction of our hero's eyes, began to tell
him in French, a tale possessing much of the sentimental, of which that
language, when it does not degenerate into affectation, is so good a
vehicle. He expatiated on the youth, the beauty, and the apparent
wealth, forlorn state, of this mysterious lady of the lake who was
dying, he said, in a foreign land, surrounded by strangers and servants
and without one friend or relative near to receive her last sigh.

It was by order of the physician, he added, of whose practice he, by the
way, by no means seemed to approve, that she was brought out thus on the
lake at all hours, and almost all weathers, more, 'tis to be feared, to
give notoriety to the doctor than health to the patient.

While he was speaking, the boat which contained the invalid began to
come towards them, on its way to the place of landing. At the same
moment a slight breeze arose, and lifting the curtains of the awning on
both sides simultaneously, kept them straight out, with a gently fanning
movement, like the extended wings of some gigantic bird. Its appearance
thus remarkable, its progress barely perceptible, it continued drawing
nearer and nearer while the narrator went on, winding up his story by
saying, the report was, that this beautiful lady had two suitors in her
own country, who were brothers; and that the one had murdered the other
for jealousy, but his crime being discovered, he had been brought to
trial, and executed: so that the poor young lady might well be
disconsolate, having thus lost both her lovers. By this time the
approaching boat had come so close, that in passing, it slightly grazed
that in which our hero sat.

Alfred's gaze had for some time been intense; his cheek now blanched;
unconsciously he grasped the arm of the boatman.

Pale, beautiful, to all appearance lifeless, the form which lay beneath
the uplifted awning in the passing boat was that of Caroline. The eyes
were closed, but the faultless features, in their angel-like expression,
were still unchanged, presenting a model of perfect loveliness reposing
in the sleep of death: while the silent attendants, with their
common-place, though solemn visages, looked like the rough stone figures
of mourning mutes coarsely carved around some Parian marble monument.



CHAPTER XVI.


To account for the appearance of our heroine under such peculiar
circumstances, we must look back to secondary events, which latterly we
have not had leisure to notice.

Immediately after poor Willoughby's abrupt departure from Montague
House, Lady Palliser and her daughter had set out on their continental
tour, in which it was supposed by the friends on both sides, that he was
shortly to join them. During their journey, they had either not chanced
to meet with, or at least not happened to read with any degree of
attention an English newspaper. One, however, was laid on their
breakfast table the morning after their arrival at Geneva; it was that
which contained a summary of Alfred's trial, conviction, and
condemnation to an ignominious death, for the wilful murder of his
brother. From the circumstances of Lady Palliser being out of England,
on the constant move, and consequently not associating with any one, her
ladyship had not heard before even of such an accusation having been
brought against our hero, yet she glanced over the account of the
terrific affair with a countenance perfectly unmoved; and when she had
finished the statements, merely handed the paper across the table to
Caroline saying, in the most careless tone imaginable,

"It was very fortunate that you were not married to either of them."

Caroline, wondering what her mother could mean, took the paper in
silence, and began to read the part indicated by the manner of folding.
Lady Palliser sipped her coffee without even a look of inquiry towards
her daughter; but had there been any one present to have noted the
emotions marked on the countenance of Caroline, they would have seen
first, a faint glow as the names met her sight; then the gradual
retiring of the same; then the unconscious parting of the lips and
holding of the breath; next a quickened respiration, a flickering
colour, and a countenance full of indignant expression.

Soon after this profound attention seemed to still every pulse, for the
paper which before had visibly vibrated with each throb of the heart, no
longer stirred, while every vestige of the lines of life retired even
from the lips: the eyes alone moved, as eagerly they traced, from margin
to margin, line after line. Suddenly a rush of crimson covered the face
and neck, a piercing cry escaped the lips, and Caroline fell senseless
to the floor, having become again pale as a corpse.

It was some hours before she showed any returning signs of life, and
when she again opened her eyes it was evident, from their piteous
expression, that consciousness, whether of woe or weal was gone.

Subsequently, however, though she still noticed no other object, she
manifested such strong symptoms of terror at the approach of Lady
Palliser, that the medical attendant thought fit to recommend her
ladyship not to enter the apartment.

Lady Palliser, from whom patient attendance on sickness or suffering was
not at any rate much to be expected, soon began to get exceedingly tired
of the whole affair. She was also provoked that her daughter's name
should, however blamelessly, be implicated with that of a family on whom
such disgrace had fallen; for though Alfred's escape was by this time
known, the stigma was still the same; he was still under sentence of
death--he was still believed to be a murderer. Caroline's sudden illness
too had made matters worse; for its supposed cause had got abroad, and
having spread from the English to the natives, became the universal
topic of conversation with high and low. That this would be still more
the case in England her ladyship was well aware; she determined
therefore not to return thither till the business should be in a great
measure forgotten; in the mean time to proceed on her tour, leaving her
daughter, who was unable to travel, at Geneva, with of course a suitable
establishment of sick-nurses and servants, and attended, unluckily, by
some medical personage who had acquired a questionable reputation nobody
knew how, and whose opinion therefore Lady Palliser, with her usual
whimsical irrationality, chose to consider the best _medical advice_
within reach; and to whose care, without weighing the subject further,
she accordingly committed the reason and the life of her only child.
Whether her ladyship would have taken the unfeeling step of proceeding
on her journey, had her presence afforded consolation to the suffering
Caroline, it is impossible to say; but, as her sage adviser still
recommended her to refrain from seeing his patient, she appeared to
consider herself at liberty to follow her own devices.



CHAPTER XVII.


Having thus explained how it happened that our heroine was found at
Geneva in the forlorn state described, we must now return to Alfred. He
followed the apparition of Caroline, saw her couch lifted from the boat
to a kind of carriage which was in waiting on the shore, landed himself
immediately, and though incapable of plan or purpose, pursued the
carriage. It stopped at a villa at a little distance. He saw Caroline
lifted out, and carried into the house. Impelled by an uncontrollable
impulse, and too much agitated to think of forms, he entered the hall
with the servants, of whom he made some incoherent inquiries. They
seemed scarcely to comprehend him. A person passed hastily in almost at
the moment and entered a sitting-room which opened into the hall, and
into which the couch with the invalid had just been carried.

"It is the doctor, sir," said a servant, with a puzzled air, which
seemed to infer, he can probably answer you better than I can.

Alfred followed eagerly to the door of the room, and stood there some
seconds in breathless anxiety. It opened--the _soi-disant_ doctor was
coming out, but drew back, as it were, to make way for our hero; who,
from his evident and pitiable agitation, and his eager inquiries, he
seemed to take for granted, was some one of the lady's near relations
arrived at last, and of course entitled to enter the apartment of the
invalid. Laying apparently asleep on a sofa visible from the door,
Alfred could now discern Caroline: yet, though at the time in no state
of mind for reflection, he so far felt himself unauthorized in his
intrusion as to give an air of hesitation to his manner.

"You can come in, sir," said the doctor, "there is no danger, I am sorry
to say," he added with pompous solemnity, "of waking the patient."

On hearing these alarming words, Alfred rushed to the side of the couch
in so wild a manner, that the doctor, quite aghast, followed, and laying
his hand on his arm, said, "You mistake me, sir: there is no reason to
expect immediate dissolution; my meaning was, that you need not be
apprehensive of interrupting the slumbers of the patient; her state
being unhappily, not natural sleep, but a species of trance, becoming, I
feel it, notwithstanding, my painful duty to say from its prolonged
duration and the daily diminution of bodily strength, every hour more
and more hopeless. From, in fact, the first moment of her sudden seizure
up to the present time, she has not shed one tear, spoken one word; nor,
as we have reason to believe, though in this constant state of apparent
unconsciousness, ever actually slept; for, at any startling or unusual
sound, her eyes have been observed to open, though but for a second."

While the doctor, who was fond of hearing himself talk, had been thus
holding forth, Alfred had stood gazing on the pale unconscious sufferer,
in an agony of grief and compassion.

Pity is itself a gentle, an endearing sentiment; but when claimed by a
being we already love, who shall paint the going forth of the whole
soul, in the blended sympathy! If there is an earthly feeling pure from
self, worthy of heaven, it is this! Had Alfred encountered Caroline in
health, amid scenes of pleasure and of gaiety, himself free from the
disgrace and ruin which now attached to him; nay, with a knowledge that
her seeming want of truth had been but obedience to the tyrannical
commands of a parent; that her heart was still his; that, in short,
every obstacle to their union was removed by the death of poor
Willoughby;--how soon, in such a case, he might have been able to have
separated thoughts of her and of happiness from the heart-rending
remembrance of his brother; at what distant period of time he could, in
short, have sought a paradise on the very shore where that brother had
become a wreck, it is impossible to say. But when instead of all this,
her idea was presented to his mind under circumstances so new, so
terrible, so far removed from selfish joy, which, when mingled with
thoughts of Willoughby, would have seemed almost a sacrilege; then it
was that an overwhelming interest in her fate took possession of his
whole soul unresisted, consisting of fears, not of hopes; and that soul
full of misery, was almost paralysed by the memory and presence of
sorrow. He continued to gaze, till a sense of the most appalling dread,
despite the assurance of the doctor that there was no immediate danger,
crept over his heart, so much did the perfect stillness of the lovely
features resemble that of death. His terror momentarily increased--he
bent--he knelt--he listened in breathless anguish, till the throbbing of
his own pulses might have been heard, but he could catch no sound of
respiration. He looked up with a sort of despairing yet questioning
expression in the doctor's face.

"I by no means," said the authority so appealed to, "apprehend, as I
have already stated, any immediate danger. This species of trance has
continued without intermission, ever since the first rash communication
of the fatal intelligence." Then, fond of hearing himself talk, and
possibly believing that he spoke to a near relative, acquainted of
course with all the circumstances, he continued to exhibit his powers of
oratory thus:

"The shock was, I fear, altogether too much for any sensitive mind; what
with the abrupt mode of communication, and the manner of the gentleman's
death, so terrible--murdered they say, by his own twin brother!"

"No, sir!" exclaimed Alfred, starting up with sudden fierceness, and
grasping the doctor's arm, "he was not murdered by his brother; and
that," he added, with an altered tone and manner, clasping his hands,
and raising his eyes to heaven, "when her spirit awakes in the realms of
the blessed it will know."

The conversation up to this point had been conducted in the mysterious
whispers of a sick room, but Alfred's voice, from excess of excitement,
in the last sentence unconsciously assumed its natural key. As he
concluded his apostrophy to Heaven, his eyes, which had been uplifted in
the fervour of devotional feeling fell again on Caroline. Her's were
wide open, and fixed on him, with an almost wild expression of terror
and bewilderment!

In a moment more, the crimson rash had, for a second, crossed her brow;
the piercing cry escaped her lips, and she had fallen again into that
totally inanimate state, which had characterised her first seizure, and
distinguished it from the sleep-like trance in which she had
subsequently lain.

All was instant confusion and dismay. Alfred, almost wild with terror,
raised the drooping head which had slid from the pillow, supported the
fair cheek against his bosom; and chafed, now the temples, now the
hands, mechanically, endeavouring to obey the directions of the doctor,
while his own hands trembled, till they could scarcely perform the task
assigned them.

The doctor himself, too, seemed much alarmed, and somewhat taken by
surprize; he tried all the means of restoring animation he could think
of, but in vain. At length he began to look very serious indeed. To
Alfred's frantic adjurations, half question, half entreaty, as though
the doctor's words could reverse the decree of fate, he replied
repeatedly, and with decision, that all was over. "There is not now," he
added, "the strength to rally there had been at the time of the first
attack."

A mournful silence followed: all, as with one consent, discontinued
their efforts. The doctor folded his arms. The very attendants stood for
a considerable time quite motionless.

Alfred was kneeling beside the couch, in the attitude he had taken,
while striving to render assistance to her, who was now no more. At
length the nurses, anxious in their officious zeal to perform the duties
they considered their province, drew near, removed the head of Caroline
from his supporting shoulder, and laid it on the centre of the pillow,
then withdrew the hand he still grasped in his, and arranging the
delicate fingers, placed it by her side; while the doctor approaching,
raised our hero, and led him from the room, attempting, as he did so,
the usual common-places of conversation: it was an event which had been
expected for some time. There was so little hope of ultimate recovery,
that it might be considered a happy release; for even had her life been
preserved, her faculties could never have been restored.

As for our hero, he heard him not; all his thoughts, discoloured and
distorted by late events, were desperate. "It was well," he inwardly
ejaculated, "yes, it was well--life was misery--death a refuge--why
should any one desire to live?"

The doctor, the while, led Alfred through the hall, assisted him into
his (the doctor's) carriage, which stood at the door, and begged to know
whither he desired to be driven. The question had to be repeated more
than once before a murmur, from which something like the address was at
length collected, could be drawn from Alfred.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The movement of the carriage, and the necessity of descending from it,
having aroused Alfred from the first paralysing effects of his grief, he
now paced his apartment rapidly, and continued to do so almost the whole
of the night; too much absorbed by his miserable reflections, to be
conscious of the bodily fatigue he was thus incurring. Yet it was
impossible to be still! Was she indeed dead?--was the question, he again
and again, asked himself. Then, with indescribable agony, he recalled
the bewildered terror of those dear eyes during the single moment they
had met his. How short was the period which had since elapsed; she was
then in life--was it possible! could she be already gone for ever? A
lingering feeling, in some sort allied to hope, though altogether
irrational, still struggled with his despair. It is after waiting in
vain, as it were, for a reprieve from fate, that sorrow for the dead
seems gradually to reach its climax. It is not in the first hour of
bereavement that we can comprehend our wretchedness; so difficult is it
to believe, that in a few short moments, the great, the awful change,
has taken place and eternity for a fellow-mortal, who trod the path of
earth with us but now, commenced. Then would he view, with stern
despair, the mysterious union, by which his own fate, the fate of poor
Willoughby, and that of Caroline, seemed linked together in misery.

"But she is now at rest," he would add, and after dwelling for a time on
this idea, gentler emotions would arise; and he would strain his mental
vision to behold the shadowy regions of that "bourn whence no traveller
returns," as though tenderness thus sought for some locality in which to
picture to itself the cherished image of the being beloved.

Night passed away, and morning came, but its light brought with it the
unsufferable thought, that even now the busy preparations of the living,
to rid themselves of the dead, were in all probability being
commenced!--Once more--yes, once more, he must behold her! And then he
would think of his poor mother, and patiently await his own release. As
he formed this resolve, he was crossing his apartment, to descend into
the street and hasten back to the villa, when the door flew open and
Lady Arden entered.

"Alfred! my son," she exclaimed, "you are justified!" unable to
articulate further, she wept passionately, but her tears flowed over a
countenance radiant with joy.

As the words, "you are justified," sounded in the ear of Alfred, relief
from ignominy swelled his heart with a proud and worthy satisfaction,
which, under any other circumstances, would have taken the lead even of
his affections. But now, instead of eagerly inquiring what had occurred,
he said, with solemn tenderness, while affectionately returning the
maternal embrace, "I am not ungrateful to Heaven, or to you."

Lady Arden gazed at the mournful expression of his countenance, and
added anxiously, and somewhat doubtingly, "When time, my son, shall have
passed a healing hand over the sorrow you feel for your poor brother, I
shall see you, I trust, yourself again; and for my sake--and for the
sake of others who love you, quite--quite--happy--at last. For this
misery," she added, speaking slowly, and still watching in vain for the
dawning of pleasurable feeling on his still and saddened features; "this
misery has been all occasioned by the tyranny of Lady Palliser;--she
whom you both loved has ever been, and is still faithful to you.--She
confided in poor Willoughby at the last, and entreated him to shelter
her from the anger of her mother, by withdrawing his addresses. He
obeyed her wish--but--his mind lost its balance in the effort. There is
hope then--surely there is hope--that Heaven will deal mercifully with
him who had not reason for his guide when he sinned."

Alfred looked in her face while she spoke. When she ceased, his lips
attempted to move but no sound proceeded from them. Every power, mental
and physical, had been strained beyond frail Nature's capability of
endurance. His head rested, and he sunk on a sofa in nearly a swooning
state.

At this moment the doctor most opportunely entered.



CHAPTER XIX.


While the Doctor is exerting his skill in the endeavour to revive our
hero, we shall go back and give some account of the events which led to
the fortunate result proclaimed by Lady Arden on her entrance.

We have already mentioned that at an early hour the morning after Alfred
quitted his place of concealment in the ruins, the long-delayed funeral
of Willoughby took place; immediately after which the family set out for
London.

Geoffery, though he knew himself to be a suspected and unwelcome guest,
yet had thought it necessary, for appearance sake, to attend. He had
done so, and spent some hours subsequently at Fips's, awaiting the
departure of Lady Arden and suite from the mansion, upon which it was
his intention to take immediately formal possession of a place of which
he had so long desired to be the master. The last of the carriages
containing the family party had passed about an hour, when Geoffery
mounted his horse and was riding through the principal street of Arden
on his way to the park, on the adjacent woods of which he was so much
engaged looking with exulting _pride_, that he did not perceive a waggon
laden with household furniture which happened to be passing, till it
came so near that to avoid it he was obliged to ride close to the
foot-path.

There chanced to be advancing at the moment, along the said foot-path, a
decrepid old man, a sort of village miser; who, though suspected of
possessing secret hoards, lived alone in a hovel--denied himself the
necessaries of life--and looked like a beggar. This man had enjoyed for
many years, as a sort of privilege, the almost exclusive sale, at the
moderate charge, as he expressed it, of one halfpenny each, of all
murders, trials, last dying speeches, ballads, valentines, &c. &c. &c.

"A full and true account of the trial and conviction of Sir Alfred
Arden, for the cruel and most unnatural murder of his brother, the late
Sir Willoughby Arden;" and also of his miraculous escape from prison on
the morning on which he was to have been executed, had been prepared for
this species of sale; but from respect to the feelings of the family had
not hitherto been publicly hawked about. As all its members, however,
with the exception of Geoffery, whose sentiments were tolerably well
understood, had that morning taken their departure, such delicacy was no
longer deemed necessary. Accordingly, the ancient ballad-monger, fearful
of being anticipated in his market, was commencing operations. He had
just vociferated, "Interesting account, &c. &c." and at the precise
moment that Geoffery, in making way for the waggon rode close to the
foot-path, was in the act of raising his arm to display on high his
large-lettered merchandize, when his hand coming in contact with the
nose of Geoffery's horse the glaring white appearance, and sudden
rustling noise of the unfurled paper so startled the animal, that he
backed, plunged, and reared up against the waggon, entangling Geoffery
amongst the legs and arms of the tables and chairs with which it was
heaped, and which, lifting him from his saddle, let him down so close to
one of the wheels, that it went over his head and crushed it to atoms.
He was taken up and carried into an adjacent public house, of course
quite dead; while almost every one who had been in the street at the
time of the accident, crowded immediately into the common room where he
was laid.

It so happened that the master of the house had once incurred very ugly
suspicions respecting picking of pockets; this was a point therefore on
which he was now particularly jealous of his honour. When the spectators
therefore had satisfied themselves as to the nature and extent of the
injuries received by the deceased, and were about to disperse, mine host
uplifted his voice, and requested that some one would remain to examine
the contents of the gentleman's pockets, that his house might come to no
discredit in the business.

Accordingly, two persons consented to do so, one an apothecary, who had
been called in to pronounce whether or not a person who had been
guillotined by a waggon wheel, were quite dead; the other, Mr. Danvers,
High Sheriff for the county. He had attended the funeral, and was
passing through the town on his way home. He was the warm friend of Lady
Arden, and felt a strong persuasion of Alfred's innocence.

The money in Geoffery's purse was counted, and a pocket-book found which
was opened, to ascertain whether it contained bank-notes; Here Mr.
Danvers perceived a letter, the address and memoranda on the outer fold
of which rivetted his whole attention. They were in the late Sir
Willoughby Arden's hand-writing, and ran thus--"To my dear brother,
Alfred Arden, containing my dying requests to him, together with my
reasons for having resolved to put a period to my existence."

It was very evident that this letter, though open, had never reached Sir
Alfred's hands, or it must have been brought forward on the trial; there
seemed therefore to be no doubt that Geoffery Arden, however it had come
into his possession, had suppressed it with the most diabolical
intentions. To hasten therefore immediately with the precious document,
in pursuit of Lady Arden, and lay the affair in due form before the
Secretary of State for the Home Department, seemed to be the obvious
course, and was accordingly adopted by Mr. Danvers with all possible
speed.



CHAPTER XX.


The packet found by Mr. Danvers was the same which, it may be
remembered, was lifted from a table in Willoughby's apartment by
Geoffery, while Alfred, to meet whose eye it had been thus conspicuously
placed by his poor brother, was too much absorbed in grief to notice
what was passing.

The peculiar circumstances attendant on the death-scene, and the certain
knowledge thus obtained, that poison had been taken, and would,
therefore, on opening the body be found, suggested to Geoffery's evil
mind the first faint glimpses of the diabolical scheme which so many
after circumstances so unexpectedly favoured. Had there been a fire in
his apartment that night, he would for security have certainly burnt the
packet; but it fortunately happened that there was not, and so agitated
and occupied was his mind in the contemplation of the very possibility
of compassing at once the hideous crime and enormous gain, which he was
balancing one against the other, that the idea of destroying the
dangerous document by means of his candle never once occurred to him.
Accordingly, when he had sufficiently considered its contents, he placed
it in his pocket-book. After this, he more than once took it out, with
the intention of consigning it to the flames, but when in the very act
his hand was stayed by more than one consideration. In the first place,
there was a kind of bequest to himself; and if the accusations against
Alfred came to nothing, he should want the sum very much; then he
sometimes felt a dread, that by a bare possibility, he might
himself,--as having a remote contingent interest in the death of
Willoughby, and having arrived too that very night at Arden,--be accused
of being an accomplice of Alfred's; and in either case this packet laid
down in some of the apartments, would be picked up, and being supposed
to have hitherto merely lain unnoticed, both clear himself of all
suspicion and secure his bequest; for though this bequest was not left
in a binding form, he had no doubt that Alfred would religiously make it
good. No place, however, seemed safe enough for keeping this important
document but about his own person, and accordingly he so disposed of it;
which serves to account for its being found in the manner described.

The packet itself presented a melancholy picture of poor Willoughby's
disordered state of mind, brought down somewhat in the form of a
journal, and with a kind of method mingled with its wildness to the very
evening of his death. In proof of the strange blending of rational
considerations, there was a sort of distribution of his personal
property; for besides the bequest to Geoffery, already alluded to, there
were kind gifts to his sisters, his mother, his aunt Dorothea, and to
several old servants and pensioners.

Alfred, however, was his main object; the tenor of the whole letter
breathed the most devoted tenderness towards him, mingled with a
madman's notion, that he was about to perform an heroic act, in removing
the obstacles to his happiness. It entreated Alfred not to grieve for
him--he was only flying a misery he could not endure; seeking a resting
place he longed to find. Why should not all those who remained behind be
happy--quite happy, and never think of him who could so well be
spared--who never should have been born--who seemed to have been called
into existence but to stand in the way of others, and be himself
wretched!

"Yet I know that you will grieve for me, Alfred," it continued, "and the
thought of how much you will grieve sometimes makes me shrink from
seeking the rest I long for. But it will be for a time only, and then
you too will be happy. Yes, you must be happy, Alfred!"

Caroline's letter was inclosed in the packet, and some comments made, in
a strain of forced, unnatural calmness, on Lady Palliser's cruel policy.
While the whole, which seemed to have been written at many different
periods, concluded with a sort of separate part, dated the day of the
evening of his death; detailing minutely how he had at length possessed
himself of some arsenic, and declaring his intention of that very
evening putting an end to the harrassing struggles of his mind, which he
here describe wildly, as pursuing him every where--goading him
on--hunting him down--making rest or peace on earth impossible.

"Forgive me, then, dear Alfred," he concluded; "forgive my quitting you
thus; for I am weary, and long to sleep, though it were in the grave!
Except that short moment when I closed my eyes on your kind bosom, I
have not slept I know not when."

This, the dying memorial of poor Willoughby, was but a melancholy
vehicle for joyful intelligence to Lady Arden. In her mind, however, at
such a moment, there was room but for one idea--Alfred was safe! Even
her pride in him, which had mingled with despair, was forgotten in
tenderness.

She left all the care of his public justification, with the necessary
forms for his restoration to his right, in the hands of Mr. Danvers and
Lord Darlingford; and though, as a precaution lest Alfred should lose
one moment of the relief of mind such intelligence was calculated to
bestow, she had dispatched, at the first instant, an express, bearing in
her own writing the three words, "You are justified." Nevertheless she
had followed her own messenger with so much expedition, that she
overtook him at the gates of Geneva, awaiting their being opened; and
thus became, as we have seen, the first to announce to her exiled son
the happy change which had taken place in his circumstances.

While her ladyship was thus occupied, the townspeople of Arden,
impatient to display the returning tide of their affection and respect
towards their young landlord, were illuminating every pane of glass they
possessed, and lighting bonfires on every rising ground in the
neighbourhood, in honour of his acquittal; while at the same time their
indignation against Geoffery knew no bounds. His motive in suppressing
and concealing Alfred's letter spoke for itself; and so strong was the
general feeling of abhorrence which it excited, that the night after he
was buried, his body was disinterred by the mob, and placed on a gibbet
on the road-side, between Arden and Arden Park. His coadjutor, too, Mr.
Fips, was blamed even more than he deserved, if that indeed were
possible: that is to say, he was universally believed to have been a
party to the suppression of Willoughby's packet; a belief engendered,
and, in a great measure justified, by his being Geoffery's right-hand
man on all occasions, and still more by the active part he had taken
previously to and on the trial, as well as by his own general villany of
character.

Accordingly, during the illuminations for Alfred's acquittal, the mob
began by smashing every window in Fips's house; and hatred of Gripe, as
he was called, being a common cause, those who had commenced the attack
were soon joined by so many who had a personal feeling of revenge,
founded on a lively remembrance of ruin entailed on themselves and their
families by his means, that before morning they literally left not one
stone, or rather one brick, upon another of Fips's dwelling; while
himself and his daughter narrowly escaped with their lives, without
being able to carry with them a single paper, or a vestige of property
of any kind. What was of value found plenty of customers, who thought it
no robbery to take back a little of their own; and as to the parchments,
&c., a sagacious ringleader proposed that they should all be emptied out
at the foot of the market cross; that so, when there was light in the
morning, every one might come and choose his own. Thus did many a man
get back his documents without being compelled to pay the unjust and
enormous bill for which they were held as security; whilst every thing
in the shape of bill, book, or account standing against any individual,
was carefully consigned to the flames. All the town, in short, felt it
more or less a blessing that the hornet's nest had been destroyed. As to
the authorities, they had themselves, some of them, felt the gripe of
Mr. Fips in their day: after, therefore, every step _they_ judged proper
was duly taken to discover who had been the perpetrators of the late
riots, it was decided, at a public meeting held for the purpose--"That
the very _unjustifiable_ outrages which had been committed on the night
of the -- of ----, 18--, could not be _brought home to any particular
individuals_."



CHAPTER XXI.


It was evening; a cheerful mixture of twilight and firelight filled the
apartment in which our hero lay, slowly recovering from a brain fever of
many weeks duration.

He had been long delirious, and as yet had not recognised the friends
who were around him, or been conscious of any event which had occurred
since the morning on which Lady Arden had arrived at Geneva. But his
crisis was now past, and much was expected from the peaceful and
profound sleep he had enjoyed for nearly the whole, both of the last
night and of the last day. A group of itinerant musicians had stopped
beneath his window, and were performing some simple strain, which,
though possibly conducive to his awaking just at that moment, fell on
his half conscious ear with indescribable sweetness. Gradually his eyes
began to open: at first but in an imperceptible degree; yet, through the
still veiling lashes he now saw confusedly, visions, as of angels,
hovering around his pillow. While a countenance which bent over his,
watching, as it were, his slumbers, seemed to grow each moment brighter
and brighter, till, for one second, he distinctly beheld (or did he
dream), the face of Caroline! It disappeared instantly, and was
succeeded by that of his sister Madeline; but the shadow of a form
glided round the curtain which the eye of Alfred anxiously followed.

It was Caroline; she had gone to announce to Lady Arden Alfred's
awaking.

Lady Arden had been also ill herself, and was not yet able to bear much
fatigue: she had, therefore, lain down while Caroline and Madeline
cheered each other's watch in the sick chamber. The music in the street
had alarmed our youthful nursetenders, lest it should awake their
charge: they had raised their taper fingers, and thus asked each other
by signal, whether they should send to have it stopped; while, as a
preliminary movement, Caroline had glided to the bedside to note its
effect upon the sleeper. She had stood a few seconds, marking as well as
the imperfect light would permit, that his eyeballs seemed to move
tremulously beneath their lids. Anxious to ascertain the point, she had
bent closer and closer to the pillow; when, Alfred's eyes opening as we
have described, she had disappeared.

Madeline, as she took the place of the apparition, which had thus
quickly vanished, found Alfred making a feeble effort to draw aside the
opposite curtain. But he was quite unequal to the task.

"It was--it was she--" he faintly murmured, "Was it not? tell me,
Madeline!"

"Yes it was, dear Alfred, but you must not speak! she is quite well."

Fortunately, his extreme bodily weakness did not admit of any very
violent paroxysm of feeling. His recollections of the past too, were as
yet but confused; so that the overpowering intelligence that Caroline
was still living--was near him--was kindly attending him in sickness,
came not upon him at once in its full force, but grew with his growing
perceptions.

"Where is she gone, Madeline?" he at length breathed, in a scarcely
audible whisper.

"Only to my mother's room," replied Madeline, in accents scarcely
louder.

"And tell me where we are?" he added, after another pause.

"At Geneva, dearest Alfred. But you must not speak."

"At Geneva!" he repeated, then lay still a very long time, as if
endeavouring to recall past events: and she noted with alarm, that pale
though he was, after his long illness, a faint flush, was overspreading
his brow. He feebly grasped her arm, and looked in her face with an
earnestness of expression which she perfectly understood.

"No! no!" she replied, "she was only ill--faint--but she is now quite
well, but indeed, you must not speak, dearest Alfred."

"Madeline! is all this true?"

"Yes, quite true: and now, dear Alfred, you must lay still till the
doctor comes."

He tried to obey her for a time.

"I cannot, Madeline," he at length whispered, and then, though
much exhausted, he continued in broken accents, "the desire--to
know--how--it has all happened--will hurt me more--than listening to
your--sweet--voice.--So tell me all--and then--I will be composed."

Madeline, judging that of the two it was better he should listen to her
than persist in endeavouring to speak himself, replied in the softest of
whispers, shading the light of the fire from his face:

"Why, when my mother saw that she had both you and Caroline to nurse,
she wrote to us to come here. But, by the time we came, we found dear
Caroline so much recovered, that she was nursing both you and my mother,
who had then become ill herself from fatigue. But she is now quite well
again," she added, seeing Alfred look around. "And she has written to
Lady Palliser, and obtained her permission for Caroline to stay with us
while we remain abroad, that she may travel home with our party. And
now, indeed, I will not speak another word, so you must lay still."

Here the appearance of Lady Arden, and Aunt Dorothea, and soon after of
the doctor, relieved Madeline from the difficult task of keeping her
refractory patient in order.



CHAPTER XXII.


From day to day, as Alfred became stronger and less unfit for prolonged
conversation, his kind parent had detailed to him all the interesting
particulars attendant on the illness and recovery of our heroine.

Her deep swoon had not, either at the first or second time of seizure,
been a mere common faint; but had, on both occasions, more especially
the last, partaken of the nature of those trances in which persons have
been known to present for days so completely the appearance of death, as
to have been carried by grieving relations to the grave; yet to have
subsequently recovered, and lived for many years. Whether a more skilful
doctor might, in Caroline's case, have detected the difference, we
cannot pretend to say.

Soon after Alfred had been led away from what he then believed to be the
chamber of death, the doctor had also taken his departure. When,
however, he returned at an early hour in the morning, to give some
necessary orders preparatory to the funeral, he was, to his great
surprise, met on the steps by a messenger, who was just coming out to
inform him that the patient had exhibited signs of returning life.

He entered the sick chamber, administered restoratives, &c., &c., and in
a short time had the satisfaction of seeing Caroline open her eyes
while, instead of closing them again almost instantly, as on former
occasions, she now, though too feeble to move her head on the pillow,
looked all round the apartment with evident anxiety, then fixed her gaze
on the door, as if watching for some expected sight or sound.

It was to announce the pleasing intelligence of the revival of his
patient, that the doctor entered Alfred's apartment at the critical
juncture described.

His communications ultimately led to Lady Arden giving to Caroline every
moment and every thought she could spare from Alfred. While the kind
attentions of such a friend, with the explanations which of course
followed, supplied at once the soothings of considerate regard and the
motive to live; and thus, with the assistance of some rational medical
adviser, called in by Lady Arden, wrought a recovery which, to those
unacquainted with the particulars, seemed almost miraculous.

But though Caroline, from the time of the first seisure caused by the
communication of the fatal intelligence, up to that of the second,
occasioned by the unexpected apparition of Alfred, had lain in a state
supposed to border on insensibility; her actual state, during the period
alluded to, had been rather that passive of despair, characteristic of a
being so gentle by nature, so friendless by circumstances, that her
mind, overwhelmed and unsupported, was incapable of an effort, and had
sought a sort of refuge from the agony of carrying its burden of
wretchedness through the ordinary round of life in this total inaction,
this entire quiessence, this living death, while awaiting that actual
dissolution, which, though she had not the wilfulness nor the wickedness
to accelerate, she hoped would soon arrive. She spoke not, wept not, and
the light of day being oppressive to her broken spirit, opened not her
eyes, except when some sudden or startling sound caused the instinctive
movement. At such times they met no object to awaken kindly
associations, or call the affections back to life; the faces they beheld
around were those of strangers, the very nurses and servants in
attendance having been hired for this occasion, Lady Palliser having
taken with her those she had brought from England. Poor Caroline's eyes,
therefore, languidly closed again without noticing any object.

The general impression on the minds of the persons by whom Caroline was
surrounded was, that the shock her mind had received was occasioned by
the intelligence that the gentleman to whom she was engaged to be
married had been murdered. The subsequent accounts, therefore, of the
escape of the murderer, it never accrued to them that it could be any
consolation to her to be informed of. On the contrary, they would have
judged it highly imprudent to have forced any circumstances connected
with the fatal subject on her consideration. Had there been an
affectionate or intimate friend in attendance they might have better
understood the feelings of the sufferer. But none such was near. Poor
Caroline, therefore, up to the moment that the suddenly-elevated voice
of Alfred caused her to open her eyes, and beheld him standing beside
her couch, remained under the frightful impression (though in her own
heart confident of his innocence), that he had suffered an ignominious
death for the murder of his brother.

From total want of energy she sometimes waved from her, and, at other
times took no notice of, any food presented to her; but being too meekly
submissive in her nature, for the wilful resolve of committing suicide
by abstinence, she did not offer any resistance to the efforts of the
nurses to preserve life by administering, from time to time, a spoonful
of liquid-jelly, whey, or gruel.

Between mental suffering, therefore, and want of proper sustenance, her
physical strength was thus, from day to day, gradually giving way. As
for our friend the doctor, he was in too great request to run in and run
out again; had making discoveries, therefore, been his fort, which it
was not, he could not have spared the time: so that poor Caroline, but
for Alfred's visit to Geneva, might have faded away from apparent into
real death, ere any chance had conveyed to her the escape, and finally
the acquittal of our hero.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Alfred's recovery after this period was rapid, which enabled Lady Arden
to remove shortly to a beautiful villa, situated on the borders of the
lake, amid the romantic enchantments of the Pays de Vaud; and
commanding, on the opposite banks, the bold and majestic scenery of the
Savoy mountains, with their snow-clad tops and stupendous cliffs,
thousands of perpendicular feet in height.

It was in this spot, itself an earthly paradise, that our gentle heroine
enjoyed the first really happy days she had ever known. No longer the
solitary unloved object of her mother's capricious tyranny, she seemed
to be already one of the kind and united family, in the bosom of which
she had thus found a shelter,--already to form the very centre of a
little circle of affectionate friends. For though, in the exciting
moment of necessity, poor Caroline had been able to render some
assistance to others, at least had been willing to think so, she was not
yet strong herself; so that, as Alfred got quite well, she became the
especial object of the care and indulgence of all. The attentions, the
anxieties, the precautions for her health and comfort, of not only Lady
Arden, but also of kind Mrs. Dorethea, were truly parental; while
Madeline's companionship supplied to her that dear, familiar tie, she
had never known before--that of a sister: and Alfred was brother, lover,
friend--all in one. In every ramble his arm was her support; in every
excursion, he it was who led the mule, or shared the seat, whatever
vehicle she occupied afforded; and sweet was the murmur of the
waterfall, the music of his voice commended; and beautiful the beauty in
the landscape, towards which a beam from his eye led the responsive
light of hers.

Sometimes, on calm and lovely evenings, our little party would indulge
in the quiet luxury of taking their seats in a pleasure boat, which
formed a part of their present establishment; and sailing about for
hours on the smooth and shining surface of the lake; while the
stupendous mountains that rose around, like insuperable barriers against
the world without, and the cloudless sky that canopied the whole, gave
to feelings which were, in fact, those of the highest excitement,
induced by the late relief from wretchedness, a sense of repose, a
semblance of stability, calculated to add to present enjoyment the too
flattering belief, that it could last for ever.

Among scenes such as these, many happy months glided away; yet such was
the delicate respect and mournful tenderness with which poor Willoughby
was remembered, by both Alfred and Caroline, that the mention of love,
in express terms, seemed to be, as by mutual consent, delayed. Alfred,
indeed, would sometimes use, in speaking of futurity, the _we_--that
promissory note of affianced love--and feel an indescribable thrill of
delight in marking the conscious blush which his inadvertence was sure
to excite on Caroline's fair cheek. Nor was the tender, the endearing
thought, ever for a moment absent from his mind, that it was her secret
attachment to him, the belief of his accusation, his terrible death,
which had brought her, in the early morning of her days, to the dark
portal of the tomb.

It was in moments of perfect calm, such as we have been describing, when
either sailing on the smooth lake, or strolling with Mrs. Dorothea along
its lovely margin, while the young people were occupied with each other,
that Lady Arden would shudder involuntarily, when in imagination she
contemplated, as from an immeasurable height, the frightful abyss of
wretchedness into which she had been plunged so lately; and the horrors
of which, from their stunning effect at the time, already seemed shadowy
and indistinct, like the remembrance of some terrific dream!

"Yet such things have been," she would say, turning suddenly to Mrs.
Dorothea, "and here I am, still in being! Would it not appear, that when
the causes of suffering become extreme, confusion of spirit is sent in
mercy to the succour of mortal weakness; as though such agony, as the
soul can conceive when in full possession of its powers, were reserved
to be the awful portion of the impenitent sinner after judgment! In our
present state we know nothing perfectly--not even misery!"



CHAPTER XXIV.


We have hitherto neglected to mention, that in the correspondence held
with Lady Palliser, her ladyship's consent to the future union of her
daughter with our hero was duly sought and obtained.

Indeed Lady Palliser considered, that Caroline's name had been so
provokingly mixed up with that horrible business, as she always
designated the late afflictions of the Arden family, that marrying her
to the remaining brother was now absolutely indispensable, as well as
one which would prove an excellent practical explanation of the whole
affair, and save her the trouble of saying an immensity about it, beside
the risk of being neither understood nor believed. Now, too, that the
title and estates were Alfred's, she had no very particular objection to
him: that is to say, he was just as good now as his brother had
been--though neither were matches such as Caroline might have expected,
had she not made an egregious fool of herself. As to her ladyship's
silly anger with our hero, for daring to admire her daughter more than
herself, it had long since been forgotten amid myriads of more brilliant
conquests.

Previously, however, to the return to England of our travelling party,
Lady Palliser died after a very short illness, having taken cold at some
royal fête, which, when already far from well, she had imprudently
quitted her bed to attend.

This new mourning made it nearly two years after the death of poor
Willoughby before the marriage of Caroline and Alfred was celebrated:
that of Madeline with Mr. Cameron, who through all the troubles of the
family had been faithful, took place as soon as the mourning for her
brother was over.

Prior, however, to these events, and prior also to the return from
abroad of the Arden family, Miss Fips, all her flyers and streamers of
black crape, nay, her very parasol black, reappeared upon the stage,
calling herself Mrs. Arden, and declaring that she had been privately
married to the late Geoffery Arden; of which alleged fact, however, she
failed to produce any satisfactory proof, save and except a son and
heir, on whose behalf she claimed whatever property was left by the
deceased.

This impudent and dishonest attempt of Miss Fips's not only failed in
its object, but produced an effect as little expected as desired, either
by herself or her father; eventually proving the cause of bringing to
light circumstances and letters, sufficient to induce a strict
examination into the nature of the services rendered by Mr. Fips to
Geoffery Arden. While in the course of the investigation thus brought
about, it was clearly proved, that the said Mr. Fips had been one of the
parties engaged in a foul and nefarious conspiracy against the life and
property of Sir Alfred Arden.

When Fips saw how the matter was likely to end, he, by way of precaution
against the heavy fine which constitutes a part of the punishment for
conspiracy, made over, by a fraudulent, antedated settlement, his whole
property to his daughter, with a secret understanding, that she was not
to avail herself of the gift during his life. On the expiration of his
period of imprisonment, however, he found that Miss Fips had possessed
herself of every shilling, married, and gone abroad. He was now to make
his election between begging and going on the parish; for since his late
misfortunes, the infirmities of age--a broken constitution, failing
sight, and a trembling hand--had increased so rapidly upon him, that, to
say nothing of want of character, he could not get employment even as a
copying-clerk in any office. Of the two remaining alternatives, then, he
was less ashamed to beg among strangers than to claim his right of
parish at Arden, where he well knew the deserved abhorrence in which he
was held. Thither, however, in the character of a vagrant, he was
finally passed, without his own consent; and in the workhouse of Arden
parish he died by his own hand, having been driven at last to cut his
throat, in a paroxysm of despair and ineffectual rage, brought on by the
ceaseless revilings, reproaches, and scoffings of his companions; many
of whom, but too justly, laid their ruin at the door of his dishonesty
and ruthless oppression.

Caroline and Alfred, after the cloudy morning of their life cleared up,
enjoyed sunshine to its close. But this we need have scarcely mentioned;
for all the ladies will say, "Who could avoid being happy with Alfred?"
while the gentlemen will, no doubt, be disposed to pay a similar
compliment to Caroline.

Lady Darlingford made an excellent, respectable, and respectful wife.
The first season she appeared in London after her marriage, Lord
Nelthorpe, her early lover, who by this time was separated from his
lady, had the presumption to offer her some insidious compliments,
indicative of continued admiration. They, however, as well as himself,
were received with the scorn they merited.

Louisa and Henry Lyndsey soon began to experience the inconveniences of
poverty; yet, when both happened to be in good humour, they could still
think love better than riches. When, however, any thing ruffled the
temper of either--and where there are difficulties (unless people are
angels, or very good Christians), this will too often be the
case--Louisa would think of, at least, if not regret, the sacrifices she
had made; and Henry would recollect, with indignant resentment, that
Louisa would, in all probability, have jilted him, but for the decided
step he had taken.

These sentiments, after being at first only thought, might at last have
been expressed; and so led, in time, to recrimination, and much
unhappiness. Fortunately, however, an opportune act of liberality on the
part of Alfred, by placing them in easy circumstances, before their
dispositions became soured, prevented so miserable a result.

Madeline, it might be thought, had at least secured wealth. But in the
course of years, she became a widow; and having in early life married an
old man for his money, when no longer young herself, she married a young
one for love, who married her for her money, he being one of the unhappy
younger brother species, and therefore without a shilling of his own.
Having also a taste for extravagance, acquired in childhood under the
parental roof, and, moreover, a fashionable passion for gambling, he
soon contrived to run through her splendid settlement, and at length
found a dwelling for himself within the rules of the King's Bench.

Aunt Dorothea, who, though getting very old (somewhere about eighty-five
or eighty-six), was still living at home, gave her favourite niece a
home at Rosefield Cottage, which finally she willed to her with what
little property else she possessed; but secured all in the hands of
trustees, to preserve it from the extravagant husband.

Mr. Salter senior died, and Mr. Salter junior married; on which the
Misses Salter found themselves constrained, by their limited
circumstances, to betake themselves to a small lodging, where, if we may
be excused the twofold contradiction in terms, they lived _together_ in
_single blessedness_ the remainder of their days, as _miserable_ as bad
tempers, aggravated by discomfort and disappointment, could make them.
They seemed to have but one object in life, which was mutually to thwart
each other, and as they could afford but one sleeping apartment (the
single dressing-glass of which, by-the-by, was a constant bone of
contention), and one sitting-room, each of the smallest possible
dimensions--they had neither means nor opportunity of flying from each
other's ill-humour. The one, too, had a pet dog, while the other
espoused the cause of the cat of the lodging-house; so that these
respective representatives not only furnished a never-failing subject of
quarrel, but whenever there happened to be a moment of truce between
their principals, supplied themselves an underplot in excellent keeping
with the leading drama. For, invariably on making their first appearance
on their own peculiar stage, the rug before the fire, they saluted each
other with a snarl, and a snap, a spit, and a claw in the face; after
which, to do them justice, they did not keep _at it, at it_, like
their betters, but lay down quietly, and went to sleep; puss in general
persisting, notwithstanding a remonstrance or so from pug, on picking
her steps in among his feet, and laying her back on his warm bosom; thus
wisely making herself as comfortable as circumstances would permit.

Why is man called, by way of distinction, _a rational animal_? Man, who,
of all creatures in creation knows the least how to be happy, while
happiness is the end and aim of all.

    Oh, happiness! our being's end and aim!
    Good, pleasure, ease, content, whate'er thy name:
    That something still which prompts th' eternal sigh,
    For which we bear to live, or dare to die;

           *       *       *       *       *

    Plant of celestial seed! if dropp'd below,
    Say in what mortal soil thou deign'st to grow?

           *       *       *       *       *

    Fix'd to no spot is happiness sincere;
    'Tis no where to be found, or every where.

Why, then, is happiness so rare? Because ere it can be possessed, every
virtue must be ours and we must be wise withal, gentle, patient, lowly,
meek; nor at the idle suggestions of vanity, immolate life's realities
on the imaginary altars of _Pride_.

    Know then this truth, enough for man to know,
    Virtue, alone, is happiness below.


THE END.





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