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Title: Lucretia — Volume 03
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
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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 "Lucretia — Volume 03" ***

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CHAPTER VIII.

THE DISCOVERY.

Dalibard had undertaken to get Lucretia from the house,--in fact, her
approaching marriage rendered necessary a communication with Mr.
Parchmount, as executor to her uncle's will, relative to the transfer of
her portion; and she had asked Dalibard to accompany her thither; for her
pride shrank from receiving the lawyer in the shabby parlour of the
shabby lodging-house; she therefore, that evening, fixed the next day,
before noon, for the visit.  A carriage was hired for the occasion, and
when it drove off, Mr. Fielden took his children a walk to Primrose Hill,
and called, as was agreed, on Mainwaring by the way.

The carriage had scarcely rattled fifty yards through the street when
Dalibard fixed his eyes with deep and solemn commiseration on Lucretia.
Hitherto, with masterly art, he had kept aloof from direct explanations
with his pupil; he knew that she would distrust no one like himself.  The
plot was now ripened, and it was time for the main agent to conduct the
catastrophe.  The look was so expressive that Lucretia felt a chill at
her heart, and could not, help exclaiming, "What has happened?  You have
some terrible tidings to communicate!"

"I have indeed to say that which may, perhaps, cause you to hate me
forever; as we hate those who report our afflictions.  I must endure
this; I have struggled long between my indignation and my compassion.
Rouse up your strong mind, and hear me.  Mainwaring loves your sister!"

Lucretia uttered a cry that seemed scarcely to come from a human voice,--

"No, no!" she gasped out; "do not tell me.  I will hear no more; I will
not believe you!"

With an inexpressible pity and softness in his tone, this man, whose
career had given him such profound experience in the frailties of the
human heart, continued: "I do not ask you to believe me, Lucretia; I
would not now speak, if you had not the opportunity to convince yourself.
Even those with whom you live are false to you; at this moment they have
arranged all, for Mainwaring to steal, in your absence, to your sister.
In a few moments more he will be with her; if you yourself would learn
what passes between them, you have the power."

"I have--I have not--not--the courage; drive on--faster--faster."

Dalibard again was foiled.  In this strange cowardice there was something
so terrible, yet so touching, that it became sublime,--it was the grasp
of a drowning soul at the last plank.

"You are right perhaps," he said, after a pause; and wisely forbearing
all taunt and resistance, he left the heart to its own workings.

Suddenly, Lucretia caught at the check-string.  "Stop," she exclaimed,--
"stop!  I will not, I cannot, endure this suspense to last through a
life!  I will learn the worst. Bid him drive back."

"We must descend and walk; you forget we must enter unsuspected;" and
Dalibard, as the carriage stopped, opened the door and let down the
steps.

Lucretia recoiled, then pressing one hand to her heart, she descended,
without touching the arm held out to her.  Dalibard bade the coachman
wait, and they walked back to the house.

"Yes, he may see her," exclaimed Lucretia, her face brightening.  "Ah,
there you have not deceived me; I see your stratagem,--I despise it; I
know she loves him; she has sought this interview.  He is so mild and
gentle, so fearful to give pain; he has consented, from pity,--that is
all.  Is he not pledged to me?  He, so candid, so ingenuous!  There must
be truth somewhere in the world.  If he is false, where find truth?  Dark
man, must I look for it in you,-- you?"

"It is not my truth I require you to test; I pretend not to truth
universal; I can be true to one, as you may yet discover.  But I own your
belief is not impossible; my interest in you may have made me rash and
unjust,--what you may overhear, far from destroying, may confirm forever
your happiness.  Would that it may be so!"

"It must be so," returned Lucretia, with a fearful gloom on her brow and
in her accent; "I will interpret every word to my own salvation."

Dalibard's countenance changed, despite his usual control over it.  He
had set all his chances upon this cast, and it was more hazardous than he
had deemed.  He had counted too much upon the jealousy of common natures.
After all, how little to the ear of one resolved to deceive herself might
pass between these two young persons, meeting not to avow attachment, but
to take courage from each other!  What restraint might they impose on
their feelings!  Still, the game must be played out.

As they now neared the house, Dalibard looked carefully round, lest they
should encounter Mainwaring on his way to it.  He had counted on arriving
before the young man could get there.

"But," said Lucretia, breaking silence, with an ironical smile,--"but--
for your tender anxiety for me has, no doubt, provided all means and
contrivance, all necessary aids to baseness and eavesdropping, that can
assure my happiness--how am I to be present at this interview?"

"I have provided, as you say," answered Dalibard, in the tone of a man
deeply hurt, "those means which I, who have found the world one foe and
one traitor, deemed the best to distinguish falsehood from truth.  I have
arranged that we shall enter the house unsuspected.  Mainwaring and your
sister will be in the drawing-room; the room next to it will be vacant,
as Mr. Fielden is from home: there is but a glass-door between the two
chambers."

"Enough, enough!" and Lucretia turned round and placed her hand lightly
on the Provencal's arm.  "The next hour will decide whether the means you
suggest to learn truth and defend safety will be familiar or loathsome to
me for life,--will decide whether trust is a madness; whether you, my
youth's teacher, are the wisest of men, or only the most dangerous."

"Believe me, or not, when I say I would rather the decision should
condemn me; for I, too, have need of confidence in men."

Nothing further was said; the dull street was quiet and desolate as
usual.  Dalibard had taken with him the key of the house-door.  The door
opened noiselessly; they were in the house.  Mainwaring's cloak was in
the hall; he had arrived a few moments before them.  Dalibard pointed
silently to that evidence in favour of his tale.  Lucretia bowed her
head.  but with a look that implied defiance; and (still without a word)
she ascended the stairs, and entered the room appointed for concealment.
But as she entered, at the farther corner of the chamber she saw Mrs.
Fielden seated,--seated, remote and out of hearing.  The good-natured
woman had yielded to Mainwaring's prayer, and Susan's silent look that
enforced it, to let their interview be unwitnessed.  She did not perceive
Lucretia till the last walked glidingly, but firmly, up to her, placed a
burning hand on her lips, and whispered: "Hush, betray me not; my
happiness for life--Susan's--his--are at stake; I must hear what passes:
it is my fate that is deciding.  Hush!  I command; for I have the right."

Mrs. Fielden was awed and startled; and before she could recover even
breath, Lucretia had quitted her side and taken her post at the fatal
door.  She lifted the corner of the curtain from the glass panel, and
looked in.

Mainwaring was seated at a little distance from Susan, whose face was
turned from her.  Mainwaring's countenance was in full view.  But it was
Susan's voice that met her ear; and though sweet and low, it was
distinct, and even firm.  It was evident from the words that the
conference had but just begun.

"Indeed, Mr. Mainwaring, you have nothing to explain, nothing of which to
accuse yourself.  It was not for this, believe me,"--and here Susan
turned her face, and its aspect of heavenly innocence met the dry, lurid
eye of the unseen witness,--"not for this, believe me, that I consented
to see you.  If I did so, it was only because I thought, because I feared
from your manner, when we met at times, still more from your evident
avoidance to meet me at all, that you were unhappy (for I know you kind
and honest),--unhappy at the thought that you had wounded me, and my
heart could not bear that, nor, perhaps, my pride either.  That you
should have forgotten me--"

"Forgotten you!"

"That you should have been captivated," continued Susan, in a more
hurried tone, "by one so superior to me in all things as Lucretia, is
very natural.  I thought, then--thought only--that nothing could cloud
your happiness but some reproach of a conscience too sensitive.  For this
I have met you,--met you without a thought which Lucretia would have a
right to blame, could she read my heart; met you," and the voice for the
first time faltered, "that I might say, 'Be at peace; it is your sister
that addresses you.  Requite Lucretia's love,--it is deep and strong;
give her, as she gives to you, a whole heart; and in your happiness I,
your sister--sister to both--I shall be blest.'"  With a smile
inexpressibly touching and ingenuous, she held out her hand as she
ceased.  Mainwaring sprang forward, and despite her struggle, pressed it
to his lips, his heart.

"Oh," he exclaimed, in broken accents, which gradually became more clear
and loud, "what--what have I lost!--lost forever!  No, no, I will be
worthy of you!  I do not, I dare not, say that I love you still!  I feel
what I owe to Lucretia.  How I became first ensnared, infatuated; how,
with your image graven so deeply here--"

"Mainwaring--Mr. Mainwaring--I must not hear you.  Is this your promise?"

"Yes, you must hear me yet.  How I became engaged to your sister,--so
different indeed from you,--I start in amaze and bewilderment when I seek
to conjecture.  But so it was.  For me she has forfeited fortune, rank,
all which that proud, stern heart so prized and coveted.  Heaven is my
witness how I have struggled to repay her affection with my own!  If I
cannot succeed, at least all that faith and gratitude can give are hers.
Yes, when I leave you, comforted by your forgiveness, your prayers, I
shall have strength to tear you from my heart; it is my duty, my fate.
With a firm step I will go to these abhorred nuptials.  Oh, shudder not,
turn not away.  Forgive the word; but I must speak,--my heart will out;
yes, abhorred nuptials!  Between my grave and the altar, would--would
that I had a choice!"

From this burst, which in vain from time to time Susan had sought to
check, Mainwaring was startled by an apparition which froze his veins, as
a ghost from the grave.  The door was thrown open, and Lucretia stood in
the aperture,--stood, gazing on him, face to face; and her own was so
colourless, so rigid, so locked in its livid and awful solemnity of
aspect that it was, indeed, as one risen from the dead.

Dismayed by the abrupt cry and the changed face of her lover, Susan
turned and beheld her sister.  With the impulse of the pierced and loving
heart, which divined all the agony inflicted, she sprang to Lucretia's
side, she fell to the ground and clasped her knees.

"Do not heed, do not believe him; it is but the frenzy of a moment.  He
spoke but to deceive me,--me, who loved him once!  Mine alone, mine is
the crime.  He knows all your worth.  Pity--pity--pity on yourself, on
him, on me!"

Lucretia's eyes fell with the glare of a fiend upon the imploring face
lifted to her own.  Her lips moved, but no sound was audible.  At length
she drew herself from her sister's clasp, and walked steadily up to
Mainwaring.  She surveyed him with a calm and cruel gaze, as if she
enjoyed his shame and terror.  Before, however, she spoke, Mrs. Fielden,
who had watched, as one spellbound, Lucretia's movements, and, without
hearing what had passed, had the full foreboding of what would ensue, but
had not stirred till Lucretia herself terminated the suspense and broke
the charm of her awe,--before she spoke, Mrs. Fielden rushed in, and
giving vent to her agitation in loud sobs, as she threw her arms round
Susan, who was still kneeling on the floor, brought something of
grotesque to the more tragic and fearful character of the scene.

"My uncle was right; there is neither courage nor honour in the low-born!
He, the schemer, too, is right.  All hollow,--all false!" Thus said
Lucretia, with a strange sort of musing accent, at first scornful, at
last only quietly abstracted.  "Rise, sir," she then added, with her most
imperious tone; "do you not hear your Susan weep?  Do you fear in my
presence to console her?  Coward to her, as forsworn to me!  Go, sir, you
are free!"

"Hear me," faltered Mainwaring, attempting to seize her hand; "I do not
ask you to forgive; but--"

"Forgive, sir!" interrupted Lucretia, rearing her head, and with a look
of freezing and unspeakable majesty.  "There is only one person here who
needs a pardon; but her fault is inexpiable: it is the woman who stooped
beneath her--"

With these words, hurled from her with a scorn which crushed while it
galled, she mechanically drew round her form her black mantle; her eye
glanced on the deep mourning of the garment, and her memory recalled all
that love had cost her; but she added no other reproach.  Slowly she
turned away.  Passing Susan, who lay senseless in Mrs. Fielden's arms,
she paused, and kissed her forehead.

"When she recovers, madam," she said to Mrs. Fielden, who was moved and
astonished by this softness, "say that Lucretia Clavering uttered a vow
when she kissed the brow of William Mainwaring's future wife!"

Olivier Dalibard was still seated in the parlour below when Lucretia
entered.  Her face yet retained its almost unearthly rigidity and calm;
but a sort of darkness had come over its ashen pallor,--that shade so
indescribable, which is seen in the human face, after long illness, a day
or two before death.  Dalibard was appalled; for he had too often seen
that hue in the dying not to recognize it now.  His emotion was
sufficiently genuine to give more than usual earnestness to his voice and
gesture, as he poured out every word that spoke sympathy and soothing.
For a long time Lucretia did not seem to hear him; at last her face
softened,--the ice broke.

"Motherless, friendless, lone, alone forever, undone, undone!" she
murmured.  Her head sank upon the shoulder of her fearful counsellor,
unconscious of its resting-place, and she burst into tears,--tears which
perhaps saved her reason or her life.



CHAPTER IX.

A SOUL WITHOUT HOPE.

When Mr. Fielden returned home, Lucretia had quitted the house.  She left
a line for him in her usual bold, clear handwriting, referring him to his
wife for explanation of the reasons that forbade a further residence
beneath his roof.  She had removed to an hotel until she had leisure to
arrange her plans for the future.  In a few months she should be of age;
and in the meanwhile, who now living claimed authority over her?  For the
rest, she added, "I repeat what I told Mr. Mainwaring: all engagement
between us is at an end; he will not insult me either by letter or by
visit.  It is natural that I should at present shrink from seeing Susan
Mivers.  Hereafter, if permitted, I will visit Mrs. Mainwaring."

Though all had chanced as Mr. Fielden had desired (if, as he once half
meditated, he had spoken to Lucretia herself); though a marriage that
could have brought happiness to none, and would have made the misery of
two, was at an end,--he yet felt a bitter pang, almost of remorse, when
be learned what had occurred.  And Lucretia, before secretly disliked (if
any one he could dislike), became dear to him at once, by sorrow and
compassion.  Forgetting every other person, he hurried to the hotel
Lucretia had chosen; but her coldness deceived and her pride repelled
him.  She listened dryly to all he said, and merely replied: "I feel only
gratitude at my escape.  Let this subject now close forever."

Mr. Fielden left her presence with less anxious and commiserating
feelings,--perhaps all had chanced for the best. And on returning home,
his whole mind became absorbed in alarm for Susan.  She was delirious,
and in great danger; it was many weeks before she recovered.  Meanwhile,
Lucretia had removed into private apartments, of which she withheld the
address.  During this time, therefore, they lost sight of her.

If amidst the punishments with which the sombre imagination of poets has
diversified the Realm of the tortured Shadows, it had depicted some soul
condemned to look evermore down into an abyss, all change to its gaze
forbidden, chasm upon chasm yawning deeper and deeper, darker and darker,
endless and infinite, so that, eternally gazing, the soul became, as it
were, a part of the abyss,--such an image would symbol forth the state of
Lucretia's mind.

It was not the mere desolation of one whom love has abandoned and
betrayed.  In the abyss were mingled inextricably together the gloom of
the past and of the future,--there, the broken fortunes, the crushed
ambition, the ruin of the worldly expectations long inseparable from her
schemes; and amidst them, the angry shade of the more than father, whose
heart she had wrung, and whose old age she had speeded to the grave.
These sacrifices to love, while love was left to her, might have haunted
her at moments; but a smile, a word, a glance, banished the regret and
the remorse.  Now, love being razed out of life, the ruins of all else
loomed dismal amidst the darkness; and a voice rose up, whispering: "Lo,
fool, what thou hast lost because thou didst believe and love!"  And this
thought grasped together the two worlds of being,--the what has been, and
the what shall be.  All hope seemed stricken from the future, as a man
strikes from the calculations of his income the returns from a property
irrevocably lost. At her age but few of her sex have parted with
religion; but even such mechanical faith as the lessons of her childhood,
and the constrained conformities with Christian ceremonies, had
instilled, had long since melted away in the hard scholastic scepticism
of her fatal tutor,--a scepticism which had won, with little effort, a
reason delighting in the maze of doubt, and easily narrowed into the
cramped and iron logic of disbelief by an intellect that scorned to
submit where it failed to comprehend.  Nor had faith given place to those
large moral truths from which philosophy has sought to restore the proud
statue of Pagan Virtue as a substitute for the meek symbol of the
Christian cross.  By temperament unsocial, nor readily moved to the
genial and benevolent, that absolute egotism in which Olivier Dalibard
centred his dreary ethics seemed sanctioned to Lucretia by her studies
into the motives of man and the history of the world.  She had read the
chronicles of States and the memoirs of statesmen, and seen how craft
carries on the movements of an age.  Those Viscontis, Castruccios, and
Medici; those Richelieus and Mazarins and De Retzs; those Loyolas and
Mohammeds and Cromwells; those Monks and Godolphins; those Markboroughs
and Walpoles; those founders of history and dynasties and sects; those
leaders and dupers of men, greater or lesser, corrupters or corrupt, all
standing out prominent and renowned from the guiltless and laurelless
obscure,--seemed to win, by the homage of posterity, the rewards that
attend the deceivers of their time.  By a superb arrogance of
generalization, she transferred into private life, and the rule of
commonplace actions, the policy that, to the abasement of honour, has so
often triumphed in the guidance of States.  Therefore, betimes, the whole
frame of society was changed to her eye, from the calm aspect it wears to
those who live united with their kind; she viewed all seemings with
suspicion; and before she had entered the world, prepared to live in it
as a conspirator in a city convulsed, spying and espied, schemed against
and scheming,--here the crown for the crafty, there the axe for the
outwitted.

But her love--for love is trust--had led her half way forth from this
maze of the intellect.  That fair youth of inexperience and candour which
seemed to bloom out in the face of her betrothed; his very shrinking from
the schemes so natural to her that to her they seemed even innocent; his
apparent reliance on mere masculine ability, with the plain aids of
perseverance and honesty,--all had an attraction that plucked her back
from herself.  If she clung to him firmly, blindly, credulously, it was
not as the lover alone.  In the lover she beheld the good angel.  Had he
only died to her, still the angel smile would have survived and warned.
But the man had not died; the angel itself had deceived; the wings could
uphold her no more,--they had touched the mire, and were sullied with the
soil; with the stain, was forfeited the strength.  All was deceit and
hollowness and treachery.  Lone again in the universe rose the eternal I.
So down into the abyss she looked, depth upon depth, and the darkness had
no relief, and the deep had no end.

Olivier Dalibard alone, of all she knew, was admitted to her seclusion.
He played his part as might be expected from the singular patience and
penetration which belonged to the genius of his character.  He forbore
the most distant allusion to his attachment or his hopes.  He evinced
sympathy rather by imitating her silence, than attempts to console.  When
he spoke, he sought to interest her mind more than to heal directly the
deep wounds of her heart.  There is always, to the afflicted, a certain
charm in the depth and bitterness of eloquent misanthropy.  And Dalibard,
who professed not to be a man-hater, but a world-scorner, had powers of
language and of reasoning commensurate with his astute intellect and his
profound research.  His society became not only a relief, it grew almost
a want, to that stern sorrower.  But whether alarmed or not by the
influence she felt him gradually acquiring, or whether, through some
haughty desire to rise once more aloft from the state of her rival and
her lover, she made one sudden effort to grasp at the rank from which she
had been hurled.  The only living person whose connection could re-open
to her the great world, with its splendours and its scope to ambition,
was Charles Vernon.  She scarcely admitted to her own mind the idea that
she would now accept, if offered, the suit she had before despised; she
did not even contemplate the renewal of that suit,--though there was
something in the gallant and disinterested character of Vernon which
should have made her believe he would regard their altered fortunes
rather as a claim on his honour than a release to his engagements.  But
hitherto no communication had passed between them; and this was strange
if he retained the same intentions which he had announced at Laughton.
Putting aside, we say, however, all such considerations, Vernon had
sought her friendship, called her "cousin," enforced the distant
relationship between them.  Not as lover, but as kinsman,--the only
kinsman of her own rank she possessed,--his position in the world, his
connections, his brilliant range of acquaintance, made his counsel for
her future plans, his aid in the re-establishment of her consequence (if
not--as wealthy, still as well-born), and her admission amongst her
equals, of price and value.  It was worth sounding the depth of the
friendship he had offered, even if his love had passed away with the
fortune on which doubtless it had been based.

She took a bold step,--she wrote to Vernon: not even to allude to what
had passed between them; her pride forbade such unwomanly vulgarity.  The
baseness that was in her took at least a more delicate exterior.  She
wrote to him simply and distantly, to state that there were some books
and trifles of hers left at Laughton, which she prized beyond their
trivial value, and to request, as she believed him to be absent from the
Hall, permission to call at her old home, in her way to a visit in a
neighbouring county, and point out to whomsoever he might appoint to meet
her, the effects she deemed herself privileged to claim.  The letter was
one merely of business, but it was a sufficient test of the friendly
feelings of her former suitor.

She sent this letter to Vernon's house in London, and the next day came
the answer.

Vernon, we must own, entirely sympathized with Sir Miles in the solemn
injunctions the old man had bequeathed.  Immediately after the death of
one to whom we owe gratitude and love, all his desires take a sanctity
irresistible and ineffable; we adopt his affection, his dislikes, his
obligations, and his wrongs.  And after he had read the copy of
Lucretia's letter, inclosed to him by Sir Miles, the conquest the poor
baronet had made over resentment and vindictive emotion, the evident
effort at passionless justice with which he had provided becomingly for
his niece, while he cancelled her claims as his heiress, had filled
Vernon with a reverence for his wishes and decisions that silenced all
those inclinations to over-generosity which an unexpected inheritance is
apt to create towards the less fortunate expectants.  Nevertheless,
Lucretia's direct application, her formal appeal to his common courtesy
as host and kinsman, perplexed greatly a man ever accustomed to a certain
chivalry towards the sex; the usual frankness of his disposition
suggested, however, plain dealing as the best escape from his dilemma,
and therefore he answered thus:--

MADAM,--Under other circumstances it would have given me no common
pleasure to place the house that you so long inhabited again at your
disposal; and I feel so painfully the position which my refusal of your
request inflicts upon me, that rather than resort to excuses and
pretexts, which, while conveying an impression of my sincerity, would
seem almost like an insult to yourself, I venture frankly to inform you
that it was the dying wish of my lamented kinsman, in consequence of a
letter which came under his eye, that the welcome you had hitherto
received at Laughton should be withdrawn.  Pardon me, Madam, if I express
myself thus bluntly; it is somewhat necessary to the vindication of my
character in your eyes, both as regards the honour of your request and my
tacit resignation of hopes fervently but too presumptuously entertained.
In this most painful candour, Heaven forbid that I should add wantonly to
your self-reproaches for the fault of youth and inexperience, which I
should be the last person to judge rigidly, and which, had Sir Miles's
life been spared, you would doubtless have amply repaired.  The feelings
which actuated Sir Miles in his latter days might have changed; but the
injunction those feelings prompted I am bound to respect.

For the mere matter of business on which you have done me the honour to
address me, I have only to say that any orders you may give to the
steward, or transmit through any person you may send to the Hall, with
regard to the effects you so naturally desire to claim, shall be
implicitly obeyed.

And believe me, Madam (though I do not presume to add those expressions
which might rather heighten the offence I fear this letter will give
you), that the assurance of your happiness in the choice you have made,
and which now no obstacle can oppose, will considerably--lighten the pain
with which I shall long recall my ungracious reply to your communication.

    I have the honour to be, etc.,             C. VERNON ST. JOHN.

  BROOK STREET, Dec.  28, 18--.

The receipt of such a letter could hardly add to the profounder grief
which preyed in the innermost core of Lucretia's heart; but in repelling
the effort she had made to distract that grief by ambition, it blackened
the sullen despondency with which she regarded the future.  As the insect
in the hollow snare of the ant-lion, she felt that there was no footing
up the sides of the cave into which she had fallen; the sand gave way to
the step.  But despondency in her brought no meekness; the cloud did not
descend in rain; resting over the horizon, its darkness was tinged with
the fires which it fed.  The heart, already so embittered, was stung and
mortified into intolerable shame and wrath.  From the home that should
have been hers, in which, as acknowledged heiress, she had smiled down on
the ruined Vernon, she was banished by him who had supplanted her, as one
worthless and polluted.  Though, from motives of obvious delicacy, Vernon
had not said expressly that he had seen the letter to Mainwaring, the
unfamiliar and formal tone which he assumed indirectly declared it, and
betrayed the impression it had made, in spite of his reserve.  A living
man then was in possession of a secret which justified his disdain, and
that man was master of Laughton!  The suppressed rage which embraced the
lost lover extended darkly over this witness to that baffled and
miserable love.  But what availed rage against either?  Abandoned and
despoiled, she was powerless to avenge.  It was at this time, when her
prospects seemed most dark, her pride was most crushed, and her despair
of the future at its height, that she turned to Dalibard as the only
friend left to her under the sun.  Even the vices she perceived in him
became merits, for they forbade him to despise her.  And now, this man
rose suddenly into another and higher aspect of character.  Of late,
though equally deferential to her, there had been something more lofty in
his mien, more assured on his brow; gleams of a secret satisfaction, even
of a joy, that he appeared anxious to suppress, as ill in harmony with
her causes for dejection, broke out in his looks and words.  At length,
one day, after some preparatory hesitation, he informed her that he was
free to return to France; that even without the peace between England and
France, which (known under the name of the Peace of Amiens) had been just
concluded, he should have crossed the Channel.  The advocacy and interest
of friends whom he had left at Paris had already brought him under the
special notice of the wonderful man who then governed France, and who
sought to unite in its service every description and variety of
intellect.  He should return to France, and then--why, then, the ladder
was on the walls of Fortune and the foot planted on the step!  As he
spoke, confidently and sanguinely, with the verve and assurance of an
able man who sees clear the path to his goal, as he sketched with rapid
precision the nature of his prospects and his hopes, all that subtle
wisdom which had before often seemed but vague and general, took
practical shape and interest, thus applied to the actual circumstances of
men; the spirit of intrigue, which seemed mean when employed on mean
things, swelled into statesmanship and masterly genius to the listener
when she saw it linked with the large objects of masculine ambition.
Insensibly, therefore, her attention became earnest, her mind aroused.
The vision of a field, afar from the scenes of her humiliation and
despair,--a field for energy, stratagem, and contest,--invited her
restless intelligence.  As Dalibard had profoundly calculated, there was
no new channel for her affections,--the source was dried up, and the
parched sands heaped over it; but while the heart lay dormant, the mind
rose sleepless, chafed, and perturbed.  Through the mind, he indirectly
addressed and subtly wooed her.

"Such," he said, as he rose to take leave, "such is the career to which I
could depart with joy if I did not depart alone!"

"Alone!" that word, more than once that day, Lucretia repeated to
herself--"alone!" And what career was left to her?--she, too, alone!

In certain stages of great grief our natures yearn for excitement.  This
has made some men gamblers; it has made even women drunkards,--it had
effect over the serene calm and would-be divinity of the poet-sage.  When
his son dies, Goethe does not mourn, he plunges into the absorption of a
study uncultivated before.  But in the great contest of life, in the
whirlpool of actual affairs, the stricken heart finds all,--the gambling,
the inebriation, and the study.

We pause here.  We have pursued long enough that patient analysis, with
all the food for reflection that it possibly affords, to which we were
insensibly led on by an interest, dark and fascinating, that grew more
and more upon us as we proceeded in our research into the early history
of a person fated to pervert no ordinary powers into no commonplace
guilt.

The charm is concluded, the circle closed round; the self-guided seeker
after knowledge has gained the fiend for the familiar.



CHAPTER X.

THE RECONCILIATION BETWEEN FATHER AND SON.

We pass over an interval of some months.

A painter stood at work at the easel, his human model before him.  He was
employed on a nymph,--the Nymph Galatea.  The subject had been taken
before by Salvator, whose genius found all its elements in the wild
rocks, gnarled, fantastic trees, and gushing waterfalls of the landscape;
in the huge ugliness of Polyphemus the lover; in the grace and suavity
and unconscious abandonment of the nymph, sleeking her tresses dripping
from the bath.  The painter, on a larger canvas (for Salvator's picture,
at least the one we have seen, is among the small sketches of the great
artistic creator of the romantic and grotesque), had transferred the
subject of the master; but he had left subordinate the landscape and the
giant, to concentrate all his art on the person of the nymph.  Middle-
aged was the painter, in truth; but he looked old.  His hair, though
long, was gray and thin; his face was bloated by intemperance; and his
hand trembled much, though, from habit, no trace of the tremor was
visible in his work.

A boy, near at hand, was also employed on the same subject, with a rough
chalk and a bold freedom of touch.  He was sketching his design of a
Galatea and Polyphemus on the wall; for the wall was only whitewashed,
and covered already with the multiform vagaries whether of master or
pupils,--caricatures and demigods, hands and feet, torsos and monsters,
and Venuses.  The rude creations, all mutilated, jarring, and mingled,
gave a cynical, mocking, devil-may-care kind of aspect to the sanctum of
art.  It was like the dissection-room of the anatomist. The boy's sketch
was more in harmony with the walls of the studio than the canvas of the
master.  His nymph, accurately drawn, from the undressed proportions of
the model, down to the waist, terminated in the scales of a fish.  The
forked branches of the trees stretched weird and imp-like as the hands of
skeletons.  Polyphemus, peering over  the rocks, had the leer of a demon;
and in his gross features there was a certain distorted, hideous likeness
of the grave and symmetrical lineaments of Olivier Dalibard.

All around was slovenly, squalid, and poverty-stricken,--rickety, worn-
out, rush-bottom chairs; unsold, unfinished pictures, pell-mell in the
corner, covered with dust; broken casts of plaster; a lay-figure battered
in its basket-work arms, with its doll-like face all smudged and
besmeared.  A pot of porter and a noggin of gin on a stained deal table,
accompanied by two or three broken, smoke-blackened pipes, some tattered
song-books, and old numbers of the "Covent Garden Magazine," betrayed the
tastes of the artist, and accounted for the shaking hand and the bloated
form.  A jovial, disorderly, vagrant dog of a painter was Tom Varney.  A
bachelor, of course; humorous and droll; a boon companion, and a terrible
borrower.  Clever enough in his calling; with pains and some method, he
had easily gained subsistence and established a name; but he had one
trick that soon ruined him in the business part of his profession.  He
took a fourth of his price in advance; and having once clutched the
money, the poor customer might go hang for his picture.  The only things
Tom Varney ever fairly completed were those for which no order had been
given; for in them, somehow or other, his fancy became interested, and on
them he lavished the gusto which he really possessed.  But the subjects
were rarely salable.  Nymphs and deities undraperied have few worshippers
in England amongst the buyers of "furniture pictures."  And, to say
truth, nymph and deity had usually a very equivocal look; and if they
came from the gods, you would swear it was the gods of the galleries of
Drury.  When Tom Varney sold a picture, he lived upon clover till the
money was gone.  But the poorer and less steady alumni of the rising
school, especially those at war with the Academy, from which Varney was
excluded, pitied, despised, yet liked and courted him withal.  In
addition to his good qualities of blithe song-singer, droll story-teller,
and stanch Bacchanalian, Tom Varney was liberally good-natured in
communicating instruction really valuable to those who knew how to avail
themselves of a knowledge he had made almost worthless to himself.  He
was a shrewd, though good-natured critic, had many little secrets of
colouring and composition, which an invitation to supper, or the loan of
ten shillings, was sufficient to bribe from him.  Ragged, out of elbows,
unshaven, and slipshod, he still had his set amongst the gay and the
young,--a precious master, a profitable set for his nephew, Master Honore
Gabriel!  But the poor rapscallion had a heart larger than many honest,
painstaking men.  As soon as Gabriel had found him out, and entreated
refuge from his fear of his father, the painter clasped him tight in his
great slovenly arms, sold a Venus half-price to buy him a bed and a
washstand, and swore a tremendous oath that the son of his poor
guillotined sister should share the last shilling in his pocket, the last
drop in his can.

Gabriel, fresh from the cheer of Laughton, and spoiled by the prodigal
gifts of Lucretia, had little gratitude for shillings and porter.
Nevertheless, he condescended to take what he could get, while he sighed,
from the depths of a heart in which cupidity and vanity had become the
predominant rulers, for a destiny more worthy his genius, and more in
keeping with the sphere from which he had descended.

The boy finished his sketch, with an impudent wink at the model, flung
himself back on his chair, folded his arms, cast a discontented glance at
the whitened seams of the sleeves, and soon seemed lost in his own
reflections.  The painter worked on in silence.  The model, whom
Gabriel's wink had aroused, half-flattered, half-indignant for a moment,
lapsed into a doze.  Outside the window, you heard the song of a canary,-
-a dingy, smoke-coloured canary that seemed shedding its plumes, for they
were as ragged as the garments of its master; still, it contrived to
sing, trill-trill-trill-trill-trill, as blithely as if free in its native
woods, or pampered by fair hands in a gilded cage.  The bird was the only
true artist there, it sang as the poet sings,--to obey its nature and
vent its heart.  Trill-trill-trillela-la-la-trill-trill, went the song,--
louder, gayer than usual; for there was a gleam of April sunshine
struggling over the rooftops.  The song at length roused up Gabriel; he
turned his chair round, laid his head on one side, listened, and looked
curiously at the bird.

At length an idea seemed to cross him; he rose, opened the window, drew
in the cage, placed it on the chair, then took up one of his uncle's
pipes, walked to the fireplace, and thrust the shank of the pipe into the
bars.  When it was red-hot he took it out by the bowl, having first
protected his hand from the heat by wrapping round it his handkerchief;
this done, he returned to the cage.  His movements had wakened up the
dozing model.  She eyed them at first with dull curiosity, then with
lively suspicion; and presently starting up with an exclamation such as
no novelist but Fielding dare put into the mouth of a female,--much less
a nymph of such renown as Galatea,--she sprang across the room, wellnigh
upsetting easel and painter, and fastened firm hold on Gabriel's
shoulders.

"The varment!" she cried vehemently; "the good-for-nothing varment!  If
it had been a jay, or a nasty raven, well and good; but a poor little
canary!"

"Hoity-toity! what are you about, nephew?  What's the matter?" said Tom
Varney, coming up to the strife.  And, indeed, it was time; for Gabriel's
teeth were set in his catlike jaws, and the glowing point of the pipe-
shank was within an inch of the cheek of the model.

"What's the matter?" replied Gabriel, suddenly; "why, I was only going to
try a little experiment."

"An experiment?  Not on my canary, poor dear little thing!  The hours and
hours that creature has strained its throat to say 'Sing and be merry,'
when I had not a rap in my pocket!  It would have made a stone feel to
hear it."

"But I think I can make it sing much better than ever,--only just let me
try!  They say that if you put out the eyes of a canary, it--"

Gabriel was not allowed to conclude his sentence; for here rose that
clamour of horror and indignation from both painter and model which
usually greets the announcement of every philosophical discovery,--at
least, when about to be practically applied; and in the midst of the
hubbub, the poor little canary, who had been fluttering about the cage to
escape the hand of the benevolent operator, set up no longer the cheerful
trill-trillela-la-trill, but a scared and heart-breaking chirp,--a
shrill, terrified twit-twit-twitter-twit.

"Damn the bird!  Hold your tongues!" cried Gabriel Varney, reluctantly
giving way, but still eying the bird with the scientific regret with
which the illustrious Majendie might contemplate a dog which some brute
of a master refused to disembowel for the good of the colics of mankind.

The model seized on the cage, shut the door of the wires, and carried it
off.  Tom Varney drained the rest of his porter, and wiped his forehead
with the sleeve of his coat.

"And to use my pipe for such cruelty!  Boy, boy, I could not have
believed it!  But you were not in earnest; oh, no, impossible!  Sukey, my
love--Galatea the divine--calm thy breast; Cupid did but jest.

    'Cupid is the God of Laughter,
     Quip and jest and joke, sir.'"

"If you don't whip the little wretch within an inch of his life, he'll
have a gallows end on't," replied Galatea.

"Go, Cupid, go and kiss Galatea, and make your peace.

    `Oh, leave a kiss within the cup,
     And I'll not ask for wine.'

And 't is no use asking for wine, or for gin either,--not a drop in the
noggin!"

All this while Gabriel, disdaining the recommendations held forth to him,
was employed in brushing his jacket with a very mangy-looking brush; and
when he had completed that operation he approached his uncle, and coolly
thrust his hands into that gentleman's waistcoat-pockets.

"Uncle, what have you done with those seven shillings?  I am going out to
spend the day."

"If you give them to him, Tom, I'll scratch your eyes out," cried the
model; "and then we'll see how you'll sing.  Whip him, I say, whip him!"

But, strange to say, this liberty of the boy quite reopened the heart of
his uncle,--it was a pleasure to him, who put his hands so habitually
into other people's pockets, to be invested with the novel grandeur of
the man sponged upon.  "That's right, Cupid, son of Cytherea; all's
common property amongst friends.  Seven shillings, I have 'em not.  'They
now are five who once were seven;' but such as they are, we'll share.

    'Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
     Or both divide the crown.'"

"Crowns bear no division, my uncle," said Gabriel, dryly; and he pocketed
the five shillings.  Then, having first secured his escape by gaining the
threshold, he suddenly seized one of the rickety chairs by its leg, and
regardless of the gallantries due to the sex, sent it right against the
model, who was shaking her fist at him.  A scream and a fall and a sharp
twit from the cage, which was hurled nearly into the fireplace, told that
the missive had taken effect.  Gabriel did not wait for the probable
reaction; he was in the streets in an instant.  "This won't do," he
muttered to himself; "there is no getting on here.  Foolish drunken
vagabond! no good to be got from him.  My father is terrible, but he will
make his way in the world.  Umph! if I were but his match,--and why not?
I am brave, and he is not.  There's fun, too, in danger."

Thus musing, he took his way to Dalibard's lodgings.  His father was at
home.  Now, though they were but lodgings, and the street not in fashion,
Olivier Dalibard's apartments had an air of refinement, and even
elegance, that contrasted both the wretched squalor of the abode Gabriel
had just left and the meanness of Dalibard's former quarters in London,
The change seemed to imply that the Provencal had already made some way
in the world.  And, truth to say, at all times, even in the lowest ebb of
his fortunes, there was that indescribable neatness and formality of
precision about all the exterior seemings of the ci-devant friend of the
prim Robespierre which belong to those in whom order and method are
strongly developed,--qualities which give even to neediness a certain
dignity.  As the room and its owner met the eye of Gabriel, on whose
senses all externals had considerable influence, the ungrateful young
ruffian recalled the kind, tattered, slovenly uncle, whose purse he had
just emptied, without one feeling milder than disgust. Olivier Dalibard,
always careful, if simple, in his dress, with his brow of grave
intellectual power, and his mien imposing, not only from its calm, but
from that nameless refinement which rarely fails to give to the student
the air of a gentleman,--Olivier Dalibard he might dread, he might even
detest; but he was not ashamed of him.

"I said I would visit you, sir, if you would permit me," said Gabriel, in
a tone of respect, not unmingled with some defiance, as if in doubt of
his reception.

The father's slow full eye, so different from the sidelong, furtive
glance of Lucretia, turned on the son, as if to penetrate his very heart.

"You look pale and haggard, child; you are fast losing your health and
beauty.  Good gifts these, not to be wasted before they can be duly
employed.  But you have taken your choice.  Be an artist,--copy Tom
Varney, and prosper."  Gabriel remained silent, with his eyes on the
floor.

"You come in time for my farewell," resumed Dalibard.  "It is a comfort,
at least, that I leave your youth so honourably protected.  I am about to
return to my country; my career is once more before me!"

"Your country,--to Paris?"

"There are fine pictures in the Louvre,--a good place to inspire an
artist!"

"You go alone, Father!"

"You forget, young gentleman, you disown me as father!  Go alone!  I
thought I told you in the times of our confidence, that I should marry
Lucretia Clavering.  I rarely fail in my plans.  She has lost Laughton,
it is true; but 10,000 pounds will make a fair commencement to fortune,
even at Paris.  Well, what do you want with me, worthy godson of Honore
Gabriel Mirabeau?"

"Sir, if you will let me, I will go with you."

Dalibard shaded his brow with his hand, and reflected on the filial
proposal.  On the one hand, it might be convenient, and would certainly
be economical, to rid himself evermore of the mutinous son who had
already thrown off his authority; on the other hand, there was much in
Gabriel, mutinous and even menacing as he had lately become, that
promised an unscrupulous tool or a sharp-witted accomplice, with
interests that every year the ready youth would more and more discover
were bound up in his plotting father's.  This last consideration, joined,
if not to affection, still to habit,--to the link between blood and
blood, which even the hardest find it difficult to sever,--prevailed.  He
extended his pale hand to Gabriel, and said gently,--

"I will take you, if we rightly understand each other.  Once again in my
power, I might constrain you to my will, it is true.  But I rather confer
with you as man to man than as man to boy."

"It is the best way," said Gabriel, firmly.

"I will use no harshness, inflict no punishment,--unless, indeed, amply
merited by stubborn disobedience or wilful deceit.  But if I meet with
these, better rot on a dunghill than come with me!  I ask implicit
confidence in all my suggestions, prompt submission to all my requests.
Grant me but these, and I promise to consult your fortune as my own, to
gratify your tastes as far as my means will allow, to grudge not your
pleasures, and when the age for ambition comes, to aid your rise if I
rise myself,--nay, if well contented with you, to remove the blot from
your birth, by acknowledging and adopting you formally as my son."

"Agreed! and I thank you," said Gabriel.  "And Lucretia is going?  Oh, I
so long to see her!"

"See her--not yet; but next week."

"Do not fear that I should let out about the letter.  I should betray
myself if I did," said the boy, bluntly betraying his guess at his
father's delay.

The evil scholar smiled.

"You will do well to keep it secret for your own sake; for mine, I should
not fear.  Gabriel, go back now to your master,--you do right, like the
rats, to run from the falling house.  Next week I will send for you,
Gabriel!"

Not, however, back to the studio went the boy.  He sauntered leisurely
through the gayest streets, eyed the shops and the equipages, the fair
women and the well-dressed men,--eyed with envy and longings and visions
of pomps and vanities to come; then, when the day began to close, he
sought out a young painter, the wildest and maddest of the crew to whom
his uncle had presented their future comrade and rival, and went with
this youth, at half-price, to the theatre, not to gaze on the actors or
study the play, but to stroll in the saloon.  A supper in the Finish
completed the void in his pockets, and concluded his day's rank
experience of life.  By the gray dawn he stole back to his bed, and as he
laid himself down, he thought with avid pleasure of Paris, its gay
gardens and brilliant shops and crowded streets; he thought, too, of his
father's calm confidence of success, of the triumph that already had
attended his wiles,--a confidence and a triumph which, exciting his
reverence and rousing his emulation, had decided his resolution.  He
thought, too, of Lucretia with something of affection, recalled her
praises and bribes, her frequent mediation with his father, and felt that
they should have need of each other.  Oh, no, he never would tell her of
the snare laid at Guy's Oak,--never, not even if incensed with his
father.  An instinct told him that that offence could never be forgiven,
and that, henceforth, Lucretia's was a destiny bound up in his own.  He
thought, too, of Dalibard's warning and threat.  But with fear itself
came a strange excitement of pleasure,--to grapple, if necessary, he a
mere child, with such a man!  His heart swelled at the thought.  So at
last he fell asleep, and dreamed that he saw his mother's trunkless face
dripping gore and frowning on him,--dreamed that he heard her say: "Goest
thou to the scene of my execution only to fawn upon my murderer?"  Then a
nightmare of horrors, of scaffolds and executioners and grinning mobs and
agonized faces, came on him,--dark, confused, and indistinct.  And he
woke, with his hair standing on end, and beard below, in the rising sun,
the merry song of the poor canary,--trill-lill-lill, trill-trill-lill-
lill-la!  Did he feel glad that his cruel hand had been stayed?



EPILOGUE TO PART THE FIRST.

It is a year since the November day on which Lucretia Clavering quitted
the roof of Mr. Fielden.  And first we must recall the eye of the reader
to the old-fashioned terrace at Laughton,--the jutting porch, the quaint
balustrades, the broad, dark, changeless cedars on the lawn beyond.  The
day is calm, clear, and mild, for November in the country is often a
gentle month.  On that terrace walked Charles Vernon, now known by his
new name of St. John.  Is it the change of name that has so changed the
person?  Can the wand of the Herald's Office have filled up the hollows
of the cheek, and replaced by elastic vigour the listless languor of the
tread?  No; there is another and a better cause for that healthful
change.  Mr. Vernon St. John is not alone,--a fair companion leans on his
arm.  See, she pauses to press closer to his side, gaze on his face, and
whisper, "We did well to have hope and faith!"

The husband's faith had not been so unshaken as his Mary's, and a slight
blush passed over his cheek as he thought of his concession to Sir
Miles's wishes, and his overtures to Lucretia Clavering.  Still, that
fault had been fairly acknowledged to his wife, and she felt, the moment
she had spoken, that she had committed an indiscretion; nevertheless,
with an arch touch of womanly malice she added softly,--

"And Miss Clavering, you persist in saying, was not really handsome?"

"My love," replied the husband, gravely, "you would oblige me by not
recalling the very painful recollections connected with that name.  Let
it never be mentioned in this house."

Lady Mary bowed her graceful head in submission; she understood Charles's
feelings.  For though he had not shown her Sir Miles's letter and its
enclosure, he had communicated enough to account for the unexpected
heritage, and to lessen his wife's compassion for the disappointed
heiress.  Nevertheless, she comprehended that her husband felt an uneasy
twinge at the idea that he was compelled to act hardly to the one whose
hopes he had supplanted.  Lucretia's banishment from Laughton was a just
humiliation, but it humbled a generous heart to inflict the sentence.
Thus, on all accounts, the remembrance of Lucretia was painful and
unwelcome to the successor of Sir Miles.  There was a silence; Lady Mary
pressed her husband's hand.

"It is strange," said he, giving vent to his thoughts at that tender sign
of sympathy in his feeling,--"strange that, after all, she did not marry
Mainwaring, but fixed her choice on that subtle Frenchman.  But she has
settled abroad now, perhaps for life; a great relief to my mind.  Yes,
let us never recur to her."

"Fortunately," said Lady Mary, with some hesitation, "she does not seem
to have created much interest here.  The poor seldom name her to me, and
our neighbours only with surprise at her marriage.  In another year she
will be forgotten!"

Mr. St. John sighed.  Perhaps he felt how much more easily he had been
forgotten, were he the banished one, Lucretia the possessor!  His light
nature, however, soon escaped from all thoughts and sources of annoyance,
and he listened with complacent attention to Lady Mary's gentle plans for
the poor, and the children's school, and the cottages that ought to be
repaired, and the labourers that ought to be employed.  For though it may
seem singular, Vernon St. John, insensibly influenced by his wife's meek
superiority, and corrected by her pure companionship, had begun to feel
the charm of innocent occupations,--more, perhaps, than if he had been
accustomed to the larger and loftier excitements of life, and missed that
stir of intellect which is the element of those who have warred in the
democracy of letters, or contended for the leadership of States.  He had
begun already to think that the country was no such exile after all.
Naturally benevolent, he had taught himself to share the occupations his
Mary had already found in the busy "luxury of doing good," and to
conceive that brotherhood of charity which usually unites the lord of the
village with its poor.

"I think, what with hunting once a week,--I will not venture more till my
pain in the side is quite gone,--and with the help of some old friends at
Christmas, we can get through the winter very well, Mary."

"Ah, those old friends, I dread them more than the hunting!"

"But we'll have your grave father and your dear, precise, excellent
mother to keep us in order.  And if I sit more than half an hour after
dinner, the old butler shall pull me out by the ears.  Mary, what do you
say to thinning the grove yonder?  We shall get a better view of the
landscape beyond.  No, hang it! dear old Sir Miles loved his trees better
than the prospect; I won't lop a bough.  But that avenue we are planting
will be certainly a noble improvement--"

"Fifty years hence, Charles!"

"It is our duty to think of posterity," answered the ci-devant
spendthrift, with a gravity that was actually pompous.  "But hark! is
that two o'clock?  Three, by Jove!  How time flies! and my new bullocks
that I was to see at two!  Come down to the farm, that's my own Mary.
Ah, your fine ladies are not such bad housewives after all!"

"And your fine gentlemen--"

"Capital farmers!  I had no idea till last week that a prize ox was so
interesting an animal.  One lives to learn.  Put me in mind, by the by,
to write to Coke about his sheep."

"This way, dear Charles; we can go round by the village,--and see poor
Ponto and Dash."

The tears rushed to Mr. St. John's eyes.  "If poor Sir Miles could have
known you!" he said, with a sigh; and though the gardeners were at work
on the lawn, he bowed his head and kissed the blushing cheek of his wife
as heartily as if he had been really a farmer.

From the terrace at Laughton, turn to the humbler abode of our old friend
the vicar,--the same day, the same hour.  Here also the scene is without
doors,--we are in the garden of the vicarage; the children are playing at
hide-and-seek amongst the espaliers which screen the winding gravel-walks
from the esculents more dear to Ceres than to Flora.  The vicar is seated
in his little parlour, from which a glazed door admits into the garden.
The door is now open, and the good man has paused from his work (he had
just discovered a new emendation in the first chorus of the "Medea") to
look out at the rosy faces that gleam to and fro across the scene.  His
wife, with a basket in her hand, is standing without the door, but a
little aside, not to obstruct the view.

"It does one's heart good to see them," said the vicar, "little dears!"

"Yes, they ought to be dear at this time of the year," observed Mrs.
Fielden, who was absorbed in the contents of the basket.

"And so fresh!"

"Fresh, indeed,--how different from London!  In London they were not fit
to be seen,--as old as---I am sure I can't guess how old they were.  But
you see here they are new laid every morning!"

"My dear," said Mr. Fielden, opening his eyes,--"new laid every morning!"

"Two dozen and four."

"Two dozen and four!  What on earth are you talking about, Mrs. Fielden?"

"Why, the eggs, to be sure, my love!"

"Oh," said the vicar, "two dozen and four!  You alarmed me a little; 't
is of no consequence,--only my foolish mistake.  Always prudent and
saving, my dear Sarah,--just as if poor Sir Miles had not left us that
munificent fortune, I may call it."

"It will not go very far when we have our young ones to settle.  And
David is very extravagant already; he has torn such a hole in his
jacket!"

At this moment up the gravel-walk two young persons came in sight.  The
children darted across them, whooping and laughing, and vanished in the
further recess of the garden.

"All is for the best, blind mortals that we are; all is for the best,"
said the vicar, musingly, as his eyes rested upon the approaching pair.

"Certainly, my love; you are always right, and it is wicked to grumble.
Still, if you saw what a hole it was,--past patching, I fear!"

"Look round," said Mr. Fielden, benevolently.  "How we grieved for them
both; how wroth we were with William,--how sad for Susan!  And now see
them; they will be the better man and wife for their trial."

"Has Susan then consented?  I was almost afraid she never would consent.
How often have I been almost angry with her, poor lamb, when I have heard
her accuse herself of causing her sister's unhappiness, and declare with
sobs that she felt it a crime to think of William Mainwaring as a
husband."

"I trust I have reasoned her out of a morbid sensibility which, while it
could not have rendered Lucretia the happier, must have insured the
wretchedness of herself and William.   But if Lucretia had not married,
and so forever closed the door on William's repentance (that is,
supposing he did repent), I believe poor Susan would rather have died of
a broken heart than have given her hand to Mainwaring."

"It was an odd marriage of that proud young lady's, after all," said Mrs.
Fielden,--"so much older than she; a foreigner, too!"

"But he is a very pleasant man, and they have known each other so long.
I did not, however, quite like a sort of cunning he showed, when I came
to reflect on it, in bringing Lucretia back to the house; it looks as if
he had laid a trap for her from the first."

"Ten thousand pounds,--a great catch for a foreigner!" observed Mrs.
Fielden, with the shrewd instinct of her sex; and then she added, in the
spirit of a prudent sympathy equally characteristic: "But I think you say
Mr. Parchmount persuaded her to allow half to be settled on herself.
That will be a hold on him."

"A bad hold, if that be all, Sarah.  There is a better,--he is a learned
man and a scholar.  Scholars are naturally domestic, and make good
husbands."

"But you know he must be a papist!" said Mrs. Fielden.

"Umph!" muttered the vicar, irresolutely.

While the worthy couple were thus conversing, Susan and her lover, not
having finished their conference, had turned back through the winding
walk.

"Indeed," said William, drawing her arm closer to his side, "these
scruples, these fears, are cruel to me as well as to yourself.  If you
were no longer existing, I could be nothing to your sister.  Nay, even
were she not married, you must know enough of her pride to be assured
that I can retain no place in her affections.  What has chanced was not
our crime.  Perhaps Heaven designed to save not only us, but herself,
from the certain misery of nuptials so inauspicious!"

"If she would but answer one of my letters!" sighed Susan; "or if I could
but know that she were happy and contented!"

"Your letters must have miscarried,--you are not sure even of her
address.  Rely upon it, she is happy.  Do you think that she would a
second time have 'stooped beneath her'"--Mainwaring's lip writhed as he
repeated that phrase--"if her feelings had not been involved?  I would
not wrong your sister,--I shall ever feel gratitude for the past, and
remorse for my own shameful weakness; still, I must think that the nature
of her attachment to me was more ardent than lasting."

"Ah, William, how can you know her heart?"

"By comparing it with yours.  Oh, there indeed I may anchor my faith!
Susan, we were formed for each other!  Our natures are alike, save that
yours, despite its surpassing sweetness, has greater strength in its
simple candour.  You will be my guide to good.  Without you I should have
no aim in life, no courage to front the contests of this world.  Ah, this
hand trembles still!"

"William, William, I cannot repress a foreboding, a superstition!  At
night I am haunted with that pale face as I saw it last,--pale with
suppressed despair.  Oh, if ever Lucretia could have need of us,--need of
our services, our affections,--if we could but repair the grief we have
caused her!"

Susan's head sank on her lover's shoulder.  She had said "need of us,"
"need of our services."  In those simple monosyllables the union was
pledged, the identity of their lots in the dark urn was implied.

From this scene turn again; the slide shifts in the lantern,--we are at
Paris.  In the antechamber at the Tuileries a crowd of expectant
courtiers and adventurers gaze upon a figure who passes with modest and
downcast eyes through the throng; he has just left the closet of the
First Consul.

"Par Dieu!" said B----, "power, like misery, makes us acquainted with
strange bedfellows.  I should like to hear what the First Consul can have
to say to Olivier Dalibard."

Fouche, who at that period was scheming for the return to his old
dignities of minister of police, smiled slightly, and answered: "In a
time when the air is filled with daggers, one who was familiar with
Robespierre has his uses.  Olivier Dalibard is a remarkable man.  He is
one of those children of the Revolution whom that great mother is bound
to save."

"By betraying his brethren?" said B----, dryly.

"I do not allow the inference.  The simple fact is that Dalibard has
spent many years in England; he has married an Englishwoman of birth and
connections; he knows well the English language and the English people;
and just now when the First Consul is so anxious to approfondir the
popular feelings of that strange nation, with whose government he is
compelled to go to war, he may naturally have much to say to so acute an
observer as Olivier Dalibard."

"Um!" said B----; "with such patronage, Robespierre's friend should hold
his head somewhat higher!"

Meanwhile, Olivier Dalibard, crossing the gardens of the palace, took his
way to the Faubourg St. Germain.  There was no change in the aspect of
this man: the same meditative tranquillity characterized his downward
eyes and bonded brow; the same precise simplicity of dress which had
pleased the prim taste of Robespierre gave decorum to his slender,
stooping form.  No expression more cheerful, no footstep more elastic,
bespoke the exile's return to his native land, or the sanguine
expectations of Intellect restored to a career.  Yet, to all appearance,
the prospects of Dalibard were bright and promising.  The First Consul
was at that stage of his greatness when he sought to employ in his
service all such talent as the Revolution had made manifest, provided
only that it was not stained with notorious bloodshed, or too strongly
associated with the Jacobin clubs.  His quick eye seemed to have
discovered already the abilities of Dalibard, and to have appreciated the
sagacity and knowledge of men which had enabled this subtle person to
obtain the friendship of Robespierre, without sharing in his crimes.  He
had been frequently closeted with Bonaparte; he was in the declared
favour of Fouche, who, though not at that period at the head of the
police, was too necessary amidst the dangers of the time, deepened as
they were by the rumours of some terrible and profound conspiracy, to be
laid aside, as the First Consul had at one moment designed.  One man
alone, of those high in the State, appeared to distrust Olivier
Dalibard,--the celebrated Cambaceres.  But with his aid the Provencal
could dispense.  What was the secret of Dalibard's power?  Was it, in
truth, owing solely to his native talent, and his acquired experience,
especially of England?  Was it by honourable means that he had won the
ear of the First Consul?  We may be sure of the contrary; for it is a
striking attribute of men once thoroughly tainted by the indulgence of
vicious schemes and stratagems that they become wholly blinded to those
plain paths of ambition which common-sense makes manifest to ordinary
ability.  If we regard narrowly the lives of great criminals, we are
often very much startled by the extraordinary acuteness, the profound
calculation, the patient, meditative energy which they have employed upon
the conception and execution of a crime.  We feel inclined to think that
such intellectual power would have commanded great distinction, worthily
used and guided; but we never find that these great criminals seem to
have been sensible of the opportunities to real eminence which they have
thrown away.  Often we observe that there have been before them vistas
into worldly greatness which, by no uncommon prudence and exertion, would
have conducted honest men half as clever to fame and power; but, with a
strange obliquity of vision, they appear to have looked from these broad
clear avenues into some dark, tangled defile, in which, by the subtlest
ingenuity, and through the most besetting perils, they might attain at
last to the success of a fraud or the enjoyment of a vice.  In crime once
indulged there is a wonderful fascination, and the fascination is, not
rarely, great in proportion to the intellect of the criminal.  There is
always hope of reform for a dull, uneducated, stolid man, led by accident
or temptation into guilt; but where a man of great ability, and highly
educated, besots himself in the intoxication of dark and terrible
excitements, takes impure delight in tortuous and slimy ways, the good
angel abandons him forever.

Olivier Dalibard walked musingly on, gained a house in one of the most
desolate quarters of the abandoned faubourg, mounted the spacious stairs,
and rang at the door of an attic next the roof.  After some moments the
door was slowly and cautiously opened, and two small, fierce eyes,
peering through a mass of black, tangled curls, gleamed through the
aperture.  The gaze seemed satisfactory.

"Enter, friend," said the inmate, with a sort of complacent grunt; and as
Dalibard obeyed, the man reclosed and barred the door.

The room was bare to beggary; the ceiling, low and sloping, was blackened
with smoke.  A wretched bed, two chairs, a table, a strong chest, a small
cracked looking-glass, completed the inventory.  The dress of the
occupier was not in keeping with the chamber; true that it was not such
as was worn by the wealthier classes, but it betokened no sign of
poverty.  A blue coat with high collar, and half of military fashion, was
buttoned tight over a chest of vast girth; the nether garments were of
leather, scrupulously clean, and solid, heavy riding-boots came half-way
up the thigh.  A more sturdy, stalwart, strong-built knave never excited
the admiration which physical power always has a right to command; and
Dalibard gazed on him with envy.  The pale scholar absolutely sighed as
he thought what an auxiliary to his own scheming mind would have been so
tough a frame!

But even less in form than face did the man of thews and sinews contrast
the man of wile and craft.  Opposite that high forehead, with its massive
development of organs, scowled the low front of one to whom thought was
unfamiliar,--protuberant, indeed, over the shaggy brows, where
phrenologists place the seats of practical perception, strongly marked in
some of the brutes, as in the dog, but almost literally void of those
higher organs by which we reason and imagine and construct.  But in rich
atonement for such deficiency, all the animal reigned triumphant in the
immense mass and width of the skull behind.  And as the hair, long
before, curled in close rings to the nape of the bull-like neck, you saw
before you one of those useful instruments to ambition and fraud which
recoil at no danger, comprehend no crime, are not without certain good
qualities, under virtuous guidance,--for they have the fidelity, the
obedience, the stubborn courage of the animal,--but which, under evil
control, turn those very qualities to unsparing evil: bull-dogs to rend
the foe, as bull-dogs to defend the master.

For some moments the two men gazed, silently at each other.  At length
Dalibard said, with an air of calm superiority,--

"My friend, it is time that I should be presented to the chiefs of your
party!"

"Chiefs, par tous les diables!" growled the other; "we Chouans are all
chiefs, when it comes to blows.  You have seen my credentials; you know
that I am a man to be trusted: what more do you need?"

"For myself nothing; but my friends are more scrupulous.  I have sounded,
as I promised, the heads of the old Jacobin party, and they are
favourable.  This upstart soldier, who has suddenly seized in his iron
grasp all the fruits of the Revolution, is as hateful to them as to you.
But que voulez vous, mon cher? men are men!  It is one thing to destroy
Bonaparte; it is another thing to restore the Bourbons.  How can the
Jacobin chiefs depend on your assurance, or my own, that the Bourbons
will forget the old offences and reward the new service?  You apprise me-
-so do your credentials--that a prince of the blood is engaged in this
enterprise, that he will appear at the proper season.  Put me in direct
communication with this representative of the Bourbons, and I promise in
return, if his assurances are satisfactory, that you shall have an
emeute, to be felt from Paris to Marseilles.  If you cannot do this, I am
useless; and I withdraw--"

"Withdraw!  Garde a vous, Monsieur le Savant!  No man withdraws alive
from a conspiracy like ours."

We have said before that Olivier Dalibard was not physically brave; and
the look of the Chouan, as those words were said, would have frozen the
blood of many a bolder man.  But the habitual hypocrisy of Dalibard
enabled him to disguise his fear, and he replied dryly,--

"Monsieur le Chouan, it is not by threats that you will gain adherents to
a desperate cause, which, on the contrary, requires mild words and
flattering inducements.  If you commit a violence,--a murder,--mon cher,
Paris is not Bretagne; we have a police: you will be discovered."

"Ha, ha!  What then?  Do you think I fear the guillotine?"

"For yourself, no; but for your leaders, yes!  If you are discovered, and
arrested for crime, do you fancy that the police will not recognize the
right arm of the terrible George Cadoudal; that they will not guess that
Cadoudal is at Paris; that Cadoudal will not accompany you to the
guillotine?"

The Chouan's face fell.  Olivier watched him, and pursued his advantage.

"I asked you to introduce to me this shadow of a prince, under which you
would march to a counter-revolution.  But I will be more easily
contented.  Present me to George Cadoudal, the hero of Morbihan; he is a
man in whom I can trust, and with whom I can deal.  What, you hesitate?
How do you suppose enterprises of this nature can be carried on?  If,
from fear and distrust of each other, the man you would employ cannot
meet the chief who directs him, there will be delay, confusion, panic,
and you will all perish by the executioner.  And for me, Pierre Guillot,
consider my position.  I am in some favour with the First Consul; I have
a station of respectability,--a career lies before me.  Can you think
that I will hazard these, with my head to boot, like a rash child?  Do
you suppose that, in entering into this terrible contest, I would consent
to treat only with subordinates?  Do not deceive yourself.  Again, I say,
tell your employers that they must confer with me directly, or je m'en
lave les mains."

"I will repeat what you say," answered Guillot, sullenly, "Is this all?"

"All for the present," said Dalibard, slowly drawing on his gloves, and
retreating towards the door.  The Chouan watched him with a suspicious
and sinister eye; and as the Provencal's hand was on the latch, he laid
his own rough grasp on Dalibard's shoulder,--

"I know not how it is, Monsieur Dalibard, but I mistrust you."

"Distrust is natural and prudent to all who conspire," replied the
scholar, quietly.  "I do not ask you to confide in me.  Your employers
bade you seek me: I have mentioned my conditions; let them decide."

"You carry it off well, Monsieur Dalibard, and I am under a solemn oath,
which poor George made me take, knowing me to be a hot-headed, honest
fellow,--mauvaise tete, if you will,--that I will keep my hand off pistol
and knife upon mere suspicion; that nothing less than his word, or than
clear and positive proof of treachery, shall put me out of good humour
and into warm blood.  But bear this with you, Monsieur Dalibard: if I
once discover that you use our secrets to betray them; should George see
you, and one hair of his head come to injury through your hands,--I will
wring your neck as a housewife wrings a pullet's."

"I don't doubt your strength or your ferocity, Pierre Guillot; but my
neck will be safe: you have enough to do to take care of your own.
Au revoir."

With a tone and look of calm and fearless irony, the scholar thus spoke,
and left the room; but when he was on the stairs, he paused, and caught
at the balustrade,--the sickness as of terror at some danger past, or to
be, came over him; and this contrast between the self-command, or
simulation, which belongs to moral courage, and the feebleness of natural
and constitutional cowardice, would have been sublime if shown in a noble
cause.  In one so corrupt, it but betrayed a nature doubly formidable;
for treachery and murder hatch their brood amidst the folds of a
hypocrite's cowardice.

While thus the interview is going on between Dalibard and the
conspirator, we must bestow a glance upon the Provencal's home.

In an apartment in one of the principal streets between the Boulevards
and the Rue St. Honore, a boy and a woman sat side by side, conversing in
whispers.  The boy was Gabriel Varney, the woman Lucretia Dalibard.  The
apartment was furnished in the then modern taste, which affected
classical forms; and though not without a certain elegance, had something
meagre and comfortless in its splendid tripods and thin-legged chairs.
There was in the apartment that air which bespeaks the struggle for
appearances,--that struggle familiar to those of limited income and vain
aspirings, who want the taste which smooths all inequalities and gives a
smile to home; that taste which affection seems to prompt, if not to
create, which shows itself in a thousand nameless, costless trifles, each
a grace.  No sign was there of the household cares or industry of women.
No flowers, no music, no embroidery-frame, no work-table.  Lucretia had
none of the sweet feminine habits which betray so lovelily the whereabout
of women.  All was formal and precise, like rooms which we enter and
leave,--not those in which we settle and dwell.

Lucretia herself is changed; her air is more assured, her complexion more
pale, the evil character of her mouth more firm and pronounced.

Gabriel, still a mere boy in years, has a premature look of man.  The
down shades his lip.  His dress, though showy and theatrical, is no
longer that of boyhood.  His rounded cheek has grown thin, as with the
care and thought which beset the anxious step of youth on entering into
life.

Both, as before remarked, spoke in whispers; both from time to time
glanced fearfully at the door; both felt that they belonged to a hearth
round which smile not the jocund graces of trust and love and the heart's
open ease.

"But," said Gabriel,--"but if you would be safe, my father must have no
secrets hid from you."

"I do not know that he has.  He speaks to me frankly of his hopes, of the
share he has in the discovery of the plot against the First Consul, of
his interviews with Pierre Guillot, the Breton."

"Ah, because there your courage supports him, and your acuteness assists
his own.  Such secrets belong to his public life, his political schemes;
with those he will trust you.  It is his private life, his private
projects, you must know."

"But what does he conceal from me?  Apart from politics, his whole mind
seems bent on the very natural object of securing intimacy with his rich
cousin, M. Bellanger, from whom he has a right to expect so large an
inheritance."

"Bellanger is rich, but he is not much older than my father."

"He has bad health."

"No," said Gabriel, with a downcast eye and a strange smile, "he has not
bad health; but he may not be long-lived."

"How do you mean?" asked Lucretia, sinking her voice into a still lower
whisper, while a shudder, she scarce knew why, passed over her frame.

"What does my father do," resumed Gabriel, "in that room at the top of
the house?  Does he tell you that secret?"

"He makes experiments in chemistry.  You know that that was always his
favourite study.  You smile again!  Gabriel, do not smile so; it appalls
me.  Do you think there is some mystery in that chamber?"

"It matters not what we think, belle-mere; it matters much what we know.
If I were you, I would know what is in that chamber.  I repeat, to be
safe, you must have all his secrets, or none.  Hush, that is his step!"

The door-handle turned noiselessly, and Olivier entered.  His look fell
on his son's face, which betrayed only apparent surprise at his
unexpected return.  He then glanced at Lucretia's, which was, as usual,
cold and impenetrable.

"Gabriel," said Dalibard, gently, "I have come in for you.  I have
promised to take you to spend the day at M. Bellanger's; you are a great
favourite with Madame.  Come, my boy.  I shall be back soon, Lucretia.  I
shall but drop in to leave Gabriel at my cousin's."

Gabriel rose cheerfully, as if only alive to the expectation of the bon-
bons and compliments he received habitually from Madame Bellanger.

"And you can take your drawing implements with you," continued Dalibard.
"This good M. Bellanger has given you permission to copy his Poussin."

"His Poussin!  Ah, that is placed in his bedroom [It is scarcely
necessary to observe that bedchambers in Paris, when forming part of the
suite of reception-rooms, are often decorated no less elaborately than
the other apartments], is it not?"

"Yes," answered Dalibard, briefly.

Gabriel lifted his sharp, bright eyes to his father's face.  Dalibard
turned away.

"Come!" he said with some impatience; and the boy took up his hat.

In another minute Lucretia was alone.

"Alone," in an English home, is a word implying no dreary solitude to an
accomplished woman; but alone in that foreign land, alone in those half-
furnished, desolate apartments,--few books, no musical instruments, no
companions during the day to drop in,--that loneliness was wearying.  And
that mind so morbidly active!  In the old Scottish legend, the spirit
that serves the wizard must be kept constantly employed; suspend its work
for a moment, and it rends the enchanter.  It is so with minds that crave
for excitement, and live, without relief of heart and affection, on the
hard tasks of the intellect.

Lucretia mused over Gabriel's words and warning: "To be safe, you must
know all his secrets, or none."  What was the secret which Dalibard had
not communicated to her?

She rose, stole up the cold, cheerless stairs, and ascended to the attic
which Dalibard had lately hired.  It was locked; and she observed that
the lock was small,--so small that the key might be worn in a ring.  She
descended, and entered her husband's usual cabinet, which adjoined the
sitting-room.  All the books which the house contained were there,--a few
works on metaphysics, Spinoza in especial, the great Italian histories,
some volumes of statistics, many on physical and mechanical philosophy,
and one or two works of biography and memoirs.  No light literature,--
that grace and flower of human culture, that best philosophy of all,
humanizing us with gentle art, making us wise through the humours,
elevated through the passions, tender in the affections of our kind.  She
took out one of the volumes that seemed less arid than the rest, for she
was weary of her own thoughts, and began to read.  To her surprise, the
first passage she opened was singularly interesting, though the title was
nothing more seductive than the "Life of a Physician of Padua in the
Sixteenth Century."  It related to that singular epoch of terror in Italy
when some mysterious disease, varying in a thousand symptoms, baffled all
remedy, and long defied all conjecture,--a disease attacking chiefly the
heads of families, father and husband; rarely women.  In one city, seven
hundred husbands perished, but not one wife!  The disease was poison.
The hero of the memoir was one of the earlier discoverers of the true
cause of this household epidemic.  He had been a chief authority in a
commission of inquiry.  Startling were the details given in the work,--
the anecdotes, the histories, the astonishing craft brought daily to bear
on the victim, the wondrous perfidy of the subtle means, the variation of
the certain murder,--here swift as epilepsy, there slow and wasting as
long decline.  The lecture was absorbing; and absorbed in the book
Lucretia still was, when she heard Dalibard's voice behind: he was
looking over her shoulder.

"A strange selection for so fair a student!  En fant, play not with such
weapons."

"But is this all true?"

"True, though scarce a fragment of the truth.  The physician was a sorry
chemist and a worse philosopher.  He blundered in his analysis of the
means; and if I remember rightly, he whines like a priest at the
motives,--for see you not what was really the cause of this spreading
pestilence?  It was the Saturnalia of the Weak,--a burst of mocking
license against the Strong; it was more,--it was the innate force of the
individual waging war against the many."

"I do not understand you."

"No?  In that age, husbands were indeed lords of the household; they
married mere children for their lands; they neglected and betrayed them;
they were inexorable if the wife committed the faults set before her for
example.  Suddenly the wife found herself armed against her tyrant.  His
life was in her hands.  So the weak had no mercy on the strong.  But man,
too, was then, even more than now, a lonely wrestler in a crowded arena.
Brute force alone gave him distinction in courts; wealth alone brought
him justice in the halls, or gave him safety in his home.  Suddenly the
frail puny lean saw that he could reach the mortal part of his giant foe.
The noiseless sling was in his hand,--it smote Goliath from afar.
Suddenly the poor man, ground to the dust, spat upon by contempt, saw
through the crowd of richer kinsmen, who shunned and bade him rot; saw
those whose death made him heir to lordship and gold and palaces and
power and esteem.  As a worm through a wardrobe, that man ate through
velvet and ermine, and gnawed out the hearts that beat in his way.  No.
A great intellect can comprehend these criminals, and account for the
crime.  It is a mighty thing to feel in one's self that one is an army,--
more than an army!  What thousands and millions of men, with trumpet and
banner, and under the sanction of glory, strive to do,--destroy a foe,--
that, with little more than an effort of the will,--with a drop, a grain,
for all his arsenal,--one man can do!"

There was a horrible enthusiasm about this reasoning devil as he spoke
thus; his crest rose, his breast expanded.  That animation which a noble
thought gives to generous hearts kindled in the face of the apologist for
the darkest and basest of human crimes.  Lucretia shuddered; but her
gloomy imagination was spelled; there was an interest mingled with her
terror.

"Hush! you appall me," she said at last, timidly.  "But, happily, this
fearful art exists no more to tempt and destroy?"

"As a more philosophical discovery, it might be amusing to a chemist to
learn exactly what were the compounds of those ancient poisons," said
Dalibard, not directly answering the implied question.  "Portions of the
art are indeed lost, unless, as I suspect, there is much credulous
exaggeration in the accounts transmitted to us.  To kill by a flower, a
pair of gloves, a soap-ball,--kill by means which elude all possible
suspicion,--is it credible?  What say you?  An amusing research, indeed,
if one had leisure!  But enough of this now; it grows late.  We dine with
M. de----; he wishes to let his hotel.  Why, Lucretia, if we knew a
little of this old art, par Dieu! we could soon hire the hotel!  Well,
well; perhaps we may survive my cousin Jean Bellanger!"

Three days afterwards, Lucretia stood by her husband's side in the secret
chamber.  From the hour when she left it, a change was perceptible in her
countenance, which gradually removed from it the character of youth.
Paler the cheek could scarce become, nor more cold the discontented,
restless eye.  But it was as if some great care had settled on her brow,
and contracted yet more the stern outline of the lips.  Gabriel noted the
alteration, but he did not attempt to win her confidence.  He was
occupied rather in considering, first, if it were well for him to sound
deeper into the mystery he suspected; and, secondly, to what extent, and
on what terms, it became his interest to aid the designs in which, by
Dalibard's hints and kindly treatment, he foresaw that he was meant to
participate.

A word now on the rich kinsman of the Dalibards.  Jean Bellanger had been
one of those prudent Republicans who had put the Revolution to profit.
By birth a Marseillais, he had settled in Paris, as an epicier, about the
year 1785, and had distinguished himself by the adaptability and finesse
which become those who fish in such troubled waters.  He had sided with
Mirabeau, next with Vergniaud and the Girondins.  These he forsook in
time for Danton, whose facile corruptibility made him a seductive patron.
He was a large purchaser in the sale of the emigrant property; he
obtained a contract for the supply of the army in the Netherlands; he
abandoned Danton as he had abandoned the Girondins, but without taking
any active part in the after-proceedings of the Jacobins.  His next
connection was with Tallien and Barras, and he enriched himself yet more
under the Directory than he had done in the earlier stages of the
Revolution.  Under cover of an appearance of bonhomie and good humour, a
frank laugh and an open countenance, Jean Bellanger had always retained
general popularity and good-will, and was one of those whom the policy of
the First Consul led him to conciliate.  He had long since retired from
the more vulgar departments of trade, but continued to flourish as an
army contractor.  He had a large hotel and a splendid establishment; he
was one of the great capitalists of Paris.  The relationship between
Dalibard and Bellanger was not very close,--it was that of cousins twice
removed; and during Dalibard's previous residence at Paris, each
embracing different parties, and each eager in his career, the blood-tie
between them had not been much thought of, though they were good friends,
and each respected the other for the discretion with which he had kept
aloof from the more sanguinary excesses of the time.  As Bellanger was
not many years older than Dalibard; as the former had but just married in
the year 1791, and had naturally before him the prospect of a family; as
his fortunes at that time, though rising, were unconfirmed; and as some
nearer relations stood between them, in the shape of two promising,
sturdy nephews,--Dalibard had not then calculated on any inheritance from
his cousin.  On his return, circumstances were widely altered: Bellanger
had been married some years, and no issue had blessed his nuptials.  His
nephews, draughted into the conscription, had perished in Egypt.
Dalibard apparently became his nearest relative.

To avarice or to worldly ambition there was undoubtedly something very
dazzling in the prospect thus opened to the eyes of Olivier Dalibard.
The contractor's splendid mode of living, vying with that of the fermier-
general of old, the colossal masses of capital by which he backed and
supported speculations that varied with an ingenuity rendered practical
and profound by experience, inflamed into fever the morbid restlessness
of fancy and intellect which characterized the evil scholar; for that
restlessness seemed to supply to his nature vices not constitutional to
it.  Dalibard had not the avarice that belongs either to a miser or a
spendthrift.  In his youth, his books and the simple desires of an
abstract student sufficed to his wants, and a habit of method and order,
a mechanical calculation which accompanied all his acts, from the least
to the greatest, preserved him, even when most poor, from neediness and
want.  Nor was he by nature vain and ostentatious,--those infirmities
accompany a larger and more luxurious nature.  His philosophy rather
despised, than inclined to, show.  Yet since to plot and to scheme made
his sole amusement, his absorbing excitement, so a man wrapped in
himself, and with no generous ends in view, has little to plot or to
scheme for but objects of worldly aggrandizement.  In this Dalibard
resembled one whom the intoxication of gambling has mastered, who neither
wants nor greatly prizes the stake, but who has grown wedded to the
venture for it.  It was a madness like that of a certain rich nobleman in
our own country who, with more money than he could spend, and with a
skill in all games where skill enters that would have secured him success
of itself, having learned the art of cheating, could not resist its
indulgence.  No hazard, no warning, could restrain him,--cheat he must;
the propensity became iron-strong as a Greek destiny.

That the possible chance of an inheritance so magnificent should dazzle
Lucretia and Gabriel, was yet more natural; for in them it appealed to
more direct and eloquent, though not more powerful, propensities.
Gabriel had every vice which the greed of gain most irritates and
excites.  Intense covetousness lay at the core of his heart; he had the
sensual temperament, which yearns for every enjoyment, and takes pleasure
in every pomp and show of life.  Lucretia, with a hardness of mind that
disdained luxury, and a certain grandeur (if such a word may be applied
to one so perverted) that was incompatible with the sordid infirmities of
the miser, had a determined and insatiable ambition, to which gold was a
necessary instrument.  Wedded to one she loved, like Mainwaring, the
ambition, as we have said in a former chapter, could have lived in
another, and become devoted to intellectual efforts, in the nobler desire
for power based on fame and genius.  But now she had the gloomy cravings
of one fallen, and the uneasy desire to restore herself to a lost
position; she fed as an aliment upon scorn to bitterness of all beings
and all things around her.  She was gnawed by that false fever which
riots in those who seek by outward seemings and distinctions to console
themselves for the want of their own self-esteem, or who, despising the
world with which they are brought in contact, sigh for those worldly
advantages which alone justify to the world itself their contempt.

To these diseased infirmities of vanity or pride, whether exhibited in
Gabriel or Lucretia, Dalibard administered without apparent effort, not
only by his conversation, but his habits of life.  He mixed with those
much wealthier than himself, but not better born; those who, in the hot
and fierce ferment of that new society, were rising fast into new
aristocracy,--the fortunate soldiers, daring speculators, plunderers of
many an argosy that had been wrecked in the Great Storm.  Every one about
them was actuated by the keen desire "to make a fortune;" the desire was
contagious.  They were not absolutely poor in the proper sense of the
word "poverty," with Dalibard's annuity and the interest of Lucretia's
fortune; but they were poor compared to those with whom they associated,-
-poor enough for discontent.  Thus, the image of the mighty wealth from
which, perhaps, but a single life divided them, became horribly haunting.
To Gabriel's sensual vision the image presented itself in the shape of
unlimited pleasure and prodigal riot; to Lucretia it wore the solemn
majesty of power; to Dalibard himself it was but the Eureka of a
calculation,--the palpable reward of wile and scheme and dexterous
combinations.  The devil had temptations suited to each.

Meanwhile, the Dalibards were more and more with the Bellangers.  Olivier
glided in to talk of the chances and changes of the State and the market.
Lucretia sat for hours listening mutely to the contractor's boasts of
past frauds, or submitting to the martyrdom of his victorious games at
tric-trac.  Gabriel, a spoiled darling, copied the pictures on the walls,
complimented Madame, flattered Monsieur, and fawned on both for trinkets
and crowns.  Like three birds of night and omen, these three evil natures
settled on the rich man's roof.

Was the rich man himself blind to the motives which budded forth into
such attentive affection?  His penetration was too acute, his ill opinion
of mankind too strong, perhaps, for such amiable self-delusions.  But he
took all in good part; availed himself of Dalibard's hints and
suggestions as to the employment of his capital; was polite to Lucretia,
and readily condemned her to be beaten at tric-trac; while he accepted
with bonhomie Gabriel's spirited copies of his pictures.  But at times
there was a gleam of satire and malice in his round gray eyes, and an
inward chuckle at the caresses and flatteries he received, which
perplexed Dalibard and humbled Lucretia.  Had his wealth been wholly at
his own disposal, these signs would have been inauspicious; but the new
law was strict, and the bulk of Bellanger's property could not be
alienated from his nearest kin.  Was not Dalibard the nearest?

These hopes and speculations did not, as we have seen, absorb the
restless and rank energies of Dalibard's crooked, but capacious and
grasping intellect.  Patiently and ingeniously he pursued his main
political object,--the detection of that audacious and complicated
conspiracy against the First Consul, which ended in the tragic deaths of
Pichegru, the Duc d'Enghien, and the erring but illustrious hero of La
Vendee, George Cadoudal.  In the midst of these dark plots for personal
aggrandizement and political fortune, we leave, for the moment, the
sombre, sullen soul of Olivier Dalibard.

 Time has passed on, and spring is over the world.  The seeds buried in
the earth burst to flower; but man's breast knoweth not the sweet
division of the seasons.  In winter or summer, autumn or spring alike,
his thoughts sow the germs of his actions, and day after day his destiny
gathers in her harvests.

The joy-bells ring clear through the groves of Laughton,--an heir is born
to the old name and fair lands of St. John.  And, as usual, the present
race welcomes merrily in that which shall succeed and replace it,--that
which shall thrust the enjoyers down into the black graves, and wrest
from them the pleasant goods of the world.  The joy-bell of birth is a
note of warning to the knell for the dead; it wakes the worms beneath the
mould: the new-born, every year that it grows and flourishes, speeds the
parent to their feast. Yet who can predict that the infant shall become
the heir?  Who can tell that Death sits not side by side with the nurse
at the cradle?  Can the mother's hand measure out the woof of the Parcae,
or the father's eye detect through the darkness of the morrow the gleam
of the fatal shears?

 It is market-day at a town in the midland districts of England.  There
Trade takes its healthiest and most animated form.  You see not the
stunted form and hollow eye of the mechanic,--poor slave of the
capitalist, poor agent and victim of the arch disequalizer, Civilization.
There strides the burly form of the farmer; there waits the ruddy hind
with his flock; there, patient, sits the miller with his samples of corn;
there, in the booths, gleam the humble wares which form the luxuries of
cottage and farm.  The thronging of men, and the clacking of whips, and
the dull sound of wagon or dray, that parts the crowd as it passes, and
the lowing of herds and the bleating of sheep,--all are sounds of
movement and bustle, yet blend with the pastoral associations of the
primitive commerce, when the link between market and farm was visible and
direct.

Towards one large house in the centre of the brisk life ebbing on, you
might see stream after stream pour its way.  The large doors swinging
light on their hinges, the gilt letters that shine above the threshold,
the windows, with their shutters outside cased in iron and studded with
nails, announce that that house is the bank of the town.  Come in with
that yeoman whose broad face tells its tale, sheepish and down-eyed,--he
has come, not to invest, but to borrow.  What matters?  War is breaking
out anew, to bring the time of high prices and paper money and credit.
Honest yeoman, you will not be refused.  He scratches his rough head,
pulls a leg, as he calls it, when the clerk leans over the counter, and
asks to see "Muster Mawnering hisself."  The clerk points to the little
office-room of the new junior partner, who has brought 10,000 pounds and
a clear head to the firm.  And the yeoman's great boots creak heavily in.
I told you so, honest yeoman; you come out with a smile on your brown
face, and your hand, that might fell an ox, buttons up your huge breeches
pocket.  You will ride home with a light heart; go and dine, and be
merry.

The yeoman tramps to the ordinary; plates clatter, tongues wag, and the
borrower's full heart finds vent in a good word for that kind "Muster
Mawnering."  For a wonder, all join in the praise.  "He's an honour to
the town; he's a pride to the country.  Thof he's such a friend at a
pinch, he's a rale mon of business.  He'll make the baunk worth a
million!  And how well he spoke at the great county meeting about the
war, and the laund, and them bloodthirsty Mounseers!  If their members
were loike him, Muster Fox would look small!"

The day declines; the town empties; whiskeys, horses, and carts are
giving life to the roads and the lanes; and the market is deserted, and
the bank is shut up, and William Mainwaring walks back to his home at the
skirts of the town.  Not villa nor cottage, that plain English house,
with its cheerful face of red brick, and its solid squareness of shape,--
a symbol of substance in the fortunes of the owner!  Yet as he passes, he
sees through the distant trees the hall of the member for the town.  He
pauses a moment, and sighs unquietly.  That pause and that sigh betray
the germ of ambition and discontent.  Why should not he, who can speak so
well, be member for the town, instead of that stammering squire?  But his
reason has soon silenced the querulous murmur.  He hastens his step,--he
is at home!  And there, in the neat-furnished drawing-room, which looks
on the garden behind, hisses the welcoming tea-urn; and the piano is
open, and there is a packet of new books on the table; and, best of all,
there is the glad face of the sweet English wife.  The happy scene was
characteristic of the time, just when the simpler and more innocent
luxuries of the higher class spread, not to spoil, but refine the middle.
The dress, air, mien, movements of the young couple; the unassuming,
suppressed, sober elegance of the house; the flower-garden, the books,
and the music, evidences of cultivated taste, not signals of display,--
all bespoke the gentle fusion of ranks before rude and uneducated wealth,
made in looms and lucky hits, rushed in to separate forever the gentleman
from the parvenu.

 Spring smiles over Paris, over the spires of Notre Dame and the crowded
alleys of the Tuileries, over thousands and thousands eager, joyous,
aspiring, reckless,--the New Race of France, bound to one man's destiny,
children of glory and of carnage, whose blood the wolf and the vulture
scent, hungry, from afar!

The conspiracy against the life of the First Consul has been detected and
defeated.  Pichegru is in prison, George Cadoudal awaits his trial, the
Duc d'Enghien sleeps in his bloody grave; the imperial crown is prepared
for the great soldier, and the great soldier's creatures bask in the
noonday sun.  Olivier Dalibard is in high and lucrative employment; his
rise is ascribed to his talents, his opinions.  No service connected with
the detection of the conspiracy is traced or traceable by the public eye.
If such exist, it is known but to those who have no desire to reveal it.
The old apartments are retained, but they are no longer dreary and
comfortless and deserted.  They are gay with draperies and ormolu and
mirrors; and Madame Dalibard has her nights of reception, and Monsieur
Dalibard has already his troops of clients.  In that gigantic
concentration of egotism which under Napoleon is called the State,
Dalibard has found his place.  He has served to swell the power of the
unit, and the cipher gains importance by its position in the sum.

Jean Bellanger is no more.  He died, not suddenly, and yet of some quick
disease,--nervous exhaustion; his schemes, they said, had worn him out.
But the state of Dalibard, though prosperous, is not that of the heir to
the dead millionnaire.  What mistake is this?  The bulk of that wealth
must go to the nearest kin,--so runs the law.  But the will is read; and,
for the first time, Olivier Dalibard learns that the dead man had a son,-
-a son by a former marriage,--the marriage undeclared, unknown, amidst
the riot of the Revolution; for the wife was the daughter of a proscrit.
The son had been reared at a distance, put to school at Lyons, and
unavowed to the second wife, who had brought an ample dower, and whom
that discovery might have deterred from the altar.  Unacknowledged
through life, in death at least the son's rights are proclaimed; and
Olivier Dalibard feels that Jean Bellanger has died in vain!  For days
has the pale Provencal been closeted with lawyers; but there is no hope
in litigation.  The proofs of the marriage, the birth, the identity, come
out clear and clearer; and the beardless schoolboy at Lyons reaps all the
profit of those nameless schemes and that mysterious death.  Olivier
Dalibard desires the friendship, the intimacy of the heir; but the heir
is consigned to the guardianship of a merchant at Lyons, near of kin to
his mother, and the guardian responds but coldly to Olivier's letters.
Suddenly the defeated aspirant seems reconciled to his loss.  The widow
Bellanger has her own separate fortune, and it is large beyond
expectation.  In addition to the wealth she brought the deceased, his
affection had led him to invest vast sums in her name.  The widow then is
rich,--rich as the heir himself.  She is still fair.  Poor woman, she
needs consolation!  But, meanwhile, the nights of Olivier Dalibard are
disturbed and broken.  His eye in the daytime is haggard and anxious; he
is seldom seen on foot in the streets.  Fear is his companion by day, and
sits at night on his pillow.  The Chouan, Pierre Guillot, who looked to
George Cadoudal as a god, knows that George Cadoudal has been betrayed,
and suspects Olivier Dalibard; and the Chouan has an arm of iron, and a
heart steeled against all mercy.  Oh, how the pale scholar thirsted for
that Chouan's blood!  With what relentless pertinacity, with what
ingenious research, he had set all the hounds of the police upon the
track of that single man!  How notably he had failed!  An avenger lived;
and Olivier Dalibard started at his own shadow on the wall.  But he did
not the less continue to plot and to intrigue--nay, such occupation
became more necessary, as an escape from himself.

And in the mean while, Olivier Dalibard sought to take courage from the
recollection that the Chouan had taken an oath (and he knew that oaths
are held sacred with the Bretons) that he would keep his hand from his
knife unless he had clear evidence of treachery; such evidence existed,
but only in Dalibard's desk or the archives of Fouche.  Tush, he was
safe!  And so, when from dreams of fear he started at the depth of night,
so his bolder wife would whisper to him with firm, uncaressing lips:
"Olivier Dalibard, thou fearest the living: dost thou never fear the
dead?  Thy dreams are haunted with a spectre.  Why takes it not the
accusing shape of thy mouldering kinsman?" and Dalibard would answer, for
he was a philosopher in his cowardice: "Il n'y a que les morts qui ne
reviennent pas."

It is the notable convenience of us narrators to represent, by what is
called "soliloquy," the thoughts, the interior of the personages we
describe.  And this is almost the master-work of the tale-teller,--that
is, if the soliloquy be really in words, what self-commune is in the dim
and tangled recesses of the human heart!  But to this privilege we are
rarely admitted in the case of Olivier Dalibard, for he rarely communed
with himself.  A sort of mental calculation, it is true, eternally went
on within him, like the wheels of a destiny; but it had become a
mechanical operation, seldom disturbed by that consciousness of thought,
with its struggles of fear and doubt, conscience and crime, which gives
its appalling interest to the soliloquy of tragedy.  Amidst the
tremendous secrecy of that profound intellect, as at the bottom of a sea,
only monstrous images of terror, things of prey, stirred in cold-blooded
and devouring life; but into these deeps Olivier himself did not dive.
He did not face his own soul; his outer life and his inner life seemed
separate individualities, just as, in some complicated State, the social
machine goes on through all its numberless cycles of vice and dread,
whatever the acts of the government, which is the representative of the
State, and stands for the State in the shallow judgment of history.

Before this time Olivier Dalibard's manner to his son had greatly changed
from the indifference it betrayed in England,--it was kind and
affectionate, almost caressing; while, on the other hand, Gabriel, as if
in possession of some secret which gave him power over his father, took a
more careless and independent tone, often absented himself from the house
for days together, joined the revels of young profligates older than
himself, with whom he had formed acquaintance, indulged in spendthrift
expenses, and plunged prematurely into the stream of vicious pleasure
that oozed through the mud of Paris.

One morning Dalibard, returning from a visit to Madame Bellanger, found
Gabriel alone in the salon, contemplating his fair face and gay dress in
one of the mirrors, and smoothing down the hair, which he wore long and
sleek, as in the portraits of Raphael.  Dalibard's lip curled at the
boy's coxcombry,--though such tastes he himself had fostered, according
to his ruling principles, that to govern, you must find a foible, or
instil it; but the sneer changed into a smile.

"Are you satisfied with yourself, joli garcon?" he said, with saturnine
playfulness.

"At least, sir, I hope that you will not be ashamed of me when you
formally legitimatize me as your son.  The time has come, you know, to
keep your promise."

"And it shall be kept, do not fear.  But first I have an employment for
you,--a mission; your first embassy, Gabriel."

"I listen, sir."

"I have to send to England a communication of the utmost importance--
public importance--to the secret agent of the French government.  We are
on the eve of a descent on England.  We are in correspondence with some
in London on whom we count for support.  A man might be suspected and
searched,--mind, searched.  You, a boy, with English name and speech,
will be my safest envoy.  Bonaparte approves my selection.  On your
return, he permits me to present you to him.  He loves the rising
generation.  In a few days you will be prepared to start."

Despite the calm tone of the father, so had the son, from the instinct of
fear and self-preservation, studied every accent, every glance of
Olivier,--so had he constituted himself a spy upon the heart whose
perfidy was ever armed, that he detected at once in the proposal some
scheme hostile to his interests.  He made, however, no opposition to the
plan suggested; and seemingly satisfied with his obedience, the father
dismissed him.

As soon as he was in the streets, Gabriel went straight to the house of
Madame Bellanger.  The hotel had been purchased in her name, and she
therefore retained it.  Since her husband's death he had avoided that
house, before so familiar to him; and now he grew pale and breathed hard
as he passed by the porter's lodge up the lofty stairs.

He knew of his father's recent and constant visits at the house; and
without conjecturing precisely what were Olivier's designs, he connected
them, in the natural and acquired shrewdness he possessed, with the
wealthy widow.  He resolved to watch, observe, and draw his own
conclusions.  As he entered Madame Bellanger's room rather abruptly, he
observed her push aside amongst her papers something she had been gazing
on,--something which sparkled to his eyes.  He sat himself down close to
her with the caressing manner he usually adopted towards women; and in
the midst of the babbling talk with which ladies generally honour boys,
he suddenly, as if by accident, displaced the papers, and saw his
father's miniature set in brilliants.  The start of the widow, her blush,
and her exclamation strengthened the light that flashed upon his mind.
"Oh, ho!  I see now," he said laughing, "why my father is always praising
black hair; and--nay, nay--gentlemen may admire ladies in Paris, surely?"

"Pooh, my dear child, your father is an old friend of my poor husband,
and a near relation too!  But, Gabriel, mon petit ange, you had better
not say at home that you have seen this picture; Madame Dalibard might be
foolish enough to be angry."

"To be sure not.  I have kept a secret before now!" and again the boy's
cheek grew pale, and he looked hurriedly round.

"And you are very fond of Madame Dalibard too; so you must not vex her."

"Who says I'm fond of Madame Dalibard?  A stepmother!"

"Why, your father, of course,--il est si bon, ce pauvre Dalibard; and all
men like cheerful faces.  But then, poor lady,--an Englishwoman, so
strange here; very natural she should fret, and with bad health, too."

"Bad health!  Ah, I remember!  She, also, does not seem likely to live
long!"

"So your poor father apprehends.  Well, well; how uncertain life is!  Who
would have thought dear Bellanger would have--"

Gabriel rose hastily, and interrupted the widow's pathetic reflections.
"I only ran in to say Bon jour.  I must leave you now."

"Adieu, my dear boy,--not a word on the miniature!  By the by, here's a
shirt-pin for you,--tu es joli comme un amour."

All was clear now to Gabriel; it was necessary to get rid of him, and
forever.  Dalibard might dread his attachment to Lucretia,--he would
dread still more his closer intimacy with the widow of Bellanger, should
that widow wed again, and Dalibard, freed like her (by what means?), be
her choice!  Into that abyss of wickedness, fathomless to the innocent,
the young villanous eye plunged, and surveyed the ground; a terror seized
on him,--a terror of life and death.  Would Dalibard spare even his own
son, if that son had the power to injure?  This mission, was it exile
only,--only a fall back to the old squalor of his uncle's studio; only
the laying aside of a useless tool?  Or was it a snare to the grave?
Demon as Dalibard was, doubtless the boy wronged him.  But guilt
construes guilt for the worst.

Gabriel had formerly enjoyed the thought to match himself, should danger
come, with Dalibard; the hour had come, and he felt his impotence.  Brave
his father, and refuse to leave France!  From that, even his reckless
hardihood shrank, as from inevitable destruction.  But to depart,--be the
poor victim and dupe; after having been let loose amongst the riot of
pleasure, to return to labour and privation,--from that option his vanity
and his senses vindictively revolted.  And Lucretia, the only being who
seemed to have a human kindness to him!  Through all the vicious egotism
of his nature, he had some grateful sentiments for her; and even the
egotism assisted that unwonted amiability, for he felt that, Lucretia
gone, he had no hold on his father's house, that the home of her
successor never would be his.  While thus brooding, he lifted his eyes,
and saw Dalibard pass in his carriage towards the Tuileries.  The house,
then, was clear; he could see Lucretia alone.  He formed his resolution
at once, and turned homewards.  As he did so, he observed a man at the
angle of the street, whose eyes followed Dalibard's carriage with an
expression of unmistakable hate and revenge; but scarcely had he marked
the countenance, before the man, looking hurriedly round, darted away,
and was lost amongst the crowd.

Now, that countenance was not quite unfamiliar to Gabriel.  He had seen
it before, as he saw it now,--hastily, and, as it were, by fearful
snatches.  Once he had marked, on returning home at twilight, a figure
lurking by the house; and something, in the quickness with which it
turned from his gaze, joined to his knowledge of Dalibard's
apprehensions, made him mention the circumstance to his father when he
entered.  Dalibard bade him hasten with a note, written hurriedly, to an
agent of the police, whom he kept lodged near at hand.  The man was still
on the threshold when the boy went out on this errand, and he caught a
glimpse of his face; but before the police-agent reached the spot, the
ill-omened apparition had vanished.  Gabriel now, as his eye rested full
upon that threatening brow and those burning eyes, was convinced that be
saw before him the terrible Pierre Guillot, whose very name blenched his
father's cheek.  When the figure retreated, he resolved at once to
pursue.  He hurried through the crowd amidst which the man had
disappeared, and looked eagerly into the faces of those he jostled;
sometimes at the distance he caught sight of a figure which appeared to
resemble the one which he pursued, but the likeness faded on approach.
The chase, however, vague and desultory as it was, led him on till his
way was lost amongst labyrinths of narrow and unfamiliar streets.  Heated
and thirsty, he paused, at last, before a small cafe, entered to ask for
a draught of lemonade, and behold, chance had favoured him!  The man he
sought was seated there before a bottle of wine, and intently reading the
newspaper.  Gabriel sat himself down at the adjoining table.  In a few
moments the man was joined by a newcomer; the two conversed, but in
whispers so low that Gabriel was unable to hear their conversation,
though he caught more than once the name of "George."  Both the men were
violently excited, and the expression of their countenances was menacing
and sinister.  The first comer pointed often to the newspaper, and read
passages from it to his companion.  This suggested to Gabriel the demand
for another journal.  When the waiter brought it to him, his eye rested
upon a long paragraph, in which the name of George Cadoudal frequently
occurred.  In fact, all the journals of the day were filled with
speculations on the conspiracy and trial of that fiery martyr to an
erring adaptation of a noble principle.  Gabriel knew that his father had
had a principal share in the detection of the defeated enterprise; and
his previous persuasions were confirmed.

His sense of hearing grew sharper by continued effort, and at length he
heard the first comer say distinctly, "If I were but sure that I had
brought this fate upon George by introducing to him that accursed
Dalibard; if my oath did but justify me, I would--" The concluding
sentence was lost. A few moments after, the two men rose, and from the
familiar words that passed between them and the master of the cafe, who
approached, himself, to receive the reckoning, the shrewd boy perceived
that the place was no unaccustomed haunt.  He crept nearer and nearer;
and as the landlord shook hands with his customer, he heard distinctly
the former address him by the name of "Guillot."  When the men withdrew,
Gabriel followed them at a distance (taking care first to impress on his
memory the name of the cafe, and the street in which it was placed) and,
as he thought, unobserved; he was mistaken.  Suddenly, in one street more
solitary than the rest, the man whom he was mainly bent on tracking
turned round, advanced to Gabriel, who was on the other side of the
street, and laid his hand upon him so abruptly that the boy was fairly
taken by surprise.

"Who bade you follow us?" said he, with so dark and fell an expression of
countenance that even Gabriel's courage failed him.  "No evasion, no
lies; speak out, and at once;" and the grasp tightened on the boy's
throat.

Gabriel's readiness of resource and presence of mind did not long forsake
him.

"Loose your hold, and I will tell you--you stifle me."  The man slightly
relaxed his grasp, and Gabriel said quickly "My mother perished on the
guillotine in the Reign of Terror; I am for the Bourbons.  I thought I
overheard words which showed sympathy for poor George, the brave Chouan.
I followed you; for I thought I was following friends."

The man smiled as he fixed his steady eye upon the unflinching child.
"My poor lad," he said gently, "I believe you,--pardon me; but follow us
no more,--we are dangerous!"  He waved his hand, and strode away and
rejoined his companion, and Gabriel reluctantly abandoned the pursuit and
went homeward.  It was long before he reached his father's house, for he
had strayed into a strange quarter of Paris, and had frequently to
inquire the way.  At length he reached home, and ascended the stairs to a
small room in which Lucretia usually sat, and which was divided by a
narrow corridor from the sleeping-chamber of herself and Dalibard.  His
stepmother, leaning her cheek upon her hand, was seated by the window, so
absorbed in some gloomy thoughts, which cast over her rigid face a shade,
intense and solemn as despair, that she did not perceive the approach of
the boy till he threw his arms round her neck, and then she started as in
alarm.

"You! only you," she said, with a constrained smile; "see, my nerves are
not so strong as they were."

"You are disturbed, belle-mere,--has he been vexing you?"

"He--Dalibard?  No, indeed; we were only this morning discussing matters
of business."

"Business,--that means money."

"Truly," said Lucretia, "money does make the staple of life's business.
In spite of his new appointment, your father needs some sums in hand,--
favours are to be bought, opportunities for speculation occur, and--"

"And my father," interrupted Gabriel, "wishes your consent to raise the
rest of your portion?"

Lucretia looked surprised, but answered quietly: "He had my consent long
since; but the trustees to the marriage-settlement--mere men of business,
my uncle's bankers; for I had lost all claim on my kindred--refuse, or at
least interpose such difficulties as amount to refusal."

"But that reply came some days since," said Gabriel, musingly.

"How did you know,--did your father tell you?"

"Poor belle-mere!" said Gabriel, almost with pity; "can you live in this
house and not watch all that passes,--every stranger, every message,
every letter?  But what, then, does he wish with you?"

"He has suggested my returning to England and seeing the trustees myself.
His interest can obtain my passport."

"And you have refused?"

"I have not consented."

"Consent!--hush!--your maid; Marie is not waiting without;" and Gabriel
rose and looked forth.  "No, confound these doors! none close as they
ought in this house.  Is it not a clause in your settlement that the half
of your fortune now invested goes to the survivor?"

"It is," replied Lucretia, struck and thrilled at the question.  "How,
again, did you know this?"

"I saw my father reading the copy.  If you die first, then, he has all.
If he merely wanted the money, he would not send you away."

There was a terrible pause.  Gabriel resumed: "I trust you, it may be,
with my life; but I will speak out.  My father goes much to Bellanger's
widow; she is rich and weak.  Come to England!  Yes, come; for he is
about to dismiss me.  He fears that I shall be in the way, to warn you,
perhaps, or to--to--  In short, both of us are in his way.  He gives you
an escape.  Once in England, the war which is breaking out will prevent
your return.  He will twist the laws of divorce to his favour; he will
marry again!  What then?  He spares you what remains of your fortune; he
spares your life.  Remain here,--cross his schemes, and-- No, no; come to
England,--safer anywhere than here!"

As he spoke, great changes had passed over Lucretia's countenance.  At
first it was the flash of conviction, then the stunned shock of horror;
now she rose, rose to her full height, and there was a livid and deadly
light in her eyes,--the light of conscious courage and power and revenge.
"Fool," she muttered, "with all his craft!  Fool, fool!  As if, in the
war of household perfidy, the woman did not always conquer!  Man's only
chance is to be mailed in honour."

"But," said Gabriel, overhearing her, "but you do not remember what it
is.  There is nothing you can see and guard against. It is not like an
enemy face to face; it is death in the food, in the air, in the touch.
You stretch out your arms in the dark, you feel nothing, and you die!
Oh, do not fancy that I have not thought well (for I am almost a man now)
if there were no means to resist,--there are none!  As well make head
against the plague,--it is in the atmosphere.  Come to England, and
return.  Live poorly, if you must, but live--but live!"

"Return to England poor and despised, and bound still to him, or a
disgraced and divorced wife,--disgraced by the low-born dependant on my
kinsman's house,--and fawn perhaps upon my sister and her husband for
bread!  Never!  I am at my post, and I will not fly."

"Brave, brave!" said the boy, clapping his hands, and sincerely moved by
a daring superior to his own; "I wish I could help you!"

Lucretia's eye rested on him with the full gaze, so rare in its looks.
She drew him to her and kissed his brow.  "Boy, through life, whatever
our guilt and its doom, we are bound to each other.  I may yet live to
have wealth; if so, it is yours as a son's.  I may be iron to others,--
never to you.  Enough of this; I must reflect!"  She passed her hands
over her eyes a moment, and resumed: "You would help me in my self-
defence; I think you can.  You have been more alert in your watch than I
have.  You must have means I have not secured.  Your father guards well
all his papers."

"I have keys to every desk.  My foot passed the threshold of that room
under the roof before yours.  But no; his powers can never be yours!  He
has never confided to you half his secrets.  He has antidotes for every--
every--"

"Hist! what noise is that?  Only the shower on the casements.  No, no,
child, that is not my object.  Cadoudal's conspiracy!  Your father has
letters from Fouche which show how he has betrayed others who are
stronger to avenge than a woman and a boy."

"Well?"

"I would have those letters.  Give me the keys.  But hold!  Gabriel,
Gabriel, you may yet misjudge him.  This woman--wife to the dead man--his
wife!  Horror!  Have you no proofs of what you imply?"

"Proofs!" echoed Gabriel, in a tone of wonder; "I can but see and
conjecture.  You are warned, watch and decide for yourself.  But again I
say, come to England; I shall go!"

Without reply, Lucretia took the keys from Gabriel's half-reluctant hand,
and passed into her husband's writing-room.  When she had entered, she
locked the door.  She passed at once to a huge secretary, of which the
key was small as a fairy's work.  She opened it with ease by one of the
counterfeits.  No love-correspondence--the first object of her search,
for she was woman--met her eye.  What need of letters, when interviews
were so facile?  But she soon found a document that told all which love-
letters could tell,--it was an account of the moneys and possessions of
Madame Bellanger; and there were pencil notes on the margin: "Vautran
will give four hundred thousand francs for the lands in Auvergne,--to be
accepted.  Consult on the power of sale granted to a second husband.
Query, if there is no chance of the heir-at-law disputing the moneys
invested in Madame B.'s name,"--and such memoranda as a man notes down in
the schedule of properties about to be his own.  In these inscriptions
there was a hideous mockery of all love; like the blue lights of
corruption, they showed the black vault of the heart.  The pale reader
saw what her own attractions had been, and, fallen as she was, she smiled
superior in her bitterness of scorn.  Arranged methodically with the
precision of business, she found the letters she next looked for; one
recognizing Dalibard's services in the detection of the conspiracy, and
authorizing him to employ the police in the search of Pierre Guillot,
sufficed for her purpose.  She withdrew, and secreted it.  She was about
to lock up the secretary, when her eye fell on the title of a small
manuscript volume in a corner; and as shet read, she pressed one hand
convulsively to her heart, while twice with the other she grasped the
volume, and twice withdrew the grasp.  The title ran harmlessly thus:
"Philosophical and Chemical Inquiries into the Nature and Materials of
the Poisons in Use between the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries."
Hurriedly, and at last as if doubtful of herself, she left the
manuscript, closed the secretary, and returned to Gabriel.

"You have got the paper you seek?" he said.

"Yes."

"Then whatever you do, you must be quick; he will soon discover the
loss."

"I will be quick."

"It is I whom he will suspect," said Gabriel, in alarm, as that thought
struck him.  "No, for my sake do not take the letter till I am gone.  Do
not fear in the mean time; he will do nothing against you while I am
here."

"I will replace the letter till then," said Lucretia, meekly.  "You have
a right to my first thoughts."  So she went back, and Gabriel (suspicious
perhaps) crept after her.

As she replaced the document, he pointed to the manuscript which had
tempted her.  "I have seen that before; how I longed for it!  If anything
ever happens to him, I claim that as my legacy."

Their hands met as he said this, and grasped each other convulsively;
Lucretia relocked the secretary, and when she gained the next room, she
tottered to a chair.  Her strong nerves gave way for the moment; she
uttered no cry, but by the whiteness of her face, Gabriel saw that she
was senseless,--senseless for a minute or so; scarcely more.  But the
return to consciousness with a clenched hand, and a brow of defiance, and
a stare of mingled desperation and dismay, seemed rather the awaking from
some frightful dream of violence and struggle than the slow, languid
recovery from the faintness of a swoon.  Yes, henceforth, to sleep was to
couch by a serpent,--to breathe was to listen for the avalanche!  Thou
who didst trifle so wantonly with Treason, now gravely front the grim
comrade thou hast won; thou scheming desecrator of the Household Gods,
now learn, to the last page of dark knowledge, what the hearth is without
them!

Gabriel was strangely moved as he beheld that proud and solitary despair.
An instinct of nature had hitherto checked him from actively aiding
Lucretia in that struggle with his father which could but end in the
destruction of one or the other.  He had contented himself with
forewarnings, with hints, with indirect suggestions; but now all his
sympathy was so strongly roused on her behalf that the last faint scruple
of filial conscience vanished into the abyss of blood over which stood
that lonely Titaness.  He drew near, and clasping her hand, said, in a
quick and broken voice,--

"Listen!  You know where to find proof of my fa--that is, of Dalibard's
treason to the conspirators, you know the name of the man he dreads as an
avenger, and you know that he waits but the proof to strike; but you do
not know where to find that man, if his revenge is wanting for yourself.
The police have not hunted him out: how can you?  Accident has made me
acquainted with one of his haunts.  Give me a single promise, and I will
put you at least upon that clew,--weak, perhaps, but as yet the sole one
to be followed.  Promise me that, only in defence of your own life, not
for mere jealousy, you will avail yourself of the knowledge, and you
shall know all I do!"

"Do you think," said Lucretia, in a calm, cold voice, "that it is for
jealousy, which is love, that I would murder all hope, all peace?  For we
have here"--and she smote her breast--"here, if not elsewhere, a heaven
and a hell!  Son, I will not harm your father, except in self-defence.
But tell me nothing that may make the son a party in the father's doom."

"The father slew the mother," muttered Gabriel, between his clenched
teeth; "and to me, you have wellnigh supplied her place.  Strike, if need
be, in her name!  If you are driven to want the arm of Pierre Guillot,
seek news of him at the Cafe Dufour, Rue S----, Boulevard du Temple.  Be
calm now; I hear your husband's step."

A few days more, and Gabriel is gone!  Wife and husband are alone with
each other.  Lucretia has refused to depart.  Then that mute coma of
horror, that suspense of two foes in the conflict of death; for the
subtle, prying eye of Olivier Dalibard sees that he  himself is
suspected,--further he shuns from sifting!  Glance fastens on glance, and
then hurries smilingly away.  From the cup grins a skeleton, at the board
warns a spectre.  But how kind still the words, and how gentle the tone;
and they lie down side by side in the marriage-bed,--brain plotting
against brain, heart loathing heart.  It is a duel of life and death
between those sworn through life and beyond death at the altar.  But it
is carried on with all the forms and courtesies of duel in the age of
chivalry.  No conjugal wrangling, no slip of the tongue; the oil is on
the surface of the wave,--the monsters in the hell of the abyss war
invisibly below.  At length, a dull torpor creeps over the woman; she
feels the taint in her veins,--the slow victory is begun.  What mattered
all her vigilance and caution?  Vainly glide from the fangs of the
serpent,--his very breath suffices to destroy!  Pure seems the draught
and wholesome the viand,--that master of the science of murder needs not
the means of the bungler!  Then, keen and strong from the creeping
lethargy started the fierce instinct of self and the ruthless impulse of
revenge.  Not too late yet to escape; for those subtle banes, that are to
defy all detection, work but slowly to their end.

One evening a woman, closely mantled, stood at watch by the angle of a
wall.  The light came dim and muffled from the window of a cafe hard at
hand; the reflection slept amidst the shadows on the dark pavement, and
save a solitary lamp swung at distance in the vista over the centre of
the narrow street, no ray broke the gloom.  The night was clouded and
starless, the wind moaned in gusts, and the rain fell heavily; but the
gloom and the loneliness did not appall the eye, and the wind did not
chill the heart, and the rain fell unheeded on the head of the woman at
her post. At times she paused in her slow, sentry-like pace to and fro,
to look through the window of the cafe, and her gaze fell always on one
figure seated apart from the rest. At length her pulse beat more quickly,
and the patient lips smiled sternly.  The figure had risen to depart.  A
man came out and walked quickly up the street; the woman approached, and
when the man was under the single lamp swung aloft, he felt his arm
touched: the woman was at his side, and looking steadily into his face--

"You are Pierre Guillot, the Breton, the friend of George Cadoudal.  Will
you be his avenger?"

The Chouan's first impulse had been to place his hand in his vest, and
something shone bright in the lamp-light, clasped in those iron fingers.
The voice and the manner reassured him, and he answered readily,--

"I am he whom you seek, and I only live to avenge."

"Read, then, and act," answered the woman, as she placed a paper in his
hands.

 At Laughton the babe is on the breast of the fair mother, and the father
sits beside the bed; and mother and father dispute almost angrily whether
mother or father those soft, rounded features of slumbering infancy
resemble most. At the red house, near the market-town, there is a
hospitable bustle.  William is home earlier than usual.  Within the last
hour, Susan has been thrice into every room.  Husband and wife are now
watching at the window.  The good Fieldens, with a coach full of
children, are expected, every moment, on a week's visit at least.

 In the cafe in the Boulevard du Temple sit Pierre Guillot, the Chouan,
and another of the old band of brigands whom George Cadoudal had mustered
in Paris.  There is an expression of content on Guillot's countenance,--
it seems more open than usual, and there is a complacent smile on his
lips.  He is whispering low to his friend in the intervals of eating,--an
employment pursued with the hearty gusto of a hungry man.  But his friend
does not seem to sympathize with the cheerful feelings of his comrade; he
is pale, and there is terror on his face; and you may see that the
journal in his hand trembles like a leaf.

In the gardens of the Tuileries some score or so of gossips group
together.

"And no news of the murderer?" asked one.

"No; but the man who had been friend to Robespierre must have made secret
enemies enough."

"Ce pauvre Dalibard!  He was not mixed up with the Terrorists,
nevertheless."

"Ah, but the more deadly for that, perhaps; a sly man was Olivier
Dalibard!"

"What's the matter?" said an employee, lounging up to the group.  "Are
you talking of Olivier Dalibard?  It is but the other day he had Marsan's
appointment.  He is now to have Pleyel's.  I heard it two days ago; a
capital thing!  Peste! il ira loin.  We shall have him a senator soon."

"Speak for yourself," quoth a ci-devant abbe, with a laugh; "I should be
sorry to see him again soon, wherever he be."

"Plait-il?  I don't understand you!"

"Don't you know that Olivier Dalibard is murdered, found stabbed,--in his
own house, too!"

"Ciel!  Pray tell me all you know.  His place, then, is vacant!"

"Why, it seems that Dalibard, who had been brought up to medicine, was
still fond of chemical experiments.  He hired a room at the top of the
house for such scientific amusements.  He was accustomed to spend part of
his nights there.  They found him at morning bathed in his blood, with
three ghastly wounds in his side, and his fingers cut to the bone.  He
had struggled hard with the knife that butchered him."

"In his own house!" said a lawyer.  "Some servant or spendthrift heir."

"He has no heir but young Bellanger, who will be riche a millions, and is
now but a schoolboy at Lyons.  No; it seems that the window was left
open, and that it communicates with the rooftops.  There the murderer had
entered, and by that way escaped; for they found the leads of the gutter
dabbled with blood.  The next house was uninhabited,--easy enough to get
in there, and lie perdu till night."

"Hum!" said the lawyer.  "But the assassin could only have learned
Dalibard's habits from some one in the house.  Was the deceased married?"

"Oh, yes,--to an Englishwoman."

"She had lovers, perhaps?"

"Pooh, lovers!  The happiest couple ever known; you should have seen them
together!  I dined there last week."

"It is strange," said the lawyer.

"And he was getting on so well," muttered a hungry-looking man.

"And his place is vacant!" repeated the employee, as he quitted the crowd
abstractedly.

In the house of Olivier Dalibard sits Lucretia alone, and in her own
usual morning-room.  The officer appointed to such tasks by the French
law has performed his visit, and made  his notes, and expressed
condolence with the widow, and promised justice and retribution, and
placed his seal on the locks till the representatives of the heir-at-law
shall arrive; and the heir-at-law is the very boy who had succeeded so
unexpectedly to the wealth of Jean Bellanger the contractor!  But
Lucretia has obtained beforehand all she wishes to save from the rest. An
open box is on the floor, into which her hand drops noiselessly a volume
in manuscript.  On the forefinger of that hand is a ring, larger and more
massive than those usually worn by women,--by Lucretia never worn before.
Why should that ring have been selected with such care from the dead
man's hoards?  Why so precious the dull opal in that cumbrous setting?
From the hand the volume drops without sound into the box, as those whom
the secrets of the volume instruct you to destroy may drop without noise
into the grave.  The trace of some illness, recent and deep, nor
conquered yet, has ploughed lines in that young countenance, and dimmed
the light of those searching eyes.  Yet courage! the poison is arrested,
the poisoner is no more.  Minds like thine, stern woman, are cased in
coffers of steel, and the rust as yet has gnawed no deeper than the
surface.  So over that face, stamped with bodily suffering, plays a calm
smile of triumph.  The schemer has baffled the schemer!  Turn now to the
right, pass by that narrow corridor: you are in the marriage-chamber; the
windows are closed; tall tapers burn at the foot of the bed.  Now go back
to that narrow corridor.  Disregarded, thrown aside, are a cloth and a
besom: the cloth is wet still; but here and there the red stains are dry,
and clotted as with bloody glue; and the hairs of the besom start up,
torn and ragged, as if the bristles had a sense of some horror, as if
things inanimate still partook of men's dread at men's deeds.  If you
passed through the corridor and saw in the shadow of the wall that
homeliest of instruments cast away and forgotten, you would smile at the
slatternly housework.  But if you knew that a corpse had been borne down
those stairs to the left,--borne along those floors to that marriage-
bed,--with the blood oozing and gushing and plashing below as the bearers
passed with their burden, then straight that dead thing would take the
awe of the dead being; it told its own tale of violence and murder; it
had dabbled in the gore of the violated clay; it had become an evidence
of the crime.  No wonder that its hairs bristled up, sharp and ragged, in
the shadow of the wall.

The first part of the tragedy ends; let fall the curtain.  When next it
rises, years will have passed away, graves uncounted will have wrought
fresh hollows in our merry sepulchre,--sweet earth!  Take a sand from the
shore, take a drop from the ocean,--less than sand-grain and drop in
man's planet one Death and one Crime!  On the map, trace all oceans, and
search out every shore,--more than seas, more than lands, in God's
balance shall weigh one Death and one Crime!





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