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Title: Ernest Maltravers — Volume 06
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 "Ernest Maltravers — Volume 06" ***

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BOOK VI.

   Perchance you say that gold's the arch-exceller,
   And to be rich is sweet?--EURIP. /Ion./, line 641.

   *  *  *  'Tis not to be endured,
   To yield our trodden path and turn aside,
   Giving our place to knaves.--/Ibid./, line 648



CHAPTER I.

  "L'adresse et l'artifice out passe dans mon coeur;
   Qu'ou a sous cet habit et d'esprit et de ruse."*--REGNARD.

* Subtility and craft have taken possession of my heart; but under this
habit one exhibits both shrewdness and wit.

IT was a fine morning in July, when a gentleman who had arrived in town
the night before--after an absence from England of several years--walked
slowly and musingly up the superb thoroughfare which connects the
Regent's park with St. James's.

He was a man, who, with great powers of mind, had wasted his youth in a
wandering vagabond kind of life, but who had worn away the love of
pleasure, and began to awaken to a sense of ambition.

"It is astonishing how this city is improved," said he to himself.
"Everything gets on in this world with a little energy and bustle--and
everybody as well as everything.  My old cronies, fellows not half so
clever as I am, are all doing well.  There's Tom Stevens, my very fag at
Eton--snivelling little dog he was too!--just made under-secretary of
state.  Pearson, whose longs and shorts I always wrote, is now
head-master to the human longs and shorts of a public school--editing
Greek plays, and booked for a bishopric.  Collier, I see by the papers,
is leading his circuit--and Ernest Maltravers (but /he/ had some talent)
has made a name in the world.  Here am I, worth them all put together,
who have done nothing but spend half my little fortune in spite of all
my economy.  Egad, this must have an end.  I must look to the main
chance; and yet, just when I want his help the most, my worthy uncle
thinks fit to marry again.  Humph--I'm too good for this world."

While thus musing, the soliloquist came in direct personal contact with
a tall gentleman, who carried his head very high in the air, and did not
appear to see that he had nearly thrown our abstracted philosopher off
his legs.

"Zounds, sir, what do you mean?" cried the latter.

"I beg your par--" began the other, meekly, when his arm was seized, and
the injured man exclaimed, "Bless me, sir, is it indeed /you/ whom I
see?"

"Ha!--Lumley?"

"The same; and how fares it, any dear uncle?  I did not know you were in
London.  I only arrived last night.  How well you are looking!"

"Why, yes, Heaven be praised, I am pretty well."

"And happy in your new ties?  You must present me to Mrs. Templeton."

"Ehem," said Mr. Templeton, clearing his throat, and with a slight but
embarrassed smile, "I never thought I should marry again."

"/L'homme propose et Dieu dispose/," observed Lumley Ferrers; for it was
he.

"Gently, my dear nephew," replied Mr. Templeton, gravely; "those phrases
are somewhat sacrilegious; I am an old-fashioned person, you know."

"Ten thousand apologies."

"/One/ apology will suffice; these hyperboles of phrase are almost
sinful."

"Confounded old prig!" thought Ferrers; but he bowed sanctimoniously.

"My dear uncle, I have been a wild fellow in my day; but with years
comes reflection; and under your guidance, if I may hope for it, I trust
to grow a wiser and a better man."

"It is well, Lumley," returned the uncle, "and I am very glad to see you
returned to your own country.  Will you dine with me to-morrow?  I am
living near Fulham.  You had better bring your carpet-bag, and stay with
me some days; you will be heartily welcome, especially if you can shift
without a foreign servant.  I have a great compassion for papists,
but--"

"Oh, my dear uncle, do not fear; I am not rich enough to have a foreign
servant, and have not travelled over three-quarters of the globe without
learning that it is possible to dispense with a valet."

"As to being rich enough," observed Mr. Templeton, with a calculating
air, "seven hundred and ninety-five pounds ten shillings a year will
allow a man to keep two servants, if he pleases; but I am glad to find
you economical at all events.  We meet to-morrow, then, at six o'clock."

"/Au revoir/--I mean, God bless you.

"Tiresome old gentleman that," muttered Ferrers, "and not so cordial as
formerly; perhaps his wife is /enceinte/, and he is going to do me the
injustice of having another heir.  I must look to this; for without
riches, I had better go back and live /au cinquieme/ at Paris."

With this conclusion, Lumley quickened his pace, and soon arrived at
Seamore Place.  In a few moments more he was in the library well stored
with books, and decorated with marble busts and images from the studios
of Canova and Thorwaldsen.

"My master, sir, will be down immediately," said the servant who
admitted him; and Ferrers threw himself on a sofa, and contemplated the
apartment with an air half envious and half cynical.

Presently the door opened, and "My dear Ferrers!"  "Well, /mon cher/,
how are you?" were the salutations hastily exchanged.

After the first sentences of inquiry, gratulation, and welcome, had
cleared the way for more general conversation,--"Well, Maltravers," said
Ferrers, "so here we are together again, and after a lapse of so many
years! both older, certainly; and you, I suppose, wiser.  At all events,
people think you so; and that's all that's important in the question.
Why, man, you are looking as young as ever, only a little paler and
thinner; but look at me--I am not very /much/ past thirty, and I am
almost an old man; bald at the temples, crows' feet, too, eh!  Idleness
ages one damnably."

"Pooh, Lumley, I never saw you look better.  And are you really come to
settle in England?"

"Yes, if I can afford it.  But at my age, and after having seen so much,
the life of an idle, obscure /garcon/ does not content me.  I feel that
the world's opinion, which I used to despise, is growing necessary to
me.  I want to be something.  What can I be?  Don't look alarmed, I
won't rival you.  I dare say literary reputation is a fine thing, but I
desire some distinction more substantial and worldly.  You know your own
country; give me a map of the roads to Power."

"To Power!  Oh, nothing but law, politics, and riches."

"For law I am too old; politics, perhaps, might suit me; but riches, my
dear Ernest--ah, how I long for a good account with my banker!"

"Well, patience and hope.  Are you are not a rich uncle's heir?"

"I don't know," said Ferrers, very dolorously; "the old gentleman has
married again, and may have a family."

"Married!--to whom?"

"A widow, I hear; I know nothing more, except that she has a child
already.  So you see she has got into a cursed way of having children.
And perhaps, by the time I'm forty, I shall see a whole covey of cherubs
flying away with the great Templeton property!"

"Ha, ha; your despair sharpens your wit, Lumley; but why not take a leaf
out of your uncle's book, and marry yourself?"

"So I will when I can find an heiress.  If that is what you meant to
say--it is a more sensible suggestion than any I could have supposed to
come from a man who writes books, especially poetry: and your advice is
not to be despised.  For rich I will be; and as the fathers (I don't
mean of the Church, but in Horace) told the rising generation, the first
thing is to resolve to be rich, it is only the second thing to consider
how."

"Meanwhile, Ferrers, you will be my guest."

"I'll dine with you to-day; but to-morrow I am off to Fulham, to be
introduced to my aunt.  Can't you fancy her?--grey /gros-de-Naples/
gown: gold chain with an eyeglass; rather fat; two pugs, and a parrot!
'Start not, this is fancy's sketch!'  I have not yet seen the
respectable relative with my physical optics.  What shall we have for
dinner?  Let me choose, you were always a bad caterer."  As Ferrers thus
rattled on, Maltravers felt himself growing younger: old times and old
adventures crowded fast upon him; and the two friends spent a most
agreeable day together.  It was only the next morning that Maltravers,
in thinking over the various conversations that had passed between them,
was forced reluctantly to acknowledge that the inert selfishness of
Lumley Ferrers seemed now to have hardened into a resolute and
systematic want of principle, which might, perhaps, make him a dangerous
and designing man, if urged by circumstances into action.



CHAPTER II.

  "/Dauph./  Sir, I must speak to you.  I have been long your
   despised kinsman.

  "/Morose./  Oh, what thou wilt, nephew."--EPICENE.

  "Her silence is dowry eno'--exceedingly soft spoken; thrifty
   of her speech, that spends but six words a day."--/Ibid./

THE coach dropped Mr. Ferrers at the gate of a villa about three miles
from town.  The lodge-keeper charged himself with the carpet-bag, and
Ferrers strolled, with his hands behind him (it was his favourite mode
of disposing of them), through the beautiful and elaborate
pleasure-grounds.

"A very nice, snug little box (jointure-house, I suppose)!  I would not
grudge that, I'm sure, if I had but the rest.  But here, I suspect,
comes madam's first specimen of the art of having a family."  This last
thought was extracted from Mr. Ferrers's contemplative brain by a lovely
little girl, who came running up to him, fearless and spoilt as she was;
and, after indulging a tolerable stare, exclaimed, "Are you come to see
papa, sir?"

"Papa!--the deuce!"--thought Lumley; "and who is papa, my dear?"

"Why, mamma's husband.  He is not my papa by rights."

"Certainly not, my love; not by rights--I comprehend."

"Eh!"

"Yes, I am going to see your papa by wrongs--Mr. Templeton."

"Oh, this way, then."

"You are very fond of Mr. Templeton, my little angel."

"To be sure I am.  You have not seen the rocking-horse he is going to
give me."

"Not yet, sweet child!  And how is mamma?"

"Oh, poor, dear mamma," said the child, with a sudden change of voice,
and tears in her eyes. "Ah, she is not well!"

"In the family way, to a dead certainty!" muttered Ferrers with a groan:
"but here is my uncle.  Horrid name!  Uncles were always wicked fellows.
Richard the Third and the man who did something or other to the babes in
the wood were a joke to my hard-hearted old relation, who has robbed me
with a widow!  The lustful, liquorish old--My /dear/ sir, I'm so glad to
see you!"

Mr. Templeton, who was a man very cold in his manners, and always either
looked over people's heads or down upon the ground, just touched his
nephew's outstretched hand, and telling him he was welcome, observed
that it was a very fine afternoon.

"Very, indeed; sweet place this; you see, by the way, that I have
already made acquaintance with my fair cousin-in-law.  She is very
pretty."

"I really think she is," said Mr. Templeton, with some warmth, and
gazing fondly at the child, who was now throwing buttercups up in the
air, and trying to catch them.  Mr. Ferrers wished in his heart that
they had been brickbats!

"Is she like her mother?" asked the nephew.

"Like whom, sir?"

"Her mother--Mrs. Templeton."

"No, not very; there is an air, perhaps, but the likeness is not
remarkably strong.  Would you not like to go to your room before
dinner?"

"Thank you.  Can I not first be presented to Mrs. Tem--"

"She is at her devotions, Mr. Lumley," interrupted Mr. Templeton,
grimly.

"The she-hypocrite!" thought Ferrers.  "Oh, I am delighted that your
pious heart has found so congenial a helpmate!"

"It is a great blessing, and I am grateful for it.  This is the way to
the house."

Lumley, now formally installed in a grave bedroom, with dimity curtains
and dark-brown paper with light-brown stars on it, threw himself into a
large chair, and yawned and stretched with as much fervour as if he
could have yawned and stretched himself into his uncle's property.  He
then slowly exchanged his morning dress for a quiet suit of black, and
thanked his stars that, amidst all his sins, he had never been a dandy,
and had never rejoiced in a fine waistcoat--a criminal possession that
he well knew would have entirely hardened his uncle's conscience against
him.  He tarried in his room till the second bell summoned him to
descend; and then, entering the drawing-room, which had a cold look even
in July, found his uncle standing by the mantelpiece, and a young,
slight, handsome woman, half-buried in a huge but not comfortable
/fauteuil/.

"Your aunt, Mrs. Templeton; madam, my nephew, Mr. Lumley Ferrers," said
Templeton, with a wave of the hand.

"John,--dinner!"

"I hope I am not late!"

"No," said Templeton, gently, for he had always liked his nephew, and
began now to thaw towards him a little on seeing that Lumley put a good
face upon the new state of affairs.

"No, my dear boy--no; but I think order and punctuality cardinal virtues
in a well-regulated family."

"Dinner, sir," said the butler, opening the folding-doors at the end of
the room.

"Permit me," said Lumley, offering his arm to his aunt.  "What a lovely
place this is!"

Mrs. Templeton said something in reply, but what it was Ferrers could
not discover, so low and choked was the voice.

"Shy," thought he: "odd for a widow! but that's the way those
husband-buriers take us in!"

Plain as was the general furniture of the apartment, the natural
ostentation of Mr. Templeton broke out in the massive value of the
plate, and the number of the attendants.  He was a rich man, and he was
proud of his riches: he knew it was respectable to be rich, and he
thought it was moral to be respectable. As for the dinner, Lumley knew
enough of his uncle's tastes to be prepared for viands and wines that
even he (fastidious gourmand as he was) did not despise.

Between the intervals of eating, Mr. Ferrers endeavoured to draw his
aunt into conversation, but he found all his ingenuity fail him.  There
was, in the features of Mrs. Templeton, an expression of deep but calm
melancholy, that would have saddened most persons to look upon,
especially in one so young and lovely.  It was evidently something
beyond shyness or reserve that made her so silent and subdued, and even
in her silence there was so much natural sweetness, that Ferrers could
not ascribe her manner to haughtiness or the desire to repel.  He was
rather puzzled; "for though," thought he, sensibly enough, "my uncle is
not a youth, he is a very rich fellow; and how any widow, who is married
again to a rich old fellow, can be melancholy, passes my understanding!"

Templeton, as if to draw attention from his wife's taciturnity, talked
more than usual.  He entered largely into politics, and regretted that
in times so critical he was not in parliament.

"Did I possess your youth and your health, Lumley, I would not neglect
my country--Popery is abroad."

"I myself should like very much to be in parliament," said Lumley,
boldly.

"I dare say you would," returned the uncle, drily.  "Parliament is very
expensive--only fit for those who have a large stake in the country.
Champagne to Mr. Ferrers."

Lumley bit his lip, and spoke little during the rest of the dinner.  Mr.
Templeton, however, waxed gracious by the time the dessert was on the
table; and began cutting up a pineapple, with many assurances to Lumley
that gardens were nothing without pineries.  "Whenever you settle in the
country, nephew, be sure you have a pinery."

"Oh, yes," said Lumley, almost bitterly, "and a pack of hounds, and a
French cook; they will all suit my fortune very well."

"You are more thoughtful on pecuniary matters than you used to be," said
the uncle.

"Sir," replied Ferrers, solemnly, "in a very short time I shall be what
is called a middle-aged man."

"Humph!" said the host.

There was another silence.  Lumley was a man, as we have said, or
implied before, of great knowledge of human nature, at least the
ordinary sort of it, and he now revolved in his mind the various courses
it might be wise to pursue towards his rich relation.  He saw that, in
delicate fencing, his uncle had over him the same advantage that a tall
man has over a short one with the physical sword-play;--by holding his
weapon in a proper position, he kept the other at arm's length.  There
was a grand reserve and dignity about the man who had something to give
away, of which Ferrers, however actively he might shift his ground and
flourish his rapier, could not break the defence.  He determined,
therefore, upon a new game, for which his frankness of manner admirably
adapted him.  Just as he formed this resolution, Mrs. Templeton rose,
and with a gentle bow, and soft though languid smile, glided from the
room.  The two gentlemen resettled themselves, and Templeton pushed the
bottle to Ferrers.

"Help yourself, Lumley! your travels seem to have deprived you of your
high spirits--you are pensive."

"Sir," said Ferrers, abruptly, "I wish to consult you."

"Oh, young man! you have been guilty of some excess--you have
gambled--you have--"

"I have done nothing, sir, that should make me less worthy your esteem.
I repeat, I wish to consult you; I have outlived the hot days of my
youth--I am now alive to the claims of the world.  I have talents, I
believe; and I have application, I know.  I wish to fill a position in
the world that may redeem my past indolence, and do credit to my family.
Sir, I set your example before me, and I now ask your counsel, with the
determination to follow it."

Templeton was startled; he half shaded his face with his hand, and gazed
searchingly upon the high forehead and bold eyes of his nephew.  "I
believe you are sincere," said he, after a pause.

"You may well believe so, sir."

"Well, I will think of this.  I like an honourable ambition--not too
extravagant a one,--/that/ is sinful; but a /respectable/ station in the
world is a proper object of desire, and wealth is a blessing; because,"
added the rich man, taking another slice of the pineapple,--"it enables
us to be of use to our fellow-creatures!"

"Sir, then," said Ferrers, with daring animation--"then I avow that my
ambition is precisely of the kind you speak of.  I am obscure, I desire
to be reputably known; my fortune is mediocre, I desire it to be great.
I ask you for nothing--I know your generous heart; but I wish
independently to work out my own career."

"Lumley," said Templeton, "I never esteemed you so much as I do now.
Listen to me--I will confide in you; I think the government are under
obligations to me."

"I know it," exclaimed Ferrers, whose eyes sparkled at the thought of a
sinecure--for sinecures then existed!

"And," pursued the uncle, "I intend to ask them a favour in return."

"Oh, sir!"

"Yes; I think--mark me--with management and address, I may--"

"Well, my dear sir!"

"Obtain a barony for myself and heirs; I trust I shall soon have a
family!"

Had somebody given Lumley Ferrers a hearty cuff on the ear, he would
have thought less of it than of this wind-up of his uncle's ambitious
projects.  His jaws fell, his eyes grew an inch larger, and he remained
perfectly speechless.

"Ay," pursued Mr. Templeton, "I have long dreamed this; my character is
spotless, my fortune great.  I have ever exerted my parliamentary
influence in favour of ministers; and, in this commercial country, no
man has higher claims than Richard Templeton to the honours of a
virtuous, loyal, and religious state.  Yes, my boy,--I like your
ambition--you see I have some of it myself; and since you are sincere in
your wish to tread in my footsteps, I think I can obtain you a junior
partnership in a highly respectable establishment.  Let me see; your
capital now is--

"Pardon me, sir," interrupted Lumley, colouring with indignation despite
himself; "I honour commerce much, but my paternal relations are not such
as would allow me to enter into trade.  And permit me to add," continued
he, seizing with instant adroitness the new weakness presented to
him--"permit me to add, that those relations, who have been ever kind to
me, would, properly managed, be highly efficient in promoting your own
views of advancement; for your sake I would not break with them.  Lord
Saxingham is still a minister--nay, he is in the cabinet."

"Hem--Lumley--hem!" said Templeton, thoughtfully; "we will consider--we
will consider.  Any more wine?"

"No, I thank you, sir."

"Then I'll just take my evening stroll, and think over matters.  You can
rejoin Mrs. Templeton.  And I say, Lumley,--I read prayers at nine
o'clock.  Never forget your Maker, and He will not forget you.  The
barony will be an excellent thing--eh?--an English peerage--yes--an
English peerage! very different from your beggarly countships abroad!"

So saying, Mr. Templeton rang for his hat and cane, and stepped into the
lawn from the window of the dining-room.

"'The world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open,'" muttered
Ferrers; "I would mould this selfish old man to my purpose; for, since I
have neither genius to write nor eloquence to declaim, I will at least
see whether I have not cunning to plot and courage to act.
Conduct--conduct--conduct--there lies my talent; and what is conduct but
a steady walk from a design to its execution?"

With these thoughts Ferrers sought Mrs. Templeton.  He opened the
folding-doors very gently, for all his habitual movements were quick and
noiseless, and perceived that Mrs. Templeton sat by the window, and that
she seemed engrossed with a book which lay open on a little work-table
before her.

"Fordyce's /Advice to Young Married Women/, I suppose.  Sly jade!
However, I must not have her against me."

He approached; still Mrs. Templeton did not note him; nor was it till he
stood facing her that he himself observed that her tears were falling
fast over the page.

He was a little embarrassed, and, turning towards the window, affected
to cough, and then said, without looking at Mrs. Templeton, "I fear I
have disturbed you."

"No," answered the same low, stifled voice that had before replied to
Lumley's vain attempts to provoke conversation; "it was a melancholy
employment, and perhaps it is not right to indulge in it."

"May I inquire what author so affected you."

"It is but a volume of poems, and I am no judge of poetry; but it
contains thoughts which--which--"  Mrs. Templeton paused abruptly, and
Lumley quietly took up the book.

"Ah!" said he, turning to the title-page--"my friend ought to be much
flattered."

"Your friend?"

"Yes: this, I see, is by Ernest Maltravers, a very intimate ally of
mine."

"I should like to see him," cried Mrs. Templeton, almost with animation.
"I read but little; it was by chance that I met with one of his books,
and they are as if I heard a dear friend speaking to me.  Ah! I should
like to see him!"

"I'm sure, madam," said the voice of a third person, in an austere and
rebuking accent, "I do not see what good it would do your immortal soul
to see a man who writes idle verses, which appear to me, indeed, highly
immoral.  I just looked into that volume this morning and found nothing
but trash--love-sonnets, and such stuff."

Mrs. Templeton made no reply, and Lumley, in order to change the
conversation, which seemed a little too matrimonial for his taste, said,
rather awkwardly, "You are returned very soon, sir."

"Yes, I don't like walking in the rain!"

"Bless me, it rains, so, it does--I had not observed--"

"Are you wet, sir? had you not better--" began the wife timidly.

"No, ma'am, I'm not wet, I thank you.  By the by, nephew, this new
author is a friend of yours.  I wonder a man of his family should
condescend to turn author.  He can come to no good.  I hope you will
drop his acquaintance--authors are very unprofitable associates, I'm
sure.  I trust I shall see no more of Mr. Maltravers's books in my
house."

"Nevertheless, he is well thought of, sir, and makes no mean figure in
the world," said Lumley, stoutly; for he was by no means disposed to
give up a friend who might be as useful to him as Mr. Templeton himself.

"Figure or no figure--I have not had many dealings with authors in my
day; and when I had I always repented it.  Not sound, sir, not
sound--all cracked somewhere.  Mrs. Templeton, have the kindness to get
the Prayer-book--my hassock must be fresh stuffed, it gives me quite a
pain in my knee.  Lumley, will you ring the bell?  Your aunt is very
melancholy.  True religion is not gloomy; we will read a sermon on
Cheerfulness."

"So, so," said Mr. Ferrers to himself, as he undressed that night--"I
see that my uncle is a little displeased with my aunt's pensive face--a
little jealous of her thinking of anything but himself: /tant mieux/.  I
must work upon this discovery; it will not do for them to live too
happily with each other.  And what with that lever, and what with his
ambitious projects, I think I see a way to push the good things of this
world a few inches nearer to Lumley Ferrers."



CHAPTER III.

  "The pride too of her step, as light
   Along the unconscious earth she went,
   Seemed that of one born with a right
   To walk some heavenlier element."
               /Loves of the Angels./

          "Can it be
   That these fine impulses, these lofty thoughts
   Burning with their own beauty, are but given
   To make me the low slave of vanity?"--/Erinna./

          "Is she not too fair
   Even to think of maiden's sweetest care?
   The mouth and brow are contrasts."--/Ibid./

IT was two or three evenings after the date of the last chapter, and
there was what the newspapers call "a select party" in one of the
noblest mansions in London.  A young lady, on whom all eyes were bent,
and whose beauty might have served the painter for a model of Semiramis
or Zenobia, more majestic than became her years, and so classically
faultless as to have something cold and statue-like in its haughty
lineaments, was moving through the crowd that murmured applauses as she
passed.  This lady was Florence Lascelles, the daughter of Lumley's
great relation, the Earl of Saxingham, and supposed to be the richest
heiress in England.  Lord Saxingham himself drew aside his daughter as
she swept along.

"Florence," said he in a whisper, "the Duke of ------ is greatly struck
with you--be civil to him--I am about to present him."

So saying, the earl turned to a small, dark, stiff-looking man, of about
twenty-eight years of age, at his left, and introduced the Duke of
------ to Lady Florence Lascelles. The duke was unmarried; it was an
introduction between the greatest match and the wealthiest heiress in
the peerage.

"Lady Florence," said Lord Saxingham, "is as fond of horses as yourself,
duke, though not quite so good a judge."

"I confess I /do/ like horses," said the duke, with an ingenuous air.

Lord Saxingham moved away.

Lady Florence stood mute--one glance of bright contempt shot from her
large eyes; her lip slightly curled, and she then half turned aside, and
seemed to forget that her new acquaintance was in existence.

His grace, like most great personages, was not apt to take offence; nor
could he, indeed, ever suppose that any slight towards the Duke of
------ could be intended; still he thought it would be proper in Lady
Florence to begin the conversation; for he himself, though not shy, was
habitually silent, and accustomed to be saved the fatigue of defraying
the small charges of society.  After a pause, seeing, however, that Lady
Florence remained speechless, he began:

"You ride sometimes in the Park, Lady Florence?"

"Very seldom."

"It is, indeed, too warm for riding at present."

"I did not say so."

"Hem--I thought you did."

Another pause.

"Did you speak, Lady Florence?"

"No."

"Oh, I beg pardon--Lord Saxingham is looking very well."

"I am glad you think so."

"Your picture in the exhibition scarcely does you justice, Lady
Florence; yet Lawrence is usually happy."

"You are very flattering," said Lady Florence, with a lively and
perceptible impatience in her tone and manner.  The young beauty was
thoroughly spoilt--and now all the scorn of a scornful nature was drawn
forth, by observing the envious eyes of the crowd were bent upon one
whom the Duke of ------ was actually talking to.  Brilliant as were her
own powers of conversation, she would not deign to exert them--she was
an aristocrat of intellect rather than birth, and she took it into her
head that the duke was an idiot.  She was very much mistaken.  If she
had but broken up the ice, she would have found that the water below was
not shallow.  The duke, in fact, like many other Englishmen, though he
did not like the trouble of showing forth, and had an ungainly manner,
was a man who had read a good deal, possessed a sound head and an
honourable mind, though he did not know what it was to love anybody, to
care much for anything, and was at once perfectly sated and yet
perfectly contented; for apathy is the combination of satiety and
content.

Still Florence judged of him as lively persons are apt to judge of the
sedate; besides, she wanted to proclaim to him and to everybody else,
how little she cared for dukes and great matches; she, therefore, with a
slight inclination of her head, turned away, and extended her hand to a
dark young man, who was gazing on her with that respectful but
unmistakable admiration which proud women are never proud enough to
despise.

"Ah, signor," said she, in Italian, "I am so glad to see you; it is a
relief, indeed, to find genius in a crowd of nothings."

So saying, the heiress seated herself on one of those convenient couches
which hold but two, and beckoned the Italian to her side.  Oh, how the
vain heart of Castruccio Cesarini beat!--what visions of love, rank,
wealth, already flitted before him!

"I almost fancy," said Castruccio, "that the old days of romance are
returned, when a queen could turn from princes and warriors to listen to
a troubadour."

"Troubadours are now more rare than warriors and princes," replied
Florence, with gay animation, which contrasted strongly with the
coldness she had manifested to the Duke of ------, "and therefore it
would not now be a very great merit in a queen to fly from dulness and
insipidity to poetry and wit."

"Ah, say not wit," said Cesarini; "wit is incompatible with the grave
character of deep feelings;--incompatible with enthusiasm, with
worship;--incompatible with the thoughts that wait upon Lady Florence
Lascelles."

Florence coloured and slightly frowned; but the immense distinction
between her position and that of the young foreigner, with her own
inexperience, both of real life and the presumption of vain hearts, made
her presently forget the flattery that would have offended her in
another.  She turned the conversation, however, into general channels,
and she talked of Italian poetry with a warmth and eloquence worthy of
the theme.  While they thus conversed, a new guest had arrived, who,
from the spot where he stood, engaged with Lord Saxingham, fixed a
steady and scrutinising gaze upon the pair.

"Lady Florence has indeed improved," said this new guest.  "I could not
have conceived that England boasted any one half so beautiful."

"She certainly is handsome, my dear Lumley,--the Lascelles cast of
countenance," replied Lord Saxingham," and so gifted!  She is positively
learned--quite a /bas bleu/.  I tremble to think of the crowd of poets
and painters who will make a fortune out of her enthusiasm.  /Entre
nous/, Lumley, I could wish her married to a man of sober sense, like
the Duke of ------; for sober sense is exactly what she wants.  Do
observe, she has been sitting just half an hour flirting with that
odd-looking adventurer, a Signor Cesarini, merely because he writes
sonnets and wears a dress like a stage-player!"

"It is the weakness of the sex, my dear lord," said Lumley; "they like
to patronise, and they dote upon all oddities, from China monsters to
cracked poets.  But I fancy, by a restless glance cast every now and
then around the room, that my beautiful cousin has in her something of
the coquette."

"There you are quite right, Lumley," returned Lord Saxingham, laughing;
"but I will not quarrel with her for breaking hearts and refusing hands,
if she do but grow steady at last, and settle into the Duchess of
------."

"Duchess of ------!" repeated Lumley, absently; "well, I will go and
present myself.  I see she is growing tired of the signor.  I will sound
her as to the ducal impressions, my dear lord."

"Do--I dare not," replied the father; "she is an excellent girl, but
heiresses are always contradictory.  It was very foolish to deprive me
of all control over her fortune.  Come and see me again soon, Lumley.  I
suppose you are going abroad?"

"No, I shall settle in England; but of my prospects and plans more
hereafter."

With this, Lumley quietly glided away to Florence.  There was something
in Ferrers that was remarkable from its very simplicity.  His clear,
sharp features, with the short hair and high brow--the absolute
plainness of his dress, and the noiseless, easy, self-collected calm of
all his motions, made a strong contrast to the showy Italian, by whose
side he now stood.  Florence looked up at him with some little surprise
at his intrusion.

"Ah, you don't recollect me!" said Lumley, with his pleasant laugh.
"Faithless Imogen, after all your vows of constancy!  Behold your
Alonzo!

     'The worms they crept in and the worms they crept out.'

"Don't you remember how you trembled when I told you that true story, as
we

     'Conversed as we sat on the green"?

"Oh!" cried Florence, "it is indeed you, my dear cousin--my dear Lumley!
What an age since we parted!"

"Don't talk of age--it is an ugly word to a man of my years.  Pardon,
signor, if I disturb you."

And here Lumley, with a low bow, slid coolly into the place which
Cesarini, who had shyly risen, left vacant for him.  Castruccio looked
disconcerted; but Florence had forgotten him in her delight at seeing
Lumley, and Cesarini moved discontentedly away, and seated himself at a
distance.

"And I come back," continued Lumley, "to find you a confirmed beauty and
a professional coquette--don't blush!"

"Do they, indeed, call me a coquette?"

"Oh, yes,--for once the world is just."

"Perhaps I do deserve the reproach.  Oh, Lumley, how I despise all that
I see and hear!"

"What, even the Duke of ------?"

"Yes, I fear even the Duke of ------ is no exception!"

"Your father will go mad if he hear you."

"My father!--my poor father!--yes, he thinks the utmost that I, Florence
Lascelles, am made for, is to wear a ducal coronet, and give the best
balls in London."

"And pray what was Florence Lascelles made for?"

"Ah! I cannot answer the question.  I fear for Discontent and Disdain."

"You are an enigma--but I will take pains and not rest till I solve
you."

"I defy you."

"Thanks--better defy than despise.

"Oh, you must be strangely altered, if I can despise you."

"Indeed! what do you remember of me?"

"That you were frank, bold, and therefore, I suppose, true!--that you
shocked my aunts and my father by your contempt for the vulgar
hypocrisies of our conventional life.  Oh, no! I cannot despise you."

Lumley raised his eyes to those of Florence--he gazed on her long and
earnestly--ambitious hopes rose high within him.

"My fair cousin," said he, in an altered and serious tone, "I see
something in your spirit kindred to mine; and I am glad that yours is
one of the earliest voices which confirm my new resolves on my return to
busy England!"

"And those resolves?"

"Are an Englishman's--energetic and ambitious."

"Alas, ambition!  How many false portraits are there of the great
original!"

Lumley thought he had found a clue to the heart of his cousin, and he
began to expatiate, with unusual eloquence, on the nobleness of that
daring sin which "lost angels heaven."  Florence listened to him with
attention, but not with sympathy.  Lumley was deceived.  His was not an
ambition that could attract the fastidious but high-souled Idealist.
The selfishness of his nature broke out in all the sentiments that he
fancied would seem to her most elevated.  Place--power--titles--all
these objects were low and vulgar to one who saw them daily at her feet.

At a distance the Duke of ------ continued from time to time to direct
his cold gaze at Florence.  He did not like her the less for not seeming
to court him.  He had something generous within him, and could
understand her.  He went away at last, and thought seriously of Florence
as a wife.  Not a wife for companionship, for friendship, for love; but
a wife who could take the trouble of rank off his hands--do him honour,
and raise him an heir, whom he might flatter himself would be his own.

From his corner also, with dreams yet more vain and daring, Castruccio
Cesarini cast his eyes upon the queen-like brow of the great heiress.
Oh, yes, she had a soul--she could disdain rank and revere genius!  What
a triumph over De Montaigne--Maltravers--all the world, if he, the
neglected poet, could win the hand for which the magnates of the earth
sighed in vain!  Pure and lofty as he thought himself, it was her birth
and her wealth which Cesarini adored in Florence.  And Lumley, nearer
perhaps to the prize than either--yet still far off--went on conversing,
with eloquent lips and sparkling eyes, while his cold heart was planning
every word, dictating every glance, and laying out (for the most worldly
are often the most visionary) the chart for a royal road to fortune.
And Florence Lascelles, when the crowd had dispersed and she sought her
chamber, forgot all three; and with that morbid romance often peculiar
to those for whom Fate smiles the most, mused over the ideal image of
the one she /could/ love--"in maiden meditation /not/ fancy-free!"



CHAPTER IV.

  "In mea vesanas habui dispendia vires,
   Et valui poenas fortis in ipse meas."*--OVID.

* I had the strength of a madman to my own cost, and employed that
strength in my own punishment.

  "Then might my breast be read within,
   A thousand volumes would be written there."
               EARL OF STIRLING.

ERNEST MALTRAVERS was at the height of his reputation; the work which he
had deemed the crisis that was to make or mar him was the most
brilliantly successful of all he had yet committed to the public.
Certainly, chance did as much for it as merit, as is usually the case
with works that become instantaneously popular.  We may hammer away at
the casket with strong arm and good purpose, and all in vain; when some
morning a careless stroke hits the right nail on the head, and we secure
the treasure.

It was at this time, when in the prime of youth--rich, courted,
respected, run after--that Ernest Maltravers fell seriously ill.  It was
no active or visible disease, but a general irritability of the nerves,
and a languid sinking of the whole frame.  His labours began, perhaps,
to tell against him.  In earlier life he had been as active as a hunter
of the chamois, and the hardy exercise of his frame counteracted the
effects of a restless and ardent mind.  The change from an athletic to a
sedentary habit of life--the wear and tear of the brain--the absorbing
passion for knowledge which day and night kept all his faculties in a
stretch; made strange havoc in a constitution naturally strong.  The
poor author! how few persons understand; and forbear with, and pity him!
He sells his health and youth to a rugged taskmaster.  And, O blind and
selfish world, you expect him to be as free of manner, and as pleasant
of cheer, and as equal of mood, as if he were passing the most agreeable
and healthful existence that pleasure could afford to smooth the
wrinkles of the mind, or medicine invent to regulate the nerves of the
body.  But there was, besides all this, another cause that operated
against the successful man!--His heart was too solitary.  He lived
without the sweet household ties--the connections and amities he formed
excited for a moment, but possessed no charm to comfort or to soothe.
Cleveland resided so much in the country, and was of so much calmer a
temperament, and so much more advanced in age, that, with all the
friendship that subsisted between them, there was none of that daily and
familiar interchange of confidence which affectionate natures demand as
the very food of life.  Of his brother (as the reader will conjecture
from never having been formally presented to him) Ernest saw but little.
Colonel Maltravers, one of the gayest and handsomest men of his time,
married a fine lady, lived principally at Paris, except when, for a few
weeks in the shooting season, he filled his country house with
companions who had nothing in common with Ernest: the brothers
corresponded regularly every quarter, and saw each other once a
year--this was all their intercourse.  Ernest Maltravers stood in the
world alone, with that cold but anxious spectre--Reputation.

It was late at night.  Before a table covered with the monuments of
erudition and thought sat a young man with a pale and worn countenance.
The clock in the room told with a fretting distinctness every moment
that lessened the journey to the grave.  There was an anxious and
expectant expression on the face of the student, and from time to time
he glanced to the clock, and muttered to himself.  Was it a letter from
some adored mistress--the soothing flattery from some mighty arbiter of
arts and letters--that the young man eagerly awaited?  No; the aspirer
was forgotten in the valetudinarian.  Ernest Maltravers was waiting the
visit of his physician, whom at that late hour a sudden thought had
induced him to summon from his rest.  At length the well-known knock was
heard, and in a few moments the physician entered.  He was one well
versed in the peculiar pathology of book men, and kindly as well as
skilful.

"My dear Mr. Maltravers, what is this?  How are we?--not seriously ill,
I hope--no relapse--pulse low and irregular, I see, but no fever.  You
are nervous."

"Doctor," said the student, "I did not send for you at this time of
night from the idle fear or fretful caprice of an invalid.  But when I
saw you this morning, you dropped some hints which have haunted me ever
since.  Much that it befits the conscience and the soul to attend to
without loss of time depends upon my full knowledge of my real state.
If I understand you rightly, I may have but a short time to live--is it
so?"

"Indeed!" said the doctor, turning away his face; "you have exaggerated
my meaning.  I did not say that you were in what we technically call
danger."

"Am I then likely to be a /long/-lived man?"

The doctor coughed--"That is uncertain, my dear young friend," said he,
after a pause.

"Be plain with me.  The plans of life must be based upon such
calculations as we can reasonably form of its probable duration.  Do not
fancy that I am weak enough or coward enough to shrink from any abyss
which I have approached unconsciously; I desire--I adjure--nay, I
command you to be explicit."

There was an earnest and solemn dignity in his patient's voice and
manner which deeply touched and impressed the good physician.

"I will answer you frankly," said he; "you overwork the nerves and the
brain; if you do not relax, you will subject yourself to confirmed
disease and premature death.  For several months--perhaps for years to
come--you should wholly cease from literary labour.  Is this a hard
sentence?  You are rich and young--enjoy yourself while you can."

Maltravers appeared satisfied--changed the conversation--talked easily
on other matters for a few minutes: nor was it till he had dismissed his
physician that he broke forth with the thoughts that were burning in
him.

"Oh!" cried he aloud, as he rose and paced the room with rapid strides;
"now, when I see before me the broad and luminous path, am I to be
condemned to halt and turn aside?  A vast empire rises on my view,
greater than that of Caesars and conquerors--an empire durable and
universal in the souls of men, that time itself cannot overthrow; and
Death marches with me, side by side, and the skeleton hand waves me back
to the nothingness of common men."

He paused at the casement--he threw it open, and leant forth and gasped
for air.  Heaven was serene and still, as morning came coldly forth
amongst the waning stars; and the haunts of men, in their thoroughfare
of idleness and of pleasure, were desolate and void.  Nothing, save
Nature, was awake.

"And if, O stars!"  murmured Maltravers, from the depth of his excited
heart--"if I have been insensible to your solemn beauty--if the Heaven
and the Earth had been to me but as air and clay--if I were one of a
dull and dim-eyed herd--I might live on, and drop into the grave from
the ripeness of unprofitable years.  It is because I yearn for the great
objects of an immortal being, that life shrinks and shrivels up like a
scroll.  Away!  I will not listen to these human and material monitors,
and consider life as a thing greater than the things that I would live
for.  My choice is made, glory is more persuasive than the grave."

He turned impatiently from the casement--his eyes flashed--his chest
heaved--he trod the chamber with a monarch's air.  All the calculations
of prudence, all the tame and methodical reasonings with which, from
time to time, he had sought to sober down the impetuous man into the
calm machine, faded away before the burst of awful and commanding
passions that swept over his soul.  Tell a man, in the full tide of his
triumphs, that he bears death within him; and what crisis of thought can
be more startling and more terrible!

Maltravers had, as we have seen, cared little for fame, till fame had
been brought within his reach: then, with every step he took, new Alps
had arisen.  Each new conjecture brought to light a new truth that
demanded enforcement or defence.  Rivalry and competition chafed his
blood, and kept his faculties at their full speed.  He had the generous
race-horse spirit of emulation.  Ever in action, ever in progress,
cheered on by the sarcasms of foes, even more than by the applause of
friends, the desire of glory had become the habit of existence.  When we
have commenced a career, what stop is there till the grave?--where is
the definite barrier of that ambition which, like the eastern bird,
seems ever on the wing, and never rests upon the earth?  Our names are
not settled till our death: the ghosts of what we have done are made our
haunting monitors--our scourging avengers--if ever we cease to do, or
fall short of the younger past.  Repose is oblivion; to pause is to
unravel all the web that we have woven--until the tomb closes over us,
and men, just when it is too late, strike the fair balance between
ourselves and our rivals; and we are measured, not by the least, but by
the greatest triumphs we have achieved.  Oh, what a crushing sense of
impotence comes over us, when we feel that our frame cannot support our
mind--when the hand can no longer execute what the soul, actively as
ever, conceives and desires!--the quick life tied to the dead form--the
ideas fresh as immortality, gushing forth rich and golden, and the
broken nerves, and the aching frame, and the weary eyes!--the spirit
athirst for liberty and heaven--and the damning, choking consciousness
that we are walled up and prisoned in a dungeon that must be our
burial-place!  Talk not of freedom--there is no such thing as freedom to
a man whose body is the gaol, whose infirmities are the racks, of his
genius!

Maltravers paused at last, and threw himself on his sofa, wearied and
exhausted.  Involuntarily, and as a half unconscious means of escaping
from his conflicting and profitless emotions, he turned to several
letters, which had for hours lain unopened on his table.  Every one, the
seal of which he broke, seemed to mock his state--every one seemed to
attest the felicity of his fortunes.  Some bespoke the admiring sympathy
of the highest and wisest--one offered him a brilliant opening into
public life--another (it was from Cleveland) was fraught with all the
proud and rapturous approbation of a prophet whose auguries are at last
fulfilled.  At that letter Maltravers sighed deeply, and paused before
he turned to the others.  The last he opened was in an unknown hand, nor
was any name affixed to it.  Like all writers of some note, Maltravers
was in the habit of receiving anonymous letters of praise, censure,
warning, and exhortation--especially from young ladies at boarding
schools, and old ladies in the country; but there was that in the first
sentences of the letter, which he now opened with a careless hand, that
riveted his attention.  It was a small and beautiful handwriting, yet
the letters were more clear and bold than they usually are in feminine
caligraphy.

"Ernest Maltravers," began this singular effusion, "have you weighed
yourself?  Are you aware of your capacities?  Do you feel that for you
there may be a more dazzling reputation that that which appears to
content you?  You who seem to penetrate into the subtlest windings of
the human heart, and to have examined nature as through a glass--you,
whose thoughts stand forth like armies marshalled in defence of truth,
bold and dauntless, and without a stain upon their glittering
armour;--are you, at your age, and with your advantages, to bury
yourself amidst books and scrolls?  Do you forget that action is the
grand career for men who think as you do?  Will this word-weighing and
picture-writing--the cold eulogies of pedants--the listless praises of
literary idlers, content all the yearnings of your ambition?  You were
not made solely for the closet; 'The Dreams of Pindus, and the Aonian
Maids' cannot endure through the noon of manhood.  You are too practical
for the mere poet, and too poetical to sink into the dull tenor of a
learned life.  I have never seen you, yet I know you--I read your spirit
in your page; that aspiration for something better and greater than the
great and the good, which colours all your passionate revelations of
yourself and others--cannot be satisfied merely by ideal images.  You
cannot be contented, as poets and historians mostly are, by becoming
great only from delineating great men, or imagining great events, or
describing a great era.  Is it not worthier of you to be what you fancy
or relate?  Awake, Maltravers, awake!  Look into your heart, and feel
your proper destinies.  And who am I that thus address you?--a woman
whose soul is filled with you--a woman in whom your eloquence has
awakened, amidst frivolous and vain circles, the sense of a new
existence--a woman who would make you, yourself, the embodied ideal of
your own thoughts and dreams, and who would ask from earth no other lot
than that of following you on the road of fame with the eyes of her
heart.  Mistake me not; I repeat that I have never seen you, nor do I
wish it; you might be other than I imagine, and I should lose an idol,
and be left without a worship.  I am a kind of visionary Rosicrucian: it
is a spirit that I adore, and not a being like myself.  You imagine,
perhaps, that I have some purpose to serve in this--I have no object in
administering to your vanity; and if I judge you rightly, this letter is
one that might make you vain without a blush.  Oh, the admiration that
does not spring from holy and profound sources of emotion--how it
saddens us or disgusts!  I have had my share of vulgar homage, and it
only makes me feel doubly alone.  I am richer than you are--I have
youth--I have what they call beauty.  And neither riches, youth, nor
beauty ever gave me the silent and deep happiness I experience when I
think of you.  This is a worship that might, I repeat, well make even
you vain.  Think of these words, I implore you.  Be worthy, not of my
thoughts, but of the shape in which they represent you: and every ray of
glory that surrounds you will brighten my own way, and inspire me with a
kindred emulation.  Farewell.--I may write to you again, but you will
never discover me; and in life I pray that we may never meet!"



CHAPTER V.

  "Our list of nobles next let Amri grace."
               /Absalom and Achitophel.

  "Sine me vacivum tempus ne quod dem mihi Laboris."*--TER.

* Suffer me to employ my spare time in some kind of labour.

"I CAN'T think," said one of a group of young men, loitering by the
steps of a clubhouse in St. James's Street--"I can't think what has
chanced to Maltravers.  Do you observe (as he walks--there--the other
side of the way) how much he is altered?  He stoops like an old man, and
hardly ever lifts his eyes from the ground.  He certainly seems sick and
sad."

"Writing books, I suppose."

"Or privately married."

"Or growing too rich--rich men are always unhappy beings."

"Ha, Ferrers, how are you?"

"So-so.  What's the news?" replied Lumley.

"Rattler pays forfeit."

"O! but in politics?"

"Hang politics--are you turned politician?"

"At my age, what else is there left to do?"

"I thought so, by your hat; all politicians sport odd-looking hats: it
is very remarkable, but that is the great symptom of the disease."

"My hat!--/is/ it odd?" said Ferrers, taking off the commodity in
question, and seriously regarding it.

"Why, who ever saw such a brim?"

"Glad you think so."

"Why, Ferrers?"

"Because it is a prudent policy in this country to surrender something
trifling up to ridicule.  If people can abuse your hat or your carriage,
or the shape of your nose, or a wart on your chin, they let slip a
thousand more important matters.  'Tis the wisdom of the camel-driver,
who gives up his gown for the camel to trample on, that he may escape
himself."

"How droll you are, Ferrers!  Well, I shall turn in, and read the
papers; and you--"

"Shall pay my visits and rejoice in my hat."

"Good day to you; by the by, your friend, Maltravers, has just passed,
looking thoughtful, and talking to himself.  What's the matter with
him?"

"Lamenting, perhaps, that he, too, does not wear an odd hat for
gentlemen like you to laugh at, and leave the rest of him in peace.
Good day."

On went Ferrers, and soon found himself in the Mall of the Park.  Here
he was joined by Mr. Templeton.

"Well, Lumley," said the latter (and it may be here remarked that Mr.
Templeton now exhibited towards his nephew a greater respect of manner
and tone than he had thought it necessary to observe before)--"well,
Lumley, and have you seen Lord Saxingham?"

"I have, sir; and I regret to say--"

"I thought so--I thought it," interrupted Templeton: "no gratitude in
public men--no wish, in high place, to honour virtue!"

"Pardon me; Lord Saxingham declares that he should be delighted to
forward your views--that no man more deserves a peerage; but that--"

"Oh, yes; always /buts/!"

"But that there are so many claimants at present whom it is impossible
to satisfy; and--and--but I feel I ought not to go on."

"Proceed, sir, I beg."

"Why, then, Lord Saxingham is (I must be frank) a man who has a great
regard for his own family.  Your marriage (a source, my dear uncle, of
the greatest gratification to /me/) cuts off the probable chance of your
fortune and title, if you acquire the latter, descending to--"

"Yourself!" put in Templeton, drily.  "Your relation seems, for the
first time, to have discovered how dear your interests are to him."

"For me, individually, sir, my relation does not care a rush--but he
cares a great deal for any member of his house being rich and in high
station.  It increases the range and credit of his connections; and Lord
Saxingham is a man whom connections help to keep great.  To be plain
with you, he will not stir in this business, because he does not see how
his kinsman is to be benefited, or his house strengthened."

"Public virtue!" exclaimed Templeton.

"Virtue, my dear uncle, is a female: as long as she is private property,
she is excellent; but public virtue, like any other public lady, is a
common prostitute."

"Pshaw!" grunted Templeton, who was too much out of humour to read his
nephew the lecture he might otherwise have done upon the impropriety of
his simile; for Mr. Templeton was one of those men who hold it vicious
to talk of vice as existing in the world; he was very much shocked to
hear anything called by its proper name.

"Has not Mrs. Templeton some connections that may be useful to you?"

"No, sir!" cried the uncle, in a voice of thunder.

"Sorry to hear it--but we cannot expect all things: you have married for
love--you have a happy home, a charming wife--this is better than a
title and a fine lady."

"Mr. Lumley Ferrers, you may spare me your consolations.  My wife--"

"Loves you dearly, I dare say," said the imperturbable nephew.  "She has
so much sentiment, is so fond of poetry.  Oh, yes, she must love one who
has done so much for her."

"Done so much; what do you mean?"

"Why, with your fortune--your station--your just ambition--you, who
might have married any one; nay, by remaining unmarried, have
conciliated all my interested, selfish relations--hang them--you have
married a lady without connections--and what more could you do for her?"

"Pooh, pooh; you don't know all."

Here Templeton stopped short, as if about to say too much, and frowned;
then, after a pause, he resumed, "Lumley, I have married, it is true.
You may not be my heir, but I will make it up to you--that is, if you
deserve my affection."

"My dear unc--"

"Don't interrupt me, I have projects for you.  Let our interests be the
same.  The title may yet descend to you.  I may have no male
offspring--meanwhile, draw on me to any reasonable amount--young men
have expenses--but be prudent, and if you want to get on in the world,
never let the world detect you in a scrape.  There, leave me now."

"My best, my heartfelt thanks!"

"Hush--sound Lord Saxingham again; I must and will have this bauble--I
have set my heart on it."  So saying, Templeton waved away his nephew,
and musingly pursued his path towards Hyde Park Corner, where his
carriage awaited him.  As soon as he entered his demesnes, he saw his
wife's daughter running across the lawn to greet him.  His heart
softened; he checked the carriage and descended: he caressed her, he
played with her, he laughed as she laughed.  No parent could be more
fond.

"Lumley Ferrers has talent to do me honour," said he, anxiously, "but
his principles seem unstable.  However, surely that open manner is the
sign of a good heart."

Meanwhile, Ferrers, in high spirits, took his way to Ernest's house.
His friend was not at home, but Ferrers never wanted a host's presence
in order to be at home himself.  Books were round him in abundance, but
Ferrers was not one of those who read for amusement.  He threw himself
into an easy-chair, and began weaving new meshes of ambition and
intrigue.  At length the door opened, and Maltravers entered.

"Why, Ernest, how ill you are looking!"

"I have not been well, but I am now recovering.  As physicians recommend
change of air to ordinary patients--so I am about to try change of
habit.  Active I must be--action is the condition of my being; but I
must have done with books from the present.  You see me in a new
character."

"How?"

"That of a public man--I have entered parliament."

"You astonish me!--I have read the papers this morning.  I see not even
a vacancy, much less an election."

"It is all managed by the lawyer and the banker.  In other words, my
seat is a close borough."

"No bore of constituents.  I congratulate you, and envy.  I wish I were
in parliament myself."

"You!  I never fancied you bitten by the political mania."

"Political!--no.  But it is the most respectable way, with luck, of
living on the public.  Better than swindling."

"A candid way of viewing the question.  But I thought at one time you
were half a Benthamite, and that your motto was, 'The greatest happiness
of the greatest number.'"

"The greatest number to me is number /one/.  I agree with the
Pythagoreans--unity is the perfect principle of creation!  Seriously,
how can you mistake the principles of opinion for the principles of
conduct?  I am a Benthamite, a benevolist, as a logician--but the moment
I leave the closet for the world, I lay aside speculation for others,
and act for myself."

"You are, at least, more frank than prudent in these confessions."

"There you are wrong.  It is by affecting to be worse than we are that
we become popular--and we get credit for being both honest and practical
fellows.  My uncle's mistake is to be a hypocrite in words: it rarely
answers.  Be frank in words, and nobody will suspect hypocrisy in your
designs."

Maltravers gazed hard at Ferrers--something revolted and displeased his
high-wrought Platonism in the easy wisdom of his old friend.  But he
felt, almost for the first time, that Ferrers was a man to get on in the
world--and he sighed; I hope it was for the world's sake.

After a short conversation on indifferent matters, Cleveland was
announced; and Ferrers, who could make nothing out of Cleveland, soon
withdrew.  Ferrers was now becoming an economist in his time.

"My dear Maltravers," said Cleveland, when they were alone, "I am so
glad to see you; for, in the first place, I rejoice to find you are
extending your career of usefulness."

"Usefulness--ah, let me think so!  Life is so uncertain and so short,
that we cannot too soon bring the little it can yield into the great
commonwealth of the Beautiful or the Honest; and both belong to and make
up the Useful.  But in politics, and in a highly artificial state, what
doubts beset us! what darkness surrounds!  If we connive at abuses, we
juggle with our own reason and integrity--if we attack them, how much,
how fatally we may derange that solemn and conventional ORDER which is
the mainspring of the vast machine!  How little, too, can one man, whose
talents may not be in that coarse road--in that mephitic atmosphere, be
enabled to effect!"

"He may effect a vast deal even without eloquence or labour:--he may
effect a vast deal, if he can set one example, amidst a crowd of selfish
aspirants and heated fanatics, of an honest and dispassionate man.  He
may effect more, if he may serve among the representatives of that
hitherto unrepresented thing--Literature; if he redeem, by an ambition
above place and emolument, the character for subservience that
court-poets have obtained for letters--if he may prove that speculative
knowledge is not disjoined from the practical world, and maintain the
dignity of disinterestedness that should belong to learning.  But the
end of a scientific morality is not to serve others only, but also to
perfect and accomplish our individual selves; our own souls are a solemn
trust to our own lives.  You are about to add to your experience of
human motives and active men; and whatever additional wisdom you acquire
will become equally evident and equally useful, no matter whether it be
communicated through action or in books.  Enough of this, my dear
Ernest.  I have come to dine with you, and make you accompany me
to-night to a house where you will be welcome, and I think interested.
Nay, no excuses.  I have promised Lord Latimer that he shall make your
acquaintance, and he is one of the most eminent men with whom political
life will connect you."

And to this change of habits, from the closet to the senate, had
Maltravers been induced by a state of health, which, with most men,
would have been an excuse for indolence.  Indolent he could not be; he
had truly said to Ferrers, that "action was the condition of his being."
If THOUGHT, with its fever and aching tension, had been too severe a
taskmaster on the nerves and brain, the coarse and homely pursuit of
practical politics would leave the imagination and intellect in repose,
while it would excite the hardier qualities and gifts, which animate
without exhausting.  So, at least, hoped Maltravers.  He remembered the
profound saying in one of his favourite German authors, "that to keep
the mind and body in perfect health, it is necessary to mix habitually
and betimes in the common affairs of men."  And the anonymous
correspondent;--had her exhortations any influence on his decision?  I
know not.  But when Cleveland left him, Maltravers unlocked his desk,
and re-perused the last letter he had received from the Unknown.  The
/last/ letter!--yes, those epistles had now become frequent.



CHAPTER VI.

  *  *  *  *  "Le brillant de votre esprit donne un si grand
   eclat a votre teint et a vos yeux, que quoiqu'il semble
   que l'esprit ne doit toucher que les oreilles, il est
   pourtaut certain que la votre eblouit les yeux."*
               /Lettres de Madame de Sevigne/.

* The brilliancy of your wit gives so great a lustre to your complexion
and your eyes, that, though it seems that wit should only reach the
ears, it is altogether certain that yours dazzles the eyes.

AT Lord Latimer's house were assembled some hundreds of those persons
who are rarely found together in London society; for business, politics,
and literature draught off the most eminent men, and usually leave to
houses that receive the world little better than indolent rank or
ostentatious wealth.  Even the young men of pleasure turn up their noses
at parties now-a-days, and find society a bore.  But there are some
dozen or two of houses, the owners of which are both apart from and
above the fashion, in which a foreigner may see, collected under the
same roof, many of the most remarkable men of busy, thoughtful, majestic
England.  Lord Latimer himself had been a cabinet minister.  He retired
from public life on pretence of ill-health; but, in reality, because its
anxious bustle was not congenial to a gentle and accomplished, but
somewhat feeble, mind.  With a high reputation and an excellent cook he
enjoyed a great popularity, both with his own party and the world in
general; and he was the centre of a small, but distinguished circle of
acquaintances, who drank Latimer's wine, and quoted Latimer's sayings,
and liked Latimer much better, because, not being author or minister, he
was not in their way.

Lord Latimer received Maltravers with marked courtesy, and even
deference, and invited him to join his own whist-table, which was one of
the highest compliments his lordship could pay to his intellect.  But
when his guest refused the proffered honour, the earl turned him over to
the countess, as having become the property of the womankind; and was
soon immersed in his aspirations for the odd trick.

Whilst Maltravers was conversing with Lady Latimer, he happened to raise
his eyes, and saw opposite to him a young lady of such remarkable
beauty, that he could scarcely refrain from an admiring
exclamation.--"And who," he asked, recovering himself, "is that lady?
It is strange that even I, who go so little into the world, should be
compelled to inquire the name of one whose beauty must already have made
her celebrated."

"Oh, Lady Florence Lascelles--she came out last year.  She is, indeed,
most brilliant, yet more so in mind and accomplishments than face.  I
must be allowed to introduce you."

At this offer, a strange shyness, and as it were reluctant distrust,
seized Maltravers--a kind of presentiment of danger and evil.  He drew
back, and would have made some excuse, but Lady Latimer did not heed his
embarrassment, and was already by the side of Lady Florence Lascelles.
A moment more, and beckoning to Maltravers, the countess presented him
to the lady.  As he bowed and seated himself beside his new
acquaintance, he could not but observe that her cheeks were suffused
with the most lively blushes, and that she received him with a confusion
not common even in ladies just brought out, and just introduced to "a
lion."  He was rather puzzled than flattered by these tokens of an
embarrassment, somewhat akin to his own; and the first few sentences of
their conversation passed off with a certain awkwardness and reserve.
At this moment, to the surprise, perhaps to the relief, of Ernest, they
were joined by Lumley Ferrers.

"Ah, Lady Florence, I kiss your hands--I am charmed to find you
acquainted with my friend Maltravers."

"And Mr. Ferrers, what makes him so late to-night?" asked the fair
Florence, with a sudden ease, which rather startled Maltravers.

"A dull dinner, /voila tout/--I have no other excuse."  And Ferrers,
sliding into a vacant chair on the other side of Lady Florence,
conversed volubly and unceasingly, as if seeking to monopolise her
attention.

Ernest had not been so much captivated with the manner of Florence as he
had been struck with her beauty, and now, seeing her apparently engaged
with another, he rose and quietly moved away.  He was soon one of a knot
of men who were conversing on the absorbing topics of the day; and as by
degrees the exciting subject brought out his natural eloquence and
masculine sense, the talkers became listeners, the knot widened into a
circle, and he himself was unconsciously the object of general attention
and respect.

"And what think you of Mr. Maltravers?" asked Ferrers, carelessly; "does
he keep up your expectations?"

Lady Florence had sunk into a reverie, and Ferrers repeated his
question.

"He is younger than I imagined him,--and--and--"

"Handsomer, I suppose, you mean."

"No! calmer and less animated."

"He seems animated enough now," said Ferrers; "but your ladylike
conversation failed in striking the Promethean spark.  'Lay that
flattering unction to your soul.'"

"Ah, you are right--he must have thought me very--"

"Beautiful, no doubt."

"Beautiful!--I hate the word, Lumley.  I wish I were not handsome--I
might then get some credit for my intellect."

"Humph!" said Ferrers, significantly.

"Oh, you don't think so, sceptic," said Florence, shaking her head with
a slight laugh, and an altered manner.

"Does it matter what I think," said Ferrers, with an attempted touch at
the sentimental, "when Lord This, and Lord That, and Mr. So-and-so, and
Count What-d'ye-call-him, are all making their way to you, to dispossess
me of my envied monopoly?"

While Ferrers spoke, several of the scattered loungers grouped around
Florence, and the conversation, of which she was the cynosure, became
animated and gay.  Oh, how brilliant she was, that peerless
Florence!--with what petulant and sparkling grace came wit and wisdom,
and even genius, from those ruby lips!  Even the assured Ferrers felt
his subtle intellect as dull and coarse to hers, and shrank with a
reluctant apprehension from the arrows of her careless and prodigal
repartees.  For there was a scorn in the nature of Florence Lascelles
which made her wit pain more frequently than it pleased.  Educated even
to learning--courageous even to a want of feminacy--she delighted to
sport with ignorance and pretension, even in the highest places; and the
laugh that she excited was like lightning;--no one could divine where
next it might fall.

But Florence, though dreaded and unloved, was yet courted, flattered,
and the rage.  For this there were two reasons: first, she was a
coquette, and secondly, she was an heiress.

Thus the talkers in the room were divided into two principal groups,
over one of which Maltravers may be said to have presided; over the
other, Florence.  As the former broke up, Ernest was joined by
Cleveland.

"My dear cousin," said Florence, suddenly, and in a whisper, as she
turned to Lumley, "your friend is speaking of me--I see it.  Go, I
implore you, and let me know what he says!"

"The commission is not flattering," said Ferrers, almost sullenly.

"Nay, a commission to gratify a woman's curiosity is ever one of the
most flattering embassies with which we can invest an able negotiator."

"Well, I must do your bidding, though I disown the favour."  Ferrers
moved away, and joined Cleveland and Maltravers.

"She is, indeed, beautiful: so perfect a contour I never beheld: she is
the only woman I ever saw in whom the aquiline features seem more
classical than even the Greek."

"So, that is your opinion of my fair cousin!" cried Ferrers, "you are
caught."

"I wish he were," said Cleveland.  "Ernest is now old enough to settle,
and there is not a more dazzling prize in England--rich, high-born,
lovely, and accomplished."

"And what say you?" asked Lumley, almost impatiently, to Maltravers.

"That I never saw one whom I admire more or could love less," replied
Ernest, as he quitted the rooms.

Ferrers looked after him, and muttered to himself; he then rejoined
Florence, who presently rose to depart, and taking Lumley's arm, said,
"Well, I see my father is looking round for me--and so for once I will
forestall him.  Come, Lumley, let us join him; I know he wants to see
you.

"Well?" said Florence, blushing deeply, and almost breathless, as they
crossed the now half-empty apartments.

"Well, my cousin?"

"You provoke me--well, then, what said your friend?"

"That you deserved your reputation of beauty, but that you were not his
style.  Maltravers is in love, you know."

"In love?"

"Yes, a pretty Frenchwoman! quite romantic--an attachment of some years'
standing."

Florence turned away her face, and said no more.

"That's a good fellow, Lumley," said Lord Saxingham; "Florence is never
more welcome to my eyes than at half-past one o'clock A.M., when I
associate her with thoughts of my natural rest, and my unfortunate
carriage-horses.  By the by, I wish you would dine with me next
Saturday."

"Saturday: unfortunately I am engaged to my uncle."

"Oh! he has behaved handsomely to you?"

"Yes."

"Mrs. Templeton pretty well?"

"I fancy so."

"As ladies wish to be, etc.?" whispered his lordship.

"No, thank Heaven!"

"Well, if the old man could but make you his heir, we might think twice
about the title."

"My dear lord, stop! one favour--write me a line to hint that
delicately."

"No--no letters; letters always get into the papers."

"But cautiously worded--no danger of publication, on my honour."

"I'll think of it.  Good night."





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