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Title: Ernest Maltravers — Volume 02
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 02" ***

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BOOK II.

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



CHAPTER I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you ever write poetry, Ferrers?"

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

"And did you ever /feel/ poetry!"

"Feel it!"

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

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

"No, I shall stay out."

"Don't be nonsensical."

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maltravers paused.

"And if it succeed?" said Valerie.

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

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

"And what is that?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ah, Monsieur Ferrare, /que vous etes malin/!" said Schomberg, looking
very much confused.

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

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

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



CHAPTER III.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"/Ecarte/!--well, with pleasure," said Ferrers.

Ferrers played well.

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

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

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

"You speak warmly."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie drew away her hand, and still remained silent.

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

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

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

"But, Valerie--"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  *  *  *  *  *

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

"Pshaw!" said Maltravers.

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

"I have had a letter from Cleveland."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Professed!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER V.

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

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

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

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

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

"In his room, sare."

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

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

"No."

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

"No matter; leave me in peace."

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

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

"But where are you going?"

"Anywhere; to Paris--to London."

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

"But, my dear fellow--"

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

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

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

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

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

"But why leave Naples?"

"Trouble me no more."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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