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Title: Lucretia — Volume 01
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lucretia — Volume 01" ***

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LUCRETIA

by Edward Bulwer Lytton



PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1853.

"Lucretia; or, The Children of Night," was begun simultaneously with "The
Caxtons: a Family Picture."  The two fictions were intended as pendants;
both serving, amongst other collateral aims and objects, to show the
influence of home education, of early circumstance and example, upon
after character and conduct.  "Lucretia" was completed and published
before "The Caxtons."  The moral design of the first was misunderstood
and assailed; that of the last was generally acknowledged and approved:
the moral design in both was nevertheless precisely the same.  But in one
it was sought through the darker side of human nature; in the other
through the more sunny and cheerful: one shows the evil, the other the
salutary influences, of early circumstance and training.  Necessarily,
therefore, the first resorts to the tragic elements of awe and distress,
--the second to the comic elements of humour and agreeable emotion.  These
differences serve to explain the different reception that awaited the
two, and may teach us how little the real conception of an author is
known, and how little it is cared for; we judge, not by the purpose he
conceives, but according as the impressions he effects are pleasurable or
painful.  But while I cannot acquiesce in much of the hostile criticism
this fiction produced at its first appearance, I readily allow that as a
mere question of art the story might have been improved in itself, and
rendered more acceptable to the reader, by diminishing the gloom of the
catastrophe.  In this edition I have endeavoured to do so; and the victim
whose fate in the former cast of the work most revolted the reader, as a
violation of the trite but amiable law of Poetical Justice, is saved from
the hands of the Children of Night.  Perhaps, whatever the faults of this
work, it equals most of its companions in the sustainment of interest,
and in that coincidence between the gradual development of motive or
passion, and the sequences of external events constituting plot, which
mainly distinguish the physical awe of tragedy from the coarse horrors of
melodrama.  I trust at least that I shall now find few readers who will
not readily acknowledge that the delineation of crime has only been
employed for the grave and impressive purpose which brings it within the
due province of the poet,--as an element of terror and a warning to the
heart.

LONDON, December 7.


PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

It is somewhere about four years since I appeared before the public as
the writer of a fiction, which I then intimated would probably be my
last; but bad habits are stronger than good intentions.  When Fabricio,
in his hospital, resolved upon abjuring the vocation of the Poet, he was,
in truth, recommencing his desperate career by a Farewell to the Muses,--
I need not apply the allusion.

I must own, however, that there had long been a desire in my mind to
trace, in some work or other, the strange and secret ways through which
that Arch-ruler of Civilization, familiarly called "Money," insinuates
itself into our thoughts and motives, our hearts and actions; affecting
those who undervalue as those who overestimate its importance; ruining
virtues in the spendthrift no less than engendering vices in the miser.
But when I half implied my farewell to the character of a novelist, I had
imagined that this conception might be best worked out upon the stage.
After some unpublished and imperfect attempts towards so realizing my
design, I found either that the subject was too wide for the limits of
the Drama, or that I wanted that faculty of concentration which alone
enables the dramatist to compress multiform varieties into a very limited
compass.  With this design, I desired to unite some exhibition of what
seems to me a principal vice in the hot and emulous chase for happiness
or fame, fortune or knowledge, which is almost synonymous with the cant
phrase of "the March of Intellect," in that crisis of society to which we
have arrived.  The vice I allude to is Impatience.  That eager desire to
press forward, not so much to conquer obstacles as to elude them; that
gambling with the solemn destinies of life, seeking ever to set success
upon the chance of a die; that hastening from the wish conceived to the
end accomplished; that thirst after quick returns to ingenious toil, and
breathless spurrings along short cuts to the goal, which we see
everywhere around us, from the Mechanics' Institute to the Stock Market,-
-beginning in education with the primers of infancy, deluging us with
"Philosophies for the Million" and "Sciences made Easy;" characterizing
the books of our writers, the speeches of our statesmen, no less than the
dealings of our speculators,--seem, I confess, to me to constitute a very
diseased and very general symptom of the times.  I hold that the greatest
friend to man is labour; that knowledge without toil, if possible, were
worthless; that toil in pursuit of knowledge is the best knowledge we can
attain; that the continuous effort for fame is nobler than fame itself;
that it is not wealth suddenly acquired which is deserving of homage, but
the virtues which a man exercises in the slow pursuit of wealth,--the
abilities so called forth, the self-denials so imposed; in a word, that
Labour and Patience are the true schoolmasters on earth.  While occupied
with these ideas and this belief, whether right or wrong, and slowly
convinced that it was only in that species of composition with which I
was most familiar that I could work out some portion of the plan that I
began to contemplate, I became acquainted with the histories of two
criminals existing in our own age,--so remarkable, whether from the
extent and darkness of the guilt committed, whether from the glittering
accomplishments and lively temper of the one, the profound knowledge and
intellectual capacities of the other, that the examination and analysis
of characters so perverted became a study full of intense, if gloomy,
interest.

In these persons there appear to have been as few redeemable points as
can be found in Human Nature, so far as such points may be traced in the
kindly instincts and generous passions which do sometimes accompany the
perpetration of great crimes, and, without excusing the individual,
vindicate the species.  Yet, on the other hand, their sanguinary
wickedness was not the dull ferocity of brutes; it was accompanied with
instruction and culture,--nay, it seemed to me, on studying their lives
and pondering over their own letters, that through their cultivation
itself we could arrive at the secret of the ruthless and atrocious pre-
eminence in evil these Children of Night had attained; that here the
monster vanished into the mortal, and the phenomena that seemed
aberrations from Nature were explained.

I could not resist the temptation of reducing to a tale the materials
which had so engrossed my interest and tasked my inquiries.  And in this
attempt, various incidental opportunities have occurred, if not of
completely carrying out, still of incidentally illustrating, my earlier
design,--of showing the influence of Mammon upon our most secret selves,
of reproving the impatience which is engendered by a civilization that,
with much of the good, brings all the evils of competition, and of
tracing throughout, all the influences of early household life upon our
subsequent conduct and career.  In such incidental bearings the moral may
doubtless be more obvious than in the delineation of the darker and rarer
crime which forms the staple of my narrative.  For in extraordinary guilt
we are slow to recognize ordinary warnings,--we say to the peaceful
conscience, "This concerns thee not!" whereas at each instance of
familiar fault and commonplace error we own a direct and sensible
admonition.  Yet in the portraiture of gigantic crime, poets have rightly
found their sphere and fulfilled their destiny of teachers.  Those
terrible truths which appall us in the guilt of Macbeth or the villany of
Iago, have their moral uses not less than the popular infirmities of Tom
Jones, or the every-day hypocrisy of Blifil.  Incredible as it may seem,
the crimes herein related took place within the last seventeen years.
There has been no exaggeration as to their extent, no great departure
from their details; the means employed, even that which seems most far-
fetched,--the instrument of the poisoned ring,--have their foundation in
literal facts.  Nor have I much altered the social position of the
criminals, nor in the least overrated their attainments and intelligence.
In those more salient essentials which will most, perhaps, provoke the
Reader's incredulous wonder, I narrate a history, not invent a fiction
[These criminals were not, however, in actual life, as in the novel,
intimates and accomplices.  Their crimes were of similar character,
effected by similar agencies, and committed at dates which embrace their
several careers of guilt within the same period; but I have no authority
to suppose that the one was known to the other.].  All that Romance which
our own time affords is not more the romance than the philosophy of the
time.  Tragedy never quits the world,--it surrounds us everywhere.  We
have but to look, wakeful and vigilant, abroad, and from the age of
Pelops to that of Borgia, the same crimes, though under different garbs,
will stalk on our paths.  Each age comprehends in itself specimens of
every virtue and every vice which has ever inspired our love or mowed our
horror.

LONDON, November 1, 1846.


CONTENTS

 PART THE FIRST

  PROLOGUE TO PART THE FIRST

  CHAPTER
      I  A Family Group
     II  Lucretia
    III  Conferences
     IV  Guy's Oak
      V  Household Treason
     VI  The Will
    VII  The Engagement
   VIII  The Discovery
     IX  A Soul without Hope
      X  The Reconciliation between Father and Son

  EPILOGUE TO PART THE FIRST

 PART THE SECOND

  PROLOGUE TO PART THE SECOND

      I  The Coronation
     II  Love at First Sight
    III  Early Training for an Upright Gentleman
     IV  John Ardworth
      V  The Weavers and the Woof
     VI  The Lawyer and the Body-snatcher
    VII  The Rape of the Mattress
   VIII  Percival visits Lucretia
     IX  The Rose beneath the Upas
      X  The Rattle of the Snake
     XI  Love and Innocence
    XII  Sudden Celebrity and Patient Hope
   XIII  The Loss of the Crossing
    XIV  News from Grabman
     XV  Varieties
    XVI  The Invitation to Laughton
   XVII  The Waking of the Serpent
  XVIII  Retrospect
    XIX  Mr. Grabman's Adventures
     XX  More of Mrs. Joplin
    XXI  Beck's Discovery
   XXII  The Tapestry Chamber
  XXIII  The Shades on the Dial
   XXIV  Murder, towards his Design, moves like a Ghost
    XXV  The Messenger speeds
   XXVI  The Spy flies
  XXVII  Lucretia regains her Son
 XXVIII  The Lots vanish within the Urn

  EPILOGUE TO PART THE SECOND



LUCRETIA; OR, THE CHILDREN OF NIGHT.



PART THE FIRST.


PROLOGUE TO PART THE FIRST.

In an apartment at Paris, one morning during the Reign of Terror, a man,
whose age might be somewhat under thirty, sat before a table covered with
papers, arranged and labelled with the methodical precision of a mind
fond of order and habituated to business.  Behind him rose a tall
bookcase surmounted with a bust of Robespierre, and the shelves were
filled chiefly with works of a scientific character, amongst which the
greater number were on chemistry and medicine.  There were to be seen
also many rare books on alchemy, the great Italian historians, some
English philosophical treatises, and a few manuscripts in Arabic.  The
absence from this collection of the stormy literature of the day seemed
to denote that the owner was a quiet student, living apart from the
strife and passions of the Revolution.  This supposition was, however,
disproved by certain papers on the table, which were formally and
laconically labelled "Reports on Lyons," and by packets of letters in the
handwritings of Robespierre and Couthon.  At one of the windows a young
boy was earnestly engaged in some occupation which appeared to excite the
curiosity of the person just described; for this last, after examining
the child's movements for a few moments with a silent scrutiny that
betrayed but little of the half-complacent, half-melancholy affection
with which busy man is apt to regard childhood, rose noiselessly from his
seat, approached the boy, and looked over his shoulder unobserved.  In a
crevice of the wood by the window, a huge black spider had formed his
web; the child had just discovered another spider, and placed it in the
meshes: he was watching the result of his operations.  The intrusive
spider stood motionless in the midst of the web, as if fascinated.  The
rightful possessor was also quiescent; but a very fine ear might have
caught a low, humming sound, which probably augured no hospitable
intentions to the invader.  Anon, the stranger insect seemed suddenly to
awake from its amaze; it evinced alarm, and turned to fly; the huge
spider darted forward; the boy uttered a chuckle of delight.  The man's
pale lip curled into a sinister sneer, and he glided back to his seat.
There, leaning his face on his hand, he continued to contemplate the
child.  That child might have furnished to an artist a fitting subject
for fair and blooming infancy.  His light hair, tinged deeply, it is
true, with red, hung in sleek and glittering abundance down his neck and
shoulders.  His features, seen in profile, were delicately and almost
femininely proportioned; health glowed on his cheek, and his form, slight
though it was, gave promise of singular activity and vigour.  His dress
was fantastic, and betrayed the taste of some fondly foolish mother; but
the fine linen, trimmed with lace, was rumpled and stained, the velvet
jacket unbrushed, the shoes soiled with dust,--slight tokens these of
neglect, but serving to show that the foolish fondness which had invented
the dress had not of late presided over the toilet.

"Child," said the man, first in French; and observing that the boy heeded
him not,--"child," he repeated in English, which he spoke well, though
with a foreign accent, "child!"

The boy turned quickly.

"Has the great spider devoured the small one?"

"No, sir," said the boy, colouring; "the small one has had the best of
it."

The tone and heightened complexion of the child seemed to give meaning to
his words,--at least, so the man thought, for a slight frown passed over
his high, thoughtful brow.

"Spiders, then," he said, after a short pause, "are different from men;
with us, the small do not get the better of the great.  Hum! do you still
miss your mother?"

"Oh, yes!" and the boy advanced eagerly to the table.

"Well, you will see her once again."

"When?"

The man looked towards a clock on the mantelpiece,--"Before that clock
strikes.  Now, go back to your spiders."  The child looked irresolute and
disinclined to obey; but a stern and terrible expression gathered slowly
over the man's face, and the boy, growing pale as he remarked it, crept
back to the window.

The father--for such was the relation the owner of the room bore to the
child--drew paper and ink towards him, and wrote for some minutes
rapidly.  Then starting up, he glanced at the clock, took his hat and
cloak, which lay on a chair beside, drew up the collar of the mantle till
it almost concealed his countenance, and said, "Now, boy, come with me; I
have promised to show you an execution: I am going to keep my promise.
Come!"

The boy clapped his hands with joy; and you might see then, child as he
was, that those fair features were capable of a cruel and ferocious
expression.  The character of the whole face changed.  He caught up his
gay cap and plume, and followed his father into the streets.

Silently the two took their way towards the Barriere du Trone.  At a
distance they saw the crowd growing thick and dense as throng after
throng hurried past them, and the dreadful guillotine rose high in the
light blue air.  As they came into the skirts of the mob, the father, for
the first time, took his child's hand.  "I must get you a good place for
the show," he said, with a quiet smile.

There was something in the grave, staid, courteous, yet haughty bearing
of the man that made the crowd give way as he passed.  They got near the
dismal scene, and obtained entrance into a wagon already crowded with
eager spectators.

And now they heard at a distance the harsh and lumbering roll of the
tumbril that bore the victims, and the tramp of the horses which guarded
the procession of death.  The boy's whole attention was absorbed in
expectation of the spectacle, and his ear was perhaps less accustomed to
French, though born and reared in France, than to the language of his
mother's lips,--and she was English; thus he did not hear or heed certain
observations of the bystanders, which made his father's pale cheek grow
paler.

"What is the batch to-day?" quoth a butcher in the wagon.  "Scarce worth
the baking,--only two; but one, they say, is an aristocrat,--a ci-devant
marquis," answered a carpenter.  "Ah, a marquis!  Bon!  And the other?"

"Only a dancer, but a pretty one, it is true; I could pity her, but she
is English."  And as he pronounced the last word, with a tone of
inexpressible contempt, the butcher spat, as if in nausea.

"Mort diable! a spy of Pitt's, no doubt.  What did they discover?"

A man, better dressed than the rest, turned round with a smile, and
answered: "Nothing worse than a lover, I believe; but that lover was a
proscrit.  The ci-devant marquis was caught disguised in her apartment.
She betrayed for him a good, easy friend of the people who had long loved
her, and revenge is sweet."

The man whom we have accompanied, nervously twitched up the collar of his
cloak, and his compressed lips told that he felt the anguish of the laugh
that circled round him.

"They are coming!  There they are!" cried the boy, in ecstatic
excitement.

"That's the way to bring up citizens," said the butcher, patting the
child's shoulder, and opening a still better view for him at the edge of
the wagon.

The crowd now abruptly gave way.  The tumbril was in sight.  A man, young
and handsome, standing erect and with folded arms in the fatal vehicle,
looked along the mob with an eye of careless scorn.  Though he wore the
dress of a workman, the most unpractised glance could detect, in his mien
and bearing, one of the hated noblesse, whose characteristics came out
even more forcibly at the hour of death.  On the lip was that smile of
gay and insolent levity, on the brow that gallant if reckless contempt of
physical danger, which had signalized the hero-coxcombs of the old
regime.  Even the rude dress was worn with a certain air of foppery, and
the bright hair was carefully adjusted, as if for the holiday of the
headsman.  As the eyes of the young noble wandered over the fierce faces
of that horrible assembly, while a roar of hideous triumph answered the
look, in which for the last time the gentilhomme spoke his scorn of the
canaille, the child's father lowered the collar of his cloak, and slowly
raised his hat from his brow.  The eye of the marquis rested upon the
countenance thus abruptly shown to him, and which suddenly became
individualized amongst the crowd,--that eye instantly lost its calm
contempt.  A shudder passed visibly over his frame, and his cheek grew
blanched with terror.  The mob saw the change, but not the cause, and
loud and louder rose their triumphant yell.  The sound recalled the pride
of the young noble; he started, lifted his crest erect, and sought again
to meet the look which had appalled him.  But he could no longer single
it out among the crowd.  Hat and cloak once more hid the face of the foe,
and crowds of eager heads intercepted the view.  The young marquis's lips
muttered; he bent down, and then the crowd caught sight of his companion,
who was being lifted up from the bottom of the tumbril, where she had
flung herself in horror and despair.  The crowd grew still in a moment as
the pale face of one, familiar to most of them, turned wildly from place
to place in the dreadful scene, vainly and madly through its silence
imploring life and pity.  How often had the sight of that face, not then
pale and haggard, but wreathed with rosy smiles, sufficed to draw down
the applause of the crowded theatre; how, then, had those breasts, now
fevered by the thirst of blood, held hearts spellbound by the airy
movements of that exquisite form writhing now in no stage-mime agony!
Plaything of the city, minion to the light amusement of the hour, frail
child of Cytherea and the Graces, what relentless fate has conducted thee
to the shambles?  Butterfly of the summer, why should a nation rise to
break thee upon the wheel?  A sense of the mockery of such an execution,
of the horrible burlesque that would sacrifice to the necessities of a
mighty people so slight an offering, made itself felt among the crowd.
There was a low murmur of shame and indignation.  The dangerous sympathy
of the mob was perceived by the officer in attendance.  Hastily he made
the sign to the headsman, and as he did so, a child's cry was heard in
the English tongue,--"Mother!  Mother!"  The father's hand grasped the
child's arm with an iron pressure; the crowd swam before the boy's eyes;
the air seemed to stifle him, and become blood-red; only through the hum
and the tramp and the roll of the drums he heard a low voice hiss in his
ear "Learn how they perish who betray me!"

As the father said these words, again his face was bare, and the woman,
whose ear amidst the dull insanity of fear had caught the cry of her
child's voice, saw that face, and fell back insensible in the arms of the
headsman.



CHAPTER I.

A FAMILY GROUP.

One July evening, at the commencement of the present century, several
persons were somewhat picturesquely grouped along an old-fashioned
terrace which skirted the garden-side of a manor-house that had
considerable pretensions to baronial dignity.  The architecture was of
the most enriched and elaborate style belonging to the reign of James the
First: the porch, opening on the terrace, with its mullion window above,
was encased with pilasters and reliefs at once ornamental and massive;
and the large square tower in which it was placed was surmounted by a
stone falcon, whose talons griped fiercely a scutcheon blazoned with the
five-pointed stars which heralds recognize as the arms of St. John.  On
either side this tower extended long wings, the dark brickwork of which
was relieved with noble stone casements and carved pediments; the high
roof was partially concealed by a balustrade perforated not inelegantly
into arabesque designs; and what architects call "the sky line" was
broken with imposing effect by tall chimney-shafts of various form and
fashion.  These wings terminated in angular towers similar to the centre,
though kept duly subordinate to it both in size and decoration, and
crowned with stone cupolas.  A low balustrade, of later date than that
which adorned the roof, relieved by vases and statues, bordered the
terrace, from which a double flight of steps descended to a smooth lawn,
intersected by broad gravel-walks, shadowed by vast and stately cedars,
and gently and gradually mingling with the wilder scenery of the park,
from which it was only divided by a ha-ha.

Upon the terrace, and under cover of a temporary awning, sat the owner,
Sir Miles St. John of Laughton, a comely old man, dressed with faithful
precision to the costume which he had been taught to consider appropriate
to his rank of gentleman, and which was not yet wholly obsolete and
eccentric.  His hair, still thick and luxuriant, was carefully powdered,
and collected into a club behind; his nether man attired in gray breeches
and pearl-coloured silk stockings; his vest of silk, opening wide at the
breast, and showing a profusion of frill, slightly sprinkled with the
pulvilio of his favourite Martinique; his three-cornered hat, placed on a
stool at his side, with a gold-headed crutch-cane (hat made rather to be
carried in the hand than worn on the head), the diamond in his shirt-
breast, the diamond on his finger, the ruffles at his wrist,--all bespoke
the gallant who had chatted with Lord Chesterfield and supped with Mrs.
Clive.  On a table before him were placed two or three decanters of wine,
the fruits of the season, an enamelled snuff-box in which was set the
portrait of a female (perhaps the Chloe or Phyllis of his early love-
ditties), a lighted taper, a small china jar containing tobacco, and
three or four pipes of homely clay,--for cherry-sticks and meerschaums
were not then in fashion, and Sir Miles St. John, once a gay and
sparkling beau, now a popular country gentleman, great at county meetings
and sheep-shearing festivals, had taken to smoking, as in harmony with
his bucolic transformation.  An old setter lay dozing at his feet; a
small spaniel--old, too--was sauntering lazily in the immediate
neighbourhood, looking gravely out for such stray bits of biscuit as had
been thrown forth to provoke him to exercise, and which hitherto had
escaped his attention.  Half seated, half reclined on the balustrade,
apart from the baronet, but within reach of his conversation, lolled a
man in the prime of life, with an air of unmistakable and sovereign
elegance and distinction.  Mr. Vernon was a guest from London; and the
London man,--the man of clubs and dinners and routs, of noon loungings
through Bond Street, and nights spent with the Prince of Wales,--seemed
stamped not more upon the careful carelessness of his dress, and upon the
worn expression of his delicate features, than upon the listless ennui,
which, characterizing both his face and attitude, appeared to take pity
on himself for having been entrapped into the country.

Yet we should convey an erroneous impression of Mr. Vernon if we
designed, by the words "listless ennui," to depict the slumberous
insipidity of more modern affectation; it was not the ennui of a man to
whom ennui is habitual, it was rather the indolent prostration that fills
up the intervals of excitement.  At that day the word blast was unknown;
men had not enough sentiment for satiety.  There was a kind of
Bacchanalian fury in the life led by those leaders of fashion, among whom
Mr. Vernon was not the least distinguished; it was a day of deep
drinking, of high play, of jovial, reckless dissipation, of strong
appetite for fun and riot, of four-in-hand coachmanship, of prize-
fighting, of a strange sort of barbarous manliness that strained every
nerve of the constitution,--a race of life in which three fourths of the
competitors died half-way in the hippodrome.  What is now the Dandy was
then the Buck; and something of the Buck, though subdued by a chaster
taste than fell to the ordinary members of his class, was apparent in Mr.
Vernon's costume as well as air.  Intricate folds of muslin, arranged in
prodigious bows and ends, formed the cravat, which Brummell had not yet
arisen to reform; his hat, of a very peculiar shape, low at the crown and
broad at the brim, was worn with an air of devil-me-care defiance; his
watch-chain, garnished with a profusion of rings and seals, hung low from
his white waistcoat; and the adaptation of his nankeen inexpressibles to
his well-shaped limbs was a masterpiece of art.  His whole dress and air
was not what could properly be called foppish, it was rather what at that
time was called "rakish."  Few could so closely approach vulgarity
without being vulgar: of that privileged few, Mr. Vernon was one of the
elect.

Farther on, and near the steps descending into the garden, stood a man in
an attitude of profound abstraction, his arms folded, his eyes bent on
the ground, his brows slightly contracted; his dress was a plain black
surtout, and pantaloons of the same colour.  Something both in the
fashion of the dress, and still more in the face of the man, bespoke the
foreigner.

Sir Miles St. John was an accomplished person for that time of day.  He
had made the grand tour; he had bought pictures and statues; he spoke and
wrote well in the modern languages; and being rich, hospitable, social,
and not averse from the reputation of a patron, he had opened his house
freely to the host of emigrants whom the French Revolution had driven to
our coasts.  Olivier Dalibard, a man of considerable learning and rare
scientific attainments, had been tutor in the house of the Marquis de
G----, a French nobleman known many years before to the old baronet.  The
marquis and his family had been among the first emigres at the outbreak
of the Revolution.  The tutor had remained behind; for at that time no
danger appeared to threaten those who pretended to no other aristocracy
than that of letters.  Contrary, as he said, with repentant modesty, to
his own inclinations, he had been compelled, not only for his own safety,
but for that of his friends, to take some part in the subsequent events
of the Revolution,--a part far from sincere, though so well had he
simulated the patriot that he had won the personal favour and protection
of Robespierre; nor till the fall of that virtuous exterminator had he
withdrawn from the game of politics and effected in disguise his escape
to England.  As, whether from kindly or other motives, he had employed
the power of his position in the esteem of Robespierre to save certain
noble heads from the guillotine,--amongst others, the two brothers of the
Marquis de G----, he was received with grateful welcome by his former
patrons, who readily pardoned his career of Jacobinism from their belief
in his excuses and their obligations to the services which that very
career had enabled him to render to their kindred.  Olivier Dalibard had
accompanied the marquis and his family in one of the frequent visits they
paid to Laughton; and when the marquis finally quitted England, and fixed
his refuge at Vienna, with some connections of his wife's, he felt a
lively satisfaction at the thought of leaving his friend honourably, if
unambitiously, provided for as secretary and librarian to Sir Miles St.
John.  In fact, the scholar, who possessed considerable powers of
fascination, had won no less favour with the English baronet than he had
with the French dictator.  He played well both at chess and backgammon;
he was an extraordinary accountant; he had a variety of information upon
all points that rendered him more convenient than any cyclopaedia in Sir
Miles's library; and as he spoke both English and Italian with a
correctness and fluency extremely rare in a Frenchman, he was of
considerable service in teaching languages to, as well as directing the
general literary education of, Sir Miles's favourite niece, whom we shall
take an early opportunity to describe at length.

Nevertheless, there had been one serious obstacle to Dalibard's
acceptance of the appointment offered to him by Sir Miles.  Dalibard had
under his charge a young orphan boy of some ten or twelve years old,--a
boy whom Sir Miles was not long in suspecting to be the scholar's son.
This child had come from France with Dalibard, and while the marquis's
family were in London, remained under the eye and care of his guardian or
father, whichever was the true connection between the two.  But this
superintendence became impossible if Dalibard settled in Hampshire with
Sir Miles St. John, and the boy remained in London; nor, though the
generous old gentleman offered to pay for the child's schooling, would
Dalibard consent to part with him.  At last the matter was arranged: the
boy was invited to Laughton on a visit, and was so lively, yet so well
mannered, that he became a favourite, and was now fairly quartered in the
house with his reputed father; and not to make an unnecessary mystery of
this connection, such was in truth the relationship between Olivier
Dalibard and Honore Gabriel Varney,--a name significant of the double and
illegitimate origin: a French father, an English mother.  Dropping,
however, the purely French appellation of Honore, he went familiarly by
that of Gabriel.  Half-way down the steps stood the lad, pencil and
tablet in hand, sketching.  Let us look over his shoulder: it is his
father's likeness,--a countenance in itself not very remarkable at the
first glance, for the features were small; but when examined, it was one
that most persons, women especially, would have pronounced handsome, and
to which none could deny the higher praise of thought and intellect.  A
native of Provence, with some Italian blood in his veins,--for his
grandfather, a merchant of Marseilles, had married into a Florentine
family settled at Leghorn,--the dark complexion common with those in the
South had been subdued, probably by the habits of the student, into a
bronze and steadfast paleness which seemed almost fair by the contrast of
the dark hair which he wore unpowdered, and the still darker brows which
hung thick and prominent over clear gray eyes.  Compared with the
features, the skull was disproportionally large, both behind and before;
and a physiognomist would have drawn conclusions more favourable to the
power than the tenderness of the Provencal's character from the compact
closeness of the lips and the breadth and massiveness of the iron jaw.
But the son's sketch exaggerated every feature, and gave to the
expression a malignant and terrible irony not now, at least, apparent in
the quiet and meditative aspect.  Gabriel himself, as be stood, would
have been a more tempting study to many an artist. It is true that he was
small for his years; but his frame had a vigour in its light proportions
which came from a premature and almost adolescent symmetry of shape and
muscular development.  The countenance, however, had much of effeminate
beauty: the long hair reached the shoulders, but did not curl,--straight,
fine, and glossy as a girl's, and in colour of the pale auburn, tinged
with red, which rarely alters in hue as childhood matures to man; the
complexion was dazzlingly clear and fair.  Nevertheless, there was
something so hard in the lip, so bold, though not open, in the brow, that
the girlishness of complexion, and even of outline, could not leave, on
the whole, an impression of effeminacy.  All the hereditary keenness and
intelligence were stamped upon his face at that moment; but the
expression had also a large share of the very irony and malice which he
had conveyed to his caricature.  The drawing itself was wonderfully
vigorous and distinct; showing great artistic promise, and done with the
rapidity and ease which betrayed practice.  Suddenly his father turned,
and with as sudden a quickness the boy concealed his tablet in his vest;
and the sinister expression of his face smoothed into a timorous smile as
his eye encountered Dalibard's.  The father beckoned to the boy, who
approached with alacrity.  "Gabriel," whispered the Frenchman, in his own
tongue, "where are they at this moment?"

The boy pointed silently towards one of the cedars.  Dalibard mused an
instant, and then, slowly descending the steps, took his noiseless way
over the smooth turf towards the tree.  Its boughs drooped low and spread
wide; and not till he was within a few paces of the spot could his eye
perceive two forms seated on a bench under the dark green canopy.  He
then paused and contemplated them.

The one was a young man whose simple dress and subdued air strongly
contrasted the artificial graces and the modish languor of Mr. Vernon;
but though wholly without that nameless distinction which sometimes
characterizes those conscious of pure race and habituated to the
atmosphere of courts, he had at least Nature's stamp of aristocracy in a
form eminently noble, and features of manly, but surpassing beauty, which
were not rendered less engaging by an expression of modest timidity.  He
seemed to be listening with thoughtful respect to his companion, a young
female by his side, who was speaking to him with an earnestness visible
in her gestures and her animated countenance.  And though there was much
to notice in the various persons scattered over the scene, not one,
perhaps,--not the graceful Vernon, not the thoughtful scholar, nor his
fair-haired, hard-lipped son, not even the handsome listener she
addressed,--no, not one there would so have arrested the eye, whether of
a physiognomist or a casual observer, as that young girl, Sir Miles St.
John's favourite niece and presumptive heiress.

But as at that moment the expression of her face differed from that
habitual to it, we defer its description.

"Do not," such were her words to her companion,--"do not alarm yourself
by exaggerating the difficulties; do not even contemplate them: those be
my care.  Mainwaring, when I loved you; when, seeing that your diffidence
or your pride forbade you to be the first to speak, I overstepped the
modesty or the dissimulation of my sex; when I said, 'Forget that I am
the reputed heiress of Laughton, see in me but the faults and merits of
the human being, of the wild unregulated girl, see in me but Lucretia
Clavering'" (here her cheeks blushed, and her voice sank into a lower and
more tremulous whisper) "'and love her if you can!'--when I went thus
far, do not think I had not measured all the difficulties in the way of
our union, and felt that I could surmount them."

"But," answered Mainwaring, hesitatingly, "can you conceive it possible
that your uncle ever will consent?  Is not pride--the pride of family--
almost the leading attribute of his character?  Did he not discard your
mother--his own sister--from his house and heart for no other offence but
a second marriage which he deemed beneath her?  Has he ever even
consented to see, much less to receive, your half-sister, the child of
that marriage?  Is not his very affection for you interwoven with his
pride in you, with his belief in your ambition?  Has he not summoned your
cousin, Mr. Vernon, for the obvious purpose of favouring a suit which he
considers worthy of you, and which, if successful, will unite the two
branches of his ancient house?  How is it possible that he can ever hear
without a scorn and indignation which would be fatal to your fortunes
that your heart has presumed to choose, in William Mainwaring, a man
without ancestry or career?"

"Not without career," interrupted Lucretia, proudly.  "Do you think if
you were master of Laughton that your career would not be more brilliant
than that of yon indolent, luxurious coxcomb?  Do you think that I could
have been poor-hearted enough to love you if I had not recognized in you
energies and talents that correspond with my own ambition?  For I am
ambitious, as you know, and therefore my mind, as well as my heart, went
with my love for you."

"Ah, Lucretia, but can Sir Miles St. John see my future rise in my
present obscurity?"

"I do not say that he can, or will; but if you love me, we can wait.  Do
not fear the rivalry of Mr. Vernon.  I shall know how to free myself from
so tame a peril.  We can wait,--my uncle is old; his habits preclude the
chance of a much longer life; he has already had severe attacks.  We are
young, dear Mainwaring: what is a year or two to those who hope?"
Mainwaring's face fell, and a displeasing chill passed through his veins.
Could this young creature, her uncle's petted and trusted darling, she
who should be the soother of his infirmities, the prop of his age, the
sincerest mourner at his grave, weigh coldly thus the chances of his
death, and point at once to the altar and the tomb?

He was saved from the embarrassment of reply by Dalibard's approach.

"More than half an hour absent," said the scholar, in his own language,
with a smile; and drawing out his watch, he placed it before their eyes.
"Do you not think that all will miss you?  Do you suppose, Miss
Clavering, that your uncle has not ere this asked for his fair niece?
Come, and forestall him."  He offered his arm to Lucretia as he spoke.
She hesitated a moment, and then, turning to Mainwaring, held out her
hand.  He pressed it, though scarcely with a lover's warmth; and as she
walked back to the terrace with Dalibard, the young man struck slowly
into the opposite direction, and passing by a gate over a foot-bridge
that led from the ha-ha into the park, bent his way towards a lake which
gleamed below at some distance, half-concealed by groves of venerable
trees rich with the prodigal boughs of summer.  Meanwhile, as they passed
towards the house, Dalibard, still using his native tongue, thus accosted
his pupil:--

"You must pardon me if I think more of your interests than you do; and
pardon me no less if I encroach on your secrets and alarm your pride.
This young man,--can you be guilty of the folly of more than a passing
caprice for his society, of more than the amusement of playing with his
vanity?  Even if that be all, beware of entangling yourself in your own
meshes."

"You do in truth offend me," said Lucretia, with calm haughtiness, "and
you have not the right thus to speak to me."

"Not the right," repeated the Provencal, mournfully, "not the right!
Then, indeed, I am mistaken in my pupil.  Do you consider that I would
have lowered my pride to remain here as a dependent; that, conscious of
attainments, and perhaps of abilities, that should win their way, even in
exile, to distinction, I would have frittered away my life in these
rustic shades,--if I had not formed in you a deep and absorbing interest?
In that interest I ground my right to warn and counsel you.  I saw, or
fancied I saw, in you a mind congenial to my own; a mind above the
frivolities of your sex,--a mind, in short, with the grasp and energy of
a man's.  You were then but a child, you are scarcely yet a woman; yet
have I not given to your intellect the strong food on which the statesmen
of Florence fed their pupil-princes, or the noble Jesuits the noble men
who were destined to extend the secret empire of the imperishable
Loyola?"

"You gave me the taste for a knowledge rare in my sex, I own," answered
Lucretia, with a slight tone of regret in her voice: "and in the
knowledge you have communicated I felt a charm that at times seems to me
to be only fatal.  You have confounded in my mind evil and good, or
rather, you have left both good and evil as dead ashes, as the dust and
cinder of a crucible.  You have made intellect the only conscience.  Of
late, I wish that my tutor had been a village priest!"

"Of late, since you have listened to the pastorals of that meek Corydon!"

"Dare you despise him?  And for what?  That he is good and honest?"

"I despise him, not because he is good and honest, but because he is of
the common herd of men, without aim or character.  And it is for this
youth that you will sacrifice your fortunes, your ambition, the station
you were born to fill and have been reared to improve,--this youth in
whom there is nothing but the lap-dog's merit, sleekness and beauty!  Ay,
frown,--the frown betrays you; you love him!"

"And if I do?" said Lucretia, raising her tall form to its utmost height,
and haughtily facing her inquisitor,--"and, if I do, what then?  Is he
unworthy of me?  Converse with him, and you will find that the noble form
conceals as high a spirit.  He wants but wealth: I can give it to him.
If his temper is gentle, I can prompt and guide it to fame and power.  He
at least has education and eloquence and mind.  What has Mr. Vernon?"

"Mr. Vernon?  I did not speak of him!"

Lucretia gazed hard upon the Provencal's countenance,--gazed with that
unpitying air of triumph with which a woman who detects a power over the
heart she does not desire to conquer exults in defeating the reasons that
heart appears to her to prompt.  "No," she said in a calm voice, to which
the venom of secret irony gave stinging significance,--"no, you spoke not
of Mr. Vernon; you thought that if I looked round, if I looked nearer, I
might have a fairer choice."

"You are cruel, you are unjust," said Dalibard, falteringly.  If I once
presumed for a moment, have I repeated my offence?  But," he added
hurriedly, "in me,--much as you appear to despise me,--in me, at least,
you would have risked none of the dangers that beset you if you seriously
set your heart on Mainwaring."

"You think my uncle would be proud to give my hand to M. Olivier
Dalibard?"

"I think and I know," answered the Provencal, gravely, and disregarding
the taunt, "that if you had deigned to render me--poor exile that I am!--
the most enviable of men, you had still been the heiress of Laughton."

"So you have said and urged," said Lucretia, with evident curiosity in
her voice; "yet how, and by what art,--wise and subtle as you are,--could
you have won my uncle's consent?"

"That is my secret," returned Dalibard, gloomily; "and since the madness
I indulged is forever over; since I have so schooled my heart that
nothing, despite your sarcasm, save an affectionate interest which I may
call paternal rests there,--let us pass from this painful subject.  Oh,
my dear pupil, be warned in time; know love for what it really is, in the
dark and complicated history of actual life,--a brief enchantment, not to
be disdained, but not to be considered the all-in all.  Look round the
world; contemplate all those who have married from passion: ten years
afterwards, whither has the passion flown?  With a few, indeed, where
there is community of object and character, new excitements, new aims and
hopes, spring up; and having first taken root in passion, the passion
continues to shoot out in their fresh stems and fibres.  But deceive
yourself not; there is no such community between you and Mainwaring.
What you call his goodness, you will learn hereafter to despise as
feeble; and what in reality is your mental power he soon, too soon, will
shudder at as unwomanly and hateful."

"Hold!" cried Lucretia, tremulously.  "Hold! and if he does, I shall owe
his hate to you,--to your lessons; to your deadly influence!"

"Lucretia, no; the seeds were in you.  Can cultivation force from the
soil that which it is against the nature of the soil to bear?"

"I will pluck out the weeds!  I will transform myself!"

"Child, I defy you!" said the scholar, with a smile that gave to his face
the expression his son had conveyed to it. "I have warned you, and my
task is done."  With that he bowed, and leaving her, was soon by the side
of Sir Miles St. John; and the baronet and his librarian, a few moments
after, entered the house and sat down to chess.

But during the dialogues we have sketched, we must not suppose that Sir
Miles himself had been so wholly absorbed in the sensual gratification
bestowed upon Europe by the immortal Raleigh as to neglect his guest and
kinsman.

"And so, Charley Vernon, it is not the fashion to smoke in Lunnon."  Thus
Sir Miles pronounced the word, according to the Euphuism of his youth,
and which, even at that day, still lingered in courtly jargon.

"No, sir.  However, to console us, we have most other vices in full
force."

"I don't doubt it; they say the prince's set exhaust life pretty
quickly."

"It certainly requires the fortune of an earl and the constitution of a
prize-fighter to live with him."

"Yet methinks, Master Charley, you have neither the one nor the other."

"And therefore I see before me, and at no very great distance, the Bench
and--a consumption!" answered Vernon, suppressing a slight yawn.

"'T is a pity, for you had a fine estate, properly managed; and in spite
of your faults, you have the heart of a true gentleman.  Come, come!" and
the old man spoke with tenderness, "you are young enough yet to reform.
A prudent marriage and a good wife will save both your health and your
acres."

"If you think so highly of marriage, my dear Sir Miles, it is a wonder
you did not add to your precepts the value of your example."

"Jackanapes!  I had not your infirmities: I never was a spendthrift, and
I have a constitution of iron!" There was a pause.  "Charles," continued
Sir Miles, musingly, "there is many an earl with a less fortune than the
conjoined estates of Vernon Grange and Laughton Hall.  You must already
have understood me: it is my intention to leave my estates to Lucretia;
it is my wish, nevertheless, to think you will not be the worse for my
will.  Frankly, if you can like my niece, win her; settle here while I
live, put the Grange to nurse, and recruit yourself by fresh air and
field-sports.  Zounds, Charles, I love you, and that's the truth!  Give
me your hand!"

"And a grateful heart with it, sir," said Vernon, warmly, evidently
affected, as he started from his indolent position and took the hand
extended to him.  "Believe me, I do not covet your wealth, nor do I envy
my cousin anything so much as the first place in your regard."

"Prettily said, my boy, and I don't suspect you of insincerity.  What
think you, then, of my plan?"

Mr. Vernon seemed embarrassed; but recovering himself with his usual
ease, he replied archly: "Perhaps, sir, it will be of little use to know
what I think of your plan; my fair cousin may have upset it already."

"Ha, sir! let me look at you.  So, so! you are not jesting.  What the
deuce do you mean?  'Gad, man, speak out!"

"Do you not think that Mr. Monderling--Mandolin--what's his name, eh?--do
you not think that he is a very handsome young fellow?" said Mr. Vernon,
drawing out his snuffbox and offering it to his kinsman.

"Damn your snuff," quoth Sir Miles, in great choler, as he rejected the
proffered courtesy with a vehemence that sent half the contents of the
box upon the joint eyes and noses of the two canine favourites dozing at
his feet.  The setter started up in an agony; the spaniel wheezed and
sniffled and ran off, stopping every moment to take his head between his
paws.  The old gentleman continued without heeding the sufferings of his
dumb friends,--a symptom of rare discomposure on his part.

"Do you mean to insinuate, Mr. Vernon, that my niece--my elder niece,
Lucretia Clavering--condescends to notice the looks, good or bad, of Mr.
Mainwaring?  'Sdeath, sir, he is the son of a land-agent!  Sir, he is
intended for trade!  Sir, his highest ambition is to be partner in some
fifth-rate mercantile house!"

"My dear Sir Miles," replied Mr. Vernon, as he continued to brush away,
with his scented handkerchief, such portions of the prince's mixture as
his nankeen inexpressibles had diverted from the sensual organs of Dash
and Ponto--"my dear Sir Miles, ca n'empeche pas le sentiment!"

"Empeche the fiddlestick!  You don't know Lucretia.  There are many
girls, indeed, who might not be trusted near any handsome flute-playing
spark, with black eyes and white teeth; but Lucretia is not one of those;
she has spirit and ambition that would never stoop to a mesalliance; she
has the mind and will of a queen,--old Queen Bess, I believe."

"That is saying much for her talent, sir; but if so, Heaven help her
intended!  I am duly grateful for the blessings you propose me!"

Despite his anger, the old gentleman could not help smiling.

"Why, to confess the truth, she is hard to manage; but we men of the
world know how to govern women, I hope,--much more how to break in a girl
scarce out of her teens.  As for this fancy of yours, it is sheer folly:
Lucretia knows my mind.  She has seen her mother's fate; she has seen her
sister an exile from my house.  Why?  For no fault of hers, poor thing,
but because she is the child of disgrace, and the mother's sin is visited
on her daughter's head.  I am a good-natured man, I fancy, as men go; but
I am old-fashioned enough to care for my race.  If Lucretia demeaned
herself to love, to encourage, that lad, why, I would strike her from my
will, and put your name where I have placed hers."

"Sir," said Vernon, gravely, and throwing aside all affectation of
manner, "this becomes serious; and I have no right even to whisper a
doubt by which it now seems I might benefit.  I think it imprudent, if
you wish Miss Clavering to regard me impartially as a suitor to her hand,
to throw her, at her age, in the way of a man far superior to myself, and
to most men, in personal advantages,--a man more of her own years, well
educated, well mannered, with no evidence of his inferior birth in his
appearance or his breeding.  I have not the least ground for supposing
that he has made the slightest impression on Miss Clavering, and if he
has, it would be, perhaps, but a girl's innocent and thoughtless fancy,
easily shaken off by time and worldly reflection; but pardon me if I say
bluntly that should that be so, you would be wholly unjustified in
punishing, even in blaming, her,--it is yourself you must blame for your
own carelessness and that forgetful blindness to human nature and
youthful emotions which, I must say, is the less pardonable in one who
has known the world so intimately."

"Charles Vernon," said the old baronet, "give me your hand again!  I was
right, at least, when I said you had the heart of a true gentleman.  Drop
this subject for the present.  Who has just left Lucretia yonder?"

"Your protege, the Frenchman."

"Ah, he, at least, is not blind; go and join Lucretia!"

Vernon bowed, emptied the remains of the Madeira into a tumbler, drank
the contents at a draught, and sauntered towards Lucretia; but she,
perceiving his approach, crossed abruptly into one of the alleys that led
to the other side of the house, and he was either too indifferent or too
well-bred to force upon her the companionship which she so evidently
shunned.  He threw himself at length upon one of the benches on the lawn,
and leaning his head upon his hand, fell into reflections which, had he
spoken, would have shaped themselves somewhat thus into words:--

"If I must take that girl as the price of this fair heritage, shall I
gain or lose?  I grant that she has the finest neck and shoulders I ever
saw out of marble; but far from being in love with her, she gives me a
feeling like fear and aversion.  Add to this that she has evidently no
kinder sentiment for me than I for her; and if she once had a heart, that
young gentleman has long since coaxed it away.  Pleasant auspices, these,
for matrimony to a poor invalid who wishes at least to decline and to die
in peace!  Moreover, if I were rich enough to marry as I pleased; if I
were what, perhaps, I ought to be, heir to Laughton,--why, there is a
certain sweet Mary in the world, whose eyes are softer than Lucretia
Clavering's.  But that is a dream!  On the other hand, if I do not win
this girl, and my poor kinsman give her all, or nearly all, his
possessions, Vernon Grange goes to the usurers, and the king will find a
lodging for myself.  What does it matter?  I cannot live above two or
three years at the most, and can only hope, therefore, that dear stout
old Sir Miles may outlive me.  At thirty-three I have worn out fortune
and life; little pleasure could Laughton give me,--brief pain the Bench.
'Fore Gad, the philosophy of the thing is on the whole against sour looks
and the noose!"  Thus deciding in the progress of his revery, he smiled,
and changed his position.  The sun had set, the twilight was over, the
moon rose in splendour from amidst a thick copse of mingled beech and
oak; the beams fell full on the face of the muser, and the face seemed
yet paler and the exhaustion of premature decay yet more evident, by that
still and melancholy light: all ruins gain dignity by the moon.  This was
a ruin nobler than that which painters place on their canvas,--the ruin,
not of stone and brick,  but of humanity and spirit; the wreck of man
prematurely old, not stricken by great sorrow, not bowed by great toil,
but fretted and mined away by small pleasures and poor excitements,--
small and poor, but daily, hourly, momently at their gnome-like work.
Something of the gravity and the true lesson of the hour and scene,
perhaps, forced itself upon a mind little given to sentiment, for Vernon
rose languidly and muttered,--

"My poor mother hoped better things from me.  It is well, after all, that
it is broken off with Mary.  Why should there be any one to weep for me?
I can the better die smiling, as I have lived."

Meanwhile, as it is necessary we should follow each of the principal
characters we have introduced through the course of an evening more or
less eventful in the destiny of all, we return to Mainwaring and
accompany him to the lake at the bottom of the park, which he reached as
its smooth surface glistened in the last beams of the sun.  He saw, as he
neared the water, the fish sporting in the pellucid tide; the dragonfly
darted and hovered in the air; the tedded grass beneath his feet gave
forth the fragrance of crushed thyme and clover; the swan paused, as if
slumbering on the wave; the linnet and finch sang still from the
neighbouring copses; and the heavy bees were winging their way home with
a drowsy murmur.  All around were images of that unspeakable peace which
Nature whispers to those attuned to her music; all fitted to lull, but
not to deject, the spirit,--images dear to the holiday of the world-worn
man, to the contemplation of serene and retired age, to the boyhood of
poets, to the youth of lovers.  But Mainwaring's step was heavy, and his
brow clouded, and Nature that evening was dumb to him.  At the margin of
the lake stood a solitary angler who now, his evening's task done, was
employed in leisurely disjointing his rod and whistling with much
sweetness an air from one of Izaak Walton's songs.  Mainwaring reached
the angler and laid his hand on his shoulder.

"What sport, Ardworth?"

"A few large roach with the fly, and one pike with a gudgeon,--a noble
fellow!  Look at him!  He was lying under the reeds yonder; I saw his
green back, and teased him into biting.  A heavenly evening!  I wonder
you did not follow my example, and escape from a set where neither you
nor I can feel very much at home, to this green banquet of Nature, in
which at least no man sits below the salt-cellar.  The birds are an older
family than the St. Johns, but they don't throw their pedigree in our
teeth, Mainwaring."

"Nay, nay, my good friend, you wrong old Sir Miles; proud he is, no
doubt, but neither you nor I have had to complain of his insolence."

"Of his insolence, certainly not; of his condescension, yes!  Hang it,
William, it is his very politeness that galls me.  Don't you observe that
with Vernon, or Lord A----, or Lord B----, or Mr. C----, he is easy and
off-hand; calls them by their names, pats them on the shoulder, rates
them, and swears at them if they vex him.  But with you and me and his
French parasite, it is all stately decorum and punctilious courtesy: 'Mr.
Mainwaring, I am delighted to see you;' 'Mr. Ardworth, as you are so
near, dare I ask you to ring the bell?' 'Monsieur Dalibard, with the
utmost deference, I venture to disagree with you.'  However, don't let my
foolish susceptibility ruffle your pride.  And you, too, have a worthy
object in view, which might well detain you from roach and jack-fish.
Have you stolen your interview with the superb Lucretia?"

"Yes, stolen, as you say; and, like all thieves not thoroughly hardened,
I am ashamed of my gains."

"Sit down, my boy,--this is a bank in ten thousand; there, that old root
to lean your elbow on, this soft moss for your cushion: sit down and
confess.  You have something on your mind that preys on you; we are old
college friends,--out with it!"

"There is no resisting you, Ardworth," said Mainwaring, smiling, and
drawn from his reserve and his gloom by the frank good-humour of his
companion.  "I should like, I own, to make a clean breast of it; and
perhaps I may profit by your advice.  You know, in the first place, that
after I left college, my father, seeing me indisposed for the Church, to
which he had always destined me in his own heart, and for which, indeed,
he had gone out of his way to maintain me at the University, gave me the
choice of his own business as a surveyor and land-agent, or of entering
into the mercantile profession.  I chose the latter, and went to
Southampton, where we have a relation in business, to be initiated into
the elementary mysteries.  There I became acquainted with a good
clergyman and his wife, and in that house I passed a great part of my
time."

"With the hope, I trust, on better consideration, of gratifying your
father's ambition and learning how to starve with gentility on a cure."

"Not much of that, I fear."

"Then the clergyman had a daughter?"

"You are nearer the mark now," said Mainwaring, colouring,--"though it
was not his daughter.  A young lady lived in his family, not even related
to him; she was placed there with a certain allowance by a rich relation.
In a word, I admired, perhaps I loved, this young person; but she was
without an independence, and I not yet provided even with the substitute
of money,--a profession.  I fancied (do not laugh at my vanity) that my
feelings might be returned.  I was in alarm for her as well as myself; I
sounded the clergyman as to the chance of obtaining the consent of her
rich relation, and was informed that he thought it hopeless.  I felt I
had no right to invite her to poverty and ruin, and still less to
entangle further (if I had chanced to touch at all) her affection.  I
made an excuse to my father to leave the town, and returned home."

"Prudent and honourable enough, so far; unlike me,--I should have run off
with the girl, if she loved me, and old Plutus, the rascal, might have
done his worst against Cupid.  But I interrupt you."

"I came back when the county was greatly agitated,--public meetings,
speeches, mobs; a sharp election going on.  My father had always taken
keen interest in politics; he was of the same party as Sir Miles, who,
you know, is red-hot upon politics.  I was easily led--partly by
ambition, partly by the effect of example, partly by the hope to give a
new turn to my thoughts--to make an appearance in public."

"And a devilish creditable one too!  Why, man, your speeches have been
quoted with rapture by the London papers.  Horribly aristocratic and
Pittish, it is true,--I think differently; but every man to his taste.
Well--"

"My attempts, such as they were, procured me the favour of Sir Miles.  He
had long been acquainted with my father, who had helped him in his own
elections years ago.  He seemed cordially delighted to patronize the son;
he invited me to visit him at Laughton, and hinted to my father that I
was formed for something better than a counting-house: my poor father was
intoxicated.  In a word, here I am; here, often for days, almost weeks,
together, have I been a guest, always welcomed."

"You pause.  This is the primordium,--now comes the confession, eh?"

"Why, one half the confession is over.  It was my most unmerited fortune
to attract the notice of Miss Clavering.  Do not fancy me so self-
conceited as to imagine that I should ever have presumed so high, but
for--"

"But for encouragement,--I understand!  Well, she is a magnificent
creature, in her way, and I do not wonder that she drove the poor little
girl at Southampton out of your thoughts."

"Ah!  but there is the sore,--I am not sure that she has done so.
Ardworth, I may trust you?"

"With everything but half-a-guinea.  I would not promise to be rock
against so great a temptation!" and Ardworth turned his empty pockets
inside out.

"Tush! be serious, or I go."

"Serious!  With pockets like these, the devil's in it if I am not
serious.  Perge, precor."

"Ardworth, then," said Mainwaring, with great emotion, "I confide to you
the secret trouble of my heart.  This girl at Southampton is Lucretia's
sister,--her half-sister; the rich relation on whose allowance she lives
is Sir Miles St. John."

"Whew! my own poor dear little cousin, by the father's side!  Mainwaring,
I trust you have not deceived me; you have not amused yourself with
breaking Susan's heart?  For a heart, and an honest, simple, English
girl's heart she has."

"Heaven forbid!  I tell you I have never even declared my love; and if
love it were, I trust it is over.  But when Sir Miles was first kind to
me, first invited me, I own I had the hope to win his esteem; and since
he had always made so strong and cruel a distinction between Lucretia and
Susan, I thought it not impossible that he might consent at last to my
union with the niece he had refused to receive and acknowledge.  But even
while the hope was in me, I was drawn on, I was entangled, I was spell-
bound, I know not how or why; but, to close my confidence, while still
doubtful whether my own heart is free from the remembrance of the one
sister, I am pledged to the other."

Ardworth looked down gravely and remained silent.  He was a joyous,
careless, reckless youth, with unsteady character and pursuits, and with
something of vague poetry, much of unaccommodating pride about his
nature,--one of those youths little likely to do what is called well in
the world; not persevering enough for an independent career, too blunt
and honest for a servile one.  But it was in the very disposition of such
a person to judge somewhat harshly of Mainwaring's disclosure, and not
easily to comprehend what, after all, was very natural,--how a young man,
new to life, timid by character, and of an extreme susceptibility to the
fear of giving pain, had, in the surprise, the gratitude, the emotion, of
an avowed attachment from a girl far above him in worldly position, been
forced, by receiving, to seem, at least, to return her affection.  And,
indeed, though not wholly insensible to the brilliant prospects opened to
him in such a connection, yet, to do him justice, Mainwaring would have
been equally entangled by a similar avowal from a girl more his equal in
the world.  It was rather from an amiability bordering upon weakness,
than from any more degrading moral imperfections, that he had been
betrayed into a position which neither contented his heart nor satisfied
his conscience.

With far less ability than his friend, Ardworth had more force and
steadiness in his nature, and was wholly free from that morbid delicacy
of temperament to which susceptible and shy persons owe much of their
errors and misfortunes.  He said, therefore, after a long pause: "My good
fellow, to be plain with you, I cannot say that your confession has
improved you in my estimation; but that is perhaps because of the
bluntness of my understanding.  I could quite comprehend your forgetting
Susan (and, after all, I am left in doubt as to the extent of her
conquest over you) for the very different charms of her sister.  On the
other hand, I could still better understand that, having once fancied
Susan, you could not be commanded into love for Lucretia.  But I do not
comprehend your feeling love for one, and making love to the other,--
which is the long and short of the business."

"That is not exactly the true statement," answered Mainwaring, with a
powerful effort at composure.  "There are moments when, listening to
Lucretia, when, charmed by that softness which, contrasting the rest of
her character, she exhibits to none but me, struck by her great mental
powers, proud of an unsought triumph over such a being, I feel as if I
could love none but her; then suddenly her mood changes,--she utters
sentiments that chill and revolt me; the very beauty seems vanished from
her face.  I recall with a sigh the simple sweetness of Susan, and I feel
as if I deceived both my mistress and myself.  Perhaps, however, all the
circumstances of this connection tend to increase my doubts.  It is
humiliating to me to know that I woo clandestinely and upon sufferance;
that I am stealing, as it were, into a fortune; that I am eating Sir
Miles's bread, and yet counting upon his death; and this shame in myself
may make me unconsciously unjust to Lucretia.  But it is useless to
reprove me for what is past; and though I at first imagined you could
advise me for the future, I now see, too clearly, that no advice could
avail."

"I grant that too; for all you require is to make up your mind to be
fairly off with the old love, or fairly on with the new.  However, now
you have stated your case thus frankly, if you permit me, I will take
advantage of the strange chance of finding myself here, and watch,
ponder, and counsel, if I can.  This Lucretia, I own it, puzzles and
perplexes me; but though no Oedipus, I will not take fright at the
sphinx.  I suppose now it is time to return.  They expect some of the
neighbours to drink tea, and I must doff my fishing-jacket.  Come!"

As they strolled towards the house, Ardworth broke a silence which had
lasted for some moments.

"And how is that dear good Fielden?  I ought to have guessed him at once,
when you spoke of your clergyman and his young charge; but I did not know
he was at Southampton."

"He has exchanged his living for a year, on account of his wife's health,
and rather, I think also, with the wish to bring poor Susan nearer to
Laughton, in the chance of her uncle seeing her.  But you are, then,
acquainted with Fielden?"

"Acquainted!--my best friend.  He was my tutor, and prepared me for Caius
College.  I owe him, not only the little learning I have, but the little
good that is left in me.  I owe to him apparently, also, whatever chance
of bettering my prospects may arise from my visit to Laughton."

"Notwithstanding our intimacy, we have, like most young men not related,
spoken so little of our family matters that I do not now understand how
you are cousin to Susan, nor what, to my surprise and delight, brought
you hither three days ago."

"Faith, my story is easier to explain than your own, William.  Here
goes!"

But as Ardworth's recital partially involves references to family matters
not yet sufficiently known to the reader, we must be pardoned if we
assume to ourselves his task of narrator, and necessarily enlarge on his
details.

The branch of the illustrious family of St. John represented by Sir
Miles, diverged from the parent stem of the Lords of Bletshoe.  With them
it placed at the summit of its pedigree the name of William de St. John,
the Conqueror's favourite and trusted warrior, and Oliva de Filgiers.
With them it blazoned the latter alliance, which gave to Sir Oliver St.
John the lands of Bletshoe by the hand of Margaret Beauchamp (by her
second marriage with the Duke of Somerset), grandmother to Henry VII.  In
the following generation, the younger son of a younger son had founded,
partly by offices of state, partly by marriage with a wealthy heiress, a
house of his own; and in the reign of James the First, the St. Johns of
Laughton ranked amongst the chief gentlemen of Hampshire.  From that time
till the accession of George III the family, though it remained untitled,
had added to its consequence by intermarriages of considerable dignity,--
chosen, indeed, with a disregard for money uncommon amongst the English
aristocracy; so that the estate was but little enlarged since the reign
of James, though profiting, of course, by improved cultivation and the
different value of money.  On the other hand, perhaps there were scarcely
ten families in the country who could boast of a similar directness of
descent on all sides from the proudest and noblest aristocracy of the
soil; and Sir Miles St. John, by blood, was, almost at the distance of
eight centuries, as pure a Norman as his ancestral William.  His
grandfather, nevertheless, had deviated from the usual disinterested
practice of the family, and had married an heiress who brought the
quarterings of Vernon to the crowded escutcheon, and with these
quarterings an estate of some 4,000 pounds a year popularly known by the
name of Vernon Grange.  This rare occurrence did not add to the domestic
happiness of the contracting parties, nor did it lead to the ultimate
increase of the Laughton possessions.  Two sons were born.  To the elder
was destined the father's inheritance,--to the younger the maternal
property.  One house is not large enough for two heirs.  Nothing could
exceed the pride of the father as a St. John, except the pride of the
mother as a Vernon.  Jealousies between the two sons began early and
rankled deep; nor was there peace at Laughton till the younger had
carried away from its rental the lands of Vernon Grange; and the elder
remained just where his predecessors stood in point of possessions,--sole
lord of Laughton sole.  The elder son, Sir Miles's father, had been,
indeed, so chafed by the rivalry with his brother that in disgust he had
run away and thrown himself, at the age of fourteen, into the navy.  By
accident or by merit he rose high in that profession, acquired name and
fame, and lost an eye and an arm,--for which he was gazetted, at the same
time, an admiral and a baronet.

Thus mutilated and dignified, Sir George St. John retired from the
profession; and finding himself unmarried, and haunted by the
apprehension that if he died childless, Laughton would pass to his
brother's heirs, he resolved upon consigning his remains to the nuptial
couch, previous to the surer peace of the family vault.  At the age of
fifty-nine, the grim veteran succeeded in finding a young lady of
unblemished descent and much marked with the small-pox, who consented to
accept the only hand which Sir George had to offer.  From this marriage
sprang a numerous family; but all died in early childhood, frightened to
death, said the neighbours, by their tender parents (considered the
ugliest couple in the county), except one boy (the present Sir Miles) and
one daughter, many years younger, destined to become Lucretia's mother.
Sir Miles came early into his property; and although the softening
advance of civilization, with the liberal effects of travel and a long
residence in cities, took from him that provincial austerity of pride
which is only seen in stanch perfection amongst the lords of a village,
he was yet little less susceptible to the duties of maintaining his
lineage pure as its representation had descended to him than the most
superb of his predecessors.  But owing, it was said, to an early
disappointment, he led, during youth and manhood, a roving and desultory
life, and so put off from year to year the grand experiment matrimonial,
until he arrived at old age, with the philosophical determination to
select from the other branches of his house the successor to the heritage
of St. John.  In thus arrogating to himself a right to neglect his proper
duties as head of a family, he found his excuse in adopting his niece
Lucretia.  His sister had chosen for her first husband a friend and
neighbour of his own, a younger son, of unexceptionable birth and of very
agreeable manners in society.  But this gentleman contrived to render her
life so miserable that, though he died fifteen months after their
marriage, his widow could scarcely be expected to mourn long for him.  A
year after Mr. Clavering's death, Mrs. Clavering married again, under the
mistaken notion that she had the right to choose for herself.  She
married Dr. Mivers, the provincial physician who had attended her husband
in his last illness,--a gentleman by education, manners, and profession,
but unhappily the son of a silk-mercer.  Sir Miles never forgave this
connection.  By her first marriage, Sir Miles's sister had one daughter,
Lucretia; by her second marriage, another daughter, named Susan.  She
survived somewhat more than a year the birth of the latter.  On her
death, Sir Miles formally (through his agent) applied to Dr. Mivers for
his eldest niece, Lucretia Clavering, and the physician did not think
himself justified in withholding from her the probable advantages of a
transfer from his own roof to that of her wealthy uncle.  He himself had
been no worldly gainer by his connection; his practice had suffered
materially from the sympathy which was felt by the county families for
the supposed wrongs of Sir Miles St. John, who was personally not only
popular, but esteemed, nor less so on account of his pride,--too
dignified to refer even to his domestic annoyances, except to his most
familiar associates; to them, indeed, Sir Miles had said, briefly, that
he considered a physician who abused his entrance into a noble family by
stealing into its alliance was a character in whose punishment all
society had an interest. The words were repeated; they were thought just.
Those who ventured to suggest that Mrs. Clavering, as a widow, was a free
agent, were regarded with suspicion.  It was the time when French
principles were just beginning to be held in horror, especially in the
provinces, and when everything that encroached upon the rights and
prejudices of the high born was called "a French principle."  Dr. Mivers
was as much scouted as if he had been a sans-culotte.  Obliged to quit
the county, he settled at a distance; but he had a career to commence
again; his wife's death enfeebled his spirits and damped his exertions.
He did little more than earn a bare subsistence, and died at last, when
his only daughter was fourteen, poor and embarrassed  On his death-bed he
wrote a letter to Sir Miles reminding him that, after all, Susan was his
sister's child, gently vindicating himself from the unmerited charge of
treachery, which had blasted his fortunes and left his orphan penniless,
and closing with a touching yet a manly appeal to the sole relative left
to befriend her.  The clergyman who had attended him in his dying moments
took charge of this letter; he brought it in person to Laughton, and
delivered it to Sir Miles.  Whatever his errors, the old baronet was no
common man.  He was not vindictive, though he could not be called
forgiving.  He had considered his conduct to his sister a duty owed to
his name and ancestors; she had placed herself and her youngest child out
of the pale of his family.  He would not receive as his niece the grand-
daughter of a silk-mercer.  The relationship was extinct, as, in certain
countries, nobility is forfeited by a union with an inferior class.  But,
niece or not, here was a claim to humanity and benevolence, and never yet
had appeal been made by suffering to his heart and purse in vain.

He bowed his head over the letter as his eye came to the last line, and
remained silent so long that the clergyman at last, moved and hopeful,
approached and took his hand.  It was the impulse of a good man and a
good priest. Sir Miles looked up in surprise; but the calm, pitying face
bent on him repelled all return of pride.

"Sir," he said tremulously, and he pressed the hand that grasped his own,
"I thank you.  I am not fit at this moment to decide what to do; to-
morrow you shall know.  And the man died poor,--not in want, not in
want?"

"Comfort yourself, worthy sir; he had at the last all that sickness and
death require, except one assurance, which I ventured to whisper to him,-
-I trust not too rashly,--that his daughter would not be left
unprotected.  And I pray you to reflect, my dear sir, that--"

Sir Miles did not wait for the conclusion of the sentence; he rose
abruptly, and left the room.  Mr. Fielden (so the good priest was named)
felt confident of the success of his mission; but to win it the more
support, he sought Lucretia.  She was then seventeen: it is an age when
the heart is peculiarly open to the household ties,--to the memory of a
mother, to the sweet name of sister.  He sought this girl, he told his
tale, and pleaded the sister's cause.  Lucretia heard in silence: neither
eye nor lip betrayed emotion; but her colour went and came.  This was the
only sign that she was moved: moved, but how?  Fielden's experience in
the human heart could not guess.  When he had done, she went quietly to
her desk (it was in her own room that the conference took place), she
unlocked it with a deliberate hand, she took from it a pocketbook and a
case of jewels which Sir Miles had given her on her last birthday.  "Let
my sister have these; while I live she shall not want!"

"My dear young lady, it is not these things that she asks from you,--it
is your affection, your sisterly heart, your intercession with her
natural protector; these, in her name, I ask for,--'non gemmis, neque
purpura venale, nec auro!'"

Lucretia then, still without apparent emotion, raised to the good man's
face deep, penetrating, but unrevealing eyes, and said slowly,--

"Is my sister like my mother, who, they say, was handsome?"

Much startled by this question, Fielden answered:  "I never saw your
mother, my dear; but your sister gives promise of more than common
comeliness."

Lucretia's brows grew slightly compressed.  "And her education has been,
of course, neglected?"

"Certainly, in some points,--mathematics, for instance, and theology; but
she knows what ladies generally know,--French and Italian, and such like.
Dr. Mivers was not unlearned in the polite letters.  Oh, trust me, my
dear young lady, she will not disgrace your family; she will justify your
uncle's favour.  Plead for her!" And the good man clasped his hands.

Lucretia's eyes fell musingly on the ground; but she resumed, after a
short pause,--

"What does my uncle himself say?"

"Only that he will decide to-morrow."

"I will see him;" and Lucretia left the room as for that object.  But
when she had gained the stairs, she paused at the large embayed casement,
which formed a niche in the landing-place, and gazed over the broad
domains beyond; a stern smile settled, then, upon her lips,--the smile
seemed to say, "In this inheritance I will have no rival."

Lucretia's influence with Sir Miles was great, but here it was not
needed.  Before she saw him he had decided on his course.  Her precocious
and apparently intuitive knowledge of character detected at a glance the
safety with which she might intercede.  She did so, and was chid into
silence.

The next morning, Sir Miles took the priest's arm and walked with him
into the gardens.

"Mr. Fielden," he said, with the air of a man who has chosen his course,
and deprecates all attempt to make him swerve from it, "if I followed my
own selfish wishes, I should take home this poor child.  Stay, sir, and
hear me,--I am no hypocrite, and I speak honestly.  I like young faces; I
have no family of my own.  I love Lucretia, and I am proud of her; but a
girl brought up in adversity might be a better nurse and a more docile
companion,--let that pass.  I have reflected, and I feel that I cannot
set to Lucretia--set to children unborn--the example of indifference to a
name degraded and a race adulterated; you may call this pride or
prejudice,--I view it differently.  There are duties due from an
individual, duties due from a nation, duties due from a family; as my
ancestors thought, so think I.  They left me the charge of their name, as
the fief-rent by which I hold their lands.  'Sdeath, sir!--Pardon me the
expletive;  I was about to say that if I am now a childless old man, it
is because I have myself known temptation and resisted.  I loved, and
denied myself what I believed my best chance of happiness, because the
object of my attachment was not my equal.  That was a bitter struggle,--I
triumphed, and I rejoice at it, though the result was to leave all
thoughts of wedlock elsewhere odious and repugnant.  These principles of
action have made a part of my creed as gentleman, if not as Christian.
Now to the point.  I beseech you to find a fitting and reputable home for
Miss--Miss Mivers," the lip slightly curled as the name was said; "I
shall provide suitably for her maintenance.  When she marries, I will
dower her, provided only and always that her choice fall upon one who
will not still further degrade her lineage on her mother's side,--in a
word, if she select a gentleman.  Mr. Fielden, on this subject I have no
more to say."

In vain the good clergyman, whose very conscience, as well as reason, was
shocked by the deliberate and argumentative manner with which the baronet
had treated the abandonment of his sister's child as an absolutely moral,
almost religious, duty,--in vain he exerted himself to repel such
sophisms and put the matter in its true light.  It was easy for him to
move Sir Miles's heart,--that was ever gentle; that was moved already:
but the crotchet in his head was impregnable.  The more touchingly he
painted poor Susan's unfriended youth, her sweet character, and promising
virtues, the more Sir Miles St. John considered himself a martyr to his
principles, and the more obstinate in the martyrdom he became.  "Poor
thing!  poor child!" he said often, and brushed a tear from his eyes;
"a thousand pities!  Well, well, I hope she will be happy!  Mind, money
shall never stand in the way if she have a suitable offer!"

This was all the worthy clergyman, after an hour's eloquence, could
extract from him.  Out of breath and out of patience, he gave in at last;
and the baronet, still holding his reluctant arm, led him back towards
the house.  After a prolonged pause, Sir Miles said abruptly: "I have
been thinking that I may have unwittingly injured this man,--this
Mivers,--while I deemed only that he injured me.  As to reparation to his
daughter, that is settled; and after all, though I do not publicly
acknowledge her, she is half my own niece."

"Half?"

"Half,--the father's side doesn't count, of course; and, rigidly
speaking, the relationship is perhaps forfeited on the other.  However,
that half of it I grant.  Zooks, sir, I say I grant it!  I beg you ten
thousand pardons for my vehemence.  To return,--perhaps I can show at
least that I bear no malice to this poor doctor.  He has relations of his
own,--silk mercers; trade has reverses.  How are they off?"

Perfectly perplexed by this very contradictory and paradoxical, yet, to
one better acquainted with Sir Miles, very characteristic, benevolence,
Fielden was some time before he answered.  "Those members of Dr. Mivers's
family who are in trade are sufficiently prosperous; they have paid his
debts,--they, Sir Miles, will receive his daughter."

"By no means!" cried Sir Miles, quickly; then, recovering himself, he
added, "or, if you think that advisable, of course all interference on my
part is withdrawn."

"Festina lente!--not so quick, Sir Miles.  I do not yet say that it is
advisable,--not because they are silk-mercers, the which, I humbly
conceive, is no sin to exclude them from gratitude for their proffered
kindness, but because Susan, poor child, having been brought up in
different habits, may feel a little strange, at least at first, with--"

"Strange, yes; I should hope so!" interrupted Sir Miles, taking snuff
with much energy.  "And, by the way, I am thinking that it would be well
if you and Mrs. Fielden--you are married, sir?  That is right; clergymen
all marry!--if you and Mrs. Fielden would take charge of her yourselves,
it would be a great comfort to me to think her so well placed.  We
differ, sir, but I respect you.  Think of this.  Well, then, the doctor
has left no relations that I can aid in any way?"

"Strange man!" muttered Fielden.  "Yes; I must not let one poor youth
lose the opportunity offered by your--your--"

"Never mind what; proceed.  One poor youth,--in the shop, of course?"

"No; and by his father's side (since you so esteem such vanities) of an
ancient family,--a sister of Dr. Mivers married Captain Ardworth."

"Ardworth,--a goodish name; Ardworth of Yorkshire?"

"Yes, of that family.  It was, of course, an imprudent marriage,
contracted while he was only an ensign.  His family did not reject him,
Sir Miles."

"Sir, Ardworth is a good squire's family, but the name is Saxon; there is
no difference in race between the head of the Ardworths, if he were a
duke, and my gardener, John Hodge,--Saxon and Saxon, both.  His family
did not reject him; go on."

"But he was a younger son in a large family; both himself and his wife
have known all the distresses common, they tell me, to the poverty of a
soldier who has no resource but his pay.  They have a son.  Dr. Mivers,
though so poor himself, took this boy, for he loved his sister dearly,
and meant to bring him up to his own profession.  Death frustrated this
intention.  The boy is high-spirited and deserving."

"Let his education be completed; send him to the University; and I will
see that he is put into some career of which his father's family would
approve.  You need not mention to any one my intentions in this respect,
not even to the lad.  And now, Mr. Fielden, I have done my duty,--at
least, I think so.  The longer you honour my house, the more I shall be
pleased and grateful; but this topic, allow me most respectfully to say,
needs and bears no further comment.  Have you seen the last news from the
army?"

"The army!  Oh, fie, Sir Miles, I must speak one word more.  May not my
poor Susan have at least the comfort to embrace her sister?"

Sir Miles paused a moment, and struck his crutch-stick thrice firmly on
the ground.

"I see no great objection to that; but by the address of this letter,
the poor girl is too far from Laughton to send Lucretia to her."

"I can obviate that objection, Sir Miles.  It is my wish to continue to
Susan her present home amongst my own children.  My wife loves her
dearly; and had you consented to give her the shelter of your own roof,
I am sure I should not have seen a smile in the house for a month after.
If you permit this plan, as indeed you honoured me by suggesting it, I
can pass through Southampton on my way to my own living in Devonshire,
and Miss Clavering can visit her sister there."

"Let it be so," said Sir Miles, briefly; and so the conversation closed.

Some weeks afterwards, Lucretia went in her uncle's carriage, with four
post-horses, with her maid and her footman,--went in the state and pomp
of heiress to Laughton,--to the small lodging-house in which the kind
pastor crowded his children and his young guest. She stayed there some
days.  She did not weep when she embraced Susan, she did not weep when
she took leave of her; but she showed no want of actual kindness, though
the kindness was formal and stately.  On her return, Sir Miles forbore to
question; but he looked as if he expected, and would willingly permit,
her to speak on what might naturally be uppermost at her heart.
Lucretia, however, remained silent, till at last the baronet, colouring,
as if ashamed of his curiosity, said,--

"Is your sister like your mother?"

"You forget, sir, I can have no recollection of my mother."

"Your mother had a strong family likeness to myself."

"She is not like you; they say she is like Dr. Mivers."

"Oh!" said the baronet, and he asked no more.

The sisters did not meet again; a few letters passed between them, but
the correspondence gradually ceased.

Young Ardworth went to college, prepared by Mr. Fielden, who was no
ordinary scholar, and an accurate and profound mathematician,--a more
important requisite than classical learning in a tutor for Cambridge.
But Ardworth was idle, and perhaps even dissipated.  He took a common
degree, and made some debts, which were paid by Sir Miles without a
murmur.  A few letters then passed between the baronet and the clergyman
as to Ardworth's future destiny; the latter owned that his pupil was not
persevering enough for the Bar, nor steady enough for the Church.  These
were no great faults in Sir Miles's eyes.  He resolved, after an effort,
to judge himself of the capacities of the young man, and so came the
invitation to Laughton.  Ardworth was greatly surprised when Fielden
communicated to him this invitation, for hitherto he had not conceived
the slightest suspicion of his benefactor; he had rather, and naturally,
supposed that some relation of his father's had paid for his maintenance
at the University, and he knew enough of the family history to look upon
Sir Miles as the proudest of men.  How was it, then, that he, who would
not receive the daughter of Dr. Mivers, his own niece, would invite the
nephew of Dr. Mivers, who was no relation to him?  However, his curiosity
was excited, and Fielden was urgent that he should go; to Laughton,
therefore, had he gone.

We have now brought down to the opening of our narrative the general
records of the family it concerns; we have reserved our account of the
rearing and the character of the personage most important, perhaps, in
the development of its events,--Lucretia Clavering,--in order to place
singly before the reader the portrait of her dark, misguided, and ill-
boding youth.



CHAPTER II.

LUCRETIA.

When Lucretia first came to the house of Sir Miles St. John she was an
infant about four years old.  The baronet then lived principally in
London, with occasional visits rather to the Continent or a watering-
place than to his own family mansion.  He did not pay any minute
attention to his little ward, satisfied that her nurse was sedulous, and
her nursery airy and commodious.  When, at the age of seven, she began to
interest him, and he himself, approaching old age, began seriously to
consider whether he should select her as his heiress, for hitherto he had
not formed any decided or definite notions on the matter, he was startled
by a temper so vehement, so self-willed and sternly imperious, so
obstinately bent upon attaining its object, so indifferently contemptuous
of warning, reproof, coaxing, or punishment, that her governess honestly
came to him in despair.

The management of this unmanageable child interested Sir Miles.  It
caused him to think of Lucretia seriously; it caused him to have her much
in his society, and always in his thoughts.  The result was, that by
amusing and occupying him, she forced a stronger hold on his affections
than she might have done had she been more like the ordinary run of
commonplace children.  Of all dogs, there is no dog that so attaches a
master as a dog that snarls at everybody else,--that no other hand can
venture to pat with impunity; of all horses, there is none which so
flatters the rider, from Alexander downwards, as a horse that nobody else
can ride.  Extend this principle to the human species, and you may
understand why Lucretia became so dear to Sir Miles St. John,--she got at
his heart through his vanity.  For though, at times, her brow darkened
and her eye flashed even at his remonstrance, she was yet no sooner in
his society than she made a marked distinction between him and the
subordinates who had hitherto sought to control her.  Was this affection?
He thought so.  Alas! what parent can trace the workings of a child's
mind,--springs moved by an idle word from a nurse; a whispered conference
between hirelings.  Was it possible that Lucretia had not often been
menaced, as the direst evil that could befall her, with her uncle's
displeasure; that long before she could be sensible of mere worldly loss
or profit, she was not impressed with a vague sense of Sir Miles's power
over her fate,--nay, when trampling, in childish wrath and scorn, upon
some menial's irritable feelings, was it possible that she had not been
told that, but for Sir Miles, she would be little better than a servant
herself?  Be this as it may, all weakness is prone to dissimulate; and
rare and happy is the child whose feelings are as pure and transparent as
the fond parent deems them.  There is something in children, too, which
seems like an instinctive deference to the aristocratic appearances which
sway the world.  Sir Miles's stately person, his imposing dress, the
respect with which he was surrounded, all tended to beget notions of
superiority and power, to which it was no shame to succumb, as it was to
Miss Black, the governess, whom the maids answered pertly, or Martha, the
nurse, whom Miss Black snubbed if Lucretia tore her frock.

Sir Miles's affection once won, his penetration not, perhaps, blinded to
her more evident faults, but his self-love soothed towards regarding them
leniently, there was much in Lucretia's external gifts which justified
the predilection of the haughty man.  As a child she was beautiful, and,
perhaps from her very imperfections of temper, her beauty had that air of
distinction which the love of command is apt to confer.  If Sir Miles was
with his friends when Lucretia swept into the room, he was pleased to
hear them call her their little "princess," and was pleased yet more at a
certain dignified tranquillity with which she received their caresses or
their toys, and which he regarded as the sign of a superior mind; nor was
it long, indeed, before what we call "a superior mind" developed itself
in the young Lucretia.  All children are quick till they are set
methodically to study; but Lucretia's quickness defied even that numbing
ordeal, by which half of us are rendered dunces.  Rapidity and precision
in all the tasks set to her, in the comprehension of all the explanations
given to her questions, evinced singular powers of readiness and
reasoning.

As she grew older, she became more reserved and thoughtful.  Seeing but
few children of her own age, and mixing intimately with none, her mind
was debarred from the usual objects which distract the vivacity, the
restless and wondrous observation, of childhood.  She came in and out of
Sir Miles's library of a morning, or his drawing-room of an evening, till
her hour for rest, with unquestioned and sometimes unnoticed freedom; she
listened to the conversation around her, and formed her own conclusions
unchecked.  It has a great influence upon a child, whether for good or
for evil, to mix early and habitually with those grown up,--for good to
the mere intellect always; the evil depends upon the character and
discretion of those the child sees and hears.  "Reverence the greatest is
due to the children," exclaims the wisest of the Romans [Cicero. The
sentiment is borrowed by Juvenal.],--that is to say, that we must revere
the candour and inexperience and innocence of their minds.

Now, Sir Miles's habitual associates were persons of the world,--well-
bred and decorous, indeed, before children, as the best of the old school
were, avoiding all anecdotes; all allusions, for which the prudent matron
would send her girls out of the room; but with that reserve speaking of
the world as the world goes: if talking of young A----, calculating
carelessly what he would have when old A----, his father, died; naturally
giving to wealth and station and ability their fixed importance in life;
not over-apt to single out for eulogium some quiet goodness; rather
inclined to speak with irony of pretensions to virtue; rarely speaking
but with respect of the worldly seemings which rule mankind.  All these
had their inevitable effect upon that keen, quick, yet moody and
reflective intellect.

Sir Miles removed at last to Laughton.  He gave up London,--why, he
acknowledged not to himself; but it was because he had outlived his age.
Most of his old set were gone; new hours, new habits, had stolen in.  He
had ceased to be of importance as a marrying man, as a personage of
fashion; his health was impaired; he shrank from the fatigues of a
contested election; he resigned his seat in parliament for his native
county; and once settled at Laughton, the life there soothed and
flattered him,--there all his former claims to distinction were still
fresh.  He amused himself by collecting, in his old halls and chambers,
his statues and pictures, and felt that, without fatigue or trouble, he
was a greater man at Laughton in his old age than he had been in London
during his youth.

Lucretia was then thirteen.  Three years afterwards, Olivier Dalibard was
established in the house; and from that time a great change became
noticeable in her.  The irregular vehemence of her temper gradually
subsided, and was replaced by an habitual self-command which rendered the
rare deviations from it more effective and imposing.  Her pride changed
its character wholly and permanently; no word, no look of scorn to the
low-born and the poor escaped her.  The masculine studies which her
erudite tutor opened to a grasping and inquisitive mind, elevated her
very errors above the petty distinctions of class.  She imbibed earnestly
what Dalibard assumed or felt,--the more dangerous pride of the fallen
angel,--and set up the intellect as a deity.  All belonging to the mere
study of mind charmed and enchained her; but active and practical in her
very reveries, if she brooded, it was to scheme, to plot, to weave, web,
and mesh, and to smile in haughty triumph at her own ingenuity and
daring.  The first lesson of mere worldly wisdom teaches us to command
temper; it was worldly wisdom that made the once impetuous girl calm,
tranquil, and serene.  Sir Miles was pleased by a change that removed
from Lucretia's outward character its chief blot,--perhaps, as his frame
declined, he sighed sometimes to think that with so much majesty there
appeared but little tenderness; he took, however, the merits with the
faults, and was content upon the whole.

If the Provencal had taken more than common pains with his young pupil,
the pains were not solely disinterested.  In plunging her mind amidst
that profound corruption which belongs only to intellect cultivated in
scorn of good and in suppression of heart, he had his own views to serve.
He watched the age when the passions ripen, and he grasped at the fruit
which his training sought to mature.  In the human heart ill regulated
there is a dark desire for the forbidden.  This Lucretia felt; this her
studies cherished, and her thoughts brooded over.  She detected, with the
quickness of her sex, the preceptor's stealthy aim.  She started not at
the danger.  Proud of her mastery over herself, she rather triumphed in
luring on into weakness this master-intelligence which had lighted up her
own,--to see her slave in her teacher; to despise or to pity him whom she
had first contemplated with awe.  And with this mere pride of the
understanding might be connected that of the sex; she had attained the
years when woman is curious to know and to sound her power.  To inflame
Dalibard's cupidity or ambition was easy; but to touch his heart,--that
marble heart!--this had its dignity and its charm.  Strange to say, she
succeeded; the passion, as well as interests, of this dangerous and able
man became enlisted in his hopes.  And now the game played between them
had a terror in its suspense; for if Dalibard penetrated not into the
recesses of his pupil's complicated nature, she was far from having yet
sounded the hell that lay, black and devouring, beneath his own.  Not
through her affections,--those he scarce hoped for,--but through her
inexperience, her vanity, her passions, he contemplated the path to his
victory over her soul and her fate.  And so resolute, so wily, so
unscrupulous was this person, who had played upon all the subtlest keys
and chords in the scale of turbulent life, that, despite the lofty smile
with which Lucretia at length heard and repelled his suit, he had no fear
of the ultimate issue, when all his projects were traversed, all his
mines and stratagems abruptly brought to a close, by an event which he
had wholly unforeseen,--the appearance of a rival; the ardent and almost
purifying love, which, escaping a while from all the demons he had
evoked, she had, with a girl's frank heart and impulse, conceived for
Mainwaring.  And here, indeed, was the great crisis in Lucretia's life
and destiny.  So interwoven with her nature had become the hard
calculations of the understanding; so habitual to her now was the zest
for scheming, which revels in the play and vivacity of intrigue and plot,
and which Shakspeare has perhaps intended chiefly to depict in the
villany of Iago,--that it is probable Lucretia could never become a
character thoroughly amiable and honest. But with a happy and well-placed
love, her ambition might have had legitimate vents; her restless
energies, the woman's natural field in sympathies for another.  The
heart, once opened, softens by use; gradually and unconsciously the
interchange of affection, the companionship with an upright and ingenuous
mind (for virtue is not only beautiful, it is contagious), might have had
their redeeming and hallowing influence.  Happier, indeed, had it been,
if her choice had fallen upon a more commanding and lofty nature!  But
perhaps it was the very meekness and susceptibility of Mainwaring's
temper, relieved from feebleness by his talents, which, once in play,
were undeniably great, that pleased her by contrast with her own hardness
of spirit and despotism of will.

That Sir Miles should have been blind to the position of the lovers is
less disparaging to his penetration than it may appear; for the very
imprudence with which Lucretia abandoned herself to the society of
Mainwaring during his visits at Laughton took a resemblance to candour.
Sir Miles knew his niece to be more than commonly clever and well
informed; that she, like him, should feel that the conversation of a
superior young man was a relief to the ordinary babble of their country
neighbours, was natural enough; and if now and then a doubt, a fear, had
crossed his mind and rendered him more touched than he liked to own by
Vernon's remarks, it had vanished upon perceiving that Lucretia never
seemed a shade more pensive in Mainwaring's absence.  The listlessness
and the melancholy which are apt to accompany love, especially where
unpropitiously placed, were not visible on the surface of this strong
nature.  In truth, once assured that Mainwaring returned her affection,
Lucretia reposed on the future with a calm and resolute confidence; and
her customary dissimulation closed like an unruffled sea over all the
undercurrents that met and played below.  Still, Sir Miles's attention
once, however slightly, aroused to the recollection that Lucretia was at
the age when woman naturally meditates upon love and marriage, had
suggested, afresh and more vividly, a project which had before been
indistinctly conceived,--namely, the union of the divided branches of his
house, by the marriage of the last male of the Vernons with the heiress
of the St. Johns.  Sir Miles had seen much of Vernon himself at various
intervals; he had been present at his christening, though he had refused
to be his godfather, for fear of raising undue expectations; he had
visited and munificently "tipped" him at Eton; he had accompanied him to
his quarters when he joined the prince's regiment; he had come often in
contact with him when, at the death of his father, Vernon retired from
the army and blazed in the front ranks of metropolitan fashion; he had
given him counsel and had even lent him money.  Vernon's spendthrift
habits and dissipated if not dissolute life had certainly confirmed the
old baronet in his intentions to trust the lands of Laughton to the
lesser risk which property incurs in the hands of a female, if tightly
settled on her, than in the more colossal and multiform luxuries of an
expensive man; and to do him justice, during the flush of Vernon's
riotous career he had shrunk from the thought of confiding the happiness
of his niece to so unstable a partner.  But of late, whether from his
impaired health or his broken fortunes, Vernon's follies had been less
glaring.  He had now arrived at the mature age of thirty-three, when wild
oats may reasonably be sown.  The composed and steadfast character of
Lucretia might serve to guide and direct him; and Sir Miles was one of
those who hold the doctrine that a reformed rake makes the best husband.
Add to this, there was nothing in Vernon's reputation--once allowing that
his thirst for pleasure was slaked--which could excite serious
apprehensions.  Through all his difficulties, he had maintained his
honour unblemished; a thousand traits of amiability and kindness of heart
made him popular and beloved.  He was nobody's enemy but his own.  His
very distresses--the prospect of his ruin, if left unassisted by Sir
Miles's testamentary dispositions--were arguments in his favour.  And,
after all, though Lucretia was a nearer relation, Vernon was in truth the
direct male heir, and according to the usual prejudices of family,
therefore, the fitter representative of the ancient line.  With these
feelings and views, he had invited Vernon to his house, and we have seen
already that his favourable impressions had been confirmed by the visit.

And here we must say that Vernon himself had been brought up in boyhood
and youth to regard himself the presumptive inheritor of Laughton.  It
had been, from time immemorial, the custom of the St. Johns to pass by
the claims of females in the settlement of the entails; from male to male
the estate had gone, furnishing warriors to the army, and senators to the
State.  And if when Lucretia first came to Sir Miles's house the bright
prospect seemed somewhat obscure, still the mesalliance of the mother,
and Sir Miles's obstinate resentment thereat, seemed to warrant the
supposition that he would probably only leave to the orphan the usual
portion of a daughter of the house, and that the lands would go in their
ordinary destination.  This belief, adopted passively, and as a thing of
course, had had a very prejudicial effect upon Vernon's career.  What
mattered that he overenjoyed his youth, that the subordinate property of
the Vernons, a paltry four or five thousand pounds a year, went a little
too fast,--the splendid estates of Laughton would recover all.  From this
dream he had only been awakened, two or three years before, by an
attachment he had formed to the portionless daughter of an earl; and the
Grange being too far encumbered to allow him the proper settlements which
the lady's family required, it became a matter of importance to ascertain
Sir Miles's intentions.  Too delicate himself to sound them, he had
prevailed upon the earl, who was well acquainted with Sir Miles, to take
Laughton in his way to his own seat in Dorsetshire, and, without
betraying the grounds of his interest in the question, learn carelessly,
as it were, the views of the wealthy man.  The result had been a severe
and terrible disappointment.  Sir Miles had then fully determined upon
constituting Lucretia his heiress; and with the usual openness of his
character, he had plainly said so upon the very first covert and polished
allusion to the subject which the earl slyly made.  This discovery, in
breaking off all hopes of a union with Lady Mary Stanville, had crushed
more than mercenary expectations.  It affected, through his heart,
Vernon's health and spirits; it rankled deep, and was resented at first
as a fatal injury.  But Vernon's native nobility of disposition gradually
softened an indignation which his reason convinced him was groundless and
unjust. Sir Miles had never encouraged the expectations which Vernon's
family and himself had unthinkingly formed.  The baronet was master of
his own fortune, and after all, was it not more natural that he should
prefer the child he had brought up and reared, to a distant relation,
little more than an acquaintance, simply because man succeeded to man in
the mouldy pedigree of the St. Johns?  And, Mary fairly lost to him, his
constitutional indifference to money, a certain French levity of temper,
a persuasion that his life was nearing its wasted close, had left him
without regret, as without resentment, at his kinsman's decision.  His
boyish affection for the hearty, generous old gentleman returned, and
though he abhorred the country, he had, without a single interested
thought or calculation, cordially accepted the baronet's hospitable
overtures, and deserted, for the wilds of Hampshire, "the sweet shady
side of Pall-Mall."

We may now enter the drawing-room at Laughton, in which were already
assembled several of the families residing in the more immediate
neighbourhood, and who sociably dropped in to chat around the national
tea-table, play a rubber at whist, or make up, by the help of two or
three children and two or three grandpapas, a merry country-dance; for in
that happy day people were much more sociable than they are now in the
houses of our rural Thanes.  Our country seats became bustling and
animated after the Birthday; many even of the more important families
resided, indeed, all the year round on their estates.  The Continent was
closed to us; the fastidious exclusiveness which comes from habitual
residence in cities had not made that demarcation, in castes and in talk,
between neighbour and neighbour, which exists now.  Our squires were less
educated, less refined, but more hospitable and unassuming.  In a word,
there was what does not exist now, except in some districts remote from
London,--a rural society for those who sought it.

The party, as we enter, is grouped somewhat thus.  But first we must cast
a glance at the room itself, which rarely failed to be the first object
to attract a stranger's notice.  It was a long, and not particularly
well-proportioned apartment,--according, at least, to modern notions,--
for it had rather the appearance of two rooms thrown into one.  At the
distance of about thirty-five feet, the walls, before somewhat narrow,
were met by an arch, supported by carved pilasters, which opened into a
space nearly double the width of the previous part of the room, with a
domed ceiling and an embayed window of such depth that the recess almost
formed a chamber in itself.  But both these divisions of the apartment
corresponded exactly in point of decoration,--they had the same small
panelling, painted a very light green, which seemed almost white by
candlelight, each compartment wrought with an arabesque; the same
enriched frieze and cornice; they had the same high mantelpieces,
ascending to the ceiling, with the arms of St. John in bold relief.  They
had, too, the same old-fashioned and venerable furniture, draperies of
thick figured velvet, with immense chairs and sofas to correspond,--
interspersed, it is true, with more modern and commodious inventions of
the upholsterer's art, in grave stuffed leather or lively chintz.  Two
windows, nearly as deep as that in the farther division, broke the
outline of the former one, and helped to give that irregular and nooky
appearance to the apartment which took all discomfort from its extent,
and furnished all convenience for solitary study or detached flirtation.
With little respect for the carved work of the panels, the walls were
covered with pictures brought by Sir Miles from Italy; here and there
marble busts and statues gave lightness to the character of the room, and
harmonized well with that half-Italian mode of decoration which belongs
to the period of James the First. The shape of the chamber, in its
divisions, lent itself admirably to that friendly and sociable
intermixture of amusements which reconciles the tastes of young and old.
In the first division, near the fireplace, Sir Miles, seated in his easy-
chair, and sheltered from the opening door by a seven-fold tapestry
screen, was still at chess with his librarian.  At a little distance a
middle-aged gentleman and three turbaned matrons were cutting in at
whist, shilling points, with a half-crown bet optional, and not much
ventured on.  On tables, drawn into the recesses of the windows, were the
day's newspapers, Gilray's caricatures, the last new publications, and
such other ingenious suggestions to chit-chat.  And round these tables
grouped those who had not yet found elsewhere their evening's amusement,-
-two or three shy young clergymen, the parish doctor, four or five
squires who felt great interest in politics, but never dreamed of the
extravagance of taking in a daily paper, and who now, monopolizing all
the journals they could find, began fairly with the heroic resolution to
skip nothing, from the first advertisement to the printer's name.  Amidst
one of these groups Mainwaring had bashfully ensconced himself.  In the
farther division, the chandelier, suspended from the domed ceiling, threw
its cheerful light over a large circular table below, on which gleamed
the ponderous tea-urn of massive silver, with its usual accompaniments.
Nor were wanting there, in addition to those airy nothings, sliced
infinitesimally, from a French roll, the more substantial and now exiled
cheer of cakes,--plum and seed, Yorkshire and saffron,--attesting the
light hand of the housekeeper and the strong digestion of the guests.
Round this table were seated, in full gossip, the maids and the matrons,
with a slight sprinkling of the bolder young gentlemen who had been
taught to please the fair.  The warmth of the evening allowed the upper
casement to be opened and the curtains drawn aside, and the July
moonlight feebly struggled against the blaze of the lights within.  At
this table it was Miss Clavering's obvious duty to preside; but that was
a complaisance to which she rarely condescended.  Nevertheless, she had
her own way of doing the honour of her uncle's house, which was not
without courtesy and grace; to glide from one to the other, exchange a
few friendly words, see that each set had its well-known amusements, and,
finally, sit quietly down to converse with some who, from gravity or age,
appeared most to neglect or be neglected by the rest, was her ordinary,
and not unpopular mode of welcoming the guests at Laughton,--not
unpopular; for she thus avoided all interference with the flirtations and
conquests of humbler damsels, whom her station and her endowments might
otherwise have crossed or humbled, while she insured the good word of the
old, to whom the young are seldom so attentive.  But if a stranger of
more than provincial repute chanced to be present; if some stray member
of parliament, or barrister on the circuit, or wandering artist,
accompanied any of the neighbours,--to him Lucretia gave more earnest and
undivided attention.  Him she sought to draw into a conversation deeper
than the usual babble, and with her calm, searching eyes, bent on him
while he spoke, seemed to fathom the intellect she set in play.  But as
yet, this evening, she had not made her appearance,--a sin against
etiquette very unusual in her.  Perhaps her recent conversation with
Dalibard had absorbed her thoughts to forgetfulness of the less important
demands on her attention.  Her absence had not interfered with the gayety
at the tea-table, which was frank even to noisiness as it centred round
the laughing face of Ardworth, who, though unknown to most or all of the
ladies present, beyond a brief introduction to one or two of the first
comers from Sir Miles (as the host had risen from his chess to bid them
welcome), had already contrived to make himself perfectly at home and
outrageously popular.  Niched between two bouncing lasses, he had
commenced acquaintance with them in a strain of familiar drollery and
fun, which had soon broadened its circle, and now embraced the whole
group in the happy contagion of good-humour and young animal spirits.
Gabriel, allowed to sit up later than his usual hour, had not, as might
have been expected, attached himself to this circle, nor indeed to any;
he might be seen moving quietly about,--now contemplating the pictures on
the wall with a curious eye; now pausing at the whist-table, and noting
the game with the interest of an embryo gamester; now throwing himself on
an ottoman, and trying to coax towards him Dash or Ponto,--trying in
vain, for both the dogs abhorred him; yet still, through all this general
movement, had any one taken the pains to observe him closely, it might
have been sufficiently apparent that his keen, bright, restless eye, from
the corner of its long, sly lids, roved chiefly towards the three persons
whom he approached the least,--his father, Mainwaring, and Mr. Vernon.
This last had ensconced himself apart from all, in the angle formed by
one of the pilasters of the arch that divided the room, so that he was in
command, as it were, of both sections.  Reclined, with the careless grace
that seemed inseparable from every attitude and motion of his person, in
one of the great velvet chairs, with a book in his hand, which, to say
truth, was turned upside down, but in the lecture of which he seemed
absorbed, he heard at one hand the mirthful laughter that circled round
young Ardworth, or, in its pauses, caught, on the other side, muttered
exclamations from the grave whist-players: "If you had but trumped that
diamond, ma'am!"  "Bless me, sir, it was the best heart!"  And somehow or
other, both the laughter and the exclamations affected him alike with
what then was called "the spleen,"--for the one reminded him of his own
young days of joyless, careless mirth, of which his mechanical gayety now
was but a mocking ghost; and the other seemed a satire, a parody, on the
fierce but noiseless rapture of gaming, through which his passions had
passed, when thousands had slipped away with a bland smile, provoking not
one of those natural ebullitions of emotion which there accompanied the
loss of a shilling point.  And besides this, Vernon had been so
accustomed to the success of the drawing-room, to be a somebody and a
something in the company of wits and princes, that he felt, for the first
time, a sense of insignificance in this provincial circle.  Those fat
squires had heard nothing of Mr. Vernon, except that he would not have
Laughton,--he had no acres, no vote in their county; he was a nobody to
them.  Those ruddy maidens, though now and then, indeed, one or two might
steal an admiring glance at a figure of elegance so unusual, regarded him
not with the female interest he had been accustomed to inspire.  They
felt instinctively that he could be nothing to them, nor they to him,
--a mere London fop, and not half so handsome as Squires Bluff and Chuff.

Rousing himself from this little vexation to his vanity with a conscious
smile at his own weakness, Vernon turned his looks towards the door,
waiting for Lucretia's entrance, and since her uncle's address to him,
feeling that new and indescribable interest in her appearance which is
apt to steal into every breast when what was before but an indifferent
acquaintance, is suddenly enhaloed with the light of a possible wife.
At length the door opened, and Lucretia entered.  Mr. Vernon lowered his
book, and gazed with an earnestness that partook both of doubt and
admiration.

Lucretia Clavering was tall,--tall beyond what is admitted to be tall in
woman; but in her height there was nothing either awkward or masculine,--
a figure more perfect never served for model to a sculptor.  The dress at
that day, unbecoming as we now deem it, was not to her--at least, on the
whole disadvantageous.  The short waist gave greater sweep to her
majestic length of limb, while the classic thinness of the drapery
betrayed the exact proportion and the exquisite contour.  The arms then
were worn bare almost to the shoulder, and Lucretia's arms were not more
faultless in shape than dazzling in their snowy colour; the stately neck,
the falling shoulders, the firm, slight, yet rounded bust,--all would
have charmed equally the artist and the sensualist. Fortunately, the sole
defect of her form was not apparent at a distance: that defect was in the
hand; it had not the usual faults of female youthfulness,--the
superfluity of flesh, the too rosy healthfulness of colour,--on the
contrary, it was small and thin; but it was, nevertheless, more the hand
of a man than a woman: the shape had a man's nervous distinctness, the
veins swelled like sinews, the joints of the fingers were marked and
prominent.  In that hand it almost seemed as if the iron force of the
character betrayed itself.  But, as we have said, this slight defect,
which few, if seen, would hypercritically notice, could not, of course,
be perceptible as she moved slowly up the room; and Vernon's eye,
glancing over the noble figure, rested upon the face.  Was it handsome?
Was it repelling?  Strange that in feature it had pretensions to the
highest order of beauty, and yet even that experienced connoisseur in
female charms was almost as puzzled what sentence to pronounce.  The
hair, as was the fashion of the day, clustered in profuse curls over the
forehead, but could not conceal a slight line or wrinkle between the
brows; and this line, rare in women at any age, rare even in men at hers,
gave an expression at once of thought and sternness to the whole face.
The eyebrows themselves were straight, and not strongly marked, a shade
or two perhaps too light,--a fault still more apparent in the lashes; the
eyes were large, full, and though bright, astonishingly calm and deep,--
at least in ordinary moments; yet withal they wanted the charm of that
steadfast and open look which goes at once to the heart and invites its
trust,--their expression was rather vague and abstracted.  She usually
looked aslant while she spoke, and this, which with some appears but
shyness, in one so self-collected had an air of falsehood.  But when, at
times, if earnest, and bent rather on examining those she addressed than
guarding herself from penetration, she fixed those eyes upon you with
sudden and direct scrutiny, the gaze impressed you powerfully, and
haunted you with a strange spell.  The eye itself was of a peculiar and
displeasing colour,--not blue, nor gray, nor black, nor hazel, but rather
of that cat-like green which is drowsy in the light, and vivid in the
shade.  The profile was purely Greek, and so seen, Lucretia's beauty
seemed incontestable; but in front face, and still more when inclined
between the two, all the features took a sharpness that, however regular,
had something chilling and severe: the mouth was small, but the lips were
thin and pale, and had an expression of effort and contraction which
added to the distrust that her sidelong glance was calculated to inspire.
The teeth were dazzlingly white, but sharp and thin, and the eye-teeth
were much longer than the rest. The complexion was pale, but without much
delicacy,--the paleness seemed not natural to it, but rather that hue
which study and late vigils give to men; so that she wanted the freshness
and bloom of youth, and looked older than she was,--an effect confirmed
by an absence of roundness in the cheek not noticeable in the profile,
but rendering the front face somewhat harsh as well as sharp.  In a word,
the face and the figure were not in harmony: the figure prevented you
from pronouncing her to be masculine; the face took from the figure the
charm of feminacy.  It was the head of the young Augustus upon the form
of Agrippina.  One touch more, and we close a description which already
perhaps the reader may consider frivolously minute.  If you had placed
before the mouth and lower part of the face a mask or bandage, the whole
character of the upper face would have changed at once,--the eye lost its
glittering falseness, the brow its sinister contraction; you would have
pronounced the face not only beautiful, but sweet and womanly.  Take that
bandage suddenly away and the change would have startled you, and
startled you the more because you could detect no sufficient defect or
disproportion in the lower part of the countenance to explain it.  It was
as if the mouth was the key to the whole: the key nothing without the
text, the text uncomprehended without the key.

Such, then, was Lucretia Clavering in outward appearance at the age of
twenty,--striking to the most careless eye; interesting and perplexing
the student in that dark language never yet deciphered,--the human
countenance.  The reader must have observed that the effect every face
that he remarks for the first time produces is different from the
impression it leaves upon him when habitually seen.  Perhaps no two
persons differ more from each other than does the same countenance in our
earliest recollection of it from the countenance regarded in the
familiarity of repeated intercourse.  And this was especially the case
with Lucretia Clavering's: the first impulse of nearly all who beheld it
was distrust that partook of fear; it almost inspired you with a sense of
danger.  The judgment rose up against it; the heart set itself on its
guard.  But this uneasy sentiment soon died away, with most observers, in
admiration at the chiselled outline, which, like the Grecian sculpture,
gained the more the more it was examined, in respect for the intellectual
power of the expression, and in fascinated pleasure at the charm of a
smile, rarely employed, it is true, but the more attractive both for that
reason and for its sudden effect in giving brightness and persuasion to
an aspect that needed them so much.  It was literally like the abrupt
breaking out of a sunbeam; and the repellent impression of the face thus
familiarized away, the matchless form took its natural influence; so that
while one who but saw Lucretia for a moment might have pronounced her
almost plain, and certainly not prepossessing in appearance, those with
whom she lived, those whom she sought to please, those who saw her daily,
united in acknowledgment of her beauty; and if they still felt awe,
attributed it only to the force of her understanding.

As she now came midway up the room, Gabriel started from his seat and ran
to her caressingly.  Lucretia bent down, and placed her hand upon his
fair locks.  As she did so, he whispered,--

"Mr. Vernon has been watching for you."

"Hush!  Where is your father?"

"Behind the screen, at chess with Sir Miles."

"With Sir Miles!" and Lucretia's eye fell, with the direct gaze we have
before referred to, upon the boy's face.

"I have been looking over them pretty often," said he, meaningly: "they
have talked of nothing but the game."  Lucretia lifted her head, and
glanced round with her furtive eye; the boy divined the search, and with
a scarce perceptible gesture pointed her attention to Mainwaring's
retreat.  Her vivid smile passed over her lips as she bowed slightly to
her lover, and then, withdrawing the hand which Gabriel had taken in his
own, she moved on, passed Vernon with a commonplace word or two, and was
soon exchanging greetings with the gay merry-makers in the farther part
of the room.  A few minutes afterwards, the servants entered, the tea-
table was removed, chairs were thrust back, a single lady of a certain
age volunteered her services at the piano, and dancing began within the
ample space which the arch fenced off from the whist-players.  Vernon had
watched his opportunity, and at the first sound of the piano had gained
Lucretia's side, and with grave politeness pre-engaged her hand for the
opening dance.

At that day, though it is not so very long ago, gentlemen were not
ashamed to dance, and to dance well; it was no languid saunter through a
quadrille; it was fair, deliberate, skilful dancing amongst the courtly,
--free, bounding movement amongst the gay.

Vernon, as might be expected, was the most admired performer of the
evening; but he was thinking very little of the notice he at last
excited, he was employing such ingenuity as his experience of life
supplied to the deficiencies of a very imperfect education, limited to
the little flogged into him at Eton, in deciphering the character and
getting at the heart of his fair partner.

"I wonder you do not make Sir Miles take you to London, my cousin, if you
will allow me to call you so.  You ought to have been presented."

"I have no wish to go to London yet."

"Yet!" said Mr. Vernon, with the somewhat fade gallantry of his day;
"beauty even like yours has little time to spare."

"Hands across, hands across!" cried Mr. Ardworth.

"And," continued Mr. Vernon, as soon as a pause was permitted to him,
"there is a song which the prince sings, written by some sensible old-
fashioned fellow, which says,--

    "'Gather your rosebuds while you may,       For time is still a
flying."'

"You have obeyed the moral of the song yourself, I believe, Mr.  Vernon."

"Call me cousin, or Charles,--Charley, if you like, as most of my friends
do; nobody ever calls me Mr. Vernon,--I don't know myself by that name."

"Down the middle; we are all waiting for you," shouted Ardworth.

And down the middle, with wondrous grace, glided the exquisite nankeens
of Charley Vernon.

The dance now, thanks to Ardworth, became too animated and riotous to
allow more than a few broken monosyllables till Vernon and his partner
gained the end of the set, and then, flirting his partner's fan, he
recommenced,--

"Seriously, my cousin, you must sometimes feel very much moped here."

"Never!" answered Lucretia.  Not once yet had her eye rested on Mr.
Vernon.  She felt that she was sounded.

"Yet I am sure you have a taste for the pomps and vanities.  Aha! there
is ambition under those careless curls," said Mr. Vernon, with his easy,
adorable impertinence.

Lucretia winced.

"But if I were ambitious, what field for ambition could I find in
London?"

"The same as Alexander,--empire, my cousin."

"You forget that I am not a man.  Man, indeed, may hope for an empire.
It is something to be a Pitt, or even a Warren Hastings."

Mr. Vernon stared.  Was this stupidity, or what?

"A woman has an empire more undisputed than Mr. Pitt's, and more pitiless
than that of Governor Hastings."

"Oh, pardon me, Mr. Vernon--"

"Charles, if you please."

Lucretia's brow darkened.

"Pardon me," she repeated; "but these compliments, if such they are meant
to be, meet a very ungrateful return.  A woman's empire over gauzes and
ribbons, over tea-tables and drums, over fops and coquettes, is not worth
a journey from Laughton to London."

"You think you can despise admiration?"

"What you mean by admiration,--yes."

"And love too?" said Vernon, in a whisper.

Now Lucretia at once and abruptly raised her eyes to her partner.  Was he
aiming at her secret?  Was he hinting at intentions of his own?  The look
chilled Vernon, and he turned away his head.

Suddenly, then, in pursuance of a new train of ideas, Lucretia altered
her manner to him.  She had detected what before she had surmised.  This
sudden familiarity on his part arose from notions her uncle had
instilled,--the visitor had been incited to become the suitor.  Her
penetration into character, which from childhood had been her passionate
study, told her that on that light, polished, fearless nature scorn would
have slight effect; to meet the familiarity would be the best means to
secure a friend, to disarm a wooer.  She changed then her manner; she
summoned up her extraordinary craft; she accepted the intimacy held out
to her, not to unguard herself, but to lay open her opponent.  It became
necessary to her to know this man, to have such power as the knowledge
might give her.  Insensibly and gradually she led her companion away from
his design of approaching her own secrets or character, into frank talk
about himself.  All unconsciously he began to lay bare to his listener
the infirmities of his erring, open heart.  Silently she looked down, and
plumbed them all,--the frivolity, the recklessness, the half gay, half
mournful sense of waste and ruin.  There, blooming amongst the wrecks,
she saw the fairest flowers of noble manhood profuse and fragrant still,
--generosity and courage and disregard for self.  Spendthrift and gambler
on one side the medal; gentleman and soldier on the other.  Beside this
maimed and imperfect nature she measured her own prepared and profound
intellect, and as she listened, her smile became more bland and frequent.
She could afford to be gracious; she felt superiority, scorn, and safety.

As this seeming intimacy had matured, Vernon and his partner had quitted
the dance, and were conversing apart in the recess of one of the windows,
which the newspaper readers had deserted, in the part of the room where
Sir Miles and Dalibard, still seated, were about to commence their third
game at chess.  The baronet's hand ceased from the task of arranging his
pawns; his eye was upon the pair; and then, after a long and complacent
gaze, it looked round without discovering the object it sought.

"I am about to task your kindness most improperly, Monsieur Dalibard,"
said Sir Miles, with that politeness so displeasing to Ardworth, "but
will you do me the favour to move aside that fold of the screen?  I wish
for a better view of our young people.  Thank you very much."

Sir Miles now discovered Mainwaring, and observed that, far from
regarding with self-betraying jealousy the apparent flirtation going on
between Lucretia and her kinsman, he was engaged in animated conversation
with the chairman of the quarter sessions.  Sir Miles was satisfied, and
ranged his pawns.  All this time, and indeed ever since they had sat down
to play, the Provencal had been waiting, with the patience that belonged
to his character, for some observation from Sir Miles on the subject
which, his sagacity perceived, was engrossing his thoughts.  There had
been about the old gentleman a fidgety restlessness which showed that
something was on his mind.  His eyes had been frequently turned towards
his niece since her entrance; once or twice he had cleared his throat and
hemmed,--his usual prelude to some more important communication; and
Dalibard had heard him muttering to himself, and fancied he caught the
name of "Mainwaring."  And indeed the baronet had been repeatedly on the
verge of sounding his secretary, and as often had been checked both by
pride in himself and pride for Lucretia.  It seemed to him beneath his
own dignity and hers even to hint to an inferior a fear, a doubt, of the
heiress of Laughton.  Olivier Dalibard could easily have led on his
patron, he could easily, if he pleased it, have dropped words to instil
suspicion and prompt question; but that was not his object,--he rather
shunned than courted any reference to himself upon the matter; for he
knew that Lucretia, if she could suppose that he, however indirectly, had
betrayed her to her uncle, would at once declare his own suit to her, and
so procure his immediate dismissal; while, aware of her powers of
dissimulation and her influence over her uncle, he feared that a single
word from her would suffice to remove all suspicion in Sir Miles, however
ingeniously implanted, and however truthfully grounded.  But all the
while, under his apparent calm, his mind was busy and his passions
burning.

"Pshaw! your old play,--the bishop again," said Sir Miles, laughing, as
he moved a knight to frustrate his adversary's supposed plan; and then,
turning back, he once more contemplated the growing familiarity between
Vernon and his niece.  This time he could not contain his pleasure.
"Dalibard, my dear sir," he said, rubbing his hands, "look yonder: they
would make a handsome couple!"

"Who, sir?" said the Provencal, looking another way, with dogged
stupidity.

"Who?  Damn it, man!  Nay, pray forgive my ill manners, but I felt glad,
sir, and proud, sir.  Who?  Charley Vernon and Lucretia Clavering."

"Assuredly, yes.  Do you think that there is a chance of so happy an
event?"

"Why, it depends only on Lucretia; I shall never force her."  Here Sir
Miles stopped, for Gabriel, unperceived before, picked up his patron's
pocket-handkerchief.

Olivier Dalibard's gray eyes rested coldly on his son.  "You are not
dancing to-night, my boy.  Go; I like to see you amused."

The boy obeyed at once, as he always did, the paternal commands.  He
found a partner, and joined a dance just begun; and in the midst of the
dance, Honore Gabriel Varney seemed a new being,--not Ardworth himself so
thoroughly entered into the enjoyment of the exercise, the lights, the
music.  With brilliant eyes and dilated nostrils, he seemed prematurely
to feel all that is exciting and voluptuous in that exhilaration which to
childhood is usually so innocent.  His glances followed the fairest form;
his clasp lingered in the softest hand; his voice trembled as the warm
breath of his partner came on his cheeks.

Meanwhile the conversation between the chess-players continued.

"Yes," said the baronet, "it depends only on Lucretia.  And she seems
pleased with Vernon: who would not be?"

"Your penetration rarely deceives you, sir.  I own I think with you.
Does Mr. Vernon know that you would permit the alliance?"

"Yes; but--" the baronet stopped short.

"You were saying, but--  But what, Sir Miles?"

"Why, the dog affected diffidence; he had some fear lest he should not
win her affections.  But luckily, at least, they are disengaged."

Dalibard looked grave, and his eye, as if involuntarily, glanced towards
Mainwaring.  As ill-luck would have it, the young man had then ceased his
conversation with the chairman of the quarter sessions, and with arms
folded, brow contracted, and looks, earnest, anxious, and intent, was
contemplating the whispered conference between Lucretia and Vernon.

Sir Miles's eye had followed his secretary's, and his face changed.  His
hand fell on the chess board and upset half the men; he uttered a very
audible "Zounds!"

"I think, Sir Miles," said the Provencal, rising, as if conscious that
Sir Miles wished to play no more,--"I think that if you spoke soon to
Miss Clavering as to your views with regard to Mr. Vernon, it might ripen
matters; for I have heard it said by French mothers--and our Frenchwomen
understand the female heart, sir--that a girl having no other affection
is often prepossessed at once in favour of a man whom she knows
beforehand is prepared to woo and to win her, whereas without that
knowledge he would have seemed but an ordinary acquaintance."

"It is shrewdly said, my dear Monsieur Dalibard; and for more reasons
than one, the sooner I speak to her the better.  Lend me your arm.  It is
time for supper; I see the dance is over."

Passing by the place where Mainwaring still leaned, the baronet looked at
him fixedly.  The young man did not notice the gaze.  Sir Miles touched
him gently.  He started as from a revery.

"You have not danced, Mr. Mainwaring."

"I dance so seldom, Sir Miles," said Mainwaring, colouring.

"Ah! you employ your head more than your heels, young gentleman,--very
right; I must speak to you to-morrow.  Well, ladies, I hope you have
enjoyed yourselves?  My dear Mrs. Vesey, you and I are old friends, you
know; many a minuet we have danced together, eh?  We can't dance now, but
we can walk arm-in-arm together still.  Honour me.  And your little
grandson--vaccinated, eh?  Wonderful invention!  To supper, ladies, to
supper!"

The company were gone.  The lights were out,--all save the lights of
heaven; and they came bright and still through the casements.  Moonbeam
and Starbeam, they seemed now to have the old house to themselves.  In
came the rays, brighter and longer and bolder, like fairies that march,
rank upon rank, into their kingdom of solitude.  Down the oak stairs,
from the casements, blazoned with heraldry, moved the rays, creepingly,
fearfully.  On the armour in the hall clustered the rays boldly and
brightly, till the steel shone out like a mirror.  In the library, long
and low, they just entered, stopped short: it was no place for their
play.  In the drawing-room, now deserted, they were more curious and
adventurous.  Through the large window, still open, they came in freely
and archly, as if to spy what had caused such disorder; the stiff chairs
out of place, the smooth floor despoiled of its carpet, that flower
dropped on the ground, that scarf forgotten on the table,--the rays
lingered upon them all.  Up and down through the house, from the base to
the roof, roved the children of the air, and found but two spirits awake
amidst the slumber of the rest.

In that tower to the east, in the tapestry chamber with the large gilded
bed in the recess, came the rays, tamed and wan, as if scared by the
grosser light on the table.  By that table sat a girl, her brow leaning
on one hand; in the other she held a rose,--it is a love-token: exchanged
with its sister rose, by stealth, in mute sign of reproach for doubt
excited,--an assurance and a reconciliation.  A love-token!--shrink not,
ye rays; there is something akin to you in love.  But see,--the hand
closes convulsively on the flower; it hides it not in the breast; it
lifts it not to the lip: it throws it passionately aside.  "How long!"
muttered the girl, impetuously,--"how long!  And to think that will here
cannot shorten an hour!"  Then she rose, and walked to and fro, and each
time she gained a certain niche in the chamber she paused, and then
irresolutely passed on again.  What is in that niche?  Only books.  What
can books teach thee, pale girl?  The step treads firmer; this time it
halts more resolved.  The hand that clasped the flower takes down a
volume.  The girl sits again before the light.  See, O rays! what is the
volume?  Moon and Starbeam, ye love what lovers read by the lamp in the
loneliness.  No love-ditty this; no yet holier lesson to patience, and
moral to hope.  What hast thou, young girl, strong in health and rich in
years, with the lore of the leech,--with prognostics and symptoms and
diseases?  She is tracing with hard eyes the signs that precede the grim
enemy in his most sudden approach,--the habits that invite him, the
warnings that he gives.  He whose wealth shall make her free has twice
had the visiting shock; he starves not, he lives frae!  She closes the
volume, and, musing, metes him out the hours and days he has to live.
Shrink back, ye rays!  The love is disenhallowed; while the hand was on
the rose, the thought was on the charnel.

Yonder, in the opposite tower, in the small casement near the roof, came
the rays.  Childhood is asleep.  Moon and Starbeam, ye love the slumbers
of the child!  The door opens, a dark figure steals noiselessly in.  The
father comes to look on the sleep of his son.  Holy tenderness, if this
be all!  "Gabriel, wake!" said a low, stern voice, and a rough hand shook
the sleeper.

The sharpest test of those nerves upon which depends the mere animal
courage is to be roused suddenly, in the depth of night, by a violent
hand.  The impulse of Gabriel, thus startled, was neither of timidity nor
surprise.  It was that of some Spartan boy not new to danger; with a
slight cry and a fierce spring, the son's hand clutched at the father's
throat.  Dalibard shook him off with an effort, and a smile, half in
approval, half in irony, played by the moonlight over his lips.

"Blood will out, young tiger," said he.  "Hush, and hear me!"

"Is it you, Father?" said Gabriel.  "I thought, I dreamed--"

"No matter; think, dream always that man should be prepared for defence
from peril!"

"Gabriel," and the pale scholar seated himself on the bed, "turn your
face to mine,--nearer; let the moon fall on it; lift your eyes; look at
me--so!  Are you not playing false to me?  Are you not Lucretia's spy,
while you are pretending to be mine?  It is so; your eye betrays you.
Now, heed me; you have a mind beyond your years.  Do you love best the
miserable garret in London, the hard fare and squalid dress, or your
lodgment here, the sense of luxury, the sight of splendour, the
atmosphere of wealth?  You have the choice before you."

"I choose, as you would have me, then," said the boy, "the last."

"I believe you.  Attend!  You do not love me,--that is natural; you are
the son of Clara Varney!  You have supposed that in loving Lucretia
Clavering you might vex or thwart me, you scarce knew how; and Lucretia
Clavering has gold and gifts and soft words and promises to bribe withal.
I now tell you openly my plan with regard to this girl: it is my aim to
marry her; to be master of this house and these lands.  If I succeed, you
share them with me.  By betraying me, word or look, to Lucretia, you
frustrate this aim; you plot against our rise and to our ruin.  Deem not
that you could escape my fall; if I am driven hence,--as you might drive
me,--you share my fate; and mark me, you are delivered up to my revenge!
You cease to be my son,--you are my foe.  Child! you know me."

The boy, bold as he was, shuddered; but after a pause so brief that a
breath scarce passed between his silence and his words, he replied with
emphasis,--

"Father, you have read my heart.  I have been persuaded by Lucretia (for
she bewitches me) to watch you,--at least, when you are with Sir Miles.
I knew that this was mixed up with Mr. Mainwaring.  Now that you have
made me understand your own views, I will be true to you,--true without
threats."

The father looked hard on him, and seemed satisfied with the gaze.
"Remember, at least, that your future rests upon your truth; that is no
threat,--that is a thought of hope. Now sleep or muse on it."  He dropped
the curtain which his hand had drawn aside, and stole from the room as
noiselessly as he had entered.  The boy slept no more.  Deceit and
cupidity and corrupt ambition were at work in his brain.  Shrink back,
Moon and Starbeam!  On that child's brow play the demons who had followed
the father's step to his bed of sleep.

Back to his own room, close at hand, crept Olivier Dalibard.  The walls
were lined with books,--many in language and deep in lore.  Moon and
Starbeam, ye love the midnight solitude of the scholar!  The Provencal
stole to the casement, and looked forth.  All was serene,--breathless
trees and gleaming sculpture and whitened sward, girdled by the mass of
shadow.  Of what thought the man?  Not of the present loveliness which
the scene gave to his eye, nor of the future mysteries which the stars
should whisper to the soul.  Gloomily over a stormy and a hideous past
roved the memory, stored with fraud and foul with crime,--plan upon plan,
schemed with ruthless wisdom, followed up by remorseless daring, and yet
all now a ruin and a blank; an intellect at war with good, and the good
had conquered!  But the conviction neither touched the conscience nor
enlightened the reason; he felt, it is true, a moody sense of impotence,
but it brought rage, not despondency.  It was not that he submitted to
Good as too powerful to oppose, but that he deemed he had not yet gained
all the mastery over the arsenal of Evil.  And evil he called it not.
Good and evil to him were but subordinate genii at the command of Mind;
they were the slaves of the lamp.  But had he got at the true secret of
the lamp itself?  "How is it," he thought, as he turned impatiently from
the casement, "that I am baffled here where my fortunes seemed most
assured?  Here the mind has been of my own training, and prepared by
nature to my hand; here all opportunity has smiled.  And suddenly the
merest commonplace in the vulgar lives of mortals,--an unlooked-for
rival; rival, too, of the mould I had taught her to despise; one of the
stock gallants of a comedy, no character but youth and fair looks,--yea,
the lover of the stage starts up, and the fabric of years is overthrown."
As he thus mused, he placed his hand upon a small box on one of the
tables.  "Yet within this," resumed his soliloquy, and he struck the lid,
that gave back a dull sound,--"within this I hold the keys of life and
death!  Fool! the power does not reach to the heart, except to still it.
Verily and indeed were the old heathens mistaken?  Are there no philters
to change the current of desire?  But touch one chord in a girl's
affection, and all the rest is mine, all, all, lands, station, power, all
the rest are in the opening of this lid!"

Hide in the cloud, O Moon! shrink back, ye Stars! send not your holy,
pure, and trouble-lulling light to the countenance blanched and livid
with the thoughts of murder.





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