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Title: "My Novel" — Volume 12
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 ""My Novel" — Volume 12" ***

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BOOK TWELFTH.


INITIAL CHAPTER.

WHEREIN THE CAXTON FAMILY REAPPEAR.

"Again," quoth my father,--"again behold us!  We who greeted the
commencement of your narrative, who absented ourselves in the midcourse
when we could but obstruct the current of events, and jostle personages
more important,--we now gather round the close.  Still, as the chorus to
the drama, we circle round the altar with the solemn but dubious chant
which prepares the audience for the completion of the appointed
destinies; though still, ourselves, unaware how the skein is to be
unravelled, and where the shears are to descend."

So there they stood, the Family of Caxton,--all grouping round me, all
eager officiously to question, some over-anxious prematurely to
criticise.

"Violante can't have voluntarily gone off with that horrid count," said
my mother; "but perhaps she was deceived, like Eugenia by Mr. Bellamy, in
the novel of 'CAMILLA'."

"Ha!" said my father, "and in that case it is time yet to steal a hint
from Clarissa Harlowe, and make Violante die less of a broken heart than
a sullied honour.  She is one of those girls who ought to be killed!  All
things about her forebode an early tomb!"

"Dear, dear!" cried Mrs. Caxton, "I hope not!"

"Pooh, brother," said the captain, "we have had enough of the tomb in the
history of poor Nora.  The whole story grows out of a grave, and if to a
grave it must return--if, Pisistratus, you must kill somebody--
kill Levy."

"Or the count," said my mother, with unusual truculence.  "Or Randal
Leslie," said Squills.  "I should like to have a post-mortem cast of his
head,--it would be an instructive study."

Here there was a general confusion of tongues, all present conspiring to
bewilder the unfortunate author with their various and discordant
counsels how to wind up his story and dispose of his characters.

"Silence!" cried Pisistratus, clapping his hands to both ears.  "I can no
more alter the fate allotted to each of the personages whom you honour
with your interest than I can change your own; like you, they must go
where events lead there, urged on by their own characters and the
agencies of others.  Providence so pervadingly governs the universe,
that you cannot strike it even out of a book.  The author may beget a
character, but the moment the character comes into action, it escapes
from his hands,--plays its own part, and fulfils its own inevitable
doom."

"Besides," said Squills, "it is easy to see, from the phrenological
development of the organs in those several heads which Pisistratus has
allowed us to examine, that we have seen no creations of mere fiction,
but living persons, whose true history has set in movement their various
bumps of Amativeness, Constructiveness, Acquisitiveness, Idealty, Wonder,
Comparison, etc.  They must act, and they must end, according to the
influences of their crania.  Thus we find in Randal Leslie the
predominant organs of Constructiveness, Secretiveness, Comparison, and
Eventuality, while Benevolence, Conscientiousness, Adhesiveness, are
utterly nil.  Now, to divine how such a man must end, we must first see
what is the general composition of the society in which he moves, in
short, what other gases are brought into contact with his phlogiston.
As to Leonard, and Harley, and Audley Egerton, surveying them
phrenologically, I should say that--"

"Hush!" said my father, "Pisistratus has dipped his pen in the ink, and
it seems to me easier for the wisest man that ever lived to account for
what others have done than to predict what they should do.  Phrenologists
discovered that Mr. Thurtell had a very fine organ of Conscientiousness;
yet, somehow or other, that erring personage contrived to knock the
brains out of his friend's organ of Individuality.  Therefore I rise to
propose a Resolution,--that this meeting be adjourned till Pisistratus
has completed his narrative; and we shall then have the satisfaction of
knowing that it ought, according to every principle of nature, science,
and art, to have been completed differently.  Why should we deprive
ourselves of that pleasure?"

"I second the motion," said the captain; "but if Levy be not hanged, I
shall say that there is an end of all poetical justice."

"Take care of poor Helen," said Blanche, tenderly: "nor, that I would
have you forget Violante."

"Pish! and sit down, or they shall both die old maids."  Frightened at
that threat, Blanche, with a deprecating look, drew her stool quietly
near me, as if to place her two /proteges/ in an atmosphere mesmerized to
matrimonial attractions; and my mother set hard to work--at a new frock
for the baby.  Unsoftened by these undue female influences, Pisistratus
wrote on at the dictation of the relentless Fates.  His pen was of iron,
and his heart was of granite.  He was as insensible to the existence of
wife and baby as if he had never paid a house bill, nor rushed from a
nursery at the sound of an infant squall.  O blessed privilege of
Authorship!

                   "O testudinis aureae
                    Dulcem quae strepitum, Pieri, temperas!
                    O mutis quoque piscibus
                    Donatura cyeni, si libeat, sonum!"

     ["O Muse, who dost temper the sweet sound of the golden shell of the
     tortoise, and couldst also give, were it needed, to silent fishes
     the song of the swan."]



CHAPTER II.

It is necessary to go somewhat back in the course of this narrative, and
account to the reader for the disappearance of Violante.

It may be remembered that Peschiera, scared by the sudden approach of
Lord L'Estrange, had little time for further words to the young Italian,
than those which expressed his intention to renew the conference, and
press for her decision.  But the next day, when he re-entered the garden,
secretly and stealthily, as before, Violante did not appear.  And after
watching round the precincts till dusk, the count retreated, with an
indignant conviction that his arts had failed to enlist on his side
either the heart or the imagination of his intended victim.  He began
now to revolve and to discuss with Levy the possibilities of one of those
bold and violent measures, which were favoured by his reckless daring and
desperate condition.  But Levy treated with such just ridicule any
suggestion to abstract Violante by force from Lord Lansmere's house, so
scouted the notions of nocturnal assault, with the devices of scaling
windows and rope-ladders, that the count reluctantly abandoned that
romance of villany so unsuited to our sober capital, and which would no
doubt have terminated in his capture by the police, with the prospect of
committal to the House of Correction.

Levy himself found his invention at fault, and Randal Leslie was called
into consultation.  The usurer had contrived that Randal's schemes of
fortune and advancement were so based upon Levy's aid and connivance,
that the young man, with all his desire rather to make instruments of
other men, than to be himself their instrument, found his superior
intellect as completely a slave to Levy's more experienced craft, as ever
subtle Genius of air was subject to the vulgar Sorcerer of earth.

His acquisition of the ancestral acres, his anticipated seat in
parliament, his chance of ousting Frank from the heritage of Hazeldean,
were all as strings that pulled him to and fro, like a puppet in the
sleek, filbert-nailed fingers of the smiling showman, who could exhibit
him to the admiration of a crowd, or cast him away into dust and lumber.

Randal gnawed his lip in the sullen wrath of a man who bides his hour of
future emancipation, and lent his brain to the hire of the present
servitude, in mechanical acquiescence.  The inherent superiority of the
profound young schemer became instantly apparent over the courage of
Peschiera and the practised wit of the baron.

"Your sister," said Randal, to the former, "must be the active agent in
the first and most difficult part of your enterprise.  Violante cannot be
taken by force from Lord Lansmere's,--she must be induced to leave it
with her own consent.  A female is needed here.  Woman can best decoy
woman."

"Admirably said," quoth the count; "but Beatrice has grown restive, and
though her dowry, and therefore her very marriage with that excellent
young Hazeldean, depend on my own alliance with my fair kinswoman, she
has grown so indifferent to my success that I dare not reckon on her aid.
Between you and me, though she was once very eager to be married, she now
seems to shrink from the notion; and I have no other hold over her."

"Has she not seen some one, and lately, whom she prefers to poor Frank?"

"I suspect that she has; but I know not whom, unless it be that detested
L'Estrange."

"Ah, well, well.  Interfere with her no further yourself, but have all in
readiness to quit England, as you had before proposed, as soon as
Violante be in your power."

"All is in readiness," said the count.  "Levy has agreed to purchase a
famous sailing-vessel of one of his clients.  I have engaged a score or
so of determined outcasts, accustomed to the sea,--Genoese, Corsicans,
Sardinians, ex-Carbonari of the best sort,--no silly patriots, but
liberal cosmopolitans, who have iron at the disposal of any man's gold.
I have a priest to perform the nuptial service, and deaf to any fair
lady's 'No.'  Once at sea, and wherever I land, Violante will lean on my
arm as Countess of Peschiera."

"But Violante," said Randal, doggedly, determined not to yield to the
disgust with which the count's audacious cynicism filled even him--"but
Violante cannot be removed in broad daylight at once to such a vessel,
nor from a quarter so populous as that in which your sister resides."

"I have thought of that too," said the count; "my emissaries have found
me a house close by the river, and safe for our purpose as the dungeons
of Venice."

"I wish not to know all this," answered Randal, quickly; "you will
instruct Madame di Negra where to take Violante.--my task limits itself
to the fair inventions that belong to intellect; what belongs to force is
not in my province.  I will go at once to your sister, whom I think I can
influence more effectually than you can; though later I may give you a
hint to guard against the chance of her remorse.  Meanwhile as, the
moment Violante disappears, suspicion would fall upon you, show yourself
constantly in public surrounded by your friends.  Be able to account for
every hour of your time--"

"An alibi?" interrupted the ci-devant solicitor.

"Exactly so, Baron.  Complete the purchase of the vessel, and let the
count man it as he proposes.  I will communicate with you both as soon as
I can put you into action.  To-day I shall have much to do; it will be
done."

As Randal left the room, Levy followed him.

"What you propose to do will be well done, no doubt," quoth the usurer,
linking his arm in Randal's; "but take care that you don't get yourself
into a scrape, so as to damage your character.  I have great hopes of you
in public life; and in public life character is necessary,--that is, so
far as honour is concerned."

"I damage my character!--and for a Count Peschiera!" said Randal, opening
his eyes.  "I!  What do you take me for?"

The baron let go his hold.

"This boy ought to rise very high," said he to himself, as he turned back
to the count.



CHAPTER III.

Randal's acute faculty of comprehension had long since surmised the truth
that Beatrice's views and temper of mind had been strangely and suddenly
altered by some such revolution as passion only can effect; that pique or
disappointment had mingled with the motive which had induced her to
accept the hand of his rash young kinsman; and that, instead of the
resigned indifference with which she might at one time have contemplated
any marriage that could free her from a position that perpetually galled
her pride, it was now with a repugnance, visible to Randal's keen eye,
that she shrank from the performance of that pledge which Frank had so
dearly bought.  The temptations which the count could hold out to her to
become his accomplice in designs of which the fraud and perfidy would
revolt her better nature had ceased to be of avail.  A dowry had grown
valueless, since it would but hasten the nuptials from which she
recoiled.  Randal felt that he could not secure her aid, except by
working on a passion so turbulent as to confound her judgment.  Such a
passion he recognized in jealousy.  He had once doubted if Harley were
the object of her love; yet, after all, was it not probable?  He knew,
at least, of no one else to suspect.  If so, he had but to whisper,
"Violante is your rival.  Violante removed, your beauty may find its
natural effect; if not, you are an Italian, and you will be at least
avenged."  He saw still more reason to suppose that Lord L'Estrange was
indeed the one by whom he could rule Beatrice, since, the last time he
had seen her, she had questioned him with much eagerness as to the family
of Lord Lansmere, especially as to the female part of it.  Randal had
then judged it prudent to avoid speaking of Violante, and feigned
ignorance; but promised to ascertain all particulars by the time he next
saw the marchesa.  It was the warmth with which she had thanked him that
had set his busy mind at work to conjecture the cause of her curiosity so
earnestly aroused, and to ascribe that cause to jealousy.  If Harley
loved Violante (as Randal himself had before supposed), the little of
passion that the young man admitted to himself was enlisted in aid of
Peschiera's schemes.  For though Randal did not love Violante, he
cordially disliked L'Estrange, and would have gone as far to render that
dislike vindictive, as a cold reasoner, intent upon worldly fortunes,
will ever suffer mere hate to influence him.

"At the worst," thought Randal, "if it be not Harley, touch the chord of
jealousy, and its vibration will direct me right."

Thus soliloquizing, he arrived at Madame di Negra's.

Now, in reality the marchesa's inquiries as to Lord Lansmere's family had
their source in the misguided, restless, despairing interest with which
she still clung to the image of the young poet, whom Randal had no reason
to suspect.  That interest had become yet more keen from the impatient
misery she had felt ever since she had plighted herself to another.  A
wild hope that she might yet escape, a vague regretful thought that she
had been too hasty in dismissing Leonard from her presence,--that she
ought rather to have courted his friendship, and contended against her
unknown rival,--at times drew her wayward mind wholly from the future to
which she had consigned herself.  And, to do her justice, though her
sense of duty was so defective, and the principles which should have
guided her conduct were so lost to her sight, still her feelings towards
the generous Hazeldean were not so hard and blunted but what her own
ingratitude added to her torment; and it seemed as if the sole atonement
she could make to him was to find an excuse to withdraw her promise, and
save him from herself.  She had caused Leonard's steps to be watched; she
had found that he visited at Lord Lansmere's; that he had gone there
often, and stayed there long.  She had learned in the neighbourhood that
Lady Lansmere had one or two young female guests staying with her.
Surely this was the attraction--here was the rival!

Randal found Beatrice in a state of mind that answered his purpose; and
first turning his conversation on Harley, and noting that her countenance
did not change, by little and little he drew forth her secret.

Then said Randal, gravely, "If one whom you honour with a tender thought
visits at Lord Lansmere's house, you have, indeed, cause to fear for
yourself, to hope for your brother's success in the object which has
brought him to England; for a girl of surpassing beauty is a guest in
Lord Lansmere's house, and I will now tell you that that girl is she whom
Count Peschiera would make his bride."

As Randal thus spoke, and saw how his listener's brow darkened and her
eye flashed, he felt that his accomplice was secured.  Violante!  Had not
Leonard spoken of Violante, and with such praise?  Had not his boyhood
been passed under her eyes?  Who but Violante could be the rival?
Beatrice's abrupt exclamations, after a moment's pause, revealed to
Randal the advantage he had gained.  And partly by rousing her jealousy
into revenge, partly by flattering her love with assurances that,
if Violante were fairly removed from England, were the wife of Count
Peschiera, it would be impossible that Leonard could remain insensible to
her own attractions; that he, Randal, would undertake to free her
honourably from her engagement to Frank Hazeldean, and obtain from her
brother the acquittal of the debt which had first fettered her hand to
that confiding suitor,--he did not quit the marchesa until she had not
only promised to do all that Randal might suggest, but impetuously urged
him to mature his plans, and hasten the hour to accomplish them.  Randal
then walked some minutes musing and slow along the streets, revolving the
next meshes in his elaborate and most subtle web.  And here his craft
luminously devised its masterpiece.

It was necessary, during any interval that might elapse between
Violante's disappearance and her departure from England, in order to
divert suspicion from Peschiera (who might otherwise be detained), that
some cause for her voluntary absence from Lord Lansmere's should be at
least assignable; it was still more necessary that Randal himself should
stand wholly clear from any surmise that he could have connived at the
count's designs, even should their actual perpetrator be discovered or
conjectured.  To effect these objects, Randal hastened to Norwood, and
obtained an interview with Riccabocca.  In seeming agitation and alarm,
he informed the exile that he had reason to know that Peschiera had
succeeded in obtaining a secret interview with Violante, and he feared
had made a certain favourable impression on her mind; and speaking as
if with the jealousy of a lover, he entreated Riccabocca to authorize
Randal's direct proposals to Violante, and to require her consent to
their immediate nuptials.

The poor Italian was confounded with the intelligence conveyed to him;
and his almost superstitious fears of his brilliant enemy, conjoined with
his opinion of the susceptibility to outward attractions common to all
the female sex, made him not only implicitly credit, but even exaggerate,
the dangers that Randal intimated.  The idea of his daughter's marriage
with Randal, towards which he had lately cooled, he now gratefully
welcomed.

But his first natural suggestion was to go, or send, for Violante, and
bring her to his own house.  This, however, Randal artfully opposed.

"Alas! I know," said he, "that Peschiera has discovered your retreat, and
surely she would be far less safe here than where she is now!"

"But, diavolo!  you say the man has seen her where she is now, in spite
of all Lady Lansmere's promises and Harley's precautions."

"True.  Of this Peschiera boasted to me.  He effected it not, of course,
openly, but in some disguise.  I am sufficiently, however, in his
confidence--any man may be that with so audacious a braggart--to deter
him from renewing his attempt for some days.  Meanwhile, I or yourself
will leave discovered some surer home than this, to which you can remove,
and then will be the proper time to take back your daughter.  And for the
present, if you will send by me a letter to enjoin her to receive me as
her future bridegroom, it will necessarily divert all thought at once
from the count; I shall be able to detect by the manner in which she
receives me, how far the count has overstated the effect he pretends to
have produced.  You can give me also a letter to Lady Lansmere, to
prevent your daughter coming hither.  Oh, sir, do not reason with me.
Have indulgence for my lover's fears.  Believe that I advise for the
best.  Have I not the keenest interest to do so?"

Like many a man who is wise enough with pen and paper before him, and
plenty of time wherewith to get up his wisdom, Riccabocca was flurried,
nervous, and confused when that wisdom was called upon for any ready
exertion.  From the tree of knowledge he had taken grafts enough to serve
for a forest; but the whole forest could not spare him a handy walking-
stick.  The great folio of the dead Machiavelli lay useless before him,--
the living Machiavelli of daily life stood all puissant by his side.  The
Sage was as supple to the Schemer as the Clairvoyant is to the Mesmerist;
and the lean slight fingers of Randal actually dictated almost the very
words that Riccabocca wrote to his child and her hostess.

The philosopher would have liked to consult his wife; but he was ashamed
to confess that weakness.  Suddenly he remembered Harley, and said, as
Randal took up the letters which Riccabocca had indited,

"There, that will give us time; and I will send to Lord L'Estrange and
talk to him."

"My noble friend," replied Randal, mournfully, "may I entreat you not to
see Lord L'Estrange until at least I have pleaded my cause to your
daughter,--until, indeed, she is no longer under his father's roof?"

"And why?"

"Because I presume that you are sincere when you deign to receive me as a
son-in-law, and because I am sure that Lord L'Estrange would hear with
distaste of your disposition in my favour.  Am I not right?"

Riccabocca was silent.

"And though his arguments would fail with a man of your honour and
discernment, they might have more effect on the young mind of your child.
Think, I beseech you, the more she is set against me, the more accessible
she may be to the arts of Peschiera.  Speak not, therefore, I implore
you, to Lord L'Estrange till Violante has accepted my hand, or at least
until she is again under your charge; otherwise take back your letter,--
it would be of no avail."

"Perhaps you are right.  Certainly Lord L'Estrange is prejudiced against
you; or rather, he thinks too much of what I have been, too little of
what I am."

"Who can see you, and not do so?  I pardon him."  After kissing the hand
which the exile modestly sought to withdraw froin that act of homage,
Randal pocketed the letters; and, as if struggling with emotion, rushed
from the house.

Now, O curious reader, if thou wilt heedfully observe to what uses Randal
Leslie put those letters,--what speedy and direct results he drew forth
from devices which would seem to an honest simple understanding the most
roundabout, wire-drawn wastes of invention,--I almost fear that in thine
admiration for his cleverness, thou mayest half forget thy contempt for
his knavery.

But when the head is very full, it does not do to have the heart very
empty; there is such a thing as being top-heavy!



CHAPTER IV.

Helen and Violante had been conversing together, and Helen had obeyed her
guardian's injunction, and spoken, though briefly, of her positive
engagement to Harley.  However much Violante had been prepared for the
confidence, however clearly she had divined that engagement, however
before persuaded that the dream of her childhood was fled forever, still
the positive truth, coming from Helen's own lips, was attended with that
anguish which proves how impossible it is to prepare the human heart for
the final verdict which slays its future.  She did not, however, betray
her emotion to Helen's artless eyes; sorrow, deep-seated, is seldom self-
betrayed.  But, after a little while, she crept away; and, forgetful of
Peschiera, of all things that could threaten danger (what danger could
harm her more!) she glided from the house, and went her desolate way
under the leafless wintry trees.  Ever and anon she paused, ever and anon
she murmured the same words: "If she loved him, I could be consoled; but
she does not! or how could she have spoken to me so calmly! how could her
very looks have been so sad!  Heartless! heartless!"

Then there came on her a vehement resentment against poor Helen, that
almost took the character of scorn or hate,--its excess startled herself.
"Am I grown so mean?" she said; and tears that humbled her rushed to her
eyes.  "Can so short a time alter one thus?  Impossible!"

Randal Leslie rang at the front gate, inquired for Violante, and,
catching sight of her form as he walked towards the house, advanced
boldly and openly.  His voice startled her as she leaned against one of
the dreary trees, still muttering to herself,--forlorn.  "I have a letter
to you from your father, Signorina," said Randal; "but before I give it
to your hands, some explanation is necessary.  Condescend, then, to hear
me."  Violante shook her head impatiently, and stretched forth her hand
for the letter.  Randal observed her countenance with his keen, cold,
searching eye; but he still withheld the letter, and continued, after a
pause,

"I know that you were born to princely fortunes; and the excuse for my
addressing you now is, that your birthright is lost to you, at least
unless you can consent to a union with the man who has despoiled you of
your heritage,--a union which your father would deem dishonour to
yourself and him.  Signorina, I might have presumed to love you, but I
should not have named that love, had your father not encouraged me by his
assent to my suit."

Violante turned to the speaker, her face eloquent with haughty surprise.
Randal met the gaze unmoved.  He continued, without warmth, and in the
tone of one who reasons calmly, rather than of one who feels acutely,

"The man of whom I spoke is in pursuit of you.  I have cause to believe
that this person has already intruded himself upon you.  Ah, your
countenance owns it; you have seen Peschiera?  This house is, then, less
safe than your father deemed it.  No house is safe for you but a
husband's.  I offer to you my name,--it is a gentleman's; my fortune,
which is small; the participation in my hopes of the future, which are
large.  I place now your father's letter in your hand, and await your
answer."  Randal bowed slightly, gave the letter to Violante, and retired
a few paces.

It was not his object to conciliate Violante's affection, but rather to
excite her repugnance, or at least her terror,--we must wait to discover
why; so he stood apart, seemingly in a kind of self-confident
indifference, while the girl read the following letter:

     "My child, receive with favour Mr. Leslie.  He has my consent to
     address you as a suitor.  Circumstances of which it is needless now
     to inform you render it essential to my very peace and happiness
     that your marriage should he immediate.  In a word, I have given my
     promise to Mr. Leslie, and I confidently leave it to the daughter of
     my House to redeem the pledge of her anxious and tender father."

The letter dropped from Violante's hand.  Randal approached, and restored
it to her.  Their eyes met.  Violante recoiled.

"I cannot marry you," said she, passionately.

"Indeed?" answered Randal, dryly.  "Is it because you cannot love me?"

"Yes."

"I did not expect that you would as yet, and I still persist in my suit.
I have promised to your father that I would not recede before your first
unconsidered refusal."

"I will go to my father at once."

"Does he request you to do so in his letter?  Look again.  Pardon me,
but he foresaw your impetuosity; and I have another note for Lady
Lansmere, in which he begs her ladyship not to sanction your return to
him (should you so wish) until he come or send for you himself.  He will
do so whenever your word has redeemed his own."

"And do you dare to talk to me thus, and yet pretend to love me?"

Randal smiled ironically.

"I pretend but to wed you.  Love is a subject on which I might have
spoken formerly, or may speak hereafter.  I give you some little time to
consider.  When I next call, let me hope that we may fix the day for our
wedding."

"Never!"

"You will be, then, the first daughter of your House who disobeyed a
father; and you will have this additional crime; that you disobeyed him
in his sorrow, his exile, and his fall."

Violante wrung her hands.

"Is there no choice, no escape?"

"I see none for either.  Listen to me.  I love you, it is true; but it is
not for my happiness to marry one who dislikes me, nor for my ambition to
connect myself with one whose poverty is greater than my own.  I marry
but to keep my plighted faith with your father, and to save you from a
villain you would hate more than myself, and from whom no walls are a
barrier, no laws a defence.  One person, indeed, might perhaps have
preserved you from the misery you seem to anticipate with me; that person
might defeat the plans of your father's foe,--effect, it might be, terms
which could revoke his banishment and restore his honours; that person
is--"

"Lord L'Estrange?"

"Lord L'Estrange!" repeated Randal, sharply, and watching her pale parted
lips and her changing colour; "Lord L'Estrange!  What could he do?  Why
did you name him?"

Violante turned aside.  "He saved my father once," said she, feelingly.

"And has interfered, and trifled, and promised, Heaven knows what, ever
since: yet to what end?  Pooh!  The person I speak of your father would
not consent to see, would not believe if he saw her; yet she is generous,
noble, could sympathize with you both.  She is the sister of your
father's enemy, the Marchesa di Negra.  I am convinced that she has great
influence with her brother,--that she has known enough of his secrets to
awe him into renouncing all designs on yourself; but it is idle now to
speak of her."

"No, no," exclaimed Violante.  "Tell me where she lives--I will see her."

"Pardon me, I cannot obey you; and, indeed, her own pride is now aroused
by your father's unfortunate prejudices against her.  It is too late to
count upon her aid.  You turn from me,--my presence is unwelcome.  I rid
you of it now.  But welcome or unwelcome, later you must endure it--and
for life."

Randal again bowed with formal ceremony, walked towards the house, and
asked for Lady Lansmere.  The countess was at home.  Randal delivered
Riccabocca's note, which was very short, implying that he feared
Peschiera had discovered his retreat, and requesting Lady Lansmere to
retain Violante, whatever her own desire, till her ladyship heard from
him again.

The countess read, and her lip curled in disdain.  "Strange!" said she,
half to herself.

"Strange!" said Randal, "that a man like your correspondent should fear
one like the Count di Peschiera.  Is that it?"

"Sir," said the countess, a little surprised, "strange that any man
should fear another in a country like ours!"

"I don't know," said Randal, with his low soft laugh; "I fear many men,
and I know many who ought to fear me; yet at every turn of the street one
meets a policeman!"

"Yes," said Lady Lansmere.  "But to suppose that this profligate
foreigner could carry away a girl like Violante against her will,
--a man she has never seen, and whom she must have been taught to hate!"

"Be on your guard, nevertheless, I pray you, madam; 'Where there's a will
there's a way'!"

Randal took his leave, and returned to Madame di Negra's.  He stayed with
her an hour, revisited the count, and then strolled to Limmer's.

"Randal," said the squire, who looked pale and worn, but who scorned to
confess the weakness with which he still grieved and yearned for his
rebellious son, "Randal, you have nothing now to do in London; can you
come and stay with me, and take to farming?  I remember that you showed a
good deal of sound knowledge about thin sowing."

"My dear sir, I will come to you as soon as the general election is
over."

"What the deuce have you got to do with the general election?"

"Mr. Egerton has some wish that I should enter parliament; indeed,
negotiations for that purpose are now on foot."

The squire shook his head.  "I don't like my half-brother's politics."

"I shall be quite independent of them," cried Randal, loftily; "that
independence is the condition for which I stipulate."

"Glad to hear it; and if you do come into parliament, I hope you'll not
turn your back on the land?"

"Turn my back on the land!" cried Randal, with devout horror.  "Oh, sir,
I am not so unnatural!"

"That's the right way to put it," quoth the credulous squire; "it is
unnatural!  It is turning one's back on one's own mother.  The land is a
mother--"

"To those who live by her, certainly,--a mother," said Randal, gravely.
"And though, indeed, my father starves by her rather than lives, and Rood
Hall is not like Hazeldean, still--I--"

"Hold your tongue," interrupted the squire; "I want to talk to you.  Your
grandmother was a Hazeldean."

"Her picture is in the drawing-room at Rood.  People think me very like
her."

"Indeed!" said the squire.  "The Hazeldeans are generally inclined to be
stout and rosy, which you are certainly not.  But no fault of yours.  We
are all as Heaven made us.  However, to the point.  I am going to alter
my will,"--(said with a choking gulp).  "This is the rough draft for the
lawyers to work upon."

"Pray, pray, sir, do not speak to me on such a subject.  I cannot bear to
contemplate even the possibility of--of--"

"My death?  Ha, ha!  Nonsense.  My own son calculated on the date of it
by the insurance-tables.  Ha, ha, ha!  A very fashionable son, eh!  Ha,
ha!"

"Poor Frank!  do not let him suffer for a momentary forgetfulness of
right feeling.  When he comes to be married to that foreign lady, and be
a father himself, he--"

"Father himself!"  burst forth the squire.  "Father to a swarm of sallow-
faced Popish tadpoles!  No foreign frogs shall hop about my grave in
Hazeldean churchyard.  No, no.  But you need not look so reproachful,--
I 'm not going to disinherit Frank."

"Of course not," said Randal, with a bitter curve in the lip that
rebelled against the joyous smile which he sought to impose on it.

"No; I shall leave him the life-interest in the greater part of the
property; but if he marry a foreigner, her children will not succeed,--
you will stand after him in that case.  But--now don't interrupt me--but
Frank looks as if he would live longer than you, so small thanks to me
for my good intentions, you may say.  I mean to do more for you than a
mere barren place in the entail.  What do you say to marrying?"

"Just as you please," said Randal, meekly.

"Good.  There's Miss Sticktorights disengaged,--great heiress.  Her lands
run onto Rood.  At one time I thought of her for that graceless puppy of
mine.  But I can manage more easily to make up the match for you.
There's a mortgage on the property; old Sticktorights would be very glad
to pay it off.  I 'll pay it out of the Hazeldean estate, and give up the
Right of Way into the bargain.  You understand?

"So come down as soon as you can, and court the young lady yourself."

Randal expressed his thanks with much grateful eloquence; and he then
delicately insinuated, that if the squire ever did mean to bestow upon
him any pecuniary favours (always without injury to Frank), it would
gratify him more to win back some portions of the old estate of Rood,
than to have all the acres of the Sticktorights, however free from any
other incumbrance than the amiable heiress.

The squire listened to Randal with benignant attention.  This wish the
country gentleman could well understand and sympathize with.  He promised
to inquire into the matter, and to see what could be done with old
Thornhill.

Randal here let out that Mr. Thornhill was about to dispose of a large
slice of the ancient Leslie estate through Levy, and that he, Randal,
could thus get it at a more moderate price than would be natural, if Mr.
Thornhill knew that his neighbour the squire would bid for the purchase.

"Better say nothing about it either to Levy or Thornhill."

"Right," said the squire.  "No proprietor likes to sell to another
proprietor, in the same shire, as largely acred as hinmself: it spoils
the balance of power.  See to the business yourself; and if I can help
you with the purchase (after that boy is married,--I can attend to
nothing before), why, I will."

Randal now went to Egerton's.  The statesman was in his library, settling
the accounts of his house-steward, and giving brief orders for the
reduction of his establishment to that of an ordinary private gentleman.

"I may go abroad if I lose my election," said Egerton, condescending to
assign to his servant a reason for his economy; "and if I do not lose it,
still, now I am out of office, I shall live much in private."

"Do I disturb you, sir?" said Randal, entering.

"No; I have just done."

The house-steward withdrew, much surprised and disgusted, and meditating
the resignation of his own office,--in order, not like Egerton, to save,
but to spend.  The house steward had private dealings with Baron Levy,
and was in fact the veritable X. Y. of the "Times," for whom Dick Avenel
had been mistaken.  He invested his wages and perquisites in the discount
of bills; and it was part of his own money that had (though unknown to
himself) swelled the last L5,000 which Egerton had borrowed from Levy.

"I have settled with our committee; and, with Lord Lansmere's consent,"
said Egerton, briefly, "you will stand for the borough, as we proposed,
in conjunction with myself.  And should any accident happen to me,--that
is, should I vacate this seat from any cause,--you may succeed to it,
very shortly perhaps.  Ingratiate yourself with the electors, and speak
at the public-houses for both of us.  I shall stand on my dignity, and
leave the work of the election to you.  No thanks,--you know how I hate
thanks.  Good-night."

"I never stood so near to fortune and to power," said Randal, as he
slowly undressed.  "And I owe it but to knowledge,--knowledge of men,
life, of all that books can teach us."

So his slight thin fingers dropped the extinguisher on the candle, and
the prosperous Schemer laid himself down to rest in the dark.  Shutters
closed, curtains drawn--never was rest more quiet, never was room more
dark!

That evening, Harley had dined at his father's.  He spoke much to Helen,
scarcely at all to Violante.  But it so happened that when later, and a
little while before he took his leave, Helen, at his request, was playing
a favourite air of his, Lady Lausmere, who had been seated between him
and Violante, left the room, and Violante turned quickly towards Harley.

"Do you know the Marchesa di Negra?" she asked, in a hurried voice.

"A little.  Why do you ask?"

"That is my secret," answered Violante, trying to smile with her old
frank, childlike archness.  "But, tell me, do you think better of her
than of her brother?"

"Certainly.  I believe her heart to be good, and that she is not without
generous qualities."

"Can you not induce my father to see her?  Would you not counsel him to
do so?"

"Any wish of yours is a law to me," answered Harley, gallantly.  "You
wish your father to see her?  I will try and persuade him to do so.  Now,
in return, confide to me your secret.  What is your object?"

"Leave to return to my Italy.  I care not for honours, for rank; and even
my father has ceased to regret their loss.  But the land, the native
land---Oh, to see it once more!  Oh, to die there!"

"Die!  You children have so lately left heaven, that ye talk as if ye
could return there, without passing through the gates of sorrow,
infirmity, and age!  But I thought you were content with England.  Why so
eager to leave it?  Violante, you are unkind to us,--to Helen, who
already loves you so well."  As Harley spoke, Helen rose from the piano,
and approaching Violante, placed her hand caressingly on the Italian's
shoulder.  Violante shivered, and shrunk away.  The eyes both of Harley
and Helen followed her.  Harley's eyes were very grave and thoughtful.

"Is she not changed--your friend?"  said he, looking down.

"Yes, lately; much changed.  I fear there is something on her mind,--
I know not what."

"Ah," muttered Harley, "it may be so; but at your age and hers, nothing
rests on the mind long.  Observe, I say the mind,--the heart is more
tenacious."

Helen sighed softly, but deeply.

"And therefore," continued Harley, half to himself, "we can detect when
something is on the mind,--some care, some fear, some trouble.  But when
the heart closes over its own more passionate sorrow, who can discover,
who conjecture?  Yet you at least, my pure, candid Helen,--you might
subject mind and heart alike to the fabled window of glass."

"Oh, no!" cried Helen, involuntarily.

"Oh, yes!  Do not let me think that you have one secret I may not know,
or one sorrow I may not share.  For, in our relationship, that would be
deceit."

He pressed her hand with more than usual tenderness as he spoke, and
shortly afterwards left the house.

And all that night Helen felt like a guilty thing,--more wretched even
than Violante.



CHAPTER V.

Early the next morning, while Violante was still in her room, a letter
addressed to her came by the post.  The direction was in a strange hand.
She opened it, and read, in Italian, what is thus translated:--

     I would gladly see you, but I cannot call openly at the house in
     which you live.  Perhaps I may have it in my power to arrange family
     dissensions,--to repair any wrongs your father may have sustained.
     Perhaps I may be enabled to render yourself an essential service.
     But for all this it is necessary that we should meet and confer
     frankly.  Meanwhile time presses, delay is forbidden.  Will you meet
     me, an hour after noon, in the lane, just outside the private gate
     of your gardens? I shall be alone, and you cannot fear to meet one
     of your own sex, and a kinswoman.  Ah, I so desire to see you!
     Come, I beseech you.

                                                  BEATRICE.

Violante read, and her decision was taken.  She was naturally fearless,
and there was little that she would not have braved for the chance of
serving her father.  And now all peril seemed slight in comparison with
that which awaited her in Randal's suit, backed by her father's approval.
Randal had said that Madame di Negra alone could aid her in escape from
himself.  Harley had said that Madame di Negra had generous qualities;
and who but Madame di Negra would write herself a kinswoman, and sign
herself "Beatrice"?

A little before the appointed hour, she stole unobserved through the
trees, opened the little gate, and found herself in the quiet, solitary
lane.  In a few minutes; a female figure came up, with a quick, light
step; and throwing aside her veil, said, with a sort of wild, suppressed
energy, "It is you!  I was truly told.  Beautiful!  beautiful!  And oh!
what youth and what bloom!"

The voice dropped mournfully; and Violante, surprised by the tone, and
blushing under the praise, remained a moment silent; then she said, with
some hesitation,

"You are, I presume, the Marchesa di Negra?  And I have heard of you
enough to induce me to trust you."

"Of me!  From whom?" asked Beatrice, almost fiercely.  "From Mr Leslie,
and--and--"

"Go on; why falter?"

"From Lord L'Estrange."

"From no one else?"

"Not that I remember."

Beatrice sighed heavily, and let fall her veil.  Some foot-passengers now
came up the lane; and seeing two ladies, of mien so remarkable, turned
round, and gazed curiously.

"We cannot talk here," said Beatrice, impatiently; "and I have so much to
say, so much to know.  Trust me yet more; it is for yourself I speak.  My
carriage waits yonder.  Come home with me,--I will not detain you an
hour; and I will bring you back."

This proposition startled Violante.  She retreated towards the gate with
a gesture of dissent.  Beatrice laid her hand on the girl's arm, and
again lifting her veil, gazed at her with a look half of scorn, half of
admiration.

"I, too, would once have recoiled from one step beyond the formal line by
which the world divides liberty from woman.  Now see how bold I am.
Child, child, do not trifle with your destiny.  You may never again have
the same occasion offered to you.  It is not only to meet you that I am
here; I must know something of you,--something of your heart.  Why
shrink?  Is not the heart pure?"

Violante made no answer; but her smile, so sweet and so lofty, humbled
the questioner it rebuked.

"I may restore to Italy your father," said Beatrice, with an altered
voice.  "Come!"

Violante approached, but still hesitatingly.  "Not by union with your
brother?"

"You dread that so much then?"

"Dread it?  No.  Why should I dread what is in my, power to reject.  But
if you can really restore my father, and by nobler means, you may save me
for--"

Violante stopped abruptly; the marchesa's eyes sparkled.

"Save you for--ah!  I can guess what you leave unsaid.  But come, come!
more strangers, see; you shall tell me all at my own house.  And if you
can make one sacrifice, why, I will save you all else.  Come, or farewell
forever!"

Violante placed her hand in Beatrice's, with a frank confidence that
brought the accusing blood into the marchesa's cheek.

"We are women both," said Violante; "we descend from the same noble
House; we have knelt alike to the same Virgin Mother; why should I not
believe and trust you?"

"Why not?" muttered Beatrice, feebly; and she moved on, with her head
bowed on her breast, and all the pride of her step was gone.

They reached a carriage that stood by the angle of the road.  Beatrice
spoke a word apart to the driver, who was an Italian, in the pay of the
count; the man nodded, and opened the carriage door.  The ladies entered.
Beatrice pulled down the blinds; the man remounted his box, and drove on
rapidly.  Beatrice, leaning back, groaned aloud.  Violante drew nearer
to her side.  "Are you in pain?" said she, with her tender, melodious
voice; "or can I serve you as you would serve me?"

"Child, give me your hand, and be silent while I look at you.  Was I ever
so fair as this?  Never!  And what deeps--what deeps roll between her and
me!"

She said this as of some one absent, and again sank into silence; but
continued still to gaze on Violante, whose eyes, veiled by their long
fringes, drooped beneath the gaze.

Suddenly Beatrice started, exclaiming, "No, it shall not be!" and placed
her hand on the check-string.

"What shall not be?" asked Violante, surprised by the cry and the action.
Beatrice paused; her breast heaved visibly under her dress.

"Stay," she said slowly.  "As you say, we are both women of the same
noble House; you would reject the suit of my brother, yet you have seen
him; his the form to please the eye, his the arts that allure the fancy.
He offers to you rank, wealth, your father's pardon and recall.  If I
could remove the objections which your father entertains, prove that the
count has less wronged him than he deems, would you still reject the rank
and the wealth and the hand of Giulio Franzini?"

"Oh, yes, yes; were his hand a king's!"

"Still, then, as woman to woman--both, as you say, akin, and sprung from
the same lineage--still, then, answer me, answer me, for you speak to one
who has loved--Is it not that you love another?  Speak."

"I do not know.  Nay, not love,--it was a romance; it is a thing
impossible.  Do not question,--I cannot answer."  And the broken words
were choked by sudden tears.

Beatrice's face grew hard and pitiless.  Again she lowered her veil, and
withdrew her hand from the check-string; but the coachman had felt the
touch, and halted.  "Drive on," said Beatrice, "as you were directed."

Both were now long silent,--Violante with great difficulty recovering
from her emotion, Beatrice breathing hard, and her arms folded firmly
across her breast.

Meanwhile the carriage had entered London; it passed the quarter in which
Madame di Negra's house was situated; it rolled fast over a bridge; it
whirled through a broad thoroughfare, then through defiles of lanes, with
tall blank dreary houses on either side.  On it went, and on, till
Violante suddenly took alarm.  "Do you live so far?" she said, drawing up
the blind, and gazing in dismay on the strange, ignoble suburb.  "I shall
be missed already.  Oh, let us turn back, I beseech you!"

"We are nearly there now.  The driver has taken this road in order to
avoid those streets in which we might have been seen together,--perhaps
by my brother himself.  Listen to me, and talk of-of the lover whom you
rightly associate with a vain romance.  'Impossible,'--yes, it is
impossible!"

Violante clasped her hands before her eyes, and bowed down her head.
"Why are you so cruel?" said she.  "This is not what you promised.  How
are you to serve my father, how restore him to his country?  This is what
you promised!"

"If you consent to one sacrifice, I will fulfil that promise.  We are
arrived."

The carriage stopped before a tall, dull house, divided from other houses
by a high wall that appeared to enclose a yard, and standing at the end
of a narrow lane, which was bounded on the one side by the Thames.  In
that quarter the river was crowded with gloomy, dark-looking vessels and
craft, all lying lifeless under the wintry sky.

The driver dismounted and rang the bell.  Two swarthy Italian faces
presented themselves at the threshold.  Beatrice descended lightly, and
gave her hand to Violante.  "Now, here we shall be secure," said she;
"and here a few minutes may suffice to decide your fate."

As the door closed on Violante, who, now waking to suspicion, to alarm,
looked fearfully round the dark and dismal hall, Beatrice turned: "Let
the carriage wait."

The Italian who received the order bowed and smiled; but when the two
ladies had ascended the stairs he re-opened the street-door, and said to
the driver, "Back to the count, and say, 'All is safe.'"

The carriage drove off.  The man who had given this order barred and
locked the door, and, taking with him the huge key, plunged into the
mystic recesses of the basement and disappeared.  The hall, thus left
solitary, had the grim aspect of a prison,--the strong door sheeted with
iron, the rugged stone stairs, lighted by a high window grimed with the
dust of years, and jealously barred, and the walls themselves abutting
out rudely here and there, as if against violence even from within.



CHAPTER VI.

It was, as we have seen, without taking counsel of the faithful Jemima
that the sage recluse of Norwood had yielded to his own fears and
Randal's subtle suggestions, in the concise and arbitrary letter which he
had written to Violante; but at night, when churchyards give up the dead,
and conjugal hearts the secrets hid by day from each other, the wise man
informed his wife of the step he had taken.  And Jemima then--who held
English notions, very different from those which prevail in Italy, as to
the right of fathers to dispose of their daughters without reference to
inclination or repugnance--so sensibly yet so mildly represented to the
pupil of Machiavelli that he had not gone exactly the right way to work,
if he feared that the handsome count had made some impression on
Violante, and if he wished her to turn with favour to the suitor he
recommended,--that so abrupt a command could only chill the heart,
revolt the will, and even give to the audacious Peschiera some romantic
attraction which he had not before possessed,--as effectually to destroy
Riccabocca's sleep that night.  And the next day he sent Giacomo to Lady
Lansmere's with a very kind letter to Violante and a note to the hostess,
praying the latter to bring his daughter to Norwood for a few hours, as
he much wished to converse with both.  It was on Giacomo's arrival at
Knightsbridge that Violante's absence was discovered.  Lady Lansmere,
ever proudly careful of the world and its gossip, kept Giacomo from
betraying his excitement to her servants, and stated throughout the
decorous household that the young lady had informed her she was going to
visit some friends that morning, and had no doubt gone through the garden
gate, since it was found open; the way was more quiet there than by the
high-road, and her friends might have therefore walked to meet her by the
lane.  Lady Lansmere observed that her only surprise was that Violante
had gone earlier than she had expected.  Having said this with a
composure that compelled belief, Lady Lansmere ordered the carriage, and,
taking Giacomo with her, drove at once to consult her son.

Harley's quick intellect had scarcely recovered from the shock upon his
emotions before Randal Leslie was announced.  "Ah," said Lady Lansmere,
"Mr. Leslie may know something.  He came to her yesterday with a note
from her father.  Pray let him enter."

The Austrian prince approached Harley.  "I will wait in the next room,"
he whispered.  "You may want me if you have cause to suspect Peschiera in
all this."

Lady Lansmere was pleased with the prince's delicacy, and, glancing at
Leonard, said, "Perhaps you, too, sir, may kindly aid us, if you would
retire with the prince.  Mr. Leslie may be disinclined to speak of
affairs like these, except to Harley and myself."

"True, madam, but beware of Mr. Leslie."

As the door at one end of the room closed on the prince and Leonard,
Randal entered at the other, seemingly much agitated.

"I have just been to your house, Lady Lansmere.  I heard you were here;
pardon me if I have followed you.  I have called at Knightsbridge to see
Violante, learned that she had left you.  I implore you to tell me how or
wherefore.  I have the right to ask: her father has promised me her
hand."  Harley's falcon eye had brightened tip at Randal's entrance.  It
watched steadily the young man's face.  It was clouded for a moment by
his knitted brows at Randal's closing words; but he left it to Lady
Lansmere to reply and explain.  This the countess did briefly.

Randal clasped his hands.  "And has she not gone to her father's?  Are
you sure of that?"

"Her father's servant has just come from Norwood."

"Oh, I am to blame for this!  It is my rash suit, her fear of it, her
aversion!  I see it all!  "Randal's voice was hollow with remorse and
despair.  "To save her from Peschiera, her father insisted on her
immediate marriage with myself.  His orders were too abrupt, my own
wooing too unwelcome.  I knew her high spirit; she has fled to escape
from me.  But whither, if not to Norwood,--oh, whither?  What other
friends has she, what relations?"

"You throw a new light on this mystery," said Lady Lansmere; "perhaps she
may have gone to her father's after all, and the servant may have
crossed, but missed her on the way.  I will drive to Norwood at once."

"Do so,--do; but if she be not there, be careful not to alarm Riccabocca
with the news of her disappearance.  Caution Giacomo not to do so.  He
would only suspect Peschiera, and be hurried to some act of violence."

"Do not you, then, suspect Peschiera, Mr. Leslie?" asked Harley,
suddenly.

"Ha! is it possible?  Yet, no.  I called on him this morning with Frank
Hazeldean, who is to marry his sister.  I was with him till I went on to
Knightsbridge, at the very time of Violante's disappearance.  He could
not then have been a party to it."

"You saw Violante yesterday.  Did you speak to her of Madame di Negra?"
asked Harley, suddenly recalling the questions respecting the marchesa
which Violante had addressed to him.

In spite of himself, Randal felt that he changed countenance.  "Of Madame
di Negra?  I do not think so.  Yet I might.  Oh, yes, I remember now.
She asked me the marchesa's address; I would not give it."

"The address is easily found.  Can she have gone to the marchesa's
house?"

"I will run there, and see," cried Randal, starting up.  "And I with you.
Stay, my dear mother.  Proceed, as you propose, to Norwood, and take Mr.
Leslie's advice.  Spare our friend the news of his daughter's loss--if
lost she be--till she is restored to him.  He can be of no use mean
while.  Let Giacomo rest here; I may want him."

Harley then passed into the next room, and entreated the prince and
Leonard to await his return, and allow Giacomo to stay in the same room.

He then went quickly back to Randal.  Whatever might be his fears or
emotions, Harley felt that he had need of all his coolness of judgment
and presence of mind.  The occasion made abrupt demand upon powers which
had slept since boyhood, but which now woke with a vigour that would have
made even Randal tremble, could he have detected the wit, the courage,
the electric energies, masked under that tranquil self-possession.  Lord
L'Estrange and Randal soon reached the marchesa's house, and learned that
she had been out since morning in one of Count Peschiera's carriages.
Randal stole an alarmed glance at Harley's face.  Harley did not seem to
notice it.

"Now, Mr. Leslie, what do you advise next?"

"I am at a loss.  Ah, perhaps, afraid of her father, knowing how despotic
is his belief in paternal rights, and how tenacious he is of his word
once passed, as it has been to me, she may have resolved to take refuge
in the country, perhaps at the Casino, or at Mrs. Dale's, or Mrs.
Hazeldean's.  I will hasten to inquire at the coach-office.  Meanwhile,
you--"

"Never mind me, Mr. Leslie.  Do what you think best.  But, if your
surmises be just, you must have been a very rude wooer to the high-born
lady you aspired to win."

"Not so; but perhaps an unwelcome one.  If she has indeed fled from me,
need I say that my suit will be withdrawn at once?  I am not a selfish
lover, Lord L'Estrange."

"Nor I a vindictive man.  Yet, could I discover who has conspired against
this lady, a guest under my father's roof, I would crush him into the
mire as easily as I set my foot upon this glove.  Good-day to you, Mr.
Leslie."

Randal stood still for a few moments as Harley strided on; then his lip
sneered as it muttered, "Insolent!  But does he love her?  If so, I am
avenged already."



CHAPTER VII.

Harley went straight to Peschiera's hotel.  He was told that the count
had walked out with Mr. Frank Hazeldean and some other gentlemen who had
breakfasted with him.  He had left word, in case any one called, that he
had gone to Tattersall's to look at some horses that were for sale.  To
Tattersall's went Harley.  The count was in the yard leaning against a
pillar, and surrounded by fashionable friends.  Lord L'Estrange paused,
and, with an heroic effort at self-mastery, repressed his rage.  "I may
lose all if I show that I suspect him; and yet I must insult and fight
him rather than leave his movements free.  Ah, is that young Hazeldean?
A thought strikes me!"  Frank was standing apart from the group round the
count, and looking very absent and very sad.  Harley touched him on the
shoulder, and drew him aside unobserved by the count.

"Mr. Hazeldean, your uncle Egerton is my dearest friend.  Will you be a
friend to me?  I want you."

"My Lord--"

"Follow me.  Do not let Count Peschiera see us talking together."

Harley quitted the yard, and entered St. James's Park by the little gate
close by.  In a very few words he informed Frank of Violante's
disappearance and of his reasons for suspecting the count.  Frank's first
sentiment was that of indignant disbelief that the brother of Beatrice
could be so vile; but as he gradually called to mind the cynical and
corrupt vein of the count's familiar conversation, the hints to
Peschiera's prejudice that had been dropped by Beatrice herself, and the
general character for brilliant and daring profligacy which even the
admirers of the count ascribed to him, Frank was compelled to reluctant
acquiescence in Harley's suspicions; and he said, with an earnest gravity
very rare to him,

"Believe me, Lord L'Estrange, if I can assist you in defeating a base and
mercenary design against this poor young lady, you have but to show me
how.  One thing is clear, Peschicra was not personally engaged in this
abduction, since I have been with him all day; and--now I think of it--I
begin to hope that you wrong him; for he has invited a large party of us
to make an excursion with him to Boulogne next week, in order to try his
yacht, which he could scarcely do if--"

"Yacht, at this time of the year! a man who habitually resides at Vienna
--a yacht!"

"Spendquick sells it a bargain, on account of the time of year and other
reasons; and the count proposes to spend next summer in cruising about
the Ionian Isles.  He has some property on those isles, which he has
never yet visited."

"How long is it since he bought this yacht?"

"Why, I am not sure that it is already bought,--that is, paid for.  Levy
was to meet Spendquick this very morning to arrange the matter.
Spendquick complains that Levy screws him."

"My dear Mr. Hazeldean, you are guiding me through the maze.  Where shall
I find Lord Spendquick?"

"At this hour, probably in bed.  Here is his card."

"Thanks.  And where lies the vessel?"

"It was off Blackwall the other day.  I went to see it, 'The Flying
Dutchman,'--a fine vessel, and carries guns."

"Enough.  Now, heed me.  There can be no immediate danger to Violante, so
long as Peschiera does not meet her, so long as we know his movements.
You are about to marry his sister.  Avail yourself of that privilege to
keep close by his side.  Refuse to be shaken off.  Make what excuses for
the present your invention suggests.  I will give you an excuse.  Be
anxious and uneasy to know where you can find Madame di Negra."

"Madame di Negra!" cried Frank.  "What of her?  Is she not in Curzon
Street?"

"No; she has gone out in one of the count's carriages.  In all
probability the driver of that carriage, or some servant in attendance on
it, will come to the count in the course of the day; and in order to get
rid of you, the count will tell you to see this servant, and ascertain
yourself that his sister is safe.  Pretend to believe what the man says,
but make him come to your lodgings on pretence of writing there a letter
for the marchesa.  Once at your lodgings, and he will be safe; for I
shall see that the officers of justice secure him.  The moment he is
there, send an express for me to my hotel."

"But," said Frank, a little bewildered, "if I go to my lodgings, how can
I watch the count?"

"It will nor then be necessary.  Only get him to accompany you to your
lodgings, and part with him at the door."

"Stop, stop!  you cannot suspect Madame di Negra of connivance in a
scheme so infamous.  Pardon me, Lord L'Estrange; I cannot act in this
matter,--cannot even hear you except as your foe, if you insinuate a word
against the honour of the woman I love."

"Brave gentleman, your hand.  It is Madame di Negra I would save, as well
as my friend's young child.  Think but of her, while you act as I
entreat, and all will go well.  I confide in you.  Now, return to the
count."

Frank walked back to join Peschiera, and his brow was thoughtful, and his
lips closed firmly.  Harley had that gift which belongs to the genius of
Action.  He inspired others with the light of his own spirit and the
force of his own will.  Harley next hastened to Lord Spendquick, remained
with that young gentleman some minutes, then repaired to his hotel, where
Leonard, the prince, and Giacomo still awaited him.

"Come with me, both of you.  You, too, Giacomo.  I must now see the
police.  We may then divide upon separate missions."

"Oh, my dear Lord," cried Leonard, "you must have had good news.  You
seem cheerful and sanguine."

"Seem!  Nay, I am so!  If I once paused to despond--even to doubt--I
should go mad.  A foe to baffle, and an angel to save!  Whose spirits
would not rise high, whose wits would not move quick to the warm pulse of
his heart?"



CHAPTER VIII.

Twilight was dark in the room to which Beatrice had conducted Violante.
A great change had come over Beatrice.  Humble and weeping, she knelt
beside Violante, hiding her face, and imploring pardon.  And Violante,
striving to resist the terror for which she now saw such cause as no
woman-heart can defy, still sought to soothe, and still sweetly assured
forgiveness.

Beatrice had learned, after quick and fierce questions, which at last
compelled the answers that cleared away every doubt, that her jealousy
had been groundless, that she had no rival in Violante.  From that moment
the passions that had made her the tool of guilt abruptly vanished, and
her conscience startled her with the magnitude of her treachery.  Perhaps
had Violante's heart been wholly free, or she had been of that mere
commonplace, girlish character which women like Beatrice are apt to
despise, the marchesa's affection for Peschiera, and her dread of him,
might have made her try to persuade her young kinswoman at least to
receive the count's visit,--at least to suffer him to make his own
excuses, and plead his own cause.  But there had been a loftiness of
spirit in which Violante had first defied the mareliesa's questions,
followed by such generous, exquisite sweetness, when the girl perceived
how that wild heart was stung and maddened, and such purity of mournful
candour when she had overcome her own virgin bashfulness sufficiently to
undeceive the error she detected, and confess where her own affections
were placed, that Beatrice bowed before her as mariner of old to some
fair saint that had allayed the storm.

"I have deceived you!" she cried, through her sobs; "but I will now save
you at any cost.  Had you been as I deemed,--the rival who had despoiled
all the hopes of my future life,--I could without remorse have been the
accomplice I am pledged to be.  But now you--Oh, you, so good and so
noble--you can never, be the bride of Peschiera.  Nay, start not; he
shall renounce his designs forever, or I will go myself to our emperor,
and expose the dark secrets of his life.  Return with me quick to the
home from which I ensnared you."

Beatrice's hand was on the door while she spoke.  Suddenly her face fell,
her lips grew white; the door was locked from without.  She called,--no
one answered; the bell-pull in the room gave no sound; the windows were
high and barred,--they did not look on the river, nor the street, but on
a close, gloomy, silent yard, high blank walls all round it; no one to
hear the cry of distress, rang it ever so loud and sharp.

Beatrice divined that she herself had been no less ensnared than her
companion; that Peschiera, distrustful of her firmness in evil, had
precluded her from the power of reparation.  She was in a house only
tenanted by his hirelings.  Not a hope to save Violante from a fate that
now appalled her seemed to remain.  Thus, in incoherent self-reproaches
and frenzied tears, Beatrice knelt beside her victim, communicating more
and more the terrors that she felt, as the hours rolled on, and the room
darkened, till it was only by the dull lamp which gleamed through the
grimy windows from the yard without, that each saw the face of the other.

Night came on; they heard a clock from some distant church strike the
hours.  The dim fire had long since burned out, and the air became
intensely cold.  No one broke upon their solitude,--not a voice was heard
in the house.  They felt neither cold nor hunger,--they felt but the
solitude, and the silence, and the dread of something that was to come.

At length, about midnight, a bell rang at the street door; then there was
the quick sound of steps, of sullen bolts withdrawn, of low, murmured
voices.  Light streamed through the chinks of the door to the apartment,
the door itself opened.  Two Italians bearing tapers entered, and the
Count di Peschiera followed.

Beatrice sprang up, and rushed towards her brother.  He laid his hand
gently on her lips, and motioned to the Italians to withdraw.  They
placed the lights on the table, and vanished without a word.

Peschiera then, putting aside his sister, approached Violante.

"Fair kinswoman," said he, with an air of easy but resolute assurance,
"there are things which no man can excuse, and no woman can pardon,
unless that love, which is beyond all laws, suggests excuse for the one,
and obtains pardon for the other.  In a word, I have sworn to win you,
and I have had no opportunities to woo.  Fear not; the worst that can
befall you is to be my bride!  Stand aside, my sister, stand aside."

"Giulio Franzini, I stand between you and her; you shall strike me to the
earth before you can touch even the hem of her robe!"

"What, my sister!  you turn against me?"

"And unless you instantly retire and leave her free, I will unmask you to
the emperor."

"Too late, /mon enfant!/  You will sail with us.  The effects you may
need for the voyage are already on board.  You will be witness to our
marriage, and by a holy son of the Church.  Then tell the emperor what
you will."

With a light and sudden exertion of his strength, the count put away
Beatrice, and fell on his knee before Violante, who, drawn to her full
height, death-like pale, but untrembling, regarded him with unutterable
disdain.

You scorn me now," said he, throwing into his features an expression of
humility and admiration, "and I cannot wonder at it.  But, believe me,
that until the scorn yield to a kinder sentiment, I will take no
advantage of the power I have gained over your fate."

"Power!" said Violante, haughtily.  "You have ensnared me into this
house, you have gained the power of a day; but the power over my fate,
--no!"

"You mean that your friends have discovered your disappearance, and are
on your track.  Fair one, I provide against your friends, and I defy all
the laws and police of England.  The vessel that will bear you from these
shores waits in the river hard by.  Beatrice, I warn you,--be still,
unhand me.  In that vessel will be a priest who shall join our hands, but
not before you will recognize the truth, that she who flies with Giulio
Peschiera must become his wife or quit him as the disgrace of her House,
and the scorn of her sex."

"O villain!  villain!" cried Beatrice.

"Peste, my sister, gentler words.  You, too, would marry.  I tell no
tales of you.  Signorina, I grieve to threaten force.  Give me your hand;
we must be gone."

Violante eluded the clasp that would have profaned her, and darting
across the room, opened the door, and closed it hastily behind her.
Beatrice clung firmly to the count to detain him from pursuit.  But just
without the door, close, as if listening to what passed within, stood a
man wrapped from head to foot in a large boat cloak.  The ray of the lamp
that beamed on the man glittered on the barrel of a pistol which he held
in his right hand.

"Hist!" whispered the man in English, and passing his arm round her; "in
this house you are in that ruffian's power; out of it, safe.  Ah, I am by
your side,--I, Violante!"

The voice thrilled to Violante's heart.  She started, looked up, but
nothing was seen of the man's face, what with the hat and cloak, save a
mass of raven curls, and a beard of the same hue.

The count now threw open the door, dragging after him his sister, who
still clung round him.

"Ha, that is well!" he cried to the man, in Italian.  "Bear the lady
after me, gently; but if she attempt to cry out, why, force enough to
silence her, not more.  As for you, Beatrice, traitress that you are,
I could strike you to the earth, but--No, this suffices."  He caught his
sister in his arms as he spoke, and regardless of her cries and
struggles, sprang down the stairs.

The hall was crowded with fierce, swarthy men.  The count turned to one
of them, and whispered; in an instant the marchesa was seized and gagged.
The count cast a look over his shoulder; Violante was close behind,
supported by the man to whom Peschiera had consigned her, and who was
pointing to Beatrice, and appeared warning Violante against resistance.

Violante was silent, and seemed resigned.  Peschiera smiled cynically,
and, preceded by some of his hirelings, who held torches, descended a few
steps that led to an abrupt landing-place between the hall and the
basement story.  There a small door stood open, and the river flowed
close by.  A boat was moored on the bank, round which grouped four men,
who had the air of foreign sailors.  At the appearance of Peschiera,
three of these men sprang into the boat, and got ready their oars.  The
fourth carefully re-adjusted a plank thrown from the boat to the wharf,
and offered his arm obsequiously to Peschiera.  The count was the first
to enter, and, humming a gay opera air, took his place by the helm.  The
two females were next lifted in, and Violante felt her hand pressed
almost convulsively by the man who stood by the plank.  The rest
followed, and in another minute the boat bounded swiftly over the waves
towards a vessel that lay several furlongs adown the river, and apart
from all the meaner craft that crowded the stream.  The stars struggled
pale through the foggy atmosphere; not a word was heard within the boat,
--no sound save the regular splash of the oars.  The count paused from
his lively tune, and gathering round him the ample fold of his fur
pelisse, seemed absorbed in thought.  Even by the imperfect light of the
stars, Peschiera's face wore an air of sovereign triumph.  The result had
justified that careless and insolent confidence in himself and in
fortune, which was the most prominent feature in the character of the
man, who, both bravo and gamester, had played against the world with his
rapier in one hand and cogged dice in the other.  Violante, once in a
vessel filled by his own men, was irretrievably in his power.  Even her
father must feel grateful to learn that the captive of Peschiera had
saved name and repute in becoming Peschiera's wife.  Even the pride of
sex in Violante herself must induce her to confirm what Peschiera, of
course, intended to state,--namely, that she was a willing partner in a
bridegroom's schemes of flight towards the altar rather than the poor
victim of a betrayer, and receiving his hand but from his mercy.  He saw
his fortune secured, his success envied, his very character rehabilitated
by his splendid nuptials.  Ambition began to mingle with his dreams of
pleasure and pomp.  What post in the Court or the State too high for the
aspirations of one who had evinced the most incontestable talent for
active life,--the talent to succeed in all that the will had undertaken?
Thus mused the count, half-forgetful of the present, and absorbed in the
golden future, till he was aroused by a loud hail from the vessel and the
bustle on board the boat, as the sailors caught at the rope flung forth
to them.

He then rose and moved towards Violante.  But the man who was still in
charge of her passed the count lightly, half-leading, half-carrying his
passive prisoner.  "Pardon, Excellency," said the man, in Italian, "but
the boat is crowded, and rocks so much that your aid would but disturb
our footing."  Before Peschiera could reply, Violante was already on the
steps of the vessel, and the count paused till, with elated smile, he
saw her safely standing on the deck.  Beatrice followed, and then
Peschiera himself; but when the Italians in his train also thronged
towards the sides of the boat, two of the sailors got before them, and
let go the rope, while the other two plied their oars vigorously, and
pulled back towards shore.  The Italians burst into an amazed and
indignant volley of execra tions.  "Silence," said the sailor who had
stood by the plank, "we obey orders.  If you are not quiet, we shall
upset the boat.  We can swim; Heaven and Monsignore San Giacomo pity you
if you cannot!"

Meanwhile, as Peschiera leaped upon deck, a flood of light poured upon
him from lifted torches.  That light streamed full on the face and form
of a man of commanding stature, whose arm was around Violante, and whose
dark eyes flashed upon the count more luminously than the torches.  On
one side this man stood the Austrian prince; on the other side (a cloak,
and a profusion of false dark locks, at his feet) stood Lord L'Estrange,
his arms folded, and his lips curved by a smile in which the ironical
humour native to the man was tempered with a calm and supreme disdain.
The count strove to speak, but his voice faltered.

All around him looked ominous and hostile.  He saw many Italian faces,
but they scowled at him with vindictive hate; in the rear were English
mariners, peering curiously over the shoulders of the foreigners, and
with a broad grin on their open countenances.  Suddenly, as the count
thus stood perplexed, cowering, stupefied, there burst from all the
Italians present a hoot of unutterable scorn, "Il traditore! il
traditore!" (the traitor! the traitor!)

The count was brave, and at the cry he lifted his head with a certain
majesty.

At that moment Harley, raising his hand as if to silence the hoot, came
forth from the group by which he had been hitherto standing, and towards
him the count advanced with a bold stride.

"What trick is this?" he said, in French, fiercely.  "I divine that it is
you whom I can single out for explanation and atonement."

"/Pardieu, Monsieur le Comte,/" answered Harley, in the same language,
which lends itself so well to polished sarcasm and high-bred enmity, "let
us distinguish.  Explanation should come from me, I allow; but atonement
I have the honour to resign to yourself.  This vessel--"

"Is mine!" cried the count.  "Those men, who insult me, should be in my
pay."

"The men in your pay, Monsieur le Comte, are on shore, drinking success
to your voyage.  But, anxious still to procure you the gratification of
being amongst your own countrymen, those whom I have taken into my pay
are still better Italians than the pirates whose place they supply;
perhaps not such good sailors; but then I have taken the liberty to add
to the equipment of a vessel which cost me too much to risk lightly, some
stout English seamen, who are mariners more practised than even your
pirates.  Your grand mistake, Monsieur le Comte, is in thinking that the
'Flying Dutchman' is yours.  With many apologies for interfering with
your intention to purchase it, I beg to inform you that Lord Spendquick
has kindly sold it to me.  Nevertheless, Monsieur le Comte, for the next
few weeks I place it--men and all--at your service."

Peschiera smiled scornfully.

"I thank your Lordship; but since I presume that I shall no longer have
the travelling companion who alone could make the voyage attractive, I
shall return to shore, and will simply request you to inform me at what
hour you can receive the friend whom I shall depute to discuss that part
of the question yet untouched, and to arrange that the atonement, whether
it be due from me or yourself, may be rendered as satisfactory as you
have condescended to make the explanation."

"Let not that vex you, Monsieur le Comte; the atonement is, in much, made
already; so anxious have I been to forestall all that your nice sense of
honour would induce so complete a gentleman to desire.  You have ensnared
a young heiress, it is true; but you see that it was only to restore her
to the arms of her father.  You have juggled an illustrious kinsman out
of his heritage; but you have voluntarily come on board this vessel,
first, to enable his Highness the Prince Von ------, of whose rank at the
Austrian Court you are fully aware, to state to your emperor that he
himself has been witness of the manner in which you interpreted his
Imperial Majesty's assent to your nuptials with a child of one of the
first subjects in his Italian realm; and, next, to commence by an
excursion to the seas of the Baltic the sentence of banishment which I
have no doubt will accompany the same act that restores to the chief of
your House his lands and his honours."

The count started.

"That restoration," said the Austrian prince, who had advanced to
Harley's side, "I already guarantee.  Disgrace that you are, Giulio
Franzini, to the nobles of the Empire, I will not leave my royal master
till his hand strike your name from the roll.  I have here your own
letters, to prove that your kinsman was duped by yourself into the revolt
which you would have headed as a Catiline, if it had not better suited
your nature to betray it as a Judas.  In ten days from this time, these
letters will be laid before the emperor and his Council."

"Are you satisfied, Monsieur le Comte," said Harley, "with your atonement
so far?  If not, I have procured you the occasion to render it yet more
complete.  Before you stands the kinsman you have wronged.  He knows now,
that though, for a while, you ruined his fortunes, you failed to sully
his hearth.  His heart can grant you pardon, and hereafter his hand may
give you alms.  Kneel then, Giulio Franzini, kneel at the feet of
Alphonso, Duke of Serrano."

The above dialogue had been in French, which only a few of the Italians
present understood, and that imperfectly; but at the name with which
Harley concluded his address to the count, a simultaneous cry from those
Italians broke forth.

"Alphonso the Good!  Alphonso the Good!  Viva, viva, the good Duke of
Serrano!"

And, forgetful even of the count, they crowded round the tall form of
Riccabocca, striving who should first kiss his hand, the very hem of his
garment.

Riccabocca's eyes overflowed.  The gaunt exile seemed transfigured into
another and more kingly man.  An inexpressible dignity invested him.  He
stretched forth his arms, as if to bless his countrymen.  Even that rude
cry, from humble men, exiles like himself, consoled him for years of
banishment and penury.

"Thanks, thanks," he continued; "thanks!  Some day or other, you will all
perhaps return with me to the beloved land!"

The Austrian prince bowed his head, as if in assent to the prayer.

"Giulio Franzini," said the Duke of Serrano,--for so we may now call the
threadbare recluse of the Casino,--"had this last villanous design of
yours been allowed by Providence, think you that there is one spot on
earth on which the ravisher could have been saved from a father's arm?
But now, Heaven has been more kind.  In this hour let me imitate its
mercy;" and with relaxing brow the duke mildly drew near to his guilty
kinsman.

From the moment the Austrian prince had addressed him, the count had
preserved a profound silence, showing neither repentance nor shame.
Gathering himself up, he had stood firm, glaring round him like one at
bay.  But as the duke now approached, he waved his hand, and exclaimed,
"Back, pedant; back; you have not triumphed yet.  And you, prating
German, tell your tales to our emperor.  I shall be by his throne to
answer,--if, indeed, you escape from the meeting to which I will force
you by the way."  He spoke, and made a rush towards the side of the
vessel.  But Harley's quick wit had foreseen the count's intention, and
Harley's quick eye had given the signal by which it was frustrated.
Seized in the gripe of his own watchful and indignant countrymen, just as
he was about to plunge into the stream, Peschiera was dragged back,
pinioned clown.  Then the expression of his whole countenance changed;
the desperate violence of the inborn gladiator broke forth.  His great
strength enabled him to break loose more than once, to dash more than one
man to the floor of the deck; but at length, overpowered by numbers,
though still struggling, all dignity, all attempt at presence of mind
gone, uttering curses the most plebeian, gnashing his teeth, and foaming
at the mouth, nothing seemed left of the brilliant Lothario but the
coarse fury of the fierce natural man.

Then still preserving that air and tone of exquisite imperturbable irony,
which the highest comedian might have sought to imitate in vain, Harley
bowed low to the storming count.

"Adieu, Monsieur le Comte, adieu!  The vessel which you have honoured me
by entering is bound to Norway.  The Italians who accompany you were sent
by yourself into exile, and, in return, they now kindly promise to
enliven you with their society, whenever you feel somewhat tired of your
own.  Conduct the count to his cabin.  Gently there, gently.  Adieu,
Monsieur le Comte, adieu! et bon voyage."

Harley turned lightly on his heel, as Peschiera, in spite of his
struggles, was now fairly carried down to the cabin.

"A trick for the trickster," said L'Estrange to the Austrian prince.
"The revenge of a farce on the would-be tragedian."

"More than that,-he is ruined."

"And ridiculous," quoth Harley.  "I should like to see his look when they
land him in Norway."  Harley then passed towards the centre of the
vessel, by which, hitherto partially concealed by the sailors, who were
now busily occupied, stood Beatrice,--Frank Hazeldean, who had first
received her on entering the vessel, standing by her side; and Leonard, a
little apart from the two, in quiet observation of all that had passed
around him.  Beatrice appeared but little to heed Frank; her dark eyes
were lifted to the dim starry skies, and her lips were moving as if in
prayer; yet her young lover was speaking to her in great emotion, low and
rapidly.

"No, no, do not think for a moment that we suspect you, Beatrice.  I will
answer for your honour with my life.  Oh, why will you turn from me; why
will you not speak?"

"A moment later," said Beatrice, softly.  "Give me one moment yet."  She
passed slowly and falteringly towards Leonard, placed her hand, that
trembled, on his arm, and led him aside to the verge of the vessel.
Frank, startled by her movement, made a step as if to follow, and then
stopped short and looked on, but with a clouded and doubtful countenance.
Harley's smile had gone, and his eye was also watchful.

It was but a few words that Beatrice spoke, it was but a sentence or so
that Leonard answered; and then Beatrice extended her hand, which the
young poet bent over, and kissed in silence.  She lingered an instant;
and even by the starlight, Harley noted the blush that overspread her
face.  The blush faded as Beatrice returned to Frank.  Lord L'Estrange
would have retired,--she signed to him to stay.

"My Lord," she said, very firmly, "I cannot accuse you of harshness to my
sinful and unhappy brother.  His offence might perhaps deserve a heavier
punishment than that which you inflict with such playful scorn.  But
whatever his penance, contempt now or poverty later, I feel that his
sister should be by his side to share it.  I am not innocent if he be
guilty; and, wreck though he be, nothing else on this dark sea of life
is now left to me to cling to.  Hush, my Lord!  I shall not leave this
vessel.  All that I entreat of you is, to order your men to respect my
brother, since a woman will be by his side."

"But, Marchesa, this cannot be; and--"

"Beatrice, Beatrice--and me!--our betrothal?  Do you forget me?" cried
Frank, in reproachful agony.

"No, young and too noble lover; I shall remember you ever in my prayers.
But listen.  I have been deceived, hurried on, I might say, by others,
but also, and far more, by my own mad and blinded heart,--deceived,
hurried on, to wrong you and to belie myself.  My shame burns into me
when I think that I could have inflicted on you the just anger of your
family, linked you to my own ruined fortunes,--my own--"

"Your own generous, loving heart!--that is all I asked!" cried Frank.

"Cease, cease! that heart is mine still!" Tears gushed from the Italian's
eyes.

"Englishman, I never loved you; this heart was dead to you, and it will
be dead to all else forever.  Farewell.  You will forget me sooner than
you think for,--sooner than I shall forget you, as a friend, as a
brother--if brothers had natures as tender and as kind as yours!  Now, my
Lord, will you give me your arm?  I would join the count."

"Stay; one word, Madame," said Frank, very pale, and through his set
teeth, but calmly, and with a pride on his brow which had never before
dignified its habitual careless expression,--"one word.  I may not be
worthy of you in anything else, but an honest love, that never doubted,
never suspected, that would have clung to you though all the world were
against,--such a love makes the meanest man of worth.  One word, frank
and open.  By all that you hold most sacred in your creed, did you speak
the truth when you said that you never loved me?"

Beatrice bent down her head; she was abashed before this manly nature
that she had so deceived, and perhaps till then undervalued.

"Pardon, pardon," she said, in reluctant accents, half-choked by the
rising of a sob.

At her hesitation, Frank's face lighted as if with sudden hope.  She
raised her eyes, and saw the change in him, then glanced where Leonard
stood, mournful and motionless.  She shivered, and added firmly,

"Yes, pardon; for I spoke the truth, and I had no heart to give.  It
might have been as wax to another,--it was of granite to you."  She
paused, and muttered inly, "Granite, and--broken!"

Frank said not a word more.  He stood rooted to the spot, not even gazing
after Beatrice as she passed on, leaning on the arm of Lord L'Estrange.
He then walked resolutely away, and watched the boat that the men were
now lowering from the side of the vessel.  Beatrice stopped when she came
near the place where Violante stood, answering in agitated whispers her
father's anxious questions.  As she stopped, she leaned more heavily upon
Harley.  "It is your arm that trembles now, Lord L'Estrange," said she,
with a mournful smile, and, quitting him ere he could answer, she bowed
down her head meekly before Violante.  "You have pardoned me already,"
she said, in a tone that reached only the girl's ear, "and my last words
shall not be of the past.  I see your future spread bright before me
under those steadfast stars.  Love still; hope and trust.  These are the
last words of her who will soon die to the world.  Fair maid, they are
prophetic!"

Violante shrunk back to her father's breast, and there hid her glowing
face, resigning her hand to Beatrice, who pressed it to her bosom.  The
marchesa then came back to Harley, and disappeared with him in the
interior of the vessel.

When Harley again came on deck, he seemed much flurried and disturbed.
He kept aloof from the duke and Violante, and was the last to enter the
boat, that was now lowered into the water.

As he and his companions reached the land, they saw the vessel in
movement, gliding slowly down the river.  "Courage, Leonard, courage!"
murmured Harley.  "You grieve, and nobly.  But you have shunned the worst
and most vulgar deceit in civilized life; you have not simulated love.
Better that yon poor lady should be, awhile, the sufferer from a harsh
truth, than the eternal martyr of a flattering lie!  Alas, my Leonard!
with the love of the poet's dream are linked only the Graces; with the
love of the human heart come the awful Fates!"

"My Lord, poets do not dream when they love.  You will learn how the
feelings are deep in proportion as the fancies are vivid, when you read
that confession of genius and woe which I have left in your hands."

Leonard turned away.  Harley's gaze followed him with inquiring interest,
and suddenly encountered the soft dark grateful eyes of Violante.  "The
Fates, the Fates!" murmured Harley.



CHAPTER IX.

We are at Norwood in the sage's drawing-room.  Violante has long since
retired to rest.  Harley, who had accompanied the father and daughter to
their home, is still conversing with the former.

"Indeed, my dear Duke," said Harley

"Hush, hush!  Diavolo, don't call me Duke yet; I am at home here once
more as Dr. Riccabocca."

"My dear doctor, then, allow me to assure you that you overrate my claim
to your thanks.  Your old friends, Leonard and Frank Hazeldean, must come
in for their share.  Nor is the faithful Giacomo to be forgotten."

"Continue your explanation."

"In the first place, I learned, through Frank, that one Baron Levy, a
certain fashionable money-lender, and general ministrant to the affairs
of fine gentlemen, was just about to purchase a yacht from Lord
Spendquick on behalf of the count.  A short interview with Spendquick
enabled me to outbid the usurer, and conclude a bargain by which the
yacht became mine,--a promise to assist Spendquick in extricating himself
from the claws of the money-lender (which I trust to do by reconciling
him with his father, who is a man of liberality and sense) made
Spendquick readily connive at my scheme for outwitting the enemy.  He
allowed Levy to suppose that the count might take possession of the
vessel; but affecting an engagement, and standing out for terms,
postponed the final settlement of the purchase-money till the next day.
I was thus master of the vessel, which I felt sure was destined to serve
Peschiera's infamous design.  But it was my business not to alarm the
count's suspicions; I therefore permitted the pirate crew he had got
together to come on board.  I knew I could get rid of them when
necessary.  Meanwhile, Frank undertook to keep close to the count until
he could see and cage within his lodgings the servant whom Peschiera had
commissioned to attend his sister.  If I could but apprehend this
servant, I had a sanguine hope that I could discover and free your
daughter before Peschiera could even profane her with his presence.  But
Frank, alas! was no pupil of Machiavelli.  Perhaps the count detected his
secret thoughts under his open countenance, perhaps merely wished to get
rid of a companion very much in his way; but, at all events, he contrived
to elude our young friend as cleverly as you or I could have done,--told
him that Beatrice herself was at Roehampton, had borrowed the count's
carriage to go there, volunteered to take Frank to the house, took him.
Frank found himself in a drawing-room; and after waiting a few minutes,
while the count went out on pretence of seeing his sister, in pirouetted
a certain distinguished opera-dancer!  Meanwhile the count was fast back
on the road to London, and Frank had to return as he could.  He then
hunted for the count everywhere, and saw him no more.  It was late in the
day when Frank found me out with this news.  I became seriously alarmed.
Peschiera might perhaps learn my counter-scheme with the yacht, or he
might postpone sailing until he had terrified or entangled Violante into
some---In short, everything was to be dreaded from a man of the count's
temper.  I had no clew to the place to which your daughter was taken, no
excuse to arrest Peschiera, no means even of learning where he was.  He
had not returned to Mivart's.  The Police was at fault, and useless,
except in one valuable piece of information.  They told me where some of
your countrymen, whom Peschiera's perfidy had sent into exile, were to be
found.  I commissioned Giacomo to seek these men out, and induce them to
man the vessel.  It might be necessary, should Peschiera or his
confidential servants come aboard, after we had expelled or drawn off the
pirate crew, that they should find Italians whom they might well mistake
for their own hirelings.  To these foreigners I added some English
sailors who had before served in the same vessel, and on whom Spendquick
assured me I could rely.  Still these precautions only availed in case
Peschiera should resolve to sail, and defer till then all machinations
against his captives.  While, amidst my fears and uncertainties, I was
struggling still to preserve presence of mind, and rapidly discussing
with the Austrian prince if any other steps could be taken, or if our
sole resource was to repair to the vessel and take the chance of what
might ensue, Leonard suddenly and quietly entered my room.  You know his
countenance, in which joy or sadness is not betrayed so much by the
evidence of the passions as by variations in the intellectual expression.
It was but by the clearer brow and the steadier eye that I saw he had
good tidings to impart."

"Ah," said Riccabocca,--for so, obeying his own request, we will yet call
the sage,--"ah, I early taught that young man the great lesson inculcated
by Helvetius.  'All our errors arise from our ignorance or our passions.'
Without ignorance and without passions, we should be serene, all-
penetrating intelligences."

"Mopsticks," quoth Harley, "have neither ignorance nor passions; but as
for their intelligence--"

"Pshaw!" interrupted Riccabocca,--"proceed."

"Leonard had parted from us some hours before.  I had commissioned him to
call at Madame di Negra's, and, as he was familiarly known to her
servants, seek to obtain quietly all the information he could collect,
and, at all events, procure (what in my haste I had failed to do) the
name and description of the man who had driven her out in the morning,
and make what use he judged best of every hint he could gather or glean
that might aid our researches.  Leonard only succeeded in learning the
name and description of the coachman, whom he recognized as one Beppo, to
whom she had often given orders in his presence.  None could say where he
then could be found, if not at the count's hotel.  Leonard went next to
that hotel.  The man had not been there all the day.  While revolving
what next he should do, his eye caught sight of your intended son-in-law,
gliding across the opposite side of the street.  One of those luminous,
inspiring conjectures, which never occur to you philosophers, had from
the first guided Leonard to believe that Randal Leslie was mixed up in
this villanous affair."

"Ha!  He?" cried Riccabocca.  "Impossible!  For what interest, what
object?"

"I cannot tell, neither could Leonard; but we had both formed the same
conjecture.  Brief: Leonard resolved to follow Randal Leslie, and track
all his movements.  He did then follow him, unobserved,--and at a
distance, first to Audley Egerton's house, then to Eaton Square, thence
to a house in Bruton Street, which Leonard ascertained to be Baron
Levy's.  Suspicious that, my clear sage?"

"Diavolo, yes!" said Riccabocca, thoughtfully.

"At Levy's, Randal stayed till dusk.  He then came out, with his cat-
like, stealthy step, and walked quickly into the neighbourhood of
Leicester Square.  Leonard saw him enter one of those small hotels which
are appropriated to foreigners.  Wild, outlandish fellows were loitering
about the door and in the street.  Leonard divined that the count or the
count's confidants were there."

"If that can be proved," cried Riccabocca, "if Randal could have been
thus in communication with Peschiera, could have connived at such
perfidy, I am released from my promise.  Oh, to prove it!"

"Proof will come later, if we are on the right track.  Let me go on.
While waiting near the door of this hotel, Beppo himself, the very man
Leonard was in search of, came forth, and, after speaking a few words to
some of the loitering foreigners, walked briskly towards Piccadilly.
Leonard here resigned all further heed of Leslie, and gave chase to
Beppo, whom he recognized at a glance.  Coming up to him, he said
quietly, 'I have a letter for the Marchesa di Negra.  She told
me I was to send it to her by you.  I have been searching for you the
whole day.'  The man fell into the trap, and the more easily, because--as
he since owned in excuse for a simplicity which, I dare say, weighed on
his conscience more than any of the thousand-and-one crimes he may have
committed in the course of his illustrious life--he had been employed by
the marchesa as a spy upon Leonard, and, with an Italian's acumen in
affairs of the heart, detected her secret."

"What secret?" asked the innocent sage.

"Her love for the handsome young poet.  I betray that secret, in order to
give her some slight excuse for becoming Peschiera's tool.  She believed
Leonard to be in love with your daughter, and jealousy urged her to
treason.  Violante, no doubt, will explain this to you.  Well, the man
fell into the trap.  'Give me the letter, Signor, and quick.'

"'It is at a hotel close by; come there, and you will have a guinea for
your trouble.'

"So Leonard walked our gentleman into my hotel; and having taken him into
my dressing-room, turned the key and there left him.  On learning this
capture, the prince and myself hastened to see our prisoner.  He was at
first sullen and silent; but when the prince disclosed his rank and name
(you know the mysterious terror the meaner Italians feel for an Austrian
magnate), his countenance changed, and his courage fell.  What with
threats and what with promises, we soon obtained all that we sought to
know; and an offered bribe, which I calculated at ten times the amount
the rogue could ever expect to receive from his spendthrift master,
finally bound him cheerfully to our service, soul and body.  Thus we
learned the dismal place to which your noble daughter had been so
perfidiously ensnared.  We learned also that the count had not yet
visited her, hoping much from the effect that prolonged incarceration
might have in weakening her spirit and inducing her submission.
Peschiera was to go to the house at midnight, thence to transport her to
the vessel.  Beppo had received orders to bring the carriage to Leicester
Square, where Peschiera would join him.  The count (as Leonard surmised)
had taken skulking refuge at the hotel in which Randal Leslie had
disappeared.  The prince, Leonard, Frank (who was then in the hotel), and
myself held a short council.  Should we go at once to the house, and, by
the help of the police, force an entrance, and rescue your daughter?
This was a very hazardous resource.  The abode, which, at various times,
had served for the hiding-place of men haunted by the law, abounded,
according to our informant, in subterranean vaults and secret passages,
and had more than one outlet on the river.  At our first summons at the
door, therefore, the ruffians within might not only escape themselves,
but carry off their prisoner.  The door was strong, and before our
entrance could be forced, all trace of her we sought might be lost.
Again, too, the prince was desirous of bringing Peschiera's guilty design
home to him,--anxious to be able to state to the emperor, and to the
great minister his kinsman, that he himself had witnessed the count's
vile abuse of the emperor's permission to wed your daughter.  In short,
while I only thought of Violante, the prince thought also of her father's
recall to his dukedom.  Yet, still to leave Violante in that terrible
house, even for an hour, a few minutes, subjected to the actual presence
of Peschiera, unguarded save by the feeble and false woman who had
betrayed and might still desert her--how contemplate that fearful risk?
What might not happen in the interval between Peschiera's visit to the
house and his appearance with his victim on the vessel?  An idea flashed
on me: Beppo was to conduct the count to the house; if I could accompany
Beppo in disguise, enter the house, myself be present?--I rushed back to
our informant, now become our agent; I found the plan still more feasible
than I had at first supposed.  Beppo had asked the count's permission to
bring with him a brother accustomed to the sea, and who wished to quit
England.  I might personate that brother.  You know that the Italian
language, in most of its dialects and varieties of patois--Genoese,
Piedmontese, Venetian--is as familiar tome as Addison's English!  Alas!
rather more so.  Presto! the thing was settled.  I felt my heart, from
that moment, as light as a feather, and my sense as keen as the dart
which a feather wings.  My plans now were formed in a breath, and
explained in a sentence.  It was right that you should be present on
board the vessel, not only to witness your foe's downfall, but to receive
your child in a father's arms.  Leonard set out to Norwood for you,
cautioned not to define too precisely for what object you were wanted,
till on board.

"Frank, accompanied by Beppo (for there was yet time for these
preparations before midnight), repaired to the yacht, taking Giacomo by
the way.  There our new ally, familiar to most of that piratical crew,
and sanctioned by the presence of Frank, as the count's friend and
prospective brother-in-law, told Peschiera's hirelings that they were to
quit the vessel, and wait on shore under Giacomo's auspices till further
orders; and as soon as the decks were cleared of these ruffians (save a
few left to avoid suspicion, and who were afterwards safely stowed down
in the hold), and as soon as Giacomo had lodged his convoy in a public
house, where he quitted them drinking his health over unlimited rations
of grog, your inestimable servant quietly shipped on board the Italians
pressed into the service, and Frank took charge of the English sailors.

"The prince, promising to be on board in due time, then left me to make
arrangements for his journey to Vienna by the dawn.  I hastened to a
masquerade warehouse, where, with the help of an ingenious stagewright
artificer, I disguised myself into a most thorough-paced-looking cut-
throat, and then waited the return of my friend Beppo with the most
perfect confidence."

"Yet, if that rascal had played false, all these precautions were lost.
/Cospetto!/ you were not wise," said the prudent philosopher.

"Very likely not.  You would have been so wise, that by this time your
daughter would have been lost to you forever."

"But why not employ the police?"

"First, Because I had already employed them to little purpose; secondly,
Because I no longer wanted them; thirdly, Because to use them for my
final catastrophe would be to drag your name, and your daughter's
perhaps, before a police court,--at all events, before the tribunal of
public gossip; and lastly, Because, having decided upon the proper
punishment, it had too much of equity to be quite consistent with law;
and in forcibly seizing a man's person, and shipping him off to Norway,
my police would have been sadly in the way.  Certainly my plan rather
savours of Lope de Vega than of Blackstone.  However, you see success
atones for all irregularities.  I resume: Beppo came back in time to
narrate all the arrangements that had been made, and to inform me that a
servant from the count had come on board just as our new crew were
assembled there, to order the boat to be at the place where we found it.
The servant it was deemed prudent to detain and secure.  Giacomo
undertook to manage the boat.

"I am nearly at the close of my story.  Sure of my disguise, I got on the
coach-box with Beppo.  The count arrived at the spot appointed, and did
not even honour myself with a question or glance.  'Your brother?' he
said to Beppo; 'one might guess that; he has the family likeness.  Not a
handsome race yours!  Drive on.'

"We arrived at the house.  I dismounted to open the carriage-door.  The
count gave me one look.  'Beppo says you have known the sea.'

"'Excellency, yes.  I am a Genoese.'

"'Ha! how is that?  Beppo is a Lombard.'--Admire the readiness with which
I redeemed my blunder.

"'Excellency, it pleased Heaven that Beppo should be born in Lombardy,
and then to remove my respected parents to Genoa, at which city they were
so kindly treated that my mother, in common gratitude, was bound to
increase its population.  It was all she could do, poor woman.  You see
she did her best.'

"The count smiled, and said no more.  The door opened, I followed him;
your daughter can tell you the rest."

"And you risked your life in that den of miscreants!  Noble friend!"

"Risked my life,--no; but I risked the count's.  There was one moment
when my hand was on my trigger, and my soul very near the sin of
justifiable homicide.  But my tale is done.  The count is now on the
river, and will soon be on the salt seas, though not bound to Norway, as
I had first intended.  I could not inflict that frigid voyage on his
sister.  So the men have orders to cruise about for six days, keeping
aloof from shore, and they will then land the count and the marchesa, by
boat, on the French coast.  That delay will give time for the prince to
arrive at Vienna before the count could follow him."

"Would he have that audacity?"

"Do him more justice!  Audacity, faith!  he does not want for that.  But
I dreaded not his appearance at Vienna with such evidence against him.
I dreaded his encountering the prince on the road, and forcing a duel,
before his character was so blasted that the prince could refuse it; and
the count is a dead shot of course,--all such men are!"

"He will return, and you--"

"I!  Oh, never fear; he has had enough of me.  And now, my dear friend,
--now that Violante is safe once more under your own roof; now that my
honoured mother must long ere this have been satisfied by Leonard, who
left us to go to her, that our success has been achieved without danger,
and, what she will value almost as much, without scandal; now that your
foe is powerless as a reed floating on the water towards its own rot,
and the Prince Von -------is perhaps about to enter his carriage on the
road to Dover, charged with the mission of restoring to Italy her
worthiest son,--let me dismiss you to your own happy slumbers, and allow
me to wrap myself in my cloak, and snatch a short sleep on the sofa, till
yonder gray dawn has mellowed into riper day.  My eyes are heavy, and if
you stay here three minutes longer, I shall be out of reach of hearing,
in the land of dreams. /Buona notte!/"

"But there is a bed prepared for you."

Harley shook his head in dissent, and composed himself at length on the
sofa.

Riccabocca, bending, wrapped the cloak round his guest, kissed him on the
forehead, and crept out of the room to rejoin Jemima, who still sat up
for him, nervously anxious to learn from him those explanations which her
considerate affection would not allow her to ask from the agitated and
exhausted Violante.  "Not in bed!" cried the sage, on seeing her.  "Have
you no feelings of compassion for my son that is to be?  Just, too, when
there is a reasonable probability that we can afford a son?"

Riccabocca here laughed merrily, and his wife threw herself on his
shoulder, and cried for joy.

But no sleep fell on the lids of Harley L'Estrange.  He started up when
his host had left him, and paced the apartment, with noiseless but rapid
strides.  All whim and levity had vanished from his face, which, by the
light of the dawn, seemed death-like pale.  On that pale face there was
all the struggle and all the anguish of passion.

"These arms have clasped her," he murmured; "these lips have inhaled her
breath!  I am under the same roof, and she is saved,--saved evermore from
danger and from penury, and forever divided from me.  Courage, courage!
Oh, honour, duty; and thou, dark memory of the past,--thou that didst
pledge love at least to a grave,--support, defend me!  Can I be so weak!"

The sun was in the wintry skies when Harley stole from the house.  No one
was stirring except Giacomo, who stood by the threshold of the door,
which he had just unbarred, feeding the house-dog.  "Good-day," said the
servant, smiling.  "The dog has not been of much use, but I don't think
the padrone will henceforth grudge him a breakfast.  I shall take him to
Italy, and marry him there, in the hope of improving the breed of our
native Lombard dogs."

"Ah," said Harley, "you will soon leave our cold shores.  May sunshine
settle on you all!" He paused, and looked up at the closed windows
wistfully.

"The signorina sleeps there," said Giacomo, in a husky voice, "just over
the room in which you slept."

"I knew it," muttered Harley.  "An instinct told me of it.  Open the
gate; I must go home.  My excuses to your lord, and to all."

He turned a deaf ear to Giacomo's entreaties to stay till at least the
signorina was up,--the signorina whom he had saved.  Without trusting
himself to speak further, he quitted the demesne, and walked with swift
strides towards London.



CHAPTER X.

Harley had not long reached his hotel, and was still seated before his
untasted breakfast, when Mr. Randal Leslie was announced.  Randal, who
was in the firm belief that Violante was now on the wide seas with
Peschiera, entered, looking the very personation of anxiety and fatigue.
For like the great Cardinal Richelieu, Randal had learned the art how to
make good use of his own delicate and somewhat sickly aspect.  The
cardinal, when intent on some sanguinary scheme requiring unusual
vitality and vigour, contrived to make himself look a harmless sufferer
at death's door.  And Randal, whose nervous energies could at that moment
have whirled him from one end of this huge metropolis to the other, with
a speed that would have outstripped a prize pedestrian, now sank into a
chair with a jaded weariness that no mother could have seen without
compassion.  He seemed since the last night to have galloped towards the
last stage of consumption.

"Have you discovered no trace, my Lord?  Speak, speak!"

"Speak! certainly.  I am too happy to relieve your mind, Mr. Leslie.
What fools we were!  Ha, ha!"

"Fools--how?" faltered Randal.

"Of course; the young lady was at her father's house all the time."

"Eh? what?"

"And is there now."

"It is not possible!" said Randal, in the hollow, dreamy tone of a
somnambulist.  "At her father's house, at Norwood!  Are you sure?"

"Sure."

Randal made a desperate and successful effort at self-control.  "Heaven
be praised!" he cried.  "And just as I had begun to suspect the count,
the marchesa; for I find that neither of them slept at home last night;
and Levy told me that the count had written to him, requesting the baron
to discharge his bills, as he should be for some time absent from
England."

"Indeed!  Well, that is nothing to us,--very much to Baron Levy, if he
executes his commission, and discharges the bills.  What! are you going
already?"

"Do you ask such a question?  How can I stay?  I must go to Norwood,--
must see Violante with my own eyes!  Forgive my emotion--I--I--"

Randal snatched at his hat and hurried away.  The low scornful laugh of
Harley followed him as he went.

"I have no more doubt of his guilt than Leonard has.  Violante at least
shall not be the prize of that thin-lipped knave.  What strange
fascination can he possess, that he should thus bind to him the two men I
value most,--Audley Egerton and Alphonso di Serrano?  Both so wise too!--
one in books, one in action.  And both suspicious men!  While I, so
imprudently trustful and frank--Ah, that is the reason; our natures are
antipathetic; cunning, simulation, falsehood, I have no mercy, no pardon
for these.  Woe to all hypocrites if I were a grand Inquisitor!"

"Mr. Richard Avenel," said the waiter, throwing open the door.

Harley caught at the arm of the chair on which he sat, and grasped it
nervously, while his eyes became fixed intently on the form of the
gentleman who now advanced into the room.  He rose with an effort.

"Mr. Avenel!" he said falteringly.  "Did I hear your name aright?
Avenel!"

"Richard Avenel, at your service, my Lord," answered Dick.  "My family is
not unknown to you; and I am not ashamed of my family, though my parents
were small Lansmere tradesfolks, and I am--ahem!--a citizen of the world,
and well-to-do!" added Dick, dropping his kid gloves into his hat, and
then placing the hat on the table, with the air of an old acquaintance
who wishes to make himself at home.  Lord L'Estrange bowed and said, as
be reseated himself (Dick being firmly seated already), "You are most
welcome, sir; and if there be anything I can do for one of your name--"

"Thank you, my Lord," interrupted Dick.  "I want nothing of any man.  A
bold word to say; but I say it.  Nevertheless, I should not have presumed
to call on your Lordship, unless, indeed, you had done me the honour to
call first at my house, Eaton Square, No. ---  I should not have presumed
to call if it had not been on business,--public business, I may say--
NATIONAL business!"

Harley bowed again.  A faint smile flitted for a moment to his lip, but,
vanishing, gave way to a mournful, absent expression of countenance, as
he scanned the handsome features before him, and, perhaps, masculine and
bold though they were, still discovered something of a family likeness to
one whose beauty had once been his ideal of female loveliness; for
suddenly he stretched forth his hand, and said, with more than his usual
cordial sweetness, "Business or not business, let us speak to each other
as friends,--for the sake of a name that takes me back to Lansmere, to my
youth.  I listen to you with interest."

Richard Avenel, much surprised by this unexpected kindliness, and
touched, he knew not why, by the soft and melancholy tone of Harley's
voice, warmly pressed the hand held out to him; and seized with a rare
fit of shyness, coloured and coughed and hemmed and looked first down,
then aside, before he could find the words which were generally ready
enough at his command.

"You are very good, Lord L'Estrange; nothing can be handsomer.  I feel it
here, my Lord," striking his buff waistcoat,--"I do, 'pon my honour.  But
not to waste your time (time's money), I come to the point.  It is about
the borough of Lansmere.  Your family interest is very strong in that
borough; but excuse me if I say that I don't think you are aware that I
too have cooked up a pretty considerable interest on the other side.  No
offence,--opinions are free.  And the popular tide runs strong with us--
I mean with me--at the impending crisis,--that is, at the next election.
Now, I have a great respect for the earl your father, and so have those
who brought me into the world--my father, John, was always a regular good
Blue,--and my respect for yourself since I came into this room has gone
up in the market a very great rise indeed,--considerable.  So I should
just like to see if we could set our heads together, and settle the
borough between us two, in a snug private way, as public men ought to do
when they get together, nobody else by, and no necessity for that sort of
humbug, which is so common in this rotten old country.  Eh, my Lord?"

"Mr. Avenel," said Harley, slowly, recovering himself from the
abstraction with which he had listened to Dick's earlier sentences, "I
fear I do not quite understand you; but I have no other interest in the
next election for the borough of Lansmere than as may serve one whom,
whatever be your politics, you must acknowledge to be--"

"A humbug!"

"Mr. Avenel, you cannot mean the person I mean.  I speak of one of the
first statesmen of our time,--of Mr. Audley Egerton, of--"

"A stiff-necked, pompous--"

"My earliest and dearest friend."

The rebuke, though gently said, sufficed to silence Dick for a moment;
and when he spoke again, it was in an altered tone.

"I beg your pardon, my Lord, I am sure.  Of course, I can say nothing
disrespectful of your friend,--very sorry that he is your friend.  In
that case, I am almost afraid that nothing is to be done.  But Mr. Audley
Egerton has not a chance.

"Let me convince you of this."  And Dick pulled out a little book, bound
neatly in red.

"Canvass book, my Lord.  I am no aristocrat.  I don't pretend to carry a
free and independent constituency in my breeches' pocket.  Heaven forbid!
But as a practical man of business, what I do is done properly.  Just
look at this book.

"Well kept, eh?  Names, promises, inclinations, public opinions, and
private interests of every individual Lansmere elector!  Now, as one man
of honour to another, I show you this book, and I think you will see that
we have a clear majority of at least eighty votes as against Mr.
Egerton."

"That is your view of the question," said Harley, taking the book and
glancing over the names catalogued and ticketed therein.  But his
countenance became serious as he recognized many names familiar to his
boyhood as those of important electors on the Lansmere side, and which he
now found transferred to the hostile.  "But surely there are persons here
in whom you deceive yourself,--old friends of my family, stanch
supporters of our party."

"Exactly so.  But this new question has turned all old things topsy-
turvy.  No relying on any friend of yours.  No reliance except in this
book!" said Dick, slapping the red cover with calm but ominous emphasis.

"Now, what I want to propose is this: Don't let the Lansmere interest be
beaten; it would vex the old earl,--go to his heart, I am sure."

Harley nodded.

"And the Lansmere interest need not be beaten, if you'll put up another
man instead of this red-tapist.  (Beg pardon.) You see I only want to get
in one man, you want to get in another.  Why not?  Now, there 's a smart
youth,--connection of Mr. Egerton's,--Randal Leslie.  I have no objection
to him, though he is of your colours.  Withdraw Mr. Egerton, and I 'll
withdraw my second man before it comes to the poll; and so we shall halve
the borough slick between us.  That's the way to do business,--eh, my
Lord?"

"Randal Leslie!  Oh, you wish to bring in Mr. Leslie?  But he stands with
Egerton, not against him."

"Ah," said Dick, smiling as if to himself, "so I hear; and we could bring
him in over Egerton without saying a word to you.  But all our family
respect yours, and so I have wished to do the thing handsome and open.
Let the earl and your party be content with young Leslie."

"Young Leslie has spoken to you?"

"Not as to my coming here.  Oh, no, that's a secret,--private and
confidential, my Lord.  And now, to make matters still more smooth, I
propose that my man shall be one to your Lordship's own heart.  I find
you have been very kind to my nephew; does you credit, my Lord,--a
wonderful young man, though I say it.  I never guessed there was so much
in him.  Yet all the time he was in my house, he had in his desk the very
sketch of an invention that is now saving me from ruin,--from positive
ruin,--Baron Levy, the King's Bench, and almighty smash!  Now, such a
young man ought to be in parliament.  I like to bring forward a
relation,--that is, when he does one credit; 't is human nature and
sacred ties--one's own flesh and blood; and besides, one hand rubs the
other, and one leg helps on the other, and relations get on best in the
world when they pull together; that is, supposing that they are the
proper sort of relations, and pull one on, not down.  I had once thought
of standing for Lansmere myself,--thought of it very lately.  The country
wants men like me, I know that; but I have an idea that I had better see
to my own business.  The country may, or may not, do without me, stupid
old thing that she is!  But my mill and my new engines--there is no doubt
that they cannot do without me.  In short, as we are quite alone, and, as
I said before, there 's no kind of necessity for that sort of humbug
which exists when other people are present, provide elsewhere for Mr.
Egerton, whom I hate like poison,--I have a right to do that, I suppose,
without offence to your Lordship,--and the two younkers, Leonard
Fairfield and Randal Leslie, shall be members for the free and
independent borough of Lansmere!"

"But does Leonard wish to come into parliament?"

"No, he says not; but that's nonsense.  If your Lordship will just
signify your wish that he should not lose this noble opportunity to raise
himself in life, and get something handsome out of the nation, I'm sure
he owes you too much to hesitate,--'specially when 't is to his own
advantage.  And besides, one of us Avenels ought to be in parliament; and
if I have not the time and learning, and so forth, and he has, why, it
stands to reason that he should be the man.  And if he can do something
for me one day--not that I want anything--but still a baronetcy or so
would be a compliment to British Industry, and be appreciated as such by
myself and the public at large,--I say, if he could do something of that
sort, it would keep up the whole family; and if he can't, why, I'll
forgive him."

"Avenel," said Harley, with that familiar and gracious charm of manner
which few ever could resist, "Avenel, if as a great personal favour to
myself--to me your fellow-townsman (I was born at Lansmere)--if I asked
you to forego your grudge against Audley Egerton, whatever that grudge
be, and not oppose his election, while our party would not oppose your
nephew's, could you not oblige me?  Come, for the sake of dear Lansmere,
and all the old kindly feelings between your family and mine, say 'yes,
so shall it be.'"

Richard Avenel was almost melted.  He turned away his face; but there
suddenly rose to his recollection the scornful brow of Audley Egerton,
the lofty contempt with which he, then the worshipful Mayor of
Screwstown, had been shown out of the minister's office-room; and the
blood rushing over his cheeks, he stamped his foot on the floor, and
exclaimed angrily, "No; I swore that Audley Egerton should smart for his
insolence to me, as sure as my name be Richard Avenel; and all the soft
soap in the world will not wash out that oath.  So there is nothing for
it but for you to withdraw that man, or for me to defeat him.  And I
would do so, ay,--and in the way that could most gall him,--if it cost me
half my fortune.  But it will not cost that," said Dick, cooling, "nor
anything like it; for when the popular tide runs in one's favour, 't is
astonishing how cheap an election may be.  It will cost him enough
though, and all for nothing,--worse than nothing.  Think of it, my Lord."

"I will, Mr. Avenel.  And I say, in my turn, that my friendship is as
strong as your hate; and that if it costs me, not half, but my whole
fortune, Audley Egerton shall come in without a shilling of expense to
himself, should we once decide that he stand the contest."

"Very well, my Lord,--very well," said Dick, stiffly, and drawing on his
kid gloves; "we'll see if the aristocracy is always to ride over the free
choice of the people in this way.  But the people are roused, my Lord.
The March of Enlightenment is commenced, the Schoolmaster is abroad, and
the British Lion--"

"Nobody here but ourselves, my dear Avenel.  Is not this rather what you
call--humbug?"

Dick started, stared, coloured, and then burst out laughing, "Give us
your hand again, my Lord.  You are a good fellow, that you are.  And for
your sake--"

"You'll not oppose Egerton?"

"Tooth and nail, tooth and nail!" cried Dick, clapping his hands to his
ears, and fairly running out of the room.

There passed over Harley's countenance that change so frequent to it,--
more frequent, indeed, to the gay children of the world than those of
consistent tempers and uniform habits might suppose.  There is many a man
whom we call friend, and whose face seems familiar to us as our own; yet,
could we but take a glimpse of him when we leave his presence, and he
sinks back into his chair alone, we should sigh to see how often the
smile on the frankest lip is but a bravery of the drill, only worn when
on parade.

What thoughts did the visit of Richard Avenel bequeath to Harley?  It
were hard to define them.

In his place, an Audley Egerton would have taken some comfort from the
visit, would have murmured, "Thank Heaven!  I have not to present to the
world that terrible man as my brother-in-law."  But probably Harley had
escaped, in his revery, from Richard Avenel altogether.  Even as the
slightest incident in the daytime causes our dreams at night, but is
itself clean forgotten, so the name, so the look of the visitor, might
have sufficed but to influence a vision, as remote from its casual
suggester as what we call real life is from that life much more real,
that we imagine, or remember, in the haunted chambers of the brain.  For
what is real life?  How little the things actually doing around us affect
the springs of our sorrow or joy; but the life which our dulness calls
romance,--the sentiment, the remembrance, the hope, or the fear, that are
never seen in the toil of our hands, never heard in the jargon on our
lips,--from that life all spin, as the spider from its entrails, the web
by which we hang in the sunbeam, or glide out of sight into the shelter
of home.

"I must not think," said Harley, rousing himself with a sigh, "either of
past or present.  Let me hurry on to some fancied future.  'Happiest are
the marriages,' said the French philosopher, and still says many a sage,
'in which man asks only the mild companion, and woman but the calm
protector.' I will go to Helen."

He rose; and as he was about to lock up his escritoire, he remembered the
papers which Leonard had requested him to read.  He took them from their
deposit, with a careless hand, intending to carry them with him to his
father's house.  But as his eye fell upon the characters, the hand
suddenly trembled, and he recoiled some paces, as if struck by a violent
blow.  Then, gazing more intently on the writing, a low cry broke from
his lips.  He reseated himself, and began to read.



CHAPTER XI.

Randal--with many misgivings at Lord L'Estrange's tone, in which he was
at no loss to detect a latent irony--proceeded to Norwood.  He found
Riccabocca exceedingly cold and distant; but he soon brought that sage to
communicate the suspicions which Lord L'Estrange had instilled into his
mind, and these Randal was as speedily enabled to dispel.  He accounted
at once for his visits to Levy and Peschiera.  Naturally he had sought
Levy, an acquaintance of his own,--nay, of Audley Egerton's,--but whom he
knew to be professionally employed by the count.  He had succeeded in
extracting from the baron Peschiera's suspicious change of lodgment from
Mivart's Hotel to the purlieus of Leicester Square; had called there on
the count, forced an entrance, openly accused him of abstracting
Violante; high words had passed between them,--even a challenge.  Randal
produced a note from a military friend of his, whom he had sent to the
count an hour after quitting the hotel.  This note stated that
arrangements were made for a meeting near Lord's Cricket Ground, at seven
o'clock the next morning.  Randal then submitted to Riccabocca another
formal memorandum from the same warlike friend, to the purport that
Randal and himself had repaired to the ground, and no count had been
forthcoming.  It must be owned that Randal had taken all suitable
precautions to clear himself.  Such a man is not to blame for want of
invention, if he be sometimes doomed to fail.

"I, then, much alarmed," continued Randal, "hastened to Baron Levy, who
informed me that the count had written him word that he should be for
some time absent from England.  Rushing thence, in despair, to your
friend Lord L'Estrange, I heard that your daughter was safe with you.
And though, as I have just proved, I would have risked my life against so
notorious a duellist as the count, on the mere chance of preserving
Violante from his supposed designs, I am rejoiced to think that she had
no need of my unskilful arm.  But how and why can the count have left
England after accepting a challenge?  A man so sure of his weapon, too,--
reputed to be as fearless of danger as he is blunt in conscience.
Explain,--you who know mankind so well,--explain.  I cannot."  The
philosopher could not resist the pleasure of narrating the detection and
humiliation of his foe, the wit, ingenuity, and readiness of his friend.
So Randal learned, by little and little, the whole drama of the preceding
night.  He saw, then, that the exile had all reasonable hope of speedy
restoration to rank and wealth.  Violante, indeed; would be a brilliant
prize,--too brilliant, perhaps, for Randal, but not to be sacrificed
without an effort.  Therefore wringing convulsively the hand of his
meditated father-in-law, and turning away his head as if to conceal his
emotions, the ingenuous young suitor faltered forth that now Dr.
Riccabocca was so soon to vanish into the Duke di Serrano, he--Randal
Leslie of Rood, born a gentleman, indeed, but of fallen fortunes--had no
right to claim the promise which had been given to him while a father had
cause to fear for a daughter's future; with the fear ceased the promise.
Alight Heaven bless father and daughter both!

This address touched both the heart and honour of the exile.  Randal
Leslie knew his man.  And though, before Randal's visit, Riccabocca was
not quite so much a philosopher but what he would have been well pleased
to have found himself released, by proof of the young man's treachery,
from an alliance below the rank to which he had all chance of early
restoration, yet no Spaniard was ever more tenacious of plighted word
than this inconsistent pupil of the profound Florentine.  And Randal's
probity being now clear to him, he repeated, with stately formalities,
his previous offer of Violante's hand.

"But," still falteringly sighed the provident and far-calculating Randal
--"but your only child, your sole heiress!  Oh, might not your consent to
such a marriage (if known before your recall) jeopardize your cause?
Your lands, your principalities, to devolve on the child of an humble
Englishman!  I dare not believe it.  Ah, would Violante were not your
heiress!"

"A noble wish," said Riccabocca, smiling blandly, "and one that the Fates
will realize.  Cheer up; Violante will not be my heiress."

"Ah," cried Randal, drawing a long breath--"ah, what do I hear?"

"Hist!  I shall soon a second time be a father.  And, to judge by the
unerring researches of writers upon that most interesting of all
subjects, parturitive science, I shall be the father of a son.  He will,
of course, succeed to the titles of Serrano.  And Violante--"

"Will have nothing, I suppose?" exclaimed Randal, trying his best to look
overjoyed till he had got his paws out of the trap into which he had so
incautiously thrust them.

"Nay, her portion by our laws--to say nothing of my affection--would far
exceed the ordinary dower which the daughters of London merchants bring
to the sons of British peers.  Whoever marries Violante, provided I
regain my estates, must submit to the cares which the poets assure us
ever attend on wealth."

"Oh!" groaned Randal, as if already bowed beneath the cares, and
sympathizing with the poets.

"And now, let me present you to your betrothed."  Although poor Randal
had been remorselessly hurried along what Schiller calls the "gamut of
feeling," during the last three minutes, down to the deep chord of
despair at the abrupt intelligence that his betrothed was no heiress
after all; thence ascending to vibrations of pleasant doubt as to the
unborn usurper of her rights, according to the prophecies of parturitive
science; and lastly, swelling into a concord of all sweet thoughts at the
assurance that, come what might, she would be a wealthier bride than a
peer's son could discover in the matrimonial Potosi of Lombard Street,--
still the tormented lover was not there allowed to repose his exhausted
though ravished soul.  For, at the idea of personally confronting the
destined bride--whose very existence had almost vanished from his mind's
eye, amidst the golden showers that it saw falling divinely round her--
Randal was suddenly reminded of the exceeding bluntness with which, at
their last interview, it had been his policy to announce his suit, and of
the necessity of an impromptu falsetto suited to the new variations that
tossed him again to and fro on the merciless gamut.  However, he could
not recoil from her father's proposition, though, in order to prepare
Riccabocca for Violante's representation, he confessed pathetically that
his impatience to obtain her consent and baffle Peschiera had made him
appear a rude and presumptuous wooer.  The philosopher, who was disposed
to believe one kind of courtship to be much the same as another, in cases
where the result of all courtships was once predetermined, smiled
benignly, patted Randal's thin cheek, with a "Pooh, pooh, /pazzie!/" and
left the room to summon Violante.

"If knowledge be power," soliloquized Randal, "ability is certainly good
luck, as Miss Edgeworth shows in that story of Murad the Unlucky, which I
read at Eton; very clever story it is, too.  So nothing comes amiss to
me.  Violante's escape, which has cost me the count's L10,000, proves to
be worth to me, I dare say, ten times as much.  No doubt she'll have a
hundred thousand pounds at the least.  And then, if her father have no
other child, after all, or the child he expects die in infancy, why, once
reconciled to his Government and restored to his estates, the law must
take its usual course, and Violante will be the greatest heiress in
Europe.  As to the young lady herself, I confess she rather awes me;
I know I shall be henpecked.  Well, all respectable husbands are.  There
is something scampish and ruffianly in not being henpecked."  Here
Randal's smile might have harmonized well with Pluto's "iron tears;" but,
iron as the smile was, the serious young man was ashamed of it.  "What am
I about," said he, half aloud, "chuckling to myself and wasting time,
when I ought to be thinking gravely how to explain away my former
cavalier courtship?  Such a masterpiece as I thought it then!  But who
could foresee the turn things would take?  Let me think; let me think.
Plague on it, here she comes."

But Randal had not the fine ear of your more romantic lover; and, to his
great relief, the exile entered the room unaccompanied by Violante.
Riccabocca looked somewhat embarrassed.

"My dear Leslie, you must excuse my daughter to-day; she is still
suffering from the agitation she has gone through, and cannot see you."

The lover tried not to look too delighted.

"Cruel!" said he; "yet I would not for worlds force myself on her
presence.  I hope, Duke, that she will not find it too difficult to obey
the commands which dispose of her hand, and intrust her happiness to my
grateful charge."

"To be plain with you, Randal, she does at present seem to find it more
difficult than I foresaw.  She even talks of--"

"Another attachment--Oh, heavens!"

"Attachment, /pazzie!/  Whom has she seen?  No, a convent!  But leave it
to me.  In a calmer hour she will comprehend that a child must know no
lot more enviable and holy than that of redeeming a father's honour.  And
now, if you are returning to London, may I ask you to convey to young Mr.
Hazeldean my assurances of undying gratitude for his share in my
daughter's delivery from that poor baffled swindler."

It is noticeable that, now Peschiera was no longer an object of dread to
the nervous father, he became but an object of pity to the philosopher,
and of contempt to the grandee.

"True," said Randal, "you told me Frank had a share in Lord L'Estrange's
very clever and dramatic device.  My Lord must be by nature a fine
actor,--comic, with a touch of melodrame!  Poor Frank!  apparently he has
lost the woman he adored,--Beatrice di Negra.  You say she has
accompanied the count.  Is the marriage that was to be between her and
Frank broken off?"

"I did not know such a marriage was contemplated.  I understood her to be
attached to another.  Not that that is any reason why she would not have
married Mr. Hazeldean.  Express to him my congratulations on his escape."

"Nay, he must not know that I have inadvertently betrayed his confidence;
but you now guess, what perhaps puzzled you before,--namely, how I came
to be so well acquainted with the count and his movements.  I was so
intimate with my relation Frank, and Frank was affianced to the
marchesa."

"I am glad you give me that explanation; it suffices.  After all, the
marchesa is not by nature a bad woman,--that is, not worse than women
generally are, so Harley says, and Violante forgives and excuses her."

"Generous Violante!  But it is true.  So much did the marchesa appear to
me possessed of fine, though ill-regulated qualities, that I always
considered her disposed to aid in frustrating her brother's criminal
designs.  So I even said, if I remember right, to Violante."

Dropping this prudent and precautionary sentence, in order to guard
against anything Violante might say as to that subtle mention of Beatrice
which had predisposed her to confide in the marchesa, Randal then hurried
on, "But you want repose.  I leave you the happiest, the most grateful of
men.  I will give your courteous message to Frank."



CHAPTER XII.

Curious to learn what had passed between Beatrice and Frank, and deeply
interested in all that could oust Frank out of the squire's goodwill, or
aught that could injure his own prospects by tending to unite son and
father, Randal was not slow in reaching his young kinsman's lodgings.  It
might be supposed that having, in all probability, just secured so great
a fortune as would accompany Violante's hand, Randal might be indifferent
to the success of his scheme on the Hazeldean exchequer.  Such a
supposition would grievously wrong this profound young man.  For, in the
first place, Violante was not yet won, nor her father yet restored to the
estates which would defray her dower; and, in the next place, Randal,
like Iago, loved villany for the genius it called forth in him.  The sole
luxury the abstemious aspirer allowed to himself was that which is found
in intellectual restlessness.  Untempted by wine, dead to love, unamused
by pleasure, indifferent to the arts, despising literature save as means
to some end of power, Randal Leslie was the incarnation of thought
hatched out of the corruption of will.  At twilight we see thin airy
spectral insects, all wing and nippers, hovering, as if they could never
pause, over some sullen mephitic pool.  Just so, methinks, hover over
Acheron such gnat-like, noiseless soarers into gloomy air out of Stygian
deeps, as are the thoughts of spirits like Randal Leslie's.  Wings have
they, but only the better to pounce down,--draw their nutriment from
unguarded material cuticles; and just when, maddened, you strike, and
exulting exclaim, "Caught, by Jove!" wh-irr flies the diaphanous, ghostly
larva, and your blow falls on your own twice-offended cheek.

The young men who were acquainted with Randal said he had not a vice!
The fact being that his whole composition was one epic vice, so
elaborately constructed that it had not an episode which a critic could
call irrelevant.  Grand young man!

"But, my dear fellow," said Randal, as soon as he had learned from Frank
all that had passed on board the vessel between him and Beatrice, "I
cannot believe this.  'Never loved you'?  What was her object, then, in
deceiving not only you, but myself?  I suspect her declaration was but
some heroical refinement of generosity.  After her brother's dejection
and probable ruin, she might feel that she was no match for you.  Then,
too, the squire's displeasure!  I see it all; just like her,--noble,
unhappy woman!"

Frank shook his head.  "There are moments," said he, with a wisdom that
comes out of those instincts which awake from the depths of youth's first
great sorrow,--"moments when a woman cannot feign, and there are tones in
the voice of a woman which men cannot misinterpret.  She does not love
me,--she never did love me; I can see that her heart has been elsewhere.
No matter,--all is over.  I don't deny that I am suffering an intense
grief; it gnaws like a kind of sullen hunger; and I feel so broken, too,
as if I had grown old, and there was nothing left worth living for.  I
don't deny all that."

"My poor, dear friend, if you would but believe--"

"I don't want to believe anything, except that I have been a great fool.
I don't think I can ever commit such follies again.  But I'm a man.  I
shall get the better of this; I should despise myself if I could not.
And now let us talk of my dear father.  Has he left town?"

"Left last night by the mail.  You can write and tell him you have given
up the marchesa, and all will be well again between you."

"Give her up!  Fie, Randal!  Do you think I should tell such a lie?  She
gave me up; I can claim no merit out of that."

"Oh, yes!  I can make the squire see all to your advantage.  Oh, if it
were only the marchesa! but, alas! that cursed postobit!  How could Levy
betray you?  Never trust to usurers again; they cannot resist the
temptation of a speedy profit.

"They first buy the son, and then sell him to the father.  And the squire
has such strange notions on matters of this kind."

"He is right to have them.  There, just read this letter from my mother.
It came to me this morning.  I could hang myself if I were a dog; but I'm
a man, and so I must bear it."

Randal took Mrs. Hazeldean's letter from Frank's trembling hand.  The
poor mother had learned, though but imperfectly, Frank's misdeeds from
some hurried lines which the squire had despatched to her; and she wrote
as good, indulgent, but sensible, right-minded mothers alone can write.
More lenient to an imprudent love than the squire, she touched with
discreet tenderness on Frank's rash engagements with a foreigner, but
severely on his own open defiance of his father's wishes.  Her anger was,
however, reserved for that unholy post-obit.  Here the hearty genial
wife's love overcame the mother's affection.  To count, in cold blood, on
that husband's death, and to wound his heart so keenly, just where its
jealous, fatherly fondness made it most susceptible!

     "O Frank, Frank!" wrote Mrs. Hazeldean, "were it not for this, were
     it only for your unfortunate attachment to the Italian lady, only
     for your debts, only for the errors of hasty, extravagant youth, I
     should be with you now, my arms round your neck, kissing you,
     chiding you back to your father's heart.  But--but the thought that
     between you and his heart has been the sordid calculation of his
     death,--that is a wall between us.  I cannot come near you.  I
     should not like to look on your face, and think how my William's
     tears fell over it, when I placed you, new born, in his arms, and
     bade him welcome his heir.  What! you a mere boy still, your father
     yet in the prime of life, and the heir cannot wait till nature
     leaves him fatherless.  Frank; Frank this is so unlike you.  Can
     London have ruined already a disposition so honest and
     affectionate?--No; I cannot believe it.  There must be some mistake.
     Clear it up, I implore you; or, though as a mother I pity you, as a
     wife I cannot forgive."

Even Randal was affected by the letter; for, as we know, even Randal felt
in his own person the strength of family ties.  The poor squire's choler
and bluffness had disguised the parental heart from an eye that, however
acute, had not been willing to search for it; and Randal, ever affected
through his intellect, had despised the very weakness on which he had
preyed.  But the mother's letter, so just and sensible (allowing that the
squire's opinions had naturally influenced the wife to take what men of
the world would call a very exaggerated view of the every-day occurrence
of loans raised by a son, payable only at a father's death),--this
letter, I say, if exaggerated according to fashionable notions, so
sensible if judged by natural affections, touched the dull heart of the
schemer, because approved by the quick tact of his intelligence.

"Frank," said he, with a sincerity that afterwards amazed himself, "go
down at once to Hazeldean; see your mother, and explain to her how this
transaction really happened.  The woman you loved, and wooed as wife, in
danger of an arrest, your distraction of mind, Levy's counsels, your hope
to pay off the debt, so incurred to the usurer, from the fortune you
would shortly receive with the marchesa.  Speak to your mother,--she is a
woman; women have a common interest in forgiving all faults that arise
from the source of their power over us men,--I mean love.  Go!"

"No, I cannot go; you see she would not like to look on my face.  And I
cannot repeat what you say so glibly.  Besides, somehow or other, as I am
so dependent upon my father,--and he has said as much,--I feel as if it
would be mean in me to make any excuses.  I did the thing, and must
suffer for it.  But I'm a in--an--no--I 'm not a man here."  Frank burst
into tears.

At the sight of those tears, Randal gradually recovered from his strange
aberration into vulgar and low humanity.  His habitual contempt for his
kinsman returned; and with contempt came the natural indifference to the
sufferings of the thing to be put to use.  It is contempt for the worm
that makes the angler fix it on the hook, and observe with complacency
that the vivacity of its wriggles will attract the bite.  If the worm
could but make the angler respect, or even fear it, the barb would find
some other bait.  Few anglers would impale an estimable silkworm, and
still fewer the anglers who would finger into service a formidable
hornet.

"Pooh, my--dear Frank," said Randal; "I have given you my advice; you
reject it.  Well, what then will you do?"

"I shall ask for leave of absence, and run away some where," said Frank,
drying his tears.  "I can't face London; I can't mix with others.  I want
to be by myself, and wrestle with all that I feel here--in my heart.
Then I shall write to my mother, say the plain truth, and leave her to
judge as kindly of me as she can."

"You are quite right.  Yes, leave town!  Why not go abroad?  You have
never been abroad.  New scenes will distract your mind.  Run over to
Paris."

"Not to Paris--I don't want gayeties; but I did intend to go abroad
somewhere,--any dull dismal hole of a place.  Good-by!  Don't think of me
any more for the present."

"But let me know where you go; and meanwhile I will see the squire."

"Say as little of me as you can to him.  I know you mean most kindly, but
oh, how I wish there never had been any third person between me and my
father!  There: you may well snatch away your hand.  What an ungrateful
wretch to you I am.  I do believe I am the wickedest fellow.  What! you
shake hands with me still!  My dear Randal, you have the best heart--God
bless you!"  Frank turned away, and disappeared within his dressing-room.

"They must be reconciled now, sooner or later,--squire and son," said
Randal to himself, as he left the lodgings.  "I don't see how I can
prevent that,--the marchesa being withdrawn,--unless Frank does it for
me.  But it is well he should be abroad,--something maybe made out of
that; meanwhile I may yet do all that I could reasonably hope to do,--
even if Frank had married Beatrice,--since he was not to be disinherited.
Get the squire to advance the money for the Thornhill purchase, complete
the affair; this marriage with Violante will help; Levy must know that;
secure the borough;--well thought of.  I will go to Avenel's.  By-the-by,
by-the-by, the squire might as well keep me still in the entail after
Frank, supposing Frank die childless.  This love affair may keep him long
from marrying.  His hand was very hot,--a hectic colour; those strong-
looking fellows often go off in rapid decline, especially if anything
preys on their minds,--their minds are so very small.

"Ah, the Hazeldean parson,--and with Avenel!  That young man, too, who is
he?  I have seen him before some where.--My dear Mr. Dale, this is a
pleasant surprise.  I thought you had returned to Hazeldean with our
friend the squire?"

MR. DALE.--"The squire!  Has he left town, and without telling me?"

RANDAL (taking aside the parson).--"He was anxious to get back to Mrs.
Hazeldean, who was naturally very uneasy about her son and this foolish
marriage; but I am happy to tell you that that marriage is effectually
and permanently broken off."

MR. DALE.---"How, how?  My poor friend told me he had wholly failed to
make any impression on Frank,--forbade me to mention the subject.  I was
just going to see Frank myself.  I always had some influence with him.
But, Mr. Leslie, explain this very sudden and happy event.  The marriage
broken off!"

RANDAL.--"It is a long story, and I dare not tell you my humble share in
it.  Nay, I must keep that secret.  Frank might not forgive me.  Suffice
it that you have my word that the fair Italian has left England, and
decidedly refused Frank's addresses.  But stay, take my advice, don't go
to him; you see it was not only the marriage that has offended the
squire, but some pecuniary transactions,--an unfortunate post-obit bond
on the Casino property.  Frank ought to be left to his own repentant
reflections.  They will be most salutary; you know his temper,--he don't
bear reproof; and yet it is better, on the other hand, not to let him
treat too lightly what has passed.  Let us leave him to himself for a few
days He is in an excellent frame of mind."

MR. DALE (shaking Randal's hand warmly).--"You speak admirably--a post-
obit!--so often as he has heard his father's opinion on such
transactions.  No, I will not see him; I should be too angry--"

RANDAL (leading the parson back, resumes, after an exchange of
salutations with Avenel, who, meanwhile, had been conferring with his
nephew).--"You should not be so long away from your rectory, Mr. Dale.
What will your parish do without you?"

MR. DALE.--"The old fable of the wheel and the fly.  I am afraid the
wheel rolls on the same.  But if I am absent from my parish, I am still
in the company of one who does me honour as an old parishioner.  You
remember Leonard Fairfield, your antagonist in the Battle of the Stocks?"

MR. AVENEL.--"My nephew, I am proud to say, sir."  Randal bowed with
marked civility, Leonard with a reserve no less marked.

MR. AVENEL (ascribing his nephew's reserve to shyness).--"You should be
friends, you two youngsters.  Who knows but you may run together in the
same harness?  Ah, that reminds me, Leslie, I have a word or two to say
to you.  Your servant, Mr. Dale.  Shall be happy to present you to Mrs.
Avenel.  My card,--Eaton Square, Number ---.  You will call on me
to-morrow, Leonard.  And mind, I shall be very angry if you persist in
your refusal.  Such an opening!"  Avenel took Randal's arm, while the
parson and Leonard walked on.

"Any fresh hints as to Lansmere?" asked Randal.

"Yes; I have now decided on the plan of contest.  You must fight two and
two,--you and Egerton against me and (if I can get him to stand, as I
hope) my nephew, Leonard."

"What!" said Randal, alarmed; "then, after all, I can hope for no support
from you?"

"I don't say that; but I have reason to think Lord L'Estrange will bestir
himself actively in favour of Egerton.  If so, it will be a very sharp
contest; and I must manage the whole election on our side, and unite all
our shaky votes, which I can best do by standing myself in the first
instance, reserving it to after consideration whether I shall throw up at
the last; for I don't particularly want to come in, as I did a little
time ago, before I had found out my nephew.  Wonderful young man! with
such a head,--will do me credit in the rotten old House; and I think I
had best leave London, go to Screwstown, and look to my business.  No, if
Leonard stand, I roust first see to get him in; and next, to keep Egerton
out.  It will probably, therefore, end in the return of one and one or
either side, as we thought of before,--Leonard on our side; and Egerton
sha'n't be the man on the other.  You understand?"

"I do, my dear Avenel.  Of course, as I before said, I can't dictate to
your party whom they should prefer,--Egerton or myself.  And it will be
obvious to the public that your party would rather defeat so eminent an
adversary as Mr. Egerton than a tyro in politics like me.  Of course I
cannot scheme for such a result; it would be misconstrued, and damage my
character.  But I rely equally on your friendly promise."

"Promise!  No, I don't promise.  I must first see how the cat jumps; and
I don't know yet how our friends may like you, nor how they can be
managed.  All I can say is, that Audley Egerton sha'n't be M.P. for
Lansmere.  Meanwhile, you will take care not to commit yourself in
speaking so that our party can't vote for you consistently; they must
count on having you--when you get into the House."

"I am not a violent party-man at present," answered Randal, prudently.
"And if public opinion prove on your side, it is the duty of a statesman
to go with the times."

"Very sensibly said; and I have a private bill or two, and some other
little jobs, I want to get through the House, which we can discuss later,
should it come to a frank understanding between us.  We must arrange how
to meet privately at Lansmere, if necessary.  I'll see to that.  I shall
go down this week.  I think of taking a hint from the free and glorious
land of America, and establishing secret caucuses.  Nothing like 'em."

"Caucuses?"

"Small sub-committees that spy on their men night and day, and don't
suffer them to be intimidated to vote the other way."

"You have an extraordinary head for public affairs, Avenel.  You should
come into parliament yourself; your nephew is so very young."

"So are you."

"Yes; but I know the world.  Does he?"

"The world knows him, though not by name, and he has been the making of
me."

"How?  You surprise me."

Avenel first explained about the patent which Leonard had secured to him;
and next confided, upon honour, Leonard's identity with the anonymous
author whom the parson had supposed to be Professor Moss.

Randal Leslie felt a jealous pang.  What! then--had this village boy,
this associate of John Burley (literary vagabond, whom he supposed had
long since gone to the dogs, and been buried at the expense of the
parish)--had this boy so triumphed over birth, rearing, circumstance,
that, if Randal and Leonard had met together in any public place, and
Leonard's identity with the rising author had been revealed, every eye
would have turned from Randal to gaze on Leonard?  The common consent of
mankind would have acknowledged the supreme royalty of genius when it
once leaves its solitude, and strides into the world.  What!  was this
rude villager the child of Fame, who, without an effort, and
unconsciously, had inspired in the wearied heart of Beatrice di Negra a
love that Randal knew, by an instinct, no arts, no craft, could ever
create for him in the heart of woman?  And now, did this same youth stand
on the same level in the ascent to power as he, the well-born Randal
Leslie, the accomplished protege of the superb Audley Egerton?  Were they
to be rivals in the same arena of practical busy life?  Randal gnawed his
quivering lip.

All the while, however, the young man whom he so envied was a prey to
sorrows deeper far than could ever find room or footing in the narrow and
stony heart of the unloving schemer.

As Leonard walked through the crowded streets with the friend and monitor
of his childhood, confiding the simple tale of his earlier trials,--when,
amidst the wreck of fortune and in despair of fame, the Child-angel
smiled by his side, like Hope,--all renown seemed to him so barren, all
the future so dark!  His voice trembled, and his countenance became so
sad, that his benignant listener, divining that around the image of Helen
there clung some passionate grief that overshadowed all worldly success,
drew Leonard gently and gently on, till the young man, long yearning for
some confidant, told him all,--how, faithful through long years to one
pure and ardent memory, Helen had been seen once more, the child ripened
to woman, and the memory revealing itself as love.

The parson listened with a mild and thoughtful brow, which expanded into
a more cheerful expression as Leonard closed his story.

"I see no reason to despond," said Mr. Dale.  "You fear that Miss Digby
does not return your attachment; you dwell upon her reserve, her distant,
though kindly manner.  Cheer up!  All young ladies are under the
influence of what phrenologists call the organ of Secretiveness, when
they are in the society of the object of their preference.  Just as you
describe Miss Digby's manner to you, was my Carry's manner to myself."

The parson here indulged in a very appropriate digression upon female
modesty, which he wound up by asserting that that estimable virtue became
more and more influenced by the secretive organ, in proportion as the
favoured suitor approached near and nearer to a definite proposal.  It
was the duty of a gallant and honourable lover to make that proposal in
distinct and orthodox form, before it could be expected that a young lady
should commit herself and the dignity of her sex by the slightest hint as
to her own inclinations.

"Next," continued the parson, "you choose to torment yourself by
contrasting your own origin and fortunes with the altered circumstances
of Miss Digby,--the ward of Lord L'Estrange, the guest of Lady Lansmere.
You say that if Lord L'Estrange could have countenanced such a union, he
would have adopted a different tone with you,--sounded your heart,
encouraged your hopes, and so forth.  I view things differently.  I have
reason to do so; and from all you have told me of this nobleman's
interest in your fate, I venture to make you this promise, that if Miss
Digby would accept your hand, Lord L'Estrange shall ratify her choice."

"My dear Mr. Dale," cried Leonard, transported, "you make me that
promise?"

"I do,--from what you have said, and from what I myself know of Lord
L'Estrange.  Go, then, at once to Knightsbridge, see Miss Digby, show her
your heart, explain to her, if you will, your prospects, ask her
permission to apply to Lord L'Estrange (since he has constituted himself
her guardian); and if Lord L'Estrange hesitate,--which, if your happiness
be set on this union, I think he will not,--let me know, and leave the
rest to me."

Leonard yielded himself to the parson's persuasive eloquence.  Indeed,
when he recalled to mind those passages in the manuscripts of the ill-
fated Nora, which referred to the love that Harley had once borne to
her,--for he felt convinced that Harley and the boy suitor of Nora's
narrative were one and the same; and when all the interest that Harley
had taken in his own fortunes was explained by his relationship to her
(even when Lord L'Estrange had supposed it less close than he would now
discover it to be), the young man, reasoning by his own heart, could not
but suppose that the noble Harley would rejoice to confer happiness upon
the son of her, so beloved by his boyhood.

"And to thee, perhaps, O my mother!" thought Leonard, with swimming eyes
--"to thee, perhaps, even in thy grave, I shall owe the partner of my
life, as to the mystic breath of thy genius I owe the first pure
aspirations of my soul."

It will be seen that Leonard had not confided to the parson his discovery
of Nora's manuscripts, nor even his knowledge of his real birth; for the
proud son naturally shrank from any confidence that implicated Nora's
fair name, until at least Harley, who, it was clear from those papers,
must have intimately known his father, should perhaps decide the question
which the papers themselves left so terribly vague,--namely, whether he
were the offspring of a legal marriage, or Nora had been the victim of
some unholy fraud.

While the parson still talked, and while Leonard still mused and
listened, their steps almost mechanically took the direction towards
Knightsbridge, and paused at the gates of Lord Lansmere's house.

"Go in, my young friend; I will wait without to know the issue," said the
parson, cheeringly.  "Go, and with gratitude to Heaven, learn how to bear
the most precious joy that can befall mortal man; or how to submit to
youth's sharpest sorrow, with the humble belief that even sorrow is but
some mercy concealed."



CHAPTER XIII.

Leonard was shown into the drawing-room, and it so chanced that Helen was
there alone.  The girl's soft face was sadly changed, even since Leonard
had seen it last; for the grief of natures mild and undemonstrative as
hers, gnaws with quick ravages; but at Leonard's unexpected entrance, the
colour rushed so vividly to the pale cheeks that its hectic might be
taken for the lustre of bloom and health.  She rose hurriedly, and in
great confusion faltered out, "that she believed Lady Lansmere was in her
room,--she would go for her," and moved towards the door, without seeming
to notice the hand tremulously held forth to her; when Leonard exclaimed
in uncontrollable emotions which pierced to her very heart, in the keen
accent of reproach,--

"Oh, Miss Digby--oh, Helen--is it thus that you greet me,--rather thus
that you shun me?  Could I have foreseen this when we two orphans stood
by the mournful bridge,--so friendless, so desolate, and so clinging each
to each?  Happy time!"  He seized her hand suddenly as he spoke the last
words, and bowed his face over it.

"I must not hear you.  Do not talk so, Leonard, you break my heart.  Let
me go, let me go!"

"Is it that I am grown hateful to you; is it merely that you see my love
and would discourage it?  Helen, speak to me,--speak!"

He drew her with tender force towards him; and, holding her firmly by
both hands, sought to gaze upon the face that she turned from him,--
turned in such despair.

"You do not know," she said at last, struggling for composure,--"you do
not know the new claims on me, my altered position, how I am bound, or
you would be the last to speak thus to me, the first to give me courage,
and bid me--bid me--"

"Bid you what?"

"Feel nothing here but duty!" cried Helen, drawing from his clasp both
her hands, and placing them firmly on her breast.

"Miss Digby," said Leonard, after a short pause of bitter reflection, in
which he wronged, while he thought to divine, her meaning, "you speak of
new claims on you, your altered position--I comprehend.  You may retain
some tender remembrance of the past; but your duty now is to rebuke my
presumption.  It is as I thought and feared.  This vain reputation which
I have made is but a hollow sound,--it gives me no rank, assures me no
fortune.  I have no right to look for the Helen of old in the Helen of
to-day.  Be it so--forget what I have said, and forgive me."

This reproach stung to the quick the heart to which it appealed.  A flash
brightened the meek, tearful eyes, almost like the flash of resentment;
her lips writhed in torture, and she felt as if all other pain were light
compared with the anguish that Leonard could impute to her motives which
to her simple nature seemed so unworthy of her, and so galling to
himself.

A word rushed as by inspiration to her lip, and that word calmed and
soothed her.

"Brother!" she said touchingly, "brother!"

The word had a contrary effect on Leonard.  Sweet as it was, tender as
the voice that spoke it, it imposed a boundary to affection, it came as
a knell to hope.  He recoiled, shook his head mournfully: "Too late to
accept that tie,--too late even for friendship.  Henceforth--for long
years to come--henceforth, till this heart has ceased to beat at your
name to thrill at your presence, we two--are strangers."

"Strangers!  Well--yes, it is right--it must be so; we must not meet.
Oh, Leonard Fairfield, who was it that in those days that you recall to
me, who was it that found you destitute and obscure; who, not degrading
you by charity, placed you in your right career; opened to you, amidst
the labyrinth in which you were well-nigh lost, the broad road to
knowledge, independence, fame?  Answer me,--answer!  Was it not the same
who reared, sheltered your sister orphan?  If I could forget what I have
owed to him, should I not remember what he has done for you?  Can I hear
of your distinction, and not remember it?  Can I think how proud she may
be who will one day lean on your arm, and bear the name you have already
raised beyond all the titles of an hour,--can I think of this, and not
remember our common friend, benefactor, guardian?  Would you forgive me,
if I failed to do so?"

"But," faltered Leonard, fear mingling with the conjectures these words
called forth--"but is it that Lord L'Estrange would not consent to our
union?  Or of what do you speak?  You bewilder me."

Helen felt for some moments as if it were impossible to reply; and the
words at length were dragged forth as if from the depth of her very soul.

"He came to me, our noble friend.  I never dreamed of it.  He did not
tell me that he loved me.  He told me that he was unhappy, alone; that in
me, and only in me, he could find a comforter, a soother--He, he!  And I
had just arrived in England, was under his mother's roof, had not then
once more seen you; and--and--what could I answer?  Strengthen me,
strengthen me, you whom I look up to and revere.  Yes, yes, you are
right.  We must see each other no more.  I am betrothed to another,--to
him!  Strengthen me!"

All the inherent nobleness of the poet's nature rose at once at this
appeal.

"Oh, Helen--sister--Miss Digby, forgive me.  You need no strength from
me; I borrow it from you.  I comprehend you, I respect.  Banish all
thought of me.  Repay our common benefactor.  Be what he asks of you,--
his comforter, his soother; be more,--his pride and his joy.  Happiness
will come to you, as it comes to those who confer happiness and forget
self.  God comfort you in the passing struggle; God bless you, in the
long years to come.  Sister, I accept the holy name now, and will claim
it hereafter, when I too can think more of others than myself."

Helen had covered her face with her hands, sobbing; but with that soft,
womanly constraint which presses woe back into the heart.  A strange
sense of utter solitude suddenly pervaded her whole being, and by that
sense of solitude she knew that he was gone.



CHAPTER XIV.

In another room in that same house sat, solitary as Helen, a stern,
gloomy, brooding man, in whom they who had best known him from his
childhood could scarcely have recognized a trace of the humane,
benignant, trustful, but wayward and varying Harley, Lord L'Estrange.

He had read that fragment of a memoir, in which, out of all the chasms of
his barren and melancholy past, there rose two malignant truths that
seemed literally to glare upon him with mocking and demon eyes.  The
woman whose remembrance had darkened all the sunshine of his life had
loved another; the friend in whom he had confided his whole affectionate
loyal soul had been his perfidious rival.  He had read from the first
word to the last, as if under a spell that held him breathless; and when
he closed the manuscript, it was without a groan or sigh; but over his
pale lips there passed that withering smile, which is as sure an index of
a heart overcharged with dire and fearful passions, as the arrowy flash
of the lightning is of the tempests that are gathered within the cloud.

He then thrust the papers into his bosom, and, keeping his hand over
them, firmly clenched, he left the room, and walked slowly on towards his
father's house.  With every step by the way, his nature, in the war of
its elements, seemed to change and harden into forms of granite.  Love,
humanity, trust, vanished away.  Hate, revenge, misanthropy, suspicion,
and scorn of all that could wear the eyes of affection, or speak with the
voice of honour, came fast through the gloom of his thoughts, settling
down in the wilderness, grim and menacing as the harpies of ancient
song--

               "Uncaeque manus, et pallida semper Ora."

          "Hands armed with fangs, and lips forever pale."

Thus the gloomy man had crossed the threshold of his father's house, and
silently entered the apartments still set apart for him.  He had arrived
about an hour before Leonard; and as he stood by the hearth, with his
arms folded on his breast, and his eyes fixed lead-like on the ground,
his mother came in to welcome and embrace him.  He checked her eager
inquiries after Violante, he recoiled from the touch of her hand.

"Hold, madam," said he, startling her ear with the cold austerity of his
tone.  "I cannot heed your questions,--I am filled with the question I
must put to yourself.  You opposed my boyish love for Leonora Avenel.
I do not blame you,--all mothers of equal rank would have done the same.
Yet, had you not frustrated all frank intercourse with her, I might have
taken refusal from her own lips,--survived that grief, and now been a
happy man.  Years since then have rolled away,--rolled over her quiet
slumbers, and my restless waking life.  All this time were you aware that
Audley Egerton had been the lover of Leonora Avenel?"

"Harley, Harley!  do not speak to me in that cruel voice, do not look at
me with those hard eyes!"

"You knew it, then,--you, my mother!" continued Harley, unmoved by her
rebuke; "and why did you never say, 'Son, you are wasting the bloom and
uses of your life in sorrowful fidelity to a lie!  You are lavishing
trust and friendship on a perfidious hypocrite.'"

"How could I speak to you thus; how could I dare to do so, seeing you
still so cherished the memory of that unhappy girl, still believed that
she had returned your affection?  Had I said to you what I knew (but not
till after her death), as to her relations with Audley Egerton--"

"Well?  You falter; go on; had you done so?"

"Would you have felt no desire for revenge?  Might there not have been
strife between you, danger, bloodshed?  Harley, Harley!  Is not such
silence pardonable in a mother?  And why deprive you too of the only
friend you seemed to prize; who alone had some influence over you; who
concurred with me in the prayer and hope, that some day you would find a
living partner worthy to replace this lost delusion, arouse your
faculties,--be the ornament your youth promised to your country?
For you wrong Audley,--indeed you do!"

"Wrong him!  Ah, let me not do that.  Proceed."

"I do not excuse him his rivalship, nor his first concealment of it.  But
believe me, since then, his genuine remorse, his anxious tenderness for
your welfare, his dread of losing your friendship--"

"Stop!  It was doubtless Audley Egerton who induced you yourself to
conceal what you call his 'relations' with her whom I can now so calmly
name,--Leonora Avenel?"

"It was so, in truth; and from motives that--"

"Enough!  let me hear no more."

"But you will not think too sternly of what is past?  You are about to
form new ties.  You cannot be wild and wicked enough to meditate what
your brow seems to threaten.  You cannot dream of revenge,--risk Audley's
life or your own?"

"Tut, tut, tut!  What cause here for duels?  Single combats are out of
date; civilized men do not slay each other with sword and pistol.  Tut!
revenge!  Does it look like revenge, that one object which brings me
hither is to request my father's permission to charge myself with the
care of Audley Egerton's election?  What he values most in the world is
his political position; and here his political existence is at stake.
You know that I have had through life the character of a weak, easy,
somewhat over-generous man.  Such men are not revengeful.  Hold!  You lay
your hand on my arm,--I know the magic of that light touch, Mother; but
its power over me is gone.  Countess of Lansmere, hear me!  Ever from
infancy (save in that frantic passion for which I now despise myself),
I have obeyed you, I trust, as a duteous son.  Now, our relative
positions are somewhat altered.  I have the right to exact--I will not
say to command--the right which wrong and injury bestow upon all men.
Madam, the injured man has prerogatives that rival those of kings.  I now
call upon you to question me no more; not again to breathe the name of
Leonora Avenel, unless I invite the subject; and not to inform Audley
Egerton by a hint, by a breath, that I have discovered--what shall I call
it?--his 'pardonable deceit.'  Promise me this, by your affection as
mother, and on your faith as gentlewoman; or I declare solemnly, that
never in life will you look upon my face again."

Haughty and imperious though the countess was, her spirit quailed before
Harley's brow and voice.

"Is this my son,--this my gentle Harley?" she said falteringly.  "Oh, put
your arms round my neck; let me feel that I have not lost my child!"

Harley looked softened, but he did not obey the pathetic prayer;
nevertheless, he held out his hand, and turning away his face, said, in a
milder voice, "Have I your promise?"

"You have, you have; but on condition that there pass no words between
you and Audley that can end but in the strife which--"

"Strife!" interrupted Harley.  "I repeat that the idea of challenge and
duel between me and my friend from our school days, and on a quarrel that
we could explain to no seconds, would be a burlesque upon all that is
grave in the realities of life and feeling.  I accept your promise and
seal it thus--"

He pressed his lips to his mother's forehead, and passively received her
embrace.

"Hush," he said, withdrawing from her arms, "I hear my father's voice."

Lord Lansmere threw open the door widely, and with a certain
consciousness that a door by which an Earl of Lansmere entered ought to
be thrown open widely.  It could not have been opened with more majesty
if a huissier or officer of the Household had stood on either side.  The
countess passed by her lord with a light step, and escaped.

"I was occupied with my architect in designs for the new infirmary, of
which I shall make a present to our county.  I have only just heard that
you were here, Harley.  What is all this about our fair Italian guest?
Is she not coming back to us?  Your mother refers me to you for
explanations."

"You shall have them later, my dear father; at present I can think only
of public affairs."

"Public affairs!  they are indeed alarming.  I am rejoiced to hear you
express yourself so worthily.  An awful crisis, Harley!  And, gracious
Heaven!  I have heard that a low man, who was born in Lansmere, but made
a fortune in America, is about to contest the borough.  They tell me he
is one of the Avenels,--a born Blue; is it possible?"

"I have come here on that business.  As a peer you cannot, of course,
interfere; but I propose, with your leave, to go down myself to Lansmere,
and undertake the superintendence of, the election.  It would be better,
perhaps, if you were not present; it would give us more liberty of
action."

"My dear Harley, shake hands; anything you please.  You know how I have
wished to see you come forward, and take that part in life which becomes
your birth."

"Ah, you think I have sadly wasted my existence hitherto."

"To be frank with you, yes, Harley," said the earl, with a pride that was
noble in its nature, and not without dignity in its expression.  "The
more we take from our country, the more we owe to her.  From the moment
you came into the world as the inheritor of lands and honours, you were
charged with a trust for the benefit of others, that it degrades one of
our order of gentleman not to discharge."

Harley listened with a sombre brow, and made no direct reply.

"Indeed," resumed the earl, "I would rather you were about to canvass for
yourself than for your friend Egerton.  But I grant he is an example that
it is never too late to follow.  Why, who that had seen you both as
youths, notwithstanding Audley had the advantage of being some years your
senior--who could have thought that he was the one to become
distinguished and eminent, and you to degenerate into the luxurious
idler, averse to all trouble and careless of all fame?  You, with such
advantages, not only of higher fortunes, but, as every one said, of
superior talents; you, who had then so much ambition, so keen a desire
for glory, sleeping with Plutarch's Lives under your pillow, and only, my
wild son, only too much energy.  But you are a young man still; it is not
too late to redeem the years you have thrown away."

"The years are nothing,--mere dates in an almanac; but the feelings, what
can give me back those?--the hope, the enthusiasm, the--No matter!
feelings do not, help men to rise in the world.  Egerton's feelings are
not too lively.  What I might have been, leave it to me to remember; let
us talk of the example you set before me,--of Audley Egerton."

"We must get him in," said the earl, sinking his voice into a whisper.
"It is of more importance to him than I even thought for.  But you know
his secrets.  Why did you not confide to me frankly the state of his
affairs?"

"His affairs?  Do you mean that they are seriously embarrassed?  This
interests me much.  Pray speak; what do you know?"

"He has discharged the greater part of his establishment.  That in itself
is natural on quitting office; but still it set people talking; and it
has got wind that his estates are not only mortgaged for more than they
are worth, but that he has been living upon the discount of bills; in
short, he has been too intimate with a man whom we all know by sight,--
a man who drives the finest horses in London, and they tell me (but that
I cannot believe) lives in the familiar society of the young puppies he
snares to perdition.  What's the man's name?  Levy, is it not?--yes,
Levy."

"I have seen Levy with him," said Harley; and a sinister joy lighted up
his falcon eyes.  "Levy--Levy--it is well."

"I hear but the gossip of the clubs," resumed the earl; but they do say
that Levy makes little disguise of his power over our very distinguished
friend, and rather parades it as a merit with our party (and, indeed,
with all men--for Egerton has personal friends in every party) that he
keeps sundry bills locked up in his desk until Egerton is once more safe
in parliament.  Nevertheless if, after all, our friend were to lose his
election, and Levy were then to seize on his effects, and proclaim his
ruin, it would seriously damage, perhaps altogether destroy, Audley's
political career."

"So I conclude," said Harley.  "A Charles Fox might be a gamester, and a
William Pitt be a pauper.  But Audley Egerton is not of their giant
stature; he stands so high because he stands upon heaps of respectable
gold.  Audley Egerton, needy and impoverished, out of parliament, and, as
the vulgar slang has it, out at elbows, skulking from duns, perhaps in
the Bench--"

"No, no; our party would never allow that; we would subscribe--"

"Worse than all, living as the pensioner of the party he aspired to lead!
You say truly, his political prospects would be blasted.  A man whose
reputation lay in his outward respectability!  Why, people would say that
Audley Egerton has been--a solemn lie; eh, my father?"

"How can you talk with such coolness of your friend?  You need say
nothing to interest me in his election--if you mean that.  Once in
parliament, he must soon again be in office,--and learn to live on his
salary.  You must get him to submit to me the schedule of his
liabilities.  I have a head for business, as you know.  I will arrange
his affairs for him.  And I will yet bet five to one, though I hate
wagers, that he will be prime minister in three years.  He is not
brilliant, it is true; but just at this crisis we want a safe, moderate,
judicious, conciliatory man; and Audley has so much tact, such experience
of the House, such knowledge of the world, and," added the earl,
emphatically summing up his eulogies, "he is so thorough a gentleman!"

"A thorough gentleman, as you say,--the soul of honour!  But, my dear
father, it is your hour for riding; let me not detain you.  It is
settled, then; you do not come yourself to Lansmere.  You put the house
at my disposal, and allow me to invite Egerton, of course, and what other
guests I may please; in short, you leave all to me?"

"Certainly; and if you cannot get in your friend, who can?  That borough,
it is an awkward, ungrateful place, and has been the plague of my life.
So much as I have spent there, too,--so much as I have done to its trade!
"And the earl, with an indignant sigh, left the room.

Harley seated himself deliberately at his writing-table, leaning his face
on his hand, and looking abstractedly into space from under knit and
lowering brows.

Harley L'Estrange was, as we have seen, a man singularly tenacious of
affections and impressions.  He was a man, too, whose nature was
eminently bold, loyal, and candid; even the apparent whim and levity
which misled the world, both as to his dispositions and his powers, might
be half ascribed to that open temper which, in its over-contempt for all
that seemed to savour of hypocrisy, sported with forms and ceremonials,
and extracted humour, sometimes extravagant, sometimes profound, from
"the solemn plausibilities of the world."  The shock he had now received
smote the very foundations of his mind, and, overthrowing all the airier
structures which fancy and wit had built upon its surface, left it clear
as a new world for the operations of the darker and more fearful
passions.  When a man of a heart so loving and a nature so irregularly
powerful as Harley's suddenly and abruptly discovers deceit where he had
most confided, it is not (as with the calmer pupils of that harsh
teacher, Experience) the mere withdrawal of esteem and affection from the
one offender; it is, that trust in everything seems gone; it is, that the
injured spirit looks back to the Past, and condemns all its kindlier
virtues as follies that conduced to its own woe; and looks on to the
Future as to a journey beset with smiling traitors, whom it must meet
with an equal simulation, or crush with a superior force.  The guilt of
treason to men like these is incalculable,--it robs the world of all the
benefits they would otherwise have lavished as they passed; it is
responsible for all the ill that springs from the corruption of natures
whose very luxuriance, when the atmosphere is once tainted, does but
diffuse disease,--even as the malaria settles not over thin and barren
soils, not over wastes that have been from all time desolate, but over
the places in which southern suns had once ripened delightful gardens,
or the sites of cities, in which the pomp of palaces has passed away.

It was not enough that the friend of his youth, the confidant of his
love, had betrayed his trust,--been the secret and successful rival; not
enough that the woman his boyhood had madly idolized, and all the while
be had sought her traces with pining, remorseful heart-believing she but
eluded his suit from the emulation of a kindred generosity, desiring
rather to sacrifice her own love than to cost to his the sacrifice of all
which youth rashly scorns and the world so highly estimates,--not enough
that all this while her refuge had been the bosom of another.  This was
not enough of injury.  His whole life had been wasted on a delusion; his
faculties and aims, the wholesome ambition of lofty minds, had been
arrested at the very onset of fair existence; his heart corroded by a
regret for which there was no cause; his conscience charged with the
terror that his wild chase had urged a too tender victim to the grave,
over which he had mourned.  What years that might otherwise have been to
himself so serene, to the world so useful, had been consumed in
objectless, barren, melancholy dreams!  And all this while to whom had
his complaints been uttered?--to the man who knew that his remorse was
an idle spectre and his faithful sorrow a mocking self-deceit.  Every
thought that could gall man's natural pride, every remembrance that could
sting into revenge a heart that had loved too deeply not to be accessible
to hate, conspired to goad those maddening Furies who come into every
temple which is once desecrated by the presence of the evil passions.
In that sullen silence of the soul, vengeance took the form of justice.
Changed though his feelings towards Leonora Avenel were, the story of her
grief and her wrongs embittered still more his wrath against his rival.
The fragments of her memoir left naturally on Harley's mind the
conviction that she had been the victim of an infamous fraud, the dupe of
a false marriage.  His idol had not only been stolen from the altar,--it
had been sullied by the sacrifice; broken with remorseless hand, and
thrust into dishonoured clay; mutilated, defamed; its very memory a thing
of contempt to him who had ravished it from worship.  The living Harley
and the dead Nora--both called aloud to their joint despoiler, "Restore
what thou hast taken from us, or pay the forfeit!"

Thus, then, during the interview between Helen and Leonard, thus Harley
L'Estrange sat alone! and as a rude irregular lump of steel, when wheeled
round into rapid motion, assumes the form of the circle it describes, so
his iron purpose, hurried on by his relentless passion, filled the space
into which he gazed with optical delusions, scheme after scheme revolving
and consummating the circles that clasped a foe.



CHAPTER XV.

The entrance of a servant, announcing a name which Harley, in the
absorption of his gloomy revery, did not hear, was followed by that of a
person on whom he lifted his eyes in the cold and haughty surprise with
which a man much occupied greets and rebukes the intrusion of an
unwelcome stranger.

"It is so long since your Lordship has seen me," said the visitor, with
mild dignity, "that I cannot wonder you do not recognize my person, and
have forgotten my name."

"Sir," answered Harley, with an impatient rudeness, ill in harmony with
the urbanity for which he was usually distinguished,--"sir, your person
is strange to me, and your name I did not hear; but, at all events, I am
not now at leisure to attend to you.  Excuse my plainness."

"Yet pardon me if I still linger.  My name is Dale.  I was formerly
curate at Lansmere; and I would speak to your Lordship in the name and
the memory of one once dear to you,--Leonora Avenel."

HARLEY (after a short pause).--"Sir, I cannot conjecture your business.
But be seated.  I remember you now, though years have altered both, and
I have since heard much in your favour from Leonard Fairfield.  Still let
me pray, that you will be brief."

MR. DALE.---"May I assume at once that you have divined the parentage of
the young man you call Fairfield?  When I listened to his grateful
praises of your beneficence, and marked with melancholy pleasure the
reverence in which he holds you, my heart swelled within me.  I
acknowledged the mysterious force of nature."

HARLEY.---"Force of nature!  You talk in riddles."

MR. DALE (indignantly).--"Oh, my Lord, how can you so disguise your
better self?  Surely in Leonard Fairfield you have long since recognized
the son of Nora Avenel?"

Harley passed his hand over his face.  "Ah," thought he, "she lived to
bear a son then,--a son to Egerton!  Leonard is that son.  I should have
known it by the likeness, by the fond foolish impulse that moved me to
him.  This is why he confided to me these fearful memoirs.  He seeks his
father,--he shall find him."

MR. DALE (mistaking the cause of Harley's silence).--"I honour your
compunction, my Lord.  Oh, let your heart and your conscience continue to
speak to your worldly pride."

HARLEY.--"My compunction,  heart,  conscience!  Mr. Dale, you insult me!"

MR. DALE (sternly).---"Not so; I am fulfilling my mission, which bids me
rebuke the sinner.  Leonora Avenel speaks in me, and commands the guilty
father to acknowledge the innocent child!"

Harley half rose, and his eyes literally flashed fire; but he calmed his
anger into irony.  "Ha!" said he, with a sarcastic smile, "so you suppose
that I was the perfidious seducer of Nora Avenel,--that I am the callous
father of the child who came into the world without a name.  Very well,
sir, taking these assumptions for granted, what is it you demand from me
on behalf of this young man?"

"I ask from you his happiness," replied Mr. Dale, imploringly; and
yielding to the compassion with which Leonard inspired him, and persuaded
that Lord L'Estrange felt a father's love for the boy whom he had saved
from the whirlpool of London, and guided to safety and honourable
independence, he here, with simple eloquence, narrated all Leonard's
feelings for Helen,--his silent fidelity to her image, though a child's,
his love when he again beheld her as a woman, the modest fears which the
parson himself had combated, the recommendation that Mr. Dale had forced
upon him, to confess his affection to Helen, and plead his cause.
"Anxious, as you may believe, for his success," continued the parson,
"I waited without your gates till he came from Miss Digby's presence.
And oh, my Lord, had you but seen his face!--such emotion and such
despair!  I could not learn from him what had passed.  He escaped from me
and rushed away.  All that I could gather was from a few broken words,
and from those words I formed the conjecture (it may be erroneous) that
the obstacle to his happiness was not in Helen's heart, my Lord, but
seemed to me as if it were in yourself.  Therefore, when he had vanished
from my sight, I took courage, and came at, once to you.  If he be your
son, and Helen Digby be your ward,--she herself an orphan, dependent on
your bounty,--why should they be severed?  Equals in years, united by
early circumstance, congenial, it seems, in simple habits and refined
tastes,--what should hinder their union, unless it be the want of
fortune?  And all men know your wealth, none ever questioned your
generosity.  My Lord, my Lord, your look freezes me.  If I have offended,
do not visit my offence on him,--on Leonard!"

"And so," said Harley, still controlling his rage, "so this boy--whom, as
you say, I saved from that pitiless world which has engulfed many a
nobler genius--so, in return for all, he has sought to rob me of the last
affection, poor and lukewarm though it was, that remained to me in life?
He presume to lift his eyes to my affianced bride!  He!  And for aught I
know, steal from me her living heart, and leave to me her icy hand!"

"Oh, my Lord, your affianced bride!  I never dreamed of this.  I implore
your pardon.  The very thought is so terrible, so unnatural! the son to
woo the father's!  Oh, what sin have I fallen into!  The sin was mine,--I
urged and persuaded him to it.  He was ignorant as myself.  Forgive him,
forgive him!"

"Mr. Dale," said Harley, rising, and extending his hand, which the poor
parson felt himself--unworthy to take,--"Mr. Dale, you are a good man,--
if, indeed, this universe of liars contains some man who does not cheat
our judgment when we deem him honest.  Allow me only to ask why you
consider Leonard Fairfield to be my son."

"Was not your youthful admiration for poor Nora evident to me?  Remember
I was a frequent guest at Lansmere Park; and it was so natural that you,
with all your brilliant gifts, should captivate her refined fancy, her
affectionate heart."

"Natural--you think so,--go on."

"Your mother, as became her, separated you.  It was not unknown to me
that you still cherished a passion which your rank forbade to be lawful.
Poor girl! she left the roof of her protectress, Lady Jane.  Nothing was
known of her till she came to her father's house to give birth to a
child, and die.  And the same day that dawned on her corpse, you hurried
from the place.  Ah, no doubt your conscience smote you; you have never
returned to Lansmere since."

Harley's breast heaved, he waved his hand; the parson resumed,

"Whom could I suspect but you?  I made inquiries: they confirmed my
suspicions."

"Perhaps you inquired of my friend, Mr. Egerton?  He was with me when--
when--as you say, I hurried from the place."

"I did, my Lord."  "And he?"

"Denied your guilt; but still, a man of honour so nice, of heart so
feeling, could not feign readily.  His denial did not deceive me."

"Honest man!" said Harley; and his hand griped at the breast over which
still rustled, as if with a ghostly sigh, the records of the dead.  "He
knew she had left a son, too?"

"He did, my Lord; of course, I told him that."

"The son whom I found starving in the streets of London!  Mr. Dale, as
you see, your words move me very much.  I cannot deny that he who
wronged, it may be with no common treachery, that young mother--for Nora
Avenel was not one to be lightly seduced into error--"

"Indeed, no!"

"And who then thought no more of the offspring of her anguish and his own
crime--I cannot deny that that man deserves some chastisement,--should
render some atonement.  Am I not right here?  Answer with the plain
speech which becomes your sacred calling."

"I cannot say otherwise, my Lord," replied the parson, pitying what
appeared to him such remorse.  "But if he repent--"

"Enough," interrupted Harley.  "I now invite you to visit me at Lansmere;
give me your address, and I will apprise you of the day on which I will
request your presence.  Leonard Fairfield shall find a father--I was
about to say, worthy of himself.  For the rest--stay; reseat yourself.
For the rest"--and again the sinister smile broke from Harley's eye and
lip--"I will not yet say whether I can, or ought to, resign to a younger
and fairer suitor the lady who has accepted my own hand.  I have no
reason yet to believe that she prefers him.  But what think you,
meanwhile, of this proposal?  Mr. Avenel wishes his nephew to contest the
borough of Lansmere, has urged me to obtain the young man's consent.
True, that he may thus endanger the seat of Mr. Audley Egerton.  What
then?  Mr. Audley Egerton is a great man, and may find another seat; that
should not stand in the way.  Let Leonard obey his uncle.  If he win the
election, why, he 'll be a more equal match, in the world's eye, for Miss
Digby, that is, should she prefer him to myself; and if she do not,
still, in public life, there is a cure for all private sorrow.  That is a
maxim of Mr. Audley Egerton's; and he, you know, is a man not only of the
nicest honour, but the deepest worldly wisdom.  Do you like my
proposition?"

"It seems to me most considerate, most generous."

"Then you shall take to Leonard the lines I am about to write."

     LORD L'ESTRANGE TO LEONARD FAIRFIELD.

     I have read the memoir you intrusted to me.  I will follow up all
     the clews that it gives me.  Meanwhile I request you to suspend all
     questions; forbear all reference to a subject which, as you may well
     conjecture, is fraught with painful recollections to myself.  At
     this moment, too, I am compelled to concentre my thoughts upon
     affairs of a public nature, and yet which may sensibly affect
     yourself.  There are reasons why I urge you to comply with your
     uncle's wish, and stand for the borough of Lansmere at the
     approaching election.  If the exquisite gratitude of your nature so
     overrates what I may have done for you that you think you owe me
     some obligations, you will richly repay them on the day in which I
     bear you hailed as member for Lansmere.  Relying on that generous
     principle of self-sacrifice, which actuates all your conduct,
     I shall count upon your surrendering your preference to private
     life, and entering the arena of that noble ambition which has
     conferred such dignity on the name of my friend Audley Egerton.  He,
     it is true, will be your opponent; but he is too generous not to
     pardon my zeal for the interests of a youth whose career I am vain
     enough to think that I have aided.  And as Mr. Randal Leslie stands
     in coalition with Egerton, and Mr. Avenel believes that two
     candidates of the same party cannot both succeed, the result may be
     to the satisfaction of all the feelings which I entertain for Audley
     Egerton, and for you, who, I have reason to think, will emulate his
     titles to my esteem.

     Yours,                        L'ESTRANGE.


"There, Mr. Dale," said Harley, sealing his letter, and giving it into
the parson's hands,--"there, you shall deliver this note to your friend.
But no; upon second thoughts, since he does not yet know of your visit to
me, it is best that he should be still in ignorance of it.  For should
Miss Digby resolve to abide by her present engagements, it were surely
kind to save Leonard the pain of learning that you had communicated to me
that rivalry he himself had concealed.  Let all that has passed between
us be kept in strict confidence."

"I will obey you, my Lord," answered the parson, meekly, startled to
find that he who had come to arrogate authority was now submitting to
commands; and all at fault what judgment he could venture to pass upon
the man whom he had regarded as a criminal, who had not even denied the
crime imputed to him, yet who now impressed the accusing priest with
something of that respect which Mr. Dale had never before conceded but to
Virtue.  Could he have then but looked into the dark and stormy heart,
which he twice misread!

"It is well,--very well," muttered Harley, when the door had closed upon
the parson.  "The viper and the viper's brood!  So it was this man's son
that I led from the dire Slough of Despond; and the son unconsciously
imitates the father's gratitude and honour--Ha, ha!"  Suddenly the bitter
laugh was arrested; a flash of almost celestial joy darted through the
warring elements of storm and darkness.  If Helen returned Leonard's
affection, Harley L'Estrange was free!  And through that flash the face
of Violante shone upon him as an angel's.  But the heavenly light and the
angel face vanished abruptly, swallowed up in the black abyss of the rent
and tortured soul.

"Fool!" said the unhappy man, aloud, in his anguish--"fool!  what then?
Were I free, would it be to trust my fate again to falsehood?  If, in all
the bloom and glory of my youth, I failed to win the heart of a village
girl; if, once more deluding myself, it is in vain that I have tended,
reared, cherished, some germ of woman's human affection in the orphan I
saved from penury,--how look for love in the brilliant princess, whom all
the sleek Lotharios of our gaudy world will surround with their homage
when once she alights on their sphere!  If perfidy be my fate--what hell
of hells, in the thought!--that a wife might lay her head in my bosom,
and--oh, horror!  horror!  No!  I would not accept her hand were it
offered, nor believe in her love were it pledged to me.  Stern soul of
mine, wise at last, love never more,--never more believe in truth!"



CHAPTER XVI.

As Harley quitted the room, Helen's pale sweet face looked forth from a
door in the same corridor.  She advanced towards him timidly.

"May I speak with you?" she said, in almost inaudible accents; "I have
been listening for your footstep."

Harley looked at her steadfastly.  Then, without a word, he followed her
into the room she had left, and closed the door.

"I, too," said he, "meant to seek an interview with yourself--but later.
You would speak to me, Helen,--say on.  Ah, child, what mean you?  Why
this?"--for Helen was kneeling at his feet.

"Let me kneel," she said, resisting the hand that sought to raise her.
"Let me kneel till I have explained all, and perhaps won your pardon.
You said something the other evening.  It has weighed on my heart and my
conscience ever since.  You said 'that I should have no secret from you;
for that, in our relation to each other, would be deceit.'  I have had a
secret; but oh, believe me! it was long ere it was clearly visible to
myself.  You honoured me with a suit so far beyond my birth, my merits.
You said that I might console and comfort you.  At those words, what
answer could I give,--I, who owe you so much more than a daughter's duty?
And I thought that my affections were free,--that they would obey that
duty.  But--but--but--" continued Helen, bowing her head still lowlier,
and in a voice far fainter--"I deceived myself.  I again saw him who had
been all in the world to me, when the world was so terrible, and then--
and then--I trembled.  I was terrified at my own memories, my own
thoughts.  Still I struggled to banish the past, resolutely, firmly.
Oh, you believe me, do you not?  And I hoped to conquer.  Yet ever since
those words of yours, I felt that I ought to tell you even of the
struggle.  This is the first time we have met since you spoke them.  And
now--now--I have seen him again, and--and--though not by a word could she
you had deigned to woo as your bride encourage hope in another; though
there--there where you now stand--he bade me farewell, and we parted as
if forever,--yet--yet O Lord L'Estrange! in return for your rank, wealth,
your still nobler gifts of nature, what should I bring?--Something more
than gratitude, esteem; reverence,--at least an undivided heart, filled
with your image, and yours alone.  And this I cannot give.  Pardon me,--
not for what I say now, but for not saying it before.  Pardon me, O my
benefactor, pardon me!"

"Rise, Helen," said Harley, with relaxing brow, though still unwilling to
yield to one softer and holier emotion.  "Rise!" And he lifted her up,
and drew her towards the light.  "Let me look at your face.  There seems
no guile here.  These tears are surely honest.  If I cannot be loved, it
is my fate, and not your crime.  Now, listen to me.  If you grant me
nothing else, will you give me the obedience which the ward owes to the
guardian, the child to the parent?"

"Yes, oh, yes!" murmured Helen.

"Then while I release you from all troth to me, I claim the right to
refuse, if I so please it, my assent to the suit of--of the person you
prefer.  I acquit you of deceit, but I reserve to myself the judgment I
shall pass on him.  Until I myself sanction that suit, will you promise
not to recall in any way the rejection which, if I understand you
rightly, you have given to it?"

"I promise."

"And if I say to you, 'Helen, this man is not worthy of you '"

"No, no!  do not say that,--I could not believe you."  Harley frowned,
but resumed calmly, "If, then, I say, 'Ask me not wherefore, but I forbid
you to be the wife of Leonard Fairfield, I what would be your answer?'"

"Ah, my Lord, if you can but comfort him, do with me as you will! but do
not command me to break his heart."

"Oh, silly child," cried Harley, laughing scornfully, "hearts are not
found in the race from which that man sprang.  But I take your promise,
with its credulous condition.  Helen, I pity you.  I have been as weak as
you, bearded man though I be.  Some day or other, you and I may live to
laugh at the follies at which you weep now.  I can give you no other
comfort, for I know of none."

He moved to the door, and paused at the threshold: "I shall not see you
again for some days, Helen.  Perhaps I may request my mother to join me
at Lansmere; if so, I shall pray you to accompany her.  For the present,
let all believe that our position is unchanged.  The time will soon come
when I may--"

Helen looked up wistfully through her tears.

"I may release you from all duties to me," continued Harley, with grave
and severe coldness; "or I may claim your promise in spite of the
condition; for your lover's heart will not be broken.  Adieu!"



CHAPTER XVII.

As Harley entered London, he came suddenly upon Randal Leslie, who was
hurrying from Eaton Square, having not only accompanied Mr. Avenel in his
walk, but gone home with him, and spent half the day in that gentleman's
society.  He was now on his way to the House of Commons, at which some
disclosure as to the day for the dissolution of parliament was expected.

"Lord L'Estrange," said Randal, "I must stop you.  I have been to
Norwood, and seen our noble friend.  He has confided to me, of course,
all that passed.  How can I express my gratitude to you!  By what rare
talent, with what signal courage, you have saved the happiness--perhaps
even the honour--of my plighted bride!"

"Your bride!  The duke, then, still holds to the promise you were
fortunate enough to obtain from Dr. Riccabocca?"

"He confirms that promise more solemnly than ever.  You may well be
surprised at his magnanimity."

"No; he is a philosopher,--nothing in him can surprise me.  But he seemed
to think, when I saw him, that there were circumstances you might find it
hard to explain."

"Hard!  Nothing so easy.  Allow me to tender to you the same explanations
which satisfied one whom philosophy itself has made as open to truth as
he is clear-sighted to imposture."

"Another time, Mr. Leslie.  If your bride's father be satisfied, what
right have I to doubt?  By the way, you stand for Lansmere.  Do me the
favour to fix your quarters at the Park during the election.  You will,
of course, accompany Mr. Egerton."

"You are most kind," answered Randal, greatly surprised.

"You accept?  That is well.  We shall then have ample opportunity for
those explanations which you honour me by offering; and, to make your
visit still more agreeable, I may perhaps induce our friends at Norwood
to meet you.  Good-day."  Harley walked on, leaving Randal motionless in
amaze, but tormented with suspicion.  What could such courtesies in Lord
L'Estrange portend?  Surely no good.

"I am about to hold the balance of justice," said Harley to himself.
"I will cast the light-weight of that knave into the scale.  Violante
never can be mine; but I did not save her from a Peschiera to leave her
to a Randal Leslie.  Ha, ha!  Audley Egerton has some human feeling,--
tenderness for that youth whom he has selected from the world, in which
he left Nora's child to the jaws of Famine.  Through that side I can
reach at his heart, and prove him a fool like myself, where he esteemed
and confided!  Good."

Thus soliloquizing, Lord L'Estrange gained the corner of Bruton Street,
when he was again somewhat abruptly accosted.

"My dear Lord L'Estrange, let me shake you by the hand; for Heaven knows
when I may see you again, and you have suffered me to assist in one good
action."

"Frank Hazeldean, I am pleased indeed to meet you.  Why do you indulge in
that melancholy doubt as to the time when I may see you again?"

"I have just got leave of absence.  I am not well, and I am rather
hipped, so I shall go abroad for a few weeks."

In spite of himself, the sombre, brooding man felt interest and sympathy
in the dejection that was evident in Frank's voice and countenance.
"Another dupe to affection," thought he, as if in apology to himself,--
"of course, a dupe; he is honest and artless--at present."  He pressed
kindly on the arm which he had involuntarily twined within his own.  "I
conceive how you now grieve, my young friend," said he; "but you will
congratulate yourself hereafter on what this day seems to you an
affliction."

"My dear Lord--"

"I am much older than you, but not old enough for such formal ceremony.
Pray call me L'Estrange."

"Thank you; and I should indeed like to speak to you as a friend.  There
is a thought on my mind which haunts me.  I dare say it is foolish
enough, but I am sure you will not laugh at me.  You heard what Madame di
Negra said to me last night.  I have been trifled with and misled, but I
cannot forget so soon how dear to me that woman was.  I am not going to
bore you with such nonsense; but from what I can understand, her brother
is likely to lose all his fortune; and, even if not, he is a sad
scoundrel.  I cannot bear the thought that she should be so dependent on
him, that she may come to want.  After all, there must be good in her,--
good in her to refuse my hand if she did not love me.  A mercenary woman
so circumstanced would not have done that."

"You are quite right.  But do not torment yourself with such generous
fears.  Madame di Negra shall not come to want, shall not be dependent on
her infamous brother.  The first act of the Duke of Serrano, on regaining
his estates, will be a suitable provision for his kinswoman.  I will
answer for this."

"You take a load off my mind.  I did mean to ask you to intercede with
Riccabocca,--that is, the duke (it is so hard to think he can be a
duke!)--I, alas!  have nothing in my power to bestow upon Madame di
Negra.  I may, indeed, sell my commission; but then I have a debt which I
long to pay off, and the sale of the commission would not suffice even
for that; and perhaps my father might be still more angry if I do sell
it.  Well, good-by.  I shall now go away happy,--that is, comparatively.
One must bear things like--a man!"

"I should like, however, to see you again before you go abroad.  I will
call on you.  Meanwhile, can you tell me the number of one Baron Levy?
He lives in this street, I know."

"Levy!  Oh, have no dealings with him, I advise, I entreat you!  He is
the most plausible, dangerous rascal; and, for Heaven's sake!  pray be
warned by me, and let nothing entangle you into--a POST-OBIT!"

"Be re-assured, I am more accustomed to lend money than borrow it; and as
to a post-obit, I have a foolish prejudice against such transactions."

"Don't call it foolish, L'Estrange; I honour you for it.  How I wish I
had known you earlier--so few men of the world are like you.  Even Randal
Leslie, who is so faultless in most things, and never gets into a scrape
himself, called my own scruples foolish.  However--"

"Stay--Randal Leslie!  What!  He advised you to borrow on a post-obit,
and probably shared the loan with you?"

"Oh, no; not a shilling."

"Tell me all about it, Frank.  Perhaps, as I see that Levy is mixed up in
the affair, your information may be useful to myself, and put me on my
guard in dealing with that popular gentleman."

Frank, who somehow or other felt himself quite at home with Harley, and
who, with all his respect for Randal Leslie's talents, had a vague notion
that Lord L'Estrange was quite as clever, and, from his years and
experience, likely to be a safer and more judicious counsellor, was
noways loath to impart the confidence thus pressed for.

He told Harley of his debts, his first dealings with Levy, the unhappy
post-obit into which he had been hurried by the distress of Madame di
Negra; his father's anger, his mother's letter, his own feelings of
mingled shame and pride, which made him fear that repentance would but
seem self-interest, his desire to sell his commission, and let its sale
redeem in part the post-obit; in short, he made what is called a clean
breast of it.  Randal Leslie was necessarily mixed up with this recital;
and the subtle cross-questionings of Harley extracted far more as to that
young diplomatist's agency in all these melancholy concerns than the
ingenuous narrator himself was aware of.

"So then," said Harley, "Mr. Leslie assured you of Madame di Negra's
affection, when you yourself doubted of it?"

"Yes; she took him in, even more than she did me."

"Simple Mr. Leslie!  And the same kind friend?--who is related to you,
did you say?"

"His grandmother was a Hazeldean."

"Humph.  The same kind relation led you to believe that you could pay off
this bond with the marchesa's portion, and that he could obtain the
consent of your parents to your marriage with that lady?"

"I ought to have known better; my father's prejudices against foreigners
and Papists are so strong."

"And now Mr. Leslie concurs with you, that it is best for you to go
abroad, and trust to his intercession with your father.  He has
evidently, then, gained a great influence over Mr. Hazeldean."

"My father naturally compares me with him,--he so clever, so promising,
so regular in his habits, and I such a reckless scapegrace."

"And the bulk of your father's property is unentailed; Mr. Hazeldean
might disinherit you?"

"I deserve it.  I hope he will."

"You have no brothers nor sisters,--no relation, perhaps, after your
parents, nearer to you than your excellent friend Mr. Randal Leslie?"

"No; that is the reason he is so kind to me, otherwise I am the last
person to suit him.  You have no idea how well-informed and clever he
is," added Frank, in a tone between admiration and awe.

"My dear Hazeldean, you will take my advice, will you not?"

"Certainly.  You are too good."

"Let all your family, Mr. Leslie included, suppose you to be gone abroad;
but stay quietly in England, and within a day's journey of Lansmere Park.
I am obliged to go thither for the approaching election.  I may ask you
to come over.  I think I see a way to serve you; and if so, you will soon
hear from me.  Now, Baron Levy's number?"

"That is the house with the cabriolet at the door.  How such a fellow can
have such a horse!--'t is out of all keeping!"

"Not at all; horses are high-spirited, generous, unsuspicious animals.
They never know if it is a rogue who drives them.  I have your promise,
then, and you will send me your address?"

"I will.  Strange that I feel more confidence in you than I do even in
Randal.  Do take care of Levy."

Lord L'Estrange and Frank here shook hands, and Frank, with an anxious
groan, saw L'Estrange disappear within the portals of the sleek
destroyer.



CHAPTER XVII.

Lord L'Estrange followed the spruce servant into Baron Levy's luxurious
study.

The baron looked greatly amazed at his unexpected visitor; but he got up,
handed a chair to my Lord with a low bow.  "This is an honour," said he.

"You have a charming abode here," said Lord L'Estrange, looking round.
"Very fine bronzes,--excellent taste.  Your reception-rooms above are,
doubtless, a model to all decorators?"

"Would your Lordship condescend to see them?" said Levy, wondering, but
flattered.

"With the greatest pleasure."

"Lights!" cried Levy, to the servant who answered his bell.  "Lights in
the drawing-rooms,--it is growing dark."  Lord L'Estrange followed the
usurer upstairs; admired everything,--pictures, draperies, Sevres china,
to the very shape of the downy fauteuils, to the very pattern of the
Tournay carpets.  Reclining then on one of the voluptuous sofas, Lord
L'Estrange said smilingly, "You are a wise man: there is no advantage in
being rich, unless one enjoys one's riches."

"My own maxim, Lord L'Estrange."

"And it is something, too, to have a taste for good society.  Small pride
would you have, my dear baron, in these rooms, luxurious though they are,
if filled with guests of vulgar exterior and plebeian manners.  It is
only in the world in which we move that we find persons who harmonize, as
it were, with the porcelain of Sevres, and these sofas that might have
come from Versailles."

"I own," said Levy, "that I have what some may call a weakness in a
/parvenu/ like myself.  I have a love for the /beau monde/.  It is indeed
a pleasure to me when I receive men like your Lordship."

"But why call yourself a /parvenu/?  Though you are contented to honour
the name of Levy, we, in society, all know that you are the son of a
long-descended English peer.  Child of love, it is true; but the Graces
smile on those over whose birth Venus presided.  Pardon my old-fashioned
mythological similes,--they go so well with these rooms--Louis Quinze."

"Since you have touched on my birth," said Levy, his colour rather
heightening, not with shame, but with pride, "I don't deny that it has
had some effect on my habits and tastes in life.  In fact--"

"In fact, own that you would be a miserable man, in spite of all your
wealth, if the young dandies, who throng to your banquets, were to cut
you dead in the streets; if, when your high-stepping horse stopped at
your club, the porter shut the door in your face; if, when you lounged
into the opera-pit, handsome dog that you are, each spendthrift rake in
'Fop's Alley,' who now waits but the scratch of your pen to endorse
/billets doux/ with the charm that can chain to himself for a month some
nymph of the Ballet, spinning round in a whirlwind of tulle, would shrink
from the touch of your condescending forefinger with more dread of its
contact than a bailiff's tap in the thick of Pall Mall could inspire; if,
reduced to the company of city clerks, parasite led-captains--"

"Oh, don't go on, my dear Lord," cried Levy, laughing affectedly.
"Impossible though the picture be, it is really appalling.  Cut me off
from May Fair and St. James's, and I should go into my strong closet and
hang myself."

"And yet, my dear baron, all this may happen if I have the whim just to
try; all this will happen, unless, ere I leave your house, you concede
the conditions I come here to impose."

"My Lord!" exclaimed Levy, starting up, and pulling down his waistcoat
with nervous passionate fingers, "if you were not under my own roof, I
would--"

"Truce with mock heroics.  Sit down, sir, sit down.  I will briefly state
my threat, more briefly my conditions.  You will be scarcely more prolix
in your reply.  Your fortune I cannot touch, your enjoyment of it I can
destroy.  Refuse my conditions, make me your enemy,--and war to the
knife!  I will interrogate all the young dupes you have ruined.  I will
learn the history of all the transactions by which you have gained the
wealth that it pleases you to spend in courting the society and sharing
the vices of men who--go with these rooms, Louis Quinze.  Not a roguery
of yours shall escape me, down even to your last notable connivance with
an Italian reprobate for the criminal abduction of an heiress.  All these
particulars I will proclaim in the clubs to which you have gained
admittance, in every club in London which you yet hope to creep into;
all these I will impart to some such authority in the Press as Mr. Henry
Norreys; all these I will, upon the voucher of my own name, have so
published in some journals of repute, that you must either tacitly submit
to the revelations that blast you, or bring before a court of law actions
that will convert accusations into evidence.  It is but by sufferance
that you are now in society; you are excluded when one man like me comes
forth to denounce you.  You try in vain to sneer at my menace--your white
lips show your terror.  I have rarely in life drawn any advantage from my
rank and position; but I am thankful that they give me the power to make
my voice respected and my exposure triumphant.  Now, Baron Levy, will you
go into your strong closet and hang yourself, or will you grant me my
very moderate conditions?  You are silent.  I will relieve you, and state
those conditions.  Until the general election, about to take place, is
concluded, you will obey me to the letter in all that I enjoin,--no demur
and no scruple.  And the first proof of obedience I demand is, your
candid disclosure of all Mr. Audley Egerton's pecuniary affairs."

"Has my client, Mr. Egerton, authorized you to request of me that
disclosure?"

"On the contrary, all that passes between us you will conceal from your
client."

"You would save him from ruin?  Your trusty friend, Mr. Egerton!" said
the baron, with a livid sneer.

"Wrong again, Baron Levy.  If I would save him from ruin, you are
scarcely the man I should ask to assist me."

"Ah, I guess.  You have learned how he--"

"Guess nothing, but obey in all things.  Let us descend to your business
room."

Levy said not a word until he had reconducted his visitor into his den of
destruction, all gleaming with /spoliaria/ in rosewood.  Then he said
this: "If, Lord L'Estrange, you seek but revenge on Audley Egerton, you
need not have uttered those threats.  I too--hate the man."

Harley looked at him wistfully, and the nobleman felt a pang that he had
debased himself into a single feeling which the usurer could share.
Nevertheless, the interview appeared to close with satisfactory
arrangements, and to produce amicable understanding.  For as the baron
ceremoniously followed Lord L'Estrange through the hall, his noble
visitor said, with marked affability,

"Then I shall see you at Lansmere with Mr. Egerton, to assist in
conducting his election.  It is a sacrifice of your time worthy of your
friendship; not a step farther, I beg.  Baron, I have the honour to wish
you good-evening."

As the street door opened on Lord L'Estrange he again found himself face
to face with Randal Leslie, whose hand was already lifted to the knocker.

"Ha, Mr. Leslie!--you too a client of Baron Levy's,--a very useful,
accommodating man."

Randal stared and stammered.  "I come in haste from the House of Commons
on Mr. Egerton's business.  Don't you hear the newspaper vendors crying
out 'Great News, Dissolution of Parliament'?"

"We are prepared.  Levy himself consents to give us the aid of his
talents.  Kindly, obliging, clever person!"  Randal hurried into Levy's
study, to which the usurer had shrunk back, and was now wiping his brow
with his scented handkerchief, looking heated and haggard, and very
indifferent to Randal Leslie.

"How is this?" cried Randal.  "I come to tell you first of Peschiera's
utter failure, the ridiculous coxcomb, and I meet at your door the last
man I thought to find there,--the man who foiled us all, Lord L'Estrange.
What brought him to you?  Ah, perhaps his interest in Egerton's
election?"

"Yes," said Levy, sulkily.  "I know all about Peschiera.  I cannot talk
to you now; I must make arrangements for going to Lansmere."

"But don't forget my purchase from Thornhill.  I shall have the money
shortly from a surer source than Peschiera."

"The squire?"

"Or a rich father-in-law."

In the mean while, as Lord L'Estrange entered Bond Street, his ears were
stunned by vociferous cries from the Stentors employed by "Standard,"
"Sun," and "Globe,"

--"Great News!  Dissolution of Parliament--Great News!" The gas-lamps
were lighted; a brown fog was gathering over the streets, blending itself
with the falling shades of night.  The forms of men loomed large through
the mist.  The lights from the shops looked red and lurid.  Loungers
usually careless as to politics were talking eagerly and anxiously of
King, Lords, Commons, "Constitution at stake," "Triumph of liberal
opinions,"--according to their several biases.  Hearing, and scorning--
unsocial, isolated--walked on Harley L'Estrange.  With his direr passions
had been roused up all the native powers that made them doubly dangerous.
He became proudly conscious of his own great faculties, but exulted in
them only so far as they could minister to the purpose which had invoked
them.

"I have constituted myself a Fate," he said inly; "let the gods be but
neutral, while I weave the meshes.  Then, as Fate itself when it has
fulfilled its mission, let me pass away into shadow, with the still and
lonely stride that none may follow,--

               "'Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness.'

How weary I am of this world of men!"  And again the cry "Great News--
National Crisis--Dissolution of Parliament--Great News!" rang through the
jostling throng.  Three men, arm-in-arm, brushed by Harley, and were
stopped at the crossing by a file of carriages.  The man in the centre
was Audley Egerton.  His companions were an ex-minister like himself, and
one of those great proprietors who are proud of being above office, and
vain of the power to make and unmake Governments.

"You are the only man to lead us, Egerton," said this last personage.
"Do but secure your seat, and as soon as this popular fever has passed
away, you must be something more than the leader of Opposition,--you must
be the first man in England."

"Not a doubt of that," chimed in the fellow ex-minister, a worthy man,
perfect red-tapist, but inaudible in the reporters' gallery.  "And your
election is quite safe, eh?  All depends on that.  You must not be thrown
out at such a time, even for a month or two.  I hear that you will have a
contest--some townsmen of the borough, I think.  But the Lansmere
interest must be all-powerful; and I suppose L'Estrange will come out and
canvass for you.  You are not the man to have lukewarm friends!"

"Don't be alarmed about my election.  I am as sure of that as of
L'Estrange's friendship."

Harley heard, with a grim smile, and passing his hand within his vest,
laid it upon Nora's memoir.

"What could we do in parliament without you?" said the great proprietor,
almost piteously.

"Rather what could I do without parliament?  Public life is the only
existence I own.  Parliament is all in all to me.  But we may cross now."

Harley's eye glittered cold as it followed the tall form of the
statesman, towering high above all other passers-by.  "Ay," he muttered,
"ay, rest as sure of my friendship as I was of thine!  And be Lansmere
our field of Philippi!  There where thy first step was made in the only
life that thou own'st as existence, shall the ladder itself rot from
under thy footing.  There, where thy softer victim slunk to death from
the deceit of thy love, shall deceit like thine own dig a grave for thy
frigid ambition.  I borrow thy quiver of fraud; its still arrows shall
strike thee; and thou too shalt say, when the barb pierces home, 'This
comes from the hand of a friend.'  Ay, at Lansmere, at Lansmere, shall
the end crown the whole!  Go, and dot on the canvas the lines for a
lengthened perspective, where my eyes note already the vanishing point
of the picture."

Then through the dull fog and under the pale gas-lights Harley L'Estrange
pursued his noiseless way, soon distinguished no more amongst the
various, motley, quick-succeeding groups, with their infinite sub-
divisions of thought, care, and passion; while, loud over all their low
murmurs, or silent hearts, were heard the tramp of horses and din of
wheels, and the vociferous discordant cry that had ceased to attract and
interest in the ears it vexed, "Great News, Great News--Dissolution of
Parliament--Great News!"



CHAPTER XIX.

The scene is at Lansmere Park,--a spacious pile, commenced in the reign
of Charles II.; enlarged and altered in the reign of Anne.  Brilliant
interval in the History of our National Manners, when even the courtier
dreaded to be dull, and Sir Fopling raised himself on tiptoe to catch the
ear of a wit; when the names of Devonshire and Dorset, Halifax and
Carteret, Oxford and Bolingbroke, unite themselves, brotherlike, with
those of Hobbes and of Dryden, of Prior and Bentley, of Arbuthnot, Gay,
Pope, and Swift; and still, wherever we turn, to recognize some ideal of
great Lord or fine Gentleman, the Immortals of Literature stand by his
side.

The walls of the rooms at Lansmere were covered with the portraits of
those who illustrate that time which Europe calls the Age of Louis XIV.
A L'Estrange, who had lived through the reigns of four English princes
(and with no mean importance through all) had collected those likenesses
of noble contemporaries.  As you passed through the chambers--opening one
on the other in that pomp of parade introduced with Charles II. from the
palaces of France, and retaining its mode till Versailles and the Trianon
passed, themselves, out of date--you felt you were in excellent company.
What saloons of our day, demeaned to tailed coats and white waistcoats,
have that charm of high breeding which speaks out from the canvas of
Kneller and Jervis, Vivien and Rigaud?  And withal, notwithstanding lace
and brocade--the fripperies of artificial costume--still those who give
interest or charm to that day look from their portraits like men,--raking
or debonair, if you will, never mincing nor feminine.  Can we say as much
of the portraits of Lawrence?  Gaze there on fair Marlborough; what
delicate perfection of features, yet how easy in boldness, how serene in
the conviction of power!  So fair and so tranquil he might have looked
through the cannon reek at Ramillies and Blenheim, suggesting to Addison
the image of an angel of war.  Ah, there, Sir Charles Sedley, the
Lovelace of wits!  Note that strong jaw and marked brow; do you not
recognize the courtier who scorned to ask one favour of the king with
whom he lived as an equal, and who stretched forth the right hand of man
to hurl from a throne the king who had made his daughter--a countess?

     [Sedley was so tenacious of his independence that when his affairs
     were most embarrassed, he refused all pecuniary aid from Charles II.
     His bitter sarcasm, in vindication of the part he took in the
     deposition of James II., who had corrupted his daughter, and made
     her Countess of Dorchester, is well known.  "As the king has made my
     daughter a countess, the least I can do, in common gratitude, is to
     assist in making his Majesty's daughter--a queen!"]

Perhaps, from his childhood thus surrounded by the haunting faces--that
spoke of their age as they looked from the walls--that age and those
portraits were not without influence on the character of Harley
L'Estrange.  The whim and the daring, the passion for letters and
reverence for genius, the mixture of levity and strength, the polished
sauntering indolence, or the elastic readiness of energies once called
into action,--all might have found their prototypes in the lives which
those portraits rekindled.  The deeper sentiment, the more earnest
nature, which in Harley L'Estrange were commingled with the attributes
common to a former age,--these, indeed, were of his own.  Our age so
little comprehended, while it colours us from its atmosphere! so full of
mysterious and profound emotions, which our ancestors never knew!---will
those emotions be understood by our descendants?

In this stately house were now assembled, as Harley's guests, many of the
more important personages whom the slow length of this story has made
familiar to the reader.  The two candidates for the borough in the True
Blue interest,--Audley Egerton and Randal Leslie; and Levy,--chief among
the barons to whom modern society grants a seignorie of pillage, which,
had a baron of old ever ventured to arrogate, burgess and citizen, socman
and bocman, villein and churl, would have burned him alive in his castle;
the Duke di Serrano, still fondly clinging to his title of Doctor and pet
name of Riccabocca; Jemima, not yet with the airs of a duchess, but robed
in very thick silks, as the chrysalis state of a duchess; Violante, too,
was there, sadly against her will, and shrinking as much as possible into
the retirement of her own chamber.  The Countess of Lansmere had deserted
her lord, in order to receive the guests of her son; my lord himself,
ever bent on being of use in some part of his country, and striving hard
to distract his interest from his plague of a borough, had gone down into
Cornwall to inquire into the social condition of certain troglodytes who
worked in some mines which the earl had lately had the misfortune to
wring from the Court of Chancery, after a lawsuit commenced by his
grandfather; and a Blue Book, issued in the past session by order of
parliament, had especially quoted the troglodytes thus devolved on the
earl as bipeds who were in considerable ignorance of the sun, and had
never been known to wash their feet since the day when they came into the
world,--their world underground, chipped off from the Bottomless Pit!

With the countess came Helen Digby, of course; and Lady Lansmere, who had
hitherto been so civilly cold to the wife elect of her son, had, ever
since her interview with Harley at Knightsbridge, clung to Helen with
almost a caressing fondness.  The stern countess was tamed by fear; she
felt that her own influence over Harley was gone; she trusted to the
influence of Helen--in case of what?--ay, what?  It was because the
danger was not clear to her that her bold spirit trembled: superstitions,
like suspicions, are "as bats among birds, and fly by twilight."  Harley
had ridiculed the idea of challenge and strife between Audley and
himself; but still Lady Lansmere dreaded the fiery emotions of the last,
and the high spirit and austere self-respect which were proverbial to the
first.  Involuntarily she strengthened her intimacy with Helen.  In case
her alarm should appear justified, what mediator could be so persuasive
in appeasing the angrier passions, as one whom courtship and betrothal
sanctified to the gentlest?

On arriving at Lansmere, the countess, however, felt somewhat relieved.
Harley had received her, if with a manner less cordial and tender than
had hitherto distinguished it, still with easy kindness and calm self-
possession.  His bearing towards Audley Egerton still more reassured her:
it was not marked by an exaggeration of familiarity or friendship, which
would at once have excited her apprehensions of some sinister design,--
nor; on the other hand, did it betray, by covert sarcasms, an ill-
suppressed resentment.  It was exactly what, under the circumstances,
would have been natural to a man who had received an injury from an
intimate friend, which, in generosity or discretion, he resolved to
overlook, but which those aware of it could just perceive had cooled or
alienated the former affection.  Indefatigably occupying himself with all
the details of the election, Harley had fair pretext for absenting
himself from Audley, who, really looking very ill, and almost worn out,
pleaded indisposition as an excuse for dispensing with the fatigues of a
personal canvass, and, passing much of his time in his own apartments,
left all the preparations for contest to his more active friends.
It was not till he had actually arrived at Lansmere that Audley became
acquainted with the name of his principal opponent.  Richard Avenel!
the brother of Nora! rising up from obscurity, thus to stand front to
front against him in a contest on which all his fates were cast.  Egerton
quailed as before an appointed avenger.  He would fain have retired from
the field; he spoke to Harley.

"How can you support all the painful remembrances which the very name of
my antagonist must conjure up?"

"Did you not tell me," answered Harley, "to strive against such
remembrances,--to look on them as sickly dreams?  I am prepared to brave
them.  Can you be more sensitive than I?"

Egerton durst not say more.  He avoided all further reference to the
subject.  The strife raged around him, and he shut himself out from it,
--shut himself up in solitude with his own heart.  Strife enough there!
Once, late at night, he stole forth and repaired to Nora's grave.  He
stood there, amidst the rank grass and under the frosty starlight, long,
and in profound silence.  His whole past life seemed to rise before him;
and, when he regained his lonely room, and strove to survey the future,
still he could behold only that past and that grave.

In thus declining all active care for an election, to his prospects so
important, Audley Egerton was considered to have excuse, not only in the
state of his health, but in his sense of dignity.  A statesman so
eminent, of opinions so well known, of public services so incontestable,
might well be spared the personal trouble that falls upon obscurer
candidates.  And besides, according to current report, and the judgment
of the Blue Committee, the return of Mr. Egerton was secure.  But though
Audley himself was thus indulgently treated, Harley and the Blue
Committee took care to inflict double work upon Randal.  That active
young spirit found ample materials for all its restless energies.  Randal
Leslie was kept on his legs from sunrise to starlight.  There does not
exist in the Three Kingdoms a constituency more fatiguing to a candidate
than that borough of Lansmere.  As soon as you leave the High Street,
wherein, according to immemorial usage, the Blue canvasser is first led,
in order to put him into spirits for the toils that await him
(delectable, propitious, constitutional High Street, in which at least
two-thirds of the electors, opulent tradesmen employed at the Park,
always vote for "my lord's man," and hospitably prepare wine and cakes in
their tidy back-parlours!)--as soon as you quit this stronghold of the
party, labyrinths of lanes and defiles stretch away into the farthest
horizon; level ground is found nowhere; it is all up hill and down hill,
--now rough, craggy pavements that blister the feet, and at the very
first tread upon which all latent corns shook prophetically; now deep,
muddy ruts, into which you sink ankle-deep, oozing slush creeping into
the pores, and moistening the way for catarrh, rheum, cough, sore throat,
bronchitis, and phthisis; black sewers and drains Acherontian, running
before the thresholds, and so filling the homes behind with effluvia,
that, while one hand clasps the grimy paw of the voter, the other
instinctively guards from typhus and cholera your abhorrent nose.  Not in
those days had mankind ever heard of a sanitary reform! and, to judge of
the slow progress which that reform seems to make, sewer and drain would
have been much the same if they had.  Scot-and-lot voters were the
independent electors of Lansmere, with the additional franchise of
Freemen.  Universal suffrage could scarcely more efficiently swamp the
franchises of men who care a straw what becomes of Great Britain!  With
all Randal Leslie's profound diplomacy, all his art in talking over,
deceiving, and (to borrow Dick Avenel's vernacular phrase) "humbugging"
educated men, his eloquence fell flat upon minds invulnerable to appeals,
whether to State or to Church, to Reform or to Freedom.  To catch a Scot-
and-lot voter by such frivolous arguments--Randal Leslie might as well
have tried to bring down a rhinoceros by a pop-gun charged with split
peas!  The young man who so firmly believed that "knowledge was power"
was greatly disgusted.  It was here the ignorance that foiled him.  When
he got hold of a man with some knowledge, Randal was pretty sure to trick
him out of a vote.

Nevertheless, Randal Leslie walked and talked on, with most creditable
perseverance.  The Blue Committee allowed that he was an excellent
canvasser.  They conceived a liking for him, mingled with pity.  For,
though sure of Egerton's return, they regarded Randal's as out of the
question.  He was merely there to keep split votes from going to the
opposite side; to serve his patron, the ex-minister; shake the paws, and
smell the smells which the ex-minister was too great a man to shake and
to smell.  But, in point of fact, none of that Blue Committee knew
anything of the prospects of the election.  Harley received all the
reports of each canvass-day.  Harley kept the canvass-book locked up from
all eyes but his own, or it might be Baron Levy's, as Audley Egerton's
confidential, if not strictly professional adviser, Baron Levy, the
millionaire, had long since retired from all acknowledged professions.
Randal, however--close, observant, shrewd--perceived that he himself was
much stronger than the Blue Committee believed; and, to his infinite
surprise, he owed that strength to Lord L'Estrange's exertions on his
behalf.  For though Harley, after the first day, on which he
ostentatiously showed himself in the High Street, did not openly canvass
with Randal, yet when the reports were brought in to him, and he saw the
names of the voters who gave one vote to Audley, and withheld the other
from Randal, he would say to Randal, dead beat as that young gentleman
was, "Slip out with me, the moment dinner is over, and before you go the
round of the public-houses; there are some voters we must get for you
to-night."  And sure enough a few kindly words from the popular heir of
the Lansmere baronies usually gained over the electors, from whom, though
Randal had proved that all England depended on their votes in his favour,
Randal would never have extracted more than a "Wu'll, I shall waute gin
the Dauy coomes!"  Nor was this all that Harley did for the younger
candidate.  If it was quite clear that only one vote could be won for the
Blues, and the other was pledged to the Yellows, Harley would say, "Then
put it down to Mr. Leslie,"--a request the more readily conceded, since
Audley Egerton was considered so safe by the Blues, and alone worth a
fear by the Yellows.

Thus Randal, who kept a snug little canvass-book of his own, became more
and more convinced that he had a better chance than Egerton, even without
the furtive aid he expected from Avenel; and he could only account for
Harley's peculiar exertions in his favour by supposing that Harley,
unpractised in elections, and deceived by the Blue Committee, believed
Egerton to be perfectly safe, and sought, for the honour of the family
interest, to secure both the seats.

Randal's public cares thus deprived him of all opportunity of pressing
his courtship on Violante; and, indeed, if ever he did find a moment in
which he could steal to her reluctant side, Harley was sure to seize that
very moment to send him off to canvass an hesitating freeman, or harangue
in some public-house.

Leslie was too acute not to detect some motive hostile to his wooing,
however plausibly veiled in the guise of zeal for his election, in this
officiousness of Harley's.  But Lord L'Estrange's manner to Violante was
so little like that of a jealous lover, and he was so well aware of her
engagement to Randal, that the latter abandoned the suspicion he had
before conceived, that Harley was his rival.  And he was soon led to
believe that Lord L'Estrange had another, more disinterested, and less
formidable motive for thus stinting his opportunities to woo the heiress.

"Mr. Leslie," said Lord L'Estrange, one day, "the duke has confided to me
his regret at his daughter's reluctance to ratify his own promise; and
knowing the warm interest I take in her welfare, for his sake and her
own; believing, also, that some services to herself, as well as to the
father she so loves, give me a certain influence over her inexperienced
judgment, he has even requested me to speak a word to her in your
behalf!"

"Ah, if you would!" said Randal, surprised.

"You must give me the power to do so.  You were obliging enough to
volunteer to me the same explanations which you gave to the duke, his
satisfaction with which induced him to renew or confirm the promise of
his daughter's hand.  Should those explanations content me, as they did
him, I hold the duke bound to fulfil his engagement, and I am convinced
that his daughter would, in that case, not be inflexible to your suit.
But, till such explanations be given, my friendship for the father, and
my interest in the child, do not allow me to assist a cause which,
however, at present suffers little by delay."

"Pray, listen at once to those explanations."

"Nay, Mr. Leslie, I can now only think of the election.  As soon as that
is over, rely on it you shall have the amplest opportunity to dispel any
doubts which your intimacy with Count di Peschiera and Madame di Negra
may have suggested.--/a propos/ of the election, here is a list of voters
you must see at once in Fish Lane.  Don't lose a moment."

In the mean while, Richard Avenel and Leonard had taken up their quarters
in the hotel appropriated to the candidates for the Yellows; and the
canvass on that side was prosecuted with all the vigour which might be
expected from operations conducted by Richard Avenel, and backed by the
popular feeling.

The rival parties met from time to time in the streets and lanes, in all
the pomp of war,--banners streaming, fifes resounding (for bands and
colours were essential proofs of public spirit, and indispensable items
in a candidate's bills, in those good old days).  When they thus
encountered, very distant bows were exchanged between the respective
chiefs; but Randal, contriving ever to pass close to Avenel, had ever the
satisfaction of perceiving that gentleman's countenance contracted into a
knowing wink, as much as to say, "All right, in spite of this tarnation
humbug."

But now that both parties were fairly in the field, to the private arts
of canvassing were added the public arts of oratory.  The candidates had
to speak, at the close of each day's canvass, out from wooden boxes,
suspended from the windows of their respective hotels, and which looked
like dens for the exhibition of wild beasts.  They had to speak at
meetings of Committees, meetings of electors, go the nightly round of
enthusiastic public-houses, and appeal to the sense of an enlightened
people through wreaths of smoke and odours of beer.

The alleged indisposition of Audley Egerton had spared him the excitement
of oratory, as well as the fatigue of canvassing.  The practised debater
had limited the display of his talents to a concise, but clear and
masterly exposition of his own views on the leading public questions of
the day, and the state of parties, which, on the day after his arrival at
Lansmere, was delivered at a meeting of his general Committee, in the
great room of their hotel, and which was then printed and circulated
amongst the voters.

Randal, though he expressed himself with more fluency and self-possession
than are usually found in the first attempts of a public speaker, was not
effective in addressing an unlettered crowd; for a crowd of this kind is
all heart--and we know that Randal Leslie's heart was as small as heart
could be.  If he attempted to speak at his own intellectual level, he was
so subtle and refining as to be incomprehensible; if he fell into the
fatal error--not uncommon to inexperienced orators--of trying to lower
himself to the intellectual level of his audience, he was only
elaborately stupid.  No man can speak too well for a crowd,--as no man
can write too well for the stage; but in neither case should he be
rhetorical, or case in periods the dry bones of reasoning.  It is to the
emotions or to the humours that the speaker of a crowd must address
himself; his eye must brighten with generous sentiment, or his lip must
expand in the play of animated fancy or genial wit.  Randal's voice, too,
though pliant and persuasive in private conversation, was thin and poor
when strained to catch the ear of a numerous assembly.  The falsehood of
his nature seemed to come out when he raised the tones which had been
drilled into deceit.  Men like Randal Leslie may become sharp debaters,
admirable special pleaders; they can no more become orators than they can
become poets.  Educated audiences are essential to them, and the smaller
the audience (that is, the more the brain supersedes the action of the
heart) the better they can speak.

Dick Avenel was generally very short and very pithy in his addresses.  He
had two or three favourite topics, which always told.  He was a fellow-
townsman,--a man who had made his own way in life; he wanted to free his
native place from aristocratic usurpation; it was the battle of the
electors, not his private cause, etc.  He said little against Randal,--
"Pity a clever young man should pin his future to two yards of worn-out
red tape;"  "He had better lay hold of the strong rope, which the People,
in compassion to his youth, were willing yet to throw out to save him
from sinking," etc.  But as for Audley Egerton, "the gentleman who would
not show, who was afraid to meet the electors, who could only find his
voice in a hole-and-corner meeting, accustomed all his venal life to dark
and nefarious jobs"--Dick, upon that subject, delivered philippics truly
Demosthenian.  Leonard, on the contrary, never attacked Harley's friend,
Mr. Egerton; but he was merciless against the youth who had filched
reputation from John Burley, and whom he knew that Harley despised as
heartily as himself.  And Randal did not dare to retaliate (though
boiling over with indignant rage), for fear of offending Leonard's uncle.
Leonard was unquestionably the popular speaker of the three.  Though his
temperament was a writer's, not an orator's; though he abhorred what he
considered the theatrical exhibition of self, which makes what is called
"delivery" more effective than ideas; though he had little interest at
any time in party politics; though at this time his heart was far away
from the Blues and Yellows of Lansmere, sad and forlorn,--yet, forced
into action, the eloquence that was natural to his conversation poured
itself forth.  He had warm blood in his veins; and his dislike to Randal
gave poignancy to his wit, and barbed his arguments with impassioned
invective.  In fact, Leonard could conceive no other motive for Lord
L'Estrange's request to take part in the election than that nobleman's
desire to defeat the man whom they both regarded as an impostor; and this
notion was confirmed by some inadvertent expressions which Avenel let
fall, and which made Leonard suspect that, if he were not in the field,
Avenel would have exerted all his interest to return Randal instead of
Egerton.  With Dick's dislike to that statesman Leonard found it
impossible to reason; nor, on the other hand, could all Dick's scoldings
or coaxings induce Leonard to divert his siege on Randal to an assault
upon the man who, Harley had often said, was dear to him as a brother.

In the mean while, Dick kept the canvass-book of the Yellows as closely
as Harley kept that of the Blues; and in despite of many pouting fits and
gusts of displeasure, took precisely the same pains for Leonard as Harley
took for Randal.  There remained, however, apparently unshaken by the
efforts on either side, a compact body of about a Hundred and Fifty
voters, chiefly freemen.  Would they vote Yellow?  Would they vote Blue?
No one could venture to decide; but they declared that they would all
vote the same way.  Dick kept his secret "caucuses," as he called them,
constantly nibbling at this phalanx.  A hundred and fifty voters!---they
had the election in their hands!  Never were hands so cordially shaken,
so caressingly clung to, so fondly lingered upon!  But the votes still
stuck as firm to the hands as if a part of the skin, or of the dirt,--
which was much the same thing!



CHAPTER XX.

Whenever Audley joined the other guests of an evening--while Harley was
perhaps closeted with Levy and committeemen, and Randal was going the
round of the public-houses--the one with whom he chiefly conversed was
Violante.  He had been struck at first, despite his gloom, less perhaps
by her extraordinary beauty than by something in the expression of her
countenance which, despite differences in feature and complexion,
reminded him of Nora; and when, by his praises of Harley, he drew her
attention, and won into her liking, he discovered, perhaps, that the
likeness which had thus impressed him came from some similarities in
character between the living and the lost one,--the same charming
combination of lofty thought and childlike innocence, the same
enthusiasm, the same rich exuberance of imagination and feeling.  Two
souls that resemble each other will give their likeness to the looks from
which they beam.  On the other hand, the person with whom Harley most
familiarly associated, in his rare intervals of leisure, was Helen Digby.
One day, Audley Egerton, standing mournfully by the window of the
sitting-room appropriated to his private use, saw the two, whom he
believed still betrothed, take their way across the park, side by side.
"Pray Heaven, that she may atone to him for all!" murmured Audley.  "But
ah, that it had been Violante!  Then I might have felt assured that the
Future would efface the Past,--and found the courage to tell him all.
And when last night I spoke of what Harley ought to be to England, how
like were Violante's eyes and smile to Nora's, when Nora listened in
delighted sympathy to the hopes of my own young ambition."  With a sigh
he turned away, and resolutely sat down to read and reply to the
voluminous correspondence which covered the table of the busy public man.
For Audley's return to parliament being considered by his political party
as secure, to him were transmitted all the hopes and fears of the large
and influential section of it whose members looked up to him as their
future chief, and who in that general election (unprecedented for the
number of eminent men it was fated to expel from parliament, and the
number of new politicians it was fated to send into it) drew their only
hopes of regaining their lost power from Audley's sanguine confidence in
the reaction of that Public Opinion which he had hitherto so profoundly
comprehended; and it was too clearly seen, that the seasonable adoption
of his counsels would have saved the existence and popularity of the late
Administration, whose most distinguished members could now scarcely show
themselves on the hustings.

Meanwhile Lord L'Estrange led his young companion towards a green hill in
the centre of the park, on which stood a circular temple; that commanded
a view of the country round for miles.  They had walked in silence till
they gained the summit of the sloped and gradual ascent; and then, as
they stood still, side by side, Harley thus spoke,

"Helen, you know that Leonard is in the town, though I cannot receive him
at the Park, since he is standing in opposition to my guests, Egerton and
Leslie."

HELEN.--"But that seems to me so strange.  How--how could Leonard do
anything that seems hostile to you?"

HARLEY.--"Would his hostility to me lower him in your opinion?  If he
know that I am his rival, does not rivalry include hate?"

HELEN.--"Oh, Lord L'Estrange, how can you speak thus; how so wrong
yourself?  Hate--hate to you! and from Leonard Fairfield!"

HARLEY.--"You evade my question.  Would his hate or hostility to me
affect your sentiments towards him?"

HELEN (looking down).--"I could not force myself to believe in it."

HARLEY.--"Why?"

HELEN.--"Because it would be so unworthy of him."

HARLEY.--"Poor child!  You have the delusion of your years.  You deck a
cloud in the hues of the rainbow, and will not believe that its glory is
borrowed from the sun of your own fancy.  But here, at least, you are not
deceived.  Leonard obeys but my wishes, and, I believe, against his own
will.  He has none of man's noblest attribute, Ambition."

HELEN.--"No ambition!"

HARLEY.--"It is vanity that stirs the poet to toil,--if toil the wayward
chase of his own chimeras can be called.  Ambition is a more masculine
passion."

Helen shook her head gently, but made no answer.

HARLEY.--"If I utter a word that profanes one of your delusions, you
shake your head and are incredulous.  Pause: listen one moment to my
counsels,--perhaps the last I may ever obtrude upon you.  Lift your eyes;
look around.  Far as your eye can reach, nay, far beyond the line which
the horizon forms in the landscape, stretch the lands of my inheritance.
Yonder you see the home in which my forefathers for many generations
lived with honour, and died lamented.  All these, in the course of
nature, might one day have been your own, had you not rejected my
proposals.  I offered you, it is true, not what is commonly called Love;
I offered you sincere esteem, and affections the more durable for their
calm.  You have not been reared by the world in the low idolatry of rank
and wealth; but even romance cannot despise the power of serving others,
which rank and wealth bestow.  For myself, hitherto indolence, and lately
disdain, rob fortune of these nobler attributes.  But she who will share
my fortune may dispense it so as to atone for my sins of omission.  On
the other side, grant that there is no bar to your preference for Leonard
Fairfield, what does your choice present to you?  Those of his kindred
with whom you will associate are unrefined and mean.  His sole income is
derived from precarious labours; the most vulgar of all anxieties--the
fear of bread itself for the morrow--must mingle with all your romance,
and soon steal from love all its poetry.  You think his affection will
console you for every sacrifice.  Folly!  the love of poets is for a
mist, a moonbeam, a denizen of air, a phantom that they call an Ideal.
They suppose for a moment that they have found that Ideal in Chloe or
Phyllis, Helen or a milkmaid.  Bah!  the first time you come to the poet
with the baker's bill, where flies the Ideal?  I knew one more brilliant
than Leonard, more exquisitely gifted by nature; that one was a woman;
she saw a man hard and cold as that stone at your feet,--a false, hollow,
sordid worldling; she made him her idol, beheld in him all that history
would not recognize in a Caesar, that mythology would scarcely grant to
an Apollo: to him she was the plaything of an hour; she died, and before
the year was out he had married for money!  I knew another instance,--I
speak of myself.  I loved before I was your age.  Had an angel warned me
then, I would have been incredulous as you.  How that ended, no matter:
but had it not been for that dream of maudlin delirium, I had lived and
acted as others of my kind and my sphere,--married from reason and
judgment, been now a useful and happy man.  Pause, then.  Will you still
reject me for Leonard Fairfield?  For the last time you have the option,
--me and all the substance of waking life, Leonard Fairfield and the
shadows of a fleeting dream.  Speak!  You hesitate.  Nay, take time to
decide."

HELEN.--"Ah, Lord L'Estrange, you who have felt what it is to love, how
can you doubt my answer; how think that I could be so base, so ungrateful
as take from yourself what you call the substance of waking life, while
my heart was far away, faithful to what you call a dream?"

HARLEY.--"But can you not dispel the dream?"

HELEN (her whole face one flush).--"It was wrong to call it dream!  It is
the reality of life to me.  All things else are as dreams."

HARLEY (taking her hand and kissing it with respect).--"Helen, you have a
noble heart, and I have tempted you in vain.  I regret your choice,
though I will no more oppose it.  I regret it, though I shall never
witness your disappointment.  As the wife of that man, I shall see and
know you no more."

HELEN.--"Oh, no! do not say that.  Why?  Wherefore?"

HARLEY (his brows meeting).--"He is the child of fraud and of shame.  His
father is my foe, and my hate descends to the son.  He, too, the son,
filches from me--But complaints are idle.  When the next few days are
over, think of me but as one who abandons all right over your actions,
and is a stranger to your future fate.  Pooh! dry your tears: so long as
you love Leonard or esteem me, rejoice that our paths do not cross."

He walked on impatiently; but Helen, alarmed and wondering, followed
close, took his arm timidly, and sought to soothe him.  She felt that he
wronged Leonard,--that he knew not how Leonard had yielded all hope when
he learned to whom she was affianced.  For Leonard's sake she conquered
her bashfulness, and sought to explain.  But at her first hesitating,
faltered words, Harley, who with great effort suppressed the emotions
which swelled within him, abruptly left her side, and plunged into the
recesses of thick, farspreading groves, that soon wrapped him from her
eye.

While this conversation occurred between Lord L'Estrange and his ward,
the soi-disant Riccabocca and Violante were walking slowly through the
gardens.  The philosopher, unchanged by his brightening prospects,--so
far as the outer man was concerned,--still characterized by the red
umbrella and the accustomed pipe,--took the way mechanically towards the
sunniest quarter of the grounds, now and then glancing tenderly at
Violante's downcast, melancholy face, but not speaking; only, at each
glance, there came a brisker cloud from the pipe, as if obedient to a
fuller heave of the heart.

At length, in a spot which lay open towards the south, and seemed to
collect all the gentlest beams of the November sun, screened from the
piercing east by dense evergreens, and flanked from the bleak north by
lofty walls, Riccabocca paused and seated himself.  Flowers still bloomed
on the sward in front, over which still fluttered the wings of those
later and more brilliant butterflies that, unseen in the genial days of
our English summer, come with autumnal skies, and sport round the
mournful steps of the coming winter,--types of those thoughts which visit
and delight the contemplation of age, while the current yet glides free
from the iron ice, and the leaves yet linger on the boughs; thoughts that
associate the memories of the departed summer with messages from suns
that shall succeed the winter, and expand colours the most steeped in
light and glory, just as the skies through which they gleam are
darkening, and the flowers on which they hover fade from the surface of
the earth, dropping still seeds, that sink deep out of sight below.

"Daughter," said Riccabocca, drawing Violante to his side with caressing
arm,--"Daughter!  Mark how they who turn towards the south can still find
the sunny side of the land scape!  In all the seasons of life, how much
of chill or of warmth depends on our choice of the aspect!  Sit down: let
us reason."

Violante sat down passively, clasping her father's hand in both her own.
Reason! harsh word to the ears of Feeling!  "You shrink," resumed
Riccabocca, "from even the courtship, even the presence of the suitor in
whom my honour binds me to recognize your future bridegroom."

Violante drew away her hands, and placed them before her eyes
shudderingly.

"But" continued Riccabocca, rather peevishly, "this is not listening to
reason.  I may object to Mr. Leslie, because he has not an adequate rank
or fortune to pretend to a daughter of my house; that would be what every
one would allow to be reasonable in a father; except, indeed," added the
poor sage, trying hard to be sprightly, and catching hold of a proverb to
help him--"except, indeed, those wise enough to recollect that admonitory
saying, 'Casa il figlio quando vuoi, e la figlia quando puoi,'--[Marry
your son when you will, your daughter when you can].  Seriously, if I
overlook those objections to Mr. Leslie, it is not natural for a young
girl to enforce them.  What is reason in you is quite another thing from
reason in me.  Mr. Leslie is young, not ill-looking, has the air of a
gentleman, is passionately enamoured of you, and has proved his affection
by risking his life against that villanous Peschiera,--that is, he would
have risked it had Peschiera not been shipped out of the way.  If, then,
you will listen to reason, pray what can reason say against Mr. Leslie?"

"Father, I detest him!"

"/Cospetto!/" persisted Riccabocca, testily, "you have no reason to
detest him.  If you had any reason, child, I am sure that I should be the
last person to dispute it.  How can you know your own mind in such a
matter?  It is not as if you had seen anyone else you could prefer.  Not
another man of your own years do you even know,--except, indeed, Leonard
Fairfield, whom, though I grant he is handsomer, and with more
imagination and genius than Mr. Leslie, you still must remember as the
boy who worked in my garden.  Ah, to be sure, there is Frank Hazeldean;
fine lad, but his affections are pre-engaged.  In short," continued the
sage, dogmatically, "there is no one else you can, by any possible
caprice, prefer to Mr. Leslie; and for a girl who has no one else in her
head to talk of detesting a well-looking, well-dressed, clever young man,
is--a nonsense--'Chi lascia il poco per haver l'assai ne l'uno, ne
l'altro avera mai'--which may be thus paraphrased,--The young lady who
refuses a mortal in the hope of obtaining an angel, loses the one, and
will never fall in with the other.  So now, having thus shown that the
darker side of the question is contrary to reason, let us look to the
brighter.  In the first place--"

"Oh, Father, Father!" cried Violante, passionately, "you to whom I once
came for comfort in every childish sorrow do not talk to me with this
cutting levity.  See, I lay my head upon your breast, I put my arms
around you; and now, can you reason me into misery?"

"Child, child, do not be so wayward.  Strive, at least, against a
prejudice that you cannot defend.  My Violante, my darling, this is no
trifle.  Here I must cease to be the fond, foolish father, whom you can
do what you will with.  Here I am Alphonso, Duke di Serrano; for here my
honour as noble and my word as man are involved.  I, then, but a helpless
exile, no hope of fairer prospects before me, trembling like a coward at
the wiles of my unscrupulous kinsman, grasping at all chances to save you
from his snares,--self offered your hand to Randal Leslie,--offered,
promised, pledged it; and now that my fortunes seem assured, my rank in
all likelihood restored, my foe crushed, my fears at rest, now, does it
become me to retract what I myself have urged?  It is not the noble, it
is the /parvenu/, who has only to grow rich, in order to forget those
whom in poverty he hailed as his friends.  Is it for me to make the poor
excuse, never heard on the lips of an Italian prince, 'that I cannot
command the obedience of my child;' subject myself to the galling answer,
'Duke of Serrano, you could once command that obedience, when, in exile,
penury, and terror you offered me a bride without a dower'?  Child,
Violante, daughter of ancestors on whose honour never slander set a
stain, I call on you to redeem your father's plighted word."

"Father, must it be so?  Is not even the convent open to me?  Nay, look
not so coldly on me.  If you could but read my heart!  And oh!  I feel so
assured of your own repentance hereafter,--so assured that this man is
not what you believe him.  I so suspect that he has been playing
throughout some secret and perfidious part."

"Ha!" interrupted Riccabocca, "Harley has perhaps infected you with that
notion."

"No, no!  But is not Harley, is not Lord L'Estrange one whose opinion you
have cause to esteem?  And if he distrusts Mr. Leslie--"

"Let him make good his distrust by such proof as will absolve my word,
and I shall share your own joy.  I have told him this.  I have invited
him to make good his suspicions, he puts me off.  He cannot do so," added
Riccabocca, in a dejected tone; "Randal has already so well explained all
that Harley deemed equivocal.  Violante, my name and my honour rest in
your hands.  Cast them away if you will; I cannot constrain you, and I
cannot stoop to implore.  Noblesse oblige!  With your birth you took its
duties.  Let them decide between your vain caprice and your father's
solemn remonstrance."

Assuming a sternness that he was far from feeling, and putting aside his
daughter's arms, the exile walked away.  Violante paused a moment,
shivered, looked round as if taking a last farewell of joy and peace and
hope on earth, and then approaching her father with a firm step, she
said, "I never rebelled, Father; I did but entreat.  What you say is my
law now, as it has ever been; and come what may, never shall you hear
complaint or murmur from me.  Poor Father, you will suffer more than I
shall.  Kiss me!"

About an hour afterwards, as the short day closed in, Harley, returning
from his solitary wanderings, after he had parted from Helen, encountered
on the terrace, before the house, Lady Lansmere and Audley Egerton arm in
arm.

Harley had drawn his hat over his brows, and his eyes were fixed on the
ground, so that he did not see the group upon which he came unawares,
until Audley's voice startled him from his revery.

"My dear Harley," said the ex-minister, with a faint smile, "you must not
pass us by, now that you have a moment of leisure from the cares of the
election.  And, Harley, though we are under the same roof, I see you so
little."  Lord L'Estrange darted a quick glance towards his mother,--a
glance that seemed to say, "You leaning on Audley's arm!  Have you kept
your promise?"  And the eye that met his own reassured him.

"It is true," said Harley; "but you, who know that, once engaged in
public affairs, one has no heart left for the ties of private life, will
excuse me.  And this election is so important!"

"And you, Mr. Egerton," said Lady Lansmere, "whom the election most
concerns, seem privileged to be the only one who appears indifferent to
success."

"Ay; but you are not indifferent?" said Lord L'Estrange, abruptly.

"No.  How can I be so, when my whole future career may depend on it?"

Harley drew Egerton aside.  "There is one voter you ought at least to
call upon and thank.  He cannot be made to comprehend that, for the sake
of any relation, even for the sake of his own son, he is to vote against
the Blues,--against you; I mean, of course, Nora's father, John Avenel.
His vote and his son-in-law's gained your majority at your first
election."

EGERTON.--"Call on John Avenel!  Have you called?"

HARLEY (calmly).--"Yes.  Poor old man, his mind has been affected ever
since Nora's death.  But your name as the candidate for the borough at
that time,--the successful candidate for whose triumph the joy-bells
chimed with her funeral knell,--your name brings up her memory; and he
talks in a breath of her and of you.  Come, let us walk together to his
house; it is close by the Park Lodge."

The drops stood on Audley's brow!  He fixed his dark handsome eyes, in
mournful amaze, upon Harley's tranquil face.

"Harley, at last, then, you have forgotten the Past."

"No; but the Present is more imperious.  All my efforts are needed to
requite your friendship.  You stand against her brother,--yet her father
votes for you.  And her mother says to her son, 'Let the old man alone.
Conscience is all that is well alive in him; and he thinks if he were to
vote against the Blues, he would sin against bonour.'  'An electioneering
prejudice,' some sceptics would say.  But you must be touched by this
trait of human nature,--in her father, too,--you, Audley Egerton, who are
the soul of honour.  What ails you?"

EGERTON.--"Nothing; a spasm at the heart; my old complaint.  Well, I will
call on the poor man later, but not now,--not with you.  Nay, nay, I will
not,--I cannot.  Harley, just as you joined us, I was talking to your
mother."

HARLEY.--"Ay, and what of?"

EGERTON.--"Yourself.  I saw you from my windows walking with your
betrothed.  Afterwards I observed her coming home alone; and by the
glimpse I caught of her gentle countenance, it seemed sad.  Harley, do
you deceive us?"

HARLEY.--"Deceive!  I!  How?"

EGERTON.--"DO you really feel that your intended marriage will bestow on
you the happiness, which is my prayer, as it must be your mother's?"

HARLEY.--"Happiness, I hoped so.  But perhaps--"

EGERTON.--"Perhaps what?"

HARLEY.---"Perhaps the marriage may not take place.  Perhaps I have a
rival; not an open one,--a secret, stealthy wooer, in one, too, whom I
have loved, served, trusted.  Question me not now.  Such instances of
treachery make one learn more how to prize a friendship honest, devoted,
faithful as your own, Audley Egerton.  But here comes your protege,
released awhile from his canvass, and your confidential adviser, Baron
Levy.  He accompanied Randal through the town to-day.  So anxious is he
to see that that young man does not play false, and regard his own
interest before yours!  Would that surprise you?"

EGERTON.--"You are too severe upon Randal Leslie.  He is ambitious,
worldly, has no surplus of affection at the command of his heart--"

HARLEY.--"Is it Randal Leslie you describe?"

EGERTON (with a languid smile).--"Yes, you see I do not flatter.  But he
is born and reared a gentleman; as such he would scarcely do anything
mean.  And, after all, it is with me that he must rise or fall.  His very
intellect must tell him that.  But again I ask, do not strive to
prepossess me against him.  I am a man who could have loved a son.  I
have none.  Randal, such as he is, is a sort of son.  He carries on my
projects and my interest in the world of men beyond the goal of the
tomb."

Audley turned kindly to Randal.

"Well, Leslie, what report of the canvass?"

"Levy has the book, sir.  I think we have gained ten fresh votes for you,
and perhaps seven for me."

"Let me rid you of your book, Baron Levy," said Harley.  Just at this
time Riccabocca and Violante approached the house, both silent.  The
Italian caught sight of Randal, and made him a sign to join them.  The
young lover glanced fearfully towards Harley, and then with alacrity
bounded forward, and was soon at Violante's side.  But scarce had Harley,
surprised by Leslie's sudden disappearance, remarked the cause, than with
equal abruptness he abandoned the whispered conference he had commenced
with Levy, and hastening to Randal, laid hand on the young man's
shoulder, exclaiming, "Ten thousand pardons to all three!  But I cannot
allow this waste of time, Mr. Leslie.  You have yet an hour before it
grows dark.  There are three out-voters six miles off, influential
farmers, whom you must canvass in person with my father's steward.
Hasten to the stables; choose your own horse.  To saddle, to saddle!
Baron Levy, go and order my Lord's steward, Mr. Smart, to join Mr. Leslie
at the stables; then come back to me,--quick.  What!  loitering still,
Mr. Leslie!  You will make me throw up your whole cause in disgust at
your indolence and apathy."

Alarmed at this threat, Randal lifted his accusing eyes to heaven and
withdrew.

Meanwhile Audley had drawn close to Lady Lansmere, who was leaning, in
thought, over the balustrade of the terrace.  "Do you note," said Audley,
whispering, "how Harley sprang forward when the fair Italian came in
sight?  Trust me, I was right.  I know little of the young lady, but I
have conversed with her.  I have gazed on the changes in her face.  If
Harley ever love again, and if ever love influence and exalt his mind,
wish with me that his choice may yet fall where I believe that his heart
inclines it."

LADY LANSMERE.--"Ah, that it were so!  Helen, I own, is charming; but--
but--Violante is equal in birth!  Are you not aware that she is engaged
to your young friend Mr. Leslie?"

AUDLEY.--"Randal told me so; but I cannot believe it.  In fact, I have
taken occasion to sound that fair creature's inclinations, and if I know
aught of women, her heart is not with Randal.  I cannot believe her to be
one whose affections are so weak as to be easily constrained; nor can I
suppose that her father could desire to enforce a marriage that is almost
a misalliance.  Randal must deceive himself; and from something Harley
just let fall, in our painful but brief conversation, I suspect that his
engagement with Miss Digby is broken off.  He promises to tell me more
later.  Yes," continued Audley, mournfully, "observe Violante's
countenance, with its ever-varying play; listen to her voice, to which
feeling seems to give the expressive music, and tell me whether you are
not sometimes reminded of--of---In one word, there is one who, even
without rank or fortune, would be worthy to replace the image of Leonora,
and be to Harley--what Leonora could not; for sure I am that Violante
loves him."

Harley, meanwhile, had lingered with Riccabocca and Violante, speaking
but on indifferent subjects, obtaining short answers from the first, and
none from the last, when the sage drew him a little aside, and whispered,
"She has consented to sacrifice herself to my sense of honour.  But, O
Harley! if she be unhappy, it will break my heart.  Either you must give
me sufficient proof of Randal's unworthiness, to absolve me from my
promise, or I must again entreat, you to try and conciliate the poor
child in his favour.  All you say has weight with her; she respects you
as--a second father."

Harley did not seem peculiarly flattered by that last assurance; but he
was relieved from an immediate answer by the appearance of a man who came
from the direction of the stables, and whose dress, covered with dust,
and travel-stained, seemed like that of a foreign courier.  No sooner did
Harley catch sight of this person, than he sprang forward, and accosted
him briefly and rapidly.

"You have been quick; I did not expect you so soon.  You discovered the
trace?  You gave my letter--"

"And have brought back the answer, my Lord," replied the man, taking the
letter from a leathern pouch at his side.  Harley hastily broke open the
seal, and glanced over the contents, which were comprised in a few lines.

"Good.  Say not whence you came.  Do not wait here; return at once to
London."

Harley's face seemed so unusually cheerful as he rejoined the Italians,
that the duke exclaimed,--

"A despatch from Vienna?  My recall!"

"From Vienna, my dear friend!  Not possible yet.  I cannot calculate on
hearing from the prince till a day or two before the close of this
election.  But you wish me to speak to Violante.  Join my mother yonder.
What can she be saying to Mr. Egerton?  I will address a few words apart
to your fair daughter, that may at least prove the interest in her fate
taken by--her second father."

"Kindest of friends!" said the unsuspecting pupil of Machiavelli, and he
walked towards the terrace.  Violante was about to follow.  Harley
detained her.

"Do not go till you have thanked me; for you are not the noble Violante
for whom I take you, unless you acknowledge gratitude to any one who
delivers you from the presence of an admirer in Mr. Randal Leslie."

VIOLANTE.--"Ought I to  hear this of one whom--whom--"

HARLEY.---"One whom your father obstinately persists in obtruding on your
repugnance?  Yet, O dear child, you who, when almost an infant, ere yet
you knew what snares and pitfalls, for all who trust to another, lie
under the sward at our feet, even when decked the fairest with the
flowers of spring; you who put your small hands around my neck, and
murmured in your musical voice, 'Save us,--save my father,'--you at least
I will not forsake, in a peril worse than that which menaced you then,--
a peril which affrights you more than that which threatened you in the
snares of Peschiera.  Randal Leslie may thrive in his meaner objects of
ambition; those I fling to him in scorn: but you! the presuming varlet!"
Harley paused a moment, half stifled with indignation.  He then resumed,
calmly, "Trust to me, and fear not.  I will rescue this hand from the
profanation of Randal Leslie's touch; and then farewell, for life, to
every soft emotion.  Before me expands the welcome solitude.  The
innocent saved, the honest righted, the perfidious stricken by a just
retribution,--and then--what then?  Why, at least I shall have studied
Machiavelli with more effect than your wise father; and I shall lay him
aside, needing no philosophy to teach me never again to be deceived."
His brow darkened; he turned abruptly away, leaving Violante lost in
amaze, fear, and a delight, vague, yet more vividly felt than all.



CHAPTER XXI.

That night, after the labours of the day, Randal had gained the sanctuary
of his own room, and seated himself at his table, to prepare the heads of
the critical speech he would have now very soon to deliver on the day of
nomination,--critical speech when, in the presence of foes and friends,
reporters from London, and amidst all the jarring interests that he
sought to weave into the sole self-interest of Randal Leslie, he would be
called upon to make the formal exposition of his political opinions.
Randal Leslie, indeed, was not one of those speakers whom either modesty,
fastidiousness, or conscientious desire of truth predisposes towards the
labour of written composition.  He had too much cleverness to be in want
of fluent period or ready commonplace,--the ordinary materials of
oratorical impromptu; too little taste for the Beautiful to study what
graces of diction will best adorn a noble sentiment; too obtuse a
conscience to care if the popular argument were purified from the dross
which the careless flow of a speech wholly extemporaneous rarely fails to
leave around it.  But this was no ordinary occasion.  Elaborate study
here was requisite, not for the orator, but the hypocrite.  Hard task, to
please the Blues, and not offend the Yellows; appear to side with Audley
Egerton, yet insinuate sympathy with Dick Avenel; confront, with polite
smile, the younger opponent whose words had lodged arrows in his vanity,
which rankled the more gallingly because they had raised the skin of his
conscience.

He had dipped his pen into the ink and smoothed the paper before him,
when a knock was heard at the door.

"Come in," said he, impatiently.  Levy entered saunteringly.

"I am come to talk over matters with you, mon cher," said the baron,
throwing himself on the sofa.  "And, first, I wish you joy of your
prospects of success."

Randal postponed his meditated composition with a quick sigh, drew his
chair towards the sofa, and lowered his voice into a whisper.  "You think
with me, that the chance of my success--is good?"

"Chance!  Why, it is a rubber of whist, in which your partner gives you
all the winnings, and in which the adversary is almost sure to revoke.
Either Avenel or his nephew, it is true, must come in; but not both.  Two
parvenus aspiring to make a family seat of an earl's borough!  Bah! too
absurd!"

"I hear from Riccabocca (or rather the Duke di Serrano) that this same
young Fairfield is greatly indebted to the kindness of Lord L'Estrange.
Very odd that he should stand against the Lansmere interest."

"Ambition, /mon cher/.  You yourself are under some obliga tions to Mr.
Egerton.  Yet, in reality, he has more to apprehend from you than from
Mr. Fairfield."

"I disown obligations to Mr. Egerton.  And if the electors prefer me to
him (whom, by-the-by, they once burned in effigy), it is no fault of
mine: the fault, if any, will rest with his own dearest friend,
L'Estrange.  I do not understand how a man of such clear sense as
L'Estrange undoubtedly possesses, should be risking Egerton's election
in his zeal for mine.  Nor do his formal courtesies to myself deceive me.
He has even implied that he suspects me of connivance with Peschiera's
schemes on Violante.  But those suspicions he cannot support.  For of
course, Levy, you would not betray me--"

"I!  What possible interest could I serve in that?"

"None that I can discover, certainly," said Randal, relaxing into a
smile.  "And when I get into parliament, aided by the social position
which my marriage will give me, I shall have so many ways to serve you.
No, it is certainly your interest not to betray me; and I shall count on
you as a witness, if a witness can be required."

"Count on me, certainly, my dear fellow," said the baron.  "And I suppose
there will be no witness the other way.  Done for eternally is my poor
dear friend Peschiera, whose cigars, by-the-by, were matchless;--I wonder
if there will be any for sale.  And if he were not so done for, it is not
you, it is L'Estrange, that he would be tempted to do for!"

"We may blot Peschiera out of the map of the future," rejoined Randal.
"Men from whom henceforth we have nothing to hope or to fear are to us as
the races before the deluge."

"Fine remark," quoth the baron, admiringly.  "Peschiera, though not
without brains, was a complete failure.  And when the failure of one I
have tried to serve is complete, the rule I have adopted through life is
to give him up altogether."

"Of course," said Randal.

"Of course," echoed the baron.  "On the other hand, you know that I like
pushing forward young men of mark and promise.  You really are amazingly
clever; but how comes it you don't speak better?  Do you know, I doubt
whether you will do in the House of Commons all that I expected from your
address and readiness in private life."

"Because I cannot talk trash vulgar enough for a mob?  Pooh!  I shall
succeed wherever knowledge is really power.  Besides, you must allow for
my infernal position.  You know, after all, that Avenel, if he can only
return himself or his nephew, still holds in his hands the choice of the
candidate upon our side.  I cannot attack him; I cannot attack his
insolent nephew--"

"Insolent!--not that, but bitterly eloquent.  He hits you hard.  You are
no match for him, Randal, before a popular audience; though, /en petit
comite/, the devil himself were hardly a match for you.  But now to a
somewhat more serious point.  Your election you will win, your bride is
promised to you; but the old Leslie lands, in the present possession of
Squire Thornhill, you have not gained,---and your chance of gaining them
is in great jeopardy.  I did not like to tell you this morning,--it would
have spoiled your temper for canvassing; but I have received a letter
from Thornhill himself.  He has had an offer for the property, which is
only L1000 short of what he asks.  A city alderman, called Jobson, is the
bidder; a man, it seems, of large means and few words.  The alderman has
fixed the date on which he must have a definite answer; and that date
falls on the --th, two days after that fixed for the poll at Lansmere.
The brute declares he will close with another investment, if Thornhill
does not then come in to his terms.  Now, as Thornhill will accept these
terms unless I can positively promise him better, and as those funds on
which you calculated (had the marriage of Peschiera with Violante, and
Frank Hazeldean with Madame di Negra, taken place) fail you, I see no
hope for your being in time with the money,--and the old lands of the
Leslies must yield their rents to a Jobson."

"I care for nothing on earth like those old lands of my forefathers,"
said Randal, with unusual vehemence; "I reverence so little amongst the
living, and I do reverence the dead.  And my marriage will take place so
soon; and the dower would so amply cover the paltry advance required."

"Yes; but the mere prospect of a marriage to the daughter of a man whose
lands are still sequestered would be no security to a money-lender."

"Surely," said Randal, "you, who once offered to assist me when my
fortunes were more precarious, might now accommodate me with this loan,
as a friend, and keep the title-deeds of the estate as--"

"As a money-lender," added the baron, laughing pleasantly.  "No, /mon
cher/, I will still lend you half the sum required in advance, but the
other half is more than I can afford as friend, or hazard as money-
lender; and it would damage my character,--be out of all rule,--if, the
estates falling by your default of payment into my own hands, I should
appear to be the real purchaser of the property of my own distressed
client.  But, now I think of it, did not Squire Hazeldean promise you
his assistance in this matter?"

"He did so," answered Randal, "as soon as the marriage between Frank and
Madame di Negra was off his mind.  I meant to cross over to Hazeldean
immediately after the election.  How can I leave the place till then?"

"If you do, your election is lost.  But why not write to the squire?"

"It is against my maxim to write where I can speak.  However, there is no
option; I will write at once.  Meanwhile, communicate with Thornhill;
keep up his hopes; and be sure, at least, that he does not close with
this greedy alderman before the day fixed for decision."

"I have done all that already, and my letter is gone.  Now, do your part:
and if you write as cleverly as you talk, you would coax the money out
from a stonier heart than poor Mr. Hazeldean's.  I leave you now; good-
night."

Levy took up his candlestick, nodded, yawned, and went.  Randal still
suspended the completion of his speech, and indited the following
epistle:--

     MY DEAR MR. HAZELDEAN,--I wrote to you a few hasty lines on leaving
     town, to inform you that the match you so dreaded was broken off,
     and proposing to defer particulars till I could visit your kind and
     hospitable roof, which I trusted to do for a few hours during my
     stay at Lansmere, since it is not a day's journey hence to
     Hazeldean.  But I did not calculate on finding so sharp a contest.
     In no election throughout the kingdom do I believe that a more
     notable triumph, or a more stunning defeat, for the great landed
     interest can occur.  For in this town--so dependent on agriculture--
     we are opposed by a low and sordid manufacturer, of the most
     revolutionary notions, who has, moreover, the audacity to force his
     own nephew--that very boy whom I chastised for impertinence on your
     village green, son of a common carpenter--actually the audacity, I
     say, to attempt to force this peasant of a nephew, as well as
     himself, into the representation of Lansmere, against the earl's
     interest, against your distinguished brother,--of myself I say
     nothing.  You should hear the language in which these two men
     indulge against all your family!  If we are beaten by such persons
     in a borough supposed to be so loyal as Lansmere, every one with a
     stake in the country may tremble at such a prognostic of the ruin
     that must await not only our old English Constitution, but the
     existence of property itself.  I need not say that on such an
     occasion I cannot spare myself.  Mr. Egerton is ill too.  All the
     fatigue of the canvass devolves on me.  I feel, my dear and revered
     friend, that I am a genuine Hazeldean, fighting your battle; and
     that thought carries me through all.  I cannot, therefore, come to
     you till the election is over; and meanwhile you, and my dear Mrs.
     Hazeldean, must be anxious to know more about the affair that so
     preyed on both your hearts than I have yet informed you, or can well
     trust to a letter.  Be assured, however, that the worst is over; the
     lady has gone abroad.  I earnestly entreated Frank (who showed me
     Mrs. Hazeldean's most pathetic letter to him) to hasten at once to
     the Hall and relieve your minds.  Unfortunately he would not be
     ruled by me, but talked of going abroad too--not, I trust (nay, I
     feel assured), in pursuit of Madame di Negra; but still--In short, I
     should be so glad to see you, and talk over the whole.  Could you
     not come hither--I pray do.  And now, at the risk of your thinking
     that in this I am only consulting my own interest (but no--your
     noble English heart will never so misiudge me!), I will add with
     homely frankness, that if you could accommodate me immediately with
     the loan you not long since so generously offered, you would save
     those lands once in my family from passing away from us forever.  A
     city alderman--one Jobson--is meanly taking advantage of Thornhill's
     necessities, and driving a hard bargain for those lands.  He has
     fixed the --th inst. for Thornhill's answer, and Levy (who is here
     assisting Mr. Egerton's election) informs me that Thornhill will
     accept his offer, unless I am provided with L10,000 beforehand; the
     other L10,000, to complete the advance required, Levy will lend me.
     Do not be surprised at the usurer's liberality; he knows that I am
     about shortly to marry a very great heiress (you will be pleased
     when you learn whom, and will then be able to account for my
     indifference to Miss Sticktorights), and her dower will amply serve
     to repay his loan and your own, if I may trust to your generous
     affection for the grandson of a Hazeldean!  I have the less scruple
     in this appeal to you, for I know bow it would grieve you that a
     Jobson, who perhaps never knew a grandmother, should foist your own
     kinsman from the lands of his fathers.  Of one thing I am
     convinced,--we squires and sons of squires must make common cause
     against those great moneyed capitalists, or they will buy us all out
     in a few generations.  The old race of country gentlemen is already
     much diminished by the grasping cupidity of such leviathans; and if
     the race be once extinct, what will become of the boast and strength
     of England?

     Yours, my dear Mr. Hazeldean, with most affectionate and grateful
     respect,

                              RANDAL LESLIE.



CHAPTER XXII.

Nothing to Leonard could as yet be more distasteful or oppressive than
his share in this memorable election.  In the first place, it chafed the
secret sores of his heart to be compelled to resume the name of Fairfeld,
which was a tacit disavowal of his birth.  It had been such delight to
him that the same letters which formed the name of Nora should weave also
that name of Oran, to which he had given distinction, which he had
associated with all his nobler toils, and all his hopes of enduring
fame,--a mystic link between his own career and his mother's obscurer
genius.  It seemed to him as if it were rendering to her the honours
accorded to himself,--subtle and delicate fancy of the affections, of
which only poets would be capable, but which others than poets may
perhaps comprehend!  That earlier name of Fairfield was connected in his
memory with all the ruder employments, the meaner trials of his boyhood;
the name of Oran, with poetry and fame.  It was his title in the ideal
world, amongst all fair shapes and spirits.  In receiving the old
appellation, the practical world, with its bitterness and strife,
returned to him as at the utterance of a spell.  But in coming to
Lansmere he had no choice.  To say nothing of Dick, and Dick's parents.
with whom his secret would not be safe, Randal Leslie knew that he had
gone by the name of Fairfield,--knew his supposed parentage, and would be
sure to proclaim them.  How account for the latter name without setting
curiosity to decipher the anagram it involved, and perhaps guiding
suspicion to his birth from Nora, to the injury of her memory, yet
preserved from stain?

His feelings as connected with Nora--sharpened and deepened as they all
had been by his discovery of her painful narrative-were embittered still
more by coming in contact with her parents.  Old John was in the same
helpless state of mind and body as before,--neither worse nor better; but
waking up at intervals with vivid gleams of interest in the election at
the wave of a blue banner, at the cry of "Blue forever!"  It was the old
broken-clown charger, who, dozing in the meadows, starts at the roll of
the drum.  No persuasions Dick could employ would induce his father to
promise to vote even one Yellow.  You might as well have expected the old
Roman, with his monomaniac cry against Carthage, to have voted for
choosing Carthaginians for consuls.  But poor John, nevertheless, was not
only very civil, but very humble to Dick,--"very happy to oblige the
gentleman."

"Your own son!" bawled Dick; "and here is your own grandson."

"Very happy to serve you both; but you see you are the wrong colour."

Then as he gazed at Leonard, the old man approached him with trembling
knees, stroked his hair, looked into his face, piteously.  "Be thee my
grandson?" he faltered.  "Wife, wife, Nora had no son, had she?  My
memory begins to fail me, sir; pray excuse it; but you have a look about
the eyes that--"  Old John began to weep, and his wife led him away.

"Don't come again," she said to Leonard, harshly, when she returned.
"He'll not sleep all night now."  And then, observing that the tears
stood in Leonard's eyes, she added, in softened tones, "I am glad to see
you well and thriving, and to hear that you have been of great service to
my son Richard, who is a credit and an honour to the family, though poor
John cannot vote for him or for you against his conscience; and he should
not be asked," she added, firing up; "and it is a sin to ask it, and he
so old, and no one to defend him but me.  But defend him I will while I
have life!"

The poet recognized woman's brave, loving, wife-like heart here, and
would have embraced the stern grandmother, if she had not drawn back from
him; and, as she turned towards the room to which she had led her
husband, she said over her shoulder,--

"I'm not so unkind as I seem, boy; but it is better for you, and for all,
that you should not come to this house again,--better that you had not
come into the town."

"Fie, Mother!" said Dick, seeing that Leonard, bending his head, silently
walked from the room.  "You should be prouder of your grandson than you
are of me."

"Prouder of him who may shame us all yet?"

"What do you mean?"

But Mrs. Avenel shook her head and vanished.

"Never mind her, poor old soul," said Dick, as he joined Leonard at the
threshold; "she always had her tempers.  And since there is no vote to be
got in this house, and one can't set a caucus on one's own father,--at
least in this extraordinary rotten and prejudiced old country, which is
quite in its dotage,--we'll not come here to be snubbed any more.  Bless
their old hearts, nevertheless!"

Leonard's acute sensibility in all that concerned his birth, deeply
wounded by Mrs. Avenel's allusions, which he comprehended better than his
uncle did, was also kept on the edge by the suspense to which he was
condemned by Harley's continued silence as to the papers confided to that
nobleman.  It seemed to Leonard almost unaccountable that Harley should
have read those papers, be in the same town with himself, and yet
volunteer no communication.  At length he wrote a few lines to Lord
L'Estrange, bringing the matter that concerned him so deeply before
Harley's recollection, and suggesting his own earnest interest in any
information that could supply the gaps and omissions of the desultory
fragments.  Harley, in replying to this note, said, with apparent reason,
"that it would require a long personal interview to discuss the subject
referred to, and that such an interview, in the thick of the contest
between himself and a candidate opposed to the Lansmere party, would be
sure to get wind, be ascribed to political intrigues, be impossible
otherwise to explain, and embarrass all the interests confided to their
respective charge.  That for the rest, he had not been unmindful of
Leonard's anxiety, which must now mainly be to see justice done to the
dead parent, and learn the name, station, and character of the parent yet
surviving.  And in this Harley trusted to assist him as soon as the close
of the poll would present a suitable occasion."  The letter was unlike
Harley's former cordial tone: it was hard and dry.  Leonard respected
L'Estrange too much to own to himself that it was unfeeling.  With all
his rich generosity of nature, he sought excuses for what he declined to
blame.  Perhaps something in Helen's manner or words had led Harley to
suspect that she still cherished too tender an interest in the companion
of her childhood; perhaps under this coldness of expression there lurked
the burning anguish of jealousy.  And, oh, Leonard so well understood,
and could so nobly compassionate even in his prosperous rival, that
torture of the most agonizing of human passions, in which all our
reasonings follow the distorted writhings of our pain.

And Leonard himself, amidst his other causes of disquiet, was at once so
gnawed and so humbled by his own jealousy.  Helen, he knew, was still
under the same roof as Harley.  They, the betrothed, could see each other
daily, hourly.  He would soon hear of their marriage.  She would be borne
afar from the very sphere of his existence,--carried into a loftier
region, accessible only to his dreams.  And yet to be jealous of one to
whom both Helen and himself were under such obligations debased him in
his own esteem,--jealousy here was so like ingratitude.  But for Harley,
what could have become of Helen, left to his boyish charge,--he who had
himself been compelled, in despair, to think of sending her from his
side, to be reared into smileless youth in his mother's humble cottage,
while he faced famine alone, gazing on the terrible river, from the
bridge by which he had once begged for very alms,--begged of that Audley
Egerton to whom he was now opposed as an equal; or flying from the fiend
that glared at him under the lids of the haunting Chatterton?  No,
jealousy here was more than agony,--it was degradation, it was crime!
But, all! if Helen were happy in these splendid nuptials!  Was he sure
even of that consolation?  Bitter was the thought either way,--that she
should wholly forget him, in happiness from which he stood excluded as a
thing of sin; or sinfully herself remember, and be wretched!

With that healthful strength of will which is more often proportioned to
the susceptibility of feeling than the world suppose, the young man at
last wrenched himself for awhile from the iron that had entered into his
soul, and forced his thoughts to seek relief in the very objects from
which they otherwise would have the most loathingly recoiled.  He aroused
his imagination to befriend his reason; he strove to divine some motive
not explained by Harley, not to be referred to the mere defeat, by
counter-scheme, of the scheming Randal, nor even to be solved by any
service to Audley Egerton, which Harley might evolve from the complicated
meshes of the election,--some motive that could more interest his own
heart in the contest, and connect itself with Harley's promised aid in
clearing up the mystery of his parentage.  Nora's memoir had clearly
hinted that his father was of rank and station far beyond her own.  She
had thrown the glow of her glorious fancies over the ambition and the
destined career of the lover in whom she had merged her ambition as
poetess, and her career as woman.  Possibly the father might be more
disposed to own and to welcome the son, if the son could achieve an
opening, and give promise of worth, in that grand world of public life in
which alone reputation takes precedence of rank.  Possibly, too, if the
son thus succeeded, and became one whom a proud father could with pride
acknowledge, possibly he might not only secure a father's welcome, but
vindicate a mother's name.  This marriage, which Nora darkly hinted she
had been led to believe was fraudulent, might, after all, have been
legal,--the ceremony concealed, even till now, by worldly shame at
disparity of rank.  But if the son could make good his own footing--there
where rank itself owned its chiefs in talent--that shame might vanish.
These suppositions were not improbable; nor were they uncongenial to
Leonard's experience of Harley's delicate benignity of purpose.  Here,
too, the image of Helen allied itself with those of his parents, to
support his courage and influence his new ambition.  True, that she was
lost to him forever.  No worldly success, no political honours, could now
restore her to his side.  But she might hear him named with respect in
those circles in which alone she would hereafter move, and in which
parliamentary reputation ranks higher than literary fame.  And perhaps in
future years, when love, retaining its tenderness, was purified from its
passion, they might thus meet as friends.  He might without a pang take
her children on his knees, and say, perhaps in their old age, when he had
climbed to a social equality even with her high-born lord, "It was the
hope to regain the privilege bestowed on our childhood, that strengthened
me to seek distinction when you and happiness forsook my youth."  Thus
regarded, the election, which had before seemed to him so poor and vulgar
an exhibition of vehement passions for petty objects, with its trumpery
of banners and its discord of trumpets, suddenly grew into vivid
interest, and assumed dignity and importance.  It is ever thus with all
mortal strife.  In proportion as it possesses, or is void of, the diviner
something that quickens the pulse of the heart, and elevates the wing of
the imagination, it presents a mockery to the philosopher, or an
inspiration to the bard.  Feel that something, and no contest is mean!
Feel it not, and, like Byron, you may class with the slaughter of Cannae
that field which, at Waterloo, restored the landmarks of nations; or may
jeer with Juvenal at the dust of Hannibal, because he sought to deliver
Carthage from ruin, and free a world from Rome.



CHAPTER XXIII.

Once then, grappling manfully with the task he had undertaken, and
constraining himself to look on what Riccabocca would have called "the
southern side of things," whatever there was really great in principle or
honourable to human nature, deep below the sordid details and pitiful
interests apparent on the face of the agitated current, came clear to
his vision.  The ardour of those around him began to be contagious: the
generous devotion to some cause apart from self, which pervades an
election, and to which the poorest voter will often render sacrifices
that may be called sublime; the warm personal affection which community
of zeal creates for the defender of beloved opinions,--all concurred to
dispel that indifference to party politics, and counteract that disgust
of their baser leaven, which the young poet had first conceived.  He even
began to look with complacency, for itself, on a career of toil and
honours strange to his habitual labours and intellectual ambition.  He
threw the poetry of idea within him (as poets ever do) into the prose of
action to which he was hurried forward.  He no longer opposed Dick Avenel
when that gentleman represented how detrimental it would be to his
business at Screwstown if he devoted to his country the time and the
acumen required by his mill and its steamengine; and how desirable it
would be, on all accounts, that Leonard Fairfield should become the
parliamentary representative of the Avenels.  "If, therefore," said Dick,
"two of us cannot come in, and one must retire, leave it to me to arrange
with the Committee that you shall be the one to persist.  Oh, never fear
but what all scruples of honour shall be satisfied.  I would not for the
sake of the Avenels have a word said against their representative."

"But," answered Leonard, "if I grant this, I fear that you have some
intention of suffering the votes that your resignation would release to
favour Leslie at the expense of Egerton."

"What the deuce is Egerton to you?"

"Nothing, except through my gratitude to his friend Lord L'Estrange."

"Pooh!  I will tell you a secret.  Levy informs me privately that
L'Estrange will be well satisfied if the choice of Lansmere fall upon
Leslie instead of Egerton; and I think I convinced my Lord--for I saw him
in London--that Egerton would have no chance, though Leslie might."

"I must think that Lord L'Estrange would resist to the utmost any attempt
to prefer Leslie--whom he despises--to Egerton, whom he honours.  And, so
thinking, I too would resist it, as you may judge by the speeches which
have so provoked your displeasure."

"Let us cut short a yarn of talk which, when it comes to likings and
dislikings, might last to almighty crack: I'll ask you to do nothing that
Lord L'Estrange does not sanction.  Will that satisfy you?"

"Certainly, provided I am assured of the sanction."

And now, the important day preceding the poll, the day in which the
candidates were to be formally nominated, and meet each other in all the
ceremony of declared rivalship, dawned at last.  The town-hall was the
place selected for the occasion; and before sunrise, all the streets were
resonant with music, and gay with banners.

Audley Egerton felt that he could not--without incurring some just
sarcasm on his dread to face the constituency he had formerly
represented, and by the malcontents of which he had been burned in
effigy--absent himself from the townhall, as he had done from balcony and
hostel.  Painful as it was to confront Nora's brother, and wrestle in
public against all the secret memories that knit the strife of the
present contest with the anguish that recalled the first,--still the
thing must be done; and it was the English habit of his life to face with
courage whatever he had to do.



CHAPTER XXIV.

The chiefs of the Blue party went in state from Lansmere Park; the two
candidates in open carriages, each attended with his proposer and
seconder.  Other carriages were devoted to Harley and Levy, and the
principal members of the Committee.  Riccabocca was seized with a fit of
melancholy or cynicism, and declined to join the procession.  But just
before they started, as all were assembling without the front door, the
postman arrived with his welcome bag.  There were letters for Harley,
some for Levy, many for Egerton, one for Randal Leslie.

Levy, soon hurrying over his own correspondence, looked, in the familiar
freedom wherewith he usually treated his particular friends, over
Randal's shoulder.

"From the squire?" said he.  "Ah, he has written at last!  What made him
delay so long?  Hope he relieves your mind?"

"Yes," cried Randal, giving way to a joy that rarely lighted up his close
and secret countenance,--"yes, he does not write from Hazeldean,--not
there when my letter arrived, in London, could not rest at the Hall,--the
place reminded him too much of Frank;--went again to town, on the receipt
of my first letter concerning the rupture of the marriage, to see after
his son, and take up some money to pay off his post-obit.  Read what he
says:--

     "'So, while I was about a mortgage--never did I guess that I should
     be the man to encumber the Hazeldean estate--I thought I might as
     well add L20,000 as L10,000 to the total.  Why should you be
     indebted at all to that Baron Levy?  Don't have dealings with money-
     lenders.  Your grandmother was a Hazeldean; and from a Hazeldean you
     shall have the whole sum required in advance for those Rood lands,--
     good light soil some of them.  As to repayment, we'll talk of that
     later.  If Frank and I come together again, as we did of old, why,
     my estates will be his some day, and he'll not grudge the mortgage,
     so fond as he always was of you; and if we don't come together, what
     do I care for hundreds or thousands, either more or less?  So I
     shall be down at Lansmere the day after to-morrow, just in the thick
     of your polling.  Beat the manufacturer, my boy, and stick up for
     the land.  Tell Levy to have all ready.  I shall bring the money
     down in good bank-notes, and a brace of pistols in my coat pocket to
     take care of them in ease robbers get scent of the notes and attack
     me on the road, as they did my grandfather sixty years ago, come
     next Michaelmas.  A Lansmere election puts one in mind of pistols.
     I once fought a duel with an officer in his Majesty's service, R.N.,
     and had a ball lodged in my right shoulder, on account of an
     election at Lansmere; but I have forgiven Audley his share in that
     transaction.  Remember me to him kindly.  Don't get into a duel
     yourself; but I suppose manufacturers don't fight,--not that I blame
     them for that--far from it.'"

The letter then ran on to express surprise, and hazard conjecture, as to
the wealthy marriage which Randal had announced as a pleasing surprise to
the squire.

"Well," said Levy, returning the letter, "you must have written as
cleverly as you talk, or the squire is a booby indeed."

Randal smiled, pocketed his letter, and responding to the impatient call
of his proposer, sprang lightly into the carriage.

Harley, too, seemed pleased with the letters delivered to himself, and
now joined Levy, as the candidates drove slowly off.

"Has not Mr. Leslie received from the squire an answer to that letter of
which you informed me?"

"Yes, my Lord, the squire will be here to-morrow."

"To-morrow?  Thank you for apprising me; his rooms shall be prepared."

"I suppose he will only stay to see Leslie and myself, and pay the
money."

"Aha!  Pay the money.  Is it so, then?"

"Twice the sum, and, it seems, as a gift, which Leslie only asked as a
loan.  Really, my Lord, Mr. Leslie is a very clever man; and though I am
at your commands, I should not like to injure him.  With such matrimonial
prospects, he could be a very powerful enemy; and if he succeed in
parliament, still more so."

"Baron, these gentlemen are waiting for you.  I will follow by myself."



CHAPTER XXV.

In the centre of the raised platform in the town-hall sat the mayor.
On either hand of that dignitary now appeared the candidates of the
respective parties,--to his right, Audley Egerton and Leslie; to his
left, Dick Avenel and Leonard.

The place was as full as it could hold.  Rows of grimy faces peeped in,
even from the upper windows outside the building.  The contest was one
that created intense interest, not only from public principles, but local
passions.  Dick Avenel, the son of a small tradesman, standing against
the Right Honourable Audley Egerton, the choice of the powerful Lansmere
aristocratic party,--standing, too, with his nephew by his side; taking,
as he himself was wont to say, "the tarnation Blue Bull by both its
oligarchical horns!"--there was a pluck and gallantry in the very
impudence of the attempt to convert the important borough--for one member
of which a great earl had hitherto striven, "with labour dire and weary
woe" into two family seats for the House of Avenel and the triumph of the
Capelocracy.

This alone would have excited all the spare passions of a country
borough; but, besides this, there was the curiosity that attached to
the long-deferred public appearance of a candidate so renowned as the
ex-minister,--a man whose career had commenced with his success at
Lansmere, and who now, amidst the popular tempest that scattered his
colleagues, sought to refit his vessel in the same harbour from which it
had first put forth.  New generations had grown up since the name of
Audley Egerton had first fluttered the dovecotes in that Corioli.  The
questions that had then seemed so important were, for the most part,
settled and at rest.  But those present who remembered Egerton in the
former day, were struck to see how the same characteristics of bearing
and aspect which had distinguished his early youth revived their interest
in the mature and celebrated man.  As he stood up for a few moments,
before he took his seat beside the mayor, glancing over the assembly,
with its uproar of cheers and hisses, there was the same stately
erectness of form and steadfastness of look, the same indefinable and
mysterious dignity of externals, that imposed respect, confirmed esteem,
or stilled dislike.  The hisses involuntarily ceased.

The preliminary proceedings over, the proposers and seconders commenced
their office.

Audley was proposed, of course, by the crack man of the party,--a
gentleman who lived on his means in a white house in the High Street, had
received a University education, and was a cadet of a "County Family."
This gentleman spoke much about the Constitution, something about Greece
and Rome; compared Egerton with William Pitt, also with Aristides; and
sat down, after an oration esteemed classical by the few, and pronounced
prosy by the many.  Audley's seconder, a burly and important maltster,
struck a bolder key.  He dwelt largely upon the necessity of being
represented by gentlemen of wealth and rank, and not by "upstarts and
adventurers."  (Cheers and groans.) "Looking at the candidates on the
other side, it was an insult to the respectability of Lansmere to suppose
its constituents could elect a man who had no pretensions whatever to
their notice, except that he had once been a little boy in the town, in
which his father kept a shop,--and a very noisy, turbulent, dirty little
boy he was!"  Dick smoothed his spotless shirt-front, and looked daggers,
while the Blues laughed heartily, and the Yellows cried "Shame!"  "As for
the other candidate on the same side, he [the maltster] had nothing to
say against him.--He was, no doubt, seduced into presumption by his uncle
and his own inexperience.  It was said that that candidate, Mr.
Fairfield, was an author and a poet; if so, he was unknown to fame, for
no bookseller in the town had ever even heard of Mr. Fairfield's works.
Then it was replied Mr. Fairfield had written under another name.  What
would that prove?  Either that he was ashamed of his name, or that the
works did him no credit.  For his part, he [the maltster] was an
Englishman; he did not like anonymous scribblers; there was something not
right in whatever was concealed.  A man should never be afraid to put his
name to what be wrote.  But grant that Mr. Fairfield was a great author
and a great poet, what the borough of Lansinere wanted was, not a member
who would pass his time in writing sonnets to Peggy or Moggy, but a
practical man of business,--a statesman,--such a man as Mr. Audley
Egerton, a gentleman of ancient birth, high standing, and princely
fortune.  The member for such a place as Lansmere should have a proper
degree of wealth."  ("Hear, hear!" from the Hundred and Fifty Hesitators,
who all stood in a row at the bottom of the hall; and "Gammon!" "Stuff!"
from some revolutionary but incorruptible Yellows.)  Still the allusion
to Egerton's private fortune had considerable effect with the bulk of the
audience, and the maltster was much cheered on concluding.  Mr. Avenel's
proposer and seconder--the one a large grocer, the other the proprietor
of a new shop for ticketed prints, shawls, blankets, and counterpanes,--
a man, who, as he boasted, dealt with the People for ready money, and no
mistake, at least none that he ever rectified--next followed.  Both said
much the same thing.  Mr. Avenel had made his fortune by honest industry,
was a fellow-townsman, must know the interests of the town better than
strangers, upright public principles, never fawn on governments, would
see that the people had their rights, and cut down army, navy, and all
other jobs of a corrupt aristocracy, etc.  Randal Leslie's proposer, a
captain on half-pay, undertook a long defence of army and navy, from the
unpatriotic aspersions of the preceding speakers, which defence diverted
him from the due praise of Randal, until cries of "Cut it short,"
recalled him to that subject; and then the topics he selected for
eulogium were "amiability of character, so conspicuous in the urbane
manners of his young friend;" "coincidence in the opinions of that
illustrious statesman with whom he was conjoined;" "early tuition in the
best principles; only fault, youth,--and that was a fault which would
diminish every day."  Randal's seconder was a bluff yeoman, an outvoter
of weight with the agricultural electors.  He was too straightforward by
half,--adverted to Audley Egerton's early desertion of questions espoused
by landed interest, hoped he had had enough of the large towns; and he
(the yeoman) was ready to forgive and forget, but trusted that there
would be no chance of burning their member again in effigy.  As to the
young gentleman, whose nomination he had the pleasure to second, did
not know much about him; but the Leslies were an old family in the
neighbouring county, and Mr. Leslie said he was nearly related to Squire
Hazeldean,--as good a man as ever stood upon shoe leather.  He (the
yeoman) liked a good breed in sheep and bullocks; and a good breed in men
he supposed was the same thing.  He (the yeoman) was not for abuses,--he
was for King and Constitution.  He should have no objection, for
instance, to have tithes lowered, and the malt-tax repealed,--not the
least objection.  Mr. Leslie seemed to him a likely young chap, and
uncommon well-spoken; and, on the whole, for aught he (the yeoman) could
see, would do quite as well in parliament as nine-tenths of the gentlemen
sent there.  The yeoman sat down, little cheered by the Blues, much by
the Yellows, and with a dim consciousness that somehow or other he had
rather damaged than not the cause of the party he had been chosen to
advocate.  Leonard was not particularly fortunate in his proposer, a
youngish gentleman, who, having tried various callings, with signal
unsuccess, had come into a small independence, and set up for a literary
character.  This gentleman undertook the defence of poets, as the half-
pay captain had undertaken that of the army and navy; and after a dozen
sentences spoken through the nose, about the "moonlight of existence,"
and "the oasis in the desert," suddenly broke down, to the satisfaction
of his impatient listeners.  This failure was, however, redeemed by
Leonard's seconder, a master tailor, a practised speaker and an earnest,
thinking man, sincerely liking and warmly admiring Leonard Fairfield.
His opinions were delivered with brief simplicity, and accompanied by
expressions of trust in Leonard's talents and honesty, that were
effective, because expressed with feeling.

These preparatory orations over, a dead silence succeeded, and Audley
Egerton arose.

At the first few sentences, all felt they were in the presence of one
accustomed to command attention, and to give to opinions the weight of
recognized authority.  The slowness of the measured accents, the
composure of the manly aspect, the decorum of the simple gestures,--all
bespoke and all became the minister of a great empire, who had less
agitated assemblies by impassioned eloquence, than compelled their silent
respect to the views of sagacity and experience.  But what might have
been formal and didactic in another was relieved in Egerton by that air,
tone, bearing of gentleman, which have a charm for the most plebeian
audience.  He had eminently these attributes in private life; but they
became far more conspicuous whenever he had to appear in public.  The
"senatorius decor" seemed a phrase coined for him.

Audley commenced with notice of his adversaries in that language of high
courtesy which is so becoming to superior station, and which augurs
better for victory than the most pointed diatribes of hostile
declamation.  Inclining his head towards Avenel, he expressed regret that
he should be opposed by a gentleman whose birth naturally endeared him to
the town, of which he was a distinguished native, and whose honourable
ambition was in itself a proof of the admirable nature of that
Constitution, which admitted the lowliest to rise to its distinctions,
while it compelled the loftiest to labour and compete for those honours
which were the most coveted, because they were derived from the trust of
their countrymen, and dignified by the duties which the sense of
responsibility entailed.  He paid a passing but generous compliment to
the reputed abilities of Leonard Fairfield; and alluding with appropriate
grace to the interest he had ever taken in the success of youth striving
for place in the van of the new generation that marched on to replace the
old, he implied that he did not consider Leonard as opposed to himself,
but rather as an emulous competitor for a worthy prize with his "own
young and valued friend, Mr. Randal Leslie."  "They are happy at their
years!" said the statesman, with a certain pathos.  "In the future they
see nothing to fear, in the past they have nothing to defend.  It is not
so with me."  And then, passing on to the vague insinuations or bolder
charges against himself and his policy proffered by the preceding
speakers, Audley gathered himself up, and paused; for his eye here rested
on the Reporters seated round the table just below him; and he recognized
faces not unfamiliar to his recollection when metropolitan assemblies had
hung on the words which fell from lips then privileged to advise a king.
And involuntarily it occurred to the ex-minister to escape altogether
from this contracted audience,--this election, with all its associations
of pain,--and address himself wholly to that vast and invisible Public,
to which those Reporters would transmit his ideas.  At this thought his
whole manner gradually changed.  His eye became fixed on the farthest
verge of the crowd; his tones grew more solemn in their deep and sonorous
swell.  He began to review and to vindicate his whole political life.  He
spoke of the measures he had aided to pass, of his part in the laws which
now ruled the land.  He touched lightly, but with pride, on the services
he had rendered to the opinions he had represented.  He alluded to his
neglect of his own private fortunes; but in what detail, however minute,
in the public business committed to his charge, could even an enemy
accuse him of neglect?  The allusion was no doubt intended to prepare the
public for the news that the wealth of Audley Egerton was gone.  Finally,
he came to the questions that then agitated the day; and made a general
but masterly exposition of the policy which, under the changes he
foresaw, he should recommend his party to adopt.

Spoken to the motley assembly in that town-hall, Audley's speech extended
to a circle of interest too wide for their sympathy.  But that assembly
he heeded not,--he forgot it.  The reporters understood him, as their
flying pens followed words which they presumed neither to correct nor to
abridge.  Audley's speech was addressed to the nation,--the speech of a
man in whom the nation yet recognized a chief, desiring to clear all
misrepresentation from his past career; calculating, if life were spared
to him, on destinies higher than he had yet fulfilled; issuing a
manifesto of principles to be carried later into power, and planting a
banner round which the divided sections of a broken host might yet rally
for battle and for conquest.  Or perhaps, in the deeps of his heart (not
even comprehended by reporters, nor to be divined by the public), the
uncertainty of life was more felt than the hope of ambition; and the
statesman desired to leave behind him one full vindication of that public
integrity and honour, on which, at least, his conscience acknowledged not
a stain.

"For more than twenty years," said Audley, in conclusion, "I have known
no day in which I have not lived for my country.  I may at times have
opposed the wish of the People,--I may oppose it now; but, so far as I
can form a judgment, only because I prefer their welfare to their wish.
And if--as I believe--there have been occasions on which, as one amongst
men more renowned, I have amended the laws of England, confirmed her
safety, extended her commerce, upheld her honour, I leave the rest to the
censure of my enemies, and [his voice trembled] to the charity of my
friends."

Before the cheers that greeted the close of this speech were over,
Richard Avenel arose.  What is called "the more respectable part" of an
audience--namely, the better educated and better clad, even on the Yellow
side of the question--winced a little for the credit of their native
borough, when they contemplated the candidate pitted against the Great
Commoner, whose lofty presence still filled the eye, and whose majestic
tones yet sounded in the ear.  But the vast majority on both sides, Blue
and Yellow, hailed the rise of Dick Avenel as a relief to what, while it
had awed their attention, had rather strained their faculties.  The
Yellows cheered and the Blues groaned; there was a tumultuous din of
voices, and a reel to and fro of the whole excited mass of unwashed faces
and brawny shoulders.  But Dick had as much pluck as Audley himself; and
by degrees, his pluck and his handsome features, and the curiosity to
hear what he had to say, obtained him a hearing; and that hearing Dick
having once got, he contrived to keep.  His self-confidence was backed by
a grudge against Egerton, that attained to the elevation of malignity.
He had armed himself for this occasion with an arsenal of quotations from
Audley's speeches, taken out of Hansard's Debates; and, garbling these
texts in the unfairest and most ingenious manner, he contrived to split
consistency into such fragments of inconsistency--to cut so many harmless
sentences into such unpopular, arbitrary, tyrannical segments of
doctrine--that he made a very pretty case against the enlightened and
incorruptible Egerton, as shuffler and trimmer, defender of jobs, and
eulogist of Manchester massacres, etc.  And all told the more because it
seemed courted and provoked by the ex-minister's elaborate vindication of
himself.  Having thus, as he declared, "triumphantly convicted the Right
Honourable Gentleman out of his own mouth," Dick considered himself at
liberty to diverge into what he termed "the just indignation of a
freeborn Briton;" in other words, into every variety of abuse which bad
taste could supply to acrimonious feeling.  But he did it so roundly and
dauntlessly, in such true hustings style, that for the moment, at least,
he carried the bulk of the crowd along with him sufficiently to bear down
all the resentful murmurs of the Blue Committee men, and the abashed
shakes of the head with which the more aristocratic and well-bred among
the Yellows signified to each other that they were heartily ashamed of
their candidate.  Dick concluded with an emphatic declaration that the
Right Honourable Gentleman's day was gone by; that the people had been
pillaged and plundered enough by pompous red-tapists, who only thought of
their salaries, and never went to their offices except to waste the pen,
ink, and paper which they did not pay for; that the Right Honourable
Gentleman had boasted he had served his country for twenty years.  Served
his country!--he should have said served her out!  (Much laughter.)
Pretty mess his country was in now.  In short, for twenty years the Right
Honourable Gentleman had put his hands into his country's pockets.  "And
I ask you," bawled Dick, "whether any of you are a bit the better for all
that he has taken out of them!"  The Hundred and Fifty Hesitators shook
their heads.  "Noa, that we ben't!" cried the Hundred and Fifty,
dolorously.  "You hear THE PEOPLE!" said Dick, turning majestically to
Egerton, who, with his arms folded on his breast, and his upper lip
slightly curved, sat like "Atlas unremoved,"--"you hear THE PEOPLE!  They
condemn you and the whole set of you.  I repeat here what I once vowed on
a less public occasion, 'As sure as my name is Richard Avenel, you shall
smart for'--Dick hesitated--'smart for your contempt of the just rights,
honest claims, and enlightened aspirations of your indignant countrymen.
The schoolmaster is abroad, and the British Lion is aroused!'"

Dick sat down.  The curve of contempt had passed from Egerton's lip; at
the name of Avenel, thus harshly spoken, he had suddenly shaded his face
with his hand.

But Randal Leslie next arose, and Audley slowly raised his eyes, and
looked towards his /protege/ with an expression of kindly interest.  What
better /debut/ could there be for a young man warmly attached to an
eminent patron who had been coarsely assailed,--for a political aspirant
vindicating the principles which that patron represented?  The Blues,
palpitating with indignant excitement, all prepared to cheer every
sentence that could embody their sense of outrage, even the meanest
amongst the Yellows, now that Dick had concluded, dimly aware that their
orator had laid himself terribly open, and richly deserved (more
especially from the friend of Audley Egerton) whatever punishing retort
could vibrate from the heart of a man to the tongue of an orator.  A
better opportunity for an honest young /debutant/ could not exist; a more
disagreeable, annoying, perplexing, unmanageable opportunity for Randal
Leslie, the malice of the Fates could not have contrived.  How could he
attack Dick Avenel,--he who counted upon Dick Avenel to win his election?
How could he exasperate the Yellows, when Dick's solemn injunction had
been, "Say nothing to make the Yellows not vote for you"?  How could he
identify himself with Egerton's policy, when it was his own policy to
make his opponents believe him an unprejudiced, sensible youth, who would
come all right and all Yellow one of these days?  Demosthenes himself
would have had a sore throat worse than when he swallowed the golden cup
of Harpalus, had Demosthenes been placed in so cursed a fix.  Therefore
Randal Leslie may well be excused if he stammered and boggled, if he was
appalled by a cheer when he said a word in vindication of Egerton, and
looked cringing and pitiful when he sneaked out a counter civility to
Dick.  The Blues were sadly disappointed, damped; the Yellows smirked and
took heart.  Audley Egerton's brows darkened.  Harley, who was on the
platform, half seen behind the front row, a quiet listener, bent over and
whispered dryly to Audley, "You should have given a lesson beforehand to
your clever young friend.  His affection for you overpowers him!"

Audley made no rejoinder, but tore a leaf out of his pocketbook, and
wrote, in pencil, these words, "Say that you may well feel embarrassed
how to reply to Mr. Avenel, because I had especially requested you not to
be provoked to one angry expression against a gentleman whose father and
brother-in-law gave the majority of two by which I gained my first seat
in parliament; then plunge at once into general politics."  He placed
this paper in Randal's hand, just as that unhappy young man was on the
point of a thorough breakdown.  Randal paused, took breath, read the
words attentively, and amidst a general titter; his presence of mind
returned to him; he saw a way out of the scrape, collected himself,
suddenly raised his head, and in tones unexpectedly firm and fluent,
enlarged on the text afforded to him,--enlarged so well that he took the
audience by surprise, pleased the Blues by an evidence of Audley's
generosity, and touched the Yellows by so affectionate a deference to the
family of their two candidates.  Then the speaker was enabled to come at
once to the topics on which he had elaborately prepared himself, and
delivered a set harangue, very artfully put together,--temporizing it is
true, and trimming, but full of what would have been called admirable
tact and discretion in an old stager who did not want to commit himself
to anybody or to anything.  On the whole, the display became creditable,
at least as an evidence of thoughtful reserve, rare in a man so young;
too refining and scholastic for oratory, but a very good essay,--upon
both sides of the question.  Randal wiped his pale forehead and sat down,
cheered, especially by the lawyers present, and self-contented.  It was
now Leonard's turn to speak.  Keenly nervous, as men of the literary
temperament are, constitutionally shy, his voice trembled as he began.
But he trusted, unconsciously, less to his intellect than his warm heart
and noble temper; and the warm heart prompted his words, and the noble
temper gradually dignified his manner.  He took advantage of the
sentences which Audley had put into Randal's mouth, in order to efface
the impression made by his uncle's rude assault.  "Would that the Right
Honourable Gentleman had himself made that generous and affecting
allusion to the services which he had deigned to remember, for, in that
case, he [Leonard] was confident that Mr. Avenel would have lost all the
bitterness which political contest was apt to engender in proportion to
the earnestness with which political opinions were entertained.  Happy it
was when some such milder sentiment as that which Mr. Egerton had
instructed Mr. Leslie to convey, preceded the sharp encounter, and
reminded antagonists, as Mr. Leslie had so emphatically done, that every
shield had two sides, and that it was possible to maintain the one side
to be golden, without denying the truth of the champion who asserted the
other side to be silver."  Then, without appearing to throw over his
uncle, the young speaker contrived to insinuate an apology on his uncle's
behalf, with such exquisite grace and good feeling, that he was loudly
cheered by both parties; and even Dick did not venture to utter the
dissent which struggled to his lips.

But if Leonard dealt thus respectfully with Egerton, he had no such
inducement to spare Randal Leslie.  With the intuitive penetration of
minds accustomed to analyze character and investigate human nature, he
detected the varnished insincerity of Randal's artful address.  His
colour rose, his voice swelled, his fancy began to play, and his wit to
sparkle, when he came to take to pieces his younger antagonist's
rhetorical mosaic.  He exposed the falsehood of its affected moderation;
he tore into shreds the veil of words, with their motley woof of yellow
and blue, and showed that not a single conviction could be discovered
behind it.  "Mr. Leslie's speech," said he, "puts me in mind of a ferry-
boat; it seems made for no purpose but to go from one side to the other."
The simile hit the truth so exactly that it was received with a roar of
laughter: even Egerton smiled.  "For myself," concluded Leonard, as he
summed up his unsparing analysis, "I am new to party warfare; yet if I
were not opposing Mr. Leslie as a candidate for your suffrages, if I were
but an elector,--belonging, as I do, to the people by my condition and my
labours,--I should feel that he is one of those politicians in whom the
welfare, the honour, the moral elevation of the people, find no fitting
representative."

Leonard sat down amidst great applause, and after a speech that raised
the Yellows in their own estimation, and materially damaged Randal Leslie
in the eyes of the Blues.  Randal felt this, with a writhing of the
heart, though a sneer on the lips.  He glanced furtively towards Dick
Avenel, on whom, after all, his election, in spite of the Blues, might
depend.  Dick answered the furtive glance by an encouraging wink.  Randal
turned to Egerton, and whispered to him, "How I wish I had had more
practice in speaking, so that I could have done you more justice!"

"Thank you, Leslie; Mr. Fairfield has supplied any omission of yours, so
far as I am concerned.  And you should excuse him for his attack on
yourself, because it may serve to convince you where your fault as a
speaker lies."

"Where?" asked Leslie, with jealous sullenness.

"In not believing a single word that you say," answered Egerton, very
dryly; and then turning away, be said aloud to his proposer, and with a
slight sigh, "Mr. Avenel maybe proud of his nephew!  I wish that young
man were on our side; I could train him into a great debater."

And now the proceedings were about to terminate with a show of hands,
when a tall, brawny elector in the middle of the hall suddenly arose, and
said he had some questions to put.  A thrill ran through the assembly,
for this elector was the demagogue of the Yellows,--a fellow whom it was
impossible to put down, a capital speaker, with lungs of brass.  "I shall
be very short," said the demagogue.  And therewith, under the shape of
questions to the two Blue candidates, he commenced a most furious
onslaught on the Earl of Lansmere, and the earl's son, Lord L'Estrange,
accusing the last of the grossest intimidation and corruption, and citing
instances thereof as exhibited towards various electors in Fish Lane and
the Back Slums, who had been turned from Yellow promises by the base arts
of Blue aristocracy, represented in the person of the noble lord, whom he
now dared to reply.  The orator paused, and Harley suddenly passed into
the front of the platform, in token that he accepted the ungracious
invitation.  Great as had been the curiosity to hear Audley Egerton, yet
greater, if possible, was the curiosity to hear Lord L'Estrange.  Absent
from the place for so many years, heir to such immense possessions, with
a vague reputation for talents that he had never proved,--strange,
indeed, if Blue and Yellow had not strained their ears and hushed their
breaths to listen.

It is said that the poet is born, and the orator made,--a saying only
partially true.  Some men have been made poets, and some men have been
born orators.  Most probably Harley L'Estrange had hitherto never spoken
in public; and he had not now spoken five minutes before all the passions
and humours of the assembly were as much under his command as the keys of
the instrument are under the hands of the musician.  He had taken from
nature a voice capable of infinite variety of modulation, a countenance
of the most flexible play of expression; and he was keenly alive (as
profound humourists are) equally to the ludicrous and the graver side of
everything presented to his vigorous understanding.  Leonard had the
eloquence of a poet, Audley Egerton that of a parliamentary debater; but
Harley had the rarer gift of eloquence in itself, apart from the matter
it conveys or adorns,--that gift which Demosthenes meant by his triple
requisite of an orator, which has been improperly translated "action,"
but means in reality "the acting," "the stage-play."  Both Leonard and
Audley spoke well, from the good sense which their speeches contained;
but Harley could have talked nonsense, and made it more effective than
sense,--even as a Kemble or Macready could produce effects from the trash
talked by "The Stranger," which your merely accomplished performer would
fail to extract from the beauties of Hamlet.  The art of oratory, indeed,
is allied more closely to that of the drama than to any other; and
throughout Harley's whole nature there ran, as the reader may have noted
(though quite unconsciously to Harley himself), a tendency towards that
concentration of thought, action, and circumstance on a single purpose,
which makes the world form itself into a stage, and gathers various and
scattered agencies into the symmetry and compactness of a drama.  This
tendency, though it often produces effects that appear artificially
theatrical, is not uncommon with persons the most genuine and single-
minded.  It is, indeed, the natural inclination of quick energies
springing from warm emotions.  Hence the very history of nations in their
fresh, vigorous, half-civilized youth always shapes itself into dramatic
forms; while, as the exercise of sober reason expands with civilization,
to the injury of the livelier faculties and more intuitive impulses,
people look to the dramatic form of expression, whether in thought or in
action, as if it were the antidote to truth, instead of being its
abstract and essence.

But to return from this long and somewhat metaphysical digression:
whatever might be the cause why Harley L'Estrange spoke so wonderfully
well, there could be no doubt that wonderfully well he did speak.  He
turned the demagogue and his attack into the most felicitous ridicule,
and yet with the most genial good-humour; described that virtuous
gentleman's adventures in search of corruption through the pure regions
of Fish Lane and the Back Slums; and then summed up the evidences on
which the demagogue had founded his charge, with a humour so caustic and
original that the audience were convulsed with laughter.  From laughter
Harley hurried his audience almost to the pathos of tears,--for he spoke
of the insinuations against his father so that every son and every father
in the assembly felt moved as at the voice of Nature.

A turn in a sentence, and a new emotion seized the assembly.  Harley was
identifying himself with the Lansmere electors.  He spoke of his pride in
being a Lansmere man, and all the Lansmere electors suddenly felt proud
of him.  He talked with familiar kindness of old friends remembered in
his schoolboy holidays, rejoicing to find so many alive and prospering.
He had a felicitous word to each.

"Dear old Lansmere!" said he, and the simple exclamation won him the
hearts of all.  In fine, when he paused, as if to retire, it was amidst a
storm of acclamation.  Audley grasped his hand, and whispered, "I am the
only one here not surprised, Harley.  Now you have discovered your
powers, never again let them slumber.  What a life may be yours if you no
longer waste it!"  Harley extricated his hand, and his eye glittered.  He
made a sign that he had more to say, and the applause was hushed.  "My
Right Honourable friend chides me for the years that I have wasted.
True; my years have been wasted,--no matter how nor wherefore!  But his!
how have they been spent?  In such devotion to the public that those who
know him not as I do, have said that he had not one feeling left to spare
to the obscurer duties and more limited affections, by which men of
ordinary talents and humble minds rivet the links of that social order
which it is the august destiny of statesmen--like him who now sits beside
me--to cherish and defend.  But, for my part, I think that there is no
being so dangerous as the solemn hypocrite, who, because he drills his
cold nature into serving mechanically some conventional abstraction,--
whether he calls it 'the Constitution' or 'the Public,'--holds himself
dispensed from whatever, in the warm blood of private life, wins
attachment to goodness, and confidence to truth.  Let others, then,
praise my Right Honourable friend as the incorruptible politician.
Pardon me if I draw his likeness as the loyal sincere man, who might say
with the honest priest 'that he could not tell a lie to gain heaven by
it!'--and with so fine a sense of honour, that he would hold it a lie
merely to conceal the truth."  Harley then drew a brilliant picture of
the type of chivalrous honesty,--of the ideal which the English attach to
the phrase of "a perfect gentleman," applying each sentence to his Right
Honourable friend with an emphasis that seemed to burst from his heart.
To all of the audience, save two, it was an eulogium which the fervent
sincerity of the eulogist alone saved from hyperbole.  But Levy rubbed
his hands, and chuckled inly; and Egerton hung his head, and moved
restlessly on his seat.  Every word that Harley uttered lodged an arrow
in Audley's breast.  Amidst the cheers that followed this admirable
sketch of the "loyal man," Harley recognized Leonard's enthusiastic
voice.  He turned sharply towards the young man: "Mr. Fairfield cheers
this description of integrity, and its application; let him imitate the
model set before him, and he may live to hear praise as genuine as mine
from some friend who has tested his worth as I have tested Mr. Egerton's.
Mr. Fairfield is a poet: his claim to that title was disputed by one of
the speakers who preceded me!--unjustly disputed!  Mr. Fairfield is every
inch a poet.  But, it has been asked, 'Are poets fit for the business of
senates?  Will they not be writing sonnets to Peggy and Moggy, when you
want them to concentrate their divine imagination on the details of a
beer bill?'  Do not let Mr. Fairfield's friends be alarmed.  At the risk
of injury to the two candidates whose cause I espouse, truth compels me
to say, that poets, when they stoop to action, are not less prosaic than
the dullest amongst us; they are swayed by the same selfish interests,
they are moved by the same petty passions.  It is a mistake to suppose
that any detail in common life, whether in public or private, can be too
mean to seduce the exquisite pliances of their fancy.  Nay, in public
life, we may trust them better than other men; for vanity is a kind of
second conscience, and, as a poet has himself said,--

        "'Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name,
          And free from conscience, is a slave to shame.'

In private life alone we do well to be on our guard against these
children of fancy, for they so devote to the Muse all their treasury of
sentiment, that we can no more expect them to waste a thought on the
plain duties of men, than we can expect the spendthrift, who dazzles the
town, 'to fritter away his money in paying his debts.'  But all the world
are agreed to be indulgent to the infirmities of those who are their own
deceivers and their own chastisers.  Poets have more enthusiasm, more
affection, more heart than others; but only for fictions of their own
creating.  It is in vain for us to attach them to ourselves by vulgar
merit, by commonplace obligations, strive and sacrifice as we may.  They
are ungrateful to us, only because gratitude is so very unpoetical a
subject.  We lose them the moment we attempt to bind.  Their love--

             "'Light as air, at sight of human ties,
               Spreads its light wings, and in a moment flies.'

"They follow their own caprices, adore their own delusions, and, deeming
the forms of humanity too material for their fantastic affections,
conjure up a ghost, and are chilled to death by its embrace!"

Then, suddenly aware that he was passing beyond the comprehension of his
audience, and touching upon the bounds of his bitter secret (for here he
was thinking, not of Leonard, but of Nora), Harley gave a new and more
homely direction to his terrible irony,--turned into telling ridicule the
most elevated sentiments Leonard's speech had conveyed, hastened on to a
rapid view of political questions in general, defended Leslie with the
same apparent earnestness and latent satire with which he had eulogized
Audley, and concluded a speech which, for popular effect, had never been
equalled in that hall, amidst a diapason of cheers that threatened to
bring down the rafters.

In a few minutes more the proceedings were closed, a show of hands taken.
The show was declared by the Mayor, who was a thorough Blue, in favour of
the Right Hon. Audley Egerton and Randal Leslie, Esquire.

Cries of "No,"  "Shame,"  "Partial," etc., a poll demanded on behalf of
the other two candidates, and the crowd began to pour out of the hall.

Harley was the first who vanished, retreating by the private entrance.
Egerton followed; Randal lingering, Avenel came up and shook hands with
him openly, but whispered privately, "Meet me to-night in Lansmere Park,
in the oak copse, about three hundred yards from the turnstile, at the
town end of the park.  We must see how to make all right.  What a
confounded humbug this has been!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

If the vigour of Harley's address had taken by surprise both friend and
foe, not one in that assembly--not even the conscience-stricken Egerton--
felt its effect so deeply as the assailed and startled Leonard.  He was
at first perfectly stunned by sarcasms which he so ill deserved; nor was
it till after the assembly had broken up, that Leonard could even
conjecture the cause which had provoked the taunt and barbed its dart.
Evidently Harley had learned (but learned only in order to misconceive
and to wrong) Leonard's confession of love to Helen Digby.  And now those
implied accusations of disregard to the duties of common life not only
galled the young man's heart, but outraged his honour.  He felt the
generous indignation of manhood.  He must see Lord L'Estrange at once,
and vindicate himself,--vindicate Helen; for thus to accuse one was
tacitly to asperse the other.

Extricating himself from his own enthusiastic partisans, Leonard went
straight on foot towards Lansmere House.  The Park palings touched close
upon the town, with a shall turnstile for foot passengers.  And as
Leonard, availing himself of this entrance, had advanced some hundred
yards or so through the park, suddenly, in the midst of that very copse
in which Avenel had appointed to meet Leslie, he found himself face to
face with Helen Digby herself.

Helen started, with a faint cry.  But Leonard, absorbed in his own desire
to justify both, hailed the sight, and did not pause to account for his
appearance, nor to soothe her agitation.

"Miss Digby!" he exclaimed, throwing into his voice and manner that
respect which often so cruelly divides the past familiarity from the
present alienation, "Miss Digby, I rejoice to see you,--rejoice to ask
your permission to relieve myself from a charge that in truth wounds even
you, while levelled but at me.  Lord L'Estrange has just implied, in
public, that I--I--who owe him so much, who have honoured him so truly,
that even the just resentment I now feel half seems to me the ingratitude
with which he charges me, has implied that--ah!  Miss Digby, I can
scarcely command words to say what it so humiliates me to have heard.
But you know how false is all accusation that either of us could deceive
our common benefactor.  Suffer me to repeat to your guardian what I
presumed to say to you when we last met, what you answered, and state
how I left your presence."

"Oh, Leonard! yes; clear yourself in his eyes.  Go!  Unjust that he is,
ungenerous Lord L'Estrange!"

"Helen Digby!" cried a voice, close at hand.  "Of whom do you speak
thus?"

At the sound of that voice Helen and Leonard both turned, and beheld
Violante standing before them, her young beauty rendered almost sublime
by the noble anger that lit her eyes, glowed in her cheeks, animated her
stately form.

"Is it you who thus speak of Lord L'Estrange?  You, Helen Digby,--you!"

From behind Violante now emerged Mr. Dale.  "Softly, children," he said;
and placing one hand on Violante's shoulder, he extended the other to
Leonard.  "What is this?  Come hither to me, Leonard, and explain."

Leonard walked aside with the parson, and in a few sentences gave vent to
his swelling heart.

The parson shared in Leonard's resentment; and having soon drawn from him
all that had passed in his memorable interview with Helen, exclaimed,--

"Enough!  Do not yet seek Lord L'Estrange yourself; I am going to see
him,--I am here at his request.  His summons, indeed, was for to-morrow;
but the squire having written me a hurried line, requesting me to meet
him at Lansmere tomorrow and proceed with him afterwards in search of
poor Frank, I thought I might have little time for communications with
Lord L'Estrange, unless I forestalled his invitation and came to-day.
Well that I did so!  I only arrived an hour since, found he was gone to
the town-hall, and joined the young ladies in the Park.  Miss Digby,
thinking it natural that I might wish to say something in private to my
old young friend Violante, walked a few paces in advance.  Thus,
fortunately, I chanced to be here, to receive your account, and I trust
to remove misunderstanding.  Lord L'Estrange must now be returned.  I
will go back to the house.  You, meanwhile, return to the town, I beseech
you.  I will come to you afterwards at your inn.  Your very appearance in
these grounds, even the brief words that have passed between Helen and
you, might only widen the breach between yourself and your benefactor.  I
cannot bear to anticipate this.  Go back, I entreat you.  I will explain
all, and Lord L'Estrange shall right you!  That is,--that must be his
intention!"

"IS--must be his intention--when he has just so wronged me!"

"Yes, yes," faltered the poor parson, mindful of his promise to
L'Estrange not to reveal his own interview with that nobleman, and yet
not knowing otherwise how to explain or to soothe; but still believing
Leonard to be Harley's son, and remembering all that Harley had so
pointedly said of atonement, in apparent remorse for crime, Mr. Dale was
wholly at a loss himself to understand why Harley should have thus
prefaced atonement by an insult.  Anxious, however, to prevent a meeting
between Harley and Leonard while both were under the influence of such
feelings towards each other, he made an effort over himself, and so well
argued in favour of his own diplomacy, that Leonard reluctantly consented
to wait for Mr. Dale's report.

"As to reparation or excuse," said he, proudly, "it must rest with Lord
L'Estrange.  I ask it not.  Tell him only this,--that if the instant I
heard that she whom I loved and held sacred for so many years was
affianced to him, I resigned even the very wish to call her mine--if that
were desertion of man's duties, I am guilty.  If to have prayed night and
day that she who would have blessed my lonely and toilsome life may give
some charm to his, not bestowed by his wealth and his greatness--if that
were ingratitude, I am ungrateful; let him still condemn me.  I pass out
of his sphere,--a thing that has crossed it a moment, and is gone.  But
Helen he must not blame, suspect; even by a thought.  One word more.  In
this election, this strife for objects wholly foreign to all my habits,
unsuited to my poverty, at war with aspirations so long devoted to fairer
goals, though by obscurer paths, I obeyed but his will or whim,--at a
moment too when my whole soul sickened for repose and solitude.  I had
forced myself at last to take interest in what I had before loathed.
But in every hope for the future, every stimulant to ambition, Lord
L'Estrange's esteem still stood before me.  Now, what do I here longer?
All of his conduct, save his contempt for myself, is an enigma.  And
sinless he repeat a wish, which I would fain still regard as a law, I
retire from the contest he has embittered; I renounce the ambition he has
poisoned; and, mindful of those humble duties which he implies that I
disdain, I return to my own home."

The parson nodded assent to each of these sentences; and Leonard, passing
by Violante and Helen, with a salutation equally distant to both,
retraced his steps towards the town.

Meanwhile Violante and Helen had also been in close conference, and that
conference had suddenly endeared each to the other; for Helen, taken by
surprise, agitated, overpowered, had revealed to Violante that confession
of another attachment, which she had made to Lord L'Estrange, the rupture
of her engagement with the latter.  Violante saw that Harley was free.
Harley, too, had promised to free herself.  By a sudden flash of
conviction, recalling his words, looks, she felt that she was beloved,--
deemed that honour alone (while either was yet shackled) had forbidden
him to own that love.  Violante stood a being transformed, "blushing
celestial rosy red," heaven at her heart, joy in her eyes,--she loved so
well, and she trusted so implicitly!  Then from out the overflow of her
own hope and bliss she poured forth such sweet comfort to Helen, that
Helen's arm stole  around her;  cheek touched cheek,--they were as
sisters.

At another moment, Mr. Dale might have felt some amazement at the sudden
affection which had sprung up between these young persons; for in his
previous conversation with Violante, he had, as he thought, very
artfully, and in a pleasant vein, sounded the young Italian as to her
opinion of her fair friend's various good qualities, and Violante had
rather shrunk from the title of "friend;" and though she had the
magnanimity to speak with great praise of Helen, the praise did not sound
cordial.  But the good man was at this moment occupied in preparing his
thoughts for his interview with Harley; he joined the two girls in
silence, and, linking an arm of each within his own, walked slowly
towards the house.  As he approached the terrace he observed Riccabocca
and Randal pacing the gravel walk side by side.

Violante, pressing his arm, whispered, "Let us go round the other way; I
would speak with you a few minutes undisturbed."

Mr. Dale, supposing that Violante wished to dispense with the presence of
Helen, said to the latter, "My dear young lady, perhaps you will excuse
me to Dr. Riccabocca,--who is beckoning to me, and no doubt very much
surprised to see me here,--while I finish what I was saying to Violante
when we were interrupted."

Helen left them, and Violante led the parson round through the shrubbery,
towards the side door in another wing of the house.

"What have you to say to me?" asked Mr. Dale, surprised that she remained
silent.

"You will see Lord L'Estrange.  Be sure that you convince him of
Leonard's honour.  A doubt of treachery so grieves his noble heart that
perhaps it may disturb his judgment."

"You seem to think very highly of the heart of this Lord L'Estrange,
child!" said the parson, in some surprise.  Violante blushed, but went on
firmly, and with serious earnestness: "Some words which he-that is, Lord
L'Estrange--said to me very lately, make me so glad that you are here,--
that you will see him; for I know how good you are, and how wise, dear,
dear Mr. Dale!  He spoke as one who had received some grievous wrong,
which had abruptly soured all his views of life.  He spoke of retirement,
solitude,--he on whom his country has so many claims.  I know not what he
can mean, unless it be that his--his marriage with Helen Digby is broken
off."

"Broken off!  Is that so?"

"I have it from herself.  You may well be astonished that she could even
think of another after having known him!" The parson fixed his eyes very
gravely on the young enthusiast.  But though her cheek glowed, there was
in her expression of face so much artless, open innocence, that Mr. Dale
contented himself with a slight shake of the head, and a dry remark,--

"I think it quite natural that Helen Digby should prefer Leonard
Fairfield.  A good girl, not misled by vanity and ambition,--temptations
of which it behoves us all to beware; nor least, perhaps, young ladies
suddenly brought in contact with wealth and rank.  As to this nobleman's
merits, I know not yet whether to allow or to deny them; I reserve my
judgment till after our interview.  This is all you have to say to me?"

Violante paused a moment.  "I cannot think," she said, half smiling,--
"I cannot think that the change that has occurred in him,--for changed he
is,--that his obscure hints as to injury received, and justice to be
done, are caused merely by his disappointment with regard to Helen.  But
you can learn that; learn if he be so very much disappointed.  Nay, I
think not!"

She slipped her slight hand from the parson's arm, and darted away
through the evergreens.  Half concealed amidst the laurels, she turned
back, and Mr. Dale caught her eye, half arch, half melancholy; its light
came soft through a tear.

"I don't half like this," muttered the parson; "I shall give Dr.
Riccabocca a caution."  So muttering, he pushed open the side door, and
finding a servant, begged admittance to Lord L'Estrange.

Harley at that moment was closeted with Levy, and his countenance was
composed and fearfully stern.  "So, so, by this time to-morrow," said he,
"Mr. Egerton will be tricked out of his election by Mr. Randal Leslie!
good!  By this time to-morrow his ambition will be blasted by the
treachery of his friends! good!  By this time to-morrow the bailiffs will
seize his person,--ruined, beggared, pauper, and captive,--all because he
has trusted and been deceived! good!  And if he blame you, prudent Baron
Levy, if he accuse smooth Mr. Randal Leslie, forget not to say, 'We were
both but the blind agents of your friend Harley L'Estrange.  Ask him why
you are so miserable a dupe.'"

"And might I now ask your Lordship for one word of explanation?"

"No, sir!--it is enough that I have spared you.  But you were never my
friend; I have no revenge against a man whose hand I never even touched."

The baron scowled, but there was a power about his tyrant that cowed him
into actual terror.  He resumed, after a pause, "And though Mr. Leslie is
to be member for Lansmere,--thanks to you,--you still desire that I
should--"

"Do exactly as I have said.  My plans now never vary a hair's breadth."

The groom of the chambers entered.

"My Lord, the Reverend Mr. Dale wishes to know if you can receive him."

"Mr. Dale! he should have come to-morrow.  Say that I did not expect him
to-day; that I am unfortunately engaged till dinner, which will be
earlier than usual.  Show him into his room; he will have but little time
to change his dress.  By the way, Mr. Egerton dines in his own
apartment."



CHAPTER XXVII.

The leading members of the Blue Committee were invited to dine at the
Park, and the hour for the entertainment was indeed early, as there might
be much need yet of active exertion on the eve of a poll in a contest
expected to be so close, and in which the inflexible Hundred and Fifty
"Waiters upon Providence" still reserved their very valuable votes.

The party was gay and animated, despite the absence of Audley Egerton,
who, on the plea of increased indisposition, had shut himself up in his
rooms the instant that he had returned from the town-hall, and sent word
to Harley that he was too unwell to join the party at dinner.

Randal was really in high spirits, despite the very equivocal success of
his speech.  What did it signify if a speech failed, provided the
election was secure?  He was longing for the appointment with Dick Avenel
which was to make "all right!"  The squire was to bring the money for the
purchase of the coveted lands the next morning.  Riccabocca had assured
him, again and again, of Violante's hand.  If ever Randal Leslie could be
called a happy man, it was as he sat at that dinner taking wine with Mr.
Mayor and Mr. Alderman, and looking, across the gleaming silver plateau,
down the long vista into wealth and power.

The dinner was scarcely over, when Lord L'Estrauge, in a brief speech,
reminded his guests of the work still before them; and after a toast to
the health of the future members for Lansmere, dismissed the Committee to
their labours.

Levy made a sign to Randal, who followed the baron to his own room.

"Leslie, your election is in some jeopardy.  I find, from the
conversation of those near me at dinner, that Egerton has made such way
amongst the Blues by his speech, and they are so afraid of losing a man
who does them so much credit, that the Committee men not only talk of
withholding from you their second votes and of plumping Egerton, but of
subscribing privately amongst themselves to win over that coy body of a
Hundred and Fifty, upon whom I know that Avenel counts in whatever votes
he may be able to transfer to you."

"It would be very unhandsome in the Committee, which pretends to act for
both of us, to plump Egerton," said Randal, with consistent anger; "but I
don't think they can get those Hundred and Fifty without the most open
and exortant bribery,--an expense which Egerton will not pay, and which
it would be very discreditable to Lord L'Estrange or his father to
countenance."

"I told them flatly," returned Levy, "that, as Mr. Egerton's agent, I
would allow no proceedings that might vitiate the election, but that I
would undertake the management of these men myself; and I am going into
the town in order to do so.  I have also persuaded the leading Committee
men to reconsider their determination to plump Egerton; they have decided
to do as L'Estrange directs, and I know what he will say.  You may rely
on me," continued the baron, who spoke with a dogged seriousness, unusual
to his cynical temper, "to obtain for you the preference over Audley, if
it be in my power to do so.  Meanwhile, you should really see Avenel this
very night."

"I have an appointment with him at ten o'clock; and judging by his speech
against Egerton, I cannot doubt on his aid to me, if convinced by his
poll-books that he is not able to return both himself and his impertinent
nephew.  My speech, however sarcastically treated by Mr. Fairfield, must
at least have disposed the Yellow party to vote rather for me than for a
determined opponent like Egerton."

"I hope so; for your speech and Fairfield's answer have damaged you
terribly with the Blues.  However, your main hope rests on my power to
keep those Hundred and Fifty rascals from splitting their votes on
Egerton, and to induce them, by all means short of bringing myself before
a Committee of the House of Commons for positive bribery,--which would
hurt most seriously my present social position,--to give one vote to you.
I shall tell them, as I have told the Committee, that Egerton is safe,
and will pay nothing; but that you want the votes, and that I--in short,
if they can be bought upon tick, I will buy them.  Avenel, however, can
serve you best here; for as they are all Yellows at heart, they make no
scruple of hinting that they want twice as much for voting Blue as they
will take for voting Yellow.  And Avenel being a townsman, and knowing
their ways, could contrive to gain them, and yet not bribe."

RANDAL (shaking his head incredulously).--"Not bribe!"

LEVY.--"Pooh!  Not bribe so as to be found out."  There was a knock at
the door.  A servant entered and presented Mr. Egerton's compliments to
Baron Levy, with a request that the baron would immediately come to his
rooms for a few minutes.

"Well," said Levy, when the servant had withdrawn, "I must go to Egerton,
and the instant I leave him I shall repair to the town.  Perhaps I may
pass the night there."  So saying, he left Randal, and took his way to
Audley's apartment.

"Levy," said the statesman, abruptly, upon the entrance of the baron,
"have you betrayed my secret--my first marriage--to Lord L'Estrange?"

"No, Egerton; on my honour, I have not betrayed it."

"You heard his speech!  Did you not detect a fearful irony under his
praises, or is it but--but-my conscience?" added the proud man, through
his set teeth.

"Really," said Levy, "Lord L'Estrange seemed to me to select for his
praise precisely those points in your character which any other of your
friends would select for panegyric."

"Ay, any other of my friends!--What friends?" muttered Egerton, gloomily.
Then, rousing himself, he added, in a voice that had none of its
accustomed clear firmness of tone, "Your presence here in this house,
Levy, surprised me, as I told you at the first; I could not conceive its
necessity.  Harley urged you to come,--he with whom you are no favourite!
You and he both said that your acquaintance with Richard Avenel would
enable you to conciliate his opposition.  I cannot congratulate you on
your success."

"My success remains to be proved.  The vehemence of his attack may be but
a feint to cover his alliance to-morrow."

Audley went on without notice of the interruption.  "There is a change in
Harley,--to me and to all; a change, perhaps, not perceptible to others--
but I have known him from a boy."

"He is occupied for the first time with the practical business of life.
That would account for a much greater change than you remark."

"Do you see him familiarly, converse with him often?"

"No, and only on matters connected with the election.  Occasionally,
indeed, he consults me as to Randal Leslie, in whom, as your special
protege, he takes considerable interest."

"That, too, surprises me.  Well, I am weary of perplexing myself.  This
place is hateful; after to-morrow I shall leave it, and breathe in peace.
You have seen the reports of the canvass; I have had no heart to inspect
them.  Is the election as safe as they say?"

"If Avenel withdraws his nephew, and the votes thus released split off to
you, you are secure."

"And you think his nephew will be withdrawn?  Poor young man! defeat at
his age, and with such talents, is hard to bear."  Audley sighed.

"I must leave you now, if you have nothing important to say," said the
baron, rising.  "I have much to do, as the election is yet to be won,
and--to you the loss of it would be--"

"Ruin, I know.  Well, Levy, it is, on the whole, to your advantage that I
should not lose.  There may be more to get from me yet.  And, judging by
the letters I received this morning, my position is rendered so safe by
the absolute necessity of my party to keep me up, that the news of my
pecuniary difficulties will not affect me so much as I once feared.
Never was my career so free from obstacle, so clear towards the highest
summit of ambition; never, in my day of ostentatious magnificence, as it
is now, when I am prepared to shrink into a lodging, with a single
servant."

"I am glad to hear it; and I am the more anxious to secure your election,
upon which this career must depend, because--nay, I hardly like to tell
you--"

"Speak on."

"I have been obliged, by a sudden rush on all my resources, to consign
some of your bills and promissory notes to another, who, if your person
should not be protected from arrest by parliamentary privilege, might be
harsh and--"

"Traitor!" interrupted Egerton, fiercely, all the composed contempt with
which he usually treated the usurer giving way, "say no more.  How could
I ever expect otherwise!  You have foreseen my defeat, and have planned
my destruction.  Presume no reply!  Sir, begone from my presence!"

"You will find that you have worse friends than myself," said the baron,
moving to the door; "and if you are defeated, if your prospects for life
are destroyed, I am the last man you will think of blaming.  But I
forgive your anger, and trust that to-morrow you will receive those
explanations of my conduct which you are now in no temper to bear.
I go to take care of the election."

Left alone, Audley's sudden passion seemed to forsake him.

He gathered together, in that prompt and logical precision which the
habit of transacting public business bestows, all his thoughts, and
sounded all his fears; and most vivid of every thought, and most
intolerable of every fear, was the belief that the baron had betrayed him
to L'Estrange.

"I cannot bear this suspense," he cried aloud and abruptly.  "I will see
Harley myself.  Open as he is, the very sound of his voice will tell me
at once if I am a bankrupt even of human friendship.  If that friendship
be secure, if Harley yet clasp my hand with the same cordial warmth, all
other loss shall not wring from my fortitude one complaint."

He rang the bell; his valet, who was waiting in the anteroom, appeared.

"Go and see if Lord L'Estrange is engaged.  I would speak with him."

The servant came back in less than two minutes.

"I find that my Lord is now particularly engaged, since he has given
strict orders that he is not to be disturbed."

"Engaged! on what, whom with?"

"He is in his own room, sir, with a clergyman, who arrived, and dined
here, to-day.  I am told that he was formerly curate of Lansmere."

"Lansmere! curate!  His name, his name!  Not Dale?"

"Yes, sir, that is the name,--the Reverend Mr. Dale."

"Leave me," said Audley, in a faint voice.  "Dale! the man who suspected
Harley, who called on me in London, spoke of a child,--my child,--and
sent me to find but another grave!  He closeted with Harley,--he!"

Audley sank back on his chair, and literally gasped for breath.  Few men
in the world had a more established reputation for the courage that
dignifies manhood, whether the physical courage or the moral.  But at
that moment it was not grief, not remorse, that paralyzed Audley,--it was
fear.  The brave man saw before him, as a thing visible and menacing, the
aspect of his own treachery,--that crime of a coward; and into cowardice
he was stricken.  What had he to dread?  Nothing save the accusing face
of an injured friend,--nothing but that.  And what more terrible?  The
only being, amidst all his pomp of partisans, who survived to love him,
the only being for whom the cold statesman felt the happy, living, human
tenderness of private affection, lost to him forever!  He covered his
face with both hands, and sat in suspense of something awful, as a child
sits in the dark, the drops on his brow, and his frame trembling.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

Meanwhile Harley had listened to Mr. Dale's vindication of Leonard with
cold attention.

"Enough," said he, at the close.  "Mr. Fairfield (for so we will yet call
him) shall see me to-night; and if apology be due to him, I will make it.
At the same time, it shall be decided whether he continue this contest or
retire.  And now, Mr. Dale, it was not to hear how this young man wooed,
or shrunk from wooing, my affianced bride, that I availed myself of your
promise to visit me at this house.  We agreed that the seducer of Nora
Avenel deserved chastisement, and I promised that Nora Avenel's son
should find a father.  Both these assurances shall be fulfilled to-
morrow.  And you, sir," continued Harley, rising, his whole form
gradually enlarged by the dignity of passion, "who wear the garb
appropriated to the holiest office of Christian charity; you who have
presumed to think that, before the beard had darkened my cheek, I could
first betray the girl who had been reared under this roof, then abandon
her,--sneak like a dastard from the place in which my victim came to die,
leave my own son, by the woman thus wronged, without thought or care,
through the perilous years of tempted youth, till I found him, by chance,
an outcast in a desert more dread than Hagar's,--you, sir, who have for
long years thus judged of me, shall have the occasion to direct your holy
anger towards the rightful head; and in me, you who have condemned the
culprit shall respect the judge."

Mr. Dale was at first startled, and almost awed, by this unexpected
burst.  But, accustomed to deal with the sternest and the darkest
passions, his calm sense and his habit of authority over those whose
souls were bared to him, nobly recovered from their surprise.  "My Lord,"
said he, "first, with humility I bow to your rebuke, and entreat your
pardon for my erring, and, as you say, my uncharitable opinions.  We
dwellers in a village and obscure pastors of a humble flock, we,
mercifully removed from temptation, are too apt, perhaps, to exaggerate
its power over those whose lots are cast in that great world which has so
many gates ever open to evil.  This is my sole excuse if I was misled by
what appeared to me strong circumstantial evidence.  But forgive me again
if I warn you not to fall into an error perhaps little lighter than my
own.  Your passion, when you cleared yourself from reproach, became you.
But ah, my Lord, when with that stern brow and those flashing eyes, you
launched your menace upon another over whom you would constitute yourself
the judge, forgetful of the divine precept, 'Judge not,' I felt that I
was listening no longer to honest self-vindication,--I felt that I was
listening to fierce revenge!"

"Call it revenge, or what you will," said Harley, with sullen firmness;
"but I have been stung too deeply not to sting.  Frank with all, till the
last few days, I have ever been.  Frank to you, at least, even now, this
much I tell you: I pretend to no virtue in what I still hold to be
justice; but no declamations nor homilies tending to prove that justice
is sinful will move my resolves.  As man I have been outraged, and as man
I will retaliate.  The way and the mode, the true criminal and his
fitting sentence, you will soon learn, sir.  I have much to do to-night;
forgive me if I adjourn for the present all further conference."

"No, no; do not dismiss me.  There is something, in spite of your present
language, which so commands my interest; I see that there has been so
much suffering where there is now so much wrath,--that I would save you
from the suffering worse than all,--remorse.  Oh, pause, my dear Lord,
pause and answer me but two questions; then I will leave your after
course to yourself."

"Say on, sir," said Lord L'Estrange, touched, and with respect.

"First; then, analyze your own feelings.  Is this anger merely to punish
an offender and to right the living,--for who can pretend to right the
dead?  Or is there not some private hate that stirs and animates and
confuses all?"

Harley remained silent.  Mr. Dale renewed,

"You loved this poor girl.  Your language even now reveals it.  You speak
of treachery: perhaps you had a rival who deceived you; I know not, guess
not, whom.  But if you would strike the rival, must you not wound the
innocent son?  And, in presenting Nora's child to his father, as you
pledge yourself to do, can you mean some cruel mockery that, under
seeming kindness, implies some unnatural vengeance?"

"You read well the heart of man," said Harley; "and I have owned to you
that I am but man.  Pass on; you have another question."

"And one more solemn and important.  In my world of a village, revenge
is a common passion; it is the sin of the uninstructed.  The savage
deems it noble!  but Christ's religion, which is the sublime Civilizer,
emphatically condemns it.  Why?  Because religion ever seeks to ennoble a
man; and nothing so debases him as revenge.  Look into your own heart,
and tell me whether, since you have cherished this passion, you have not
felt all sense of right and wrong confused,--have not felt that whatever
would before have seemed to you mean and base, appears now but just means
to your heated end.  Revenge is ever a hypocrite: rage, at least, strikes
with the naked sword; but revenge, stealthy and patient, conceals the
weapon of the assassin.  My Lord, your colour changes.  What is your
answer to my question?"

"Oh," exclaimed Harley, with a voice thrilling in its mournful anguish,
"it is not since I have cherished the revenge that I am changed, that
right and wrong grow dark to me, that hypocrisy seems the atmosphere fit
for earth.  No; it is since the discovery that demands the vengeance.
It is useless, sir," he continued impetuously,--" useless to argue with
me.  Were I to sit down, patient and impotent, under the sense of the
wrong which I have received, I should feel, indeed, that debasement which
you ascribe to the gratification of what you term revenge.  I should
never regain the self-esteem which the sentiment of power now restores to
me; I should feel as if the whole world could perceive and jeer at my
meek humiliation.  I know not why I have said so much,--why I have
betrayed to you so much of my secret mind, and stooped to vindicate my
purpose.  I never meant it.  Again I say, we must close this conference."
Harley here walked to the door, and opened it significantly.

"One word more, Lord L'Estrange,--but one.  You will not hear me.  I am a
comparative stranger, but you have a friend, a friend dear and intimate,
now under the same roof.  Will you consent, at least, to take counsel of
Mr. Audley Egerton?  None can doubt his friendship for you; none can
doubt that whatever he advise will be that which best becomes your
honour.  What, my Lord, you hesitate,--you feel ashamed to confide to
your dearest friend a purpose which his mind would condemn?  Then I will
seek him, I will implore him to save you from what can but entail
repentance."

"Mr. Dale, I must forbid you to see Mr. Egerton.  What has passed beween
us ought to be as sacred to you as a priest of Rome holds confession.
This much, however, I will say to content you: I promise that I will do
nothing that shall render me unworthy of Mr. Audley Egerton's friendship,
or which his fine sense of honour shall justify him in blaming.  Let that
satisfy you."

"Ah, my Lord," cried Mr. Dale, pausing irresolute at the doorway, and
seizing Harley's hand, "I should indeed be satisfied if you would submit
yourself to higher counsel than mine,--than Mr. Egerton's, than man's.
Have you never felt the efficacy of prayer?"

"My life has been wasted," replied Harley, "and I dare not, therefore,
boast that I have found prayer efficacious.  But, so far back as I can
remember, it has at least been my habit to pray to Heaven, night and
morning, until at least--until--" The natural and obstinate candour of
the man forced out the last words, which implied reservation.  He stopped
short.

"Until you have cherished revenge?  You have not dared to pray since?
Oh, reflect what evil there is within us, when we dare not come before
Heaven,--dare not pray for what we wish.  You are moved.  I leave you to
your own thoughts."  Harley inclined his head, and the parson passed him
by, and left him alone,--startled indeed; but was he softened?  As Mr.
Dale hurried along the corridor, much agitated, Violante stole from a
recess formed by a large bay window, and linking her arm in his, said
anxiously, but timidly: "I have been waiting for you, dear Mr. Dale; and
so long!  You have been with Lord L'Estrange?"

"Well!"

"Why do you not speak?  You have left him comforted, happier?"

"Happier!  No."

"What!" said Violante, with a look of surprise, and a sadness not unmixed
with petulance in her quick tone.  "What! does he then so grieve that
Helen prefers another?"

Despite the grave emotions that disturbed his mind, Mr. Dale was struck
by Violante's question, and the voice in which it was said.  He loved her
tenderly.  "Child, child," said he, "I am glad that Helen has escaped
Lord L'Estrange.  Beware, oh, beware how he excite any gentler interest
in yourself.  He is a dangerous man,--more dangerous for glimpses of a
fine original nature.  He may well move the heart of the innocent and
inexperienced, for he has strangely crept into mine.  But his heart is
swollen with pride and ire and malice."

"You mistake; it is false!" cried Violante, impetuously.  "I cannot
believe one word that would asperse him who has saved my father from a
prison, or from death.  You have not treated him gently.  He fancies he
has been wronged by Leonard, received ingratitude from Helen.  He has
felt the sting in proportion to his own susceptible and generous heart,
and you have chided where you should have soothed.  Poor Lord L'Estrange!
And you have left him still indignant and unhappy?"

"Foolish girl!  I have left him meditating sin; I have left him afraid to
pray; I have left him on the brink of some design--I know not what--but
which involves more than Leonard in projects of revenge; I have left him
so, that if his heart be really susceptible and generous, he will wake
from wrath to be the victim of long and unavailing remorse.  If your
father has influence over him, tell Dr. Riccabocca what I say, and bid
him seek, and in his turn save, the man who saved himself.  He has not
listened to religion,--he maybe more docile to philosophy.  I cannot stay
here longer,--I must go to Leonard."

Mr. Dale broke from Violante and hurried down the corridor; Violante
stood on the same spot, stunned and breathless.  Harley on the brink of
some strange sin!  Harley to wake, the victim of remorse!  Harley to be
saved, as he had saved her father!  Her breast heaved, her colour went
and came, her eyes were raised, her lips murmured.  She advanced with
soft footsteps up the corridor; she saw the lights gleaming from Harley's
room, and suddenly they were darkened, as the inmate of the room shut to
the door, with angry and impatient hand.

An outward act often betrays the inward mind.  As Harley had thus closed
the door, so had he sought to shut his heart from the intrusion of softer
and holier thoughts.  He had turned to his hearthstone, and stood on it,
resolved and hardened.  The man who had loved with such pertinacious
fidelity far so many years could not at once part with hate.  A passion
once admitted to his breast, clung to it with such rooted force!  But
woe, woe to thee, Harley L'Estrange, if tomorrow at this hour thou stand
at the hearthstone, thy designs accomplished, knowing that, in the
fulfilment of thy blind will, thou hast met falsehood with falsehood, and
deception with deceit!  What though those designs now seem so consummate,
so just, so appropriate, so exquisite a revenge,--seem to thee the sole
revenge wit can plan and civilized life allow: wilt thou ever wash from
thy memory the stain that will sully thine honour?  Thou, too, professing
friendship still, and masking perfidy under smiles!  Grant that the wrong
be great as thou deem it,--be ten times greater: the sense of thy
meanness, O gentleman and soldier, will bring the blush to thy cheek in
the depth of thy solitude.  Thou, who now thinkest others unworthy a
trustful love, wilt feel thyself forever unworthy theirs.  Thy seclusion
will know not repose.  The dignity of man will forsake thee.  Thy proud
eye will quail from the gaze.  Thy step will no longer spurn the earth
that it treads on.  He who has once done a base thing is never again
wholly reconciled to honour.  And woe--thrice woe, if thou learn too late
that thou hast exaggerated thy fancied wrong: that there is excuse, where
thou seest none; that thy friend may have erred, but that his error is
venial compared to thy fancied retribution!

Thus, however, in the superb elation of conscious power, though lavished
on a miserable object,--a terrible example of what changes one evil and
hateful thought, cherished to the exclusion of all others, can make in
the noblest nature, stood, on the hearth of his fathers, and on the abyss
of a sorrow and a shame from which there could be no recall, the
determined and scornful man.

A hand is on the door,--he does not hear it; a form passes the
threshold,-he does not see it; a light step pauses, a soft eye gazes.
Deaf and blind still to both.

Violante came on, gathering courage, and stood at the hearth by his side.



CHAPTER XXIX.

"LORD L'ESTRANGE, noble friend!"

"You!--and here--Violante?  Is it I whom you seek?  For what?  Good
heavens! what has happened?  Why are you so pale; why tremble?"

"Have you forgiven Helen?" asked Violante, beginning with evasive
question, and her cheek was pale no more.  "Helen, the poor child!
I have nothing in her to forgive, much to thank her for.  She has been
frank and honest."

"And Leonard--whom I remember in my childhood--you have forgiven him?"

"Fair mediator," said Harley, smiling, though coldly, "happy is the man
who deceives another; all plead for him.  And if the man deceived cannot
forgive, no one will sympathize or excuse."

"But Leonard did not deceive you?"

"Yes, from the first.  It is a long tale, and not to be told to you; but
I cannot forgive him."

"Adieu! my Lord.  Helen must, then, still be very dear to you!"  Violante
turned away.  Her emotion was so artless, her very anger so charming,
that the love, against which, in the prevalence of his later and darker
passions, he had so sternly struggled, rushed back upon Harley's breast;
but it came only in storm.

"Stay, but talk not of Helen!" he exclaimed.  "Ah, if Leonard's sole
offence had been what you appear to deem it, do you think I could feel
resentment?  No; I should have gratefully hailed the hand that severed a
rash and ungenial tie.  I would have given my ward to her lover with such
a dower as it suits my wealth to bestow.  But his offence dates from his
very birth.  To bless and to enrich the son of a man who--Violante,
listen to me.  We may soon part, and forever.  Others may misconstrue my
actions; you, at least, shall know from what just principle they spring.
There was a man whom I singled out of the world as more than a brother.
In the romance of my boyhood I saw one who dazzled my fancy, captivated
my heart.  It was a dream of Beauty breathed into waking life.  I loved,
--I believed myself beloved.  I confided all my heart to this friend,--
this more than brother; he undertook to befriend and to aid my suit.  On
that very pretext he first saw this ill-fated girl, saw, betrayed,
destroyed her; left me ignorant that her love, which I had thought mine,
had been lavished so wildly on another; left me to believe that my own
suit she had fled, but in generous self-sacrifice,--for she was poor and
humbly born; that--oh, vain idiot that I was!--the self-sacrifice had
been too strong for a young human heart, which had broken in the
struggle; left me to corrode my spring of life in remorse; clasped my
hand in mocking comfort, smiled at my tears of agony--not one tear
himself for his own poor victim!  And suddenly, not long since, I learned
all this.  And in the father of Leonard Fairfield, you behold the man who
has poisoned all the well-spring of joy to me.  You weep!  Oh, Violante!
the Past he has blighted and embittered,--that I could forgive; but the
Future is blasted too.  For just ere this treason was revealed to me, I
had begun to awake from the torpor of my dreary penance, to look with
fortitude towards the duties I had slighted, to own that the pilgrimage
before me was not barren.  And then, oh then, I felt that all love was
not buried in a grave.  I felt that you, had fate so granted, might have
been all to my manhood which youth only saw through the delusion of its
golden mists.  True, I was then bound to Helen; true, that honour to her
might forbid me all hope.  But still, even to know that my heart was not
all ashes, that I could love again, that that glorious power and
privilege of our being was still mine, seemed to me so heavenly sweet.
But then this revelation of falsehood burst on me, and all truth seemed
blotted from the universe.  I am freed from Helen; ah, freed, forsooth,--
because not even rank and wealth, and benefits and confiding tenderness,
could bind to me one human heart!  Free from her; but between me and your
fresh nature stands Suspicion as an Upas tree.  Not a hope that would
pass through the tainted air and fly to you, but falls dead under the
dismal boughs.  I love!

"Ha, ha!  I--I, whom the past has taught the impossibility to be loved
again.  No: if those soft lips murmured 'Yes' to the burning prayer that,
had I been free but two short weeks ago, would have rushed from the frank
deeps of my heart, I should but imagine that you deceived yourself,--a
girl's first fleeting delusive fancy,--nothing more!  Were you my bride,
Violante, I should but debase your bright nature by my own curse of
distrust.  At each word of tenderness, my heart would say, 'How long will
this last; when will the deception come?'  Your beauty, your gifts, would
bring me but jealous terror, eternally I should fly from the Present to
the Future, and say.  'These hairs will be gray, while flattering youth
will surround her in the zenith of her charms.'  Why then do I hate and
curse my foe?  Why do I resolve upon revenge?  I comprehend it now.  I
knew that there was something more imperious than the ghost of the Past
that urged me on.  Gazing on you, I feel that it was the dim sense of a
mighty and priceless loss; it is not the dead Nora,--it is the living
Violante.  Look not at me with those reproachful eyes: they cannot
reverse my purpose; they cannot banish suspicion from my sickened soul;
they cannot create a sunshine in the midst of this ghastly twilight.  Go,
go; leave me to the sole joy that bequeaths no disappointment, the sole
feeling that unites me to social man; leave me to my revenge."

"Revenge!  Oh, cruel!" exclaimed Violante, laying her hand on his arm.
"And in revenge, it is your own life that you will risk!"

"My life, simple child!  This is no contest of life against life.  Could
I bare to all the world my wrongs for their ribald laughter, I should
only give to my foe the triumph to pity my frenzy, to shun the contest;
or grant it, if I could find a second--and then fire in the air.  And all
the world would say, 'Generous Egerton!  soul of honour!'"

"Egerton, Mr. Egerton!  He cannot be this foe?  It is not on him you can
design revenge,--you who spend all your hours in serving his cause, you
to whom he trusts so fondly, you who leaned yesterday on his shoulder,
and smiled so cheeringly in his face?"

"Did I?  Hypocrisy against hypocrisy, snare against snare: that is my
revenge."

"Harley, Harley!  Cease, cease!"

The storm of passion rushed on unheeding.

"I seem to promote his ambition but to crush it into the mire.  I have
delivered him from the gentler gripe of an usurer, so that he shall hold
at my option alms or a prison--"

"Friend, friend!  Hush, hush!"

"I have made the youth he has reared and fostered into treachery like his
own (your father's precious choice, Randal Leslie) mine instrument in the
galling lesson how ingratitude can sting.  His very son shall avenge the
mother, and be led to his father's breast as victor, with Randal Leslie,
in the contest that deprives sire and benefactor of all that makes life
dear to ambitious egotism.  And if, in the breast of Audley Egerton,
there can yet lurk one memory of what I was to him and to truth, not his
least punishment will be the sense that his own perfidy has so changed
the man whose very scorn of falsehood has taught him to find in fraud
itself the power of retribution."

"If this be not a terrible dream," murmured Violante, recoiling, "it is
not your foe alone that you will deprive of all that makes life dear.
Act thus--and what, in the future, is left to me?"

"To you?  Oh, never fear.  I may give Randal Leslie a triumph over his
patron, but in the same hour I will unmask his villany, and sweep him
forever from your path.  What in the future is left to you?---your
birthright and your native land; hope, joy, love, felicity.  Could it be
possible that in the soft but sunny fancy which plays round the heart of
maiden youth, but still sends no warmth into its deeps,--could it be
possible that you had Honoured me with a gentler thought, it will pass
away, and you will be the pride and delight of one of your own years, to
whom the vista of Time is haunted by no chilling spectres, one who can
look upon that lovely face, and not turn away to mutter, 'Too fair, too
fair for me!'"

"Oh, agony!" exclaimed Violante, with sudden passion.  "In my turn hear
me.  If, as you promise, I am released from the dreadful thought that he,
at whose touch I shudder, can claim this hand, my choice is irrevocably
made.  The altars which await me will not be those of a human love.
But oh, I implore you--by all the memories of your own life, hitherto,
if sorrowful, unsullied, by the generous interest you yet profess for me,
whom you will have twice saved from a danger to which death were mercy--
leave, oh, leave to me the right to regard your image as I have done from
the first dawn of childhood.  Leave me the right to honour and revere it.
Let not an act accompanied with a meanness--oh that I should say the
word!--a meanness and a cruelty that give the lie to your whole life--
make even a grateful remembrance of you an unworthy sin.  When I kneel
within the walls that divide me from the world, oh, let me think that I
can pray for you as the noblest being that the world contains!  Hear me!
hear me!"

"Violante!" murmured Harley, his whole frame heaving with emotion, "bear
with me.  Do not ask of me the sacrifice of what seems to me the cause of
manhood itself,--to sit down, meek and patient, under a wrong that
debases me, with the consciousness that all my life I have been the
miserable dupe to affections I deemed so honest, to regrets that I
believed so holy.  Ah, I should feel more mean in my pardon than you can
think me in revenge!  Were it an acknowledged enemy, I could open my arms
to him at your bidding; but the perfidious friend!--ask it not.  My cheek
burns at the, thought, as at the stain of a blow.  Give me but to-morrow
--one day--I demand no more--wholly to myself and to the past, and mould
me for the future as you will.  Pardon, pardon the ungenerous thoughts
that extended distrust to you.  I retract them; they are gone,--dispelled
before those touching words, those ingenuous eyes.  At your feet,
Violante, I repent and I implore!  Your father himself shall banish your
sordid suitor.  Before this hour to-morrow you will be free.  Oh, then,
then! will you not give me this hand to guide me again into the paradise
of my youth?  Violante, it is in vain to wrestle with myself, to doubt,
to reason, to be wisely fearful!  I love, I love you!  I trust again in
virtue and faith.  I place my fate in your keeping."  If at times
Violante may appear to have ventured beyond the limit of strict maiden
bashfulness, much may be ascribed to her habitual candour, her solitary
rearing, and remoteness from the world, the very innocence of her soul,
and the warmth of heart which Italy gives its daughters.  But now that
sublimity of thought and purpose which pervaded her nature, and required
only circumstances to develop, made her superior to all the promptings of
love itself.  Dreams realized which she had scarcely dared to own; Harley
free, Harley at her feet; all the woman struggling at her heart, mantling
in her blushes, still stronger than love, stronger than the joy of being
loved again, was the heroic will,--will to save him, who in all else
ruled her existence, from the eternal degradation to which passion had
blinded his own confused and warring spirit.

Leaving one hand in his impassioned clasp, as he still knelt before her,
she raised on high the other.  "Ah," she said, scarce audibly,--"ah, if
heaven vouchsafe me the proud and blissful privilege to be allied to your
fate, to minister to your happiness, never should I know one fear of your
distrust.  No time, no change, no sorrow--not even the loss of your
affection--could make me forfeit the right to remember that you had once
confided to me a heart so noble.  But"--here her voice rose in its tone,
and the glow fled from her cheek--"but, O Thou the Ever Present, hear and
receive the solemn vow.  If to me he refuse to sacrifice the sin that
would debase him, that sin be the barrier between us evermore; and may my
life, devoted to Thy service, atone for the hour in which he belied the
nature he received from Thee!  Harley, release me!  I have spoken: firm
as yourself, I leave the choice to you."

"You judge me harshly," said Harley, rising, with sullen anger; "but at
least I have not the meanness to sell what I hold as justice, though the
bribe may include my last hope of happiness."

"Meanness!  Oh, unhappy, beloved Harley!" exclaimed Violante, with such a
gush of exquisite reproachful tenderness, that it thrilled him as the
voice of the parting guardian angel.  "Meanness!  But it is that from
which I implore you to save yourself.  You cannot judge, you cannot see.
You are dark, dark.  Lost Christian that you are, what worse than heathen
darkness to feign the friendship the better to betray; to punish
falsehood by becoming yourself so false; to accept the confidence even
of your bitterest foe, and then to sink below his own level in deceit?
And oh, worse than all--to threaten that a son--son of the woman you
professed to love--should swell your vengeance against a father!  No!
it was not you that said this,--it was the Fiend!"

"Enough!" exclaimed Harley, startled, conscience-stricken, and rushing
into resentment, in order to escape the sense of shame.  "Enough!  you
insult the man you professed to honour."

"I honoured the prototype of gentleness and valour.  I honoured one who
seemed to me to clothe with life every grand and generous image that is
born from the souls of poets.  Destroy that ideal, and you destroy the
Harley whom I honoured.  He is dead to me forever.  I will mourn for him
as his widow, faithful to his memory, weeping over the thought of what he
was."  Sobs choked her voice; but as Harley, once more melted, sprang
forward to regain her side, she escaped with a yet quicker movement,
gained the door, and darting down the corridor, vanished from his sight.

Harley stood still one moment, thoroughly irresolute, nay, almost
subdued.  Then sternness, though less rigid than before, gradually came
to his brow.  The demon had still its hold in the stubborn and marvellous
pertinacity with which the man clung to all that once struck root at his
heart.  With a sudden impulse that still withheld decision, yet spoke of
sore-shaken purpose, he strode to his desk, drew from it Nora's
manuscript, and passed from his room.

Harley had meant never to have revealed to Audley the secret he had
gained until the moment when revenge was consuminated.  He had
contemplated no vain reproach.  His wrath would have spoken forth in
deeds, and then a word would have sufficed as the key to all.  Willing,
perhaps, to hail some extenuation of perfidy, though the possibility of
such extenuation he had never before admitted, he determined on the
interview which he had hitherto so obstinately shunned, and went straight
to the room in which Audley Egerton still sat, solitary and fearful.



CHAPTER XXX.

Egerton heard the well-known step advancing near and nearer up the
corridor, heard the door open and reclose; and he felt, by one of those
strange and unaccountable instincts which we call forebodings, that the
hour he had dreaded for so many secret years had come at last.  He nerved
his courage, withdrew his hands from his face, and rose in silence.

No less silent, Harley stood before him.  The two men gazed on each
other; you might have heard their breathing.

"You have seen Mr. Dale?" said Egerton,  at length.  "You know--"

"All!" said Harley, completing the arrested sentence.  Audley drew a long
sigh.  "Be it so; but no, Harley, you deceive yourself; you cannot know
all, from any one living, save myself."

"My knowledge comes from the dead," answered Harley, and the fatal memoir
dropped from his hand upon the table.  The leaves fell with a dull, low
sound, mournful and faint as might be the tread of a ghost, if the tread
gave sound.  They fell, those still confessions of an obscure,
uncomprehended life, amidst letters and documents eloquent of the strife
that was then agitating millions,--the fleeting, turbulent fears and
hopes that torture parties and perplex a nation; the stormy business of
practical public life, so remote from individual love and individual
sorrow.

Egerton's eye saw them fall.  The room was but partially lighted.  At the
distance where he stood, he did not recognize the characters; but
involuntarily he shivered, and involuntarily drew near.

"Hold yet awhile," said Harley.  "I produce my charge, and then I leave
you to dispute the only witness that I bring.  Audley Egerton, you took
from me the gravest trust one man can confide to another.  You knew how I
loved Leonora Avenel.  I was forbidden to see and urge my suit; you had
the access to her presence which was denied to myself.  I prayed you to
remove scruples that I deemed too generous, and to woo her not to
dishonour, but to be my wife.  Was it so?  Answer."

"It is true," said Audley, his hand clenched at his heart.  "You saw her
whom I thus loved,--her thus confided to your honour.  You wooed her for
yourself.  Is it so?"

"Harley, I deny it not.  Cease here.  I accept the penalty; I resign your
friendship; I quit your roof; I submit to your contempt; I dare not
implore your pardon.  Cease; let me go hence, and soon!"

The strong man gasped for breath.  Harley looked at him steadfastly, then
turned away his eyes, and went on.  "Nay," said he, "is that ALL?  You
wooed her for yourself,--you won her.  Account to me for that life which
you wrenched from mine.  You are silent.  I will take on myself your
task; you took that life and destroyed it."

"Spare me, spare me!"

"What was the fate of her who seemed so fresh from heaven when these eyes
beheld her last?  A broken heart, a dishonoured name, an early doom, a
forgotten gravestone!"

"No, no--forgotten,--no!"

"Not forgotten!  Scarce a year passed, and you were married to another.
I aided you to form those nuptials which secured your fortunes.  You have
had rank and power and fame.  Peers call you the type of English
gentlemen; priests hold you as a model of Christian honour.  Strip the
mask, Audley Egerton; let the world know you for what you are!"

Egerton raised his head, and folded his arms calmly; but he said, with a
melancholy humility, "I bear all from you; it is just.  Say on."

"You took from me the heart of Nora Avenel.  You abandoned her, you
destroyed.  And her memory cast no shadow over your daily sunshine; while
over my thoughts, over my life--oh, Egerton--Audley, Audley--how could
you have deceived me thus!"  Here the inherent tenderness under all this
hate, the fount imbedded under the hardening stone, broke out.  Harley
was ashamed of his weakness, and hurried on,

"Deceived,--not for an hour, a day, but through blighted youth, through
listless manhood,--you suffered me to nurse the remorse that should have
been your own; her life slain, mine wasted,--and shall neither of us have
revenge?"

"Revenge!  Ah, Harley, you have had it!"

"No, but I await it!  Not in vain from the charnel have come to me the
records I produce.  And whom did fate select to discover the wrongs of
the mother, whom appoint as her avenger?  Your son,--your own son; your
abandoned, nameless son!"

"Son!  son!"

"Whom I delivered from famine, or from worse; and who, in return, has
given into my hands the evidence which proclaims in you the perjured
friend of Harley L'Estrange, and the fraudulent seducer, under mock
marriage forms--worse than all franker sin--of Leonora Avenel."

"It is false! false!" exclaimed Egerton, all his stateliness and all his
energy restored to him.  "I forbid you to speak thus to me.  I forbid you
by one word to sully the memory of my lawful wife!"

"Ah!" said Harley, startled.  "Ah! false? prove that, and revenge is
over!  Thank Heaven!"

"Prove it!  What so easy?  And wherefore have I delayed the proof;
wherefore concealed, but from tenderness to you,--dread, too--a selfish
but human dread--to lose in you the sole esteem that I covet; the only
mourner who would have shed one tear over the stone inscribed with some
lying epitaph, in which it will suit a party purpose to proclaim the
gratitude of a nation.  Vain hope.  I resign it!  But you spoke of a son.
Alas, alas! you are again deceived.  I heard that I had a son,--years,
long years ago.  I sought him, and found a grave.  But bless you, Harley,
if you succoured one whom you even erringly suspect to be Leonora's
child!"  He stretched forth his hands as he spoke.

"Of your son we will speak later," said Harley, strangely softened.  "But
before I say more of him, let me ask you to explain; let me hope that you
can extenuate what--"

"You are right," interrupted Egerton, with eager quickness.  "You would
know from my own lips at last the plain tale of my own offence against
you.  It is due to both.  Patiently hear me out."

Then Egerton told all,--his own love for Nora, his struggles against what
he felt as treason to his friend, his sudden discovery of Nora's love for
him; on that discovery, the overthrow of all his resolutions; their
secret marriage, their separation; Nora's flight, to which Audley still
assigned but her groundless vague suspicion that their nuptials had not
been legal, and her impatience of his own delay in acknowledging the
rite.

His listener interrupted him here with a few questions, the clear and
prompt replies to which enabled Harley to detect Levy's plausible
perversion of the facts; and he vaguely guessed the cause of the
usurer's falsehood, in the criminal passion which the ill-fated bride
had inspired.

"Egerton," said Harley, stifling with an effort his own wrath against the
vile deceiver both of wife and husband, "if, on reading those papers, you
find that Leonora had more excuse for her suspicions and flight than you
now deem, and discover perfidy in one to whom you trusted your secret,
leave his punishment to Heaven.  All that you say convinces me more and
more that we cannot even see through the cloud, much less guide the
thunderbolt.  But proceed."

Audley looked surprised and startled, and his eye turned wistfully
towards the papers; but after a short pause he continued his recital.  He
came to Nora's unexpected return to her father's house, her death, his
conquest of his own grief, that he might spare Harley the abrupt shock of
learning her decease.  He had torn himself from the dead, in remorseful
sympathy with the living.  He spoke of Harley's illness, so nearly fatal,
repeated Harley's jealous words, "that he would rather mourn Nora's
death, than take comfort from the thought that she had loved another."
He spoke of his journey to the village where Mr. Dale had told him Nora's
child was placed--"and, hearing that child and mother were alike gone,
whom now could I right by acknowledging a bond that I feared would so
wring your heart?"  Audley again paused a moment, and resumed in short,
nervous, impressive sentences.  This cold, austere man of the world for
the first time bared his heart,--unconscious, perhaps, that he did so;
unconscious that he revealed how deeply, amidst State cares and public
distinctions, he had felt the absence of affections; how mechanical was
that outer circle in the folds of life which is called a "career;" how
valueless wealth had grown--none to inherit it.  Of his gnawing and
progressive disease alone he did not speak; he was too proud and too
masculine to appeal to pity for physical ills.  He reminded Harley how
often, how eagerly, year after year, month after month, he had urged his
friend to rouse himself from mournful dreams, devote his native powers to
his country, or seek the surer felicity of domestic ties.  "Selfish in
these attempts I might be," said Egerton; "it was only if I saw you
restored to happiness that I could believe you could calmly hear my
explanation of the past, and on the floor of some happy home grant me
your forgiveness.  I longed to confess, and I dared not.  Often have the
words rushed to my lips,--as often some chance sentence from you repelled
me.  In a word, with you were so entwined all the thoughts and affections
of my youth--even those that haunted the grave of Nora--that I could not
bear to resign your friendship, and, surrounded by the esteem and honour
of a world I cared not for, to meet the contempt of your reproachful
eye."

Amidst all that Audley said, amidst all that admitted of no excuse, two
predominant sentiments stood clear, in unmistakable and touching pathos,
--remorseful regret for the lost Nora, and self-accusing, earnest, almost
feminine tenderness for the friend he had deceived.  Thus, as he
continued to speak, Harley more and more forgot even the remembrance of
his own guilty and terrible interval of hate; the gulf that had so darkly
yawned between the two closed up, leaving them still standing side by
side, as in their schoolboy days.  But he remained silent, listening,
shading his face from Audley, and as if under some soft but enthralling
spell, till Egerton thus closed,

"And now, Harley, all is told.  You spoke of revenge?"

"Revenge!" muttered Harley, starting.

"And believe me," continued Egerton, "were revenge in your power,
I should rejoice at it as an atonement.  To receive an injury in return
for that which, first from youthful passion, and afterwards from the
infirmity of purpose that concealed the wrong, I have inflicted upon you
--why, that would soothe my conscience, and raise my lost self-esteem.
The sole revenge you can bestow takes the form which most humiliates me,
--to revenge is to pardon."

Harley groaned; and still hiding his face with one hand, stretched forth
the other, but rather with the air of one who entreats than who accords
forgiveness.  Audley took and pressed the hand thus extended.

"And NOW, Harley, farewell.  With the dawn I leave this house.
I cannot now accept your aid in this election.  Levy shall announce my
resignation.  Randal Leslie, if you so please it, may be returned in my
stead.  He has abilities which, under safe guidance, may serve his
country; and I have no right to reject from vain pride whatever will
promote the career of one whom I undertook, and have failed, to serve."

"Ay, ay," muttered Harley; "think not of Randal Leslie; think but of your
son."

"My son!  But are you sure that he still lives?  You smile; you--you--oh,
Harley, I took from you the mother,--give to me the son; break my heart
with gratitude.  Your revenge is found!"

Lord L'Estrange rose with a sudden start, gazed on Audley for a moment,--
irresolute, not from resentment, but from shame.  At that moment he was
the man humbled; he was the man who feared reproach, and who needed
pardon.  Audley, not divining what was thus passing in Harley's breast,
turned away.

"You think that I ask too much; and yet all that I can give to the child
of my love and the heir of my name is the worthless blessing of a ruined
man.  Harley, I say no more.  I dare not add, 'You too loved his mother!
and with a deeper and a nobler love than mine.'"  He stopped short, and
Harley flung himself on his breast.

"Me--me--pardon me, Audley!  Your offence has been slight to mine.  You
have told me your offence; never can I name to you my own.  Rejoice that
we have both to exchange forgiveness, and in that exchange we are equal
still, Audley, brothers still.  Look up! look up! think that we are boys
now as we were once,--boys who have had their wild quarrel, and who, the
moment it is over, feel dearer to each other than before."

"Oh, Harley, this is revenge!  It strikes home," murmured Egerton, and
tears gushed fast from eyes that could have gazed unwinking on the rack.
The clock struck; Harley sprang forward.

"I have time yet," he cried.  "Much to do and to undo.  You are saved
from the grasp of Levy; your election will be won; your fortunes in much
may be restored; you have before you honours not yet achieved; your
career as yet is scarce begun; your son will embrace you to-morrow.  Let
me go--your hand again!  Ah, Audley, we shall be so happy yet!"



CHAPTER XXXI.

"There is a hitch," said Dick, pithily, when Randal joined him in the oak
copse at ten o'clock.  "Life is full of hitches."

RANDAL.--"The art of life is to smooth them away.  What hitch is this, my
dear Avenel?"

DICK.--"Leonard has taken huff at certain expressions of Lord
L'Estrange's at the nomination to-day, and talks of retiring from the
contest."

RANDAL (with secret glee).--"But his resignation would smooth a hitch,
--not create one.  The votes promised to him would thus be freed, and go
to--"

DICK.--"The Right Honourable Red-Tapist!"

RANDAL.--"Are you serious?"

DICK.--"As an undertaker!  The fact is, there are two parties among the
Yellows as there are in the Church,--High Yellow and Low Yellow.  Leonard
has made great way with the High Yellows, and has more influence with
them than I; and the High Yellows infinitely preferred Egerton to
yourself.  They say, 'Politics apart, he would be an honour to the
borough.'  Leonard is of the same opinion; and if he retires, I don't
think I could coax either him or the Highflyers to make you any the
better by his resignation."

RANDAL.--"But surely your nephew's sense of gratitude to you would induce
him not to go against your wishes?"

DICK.--"Unluckily, the gratitude is all the other way.  It is I who am
under obligations to him,--not he to me.  As for Lord L'Estrange, I can't
make head or tail of his real intentions; and why he should have attacked
Leonard in that way puzzles me more than all, for he wished Leonard to
stand; and Levy has privately informed me that, in spite of my Lord's
friendship for the Right Honourable, you are the man he desires to
secure."

RANDAL.--"He has certainly shown that desire throughout the whole
canvass."

DICK.--"I suspect that the borough-mongers have got a seat for Egerton
elsewhere; or, perhaps, should his party come in again, he is to be
pitchforked into the Upper House."

RANDAL (smiling).--"Ah, Avenel, you are so shrewd; you see through
everything.  I will also add that Egerton wants some short respite from
public life, in order to nurse his health and attend to his affairs,
otherwise I could not even contemplate the chance of the electors
preferring me to him, without a pang."

DICK.--"Pang!  stuff--considerable.  The oak-trees don't hear us!  You
want to come into parliament, and no mistake.  If I am the man to
retire,--as I always proposed, and had got Leonard to agree to, before
this confounded speech of L'Estrange's,--come into parliament you will,
for the Low Yellows I can twist round my finger, provided the High
Yellows will not interfere; in short, I could transfer to you votes
promised to me, but I can't answer for those promised to Leonard.  Levy
tells me you are to marry a rich girl, and will have lots of money; so,
of course, you will pay my expenses if you come in through my votes."

RANDAL.--"My dear Avenel, certainly I will."

DICK.--" And I have two private bills I want to smuggle through
parliament."

RANDAL.--"They shall be smuggled, rely on it.  Mr. Fairfield being on
one side of the House, and I on the other, we two could prevent all
unpleasant opposition.  Private bills are easily managed,--with that tact
which I flatter myself I possess."

DICK.--"And when the bills are through the House, and you have had time
to look about you, I dare say you will see that no man can go against
Public Opinion, unless he wants to knock his own head against a stone
wall; and that Public Opinion is decidedly Yellow."

RANDAL (with candour).--"I cannot deny that Public Opinion is Yellow; and
at my age, it is natural that I should not commit myself to the policy of
a former generation.  Blue is fast wearing out.  But, to return to Mr.
Fairfield: you do not speak as if you had no hope of keeping him straight
to what I understand to be his agreement with yourself.  Surely his
honour is engaged to it?"

DICK.--"I don't know as to honour; but he has now taken a fancy to public
life,--at least so he said no later than this morning before we went into
the hall; and I trust that matters will come right.  Indeed, I left him
with Parson Dale, who promised me that he would use all his best
exertions to reconcile Leonard and my Lord, and that Leonard should do
nothing hastily."

RANDAL.--"But why should Mr. Fairfield retire because Lord L'Estrange
wounds his feelings?  I am sure Mr. Fairfield has wounded mine, but that
does not make me think of retiring."

DICK.--"Oh, Leonard is a poet, and poets are quite as crotchety as
L'Estrange said they were.  And Leonard is under obligations to Lord
L'Estrange, and thought that Lord L'Estrange was pleased by his standing;
whereas, now--In short, it is all Greek to me, except that Leonard has
mounted his high horse, and if that throws him, I am afraid it will throw
you.  But still I have great confidence in Parson Dale,--a good fellow
who has much influence with Leonard.  And though I thought it right to be
above-board, and let you know where the danger lies, yet one thing I can
promise,--if I resign, you shall come in; so shake hands on it."

RANDAL.--"My dear Avenel!  And your wish is to resign?"

DICK.--"Certainly.  I should do so a little time after noon, contriving
to be below Leonard on the poll.  You know Emanuel Trout, the captain of
the Hundred and Fifty 'Waiters on Providence,' as they are called?"

RANDAL.--"To be sure I do."

DICK.--"When Emanuel Trout comes into the booth, you will know how the
election turns.  As he votes, all the Hundred and Fifty will vote.  Now I
must go back.  Good-night.

"You'll not forget that my expenses are to be paid.  Point of honour.
Still, if they are not paid, the election can be upset,--petition for
bribery and corruption; and if they are paid, why, Lansmere may be your
seat for life."

RANDAL.--"Your expenses shall be paid the moment my marriage gives me the
means to pay them,--and that must be very soon."

DICK.--"So Levy says.  And my little jobs--the private bills?"

RANDAL.--"Consider the bills passed and the jobs done."

DICK.--"And one must not forget one's country.  One must do the best one
can for one's principles.  Egerton is infernally Blue.  You allow Public
Opinion--is--"

RANDAL.--"Yellow.  Not a doubt of it."

DICK.--"Good-night.  Ha, ha! humbug, eh?"

RANDAL.--"Humbug!  Between men like us,--oh, no.  Good-night, my dear
friend, I rely on you."

DICK.--"Yes; but mind, I promise nothing if Leonard Fairfield does not
stand."

RANDAL.--"He must stand; keep him to it.  Your affairs, your business,
your mill--"

DICK.--"Very true.  He must stand.  I have great faith in Parson Dale."

Randal glided back through the park.  When he came on the terrace, he
suddenly encountered Lord L'Estrange.  "I have just been privately into
the town, my dear Lord, and heard a strange rumour, that Mr. Fairfield
was so annoyed by some remarks in your Lordship's admirable speech, that
he talks of retiring from the contest.  That would give a new feature to
the election, and perplex all our calculations; and I fear, in that case,
there might be some secret coalition between Avenel's friends and our
Committee, whom, I am told, I displeased by the moderate speech which
your Lordship so eloquently defended,--a coalition by which Avenel would
come in with Mr. Egerton, whereas, if we all four stand, Mr. Egerton, I
presume, will be quite safe,--and I certainly think I have an excellent
chance."

LORD L'ESTRANGE.---"SO Mr. Fairfield would retire in consequence of my
remarks!  I am going into the town, and I intend to apologize for those
remarks, and retract them."

RANDAL (joyously).--"Noble!"

Lord L'Estrange looked at Leslie's face, upon which the stars gleamed
palely.  "Mr. Egerton has thought more of your success than of his own,"
said he, gravely, and hurried on.

Randal continued on the terrace.  Perhaps Harley's last words gave him
a twinge of compunction.  His head sunk musingly on his breast, and he
paced to and fro the long gravel-walk, summoning up all his intellect
to resist every temptation to what could injure his self-interest.

"Skulking knave!" muttered Harley.  "At least there will be nothing to
repent, if I can do justice on him.  That is not revenge.  Come, that
must be a fair retribution.  Besides, how else can I deliver Violante?"

He laughed gayly, his heart was so light; and his foot bounded on as
fleet as the deer that he startled amongst the fern.

A few yards from the turnstile he overtook Richard Avenel, disguised in a
rough great-coat and spectacles.  Nevertheless, Harley's eye detected the
Yellow candidate at the first glance.  He caught Dick familiarly by the
arm.  "Well met!  I was going to you.  We have the election to settle."

"On the terms I mentioned to your Lordship?" said Dick, startled.  "I
will agree to return one of your candidates; but it must not be Audley
Egerton."  Harley whispered close in Avenel's ear.

Avenel uttered an exclamation of amazement.  The two gentlemen walked on
rapidly, and conversing with great eagerness.

"Certainly," said Avenel, at length, stopping short, "one would do a
great deal to serve a family connection,--and a connection that does a
man so much credit; and how can one go against one's own brother-in-law,
--a gentleman of such high standing, pull up the whole family!  How
pleased Mrs. Richard Avenel will be!  Why the devil did not I know it
before?  And poor--dear--dear Nora.  Ah, that she were living!"  Dick's
voice trembled.

"Her name will be righted; and I will explain why it was my fault that
Egerton did not before acknowledge his marriage, and claim you as a
brother.  Come, then, it is all fixed and settled."

"No, my Lord; I am pledged the other way.  I don't see how I can get
off my word--to Randal Leslie.  I'm not over nice, nor what is called
Quixotic; but still my word is given that if I retire from the election,
I will do my best to return Leslie instead of Egerton."

"I know that through Baron Levy.  But if your nephew retires?"

"Oh, that would solve all difficulties.  But the poor boy has now a wish
to come into parliament; and he has done me a service in the hour of
need."

"Leave it to me.  And as to Randal Leslie, he shall have an occasion
himself to acquit you and redeem himself; and happy, indeed, will it be
for him if he has yet one spark of gratitude, or one particle of honour!"

The two continued to converse for a few moments, Dick seeming to forget
the election itself, and ask questions of more interest to his heart,
which Harley answered so, that Dick wrung L'Estrange's hand with great
emotion, and muttered, "My poor mother!  I understand now why she would
never talk to me of Nora.  When may I tell her the truth?"

"To-morrow evening, after the election, Egerton shall embrace you all."

Dick started, and saying, "See Leonard as soon as you can,--there is no
time to lose," plunged into a lane that led towards the obscurer recesses
of the town.  Harley continued his way with the same light elastic tread
which (lost during his abnegation of his own nature) was now restored to
the foot, that seemed loath to leave a print upon the mire.

At the commencement of the High Street he encountered Mr. Dale and
Fairfield, walking slowly, arm-in-arm.

HARLEY.--"Leonard, I was coming to you.  Give me your hand.  Forget for
the present the words that justly stung and offended you.  I will do more
than apologize,--I will repair the wrong.  Excuse me, Mr. Dale, I have
one word to say in private to Leonard."  He drew Fairfield aside.

"Avenel tells me that if you were to retire from this contest, it would
be a sacrifice of inclination.  Is it so?"

"My Lord, I have sorrows that I would fain forget; and though I at first
shrunk from the strife in which I have been since engaged, yet now a
literary career seems to me to have lost its old charm; and I find that,
in public life, there is a distraction to the thoughts which embitter
solitude, that books fail to bestow.  Therefore, if you still wish me to
continue this contest, though I know not your motive, it will not be as
it was to begin it,--a reluctant and a painful obedience to your
request."

"I understand.  It was a sacrifice of inclination to begin the contest;
it would be now a sacrifice of inclination to withdraw?"

"Honestly, yes, my Lord."

"I rejoice to hear it, for I ask that sacrifice,--a sacrifice which you
will recall hereafter with delight and pride; a sacrifice sweeter, if I
read your nature aright--oh, sweeter far, than all which commonplace
ambition could bestow!  And when you learn why I make this demand, you
will say, 'This, indeed, is reparation for the words that wounded my
affections, and wronged my heart.'"

'My Lord, my Lord!" exclaimed Leonard, "the injury is repaired already.
You give me back your esteem, when you so well anticipate my answer.
Your esteem!--life smiles again.  I can return to my more legitimate
career without a sigh.  I have no need of distraction from thought now.
You will believe that, whatever my past presumption, I can pray sincerely
for your happiness."

"Poet, you adorn your career; you fulfil your mission, even at this
moment; you beautify the world; you give to the harsh form of Duty the
cestus of the Graces," said Harley, trying to force a smile to his
quivering lips.  "But we must hasten back to the prose of existence.
I accept your sacrifice.  As for the time and mode I must select in order
to insure its result, I will ask you to abide by such instructions as I
shall have occasion to convey through your uncle.  Till then, no word of
your intentions,--not even to Mr. Dale.  Forgive me if I would rather
secure Mr. Egerton's election than yours.  Let that explanation suffice
for the present.  What think you, by the way, of Audley Egerton?"

"I thought when I heard him speak and when he closed with those touching
words,--implying that he left all of his life not devoted to his country
'to the charity of his friends,'--how proudly, even as his opponent,
I could have clasped his hand; and if he had wronged me in private life,
I should have thought it ingratitude to the country he had so served to
remember the offence."

Harley turned away abruptly, and joined Mr. Dale.

"Leave Leonard to go home by himself; you see that I have healed whatever
wounds I inflicted on him."

PARSON.--"And, your better nature thus awakened, I trust, my dear Lord,
that you have altogether abandoned the idea of--"

HARLEY.--"Revenge?--no.  And if you do not approve that revenge
to-morrow, I will never rest till I have seen you--a bishop!"

MR. DALE (much shocked).--"My Lord, for shame!"

HARLEY (seriously).--"My levity is but lip-deep, my dear Mr. Dale.  But
sometimes the froth on the wave shows the change in the tide."

The parson looked at him earnestly, and then seized him by both hands
with holy gladness and affection.

"Return to the Park now," said Harley, smiling; "and tell Violante, if it
be not too late to see her, that she was even more eloquent than you."

Lord L'Estrange bounded forward.

Mr. Dale walked back through the park to Lansmere House.  On the terrace
he found Randal, who was still pacing to and fro, sometimes in the
starlight, sometimes in the shadow.

Leslie looked up, and seeing Mr. Dale, the close astuteness of his aspect
returned; and stepping out of the starlight deep into the shadow, he
said,

"I was sorry to learn that Mr. Fairfield had been so hurt by Lord
L'Estrange's severe allusions.  Pity that political differences should
interfere with private friendships; but I hear that you have been to Mr.
Fairfield,--and, doubtless, as the peacemaker.  Perhaps you met Lord
L'Estrange by the way?  He promised me that he would apologize and
retract."

"Good young man!" said the unsuspecting parson, "he has done so."

"And Mr. Leonard Fairfield will, therefore, I presume, continue the
contest?"

"Contest--ah, this election!  I suppose so, of course.  But I grieve that
he should stand against you, who seem to be disposed towards him so
kindly."

"Oh," said Randal, with a benevolent smile, "we have fought before, you
know, and I beat him then.  I may do so again!"

And he walked into the house, arm-in-arm with the parson.  Mr. Dale
sought Violante; Leslie retired to his own room, and felt his election
was secured.

Lord L'Estrange had gained the thick of the streets--passing groups of
roaring enthusiasts--Blue and Yellow--now met with a cheer, now followed
by a groan.  Just by a public-house that formed the angle of a lane with
the High Street, and which was all ablaze with light and all alive with
clamour, he beheld the graceful baron leaning against the threshold,
smoking his cigar, too refined to associate its divine vapour with the
wreaths of shag within, and chatting agreeably with a knot of females,
who were either attracted by the general excitement, or waiting to see
husband, brother, father, or son, who were now joining in the chorus of
"Blue forever!" that rang from tap-room to attic of the illumined
hostelry.  Levy, seeing Lord L'Estrange, withdrew his cigar from his
lips, and hastened to join him.  "All the Hundred and Fifty are in
there," said the baron, with a backward significant jerk of his thumb
towards the inn.  "I have seen them all privately, in tens at a time; and
I have been telling the ladies without that it will be best for the
interest of their families to go home, and let us lock up the Hundred and
Fifty safe from the Yellows, till we bring them to the poll.  But I am
afraid," continued Levy, "that the rascals are not to be relied upon
unless I actually pay them beforehand; and that would be disreputable,
immoral,--and, what is more, it would upset the election.  Besides, if
they are paid beforehand, query, is it quite sure how they will vote
afterwards?"

"Mr. Avenel, I dare say, can manage them," said Harley.  "Pray do nothing
immoral, and nothing that will upset the election.  I think you might as
well go home."

"Home!  No, pardon me, my Lord; there must be some head to direct the
Committee, and keep our captains at their posts upon the doubtful
electors.  A great deal of mischief may be done between this and the
morrow; and I would sit up all night--ay, six nights a week for the next
three months--to prevent any awkward mistake by which Audley Egerton can
be returned."

"His return would really grieve you so much?" said Harley.

"You may judge of that by the zeal with which I enter into all your
designs."

Here there was a sudden and wondrously loud shout from another inn,--
a Yellow inn, far down the lane, not so luminous as the Blue hostelry;
on the contrary, looking rather dark and sinister, more like a place for
conspirators or felons than honest, independent electors,--"Avenel
forever!  Avenel and the Yellows!"

"Excuse me, my Lord, I must go back and watch over my black sheep,
if I would have them blue!" said Levy; and he retreated towards the
threshold.  But at that shout of "Avenel forever!" as if at a signal,
various electors of the redoubted Hundred and Fifty rushed from the Blue
hostelry, sweeping past Levy, and hurrying down the lane to the dark
little Yellow inn, followed by the female stragglers, as small birds
follow an owl.  It was not, however, very easy to get into that Yellow
inn; Yellow Reformers, eminent for their zeal on behalf of purity of
election, were stationed outside the door, and only strained in one
candidate for admittance at a time.  "After all," thought the baron, as
be passed into the principal room of the Blue tavern, and proposed the
national song of "Rule Britannia,"--"after all, Avenel hates Egerton as
much as I do, and both sides work to the same end."  And thrumming on the
table, he joined with a fine lass in the famous line,

               "For Britons never will be slaves!"

In the interim, Harley had disappeared within the Lansmere Arms, which
was the headquarters of the Blue Committee.  Not, however, mounting to
the room in which a few of the more indefatigable were continuing their
labours, receiving reports from scouts, giving orders, laying wagers, and
very muzzy with British principles and spirits, Harley called aside the
landlord, and inquired if the stranger, for whom rooms had been prepared,
was yet arrived.  An affirmative answer was given, and Harley followed
the host up a private stair, to a part of the house remote from the rooms
devoted to the purposes of the election.  He remained with this stranger
about half an hour, and then walked into the Committee-room, got rid of
the more excited, conferred with the more sober, issued a few brief
directions to such of the leaders as he felt he could most rely upon, and
returned home as rapidly as he had quitted it.

Dawn was gray in the skies when Harley sought his own chamber.  To gain
it, he passed by the door of Violante's.  His heart suffused with
grateful ineffable tenderness, he paused and kissed the threshold.  When
he stood within his room (the same that he had occupied in his early
youth), he felt as if the load of years were lifted from his bosom.  The
joyous, divine elasticity of spirit, that in the morning of life springs
towards the Future as a bird soars into heaven, pervaded his whole sense
of being.  A Greek poet implies that the height of bliss is the sudden
relief of pain: there is a nobler bliss still,--the rapture of the
conscience at the sudden release from a guilty thought.  By the bedside
at which he had knelt in boyhood, Harley paused to kneel once more.  The
luxury of prayer, interrupted since he had nourished schemes of which his
passions had blinded him to the sin, but which, nevertheless, he dared
not confess to the All-Merciful, was restored to him.  And yet, as he
bowed his knee, the elation of spirits he had before felt forsook him.
The sense of the danger his soul had escaped, the full knowledge of the
guilt to which the fiend had tempted, came dread before his clearing
vision; he shuddered in horror of himself.  And he who but a few hours
before had deemed it so impossible to pardon his fellow-man, now felt as
if years of useful and beneficent deeds could alone purify his own
repentant soul from the memory of one hateful passion.



CHAPTER XXXII

But while Harley had thus occupied the hours of night with cares for the
living, Audley Egerton had been in commune with the dead.  He had taken
from the pile of papers amidst which it had fallen, the record of Nora's
silenced heart.  With a sad wonder he saw how he had once been loved.
What had all which successful ambition had bestowed on the lonely
statesman to compensate for the glorious empire he had lost,--such realms
of lovely fancy; such worlds of exquisite emotion; that infinite which
lies within the divine sphere that unites spiritual genius with human
love?  His own positive and earthly nature attained, for the first time,
and as if for its own punishment, the comprehension of that loftier and
more ethereal visitant from the heavens, who had once looked with a
seraph's smile through the prison-bars of his iron life; that celestial
refinement of affection, that exuberance of feeling which warms into such
varieties of beautiful idea, under the breath of the earth-beautifier,
Imagination,--all from which, when it was all his own, he had turned half
weary and impatient, and termed the exaggerations of a visionary romance,
now that the world had lost them evermore, he interpreted aright as
truths.  Truths they were, although illusions.  Even as the philosopher
tells us that the splendour of colours which deck the universe is not on
the surface whereon we think to behold it, but in our own vision; yet,
take the colours from the universe, and what philosophy can assure us
that the universe has sustained no loss?

But when Audley came to that passage in the fragment which, though but
imperfectly, explained the true cause of Nora's flight; when he saw how
Levy, for what purpose he was unable to conjecture, had suggested to his
bride the doubts that had offended him,--asserted the marriage to be a
fraud, drawn from Audley's own brief resentful letters to Nora proof of
the assertion, misled so naturally the young wife's scanty experience of
actual life, and maddened one so sensitively pure into the conviction of
dishonour,--his brow darkened, and his hand clenched.  He rose and went
at once to Levy's room.  He found it deserted, inquired, learned that
Levy was gone forth, and had left word he might not be at home for the
night.  Fortunate, perhaps, for Audley, fortunate for the baron, that
they did not then meet.  Revenge, in spite of his friend's admonition,
might at that hour have been as potent an influence on Egerton as it had
been on Harley, and not, as with the latter, to be turned aside.

Audley came back to his room and finished the tragic record.  He traced
the tremor of that beloved hand through the last tortures of doubt and
despair; he saw where the hot tears had fallen; he saw where the hand had
paused, the very sentence not concluded; mentally he accompanied his--
fated bride in the dismal journey to her maiden home, and beheld her
before him as he had last seen, more beautiful even in death than the
face of living woman had ever since appeared to him; and as he bent over
the last words, the blank that they left on the leaf, stretching pale
beyond the quiver of the characters and the blister of the tears,--pale
and blank as the void which departed love leaves behind it,--he felt his
Heart suddenly stand still, its course arrested as the record closed.  It
beat again, but feebly,--so feebly!  His breath became labour and pain,
his sight grew dizzy; but the constitutional firmness and fortitude of
the man clung to him in the stubborn mechanism of habit, his will yet
fought against his disease, life rallied as the light flickers up in the
waning taper.

The next morning, when Harley came into his friend's room, Egerton was
asleep.  But the sleep seemed much disturbed; the breathing was hard and
difficult; the bed-clothes were partially thrown off, as if in the
tossing of disturbed dreams; the sinewy strong arm, the broad athletic
breast, were partly bare.  Strange that so deadly a disease within should
leave the frame such apparent power that, to the ordinary eye, the
sleeping sufferer seemed a model of healthful vigour.  One hand was
thrust with uneasy straining over the pillows,--it had its hold on the
fatal papers; a portion of the leaves was visible; and where the
characters had been blurred by Nora's tears, were the traces, yet moist,
of tears perhaps more bitter.

Harley felt deeply affected; and while he still stood by the bed, Egerton
sighed heavily and woke.  He stared round him, as if perplexed and
confused, till his eyes resting on Harley, he smiled and said,

"So early!  Ah, I remember, it is the day for our great boat-race.  We
shall have the current against us; but you and I together--when did we
ever lose?"

Audley's mind was wandering; it had gone back to the old Eton days.  But
Harley thought that he spoke in metaphorical allusion to the present more
important contest.

"True, my Audley,--you and I together--when did we ever lose?  But will
you rise?  I wish you would be at the polling-place to shake hands with
your voters as they come up.  By four o'clock you will be released, and
the election won."

"The election!  How! what!" said Egerton, recovering himself.
"I recollect now.  Yes,--I accept this last kindness from you.  I always
said I would die in harness.  Public life--I have no other.  Ah, I dream
again!  Oh, Harley my son, my son!"

"You shall see him after four o'clock.  You will be proud of each other.
But make haste and dress.  Shall I ring the bell for your servant?"

"Do," said Egerton, briefly, and sinking back.  Harley quitted the room,
and joined Randal and some of the more important members of the Blue
Committee, who were already hurrying over their breakfast.

All were anxious and nervous except Harley, who dipped his dry toast into
his coffee, according to his ordinary abstemious Italian habit, with
serene composure.  Randal in vain tried for an equal tranquillity.  But
though sure of his election, there would necessarily follow a scene
trying to the nerve of his hypocrisy.  He would have to affect profound
chagrin in the midst of vile joy; have to act the part of decorous high-
minded sorrow, that by some untoward chance, some unaccountable cross-
splitting, Randal Leslie's gain should be Audley Egerton's loss.
Besides, he was flurried in the expectation of seeing the squire, and
of appropriating the money which was to secure the dearest object of his
ambition.  Breakfast was soon despatched.  The Committee-men, bustling
for their hats, and looking at their watches, gave the signal for
departure; yet no Squire Hazeldean had made his appearance.  Harley,
stepping from the window upon the terrace, beckoned to Randal, who took
his hat and followed.

"Mr. Leslie," said Harley, leaning against the balustrade, and carelessly
patting Nero's rough, honest head, "you remember that you were good
enough to volunteer to me the explanation of certain circumstances in
connection with the Count di Peschiera, which you gave to the Duke di
Serrano; and I replied that my thoughts were at present engaged on the
election, but as soon as that was over, I should be very willing to
listen to any communications affecting yourself and my old friend the
duke, with which you might be pleased to favour me."

This address took Randal by surprise, and did not tend to calm his
nerves.  However, he replied readily,

"Upon that, as upon any other matter that may influence the judgment you
form of me, I shall be but too eager to remove a single doubt that, in
your eyes, can rest upon my honour."

"You speak exceedingly well, Mr. Leslie; no man can express himself more
handsomely; and I will claim your promise with the less scruple because
the duke is powerfully affected by the reluctance of his daughter to
ratify the engagement that binds his honour, in case your own is
indisputably cleared.  I may boast of some influence over the young lady,
since I assisted to save her from the infamous plot of Peschiera; and the
duke urges me to receive your explanation, in the belief that, if it
satisfy me, as it has satisfied him, I may conciliate his child in favour
of the addresses of a suitor who would have hazarded his very life
against so redoubted a duellist as Peschiera."

"Lord L'Estrange," replied Randal, bowing, "I shall indeed owe you much
if you can remove that reluctance on the part of my betrothed bride,
which alone clouds my happiness, and which would at once put an end to my
suit, did I not ascribe it to an imperfect knowledge of myself, which I
shall devote my life to improve into confidence and affection."

"No man can speak more handsomely," reiterated Harley, as if with
profound admiration; and indeed he did eye Randal as we eye some rare
curiosity.  "I am happy to inform you, too," continued L'Estrange, "that
if your marriage with the Duke of Serrano's daughter take place--"

"If!" echoed Randal.

"I beg pardon for making an hypothesis of what you claim the right to
esteem a certainty,--I correct my expression: when your marriage with
that young lady takes place, you will at least escape the rock on which
many young men of ardent affections have split at the onset of the grand
voyage.  You will form no imprudent connection.  In a word, I received
yesterday a despatch from Vienna, which contains the full pardon and
formal restoration of Alphonso, Duke di Serrano.  And I may add, that the
Austrian government (sometimes misunderstood in this country) is bound by
the laws it administers, and can in no way dictate to the duke, once
restored, as to the choice of his son-in-law, or as to the heritage that
may devolve on his child."

"And does the duke yet know of his recall?" exclaimed Randal, his cheeks
flushed and his eyes sparkling.

"No.  I reserve that good news, with other matters, till after the
election is over.  But Egerton keeps us waiting sadly.  Ah, here comes
his valet."

Audley's servant approached.  "Mr. Egerton feels himself rather more
poorly than usual, my Lord; he begs you will excuse his going with you
into the town at present.  He will come later if his presence is
absolutely necessary."

"No.  Pray tell him to rest and nurse himself.  I should have liked him
to witness his own triumph,--that is all.  Say I will represent him at
the polling-place.  Gentlemen, are you ready?  We will go on."

The polling booth was erected in the centre of the marketplace.  The
voting had already commenced; and Mr. Avenel and Leonard were already at
their posts, in order to salute and thank the voters in their cause who
passed before them.  Randal and L'Estrange entered the booth amidst loud
hurrahs, and to the national air of "See the Conquering Hero comes."  The
voters defiled in quick succession.  Those who voted entirely according
to principle or colour--which came to much the same thing--and were
therefore above what is termed "management," flocked in first, voting
straightforwardly for both Blues or both Yellows.  At the end of the
first half-hour the Yellows were About ten ahead of the Blues.  Then
sundry split votes began to perplex conjecture as to the result; and
Randal, at the end of the first hour, had fifteen majority over Audley
Egerton, two over Dick Avenel, Leonard Fairfield heading the poll by
five.  Randal owed his place in the lists to the voters that Harley's
personal efforts had procured for him; and he was well pleased to see
that Lord L'Estrange had not withdrawn from him a single promise so
obtained.  This augured well for Harley's ready belief in his appointed
"explanations."  In short, the whole election seemed going just as he had
calculated.  But by twelve o'clock there were some changes in the
relative position of the candidates.  Dick Avenel had gradually gained
ground,--passing Randal, passing even Leonard.  He stood at the head of
the poll by a majority of ten.  Randal came next.  Audley was twenty
behind Randal, and Leonard four behind Audley.  More than half the
constituency had polled, but none of the Committee on either side, nor
one of the redoubted corps of a Hundred and Fifty.

The poll now slackened sensibly.  Randal, looking round, and longing for
an opportunity to ask Dick whether he really meant to return himself
instead of his nephew, saw that Harley had disappeared; and presently a
note was brought to him requesting his presence in the Committee-room.
Thither he hastened.

As he forced his way through the bystanders in the lobby, towards the
threshold of the room, Levy caught hold of him and whispered, "They begin
to fear for Egerton.  They want a compromise in order to secure him.
They will propose to you to resign, if Avenel will withdraw Leonard.
Don't be entrapped.  L'Estrange may put the question to you; but--a word
in your ear--he would be glad enough to throw over Egerton.  Rely upon
this, and stand firm."

Randal made no answer, but, the crowd giving way for him, entered the
room.  Levy followed.  The doors were instantly closed.  All the Blue
Committee were assembled.  They looked heated, anxious, eager.  Lord
L'Estrange, alone calm and cool, stood at the head of the long table.
Despite his composure, Harley's brow was thoughtful.  "Yes," said he to
himself, "I will give this young man the fair occasion to prove gratitude
to his benefactor; and if he here acquit himself, I will spare him, at
least, public exposure of his deceit to others.  So young, he must have
some good in him,--at least towards the man to whom he owes all."

"Mr. Leslie," said L'Estrange, aloud, "you see the state of the poll.
Our Committee believe that, if you continue to stand, Egerton must be
beaten.  They fear that, Leonard Fairfield having little chance, the
Yellows will not waste their second votes on him, but will transfer them
to you, in order to keep out Egerton.  If you retire, Egerton will be
safe.  There is reason to suppose that Leonard would, in that case, also
be withdrawn."

"You can hope and fear nothing more from Egerton," whispered Levy.  "He
is utterly ruined; and, if he lose, will sleep in a prison.  The bailiffs
are waiting for him."

Randal was still silent, and at that silence an indignant murmur ran
through the more influential members of the Committee.  For, though
Audley was not personally very popular, still a candidate so eminent was
necessarily their first object, and they would seem very small to the
Yellows, if their great man was defeated by the very candidate introduced
to aid him,--a youth unknown.  Vanity and patriotism both swelled that
murmur.  "You see, young sir," cried a rich, blunt master-butcher, "that
it was an honourable understanding that Mr. Egerton was to be safe.  You
had no claim on us, except as fighting second to him.  And we are all
astonished that you don't say at once, 'Save Egerton, of course.'  Excuse
my freedom, sir.  No time for palaver."

"Lord L'Estrange," said Randal, turning mildly from the butcher, "do you,
as the first here in rank and influence, and as Mr. Egerton's especial
friend, call upon me to sacrifice my election, and what appear to be the
inclinations of the majority of the constituents, in order to obtain what
is, after all, a doubtful chance of returning Mr. Egerton in my room?

"I do not call upon you, Mr. Leslie.  It is a matter of feeling or of
honour, which a gentleman can very well decide for himself."

"Was any such compact made between your Lordship and myself, when you
first gave me your interest and canvassed for me in person?"

"Certainly not.  Gentlemen, be silent.  No such compact was mentioned by
me."

"Neither was it by Mr. Egerton.  Whatever might be the understanding
spoken of by the respected elector who addressed me, I was no party to
it.  I am persuaded that Mr. Egerton is the last person who would wish
to owe his election to a trick upon the electors in the midst of the
polling, and to what the world would consider a very unhandsome treatment
of myself, upon whom all the toil of the canvass has devolved."

Again the murmur rose; but Randal had an air so determined, that it
quelled resentment, and obtained a continued, though most chilling and
half-contemptuous hearing.

"Nevertheless," resumed Randal, "I would at once retire were I not under
the firm persuasion that I shall convince all present, who now seem to
condemn me, that I act precisely according to Mr. Egerton's own private
inclinations.  That gentleman, in fact, has never been amongst you, has
not canvassed in person, has taken no trouble, beyond a speech, that was
evidently meant to be but a general defence of his past political career.
What does this mean?  Simply that his standing has been merely a form, to
comply with the wish of his party, against his own desire."

The Committee-men looked at each other amazed and doubtful.  Randal saw
he had gained an advantage; he pursued it with a tact and ability which
showed that, in spite of his mere oratorical deficiencies, he had in him
the elements of a dexterous debater.  "I will be plain with you,
gentlemen.  My character, my desire to stand well with you all, oblige me
to be so.  Mr. Egerton does not wish to come into parliament at present.
His health is much broken; his private affairs need all his time and
attention.  I am, I may say, as a son to him.  He is most anxious for my
success; Lord L'Estrange told me but last night, very truly, 'more
anxious for my success than his own.'  Nothing could please him more than
to think I were serving in parliament, however humbly, those great
interests which neither health nor leisure will, in this momentous
crisis, allow himself to defend with his wonted energy.  Later, indeed,
no doubt, he will seek to return to an arena in which he is so
distinguished; and when the popular excitement, which produces the
popular injustice of the day, is over, what constituency will not be
proud to return such a man?  In support and proof of what I have thus
said, I now appeal to Mr. Egerton's own agent,--a gentleman who, in spite
of his vast fortune and the rank he holds in society, has consented to
act gratuitously on behalf of that great statesman.  I ask you, then,
respectfully, Baron Levy, Is not Mr. Egerton's health much broken,
and in need of rest?"

"It is," said Levy.

"And do not his affairs necessitate his serious and undivided attention?"

"They do indeed," quoth the baron.  "Gentlemen, I have nothing to urge in
behalf of my distinguished friend as against the statement of his adopted
son, Mr. Leslie."

"Then all I can say," cried the butcher, striking his huge fist on the
table, "is, that Mr. Egerton has behaved d---d unhandsome to us, and we
shall be the laughing-stock of the borough."

"Softly, softly," said Harley.  "There is a knock at the door behind.
Excuse me."

Harley quitted the room, but only for a minute or two.  On his return he
addressed himself to Randal.

"Are we then to understand, Mr. Leslie, that your intention is not to
resign?"

"Unless your Lordship actually urge me to the contrary, I should say, Let
the election go on, and all take our chance.  That seems to me the fair,
manly, ENGLISH [great emphasis on the last adjective], honourable
course."

"Be it so," replied Harley;" 'let all take their chance.'  Mr. Leslie,
we will no longer detain you.  Go back to the polling-place,--one of the
candidates should be present; and you, Baron Levy, be good enough to go
also, and return thanks to those who may yet vote for Mr. Egerton."

Levy bowed, and went out arm-in-arm with Randal.  "Capital, capital,"
said the baron.  "You have a wonderful head."

"I did not like L'Estrange's look, nevertheless.  But he can't hurt me
now; the votes he got for me instead of for Egerton have already polled.
The Committee, indeed, may refuse to vote for me; but then there is
Avenel's body of reserve.  Yes, the election is virtually over.  When we
get back, Hazeldean will have arrived with the money for the purchase of
my ancestral property; Dr. Riccabocca is already restored to the estates
and titles of Serrano; what do I care further for Lord L'Estrange?
Still, I do not like his look."

"Pooh, you have done just what he wished.  I am forbidden to say more.
Here we are at the booth.  A new placard since we left.  How are the
numbers?  Avenel forty ahead of you; you thirty above Egerton; and
Leonard Fairfield still last on the poll.  But where are Avenel and
Fairfield?"  Both those candidates had disappeared, perhaps gone to
their own Committee-room.

Meanwhile, as soon as the doors had closed on Randal and the baron, in
the midst of the angry hubbub succeeding to their departure, Lord
L'Estrange sprang upon the table.  The action and his look stilled every
sound.

"Gentlemen, it is in our hands to return one of our candidates, and to
make our own choice between the two.  You have heard Mr. Leslie and Baron
Levy.  To their statement I make but this reply,--Mr. Egerton is needed
by the country; and whatever his health or his affairs, he is ready to
respond to that call.  If he has not canvassed, if he does not appear
before you at this moment, the services of more than twenty years plead
for him in his stead.  Which, then, of the two candidates do you choose
as your member,--a renowned statesman, or a beardless boy?  Both have
ambition and ability; the one has identified those qualities with the
history of a country, and (as it is now alleged to his prejudice) with a
devotion that has broken a vigorous frame and injured a princely fortune.
The other evinces his ambition by inviting you to prefer him to his
benefactor, and proves his ability by the excuses he makes for
ingratitude.  Choose between the two,--an Egerton or a Leslie."

"Egerton forever!" cried all the assembly, as with a single voice,
followed by a hiss for Leslie.

"But," said a grave and prudent Committee-man, "have we really the
choice?  Does not that rest with the Yellows?  Is not your Lordship too
sanguine?"

"Open that door behind; a deputation from our opponents waits in the room
on the other side the passage.  Admit them."

The Committee were hushed in breathless silence while Harley's order was
obeyed.  And soon, to their great surprise, Leonard Fairfield himself,
attended by six of the principal members of the Yellow party, entered the
room.

LORD L'ESTRANGE.--"You have a proposition to make to us, Mr. Fairfield,
on behalf of yourself and Mr. Avenel, and with the approval of your
Committee?"

LEONARD (advancing to the table).--"I have.  We are convinced that
neither party can carry both its candidates.  Mr. Avenel is safe.  The
only question is, which of the two candidates on your side it best
becomes the honour of this constituency to select.  My resignation, which
I am about to tender, will free sufficient votes to give the triumph
either to Mr. Egerton or to Mr. Leslie."

"Egerton forever!" cried once more the excited Blues.  "Yes, Egerton
forever!" said Leonard, with a glow upon his cheek.  "We may differ from
his politics, but who can tell us those of Mr. Leslie?  We may differ
from the politician, but who would not feel proud of the senator?  A
great and incalculable advantage is bestowed on that constituency which
returns to parliament a distinguished man.  His distinction ennobles the
place he represents, it sustains public spirit, it augments the manly
interest in all that affects the nation.  Every time his voice hushes the
assembled parliament, it reminds us of our common country; and even the
discussion amongst his constituents which his voice provokes, clears
their perceptions of the public interest, and enlightens themselves,
from the intellect which commands their interests, and compels their
attention.  Egerton, then, forever!  If our party must subscribe to the
return of one opponent, let all unite to select the worthiest.  My Lord
L'Estrange, when I quit this room, it will be to announce my resignation,
and to solicit those who have promised me their votes to transfer them to
Mr. Audley Egerton."

Amidst the uproarious huzzas which followed this speech, Leonard drew
near to Harley.  "My Lord, I have obeyed your wishes, as conveyed to me
by my uncle, who is engaged at this moment elsewhere in carrying them
into effect."

"Leonard," said Harley, in the same undertone, "you have insured to
Audley Egerton what you alone could do,--the triumph over a perfidious
dependent, the continuance of the sole career in which he has hitherto
found the solace or the zest of life.  He must thank you with his own
lips.  Come to the Park after the close of the poll.  There and then
shall the explanations yet needful to both be given and received."

Here Harley bowed to the assembly and raised his voice: "Gentlemen,
yesterday, at the nomination of the candidates, I uttered remarks that
have justly pained Mr. Fairfield.  In your presence I wholly retract and
frankly apologize for them.  In your presence I entreat his forgiveness,
and say, that if he will accord me his friendship, I will place him in my
esteem and affection side by side with the statesman whom he has given to
his country."

Leonard grasped the hand extended to him with both his own, and then,
overcome by his emotions, hurried from the room; while Blues and Yellows
exchanged greetings, rejoiced in the compromise that would dispel all
party irritation, secure the peace of the borough, and allow quiet men,
who had detested each other the day before, and vowed reciprocal injuries
to trade and custom, the indulgence of all amiable and fraternal
feelings--until the next general election.

In the mean while the polling had gone on slowly as before, but still to
the advantage of Randal.  "Not two-thirds of the constituency will poll,"
murmured Levy, looking at his watch.  "The thing is decided.  Aha, Audley
Egerton! you who once tortured me with the unspeakable jealousy that
bequeaths such implacable hate; you who scorned my society, and called me
'scoundrel,' disdainful of the very power your folly placed within my
hands,--aha, your time is up!  and the spirit that administered to your
own destruction strides within the circle to seize its prey!"

"You shall have my first frank, Levy," said Randal, "to enclose your
letter to Mr. Thornhill's solicitor.  This affair of the election is
over; we must now look to what else rests on our hands."

"What the devil is that placard?" cried Levy, turning pale.

Randal looked, and right up the market-place, followed by an immense
throng, moved, high over the heads of all, a Yellow Board, that seemed
marching through the air, cometlike:--

                                             Two o'clock p.m.

                       RESIGNATION OF FAIRFIELD.

                                 ------
                                YELLOWS!

                                Vote For

                          AVENEL AND EGERTON.

                                    (Signed)  Timothy Alljack

     Yellow Committee Room.


"What infernal treachery is this?" cried Randal, livid with honest
indignation.

"Wait a moment; there is Avenel!" exclaimed Levy; and at the head of
another procession that emerged from the obscurer lanes of the town,
walked, with grave majesty, the surviving Yellow candidate.  Dick
disappeared for a moment within a grocer's shop in the broadest part of
the place, and then culminated at the height of a balcony on the first
story, just above an enormous yellow canister, significant of the
profession and the politics of the householder.  No sooner did Dick, hat
in hand, appear on this rostrum, than the two processions halted below,
bands ceased, flags drooped round their staves, crowds rushed within
hearing, and even the poll clerks sprang from the booth.  Randal and Levy
themselves pressed into the throng.  Dick on the balcony was the /Deus ex
machina/.

"Freemen and electors!" said Dick, with his most sonorous accents,
"finding that the public opinion of this independent and enlightened
constituency is so evenly divided, that only one Yellow candidate can be
returned, and only one Blue has a chance, it was my intention last night
to retire from the contest, and thus put an end to all bickerings and
ill-blood (Hold your tongues there, can't you!). I say honestly, I should
have preferred the return of my distinguished and talented young nephew--
honourable relation--to my own; but he would not hear of it, and talked
all our Committee into the erroneous but high-minded notion, that the
town would cry shame if the nephew rode into parliament by breaking the
back of the uncle."  (Loud cheers from the mob, and partial cries of "We
'll have you both!")

"You'll do no such thing, and you know it; hold your jaw," resumed Dick,
with imperious good-humour.  "Let me go on, can't you?--time presses.  In
a word, my nephew resolved to retire, if, at two o'clock this day, there
was no chance of returning both of us; and there is none.  Now, then, the
next thing for the Yellows who have not yet voted, is to consider how
they will give their second votes.  If I had been the man to retire, why,
for certain reasons, I should have recommended them to split with
Leslie,--a clever chap, and pretty considerable sharp."

"Hear, hear, hear!" cried the baron, lustily.

"But I'm bound to say that my nephew has an opinion of his own,--as an
independent Britisher, let him be twice your nephew, ought to have; and
his opinion goes the other way, and so does that of our Committee."

"Sold!" cried the baron; and some of the crowd shook their heads, and
looked grave,--especially those suspected of a wish to be bought.

"Sold!  Pretty fellow you with the nosegay in your buttonhole to talk of
selling!  You who wanted to sell your own client,--and you know it.
[Levy recoiled.]  Why, gentlemen, that's Levy the Jew, who talks of
selling!  And if he asperses the character of this constituency, I stand
here to defend it!  And there stands the parish pump, with a handle for
the arm of Honesty, and a spout for the lips of Falsehood!"

At the close of this magniloquent period, borrowed, no doubt, from some
great American orator, Baron Levy involuntarily retreated towards the
shelter of the polling-booth, followed by some frowning Yellows with very
menacing gestures.

"But the calumniator sneaks away; leave him to the reproach of his
conscience," resumed Dick, with a generous magnanimity.

"SOLD! [the word rang through the place like the blast of a trumpet]
Sold!  No, believe me, not a man who votes for Egerton instead of
Fairfield will, so far as I am concerned, be a penny the better--
[chilling silence]--or [with a scarce perceivable wink towards the
anxious faces of the Hundred and Fifty who filled the background]--or a
penny the worse.  [Loud cheers from the Hundred and Fifty, and cries of
'Noble!']  I don't like the politics of Mr. Egerton.  But I am not only
a politician,--I am a MAN!  The arguments of our respected Committee--
persons in business, tender husbands, and devoted fathers--have weight
with me.  I myself am a husband and a father.  If a needless contest be
prolonged to the last, with all the irritations it engenders, who
suffer?--why, the tradesman and the operative.  Partiality, loss of
custom, tyrannical demands for house rent, notices to quit,--in a word,
the screw!"

"Hear, hear!" and "Give us the Ballot!"

"The Ballot--with all my heart, if I had it about me!  And if we had the
Ballot, I should like to see a man dare to vote Blue.  [Loud cheers from
the Yellows.]  But, as we have not got it, we must think of our families.
And I may add, that though Mr. Egerton may come again into office, yet
[added Dick solemnly] I will do my best, as his colleague, to keep him
straight; and your own enlightenment (for the schoolmaster is abroad)
will show him that no minister can brave public opinion, nor quarrel with
his own bread and butter.  [Much cheering.]  In these times the
aristocracy must endear themselves to the middle and working class; and a
member in office has much to give away in the Stamps and Excise, in the
Customs, the Post Office, and other State departments in this rotten old-
--I mean this magnificent empire, by which he can benefit his
constituents, and reconcile the prerogatives of aristocracy with the
claims of the people,--more especially in this case, the people of the
borough of Lausmere.  [Hear, hear!]

"And therefore, sacrificing party inclinations (since it seems that I can
in no way promote them) on the Altar of General Good Feeling, I cannot
oppose the resignation of my nephew,--honourable relation!--nor blind my
eyes to the advantages that may result to a borough so important to the
nation at large, if the electors think fit to choose my Right Honourable
brother--I mean the Right Honourable Blue candidate--as my brother
colleague.  Not that I presume to dictate, or express a wish one way or
the other; only, as a Family Man, I say to you, Electors and Freemen,
having served your country in returning me, you have nobly won the right
to think of the little ones at home."

Dick put his hand to his heart, bowed gracefully, and retired from the
balcony amidst unanimous applause.

In three minutes more Dick had resumed his place in the booth in his
quality of candidate.  A rush of Yellow electors poured in, hot and fast.
Up came Emanuel Trout, and, in a firm voice, recorded his vote, "Avenel
and Egerton."  Every man of the Hundred and Fifty so polled.  To each
question, "Whom do you vote for?"  "Avenel and Egerton" knelled on the
ears of Randal Leslie with "damnable iteration."  The young man folded
his arms across his breast in dogged despair.  Levy had to shake hands
for Mr. Egerton with a rapidity that took away his breath.  He longed to
slink away,--longed to get at L'Estrange, whom he supposed would be as
wroth at this turn in the wheel of fortune as himself.  But how, as
Egerton's representative, escape from the continuous gripes of those
horny hands?  Besides, there stood the parish pump, right in face of the
booth, and some huge truculent-looking Yellows loitered round it, as if
ready to pounce on him the instant he quitted his present sanctuary.
Suddenly the crowd round the booth receded; Lord L'Estrange's carriage
drove up to the spot, and Harley, stepping from it, assisted out of the
vehicle an old, gray-haired, paralytic man.  The old man stared round
him, and nodded smilingly to the mob.  "I'm here,-I'm come; I'm but a
poor creature, but I'm a good Blue to the last!"

"Old John Avenel,--fine old John!" cried many a voice.

And John Avenel, still leaning on Harley's arm, tottered into the booth,
and plumped for "Egerton."

"Shake hands, Father," said Dick, bending forward, "though you'll not
vote for me."

"I was a Blue before you were born," answered the old man, tremulously;
"but I wish you success all the same, and God bless you, my boy!"

Even the poll-clerks were touched; and when Dick, leaving his place, was
seen by the crowd assisting Lord L'Estrange to place poor John again in
the carriage, that picture of family love in the midst of political
difference--of the prosperous, wealthy, energetic son, who, as a boy, had
played at marbles in the very kennel, and who had risen in life by his
own exertions, and was now virtually M. P. for his native town, tending
on the broken-down, aged father, whom even the interests of a son he was
so proud of could not win from the colours which he associated with truth
and rectitude--had such an effect upon the rudest of the mob there
present, that you might have heard a pin fall,--till the carriage drove
away back to John's humble home; and then there rose such a tempest of
huzzas!  John Avenel's vote for Egerton gave another turn to the
vicissitudes of that memorable election.  As yet Avenel had been ahead of
Audley; but a plumper in favour of Egerton, from Avenel's own father, set
an example and gave an excuse to many a Blue who had not yet voted, and
could not prevail on himself to split his vote between Dick and Audley;
and, therefore, several leading tradesmen, who, seeing that Egerton was
safe, had previously resolved not to vote at all, came up in the last
hour, plumped for Egerton, and carried him to the head of the poll; so
that poor John, whose vote, involving that of Mark Fairfield, had secured
the first opening in public life to the young ambition of the unknown
son-in-law, still contributed to connect with success and triumph, but
also with sorrow, and, it may be, with death, the names of the high-born
Egerton and the humble Avenel.

The great town-clock strikes the hour of four; the returning officer
declares the poll closed; the formal announcement of the result will be
made later.  But all the town knows that Audley Egerton and Richard
Avenel are the members for Lausmere.  And flags stream, and drums beat,
and men shake each other by the hand heartily; and there is talk of the
chairing to-morrow; and the public-houses are crowded; and there is an
indistinct hubbub in street and alley, with sudden bursts of uproarious
shouting; and the clouds to the west look red and lurid round the sun,
which has gone down behind the church tower,--behind the yew-trees that
overshadow the quiet grave of Nora Avenel.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

Amidst the darkening shadows of twilight, Randal Leslie walked through
Lansmere Park towards the house.  He had slunk away before the poll was
closed,--crept through bylanes, and plunged into the leafless copses of
the earl's stately pasture-grounds.  Amidst the bewilderment of his
thoughts--at a loss to conjecture how this strange mischance had befallen
him, inclined to ascribe it to Leonard's influence over Avenel, but
suspecting Harley, and half doubtful of Baron Levy--he sought to
ascertain what fault of judgment he himself had committed, what wile he
had forgotten, what thread in his web he had left ragged and incomplete.
He could discover none.  His ability seemed to him unimpeachable,--
/totus, teres, atque rotundas/.  And then there came across his breast a
sharp pang,--sharper than that of baffled ambition,--the feeling that he
had been deceived and bubbled and betrayed.  For so vital a necessity to
all living men is TRUTH, that the vilest traitor feels amazed and
wronged, feels the pillars of the world shaken, when treason recoils on
himself.  "That Richard Avenel, whom I trusted, could so deceive me!"
murmured Randal, and his lip quivered.

He was still in the midst of the Park, when a man with a yellow cockade
in his hat, and running fast from the direction of the town, overtook him
with a letter, on delivering which the messenger, waiting for no answer,
hastened back the way he had come.  Randal recognized Avenel's hand on
the address, broke the seal, and read as follows:

                       (Private and Confidential.)

     DEAR LESLIE,--Don't be down-hearted,--you will know to-night or to-
     morrow why I have had cause to alter my opinion as to the Right
     Honourable; and you will see that I could not, as a Family Man, act
     otherwise than I have done.  Though I have not broken my word to
     you,--for you remember that all the help I promised was dependent on
     my own resignation, and would go for nothing if Leonard resigned
     instead,--yet I feel you must think yourself rather bamboozled.  But
     I have been obliged to sacrifice you, from a sense of Family Duty,
     as you will soon acknowledge.  My own nephew is sacrificed also; and
     I have sacrificed my own concerns, which require the whole man of me
     for the next year or two at Screwstown.  So we are all in the same
     boat, though you may think you are set adrift by yourself.  But I
     don't mean to stay in parliament.  I shall take the Chiltern
     Hundreds, pretty considerable soon.  And if you keep well with the
     Blues, I'll do my best with the Yellows to let you walk over the
     course in my stead.  For I don't think Leonard will want to stand
     again.  And so a word to the wise,--and you may yet be member for
     Lansmere.

                                             R. A.


In this letter, Randal, despite all his acuteness, could not detect the
honest compunction of the writer.  He could at first only look at the
worst side of human nature, and fancy that it was a paltry attempt to
stifle his just anger and ensure his discretion; but, on second thoughts,
it struck him that Dick might very naturally be glad to be released to
his mill, and get a /quid pro quo/ out of Randal, under the
comprellensive title, "repayment of expenses."  Perhaps Dick was not
sorry to wait until Randal's marriage gave him the means to make the
repayment.  Nay, perhaps Randal had been thrown over for the present,
in order to wring from him better terms in a single election.  Thus
reasoning, he took comfort from his belief in the mercenary motives of
another.  True; it might be but a short disappointment.  Before the next
parliament was a month old, he might yet take his seat in it as member
for Lansmere.  But all would depend on his marriage with the heiress; he
must hasten that.

Meanwhile, it was necessary to knit and gather up all his thought,
courage, and presence of mind.  How he shrunk from return to Lansmere
House,--from facing Egerton, Harley, all.  But there was no choice.
He would have to make it up with the Blues,--to defend the course he had
adopted in the Committee-room.  There, no doubt, was Squire Hazeldean
awaiting him with the purchase-money for the lands of Rood; there was the
Duke di Serrano, restored to wealth and honour; there was his promised
bride, the great heiress, on whom depended all that could raise the needy
gentleman into wealth and position.  Gradually, with the elastic temper
that is essential to a systematic schemer, Randal Leslie plucked himself
from the pain of brooding over a plot that was defeated, to prepare
himself for consummating those that yet seemed so near success.  After
all, should he fail in regaining Egerton's favour, Egerton was of use
no more.  He might rear his head, and face out what some might call
"ingratitude," provided he could but satisfy the Blue Committee.  Dull
dogs, how could he fail to do that!  He could easily talk over the
Machiavellian sage.  He should have small difficulty in explaining all to
the content of Audley's distant brother, the squire.  Harley alone--but
Levy had so positively assured him that Harley was not sincerely anxious
for Egerton; and as to the more important explanation relative to
Peschiera, surely what had satisfied Violante's father ought to satisfy a
man who had no peculiar right to demand explanations at all; and if these
explanations did not satisfy, the onus to disprove them must rest with
Harley; and who or what could contradict Randal's plausible assertions,--
assertions in support of which he himself could summon a witness in Baron
Levy?  Thus nerving himself to all that could task his powers, Randal
Leslie crossed the threshold of Lansmere House, and in the hall he found
the baron awaiting him.

"I can't account," said Levy, "for what has gone so cross in this
confounded election.  It is L'Estrange that puzzles me; but I know that
he hates Egerton.  I know that he will prove that hate by one mode of
revenge, if he has lost it in another.  But it is well, Randal, that you
are secure of Hazeldean's money and the rich heiress's hand; otherwise--"

"Otherwise, what?"

"I should wash my hands of you, /mon cher/; for, in spite of all your
cleverness, and all I have tried to do for you, somehow or other I begin
to suspect that your talents will never secure your fortune.  A
carpenter's son beats you in public speaking, and a vulgar mill-owner
tricks you in private negotiation.  Decidedly, as yet, Randal Leslie, you
are--a failure.  And, as you so admirably said, 'a man from whom we have
nothing to hope or fear we must blot out of the map of the future.'"

Randal's answer was cut short by the appearance of the groom of the
chambers.

"My Lord is in the saloon, and requests you and Mr. Leslie will do him
the honour to join him there."  The two gentlemen followed the servant up
the broad stairs.

The saloon formed the centre room of the suite of apartments.  From its
size, it was rarely used save on state occasions.  It had the chilly and
formal aspect of rooms reserved for ceremony.

Riccabocca, Violante, Helen, Mr. Dale, Squire Hazeldean, and Lord
L'Estrange were grouped together by the cold Florentine marble table,
not littered with books and female work, and the endearing signs of
habitation, that give a living smile to the face of home; nothing thereon
save a great silver candelabrum, that scarcely lighted the spacious room,
and brought out the portraits on the walls as a part of the assembly,
looking, as portraits do look, with searching, curious eyes upon every
eye that turns to them.

But as soon as Randal entered, the squire detached himself from the
group, and, coming to the defeated candidate, shook hands with him
heartily.

"Cheer up, my boy; 't is no shame to be beaten.  Lord L'Estrange says you
did your best to win, and man can do no more.  And I'm glad, Leslie, that
we don't meet for our little business till the election is over; for,
after annoyance, something pleasant is twice as acceptable.  I've the
money in my pocket.  Hush!  and I say, my dear, dear boy, I cannot find
out where Frank is, but it is really all off with that foreign woman,
eh?"

"Yes, indeed, sir, I hope so.  I'll talk to you about it when we can be
alone.  We may slip away presently, I trust."

"I'll tell you a secret scheme of mine and Harry's," said the squire, in
a still low whisper.  "We, must drive that marchioness, or whatever she
is, out of the boy's head, and put a pretty English girl into it instead.
That will settle him in life too.  And I must try and swallow that bitter
pill of the post-obit.  Harry makes worse of it than I do, and is so hard
on the poor fellow that I've been obliged to take his part.  I've no idea
of being under petticoat government, it is not the way with the
Hazeldeans.  Well, but to come back to the point: Whom do you think
I mean by the pretty girl?"

"Miss Sticktorights?"

"Zounds, no!--your own little sister, Randal.  Sweet pretty face!  Harry
liked her from the first, and then you'll be Frank's brother, and your
sound head and good heart will keep him right.  And as you are going to
be married too (you must tell me all about that later), why, we shall
have two marriages, perhaps, in the family on the same day."

Randal's hand grasped the squire's, and with an emotion of human
gratitude,--for we know that, hard to all else, he had natural feelings
for his fallen family; and his neglected sister was the one being on
earth whom he might almost be said to love.  With all his intellectual
disdain for honest simple Frank, he knew no one in the world with whom
his young sister could be more secure and happy.  Transferred to the
roof, and improved by the active kindness, of Mrs. Hazeldean, blest in
the manly affection of one not too refined to censure her own
deficiencies of education, what more could he ask for his sister, as he
pictured her to himself, with her hair hanging over her ears, and her
mind running into seed over some trashy novel.  But before he could
reply, Violante's father came to add his own philosophical consolations
to the squire's downright comfortings.

"Who could ever count on popular caprice?  The wise of all ages had
despised it.  In that respect, Horace and Machiavelli were of the same
mind," etc.  "But," said the duke, with emphatic kindnessi "perhaps your
very misfortune here may serve you elsewhere.  The female heart is prone
to pity, and ever eager to comfort.  Besides, if I am recalled to Italy,
you will have leisure to come with us, and see the land where, of all
others, ambition can be most readily forgotten, even" added the Italian
with a sigh--"even by her own sons!"

Thus addressed by both Hazeldean and the duke, Randal recovered his
spirits.  It was clear that Lord L'Estrange had not conveyed to them any
unfavourable impression of his conduct in the Committee-room.  While
Randal had been thus engaged, Levy had made his way to Harley, who
retreated with the baron into the bay of the great window.

"Well, my Lord, do you comprehend this conduct on the part of Richard
Avenel?  He secure Egerton's return!--he!"

"What so natural, Baron Levy,--his own brother-in-law?" The baron
started, and turned very pale.

"But how did he know that?  I never told him.  I meant indeed--"

"Meant, perhaps, to shame Egerton's pride at the last by publicly
declaring his marriage with a shopkeeper's daughter.  A very good revenge
still left to you; but revenge for what?  A word with you, now, Baron,
that our acquaintance is about to close forever.  You know why I have
cause for resentment against Egerton.  I do but suspect yours; will you
make it clear to me?"

"My Lord, my Lord," faltered Baron Levy, "I, too, wooed Nora Avenel as my
wife; I, too, had a happier rival in the haughty worldling who did not
appreciate his own felicity; I too--in a word, some women inspire an
affection that mingles with the entire being of a man, and is fused with
all the currents of his life-blood.  Nora Avenel was one of those women."

Harley was startled.  This burst of emotion from a man so corrupt and
cynical arrested even the scorn he felt for the usurer.  Levy soon
recovered himself.  "But our revenge is not baffled yet.  Egerton, if not
already in my power, is still in yours.  His election may save him from
arrest, but the law has other modes of public exposure and effectual
ruin."

"For the knave, yes,--as I intimated to you in your own house,--you who
boast of your love to Nora Avenel, and know in your heart that you were
her destroyer; you who witnessed her marriage, and yet dared to tell her
that she was dishonoured!"

"My Lord--I--how could you know--I mean, how think that--that--" faltered
Levy, aghast.

"Nora Avenel has spoken from her grave," replied Harley, solemnly.
"Learn that, wherever man commits a crime, Heaven finds a witness!"

"It is on me, then," said Levy, wrestling against a superstitious thrill
at his heart--"on me that you now concentre your vengeance; and I must
meet it as I may.  But I have fulfilled my part of our compact.  I have
obeyed you implicitly--and--"

"I will fulfil my part of our bond, and leave you undisturbed in your
wealth."

"I knew I might trust to your Lordship's honour," exclaimed the usurer,
in servile glee.

"And this vile creature nursed the same passions as myself; and but
yesterday we were partners in the same purpose, and influenced by the
same thought!" muttered Harley to himself.  "Yes," he said aloud, "I dare
not, Baron Levy, constitute myself your judge.  Pursue your own path,--
all roads meet at last before the common tribunal.  But you are not yet
released from our compact; you must do some good in spite of yourself.
Look yonder, where Randal Leslie stands, smiling secure, between the two
dangers he has raised up for himself.  And as Randal Leslie himself has
invited me to be his judge, and you are aware that he cited yourself this
very day as his witness, here I must expose the guilty; for here the
innocent still live, and need defence."

Harley turned away, and took his place by the table.  "I have wished,"
said he, raising his voice, "to connect with the triumph of my earliest
and dearest friend the happiness of others in whose welfare I feel an
interest.  To you, Alphonso, Duke of Serrano, I now give this despatch,
received last evening by a special messenger from the Prince Von ------,
announcing your restoration to your lands and honours."

The squire stared with open mouth.  "Rickeybockey a duke?  Why, Jemima's
a duchess!  Bless me, she is actually crying!" And his good heart
prompted him to run to his cousin and cheer her up a bit.

Violante glanced at Harley, and flung herself on her father's breast.
Randal involuntarily rose, and moved to the duke's chair.

"And you, Mr. Randal Leslie," continued Harley, "though you have lost
your election, see before you at this moment such prospects of wealth and
happiness, that I shall only have to offer you congratulations to which
those that greet Mr. Audley Egerton may well appear lukewarm and insipid,
provided you prove that you have not forfeited the right to claim that
promise which the Duke di Serrano has accorded to the suitor of his
daughter's hand.  Some doubts resting on my mind, you have volunteered to
dispel them.  I have the duke's permission to address to you a few
questions, and I now avail myself of your offer to reply to them."

"Now,--and here, my Lord?" said Randal, glancing round the room, as if
deprecating the presence of so many witnesses.  "Now,--and here.  Nor are
those present so strange to your explanations as your question would
imply.  Mr. Hazeldean, it so happens that much of what I shall say to Mr.
Leslie concerns your son."

Randal's countenance fell.  An uneasy tremor now seized him.

"My son! Frank?  Oh, then, of course, Randal will speak out.  Speak, my
boy!"

Randal remained silent.  The duke looked at his working face, and drew
away his chair.

"Young man, can you hesitate?" said he.  "A doubt is expressed which
involves your honour."

"'s death!" cried the squire, also gazing on Randal's cowering eye and
quivering lip, "what are you afraid of?"

"Afraid!" said Randal, forced into speech, and with a hollow laugh--
"afraid?--I?  What of?  I was only wondering what Lord L'Estrange could
mean."

"I will dispel that wonder at once.  Mr. Hazeldean, your son displeased
you first by his proposals of marriage to the Marchesa di Negra against
your consent; secondly, by a post-obit bond granted to Baron Levy.  Did
you understand from Mr. Randal Leslie that he had opposed or favoured the
said marriage,--that he had countenanced or blamed the said post-obit?"

"Why, of course," cried the squire, "that he had opposed both the one and
the other."

"Is it so, Mr. Leslie?"

"My Lord--I--I--my affection for Frank, and my esteem for his respected
father--I--I--" (He nerved himself, and went on with firm voice)--"Of
course, I did all I could to dissuade Frank from the marriage; and as to
the post-obit, I know nothing about it."

"So much at present for this matter.  I pass on to the graver one,
that affects your engagement with the Duke di Serrano's daughter.
I understand from you, Duke, that to save your daughter from the snares
of Count di Peschiera, and in the belief that Mr. Leslie shared in your
dread of the count's designs, you, while in exile and in poverty,
promised to that gentleman your daughter's hand?  When the probabilities
of restoration to your principalities seemed well-nigh certain, you
confirmed that promise on learning from Mr. Leslie that he had, however
ineffectively, struggled to preserve your heiress from a perfidious
snare.  Is it not so?"

"Certainly.  Had I succeeded to a throne, I could not recall the promise
that I had given in penury and banishment; I could not refuse to him who
would have sacrificed worldly ambition in wedding a penniless bride, the
reward of his own generosity.  My daughter subscribes to my views."

Violante trembled, and her hands were locked together; but her gaze was
fixed on Harley.

Mr. Dale wiped his eyes, and thought of the poor refugee feeding on
minnows, and preserving himself from debt amongst the shades of the
Casino.

"Your answer becomes you, Duke," resumed Harley.  "But should it be
proved that Mr. Leslie, instead of wooing the princess for herself,
actually calculated on the receipt of money for transferring her to Count
Peschiera; instead of saving her from the dangers you dreaded, actually
suggested the snare from which she was delivered,--would you still deem
your honour engaged to--"

"Such a villain?  No, surely not!" exclaimed the duke.  "But this is a
groundless hypothesis!  Speak, Randal."

"Lord L'Estrange cannot insult me by deeming it otherwise than a
groundless hypothesis!" said Randal, striving to rear his head.

"I understand then, Mr. Leslie, that you scornfully reject such a
supposition?"

"Scornfully--yes.  And," continued Randal, advancing a step, "since the
supposition has been made, I demand from Lord L'Estrange, as his equal
(for all gentlemen are equals where honour is to be defended at the cost
of life), either instant retractation--or instant proof."

"That's the first word you have spoken like a man," cried the squire.
"I have stood my ground myself for a less cause.  I have had a ball
through my right shoulder."

"Your demand is just," said Harley, unmoved.  "I cannot give the
retractation,--I will produce the proof."

He rose and rang the bell; the servant entered, received his whispered
order, and retired.  There was a pause painful to all.  Randal, however,
ran over in his fearful mind what evidence could be brought against him--
and foresaw none.  The folding doors of the saloon were thrown open and
the servant announced--

                    THE COUNT DI PESCHIERA.

A bombshell, descending through the roof could not have produced a more
startling sensation.  Erect, bold, with all the imposing effect of his
form and bearing, the count strode into the centre of the ring; and after
a slight bend of haughty courtesy, which comprehended all present, reared
up his lofty head, and looked round, with calm in his eye and a curve on
his lip,--the self-assured, magnificent, high-bred Daredevil.

"Duke di Serrano," said the count, in English, turning towards his
astounded kinsman, and in a voice that, slow, clear, and firm, seemed to
fill the room, "I returned to England on the receipt of a letter from my
Lord L'Estrange, and with a view, it is true, of claiming at his hands
the satisfaction which men of our birth accord to each other, where
affront, from what cause soever, has been given or received.  Nay, fair
kinswoman,"--and the count, with a slight but grave smile, bowed to
Violante, who had uttered a faint cry,--"that intention is abandoned.
If I have adopted too lightly the old courtly maxim, that 'all stratagems
are fair in love,' I am bound also to yield to my Lord L'Estrange's
arguments, that the counter-stratagems must be fair also.  And, after
all, it becomes me better to laugh at my own sorry figure in defeat, than
to confess myself gravely mortified by an ingenuity more successful than
my own."  The count paused, and his eye lightened with sinister fire,
which ill suited the raillery of his tone and the polished ease of his
bearing.  "Ma foi!" he continued, "it is permitted me to speak thus,
since at least I have given proofs of my indifference to danger, and my
good fortune when exposed to it.  Within the last six years I have had
the honour to fight nine duels, and the regret to wound five, and dismiss
from the world four, as gallant and worthy gentlemen as ever the sun
shone upon."

"Monster!" faltered the parson.

The squire stared aghast, and mechanically rubbed the shoulder which had
been lacerated by Captain Dashinore's bullet.  Randal's pale face grew
yet more pale, and the eye he had fixed upon the count's hardy visage
quailed and fell.

"But," resumed the count, with a graceful wave of the hand, "I have to
thank my Lord L'Estrange for reminding me that a man whose courage is
above suspicion is privileged not only to apologize if he has injured
another, but to accompany apology with atonement.  Duke of Serrano, it is
for that purpose that I am here.  My Lord, you have signified your wish
to ask me some questions of serious import as regards the duke and his
daughter; I will answer them without reserve."

"Monsieur le Comte," said Harley, "availing myself of your courtesy, I
presume to inquire who informed you that this young lady was a guest
under my father's roof?"

"My informant stands yonder,--Mr. Randal Leslie; and I call upon Baron
Levy to confirm my statement."

"It is true," said the baron, slowly, and as if overmastered by the tone
and mien of an imperious chieftain.

There came a low sound like a hiss from Randal's livid lips.

"And was Mr. Leslie acquainted with your project for securing the person
and hand of your young kinswoman?"

"Certainly,--and Baron Levy knows it."  The baron bowed assent.  "Permit
me to add--for it is due to a lady nearly related to myself--that it was,
as I have since learned, certain erroneous representations made to her by
Mr. Leslie which alone induced that lady, after my own arguments had
failed, to lend her aid to a project which otherwise she would have
condemned as strongly as, Duke di Serrano, I now with unfeigned sincerity
do myself condemn it."

There was about the count, as he thus spoke, so much of that personal
dignity which, whether natural or artificial, imposes for the moment upon
human judgment,--a dignity so supported by the singular advantages of his
superb stature, his handsome countenance, his patrician air,--that the
duke, moved by his good heart, extended his hand to the perfidious
kinsman, and forgot all the Machiavellian wisdom which should have told
him how little a man of the count's hardened profligacy was likely to be
influenced by any purer motives, whether to frank confession or to manly
repentance.  The count took the hand thus extended to him, and bowed his
face, perhaps to conceal the smile which would have betrayed his secret
soul.  Randal still remained mute, and pale as death.  His tongue clove
to his mouth.  He felt that all present were shrinking from his side.
At last, with a violent effort, he faltered out, in broken sentences,

"A charge so sudden may well--may well confound me.  But--but--who can
credit it?  Both the law and commonsense pre-suppose some motive for a
criminal action; what could be my motive here?  I--myself the suitor for
the hand of the duke's daughter--I betray her!  Absurd--absurd!  Duke,
Duke, I put it to your own knowledge of mankind whoever goes thus against
his own interest--and--and his own heart?"

This appeal, however feebly made, was not without effect on the
philosopher.  "That is true," said the duke, dropping his kinsman's hand;
"I see no motive."

"Perhaps," said Harley, "Baron Levy may here enlighten us.  Do you know
of any motive of self-interest that could have actuated Mr. Leslie in
assisting the count's schemes?"

Levy hesitated.  The count took up the word.  "Pardieu!" said he, in his
clear tone of determination and will--"pardieu!  I can have no doubt
thrown on my assertion, least of all by those who know of its truth; and
I call upon you, Baron Levy, to state whether, in case of my marriage
with the duke's daughter, I had not agreed to present my sister with a
sum, to which she alleged some ancient claim, and which would have passed
through your hands?"

"Certainly, that is true," said the baron.

"And would Mr. Leslie have benefited by any portion of that sum?"

Levy paused again.

"Speak, sir," said the count, frowning.

"The fact is," said the baron, "that Mr. Leslie was anxious to complete a
purchase of certain estates that had once belonged to his family, and
that the count's marriage with the signora, and his sister's marriage
with Mr. Hazeldean, would have enabled me to accommodate Mr. Leslie with
a loan to effect that purchase."

"What!  what!" exclaimed the squire, hastily buttoning his breast-pocket
with one hand, while he seized Randal's arm with the other--"my son's
marriage!  You lent yourself to that, too?  Don't look so like a lashed
hound!  Speak out like a man, if man you be!"

"Lent himself to that, my good sir!" said the count.  "Do you suppose
that the Marchesa di Negra could have condescended to an alliance with a
Mr. Hazeldean--"

"Condescended! a Hazeldean of Hazeldean!" exclaimed the squire, turning
fiercely, and half choked with indignation.  "Unless," continued the
count, imperturbably, "she had been compelled by circumstances to do that
said Mr. Hazeldean the honour to accept a pecuniary accommodation, which
she had no other mode to discharge?  And here, sir, the family of
Hazeldean, I am bound to say, owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr.
Leslie; for it was he who most forcibly represented to her the necessity
for this misalliance; and it was he, I believe, who suggested to my
friend the baron the mode by which Mr. Hazeldean was best enabled to
afford the accommodation my sister deigned to accept."

"Mode! the post-obit!" ejaculated the squire, relinquishing his hold of
Randal to lay his gripe upon Levy.

The baron shrugged his shoulders.  "Any friend of Mr. Frank Hazeldean's
would have recommended the same, as the most economical mode of raising
money."

Parson Dale, who had at first been more shocked than any one present at
these gradual revelations of Randal's treachery, now turning his eyes
towards the young man, was so seized with commiseration at the sight of
Randal's face, that he laid his hand on Harley's arm, and whispered him,
"Look, look at that countenance!---and one so young!  Spare him, spare
him!"

"Mr. Leslie," said Harley, in softened tones, "believe me that nothing
short of justice to the Duke di Serrano--justice even to my young friend
Mr. Hazeldean--has compelled me to this painful duty.  Here let all
inquiry terminate."

"And," said the count, with exquisite blandness, "since I have been
informed by my Lord L'Estrange that Mr. Leslie has represented as a
serious act on his part that personal challenge to myself, which I
understood was but a pleasant and amicable arrangement in our baffled
scheme, let me assure Mr. Leslie that if he be not satisfied with the
regret that I now express for the leading share I have taken in these
disclosures, I am wholly at Mr. Leslie's service."

"Peace, homicide," cried the parson, shuddering; and he glided to the
side of the detected sinner, from whom all else had recoiled in loathing.

Craft against craft, talent against talent, treason against treason--in
all this Randal Leslie would have risen superior to Giulio di Peschiera.
But what now crushed him was not the superior intellect,--it was the
sheer brute power of audacity and nerve.  Here stood the careless,
unblushing villain, making light of his guilt, carrying it away from
disgust itself, with resolute look and front erect.  There stood the
abler, subtler, profounder criminal, cowering, abject, pitiful; the power
of mere intellectual knowledge shivered into pieces against the brazen
metal with which the accident of constitution often arms some ignobler
nature.

The contrast was striking, and implied that truth so universally felt,
yet so little acknowledged in actual life, that men with audacity and
force of character can subdue and paralyze those far superior to
themselves in ability and intelligence.  It was these qualities which
made Peschiera Randal's master; nay, the very physical attributes of the
count, his very voice and form, his bold front and unshrinking eye,
overpowered the acuter mind of the refining schemer, as in a popular
assembly some burly Cleon cows into timorous silence every dissentient
sage.  But Randal turned in sullen impatience from the parson's whisper,
that breathed comfort or urged repentance; and at length said, with
clearer tones than he had yet mustered,

"It is not a personal conflict with the Count di Peschiera that can
vindicate my honour; and I disdain to defend myself against the
accusations of a usurer, and of a mam who--"

"Monsieur!" said the count, drawing himself up.

"A man who," persisted Randal, though he trembled visibly, "by his own
confession, was himself guilty of all the schemes in which he would
represent me as his accomplice, and who now, not clearing himself, would
yet convict another--"

"/Cher petit monsieur!/" said the count, with his grand air of disdain,
"when men like me make use of men like you, we reward them for a service
if rendered, or discard them if the service be not done; and if I
condescend to confess and apologize for any act I have committed, surely
Mr. Randal Leslie might do the same without disparagement to his dignity.
But I should never, sir, have taken the trouble to appear against you,
had you not, as I learn, pretended to the hand of the lady whom I had
hoped, with less presumption, to call my bride; and in this, how can I
tell that you have not tricked and betrayed me?  Is there anything in our
past acquaintance that warrants me to believe that, instead of serving
me, you sought but to serve yourself?  Be that as it may, I had but one
mode of repairing to the head of my house the wrongs I have done him, and
that was by saving his daughter from a derogatory alliance with an
impostor who had abetted my schemes for hire, and who now would filch for
himself their fruit."

"Duke!" exclaimed Randal.

The duke turned his back.  Randal extended his hands to the squire.  "Mr.
Hazeldean--what?  you, too, condemn me, and unheard?"

"Unheard!--zounds, no!  If you have anything to say, speak truth, and
shame the devil."

"I abet Frank's marriage!  I sanction the post-obit!  Oh!" cried Randal,
clinging to a straw, "if Frank himself were but here!"

Harley's compassion vanished before this sustained hypocrisy.

"You wish for the presence of Frank Hazeldean?  It is just."  Harley
opened the door of the inner room, and Frank appeared at the entrance.

"My son!  my son!" cried the squire, rushing forward, and clasping Frank
to his broad, fatherly breast.

This affecting incident gave a sudden change to the feelings of the
audience, and for a moment Randal himself was forgotten.  The young man
seized that moment.  Reprieved, as it were, from the glare of
contemptuous, accusing eyes, slowly he crept to the door, slowly and
noiselessly, as the viper, when it is wounded, drops its crest and glides
writhing through the grass.  Levy followed him to the threshold, and
whispered in his ear,

"I could not help it,--you would have done the same by me.  You see you
have failed in everything; and when a man fails completely, we both
agreed that we must give him up altogether."

Randal said not a word, and the baron marked his shadow fall on the broad
stairs, stealing down, down, step after step, till it faded from the
stones.

"But he was of some use," muttered Levy.  "His treachery and his exposure
will gall the childless Egerton.  Some little revenge still!"

The count touched the arm of the musing usurer,

"J'ai bien joue mon role, n'est ce pas?"--(I have well played my part,
have I not?)

"Your part!  Ah, but, my dear count, I do not quite understand it."

"Ma foi, you are passably dull.  I had just been landed in France, when
a letter from L'Estrange reached me.  It was couched as an invitation,
which I interpreted to--the duello.  Such invitations I never refuse.
I replied:  I came hither, took my lodgings at an inn.  My Lord seeks
me last night.

"I begin in the tone you may suppose.  Pardieu!  he is clever, milord!
He shows me a letter from the Prince Von ------ , Alphonse's recall, my
own banishment.  He places before me, but with admirable suavity, the
option of beggary and ruin, or an honourable claim on Alphonso's
gratitude.  And as for that /petit monsieur/, do you think I could
quietly contemplate my own tool's enjoyment of all I had lost myself?
Nay, more, if that young Harpagon were Alphonso's son-inlaw, could the
duke have a whisperer at his ear more fatal to my own interests?  To be
brief, I saw at a glance my best course.  I have adopted it.  The
difficulty was to extricate myself as became a man /de sang et de jeu/.
If I have done so, congratulate me.  Alphonso has taken my hand, and I
now leave it to him to attend to my fortunes, and clear up my repute."

"If you are going to London," said Levy, "my carriage, ere this, must be
at the door, and I shall be proud to offer you a seat, and converse with
you on your prospects.  But, /peste, mon cher/, your fall has been from a
great height, and any other man would have broken his bones."

"Strength is ever light," said the count, smiling; "and it does not fall;
it leaps down and rebounds."

Levy looked at the count, and blamed himself for having disparaged
Peschiera and overrated Randal.

While this conference went on, Harley was by Violante's side.

"I have kept my promise to you," said he, with a kind of tender humility.
"Are you still so severe on me?"

"Ah," answered Violante, gazing on his noble brow, with all a woman's
pride in her eloquent, admiring eyes, "I have heard from Mr. Dale that
you have achieved a conquest over yourself, which makes me ashamed to
think that I presumed to doubt how your heart would speak when a moment
of wrath (though of wrath so just) had passed away."

"No, Violante, do not acquit me yet; witness my revenge (for I have not
foregone it), and then let my heart speak, and breathe its prayer that
the angel voice, which it now beats to hear, may still be its guardian
monitor."

"What is this?" cried an amazed voice; and Harley, turning round, saw
that the duke was by his side; and, glancing with ludicrous surprise, now
to Harley, now to Violante, "Am I to understand that you--"

"Have freed you from one suitor for this dear hand, to become myself your
petitioner!"

"/Corpo di Bacco!/"  cried the sage,  almost  embracing Harley, "this,
indeed, is joyful news.  But I must not again make a rash pledge,--not
again force my child's inclinations.  And Violante; you see, is running
away."

The duke stretched out his arm, and detained his child.  He drew her to
his breast, and whispered in her ear.  Violante blushed crimson, and
rested her head on his shoulder.  Harley eagerly pressed forward.

"There," said the duke, joining Harley's hand with his daughter's, "I
don't think I shall hear much more of the convent; but anything of this
sort I never suspected.  If there be a language in the world for which
there is no lexicon nor grammar, it is that which a woman thinks in, but
never speaks."

"It is all that is left of the language spoken in paradise," said Harley.

"In the dialogue between Eve and the serpent,--yes," quoth the
incorrigible sage.  "But who comes here?--our friend Leonard."

Leonard now entered the room; but Harley could scarcely greet him, before
he was interrupted by the count.  "Milord," said Peschiera, beckoning him
aside, "I have fulfilled my promise, and I will now leave your roof.
Baron Levy returns to London, and offers me a seat in his carriage, which
is already, I believe, at your door.  The duke and his daughter will
readily forgive me if I do not ceremoniously bid them farewell.  In our
altered positions, it does not become me too intrusively to claim
kindred; it became me only to remove, as I trust I have done, a barrier
against the claim.  If you approve my conduct, you will state your own
opinion to the duke."  With a profound salutation the count turned to
depart; nor did Harley attempt to stay him, but attended him down the
stairs with polite formality.

"Remember only, my Lord, that I solicit nothing.  I may allow myself to
accept,--/voilia tout/."  He bowed again, with the inimitable grace of
the old regime, and stepped into the baron's travelling carriage.

Levy, who had lingered behind, paused to accost L'Estrange.  "Your
Lordship will explain to Mr. Egerton how his adopted son deserved his
esteem, and repaid his kindness.  For the rest, though you have bought up
the more pressing and immediate demands on Mr. Egerton, I fear that even
your fortune will not enable you to clear those liabilities which will
leave him, perhaps, a pauper!"

"Baron Levy," said Harley, abruptly, "if I have forgiven Mr. Egerton,
cannot you too forgive?  Me he has wronged; you have wronged him, and
more foully."

"No, my Lord, I cannot forgive him.  You he has never humiliated, you he
has never employed for his wants, and scorned as his companion.  You have
never known what it is to start in life with one whose fortunes were
equal to your own, whose talents were not superior.  Look you, Lord
L'Estrange, in spite of this difference between me and Egerton, that he
has squandered the wealth that he gained without effort, while I have
converted the follies of others into my own ample revenues, the
spendthrift in his penury has the respect and position which millions
cannot bestow upon me.  You would say that I am an usurer, and he is a
statesman.  But do you know what I should have been, had I not been born
the natural son of a peer?  Can you guess what I should have been if Nora
Avenel had been my wife?  The blot on my birth, and the blight on my
youth, and the knowledge that he who was rising every year into the rank
which entitled him to reject me as a guest at his table--he whom the
world called the model of a gentleman--was a coward and a liar to the
friend of his youth,--all this made me look on the world with contempt;
and, despising Audley Egerton, I yet hated him and envied.  You, whom he
wronged, stretch your hand as before to the great statesman; from my
touch you would shrink as pollution.  My Lord, you may forgive him whom
you love and pity; I cannot forgive him whom I scorn and envy.  Pardon my
prolixity.  I now quit your house."  The baron moved a step, then,
turning back, said with a withering sneer,--

"But you will tell Mr. Egerton how I helped to expose the son he adopted!
I thought of the childless man when your Lordship imagined I was but in
fear of your threats.  Ha! ha! that will sting."

The baron gnashed his teeth as, hastily entering the carriage, he drew
down the blinds.  The post-boys cracked their whips, and the wheels
rolled away.

"Who can judge," thought Harley, "through what modes retribution comes
home to the breast?  That man is chastised in his wealth, ever gnawed by
desire for what his wealth cannot buy!"  He roused himself, cleared his
brow, as from a thought that darkened and troubled; and, entering the
saloon, laid his hand upon Leonard's shoulder, and looked, rejoicing,
into the poet's mild, honest, lustrous eyes.  "Leonard," said he, gently,
"your hour is come at last."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

Audely Egerton was alone in his apartment.  A heavy sleep had come over
him, shortly after Harley and Randal had left the house in the early
morning; and that sleep continued till late in the day.  All the while
the town of Lansmere had been distracted in his cause, all the while so
many tumultuous passions had run riot in the contest that was to close or
re-open for the statesman's ambition the Janus gates of political war,
the object of so many fears and hopes, schemes and counter-schemes, had
slumbered quietly as an infant in the cradle.  He woke but in time to
receive Harley's despatch, announcing the success of his election; and
adding, "Before the night you shall embrace your son.  Do not join us
below when I return.  Keep calm,--we will come to you."

In fact, though not aware of the dread nature of Audley's complaint, with
its warning symptoms, Lord L'Estrange wished to spare to his friend the
scene of Randal's exposure.

On the receipt of that letter Egerton rose.  At the prospect of seeing
his son--Nora's son--the very memory of his disease vanished.  The poor,
weary, over-laboured heart indeed beat loud, and with many a jerk and
spasm.  He heeded it not.  The victory, that restored him to the sole
life for which he had hitherto cared to live, was clean forgotten.
Nature claimed her own,--claimed it in scorn of death, and in oblivion of
renown.

There sat the man, dressed with his habitual precision,--the black coat,
buttoned across the broad breast; his countenance, so mechanically
habituated to self-control, still revealing little of emotion, though the
sickly flush came and went on the bronzed cheek, and the eye watched the
hand of the clock, and the ear hungered for a foot-tread along the
corridor.  At length the sound was heard,--steps, many steps.  He sprung
to his feet, he stood on the hearth.  Was the hearth to be solitary no
more?  Harley entered first.  Egerton's eyes rested on him eagerly for a
moment, and strained onward across the threshold.  Leonard came next,--
Leonard Fairfield, whom he had seen as his opponent!  He began to
suspect, to conjecture, to see the mother's tender eyes in the son's
manly face.  Involuntarily he opened his arms; but, Leonard remaining
still, let them fall with a deep sigh, and fancied himself deceived.

"Friend," said Harley, "I give to you a son proved in adversity, and who
has fought his own way to fame.  Leonard, in the man to whom I prayed you
to sacrifice your own ambition, of whom you have spoken with such worthy
praise, whose career of honour you have promoted, and whose life,
unsatisfied by those honours, you will soothe with your filial love,
behold the husband of Nora Avenel!  Kneel to your father!  O Audley,
embrace your son!"

"Here, here!" exclaimed Egerton, as Leonard bent his knee,--"here to my
heart!  Look at me with those eyes!--kindly, forgivingly: they are your
mother's!"  His proud head sunk on his son's shoulder.

"But this is not enough," said Harley, leading Helen, and placing her by
Leonard's side.  "You must open your heart for more.  Take into its folds
my sweet ward and daughter.  What is a home without the smile of woman?
They have loved each other from children.  Audley, yours be the hand to
join,--yours be the lips to bless."

Leonard started anxiously.  "Oh, sir!--oh, my father!--this generous
sacrifice may not be; for he--he who has saved me for this surpassing
joy--he too loves her!"

"Nay, Leonard," said Harley, smiling, "I am not so neglectful of myself.
Another home woos you, Audley.  He whom you long so vainly sought to
reconcile to life, exchanging mournful dreams for happy duties,--he, too,
presents you to his bride.  Love her for my sake,--for your own.  She it
is, not I, who presides over this hallowed reunion.  But for her, I
should have been a blinded, vindictive, guilty, repentant man; and--"
Violante's soft hand was on his lips.  "Thus," said the parson, with mild
solemnity, "man finds that the Saviour's precepts, 'Let not the sun go
down upon thy wrath,' and 'Love one another,' are clews that conduct us
through the labyrinth of human life, when the schemes of fraud and hate
snap asunder, and leave us lost amidst the maze."

Egerton reared his head, as if to answer; and all present were struck and
appalled by the sudden change that had come over his countenance.  There
was a film upon the eye, a shadow on the aspect; the words failed his
lips; he sunk on the seat beside him.  The left hand rested droopingly
upon the piles of public papers and official documents, and the fingers
played with them, as the bedridden dying sufferer plays with the coverlid
he will soon exchange for the winding-sheet.  But his right hand seemed
to feel, as through the dark, for the recovered son; and having touched
what it sought, feebly drew Leonard near and nearer.  Alas!  that
blissful PRIVATE LIFE--that close centre round the core of being in the
individual man--so long missed and pined for, slipped from him, as it
were, the moment it reappeared; hurried away, as the circle on the ocean,
which is scarce seen ere it vanishes amidst infinity.  Suddenly both
hands were still; the head fell back.  Joy had burst asunder the last
ligaments, so fretted away in unrevealing sorrow.  Afar, their sound
borne into that room, the joy-bells were pealing triumph; mobs roaring
out huzzas; the weak cry of John Avenel might be blent in those shouts,
as the drunken zealots reeled by his cottage door, and startled the
screaming ravens that wheeled round the hollow oak.  The boom which is
sent from the waves on the surface of life, while the deeps are so
noiseless in their march, was wafted on the wintry air into the chamber
of the statesman it honoured, and over the grass sighing low upon Nora's
grave.  But there was one in the chamber, as in the grave, for whom the
boom on the wave had no sound, and the march of the deep had no tide.
Amidst promises of home, and union, and peace, and fame, Death strode
into the household ring, and, seating itself, calm and still, looked
life-like,--warm hearts throbbing round it; lofty hopes fluttering
upward; Love kneeling at its feet; Religion, with lifted finger, standing
by its side.



FINAL CHAPTER.

     SCENE--The Hall in the Old Tower of CAPTAIN ROLAND DE CAXTON.

"But you have not done?" said Augustine Caxton.

PISISTRATUS.--"What remains to do?"

MR. CAXTON.--"What! why, the Final Chapter!--the last news you can give
us of those whom you have introduced to our liking or dislike."

PISISTRATUS.--"Surely it is more dramatic to close the work with a scene
that completes the main design of the plot, and leave it to the prophetic
imagination of all whose flattering curiosity is still not wholly
satisfied, to trace the streams of each several existence, when they
branch off again from the lake in which their waters converge, and by
which the sibyl has confirmed and made clear the decree that 'Conduct is
Fate.'"

MR. CAXTON.--"More dramatic, I grant; but you have not written a drama.
A novelist should be a comfortable, garrulous, communicative, gossiping
fortune-teller; not a grim, laconical, oracular sibyl.  I like a novel
that adopts all the old-fashioned customs prescribed to its art by the
rules of the Masters,--more especially a novel which you style 'My Novel'
/par/ emphasis."

CAPTAIN ROLAND.--"A most vague and impracticable title 'My Novel'!  It
must really be changed before the work goes in due form to the public."

MR. SQUILLS.--"Certainly the present title cannot be even pronounced by
many without inflicting a shock upon their nervous system.  Do you think,
for instance, that my friend, Lady Priscilla Graves--who is a great
novel-reader indeed, but holds all female writers unfeminine deserters to
the standard of Man--could ever come out with, 'Pray, sir, have you had
time to look at--MY Novel?'--She would rather die first.  And yet to be
silent altogether on the latest acquisition to the circulating libraries
would bring on a functional derangement of her ladyship's organs of
speech.  Or how could pretty Miss Dulcet--all sentiment, it is true, but
all bashful timidity--appall Captain Smirke from proposing with, 'Did not
you think the parson's sermon a little too dry in--MY Novel'?  It will
require a face of brass, or at least a long course of citrate of iron,
before a respectable lady or unassuming young gentleman, with a proper
dread of being taken for scribblers, could electrify a social circle with
'The reviewers don't do justice to the excellent things in--My Novel.'"

CAPTAIN ROLAND.--"Awful consequences, indeed, may arise from the mistakes
such a title gives rise to.  Counsellor Digwell, for instance, a lawyer
of literary tastes, but whose career at the Bar was long delayed by an
unjust suspicion amongst the attorneys that he had written a
'Philosophical Essay'--imagine such a man excusing himself for being late
at a dinner of bigwigs, with 'I could not get away from--My Novel!'  It
would be his professional ruin!  I am not fond of lawyers in general, but
still I would not be a party to taking the bread out of the mouth of
those with a family; and Digwell has children,--the tenth an innocent
baby in arms."

MR. CAXTON.--"As to Digwell in particular, and lawyers in general, they
are too accustomed to circumlocution to expose themselves to the danger
your kind heart apprehends; but I allow that a shy scholar like myself,
or a grave college tutor, might be a little put to the blush, if he were
to blurt forth inadvertently with, 'Don't waste your time over trash
like--MY Novel.'  And that thought presents to us another and more
pleasing view of this critical question.  The title you condemn places
the work under universal protection.  Lives there a man or a woman so
dead to self-love as to say, 'What contemptible stuff is--MY Novel'?
Would he or she not rather be impelled by that strong impulse of an
honourable and virtuous heart, which moves us to stand as well as we can
with our friends, to say, 'Allow that there is really a good thing now
and then in--My Novel.'  Moreover, as a novel aspires to embrace most of
the interests or the passions that agitate mankind,--to generalize, as it
were, the details of life that come home to us all,--so, in reality, the
title denotes that if it be such as the author may not unworthily call
his Novel, it must also be such as the reader, whoever he be, may
appropriate in part to himself, representing his own ideas, expressing
his own experience, reflecting, if not in full, at least in profile, his
own personal identity.  Thus, when we glance at the looking-glass in
another man's room, our likeness for the moment appropriates the mirror;
and according to the humour in which we are, or the state of our spirits
and health, we say to ourselves, 'Bilious and yellow!--I might as well
take care of my diet!'  Or, 'Well, I 've half a mind to propose to dear
Jane; I'm not such an ill-looking dog as I thought for!'  Still, whatever
result from that glance at the mirror, we never doubt that 't is our
likeness we see; and each says to the phantom reflection, 'Thou art
myself,' though the mere article of furniture that gives the reflection
belongs to another.  It is my likeness if it be his glass.  And a
narrative that is true to the Varieties of Life is every Man's Novel, no
matter from what shores, by what rivers, by what bays, in what pits, were
extracted the sands and the silex, the pearlash, the nitre, and
quicksilver which form its materials; no matter who the craftsman who
fashioned its form; no matter who the vendor that sold, or the customer
who bought: still, if I but recognize some trait of myself, 't is my
likeness that makes it 'My Novel.'"

MR. SQUILLS (puzzled, and therefore admiring).---"Subtle, sir,--very
subtle.  Fine organ of Comparison in Mr. Caxton's head, and much called
into play this evening!"

MR. CAXTON (benignly).--"Finally, the author by this most admirable and
much signifying title dispenses with all necessity of preface.  He need
insinuate no merits, he need extenuate no faults; for, by calling his
work thus curtly 'MY Novel,' he doth delicately imply that it is no use
wasting talk about faults or merits."

PISISTRATUS (amazed).--"How is that, sir?"

MR. CAXTON.--"What so clear?  You imply that, though a better novel may
be written by others, you do not expect to write a novel to which, taken
as a novel, you would more decisively and unblushingly prefix that
voucher of personal authorship and identity conveyed in the monosyllable
'My.'  And if you have written your best, let it be ever so bad, what can
any man of candour and integrity require more from you?  Perhaps you will
say that, if you had lived two thousand years ago, you might have called
it 'The Novel,' or the 'Golden Novel,' as Lucius called his story 'The
Ass;' and Apuleius, to distinguish his own more elaborate Ass from all
Asses preceding it, called his tale 'The Golden Ass.'  But living in the
present day, such a designation--implying a merit in general, not the
partial and limited merit corresponding only with your individual
abilities--would be presumptuous and offensive.  True, I here anticipate
the observation I see Squills is about to make--"

SQUILLS.--"I, Sir?"

MR. CAXTON.--"You would say that, as Scarron called his work of fiction
'The Comic Novel,' so Pisistratus might have called his 'The Serious
Novel,' or 'The Tragic Novel.' But, Squills, that title would not have
been inviting nor appropriate, and would have been exposed to comparison
with Scarron, who being dead is inimitable.  Wherefore--to put the
question on the irrefragable basis of mathematics--wherefore as A B 'My
Novel' is not equal to B C 'The Golden Novel,' nor to D E 'The Serious or
Tragic Novel,' it follows that A B 'My Novel' is equal to P C
'Pisistratus Caxton,' and P C 'Pisistratus Caxton' must therefore be just
equal, neither more nor less, to A B 'My Novel,'--which was to be
demonstrated."  My father looked round triumphantly, and observing that
Squills was dumfounded, and the rest of his audience posed, he added
mildly,

"And so now, 'non quieta movere,' proceed with the Final Chapter, and
tell us first what became of that youthful Giles Overreach, who was
himself his own Marrall?"

"Ay," said the captain, "what became of Randal Leslie?  Did he repent and
reform?"

"Nay," quoth my father, with a mournful shake of the head, "you can
regulate the warm tide of wild passion, you can light into virtue the
dark errors of ignorance; but where the force of the brain does but clog
the free action of the heart, where you have to deal, not with ignorance
misled, but intelligence corrupted, small hope of reform; for reform here
will need re-organization.  I have somewhere read (perhaps in Hebrew
tradition) that of the two orders of fallen spirits,--the Angels of Love
and the Angels of Knowledge,--the first missed the stars they had lost,
and wandered back through the darkness, one by one, into heaven; but the
last, lighted on by their own lurid splendours, said, 'Wherever we go,
there is heaven!'  And deeper and lower descending, lost their shape and
their nature, till, deformed and obscene, the bottomless pit closed
around them."

MR. SQUILLS.--"I should not have thought, Mr. Caxton, that a book-man
like you would be thus severe upon Knowledge."

MR. CAXTON (in wrath).--"Severe upon knowledge!  Oh, Squills, Squills,
Squills!  Knowledge perverted is knowledge no longer.  Vinegar, which,
exposed to the sun, breeds small serpents, or at best slimy eels, not
comestible, once was wine.  If I say to my grandchildren, 'Don't drink
that sour stuff, which the sun itself fills with reptiles,' does that
prove me a foe to sound sherry?  Squills, if you had but received a
scholastic education, you would know the wise maxim that saith, 'All
things the worst are corruptions from things originally designed as the
best.'  Has not freedom bred anarchy, and religion fanaticism?  And if I
blame Marat calling for blood, or Dominic racking a heretic, am I severe
on the religion that canonized Francis de Sales, or the freedom that
immortalized Thrasybulus?"

Mr. Squills, dreading a catalogue of all the saints in the calendar, and
an epitome of Ancient History, exclaimed eagerly, "Enough, sir; I am
convinced!"

MR. CAXTON.--"Moreover, I have thought it a natural stroke of art in
Pisistratus to keep Randal Leslie, in his progress towards the rot of the
intellect unwholesomely refined, free from all the salutary influences
that deter ambition from settling into egotism.  Neither in his slovenly
home, nor from his classic tutor at his preparatory school, does he seem
to have learned any truths, religious or moral, that might give sap to
fresh shoots, when the first rank growth was cut down by the knife; and I
especially noted, as illustrative of Egerton, no less than of Randal,
that though the statesman's occasional hints of advice to his protege are
worldly wise in their way, and suggestive of honour as befitting the
creed of a gentleman, they are not such as much influence a shrewd
reasoner like Randal, whom the example of the playground at Eton had not
served to correct of the arid self-seeking, which looked to knowledge for
no object but power.  A man tempted by passions like Audley, or seduced
into fraud by a cold, subtle spirit like Leslie, will find poor defence
in the elegant precept, 'Remember to act as a gentleman.' Such moral
embroidery adds a beautiful scarf to one's armour; but it is not the
armour itself!  Ten o'clock, as I live!  Push on, Pisistratus!  and
finish the chapter."

MRS. CAXTON (benevolently).--"Don't hurry.  Begin with that odious Randal
Leslie, to oblige your father; but there are others whom Blanche and I
care much more to hear about."

Pisistratus, since there is no help for it, produces a supplementary
manuscript, which proves that, whatever his doubt as to the artistic
effect of a Final Chapter, he had foreseen that his audience would not be
contented without one.


Randal Leslie, late at noon the day after he quitted Lansmere Park,
arrived on foot at his father's house.  He had walked all the way, and
through the solitudes of the winter night; but he was not sensible of
fatigue till the dismal home closed round him, with its air of hopeless
ignoble poverty; and then he sunk upon the floor feeling himself a ruin
amidst the ruins.  He made no disclosure of what had passed to his
relations.  Miserable man, there was not one to whom he could confide,
or from whom he might hear the truths that connect repentance with
consolation!  After some weeks passed in sullen and almost unbroken
silence, be left as abruptly as he had appeared, and returned to London.
The sudden death of a man like Egerton had even in those excited times
created intense, though brief sensation.  The particulars of the
election, that had been given in detail in the provincial papers, were
copied into the London journals, among those details, Randal Leslie's
conduct in the Committee-room, with many an indignant comment on
selfishness and ingratitude.  The political world of all parties formed
one of those judgments on the great man's poor dependant, which fix a
stain upon the character and place a barrier in the career of ambitious
youth.  The important personages who had once noticed Randal for Audley's
sake, and who, on their subsequent and not long-deferred restoration to
power, could have made his fortune, passed him in the streets without a
nod.  He did not venture to remind Avenel of the promise to aid him in
another election for Lansmere, nor dream of filling up the vacancy which
Egerton's death had created.  He was too shrewd not to see that all hope
of that borough was over,--he would have been hooted in the streets and
pelted from the hustings.  Forlorn in the vast metropolis as Leonard had
once been, in his turn he loitered on the bridge, and gazed on the
remorseless river.  He had neither money nor connections,--nothing save
talents and knowledge to force his way back into the lofty world in which
all had smiled on him before; and talents and knowledge, that had been
exerted to injure a benefactor, made him but the more despised.  But even
now, Fortune, that had bestowed on the pauper heir of Rood advantages so
numerous and so dazzling, out of which he had cheated himself, gave him
a chance, at least, of present independence, by which, with patient toil,
he might have won, if not to the highest places, at least to a position
in which he could have forced the world to listen to his explanations;
and perhaps receive his excuses.  The L5,000 that Audley designed for
him, and which, in a private memorandum, the statesman had entreated
Harley to see safely rescued from the fangs of the law, were made over
to Randal by Lord L'Estrange's solicitor; but this sum seemed to him so
small after the loss of such gorgeous hopes, and the up-hill path seemed
so slow after such short cuts to power, that Randal looked upon the
unexpected bequest simply as an apology for adopting no profession.
Stung to the quick by the contrast between his past and his present place
in the English world, he hastened abroad.  There, whether in distraction
from thought, or from the curiosity of a restless intellect to explore
the worth of things yet untried, Randal Leslie, who had hitherto been so
dead to the ordinary amusements of youth, plunged into the society of
damaged gamesters and third-rate roues.  In this companionship his very
talents gradually degenerated, and their exercise upon low intrigues and
miserable projects but abased his social character, till, sinking step
after step as his funds decayed, he finally vanished out of the sphere in
which even profligates still retain the habits, and cling to the caste of
gentlemen.  His father died; the neglected property of Rood devolved on
Randal, but out of its scanty proceeds he had to pay the portions of his
brother and sister, and his mother's jointure; the surplus left was
scarcely visible in the executor's account.  The hope of restoring the
home and fortunes of his forefathers had long ceased.  What were the
ruined hall and its bleak wastes, without that hope which had once
dignified the wreck and the desert?  He wrote from St. Petersburg,
ordering the sale of the property.  No one great proprietor was a
candidate for the unpromising investment; it was sold in lots among small
freeholders and retired traders.  A builder bought the hall for its
material.  Hall, lands, and name were blotted out of the map and the
history of the county.

The widow, Oliver, and Juliet removed to a provincial town in another
shire.  Juliet married an ensign in a marching regiment; and died of
neglect after childbirth.  Mrs. Leslie did not long survive her.  Oliver
added to his little fortune by marriage with the daughter of a retail
tradesman, who had amassed a few thousand pounds.  He set up a brewery,
and contrived to live without debt, though a large family and his own
constitutional inertness extracted from his business small profits and no
savings.  Nothing of Randal had been heard of for years after the sale of
Rood, except that he had taken up his residence either in Australia or
the United States; it was not known which, but presumed to be the latter.
Still, Oliver had been brought up with so high a veneration of his
brother's talents, that he cherished the sanguine belief that Randal
would some day appear, wealthy and potent, like the uncle in a comedy;
lift rip the sunken family, and rear into graceful ladies and
accomplished gentlemen the clumsy little boys and the vulgar little girls
who now crowded round Oliver's dinner-table, with appetites altogether
disproportioned to the size of the joints.

One winter day, when from the said dinner-table wife and children had
retired, and Oliver sat sipping his half-pint of bad port, and looking
over unsatisfactory accounts, a thin terrier, lying on the threadbare rug
by the niggard fire, sprang up and barked fiercely.  Oliver lifted his
dull blue eyes, and saw opposite to him, at the window, a human face.
The face was pressed close to the panes, and was obscured by the haze
which the breath of its lips drew forth from the frosty rime that had
gathered on the glass.

Oliver, alarmed and indignant, supposing this intrusive spectator of his
privacy to be some bold and lawless tramper, stepped out of the room,
opened the front door, and bade the stranger go about his business; while
the terrier still more inhospitably yelped and snapped at the stranger's
heels.  Then a hoarse voice said, "Don't you know me, Oliver?  I am your
brother Randal!  Call away your dog and let me in."  Oliver stared
aghast; he could not believe his slow senses, he could not recognize his
brother in the gaunt grim apparition before him; but at length he came
forward, gazed into Randal's face, and, grasping his hand in amazed
silence, led him into the little parlour.  Not a trace of the well-bred
refinement which had once characterized Randal's air and person was
visible.  His dress bespoke the last stage of that terrible decay which
is significantly called the "shabby genteel."  His mien was that of the
skulking, timorous, famished vagabond.  As he took off his greasy
tattered hat, he exhibited, though still young in years, the signs of
premature old age.  His hair, once so fine and silken, was of a harsh
iron-gray, bald in ragged patches; his forehead and visage were ploughed
into furrows; intelligence was still in the aspect, but an intelligence
that instinctively set you on your guard,--sinister, gloomy, menacing.

Randal stopped short all questioning.  He seized the small modicum of
wine on the table, and drained it at a draught.  "Poole," said he, "have
you nothing that warms a man better than this?"  Oliver, who felt as if
under the influence of a frightful dream, went to a cupboard and took out
a bottle of brandy three-parts full.  Randal snatched at it eagerly, and
put his lips to the mouth of the bottle.  "Ah," said he, after a short
pause, "this comforts; now give me food."  Oliver hastened himself to
serve his brother; in fact, he felt ashamed that even the slipshod maid-
servant should see his visitor.  When he returned with such provisions as
he could extract from the larder, Randal was seated by the fire,
spreading over the embers emaciated bony hands, like the talons of a
vulture.

He devoured the cold meat set before him with terrible voracity, and
nearly finished the spirits left in the bottle; but the last had no
effect in dispersing his gloom.  Oliver stared at him in fear; the
terrier continued to utter a low suspicious growl.

"You would know my history?" at length said Randal, bluntly.  "It is
short.  I have tried for fortune and failed, I am without a penny and
without a hope.  You seem poor,--

"I suppose you cannot much help me.  Let me at least stay with you for a
time,--I know not where else to look for bread and for shelter."

Oliver burst into tears, and cordially bade his brother welcome.  Randal
remained some weeks at Oliver's house, never stirring out of the doors,
and not seeming to notice, though he did not scruple to use, the new
habiliments, which Oliver procured ready-made, and placed, without
remark, in his room.  But his presence soon became intolerable to the
mistress of the house, and oppressive even to its master.  Randal, who
had once been so abstemious that he had even regarded the most moderate
use of wine as incompatible with clear judgment and vigilant observation,
had contracted the habit of drinking spirits at all hours of the day; but
though they sometimes intoxicated him into stupor, they never unlocked
his heart nor enlivened his sullen mood.  If he observed less acutely
than of old, he could still conceal just as closely.  Mrs. Oliver Leslie,
at first rather awed and taciturn, grew cold and repelling, then pert and
sarcastic, at last undisguisedly and vulgarly rude.  Randal made no
retort; but his sneer was so galling that the wife flew at once to her
husband, and declared that either she or his brother must leave the
house.  Oliver tried to pacify and compromise, with partial success; and
a few days afterwards, he came to Randal and said timidly, "You see, my
wife brought me nearly all I possess, and you don't condescend to make
friends with her.  Your residence here must be as painful to you as to
me.  But I wish to see you provided for; and I could offer you something,
only it seems, at first glance, so beneath--"

"Beneath what?" interrupted Randal, witheringly.  "What I was--or what I
am?  Speak out!"

"To be sure you are a scholar; and I have heard you say fine things about
knowledge and so forth; and you'll have plenty of books at your disposal,
no doubt; and you are still young, and may rise--and--"

"Hell and torments!  Be quick,--say the worst or the best!" cried Randal,
fiercely.

"Well, then," said poor Oliver, still trying to soften the intended
proposal, "you must know that our poor sister's husband was nephew to Dr.
Felpem, who keeps a very respectable school.  He is not learned himself,
and attends chiefly to arithmetic and book-keeping, and such matters; but
he wants an usher to teach the classics, for some of the boys go to
college.  And I have written to him, just to sound--I did not mention
your name till I knew if you would like it; but he will take my
recommendation.  Board, lodging, L50 a year; in short, the place is yours
if you like it."  Randal shivered from head to foot, and was long before
he answered.  "Well, be it so; I have come to that.  Ha, ha!  yes,
knowledge is power!"  He paused a few moments.  "So, the old Hall is
razed to the ground, and you are a tradesman in a small country town, and
my sister is dead, and I henceforth am--John Smith!  You say that you did
not mention my name to the schoolmaster,--still keep it concealed; forget
that I once was a Leslie.  Our tie of brotherhood ceases when I go from
your hearth.  Write, then, to your head-master, who attends to
arithmetic, and secure the rank of his usher in Latin and Greek for--John
Smith!"

Not many days afterwards, the /protege/ of Audley Egerton entered on his
duties as usher in one of those large, cheap schools, which comprise a
sprinkling of the sons of gentry and clergymen designed for the learned
professions, with a far larger proportion of the sons of traders,
intended, some for the counting-house, some for the shop and the till.
There, to this day, under the name of John Smith, lives Randal Leslie.

It is probably not pride alone that induces him to persist in that change
of name, and makes him regard as perpetual the abandonment of the one
that he took from his forefathers, and with which he had once identified
his vaulting ambition; for shortly after he had quitted his brother's
house, Oliver read in the weekly newspaper, to which he bounded his lore
of the times in which he lived, an extract from an American journal,
wherein certain mention was made of an English adventurer who, amongst
other aliases, had assumed the name of Leslie,--that extract caused
Oliver to start, turn pale, look round, and thrust the paper into the
fire.  From that time he never attempted to violate the condition Randal
had imposed on him, never sought to renew their intercourse, nor to claim
a brother.  Doubtless, if the adventurer thus signalized was the man
Oliver suspected, whatever might be imputed to Randal's charge that could
have paled a brother's cheek, it was none of the more violent crimes to
which law is inexorable, but rather (in that progress made by ingratitude
and duplicity, with Need and Necessity urging them on) some act of
dishonesty which may just escape from the law, to sink, without
redemption, the name.  However this be, there is nothing in Randal's
present course of life which forbodes any deeper fall.  He has known what
it is to want bread, and his former restlessness subsides into cynic
apathy.

He lodges in the town near the school, and thus the debasing habit of
unsocial besotment is not brought under the eyes of his superior.  The
drain is his sole luxury; if it be suspected, it is thought to be his
sole vice.  He goes through the ordinary routine of tuition with average
credit; his spirit of intrigue occasionally shows itself in attempts to
conciliate the favour of the boys whose fathers are wealthy, who are born
to higher rank than the rest; and he lays complicated schemes to be asked
home for the holidays.  But when the schemes succeed, and the invitation
comes, be recoils and shrinks back,--he does not dare to show himself on
the borders of the brighter world he once hoped to sway; he fears that he
may be discovered to be--a Leslie!  On such days, when his taskwork is
over, he shuts himself up in his room, locks the door, and drugs himself
into insensibility.

Once be found a well-worn volume running the round of delighted
schoolboys, took it up, and recognized Leonard's earliest popular work,
which had, many years before, seduced himself into pleasant thoughts and
gentle emotions.  He carried the book to his own lodgings, read it again;
and when he returned it to its young owner, some of the leaves were
stained with tears.  Alas! perhaps but the maudlin tears of broken
nerves, not of the awakened soul,--for the leaves smelt strongly of
whiskey.  Yet, after that re-perusal, Randal Leslie turned suddenly to
deeper studies than his habitual drudgeries required.  He revived and
increased his early scholarship; he chalked the outline of a work of
great erudition, in which the subtlety of his intellect found field in
learned and acute criticism.  But he has never proceeded far in this
work.  After each irregular and spasmodic effort, the pen drops from his
hand, and he mutters, "But to what end?

"I can never now raise a name.  Why give reputation to--John Smith?"

Thus he drags on his life; and perhaps, when he dies, the fragments of
his learned work may be discovered in the desk of the usher, and serve as
hints to some crafty student, who may filch ideas and repute from the
dead Leslie, as Leslie had filched them from the living Burley.

While what may be called poetical justice has thus evolved itself from
the schemes in which Randal Leslie had wasted rare intellect in baffling
his own fortunes, no outward signs of adversity evince the punishment of
Providence on the head of the more powerful offender, Baron Levy.  No
fall in the Funds has shaken the sumptuous fabric, built from the ruined
houses of other men.  Baron Levy is still Baron Levy the millionaire; but
I doubt if at heart he be not more acutely miserable than Randal Leslie
the usher.  For Levy is a man who has admitted the fiercer passions into
his philosophy of life; he has not the pale blood and torpid heart which
allow the scotched adder to dose away its sense of pain.  Just as old age
began to creep upon the fashionable usurer, he fell in love with a young
opera-dancer, whose light heels had turned the lighter heads of half the
eligans of Paris and London.  The craft of the dancer was proof against
all lesser bribes than that of marriage; and Levy married her.  From that
moment his house, Louis Quinze, was more crowded than ever by the high-
born dandies whose society lie had long so eagerly courted.  That society
became his curse.  The baroness was an accomplished coquette; and Levy
(with whom, as we have seen, jealousy was the predominant passion) was
stretched on an eternal rack.  His low estimate of human nature, his
disbelief in the possibility of virtue, added strength to the agony of
his suspicions, and provoked the very dangers he dreaded.  His self-
torturing task was that of the spy upon his own hearth.  His banquets
were haunted by a spectre; the attributes of his wealth were as the goad
and the scourge of Nemesis.  His gay cynic smile changed into a sullen
scowl, his hair blanched into white, his eyes were hollow with one
consuming care.  Suddenly he left his costly house,--left London; abjured
all the society which it had been the joy of his wealth to purchase;
buried himself and his wife in a remote corner of the provinces; and
there he still lives.  He seeks in vain to occupy his days with rural
pursuits,--he to whom the excitements of a metropolis, with all its
corruption and its vices, were the sole sources of the turpid stream that
he called "pleasure."  There, too, the fiend of jealousy still pursues
him: he prowls round his demesnes with the haggard eye and furtive step
of a thief; he guards his wife as a prisoner, for she threatens every day
to escape.  The life of the man who had opened the prison to so many is
the life of a jailer.  His wife abhors him, and does not conceal it; and
still slavishly he dotes on her.  Accustomed to the freest liberty,
demanding applause and admiration as her rights; wholly uneducated,
vulgar in mind, coarse in language, violent in temper, the beautiful Fury
he had brought to his home makes that home a hell.  Thus, what might seem
to the superficial most enviable, is to their possessor most hateful.  He
dares not ask a soul to see how he spends his gold; he has shrunk into a
mean and niggardly expenditure, and complains of reverse and poverty, in
order to excuse himself to his wife for debarring her the enjoyments
which she anticipated from the Money Bags she had married.  A vague
consciousness of retribution has awakened remorse, to add to his other
stings.  And the remorse coming from superstition, not religion (sent
from below, not descending from above), brings with it none of the
consolations of a genuine repentance.  He never seeks to atone, never
dreams of some redeeming good action.  His riches flow around him,
spreading wider and wider--out of his own reach.


The Count di Peschiera was not deceived in the calculations which had
induced him to affect repentance, and establish a claim upon his kinsman.
He received from the generosity of the Duke di Serrano an annuity not
disproportioned to his rank, and no order from his court forbade his
return to Vienna.  But, in the very summer that followed his visit to
Lansmere, his career came to an abrupt close.  At Baden-Baden he paid
court to a wealthy and accomplished Polish widow; and his fine person and
terrible repute awed away all rivals, save a young Frenchman, as daring
as himself, and much more in love.  A challenge was given and accepted.
Peschiera appeared on the fatal ground, with his customary sang-froid,
humming an opera air, and looking so diabolically gay that his opponent's
nerves were affected in spite of his courage; and the Frenchman's trigger
going off before he had even taken aim, to his own ineffable
astonishment, he shot the count through the heart, dead.

Beatrice di Negra lived for some years after her brother's death in
strict seclusion, lodging within a convent, though she did not take the
veil, as she at first proposed.  In fact, the more she saw of the
sisterhood, the more she found that human regrets and human passions
(save in some rarely gifted natures) find their way through the barred
gates and over the lofty walls.  Finally, she took up her abode in Rome,
where she is esteemed for a life not only marked by strict propriety, but
active benevolence.  She cannot be prevailed on to accept from the duke
more than a fourth of the annuity that had been bestowed on her brother;
but she has few wants, save those of charity; and when charity is really
active, it can do so much with so little gold!  She is not known in the
gayer circles of the city; but she gathers round her a small society
composed chiefly of artists and scholars, and is never so happy as when
she can aid some child of genius,--more especially if his country be
England.


The squire and his wife still flourish at Hazeldean, where Captain
Barnabas Higginbotham has taken up his permanent abode.  The captain is a
confirmed hypochondriac; but he brightens up now and then when he hears
of any illness in the family of Mr. Sharpe Currie, and, at such times, is
heard to murmur, "If those seven sickly children should go off, I might
still have very great--EXPECTATIONS,"--for the which he has been roundly
scolded by the squire, and gravely preached at by the parson.  Upon both,
however, he takes his revenge in a fair and gentlemanlike way, three
times a week, at the whist-table, the parson no longer having the captain
as his constant partner, since a fifth now generally cuts in at the
table,--in the person of that old enemy and neighbour, Mr. Sticktorights.
The parson, thus fighting his own battles unallied to the captain,
observes with melancholy surprise that there is a long run of luck
against him, and that he does not win so much as he used to do.
Fortunately that is the sole trouble--except Mrs. Dale's "little
tempers," to which he is accustomed--that ever disturbs the serene tenor
of the parson's life.  We must now explain how Mr. Sticktorights came to
cut in at the Hazeldean whist-table.  Frank has settled at the Casino
with a wife who suits him exactly, and that wife was Miss Sticktorights.
It was two years before Frank recovered the disappointment with which the
loss of Beatrice saddened his spirits, but sobered his habits and awoke
his reflection.  An affection, however misplaced and ill-requited, if
honestly conceived and deeply felt, rarely fails to advance the self-
education of man.  Frank became steady and serious; and, on a visit to
Hazeldean, met at a county ball Miss Sticktorights, and the two young
persons were instantly attracted towards each other, perhaps by the very
feud that had so long existed between their houses.  The marriage
settlements were nearly abandoned, at the last moment, by a discussion
between the parents as to the Right of Way; but the dispute was happily
appeased by Mr. Dale's suggestion that as both properties would be united
in the children of the proposed marriage, all cause for litigation would
naturally cease, since no man would go to law with himself.  Mr.
Sticktorights and Mr. Hazeldean, however, agreed in the precaution of
inserting a clause in the settlements (though all the lawyers declared
that it could not be of any legal avail), by which it was declared, that
if, in default of heritable issue by the said marriage, the
Sticktorights' estate devolved on some distant scion of the Sticktorights
family, the right of way from the wood across the waste land would still
remain in the same state of delectable dispute in which it then stood.
There seems, however, little chance of a lawsuit thus providently
bequeathed to the misery of distant generations, since two sons and two
daughters are already playing at hide-and-seek on the terrace where
Jackeymo once watered the orange-trees, and in the belvidere where
Riccabocca had studied his Machiavelli.


Jackeymo, though his master has assessed the long arrears of his wages at
a sum which would enable him to have orange-groves and servants of his
own, still clings to his former duties, and practises his constitutional
parsimony.  His only apparent deviation into profusion consists in the
erection of a chapel to his sainted namesake, to whom he burns many a
votive taper,--the tapers are especially tall, and their sconces are
wreathed with garlands, whenever a letter with the foreign postmark
brings good news of the absent Violante and her English lord.


Riccabocca was long before he reconciled himself to the pomp of his
principalities and his title of Duke.  Jemima accommodated herself much
more readily to greatness; but she retained all her native Hazeldean
simplicity at heart, and is adored by the villagers around her,
especially by the young of both sexes, whom she is always ready to marry
and to portion,--convinced, long ere this, of the redeemable qualities of
the male sex by her reverence for the duke, who continues to satirize
women and wedlock, and deem himself--thanks to his profound experience of
the one, and his philosophical endurance of the other--the only happy
husband in the world.  Longer still was it before the sage, who had been
so wisely anxious to rid himself of the charge of a daughter, could wean
his thoughts from the remembrance of her tender voice and loving eyes,--
not, indeed, till he seriously betook himself to the task of educating
the son with whom, according to his scientific prognostics, Jemima
presented him shortly after his return to his native land.  The sage
began betimes with his Italian proverbs, full of hardhearted worldly
wisdom, and the boy was scarce out of the hornbook before he was
introduced to Machiavelli.  But somehow or other the simple goodness of
the philosopher's actual life, with his high-wrought patrician sentiments
of integrity and honour, so counteract the theoretical lessons, that the
Heir of Serrano is little likely to be made more wise by the proverbs, or
more wicked by the Machiavelli, than those studies have practically made
the progenitor, whose opinions his countrymen still shame with the title
of "Alphonso the Good."

The duke long cherished a strong curiosity to know what had become of
Randal.  He never traced the adventurer to his closing scene.  But once
(years before Randal had crept into his present shelter) in a visit of
inspection to the hospital at Genoa, the duke, with his peculiar
shrewdness of observation in all matters except those which concerned
himself, was remarking to the officer in attendance, "that for one dull,
honest man whom fortune drove to the hospital or the jail, he had found,
on investigation of their antecedents, three sharp-witted knaves who had
thereto reduced themselves"--when his eye fell upon a man asleep in one
of the sick wards; and recognizing the face, not then so changed as
Oliver had seen it, he walked straight up, and gazed upon Randal Leslie.

"An Englishman," said the official.  "He was brought hither insensible,
from a severe wound on the head, inflicted, as we discovered, by a well-
known chevalier d'industrie, who declared that the Englishman had
outwitted and cheated him.  That was not very likely, for a few crowns
were all we could find on the Englishman's person, and he had been
obliged to leave his lodgings for debt.  He is recovering, but there is
fever still."

The duke gazed silently on the sleeper, who was tossing restlessly on his
pallet, and muttering to himself; then he placed his purse in the
official's hand.  "Give this to the Englishman," said he; "but conceal my
name.  It is true, it is true, the proverb is very true," resumed the
duke, descending the stairs, "Piu pelli di volpi the di asini vanno in
Pellieciaria."  (More hides of foxes than of asses find their way to the
tanner's).

Dr. Morgan continues to prescribe globules for grief, and to administer
infinitesimally to a mind diseased.  Practising what he prescribes, he
swallows a globule of caustic whenever the sight of a distressed fellow-
creature moves him to compassion,--a constitutional tendency which, he is
at last convinced, admits of no radical cure.  For the rest, his range of
patients has notably expanded; and under his sage care his patients
unquestionably live as long--as Providence pleases.  No allopathist can
say more.


The death of poor John Burley found due place in the obituary of
"literary men."  Admirers, unknown before, came forward and subscribed
for a handsome monument to his memory in Kensall Green.  They would have
subscribed for the relief of his widow and children, if he had left any.
Writers in magazines thrived for some months on collections of his
humorous sayings, anecdotes of his eccentricities, and specimens of the
eloquence that had lightened through the tobacco-reek of tavern and club-
room.  Leonard ultimately made a selection from his scattered writings
which found place in standard libraries, though their subjects were
either of too fugitive an interest, or treated in too capricious a
manner, to do more than indicate the value of the ore, had it been
purified from its dross and subjected to the art of the mint.  These
specimens could not maintain their circulation as the coined money of
Thought, but they were hoarded by collectors as rare curiosities.  Alas,
poor Burley!


The Pompleys sustained a pecuniary loss by the crash of a railway
company, in which the colonel had been induced to take several shares by
one of his wife's most boasted "connections," whose estate the said
railway proposed to traverse, on paying L400 an acre, in that golden age
when railway companies respected the rights of property.  The colonel was
no longer able, in his own country, to make both ends meet at Christmas.
He is now straining hard to achieve that feat in Boulogne, and has in the
process grown so red in the face, that those who meet him in his morning
walk on the pier, bargaining for fish, shake their heads and say, "Old
Pompley will go off in a fit of apoplexy; a great loss to society;
genteel people the Pompleys! and very highly 'connected.'"


The vacancy created in the borough of Lansmere by Audley Egerton's death
was filled up by our old acquaintance, Haveril Dashmore, who had
unsuccessfully contested that seat on Egerton's first election.  The
naval officer was now an admiral, and perfectly reconciled to the
Constitution, with all its alloy of aristocracy.


Dick Avenel did not retire from parliament so soon as he had anticipated.
He was not able to persuade Leonard, whose brief fever of political
ambition was now quenched in the calm fountain of the Muse, to supply his
place in the senate, and he felt that the House of Avenel needed one
representative.  He contrived, however, to devote, for the first year or
two, much more of his time to his interests at Screwstown than to the
affairs of his country, and succeeded in baffling the over-competition to
which he had been subjected by taking the competitor into partnership.
Having thus secured a monopoly at Screwstown, Dick, of course, returned
with great ardour to his former enlightened opinions in favour of free
trade.  He remained some years in parliament; and though far too shrewd
to venture out of his depth as an orator, distinguished himself so much
by his exposure of "humbug" on an important Committee, that he acquired a
very high reputation as a man of business, and gradually became so in
request amongst all the members who moved for "Select Committees," that
he rose into consequence; and Mrs. Avenel, courted for his sake, more
than her own, obtained the wish of her heart, and was received as an
acknowledged /habituee/ into the circles of fashion.  Amidst these
circles, however, Dick found that his home entirely vanished; and when
he came home from the House of Commons, tired to death, at two in the
morning, disgusted at always hearing that Mrs. Avenel was not yet
returned from some fine lady's ball, he formed a sudden resolution of
cutting Parliament, Fashion, and London altogether; withdrew his capital,
now very large, from his business; bought the remaining estates of Squire
Thornhill; and his chief object of ambition is in endeavouring to coax or
bully out of their holdings all the small freeholders round, who had
subdivided amongst them, into poles and furlongs, the fated inheritance
of Randal Leslie.  An excellent justice of the peace, though more severe
than your old family proprietors generally are; a spirited landlord,
as to encouraging and making, at a proper percentage, all permanent
improvements on the soil, but formidable to meet if the rent be not paid
to the day, or the least breach of covenant be heedlessly incurred on a
farm that he could let for more money; employing a great many hands in
productive labour, but exacting rigorously from all the utmost degree of
work at the smallest rate of wages which competition and the poor-rate
permit; the young and robust in his neighbourhood never stinted in work,
and the aged and infirm, as lumber worn out, stowed away in the
workhouse,--Richard Avenel holds himself an example to the old race of
landlords; and, taken altogether, he is no very bad specimen of the rural
civilizers whom the application of spirit and capital raise up in the
new.


From the wrecks of Egerton's fortune, Harley, with the aid of his
father's experience in business, could not succeed in saving, for the
statesman's sole child and heir, more than a few thousand pounds; and but
for the bonds and bills which, when meditating revenge, he had bought
from Levy, and afterwards thrown into the fire--paying dear for that
detestable whistle--even this surplus would not have been forthcoming.

Harley privately paid out of his own fortune the L5,000 Egerton had
bequeathed to Leslie; perhaps not sorry, now that the stern duty of
exposing the false wiles of the schemer was fulfilled, to afford some
compensation even to the victim who had so richly deserved his fate; and
pleased, though mournfully, to comply with the solemn request of the
friend whose offence was forgotten in the remorseful memory of his own
projects of revenge.

Leonard's birth and identity were easily proved, and no one appeared to
dispute them.  The balance due to him as his father's heir, together with
the sum Avenel ultimately paid to him for the patent of his invention,
and the dowry which Harley insisted upon bestowing on Helen, amounted to
that happy competence which escapes alike the anxieties of poverty, and
(what to one of contemplative tastes and retired habits are often more
irksome to bear) the show and responsibilities of wealth.  His father's
death made a deep impression upon Leonard's mind; but the discovery that
he owed his birth to a statesman of so great a repute, and occupying a
position in society so conspicuous, contributed not to confirm, but to
still, the ambition which had for a short time diverted him from his more
serene aspirations.  He had no longer to win a rank which might equal
Helen's.  He had no longer a parent, whose affections might be best won
through pride.  The memories of his earlier peasant life, and his love
for retirement,--in which habit confirmed the constitutional tendency,-
made him shrink from what a more worldly nature would have considered the
enviable advantages of a name that secured the entrance into the loftiest
sphere of our social world.  He wanted not that name to assist his own
path to a rank far more durable than that which kings can confer.  And
still he retained in the works he had published, and still he proposed to
bestow on the works more ambitious that he had, in leisure and
competence, the facilities to design with care, and complete with
patience, the name he had himself invented, and linked with the memory of
the low-born mother.  Therefore, though there was some wonder, in
drawing-rooms and clubs, at the news of Egerton's first unacknowledged
marriage, and some curiosity expressed as to what the son of that
marriage might do,--and great men were prepared to welcome, and fine
ladies to invite and bring out, the heir to the statesman's grave
repute,--yet wonder and curiosity soon died away; the repute soon passed
out of date, and its heir was soon forgotten.  Politicians who fall short
of the highest renown are like actors; no applause is so vivid while they
are on the stage, no oblivion so complete when the curtain falls on the
last farewell.

Leonard saw a fair tomb rise above Nora's grave, and on the tomb was
engraved the word of WIFE, which vindicated her beloved memory.  He
felt the warm embrace of Nora's mother, no longer ashamed to own her
grandchild; and even old John was made sensible that a secret weight
of sorrow was taken from his wife's stern silent heart.  Leaning on
Leonard's arm, the old man gazed wistfully on Nora's tomb, and muttering,
"Egerton!  Egerton!  'Leonora, the first wife of the Right Honourable
Audley Egerton!'  Ha!  I voted for him.  She married the right colour.
Is that the date?  Is it so long since she died?  Well, well!  I miss her
sadly.  But wife says we shall both now see her soon; and wife once
thought we should never see her again,--never; but I always knew better.
Thank you, sir.  I'm a poor creature, but these tears don't pain me,--
quite otherwise.  I don't know why, but I'm very happy.  Where's my old
woman?  She does not mind how much I talk about Nora now.  Oh, there she
is!  Thank you, sir, humbly; but I'd rather lean on my old woman,--I'm
more used to it; and--wife, when shall we go to Nora?"

Leonard had brought Mrs. Fairfield to see her parents, and Mrs. Avenel
welcomed her with unlooked-for kindness.  The name inscribed upon Nora's
tomb softened the mother's heart to her surviving daughter.  As poor John
had said, "She could now talk about Nora;" and in that talk, she and the
child she had so long neglected discovered how much they had in common.
So when, shortly after his marriage with Helen, Leonard went abroad, Jane
Fairfield remained with the old couple.  After their death, which was
within a day of each other, she refused, perhaps from pride, to take up
her residence with Leonard; but she settled near the home which he
subsequently found in England.  Leonard remained abroad for some years.
A quiet observer of the various manners and intellectual development of
living races, a rapt and musing student of the monuments that revive the
dead, his experience of mankind grew large in silence, and his
perceptions of the Sublime and Beautiful brightened into tranquil art
under their native skies.

On his return to England he purchased a small house amidst the most
beautiful scenes of Devonshire, and there patiently commenced a work in
which he designed to bequeath to his country his noblest thoughts in
their fairest forms.  Some men best develop their ideas by constant
exercise; their thoughts spring from their brain ready-armed, and seek,
like the fabled goddess, to take constant part in the wars of men.  And
such are, perhaps, on the whole, the most vigorous and lofty writers; but
Leonard did not belong to this class.  Sweetness and serenity were the
main characteristics of his genius; and these were deepened by his
profound sense of his domestic happiness.  To wander alone with Helen by
the banks of the murmurous river; to gaze with her on the deep still sea;
to feel that his thoughts, even when most silent, were comprehended by
the intuition of love, and reflected on that translucent sympathy so
yearned for and so rarely found by poets,--these were the Sabbaths of his
soul, necessary to fit him for its labours: for the Writer has this
advantage over other men, that his repose is not indolence.  His duties,
rightly fulfilled, are discharged to earth and men in other capacities
than those of action.  If he is not seen among those who act, he is all
the while maturing some noiseless influence, which will guide or
illumine, civilize or elevate, the restless men whose noblest actions are
but the obedient agencies of the thoughts of writers.  Call not, then,
the Poet whom we place amidst the Varieties of Life, the sybarite of
literary ease, if, returning on Summer eves, Helen's light footstep by
his musing side, he greets his sequestered home, with its trellised
flowers smiling out from amidst the lonely cliffs in which it is
embedded; while lovers still, though wedded long, they turn to each
other, with such deep joy in their speaking eyes, grateful that the
world, with its various distractions and noisy conflicts, lies so far
from their actual existence,--only united to them by the happy link that
the writer weaves invisibly with the hearts that he moves and the souls
that he inspires.  No!  Character and circumstance alike unfitted Leonard
for the strife of the thronged literary democracy; they led towards the
development of the gentler and purer portions of his nature,--to the
gradual suppression of the more combative and turbulent.  The influence
of the happy light under which his genius so silently and calmly grew,
was seen in the exquisite harmony of its colours, rather than the
gorgeous diversities of their glow.  His contemplation, intent upon
objects of peaceful beauty, and undisturbed by rude anxieties and
vehement passions, suggested only kindred reproductions to the creative
faculty by which it was vivified; so that the whole man was not only a
poet, but, as it were, a poem,--a living idyl, calling into pastoral
music every reed that sighed and trembled along the stream of life.  And
Helen was so suited to a nature of this kind, she so guarded the ideal
existence in which it breathes!  All the little cares and troubles of the
common practical life she appropriated so quietly to herself,--the
stronger of the two, as should be a poet's wife, in the necessary
household virtues of prudence and forethought.  Thus if the man's genius
made the home a temple, the woman's wisdom gave to the temple the
security of the fortress.  They have only one child,--a girl; they call
her Nora.  She has the father's soul-lit eyes, and the mother's warm
human smile.  She assists Helen in the morning's noiseless domestic
duties; she sits in the evening at Leonard's feet, while he reads or
writes.  In each light grief of childhood she steals to the mother's
knee; but in each young impulse of delight, or each brighter flash of
progressive reason, she springs to the father's breast.  Sweet Helen,
thou hast taught her this, taking to thyself the shadows even of thine
infant's life, and leaving to thy partner's eyes only its rosy light!

But not here shall this picture of Helen close.  Even the Ideal can only
complete its purpose by connection with the Real; even in solitude the
writer must depend upon mankind.

Leonard at last has completed the work, which has been the joy and the
labour of so many years,--the work which he regards as the flower of all
his spiritual being, and to which he has committed all the hopes that
unite the creature of today with the generations of the future.  The work
has gone through the press, each line lingered over with the elaborate
patience of the artist, loath to part with the thought he has sculptured
into form, while an improving touch can be imparted by the chisel.  He
has accepted an invitation from Norreys.  In the restless excitement
(strange to him since his first happy maiden effort) he has gone to
London.  Unrecognized in the huge metropolis, he has watched to see if
the world acknowledge the new tie he has woven between its busy life and
his secluded toil.  And the work came out in an unpropitious hour; other
things were occupying the public; the world was not at leisure to heed
him, and the book did not penetrate into the great circle of readers.
But a savage critic has seized on it, and mangled, distorted, deformed
it, confounding together defect and beauty in one mocking ridicule; and
the beauties have not yet found an exponent, nor the defects a defender;
and the publisher shakes his head, points to groaning shelves, and
delicately hints that the work which was to be the epitome of the sacred
life within life does not hit the taste of the day.  Leonard thinks over
the years that his still labour has cost him, and knows that he has
exhausted the richest mines of his intellect, and that long years will
elapse before he can recruit that capital of ideas which is necessary to
sink new shafts and bring to light fresh ore; and the deep despondency of
intellect, frustrated in its highest aims, has seized him, and all he has
before done is involved in failure by the defeat of the crowning effort.
Failure, and irrecoverable, seems his whole ambition as writer; his whole
existence in the fair Ideal seems to have been a profitless dream, and
the face of the Ideal itself is obscured.  And even Norreys frankly,
though kindly, intimates that the life of a metropolis is essential to
the healthful intuition of a writer in the intellectual wants of his age,
since every great writer supplies a want in his own generation, for some
feeling to be announced, some truth to be revealed.  And as this maxim is
generally sound, as most great writers have lived in cities, Leonard
dares not dwell on the exception; it is only success that justifies the
attempt to be an exception to the common rule; and with the blunt manhood
of his nature, which is not a poet's, Norreys sums up with, "What then?
One experiment has failed; fit your life to your genius, and try again."
Try again!  Easy counsel enough to the man of ready resource and quick
combative mind; but to Leonard, how hard and how harsh!  "Fit his life to
his genius!"--renounce contemplation and Nature for the jostle of Oxford
Street!  Would that life not scare away the genius forever?  Perplexed
and despondent, though still struggling for fortitude, he returns to his
home; and there at his hearth awaits the Soother, and there is the voice
that repeats the passages most beloved, and prophesies so confidently of
future fame; and gradually all around smiles from the smile of Helen.
And the profound conviction that Heaven places human happiness beyond the
reach of the world's contempt or praise, circulates through his system
and restores its serene calm.  And he feels that the duty of the
intellect is to accomplish and perfect itself,--to harmonize its sounds
into music that may be heard in heaven, though it wake not an echo on the
earth.  If this be done, as with some men, best amidst the din and the
discord, be it so; if, as with him, best in silence, be it so too.  And
the next day he reclines with Helen by the seashore, gazing calmly as
before on the measureless sunlit ocean; and Helen, looking into his face,
sees that it is sunlit as the deep.  His hand steals within her own, in
the gratitude that endears beyond the power of passion, and he murmurs
gently, "Blessed be the woman who consoles."

The work found its way at length into fame, and the fame sent its voices
loud to the poet's home.  But the applause of the world had not a sound
so sweet to his ear, as, when, in doubt, humiliation, and sadness, the
lips of his Helen had whispered "Hope! and believe!"

Side by side with this picture of Woman the Consoler, let me place the
companion sketch.  Harley L'Estrange, shortly after his marriage with
Violante, had been induced, whether at his bride's persuasions, or to
dissipate the shadow with which Egerton's death still clouded his wedded
felicity, to accept a temporary mission, half military, half civil, to
one of our colonies.  On this mission he had evinced so much ability and
achieved so signal a success, that on his return to England he was raised
to the peerage, while his father yet lived to rejoice that the son who
would succeed to his honours had achieved the nobler dignity of honours
not inherited, but won.  High expectations were formed of Harley's
parliamentary success; but he saw that such success, to be durable, must
found itself on the knowledge of wearisome details, and the study of that
practical business which jarred on his tastes, though it suited his
talents.  Harley had been indolent for so many years,--and there is so
much to make indolence captivating to a man whose rank is secured, who
has nothing to ask from fortune, and who finds at his home no cares from
which he seeks a distraction; so he laughed at ambition in the whim of
his delightful humours, and the expectations formed from his diplomatic
triumph died away.  But then came one of those political crises, in which
men ordinarily indifferent to politics rouse themselves to the
recollection that the experiment of legislation is not made upon dead
matter, but on the living form of a noble country; and in both Houses of
Parliament the strength of party is put forth.

It is a lovely day in spring, and Harley is seated by the window of his
old room at Knightsbridge,--now glancing to the lively green of the
budding trees; now idling with Nero, who, though in canine old age,
enjoys the sun like his master; now repeating to himself, as he turns
over the leaves of his favourite Horace, some of those lines that make
the shortness of life the excuse for seizing its pleasures and eluding
its fatigues, which formed the staple morality of the polished epicurean;
and Violante (into what glorious beauty her maiden bloom has matured!)
comes softly into the room, seats herself on a low stool beside him,
leaning her face on her hands, and looking up at him through her dark,
clear, spiritual eyes; and as she continues to speak, gradually a change
comes over Harley's aspect, gradually the brow grows thoughtful, and the
lips lose their playful smile.  There is no hateful assumption of the
would-be "superior woman," no formal remonstrance, no lecture, no homily
which grates upon masculine pride; but the high theme and the eloquent
words elevate unconsciously of themselves, and the Horace is laid aside,
--a Parliamentary Blue Book has been, by some marvel or other, conjured
there in its stead; and Violante now moves away as softly as she entered.
Harley's hand detains her.

"Not so.  Share the task, or I quit it.  Here is an extract I condemn you
to copy.  Do you think I would go through this labour if you were not to
halve the success?--halve the labour as well!"

And Violante, overjoyed, kisses away the implied rebuke, and sits down to
work, so demure and so proud, by his side.  I do not know if Harley made
much way in the Blue Book that morning; but a little time after he spoke
in the Lords, and surpassed all that the most sanguine had hoped from his
talents.  The sweetness of fame and the consciousness of utility once
fully tasted, Harley's consummation of his proper destinies was secure.
A year later, and his voice was one of the influences of England.  His
boyish love of glory revived,--no longer vague and dreamy, but ennobled
into patriotism, and strengthened into purpose.  One night, after a
signal triumph, he returned home, with his father, who had witnessed it,
and Violante--who all lovely, all brilliant, though she was, never went
forth in her lord's absence, to lower among fops and flatterers the
dignity of the name she so aspired to raise--sprang to meet him.
Harley's eldest son--a boy yet in the nursery--had been kept up later
than usual; perhaps Violante had anticipated her husband's triumph, and
wished the son to share it.  The old earl beckoned the child to him, and
laying his hand on the infant's curly locks, said with unusual
seriousness,

"My boy, you may see troubled times in England before these hairs are as
gray as mine; and your stake in England's honour and peace will be great.
Heed this hint from an old man who had no talents to make a noise in the
world, but who yet has been of some use in his generation.  Neither
sounding titles, nor wide lands, nor fine abilities, will give you real
joy, unless you hold yourself responsible for all to your God and to your
country; and when you are tempted to believe that the gifts you may
inherit from both entail no duties, or that duties are at war with true
pleasure, remember how I placed you in your father's arms, and said,
'Let him be as proud of you some day as I at this hour am of him.'"

The boy clung to his father's breast, and said manfully, "I will try!"
Harley bent his fair smooth brow over the young earnest face, and said
softly, "Your mother speaks in you!"

Then the old countess, who had remained silent and listening on her
elbow-chair, rose and kissed the earl's hand reverently.  Perhaps in that
kiss there was the repentant consciousness how far the active goodness
she had often secretly undervalued had exceeded, in its fruits, her own
cold unproductive powers of will and mind.  Then passing on to Harley,
her brow grew elate, and the pride returned to her eye.

"At last," she said, laying on his shoulder that light firm hand, from
which he no longer shrunk,--"at last, O my noble son, you have fulfilled
all the promise of your youth!"

"If so," answered Harley, "it is because I have found what I then sought
in vain."  He drew his arm around Violante, and added, with half tender,
half solemn smile, "Blessed is the woman who exalts!"

So, symbolled forth in these twin and fair flowers which Eve saved for
Earth out of Paradise, each with the virtue to heal or to strengthen,
stored under the leaves that give sweets to the air; here, soothing the
heart when the world brings the trouble; here, recruiting the soul which
our sloth or our senses enervate, leave we Woman, at least in the place
Heaven assigns to her amidst the multiform "Varieties of Life."

Farewell to thee, gentle Reader; and go forth to the world, O MY NOVEL!

THE END.





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enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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