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Title: Godolphin, Complete
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.

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GODOLPHIN

By Edward Bulwer Lytton

(Lord Lytton)



TO COUNT ALFRED D’ORSAY.

MY DEAR COUNT D’ORSAY,

When the parentage of Godolphin was still unconfessed and unknown, you
were pleased to encourage his first struggles with the world: Now, will
you permit the father he has just discovered to re-introduce him to your
notice? I am sorry to say, however, that my unfilial offspring,
having been so long disowned, is not sufficiently grateful for being
acknowledged at last: he says that he belongs to a very numerous family,
and, wishing to be distinguished from his brothers, desires not only to
reclaim your acquaintance, but to borrow your name. Nothing less will
content his ambition than the most public opportunity in his power of
parading his obligations to the most accomplished gentleman of our time.
Will you, then, allow him to make his new appearance in the world under
your wing, and thus suffer the son as well as the father to attest the
kindness of your heart and to boast the honour of your friendship?

                              Believe me,
                         My dear Count d’Orsay,
                              With the sincerest regard,
                         Yours, very faithfully and truly,
                                                E. B. L.



PREFACE TO GODOLPHIN.

In the Prefaces to this edition of my works, I have occasionally so
far availed myself of that privilege of self-criticism which the French
comic writer, Mons. Picord, maintains or exemplifies in the collection
of his plays,--as, if not actually to sit in judgment on my own
performances, still to insinuate some excuse for their faults by
extenuatory depositions as to their character and intentions. Indeed, a
writer looking back to the past is unconsciously inclined to think that
he may separate himself from those children of his brain which have long
gone forth to the world; and though he may not expatiate on the merits
his paternal affection would ascribe to them, that he may speak at
least of the mode in which they were trained and reared--of the hopes he
cherished, or the objects he entertained, when he finally dismissed them
to the opinions of others and the ordeal of Fate or Time.

For my part, I own that even when I have thought but little of the value
of a work, I have always felt an interest in the author’s account of its
origin and formation, and, willing to suppose that what thus affords
a gratification to my own curiosity, may not be wholly unattractive to
others, I shall thus continue from time to time to play the Showman to
my own machinery, and explain the principle of the mainspring and the
movement of the wheels.

This novel was begun somewhere in the third year of my authorship,
and completed in the fourth. It was, therefore, composed almost
simultaneously with Eugene Aram, and afforded to me at least some relief
from the gloom of that village tragedy. It is needless to observe how
dissimilar in point of scene, character, and fable, the one is from the
other; yet they are alike in this--that both attempt to deal with one
of the most striking problems in the spiritual history of man, viz.,
the frustration or abuse of power in a superior intellect originally
inclined to good. Perhaps there is no problem that more fascinates the
attention of a man of some earnestness at that period of his life, when
his eye first disengages itself from the external phenomena around him,
and his curiosity leads him to examine the cause and account for the
effect;--when, to cite reverently the words of the wisest, “He applies
his heart to know and to search, and to seek out wisdom and the reason
of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and
madness.”

In Eugene Aram, the natural career of genius is arrested by a single
crime; in Godolphin, a mind of inferior order, but more fanciful
colouring, is wasted away by the indulgence of those morbid sentiments
which are the nourishment of egotism, and the gradual influence of the
frivolities which make the business of the idle. Here the Demon tempts
or destroys the hermit in his solitary cell. There, he glides amidst the
pomps and vanities of the world, and whispers away the soul in the voice
of his soft familiars, Indolence and Pleasure.

Of all my numerous novels, Pelham and Godolphin are the only ones
which take their absolute groundwork in what is called “The Fashionable
World.” I have sought in each to make the general composition in
some harmony with the principal figure in the foreground. Pelham
is represented as almost wholly unsusceptible to the more poetical
influences. He has the physical compound, which, versatile and joyous,
amalgamates easily with the world--he views life with the lenient
philosophy that Horace commends in Aristippus: he laughs at the
follies he shares; and is ever ready to turn into uses ultimately (if
indirectly) serious, the frivolities that only serve to sharpen his wit,
and augment that peculiar expression which we term “knowledge of the
world.” In a word, dispel all his fopperies, real or assumed, he is
still the active man of crowds and cities, determined to succeed,
and gifted with the ordinary qualities of success. Godolphin, on the
contrary, is the man of poetical temperament, out of his place alike
among the trifling idlers and the bustling actors of the world--wanting
the stimulus of necessity--or the higher motive which springs from
benevolence, to give energy to his powers, or definite purpose to his
fluctuating desires; not strong enough to break the bonds that confine
his genius--not supple enough to accommodate its movements to their
purpose. He is the moral antipodes to Pelham. In evading the struggles
of the world, he grows indifferent to its duties--he strives with no
obstacles--he can triumph in no career. Represented as possessing mental
qualities of a higher and a richer nature than those to which Pelham can
pretend, he is also represented as very inferior to him in constitution
of character, and he is certainly a more ordinary type of the
intellectual trifler.

The characters grouped around Godolphin are those with which such a
man usually associates his life. They are designed to have a certain
grace--a certain harmony with one form or the other of his twofold
temperament:--viz., either its conventional elegance of taste, or its
constitutional poetry of idea. But all alike are brought under varying
operations of similar influences; or whether in Saville, Constance,
Fanny, or Lucilla--the picture presented is still the picture of gifts
misapplied--of life misunderstood. The Preacher who exclaimed, “Vanity
of vanities! all is vanity,” perhaps solved his own mournful saying,
when he added elsewhere, “This only have I found, that God made men
upright--but they have sought out many inventions.”

This work was first published anonymously, and for that reason perhaps
it has been slow in attaining to its rightful station amongst its
brethren--whose parentage at first was openly acknowledged. If compared
with Pelham, it might lose, at the first glance, but would perhaps gain
on any attentive reperusal.

For although it must follow from the inherent difference in the design
of the two works thus referred to, that in Godolphin there can be
little of the satire or vivacity which have given popularity to its
predecessor, yet, on the other hand, in Godolphin there ought to be a
more faithful illustration of the even polish that belongs to luxurious
life,--of the satiety that pleasure inflicts upon such of its votaries
as are worthy of a higher service. The subject selected cannot adroit
the same facility for observation of things that lie on the surface--but
it may well lend itself to subtler investigation of character--allow
more attempt at pathos, and more appeal to reflection.

Regarded as a story, the defects of Godolphin most apparent to myself,
are in the manner in which Lucilla is re-introduced in the later
chapters, and in the final catastrophe of the hero. There is an
exaggerated romance in the one, and the admission of accident as a
crowning agency in the other, which my maturer judgment would certainly
condemn, and which at all events appear to me out of keeping with the
natural events, and the more patient investigation of moral causes and
their consequences, from which the previous interest of the tale is
sought to be attained. On the other hand, if I may presume to conjecture
the most probable claim to favour which the work, regarded as a
whole, may possess--it may possibly be found in a tolerably accurate
description of certain phases of modern civilisation, and in the
suggestion of some truths that may be worth considering in our
examination of social influences or individual conduct.



CHAPTER I.

THE DEATH-BED OF JOHN VERNON.--HIS DYING WORDS.--DESCRIPTION OF HIS
DAUGHTER, THE HEROINE.--THE OATH.

“Is the night calm, Constance?”

“Beautiful! the moon is up.”

“Open the shutters wider, there. It _is_ a beautiful night. How
beautiful! Come hither, my child.”

The rich moonlight that now shone through the windows streamed on little
that it could invest with poetical attraction. The room was small,
though not squalid in its character and appliances. The bed-curtains,
of a dull chintz, were drawn back, and showed the form of a man, past
middle age, propped by pillows, and bearing on his countenance the marks
of approaching death. But what a countenance it still was! The broad,
pale, lofty brow; the fine, straight, Grecian nose; the short, curved
lip; the full, dimpled chin; the stamp of genius in every line and
lineament;--these still defied disease, or rather borrowed from its very
ghastliness a more impressive majesty. Beside the bed was a table
spread with books of a motley character. Here an abstruse system of
Calculations on Finance; there a volume of wild Bacchanalian Songs; here
the lofty aspirations of Plato’s Phaedon; and there the last speech
of some County Paris on a Malt Tax: old newspapers and dusty pamphlets
completed the intellectual litter; and above them rose, mournfully
enough, the tall, spectral form of a half-emptied phial, and a
chamber-candlestick, crested by its extinguisher.

A light step approached the bedside, and opposite the dying man
now stood a girl, who might have seen her thirteenth year. But her
features--of an exceeding, and what may be termed a regal beauty--were
as fully developed as those of one who had told twice her years; and not
a trace of the bloom or the softness of girlhood could be marked on her
countenance. Her complexion was pale as the whitest marble, but clear,
and lustrous; and her raven hair, parted over her brow in a fashion
then uncommon, increased the statue-like and classic effect of her noble
features. The expression of her countenance seemed cold, sedate, and
somewhat stern; but it might, in some measure, have belied her heart;
for, when turned to the moonlight, you might see that her eyes were
filled with tears, though she did not weep; and you might tell by the
quivering of her lip, that a little hesitation in replying to any remark
from the sufferer arose from her difficulty in commanding her emotions.

“Constance,” said the invalid, after a pause, in which he seemed to
have been gazing with a quiet heart on the soft skies, that, blue
and eloquent with stars, he beheld through the unclosed
windows:--“Constance, the hour is coming; I feel it by signs which I
cannot mistake. I shall die this night.”

“Oh, God!--my father!--my dear, dear father!” broke from Constance’s
lips; “do not speak thus--do not--I will go to Doctor ----”

“No, child, no!--I loathe--I detest the thought of help. They denied it
me while it was yet time. They left me to starve or to rot in gaol, or
to hang myself! They left me like a dog, and like a dog I will die! I
would not have one iota taken from the justice--the deadly and dooming
weight of my dying curse.” Here violent spasms broke on the speech of
the sufferer; and when, by medicine and his daughter’s attentions, he
had recovered, he said, in a lower and calmer key:--“Is all quiet
below, Constance? Are all in bed? The landlady--the servants--our
fellow-lodgers?”

“All, my father.”

“Ay; then I shall die happy. Thank Heaven, you are my only nurse and
attendant. I remember the day when I was ill after one of their rude
debauches. Ill!--a sick headache--a fit of the spleen--a spoiled
lapdog’s illness! Well: they wanted me that night to support one of
their paltry measures--their parliamentary measures. And I had a prince
feeling my pulse, and a duke mixing my draught, and a dozen earls
sending their doctors to me. I was of use to them then! Poor me! Read
me that note, Constance--Flamborough’s note. Do you hesitate? Read it, I
say!”

Constance trembled and complied.


“My dear Vernon,

“I am really au desespoir to hear of your melancholy state;--so sorry I
cannot assist you: but you know my embarrassed circumstances. By the
by, I saw his Royal Highness yesterday. ‘Poor Vernon!’ said he; ‘would
a hundred pounds do him any good?’ So we don’t forget you, mon cher.
Ah! how we missed you at the Beefsteak! Never shall we know again so
glorious a bon vivant. You would laugh to hear L---- attempting to echo
your old jokes. But time presses: I must be off to the House. You know
what a motion it is! Would to Heaven you were to bring it on instead
of that ass T----. Adieu! I wish I could come and see you; but it would
break my heart. Can I send you any books from Hookham’s?

“Yours ever,

“FLAMBOROUGH.”


“This is the man whom I made Secretary of State,” said Vernon. “Very
well!--oh, it’s very well,--very well indeed. Let me kiss thee, my girl.
Poor Constance! You will have good friends when I am dead! they will be
proud enough to be kind to Vernon’s daughter, when Death has shown them
that Vernon is a loss. You are very handsome. Your poor mother’s eyes
and hair--my father’s splendid brow and lip; and your figure, even
now so stately! They will court you: you will have lords and great men
enough at your feet; but you will never forget this night, nor the agony
of your father’s death-bed face, and the brand they have burned in his
heart. And now, Constance, give me the Bible in which you read to me
this morning: that will do:--stand away from the light and fix your eyes
on mine, and listen as if your soul were in your ears.

“When I was a young man, toiling my way to fortune through the
labours of the Bar,--prudent, cautious, indefatigable, confident of
success,--certain lords, who heard I possessed genius, and thought
I might become their tool, came to me, and besought me to enter
parliament. I told them I was poor--was lately married--that my public
ambition must not be encouraged at the expense of my private fortunes.
They answered, that they pledged themselves those fortunes should be
their care. I yielded; I deserted my profession; I obeyed their wishes;
I became famous--and a ruined man! They could not dine without me;
they could not sup without me; they could not get drunk without me; no
pleasure was sweet but in my company. What mattered it that, while
I ministered to their amusement, I was necessarily heaping debt upon
debt--accumulating miseries for future years--laying up bankruptcy, and
care, and shame, and a broken heart, and an early death? But listen,
Constance! Are you listening?--attentively?--Well! note now, I am a just
man. I do not blame my noble friends, my gentle patrons, for this. No:
if I were forgetful of my interests, if I preferred their pleasure to my
happiness and honour, that was my crime, and I deserve the punishment!
But, look you,--time went by, and my constitution was broken; debts came
upon me; I could not pay; men mistrusted my word; my name in the country
fell: With my health, my genius deserted me; I was no longer useful
to my party; I lost my seat in parliament; and when I was on a
sick-bed--you remember it, Constance--the bailiffs came, and tore me
away for a paltry debt--the value of one of those suppers the Prince
used to beg me to give him. From that time my familiars forsook me!--not
a visit, not a kind act, not a service for him whose day of work was
over! ‘Poor Vernon’s character was gone! Shockingly involved--could
not perform his promises to his creditors--always so extravagant--quite
unprincipled--must give him up!’

“In those sentences lies the secret of their conduct. They did not
remember that _for_ them, _by_ them, the character was gone, the
promises broken, the ruin incurred! They thought not how I had served
them; how my best years had been devoted to advance them--to ennoble
their cause in the lying page of History! All this was not thought of:
my life was reduced to two epochs--that of use to them--that not. During
the first, I was honoured; during the last, I was left to starve--to
rot! Who freed me from prison?--who protects me now? One of my
‘party’--my ‘noble friends’--my ‘honourable, right honourable friends’?
No! a tradesman whom I once served in my holyday, and who alone, of all
the world, forgets me not in my penance. You see gratitude, friendship,
spring up only in middle life; they grow not in high stations!

“And now, come nearer, for my voice falters, and I would have these
words distinctly heard. Child, girl as you are--you I consider pledged
to record, to fulfil my desire--my curse! Lay your hand on mine: swear
that through life to death,--swear! You speak not! repeat my words after
me:”--Constance obeyed:--“through life to death; through good, through
ill, through weakness, through power, you will devote yourself to
humble, to abase that party from whom your father received ingratitude,
mortification, and death! Swear that you will not marry a poor
and powerless man, who cannot minister to the ends of that solemn
retribution I invoke! Swear that you will seek to marry from amongst the
great; not through love, not through ambition, but through hate, and
for revenge! You will seek to rise that you may humble those who have
betrayed me! In the social walks of life you will delight to gall their
vanities in state intrigues, you will embrace every measure that can
bring them to their eternal downfall. For this great end you will pursue
all means. What! you hesitate? Repeat, repeat, repeat!--You will lie,
cringe, fawn, and think vice not vice, if it bring you one jot nearer to
Revenge! With this curse on my foes, I entwine my blessing, dear, dear
Constance, on you,--you, who have nursed, watched, all but saved me!
God, God bless you, my child!” And Vernon burst into tears.

It was two hours after this singular scene, and exactly in the third
hour of morning, that Vernon woke from a short and troubled sleep.
The grey dawn (for the time was the height of summer) already began
to labour through the shades and against the stars of night. A raw and
comfortless chill crept over the earth, and saddened the air in the
death-chamber. Constance sat by her father’s bed, her eyes fixed upon
him, and her cheek more wan than ever by the pale light of that crude
and cheerless dawn. When Vernon woke, his eyes, glazed with death,
rolled faintly towards her, fixing and dimming in their sockets as they
gazed;--his throat rattled. But for one moment his voice found vent; a
ray shot across his countenance as he uttered his last words--words that
sank at once and eternally to the core of his daughter’s heart--words
that ruled her life, and sealed her destiny: “Constance, remember--the
Oath--Revenge!”



CHAPTER II.

REMARK ON THE TENURE OF LIFE.--THE COFFINS OF GREAT MEN SELDOM
NEGLECTED.--CONSTANCE TAKES REFUGE WITH LADY ERPINGHAM.--THE HEROINE’S
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND CHARACTER.--THE MANOEUVRING TEMPERAMENT.

What a strange life this is! what puppets we are! How terrible an enigma
is Fate! I never set my foot without my door, but what the fearful
darkness that broods over the next moment rushes upon me. How awful an
event may hang over our hearts! The sword is always above us, seen or
invisible!

And with this life--this scene of darkness and dreadsome men would have
us so contented as to desire, to ask for no other!

Constance was now without a near relation in the world. But her father
predicted rightly: vanity supplied the place of affection. Vernon, who
for eighteen months preceding his death had struggled with the sharpest
afflictions of want--Vernon, deserted in life by all, was interred with
the insulting ceremonials of pomp and state. Six nobles bore his pall:
long trains of carriages attended his funeral: the journals were filled
with outlines of his biography and lamentations at his decease. They
buried him in Westminster Abbey, and they made subscriptions for a
monument in the very best sort of marble. Lady Erpingham, a distant
connection of the deceased, invited Constance to live with her; and
Constance of course consented, for she had no alternative.

On the day that she arrived at Lady Erpingham’s house, in Hill Street,
there were several persons present in the drawing-room.

“I fear, poor girl,” said Lady Erpingham,--for they were talking of
Constance’s expected arrival,--“I fear that she will be quite abashed by
seeing so many of us, and under such unhappy circumstances.”

“How old is she?” asked a beauty.

“About thirteen, I believe.”

“Handsome?”

“I have not seen her since she was seven years old. She promised then to
be very beautiful: but she was a remarkably shy, silent child.”

“Miss Vernon,” said the groom of the chambers, throwing open the door.

With the slow step and self-possessed air of womanhood, but with a far
haughtier and far colder mien than women commonly assume, Constance
Vernon walked through the long apartment, and greeted her future
guardian. Though every eye was on her, she did not blush; though the
Queens of the London World were round her, her gait and air were more
royal than all. Every one present experienced a revulsion of feeling.
They were prepared for pity; this was no case in which pity could be
given. Even the words of protection died on Lady Erpingham’s lip, and
she it was who felt bashful and disconcerted.

I intend to pass rapidly over the years that elapsed till Constance
became a woman. Let us glance at her education. Vernon had not only had
her instructed in the French and Italian; but, a deep and impassioned
scholar himself, he had taught her the elements of the two great
languages of the ancient world. The treasures of those languages she
afterwards conquered of her own accord.

Lady Erpingham had one daughter, who married when Constance had reached
the age of sixteen. The advantages Lady Eleanor Erpingham possessed in
her masters and her governess Constance shared. Miss Vernon drew well,
and sang divinely; but she made no very great proficiency in the science
of music. To say truth, her mind was somewhat too stern, and somewhat
too intent on other subjects, to surrender to that most jealous of
accomplishments the exclusive devotion it requires.

But of all her attractions, and of all the evidences of her cultivated
mind, none equalled the extraordinary grace of her conversation. Wholly
disregarding the conventional leading-strings in which the minds of
young ladies are accustomed to be held--leading-strings, disguised
by the name of “proper diffidence” and “becoming modesty,”--she never
scrupled to share, nay, to lead, discussions even of a grave and solid
nature. Still less did she scruple to adorn the common trifles that make
the sum of conversation with the fascinations of a wit, which, playful,
yet deep, rivalled even the paternal source from which it was inherited.

It seems sometimes odd enough to me, that while young ladies are so
sedulously taught the accomplishments that a husband disregards, they
are never taught the great one he would prize. They are taught to be
_exhibitors_; he wants a _companion_. He wants neither a singing animal,
nor a drawing animal, nor a dancing animal: he wants a talking animal.
But to talk they are never taught; all they know of conversation is
slander, and that “comes by nature.”

But Constance _did_ talk _beautifully_; not like a pedant, or a blue,
or a Frenchwoman. A child would have been as much charmed with her as a
scholar; but _both_ would have been charmed. Her father’s eloquence had
descended to her; but in him eloquence commanded, in her it won. There
was another trait she possessed in common with her father: Vernon (as
most disappointed men are wont) had done the world injustice by his
accusations. It was not his poverty and his distresses alone which had
induced his party to look coolly on his declining day. They were
not without some apparent excuse for desertion--they doubted his
_sincerity_. It is true that it was without actual cause. No modern
politician had ever been more consistent. He had refused bribes, though
poor; and place, though ambitious. But he was essentially--here is the
secret--essentially an _intriguant_. Bred in the old school of policy, he
thought that manoeuvring was wisdom, and duplicity the art of governing.
Like Lysander,(1) he loved plotting, yet neglected self-interest. There
was not a man less open, or more honest. This character, so rare in
all countries, is especially so in England. Your blunt squires, your
politicians at Bellamy’s, do not comprehend it. They saw in Vernon the
arts which deceive enemies, and they dreaded lest, though his friends,
they themselves should be deceived. This disposition, so fatal to
Vernon, his daughter inherited. With a dark, bold, and passionate
genius, which in a man would have led to the highest enterprises, she
linked the feminine love of secrecy and scheming. To borrow again from
Plutarch and Lysander, “When the skin of the lion fell short, she was
quite of opinion that it should be eked out with the fox’s.”

(1) Plutarch’s Life of Lysander.



CHAPTER III.

THE HERO INTRODUCED TO OUR READER’S NOTICE.--DIALOGUE BETWEEN HIMSELF
AND HIS FATHER.--PERCY GODOLPHIN’s CHARACTER AS A BOY.--THE CATASTROPHE
OF HIS SCHOOL LIFE.

“Percy, remember that it is to-morrow you will return to school,” said
Mr. Godolphin to his only son.

Percy pouted, and after a momentary silence replied, “No, father, I
think I shall go to Mr. Saville’s. He has asked me to spend a month with
him; and he says rightly that I shall learn more with him than at Dr.
Shallowell’s, where I am already head of the sixth form.”

“Mr. Saville is a coxcomb, and you are another!” replied the father,
who, dressed in an old flannel dressing-gown, with a worn velvet cap
on his head, and cowering gloomily over a wretched fire, seemed no bad
personification of that mixture of half-hypochondriac, half-miser, which
he was in reality. “Don’t talk to me of going to town, sir, or--”

“Father,” interrupted Percy, in a cool and nonchalant tone, as he
folded his arms, and looked straight and shrewdly on the paternal
face--“father, let us understand each other. My schooling, I suppose, is
rather an expensive affair?”

“You may well say that, sir! Expensive!--It is frightful, horrible,
ruinous!--Expensive! Twenty pounds a year board and Latin; five guineas
washing; five more for writing and arithmetic. Sir, if I were not
resolved that you should not want education, though you may want
fortune, I should--yes, I should--what do you mean, sir?--you are
laughing! Is this your respect, your gratitude to your father?”

A slight shade fell over the bright and intelligent countenance of the
boy.

“Don’t let us talk of gratitude,” said he sadly; “Heaven knows what
either you or I have to be grateful for! Fortune has left to your proud
name but these bare walls and a handful of barren acres; to me she gave
a father’s affection--not such as Nature had made it, but cramped and
soured by misfortunes.”

Here Percy paused, and his father seemed also struck and affected.
“Let us,” renewed in a lighter strain this singular boy, who might have
passed, by some months, his sixteenth year,--“let us see if we cannot
accommodate matters to our mutual satisfaction. You can ill afford my
schooling, and I am resolved that at school I will not stay. Saville is
a relation of ours; he has taken a fancy to me; he has even hinted that
he may leave me his fortune; and he has promised, at least, to afford
me a home and his tuition as long as I like. Give me free passport
hereafter to come and go as I list, and I in turn, will engage never to
cost you another shilling. Come, sir, shall it be a compact?”

“You wound me, Percy,” said the father, with a mournful pride in his
tone; “I have not deserved this, at least from you. You know not,
boy--you know not all that has hardened this heart; but to you it has
not been hard, and a taunt from you--yes, that is the serpent’s tooth!”

Percy in an instant was at his father’s feet; he seized both his hands,
and burst into a passionate fit of tears. “Forgive me,” he said, in
broken words; “I--I meant not to taunt you. I am but a giddy boy!--send
me to school!--do with me as you will!”

“Ay,” said the old man, shaking his head gently, “you know not what pain
a son’s bitter word can send to a parent’s heart. But it is all natural,
perfectly natural! You would reproach me with a love of money, it is the
sin to which youth is the least lenient. But what! can I look round the
world and not see its value, its necessity? Year after year, from my
first manhood, I have toiled and toiled to preserve from the hammer
these last remnants of my ancestor’s remains. Year after year fortune
has slipped from my grasp; and, after all my efforts, and towards the
close of a long life, I stand on the very verge of penury. But you
cannot tell--no man whose heart is not seared with many years can tell
or can appreciate, the motives that have formed my character. You,
however,”--and his voice softened as he laid his hand on his son’s head,
“you, however,--the gay, the bold, the young,--should not have your brow
crossed and your eye dimmed by the cares that surround me. Go! I will
accompany you to town; I will see Saville myself. If he be one with whom
my son can, at so tender an age, be safely trusted, you shall pay him
the visit you wish.”

Percy would have replied but his father checked him; and before the end
of the evening, the father had resolved to forget as much as he pleased
of the conversation.

The elder Godolphin was one of those characters on whom it is vain
to attempt making a permanent impression. The habits of his mind were
durably formed: like waters, they yielded to any sudden intrusion, but
closed instantly again. Early in life he had been taught that he ought
to marry an heiress for the benefit of his estate--his ancestral estate;
the restoration of which he had been bred to consider the grand object
and ambition of life. His views had been strangely baffled; but the more
they were thwarted the more pertinaciously he clung to them. Naturally
kind, generous, and social, he had sunk, at length, into the anchorite
and the miser. All other speculations that should retrieve his ancestral
honours had failed: but there is one speculation that never fails--the
speculation of _saving!_ It was to this that he now indissolubly
attached himself. At moments he was open to all his old habits; but such
moments were rare and few. A cold, hard, frosty penuriousness was his
prevalent characteristic. He had sent this son, with eighteen pence
in his pocket, to a school of twenty pounds a-year; where, naturally
enough, he learned nothing but mischief and cricket: yet he conceived
that his son owed him eternal obligations.

Luckily for Percy, he was an especial favourite with a certain not
uncelebrated character of the name of Saville; and Saville claimed the
privilege of a relation to supply him with money and receive him at his
home. Wild, passionate, fond to excess of pleasure, the young Godolphin
caught eagerly at these occasional visits; and at each his mind, keen
and penetrating as it naturally was, took new flights, and revelled in
new views. He was already the leader of his school, the torment of the
master, and the lover of the master’s daughter. He was sixteen years
old, but a character. A secret pride, a secret bitterness, and an open
wit and recklessness of bearing, rendered him to all seeming a boy more
endowed with energies than affections. Yet a kind word from a friend’s
lips was never without its effect on him, and he might have been led
by the silk while he would have snapped the chain. But these were his
boyish traits of mind: the world soon altered them.

The subject of the visit to Saville was not again touched upon. A little
reflection showed Mr. Godolphin how nugatory were the promises of a
schoolboy that he should not cost his father another shilling; and he
knew that Saville’s house was not exactly the spot in which economy was
best learned. He thought it, therefore, more prudent that his son should
return to school.

To school went Percy Godolphin; and about three weeks afterwards, Percy
Godolphin was condemned to expulsion for returning, with considerable
unction, a slap in the face that he had received from Dr. Shallowell.
Instead of waiting for his father’s arrival, Percy made up a small
bundle of clothes, let himself drop, by the help of the bed-curtains,
from the window of the room in which he was confined, and towards the
close of a fine summer’s evening, found himself on the highroad between
and London, with independence at his heart and (Saville’s last gift) ten
guineas in his pocket.



CHAPTER IV.

PERCY’S FIRST ADVENTURE AS A FREE AGENT.

It was a fine, picturesque outline of road on which the young outcast
found himself journeying, whither he neither knew nor cared. His heart
was full of enterprise and the unfledged valour of inexperience. He had
proceeded several miles, and the dusk of the evening was setting in,
when he observed a stage-coach crawling heavily up a hill, a little
ahead of him, and a tall, well-shaped man, walking alongside of it,
and gesticulating somewhat violently. Godolphin remarked him with some
curiosity; and the man, turning abruptly round, perceived, and in his
turn noticed very inquisitively, the person and aspect of the young
traveller.

“And how now?” said he, presently, and in an agreeable, though familiar
and unceremonious tone of voice; “whither are you bound this time of
day?”

“It is no business of yours, friend,” said the boy with the proud
petulance of his age; “mind what belongs to yourself.”

“You are sharp on me, young sir,” returned the other; “but it is our
business to be loquacious. Know, sir,”--and the stranger frowned--“that
we have ordered many a taller fellow than yourself to execution for a
much smaller insolence than you seem capable of.”

A laugh from the coach caused Godolphin to lift up his eyes, and he
saw the door of the vehicle half-open, as if for coolness, and an arch
female face looking down on him.

“You are merry on me, I see,” said Percy; “come out, and I’ll be even
with you, pretty one.”

The lady laughed yet more loudly at the premature gallantry of the
traveller; but the man, without heeding her, and laying his hand on
Percy’s shoulder, said--

“Pray, sir, do you live at B----?” naming the town they were now
approaching.

“Not I,” said Godolphin, freeing himself from the intrusion.

“You will, perhaps, sleep there?”

“Perhaps I shall.”

“You are too young to travel alone.”

“And you are too old to make such impertinent remarks,” retorted
Godolphin, reddening with anger.

“Faith, I like this spirit, my Hotspur,” said the stranger, coolly. “If
you are really going to put up for the night at B----, suppose we sup
together?”

“And who and what are you?” asked Percy, bluntly.

“Anything and everything! in other words, an actor!”

“And the young lady----?’

“Is our prima donna. In fact, except the driver, the coach holds none
but the ladies and gentlemen of our company. We have made an excellent
harvest at A----, and we are now on our way to the theatre at B----;
pretty theatre it is, too, and has been known to hold seventy-one pounds
eight shillings.” Here the actor fell into a reverie; and Percy, moving
nearer to the coach-door, glanced at the damsel, who returned the look
with a laugh which, though coquettish, was too low and musical to be
called cold.

“So that gentleman, so free and easy in his manners, is not your
husband?”

“Heaven forbid! Do you think I should be so gay if he were? But, pooh!
what can you know of married life? No!” she continued, with a pretty air
of mock dignity; “I am the Belvidera, the Calista, of the company; above
all control, all husbanding, and reaping thirty-three shillings a week.”

“But are you above lovers as well as husbands?” asked Percy with a
rakish air, borrowed from Saville.

“Bless the boy! No: but then my lovers must be at least as tall, and at
least as rich, and, I am afraid, at least as old, as myself.”

“Don’t frighten yourself, my dear,” returned Percy; “I was not about to
make love to you.”

“Were you not? Yes, you were, and you know it. But why will you not sup
with us?”

“Why not, indeed?” thought Percy, as the idea, thus more enticingly put
than it was at first, pressed upon him. “If _you_ ask me,” he said, “I
will.”

“I _do_ ask you, then,” said the actress; and here the hero of the
company turned abruptly round with a theatrical start, and exclaimed,
“To sup or not to sup? that is the question.”

“To sup, sir,” said Godolphin.

“Very well! I am glad to hear it. Had you not better mount and rest
yourself in the coach? You can take my place--I am studying a new part.
We have two miles farther to B---- yet.”

Percy accepted the invitation, and was soon by the side of the pretty
actress. The horses broke into a slow trot, and thus delighted with his
adventure, the son of the ascetic Godolphin, the pupil of the courtly
Saville, entered the town of B----, and commenced his first independent
campaign in the great world.



CHAPTER V.

THE MUMMERS.--GODOLPHIN IN LOVE.--THE EFFECT OF FANNY MILLINGER’S ACTING
UPON HIM.--THE TWO OFFERS.--GODOLPHIN QUITS THE PLAYERS.

Our travellers stopped at the first inn in the outskirts of the town.
Here they were shown into a large room on the ground-floor, sanded, with
a long table in the centre; and, before the supper was served, Percy
had leisure to examine all the companions with whom he had associated
himself.

In the first place, there was an old gentleman, of the age of
sixty-three, in a bob-wig, and inclined to be stout, who always played
the _lover_. He was equally excellent in the pensive Romeo and the
bustling Rapid. He had an ill way of talking off the stage, partly
because he had lost all his front teeth: a circumstance which made him
avoid, in general, those parts in which he had to force a great deal of
laughter. Next, there was a little girl, of about fourteen, who played
angels, fairies, and, at a pinch, was very effective as an old woman.
Thirdly, there was our free-and-easy cavalier, who, having a loud voice
and a manly presence, usually performed the tyrant. He was great in
Macbeth, greater in Bombastes Furioso. Fourthly, came this gentleman’s
wife, a pretty, slatternish woman, much painted. She usually performed
the second female--the confidante, the chambermaid--the Emilia to the
Desdemona. And fifthly, was Percy’s new inamorata,--a girl of about
one-and-twenty, fair, with a nez retrousse: beautiful auburn hair, that
was always a little dishevelled; the prettiest mouth, teeth, and dimple
imaginable; a natural colour; and a person that promised to incline
hereafter towards that roundness of proportion which is more dear to the
sensual than the romantic. This girl, whose name was Fanny Millinger,
was of so frank, good-humoured, and lively a turn, that she was the idol
of the whole company, and her superiority in acting was never made a
matter of jealousy. Actors may believe this, or not, as they please.

“But is this all your company?” said Percy.

“All? no!” replied Fanny, taking off her bonnet, and curling up her
tresses by the help of a dim glass. “The rest are provided at the
theatre along with the candle-snuffer and scene-shifters part of the
fixed property. Why won’t _you_ take to the stage? I wish you would! you
would make a very respectable--page.”

“Upon my word!” said Percy, exceedingly offended.

“Come, come!” cried the actress, clapping her hands, and perfectly
unheeding his displeasure--“why don’t you help me off with my
cloak?--why don’t you set me a chair?--why don’t you take this great box
out of my way?--why don’t you----Heaven help me!” and she stamped her
little foot quite seriously on the floor. “A pretty person for a lover
you are!”

“Oho! then I am a lover, you acknowledge?”

“Nonsense!--get a chair next me at supper.”

The young Godolphin was perfectly fascinated by the lively actress; and
it was with no small interest that he stationed himself the following
night in the stage-box of the little theatre at ----, to see how his
Fanny acted. The house was tolerably well filled, and the play was
_She Stoops to Conquer_. The male parts were, on the whole, respectably
managed; though Percy was somewhat surprised to observe that a man,
who had joined the corps that morning, blessed with the most solemn
countenance in the world--a fine Roman nose, and a forehead like a
sage’s--was now dressed in nankeen tights, and a coat without skirts,
splitting the sides of the gallery in the part of Tony Lumpkin. But into
the heroine, Fanny Millinger threw a grace, a sweetness, a simple, yet
dignified spirit of trite love that at once charmed and astonished all
present. The applause was unbounded; and Percy Godolphin felt proud of
himself for having admired one whom every one else seemed also resolved
upon admiring.

When the comedy was finished, he went behind the scenes, and for the
first time felt the rank which intellect bestows. This idle girl, with
whom he had before been so familiar; who had seemed to him, boy as he
was, only made for jesting and coquetry, and trifling, he now felt to be
raised to a sudden eminence that startled and abashed him. He became shy
and awkward, and stood at a distance stealing a glance towards her, but
without the courage to approach and compliment her.

The quick eye of the actress detected the effect she had produced. She
was naturally pleased at it, and coming up to Godolphin, she touched his
shoulder, and with a smile rendered still more brilliant by the rouge
yet unwashed from the dimpled cheeks, said--“Well, most awkward swain?
no flattery ready for me? Go to! you won’t suit me: get yourself another
empress.”

“You have pleased me into respecting you,” said Godolphin.

There was a delicacy in the expression that was very characteristic of
the real mind of the speaker, though that mind was not yet developed;
and the pretty actress was touched by it at the moment, though, despite
the grace of her acting, she was by nature far too volatile to think it
at all advantageous to be _respected_ in the long run. She did not act
in the afterpiece, and Godolphin escorted her home to the inn.

So long as his ten guineas lasted--which the reader will conceive was
not very long--Godolphin stayed with the gay troop, as the welcome lover
of its chief ornament. To her he confided his name and history:
she laughed heartily at the latter--for she was one of Venus’s true
children, fond of striking mirth out of all subjects. “But what,” said
she, patting his cheek affectionately, “what should hinder you from
joining us for a little while? I could teach you to be an actor in three
lessons. Come now, attend! It is but a mere series of tricks, this art
that seems to you so admirable.”

Godolphin grew embarrassed. There was in him a sort of hidden pride that
could never endure to subject itself to the censure of others. He had
no propensity to imitation, and he had a strong susceptibility to the
ridiculous. These traits of mind thus early developed--which in later
life prevented his ever finding fit scope for his natural powers, which
made him too proud to bustle, and too philosophical to shine--were of
service to him on this occasion, and preserved him from the danger into
which he might otherwise have fallen. He could not be persuaded to act:
the fair Fanny gave up the attempt in despair. “Yet stay with us,” said
she, tenderly, “and share my poor earnings.”

Godolphin started; and in the wonderful contradictions of the proud
human heart, this generous offer from the poor actress gave him a
distaste, a displeasure, that almost reconciled him to parting from
her. It seemed to open to him at once the equivocal mode of life he had
entered upon. “No, Fanny,” said he, after a pause, “I am here because I
resolved to be independent: I cannot, therefore, choose dependence.”

“Miss Millinger is wanted instantly for rehearsal,” said the little
girl who acted fairies and old women, putting her head suddenly into the
room.

“Bless me!” cried Fanny, starting up; “is it so late? Well, I must go
now. Good-bye! look in upon us--do!”

But Godolphin, moody and thoughtful, walked into the street; and lo! the
first thing that greeted his eyes was a handbill on the wall, describing
his own person, and offering twenty guineas reward for his detention.
“Let him return to his afflicted parent,” was the conclusion of the
bill, “and all shall be forgiven.”

Godolphin crept back to his apartment; wrote a long, affectionate letter
to Fanny; inclosed her his watch, as the only keepsake in his power;
gave her his address at Saville’s; and then, towards dusk, once more
sallied forth, and took a place in the mail for London. He had no money
for his passage, but his appearance was such that the coachman readily
trusted him; and the next morning at daybreak he was under Saville’s
roof.



CHAPTER VI.

PERCY GODOLPHIN THE GUEST OF SAVILLE.--HE ENTERS THE LIFE-GUARDS AND
BECOMES THE FASHION.

“And so,” said Saville, laughing, “you really gave them the slip:
excellent! But I envy you your adventures with the player folk. ‘Gad!
if I were some years younger, I would join them myself; I should act Sir
Pertinax Macsycophant famously; I have a touch of the mime in me. Well!
but what do you propose to do?--live with me?--eh!”

“Why, I think that might be the best, and certainly it would be the
pleasantest mode of passing my life. But----”

“But what?”

“Why, I can scarcely quarter myself on your courtesy; I should soon
grow discontented. So I shall write to my father, whom I, kindly and
considerately, by the way, informed of my safety the very first day of
my arrival at B----. I told him to direct his letters to your house;
but I regret to find that the handbill which so frightened me from my
propriety is the only notice he has deigned to take of my whereabout.
I shall write to him therefore again, begging him to let me enter the
army. It is not a profession I much fancy; but what then! I shall be my
own master.”

“Very well said!” answered Saville; “and here I hope I can serve you. If
your father will pay the lawful sum for a commission in the Guards, why,
I think I have interest to get you in for that sum alone--no trifling
favour.”

Godolphin was enchanted at this proposal, and instantly wrote to his
father, urging it strongly upon him; Saville, in a separate epistle,
seconded the motion. “You see,” wrote the latter, “you see, my dear sir,
that your son is a wild, resolute scapegrace. You can do nothing
with him by schools and coercion: put him to discipline in the king’s
service, and condemn him to live on his pay. It is a cheap mode, after
all, of providing for a reprobate; and as he will have the good fortune
to enter the army at so early an age, by the time he is thirty, he may
be a colonel on full pay. Seriously, this is the best thing you can do
with him,--unless you have a living in your family.”

The old gentleman was much discomposed by these letters, and by his
son’s previous elopement. He could not, however, but foresee, that if he
resisted the boy’s wishes, he was likely to have a troublesome time of
it. Scrape after scrape, difficulty following difficulty, might ensue,
all costing both anxiety and money. The present offer furnished him with
a fair excuse for ridding himself, for a long time to come, of further
provision for his offspring; and now growing daily more and more
attached to the indolent routine of solitary economies in which he
moved, he was glad of an opportunity to deliver himself from future
interruption, and surrender his whole soul to his favourite occupation.

At length, after a fortnight’s delay and meditation, he wrote shortly to
Saville and his son; saying, after much reproach to the latter, that
if the commission could really be purchased at the sum specified he
was willing to make a sacrifice, for which he must pinch himself, and
conclude the business. This touched the son, but Saville laughed him
out of the twinge of good feeling; and very shortly afterwards, Percy
Godolphin was gazetted as a cornet in the ---- Life-Guards.

The life of a soldier, in peace, is indolent enough, Heaven knows! Percy
liked the new uniforms and the new horses--all of which were bought on
credit. He liked his new companions; he liked balls; he liked flirting;
he did not dislike Hyde Park from four o’clock till six; and he was not
very much bored by drills and parade. It was much to his credit in the
world that he was the protege of a man who had so great a character for
profligacy and gambling as Augustus Saville; and under such auspices he
found himself launched at once into the full tide of “good society.”

Young, romantic, high-spirited--with the classic features of an
Antinous, and a very pretty knack of complimenting and writing
verses--Percy Godolphin soon became, while yet more fit in years for
the nursery than the world, “the curled darling” of that wide class of
high-born women who have nothing to do but to hear love made to them,
and who, all artifice themselves, think the love sweetest which springs
from the most natural source. They like boyhood when it is not bashful;
and from sixteen to twenty, a Juan need scarcely go to Seville to find a
Julia.

But love was not the worst danger that menaced the intoxicated boy.
Saville, the most seductive of tutors--Saville who, in his wit; his
bon ton, his control over the great world, seemed as a god to all less
elevated and less aspiring,--Saville was Godolphin’s constant companion;
and Saville was worse than a profligate--he was a gambler! One would
think that gaming was the last vice that could fascinate the young: its
avarice, its grasping, its hideous selfishness, its cold, calculating
meanness, would, one might imagine, scare away all who have yet other
and softer deities to worship. But, in fact, the fault of youth is that
it can rarely resist whatever is the Mode. Gaming, in all countries, is
the vice of an aristocracy. The young find it already established in the
best circles; they are enticed by the habit of others, and ruined when
the habit becomes their own.

“You look feverish, Percy,” said Saville, as he met his pupil in the
Park. “I don’t wonder at it; you lost infernally last night.”

“More than I can pay,” replied Percy, with a quivering lip.

“No! you shall pay it to-morrow, for you shall go shares with me
to-night. Observe,” continued Saville, lowering his voice, “_I never
lose_.”

“How _never?_”

“Never, unless by design. I play at no game where chance only presides.
Whist is my favourite game: it is not popular: I am sorry for it. I take
up with other games,--I am forced to do it; but, even at rouge et noir,
I carry about with me the rules of whist. I calculate--I remember.”

“But hazard?”

“I never play at that,” said Saville, solemnly. “It is the devil’s game;
it defies skill. Forsake hazard, and let me teach you ecarte; it is
coming into fashion.”

Saville took great pains with Godolphin; and Godolphin, who was by
nature of a contemplative, not hasty mood, was no superficial disciple.
As his biographer, I grieve to confess, that he became, though a
punctiliously honest, a wise and fortunate gamester; and thus he eked
out betimes the slender profits of a subaltern’s pay.

This was the first great deterioration in Percy’s mind--a mind which
ought to have made him a very different being from what he became, but
which no vice, no evil example, could ever entirely pervert.



CHAPTER VII.

SAVILLE EXCUSED FOR HAVING HUMAN AFFECTIONS.--GODOLPHIN SEES ONE WHOM HE
NEVER SEES AGAIN.--THE NEW ACTRESS.

Saville was deemed the consummate man of the world--wise and heartless.
How came he to take such gratuitous pains with the boy Godolphin? In
the first place, Saville had no legitimate children; Godolphin was his
relation; in the second place it may be observed that hackneyed and
sated men of the world are fond of the young, in whom they recognise
something--a better something belonging to themselves. In Godolphin’s
gentleness and courage, Saville thought he saw the mirror of his
own crusted urbanity and scheming perseverance; in Godolphin’s
fine imagination and subtle intellect he beheld his own cunning and
hypocrisy. The boy’s popularity flattered him; the boy’s conversation
amused. No man is so heartless but that he is capable of strong likings,
when they do not put him much out of his way; it was this sort of liking
that Saville had for Godolphin. Besides, there was yet another reason
for attachment, which might at first seem too delicate to actuate the
refined voluptuary; but examined closely, the delicacy vanished. Saville
had loved, at least had offered his hand to--Godolphin’s mother (she was
supposed an heiress!) He thought he had just missed being Godolphin’s
father: his vanity made him like to show the boy what a much better
father he would have been than the one that Providence had given him.
His resentment, too, against the accepted suitor, made him love to
exercise a little spiteful revenge against Godolphin’s father; he was
glad to show that the son preferred where the mother rejected. All these
motives combined made Saville take, as it were, to the young Percy;
and being rich, and habitually profuse, though prudent, and a shrewd
speculator withal, the pecuniary part of his kindness cost him no pain.
But Godolphin, who was not ostentatious, did not trust himself largely
to the capricious fount of the worldling’s generosity. Fortune smiled on
her boyish votary; and during the short time he was obliged to cultivate
her favours, showered on him at least a sufficiency for support, or even
for display.

Crowded with fine people, and blazing with light, were the rooms of the
Countess of B----, as, flushed from a late dinner at Saville’s, young
Godolphin made his appearance in the scene. He was not of those numerous
gentlemen, the stock-flowers of the parterre, who stick themselves up
against walls in the panoply of neckclothed silence. He came not to
balls from the vulgar motive of being seen there in the most conspicuous
situation--a motive so apparent among the stiff exquisites of England.
He came to amuse himself; and if he found no one capable of amusing
him, he saw no necessity in staying. He was always seen, therefore,
conversing or dancing, or listening to music--or he was not seen at all.

In exchanging a few words with a Colonel D----, a noted roue and
gamester, he observed, gazing on him very intently--and as Percy
thought, very rudely--an old gentleman in a dress of the last century.
Turn where he would, Godolphin could not rid himself of the gaze; so
at length he met it with a look of equal scrutiny and courage. The old
gentleman slowly approached. “Percy Godolphin, I think?” said he.

“That is _my_ name, sir,” replied Percy. “Yours----”

“No matter! Yet stay! you shall know it. I am Henry Johnstone--old Harry
Johnstone. You have heard of him?--your father’s first cousin. Well,
I grieve, young sir, to find that you associate with that rascal
Saville--Nay, never interrupt me sir!--I grieve to find that you, thus
young, thus unguarded, are left to be ruined in heart and corrupted
in nature by any one who will take the trouble! Yet I like your
countenance!--I like your countenance!--it is open, yet thoughtful;
frank, and yet it has something of melancholy. You have not Charles’s
coloured hair; but you are much younger--much. I am glad I have seen
you; I came here on purpose; good-night!”--and without waiting for an
answer, the old man disappeared.

Godolphin, recovering from his surprise, recollected that he had often
heard his father speak of a rich and eccentric relation named Johnstone.
This singular interview made a strong but momentary impression on
him. He intended to seek out the old man’s residence; but one thing or
another drove away the fulfilment of the intention, and in this world
the relations never met again.

Percy, now musingly gliding through the crowd, sank into a seat beside
a lady of forty-five, who sometimes amused herself in making love to
him--because there could be no harm in such a mere boy!--and presently
afterwards, a Lord George Somebody, sauntering up, asked the lady if he
had not seen her at the play on the previous night.

“O, yes! we went to see the new actress. How pretty she is!--so
unaffected too;--how well she sings!”

“Pretty well--er!” replied Lord George, passing his hand through
his hair. “Very nice girl--er!--good ankles. Devilish hot--er, is
it not--er--er? What a bore this is: eh! Ah! Godolphin! don’t forget
Wattier’s--er!” and his lordship er’d himself off.

“What actress is this?”

“Oh, a very good one indeed!--came out in _The Belle’s Stratagem_. We
are going to see her to-morrow; will you dine with us early, and be our
cavalier?”

“Nothing will please me more! Your ladyship has dropped your
handkerchief.”

“Thank you!” said the lady, bending till her hair touched Godolphin’s
cheek, and gently pressing the hand that was extended to her. It was a
wonder that Godolphin never became a coxcomb.

He dined at Wattier’s the next day according to appointment: he went
to the play; and at the moment his eye first turned to the stage,
a universal burst of applause indicated the entrance of the new
actress--Fanny Millinger!



CHAPTER VIII.

GODOLPHIN’S PASSION FOR THE STAGE.--THE DIFFERENCE IT ENGENDERED IN HIS
HABITS OF LIFE.

Now this event produced a great influence over Godolphin’s habits--and
I suppose, therefore, I may add, over his character. He renewed his
acquaintance with the lively actress.

“What a change!” cried both.

“The strolling player risen into celebrity!”

“And the runaway boy polished into fashion!”

“You are handsomer than ever, Fanny.”

“I return the compliment,” replied Fanny; with a curtsey.

And now Godolphin became a constant attendant at the theatre. This led
him into a mode of life quite different from that which he had lately
cultivated.

There are in London two sets of idle men: one set, the butterflies of
balls; the loungers of the regular walks of society; diners out; the
“old familiar faces,” seen everywhere, known to every one: the other
set, a more wild, irregular, careless race; who go little into parties,
and vote balls a nuisance; who live in clubs; frequent theatres; drive
about late o’ nights in mysterious-looking vehicles and enjoy a vast
acquaintance among the Aspasias of pleasure. These are the men who are
the critics of theatricals: black-neckclothed and well-booted, they sit
in their boxes and decide on the ankles of a dancer or the voice of a
singer. They have a smattering of literature, and use a great deal of
French in their conversation: they have something of romance in their
composition, and have been known to marry for love. In short, there is
in their whole nature, a more roving, liberal, Continental character of
dissipation, than belongs to the cold, tame, dull, prim, hedge-clipped
indolence of more national exquisitism. Into this set, out of the other
set, fell young Godolphin; and oh! the merry mornings at actresses’
houses; the jovial suppers after the play; the buoyancy, the brilliancy,
the esprit, with which the hours, from midnight to cockcrow, were often
pelted with rose-leaves and drowned in Rhenish.

By degrees, however, as Godolphin warmed into his attendance at the
playhouses, the fine intellectual something that lay yet undestroyed at
his heart stirred up emotions which he felt his more vulgar associates
were unfitted to share.

There is that in theatrical representation which perpetually awakens
whatever romance belongs to our character. The magic lights; the pomp
of scene; the palace, the camp; the forest; the midnight wold; the
moonlight reflected on the water; the melody of the tragic rhythm; the
grace of the comic wit; the strange art that give such meaning to the
poet’s lightest word;--the fair, false, exciting life that is detailed
before us--crowding into some three little hours all that our most
busy ambition could desire--love, enterprise, war, glory! the kindling
exaggeration of the sentiments which belong to the stage--like our own
in our boldest moments: all these appeals to our finer senses are not
made in vain. Our taste for castle-building and visions deepens upon us;
and we chew a mental opium which stagnates all the other faculties, but
wakens that of the ideal.

Godolphin was peculiarly fascinated by the stage; he loved to steal away
from his companions, and, alone, and unheeded, to feast his mind on the
unreal stream of existence that mirrored images so beautiful. And oh!
while yet we are young--while yet the dew lingers on the green leaf of
spring--while all the brighter, the more enterprising part of the future
is to come--while we know not whether the true life may not be visionary
and excited as the false--how deep and rich a transport is it to see,
to feel, to hear Shakspeare’s conceptions made actual, though
all imperfectly, and only for an hour! Sweet Arden! are we in thy
forest?--thy “shadowy groves and unfrequented glens”? Rosalind,
Jaques, Orlando, have you indeed a being upon earth! Ah! this is true
enchantment! and when we turn back to life, we turn from the colours
which the Claude glass breathes over a winter’s landscape to the
nakedness of the landscape itself!



CHAPTER IX.

THE LEGACY.--A NEW DEFORMITY IN SAVILLE.--THE NATURE OF WORLDLY
LIAISONS.--GODOLPHIN LEAVES ENGLAND.

But then, it is not always a sustainer of the stage delusion to be
enamoured of an actress: it takes us too much behind the scenes.
Godolphin felt this so strongly that he liked those plays least in which
Fanny performed. Off the stage her character had so little romance, that
he could not deceive himself into the romance of her character before
the lamps. Luckily, however, Fanny did not attempt Shakspeare. She was
inimitable in vaudeville, in farce, and in the lighter comedy; but she
had prudently abandoned tragedy in deserting the barn. She was a girl of
much talent and quickness, and discovered exactly the paths in which her
vanity could walk without being wounded. And there was a simplicity, a
frankness, about her manner, that made her a most agreeable companion.

The attachment between her and Godolphin was not very violent; it was a
silken tie, which opportunity could knit and snap a hundred times
over without doing much wrong to the hearts it so lightly united. Over
Godolphin the attachment itself had no influence, while the effects of
the attachment had an influence so great.

One night, after an absence from town of two or three days Godolphin
returned home from the theatre, and found among the letters waiting his
arrival one from his father. It was edged with black; the seal, too, was
black. Godolphin’s heart misgave him: tremblingly he opened it, and read
as follows:

“DEAR PERCY,

“I have news for you, which I do not know whether I should call good or
bad. On the one hand, your cousin, that old oddity, Harry Johnstone,
is dead, and has left you, out of his immense fortune, the poor sum
of twenty thousand pounds. But mark! on condition that you leave the
Guards, and either reside with me, or at least leave London, till
your majority is attained. If you refuse these conditions you lose the
legacy. It is rather strange that this curious character should take
such pains with your morals, and yet not leave _me_ a single shilling.
But justice is out of fashion nowadays; your showy virtues only are
the rage. I beg, if you choose to come down here, that you will get
me twelve yards of house-flannel; I inclose a pattern of the quality.
Snugg, in Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road, is my man. It is
certainly a handsome thing in old Johnstone: but so odd to omit me.
How did you get acquainted with him? The twenty thousand pounds
will, however, do much for the poor property. Pray take care of it,
Percy,--pray do.

“I have had a touch of the gout, for the first time. I have been too
luxurious: by proper abstinence, I trust to bring it down. Compliments
to that smooth rogue, Saville.

“Your affectionate, A. G.

“P. S.--Discharged Old Sally for flirting with the butcher’s boy:
flirtations of that sort make meat weigh much heavier. Bess is my only
she-helpmate now, besides the old creature who shows the ruins: so
much the better. What an eccentric creature that Johnstone was! I hate
eccentric people.”

The letter fell from Percy’s hands. And this, then, was the issue of
his single interview with the poor old man! It was events like these,
wayward and strange (events which chequered his whole life), that,
secretly to himself, tinged Godolphin’s character with superstition. He
afterwards dealt con amore with fatalities and influences.

You may be sure that he did not sleep much that night. Early the next
morning he sought Saville, and imparted to him the intelligence he had
received.

“Droll enough!” said Saville, languidly, and more than a little
displeased at this generosity to Godolphin from another; for, like all
small-hearted persons, he was jealous; “droll enough! Hem! and you never
knew him but once, and then he abused me! I wonder at that; I was very
obliging to his vulgar son.”

“What! he had a son, then?”

“Some two-legged creature of that sort, raw and bony, dropped into
London, like a ptarmigan, wild, and scared out of his wits. Old
Johnstone was in the country, taking care of his wife, who had lost
the use of her limbs ever since she had been married;--caught a
violent--husband--the first day of wedlock! The boy, sole son and
heir, came up to town at the age of discretion; got introduced to me;
I patronised him; brought him into a decent degree of fashion; played
a few games at cards with him; won some money; would not win any more;
advised him to leave off; too young to play; neglected my advice; went
on, and, d--n the fellow! if he did not cut his throat one morning; and
the father, to my astonishment, laid the blame upon me!”

Godolphin stood appalled in speechless disgust. He never loved Saville
from that hour.

“In fact,” resumed Saville, carelessly, “he had lost very considerably.
His father was a stern, hard man, and the poor boy was frightened at the
thought of his displeasure. I suppose Monsieur Papa imagined me a sort
of moral ogre, eating up all the little youths that fall in my way!
since he leaves you twenty thousand pounds on condition that you take
care of yourself and shun the castle I live in. Well, well! ‘tis all
very flattering! And where will you go? To Spain?”

This story affected Percy sensibly. He regretted deeply that he had not
sought out the bereaved father, and been of some comfort to his later
hours. He appreciated all that warmth of sympathy, that delicacy of
heart, which had made the old man compassionate his young relation’s
unfriended lot, and couple his gift with a condition, likely perhaps, to
limit Percy’s desires to the independence thus bestowed, and certain to
remove his more tender years from a scene of constant contagion. Thus
melancholy and thoughtful, Godolphin repaired to the house of the now
famous, the now admired Miss Millinger.

Fanny received the good news of his fortune with a smile, and the
bad news of his departure from England with a tear. There are some
attachments, of which we so easily sound the depth, that the one never
thinks of exacting from the other the sacrifices that seemed inevitable
to more earnest affections. Fanny never dreamed of leaving her
theatrical career, and accompanying Godolphin; Godolphin never dreamed
of demanding it. These are the connections of the great world: my good
reader, learn the great world as you look at them!

All was soon settled. Godolphin was easily disembarrassed of his
commission. Six hundred a year from his fortune was allowed him during
his minority. He insisted on sharing this allowance with his father; the
moiety left to himself was quite sufficient for all that a man so young
could require. At the age of little more than seventeen, but with a
character which premature independence had half formed, and also half
enervated, the young Godolphin saw the shores of England recede before
him, and felt himself alone in the universe--the lord of his own fate.



CHAPTER X.

THE EDUCATION OF CONSTANCE’S MIND.

Meanwhile, Constance Vernon grew up in womanhood and beauty. All around
her contributed to feed that stern remembrance which her father’s dying
words had bequeathed. Naturally proud, quick, susceptible, she felt
slights, often merely incidental, with a deep and brooding resentment.
The forlorn and dependent girl could not, indeed, fail to meet with many
bitter proofs that her situation was not forgotten by a world in which
prosperity and station are the cardinal virtues. Many a loud whisper,
many an intentional “aside,” reached her haughty ear, and coloured
her pale cheek. Such accidents increased her early-formed asperity
of thought; chilled the gushing flood of her young affections; and
sharpened, with a relentless edge, her bitter and caustic hatred to
a society she deemed at once insolent and worthless. To a taste
intuitively fine and noble the essential vulgarities--the fierceness
to-day, the cringing to-morrow; the veneration for power; the
indifference to virtue, which characterised the framers and rulers of
“society”--could not but bring contempt as well as anger; and amidst
the brilliant circles, to which so many aspirers looked up with hopeless
ambition, Constance moved only to ridicule, to loathe, to despise.

So strong, so constantly nourished, was this sentiment of contempt, that
it lasted with equal bitterness when Constance afterwards became the
queen and presider over that great world in which she now shone--to
dazzle, but not to rule. What at first might have seemed an exaggerated
and insane prayer on the part of her father, grew, as her experience
ripened, a natural and laudable command. She was thrown entirely with
that party amongst whom were his early friends and his late deserters.
She resolved to humble the crested arrogance around her, as much from
her own desire, as from the wish to obey and avenge her father. From
contempt for rank rose naturally the ambition of rank. The young beauty
resolved, to banish love from her heart; to devote herself to one aim
and object; to win title and station, that she might be able to give
power and permanence to her disdain of those qualities in others; and
in the secrecy of night she repeated the vow which had consoled her
father’s death-bed, and solemnly resolved to crush love within her heart
and marry solely for station and for power.

As the daughter of so celebrated a politician, it was natural that
Constance should take interest in politics. She lent to every discussion
of state events an eager and thirsty ear. She embraced with masculine
ardour such sentiments as were then considered the extreme of
liberality; and she looked on that career which society limits to man,
as the noblest, the loftiest in the world. She regretted that she was a
woman, and prevented from personally carrying into effect the sentiments
she passionately espoused. Meanwhile, she did not neglect, nor suffer to
rust, the bright weapon of a wit which embodied at times all the biting
energies of her contempt. To insolence she retorted sarcasm; and, early
able to see that society, like virtue, must be trampled upon in order
to yield forth its incense, she rose into respect by the hauteur of her
manner, the bluntness of her satire, the independence of her mind, far
more than by her various accomplishments and her unrivalled beauty.

Of Lady Erpingham she had nothing to complain; kind, easy, and
characterless, her protectress sometimes wounded her by carelessness,
but never through design; on the contrary, the Countess at once loved
and admired her, and was as anxious that her protegee should form a
brilliant alliance as if she had been her own daughter. Constance,
therefore, loved Lady Erpingham with sincere and earnest warmth, and
endeavoured to forget all the commonplaces and littlenesses which made
up the mind of her protectress, and which, otherwise, would have been
precisely of that nature to which one like Constance would have been the
least indulgent.



CHAPTER XI.

CONVERSATION BETWEEN LADY ERPINGHAM AND CONSTANCE.--FURTHER PARTICULARS
OF GODOLPHIN’S FAMILY, ETC.


Lady Erpingham was a widow; her jointure, for she had been an heiress
and a duke’s daughter, was large; and the noblest mansion of all the
various seats possessed by the wealthy and powerful house of Erpingham
had been allotted by her late lord for her widowed residence. Thither
she went punctually on the first of every August, and quitted it
punctually on the eighth of every January.

It was some years after the date of Godolphin’s departure from England,
and the summer following the spring in which Constance had been “brought
out;” and, after a debut of such splendour that at this day (many years
subsequent to that period) the sensation she created is not only a
matter of remembrance but of conversation, Constance, despite the
triumph of her vanity, was not displeased to seek some refuge, even from
admiration, among the shades of Wendover Castle.

“When,” said she one morning, as she was walking with Lady Erpingham
upon a terrace beneath the windows of the castle, which overlooked the
country for miles,--“when will you go with me, dear Lady Erpingham, to
see those ruins of which I have heard so much and so often, and which I
have never been able to persuade you to visit? Look! the day is so
clear that we can see their outline now--there, to the right of that
church!--they cannot be so very far from Wendover.”

“Godolphin Priory is about twelve miles off,” said Lady Erpingham;
“but it may seem nearer, for it is situated on the highest spot of
the county. Poor Arthur Godolphin! he is lately dead!” Lady Erpingham
sighed.

“I never heard you speak of him before.”

“There might be a reason for my silence, Constance. He was the person,
of all whom I ever saw, who appeared to me when I was at your age, the
most fascinating. Not, Constance, that I was in love with him, or that
he gave me any reason to become so through gratitude for any affection
on his part. It was a girl’s fancy, idle and short-lived--nothing more!”

“And the young Godolphin--the boy who, at so early an age, has made
himself known for his eccentric life abroad?”

“Is his son; the present owner of those ruins, and, I fear, of little
more, unless it be the remains of a legacy received from a relation.”

“Was the father extravagant, then?”

“Not he! But his father had exceeded a patrimony greatly involved,
and greatly reduced from its ancient importance. All the lands we see
yonder---those villages, those woods--once belonged to the Godolphins.
They were the most ancient and the most powerful family in this part of
England; but the estates dwindled away with each successive generation,
and when Arthur Godolphin, my Godolphin, succeeded to the property,
nothing was left for him but the choice of three evils--a profession,
obscurity, or a wealthy marriage. My father, who had long destined me
for Lord Erpingham, insinuated that it was in me that Mr. Godolphin
wished to find the resource I have last mentioned, and that in such
resource was my only attraction in his eyes. I have some reason to
believe he proposed to the Duke; but he was silent to me, from whom,
girl as I was, he might have been less certain of refusal.”

“What did he at last?”

“Married a lady who was supposed to be an heiress; but he had scarcely
enjoyed her fortune a year before it became the subject of a lawsuit.
He lost the cause and the dowry; and, what was worse, the expenses of
litigation, and the sums he was obliged to refund, reduced him to what,
for a man of his rank, might be considered absolute poverty. He was
thoroughly chagrined and soured by this event; retired to those ruins,
or rather to the small cottage that adjoins them, and there lived to
the day of his death, shunning society, and certainly not exceeding his
income.”

“I understand you: he became parsimonious.”

“To the excess which his neighbours called miserly.”

“And his wife?”

“Poor woman! she was a mere fine lady, and died, I believe, of the same
vexation which nipped, not the life, but the heart of her husband.”

“Had they only one son?”

“Only the present owner: Percy, I think--yes, Percy; it was his mother’s
surname--Percy Godolphin.”

“And how came this poor boy to be thrown so early on the world? Did he
quarrel with Mr. Godolphin?”

“I believe not: but when Percy was about sixteen, he left the obscure
school at which he was educated, and resided for some little time with
a relation, Augustus Saville. He stayed with him in London for about a
year, and went everywhere with him, though so mere a boy. His manners
were, I well remember, assured and formed. A relation left him some
moderate legacy, and afterwards he went abroad alone.”

“But the ruins! The late Mr. Godolphin, notwithstanding his reserve, did
not object to indulging the curiosity of his neighbours.”

“No: he was proud of the interest the ruins of his hereditary mansion
so generally excited,--proud of their celebrity in print-shops and in
tours; but he himself was never seen. The cottage in which he lived,
though it adjoins the ruins, was, of course, sacred from intrusion,
and is so walled in, that that great delight of English visitors at
show-places--peeping in at windows--was utterly forbidden. However that
be, during Mr. Godolphin’s life, I never had courage to visit what, to
me, would have been a melancholy scene now, the pain would be somewhat
less; and since you wish it, suppose we drive over and visit the ruins
to-morrow? It is the regular day for seeing them, by the by.”

“Not, dear Lady Erpingham, if it give you the least--”

“My sweet girl,” interrupted Lady Erpingham, when a servant approached
to announce visitors at the castle.

“Will you go into the saloon, Constance?” said the elder lady, as,
thinking still of love and Arthur Godolphin, she took her way to her
dressing-room to renovate her rouge.

It would have been a pretty amusement to one of the lesser devils, if,
during the early romance of Lady Erpingham’s feelings towards Arthur
Godolphin, he had foretold her the hour when she would tell how Arthur
Godolphin died a miser--just five minutes before she repaired to the
toilette to decorate the cheek of age for the heedless eyes of a common
acquaintance. ‘Tis the world’s way! For my part, I would undertake to
find a better world in that rookery opposite my windows.



CHAPTER XII.

DESCRIPTION OF GODOLPHIN’S HOUSE.--THE FIRST INTERVIEW.--ITS EFFECT ON
CONSTANCE.

“But,” asked Constance, as, the next day, Lady Erpinghain and herself
were performing the appointed pilgrimage to the ruins of Godolphin
Priory, “if the late Mr. Godolphin, as he grew in years, acquired a turn
of mind so penurious, was he not enabled to leave his son some addition
to the pied de terre we are about to visit?”

“He must certainly have left some ready money,” answered Lady
Erpinghain. “But is it, after all, likely that so young a man as Percy
Godolphin could have lived in the manner he has done without incurring
debts? It is most probable that he had some recourse to those persons
so willing to encourage the young and extravagant, and that repayment
to them will more than swallow up any savings his father might have
amassed.”

“True enough!” said Constance; and the conversation glided into remarks
on avaricious fathers and prodigal sons. Constance was witty on the
subject, and Lady Erpingham laughed herself into excellent humour.

It was considerably past noon when they arrived at the ruins.

The carriage stopped before a small inn, at the entrance of a dismantled
park; and, taking advantage of the beauty of the day, Lady Erpingham and
Constance walked slowly towards the remains of the Priory.

The scene, as they approached, was wild and picturesque in the extreme.
A wide and glassy lake lay stretched beneath them: on the opposite side
stood the ruins. The large oriel window--the Gothic arch--the broken,
yet still majestic column, all embrowned and mossed with age, were still
spared, and now mirrored themselves in the waveless and silent tide.
Fragments of stone lay around, for some considerable distance, and the
whole was backed by hills, covered with gloomy and thick woods of pine
and fir. To the left, they saw the stream which fed the lake, stealing
away through grassy banks, overgrown with the willow and pollard oak:
and there, from one or two cottages, only caught in glimpses, thin
wreaths of smoke rose in spires against the clear sky. To the right,
the ground was broken into a thousand glens and hollows: the deer-loved
fern, the golden broom, were scattered about profusely; and here and
there were dense groves of pollards; or, at very rare intervals, some
single tree decaying (for all round bore the seal of vassalage to Time),
but mighty, and greenly venerable in its decay.

As they passed over a bridge that, on either side of the stream,
emerged, as it were, from a thick copse, they caught a view of the small
abode that adjoined the ruins. It seemed covered entirely with ivy;
and, so far from diminishing, tended rather to increase the romantic and
imposing effect of the crumbling pile from which it grew.

They opened a little gate at the other extremity of the bridge, and in a
few minutes more, they stood at the entrance to the Priory.

It was an oak door, studded with nails. The jessamine grew upon either
side; and, to descend to a commonplace matter, they had some difficulty
in finding the bell among the leaves in which it was imbedded. When they
had found and touched it, its clear and lively sound rang out in that
still and lovely though desolate spot, with an effect startling and
impressive from its contrast. There is something very fairy-like in the
cheerful voice of a bell sounding among the wilder scenes of nature,
particularly where Time advances his claim to the sovereignty of the
landscape; for the cheerfulness is a little ghostly, and might serve
well enough for a tocsin to the elvish hordes whom our footsteps may be
supposed to disturb.

An old woman, in the neat peasant dress of our country, when, taking a
little from the fashion of the last century (the cap and the kerchief),
it assumes no ungraceful costume,--replied to their summons. She was
the solitary cicerone of the place. She had lived there, a lone and
childless widow, for thirty years; and, of all the persons I have ever
seen, would furnish forth the best heroine to one of those pictures
of homely life which Wordsworth has dignified with the partriarchal
tenderness of his genius.

They wound a narrow passage, and came to the ruins of the great hall.
Its gothic arches still sprang lightly upward on either side; and,
opening a large stone box that stood in a recess, the old woman showed
them the gloves, and the helmet, and the tattered banners, which had
belonged to that Godolphin who had fought side by side with Sidney,
when he, whose life--as the noblest of British lyrists hath somewhere
said--was “poetry put into action,”(1) received his death-wound in the
field of Zutphen.

Thence they ascended by the dilapidated and crumbling staircase, to
a small room, in which the visitors were always expected to rest
themselves, and enjoy the scene in the garden below. A large chasm
yawned where the casement once was; and round this aperture the ivy
wreathed itself in fantastic luxuriance. A sort of ladder, suspended
from this chasm to the ground, afforded a convenience for those who were
tempted to a short excursion by the view without.

And the view _was_ tempting! A smooth green lawn, surrounded by shrubs
and flowers, was ornamented in the centre by a fountain. The waters
were, it is true, dried up; but the basin, and the “Triton with his
wreathed shell,” still remained. A little to the right was an old
monkish sun-dial; and through the green vista you caught the glimpse of
one of those gray, grotesque statues with which the taste of Elizabeth’s
day shamed the classic chisel.

There was something quiet and venerable about the whole place; and when
the old woman said to Constance, “Would you not like, my lady, to walk
down and look at the sun-dial and the fountain?” Constance felt she
required nothing more to yield to her inclination. Lady Erpingham,
less adventurous, remained in the ruined chamber; and the old woman,
naturally enough, honoured the elder lady with her company.

Constance, therefore, descended the rude steps alone. As she paused by
the fountain, an indescribable and delicious feeling of repose stole
over a mind that seldom experienced any sentiment so natural or so soft.
The hour, the stillness, the scene, all conspired to lull the heart into
that dreaming and half-unconscious reverie in which poets would suppose
the hermits of elder times to have wasted a life, indolent, and yet
scarcely, after all, unwise. “Methinks,” she inly soliloquised, “while
I look around, I feel as if I could give up my objects of life; renounce
my hopes; forget to be artificial and ambitious; live in these ruins,
and,” (whispered the spirit within,) “loved and loving, fulfil the
ordinary doom of woman.”

Indulging a mood, which the proud and restless Constance, who despised
love as the poorest of human weaknesses, though easily susceptible
to all other species of romance, had scarcely ever known before, she
wandered away from the lawn into one of the alleys cut amidst the grove
around. Caught by the murmur of an unseen brook, she tracked it through
the trees, as its sound grew louder and louder on her ear, till at
length it stole upon her sight. The sun, only winning through the trees
at intervals, played capriciously upon the cold and dark waters as they
glided on, and gave to her, as the same effect has done to a thousand
poets, ample matter for a simile or a moral.

She approached the brook, and came unawares upon the figure of a young
man, leaning against a stunted tree that overhung the waters, and
occupied with the idle amusement of dropping pebbles in the stream. She
saw only his profile; but that view is, in a fine countenance, almost
always the most striking and impressive, and it was eminently so in the
face before her. The stranger, who was scarcely removed from boyhood,
was dressed in deep mourning. He seemed slight, and small of stature.
A travelling cap of sables contrasted, not hid, light brown hair of
singular richness and beauty. His features were of that pure and severe
Greek of which the only fault is that in the very perfection of the
chiselling of the features there seems something hard and stern. The
complexion was pale, even to wanness; and the whole cast and contour of
the head were full of intellect, and betokening that absorption of
mind which cannot be marked in any one without exciting a certain vague
curiosity and interest.

So dark and wondrous are the workings of our nature, that there are
scarcely any of us, however light and unthinking, who would not be
arrested by the countenance of one in deep reflection--who would not
pause, and long to pierce into the mysteries that were agitating
that world, most illimitable by nature, but often most narrowed by
custom--the world within.

And this interest, powerful as it is, spelled and arrested Constance at
once. She remained for a minute gazing on the countenance of the young
stranger, and then she--the most self-possessed and stately of human
creatures--blushing deeply, and confused though unseen, turned lightly
away and stopped not on her road till she regained the old chamber and
Lady Erpingham.

The old woman was descanting upon the merits of the late Lord of
Godolphin Priory,--

“For though they called him close, and so forth, my lady, yet he was
generous to others; it was only himself he pinched. But, to be sure, the
present squire won’t take after him there.”

“Has Mr. Percy Godolphin been here lately?” asked Lady Erpingham.

“He is at the cottage now, my lady,” replied the old woman. “He came two
days ago.”

“Is he like his father?”

“Oh! not near so fine-looking a gentleman! much smaller, and quite
pale-like. He seems sickly: them foreign parts do nobody no good. He
was as fine a lad at sixteen years old as ever I seed; but now he is not
like the same thing.”

So then it was evidently Percy Godolphin whom Constance had seen by
the brook--the owner of a home without coffers, and estates without a
rent-roll--the Percy Godolphin, of whom, before he had attained the age
when others have left the college, or even the school, every one had
learned to speak--some favourably, all with eagerness. Constance felt a
vague interest respecting him spring up in her mind. She checked it, for
it was a sin in her eye to think with interest on a man neither rich
nor powerful; and as she quitted the ruins with Lady Erpingham,
she communicated to the latter her adventure. She was, however,
disingenuous; for though Godolphin’s countenance was exactly of that
cast which Constance most admired, she described him just as the
old woman had done; and Lady Erpingham figured to herself, from the
description, a little yellow man, with white hair and a turned-up nose.
O Truth! what a hard path is thine! Does any keep it for three inches
together in the commonest trifle?--and yet two sides of my library are
filled with histories!

(1) Campbell.



CHAPTER XIII.

A BALL ANNOUNCED.--GODOLPHIN’S VISTT TO WENDOVER CASTLE.--HIS MANNERS
AND CONVERSATION.

Lady Erpingham (besides her daughter, Lady Eleanor, married to Mr.
Clare, a county member, of large fortune) was blessed with one son.

The present Earl had been for the last two years abroad. He had never,
since his accession to his title, visited Wendover Castle; and Lady
Erpingham one morning experienced the delight of receiving a letter from
him, dated Dover, and signifying his intention of paying her a visit.
In honour of this event, Lady Erpingham resolved to give a grand ball.
Cards were issued to all the families in the county; and, among others,
to Mr. Godolphin.

On the third day after this invitation had been sent to the person
I have last named, as Lady Erpingham and Constance were alone in the
saloon, Mr. Percy Godolphin was announced. Constance blushed as she
looked up, and Lady Erpingham was struck by the nobleness of his
address, and the perfect self-possession of his manner. And yet nothing
could be so different as was his deportment from that which she had been
accustomed to admire--from that manifested by the exquisites of the
day. The calm, the nonchalance, the artificial smile of languor, the
evenness, so insipid, yet so irreproachable, of English manners when
considered most polished,--all this was the reverse of Godolphin’s
address and air. In short, in all he said or did there was something
foreign, something unfamiliar. He was abrupt and enthusiastic in
conversation, and used gestures in speaking. His countenance lighted up
at every word that broke from hint on the graver subjects of discussion.
You felt, indeed, with him that you were with a man of genius--a wayward
and a spoiled man, who had acquired his habits in solitude, but his
graces in the world.

They conversed about the ruins of the Priory, and Constance expressed
her admiration of their romantic and picturesque beauty. “Ah!” said he
smiling, but with a slight blush, in which Constance detected something
of pain; “I heard of your visit to my poor heaps of stone. My father
took great pleasure in the notice they attracted. When a proud man has
not riches to be proud of, he grows proud of the signs of his poverty
itself. This was the case with my poor father. Had he been rich, the
ruins would not have existed: he would have rebuilt the old mansion.
As he was poor, he valued himself on their existence, and fancied
magnificence in every handful of moss. But all life is delusion: all
pride, all vanity, all pomp, are equally deceit. Like the Spanish
hidalgo, we put on spectacles when we eat our cherries, in order that
they may seem ten times as big as they are!”

Constance smiled; and Lady Erpingham, who had more kindness than
delicacy, continued her praises of the Priory and the scenery round it.

“The old park,” said she, “with its wood and water, is so beautiful! It
wants nothing but a few deer, just tame enough to come near the ruins,
and wild enough to start away as you approach.”

“Now you would borrow an attraction from wealth,” said Godolphin,
who, unlike English persons in general, seemed to love alluding to his
poverty: “it is not for the owner of a ruined Priory to consult the
aristocratic enchantments of that costly luxury, the Picturesque. Alas!
I have not even wherewithal to feed a few solitary partridges; and I
hear, that if I go beyond the green turf, once a park, I shall be warned
off forthwith, and my very qualification disputed.”

“Are you fond of shooting?” said Lady Erpingham.

“I fancy I should be; but I have never enjoyed the sport in England.”

“Do pray come, then,” said Lady Erpingham, kindly, “and spend your first
week in September here. Let me see: the first of the month will be
next Thursday; dine with us on Wednesday. We have keepers and dogs here
enough, thanks to Robert; so you need only bring your gun.”

“You are very kind, dear Lady Erpingham,” said Godolphin warmly: “I
accept your invitation at once.”

“Your father was a very old friend of mine,” said the lady with a sigh.

“He was an old admirer,” said the gentleman, with a bow.



CHAPTER XIV.

CONVERSATION BETWEEN GODOLPHIN AND CONSTANCE.--THE COUNTRY LINE AND THE
TOWN LINE.

And Godolphin came on the appointed Wednesday. He was animated that day
even to brilliancy. Lady Erpingham thought him the most charming of men;
and even Constance forgot that he was no match for herself. Gifted and
cultivated as she was, it was not without delight that she listened to
his glowing descriptions of scenery, and to his playful yet somewhat
melancholy strain of irony upon men and their pursuits. The peculiar
features of her mind made her, indeed, like the latter more than she
could appreciate the former; for in her nature there was more bitterness
than sentiment. Still, his rich language and fluent periods, even in
description, touched her ear and fancy, though they sank not to her
heart; and she yielded insensibly to the spells she would almost have
despised in another.

The next day, Constance, who was no very early riser, tempted by the
beauty of the noon, strolled into the gardens. She was surprised to hear
Godolphin’s voice behind her: she turned round and he joined her.

“I thought you were on your shooting expedition?”

“I have been shooting, and I am returned. I was out by daybreak, and I
came back at noon in the hope of being allowed to join you in your ride
or walk.”

Constance smilingly acknowledged the compliment; and as they passed up
the straight walks of the old-fashioned and stately gardens, Godolphin
turned the conversation upon the varieties of garden scenery; upon the
poets who have described those varieties best; upon that difference
between the town life and the country, on which the brothers of the
minstrel craft have, in all ages, so glowingly insisted. In this
conversation, certain points of contrast between the characters of these
two young persons might be observed.

“I confess to you,” said Godolphin, “that I have little faith in
the permanence of any attachment professed for the country by the
inhabitants of cities. If we can occupy our minds solely with the
objects around us,--if the brook and the old tree, and the golden
sunset, and the summer night, and the animal and homely life that we
survey,--if these can fill our contemplation, and take away from us the
feverish schemes of the future,--then indeed I can fully understand
the reality of that tranquil and happy state which our elder poets have
described as incident to a country life. But if we carry with us to the
shade all the restless and perturbed desires of the city; if we only
employ present leisure in schemes for an agitated future--then it is in
vain that we affect the hermit and fly to the retreat. The moment the
novelty of green fields is over, and our projects are formed, we wish
to hurry to the city to execute them. We have, in a word, made our
retirement only a nursery for schemes now springing up, and requiring to
be transplanted.”

“You are right,” said Constance, quickly; “and who would pass life as if
it were a dream? It seems to me that we put retirement to the right use
when we make it only subservient to our aims in the world.”

“A strange doctrine for a young beauty,” thought Godolphin, “whose head
ought to be full of groves and love.” “Then,” said he aloud, “I must
rank among those who abuse the purposes of retirement; for I have
hitherto been flattered to think that I enjoy it for itself. Despite the
artificial life I have led, everything that speaks of nature has a voice
that I can rarely resist. What feelings created in a city can compare
with those that rise so gently and so unbidden within us when the trees
and the waters are our only companions--our only sources of excitement
and intoxication? Is not contemplation better than ambition?”

“Can you believe it?” said Constance, incredulously.

“I do.”

Constance smiled; and there would have been contempt in that beautiful
smile, had not Godolphin interested her in spite of herself.



CHAPTER XV.

THE FEELINGS OF CONSTANCE AND GODOLPHIN TOWARDS EACH OTHER.--THE
DISTINCTION IN THEIR CHARACTERS.--REMARKS ON THE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE
WORLD UPON GODOLPHIN.--THE HIDE.--RURAL DESCRIPTIONS.--OMENS.--THE FIRST
INDISTINCT CONFESSION.

Every day, at the hour in which Constance was visible, Godolphin had
loaded the keeper, and had returned to attend upon her movements. They
walked and rode together; and in the evening, Godolphin hung over her
chair, and listened to her songs; for though, as I have before said,
she had but little science in instrumental music, her voice was rich and
soft beyond the pathos of ordinary singers.

Lady Erpingham saw, with secret delight, what she believed to be a
growing attachment. She loved Constance for herself, and Godolphin for
his father’s memory. She thought again and again what a charming couple
they would make--so handsome--so gifted: and if Prudence whispered
also--so poor, the kind Countess remembered, that she herself had saved
from her ample jointure a sum which she had always designed as a dowry
for Constance, and which, should Godolphin be the bridegroom, she felt
she should have a tenfold pleasure in bestowing. With this fortune,
which would place them, at least, in independence, she united in her
kindly imagination the importance which she imagined Godolphin’s talents
must ultimately acquire; and for which, in her aristocratic estimation,
she conceived the senate the only legitimate sphere. She said, she
hinted, nothing to Constance; but she suffered nature, youth, and
companionship to exercise their sway.

And the complexion of Godolphin’s feelings for Constance Vernon did
indeed resemble love--was love itself, though rather love in its romance
than its reality. What were those of Constance for him? She knew
not herself at that time. Had she been of a character one shade less
ambitious, or less powerful, they would have been love, and love of
no common character. But within her musing, and self-possessed, and
singularly constituted mind, there was, as yet, a limit to every
sentiment, a chain to the wings of every thought, save those of one
order; and that order was not of love. There was a marked difference,
in all respects, between the characters of the two; and it was singular
enough, that that of the woman was the less romantic, and composed of
the simpler materials.

A volume of Wordsworth’s most exquisite poetry had then just appeared.
“Is not this wonderful?” said Godolphin, reciting some of those lofty,
but refining thoughts which characterise the Pastor of modern poets.

Constance shook her head.

“What! you do not admire it?”

“I do not understand it.”

“What poetry do you admire?”

“This.”

It was Pope’s translation of the Iliad.

“Yes, yes, to be sure,” said Godolphin, a little vexed; “we all admire
this in its way: but what else?”

Constance pointed to a passage in the Palamon and Arcite of Dryden.

Godolphin threw down his Wordsworth. “You take an ungenerous advantage
of me,” said he. “Tell me something you admire, which, at least, I may
have the privilege of disputing,--something that you think generally
neglected.”

“I admire few things that are generally neglected,” answered Constance,
with her bright and proud smile. “Fame gives its stamp to all metal that
is of intrinsic value.”

This answer was quite characteristic of Constance: she worshipped fame
far more than the genius which won it. “Well, then,” said Godolphin,
“let us see now if we can come to a compromise of sentiment;” and he
took up the Comus of Milton.

No one read poetry so beautifully: his voice was so deep and flexible;
and his countenance answered so well to every modulation of his voice.
Constance was touched by the reader, but not by the verse. Godolphin had
great penetration; he perceived it, and turned to the speeches of Satan
in Paradise Lost. The noble countenance before him grew luminous at
once: the lip quivered, the eye sparkled; the enthusiasm of Godolphin
was not comparable to that of Constance. The fact was, that the broad
and common emotions of the intellectual character struck upon the
right key. Courage, defiance, ambition, these she comprehended to their
fullest extent; but the rich subtleties of thought which mark the cold
and bright page of the Comus; the noble Platonism--the high and rare
love for what is abstractedly good, these were not “sonorous and
trumpet-speaking” enough for the heart of one meant by Nature for a
heroine or a queen, not a poetess or a philosopher.

But all that in literature was delicate, and half-seen, and abstruse,
had its peculiar charm for Godolphin. Of a reflective and refining
mind, he had early learned to despise the common emotions of men: glory
touched him not, and to ambition he had shut his heart. Love, with
him--even though he had been deemed, not unjustly, a man of gallantry
and pleasure--love was not compounded of the ordinary elements of the
passions. Full of dreams, and refinements, and intense abstractions, it
was a love that seemed not homely enough for endurance, and of too rare
a nature to hope for sympathy in return.

And so it was in his intercourse with Constance, both were continually
disappointed. “You do not feel this,” said Constance. “She cannot
understand me,” sighed Godolphin.

But we must not suppose--despite his refinements, and his reveries,
and his love for the intellectual and the pure--that Godolphin was of a
stainless character or mind. He was one who, naturally full of decided
and marked qualities, was, by the peculiar elements of our society,
rendered a doubtful, motley, and indistinct character, tinctured by the
frailties that leave us in a wavering state between vice and virtue.
The energies that had marked his boyhood were dulled and crippled in
the indolent life of the world. His wandering habits for the last few
years--the soft and poetical existence of the South--had fed his
natural romance, and nourished that passion for contemplation which
the intellectual man of pleasure so commonly forms; for pleasure has
a philosophy of its own--a sad, a fanciful, yet deep persuasion of the
vanity of all things--a craving after the bright ideal--

   “The desire of the moth for the star.”

Solomon’s thirst for pleasure was the companion of his wisdom: satiety
was the offspring of the one--discontent of the other. But this
philosophy, though seductive, is of no wholesome nor useful character;
it is the philosophy of feelings, not principles--of the heart, not
head. So with Godolphin: he was too refined in his moralising to cling
to what was moral. The simply good and the simply bad he left for us
plain folks to discover. He was unattracted by the doctrines of right
and wrong which serve for all men; but he had some obscure and shadowy
standard in his own mind by which he compared the actions of others.
He had imagination, genius, even heart; was brilliant always, sometimes
profound; graceful in society, yet seldom social: a lonely man, yet a
man of the world; generous to individuals, selfish to the mass. How many
fine qualities worse than thrown away!

Who will not allow that he has met many such men?--and who will not
follow this man to his end?

One day (it was the last of Godolphin’s protracted visit) as the sun
was waning to its close, and the time was unusually soft and tranquil,
Constance and Godolphin were returning slowly home from their customary
ride. They passed by a small inn, bearing the common sign of the
“Chequers,” round which a crowd of peasants were assembled, listening to
the rude music which a wandering Italian boy drew from his guitar. The
scene was rustic and picturesque; and as Godolphin reined in his
horse and gazed on the group, he little dreamed of the fierce and dark
emotions with which, at a far distant period, he was destined to revisit
that spot.

“Our peasants,” said he, as they rode on, “require some humanising
relaxation like that we have witnessed. The music and the morris-dance
have gone from England; and instead of providing, as formerly, for the
amusement of the grinded labourer, our legislators now regard with the
most watchful jealousy his most distant approach to festivity. They
cannot bear the rustic to be merry: disorder and amusement are words for
the same offence.”

“I doubt,” said the earnest Constance, “whether the legislators are
not right. For men given to amusement are easily enslaved. All noble
thoughts are grave.”

Thus talking, they passed a shallow ford in the stream. “We are not
far from the Priory,” said Godolphin, pointing to its ruins, that rose
greyly in the evening skies from the green woods around it.

Constance sighed involuntarily. She felt pain in being reminded of
the slender fortunes of her companion. Ascending the gentle hill that
swelled from the stream, she now, to turn the current of her thoughts,
pointed admiringly to the blue course of the waters, as they wound
through their shagged banks. And deep, dark, rushing, even at that still
hour, went the stream through the boughs that swept over its surface.
Here and there the banks suddenly shelved down, mingling with the waves;
then abruptly they rose, overspread with thick and tangled umbrage,
several feet above the level of the river.

“How strange it is,” said Godolphin, “that at times a feeling comes over
us, as we gaze upon certain places, which associates the scene either
with some dim-remembered and dream-like images of the Past, or with
a prophetic and fearful omen of the Future! As I gaze now upon this
spot--those banks--that whirling river--it seems as if my destiny
claimed a mysterious sympathy with the scene: when--how-wherefore--I
know not--guess not: only this shadowy and chilling sentiment
unaccountably creeps over me. Every one has known a similar strange,
indistinct, feeling at certain times and places, and with a similar
inability to trace the cause. And yet, is it not singular that in
poetry, which wears most feelings to an echo, I leave never met with any
attempt to describe it?”

“Because poetry,” said Constance, “is, after all, but a hackneyed
imitation of the most common thoughts, giving them merely a gloss by the
brilliancy of verse. And yet how little poets _know!_ They _imagine,_
and they _imitate;_--behold all their secrets!”

“Perhaps you are right,” said Godolphin, musingly; “and I, who have
often vainly fancied I had the poetical temperament, have been so
chilled and sickened by the characteristics of the tribe, that I have
checked its impulses with a sort of disdain; and thus the Ideal, having
no vent in me, preys within, creating a thousand undefined dreams and
unwilling superstitions, making me enamoured of the Shadowy and Unknown,
and dissatisfying me with the petty ambitions of the world.”

“You will awake hereafter,” said Constance, earnestly.

Godolphin shook his head, and replied not.

Their way now lay along a green lane that gradually wound round a hill
commanding a view of great richness and beauty. Cottages, and spires,
and groves, gave life--but it was scattered and remote life--to the
scene; and the broad stream, whose waves, softened in the distance, did
not seem to break the even surface of the tide, flowed onward, glowing
in the sunlight, till it was lost among dark and luxuriant woods.

Both once more arrested their horses by a common impulse, and both
became suddenly silent as they gazed. Godolphin was the first to speak:
it brought to his memory a scene in that delicious land, whose Southern
loveliness Claude has transfused to the canvas, and De Stael to the
page. With his own impassioned and earnest language, he spoke to
Constance of that scene and that country. Every tree before him
furnished matter for his illustration or his contrast; and, as she heard
that magic voice, and speaking, too, of a country dedicated to
love, Constance listened with glistening eyes, and a cheek which
he,--consummate master of the secrets of womanhood--perceived was
eloquent with thoughts which she knew not, but which _he_ interpreted to
the letter.

“And in such a spot,” said he, continuing, and fixing his deep and
animated gaze on her,--“in such a spot I could have stayed for ever but
for one recollection, one feeling--_I should have been too much alone!_
In a wild or a grand, or even a barren country, we may live in solitude,
and find fit food for thought; but not in one so soft, so subduing, as
that which I saw and see. Love comes over us then in spite of ourselves;
and I feel--I feel now”--his voice trembled as he spoke--“that any
secret we may before have nursed, though hitherto unacknowledged, makes
itself at length a voice. We are oppressed with the desire to be loved;
we long for the courage to say we love.”

Never before had Godolphin, though constantly verging into sentiment,
spoken to Constance in so plain a language. Eye, voice, cheek--all
spoke. She felt that he had confessed he loved her! And was she not
happy at that thought? She was: it was her happiest moment. But, in that
sort of vague and indistinct shrinking from the subject with which a
woman who loves hears a disclosure of love from him on whose lips it is
most sweet, she muttered some confused attempt to change the subject,
and quickened her horse’s pace. Godolphin did not renew the topic so
interesting and so dangerous, only, as with the winding of the road the
landscape gradually faded from their view, he said, in a low voice, as
if to himself,--“How long, how fondly, shall I remember this day!”



CHAPTER XVI.

GODOLPHIN’S RETURN HOME.--HIS SOLILOQUY.--LORD ERPINGHAM’S ARRIVAL AT
WENDOVER CASTLE.--THE EARL DESCRIBED.--HIS ACCOUNT OF GODOLPHIN’S LIFE
AT ROME.

With a listless step, Godolphin re-entered the threshold of his
cottage-home. He passed into a small chamber, which was yet the largest
in his house. The poor and scanty furniture scattered around; the
old, tuneless, broken harpsichord; the worn and tattered carpet; the
tenantless birdcage in the recess by the window; the bookshelves,
containing some dozens of worthless volumes; the sofa of the last
century (when, if people knew comfort, they placed it not in lounging)
small, narrow, highbacked, hard, and knotted; these, just as his
father had left, just as his boyhood had seen, them, greeted him with
a comfortless and chill, though familiar welcome. It was evening:
he ordered a fire and lights; and leaning his face on his hand as he
contemplated the fitful and dusky outbreakings of the flame through the
bars of the niggard and contracted grate, he sat himself down to hold
commune with his heart.

“So, I love this woman,” said he, “do I? Have I not deceived myself? She
is poor--no connection; she has nothing whereby to reinstate my house’s
fortunes, to rebuild this mansion, or repurchase yonder demesnes. I love
her! _I_ who have known the value of her sex so well, that I have said,
again and again, I would not shackle life with a princess! Love may
withstand possession--true--but not time. In three years there would be
no glory in the face of Constance, and I should be--what? My fortunes,
broken as they are, can support me alone, and with my few wants. But if
married! the haughty Constance my wife! Nay, nay, nay! this must not
be thought of! I, the hero of Paris! the pupil of Saville! I, to be so
beguiled as even to _dream_ of such a madness!

“Yet I have that within me that might make a stir in the world--I might
rise. Professions are open; the Diplomacy, the House of Commons. What!
Percy Godolphin be ass enough to grow ambitious! to toil, to fret, to
slave, to answer fools on a first principle, and die at length of a
broken heart for a lost place! Pooh, pooh! I, who despise your prime
ministers, can scarcely stoop to their apprenticeship. Life is too
short for toil. And what do men strive for?--to enjoy: but why not enjoy
without the toil? And relinquish Constance? Ay, it is but one woman
lost!”

So ended the soliloquy of a man scarcely of age. The world teaches us
its last lessons betimes; but then, lest we should have nothing left to
acquire from its wisdom, it employs the rest of our life in unlearning
all that it first taught.

Meanwhile, the time approached when Lord Erpingham was to arrive at
Wendover Castle; and at length came the day itself. Naturally anxious to
enjoy as exclusively as possible the company of her son the first day of
his return from so long an absence, Lady Erpingham had asked no one
to meet him. The earl’s heavy travelling-carriage at length rolled
clattering up the court-yard; and in a few minutes a tall man, in the
prime of life, and borrowing some favourable effect as to person from
the large cloak of velvet and furs which hung round him, entered the
room, and Lady Erpingham embraced her son. The kind and familiar manner
with which he answered her inquiries and congratulations was somewhat
changed when he suddenly perceived Constance. Lord Erpingham was a cold
man, and, like most cold men, ashamed of the evidence of affection. He
greeted Constance very quietly; and, as she thought, slightly: but his
eyes turned to her far more often than any friend of Lord Erpingham’s
might ever have remarked those large round hazel eyes turn to any one
before.

When the earl withdrew to adjust his toilet for dinner, Lady Erpingham,
as she wiped her eyes, could not help exclaiming to Constance, “Is he
not handsome? What a figure!”

Constance was a little addicted to flattery where she liked the one who
was to be flattered, and she assented readily enough to the maternal
remark. Hitherto, however, she had not observed anything more in Lord
Erpingham than his height and his cloak: as he re-entered and led her to
the dining-room she took a better, though still but a casual, survey.

Lord Erpingham was that sort of person of whom _men_ always say, “What
a prodigiously fine fellow!” He was above six feet high, stout in
proportion: not, indeed, accurately formed, nor graceful in bearing,
but quite as much so as a man of six feet high need be. He had a manly
complexion of brown, yellow, and red. His whiskers were exceedingly
large, black, and well arranged. His eyes, as I have before said, were
round, large, and hazel; they were also unmeaning. His teeth were good;
and his nose, neither aquiline nor Grecian, was yet a very showy nose
upon the whole. All the maidservants admired him; and you felt, in
looking at him, that it was a pity our army should lose so good a
grenadier.

Lord Erpingham was a Whig of the old school: he thought the Tory
boroughs ought to be thrown open. He was generally considered a sensible
man. He had read Blackstone, Montesquieu, Cowper’s Poems, and _The
Rambler_; and he was always heard with great attention in the House of
Lords. In his moral character he was a bon Vivant, as far as wine is
concerned; for choice _eating_ he cared nothing. He was good-natured,
but close; brave enough to fight a duel, if necessary; and religious
enough to go to church once a week--in the country.

So far Lord Erpingham might seem modelled from one of Sir Walter’s
heroes: we must reverse the medal, and show the points in which he
differed from those patterns of propriety.

Like the generality of his class, he was peculiarly loose in his notions
of women, though not ardent in pursuit of them. His amours had been
among opera-dancers, “because,” as he was wont to say, “there was
no d--d bore with _them._” Lord Erpingham was always considered a
high-minded man. People chose him as an umpire in quarrels; and told a
story (which was not true) of his having held some state office for a
whole year, and insisted on returning the emoluments.

Such was Robert Earl of Erpingham. During dinner, at which he displayed,
to his mother’s great delight, a most excellent appetite, he listened,
as well as he might, considering the more legitimate occupation of the
time and season, to Lady Erpingham’s recitals of county history; her
long answers to his brief inquiries whether old friends were dead and
young ones married; and his countenance brightened up to an expression
of interest--almost of intelligence--when he was told that birds were
said to be plentiful. As the servants left the room, and Lord Erpingham
took his first glass of claret, the conversation fell upon Percy
Godolphin.

“He has been staying with us a whole fortnight,” said Lady Erpingham;
“and, by the by, he said he had met you in Italy, and mentioned your
name as it deserved.”

“Indeed! And did he really condescend to praise me?” said Lord
Erpingham, with eagerness; for there was that about Godolphin, and his
reputation for fastidiousness, which gave a rarity and a value to his
praise, at least to lordly ears. “Ah! he’s a queer fellow; he led a very
singular life in Italy.”

“So I have always heard,” said Lady Erpingham. “But of what description?
was he very wild?”

“No, not exactly: there was a good deal of mystery about him: he saw
very few English, and those were chiefly men who played high. He was
said to have a great deal of learning and so forth.”

“Oh! then he was surrounded, I suppose, by those medalists and
picture-sellers, and other impostors, who live upon such of our
countrymen as think themselves blessed with a taste or afflicted with
a genius,” said Lady Erpingham; who, having lived with the wits and
orators of the time, had caught mechanically their way of rounding a
period.

“Far from it!” returned the earl. “Godolphin is much too deep a fellow
for that; he’s not easily taken in, I assure you. I confess I don’t like
him the worse for that,” added the close noble. “But he lived with the
Italian doctors and men of science; and encouraged, in particular, one
strange fellow who affected sorcery, I fancy, or something very like
it. Godolphin resided in a very lonely spot at Rome: and I believe
laboratories, and caldrons, and all sorts of devilish things, were
always at work there--at least so people said.”

“And yet,” said Constance, “you thought him too sensible to be easily
taken in?”

“Indeed I do, Miss Vernon; and the proof of it is, that no man has less
fortune or is made more of. He plays, it is true, but only occasionally;
though as a player at games of skill--piquet, billiards, whist,--he
has no equal, unless it be Saville. But then Saville, entre noun, is
suspected of playing unfairly.”

“And you are quite sure,” said the placid Lady Erpingham, “that Mr.
Godolphin is only indebted to skill for his success?”

Constance darted a glance of fire at the speaker.

“Why, faith, I believe so! No one ever accused him of a single shabby,
or even suspicious trick; and indeed, as I said before, no one was ever
more sought after in society, though he shuns it; and he’s devilish
right, for it’s a cursed bore!”

“My dear Robert! at your age!” exclaimed the mother. “But,” continued
the earl, turning to Constance,--“but, Miss Vernon, a man may have his
weak point; and the cunning Italian may have hit on Godolphin’s, clever
as he is in general; though, for my part, I will tell you frankly, I
think he only encouraged him to mystify and perplex people, just to
get talked of--vanity, in short. He’s a good-looking fellow that
Godolphin--eh?” continued the earl, in the tone of a man who meant you
to deny what he asserted.

“Oh, beautiful!” said Lady Erpingham. “Such a countenance!”

“Deuced pale, though!--eh?--and not the best of figures: thin,
narrow-shouldered, eh--eh?”

Godolphin’s proportions were faultless; but your strapping heroes think
of a moderate-sized man as mathematicians define a point--declare that
he has no length nor breadth whatsoever.

“What say _you,_ Constance?” asked Lady Erpingham, meaningly.

Constance felt the meaning, and replied calmly, that Mr. Godolphin
appeared to her handsomer than any one she had seen lately.

Lord Erpingham played with his neckcloth, and Lady Erpingham rose to
leave the room. “D--d fine girl!” said the earl, as he shut the door
upon Constance;--“but d--d sharp!” added he, as he resettled himself on
his chair.



CHAPTER XVII.

CONSTANCE AT HER TOILET.--HER FEELINGS.--HER CHARACTER OF BEAUTY
DESCRIBED.--THE BALL.--THE DUCHESS OF WINSTOUN AND HER DAUGHTER.--AN
INDUCTION FROM THE NATURE OF FEMALE RIVALRIES.--JEALOUSY IN A
LOVER.--IMPERTINENCE RETORTED.--LISTENERS NEVER HEAR GOOD OF
THEMSELVES.--REMARKS ON THE AMUSEMENTS OF A PUBLIC ASSEMBLY.--THE
SUPPER.--THE FALSENESS OF SEEMING GAIETY.--VARIOUS REFLECTIONS, NEW AND
TRUE.--WHAT PASSES BETWEEN GODOLPHIN AND CONSTANCE.

It was the evening of the ball to be given in honour of Lord
Erpingham’s arrival. Constance, dressed for conquest, sat alone in her
dressing-room. Her woman had just left her. The lights still burned in
profusion about the antique chamber (antique, for it was situated in the
oldest part of the castle); those lights streamed full upon the broad
brow and exquisite features of Miss Vernon. As she leaned back in her
chair--the fairy foot upon the low Gothic stool, and the hands drooping
beside her despondingly--her countenance betrayed much, but not serene,
thought; and, mixed with that thought, was something of irresolution and
of great and real sadness.

It is not, as I have before hinted, to be supposed that Constance’s
lot had been hitherto a proud one, even though she was the most admired
beauty of her day; even though she lived with, and received adulation
from, the high, and noble, and haughty of her land. Often, in the
glittering crowd that she attracted around her, her ear, sharpened by
the jealousy and pride of her nature, caught words that dashed the
cup of pleasure and of vanity with shame and anger. “What! that _the_
Vernon’s daughter? Poor girl! dependent entirely on Lady Erpingham! Ah!
she’ll take in some rich roturier, I hope.”

Such words from ill-tempered dowagers and faded beauties were no
unfrequent interruption to her brief-lived and wearisome triumphs. She
heard manoeuvring mothers caution their booby sons, whom Constance would
have looked into the dust had they dared but to touch her hand, against
her untitled and undowried charms. She saw cautious earls, who were all
courtesy one night, all coldness another, as some report had reached
them accusing their hearts of feeling too deeply her attractions, or,
as they themselves suspected, for the first time, that a heart was not
a word for a poetical nothing, and that to look on so beautiful and
glorious a creature was sufficient to convince them, even yet, of the
possibility of emotion. She had felt to the quick the condescending
patronage of duchesses and chaperons; the oblique hint; the nice and
fine distinction which, in polished circles, divides each grade from
the other, and allows you to be galled without the pleasure of feeling
justified in offence.

All this, which, in the flush and heyday of youth, and gaiety, and
loveliness, would have been unnoticed by other women, rankled deep
in the mind of Constance Vernon. The image of her dying father, his
complaints, his accusations (the justice of which she never for an
instant questioned), rose up before her in the brightest hours of the
dance and the revel. She was not one of those women whose meek and
gentle nature would fly what wounds them: Constance had resolved
to conquer. Despising glitter and gaiety, and show, she burned, she
thirsted for power--a power which could retaliate the insults she
fancied she had received, and should turn condescension into homage.
This object, which every casual word, every heedless glance from
another, fixed deeper and deeper in her heart, took a sort of sanctity
from the associations with which she linked it--her father’s memory and
his dying breath.

At this moment in which we have portrayed her, all these restless, and
sore, and haughty feelings were busy within; but they were combated,
even while the more fiercely aroused, by one soft and tender
thought--the image of Godolphin--of Godolphin, the spendthrift heir of
a broken fortune and a fallen house. She felt too deeply that she loved
him; and, ignorant of his worldlier qualities, imagined that he loved
her with all the devotion of that romance, and the ardour of that
genius, which appeared to her to compose his character. But this
persuasion gave her now no delightful emotion. Convinced that she ought
to reject him, his image only coloured with sadness those objects and
that ambition which she had hitherto regarded with an exulting pride.
She was not less bent on the lofty ends of her destiny; but the glory
and the illusion had fallen from them. She had taken an insight into
futurity, and felt, that to enjoy power was to lose happiness. Yet, with
this full conviction, she forsook the happiness and clung to the power.
Alas! for our best and wisest theories, our problems, our systems, our
philosophy! Human beings will never cease to mistake the means for the
end; and, despite the dogmas of sages, our conduct does not depend on
our convictions.

Carriage after carriage had rolled beneath the windows of the room
where Constance sat, and still she moved not; until at length a certain
composure, as if the result of some determination, stole over her
features. The brilliant and transparent hues returned to her cheek, and,
as she rose and stood erect with a certain calmness and energy on her
lip and forehead, perhaps her beauty had never seemed of so lofty and
august a cast. In passing through the chamber, she stopped for a moment
opposite the mirror that reflected her stately shape in its full height.
Beauty is so truly the weapon of woman, that it is as impossible for
her, even in grief, wholly to forget its effect, as it is for the flying
warrior to look with indifference on the sword with which he has won
his trophies or his fame. Nor was Constance that evening disposed to
be indifferent to the effect she should produce. She looked on the
reflection of herself with a feeling of triumph, not arising from vanity
alone.

And when did mirror ever give back a form more worthy of a Pericles
to worship, or an Apelles to paint? Though but little removed from the
common height, the impression Constance always gave was that of a person
much taller than she really was. A certain majesty in the turn of
the head, the fall of the shoulders, the breadth of the brow, and the
exceeding calmness of the features, invested her with an air which I
have never seen equalled by any one, but which, had Pasta been a beauty,
she might have possessed. But there was nothing hard or harsh in
this majesty. Whatsoever of a masculine nature Constance might have
inherited, nothing masculine, nothing not exquisitely feminine, was
visible in her person. Her shape was rounded, and sufficiently full to
show, that in middle age its beauty would be preserved by that richness
and freshness which a moderate increase of the proportions always gives
to the sex. Her arms and hands were, and are, even to this day, of a
beauty the more striking, because it is so rare. Nothing in any European
country is more uncommon than an arm really beautiful both in hue and
shape. In any assembly we go to, what miserable bones, what angular
elbows, what red skins, do we see under the cover of those capacious
sleeves, which are only one whit less ugly. At the time I speak of,
those coverings were not worn; and the white, round, dazzling arm of
Constance, bare almost to the shoulder, was girded by dazzling gems,
which at once set off, and were foiled by, the beauty of nature. Her
hair was of the most luxuriant, and of the deepest, black; and it was
worn in a fashion--then uncommon, without being bizarre--now hackneyed
by the plainest faces, though suiting only the highest order of
beauty--I mean that simple and classic fashion to which the French
have given a name borrowed from Calypso, but which appears to me suited
rather to an intellectual than a voluptuous goddess. Her long lashes,
and a brow delicately but darkly pencilled, gave additional eloquence
to an eye of the deepest blue, and a classic contour to a profile
so slightly aquiline, that it was commonly considered Grecian. That
necessary completion to all real beauty of either sex, the short and
curved upper lip, terminated in the most dazzling teeth and the ripe
and dewy under lip added to what was noble in her beauty that charm also
which is exclusively feminine. Her complexion was capricious; now pale,
now tinged with the pink of the sea-shell, or the softest shade of the
rose leaf: but in either it was so transparent, that you doubted which
became her the most. To these attractions, add a throat, a bust of the
most dazzling whiteness, and the justest proportions; a foot, whose
least beauty was its smallness, and a waist narrow--not the narrowness
of tenuity or constraint;--but round, gradual, insensibly less in its
compression:--and the person of Constance Vernon, in the bloom of her
youth, is before you.

She passed with her quiet and stately step from her room, through one
adjoining it, and which we stop to notice, because it was her customary
sitting-room when not with Lady Erpingham. There had Godolphin, with the
foreign but courtly freedom, the respectful and chivalric ease of his
manners, often sought her; there had he lingered in order to detain her
yet a moment and a moment longer from other company, seeking a sweet
excuse in some remark on the books that strewed the tables, or the music
in that recess, or the forest scene from those windows through which
the moon of autumn now stole with its own peculiar power to soften and
subdue. As these recollections came across her, her step faltered and
her colour faded from its glow: she paused a moment, cast a mournful
glance round the room, and then tore herself away, descended the lofty
staircase, passed the stone hall, melancholy with old banners and rusted
crests, and bore her beauty and her busy heart into the thickening and
gay crowd.

Her eye looked once more round for the graceful form of Godolphin:
but he was not visible; and she had scarcely satisfied herself of this
before Lord Erpingham, the hero of the evening, approached and claimed
her hand.

“I have just performed my duty,” said he, with a gallantry of speech not
common to him, “now for my reward. I have danced the first dance with
Lady Margaret Midgecombe: I come, according to your promise, to dance
the second with you.”

There was something in these words that stung one of the morbid
remembrances in Miss Vernon’s mind. Lady Margaret Midgecombe, in
ordinary life, would have been thought a good-looking, vulgar girl:--she
was a Duke’s daughter and she was termed a Hebe. Her little nose, and
her fresh colour, and her silly but not unmalicious laugh, were called
enchanting; and all irregularities of feature and faults of shape were
absolutely turned into merits by that odd commendation, so common with
us--“A deuced fine girl; none of your regular beauties.”

Not only in the county of ----shire, but in London, had Lady Margaret
Midgecombe been set up as the rival beauty of Constance Vernon. And
Constance, far too lovely, too cold, too proud, not to acknowledge
beauty in others, where it really existed, was nevertheless unaffectedly
indignant at a comparison so unworthy; she even, at times, despised her
own claims to admiration, since claims so immeasurably inferior could
be put into competition with them. Added to this sore feeling for Lady
Margaret, was one created by Lady Margaret’s mother. The Duchess of
Winstoun was a woman of ordinary birth--the daughter of a peer of
great wealth but new family. She had married, however, one of the most
powerful dukes in the peerage;--a stupid, heavy, pompous man, with four
castles, eight parks, a coal-mine, a tin-mine, six boroughs, and about
thirty livings. Inactive and reserved, the duke was seldom seen in
public: the care of supporting his rank devolved on the duchess; and
she supported it with as much solemnity of purpose as if she had been
a cheesemonger’s daughter. Stately, insolent, and coarse; asked
everywhere; insulting all; hated and courted; such was the Duchess of
Winstoun, and such, perhaps, have been other duchesses before her.

Be it understood that, at that day, Fashion had not risen to the
despotism it now enjoys: it took its colouring from Power, not
controlled it. I shall show, indeed, how much of its present condition
that Fashion owes to the Heroine of these Memoirs. The Duchess of
Winstoun could not now be that great person she was then: there is
a certain good taste in Fashion which repels the mere insolence of
flank--which requires persons to be either agreeable, or brilliant, or
at least original--which weighs stupid dukes in a righteous balance and
finds vulgar duchesses wanting. But in lack of this new authority this
moral sebastocrator between the Sovereign and the dignity hitherto
considered next to the Sovereign’s--her Grace of Winstoun exercised with
impunity the rights of insolence. She had taken an especial dislike
to Constance:--partly because the few good judges of beauty, who care
neither for rank nor report, had very unreservedly placed Miss Vernon
beyond the reach of all competition with her daughter; and principally,
because the high spirit and keen irony of Constance had given more than
once to the duchess’s effrontery so cutting and so public a check, that
she had felt with astonishment and rage there was one woman in that
world--that woman too unmarried--who could retort the rudeness of the
Duchess of Winstoun. Spiteful, however, and numerous were the things
she said of Miss Vernon, when Miss Vernon was absent; and haughty beyond
measure were the inclination of her head and the tone of her voice when
Miss Vernon was present. If, therefore, Constance was disliked by the
duchess, we may readily believe that she returned the dislike. The very
name roused her spleen and her pride; and it was with a feeling all a
woman’s, though scarcely feminine in the amiable sense of the word, that
she learned to whom the honour of Lord Erpingham’s precedence had been
(though necessarily) given.

As Lord Erpingham led her to her place, a buzz of admiration and
enthusiasm followed her steps. This pleased Erpingham more than, at
that moment, it did Constance. Already intoxicated by her beauty, he
was proud of the effect it produced on others, for that effect was a
compliment to his taste. He exerted himself to be agreeable; nay, more,
to be fascinating: he affected a low voice; and he attempted--poor
man!--to flatter.

The Duchess of Winstoun and her daughter sat behind on an elevated
bench. They saw with especial advantage the attentions with which one
of the greatest of England’s earls honoured the daughter of one of the
greatest of England’s orators. They were shocked at his want of dignity.
Constance perceived their chagrin, and she lent a more pleased and
attentive notice to Lord Erpingham’s compliments: her eyes sparkled and
her cheek blushed: and the good folks around, admiring Lord Erpingham’s
immense whiskers, thought Constance in love.

It was just at this time that Percy Godolphin entered the room.

Although Godolphin’s person was not of a showy order, there was
something about him that always arrested attention. His air; his
carriage; his long fair locks; his rich and foreign habits of dress,
which his high bearing and intellectual countenance redeemed from
coxcombry; all, united, gave something remarkable and distinguished to
his appearance; and the interest attached to his fortunes, and to
his social reputation for genius and eccentricity, could not fail of
increasing the effect he produced when his name was known.

From the throng of idlers that gathered around him; from the bows of the
great and the smiles of the fair; Godolphin, however, directed his whole
notice--his whole soul--to the spot which was hallowed by Constance
Vernon. He saw her engaged with a man rich, powerful, and handsome.
He saw that she listened to her partner with evident interest--that he
addressed her with evident admiration. His heart sank within him; he
felt faint and sick; then came anger--mortification; then agony and
despair. All his former resolutions--all his prudence, his worldliness,
his caution, vanished at once; he felt only that he loved, that he was
supplanted, that he was undone. The dark and fierce passions of his
youth, of a nature in reality wild and vehement, swept away at once the
projects and the fabrics of that shallow and chill philosophy he had
borrowed from the world, and deemed the wisdom of the closet. A cottage
and a desert with Constance--Constance all his--heart and hand--would
have been Paradise: he would have nursed no other ambition, nor dreamed
of a reward beyond. Such effect has jealousy upon us. We confide, and we
hesitate to accept a boon: we are jealous, and we would lay down life to
attain it.

“What a handsome fellow Erpingham is!” said a young man in a cavalry
regiment.

Godolphin heard and groaned audibly.

“And what a devilish handsome girl he is dancing with!” said another
young man, from Oxford.

“Oh, Miss Vernon!--By Jove, Erpingham seems smitten. What a capital
thing it would be for her!”

“And for him, too!” cried the more chivalrous Oxonian.

“Humph!” said the officer.

“I heard,” renewed the Oxonian, “that she was to be married to young
Godolphin. He was staying here a short time ago. They rode and walked
together. What a lucky fellow he has been. I don’t know any one I should
so much like to see.”

“Hush!” said a third person, looking at Godolphin.

Percy moved on. Accomplished and self-collected as he usually was, he
could not wholly conceal the hell within. His brow grew knit and gloomy:
he scarcely returned the salutations he received; and moving out of the
crowd, he stole to a seat behind a large pillar, and, scarcely seen by
any one, fixed his eyes on the form and movements of Miss Vernon.

It so happened that he had placed himself in the vicinity of the Duchess
of Winstoun, and within hearing of the conversation that I am about to
record.

The dance being over, Lord Erpingham led Constance to a seat close by
Lady Margaret Midgecombe. The duchess had formed her plan of attack;
and, rising as she saw Constance within reach, approached her with an
air that affected civility.

“How do you do, Miss Vernon? I am happy to see you looking so well. What
truth in the report, eh?” And the duchess showed her teeth--videlicet,
smiled.

“What report does your grace allude to?”

“Nay, nay; I am sure Lord Erpingham has heard it as well as myself; and
I wish for your sake (a slight emphasis), indeed, for both your sakes,
that it may be true.”

“To wait till the Duchess of Winstoun speaks intelligibly would be a
waste of her time and my own,” said the haughty Constance, with the
rudeness in which she then delighted, and for which she has since become
known. But the duchess was not to be offended until she had completed
her manoeuvre.

“Well, now,” said she, turning to Lord Erpingham, “I appeal to you;
is not Miss Vernon to be married very soon to Mr. Godolphin? I am sure
(with an affected good-nature and compassion that stung Constance to the
quick), I am sure I _hope_ so.”

“Upon my word you amaze me,” said Lord Erpingham, opening to their
fullest extent the large, round, hazel eyes for which he was so justly
celebrated. “I never heard this before.”

“Oh! a secret as yet?” said the duchess; “very well! I can keep a
secret.”

Lady Margaret looked down, and laughed prettily.

“I thought till now,” said Constance, with grave composure, “that no
person could be more contemptible than one who collects idle reports: I
now find I was wrong: a person infinitely more contemptible is one who
invents them.”

The rude duchess beat at her own weapons, blushed with anger even
through her rouge: but Constance turned away, and, still leaning on Lord
Erpingham’s arm, sought another seat;--that seat, on the opposite side
of the pillar behind which Godolphin sat, was still within his hearing.

“Upon my word, Miss Vernon,” said Erpingham, “I admire your spirit.
Nothing like setting down those absurd people who try to tease one, and
think one dares not retort. But pray--I hope I’m not impertinent--pray,
may I ask if this rumour have any truth in it?”

“Certainly not,” said Constance, with great effort, but in a clear tone.

“No: I should have thought not--I should have thought not. Godolphin’s
much too poor--much too poor for you. Miss Vernon is not born to marry
for love in a cottage,--is she?”

Constance sighed.

That soft, low tone thrilled to Godolphin’s very heart. He bent forward:
he held his breath: he thirsted for her voice; for some tone, some word
in answer; it came not at that moment.

“You remember,” renewed the earl,--“you remember Miss L----? no: she was
before your time. Well! she married S----, much such another fellow
as Godolphin. He had not a shilling: but he lived well: had a house
in Mayfair; gave dinners; hunted at Melton, and so forth: in short, he
played high. She had about ten thousand pounds. They married, and lived
for two years so comfortably, you have no idea. Every one envied them.
They did not keep a close carriage, but he used to drive her out
to dinners in his French cabriolet.(1) There was no show--no pomp:
everything deuced neat, though; quite love in a cottage--only the
cottage was in Curzon Street. At length, however, the cards turned;
S---- lost everything; owed more than he could ever pay: we were forced
to cut him; and his relation, Lord ----, coming into the ministry a year
afterwards, got him a place in the Customs. They live at Brompton: he
wears a pepper-and-salt coat, and she a mob-cap, with pink ribands: they
have five hundred a year, and ten children. Such was the fate of S----‘s
wife; such may be the fate of Godolphin’s. Oh, Miss Vernon could not
marry _him!_”

“You are right, Lord Erpingham,” said Constance with emphasis; “but you
take too much licence in expressing your opinion.”

Before Lord Erpingham could stammer forth his apology they heard a
slight noise behind: they turned; Godolphin had risen. His countenance,
always inclined to a calm severity--for thought is usually severe in its
outward aspect--bent now on both the speakers with so dark and menacing
an aspect that the stout earl felt his heart stand still for a moment;
and Constance was appalled as if it had been the apparition, and not the
living form, of her lover that she beheld. But scarcely had they seen
this expression of countenance ere it changed. With a cold and polished
smile, a relaxed brow and profound inclination of his form Godolphin
greeted the two: and passing from his seat with a slow step glided among
the crowd and vanished.

What a strange thing, after all, is a great assembly! An immense mob
of persons, who feel for each other the profoundest indifference--met
together to join in amusements which the large majority of them consider
wearisome beyond conception. How unintellectual, how uncivilised, such
a scene, and such actors! What a remnant of barbarous times, when people
danced because they had nothing to say! Were there nothing ridiculous in
dancing, there would be nothing ridiculous in seeing wise men dance. But
that sight would be ludicrous because of the disparity between the
mind and the occupation. However, we have some excuse; we go to these
assemblies to sell our daughters, or flirt with our neighbours’ wives.
A ballroom is nothing more or less than a great market-place of beauty.
For my part, were I a buyer, I should like making my purchases in a less
public mart.

“Come, Godolphin, a glass of champagne,” cried the young Lord Belvoir,
as they sat near each other at the splendid supper.

“With all my heart; but not from that bottle! We must have a new one;
for this glass is pledged to Lady Delmour, and I would not drink to
her health but from the first sparkle! Nothing tame, nothing insipid,
nothing that has lost its first freshness, can be dedicated to one so
beautiful and young.”

The fresh bottle was opened, and Godolphin bowed over his glass to Lord
Belvoir’s sister--a Beauty and a Blue. Lady Delmour admired Godolphin,
and she was flattered by a compliment that no one wholly educated in
England would have had the gallant courage to utter across a crowded
table.

“You have been dancing?” said she.

“No!”

“What then?”

“What then?” said Godolphin. “Ah, Lady Delmour, do not ask.” The look
that accompanied the word, supplied them with a meaning. “Need I add,”
 said he, in a lower voice, “that I have been thinking of the most
beautiful person present?”

“Pooh,” said Lady Delmour, turning away her head. Now, that _pooh_ is
a very significant word. On the lips of a man of business, it denotes
contempt for romance; on the lips of a politician it rebukes a theory.
With that monosyllable, a philosopher massacres a fallacy: by those
four letters a rich man gets rid of a beggar. But in the rosy mouth of a
woman the harshness vanishes, the disdain becomes encouragement. “Pooh!”
 says the lady when you tell her she is handsome; but she smiles when she
says it. With the same reply she receives your protestation of love,
and blushes as she receives. With men it is the sternest, with women the
softest, exclamation in the language.

“Pooh!” said Lady Delmour, turning away her head:--and Godolphin was in
singular spirits. What a strange thing that we should call such hilarity
from our gloom! The stroke induces the flash; excite the nerves by
jealousy, by despair, and with the proud you only trace the excitement
by the mad mirth and hysterical laughter it creates. Godolphin was
charming comme un amour, and the young countess was delighted with his
gallantry.

“Did you ever love?” asked she, tenderly, as they sat alone after
supper.

“Alas, yes!” said he.

“How often?”

“Read Marmontel’s story of the Four Phials: I have no other answer.”

“Oh, what a beautiful tale that is! The whole history of a man’s heart
is contained in it.”

While Godolphin was thus talking with Lady Delmour, his whole soul
was with Constance; of her only he thought, and on her he thirsted for
revenge. There is a curious phenomenon in love, showing how much vanity
has to do with even the best species of it; when, for your mistress to
prefer another, changes all your affection into hatred:--is it the loss
of the mistress, or her preference to the other? The last, to be sure:
for if the former, you would only grieve--but jealousy does not make you
grieve, it makes you enraged; it does not sadden, it stings. After all,
as we grow old, and look back on the “master passion,” how we smile
at the fools it made of us--at the importance we attach to it--of the
millions that have been governed by it! When we examine the passion
of love, it is like examining the character of some great roan; we are
astonished to perceive the littlenesses that belong to it. We ask in
wonder, “How come such effects from such a cause?”

Godolphin continued talking sentiment with Lady Delmour, until her lord,
who was very fond of his carriage horses, came up and took her away; and
then, perhaps glad to be relieved, Percy sauntered into the ballroom,
where, though the crowd was somewhat thinned, the dance was continued
with that spirit which always seems to increase as the night advances.

For my own part, I now and then look late in at a ball as a warning and
grave memento of the flight of time. No amusement belongs of right so
essentially to the young, in their first youth,--to the unthinking, the
intoxicated,--to those whose blood is an elixir.

“If Constance be woman,” said Godolphin to himself, as he returned to
the ballroom, “I will yet humble her to my will. I have not learned the
science so long, to be now foiled in the first moment I have seriously
wished to triumph.”

As this thought inspired and excited him, he moved along at some
distance from, but carefully within the sight of Constance. He paused
by Lady Margaret Midgecombe. He addressed her. Notwithstanding the
insolence and the ignorance of the Duchess of Winstoun, he was well
received by both mother and daughter. Some persons there are, in all
times and in all spheres, who command a certain respect, bought neither
by riches, rank, nor even scrupulous morality of conduct. They win it
by the reputation that talent alone can win them, and which yet is not
always the reputation of talent. No man, even in the frivolous societies
of the great, obtains homage without certain qualities, which, had
they been happily directed, would have conducted him to fame. Had the
attention of a Grammont, or of a ----, been early turned towards what
ought to be the objects desired, who can doubt that, instead of the
heroes of a circle, they might have been worthy of becoming names of
posterity?

Thus the genius of Godolphin had drawn around him an eclat which made
even the haughtiest willing to receive and to repay his notice; and Lady
Margaret actually blushed with pleasure when he asked her to dance.
A foreign dance, then only very partially known in England, had been
called for: few were acquainted with it,--those only who had been
abroad; and as the movements seemed to require peculiar grace of person,
some even among those few declined, through modesty, the exhibition.

To this dance Godolphin led Lady Margaret. All crowded round to see the
performers; and, as each went through the giddy and intoxicating
maze, they made remarks on the awkwardness or the singularity, or the
impropriety of the dance. But when Godolphin began, the murmurs changed.
The slow and stately measure then adapted to the steps, was one in which
the graceful symmetry of his person might eminently display itself. Lady
Margaret was at least as well acquainted with the dance: and the couple
altogether so immeasurably excelled all competitors, that the rest,
as if sensible of it, stopped one after the other; and when Godolphin,
perceiving that they were alone, stopped also, the spectators made
their approbation more audible than approbation usually is in polished
society.

As Godolphin paused, his eyes met those of Constance. There was not
there the expression he had anticipated there was neither the anger of
jealousy, nor the restlessness of offended vanity, nor the desire
of conciliation, visible in those large and speaking orbs. A deep, a
penetrating, a sad inquiry seemed to dwell in her gaze,--seemed anxious
to pierce into his heart, and to discover whether there she possessed
the power to wound, or whether each had been deceived: so at least
seemed that fixed and melancholy intenseness of look to Godolphin.
He left Lady Margaret abruptly: in an instant he was by the side of
Constance.

“You must be delighted with this evening,” said he, bitterly: “wherever
I go I hear your praises: every one admires you; and he who does not
admire so much as worship you, _he_ alone is beneath your notice.
He--born to such shattered fortunes,--he indeed might never _aspire_ to
that which titled and wealthy idiots deem they may _command,_--the hand
of Constance Vernon.”

It was with a low and calm tone that Godolphin spoke. Constance turned
deadly pale: her frame trembled; but she did not answer immediately. She
moved to a seat retired a little from the busy crowd; Godolphin followed
and sat himself beside her; and then, with a slight effort, Constance
spoke.

“You heard what was said, Mr. Godolphin, and I grieve to think you
did. If I offended you, however, forgive me, I pray you; I pray
sincerely--warmly. God knows I have suffered myself enough from idle
words, and from the slighting opinion with which this hard world visits
the poor, not to feel deep regret and shame if I wound, by like means,
another, more especially”--Constance’s voice trembled,--“more especially
_you!_”

As she spoke, she turned her eyes on Godolphin, and they were full of
tears. The tenderness of her voice, her look, melted him at once. Was
it to him, indeed, that the haughty Constance addressed the words of
kindness and apology?--to him whose intrinsic circumstances she had
heard described as so unworthy of her, and, his reason told him, with
such justice?

“Oh, Miss Vernon!” said he, passionately; “Miss Vernon--Constance--dear,
dear Constance! dare I call you so? hear me one word. I love you with a
love which leaves me no words to tell it. I know my faults, my poverty,
my unworthiness; but--but--may I--may I hope?”

And all the woman was in Constance’s cheek, as she listened. That cheek,
how richly was it dyed! Her eyes drooped; her bosom heaved. How every
word in those broken sentences sank into her heart! never was a tone
forgotten. The child may forget its mother, and the mother desert the
child: but never, never from a woman’s heart departs the memory of the
first confession of love from him whom she first loves! She lifted her
eyes, and again withdrew them, and again gazed.

“This must not be,” at last she said; “no, no! it is folly, madness in
both!”

“Not so; nay, not so!” whispered Godolphin, in the softest notes of
a voice that could never be harsh. “It may seem folly--madness if you
will, that the brilliant and all-idolized Miss Vernon should listen to
the vows of so lowly an adorer: but try me--prove me, and own--yes, you
_will_ own some years hence, that that folly has been happy beyond the
happiness of prudence or ambition.”

“This!” answered Constance, struggling with her emotions; “this is no
spot or hour for such a conference. Let us meet to-morrow--the western
chamber.”

“And the hour?”

“Twelve!”

“And I may hope--till then?”

Constance again grew pale; and in a voice that, though it scarcely
left her lips, struck coldness and dismay into his sudden and delighted
confidence, answered,

“No, Percy, there is no hope!--none!”

(1) Then uncommon.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE INTERVIEW.--THE CRISIS OF A LIFE.

The western chamber was that I have mentioned as the one in which
Constance usually fixed her retreat, when neither sociability nor state
summoned her to the more public apartments. I should have said that
Godolphin slept in the house; for, coming from a distance and through
country roads, Lady Erpingham had proffered him that hospitality, and
he had willingly accepted it. Before the appointed hour, he was at the
appointed spot.

He had passed the hours till then without even seeking his pillow. In
restless strides across his chamber, he had revolved those words with
which Constance had seemed to deny the hopes she herself had created.
All private and more selfish schemes or reflections had vanished, as
by magic, from the mind of a man prematurely formed, but not yet wholly
hardened in the mould of worldly speculation. He thought no more of what
he should relinquish in obtaining her hand; with the ardour of boyish
and real love, he thought only of her. It was as if there existed no
world but the little spot in which she breathed and moved. Poverty,
privation, toil, the change of the manners and habits of his whole
previous life, to those of professional enterprise and self-denial;--to
all this he looked forward, not so much with calmness as with triumph.

“Be but Constance mine!” said he again and again; and again and again
those fatal words knocked at his heart, “No hope--none!” and he gnashed
his teeth in very anguish, and muttered, “But mine she will not--she
will never be!”

Still, however, before the hour of noon, something of his habitual
confidence returned to him. He had succeeded, though but partially, in
reasoning away the obvious meaning of the words; and he ascended to the
chamber from the gardens, in which he had sought, by the air, to cool
his mental fever, with a sentiment, ominous and doubtful indeed, but
still removed from despondency and despair.

The day was sad and heavy. A low, drizzling rain, and labouring yet
settled clouds, which denied all glimpse of the sky, and seemed cursed
into stagnancy by the absence of all wind or even breeze, increased
by those associations we endeavour in vain to resist, the dark and
oppressive sadness of his thoughts.

He paused as he laid his hand on the door of the chamber: he listened;
and in the acute and painful life which seemed breathed into all
his senses, he felt as if he could have heard,--though without the
room,--the very breath of Constance; or known, as by an inspiration, the
presence of her beauty. He opened the door gently; all was silence and
desolation for him--Constance was not there!

He felt, however, as if that absence was a relief. He breathed more
freely, and seemed to himself more prepared for the meeting. He took his
station by the recess of the window: in vain--he could rest in no spot:
he walked to and fro, pausing only for a moment as some object before
him reminded him of past and more tranquil hours. The books he had
admired and which, at his departure, had been left in their usual
receptacle at another part of the house, he now discovered on the
tables: they opened of themselves at the passages he had read aloud to
Constance: those pages, in his presence, she had not seemed to admire;
he was inexpressibly touched to perceive that, in his absence, they had
become dear to her. As he turned with a beating heart from this silent
proof of affection, he was startled by the sudden and almost living
resemblance to Constance, which struck upon him in a full-length picture
opposite--the picture of her father. That picture, by one of the best
of our great modern masters of the art, had been taken of Vernon in
the proudest epoch of his prosperity and fame. He was portrayed in the
attitude in which he had uttered one of the most striking sentences
of one of his most brilliant orations: the hand was raised, the foot
advanced, the chest expanded. Life, energy, command, flashed from the
dark eye, breathed from the dilated nostril, broke from the inspired
lip. That noble brow--those modelled features--that air, so full of
the royalty of genius--how startlingly did they resemble the softer
lineaments of Constance!

Arrested, in spite of himself, by the skill of the limner, and the
characteristic of the portrait Godolphin stood, motionless and gazing,
till the door opened, and Constance herself stood before him. She smiled
faintly, but with sweetness as she approached; and seating herself,
motioned him to a chair at a little distance. He obeyed the gesture in
silence.

“Godolphin!” said she, softly. At the sound of her voice he raised his
eyes from the ground, and fixed them on her countenance with a look so
full of an imploring and earnest meaning, so expressive of the passion,
the suspense of his heart, that Constance felt her voice cease at
once. But he saw as he gazed how powerful had been his influence. Not
a vestige of bloom was on her cheek: her very lips were colourless:
her eyes were swollen with weeping; and though she seemed very calm and
self-possessed, all her wonted majesty of mien was gone. The form seemed
to shrink within itself. Humbleness and sorrow--deep, passionate, but
quiet sorrow--had supplanted the haughtiness and the elastic freshness
of her beauty. “Mr. Godolphin,” she repeated, after a pause, “answer
me truly and with candour; not with the world’s gallantry, but with a
sincere, a plain avowal. Were you not--in your unguarded expressions
last night--were you not excited by the surprise, the passion, of the
moment? Were you not uttering what, had you been actuated only by a calm
and premeditated prudence, you would at least have suppressed?”

“Miss Vernon,” replied Godolphin, “all that I said last night, I now,
in calmness, and with deliberate premeditation, repeat: all that I can
dream of happiness is in your hands.”

“I would, indeed, that I could disbelieve you,” said Constance,
sorrowfully; “I have considered deeply on your words. I am touched--made
grateful--proud--yes, truly proud--by your confessed affection--but--”

“Oh, Constance!” cried Godolphin; in a sudden and agonized voice--and
rising, he flung himself impetuously at her feet--“Constance! do not
reject me!”

He seized her hand: it struggled not with his. He gazed on her
countenance: it was dyed in blushes; and before those blushes vanished,
her agitation found relief in tears, which flowed fast and full.

“Beloved!” said Godolphin, with a solemn tenderness, “why struggle with
your heart? That heart I read at this moment: _that_ is not averse to
me.” Constance wept on. “I know what you would say, and what you feel,”
 continued Godolphin: “you think that I--that we both are poor: that you
could ill bear the humiliations of that haughty poverty which those born
to higher fortunes so irksomely endure. You tremble to link your fate
with one who has been imprudent--lavish--selfish, if you will. You
recoil before you intrust your happiness to a man who, if he wreck that,
can offer you nothing in return: no rank--no station--nothing to heal
a bruised heart, or cover its wound, at least, in the rich disguises of
power and wealth. Am I not right, Constance? Do I not read your mind?”

“No!” said Constance with energy. “Had I been born any man’s daughter,
but his from whom I take my name; were I the same in all things, mind
and heart, save in one feeling, one remembrance, one object--that I
am now; Heaven is my witness that I would not cast a thought upon
poverty--upon privation: that I would--nay, I do--I do confide in your
vows, your affection. If you have erred, I know it not. If any but
you tell me you have erred, I believe them not. You I trust wholly and
implicitly. Heaven, I say, is my witness that, did I obey the voice
of my selfish heart, I would gladly, proudly, share and follow your
fortunes. You mistake me if you think sordid and vulgar ambition can
only influence me. No! I could be worthy of you! The daughter of John
Vernon could be a worthy wife to the man of indigence and genius. In
your poverty I could soothe you; in your labour I could support you; in
your reverses console, in your prosperity triumph. But--but, it must not
be. Go, Godolphin--dear Godolphin! There are thousands better and fairer
than I am, who will do for you as I would have done; but who possess
the power I have not--who, instead of sharing, can raise your fortunes.
Go!--and if it comfort, if it soothe you, believe that I have not been
insensible to your generosity, your love. My best wishes, my fondest
prayers, my dearest hopes, are yours.”

Blinded by her tears, subdued by her emotions, Constance was still
herself. She rose; she extricated her hand from Godolphin’s; she turned
to leave the room. But Godolphin, still kneeling, caught hold of her
robe, and gently, but effectually detained her.

“The picture you have painted,” said he, “do not destroy at once. You
have portrayed yourself my soother, guide, restorer. You _can,_ indeed
you can, be this. You do not know me, Constance. Let me say one word for
my self. Hitherto, I have shunned fame and avoided ambition. Life has
seemed to me so short, and all that even glory wins so poor, that I
have thought no labour worth the price of a single hour of pleasure and
enjoyment. For you, how joyfully will I renounce my code! For myself I
could ask no honour: for you, I will labour for all. No toil shall
be dry to me--no pleasure shall decoy. I will renounce my idle and
desultory pursuits. I will enter the great public arena, where all who
come armed with patience and with energy are sure to win. Constance, I
am not without talents, though they have slept within me; say but the
word, and you know not what they can produce.”

An irresolution in Constance was felt as a sympathy by Godolphin; he
continued,--

“We are both desolate in the world, Constance; we are
orphans--friendless, fortuneless. Yet both have made our way without
friends, and commanded our associates, though without fortune. Does not
this declare we have that within us which, when we are united, can
still exalt or conquer our destiny? And we--we--alone in the noisy
and contentious world with which we strive--we shall turn, after each
effort, to our own hearts, and find there a comfort and a shelter. All
things will bind us closer and closer to each other. The thought of
our past solitude, the hope of our future objects, will only feed the
fountain of our present love. And how much sweeter, Constance, will be
honours to you, if we thus win them; sanctified as they will be by the
sacrifices we have made; by the thought of the many hours in which we
desponded, yet took consolation from each other; by the thought how we
sweetened mortifications by sympathy, and made even the lowest successes
noble by the endearing associations with which we allied them! How much
sweeter to you will be such honours than those which you might command
at once, but accompanied by a cold heart; rendered wearisome because won
with ease and low because undignified by fame! Oh, Constance! am I not
heard? Have not love, nature, sense, triumphed?”

As he spoke, he had risen gently, and wound his arms around her
not reluctant form: her head reclined upon his bosom; her hand was
surrendered to his; and his kiss stole softly and unchidden to her
cheek. At that instant, the fate of both hung on a very hair. How
different might the lot, the character, of each have been, had
Constance’s lips pronounced the words that her heart already recorded!
And she might have done so; but as she raised her eyes, the same object
that had before affected Godolphin came vividly upon her, and changed,
as by an electric shock, the whole current of her thoughts. Full and
immediately before her was the picture of her father. The attitude there
delineated, so striking at all times, seemed to Constance at that moment
more than ever impressive, and even awful in the _livingness_ of its
command. It was the face of Vernon in the act of speech--of warning--of
reproof; such as she had seen it often in private life; such as she had
seen it in his bitter maledictions on his hollow friends at the close
of his existence: nay, such as she had seen it,--only more fearful, and
ghastly with the hues of death,--in his last hours; in those hours in
which he had pledged her to the performance of his revenge, and bade her
live not for love but the memory of her sire.

With the sight of the face rushed upon her the dark and solemn
recollections of that time and of that vow. The weakness of love
vanished before the returning force of a sentiment nursed through her
earliest years, fed by her dreams, strengthened by her studies, and
hardened by the daring energies of a nature lofty yet fanatical, into
the rule, the end, nay, the very religion of life! She tore herself
away from the surprised and dismayed Godolphin; she threw herself on her
knees before the picture; her lips moved rapidly; the rapid and brief
prayer for forgiveness was over, and Constance rose a new being. She
turned to Godolphin, and, lifting her arm towards the picture, as she
regarded, with her bright and kindling eyes, the face of her lover; she
said:--

“As you think now, thought he whose voice speaks to you from the canvas;
he, who pursued the path that you would tread; who, through the same
toil, the same pursuit, that you would endure, used the same powers and
the same genius you would command; he, who won,--what you might win also
at last,--the smile of princes, the trust of nobles, the shifting and
sandy elevation which the best, the wisest, and greatest statesmen in
this country, if unbacked by a sordid and caballing faction, can alone
obtain;--he warns you from that hollow distinction,--from its wretched
consummation. Oh, Godolphin!” she continued, subdued, and sinking from
a high-wrought but momentary paroxysm, uncommon to her collected
character, “Oh, Godolphin! I saw that man dying, deserted,
lonely, cursed by his genius, ruined by his prosperity. I saw him
dying,--die,--of a broken and trampled heart. Could I doom another
victim to the same course, and the same perfidy, and the same fate?
Could I, with a silent heart, watch by that victim; could I, viewing his
certain doom, elate him with false hopes?--No, no! fly from me,--from
the thought of such a destiny. Marry one who can bring you wealth, and
support you with rank; _then_ be ambitious if you will. Leave me to
fulfil my doom,--my vow; and to think, however wretched I may be, that I
have not inflicted a permanent wretchedness on you.”

Godolphin sprang forward; but the door closed upon his eyes; and he saw
Constance--as Constance _Vernon_--no more.



CHAPTER XIX.

A RARE AND EXQUISITE OF THE BEST (WORST) SCHOOL.--A CONVERSATION ON A
THOUSAND MATTERS.--THE DECLENSION OF THE “SUI PROFUSUS” INTO THE “ALIENI
APPETENS.”

There was, in the day I now refer to, a certain house in Chesterfield
Street, Mayfair, which few young men anxious for the eclat of society
passed without a wish for the acquaintance of the inmate. To that small
and dingy mansion, with its verandahs of dusky green, and its blinds
perpetually drawn, there attached an interest, a consideration, and
a mystery. Thither, at the dusk of night, were the hired carriages
of intrigue wont to repair, and dames to alight, careful seemingly of
concealment, yet wanting, perhaps, even a reputation to conceal. Few, at
the early hours of morn, passed that street on their way home from
some glittering revel without noticing some three or four chariots
in waiting;--or without hearing from within the walls the sounds of
protracted festivity. That house was the residence of a man who had
never done anything in public, and yet was the most noted personage in
Society in early life, the all-accomplished Lovelace! in later years
mingling the graces with the decayed heart and the want of principle of
a Grammont. Feared, contemned, loved, hated, ridiculed, honoured, the
very genius, the very personification, of a civilized and profligate
life seemed embodied in Augustus Saville. Hitherto we have spoken of,
let us now describe him.

Born to the poor fortunes and equivocal station of cadet in a noble but
impoverished house, he had passed his existence in a round of lavish,
but never inelegant, dissipation. Unlike other men, whom youth, and
money, and the flush of health, and aristocratic indulgence, allure
to follies, which shock the taste as well as the morality of the wise,
Augustus Saville had never committed an error which was not varnished
by grace, and limited by a profound and worldly discretion. A systematic
votary of pleasure--no woman had ever through him lost her reputation
or her sphere; whether it was that he corrupted into fortunate
dissimulation the minds that he betrayed into guilt, or whether he chose
his victims with so just a knowledge of their characters, and of the
circumstances round them, that he might be sure the secrecy maintained
by himself would scarcely be divulged elsewhere. All the world
attributed to Augustus Saville the most various and consummate success
in that quarter in which success is most envied by the lighter part
of the world: yet no one could say exactly who, amongst the many he
addressed, had been the object of his triumph. The same quiet, and yet
victorious discretion waited upon all he did. Never had he stooped to
win celebrity from horses or from carriages; nothing in his equipages
showed the ambition to be distinguished from another; least of all did
he affect that most displeasing of minor ostentatious, that offensive
exaggeration of neatness, that outer simplicity, which our young nobles
and aspiring bankers so ridiculously think it bon ton to assume. No
harness, industriously avoiding brass; no liveries, pretending to the
tranquillity of a gentleman’s dress; no panels, disdaining the
armorial attributes of which real dignity should neither be ashamed
nor proud--converted plain taste into a display of plainness. He seldom
appeared at races, and never hunted; though he was profound master of
the calculations in the first, and was, as regarded the second, allowed
to be one of the most perfect masters of horsemanship in his time. So,
in his chess, while he chose even sedulously what became him most, he
avoided the appearance of coxcombry, by a disregard to minutiae. He did
not value himself on the perfection of his boot; and suffered a wrinkle
in his coat without a sigh: yet, even the exquisites of the time allowed
that no one was more gentlemanlike in the tout ensemble; and while he
sought by other means than dress to attract, he never even in dress
offended. Carefully shunning the character of the professed wit, or
the general talker, he was yet piquant, shrewd, and animated to the few
persons whom he addressed, or with whom he associated: and though he had
refused all offers to enter public life, he was sufficiently master
of the graver subjects that agitated the times to impress even those
practically engaged in them with a belief in his information and his
talents.

But he was born poor; and yet he had lived for nearly thirty years as a
rich man! What was his secret?--he had lived upon others. At all games
of science, he played with a masterly skill; and in those wherein
luck preponderates, there are always chances for a cool and systematic
calculation. He had been, indeed, suspected of unfair play; but the
charge had never cooled the eagerness with which he had been courted.
With far better taste, and in far higher estimation than Brummell, he
obtained an equal, though a more secret sway. Every one was desirous
to know him: without his acquaintance, the young debutant felt that
he wanted the qualification to social success: by his intimacy, even
vulgarity became the rage. It was true that, as no woman’s disgrace was
confessedly traced to him, so neither was any man’s ruin--save only in
the doubtful instance of the unfortunate Johnstone. He never won of any
person, however ardent, more than a certain portion of his fortune--the
rest of his undoing Saville left to his satellites; nay, even those who
had in reality most reason to complain of him, never perceived his due
share in their impoverishment. It was common enough to hear men say,
“Ah! Saville, I wish I had taken your advice, and left off while I had
yet half my fortune!” They did not accurately heed that the first half
was Saville’s; because the first half had excited, not ruined them.

Besides this method of making money, so strictly social, Saville had
also applied his keen intellect and shrewd sense to other speculations.
Cheap houses, cheap horses, fluctuations in the funds, all descriptions
of property (except perhaps stolen goods), had passed under his earnest
attention; and in most cases, such speculations had eminently succeeded.
He was therefore now, in his middle age, and still unmarried, a man
decidedly wealthy; having, without ever playing miser, without ever
stinting a luxury, or denying a wish, turned nothing into something,
poverty into opulence.

It was noon; and Saville was slowly finishing his morning repast, and
conversing with a young man stretched on a sofa opposite in a listless
attitude. The room was in perfect keeping with the owner: there was
neither velvet, nor gilding, nor buhl, nor marquetrie--all of which
would have been inconsistent with the moderate size of the apartment.
But the furniture was new, massive, costly, and luxurious without the
ostentation of luxury. A few good pictures, and several exquisite busts
and figures in bronze, upon marble pedestals, gave something classic and
graceful to the aspect of the room. Annexed to the back drawing-room,
looking over Lord Chesterfield’s gardens, a small conservatory, filled
with rich exotics, made the only feature in the apartment that might
have seemed, to a fastidious person, effeminate or unduly voluptuous.

Saville himself was about forty-seven years of age: of a person slight
and thin, without being emaciated: a not ungraceful, though habitual
stoop, diminished his height, which might be a little above the ordinary
standard. In his youth he had been handsome; but in his person there was
now little trace of any attraction beyond that of a manner remarkably
soft and insinuating: yet in his narrow though high forehead--his sharp
aquiline nose, grey eye, and slightly sarcastic curve of lip, something
of his character betrayed itself. You saw, or fancied you saw in them
the shrewdness, the delicacy of tact; the consciousness of duping
others; the subtle and intuitive, yet bland and noiseless penetration
into the characters around him, which made the prominent features of his
mind. And, indeed, of all qualities, dissimulation is that which betrays
itself the most often in the physiognomy. A fortunate thing, that the
long habit of betraying should find at times the index in which to
betray itself.

“But you don’t tell me, my dear Godolphin,” said Saville, as he broke
the toast into his chocolate,--“you don’t tell me how the world employed
itself at Rome. Were there any of the true calibre there? steady
fellows, yet ardent, like myself?--men who make us feel our strength
and put it forth--with whom we cannot dally nor idle--who require our
coolness of head, clearness of memory, ingenuity of stratagem--in a
word, men of my art--the art of play:--were there any such?”

“Not many, but enough for honour,” said Godolphin: “for myself, I have
long forsworn gambling for profit.”

“Ah! I always thought you wanted that perseverance which belongs to
strength of character. And how stand your resources now? Sufficient to
recommence the world here with credit and eclat?”

“Ay, were I so disposed, Saville. But I shall return to Italy. Within a
month hence, I shall depart.”

“What! and only just arrived in town! An heir in possession!”

“Of what?”

“The reputation of having succeeded to a property, the extent of which,
if wise, you will tell to no one! Are you so young, Godolphin, as to
imagine that it signifies one crumb of this bread what be the rent-roll
of your estate, so long as you can obtain credit for any sum to which
you are pleased to extend it? Credit! beautiful invention!--the moral
new world to which we fly when banished from the old. Credit!--the true
charity of Providence, by which they who otherwise would starve live in
plenty, and despise the indigent rich. Credit!--admirable system, alike
for those who live on it and the wiser few who live by it. Will you
borrow some money of me, Godolphin?”

“At what percentage?”

“Why, let me see: funds are low; I’ll be moderate. But stay; be it with
you as I did with George Sinclair. You shall have all you want, and pay
me with a premium, when you marry an heiress. Why, roan, you wince at
the word ‘marry!’”

“‘Tis a sore subject, Saville: one that makes a man think of halters.”

“You are right--I recognise my young pupil. Your old play-writers talked
nonsense when they said men lost liberty of person by marriage. Men lose
liberty, but it is the liberty of the mind. We cease to be independent
of the world’s word, when we grow respectable with a wife, a fat butler,
two children, and a family coach. It makes a gentleman little better
than a grocer or a king! But you have seen Constance Vernon. Why, out
on this folly, Godolphin! You turn away. Do you fancy that I did not
penetrate your weakness the moment you mentioned her name?--still less,
do you fancy, my dear young friend, that I, who have lived through
nearly half a century, and know our nature, and the whole thermometer
of our blood, think one jot the worse of you for forming a caprice, or a
passion, if you will--for a woman who would set an anchoret, or, what is
still colder, a worn out debauchee, on fire? Bah! Godolphin, I am wiser
than you take me for. And I will tell you more. For your sake, I am
_happy_ that you have incurred already this, our common folly (which we
all have once in a life), and that the fit is over. I do not pry into
your secrets; I know their delicacy, I do not ask which of you drew
back; for, to have gone forward, to have married, would have been
madness in both. Nay, it was an _impossibility_: it could not have
happened to my pupil; the ablest, the subtlest, the wisest of my pupils.
But, however it was broken off, I repeat that I am glad it happened. One
is never sure of a man’s wisdom, till he has been really and vainly in
love. You know what that moralizing lump of absurdity, Lord Edouard, has
said in the Julie--‘the path of the passions conducts us to philosophy!’
It is true, very true; and now that the path has been fairly trod, the
goal is at hand. _Now,_ I can confide in your steadiness; now, I can
feel that you will run no chance in future, of over-appreciating that
bauble, Woman. You will beg, borrow, steal, and exchange or lose the
jewel, with the same delicious excitement, coupled with the same steady
indifference, with which we play at a more scientific game, and for a
more comprehensive reward. I say more comprehensive reward: for how many
women may we be able to buy by a judicious bet on the odd trick!”

“Your turn is sudden,” said Godolphin, smiling; “and there is some
justice in your reasoning. The fit _is_ over; and if ever I can be wise,
I have entered on wisdom now. But talk of this no more.”

“I will not,” said Saville, whose unerring tact had reached just the
point where to stop, and who had led Godolphin through just that vein
of conversation, half sentimentalising, half sensible, all profligate,
which seldom fails to win the ear of a man both of imagination and of
the world. “I will not; and, to vary the topic, I will turn egoist, and
tell you _my_ adventures.”

With this, Saville began a light and amusing recital of his various and
singular life for the last three years. Anecdote, jest, maxim, remark,
interspersed, gave a zest and piquancy to the narration. An accomplished
roue always affects to moralise; it is a part of his character. There
is a vague and shrewd sentiment that pervades his morale and his system.
Frequent excitement, and its attendant relaxation; the conviction of the
folly of all pursuits; the insipidity of all life; the hollowness of all
love; the faithlessness in all ties; the disbelief in all worth; these
consequences of a dissipated existence on a thoughtful mind, produce
some remarkable, while they make so many wretched, characters. They
coloured some of the most attractive prose among the French, and the
most fascinating verse in the pages of Byron. It might be asked, by a
profane inquirer (and I have touched on this before), what effect a life
nearly similar--a life of luxury, indolence, lassitude, profuse, but
heartless love, imparted to the deep and touching wisdom in his page,
whom we consider the wisest of men, and who has left us the most
melancholy of doctrines?

It was this turn of mind that made Savill’s conversation peculiarly
agreeable to Godolphin in his present humour; and the latter invested
it, from his own mood, with a charm which in reality it wanted. For, as
I shall show, in Godolphin, what deterioration the habits of frivolous
and worldly life produce on the mind of a man of genius, I show only in
Saville the effect they produce on a man of sense.

“Well, Godolphin,” said Saville, as he saw the former rise to depart;
“you will at least dine with me to-day--a punctual eight. I think I can
promise you an agreeable evening. The Linettini, and that dear little
Fanny Millinger (your old flame), are coming; and I have asked old
Stracey, the poet, to say bons mots for them. Poor old Stracey! He goes
about to all his former friends and fellow-liberals, boasting of his
favour with the Great, and does not see that we only use him as we would
a puppet-show or a dancing-dog.”

“What folly,” said Godolphin, “it is in any man of genius (not also
of birth) to think the Great of this country can possibly esteem him!
Nothing can equal the secret enmity with which dull men regard an
intellect above their comprehension. Party politics, and the tact, the
shifting, the commonplace that Party politics alone require; these they
can appreciate; and they feel respect for an orator, even though he be
not a county member; for he can assist them in their paltry ambition
for place and pension: but an author, or a man of science, the rogues
positively jeer at him!”

“And yet,” said Saville, “how few men of letters perceive a truth so
evident to us, so hackneyed even in the conversations of society! For a
little reputation at a dinner table, for a coaxing note from some titled
demirep affecting the De Stael, they forget not only to be glorious
but even to be respectable. And this, too, not only for so petty a
gratification, but for one that rarely lasts above a London season. We
allow the low-born author to be the lion this year; but we dub him a
bore the next. We shut our doors upon his twice-told jests, and send for
the Prague minstrels to sing to us after dinner instead.”

“However,” said Godolphin, “it is only poets you find so foolish as to
be deceived by you. There is not a single prose writer of real genius so
absurd.”

“And why is that?”

“Because,” replied Godolphin, philosophising, “poets address themselves
more to women than men; and insensibly they acquire the weaknesses which
they are accustomed to address. A poet whose verses delight the women
will be found, if we closely analyse his character, to be very like a
woman himself.”

“You don’t love poets?” said Saville.

“The glory of old has departed from them. I mean less from their pages
than their minds. We have plenty of beautiful poets, but how little
poetry breathing of a great soul!”

Here the door opened, and a Mr. Glosson was announced. There entered a
little, smirking, neat-dressed man, prim as a lawyer or a house-agent.

“Ah, Glosson, is that you?” said Saville, with something like animation:
“sit down, my good sir,--sit down. Well! well! (rubbing his hands); what
news? what news?”

“Why, Mr. Saville, I think we may get the land from old ----. He has
the right of the job. I have been with him all this morning. He asks six
thousand pounds for it.

“The unconscionable dog! He got it from the crown for two.”

“Ah, very true,--very true: but you don’t see, sir,--you don’t see, that
it is well worth nine. Sad times,--sad times: jobs from the crown are
growing scarcer every day, Mr. Saville.”

“Humph! that’s all a chance, a speculation. Times are bad indeed, as
you say: no money in the market; go, Glosson; offer him five; your
percentage shall be one per cent. higher than if I pay six thousand, and
shall be counted up to the latter sum.”

“He! he! he! sir!” grinned Glosson; “you are fond of your joke, Mr.
Saville.”

“Well, now; what else in the market? never mind my friend: Mr.
Godolphin--Mr. Glosson; now all gene is over; proceed,--proceed.”

Glosson hummed, and bowed, and hummed again, and then glided on to speak
of houses, and crown lands, and properties in Wales, and places at court
(for some of the subordinate posts at the palace were then--perhaps are
now--regular matter of barter); and Saville, bending over the table,
with his thin delicate hands clasped intently, and his brow denoting his
interest, and his sharp shrewd eye fixed on the agent, furnished to
the contemplative Godolphin a picture which he did not fail to note, to
moralise on, to despise!

What a spectacle is that of the prodigal rake, hardening and sharpening
into the grasping speculator!



CHAPTER XX.

FANNY MILLINGER ONCE MORE.--LOVE.--WOMAN.--BOOKS.--A HUNDRED TOPICS
TOUCHED ON THE SURFACE.--GODOLPHIN’S STATE OF MIND MORE MINUTELY
EXAMINED.--THE DINNER AT SAVILLE’S.

Godolphin went to see and converse with Fanny Millinger.

She was still unmarried, and still the fashion. There was a sort of
allegory of real life, in the manner in which, at certain epochs,
our Idealist was brought into contact with the fair actress of ideal
creations. There was, in short, something of a moral in the way these
two streams of existence--the one belonging to the Actual, the other to
the Imaginary--flowed on, crossing each other at stated times. Which
was the more really imaginative--the life of the stage, or that of the
world’s stage? The gay Fanny was rejoiced to welcome back again her
early lover. She ran on, talking of a thousand topics, without remarking
the absent mind and musing eye of Godolphin, till he himself stopped her
somewhat abruptly:--

“Well, Fanny, well, and what do you know of Saville? You have grown
intimate with him, eh? We shall meet at his house this evening.”

“Oh, yes, he is a charming person in his little way; and the only man
who allows me to be a friend without dreaming of becoming a lover. Now
that’s what I like. We poor actresses have so much would-be love in the
course of our lives, that a little friendship now and then is a novelty
which other and soberer people can never appreciate. On reading Gil Blas
the other day--I am no great reader, as you may remember--I was struck
by that part in which the dear Santillane assures us that there was
never any love between him and Laura the actress. I thought it so
true to nature, so probable, that they should have formed so strong an
intimacy for each other, lived in the same house, had every opportunity
for love, yet never loved. And it was exactly because she was an
actress, and a light good-for-nothing creature that it so happened;
the very multiplicity of lovers prevented her falling in love; the very
carelessness of her life, poor girl, rendered a friend so charming to
her. It would have spoiled the friend to have made him an adorer; it
would have turned the rarity into the every-day character. Now, so it
is with me and Saville; I like his wit, he likes my good temper. We see
each other as often as if we were in love; and yet I do not believe it
even possible that he should ever kiss my hand. After all,” continued
Fanny, laughing, “love is not so necessary to us women as people think.
Fine writers say, ‘Oh, men have a thousand objects, women but one!’
That’s nonsense, dear Percy; women have their thousand objects too. They
have not the bar, but they have the milliner’s shop; they can’t fight,
but they can sit by the window and embroider a work-bag; they don’t rush
into politics, but they plunge their souls into love for a parrot or a
lap-dog. Don’t let men flatter themselves; Providence has been just as
kind in that respect to one sex as to the other; our objects are small,
yours great; but a small object may occupy the mind just as much as the
loftiest.”

“Ours great! pshaw!” said Godolphin, who was rather struck with Fanny’s
remarks; “there is nothing great in those professions which man is
pleased to extol. Is selfishness great? Are the low trickery, the
organised lies of the bar, a great calling? Is the mechanical slavery
of the soldier--fighting because he is in the way of fighting, without
knowing the cause, without an object, save a dim, foolish vanity which
he calls glory, and cannot analyse--is that a great aim and vocation?
Well: the senate! look at the outcry which wise men make against the
loathsome corruption of that arena; then look at the dull hours,--the
tedious talk, the empty boasts, the poor and flat rewards, and tell me
where is the greatness? No, Fanny! the embroidered work-bag, and the
petted parrot, afford just as great--morally great--occupations as those
of the bar, the army, the senate. It is only the frivolous who talk of
frivolities; there is nothing frivolous; all earthly occupations are
on a par--alike important if they alike occupy; for to the wise all are
poor and valueless.”

“I fancy you are very wrong,” said the actress, pressing her pretty
fingers to her forehead, as if to understand him; “but I cannot tell you
why, and I never argue. I ramble on in my odd way, casting out my shrewd
things without defending them if any one chooses to quarrel with them.
What I do I let others do. My maxim in talk is my maxim in life. I claim
liberty for myself, and give indulgence to others.”

“I see,” said Godolphin, “that you have plenty of books about you,
though you plead not guilty to reading. Do you learn your philosophy
from them? for I think you have contracted a vein of reflection since we
parted which I scarcely recognise as an old characteristic.”

“Why,” answered Fanny, “though I don’t read, I skim. Sometimes I canter
through a dozen novels in a morning. I am disappointed, I confess, in
all these works; I want to see more real knowledge of the world than
they ever display. They tell us how Lord Arthur looked, and Lady Lucy
dressed, and what was the colour of those curtains, and these eyes, and
so forth; and then the better sort, perhaps, do also tell us what the
heroine felt as well as wore, and try with might and main to pull some
string of the internal machine; but still I am not enlightened, not
touched. I don’t recognise men and women; they are puppets with holiday
phrases: and I tell you what, Percy, these novelists make the last
mistake you would suppose them guilty of; they have not romance enough
in them to paint the truths of society. Old gentlemen say novels are
bad teachers of life, because they make it too ideal; quite the reverse:
novels are too trite! too superficial! Their very talk about love, and
the fuss they make about it, show how shallow real romance is with them;
for they say nothing new on it, and real romance is for ever striking
out new thoughts. Am I not right, Percy?--No! life, be it worldly as
it may, has a vast deal of romance in it. Every one of us (even poor
I) have a mine of thoughts, and fancies, and wishes, that books are too
dull and commonplace to reach the heart is a romance in itself.”

“A philosophical romance, my Fanny; full of mysteries and conceits,
and refinements, mixed up with its deeper passages. But how came you so
wise?”

“Thank you!” answered Fanny, with a profound curtsey. “The fact
is--though you, as in duty bound, don’t perceive it--that I am older
than I was when we last met. I reflect where I then felt. Besides, the
stage fills our heads with a half sort of wisdom, and gives us that
strange melange of shrewd experience and romantic notions which is, in
fact, the real representation of nine human hearts out of ten.
Talking of books, I want some one to write a novel, which shall be
a metaphysical Gil Blas; which shall deal more with the mind than Le
Sage’s book, and less with the actions; which shall make its hero the
creature of the world, but a different creation, though equally true;
which shall give a faithful picture in the character of one man of the
aspect and the effects of our social system; making that man of a better
sort of clay than the amusing lacquey was, and the produce of a more
artificial grade of society. The book I mean would be a sadder one than
Le Sage’s but equally faithful to life.”

“And it would have more of romance, if I rightly understand what you
mean?”

“Precisely: romance of idea as well as incident--natural romance. By the
way, how few know what natural romance is: so that you feel the ideas in
a book or play are true and faithful to the characters they are ascribed
to, why mind whether the incidents are probable? Yet common readers
only go by the incidents; as if the incidents in three-fourths of
Shakspeare’s plays were even ordinarily possible! But people have so
little nature in them, that they don’t know what is natural!”

Thus Fanny ran on, in no very connected manner; stringing together those
remarks which, unless I am mistaken, show how much better an uneducated,
clever girl, whose very nature is a quick perception of art, can play
the critic, than the pedants who assume the office.

But it was only for the moment that the heavy heart of Godolphin could
forget its load. It was in vain that he sought to be amused while yet
smarting under the freshness of regret. A great shock had been given to
his nature; he had loved against his will; and as we have seen, on
his return to the Priory, he had even resolved on curing himself of
a passion so unprofitable and unwise. But the jealousy of a night had
shivered into dust a prudence which never of right belonged to a very
ardent and generous nature: that jealousy was soothed, allayed; but
how fierce, how stunning was the blow that succeeded it! Constance had
confessed love, and yet had refused him--for ever! Clear and noble as to
herself her motives might seem in that refusal, it was impossible that
they should appear in the same light to Godolphin. Unable to penetrate
into the effect which her father’s death-bed and her own oath had
produced on the mind of Constance; how indissolubly that remembrance
had united itself with all her schemes and prospects for the future; how
marvellously, yet how naturally, it had converted worldly ambition into
a sacred duty;--unable, I say, to comprehend all these various, and
powerful, and governing motives, Godolphin beheld in her refusal only
the aversion to share his slender income, and the desire for loftier
station. He considered, therefore, that sorrow was a tribute to her
unworthy of himself; he deemed it a part of his dignity to strive to
forget. That hallowed sentiment which, in some losses of the heart,
makes it a duty to remember, and preaches a soothing and soft lesson
from the very text of regret, was not for the wrung and stricken soul of
Godolphin. He only strove to dissipate his grief, and shut out from
his mental sight the charmed vision of the first, the only woman he had
deeply loved.

Godolphin felt, too, that the sole impulse which could have united the
fast-expiring energy and enterprise of his youth to the ambition of life
was for ever gone. With Constance--with the proud thoughts that belonged
to her--the aspirings after earthly honours were linked, and with her
were broken. He felt his old philosophy--the love of ease, the profound
contempt for fame,--close, like the deep waters over those glittering
hosts for whose passage they had been severed for a moment--whelming the
crested and gorgeous visions for ever beneath the wave! Conscious of his
talents--nay, swayed to and fro by the unquiet stirrings of no common
genius--Godolphin yet foresaw that he was not henceforth destined to
play a shining part in the crowded drama of life. His career was already
closed; he might be contented, prosperous, happy, but never great. He
had seen enough of authors, and of the thorns that beset the paths
of literature, to experience none of those delusions which cheat
the blinded aspirer into the wilderness of publication--that mode of
obtaining fame and hatred to which those who feel unfitted for more
bustling concerns are impelled. Write he might: and he was fond (as
disappointment increased his propensities to dreaming) of brightening
his solitude with the golden palaces and winged shapes that lie glassed
within the fancy--the soul’s fairy-land. But the vision with him was
only evoked one hour to be destroyed the next. Happy had it been for
Godolphin, and not unfortunate perhaps for the world, had he learned at
that exact moment the true motive for human action which he afterwards,
and too late, discovered. Happy had it been for him to have learned that
there is an ambition to do good--an ambition to raise the wretched as
well as to rise.

Alas!--either in letters or in politics, how utterly poor, barren, and
untempting, is every path that points upward to the mockery of public
eminence, when looked upon by a soul that has any real elements of wise
or noble; unless we have an impulse within, which mortification chills
not--a reward without, which selfish defeat does not destroy.

But, unblest by one friend really wise or good, spoilt by the world,
soured by disappointment, Godolphin’s very faculties made him inert, and
his very wisdom taught him to be useless. Again and again--as the spider
in some cell where no winged insect ever wanders, builds and rebuilds
his mesh,--the scheming heart of the Idealist was doomed to weave net
after net for those visions of the Lovely and the Perfect which can
never descend to the gloomy regions wherein mortality is cast. The most
common disease to genius is nympholepsy--the saddening for a spirit that
the world knows not. Ah! how those outward disappointments which should
cure, only feed the disease!

The dinner at Saville’s was gay and lively, as such entertainments with
such participators usually are. If nothing in the world is more heavy
than your formal banquet,--nothing, on the other hand, is more agreeable
than those well-chosen laissez aller feasts at which the guests are as
happily selected as the wines; where there is no form, no reserve, no
effort; and people having met to sit still for a few hours are willing
to be as pleasant to each other as if they were never to meet again. Yet
the conversation in all companies not literary turns upon persons
rather than things; and your wits learn their art only in the School for
Scandal.

“Only think, Fanny,” said Saville, “of Clavers turning beau in his old
age! He commenced with being a jockey; then he became an electioneerer;
then a Methodist parson; then a builder of houses; and now he has dashed
suddenly up to London, rushed into the clubs, mounted a wig, studied an
ogle, and walks about the Opera House swinging a cane, and, at the age
of fifty-six, punching young minors in the side, and saying tremulously,
‘_We_ young fellows!’”

“He hires pages to come to him in the Park with three-cornered notes,”
 said Fanny, “he opens each with affected nonchalance; looks full at the
bearer; and cries aloud--‘Tell your mistress I cannot refuse her:’--then
canters off, with the air of a man persecuted to death!”

“But did you see what an immense pair of whiskers Chester has mounted?”

“Yes,” answered a Mr. De Lacy; “A---- says he has cultivated them in
order to ‘plant out’ his ugliness.”

“But vy _you_ no talk, Monsieur de Dauphin?” said the Linettini gently,
turning to Percy; “you ver silent.”

“Unhappily, I have been so long out of town that these anecdotes of the
day are caviare to me.”

“But so,” cried Saville, “would a volume of French Memoirs be to any
one that took it up for the first time; yet the French Memoirs amuse
one exactly as much as if one had lived with the persons written of.
Now that ought to be the case with conversations upon persons. I flatter
myself, Fanny, that you and I hit off characters so well by a word or
two, that no one who hears us wants to know anything more about them.”

“I believe you,” said Godolphin; “and that is the reason you never talk
of yourselves.”

“Bah! Apropos of egoism, did you meet Jack Barabel in Rome?”

“Yes, writing his travels. ‘Pray,’ said he to me (seizing me by the
button) in the Coliseum, ‘What do you think is the highest order of
literary composition?’ ‘Why, an epic, I fancy,’ said I; ‘or perhaps a
tragedy, or a great history, or a novel like Don Quixote.’ ‘Pooh!’ quoth
Barabel, looking important, ‘there’s nothing so high in literature as a
good book of travels;’ then sinking his voice into a whisper and laying
his finger wisely on his nose, he hissed out, ‘I have a quarto, sir, in
the press!’”

“Ha! ha!” laughed Stracey, the old wit, picking his teeth, and speaking
for the first time; “if you tell Barabel you have seen a handsome
woman, he says, mysteriously frowning, ‘Handsome, sir! has she
travelled?--answer me that!’”

“But have you seen Paulton’s new equipage? Brown carriage, brown
liveries, brown harness, brown horses, while Paulton and his wife sit
within dressed in brown cap-a-pie. The best of it is that Paulton went
to his coachmaker, to order his carriage, saying, ‘Mr. Houlditch, I am
growing old--too old to be eccentric any longer; I must have something
remarkably plain;’ and to this hour Paulton goes _brown_-ing about the
town, crying out to every one, ‘Nothing like simplicity, believe me.’”

“He discharged his coachman for wearing white gloves instead of brown,”
 said Stracey. “‘What do you mean, sir,’ cried he, ‘with your d--d showy
vulgarities?--don’t you see me toiling my soul out to be plain and
quiet, and you must spoil all, by not being _brown_ enough!’”

“Ah, Godolphin, you seem pensive,” whispered Fanny; “yet we are
tolerably amusing, too.”

“My dear Fanny,” answered Godolphin, rousing himself, “the dialogue is
gay, the actors know their parts, the lights are brilliant; but--the
scene--the scene cannot shift for me! Call it what you will, I am not
deceived. I see the paint and the canvas, but--and yet, away these
thoughts! Shall I fill your glass, Fanny?”



CHAPTER XXI.

AN EVENT OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO THE PRINCIPAL ACTORS IN THIS
HISTORY.--GODOLPHIN A SECOND TIME LEAVES ENGLAND.

Goldolphin was welcomed with enthusiasm by the London world. His graces,
his manners, his genius, his bon ton, and his bonnes fortunes, were the
theme of every society. Verses imputed to him,--some erroneously, some
truly,--were mysteriously circulated from hand to hand; and every one
envied the fair inspirers to whom they were supposed to be addressed.

It is not my intention to reiterate the wearisome echo of novelists,
who descant on fashion and term it life. No description of rose-coloured
curtains and buhl cabinets--no miniature paintings of boudoirs and
salons--no recital of conventional insipidities, interlarded with
affected criticisms, and honoured by the name of dramatic dialogue,
shall lend their fascination to these pages. Far other and far deeper
aims are mine in stooping to delineate the customs and springs of polite
life. The reader must give himself wholly up to me; he must prepare to
go with me through the grave as through the gay, and unresistingly to
thread the dark and subtle interest which alone I can impart to these
memoirs, or--let him close the book at once. I promise him novelty; but
it is not, when duly scanned, a novelty of a light and frivolous cast.

But throughout that routine of dissipation in which he chased the
phantom Forgetfulness, Godolphin sighed for the time he had fixed on
for leaving the scenes in which it was pursued. Of Constance’s present
existence he heard nothing; of her former triumphs and conquests he
heard everywhere. And when did he ever meet one face, however fair,
which could awaken a single thought of admiration? while hers was
yet all faithfully glassed in his remembrance. I know nothing that
so utterly converts society into “the gallery of pictures,” as the
recollection of one loved and lost. That recollection has but two
cures--Time and the hermitage. Foreigners impute to us the turn for
sentiment; alas! there are no people who have it less. We seek for ever
after amusement; and there is not one popular prose-book in our language
in which the more tender and yearning secrets of the heart form the
subject-matter. The Corinne and the Julie weary us, or we turn them into
sorry jests!

One evening, a little before his departure from England--that a
lingering and vague hope, of which Constance was the object, had
considerably protracted beyond the allotted time--Godolphin was at a
house in which the hostess was a relation to Lord Erpingham.

“Have you heard,” asked Lady G----, “that my cousin Erpingham is to be
married?”

“No, indeed; to whom?” said Godolphin, eagerly. “To Miss Vernon.”

Sudden as was the shock, Godolphin heard, and changed neither hue nor
muscle.

“Are you certain of this?” asked a lady present.

“Quite: Lady Erpingham is my authority; I received the news from herself
this very day.”

“And does she seem pleased with the match?”

“Why, I can scarcely say, for the letter contradicts itself in every
passage. Now, she congratulates herself on having so charming a
daughter-in-law; now, she suddenly stops short to observe what a pity it
is that young men should be so precipitate! Now, she says what a great
match it will be for her dear ward! and now, what a happy one it will
be for Erpingham! In short, she does not know whether to be pleased or
vexed; and that, pour dire vrai, is my case also.”

“Why, indeed,” observed the former speaker, “Miss Vernon has played her
cards well. Lord Erpingham would have been a great match in himself,
with his person and reputation. Ah! she was always an ambitious girl.”

“And a proud one,” said Lady G----. “Well, I suppose Erpingham House
will be the rendezvous to all the blues, and wits, and savans. Miss
Vernon is another Aspasia, I hear.”

“I hate girls who are so designing,” said the lady who spoke before, and
had only one daughter, very ugly, who, at the age of thirty-five, was
about to accept her first offer, and marry a younger son in the Guards.
“I think she’s rather vulgar; for my part, I doubt if--I shall patronise
her.”

“Well, what do _you_ think of it, Mr. Godolphin?--you have seen Miss
Vernon?”

Godolphin was gone.

It was about ten days after this conversation that Godolphin, waiting at
a hotel in Dover the hour at which the packet set sail for Calais, took
up the Morning Post; and the first passage that met his eye was the one
which I transcribe:--

“Marriage in High Life.--On Thursday last, at Wendover Castle, the Earl
of Erpingham, to Constance, only daughter of the celebrated Mr. Vernon.
The bride was dressed, &c., ----” And then followed the trite, yet
pompous pageantry of words--the sounding nothings--with which ladies who
become countesses are knelled into marriage.

“The dream is over!” said Godolphin mournfully, as the paper fell to the
ground; and, burying his face within his hands, he remained motionless
till they came to announce the moment of departure.

And thus Percy Godolphin left, for the second time, his native shores.
When we return to him, what changes will the feelings now awakened
within him, have worked in his character! The drops that trickle within
the cavern harden, yet brighten into spars as they indurate. Nothing is
more polished, nothing more cold, than that wisdom which is the work
of former tears, of former passions, and is formed within a musing and
solitary mind!



CHAPTER XXII.

THE BRIDE ALONE.--A DIALOGUE POLITICAL AND MATRIMONIAL.--CONSTANCE’S
GENIUS FOR DIPLOMACY.--THE CHARACTER OF HER ASSEMBLIES.--HER CONQUEST
OVER LADY DELVILLE.

“Bring me that book; place that table nearer; and leave me.”

The Abigail obeyed the orders, and the young Countess of Erpingham was
alone. Alone! what a word for a young and beautiful bride in the first
months of her marriage! Alone! and in the heart of that mighty city
in which rank and wealth--and they were hers--are the idols adored by
millions.

It was a room fancifully and splendidly decorated. Flowers and perfumes
were, however, its chief luxury; and from the open window you might see
the trees in the old Mall deepening into the rich verdure of June. That
haunt, too--a classical haunt for London--was at the hour I speak of
full of gay and idle life; and there was something fresh and joyous in
the air, the sun, and the crowd of foot and horse that swept below.

Was the glory gone from your brow, Constance?--or the proud gladness
from your eye? Alas! are not the blessings of the world like the
enchanted bullets?--that which pierces our heart is united with the gift
which our heart desired!

Lord Erpingham entered the room. “Well, Constance,” said he, “shall you
ride on horseback to-day?”

“I think not.”

“Then I wish you would call on Lady Delville. You see Delville is of my
party: we sit together. You should be very civil to her, and I did not
think you were so the other night.”

“You wish Lady Delville to support your political interest; and, if I
mistake not, you think her at present lukewarm?”

“Precisely.”

“Then, my dear lord, will you place confidence in my discretion? I
promise you, if you will leave me undisturbed in my own plans, that Lady
Delville shall be the most devoted of your party before the season is
half over: but then, the means will not be those you advise.”

“Why, I advised none.”

“Yes--civility; a very poor policy.”

“D--n it, Constance! why, you would not frown a great person like Lady
Delville into affection for us?”

“Leave it to me.”

“Nonsense!”

“My dear lord, only try. Three months is all I ask. You will leave the
management of politics to me ever afterwards! I was born a schemer. Am I
not John Vernon’s daughter?”

“Well, well, do as you will,” said Lord Erpingham; “but I see how it
will end. However, you will call on Lady Delville to-day?”

“If you wish it, certainly.”

“I do.”

Lady Delville was a proud, great lady; not very much liked and not so
often invited by her equals as if she had been agreeable and a flirt.

Constance knew with whom she had to treat. She called on Lady Delville
that day. Lady Delville was at home: a pretty and popular Mrs. Trevor
was with her.

Lady Delville received her coolly--Constance was haughtiness itself.

“You go to the Duchess of Daubigny’s to-night?” said Lady Delville in
the course of their broken conversation.

“Indeed I do not. I like agreeable society. It shall be my object to
form a circle that not one displeasing person shall obtain access to.
Will you assist me, my dear Mrs. Trevor?”--and Constance turned, with
her softest smile, to the lady she addressed.

Mrs. Trevor was flattered: Lady Delville drew herself up.

“It is a small party at the duchess’s,” said the latter; “merely to meet
the Duke and Duchess of C----.”

“Ah, few people are capable of giving a suitable entertainment to the
royal family.”

“But surely none more so than the Duchess of Daubigny--her house so
large, her rank so great!”

“These are but poor ingredients towards the forming of an agreeable
party,” said Constance, coldly. “The mistake made by common minds is to
suppose titles the only rank. Royal dukes love, above all other persons,
to be amused; and amusement is the last thing generally provided for
them.”

The conversation fell into other channels. Constance rose to depart.
She warmly pressed the hand of Mrs. Trevor, whom she had only seen once
before.

“A few persons come to me to-morrow evening,” said she; “_do_ waive
ceremony, and join us. I can promise you that not one disagreeable
person shall be present; and that the Duchess of Daubigny shall write
for an invitation and be refused.”

Mrs. Trevor accepted the invitation.

Lady Delville was enraged beyond measure. Never was female tongue more
bitter than hers at the expense of that insolent Lady Erpingham! Yet
Lady Delville was secretly in grief; for the first time in her life, she
was hurt at not having been asked to a party: and being hurt because she
was not going, she longed most eagerly to go.

The next evening came. Erpingham House was not large, but it was well
adapted to the description of assembly its beautiful owner had invited.
Statues, busts, pictures, books, scattered or arranged about the
apartments, furnished matter for intellectual conversation, or gave at
least an intellectual air to the meeting.

About a hundred persons were present. They were selected from the most
distinguished ornaments of the time. Musicians, painters, authors,
orators, fine gentlemen, dukes, princes, and beauties. One thing,
however, was imperatively necessary in order to admit them--the
profession of liberal opinions. No Tory, however wise, eloquent or
beautiful, could, that evening, have obtained the sesame to those
apartments.

Constance never seemed more lovely, and never before was she so winning.
The coldness and the arrogance of her manner had wholly vanished. To
every one she spoke; and to every one her voice, her manner, were kind,
cordial, familiar, but familiar with a soft dignity that heightened the
charm. Ambitious not only to please but to dazzle, she breathed into her
conversation all the grace and culture of her mind. They who admired her
the most were the most accomplished themselves.

Now exchanging with foreign nobles that brilliant trifling of the world
in which there is often so much penetration, wisdom, and research into
character; now with a kindling eye and animated cheek commenting, with
poets and critics, on literature and the arts; now, in a more remote
and quiet corner, seriously discussing, with hoary politicians, those
affairs in which even they allowed her shrewdness and her grasp of
intellect; and combining with every grace and every accomplishment a
rare and dazzling order of beauty--we may readily imagine the sensation
she created, and the sudden and novel zest which so splendid an Armida
must have given to the tameness of society.

The whole of the next week, the party at Erpingham House was the theme
of every conversation. Each person who had been there had met the lion
he had been most anxious to see. The beauty had conversed with the poet,
who had charmed her; the young debutant in science had paid homage to
the great professor of its loftiest mysteries; the statesman had thanked
the author who had defended his measures; the author had been delighted
with the compliment of the statesman. Every one then agreed that, while
the highest rank in the kingdom had been there, rank had been the least
attraction; and those who before had found Constance repellent, were
the very persons who now expatiated with the greatest rapture on the
sweetness of her manners. Then, too, every one who had been admitted
to the coterie dwelt on the rarity of the admission; and thus, all the
world were dying for an introduction to Erpingham House--partly, because
it was agreeable--principally, because it was difficult.

It soon became a compliment to the understanding to say of a person,
“He goes to Lady Erpingham’s!” They who valued themselves on their
understandings moved heaven and earth to become popular with the
beautiful countess. Lady Delville was not asked; Lady Delville was
furious: she affected disdain, but no one gave her credit for it. Lord
Erpingham teased Constance on this point.

“You see I was right; for you have affronted Lady Delville. She has made
Delville look coolly on me; in a few weeks he will be a Tory; think of
that, Lady Erpingham!”

“One month more,” answered Constance, with a smile, “and you shall see.”

One night, Lady Delville and Lady Erpingham met at a large party. The
latter seated herself by her haughty enemy; not seeming to heed Lady
Delville’s coolness, Constance entered into conversation with her. She
dwelt upon books, pictures, music: her manner was animated, and her wit
playful. Pleased, in spite of herself, Lady Delville warmed from her
reserve.

“My dear Lady Delville,” said Constance, suddenly turning her bright
countenance on the countess with an expression of delighted surprise,
“will you forgive me?--I never dreamed before that you were so charming
a person! I never conceal my sentiments: and I own with regret and shame
that, till this moment, I had never seen in your mind--whatever I might
in your person--those claims to admiration which were constantly dinned
into my ear.”

Lady Delville actually coloured.

“Pray,” continued Constance, “condescend to permit me to a nearer
acquaintance. Will you dine with us on Thursday?--we shall have only
nine persons beside yourself: but they are the nine persons whom I most
esteem and admire.”

Lady Delville accepted the invitation. From that hour, Lady
Delville--who had at first resented, from the deepest recess of her
heart, Constance Vernon’s accession to rank and wealth,--who, had
Constance deferred to her early acquaintance, would have always found
something in her she could have affected to despise; from that hour,
Lady Delville was the warmest advocate, and a little time after, the
sincerest follower, of the youthful countess.



CHAPTER XXIII.

AN INSIGHT INTO THE REAL GRANDE MONDE;--BEING A SEARCH BEHIND THE
ROSE-COLOURED CURTAINS.

The time we now speak of was the most brilliant the English world,
during the last half century, has known. Lord Byron was in his brief
and dazzling zenith; De Stael was in London; the Peace had turned the
attention of rich idlers to social enjoyment and to letters. There was
an excitement, and a brilliancy, and a spirituality, about our circles,
which we do not recognise now. Never had a young and ambitious woman--a
beauty and a genius--a finer moment for the commencement of her power.
It was Constance’s early and bold resolution to push to the utmost--even
to exaggeration--a power existing in all polished states, but now mostly
in this,--the power of fashion! This mysterious and subtle engine she
was eminently skilled to move according to her will. Her intuitive
penetration into character, her tact, and her grace, were exactly the
talents Fashion most demands; and they were at present devoted only
to that sphere. The rudeness that she mingled, at times, with the
bewitching softness and ease of manner she could command at others,
increased the effect of her power. It is much to intimidate as well as
to win. And her rudeness in a very little while grew popular; for it was
never exercised but on those whom the world loves to see humbled. Modest
merit in any rank; and even insolence, if accompanied with merit, were
always safe from her satire. It was the hauteur of foolish duchesses or
purse-proud roturiers that she loved, and scrupled not, to abase.

And the independence of her character was mixed with extraordinary
sweetness of temper. Constance could not be in a passion: it was out of
her nature. If she was stung, she could utter a sarcasm; but she could
not frown or raise her voice. There was that magic in her, that she was
always feminine. She did not stare young men out of countenance; she
never addressed them by their Christian names; she never flirted--never
coquetted: the bloom and flush of modesty was yet all virgin upon her
youth. She, the founder of a new dynasty, avoided what her successors
and contemporaries have deemed it necessary to incur. She was the leader
of fashion; but--it is a miraculous union--she was respectable!

At this period, some new dances were brought into England. These dances
found much favour in the eves of several great ladies young enough to
dance them. They met at each other’s houses in the morning to practise
the steps. Among these was Lady Erpingham; her house became the
favourite rendezvous.

The young Marquis of Dartington was one of the little knot. Celebrated
for his great fortune, his personal beauty, and his general success,
he resolved to fall in love with Lady Erpingham. He devoted himself
exclusively to her; he joined her in the morning in her rides--in the
evening in her gaieties. He had fallen in love with her?--yes!--did he
love her?--not the least. But he was excessively idle!--what else could
he do?

Constance early saw the attentions and designs of Lord Dartington. There
is one difficulty in repressing advances in great society--one so
easily becomes ridiculous by being a prude. But Constance dismissed Lord
Dartington with great dexterity. This was the occasion:--

One of the apartments in Erpingham House communicated with a
conservatory. In this conservatory Constance was alone one morning, when
Lord Dartington, who had entered the house with Lord Erpingham, joined
her. He was not a man who could ever become sentimental; he was rather
the gay lover--rather the Don Gaolor than the Amadis; but he was a
little abashed before Constance. He trusted, however, to his fine eyes
and his good complexion--plucked up courage; and, picking a flower from
the same plant Constance was tending, said,--

“I believe there is a custom in some part of the world to express love
by flowers. May I, dear Lady Erpingham, trust to this flower to express
what I dare not utter?”

Constance did not blush, nor look confused, as Lord Dartington had hoped
and expected. One who had been loved by Godolphin was not likely to
feel much agitation at the gallantry of Lord Dartington; but she looked
gravely in his face, paused a little before she answered, and then said,
with a smile that abashed the suitor more than severity could possibly
have done:--

“My dear Lord Dartington, do not let us mistake each other. I live
in the world like other women, but I am not altogether like them. Not
another word of gallantry to me alone, as you value my friendship. In a
crowded room pay me as many compliments as you like. It will flatter my
vanity to have you in my train. And now, just do me the favour to take
these scissors and cut the dead leaves off that plant.”

Lord Dartington, to use a common phrase, “hummed and hawed.” He looked,
too, a little angry. An artful and shrewd politician, it was not
Constance’s wish to cool the devotion, though she might the attachment,
of a single member of her husband’s party. With a kind look--but a
look so superior, so queen-like, so free from the petty and coquettish
condescension of the sex, that the gay lord wondered from that hour how
he could ever have dreamed of Constance as of certain other ladies--she
stretched her hand to him.

“We are friends, Lord Dartington?--and now we know each other, we shall
be so always.”

Lord Dartington bowed confusedly over the beautiful hand he touched;
and Constance, walking into the drawing-room, sent for Lord Erpingham on
business--Dartington took his leave.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE MARRIED STATE OF CONSTANCE.

Constance, Countess of Erpingham, was young, rich, lovely as a dream,
worshipped as a goddess. Was she happy? and was her whole heart occupied
with the trifles that surrounded her?

Deep within her memory was buried one fatal image that she could not
exorcise. The reproaching and mournful countenance of Godolphin rose
before her at all times and seasons. The charm of his presence no other
human being could renew. His eloquent and noble features, living,
and glorious with genius and with passion, his sweet deep voice, his
conversation, so rich with mind and knowledge, and the subtle delicacy
with which he applied its graces to some sentiment dedicated to
her, (delicious flattery, of all flatteries the most attractive to a
sensitive and intellectual woman!)--these occurred to her again and
again, and rendered all she saw around her flat, wearisome, insipid. Nor
was this deep-seated and tender weakness the only serpent--if I may use
so confused a metaphor--in the roses of her lot.

And here I invoke the reader’s graver attention. The fate of women in
all the more polished circles of society is eminently unnatural and
unhappy. The peasant and his dame are on terms of equality--equality
even of ambition: no career is open to one and shut to the
other;--equality even of hardship, and hardship is employment: no labour
occupies the whole energies of the man, but leaves those of the woman
unemployed. Is this the case with the wives in a higher station?--the
wives of the lawyer, the merchant, the senator, the noble? There, the
men have their occupations; and the women (unless, like poor Fanny,
work-bags and parrots can employ them) none. They are idle. They employ
the imagination and the heart. They fall in love and are wretched; or
they remain virtuous, and are either wearied by an eternal monotony
or they fritter away intellect, mind, character, in the minutest
frivolities--frivolities being their only refuge from stagnation. Yes!
there is one very curious curse for the sex which men don’t consider!
Once married, the more aspiring of them have no real scope for ambition:
the ambition gnaws away their content, and never find elsewhere
wherewithal to feed on.

This was Constance’s especial misfortune. Her lofty, and restless, and
soaring spirit pined for a sphere of action, and ballrooms and boudoirs
met it on every side. One hope she did indeed cherish; that hope was the
source of her intriguings and schemes, of her care for seeming trifles,
the waste of her energies on seeming frivolities. This hope, this
object, was to diminish--to crush, not only the party which had forsaken
her father, but the power of that order to which she belonged herself;
which she had entered only to humble. But this hope was a distant and
chill vision. She was too rational to anticipate an early and effectual
change in our social state, and too rich in the treasures of mind to be
the creature of one idea. Satiety--the common curse of the great;--crept
over her day by day. The powers within her lay stagnant--the keen
intellect rusted in its sheath.

“How is it,” said she to the beautiful Countess of ----, “that you
seem always so gay and so animated; that with all your vivacity and
tenderness, you are never at a loss for occupation? You never seem
weary--ennuyee--why is this?”

“I will tell you,” said the pretty countess, archly; “I change my lovers
every month.” Constance blushed, and asked no more.

Many women in her state, influenced by contagious example, wearied by a
life in which the heart had no share; without children, without a guide;
assailed and wooed on all sides, in all shapes;--many women might
have ventured, if not into love, at least into coquetry. But Constance
remained as bright and cold as ever--“the unsunned snow!” It might be,
indeed, that the memory of Godolphin preserved her safe from all lesser
dangers. The asbestos once conquered by fire can never be consumed by
it; but there was also another cause in Constance’s very nature--it was
pride!

Oh! if men could but dream of what a proud woman endures in those
caresses which humble her, they would not wonder why proud women are so
difficult to subdue. This is a matter on which we all ponder much,
but we dare not write honestly upon it. But imagine a young, haughty,
guileless beauty, married to a man whom she neither loves nor honours;
and so far from that want of love rendering her likely to fall
hereafter, it is more probable that it will make her recoil from the
very name of love.

About this time the Dowager Lady Erpingham died; an event sincerely
mourned by Constance, and which broke the strongest tie that united the
young countess to her lord. Lord Erpingham and Constance, indeed, now
saw but little of each other. Like most men six feet high, with large
black whiskers, the earl was vain of his person; and, like most rich
noblemen, he found plenty of ladies who assured him he was irresistible.
He had soon grown angry at the unadmiring and calm urbanity of
Constance; and, living a great deal with single men, he formed liaisons
of the same order as they do. He was, however, sensible that he had been
fortunate in the choice of a wife. His political importance the wisdom
of Constance had quadrupled; at the least; his house she had rendered
the most brilliant in London, and his name the most courted in the lists
of the peerage. Though munificent, she was not extravagant; though a
beauty, she did not intrigue; neither, though his inconstancy was open,
did she appear jealous; nor, whatever the errors of his conduct, did
she ever disregard his interest, disobey his wishes, or waver from
the smooth and continuous sweetness of her temper. Of such a wife Lord
Erpingham could not complain: he esteemed her, praised her, asked her
advice, and stood a little in awe of her.

Ah, Constance! had you been the daughter of a noble or a peasant--had
you been the daughter of any man but John Vernon--what a treasure beyond
price, without parallel, would that heart, that beauty, that genius have
been!



CHAPTER XXV.

THE PLEASURE OF RETALIATING HUMILIATION.--CONSTANCE’S DEFENCE
OF FASHION.--REMARKS ON FASHION.--GODOLPHIN’S WHEREABOUT.--FANNY
MILLINGER’S CHARACTER OF HERSELF.--WANT OF COURAGE IN MORALISTS.

It was a proud moment for Constance when the Duchess of Winstoun and
Lady Margaret Midgecombe wrote to her, worried her, beset her, for a
smile, a courtesy, an invitation, or a ticket to Almack’s.

They had at first thought to cry her down; to declare that she was
plebeian, mad, bizarre, and a blue. It was all in vain. Constance rose
every hour. They struggled against the conviction, but it would not do.
The first person who confounded them with a sense of their error was the
late King, then Regent; he devoted himself to Lady Erpingham for a whole
evening, at a ball given by himself. From that hour they were assured
they had been wrong: they accordingly called on her the next day.
Constance received them with the same coldness she had always evinced;
but they went away declaring they never saw any one whose manners were
so improved. They then sent her an invitation! she refused it; a second!
she refused; a third, begging her to fix the day!!! she fixed the day,
and disappointed them. Lord bless us!--how sorry they were, how alarmed,
how terrified!--their dear Lady Erpingham must be ill!--they sent every
day for the next week to know how she was!

“Why,” said Mrs. Trevor to Lady Erpingham,--“why do you continue so
cruel to these poor people? I know they were very impertinent, and so
forth, once; but it is surely wiser and more dignified now to forgive;
to appear unconscious of the past: people of the world ought not to
quarrel with each other.”

“You are right, and yet you are mistaken,” said Constance: “I do
forgive, and I don’t quarrel; but my opinion, my contempt, remain the
same, or are rather more disdainful than ever. These people are not
worth losing the luxury we all experience in expressing contempt. I
continue, therefore, but quietly and without affectation, to indulge
that luxury. Besides, I own to you, my dear Mrs. Trevor, I do think that
the mere insolence of titles must fairly and thoroughly be put down, if
we sincerely wish to render society agreeable; and where can we find a
better example for punishment than the Duchess of Winstoun?”

“But, my dear Lady Erpingham, you are thought insolent: your friend,
Lady ----, is called insolent, too;--are you sure the charge is not
merited?”

“I allow the justice of the charge; but you will observe, ours is
not the insolence of rank: we have made it a point to protect, to the
utmost, the poor and unfriended of all circles. Are we ever rude to
governesses or companions, or poor writers, or musicians? When a man
marries below him, do we turn our backs on the poor wife? Do we not, on
the contrary, lavish our attention on her, and throw round her equivocal
and joyless state the protection of Fashion? No, no! _our_ insolence is
Justice! it is the chalice returned to the lips which prepared it; it is
insolence to the insolent; reflect, and you will allow it.”

The fashion that Constance set and fostered was of a generous order;
but it was not suited to the majority; it was corrupted by her followers
into a thousand basenesses. In vain do we make a law, if the general
spirit is averse to the law. Constance could humble the great; could
loosen the links of extrinsic rank; could undermine the power of titles;
but that was all! She could abase the proud, but not elevate the general
tone: for one slavery she only substituted another,--people hugged the
chains of Fashion, as before they hugged those of Titular Arrogance.

Amidst the gossip of the day Constance heard much of Godolphin, and all
spoke of him with interest--even those who could not comprehend his very
intricate and peculiar character. Separated from her by lands and seas,
there seemed no danger in allowing herself the sweet pleasure of hearing
his actions and his mind discussed. She fancied she did not permit
herself to _love_ him; she was too pure not to start at such an idea;
but her mind was not so regulated, so trained and educated in sacred
principle, that she forbade herself the luxury to _remember._ Of his
present mode of life she heard little. He was traced from city to city;
from shore to shore; from the haughty noblesse of Vienna to the gloomy
shrines of Memphis, by occasional report, and seemed to tarry long in no
place. This roving and unsettled life, which secretly assured her of her
power, suffused his image in all tender and remorseful dyes. Ah! where
is that one person to been vied, could we read the heart?

The actress had heard incidentally from Saville of Godolphin’s
attachment to the beautiful countess. She longed to see her; and when,
one night at the theatre, she was informed that Lady Erpingham was in
the Lord Chamberlain’s box close before her, she could scarcely command
her self-possession sufficiently to perform with her wonted brilliancy
of effect.

She was greatly struck by the singular nobleness of Lady Erpingham’s
face and person: and Godolphin rose in her estimation, from the justice
of the homage he had rendered to so fair a shrine. What a curious trait,
by the by, that is in women;--their exaggerated anxiety to see one who
has been loved by the man in whom they themselves take interest: and the
manner which the said man rises or falls in their estimation, according
as they admire, or are disappointed in, the object of his love.

“And so,” said Saville, supping one night with the actress, “you think
the world does not overlaud Lady Erpingham?”

“No: she is what Medea would have been, if innocent--full of majesty,
and yet of sweetness. It is the face of a queen of some three thousand
years back. I could have worshipped her.”

“My little Fanny, you are a strange creature. Methinks you have a dash
of poetry in you.”

“Nobody who has not written poetry could ever read my character,”
 answered Fanny, with naivete, yet with truth. “Yet you have not much of
the ideal about you, pretty one.”

“No; because I was so early thrown on myself, that I was forced to make
independence my chief good. I soon saw that if I followed my heart
to and fro, wherever it led me, I should be the creature of every
breath--the victim of every accident: I should have been the very soul
of romance; lived on a smile; and died, perhaps, in a ditch at last.
Accordingly, I set to work with my feelings, and pared and cut them down
to a convenient compass. Happy for me that I did so! What would have
become of me if, years go, when I loved Godolphin, I had thrown the
whole world of my heart upon him?”

“Why, he has generosity; he would not have deserted you.”

“But I should have wearied him,” answered Fanny; “and that would have
been quite enough for me. But I did love him well, and purely--(ah! you
may smile!)--and disinterestedly. I was only fortified in my resolution
not to love any one too much, by perceiving that he had _affection_ but
no _sympathy_ for me. His nature was different from mine. I am _woman_
in everything, and Godolphin is always sighing for a _goddess!_”

“I should like to sketch your character, Fanny. It is original, though
not strongly marked. I never met with it in any book; yet it is true to
your sex, and to the world.”

“Few people could paint me exactly,” answered Fanny. “The danger is
that they would make too much or too little of me. But such as I am,
the world ought to know what is so common, and, as you think, so
undescribed.”

And now, beautiful Constance, farewell for the present! I leave you
surrounded by power, and pomp, and adulation. Enjoy as you may that for
which you sacrificed affection!



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE VISIONARY AND HIS DAUGHTER--AN ENGLISHMAN, SUCH AS FOREIGNERS
IMAGINE THE ENGLISH.

We must now present the reader to characters very different from those
which have hitherto passed before his eye. Without the immortal city,
along the Appia Via, there dwelt a singular and romantic visionary, of
the name of Volktman. He was by birth a Dane; and nature had bestowed on
him that frame of mind which might have won him a distinguished career,
had she placed the period of his birth in the eleventh century. Volktman
was essentially a man belonging to the past time: the character of his
enthusiasm was weird and Gothic; with beings of the present day he
had no sympathy; their loves, their hatreds, their politics, their
literature, awoke no echo in his breast. He did not affect to herd with
them; his life was solitude, and its occupation study--and study of that
nature which every day unfitted him more and more for the purposes of
existence. In a word, he was a reader of the stars; a believer in the
occult and dreamy science of astrology. Bred up to the art of sculpture,
he had early in life sought Rome, as the nurse of inspiration; but
even then he had brought with him the dark and brooding temper of his
northern tribe. The images of the classic world; the bright, and cold,
and beautiful divinities, whose natures as well as shapes the marble
simulation of life is so especially adapted to represent; spoke but
little to Volktman’s pre-occupied and gloomy imagination. Faithful to
the superstitions and the warriors of the North, the loveliness and
majesty of the southern creations but called forth in him the desire to
apply the principles by which they were formed to the embodying those
stern visions which his haggard and dim fancies only could invoke. This
train of inspiration preserved him, at least, from the deadliest vice
in a worshipper of the arts--commonplace. He was no servile and trite
imitator; his very faults were solemn and commanding. But before he had
gained that long experience which can alone perfect genius, his natural
energies were directed to new channels. In an illness which prevented
his applying to his art, he had accidentally sought entertainment in
a certain work upon astrology. The wild and imposing theories of the
science--if science it may be called--especially charmed and invited
him. The clear bright nights of his fatherland were brought back to
his remembrance; he recalled the mystic and unanalysed impressions with
which he had gazed upon the lights of heaven; and he imagined that
the very vagueness of his feelings was a proof of the certainty of the
science.

The sons of the North are pre-eminently liable to be affected by that
romance of emotion which the hushed and starry aspect of night is
calculated to excite. The long-broken luxurious silence that, in their
frozen climate, reigns from the going down of the sun to its rise; the
wandering and sudden meteors that disport, as with an impish life, along
the noiseless and solemn heaven; the peculiar radiance of the stars;
and even the sterile and severe features of the earth, which those stars
light up with their chill and ghostly serenity, serve to deepen
the effect of the wizard tales which are instilled into the ear of
childhood, and to connect the less known and more visionary impulses of
life with the influences, or at least with the associations, of Night
and Heaven.

To Volktman, more alive than even his countrymen are wont to be, to
superstitious impressions, the science on which he had chanced came with
an all-absorbing interest and fascination. He surrendered himself wholly
to his new pursuit. By degrees the block and the chisel were neglected,
and, though he still worked from time to time, he ceased to consider the
sculptor’s art as the vocation of his life and the end of his ambition.
Fortunately, though not rich, Volktman was not without the means of
existence, nor even without the decent and proper comforts: so that
he was enabled, as few men are, to indulge his ardour for unprofitable
speculations, albeit to the exclusion of lucrative pursuits. It may be
noted, that when a man is addicted to an occupation that withdraws him
from the world, any great affliction tends to confirm, without hope of
cure, his inclinations to solitude. The world, distasteful, in that it
gave no pleasure, becomes irremediably hateful when it is coupled with
the remembrance of pain. Volktman had married an Italian, a woman
who loved him entirely, and whom he loved with that strong though
uncaressing affection common to men of his peculiar temper. Of the gay
and social habits and constitution of her country, the Italian was not
disposed to suffer the astrologer to dwell only among the stars. She
sought, playfully and kindly, to attract him towards human society; and
Volktman could not always resist--as what man earth-born can do?--the
influence of the fair presider over his house and hearth. It happened,
that on one day in which she peculiarly wished his attendance at some
one of those parties in which Englishmen think the notion of festivity
strange--for it includes conversation--Volktman had foretold the
menace of some great misfortune. Uncertain, from the character of the
prediction, whether to wish his wife to remain at home or to go abroad,
he yielded to her wish, and accompanied her to her friend’s house. A
young Englishman lately arrived at Rome, and already celebrated in
the circles of that city for eccentricity of life and his passion for
beauty, was of the party. He appeared struck with the sculptor’s wife;
and in his attentions, Volktman, for the first and the last time,
experienced the pangs of jealousy; he hurried his wife away.

On their return home, whether or not a jewel worn by the signora had
attracted the cupidity of some of the lawless race who live through
gaining, and profiting by, such information, they were attacked by two
robbers in the obscure and ill-lighted suburb. Though Volktman offered
no resistance, the manner of their assailants was rude and violent. The
signora was fearfully alarmed; her shrieks brought a stranger to their
assistance; it was the English youth who had so alarmed the jealousy
of Volktman. Accustomed to danger in his profession of a gallant, the
Englishman seldom, in those foreign lands, went from home at night
without the protection of pistols. At the sight of firearms, the
ruffians felt their courage evaporate; they fled from their prey; and
the Englishman assisted Volktman in conveying the Italian to her home.
But the terror of the encounter operated fatally on a delicate frame;
and within three weeks from that night Volktman was a widower.

His marriage had been blessed with but one daughter, who at the time of
this catastrophe was about eight years of age. His love for his child in
some measure reconciled Volktman to life; and as the shock of the event
subsided, he returned with a pertinacity which was now subjected to no
interruption, to his beloved occupations and mysterious researches.
One visitor alone found it possible to win frequent ingress to his
seclusion; it was the young English man. A sentiment of remorse at the
jealous feelings he had experienced, and for which his wife, though
an Italian, had never given him even the shadow of a cause, had
softened--into a feeling rendered kind by the associations of the
deceased, and a vague desire to atone to her for an acknowledged
error,--the dislike he had at first conceived against the young man.
This was rapidly confirmed by the gentle and winning manners of the
stranger, by his attentions to the deceased, to whom he had sent an
English physician of great skill, and, as their acquaintance expanded,
by the animated interest which he testified in the darling theories of
the astrologer.

It happened also that Volktman’s mother had been the daughter of Scotch
parents. She had taught him the English tongue; and it was the only
language, save his own, which he spoke as a native. This circumstance
tended greatly to facilitate his intercourse with the traveller; and
he found in the society of a man ardent, sensitive, melancholy, and
addicted to all abstract contemplation, a pleasure which, among the
keen, but uncultivated intellects of Italy, he had never enjoyed.

Frequently, then, came the young Englishman to the lone house on the
Appia Via; and the mysterious and unearthly conversation of the starry
visionary afforded to him, who had early learned to scrutinise the
varieties of his kind, a strange delight, heightened by the contrast it
presented to the worldly natures with which he usually associated, and
the commonplace occupations of a life in pursuit of pleasure.

And there was one who, child as she was, watched the coming of that
young and beautiful stranger with emotion beyond her years. Brought up
alone; mixing, since her mother’s death, with no companions of her
age; catching dim and solemn glimpses of her father’s wild but lofty
speculations; his books, filled with strange characters and imposing
“words of mighty sound,” open for ever to her young and curious gaze;
it can scarce be matter of wonder that something strange and unworldly
mingled with the elements of character which Lucilla Volktman early
developed--a character that was nature itself, yet of a nature erratic
and bizarre. Her impulses she obeyed spontaneously, but none fathomed
their origin. She was not of a quiet and meek order of mind; but
passionate, changeful, and restless. She would laugh and weep without
apparent cause; and the colour on her cheek never seemed for two
minutes the same; and the most fitful changes of an April heaven were
immutability itself compared with the play and lustre of expression that
undulated in her features and her wild, deep, eloquent eyes.

Her person resembled her mind; it was beautiful; but the beauty struck
you less than the singularity of its character. Her eyes were of a
darkness that at night seemed black; but her hair was of the brightest
and purest auburn; her complexion, sometimes pale, sometimes radiant
even to the flush of a fever, was delicate and clear; her teeth and
mouth were lovely beyond all words; her hands and feet were small to
a fault; and as she grew up (for we have forestalled her age in this
description) her shape, though wanting in height, was in such harmony
and proportion, that the mind of the sculptor would sometimes escape
from the absorption of the astrologer and Volktman would gaze upon her
with the same admiration that he would have bestowed, in spite of the
subject, on the goddess-forms of Phidias or Canova. But then, this
beauty was accompanied with such endless variety of gesture, often so
wild, though always necessarily graceful, that the eye ached for that
repose requisite for prolonged admiration.

When she was spoken to, she did not often answer to the purpose, but
rather appeared to reply as to some interrogatory of her own; in the
midst of one occupation, she would start up to another; leave that, in
turn, undone, and sit down in silence lasting for hours. Her voice, in
singing, was exquisitely melodious; she had too, an intuitive talent
for painting; and she read all the books that came in her way with an
avidity that bespoke at once the restlessness and the genius of her
mind.

This description of Lucilla must, I need scarcely repeat, be considered
as applicable to her at some years distant from the time in which the
young Englishman first attracted her childish but ardent imagination.
To her, that face, with its regular and harmonious features, its golden
hair, and soft, shy, melancholy aspect, seemed as belonging to a higher
and brighter order of beings than those who, with exaggerated lineaments
and swarthy hues, surrounded and displeased her. She took a strange
and thrilling pleasure in creeping to his side, and looking up, when
unobserved, at the countenance which, in his absence, she loved to
imitate with her pencil by day; and to recall in her dreams at night.
But she seldom spoke to him, and she shrank, covered with painful
blushes, from his arms, whenever he attempted to bestow on her those
caresses which children are wont to claim as an attention. Once,
however, she summoned courage to ask him to teach her English, and he
complied. She learned that language with surprising facility; and as
Volktman loved its sound she grew familiar with its difficulties, by
always addressing her father in a tongue which became inexpressibly dear
to her. And the young stranger delighted to hear that soft and melodious
voice, with its trembling, Italian accent, make music from the nervous
and masculine language of his native land. Scarce accountably to
himself, a certain tender and peculiar interest in the fortunes of
this singular and bewitching child grew up within him--peculiar and not
easily accounted for, in that it was not wholly the interest we feel in
an engaging child, and yet was of no more interested nor sinister order.
Were there truth in the science of the stars, I should say that they
had told him her fate was to have affinity with his; and with that
persuasion, something mysterious and more than ordinarily tender,
entered into the affection he felt for the daughter of his friend.

The Englishman was himself of a romantic character. He had been
self-taught; and his studies, irregular though often deep, had given
directions to his intellect frequently enthusiastic and unsound. His
imagination preponderated over his judgment; and any pursuit that
attracted his imagination won his entire devotion, until his natural
sagacity proved it deceitful. If at times, living as he did in that
daily world which so sharpens our common sense, he smiled at the
persevering fervour of the astrologer, he more often shared it; and
he became his pupil in “the poetry of heaven,” with a secret but deep
belief in the mysteries cultivated by his master. Carrying the delusion
to its height, I fear that the enthusiast entered upon ground still more
shadowy and benighted;--the old secrets of the alchymist, and perhaps
even of those arcana yet more gloomy and less rational, were subjected
to their serious contemplation; and night after night, they delivered
themselves wholly up to that fearful and charmed fascination which the
desire and effort to overleap our mortal boundaries produce even in the
hardest and best regulated minds. The train of thought so long nursed
by the abstruse and solitary Dane was, perhaps, a better apology for
the weakness of credulity, than the youth and wandering fancy of the
Englishman. But the scene around--not alluring to the one--fed to
overflowing the romantic aspirations of the other.

On his way home, as the stars (which night had been spent in reading)
began to wink and fade, the Englishman crossed the haunted Almo,
renowned of yore for its healing virtues, and in whose stream the
far-famed simulacrum, (the image of Cybele), which fell from heaven, was
wont to be laved with every coming spring: and around his steps, till
he gained his home, were the relics and monuments of that superstition
which sheds so much beauty over all that, in harsh reasoning, it may be
said to degrade; so that his mind, always peculiarly alive to external
impressions, was girt, as it were, with an atmosphere favourable both to
the lofty speculation and the graceful credulities of romance.

The Englishman remained at Rome, with slight intervals of absence, for
nearly three years. On the night before the day in which he received
intelligence of an event that recalled him to his native country, he
repaired at an hour accidentally later than usual to the astrologer’s
abode.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A CONVERSATION LITTLE APPERTAINING TO THE NINETEENTH
CENTURY.--RESEARCHES INTO HUMAN FATE.--THE PREDICTION.

On entering the apartment he found Lucilla seated on a low stool beside
the astrologer. She looked up when she heard his footsteps; but her
countenance seemed so dejected, that he turned involuntarily to that
of Volktman for explanation. Volktman met his gaze with a steadfast and
mournful aspect.

“What has happened?” asked the Englishman: “you seem sad,--you do not
greet me as usual.”

“I have been with the stars,” replied the visionary.

“They seem but poor company,” rejoined the Englishman; “and do not
appear to have much heightened your spirits.”

“Jest not, my friend,” said Volktman; “it was for the loss of thee I
looked sorrowful. I perceive that thou wilt take a journey soon, and
that it will be of no pleasant nature.”

“Indeed!” answered the Englishman, smilingly. “I ask leave to question
the fact: you know better than any man how often, through an error
in our calculations, through haste, even through an over-attention,
astrological predictions are exposed to falsification; and at present I
foresee so little chance of my quitting Rome, that I prefer the earthly
probabilities to the celestial.”

“My schemes are just, and the Heavens wrote their decrees in their
clearest language,” answered the astrologer. “Thou art on the eve of
quitting Rome.”

“On what occasion?”

The astrologer hesitated--the young visitor pressed the question.

“The lord of the fourth house,” said Volktman, reluctantly, “is located
in the eleventh house. Thou knowest to whom the position portends
disaster.”

“My father!” said the Englishman, anxiously, and turning pale; “I think
that position would relate to him.”

“It doth,” said the astrologer, slowly.

“Impossible! I heard from him to-day; he is well--let me see the
figures.”

The young man looked over the mystic hieroglyphics of the art,
inscribed on a paper that was placed before the visionary, with deep and
scrutinising attention. Without bewildering the reader with those words
and figures of weird sound and import which perplex the uninitiated, and
entangle the disciple of astrology, I shall merely observe that there
was one point in which the judgment appeared to admit doubt as to the
signification. The Englishman insisted on the doubt; and a very learned
and edifying debate was carried on between pupil and master, in the heat
of which all recollection of the point in dispute (as is usual in such
cases) evaporated.

“I know not how it is,” said the Englishman, “that I should give any
credence to a faith which (craving your forgiveness) most men out of
Bedlam concur, at this day, in condemning as wholly idle and absurd.
For it may be presumed that men only incline to some unpopular theory
in proportion as it flatters or favours them; and as for this theory of
yours--of ours, if you will--it has foretold me nothing but misfortune.”

“Thy horoscope,” replied the astrologer, “is indeed singular and
ominous: but, like my daughter, the exact minute (within almost a whole
hour) of thy birth seems unknown; and however ingeniously we, following
the ancients, have contrived means for correcting nativities, our
predictions (so long as the exact period of birth is not ascertained)
remain, in my mind, always liable to some uncertainty. Indeed, the
surest method of reducing the supposed time to the true--that of
‘Accidents,’ is but partially given, as in thy case; for, with a
negligence that cannot be too severely blamed or too deeply lamented,
thou hast omitted to mark down, or remember, the days on which
accidents--fevers, broken limbs, &c.--occurred to thee; and this
omission leaves a cloud over the bright chapters of fate----”

“Which,” interrupted the young man, “is so much the happier for me, in
that it allows me some loophole for hope.”

“Yet,” renewed the astrologer, as if resolved to deny his friend any
consolation, “thy character, and the bias of thy habits, as well as the
peculiarities of thy person--nay even the moles upon thy skin--accord
with thy proposed horoscope.”

“Be it so!” said the Englishman, gaily. “You grant me, at least, the
fairest of earthly gifts--the happiness of pleasing that sex which alone
sweetens our human misfortunes. That gift I would sooner have, even
accompanied as it is, than all the benign influences without it.”

“Yet,” said the astrologer, “shalt thou even there be met with
affliction; for Saturn had the power to thwart the star Venus, that was
disposed to favour thee, and evil may be the result of the love thou
inspirest. There is one thing remarkable in our science, which is
especially worthy of notice in thy lot. The ancients, unacquainted with
the star of Herschel, seem also scarcely acquainted with the character
which the influence of that wayward and melancholy orb creates. Thus,
the aspect of Herschel neutralises, in great measure, the boldness and
ambition, and pride of heart, thou wouldst otherwise have drawn from the
felicitous configuration of the stars around the Moon and Mercury at
thy birth. That yearning for something beyond the narrow bounds of the
world, that love for reverie, that passionate romance, yea, thy
very leaning, despite thy worldly sense, to these occult and starry
mysteries;--all are bestowed on thee by this new and potential planet.”

“And hence, I suppose,” said the Englishman, interested (as the
astrologer had declared) in spite of himself, “hence that opposition
in my nature of the worldly and romantic; hence, with you, I am the
dreaming enthusiast; but the instant I regain the living and motley
crowd, I shake off the influence with ease, and become the gay pursuer
of social pleasures.”

“Never _at heart gay,_” muttered the astrologer; “Saturn and Herschel
make not sincere mirth-makers.” The Englishman did not hear or seem to
hear him.

“No,” resumed the young man, musingly, “no! it is true that there is
some counteraction of what, at times, I should have called my natural
bent. Thus, I am bold enough, and covetous of knowledge, and not deaf
to vanity; and yet I have no ambition. The desire to rise seems to
me wholly unalluring: I scorn and contemn it as a weakness. But what
matters it? so much the happier for me if, as you predict, my life
be short. But how, if so unambitious and so quiet of habit, how can I
imagine that my death will be violent as well as premature?”

It was as he spoke that the young Lucilla, who, with fixed eyes and lips
apart, had been drinking in their conversation suddenly rose and left
the room. They were used to her comings in and her goings out without
cause or speech, and continued their conversation.

“Alas!” said the visionary; “can tranquillity of life, or care, or
prudence, preserve us from our destiny? No sign is more deadly, whether
by accident or murder, than that which couples Hyleg with Orion and
Saturn. Yet, thou mayest pass the year in which that danger is foretold
thee; and, beyond that time, peace, honour, good fortune, await thee.
Better to have the menace of ill in early life than in its decline.
Youth bears up against misfortune; but it withers the heart, and crushes
the soul of age!”

“After all,” said the young guest, haughtily, “we must do our best to
contradict the starry evils by our own internal philosophy. We can
make ourselves independent of fate; that independence is better than
prosperity!” Then, changing his tone, he added,--“But you imagine that,
by the power of other arts, we may control and counteract the prophecies
of the stars----”

“How meanest thou?” said the astrologer, hastily. “Thou dost not suppose
that alchymy, which is the servant of the heavenly host, is their
opponent?”

“Nay,” answered the disciple, “but you allow that we may be enabled to
ward off evils, and to cure diseases, otherwise fatal to us, by the gift
of Uriel and the charm of the Cabala?”

“Surely,” replied the visionary; “but then I opine that the discovery of
these precious secrets was foretold to us by the Omniscient Book at our
nativity; and, therefore, though the menace of evils be held out to us,
so also is the probability of their correction or our escape. And I
must own (pursued the enthusiast) that, to me, the very culture of those
divine arts hath given a consolation amidst the evils to which I have
been fated; so true seems it, that it is not in the outer nature, in
the great elements, and in the bowels of the earth, but also within
ourselves that we must look for the preparations whereby we are to
achieve the wisdom of Zoroaster and Hermes. We must abstract ourselves
from passion and earthly desires. Lapped in a celestial reverie, we must
work out, by contemplation, the essence from the matter of things: nor
can we dart into the soul of the Mystic World until we ourselves have
forgotten the body; and by fast, by purity, and by thought, have become,
in the flesh itself, a living soul.”

Much more, and with an equal wildness of metaphysical eloquence, did the
astrologer declare in praise of those arts condemned by the old Church;
and it doth indeed appear from reference to the numerous works of the
alchymists and magians yet extant, somewhat hastily and unjustly. For
those books all unite in dwelling on the necessity of virtue,
subdued passions and a clear mind, in order to become a fortunate and
accomplished cabalist--a precept, by the way, not without its policy;
for, if the disciple failed, the failure might be attributed to his
own fleshly imperfections, not to any deficiency in the truth of the
science.

The young man listened to the visionary with an earnest and fascinated
attention. Independent of the dark interest always attached to
discourses of supernatural things more especially, we must allow, in the
mouth of a fervent and rapt believer, there was that in the language and
very person of the astrologer which inexpressibly enhanced the effect
of the theme. Like most men acquainted with the literature of a country,
but not accustomed to daily conversation with its natives, the English
words and fashion of periods that occurred to Volktman were rather those
used in books than in colloquy; and a certain solemnity and slowness of
tone accompanied with the frequent, almost constant use of the pronoun
singular--the thou and the thee, gave a strangeness and unfamiliar
majesty to his dialect that suited well with the subjects on which he
so loved to dwell. He himself was lean, gaunt, and wan; his cheeks were
drawn and hollow; and thin locks, prematurely bleached to grey, fell in
disorder round high, bare temples, in which the thought that is not of
this world had paled the hue and furrowed the surface. But, as may be
noted in many imaginative men, the life that seemed faint and chill in
the rest of the frame, collected itself, as in a citadel, within the
eye. Bright, wild, and deep, the expression of those blue large orbs
told the intense enthusiasm of the mind within; and, even somewhat
thrillingly, communicated a part of that emotion to those on whom they
dwelt. No painter could have devised, nor even Volktman himself, in the
fulness of his northern phantasy, have sculptured forth a better image
of those pale and unearthly students who, in the darker ages, applied
life and learning to one unhallowed vigil, the Hermes or the Gebir
of the alchymist’s empty science--dreamers, and the martyrs of their
dreams.

In the discussion of mysteries which to detail would only weary while it
perplexed the reader, the enthusiasts passed the greater portion of the
night; and when at length the Englishman rose to depart, it cannot be
denied that a solemn and boding emotion agitated his breast.

“We have talked,” said he, attempting a smile, “of things above this
nether life; and here we are lost, uncertain. On one thing, however, we
can decide; life itself is encompassed with gloom; sorrow and anxiety
await even those upon whom the stars shed their most golden influence.
We know not one day what the next shall bring!--no; I repeat it; no--in
spite of your scheme, and your ephemeris, and your election of happy
moments. But, come what will, Volktman, come all that you foretell to
me; crosses in my love, disappointment in my life, melancholy in my
blood, and a violent death in the very flush of my manhood,--Me: at
least, Me! my soul, my heart, my better part, you shall never cast down,
nor darken, nor deject. I move in a certain and serene circle; ambition
cannot tempt me above it, nor misfortune cast me below!”

Volktman looked at the speaker with surprise and admiration; the
enthusiasm of a brave mind is the only fire broader and brighter than
that of a fanatical one.

“Alas! my young friend,” he said, as he clashed the hand of his guest,
“I would to Heaven that my predictions may be wrong: often and often
they have been erroneous,” added he bowing his head humbly; “they may be
so in their reference to thee. So young, so brilliant, so beautiful too;
so brave, yet so romantic of heart, I feel for all that may happen to
thee--ay, far, far more deeply than aught which may be fated to myself;
for I am an old man now, and long inured to disappointment; all the
greenness of my life is gone: even could I attain to the Grand Secret
the knowledge methinks would be too late. And, at my birth, my lot was
portioned out unto me in characters so clear, that, while I have had
time to acquiesce in it, I have had no hope to correct and change it.
For Jupiter in Cancer, removed from the Ascendant, and not impedited of
any other star, betokened me indeed some expertness in science, but a
life of seclusion, and one that should bring not forth the fruits that
its labour deserved. But there is so much in thy fate that ought to be
bright and glorious, that it will be no common destiny marred, should
the evil influences and the ominous seasons prevail against thee. But
thou speakest boldly--boldly, and as one of a high soul, though it be
sometimes clouded and led astray. And I, therefore, again and again
impress upon thee, it is from thine own self, thine own character, thine
own habits, that all evil, save that of death, will come. Wear, then, I
implore thee, wear in thy memory, as a jewel, the first great maxim
of alchymist and magian:--‘Search thyself--correct thyself--subdue
thyself:’ it is only through the lamp of crystal that the light will
shine duly out.”

“It is more likely that the stars should err,” returned the Englishman,
“than that the human heart should correct itself of error: adieu!”

He left the room, and proceeded along a passage that led to the outer
door. Ere he reached it, another door opened suddenly, and the face of
Lucilla broke forth upon him. She held a light in her hand; and as she
gazed on the Englishman, he saw that her face was very pale, and that
she had been weeping. She looked at him long and earnestly, and the look
affected him strangely; he broke silence, which at first it appeared to
him difficult to do.

“Good night, my pretty friend,” said he: “shall I bring you some flowers
to-morrow?”

Lucilla burst into a wild eltritch laugh; and abruptly closing the door,
left him in darkness.

The cool air of the breaking dawn came freshly to the cheek of our
countryman; yet, still, an unpleasant and heavy sensation sat at his
heart. His nerves, previously weakened by his long commune with the
visionary, and the effect it had produced, yet tingled and thrilled
with the abrupt laugh and meaning countenance of that strange girl, who
differed so widely from all others of her years. The stars were growing
pale and ghostly, and there was a mournful and dim haze around the moon.

“Ye look ominously upon me,” said he, half aloud, as his eyes fixed
their gaze above; and the excitement of his spirit spread to his
language: “ye on whom, if our lore be faithful, the Most High hath
written the letters of our mortal doom. And if ye rule the tides of the
great deep, and the changes of the rolling year, what is there out of
reason or nature in our belief that ye hold the same sympathetic and
unseen influence over the blood and heart, which are the character (and
the character makes the conduct) of man?” Pursuing his soliloquy of
thought, and finding reasons for a credulity that afforded to him but
little cause for pleasure or hope, the Englishman took his way to St.
Sebastian’s gate.

There was, in truth, much in the traveller’s character that corresponded
with that which was attributed and destined to one to whom the heavens
had given a horoscope answering to his own; and it was this conviction
rather than any accidental coincidence in events, which had first led
him to pore with a deep attention over the vain but imposing prophecies
of judicial astrology. Possessed of all the powers that enable men to
rise; ardent, yet ordinarily shrewd; eloquent, witty, brave, and,
though not what may be termed versatile, possessing that rare art of
concentrating the faculties which enables the possessor rapidly and
thoroughly to master whatsoever once arrests the attention, he yet
despised all that would have brought these endowments into full and
legitimate display. He lived only for enjoyment. A passionate lover
of women, music, letters, and the arts, it was society, not the world,
which made the sphere and end of his existence. Yet was he no vulgar and
commonplace epicurean: he lived for enjoyment; but that enjoyment was
mainly formed from elements wearisome to more ordinary natures. Reverie,
contemplation, loneliness, were at times dearer to him than the softer
and more Aristippean delights. His energies were called forth in
society, but he was scarcely social. Trained from his early boyhood to
solitude, he was seldom weary of being alone. He sought the crowd, not
to amuse himself, but to observe others. The world to him was less as a
theatre on which he was to play a part, than as a book in which he loved
to decipher the enigmas of wisdom. He observed all that passed around
him. No sprightly cavalier at any time; the charm that he exercised at
will over his companions was that of softness, not vivacity. But amidst
that silken blandness of demeanour, the lynx eye of Remark never slept.
He penetrated character at a glance, but he seldom made use of his
knowledge. He found a pleasure in reading men, but a fatigue in
governing them. And thus, consummately skilled as he was in the science
du monde, he often allowed himself to appear ignorant of its practice.
Forming in his mind a beau ideal of friendship and of love, he never
found enough in the realities long to engage his affection. Thus,
with women he was considered fickle, and with men he had no intimate
companionship. This trait of character is common with persons of genius;
and, owing to too large an overflow of heart, they are frequently
considered heartless. There is always, however, danger that a character
of this kind should become with years what it seems; what it soon learns
to despise. Nothing steels the affections like contempt.

The next morning an express from England reached the young traveller.
His father was dangerously ill; nor was it expected that the utmost
diligence would enable the young man to receive his last blessing. The
Englishman, appalled and terror-stricken, recalled his interview
with the astrologer. Nothing so effectually dismays us, as to feel a
confirmation of some idea of supernatural dread that has already found
entrance within our reason; and of all supernatural belief, that of
being compelled by a predecree, and thus being the mere tools and
puppets of a dark and relentless fate, seems the most fraught at once
with abasement and with horror.

The Englishman left Rome that morning, and sent only a verbal and
hasty message to the astrologer, announcing the cause of his departure.
Volktman was a man of excellent heart; but one would scarcely like to
inquire whether exultation at the triumph of his prediction was not with
him a far more powerful sentiment than grief at the misfortune to his
friend!



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE YOUTH OF LUCILLA VOLKTMAN.--A MYSTERIOUS CONVERSATION.--THE RETURN
OF ONE UNLOOKED FOR.

Time went slowly on, and Lucilla grew up in beauty. The stranger traits
of her character increased in strength, but perhaps in the natural
bashfulness of maidenhood they became more latent. At the age of
fifteen, her elastic shape had grown round and full, and the wild girl
had already ripened to the woman. An expression of thought, when
the play of her features was in repose, that dwelt upon her lip and
forehead, gave her the appearance of being two or three years older than
she was; but again, when her natural vivacity returned,--when the clear
and buoyant music of her gay laugh rang out, or when the cool air and
bright sky of morning sent the blood to her cheek and the zephyr to her
step, her face became as the face of childhood, and contrasted with a
singular and dangerous loveliness the rich development of her form.

And still was Lucilla Volktman a stranger to all that savoured of the
world; the company of others of her sex and age never drew forth her
emotions from their resting-place:--

   “And Nature said, a lovelier flower
    On earth was never sown
    *   *   *   *   *
    Myself will to my darling be
    Both law and impulse; and with me
      The girl, in rock and plain,
    In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
    Shall feel an overseeing power
      To kindle or restrain.

    The stars of midnight shall be dear
    To her; and she shall lean her ear
      In many a secret place;
    Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
      And beauty, born of murmuring sound,
    Shall pass into her face.”

                                     WORDSWORTH.

These lines have occurred to me again and again, as I looked on the
face of her to whom I have applied them. And, remembering as I do its
radiance and glory in her happier moments, I can scarcely persuade
myself to notice the faults and heats of temper which at times dashed
away all its lustre and gladness. Unrestrained and fervid, she gave way
to the irritation of grief of the moment with a violence that would have
terrified any one who beheld her at such times. But it rarely happened
that the scene had its witness even in her father, for she fled to the
loneliest spot she could find to indulge these emotions; and perhaps
even the agony they occasioned--an agony convulsing the heart and whole
of her impassioned frame--took a sort of luxury from the solitary and
unchecked nature of its indulgence.

Volktman continued his pursuits with an ardour that increased--as do all
species of monomania--with increasing years; and in the accidental truth
of some of his predictions, he forgot the erroneous result of the rest.
He corresponded at times with the Englishman, who, after a short
sojourn in England, had returned to the Continent, and was now making a
prolonged tour through its northern capitals.

Very different, indeed, from the astrologer’s occupations were those of
the wanderer; and time, dissipation, and a maturer intellect had cured
the latter of his boyish tendency to studies so idle and so vain. Yet
he always looked back with an undefined and unconquered interest to
the period of his acquaintance with the astrologer; to their long and
thrilling watches in the night season; to the contagious fervour of
faith breathing from the visionary; his dark and restless excursions
into that remote science associated with the legends of eldest time, and
of

   “The crew, who, under names of old renown,
    Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train,
    With monstrous shapes and sorceries, abused
    Fanatic Egypt and her priests.”

One night, four years after the last scene we have described in the
astrologer’s house, Volktman was sitting alone in his favourite room.
Before him was a calculation on which the ink was scarcely dry. His face
leant on his breast, and he seemed buried in thought. His health had
been of late gradually declining; and it might be seen upon his worn
brow and attenuated frame, that death was already preparing to withdraw
the visionary from a world whose substantial enjoyments he had so
sparingly tasted.

Lucilla had been banished from his chamber during the day. She now knew
that his occupation was over, and entered the room with his evening
repast; that frugal meal, common with the Italians--the polenta (made
of Indian corn), the bread and the fruits, which after the fashion of
students he devoured unconsciously, and would not have remembered one
hour after whether or not it had been tasted!

“Sit thee down, child,” said he to Lucilla, kindly;--“sit thee down.”

Lucilla obeyed, and took her seat upon the very stool on which she had
been seated the last night on which the Englishman had seen her.

“I have been thinking,” said Volktman, as he placed his hand on his
daughter’s head, “that I shall soon leave thee; and I should like to see
thee protected by another before my own departure.”

“Ah, father,” said Lucilla, as the tears rushed to her eyes, “do not
talk thus! indeed, indeed, you must not indulge in this perpetual gloom
and seclusion of life. You promised to take me with you, some day this
week, to the Vatican. Do let it be to-morrow; the weather has been so
fine lately; and who knows how long it may last?”

“True,” said Volktman; “and to-morrow will not, I think, be unfavourable
to our stirring abroad, for the moon will be of the same age as at
my birth--an accident that thou wilt note, my child, to be especially
auspicious towards any enterprise.”

The poor astrologer so rarely stirred from his home, that he did well to
consider a walk of a mile or two in the light of an enterprise.--“I
have wished,” continued he, after a pause, “that I might see our English
friend once more--that is, ere long. For, to tell thee the truth,
Lucilla, certain events happening unto him do, strangely enough, occur
about the same time as that in which events, equally boding, will befall
thee. This coincidence it was which contributed to make me assume so
warm an interest in the lot of a stranger. I would I might see him
soon.”

Lucilla’s beautiful breast heaved, and her face was covered with
blushes: these were symptoms of a disorder that never occurred to the
recluse.

“Thou rememberest the foreigner?” asked Volktman, after a pause.

“Yes,” said Lucilla, half inaudibly.

“I have not heard from him of late: I will make question concerning him
ere the cock crow.”

“Nay my father!” said Lucilla, quickly: “not tonight: you want rest,
your eyes are heavy.”

“Girl,” said the mystic, “the soul sleepeth not, nor wanteth sleep:
even as the stars, to which (as the Arabian saith) there is also a soul,
wherewith an intent passion of our own doth make a union--so that we, by
an unslumbering diligence, do constitute ourselves a part of the heaven
itself!--even, I say, as the stars may vanish from the human eye, nor
be seen in the common day--though all the while their course is stopped
not, nor their voices dumb--even so doth the soul of man retire, as it
were, into a seeming sleep and torpor, yet it worketh all the same--and
perhaps with a less impeded power, in that it is more free from common
obstruction and trivial hindrance. And if I purpose to confer this night
with the ‘Intelligence’ that ruleth earth and earth’s beings, concerning
this stranger, it will not be by the vigil and the scheme, but by the
very sleep which thou imaginest, in thy mental darkness, would deprive
me of the resources of my art.”

“Can you really, then, my father,” said Lucilla, in a tone half anxious,
half timid,--“can you really, at will, conjure up in your dreams the
persons you wish to see; or draw, from sleep, any oracle concerning
their present state?”

“Of a surety,” answered the astrologer; “it is one of the great--though
not perchance the most gifted--of our endowments.”

“Can you teach me the method?” asked Lucilla, gravely.

“All that relates to the art I can,” rejoined the mystic: “but the chief
and main power rests with thyself. For know, my daughter, that one who
seeks the wisdom that is above the earth must cultivate and excite, with
long labour and deep thought, his least earthly faculty.”

Here the visionary, observing that the countenance of Lucilla was
stamped with a fixed attention, which she did not often bestow upon his
metaphysical exordiums; paused for a moment; and then pursued the theme
with the tone of one desirous of making himself at once as clear and
impressive as the nature of an abstruse science would allow.

“There are two things in the outer creation, which, according to the
great Hermes, suffice for the operation of all that is wonderful and
glorious--Fire and Earth. Even so, my child, there are in the human mind
two powers that affect all of which our nature is capable--reason and
imagination. Now mankind,--less wise in themselves than in the outer
world--have cultivated, for the most part, but one of these faculties;
and that the inferior and more passive, reason. They have tilled the
earth of the human heart, but suffered its fire to remain dormant, or
waste itself in chance and frivolous directions. Hence the insufficiency
of human knowledge. Inventions founded only on reason move within a
circle from which their escape is momentary and trivial. When some few,
endowed with a just instinct, have had recourse to the diviner element,
imagination, thou wilt observe, that they have used it only in the
service of the lighter arts, and those chiefly disconnected from reason.
Such is poetry and music, and other delicious fabrications of genius,
that amuse men, soften men, but _advance_ them not. They have--with but
rare exceptions--left this glorious and winged faculty utterly passive
in the service of Philosophy. There, reason alone has been admitted, and
imagination hath been carefully banished, as an erratic and deceitful
meteor. Now mark me, child: I, noting this our error in early youth, did
resolve to see what might be effected by the culture of this renounced
and maltreated element; and finding, as I proceeded in the studies that
grew from this desire, by the occult yet guiding writings of the great
philosophers of old, that they had forestalled me in this discovery, I
resolved to learn, from their experience, by what means the imagination
is best fostered, and, as it were, sublimed.

“Anxiously following their precepts--the truth of which soon appeared--I
found that solitude, fast, intense reverie upon the one theme on which
we desired knowledge, were the true elements and purifiers of this
glorious faculty. It was by these means, and by this power, that men so
far behind us in lesser lore achieved, on the mooned plains of Chaldea
and by the dark waters of Egypt, their penetration into the womb of
Event;--by these means, and this power, the solitaries of the Gothic
time not only attained to the most intricate arcana of the stars, but to
the empire of the spirits about, above, and beneath the earth; a power,
indeed, disputed by the presumptuous sophists of the present time, but
of which their writings yet contain ample proof. Nay, by the constant
feeding, and impressing and moulding, and refining, and heightening, the
imaginative power, I do conceive that even the false prophets and the
evil practitioners of the blacker cabala clomb into the power seemingly
inconceivable--the power of accomplishing miracles and prodigies, and
to appearance belie, but in truth verify, the course of nature. By this
spirit within the flesh, we grow _from_ the flesh, and may see, and at
length invoke, the souls of the dead, and receive warnings, and hear
omens, and girdle our sleep with dreams.

“Not unto me,” continued the cabalist, in a lowlier tone, “have been
vouchsafed all these gifts; for I began the art when the first fire of
youth was dim within me; and it was therefore with duller and already
earth-clogged pinions that I sought to rise. Something, however, I have
won as a recompense for austere abstinence and much labour; and this
power over the land of dreams is at least within my command.”

“Then,” said Lucilla, in a disappointed tone, “it is only by a long
course of indulgence to the fervour of the imagination, and not by spell
or charm, that one can gain a similar power?”

“Not wholly so, my daughter,” replied the mystic; “they who do so
excite, and have so raised the diviner faculty, can alone possess
the certain and invariable power over dreams, even without charms
and talismans; but the most dull or idle may hope to do so with just
confidence (though not certainty) by help of skill, and by directing the
full force of their half-roused fancy towards the person or object they
wish to see reflected in the glass of Sleep.”

“And what means should the uninitiated employ?” asked Lucilla, in a tone
betokening her interest.

“I will tell thee,” answered the astrologer. “Thou must inscribe on a
white parchment an image of the sun.”

“As how?” interrupted Lucilla.

“Thus!” said the astrologer, drawing from among his papers one inscribed
with the figure of a man asleep on the bosom of an angel. “This was made
at the potential and appointed time, when the sun was in the Ninth of
the Celestial Houses, and the Lion shook his bright mane as he ascended
the blue mount. Observe, that on the figure must be written thy
desire--the name of the person thou wishest to see, or the thing thou
wouldst have foreshown: then having prepared and brought the mind to a
faith in the effect--for without faith the imagination lies inert and
lifeless--this image will be placed under the head of the invoker, and
when the moon goeth through the sign which was in the Ninth House of
his nativity, the Dream will glide into him, and his soul walk with the
spirit of the vision.”

“Give me the image,” said Lucilla, eagerly.

The mystic hesitated--“No, Lucilla,” said he, at length; “no, it is a
dark and comfortless path, that of prescience and unearthly knowledge,
save to the few that walk it with a gifted light and a fearless soul.
It is not for women or children--nay, for few amongst men: it withers up
the sap of life, and makes the hair grey before its time. No, no; take
the broad sunshine, and the brief but sweet flowers of earth; they are
better for thee, my child, and for thy years than the fever and hope of
the night-dream and the planetary influence.”

So saying, the astrologer replaced the image within the leaves of one of
his books; and with prudence not common to him, thrust the volume into
a drawer, which he locked. The fair face of Lucilla became clouded, but
the ill health of her father imposed a restraint on her wild temper.

Just at that moment the door slowly opened, and the Englishman stood
before the daughter and sire. They did not note him at first. The
solitary servant of the sage had admitted him; he had proceeded, without
ceremony, to the well-remembered apartment.

As he now stood gazing on the pair, he observed with an inward smile,
how exactly their present attitudes (as well as the old aspect of the
scene) resembled those in which he had broken upon them on the last
evening he had visited that chamber; the father bending over the old,
worn, quaint, table; and the daughter seated beside him on the same low
stool. The character of their countenances struck him, too, as wearing
the same ominous expression as when those countenances had chilled him
on that evening. For Volktman’s features were impressed with the sadness
that breathed from, and caused, his prohibition to his daughter; and
that prohibition had given to her features an abstraction and shadow
similar to the dejection they had worn on the night we recur to.

This remembered coincidence did not cheer the spirits of the young
traveller; he muttered to himself; and then, as if anxious to break the
silence, moved forward with a heavy step.

Volktman started at the sound; and looking up, seemed literally
electrified by this sudden apparition of one whom he had so lately
expressed his desire to see. His lips muttered the intruder’s name, one
well known to the reader (it was the name of Godolphin) and then closed;
but Lucilla sprang from her seat, and, clasping her hands joyously
together, darted forward till she came within a foot of the unexpected
visitor. There she abruptly arrested herself, blushed deeply, and stood
before him humbled, agitated, but all vivid with delight.

“What, is this Lucilla?” said Godolphin admiringly: “how beautiful she
is grown!” and advancing, he saluted, with a light and fraternal kiss,
her girlish and damask cheek: then, without heeding her confusion, he
turned to the astrologer, who by this time had a little recovered from
his amaze.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE EFFECT OF YEARS AND EXPERIENCE.--THE ITALIAN CHARACTER.

Godolphin now came almost daily to the astrologer’s abode. He was
shocked to perceive the physical alteration four years had wrought in
his singular friend; and, with the warmth of a heart naturally kind,
he sought to contribute to the comfort and enjoyment of a life that was
evidently drawing to a close.

Godolphin’s company seemed to give Volktman a pleasure which nothing
else could afford him. He loved to converse on the various incidents
that had occurred to each since they met; and, in whatsoever Godolphin
communicated to him, the mystic sought to impress upon his friend’s
attention the fulfilment of an astrological prediction.

Godolphin, though no longer impressed with a belief in the visionary’s
science, did not affect to combat his assertions. He had not, in his
progress through life, found much to shake his habitual indolence in
ordinary affairs; and it was no easy matter to provoke one of his quiet
temper and self-indulging wisdom into conversational dispute. Besides,
who argues with fanaticism?

Since the young idealist had left England, the elements of his character
had been slowly performing the ordination of time, and working their due
change in its general aspect. The warm fountains of youth flowed not so
freely as before the selfishness that always comes, sooner or later,
to solitary men of the world, had gradually mingled itself with all the
channels of his heart. The brooding and thoughtful disposition of his
faculties having turned from romance to what he deemed philosophy, that
which once was enthusiasm had hardened into wisdom. He neither hated men
nor loved them with a sanguine philanthropy; he viewed them with cool
and discerning eyes. He did not think it within the power of governments
to make the mass, in any country, much happier or more elevated than
they are. Republics, he was wont to say, favoured aristocratic virtues,
and despotisms extinguished them: but, whether in a monarchy or
republic, the hewers of wood and the drawers of the water, the
multitude, still remained intrinsically the same.

This theory heightened his indifference to ambition. The watchwords of
party appeared to him ridiculous; and politics in general--what a great
moralist termed one question in particular--a shuttlecock kept up by
the contention of noisy children. His mind thus rested as to all public
matters in a state of quietude, and covered over with the mantle of a
most false, a most perilous philosophy. His appetites to pleasure had
grown somewhat dulled by experience, but he was as yet neither sated
nor discontented. One feeling at his breast still remained scarcely
diminished of its effect, when the string was touched--his tender
remembrance of Constance; and this had prevented any subsequent but
momentary attachment deepening into love. Thus, at the age of seven and
twenty, Percy Godolphin reappears on our stage.

There was a great deal in the Italian character that our traveller
liked: its love of ease, reduced into a system; its courtesy; its
content with the world as it is; its moral apathy as regards all that
agitates life, save one passion--and the universal tenderness, ardour,
and delicacy which, in that passion, it ennobles itself in displaying.
The commonest peasant of Rome or Naples, though not perhaps in the freer
land of Tuscany, can comprehend all the romance and mystery of the most
subtle species of love; all that it requires in England the idle habits
of aristocracy, or the sensitive fibre of genius, even to conceive. And
what is yet stranger, the worn-out debauches, sage with an experience
and variety of licentiousness, which come not within the compass of a
northern profligacy, remains alive to the earliest and most innocent
sentiments of the passion. And if Platonism in its coldest purity exist
on earth, it is among the Aretins of southern Italy.

This unworldly refinement, amidst so much worldly callousness, was a
peculiarity that afforded perpetual amusement to the nice eye and subtle
judgment of Godolphin. He loved not to note the common elements of
character; whatever was most abstract and difficult to analyse, pleased
him most. He mixed then much with the Romans, and was a favourite
amongst them; but, during his present visit to the Immortal City, he did
not, how distantly soever, associate with the English. His carelessness
of show, and the independence of a single man from burdensome
connexions, rendered his income fully competent to his wants; but, like
many proud men, he was not willing to make it seem even to himself, as
a comparative poverty, beside the lavish expenses of his ostentatious
countrymen. Travel, moreover, had augmented those stores of reflection
which rob solitude of ennui.



CHAPTER XXX.

MAGNETISM.--SYMPATHY.--THE RETURN OF ELEMENTS TO ELEMENTS.

Daily did the health of Volktman decline; Lucilla was the only one
ignorant of his danger. She had never seen the gradual approaches of
death: her mother’s abrupt and rapid illness made the whole of her
experience of disease. Physicians and dark rooms were necessarily
coupled in her mind with all graver maladies; and as the astrologer,
wrapt in his calculations, altered not any of his habits, and was
insensible to pain, she fondly attributed his occasional complaints to
the melancholy induced by seclusion. With sedentary men, diseases being
often those connected with the Organisation of the heart, do not usually
terminate suddenly: it was so with Volktman.

One day he was alone with Godolphin, and their conversation turned upon
one of the doctrines of the old Magnetism, a doctrine which, depending
as it does so much upon a seeming reference to experience, survived the
rest of its associates, and is still not wholly out of repute among the
wild imaginations of Germany.

“One of the most remarkable and abstruse points in what students
call metaphysics,” said Volktman, “is sympathy! the first principle,
according to some, of all human virtue. It is this, say they, which
makes men just, humane, charitable. When one who has never heard of the
duty of assisting his neighbour, sees another drowning, he plunges into
the water and saves him. Why? because involuntarily, and at once, his
imagination places himself in the situation of the stranger: the pain he
would experience in the watery death glances across him: from this pain
he hastens,--without analysing its cause, to deliver himself.

“Humanity is thus taught him by sympathy: where is this sympathy
placed?--in the nerves: the nerves are the communicants with outward
nature; the more delicate the nerves, the finer the sympathies; hence,
women and children are more alive to sympathy than men. Well, mark me:
do not these nerves have attraction and sympathy---not only with human
suffering, but with the powers of what is falsely termed inanimate
nature? Do not the wind, the influences of the weather and the seasons,
act confessedly upon them? and if one part of nature, why not another,
inseparably connected too with that part? If the weather and seasons
have sympathy with the nerves, why not the moon and the stars, by
which the weather and the seasons are influenced and changed? Ye of the
schools may allow that sympathy originates some of our actions; I say it
governs the whole world--the whole creation! Before the child is born,
it is this secret affinity which can mark and stamp him with the witness
of his mother’s terror or his mother’s desire.”

“Yet,” said Godolphin, “you would scarcely, in your zeal for sympathy,
advocate the same cause as Edricius Mohynnus, who cured wounds by a
powder, not applied to the wound, but to the towel that had been dipped
in its blood?”

“No,” answered Volktman: “it is these quacks and pretenders that have
wronged all sciences, by clamouring for false deductions. But I do
believe of sympathy, that it has a power to transport ourselves out of
the body and reunite us with the absent. Hence, trances, and raptures,
in which the patient, being sincere, will tell thee, in grave
earnestness, and with minute detail, of all that he saw, and heard, and
encountered, afar off, in other parts of the earth, or even above the
earth. As thou knowest the accredited story of the youth, who, being
transported with a vehement and long-nursed desire to see his mother,
did, through that same desire, become as it were rapt, and beheld her,
being at the distance of many miles, and giving and exchanging signs of
their real and bodily conference.”

Godolphin turned aside to conceal an involuntary smile at this grave
affirmation; but the mystic, perhaps perceiving it, continued yet more
eagerly:--

“Nay, I myself, at times, have experienced such trance, if trance it
be; and have conversed with them who have passed from the outward
earth--with my father and my wife. And,” continued he, after a
moment’s pause, “I do believe that we may, by means of this power of
attraction--this elementary and all-penetrative sympathy, pass away, in
our last moments, at once into the bosom of those we love. For, by the
intent and rapt longing to behold the Blest and to be amongst them, we
may be drawn insensibly into their presence, and the hour being come
when the affinity between the spirit and the body shall be dissolved,
the mind and desire, being so drawn upward, can return to earth no
more. And this sympathy, refined and extended, will make, I imagine,
our powers, our very being, in a future state. Our sympathy being only,
then, with what is immortal, we shall partake necessarily of that nature
which attracts us; and the body no longer clogging the intenseness
of our desires, we shall be able by a wish to transport ourselves
wheresoever we please,--from star to star, from glory to glory,
charioted and winged by our wishes.”

Godolphin did not reply, for he was struck with the growing paleness
of the mystic, and with a dreaming and intent fixedness that seemed
creeping over his eyes, which were usually bright and restless. The day
was now fast declining, Lucilla entered the room, and came caressingly
to her father’s side.

“Is the evening warm, my child?” said the astrologer.

“Very mild and warm,” answered Lucilla.

“Give me your arm then,” said he; “I will sit a little while without the
threshold.”

The Romans live in flats, as at Edinburgh, and with a common stair.
Volktman’s abode was in the secondo piano. He descended the stairs with
a step lighter than it had been of late; and sinking into a seat without
the house, seemed silently and gratefully to inhale the soft and purple
air of an Italian sunset.

By and by the sun had entirely vanished: and that most brief but most
delicious twilight, common to the clime, had succeeded. Veil-like and
soft, the mist that floats at that hour between earth and heaven, lent
its transparent shadow to the scene around them: it seemed to tremble as
for a moment, and then was gone. The moon arose, and cast its light over
Volktman’s earnest countenance,--over the rich bloom and watchful eye
of Lucilla,--over the contemplative brow and motionless figure of
Godolphin. It was a group of indefinable interest: the Earth was so
still, that the visionary might well have fancied it had hushed itself,
to drink within its quiet heart the voices of that Heaven in whose
oracles he believed. Not one of the group spoke,--the astrologer’s mind
and gaze were riveted above; and neither of his companions wished to
break the meditations of the old and dreaming man.

Godolphin, with folded arms and downcast eyes, was pursuing his own
thoughts; and Lucilla, to whom Godolphin’s presence was a subtle and
subduing intoxication, looked indeed upward to the soft and tender
heavens, but with the soul of the loving daughter of earth.

Slowly, nor marked by his companions, the gaze of the mystic deepened
and deepened in its fixedness.

The minutes went on; and the evening waned, till a chill breeze,
floating down from the Latian Hills, recalled Lucilla’s attention to
her father. She covered him tenderly with her own mantle, and whispered
gently in his ear her admonition to shun the coldness of the coming
night. He did not answer; and on raising her voice a little higher, with
the same result, she looked appealingly to Godolphin. He laid his hand
on Volktman’s shoulder; and, bending forward to address him,--was
struck dumb by the glazed and fixed expression of the mystic’s eyes. The
certainty flashed across him; he hastily felt Volktman’s pulse--it
was still. There was no doubt left on his mind; and yet the daughter,
looking at him all the while, did not even dream of this sudden and
awful stroke. In silence, and unconsciously, the strange and solitary
spirit of the mystic had passed from its home--in what exact instant of
time, or by what last contest of nature, was not known.



CHAPTER XXXI.

A SCENE.--LUCILLA’S STRANGE CONDUCT--GODOLPHIN PASSES THROUGH A SEVERE
ORDEAL.--EGERIA’S GROTTO, AND WHAT THERE HAPPENS.

Let us pass over Godolphin’s most painful task. What Lucilla’s feelings
were, the reader may imagine; and yet, her wayward and unanalysed temper
mocked at once imagination and expression to depict its sufferings or
its joys.

The brother of Volktman’s wife was sent for: he and his wife took
possession of the abode of death. This, if possible, heightened
Lucilla’s anguish. The apathetic and vain character of the middle
classes in Rome, which her relations shared, stung her heart by
contrasting its own desolate abandonment to grief. Above all, she was
revolted by the unnatural ceremonies of a Roman funeral. The corpse
exposed--the cheeks painted--the parading procession, all shocked
the delicacy of her real and reckless affliction. But when this was
over--when the rite of death was done, and when, in the house wherein
her sire had presided, and she herself had been left to a liberty wholly
unrestricted, she saw strangers (for such comparatively her relatives
were to her) settling themselves down, with vacant countenances and
light words, to the common occupations of life,--when she saw them move,
alter (nay, talk calmly, and sometimes with jests, of selling), those
little household articles of furniture which, homely and worn as they
were, were hallowed to her by a thousand dear, and infantine, and filial
recollections;--when, too, she found herself treated as a child, and, in
some measure, as a dependant,--when she, the wild, the free, saw herself
subjected to restraint--nay, heard the commonest actions of her life
chidden and reproved,--when she saw the trite and mean natures which
thus presumed to lord it over her, and assume empire in the house of
one, of whose wild and lofty, though erring speculations--of whose
generous though abstract elements of character, she could comprehend
enough to respect, while what she did not comprehend heightened the
respect into awe;--then, the more vehement and indignant passions of her
mind broke forth! her flashing eye, her scornful gesture, her mysterious
threat, and her open defiance, astonished always, sometimes amused, but
more often terrified, the apathetic and superstitious Italians.

Godolphin, moved by interest and pity for the daughter of his friend,
called once or twice after the funeral at the house; and commended,
with promises and gifts, the desolate girl to the tenderness and
commiseration of her relations. There is nothing an Italian will not
promise, nothing he will not sell; and Godolphin thus purchased,
in reality, a forbearance to Lucilla’s strange temper (as it was
considered) which otherwise, assuredly, would not have been displayed.

More than a month had elapsed since the astrologer’s decease; and, the
season of the malaria verging to its commencement, Godolphin meditated a
removal to Naples. He strolled, two days prior to his departure, to the
house on the Appia Via, in order to take leave of Lucilla, and bequeath
to her relations his parting injunctions.

It was a strange and harsh face that peered forth on him through the
iron grating of the door before he obtained admittance; and when he
entered, he heard the sound of voices in loud altercation. Among the
rest, the naturally dulcet and silver tones of Lucilla were strained
beyond their wonted key, and breathed the accents of passion and
disdain.

He entered the room whence the sounds of dispute proceeded, and the
first face that presented itself to him was that of Lucilla. It was
flushed with anger; the veins in the smooth forehead were swelled; the
short lip breathed beautiful contempt. She stood at some little distance
from the rest of the inmates of the room, who were seated; and her
posture was erect and even stately, though in wrath: her arms were
folded upon her bosom, and the composed excitement of her figure
contrasted with the play, and fire, and energy of her features.

At Godolphin’s appearance, a sudden silence fell upon the conclave; the
uncle and the aunt (the latter of whom had seemed the noisiest)
subsided into apologetic respect to the rich (he was rich to them) young
Englishman; and Lucilla sank into a seat, covered her face with
her small and beautiful hands, and--humbled from her anger and her
vehemence--burst into tears.

“And what is this?” said Godolphin, pityingly.

The Italians hastened to inform him. Lucilla had chosen to absent
herself from home every evening; she had been seen, the last night on
the Corso,--crowded as that street was with the young, the profligate,
and the idle. They could not but reprove “the dear girl” for this
indiscretion (Italians, indifferent as to the conduct of the married,
are generally attentive to that of their single, women); and she
announced her resolution to persevere in it.

“Is this true, my pupil?” said Godolphin, turning to Lucilla: the poor
girl sobbed on, but returned no answer. “Leave me to reprimand and
admonish her,” said he to the aunt and uncle; and they, without
appearing to notice the incongruity of reprimand in the mouth of a man
of seven-and-twenty to a girl of fifteen, chattered forth a Babel of
conciliation and left the apartment.

Godolphin, young as he might be, was not unfitted for his task. There
was a great deal of quiet dignity mingled with the kindness of his
manner; and his affection for Lucilla had hitherto been so pure, that he
felt no embarrassment in addressing her as a brother. He approached the
corner of the room in which she sat; he drew a chair near to her; and
took her reluctant and trembling hand with a gentleness that made her
weep with a yet wilder vehemence.

“My dear Lucilla,” said he, “you know your father honoured me with his
regard: let me presume on that regard, and on my long acquaintance with
yourself, to address you as your friend--as your brother.” Lucilla drew
away her hand; but again, as if ashamed of the impulse, extended it
towards him.

“You cannot know the world as I do, dear Lucilla,” continued Godolphin;
“for experience in its affairs is bought at some little expense, which I
pray that it may never cost you. In all countries, Lucilla, an unmarried
female is exposed to dangers which, without any actual fault of her own,
may embitter her future life. One of the greatest of these dangers lies
in deviating from custom. With the woman who does this, every man thinks
himself entitled to give his thoughts--his words--nay, even his actions,
a license which you cannot but dread to incur. Your uncle and aunt,
therefore, do right to advise your not going alone, to the public
streets of Rome more especially, except in the broad daylight; and
though their advice be irksomely intruded, and ungracefully couched, it
is good in its principle, and--yes, dearest Lucilla, even necessary for
you to follow.”

“But,” said Lucilla, through her tears, “you cannot guess what insults,
what unkindness, I have been forced to submit to from them. I, who never
knew, till now, what insult and unkindness were! I, who----” here sobs
checked her utterance.

“But how, my young and fair friend, how can you mend their manners by
destroying their esteem for you? Respect yourself, Lucilla, if you wish
others to respect you. But, perhaps,”--and such a thought for the first
time flashed across Godolphin--“perhaps you did not seek the Corso for
the _crowd_ but for _one;_ perhaps you went there to meet--dare I guess
the fact?--an admirer, a lover.”

“Now _you_ insult me!” cried Lucilla, angrily.

“I thank you for your anger; I accept it as a contradiction,” said
Godolphin. “But listen yet a while, and forgive frankness. If there
be any one, among the throng of Italian youths, whom you have seen,
and could be happy with; one who loves you and whom you do not
hate;--remember that I am your father’s friend; that I am rich; that I
can----”

“Cruel, cruel!” interrupted Lucilla and withdrawing herself from
Godolphin, she walked to and fro with great and struggling agitation.

“Is it not so, then?” said Godolphin, doubtingly.

“No, sir: no!”

“Lucilla Volktman,” said Godolphin, with a colder gravity than he had
yet called forth, “I claim some attention from you, some confidence,
nay, some esteem;--for the sake of your father--for the sake of your
early years, when I assisted to teach you my native tongue, and loved
you as a brother. Promise me that you will not commit this indiscretion
any more--at least till we meet again; nay, that you will not stir
abroad, save with one of your relations.”

“Impossible! impossible!” cried Lucilla, vehemently; “it were to take
away the only solace I have: it were to make life a privation--a curse.”

“Not so, Lucilla; it is to make life respectable and safe. I, on the
other hand, will engage that all within these walls shall behave to you
with indulgence and kindness.”

“I care not for their kindness!--for the kindness of any one; save----”

“Whom?” asked Godolphin, perceiving she would not proceed: but as
she was still silent, he did not press the question. “Come!” said he,
persuasively: “come, promise, and be friends with me; do not let us part
angrily: I am about to take my leave of you for many months.

“Part!--you!--months!--O God, do not say so!”

With these words, she was by his side; and gazing on him with her large
and pleading eyes, wherein was stamped a wildness, a terror, the cause
of which he did not as yet decipher.

“No, no,” said she, with a faint smile: “no! you mean to frighten me, to
extort my promise. You are not going to desert me!”

“But, Lucilla, I will not leave you to unkindness; they shall not--they
dare not wound you again.”

“Say to me that you are not going from Rome--speak; quick!”

“I go in two days.”

“Then let me die!” said Lucilla, in a tone of such deep despair, that
it chilled and appalled Godolphin, who did not, however, attribute her
grief (the grief of this mere child--a child so wayward and eccentric)
to any other cause than that feeling of abandonment which the young so
bitterly experience at being left utterly alone with persons unfamiliar
to their habits and opposed to their liking.

He sought to soothe her, but she repelled him. Her features worked
convulsively: she walked twice across the room; then stopped opposite to
him, and a certain strained composure on her brow seemed to denote that
she had arrived at some sudden resolution.

“Wouldst thou ask me,” she said, “what cause took me into the streets as
the shadows darkened, and enabled me lightly to bear threats at home and
risk abroad?”

“Ay, Lucilla: will you tell me?”

“Thou wast the cause!” she said, in a low voice, trembling with emotion,
and the next moment sank on her knees before him.

With a confusion that ill became so practised and favoured a gallant,
Godolphin sought to raise her. “No! no!” she said; “you will despise
me now: let me lie here, and die thinking of thee. Yes!” she continued,
with an inward but rapid voice, as he lifted her reluctant frame from
the earth, and hung over her with a cold and uncaressing attention:
“yes! you I loved--I adored--from my very childhood. When you were by,
life seemed changed to me; when absent, I longed for night, that I might
dream of you. The spot you had touched I marked out in silence, that I
might kiss it and address it when you were gone. You left us; four years
passed away: and the recollection of you made and shaped my very nature.
I loved solitude; for in solitude I saw you--in imagination I spoke
to you--and methought you answered and did not chide. You
returned--and--and--but no matter: to see you, at the hour you usually
leave home; to see you, I wandered forth with the evening. I tracked
you, myself unseen; I followed you at a distance: I marked you disappear
within some of the proud palaces that never know what love is. I
returned home weeping, but happy. And do you think--do you dare to
think--that I should have told you this, had you not driven me mad!--had
you not left me reckless of what henceforth was thought of me--became of
me! What will life be to me when you are gone? And now I have said all!
Go! You do not love me: I know it: but do not say so. Go--leave me; why
do you not leave me?”

Does there live one man who can hear a woman, young and beautiful,
confess attachment to him, and not catch the contagion? Affected,
flattered, and almost melted into love himself, Godolphin felt all the
danger of the moment but this young, inexperienced girl--the daughter of
his friend--no! her he could not--loving, willing as she was, betray.

Yet it was some moments before he could command himself sufficiently to
answer her:--“Listen to me calmly,” at length he said; “we are at least
to each other dear friends nay, listen, I beseech you. I, Lucilla, am a
man whose heart is forestalled--exhausted before its time; I have loved,
deeply, and passionately: that love is over, but it has unfitted me for
any species of love resembling itself--any which I could offer to you.
Dearest Lucilla, I will not disguise the truth from you. Were I to love
you, it would be--not in the eyes of _your_ countrymen (with whom such
connexions are common), but in the eyes of mine--it would be dishonour.
Shall I confer even this partial dishonour on you? No! Lucilla, this
feeling of yours towards me is (pardon me) but a young and childish
phantasy: you will smile at it some years hence. I am not worthy of so
pure and fresh a heart: but at least” (here he spoke in a lower voice,
and as to himself)--“at least I am not so unworthy as to wrong it.”

“Go!” said Lucilla; “go, I implore you.” She spoke, and stood hueless
and motionless, as if the life (life’s life was indeed gone!) had
departed from her. Her features were set and rigid; the tears that stole
in large drops down her cheeks were unfelt; a slight quivering of her
lips only bespoke what passed within her.

“Ah!” cried Godolphin, stung from his usual calm--stung from the quiet
kindness he had sought, from principle, to assume--“can I withstand this
trial?--I, whose dream of life has been the love that I might now find!
I, who have never before known an obstacle to a wish which I have not
contended against, if not conquered: and, weakened as I am with the
habitual indulgence to temptation, which has never been so strong as
now;--but no! I will--I will deserve this attachment by self-restraint,
self-sacrifice.”

He moved away; and then returning, dropped on his knee before Lucilla.

“Spare me!” said he in an agitated voice, which brought back all the
blood to that young and transparent cheek, which was now half averted
from him--“spare me--spare yourself! Look around, when I am gone, for
some one to replace my image: thousands younger, fairer, warmer of
heart, will aspire to your love; that love for them will be exposed to
no peril--no shame: forget me; select another; be happy and respected.
Permit me alone to fill the place of your friend--your brother. I
will provide for your comforts, your liberty: you shall be restrained,
offended no more. God bless you, dear, dear Lucilla; and believe,”
 (he said almost in a whisper), “that, in thus flying you, I have acted
generously, and with an effort worthy of your loveliness and your love.”

He said, and hurried from the apartment. Lucilla turned slowly round as
the door closed and then fell motionless on the ground.

Meanwhile Godolphin, mastering his emotion, sought the host and hostess;
and begging them to visit his lodging that evening, to receive certain
directions and rewards, hastily left the house.

But instead of returning home, the desire for a brief solitude and
self-commune, which usually follows strong excitement, (and which, in
all less ordinary events, suggested his sole counsellors or monitors to
the musing Godolphin), led his steps in an opposite direction. Scarcely
conscious whither he was wandering, he did not pause till he found
himself in that green and still valley in which the pilgrim beholds the
grotto of Egeria.

It was noon, and the day warm, but not overpowering. The leaf slept on
the old trees that are scattered about that little valley; and amidst
the soft and rich turf the wanderer’s step disturbed the lizard, basking
its brilliant hues in the noontide, and glancing rapidly through the
herbage as it retreated. And from the trees, and through the air,
the occasional song of the birds (for in Italy their voices are rare)
floated with a peculiar clearness, and even noisiness of music, along
the deserted haunts of the Nymph.

The scene, rife with its beautiful associations, recalled Godolphin from
his reverie. “And here,” thought he, “Fable has thrown its most lovely
enduring enchantment: here, every one who has tasted the loves of earth,
and sickened for the love that is ideal, finds a spell more attractive
to his steps--more fraught with contemplation to his spirit, than aught
raised by the palace of the Caesars or the tomb of the Scipios.”

Thus meditating, and softened by the late scene with Lucilla, (to which
his thoughts again recurred), he sauntered onward to the steep side of
the bank, in which faith and tradition have hollowed out the grotto of
the goddess. He entered the silent cavern, and bathed his temples in the
delicious waters of the fountain.

It was perhaps well that it was not at that moment Lucilla made to him
her strange and unlooked-for confession: again and again he said to
himself (as if seeking for a justification of his self-sacrifice), “Her
father was not Italian, and possessed feeling and honour: let me not
forget that he loved me!” In truth, the avowal of this wild girl; an
avowal made indeed with the ardour--but also breathing of the innocence,
the inexperience--of her character--had opened to his fancy new and
not undelicious prospects. He had never loved her, save with a lukewarm
kindness, before that last hour; but now, in recalling her beauty, her
tears, her passionate abandonment can we wonder that he felt a strange
beating at his heart, and that he indulged that dissolved and luxurious
vein of tender meditation which is the prelude to all love? We must
recall, too, the recollection of his own temper, so constantly yearning
for the unhackneyed, the untasted; and his deep and soft order of
imagination, by which he involuntarily conjured up the delight of living
with one, watching one, so different from the rest of the world, and
whose thoughts and passions (wild as they might be) were all devoted to
him!

And in what spot were these imaginings fed and coloured? In a spot which
in the nature of its divine fascination could be found only beneath one
sky, that sky the most balmy and loving upon earth! Who could think of
love within the haunt and temple of

   “That Nympholepsy of some fond despair,”

and not feel that love enhanced, deepened, modulated, into at once a
dream and a desire?

It was long that Godolphin indulged himself in recalling the image of
Lucilla; but nerved at length and gradually, by harder, and we may hope
better, sentiments than those of a love which he could scarcely indulge
without criminality on the one hand, or, what must have appeared to the
man of the world, derogatory folly on the other; he turned his thoughts
into a less voluptuous channel, and prepared, though with a reluctant
step, to depart homewards. But what was his amaze, his confusion, when,
on reaching the mouth of the cave, he saw within a few steps of him
Lucilla herself!

She was walking alone and slowly, her eyes bent upon the ground, and did
not perceive him. According to a common custom with the middle classes
of Rome, her rich hair, save by a single band, was uncovered; and as
her slight and exquisite form moved along the velvet sod, so beautiful
a shape, and a face so rare in its character, and delicate in its
expression, were in harmony with the sweet superstition of the spot, and
seemed almost to restore to the deserted cave and the mourning stream
their living Egeria.

Godolphin stood transfixed to the earth; and Lucilla, who was walking
in the direction of the grotto, did not perceive, till she was almost
immediately before him. She gave a faint scream as she lifted her eyes;
and the first and most natural sentiment of the woman breaking forth
involuntarily,--she attempted to falter out her disavowal of all
expectation of meeting him there.

“Indeed, indeed, I did not know--that is--I--I--” she could achieve no
more.

“Is this a favourite spot with you?” said he, with the vague
embarrassment of one at a loss for words.

“Yes,” said Lucilla, faintly.

And so, in truth, it was: for its vicinity to her home, the beauty of
the little valley, and the interest attached to it--an interest not the
less to her in that she was but imperfectly acquainted with the true
legend of the Nymph and her royal lover--had made it, even from her
childhood, a chosen and beloved retreat, especially in that dangerous
summer time, which drives the visitor from the spot, and leaves the
scene, in great measure, to the solitude which befits it. Associated
as the place was with the recollection of her earlier griefs, it was
thither that her first instinct made her fly from the rude contact and
displeasing companionship of her relations, to give vent to the various
and conflicting passions which the late scene with Godolphin had called
forth.

They now stood for a few moments silent and embarrassed, till Godolphin,
resolved to end a scene which he began to feel was dangerous, said in a
hurried tone:--

“Farewell, my sweet pupil!--farewell!--May God bless you!”

He extended his hand, Lucilla seized it, as if by impulse; and conveying
it suddenly to her lips, bathed it with tears. “I feel,” said this wild
and unregulated girl, “I feel, from your manner, that I ought to be
grateful to you: yet I scarcely know why: you confessed you cannot love
me, that my affection distresses you--you fly--you desert me. Ah, if you
felt one particle even of friendship for me, could you do so?”

“Lucilla, what can I say?--I cannot marry you.”

“Do I wish it?--I ask thee but to let me go with thee wherever thou
goest.”

“Poor child!” said Godolphin, gazing on her; “art thou not aware that
thou askest thine own dishonour?”

Lucilla seemed surprised:--“Is it dishonour to love? They do not think
so in Italy. It is wrong for a maiden to confess it; but that thou
hast forgiven me. And if to follow thee--to sit with thee--to be near
thee--bring aught of evil to myself, not thee,--let me incur the evil:
it can be nothing compared to the agony of thy absence!”

She looked up timidly as she spoke, and saw, with a sort of terror, that
his face worked with emotions which seemed to choke his answer. “If,”
 she cried passionately, “if I have said what pains thee--if I have asked
what would give dishonour, as thou callest it, or harm, to thyself,
forgive me--I knew it not--and leave me. But if it were not of thyself that
thou didst speak, believe that thou hast done me but a cruel mercy. Let
me go with thee, I implore! I have no friend here: no one loves me. I
hate the faces I gaze upon; I loathe the voices I hear. And, were it for
nothing else, thou remindest me of him who is gone:--thou art familiar
to me--every look of thee breathes of my home, of my household
recollections. Take me with thee, beloved stranger!--or leave me to
die--I will not survive thy loss!”

“You speak of your father: know you that, were I to grant what you, in
your childish innocence, so unthinkingly request, he might curse me from
his grave?”

“O God, not so!--mine is the prayer--be mine the guilt, if guilt there
be. But is it not unkinder in thee to desert his daughter than to
protect her?”

There was a great, a terrible struggle in Godolphin’s breast. “What,”
 said he, scarcely knowing what he said,--“what will the world think of
you if you fly with a stranger?”

“There is no world to me but thee!”

“What will your uncle--your relations say?”

“I care not; for I shall not hear them.”

“No, no; this must not be!” said Godolphin proudly, and once more
conquering himself. “Lucilla, I would give up every other dream or hope
in life to feel that I might requite this devotion by passing my life
with thee: to feel that I might grant what thou askest without wronging
thy innocence; but--but--”

“You love me then! You love me!” cried Lucilla, joyously, and alive to
no other interpretation of his words. Godolphin was transported beyond
himself; and clasping Lucilla in his arms he covered her cheeks, her
lips, with impassioned and burning kisses; then suddenly, as if stung by
some irresistible impulse, he tore himself away; and fled from the spot.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE WEAKNESS OF ALL VIRTUE SPRINGING ONLY FROM THE FEELINGS.

It was the evening before Godolphin left Rome. As he was entering his
palazzo he descried, in the darkness, and at a little distance, a figure
wrapped in a mantle, that reminded him of Lucilla;--ere he could certify
himself, it was gone.

On entering his rooms, he looked eagerly over the papers and notes on
his table: he seemed disappointed with the result, and sat himself down
in moody and discontented thought. He had written to Lucilla the day
before, a long, a kind, nay, a noble outpouring of his thoughts and
feelings. As far as he was able to one so simple in her experience, yet
so wild in her fancy, he explained to her the nature of his struggles
and his self-sacrifice. He did not disguise from her that, till the
moment of her confession, he had never examined the state of his heart
towards her; nor that, with that confession, a new and ardent train of
sentiment had been kindled within him. He knew enough of women to be
aware, that the last avowal would be the sweetest consolation both to
her vanity and her heart. He assured her of the promises he had received
from her relations to grant her the liberty and the indulgence that her
early and unrestrained habits required; and, in the most delicate and
respectful terms, he inclosed an order for a sum of money sufficient
at any time to command the regard of those with whom she lived, or to
enable her to choose, should she so desire (though he advised her not
to adopt such a measure, save for the most urgent reasons), another
residence. “Send me in return,” he said, as he concluded, “a lock of
your hair. I want nothing to remind me of your beauty; but I want some
token of the heart of whose affection I am so mournfully proud. I will
wear it as a charm against the contamination of that world of which you
are so happily ignorant--as a memento of one nature beyond the thought
of self--as a surety that, in finding within this base and selfish
quarter of earth, one soul so warm, so pure as yours, I did not deceive
myself, and dream. If we ever meet again, may you have then found some
one happier than I am, and in his tenderness have forgotten all of me
save one kind remembrance.--Beautiful and dear Lucilla, adieu! If I have
not given way to the luxury of being beloved by you, it is because your
generous self-abandonment has awakened within a heart too selfish to
others a real love for yourself.”

To this letter Godolphin had, hour after hour, expected a reply. He
received none--not even the lock of hair for which he had pressed. He
was disappointed--angry, with Lucilla--dissatisfied with himself. “How
bitterly,” thought he, “the wise Saville would smile at my folly! I have
renounced the bliss of possessing this singular and beautiful being; for
what?--a scruple which she cannot even comprehend, and at which, in
her friendless and forlorn state, the most starched of her dissolute
countrywomen would smile as a ridiculous punctilio. And, in truth, had
I fled hence with her, should I not have made her throughout life
happier--far happier, than she will be now? Nor would she, in that
happiness, have felt, like an English girl, any pang of shame. _Here,_
the tie would have never been regarded as a degradation; nor does she,
recurring to the simple laws of nature, imagine than any one _could_
so regard it. Besides, inexperienced as she is--the creature of
impulse--will she not fall a victim to some more artful and less
generous lover?--to some one who in her innocence will see only
forwardness; and who, far from protecting her as I should have done,
will regard her but as the plaything of an hour, and cast her forth the
moment his passion is sated!--Sated! O bitter thought, that the head
of another should rest upon that bosom now so wholly mine! After all, I
have, in vainly adopting a seeming and sounding virtue, merely renounced
my own happiness to leave her to the chances of being permanently
rendered unhappy, and abandoned to want, shame, destitution, by
another!”

These disagreeable and regretful thoughts were, in turn, but weakly
combated by the occasional self-congratulation that belongs to a just or
generous act, and were varied by a thousand conjectures--now of anxiety,
now of anger--as to the silence of Lucilla. Sometimes he thought---but
the thought only glanced partially across him, and was not distinctly
acknowledged--that she might seek an interview with him ere he departed;
and in this hope he did not retire to rest till the dawn broke over the
ruins of the mighty and breathless city. He then flung himself on a
sofa without undressing, but could not sleep, save in short and broken
intervals.

The next day, he put off his departure till noon, still in the hope of
hearing from Lucilla, but in vain. He could not flatter himself with the
hope that Lucilla did not know the exact time for his journey--he had
expressly stated it. Sometimes he conceived the notion of seeking her
again; but he knew too well the weakness of his generous resolution;
and, though infirm of thought, was yet virtuous enough in act not to
hazard it to certain defeat. At length in a momentary desperation, and
muttering reproaches on Lucilla for her fickleness and inability to
appreciate the magnanimity of his conduct, he threw himself into his
carriage, and bade adieu to Rome.

As every grove that the traveller passes on that road was guarded once
by a nymph, so now it is hallowed by a memory. In vain the air, heavy
with death, creeps over the wood, the rivulet, and the shattered
tower;--the mind will not recur to the risk of its ignoble tenement; it
flies back; it is with the Past! A subtle and speechless rapture fills
and exalts the spirit. There--far to the West--spreads that purple sea,
haunted by a million reminiscences of glory; there the mountains, with
their sharp and snowy crests, rise into the bosom of the heavens; on
that plain, the pilgrim yet hails the traditional tomb of the Curiatii
and those immortal Twins who left to their brother the glory of
conquest, and the shame by which it was succeeded: around the Lake of
Nemi yet bloom the sacred groves by which Diana raised Hippolytus
again into life. Poetry, Fable, History, watch over the land: it is a
sepulchre; Death is within and around it; Decay writes defeature upon
every stone; but the Past sits by the tomb as a mourning angel; a soul
breathes through the desolation; a voice calls amidst the silence. Every
age that bath passed away bath left a ghost behind it; and the beautiful
land seems like that imagined clime beneath the earth in which man,
glorious though it be, may not breathe and live--but which is populous
with holy phantoms and illustrious shades.

On, on sped Godolphin. Night broke over him as he traversed the Pontine
Marshes. There, the malaria broods over its rankest venom: solitude hath
lost the soul that belonged to it: all life, save the deadly fertility
of corruption, seems to have rotted away: the spirit falls stricken into
gloom; a nightmare weighs upon the breast of Nature; and over the wrecks
of Time, Silence sits motionless in the arms of Death.

He arrived at Terracina, and retired to rest. His sleep was filled with
fearful dreams; he woke, late at noon, languid and dejected. As his
servant, who had lived with him some years, attended him in rising,
Godolphin observed on his countenance that expression common to persons
of his class when they have something which they wish to communicate,
and are watching their opportunity.

“Well, Malden!” said he, “you look important this morning: what has
happened?”

“E--hem! Did not you observe, sir, a carriage behind us as we crossed
the marshes? Sometimes you might just see it at a distance, in the
moonlight.”

“How the deuce should I, being within the carriage, see behind me? No; I
know nothing of the carriage: what of it?”

“A person arrived in it, sir, a little after you--would not retire to
bed--and waits you in your sitting-room.”

“A person! what person!”

“A lady, sir,--a young lady;” said the servant, suppressing a smile.

“Good heavens!” ejaculated Godolphin: “leave me.” The valet obeyed.

Godolphin, not for a moment doubting that it was Lucilla who had thus
followed him, was struck to the heart by this proof of her resolute and
reckless attachment. In any other woman, so bold a measure would, it is
true, have revolted his fastidious and somewhat English taste. But in
Lucilla, all that might have seemed immodest arose, in reality, from
that pure and spotless ignorance which, of all species of modesty, is
the most enchanting, the most dangerous to its possessor. The daughter
of loneliness and seclusion--estranged wholly from all familiar or
female intercourse--rather bewildered than in any way enlightened by
the few books of poetry, or the lighter letters, she had by accident
read--the sense of impropriety was in her so vague a sentiment, that
every impulse of her wild and impassioned character effaced and swept it
away. Ignorant of what is due to the reserve of the sex, and even of
the opinions of the world--lax as the Italian world is on matters of
love--she only saw occasion to glory in her tenderness, her devotion,
to one so elevated in her fancy as the English stranger. Nor did
there--however unconsciously to herself--mingle a single more derogatory
or less pure emotion with her fanatical worship.

For my own part, I think that few men understand the real nature of a
girl’s love. Arising so vividly as it does from the imagination, nothing
that the mind of the libertine would impute to it ever (or at least in
most rare in stances) sullies its weakness or debases its folly. I
do not say the love is better for being thus solely the creature of
imagination: I say only, so it is in ninety-nine out of a hundred
instances of girlish infatuation. In later life, it is different: in the
experienced woman, forwardness is always depravity.

With trembling steps and palpitating heart, Godolphin sought the
apartment in which he expected to find Lucilla. There, in one corner of
the room, her face covered with her mantle, he beheld her: he hastened
to that spot; he threw himself on his knees before her; with a timid
hand he removed the covering from her face; and through tears, and
paleness, and agitation, his heart was touched to the quick by its soft
and loving expression.

“Wilt thou forgive me?” she faltered; “it was thine own letter that
brought me hither. Now leave me, if thou canst!”

“Never, never!” cried Godolphin, clasping her to his heart. “It is
fated, and I resist no more. Love, tend, cherish thee, I will to my last
hour. I will be all to thee that human ties can afford--father,
brother, lover--all but----” He paused; “all but husband,” whispered his
conscience, but he silenced its voice.

“I may go with thee!” said Lucilla, in wild ecstasy: that was _her_ only
thought.

As, when the notion of escape occurs to the insane, their insanity
appears to cease; courage, prudence, caution, invention (faculties which
they knew not in sounder health), flash upon and support them as by an
inspiration; so, a new genius had seemed breathed into Lucilla by the
idea of rejoining Godolphin. She imagined--not without justice--that,
could she throw in the way of her return home an obstacle of that
worldly nature which he seemed to dread she should encounter, his chief
reason for resisting her attachment would be removed. Encouraged by
this thought, and more than ever transported by her love since he had
expressed a congenial sentiment: excited into emulation by the generous
tone of his letter, and softened into yet deeper weakness by its
tenderness;--she had resolved upon the bold step she adopted. A
vetturino lived near the gate of St. Sebastian: she had sought him;
and at sight of the money which Godolphin had sent her, the vetturino
willingly agreed to transport her to whatever point on the road to
Naples she might desire--nay, even to keep pace with the more rapid
method of travelling which Godolphin pursued. Early on the morning of
his departure, she had sought her station within sight of Godolphin’s
palazzo; and ten minutes after his departure the vetturino bore her,
delighted but trembling, on the same road.

The Italians are ordinarily good-natured, especially when they are paid
for it; and courteous to females, especially if they have any suspicion
of the influence of the belle passion. The vetturino’s foresight had
supplied the deficiencies of her inexperience: he had reminded her of
the necessity of procuring her passport; and he undertook that all other
difficulties should solely devolve on him. And thus Lucilla was now
under the same roof with one for whom, indeed, she was unaware of the
sacrifice she made, but whom, despite of all that clouded and separated
their after-lot, she loved to the last, with a love as reckless and
strong as then--a love passing the love of woman, and defying the common
ordinances of time.

   *   *   *   *   *   *
   *   *   *   *   *   *
   *   *   *   *   *   *

On the blue waters that break with a deep and far voice along the rocks
of that delicious shore, above which the mountain that rises behind
Terracina scatters to the air the odours of the citron and the
orange--on that sounding and immemorial sea the stars, like the hopes of
a brighter world upon the darkness and unrest of life, shone down with
a solemn but tender light. On that shore stood Lucilla and he--the
wandering stranger--in whom she had hoarded the peace and the hopes
of earth. Hers was the first and purple flush of the love which has
attained its object; that sweet and quiet fulness of content--that
heavenly, all-subduing and subdued delight, with which the heart
slumbers in the excess of its own rapture. Care--the forethought of
change--even the shadowy and vague mournfulness of passion--are felt not
in those voluptuous but tranquil moments. Like the waters that rolled,
deep and eloquent, before her, every feeling within was but the mirror
of an all-gentle and cloudless heaven. Her head half-declined upon the
breast of her young lover, she caught the beating of his heart, and in
it heard all the sounds of what was now become to her the world.

And still and solitary deepened around them the mystic and lovely night.
How divine was that sense and consciousness of solitude! how, as it
thrilled within them, they clung closer to each other! Theirs as yet was
that blissful and unsated time when the touch of their hands, clasped
together, was in itself a happiness of emotion too deep for words. And
ever, as his eyes sought hers, the tears which the sensitiveness of
her frame, in the very luxury of her overflowing heart, called forth,
glittered in the tranquil stars a moment and were kissed away. “Do not
look up to heaven, my love,” whispered Godolphin, “lest thou shouldst
think of any world but this!”

Poor Lucilla! will any one who idly glances over this page sympathise
one moment with the springs of thy brief joys and thy bitter sorrow?
The page on which, in stamping a record of thee, I would fain retain
thy memory from oblivion; that page is an emblem of thyself;--a short
existence; confounded with the herd to which it has no resemblance, and
then, amidst the rush and tumult of the world, forgotten and cast away
for ever!



CHAPTER XXXIII.

RETURN TO LADY ERPINGHAM.--LADY ERPINGHAM FALLS ILL.--LORD ERPINGHAM
RESOLVES TO GO ABROAD.--PLUTARCH UPON MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.--PARTY
AT ERPINGHAM HOUSE.--SAVILLE ON SOCIETY AND THE TASTE FOR THE
LITTLE.--DAVID MANDEVILLE.--WOMEN, THEIR INFLUENCE AND EDUCATION.--THE
NECESSITY OF AN OBJECT.--RELIGION.

As, after a long dream, we rise to the occupations of life, even so,
with an awakening and more active feeling, I return from characters
removed from the ordinary world--like Volktman(1) and his daughter--to
the brilliant heroine of my narrative.

There is a certain tone about London society which enfeebles the mind
without exciting it; and this state of temperament, more than all
others, engenders satiety. In classes that border upon the highest this
effect is less evident; for in them--there is some object to contend
for. Fashion gives them an inducement. They struggle to emulate the toga
of their superiors. It is an ambition of trifle, it is true; but it is
still ambition. It frets, it irritates, but it keeps them alive. The
great are the true victims of ennui. The more firmly seated their rank,
the more established their position, the more their life stagnates into
insipidity. Constance was at the height of her wishes. No one was so
courted, so adored. One after one, she had humbled and subdued all those
who, before her marriage, had trampled on her pride--or, who after it,
had resisted her pretensions: a look from her had become a triumph, and
a smile conferred a rank on its receiver. But this empire palled upon
her: of too large a mind to be satisfied with petty pleasures and unreal
distinctions, she still felt the Something of life was wanting. She
was not blessed or cursed (as it may be) with children, and she had no
companion in her husband. There might be times in which she regretted
her choice, dazzling as it had proved;--but she complained not of
sorrow, but monotony.

Political intrigue could not fill up the vacuum of which Constance daily
complained; and of private intrigue, the then purity of her nature was
incapable. When people have really nothing to do, they generally
fall ill upon it; and at length, the rich colour grew faint upon
Lady Erpingham’s cheek; her form wasted; the physicians hinted at
consumption, and recommended a warmer clime. Lord Erpingham seized at
the proposition; he was fond of Italy; he was bored with England.

Very stupid people often become very musical: it is a sort of pretension
to intellect that suits their capacities. Plutarch says somewhere that
the best musical instruments are made from the jaw-bones of asses.
Plutarch never made a more sensible observation. Lord Erpingham had of
late taken greatly to operas: he talked of writing one himself; and
not being a performer, he consoled himself by becoming a patron.
Italy, therefore, presented to him manifold captivations--he thought of
fiddling, but he talked only of his wife’s health. Amidst the regrets of
the London world, they made their arrangements, and prepared to set out
at the end of the season for the land of Paganini and Julius Caesar.

Two nights before their departure, Lady Erpingham gave a farewell party
to her more intimate acquaintance. Saville, who always contrived to be
well with every one who was worth the trouble it cost him, was of course
among the guests. Years had somewhat scathed him since he last appeared
on our stage. Women had ceased to possess much attraction for his jaded
eyes: gaming and speculation had gradually spread over the tastes once
directed to other pursuits. His vivacity had deserted him in great
measure, as years and infirmity began to stagnate and knot up the
current of his veins; but conversation still possessed for and derived
from him its wonted attraction. The sparkling jeu d’esprit had only
sobered down into the quiet sarcasm; and if his wit rippled less freshly
to the breeze of the present moment, it was coloured more richly by
the glittering sands which rolled down from the experience that
over shadowed the current. For the wisdom of the worldly is like the
mountains that, sterile without, conceal within them unprofitable ore:
only the filings and particles escape to the daylight and sparkle in
the wave; the rest wastes idly within. The Pactolus takes but the
sand-drifts from the hoards lost to use in the Tmolus.

“And how,” said Saville, seating himself by Lady Erpingham, “how
shall we bear London when you are gone? When society--the everlasting
draught--had begun to pall upon us, you threw your pearl into the cup;
and now we are grown so luxurious, that we shall never bear the wine
without the pearl.”

“But the pearl gave no taste to the wine: it only dissolved
itself--idly, and in vain.”

“Ah, my dear Lady Erpingham, the dullest of us, having once seen the
pearl, could at least imagine that we were able to appreciate the
subtleties of its influence. Where, in this little world of tedious
realities, can we find anything even to imagine about, when you abandon
us?”

“Nay! do you conceive that I am so ignorant of the framework of society
as to suppose that I shall not be easily replaced? King succeeds king,
without reference to the merits of either: so, in London, idol follows
idol, though one be of jewels and the other of brass. Perhaps, when I
return, I shall find you kneeling to the dull Lady A----, or worshipping
the hideous Lady Z----.”

   “‘Le temps assez souvent a rendu legitime
     Ce qui sembloit d’abord ne se pouvoir sans crime;”’

answered Saville with a mock heroic air. “The fact is, that we are an
indolent people; the person who succeeds the most with us has but to
push the most. You know how Mrs. ----, in spite of her red arms, her red
gown, her city pronunciation, and her city connexions, managed--by dint
of perseverance alone--to become a dispenser of consequence to the very
countesses whom she at first could scarcely coax into a courtesy. The
person who can stand ridicule and rudeness has only to desire to become
the fashion--she or he must be so sooner or later.”

“Of the immutability of one thing among all the changes I may witness
on my return, at least I am certain no one still will dare to think for
himself. The great want of each individual is, the want of an opinion!
For instance, who judges of a picture from his own knowledge of
painting? Who does not wait to hear what Mr. ----, or Lord ---- (one of
the six or seven privileged connoisseurs), says of it? Nay, not only
the fate of a single picture, but of a whole school of painting, depends
upon the caprice of some one of the self-elected dictators. The King,
or the Duke of ----, has but to love the Dutch school and ridicule the
Italian, and behold a Raphael will not sell, and a Teniers rises into
infinite value! Dutch representations of candlesticks and boors are
sought after with the most rapturous delight; the most disagreeable
objects of nature become the most worshipped treasures of art; and we
emulate each other in testifying our exaltation of taste by contending
for the pictured vulgarities by which taste itself is the most
essentially degraded. In fact, too, the meaner the object, the more
certain it is with us of becoming the rage. In the theatre, we run after
the farce; in painting, we worship the Dutch school; in----”

“Literature?” said Saville.

“No!--our literature still breathes of something noble; but why? Because
books do not always depend upon a clique. A book, in order to succeed,
does not require the opinion of Mr. Saville or Lady Erpingham so much as
a picture or a ballet.”

“I am not sure of that,” answered Saville, as he withdrew presently
afterwards to a card-table, to share in the premeditated plunder of a
young banker, who was proud of the honour of being ruined by persons of
rank.

In another part of the rooms Constance found a certain old philosopher,
whom I will call David Mandeville. There was something about this man
that always charmed those who had sense enough to be discontented with
the ordinary inhabitants of the Microcosm,--Society. The expression of
his countenance was different from that of others: there was a breathing
goodness in his face--an expansion of mind on his forehead. You
perceived at once that he did not live among triflers, nor agitate
himself with trifles. Serenity beamed from his look--but it was the
serenity of thought. Constance sat down by him.

“Are you not sorry,” said Mandeville, “to leave England? You, who have
made yourself the centre of a circle which, for the varieties of
its fascination, has never perhaps been equalled in this country?
Wealth--rank--even wit--others might assemble round them: but none ever
before convened into one splendid galaxy all who were eminent in art,
famous in letters, wise in politics, and even (for who but you were ever
above rivalship?) attractive in beauty. I should have thought it easier
for us to fly from the Armida, than for the Armida to renounce the scene
of her enchantment--the scene in which De Stael bowed to the charms of
her conversation, and Byron celebrated those of her person.”

We may conceive the spell Constance had cast around her, when even
philosophy (and Mandeville of all philosophers) had learned to flatter;
but his flattery was sincerity.

“Alas!” said Constance, sighing, “even if your compliment were
altogether true, you have mentioned nothing that should cause me regret.
Vanity is one source of happiness, but it does not suffice to recompense
us for the absence of all others. In leaving England, I leave the scene
of everlasting weariness. I am the victim of a feeling of sameness, and
I look with hope to the prospect of change.”

“Poor thing!” said the old philosopher, gazing mournfully on a creature
who, so resplendent with advantages, yet felt the crumpled rose-leaf
more than the luxury of the couch. “Wherever you go the same polished
society will present to you the same monotony. All courts are alike: men
have change in action; but to women of your rank all scenes are alike.
You must not look without for an object--you must create one within. To
be happy we must render ourselves independent of others.”

“Like all philosophers, you advise the impossible,” said Constance.

“How so? Have not the generality of your sex their peculiar object? One
has the welfare of her children; another the interest of her husband; a
third makes a passion of economy; a fourth of extravagance; a fifth of
fashion; a sixth of solitude. Your friend yonder is always employed in
nursing her own health: hypochondria supplies her with an object; she is
really happy because she fancies herself ill. Every one you name has an
object in life that drives away ennui, save yourself.”

“I have one too,” said Constance, smiling, “but it does not fill up all
the spaces of time. The intervals between the acts are longer than the
acts themselves.”

“Is your object religion?” asked Mandeville, simply. Constance was
startled: the question was novel. “I fear not,” said she, after a
moment’s hesitation, and with a downcast face.

“As I thought,” returned Mandeville. “Now listen. The reason why you
feel weariness more than those around you, is solely because your mind
is more expansive. Small minds easily find objects: trifles amuse them;
but a high soul covets things beyond its daily reach; trifles occupy its
aim mechanically; the thought still wanders restless. This is the case
with you. Your intellect preys upon itself. You would have been
happier if your rank had been less;” Constance winced--(she thought of
Godolphin); “for then you would have been ambitious, and aspired to the
very rank that now palls upon you.” Mandeville continued--

“You women are at once debarred from public life and yet influence it.
You are the prisoners, and yet the despots of society. Have you talents?
it is criminal to indulge them in public; and thus, as talent cannot be
stifled, it is misdirected in private; you seek ascendency over your
own limited circle; and what should have been genius degenerates into
cunning. Brought up from your cradles to dissembling your most beautiful
emotions--your finest principles are always tinctured with artifice. As
your talents, being stripped of their wings are driven to creep
along the earth, and imbibe its mire and clay; so are your affections
perpetually checked and tortured into conventional paths, and a
spontaneous feeling is punished as a deliberate crime. You are untaught
the broad and sound principles of life; all that you know of morals are
its decencies and forms. Thus you are incapable of estimating the public
virtues and the public deficiencies of a brother or a son; and one
reason why _we_ have no Brutus, is because _you_ have no Portia.
Turkey has its seraglio for the person; but custom in Europe has also a
seraglio for the mind.”

Constance smiled at the philosopher’s passion; but she was a woman, and
she was moved by it.

“Perhaps,” said she, “in the progress of events, the state of the women
may be improved as well as that of the men.”

“Doubtless, at some future stage of the world. And believe me, Lady
Erpingham, politician and schemer as you are, that no legislative
reform alone will improve mankind: it is the social state which requires
reformation.”

“But you asked me some minutes since,” said Constance, after a pause,
“if the object of my pursuit was religion. I disappointed but not
surprised you by my answer.”

“Yes: you grieved me, because, in your case, religion could alone fill
the dreary vacuum of your time. For, with your enlarged and cultivated
mind, you would not view the grandest of earthly questions in a narrow
and sectarian light. You would not think religion consisted in a
sanctified demeanour, in an ostentatious almsgiving, in a harsh judgment
of all without the pale of your opinions. You would behold in it a
benign and harmonious system of morality, which takes from ceremony
enough not to render it tedious but impressive. The school of the Bayles
and Voltaires is annihilated. Men begin now to feel that to philosophise
is not to sneer. In Doubt, we are stopped short at every outlet beyond
the Sensual. In Belief lies the secret of all our valuable exertion.
Two sentiments are enough to preserve even the idlest temper from
stagnation--a desire and a hope. What then can we say of the desire to
be useful, and the hope to be immortal?”

This was language Constance had not often heard before, nor was it
frequent on the lips of him who now uttered it. But an interest in the
fate and happiness of one in whom he saw so much to admire, had made
Mandeville anxious that she should entertain some principle which he
could also esteem. And there was a fervour, a sincerity, in his voice
and manner, that thrilled to the very heart of Lady Erpingham. She
pressed his hand in silence. She thought afterwards over his words; but
worldly life is not easily accessible to any lasting impressions save
those of vanity and love. Religion has two sources; the habit of early
years, or the process of after thought. But to Constance had not been
fated the advantage of the first; and how can deep thought of another
world be a favourite employment with the scheming woman of this?

This is the only time that Mandeville appears in this work: a type of
the rarity of the intervention of religious wisdom on the scenes of real
life.

“By the way,” said Saville, as, in departing, he encountered Constance
by the door, and made his final adieus; “by the way; you will perhaps
meet, somewhere in Italy, my old young friend, Percy Godolphin. He has
not been pleased to prate of his whereabout to me; but I hear that he
has been seen lately at Naples.”

Constance coloured, and her heart beat violently; but she answered
indifferently, and turned away.

The next morning they set off for Italy. But within one week from that
day, what a change awaited Constance!

(1) After all, an astrologer,--nay, a cabalist--is not so monstrous
a prodigy in the nineteenth century! In the year 1801, Lackingtou
published a quarto, entitled _Magus: a Complete System of Occult
Philosophy; treating of Alchemy, the Cabalistic Art, Natural and
Celestial Magic,_ &c.--and a very impudent publication it is too. That
Raphael should put forth astrological manuals is not a proof of his
belief in the science he professes; but that it should _answer_ to
Raphael to put them forth, shows a tendency to belief in his purchasers.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

AMBITION VINDICATED.--THE HOME OF GODOLPHIN AND LUCILLA.--LUCILLA’S
MIND.--THE EFFECT OF HAPPY LOVE ON FEMALE TALENT.--THE EVE OF FAREWELL.
LUCILLA ALONE.--TEST OF A WOMAN’S AFFECTION.

0 much-abused and highly-slandered passion!--passion rather of the
soul than the heart: hateful to the pseudo-moralist, but viewed with
favouring, though not undiscriminating eyes by the true philosopher:
bright-winged and august ambition! It is well for fools to revile
thee, because thou art liable, like other utilities, to abuse! The wind
uproots the oak--but for every oak it uproots it scatters a thousand
acorns. Ixion embraced the cloud, but from the embrace sprang a hero.
Thou, too, hast thy fits of violence and storm; but without thee, life
would stagnate:---thou, too, embracest thy clouds; but even thy clouds
have the demigods for their offspring!

It was the great and prevailing misfortune of Godolphin’s life, that
he had early taught himself to be superior to exertion. His talents,
therefore, only preyed on himself; and instead of the vigorous and
daring actor of the world, he was alternately the indolent sensualist or
the solitary dreamer. He did not view the stir of the great Babel as a
man with a wholesome mind should do; and thus from his infirmities we
draw a moral. The moral is not the worse, in that it opposes the trite
moralities of those who would take from action its motive: the men of
genius, who are not also men of ambition, are either humourists, or
visionaries, or hypochondriacs.

By the side of one of the Italian lakes, Godolphin and Lucilla fixed
their abode; and here the young idealist for some time imagined himself
happy. Never until now so fond of nature as of cities, he gave himself
up to the enchantment of the Eden around him. He spent the long sunny
hours of noon on the smooth lake, or among the sheltering trees by which
it was encircled. The scenes he had witnessed in the world became to
him the food of quiet meditation, and for the first time in his life,
thought did not weary him with its sameness.

When his steps turned homeward, the anxious form of Lucilla waited for
him: her eye brightened at his approach, her spirit escaped restraint
and bounded into joy: and Godolphin, touched by her delight, became
eager to witness it: he felt the magnet of a Home. Yet as the first
enthusiasm of passion died away, he could not but be sensible that
Lucilla was scarcely a companion. Her fancy was indeed lively, and her
capacity acute; but experience had set a confined limit to her ideas.
She had nothing save love, and a fitful temperament, upon which she
could draw for conversation. Those whose education debars them from
deriving instruction from things, have in general the power to extract
amusement from persons:--they can talk of the ridiculous Mrs. So-and-so,
or the absurd Mr. Blank. But our lovers saw no society: and thus their
commune was thrown entirely on their internal resources.

There was always that in the peculiar mind of Godolphin which was
inclined towards ideas too refined and subtle even for persons of
cultivated intellect. If Constance could scarcely comprehend the tone of
his character, we may believe that to Lucilla he was wholly a
mystery. This, perhaps, enhanced her love, but the consciousness of it
disappointed his. He felt that what he considered the noblest faculties
he possessed were unappreciated. He was sometimes angry with Lucilla
that she loved only those qualities in his character which he shared
with the rest of mankind. His speculative and Hamlet-like temper--(let
us here take Goethe’s view of Hamlet, and combine a certain weakness
with finer traits of the royal dreamer)--perpetually deserted the
solid world, and flew to aerial creations. He could not appreciate the
present. Had Godolphin loved Lucilla as he once thought that he should
love her, the beauties of her character would have blinded him to its
defects; but its passion had been too sudden to be thoroughly grounded.
It had arisen from the knowledge of her affection---not grown step by
step from the natural bias of his own. Between the interval of liking
and possession, love (to be durable) should pass through many stages.
The doubt, the fear, the first pressure of the hand, the first kiss,
each should be an epoch for remembrance to cling to. In moments of after
coolness or anger, the mind should fly from the sated present to the
million tender and freshening associations of the past. With these
associations the affection renews its youth. How vast a store of melting
reflections, how countless an accumulation of the spells that preserve
constancy, does that love forfeit, in which the memory only commences
with possession!

And the more delicate and thoughtful our nature, the more powerful
are these associations. Do they not constitute the immense difference
between the love and the intrigue? All things that savour of youth make
our most exquisite sensations, whether to experience, or recall:--thus,
in the seasons of the year, we prize the spring; and in the effusions of
the heart, the courtship.

Beautiful, too, and tender--wild and fresh in her tenderness--as
Lucilla was, there was that in her character, in addition to her want of
education, which did not wholly accord with Godolphin’s preconception
of the being his fancy had conjured up. His calm and profound nature
desired one in whom he could not only confide, but, as it were, repose.
Thus one great charm that had attracted him to Constance was the
evenness and smoothness of her temper. But the self-formed mind of
Lucilla was ever in a bright, and to him a wearying, agitation;--tears
and smiles perpetually chased each other. Not comprehending his
character, but thinking only and wholly of him, she distracted herself
with conjectures and suspicions, which she was too ingenious and too
impassioned to conceal. After watching him for hours, she would weep
that he did not turn from his books or his reverie to search also for
her, with eyes equally yearning and tender as her own. The fear in
absence, the absorbed devotion when present, that absolutely made her
existence--she was wretched because he did not reciprocate with the same
intensity of soul. She could conceive nothing of love but that which she
felt herself; and she saw, daily and hourly, that in that love he did
not sympathise; and therefore she embittered her life by thinking that
he did not return her affection.

“You wrong us both,” said he in answer to her tearful accusations; “but
our sex love differently from yours.”

“Ah,” she replied, “I feel that love has no varieties: there is but one
love, but there may be many counterfeits.”

Godolphin smiled to think how the untutored daughter of nature had
unconsciously uttered the sparkling aphorism of the most artificial of
maxim-makers.(1) Lucilla saw the smile, and her tears flowed instantly.
“Thou mockest me.”

“Thou art a little fool,” said Godolphin, kindly, and he kissed away the
storm.

And this was ever an easy matter. There was nothing unfeminine or sullen
in Lucilla’s irregulated moods; a kind word--a kind caress--allayed them
in an instant, and turned the transient sorrow into sparkling delight.
But they who know how irksome is the perpetual trouble of conciliation
to a man meditative and indolent like Godolphin, will appreciate the
pain that even her tenderness occasioned him.

There in one thing very noticeable in women when they have once obtained
the object of their life--the sudden check that is given to the impulses
of their genius!--Content to have found the realisation of their chief
hope, they do not look beyond to other but lesser objects, as they
had been wont to do before. Hence we see so many who, before marriage,
strike us with admiration, from the vividness of their talents, and
after marriage settle down into the mere machine. We wonder that we ever
feared, while we praised, the brilliancy of an intellect that seems
now never to wander from the limits of house and hearth. So with poor
Lucilla; her restless mind and ardent genius had once seized on every
object within their reach:--she had taught herself music; she had
learned the colourings and lines of art; not a book came in her way,
but she would have sought to extract from it a new idea. But she was now
with Godolphin, and all other occupations for thought were gone; she
had nothing beyond his love to wish for, nothing beyond his character
to learn. He was the circle of hope, and her heart its centre; all lines
were equal to that heart, so that they touched him. It is clear that
this devotion prevented her, however, from fitting herself to be his
companion; she did not seek to accomplish herself, but to study him:
thus in her extreme love was another reason why that love was not
adequately returned.

But Godolphin felt all the responsibility that he had taken on himself.
He felt how utterly the happiness of this poor and solitary child--for
a child she was in character, and almost in years--depended upon him. He
roused himself, therefore, from his ordinary selfishness, and rarely,
if ever, gave way to the irritation which she unknowingly but constantly
kept alive. The balmy and delicious climate, the liquid serenity of the
air, the majestic repose with which Nature invested the loveliness that
surrounded their home, contributed to soften and calm his mind. And
he had persuaded Lucilla to look without despair upon his occasional
although short absences. Sometimes he passed two or three weeks at Rome,
sometimes at Naples or Florence. He knew so well how necessary such
intervals of absence are to the preservation of love, to the defeat of
that satiety which creeps over us with custom, that he had resolutely
enforced it as a necessity, although always under the excuse of
business--a plea that Lucilla could understand and not resist; for the
word business seemed to her like destiny--a call that, however odious,
we cannot disobey. At first, indeed, she was disconsolate at the absence
only of two days; but when she saw how eagerly her lover returned to
her, with what a fresh charm he listened to her voice or her song, she
began to confess that even in the evil might be good.

By degrees he accustomed her to longer intervals; and Lucilla relieved
the dreariness of the time by the thousand little plans and surprises
with which women delight in receiving the beloved wanderer after
absence. His departure was a signal for a change in the house, the
gardens, the arbour; and when she was tired with these occupations,
she was not forbidden at least to write to him and receive his letters.
Daily intoxication! and men’s words are so much kinder when written,
than they are when uttered! Fortunately for Lucilla, her early
habits, and her strange qualities of mind, rendered her independent of
companionship, and fond of solitude.

Often Godolphin, who could not conceive how persons without education
could entertain themselves, taking pity on her loneliness and seclusion,
would say,

“But how, Lucilla, have you passed this long day that I have spent away
from you?--among the woods or on the lake?”

And Lucilla, delighted to recount to him the history of her hours, would
go over each incident, and body forth every thought that had occurred to
her, with a grave and serious minuteness that evinced her capabilities
of dispensing with the world.

In this manner they passed somewhat more than two years: and in spite of
the human alloy, it was perhaps the happiest period of Godolphin’s life,
and the one that the least disappointed his too exacting imagination.
Lucilla had had one daughter, but she died a few weeks after birth. She
wept over the perished flower, but was not inconsolable; for, before
its loss, she had taught herself to think no affliction could be
irremediable that did not happen to Godolphin. Perhaps Godolphin was the
more grieved of the two; men of his character are fond of the occupation
of watching the growth of minds; they put in practice their chimeras of
education. Happy child, to have escaped an experiment!

It was the eve before one of Godolphin’s periodical excursions, and it
was Rome that he proposed to visit; Godolphin had lingered about the
lake until the sun had set; and Lucilla, grown impatient, went forth to
seek him. The day had been sultry, and now a sombre and breathless calm
hung over the deepening eve. The pines, those gloomy children of the
forest, which shed something of melancholy and somewhat of sternness
over the brighter features of an Italian landscape, drooped heavily in
the breezeless air. As she came on the border of the lake, its waves
lay dark and voiceless; only, at intervals, the surf, fretting along the
pebbles made a low and dreary sound, or from the trees some lingering
songster sent forth a shrill and momentary note, and then again all
became

     “An atmosphere without a breath, A silence sleeping there.”

There was a spot where the trees, receding in a ring, left some bare
and huge fragments of stone uncovered by verdure. It was the only spot
around that rich and luxuriant scene that was not in harmony with the
soft spirit of the place: might I indulge a fanciful comparison, I
should say that it was like one desolate and grey remembrance in the
midst of a career of pleasure. On this spot Godolphin now stood alone,
looking along the still and purple waters that lay before him. Lucilla,
with a light step, climbed the rugged stones, and, touching his
shoulder, reproached him with a tender playfulness for his truancy.

“Lucilla,” said he, when peace was restored, “what impressions does
this dreary and prophetic pause of nature before the upgathering of the
storm, create in you? Does it inspire you with melancholy, or thought,
or fear?”

“I see my star,” answered Lucilla, pointing to a far and solitary orb,
which hung islanded in a sea of cloud, that swept slowly and blackly
onward:--“I see my star, and I think more of that little light than of
the darkness around it.”

“But it will presently be buried among the clouds,” said Godolphin,
smiling at that superstition which Lucilla had borrowed from her father.

“But the clouds pass away, and the star endures.”

“You are of a sanguine nature, my Lucilla.” Lucilla sighed.

“Why that sigh, dearest?”

“Because I am thinking how little even those who love us most know
of us! I never tell my disquiet and sorrow. There are times when thou
wouldst not think me too warmly addicted to hope!”

“And what, poor idler, have you to fear?”

“Hast thou never felt it possible that thou couldst love me less?”

“Never!”

Lucilla raised her large searching eyes, and gazed eagerly on his face;
but in its calm features and placid brow she saw no ground for augury,
whether propitious or evil. She turned away.

“I cannot think, Lucilla,” said Godolphin, “that you ever direct those
thoughts of yours, wandering though they be, to the future. Do they ever
extend to the space of some ten or twenty years?”

“No. But one year may contain the whole history of my future.”

As she spoke, the clouds gathered round the solitary star to which
Lucilla had pointed. The storm was at hand; they felt its approach, and
turned homeward.

There is something more than ordinarily fearful in the tempests that
visit those soft and garden climes. The unfrequency of such violent
changes in the mood of nature serves to appal us as with an omen; it is
like a sudden affliction in the midst of happiness--or a wound from the
hand of one we love. For the stroke for which we are not prepared we
have rather despondency than resistance.

As they reached their home, the heavy rain-drops began to fall. They
stood for some minutes at the casement, watching the coruscations of
the lightning as it played over the black and heavy waters of the lake.
Lucilla, whom the influences of nature always strangely and mysteriously
affected, clung pale and almost trembling to Godolphin; but even in her
fear there was delight in being so near to him in whose love alone she
thought there was protection. Oh what luxury so dear to a woman as is
the sense of dependence! Poor Lucilla! it was the last evening she ever
spent with one whom she worshipped so entirely.

Godolphin remained up longer than Lucilla. When he joined her in her
room, the storm had ceased; and he found her standing by the open
window, and gazing on the skies that were now bright and serene. Far in
the deep stillness of midnight crept the waters of the lake, hushed once
more into silence, and reflecting the solemn and unfathomable stars.
That chain of hills, which but to name, awakens countless memories of
romance, stretched behind--their blue and dim summits melting into the
skies, and over one higher than the rest, paused the new risen moon,
silvering the first beneath, and farther down, breaking with one long
and yet mellower track of light over the waters of the lake.

As Godolphin approached he did so, unconsciously, with a hushed and
noiseless step. There is something in the quiet of nature like worship;
it is as if, from the breathless heart of Things, went up a prayer or
a homage to the Arch-Creator. One feels subdued by a stillness so utter
and so august; it extends itself to our own sensations, and deepens into
an awe.

Both, then, looked on in silence, indulging it may be different
thoughts. At length, Lucilla said softly:--“Tell me, hast thou really no
faith in my father’s creed? Are the stars quite dumb? Is there no truth
in their movements, no prophecy in their lustre?”

“My Lucilla, reason and experience tell us that the astrologers nurse a
dream that has no reality.”

“Reason! well!--Experience!--why, did not thy father’s mortal illness
hurry thee from home at the very time in which mine foretold thy
departure and its cause? I was then but a child; yet I shall never
forget the paleness of thy cheek when my father uttered his prediction.”

“I, too, was almost a child then, Lucilla.”

“But that prediction was verified?”

“It was so; but how many did Volktman utter that were never verified? In
true science there are no chances--no uncertainties.”

“And my father,” said Lucilla, unheeding the answer, “always foretold
that thy lot and mine were to be entwined.”

“And the prophecy, perhaps, disposed you to the fact. You might never
have loved me, Lucilla, if your thoughts had not been driven to dwell
upon me by the prediction.”

“Nay; I thought of thee before I heard the prophecy.”

“But your father foretold me, dearest--cross and disappointment in my
love--was he not wrong? am I not blest with you?”

Lucilla threw herself into her lover’s arms, and, as she kissed him,
murmured, “Ah, if I could make thee happy!” The next day Godolphin
departed for Rome. Lucilla was more dejected at his departure than
she had been even in his earliest absence. The winter was now slowly
approaching, and the weather was cold and dreary. That year it was
unusually rainy and tempestuous, and as the wild gusts howled around her
solitary home--how solitary now!--or she heard the big drops hurrying
down on the agitated lake, she shuddered at her own despondent thoughts,
and dreaded the gloom and loneliness of the lengthened night. For
the first time since she had lived with Godolphin she turned, but
disconsolately, to the company of books.

Works of all sorts filled their home, but the spell that once spoke to
her from the page was broken. If the book was not of love, it possessed
no interest;--if of love, she thought the description both tame and
false. No one ever painted love so as fully to satisfy another:--to some
it is too florid--to some too commonplace; the god, like other gods, has
no likeness on earth, and every wave on which the star of passion beams,
breaks the lustre into different refractions of light.

As one day she was turning listlessly over some books that had been put
aside by Godolphin in a closet, and hoping to find one that contained,
as sometimes happened, his comments or at least his marks--she
was somewhat startled to find among them several volumes which she
remembered to have belonged to her father. Godolphin had bought them
after Volktman’s death, and put them by as relics of his singular
friend, and as samples of the laborious and selfwilled aberration of the
human intellect.

Few among these works could Lucilla comprehend, for they were chiefly in
other tongues than the only two with which she was acquainted. But some,
among which were manuscripts by her father, beautifully written, and
curiously ornamented (some of the chief works on the vainer sciences
are only to be found in manuscript), she could contrive to decipher by
a little assistance from her memory, in recalling the signs and
hieroglyphics which her father had often explained to her, and, indeed,
caused her to copy out for him in his calculations. Always possessing an
untaxed and unquestioned belief in the astral powers, she now took some
interest in reading of their mysteries. Her father, secretly, perhaps,
hoping to bequeath his name to the gratitude of some future Hermes,
had in his manuscripts reduced into a system many scattered theories of
others, and many dogmas of his own. Over these, for they were simpler
and easier than the crabbed and mystical speculations in the printed
books, she more especially pored; and she was not sorry at finding fresh
reasons for her untutored adoration of the stars and apparitions of the
heavens.

Still, however, these bewildering researches made but a small part,
comparatively speaking, of the occupation of her thoughts. To write to,
and hear from, Godolphin had become to her more necessary than ever, and
her letters were fuller and more minute in their details of love than
even in the period of their first passion. Wouldst thou know if the
woman thou lovest still loves thee, trust not her spoken words, her
present smiles; examine her letters in absence, see if she dwells, as
she once did, upon trifles--but trifles relating to thee. The things
which the indifferent forget are among the most treasured meditations of
love.

But Lucilla was not satisfied with the letters--frequent as they
were--that she received in answer; they were kind, affectionate, but the
something was wanting. “The best part of beauty is that which no picture
can express.” That which the heart most asks is that which no words can
convey. Honesty--patriotism--religion--these have had their hypocrites
for life;--but passion permits only momentary dissemblers.

(1) Rochefoucauld.



CHAPTER XXXV.

GODOLPHIN AT ROME.--THE CURE FOR A MORBID IDEALISM.--HIS EMBARRASSMENT
IN REGARD TO LUCILLA.--THE RENCONTRE WITH AN OLD FRIEND.--THE
COLOSSEUM.--A SURPRISE.

Godolphin arrived at Rome: it was thronged with English. Among them were
some whom he remembered with esteem in England. He had grown a little
weary of his long solitude, and he entered with eagerness into the
society of those who courted him. He was still an object of great
interest to the idle; and as men grow older they become less able to
dispense with attention.

He was pleased to find his own importance, and he tasted the sweets of
companionship with more gust than he had yet done. His talents, buried
in obscurity, and uncalled for by the society of Lucilla, were now
perpetually tempted into action, and stimulated by reward. It had never
before appeared to him so charming a thing to shine; for, before, he had
been sated with even that pleasure. Now, from long relaxation, it had
become new; vanity had recovered its nice perception. He was no longer
so absorbed as he had been by visionary images. He had given his fancy
food in his long solitude, and with its wild co-mate; and being somewhat
disappointed in the result, the living world became to him a fairer
prospect than it had seemed while the world of imagination was untried.
Nothing more confirms the health of the mind than indulging its
favourite infirmity to its own cure. So Goethe, in his memoirs, speaking
of Werther, remarks, that “the composition of that extravagant work
cured his character of extravagance.”

Godolphin thought often of Lucilla; but perhaps, if the truth of his
heart were known even to himself, a certain sentiment of pain and
humiliation was associated with the tenderness of his remembrance. With
her he had led a life, romantic, it is true, but somewhat effeminate;
and he thought now, surrounded by the gay and freshening tide of the
world, somewhat mawkish in its romance. He did not experience a desire
to return to the still lake and the gloomy pines;--he felt that Lucilla
did not suffice to make his world. He would have wished to bring her
to Rome; to live with her more in public than he had hitherto done; to
conjoin, in short, her society, with the more recreative dissipation of
the world: but there were many obstacles to this plan in his fastidious
imagination. So new to the world, its ways, its fashions, so strange
and infantine in all things, as Lucilla was, he trembled to expose
her inexperience to the dangers that would beset it. He knew that his
“friends” would pay very little respect to her reserve; and that for
one so lovely and unhackneyed, the snares of the wildest and most subtle
adepts of intrigue would be set. Godolphin did not undervalue Lucilla’s
pure and devoted heart; but he knew that the only sure antidote against
the dangers of the world is the knowledge of the world. There was
nothing in Lucilla that ever promised to attain that knowledge; her very
nature seemed to depend on her ignorance of the nature of others. Joined
to this fear and a confused sentiment of delicacy towards her, a certain
remorseful feeling in himself made him dislike bringing their connexion
immediately before the curious and malignant world: so much had
circumstance, and Lucilla’s own self-willed temper and uncalculating
love, contributed to drive the poor girl into his arms,--and so truly
had he chosen the generous not the selfish part, until passion and
nature were exposed to a temptation that could have been withstood by
none but the adherent to sterner principles than he (the creature of
indolence and feeling) had ever clung to--that Godolphin, viewing his
habits--his education--his whole bias and frame of mind--the estimates
and customs of the world--may not, perhaps be very rigidly judged for
the nature of his tie to Lucilla. But I do not seek to excuse it, nor
did he wholly excuse it to himself. The image of Volktman often occurred
to him, and always in reproach. Living with Lucilla in a spot only trod
by Italians, so indulgent to love, and where the whisper of shame could
never reach her ear, or awaken his remorse, her state did not, however,
seem to her or himself degraded, and the purity of her girlish mind
almost forbade the intrusion of the idea. But to bring her into
public--among his own countrymen--and to feel that the generous and
devoted girl, now so unconscious of sin, would be rated by English eyes
with the basest and most abandoned of the sex,--with the glorifiers in
vice or the hypocrites for money,--this was a thought which he could not
contemplate, and which he felt he would rather pass his life in
solitude than endure. But this very feeling gave an embarrassment to
his situation with Lucilla, and yet more fixedly combined her image with
that of a wearisome seclusion and an eternal ennui.

From the thought of Lucilla, coupled with its many embarrassments,
Godolphin turned with avidity to the easy enjoyments of life--enjoyments
that ask no care and dispense with the trouble of reflection.

But among the visitors to Rome, the one whose sight gave to Godolphin
the greatest pleasure was his old friend Augustus Saville. A decaying
constitution, and a pulmonary attack in especial, had driven the
accomplished voluptuary to a warmer climate. The meeting of the two
friends was quite characteristic: it was at a soiree at an English
house. Saville had managed to get up a whist-table.

“Look, Saville, there is Godolphin, your old friend!” cried the host,
who was looking on the game, and waiting to cut in.

“Hist!” said Saville; “don’t direct his attention to me until after the
odd trick!”

Notwithstanding this coolness when a point was in question, Saville was
extremely glad to meet his former pupil. They retired into a corner
of the room, and talked over the world. Godolphin hastened to turn the
conversation on Lady Erpingham.

“Ah!” said Saville, “I see from your questions, and yet more your tone
of voice, that although it is now several years since you met, you still
preserve the sentiment--the weakness--Ah!--bah!”

“Pshaw!” said Godolphin; “I owe her revenge, not love. But Erpingham?
Does she love him? He is handsome.”

“Erpingham? What--you have not heard----”

“Heard what?”

“Oh, nothing: but, pardon me, they wait for me at the card-table. I
should like to stay with you, but you know one must not be selfish;
the table would be broken up without me. No virtue without
self-sacrifice--eh?”

“But one moment. What is the matter with the Erpinghams? have they
quarrelled?”

“Quarrelled?--bah! Quarrelled--no; I dare say she likes him better now
than ever she did before.” And Saville limped away to the table.

Godolphin remained for some time abstracted and thoughtful. At length,
just as he was going away, Saville, who, having an unplayable hand and
a bad partner, had somewhat lost his interest in the game, looked up and
beckoned to him.

“Godolphin, my clear fellow, I am to escort a lady to see the lions
to-morrow; a widow--a rich widow; handsome, too. Do, for charity’s sake,
accompany us, or meet us at the Colosseum. How well that sounds--eh?
About two.”

Godolphin refused at first, but being pressed, assented.

Not surrounded by the lesser glories of modern Rome, but girt with the
mighty desolation of the old city of Romulus, stands the most wonderful
monument, perhaps, in the world, of imperial magnificence--the Flavian
Amphitheatre, to which, it has been believed, the colossal statue of the
worst of emperors gave that name (the Colosseum), allied with the least
ennobling remembrances yet giving food to the loftiest thoughts. The
least ennobling remembrances; for what can be more degrading than
the amusements of a degraded people, who reserved meekness for their
tyrants, and lavished ferocity on their shows? From that of the
wild beast to that of the Christian martyr, blood has been the only
sanctification of this temple to the Arts. The history of the Past
broods like an air over those mighty arches; but Memory can find no
reminiscence worthy of the spot. The amphitheatre was not built until
history had become a record of the vice and debasement of the
human race. The Faun and the Dryad had deserted the earth, no sweet
superstition, the faith of the grotto and the green hill, could stamp
with a delicate and undying spell the labours of man. Nor could the
ruder but august virtues of the heroic age give to the tradition of the
arch and column some stirring remembrance or exalting thought. Not
only the warmth of fancy, but the greatness of soul was gone; the only
triumph left to genius was to fix on its page the gloomy vices which
made the annals of the world. Tacitus is the Historian of the Colosseum.
But the very darkness of the past gives to the thoughts excited
within that immense pile a lofty but mournful character. A sense
of vastness--for which, as we gaze, we cannot find words, but which
bequeaths thoughts that our higher faculties would not willingly
forego--creeps within us as we gaze on this Titan relic of gigantic
crimes for ever passed away from the world.

And not only within the scene, but around the scene, what voices of
old float upon the air? Yonder the triumphal arch of Constantine,
its Corinthian arcades, and the history of Trajan sculptured upon its
marble; the dark and gloomy verdure of the Palatine; the ruins of the
palace of the Caesars; the mount of Fable, of Fame, of Luxury (the Three
Epochs of Nations); the habitation of Saturn; the home of Tully; the
sight of the Golden House of Nero! Look at your feet,--look around; the
waving weed, the broken column--Time’s witness, and the Earthquake’s. In
that contrast between grandeur and decay,--in the unutterable and awful
solemnity that, while rife with the records of past ages, is sad also
with their ravage, you have felt the nature of eternity!

Through this vast amphitheatre, and giving way to such meditations,
Godolphin passed on alone, the day after his meeting with Saville;
and at the hour he had promised the latter to seek him, he mounted the
wooden staircase which conducts the stranger to the wonders above the
arena, and by one of the arches that looked over the still pines that
slept afar off in the sun of noon, he saw a female in deep mourning,
whom Saville appeared to be addressing. He joined them; the female
turned round, and he beheld, pale and saddened, but how glorious still,
the face of Constance! To him the interview was unexpected, by her
foreseen. The colour flushed over her cheek, the voice sank inaudible
within. But Godolphin’s emotion was more powerful and uncontrolled:
violent tremblings literally shook him as he stood; he gasped for
breath: the sight of the dead returned to earth would have affected him
less.

In this immense ruin--in the spot where, most of earth, man feels the
significance of an individual life, or of the rapid years over which it
extends, he had encountered, suddenly, the being who had coloured all
his existence. He was reminded at once of the grand epoch of his life
and of its utter unimportance. But these are the thoughts that would
occur rather to us than him. Thought at that moment was an intolerable
flash that burst on him for an instant, and then left all in darkness.
He clung to the shattered corridor for support. Constance seemed touched
and surprised by so overwhelming an emotion, and the habitual hypocrisy
in which women are reared, and by which they learn to conceal the
sentiments they experience, and affect those they do not, came to her
assistance and his own.

“It is many years, Mr. Godolphin,” said she in a collected but soft
voice, “since we met.”

“Years!” repeated Godolphin, vaguely; and approaching her with a slow
and faltering step. “Years! you have not numbered them!”

Saville had retired a few steps on Godolphin’s arrival, and had
watched with a sardonic yet indifferent smile the proof of his friend’s
weakness. He joined Godolphin, and said,--

“You must forgive me, my dear Godolphin, for not apprising you before of
Lady Erpingham’s arrival at Rome. But a delight is perhaps the greater
for being sudden.”

The word Erpingham thrilled displeasingly through Godolphin’s veins; in
some measure it restored him to himself. He bowed coldly, and muttered
a few ceremonious words; and while he was yet speaking, some stragglers
that had belonged to Lady Erpingham’s party came up. Fortunately,
perhaps, for the self-possession of both, they, the once lovers, were
separated from each other. But whenever Constance turned her glance to
Godolphin, she saw those large, searching, melancholy eyes, whose power
she well recalled, fixed unmovingly on her, as seeking to read in her
cheek the history of the years which had ripened its beauties--for
another.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

DIALOGUE BETWEEN GODOLPHIN AND SAVILLE.--CERTAIN EVENTS
EXPLAINED.--SAVILLE’S APOLOGY FOR A BAD HEART.--GODOLPHIN’S CONFUSED
SENTIMENTS FOR LADY ERPINGHAM.

“Good Heavens! Constance Vernon once more free!”

“And did you not really know it? Your retreat by the lake must have been
indeed seclusion. It is seven months since Lord Erpingham died.”

“Do I dream?” murmured Godolphin, as he strode hurriedly to and fro the
apartment of his friend.

Saville, stretched on the sofa, diverted himself with mixing snuffs on a
little table beside him. Nothing is so mournfully amusing in life as
to see what trifles the most striking occurrences to us appear to our
friends.

“But,” said Saville, not looking up, “you seem very incurious to know
how he died, and where. You must learn that Erpingham had two ruling
passions--one for horses, the other for fiddlers. In setting off for
Italy he expected, naturally enough, to find the latter, but he thought
he might as well export the former. He accordingly filled the vessel
with quadrupeds, and the second day after landing he diverted the tedium
of a foreign clime with a gentle ride. He met with a fall, and was
brought home speechless. The loss of speech was not of great importance
to his acquaintance; but he died that night, and the loss of his life
was! for he gave very fair dinners--ah,--bah!” And Saville inhaled the
fragrance of a new mixture.

Saville had a very pleasant way of telling a story, particularly if it
related to a friend’s death, or some such agreeable incident. “Poor Lady
Erpingham was exceedingly shocked; and well she might be, for I don’t
think weeds become her. She came here by slow stages, in order that the
illustrious Dead might chase away the remembrance of the deceased.”

“Your heart has not improved, Saville.”

“Heart! What’s that? Oh, a thing servant-maids have, and break for John
the footman. Heart! my dear fellow, you are turned canter, and make use
of words without meaning.”

Godolphin was not prepared for a conversation of this order; and
Saville, in a somewhat more serious air, continued:--“Every person,
Godolphin, talks about the world. The world! it conveys different
meanings to each, according to the nature of the circle which makes his
world. But we all agree in one thing,--the worldliness of the world.
Now, no man’s world is so void of affection as ours--the polished, the
courtly, the great world: the higher the air, the more pernicious to
vegetation. Our very charm, our very fascination, depends upon a certain
mockery; a subtle and fine ridicule on all persons and all things
constitutes the essence of our conversation. Judge if that tone be
friendly to the seriousness of the affections. Some poor dog among us
marries, and household plebeianisms corrupt the most refined. Custom
attaches the creature to his ugly wife and his squalling children; he
grows affectionate, and becomes out of fashion. But we single men,
dear Godolphin, have no one to care for but ourselves: the deaths that
happen, unlike the ties that fall from the married men, do not interfere
with our domestic comforts. We miss no one to make our tea, or give
us our appetite-pills before dinner. Our losses are not intimate and
household. We shrug our shoulders and are not a whit the worse for
them. Thus, for want of grieving, and caring, and fretting, we are happy
enough to grow--come, I will use an epithet to please you--hard-hearted!
We congeal into philosophy; and are we not then wise in adopting this
life of isolation and indifference?”

Godolphin, wrapt in reflection, scarcely heeded the voluptuary, but
Saville continued: he had grown to that height in loneliness that he
even loved talking to himself.

“Yes, wise! For this world is so filled with the selfish, that he who
is not so labours under a disadvantage. Nor are we the worse for our
apathy. If we jest at a man’s misfortune, we do not do it to his face.
Why not out of the ill, which is misfortune, extract good, which is
amusement? Three men in this room are made cheerful by a jest at a
broken leg in the next. Is the broken leg the worse for it? No; but the
three men are made merry by the jest. Is the jest wicked, then? Nay,
it is benevolence. But some cry, ‘Ay, but this habit of disregarding
misfortunes blunts your wills when you have the power to relieve them.’
Relieve! was ever such delusion? What can we relieve in the vast mass of
human misfortunes? As well might we take a drop from the ocean, and cry,
‘Ha, ha! we have lessened the sea!’ What are even your public charities?
what your best institutions? How few of the multitude are relieved at
all; how few of that few relieved permanently! Men die, suffer, starve
just as soon, and just as numerously; these public institutions are only
trees for the public conscience to go to roost upon. No, my dear fellow,
everything I see in the world says, Take care of thyself. This is
the true moral of life; every one who minds it gets on, thrives, and
fattens; they who don’t, come to us to borrow money, if gentlemen; or
fall upon the parish, if plebeians. I mind it, my dear Godolphin; I
have minded it all my life; I am very contented--content is the sign of
virtue,--ah,--bah!”

Yes; Constance was a widow. The hand of her whom Percy Godolphin had
loved so passionately, and whose voice even now thrilled to his inmost
heart, and awakened the echoes that had slept for years, it was once
more within her power to bestow, and within his to demand. What a host
of emotions this thought gave birth to! Like the coming of the Hindoo
god, she had appeared, and lo, there was a new world! “And her look,”
 he thought, “was kind, her voice full of a gentle promise, her agitation
was visible. She loves me still. Shall I fly to her feet? Shall I press
for hope? And, oh what, what happiness!----but Lucilla!”

This recollection was indeed a barrier that never failed to present
itself to every prospect of hope and joy which the image of Constance
coloured and called forth. Even for the object of his first love, could
he desert one who had forsaken all for him, whose life was wrapt up
in his affection? The very coolness with which he was sensible he had
returned the attachment of this poor girl made him more alive to the
duties he owed her. If not bound to her by marriage, he considered
with a generosity--barely, in truth, but justice, yet how rare in the
world--that the tie between them was sacred, that only death could
dissolve it. And now that tie was, perhaps, all that held him from
attaining the dream of his past life.

Absorbed in these ideas, Godolphin contrived to let Saville’s
unsympathising discourse glide unheeded along, without reflecting its
images on the sense, until the name of Lady Erpingham again awakened his
attention.

“You are going to her this evening,” said Saville; “and you may thank me
for that; for I asked you if you were thither bound in her hearing, in
order to force her into granting you an invitation. She only sees her
most intimate friends--you, me, and Lady Charlotte Deerham. Widows are
shy of acquaintance during their first affliction. I always manage,
however, to be among the admitted--caustic is good for some wounds.”

“Nay,” said Godolphin, smiling, “it is your friendly disposition that
makes them sure of sympathy.”

“You have hit it. But,” continued Saville, “do you think Madame likely
to marry again, or shall you yourself adventure? Erpingham has left her
nearly his whole fortune.”

Irritated and impatient at Saville’s tone, Godolphin rose. “Between you
and me,” said Saville, in wishing him goodbye, “I don’t think she will
ever marry again. Lady Erpingham is fond of power and liberty; even the
young Godolphin--and you are not so handsome as you were--will find it a
hopeless suit.”

“Pshaw!” muttered Godolphin, as he departed. But the last words of
Saville had created a new feeling in his breast. It was then possible,
nay, highly probable, that he might have spared himself the contest he
had undergone, and that the choice between Lucilla and Constance might
never be permitted him. “At all events,” said he, almost aloud, “I will
see if this conjecture be true: if Constance, yet remembering our early
love, yet feeling for the years of secret pining which her ambition
bequeathed me, should appear willing to grant me the atonement fate
has placed within her power, then, then, it will be time for this
self-sacrifice.”

The social relations of the sex often make men villanous--they more
often make them weak.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

AN EVENING WITH CONSTANCE.

Constances’s heart was in her eyes when she saw Godolphin that evening.
She had, it is true, as Saville observed, been compelled by common
courtesy to invite him; and although there was an embarrassment in their
meeting, who shall imagine that it did not bring to Constance more of
pleasure than pain? She had been deeply shocked by Lord Erpingham’s
sudden death: they had not been congenial minds, but the great have an
advantage denied to the less wealthy orders. Among the former, a
husband and wife need not weary each other with constant companionships;
different establishments, different hours, different pursuits, allow
them to pass life in great measure apart, so that there is no necessity
for hatred, and indifference is the coldest feeling which custom
induces.

Still in the prime of youth and at the zenith of her beauty, Constance
was now independent. She was in the enjoyment of the wealth and rank her
early habits of thought had deemed indispensable, and she now for the
first time possessed the power of sharing them with whom she pleased. At
this thought how naturally her heart flew back to Godolphin! And while
she now gazed, although by stealth, at his countenance, as he sat at a
little distance from her, and in his turn watched for the tokens of past
remembrance, she was deeply touched by the change (light as it seemed to
others) which years had brought to him; and in recalling the emotion he
had testified at meeting her, she suffered her heart to soften, while it
reproached her in whispering, “Thou art the cause!”--All the fire--the
ardour of a character not then confirmed, which, when she last saw him
spoke in his eye and mien, were gone for ever. The irregular brilliancy
of his conversation--the earnestness of his air and gesture were
replaced by a calm, and even, and melancholy composure. His forehead was
stamped with the lines of thought; and the hair, grown thinner toward
the temples, no longer concealed by its luxuriance the pale expanse of
his brow. The air of delicate health which had at first interested her
in his appearance, still lingered, and gave its wonted and ineffable
charm to his low voice, and the gentle expression of his eyes. By
degrees, the conversation, at first partial and scattered, became more
general. Constance and Godolphin were drawn into it.

“It is impossible,” said Godolphin, “to compare life in a southern
climate with that which we lead in colder countries. There is an
indolence, a laissez aller, a philosophical insouciance, produced by
living under these warm suns, and apart from the ambition of the objects
of our own nation, which produce at last a state of mind that divides
us for ever from our countrymen. It is like living amidst perpetual
music--a different kind of life--a soft, lazy, voluptuous romance of
feeling, that indisposes us to action--almost to motion. So far from a
sojourn in Italy being friendly to the growth of ambition, it nips and
almost destroys the germ.”

“In fact, it leaves us fit for nothing but love,” said Saville; “an
occupation that levels us with the silliest part of our species.”

“Fools cannot love,” said Lady Charlotte.

“Pardon me, love and folly are synonymous in more languages than the
French,” answered Saville.

“In truth,” said Godolphin, “the love which you both allude to is not
worth disputing about.”

“What love is?” asked Saville.

“First love,” cried Lady Charlotte; “is it not, Mr. Godolphin?”

Godolphin changed color, and his eyes met those of Constance. She too
sighed and looked down: Godolphin remained silent.

“Nay, Mr. Godolphin, answer me,” said Lady Charlotte; “I appeal to you!”

“First love, then,” said Godolphin, endeavouring to speak composedly,
“has this advantage over others--it is usually disappointed, and regret
for ever keeps it alive.”

The tone of his voice struck Constance to the heart. Nor did she speak
again--save with visible effort--during the rest of the evening.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

CONSTANCE’S UNDIMINISHED LOVE FOR GODOLPHIN.--HER REMORSE AND HER
HOPE.--THE CAPITOL.--THE DIFFERENT THOUGHTS OF GODOLPHIN AND CONSTANCE
AT THE VIEW.--THE TENDER EXPRESSIONS OF CONSTANCE.

All that Constance heard from others of Godolphin’s life since they
parted, increased her long-nursed interest in his fate. His desultory
habits, his long absences from cities, which were understood to be
passed in utter and obscure solitude (for the partner of the solitude
and its exact spot were not known), she coupled with the quiet
melancholy in his aspect, with his half-reproachful glances toward
herself, and with the emotions which he had given vent to in their
conversation. And of this objectless and unsatisfactory life she was led
to consider herself the cause. With a bitter pang she recalled his early
words, when he said, “My future is in your hands;” and she contrasted
his vivid energies--his cultivated mind--his high talents--with the
life which had rendered them all so idle to others and unprofitable to
himself. Few, very few, know how powerfully the sentiment that another’s
happiness is at her control speaks to a woman’s heart. Accustomed to
dependence herself, the feeling that another depends on her is the most
soothing aliment to her pride. This makes a main cause of her love to
her children; they would be incomparably less dear to her if they were
made independent of her cares. And years, which had brought the young
countess acquainted with the nothingness of the world, had softened
and deepened the sources of her affections, in proportion as they had
checked those of her ambition. She could not, she did not, seek to
disguise from herself that Godolphin yet loved her; she anticipated the
hour when he would avow that love, and when she might be permitted to
atone for all of disappointment that her former rejection might have
brought to him. She felt, too, that it would be a noble as well as
delightful task, to awaken an intellect so brilliant to the natural
objects of its display; to call forth into active life his teeming
thought, and the rich eloquence with which he could convey it. Nor in
this hope were her more selfish designs, her political schemings, and
her desire of sway over those whom she loved to humble, forgotten; but
they made, however,--to be just,--a small part of her meditations.
Her hopes were chiefly of a more generous order. “I refused thee,” she
thought, “when I was poor and dependent--now that I have wealth and
rank, how gladly will I yield them to thy bidding!”

But Godolphin, as if unconscious of this favorable bias of her
inclinations, did not warm from his reserve. On the contrary, his first
abstraction, and his first agitation, had both subsided into a distant
and cool self-possession. They met often, but he avoided all nearer
or less general communication. She saw, however, that his eyes were
constantly in search of her, and that a slight trembling in his voice
when he addressed her, belied the calmness of his manner. Sometimes,
too, a word, or a touch from her, would awaken the ill-concealed
emotions--his lips seemed about to own the triumph of her and of the
past; but, as if by a violent effort, they were again sealed; and
not unoften, evidently unwilling to trust his self-command, he
would abruptly depart. In short, Constance perceived that a strange
embarrassment, the causes of which she could not divine, hung about him,
and that his conduct was regulated by some secret motive, which did not
spring from the circumstances that had occurred between them. For it was
evident that he was not withheld by any resentment toward her from her
former rejection: even his looks, his words, had betrayed that he had
done more than forgive. Lady Charlotte Deerham had heard from Saville
of their former attachment: she was a woman of the world, and thought it
but common delicacy to give them all occasion to renew it. She always,
therefore, took occasion to retire from the immediate vicinity of
Constance whenever Godolphin approached, and, as if by accident, to
leave them the opportunity to be sufficiently alone. This was a danger
that Godolphin had, however, hitherto avoided. One day fate counteracted
prudence, and a conference ensued which perplexed Constance and tried
severely the resolution of Godolphin.

They went together to the Capitol, from whose height is beheld perhaps
the most imposing landscape in the world. It was a sight pre-eminently
calculated to arouse and inspire the ambitious and working mind of the
young countess.

“Do you think,” said she to Godolphin, who stood beside her, “that there
lives any one who could behold these countless monuments of eternal
glory, and not sigh to recall the triteness, or rather burn to rise from
the level, of our ordinary life?”

“Nay,” said Godolphin, “to you the view may be an inspiration, to others
a warning. The arch and the ruin you survey speak of change yet more
eloquently than glory. Look on the spot where once was the temple of
Romulus:--there stands the little church of an obscure saint. Just below
you is the Tarpeian Rock: we cannot see it; it is hidden from us by a
crowd of miserable houses. Along the ancient plain of the Campus Martins
behold the numberless spires of a new religion, and the palaces of a
modern race! Amidst them you see the triumphal columns of Trajan and
Marcus Antoninus; but whose are the figures that crown their summits?
St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s! And this awful wilderness of men’s
labours--this scene and token of human revolutions--inspires you with
a love of glory; to me it proves its nothingness. An irresistible--a
crushing sense of the littleness and brief life of our most ardent
and sagacious achievements seems to me to float like a voice over the
place!”

“And are you still, then,” said Constance, with a half sigh, “dead to
all but the enjoyment of the present moment?”

“No,” replied Godolphin, in a low and trembling voice: “I am not dead to
the regret of the past!”

Constance blushed deeply; but Godolphin, as if feeling he had committed
himself too far, continued in a hurried tone:--“Let us turn our eyes,”
 said he, “yonder among the olive groves. There

    ‘Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,’

were the summer retreats of Rome’s brightest and most enduring spirits.
There was the retirement of Horace and Mecaenas: there Brutus forgot his
harsher genius; and there the inscrutable and profound Augustus indulged
in those graceful relaxations--those sacrifices to wit, and poetry, and
wisdom--which have made us do so unwilling and reserved a justice to the
crimes of his earlier and the hypocrisy of his later years. Here, again,
is a reproach to your ambition,” added Godolphin, smiling; “his ambition
made Augustus odious; his occasional forgetfulness of ambition alone
redeems him.”

“And what, then,” said Constance, “would you consider inactivity
the happiest life for one sensible of talents higher than the common
standard?”

“Nay, let those talents be devoted to the discovery of pleasures,
not the search after labours; the higher our talents, the keener our
perceptions; the keener our perceptions the more intense our capacities
for pleasure:(1)--let pleasure then, be our object. Let us find out what
is best fitted to give our peculiar tastes gratification, and, having
found out, steadily pursue it.”

“Out on you! it is a selfish, an ignoble system,” said Constance. “You
smile--well, I may be unphilosophical, I do not deny it. But, give
me one hour of glory, rather than a life of luxurious indolence. Oh,
would,” added Constance, kindling as she spoke, “that you--you, Mr.
Godolphin,--with an intellect so formed for high accomplishment--with
all the weapons and energies of life at your command,--would that
you could awaken to a more worthy estimate--pardon me--of the uses of
exertion! Surely, surely, you must be sensible of the calls that your
country, that mankind, have at this epoch of the world, upon all--all,
especially, possessing your advantages and powers. Can we pierce one
inch beyond the surface of society, and not see that great events are
hastening to their birth? Will you let those inferior to yourself hurry
on before you, and sit inactive while they win the reward? Will you have
no share in the bright drama that is already prepared behind the dark
curtain of fate, and which will have a world for its spectators? Ah, how
rejoiced, how elated with myself I should feel, if I could will over one
like you to the great cause of honourable exertion!”

For one instant Godolphin’s eye sparkled, and his pale cheek burned--but
the transient emotion faded away as he answered--

“Eight years ago, when she who spoke to me was Constance Vernon, her
wish might have moulded me according to her will. Now,” and he struggled
with emotion, and turned away his face,--“now it is too late!”

Constance was smitten to the heart. She laid her hand gently on his arm,
and said, in a sweet and soothing tone, “No, Percy, not too late!”

At that instant, and before Godolphin could reply, they were joined by
Saville and Lady Charlotte Deerham.

(1) I suppose Godolphin by the word pleasure rather signifies happiness.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

LUCILLA’S LETTER.--THE EFFECT IT PRODUCES ON GODOLPHIN.

The short conversation recorded in the last chapter could not but show
to Godolphin the dangerous ground on which his fidelity to Lucilla
rested. Never before,--no, not in the young time of their first passion,
had Constance seemed to him so lovely or so worthy of love. Her manners
now were so much more soft and unreserved than they had necessarily been
at a period when Constance had resolved not to listen to his addresses
or her own heart, that the only part of her character that had ever
repulsed his pride or offended his tastes seemed vanished for ever. A
more subdued and gentle spirit had descended on her surpassing beauty,
and the change was of an order that Percy Godolphin could especially
appreciate. And the world, for which he owned reluctantly that she yet
lived too much, had, nevertheless, seemed rather to enlarge and animate
the natural nobleness of her mind, than to fritter it down to the
standard of its common votaries. When she spoke he delighted in, even
while he dissented from, the high and bold views which she conceived. He
loved her indignation of all that was mean and low--her passion for all
that was daring and exalted. Never was he cast down from the height
of the imaginative part of his love by hearing from her lips one petty
passion or one sordid desire; much about her was erroneous, but all was
lofty and generous--even in error. And the years that had divided them
had only taught him to feel more deeply how rare was the order of her
character, and how impossible it was ever to behold her like. All the
sentiments, faculties, emotions, which in his affection for Lucilla had
remained dormant, were excited into full play the moment he was in the
presence of Constance. She engrossed no petty portion--she demanded and
obtained the whole empire--of his soul. And against this empire he had
now to contend! Torn as he was by a thousand conflicting emotions, a
letter from Lucilla was suddenly put into his hands; its contents were
as follows:--

LUCILLA’S LETTER.

“Thy last letter, my love, was so short and hurried, that it has not
cost me my usual pains to learn it by heart; nor (shall I tell the
truth?) have I been so eager as I once was to commit all thy words to my
memory. Why, I know not, and will guess not,--but there is something ill
thy letters since we parted that chills me;--they throw back my heart
upon itself. I tear open the seal with so much eagerness--thou wouldst
smile if thou couldst see me, and when I discover how few are the words
upon which I am to live for many days, I feel sick and disappointed, and
lay down the letter. Then I chide myself and say, ‘At least these few
words will be kind!’--and I spell them one by one, not to hurry over my
only solace. Alas! before I arrive at the end, I am blinded by my
tears; my love for thee, so bounding and full of life, seems frozen and
arrested at every line. And then I lie down for very weariness, and wish
to die. O God, if the time has come which I have always dreaded--if thou
shouldst no longer love me!--And how reasonable this fear is! For what
am I to thee? How often dost thou complain that I can understand thee
not--how often dost thou imply that there is much of thy nature which I
am incapable-- unworthy--to learn! If this be so, how natural is it to
dread that thou wilt find others whom thou wilt fancy more congenial to
thee, and that absence will only remind thee more of my imperfections!

“And yet I think that I have read thee to the letter; I think that
my love, which is always following thee, always watching thee, always
conjecturing thy wishes, must have penetrated into every secret of thy
heart: only I want words to express what I feel, and thou layest the
blame upon the want of feeling! I know how untutored, how ignorant,
I must seem to thee; and sometimes--and lately very often--I reproach
myself that I have not more diligently sought to make myself a worthier
companion to thee. I think if I had the same means as others; I should
acquire the same facility of expressing my thoughts; and my thoughts
thou couldst never blame, for I know that they are full of a love to
thee which--no--not the wisest--the most brilliant--whom thou mayest
see could equal even in imagination. But I have sought to mend this
deficiency since we parted; and I have looked into all the books thou
hast loved to read, and I fancy that I have imbibed now the same ideas
which pleased thee, and in which once thou imaginedst I could not
sympathise. Yet how mistaken thou hast been! I see, by marks thou hast
placed on the page, the sentiments that more especially charm thee; and
I know that I have felt them much, oh! how much more deeply and
vividly than they are there expressed--only they seem to me to have
no language--methinks that I have learned the language now. And I have
taught myself songs that thou wilt love to hear when thou returnest home
to me; and I have practised music, and I think--nay, I am sure, that
time will not pass so heavily with thee as when thou wast last here.

“And when shall I see thee again?--forgive me if I press thee to return.
Thou hast stayed away longer than thou hast been wont; but that I would
not heed; it is not the number of days, but the sensations with which
I have counted them, that make me pine for thy beloved voice, and long
once more to behold thee. Never before did I so feel thy absence, never
before was I so utterly wretched. A secret voice whispers me that we are
parted for ever. I cannot withstand the omens of my own heart. When
my poor father lived, I did not, child as I was, partake of those
sentiments with which he was wont to say the stars inspired us. I could
not see in them the boders of fear and the preachers of sad tidings;
they seemed to me only full of serenity and tenderness, and the promise
of enduring love! And ever when I looked on them, I thought of thee; and
thy image to me then, as thou knowest it was from childhood, was bright
with unimaginable but never melancholy spells. But now, although I love
thee so far more powerfully, I cannot divest the thoughts of thee from
a certain sadness; and so the stars, which are like thee, which are full
of thee, have a sadness also! And this, the bed, where every morning
I stretch my arms for thee, and find thee not, and have yet to live
through the day, and on which I now write this letter to thee--for, I
who used to rise with the sun, am now too dispirited not to endeavour to
cheat the weary day--I have made them place nearer to the window; and
I look out upon the still skies every night, and have made a friend
of every star I see. I question it of thyself, and wonder, when thou
lookest at it, if thou hast any thought of me. I love to look upon the
heavens much more than upon the earth; for the trees, and the waters
and the hills around, thou canst not behold; but the same heaven which I
survey is above thee also; and this, our common companion, seems in some
measure to unite us. And I have thought over my father’s lore, and have
tried to learn it; nay, thou mayest smile, but it is thy absence that
has taught me superstition.

“But tell me, dearest, kindest, tell me when--oh, when wilt then return?
Return only this once--if but for a day, and I will never persecute thee
again. Truant as thou art, thou shalt have full liberty for life. But I
cannot tell thee how sad and heavy I am grown, and every hour knocks
at my heart like a knell! Come back to thy poor Lucilla--if only to
see what joy is! Come--I know thou wilt! But should anything I do
not foresee detain thee, fix at least the day--nay, if possible, the
hour--when we shall meet, and let the letter which conveys such happy
tidings be long, and kind, and full of thee, as thy letters once were.
I know I weary thee, but I cannot help it. I am weak, and dejected, and
cast down, and have only heart enough to pray for thy return.”

“You have conquered--you have conquered, Lucilla!” said Godolphin, as he
kissed this wild and reproachful letter, and thrust it into his bosom;
“and I--I will be wretched rather than you shall be so!”

His heart rebuked him even for that last sentence. This pure and devoted
attachment, was it indeed an unhappiness to obtain, and a sacrifice to
return! Stung by his thoughts, and impatient of rest, he hurried into
the air;--he traversed the city; he passed St. Sebastian’s Gate, gained
the Appia Via, and saw, lone and sombre, as of old--the house of the
departed Volktman. He had half unconsciously sought that direction, in
order to strengthen his purpose, and sustain his conscience in its right
path. He now hurried onwards, and stopped not till he stood in that
lovely and haunted spot--the valley of Egeria--in which he had met
Lucilla on the day that he first learned her love. There was a gloom
over the scene now, for the day was dark and clouded: the birds were
silent; a heavy oppression seemed to brood upon the air. He entered that
grotto which is the witness of the most beautiful love-story chronicled
even in the soft south. He recalled the passionate and burning emotions
which, the last time he had been within that cell, he had felt for
Lucilla, and had construed erroneously into real love. As he looked
around, how different an aspect the spot wore! Then, those walls, that
spring, even that mutilated statue, had seemed to him the encouragers of
the soft sensations he had indulged. Now, they appeared to reprove the
very weakness which hallowed themselves--the associations spoke to him
in another tone. The broken statue of the river god--the desert
silence in which the water of the sweet fountain keeps its melancholy
course--the profound and chilling Solitude of the spot--all seemed
eloquent, not of love, but the broken hope and the dreary loneliness
that succeed it! The gentle plant (the capillaire) that overhangs the
sides of the grotto, and nourishes itself on the dews of the fountain,
seemed an emblem of love itself after disappointment--the love that
might henceforth be Lucilla’s--drooping in silence on the spot once
consecrated to rapture, and feeding itself with tears. There was
something mocking to human passion in the very antiquity of the spot;
four-and-twenty centuries had passed away since the origin of the tale
that made it holy--and that tale, too, was fable! What, in this vast
accumulation of the sands of time, was a solitary atom! What, among the
millions, the myriads, that around that desolate spot had loved, and
forgotten love, was the brief passion of one mortal, withering as it
sprung! Thus differently moralises the heart, according to the passion
which bestows on it the text.

Before he regained his home, Godolphin’s resolve was taken. The next day
he had promised Constance to attend her to Tivoli; he resolved then to
take leave of her, and on the following day to return to Lucilla. He
remembered, with bitter reproach, that he had not written to her for a
length of time, treble the accustomed interval between his letters;
and felt that, while at the moment she had written the lines he had now
pressed to his bosom, she was expecting, with unutterable fondness
and anxiety, to receive his lukewarm assurances of continued love, the
letter he was about to write in answer to hers was the first one that
would greet her eyes. But he resolved, that in that letter, at least,
she should not be disappointed. He wrote at length, and with all the
outpourings of a tenderness reawakened by remorse. He informed her of
his immediate return, and even forced himself to dwell upon it with
kindly hypocrisy of transport. For the first time for several weeks,
he felt satisfied with himself as he sealed his letter. It is doubtful
whether that letter Lucilla ever received.



CHAPTER XL.

TIVOLI.--THE SIREN’S CAVE.--THE CONFESSION.

Along the deathly Campagna, a weary and desolate length of way,--through
a mean and squalid row of houses--you thread your course; and
behold--Tivoli bursts upon you!

“Look--look!” cried Constance, with enthusiasm, as she pointed to the
rushing torrent that, through matted trees and cragged precipices,
thundered on.

Astonished at the silence of Godolphin, whom scenery was usually so wont
to kindle and inspire, she turned hastily round, and her whole tide of
feeling was revulsed by the absorbed but intense dejection written on
his countenance. “Why,” said she, after a short pause, and affecting
a playful smile, “why, how provoking is this! In general, not a common
patch of green with an old tree in the centre, not a common rivulet with
a willow hanging over it, escapes you. You insist upon our sharing your
raptures--you dilate on the picturesque--you rise into eloquence; nay,
you persuade us into your enthusiasm, or you quarrel with us for our
coldness; and now, with this divinest of earthly scenes around us,--when
even Lady Charlotte is excited, and Mr. Saville forgets himself, you
are stricken into silence and apathy! The reason--if it be not too
abstruse?”

“It is here!” said Godolphin, mournfully, and pressing his hand to his
heart.

Constance turned aside; she indulged herself with the hope that he
alluded to former scenes, and despaired of the future from their
remembrance. She connected his melancholy with herself, and knew that,
when referred to her, she could dispel it. Inspired by this idea, and
exhilarated by the beauty of the morning, and the wonderful magnificence
of nature, she indulged her spirits to overflowing. And as her brilliant
mind lighted up every subject it touched, now glowing over description,
now flashing into remark, Godolphin at one time forgot, and at another
more keenly felt, the magnitude of the sacrifice he was about to make.
But every one knows that feeling which, when we are unhappy, illumines
(if I may so speak) our outward seeming from the fierceness of our
inward despair,--that recklessness which is the intoxication of our
grief.

By degrees Godolphin broke from his reserve. He seemed to catch the
enthusiasm of Constance; he echoed back--he led into new and more
dazzling directions--the delighted remarks of his beautiful companion.
His mind, if not profoundly learned, at least irregularly rich, in
the treasures of old times, called up a spirit from every object. The
waterfall, the ruin, the hollow cave--the steep bank crested with the
olive--the airy temple, the dark pomp of the cypress grove, and the roar
of the headlong Anio,--all he touched with the magic of the past--clad
with the glories of history and of legend--and decked ever and anon
with the flowers of the eternal Poesy that yet walks, mourning for her
children, amongst the vines and waterfalls of the ancient Tibur.
And Constance, as she listened to him, entranced, until she herself
unconsciously grew silent, indulged without reserve in that, the
proudest luxury of love--pride in the beloved object. Never had the rare
and various genius of Godolphin appeared so worthy of admiration. When
his voice ceased, it seemed to Constance like a sudden blank in the
creation.

Godolphin and the young countess were several paces before the little
party, and they now took their way towards the Siren’s Cave. The path
that leads to that singular spot is humid with an eternal spray; and it
is so abrupt and slippery, that in order to preserve your footing,
you must cling to the bushes that vegetate around the sides of the
precipice.

“Let us dispense with our guide,” said Godolphin. “I know every part of
the way, and I am sure you share with me in dislike to these hackneyed
indicators and sign-posts for admiration. Let us leave him to Lady
Charlotte and Saville, and suffer me to be your guide to the cavern.”
 Constance readily enough assented, and they proceeded. Saville, by no
means liking the difficult and perilous path which was to lead only to
a very cold place, soon halted; and suggested to Lady Charlotte the
propriety of doing the same. Lady Charlotte much preferred the wit of
her companion’s conversation to the picturesque. “Besides,” as she said,
“she had seen the cave before.” Accordingly, they both waited for the
return of the more adventurous countess and her guide.

Unconscious of the defalcation of her friends, and not--from the
attention that every step required--once looking behind, Constance
continued. And now, how delightful to her seemed that rugged way, as,
with every moment, Godolphin’s care--Godolphin’s hand became necessary;
and he, inspired, inflamed by her company, by her touch, by the softness
of her manner, and the devotion of her attention--no, no! not yet was
Lucilla forgotten!

And now they stood within the Siren’s Cave. From this spot alone you
can view that terrible descent of waters which rushes to earth like the
coming of a god! The rocks dripped around them--the torrent dashed at
their very feet. Down--down, in thunder, for ever and for ever, dashed
the might of the maddening element; above, all wrath; below, all
blackness;--there, the cataract; here, the abyss. Not a moment’s pause
to the fury, not a moment’s silence to the roar;--forward to the last
glimpse of the sun--the curse of labour, and the soul of unutterable
strength, shall be upon those waters! The demon, tormented to an
eternity, filling his dread dwelling-place with the unresting and
unearthly voice of his rage and despair, is the only type meet for the
spirit of the cataract.

And there--amidst this awful and tremendous eternity of strife and
power--stood two beings whose momentary existence was filled with the
master-passion of humanity. And that passion was yet audible there:
the nature without could not subdue that within. Even amidst the icy
showers of spray that fell around, and would have frozen the veins of
others, Godolphin felt the burning at his heart. Constance was indeed
utterly lost in a whirl and chaos of awe and admiration, which deprived
her of all words. But it was the nature of her wayward lover to be
aroused only to the thorough knowledge of his powers and passions among
the more unfrequent and fierce excitements of life. A wild emotion now
urged him on; something of that turbulent exaggeration of mind which
gave rise to a memorable and disputed saying--“If thou stoodest on a
precipice with thy mistress, hast thou ever felt the desire to plunge
with her into the abyss?--If so--thou hast loved!” No doubt the
sentiment is exaggerated, but there are times when love is exaggerated
too. And now Constance, without knowing it, had clung closer and closer
to Godolphin. His hand at first--now his arm--supported her; and at
length, by an irresistible and maddening impulse, he clasped her to his
breast, and whispered in a voice which was heard by her even amidst
the thunder of the giant waters, “Here, here, my early--my only love, I
feel, in spite of myself, that I never utterly, fully, adored you until
now!”



CHAPTER XLI.

LUCILLA.--THE SOLITUDE.--THE SPELL.--THE DREAM AND THE RESOLVE.

While the above events, so fatal to Lucilla, were in progress at Rome,
she was holding an unquiet commune with her own passionate and restless
heart, by the borders of the lake, whose silver quiet mocked the mind
it had, in happier moments, reflected. She had now dragged on the weary
load of time throughout the winter; and the early and soft spring was
already abroad--smoothing the face of the waters, and calling life into
the boughs. Hitherto this time of the year had possessed a mysterious
and earnest attraction for Lucilla--now all its voices were mute.
The letters that Godolphin had written to her were so few, and so
restrained, in comparison with those which she had received in the
former periods of absence, that--ever alive as she was to impulse, and
unregulated by settled principles of hope--her only relief to a tearful
and spiritless dejection was in paroxysms of doubt, jealousy, and
despair.

It is the most common thing in the world, that, when we have once
wronged a person, we go on in the wrong, from a certain soreness with
which conscience links the associations of the injured party. And thus,
Godolphin, struggling with the return to his early and never-forgotten
love, felt an unwillingness that he could seldom successfully combat, in
playing the hypocrite to Lucilla. His very remorse made him unkind;
the feeling that he ought to write often, made him write seldom: and
conscious that he ought to return her expressions of eager devotion, he
returned them with involuntary awkwardness and reserve. All this is
very natural, and very evident to us; but a thousand mysteries were more
acceptable to, more sought for and more clung to, by Lucilla, than a
conjecture at the truth.

Meanwhile she fed more and more eagerly on those vain researches which
yet beguiled her time, and flattered her imagination. In a science so
false, and so unprofitable, it mattered, happily, little, whether or not
the poor disciple laboured with success; but I need scarcely tell to any
who have had the curiosity to look over the entangled schemes and quaint
figures of the art, how slender was the advancement of the daughter in
the learning of the sire. Still it was a comfort and a soothing, even to
look upon the placid heaven, and form a conjecture as to the language of
its stars. And, above all, while she questioned the future, she thought
only of her lover. But day after day passed--no letter, or worse than
none; and at length Lucilla became utterly impatient of all rest: a
nervous fever possessed her; the extreme solitude of the place filled
her with that ineffable sensation of irritability which sometimes
preludes the madness that has been produced in criminals by solitary
confinement.

On the day that she wrote that letter to Godolphin which I have
transcribed, this painful tension of the nerves was more than hitherto
acute. She longed to fly somewhere; nay, once or twice, she remembered
that Rome was easily gained, that she might be there as expeditiously as
her letter. Although in that letter only we have signified that Lucilla
had expressed her wish for Godolphin’s return; yet, in all her later
letters, she had (perhaps, more timidly) urged that desire. But they had
not taken the same hold on Godolphin; nor, while he was playing with his
danger, had they produced the same energetic resolution. Lucilla could
not, however, hope with much reason that the success of her present
letter would be greater than that of her former ones; and, at all
events, she did not anticipate an immediate compliance with her prayers.
She looked forward to some excuses, and to some delay. We cannot,
therefore, wonder that she felt a growing desire to follow her own
epistle to Rome; and although she had been prevented before, and still
drew back from absolutely favoring and enforcing the idea, by the fear
of Godolphin’s displeasure; yet she trusted enough to his gentleness of
character to feel sure that the displeasure could scarcely be lasting.
Still the step was bold, and Lucilla loved devotedly enough to be timid;
and besides, her inexperience made her look upon the journey as a far
more formidable expedition than it really was.

Debating the notion in her mind, she sought her usual retreat, and
turned listlessly over the books which she had so lately loved to study.
At length, in moving one she had not looked into before, a paper fell to
the ground; she picked it up; it was the paper containing that figure,
which it will be remembered, the astrologer had shown to his daughter,
as a charm to produce dreams prophetic of any circumstance or person
concerning whom the believer might be anxious to learn aught. As she saw
the image, which, the reader will recollect, was of a remarkable design,
the whole of her conversation with Volktman on the subject rushed into
her mind, and she resolved that very night to prove the efficacy of
the charm on which he had so confidently insisted. Fraught with the
chimerical delusion, she now longed for the hours to pass, and the
night to come. She looked again and again at the singular image and the
portentous figures wrought upon the charm; the very strangeness of
the characters inspired her, as was natural, with a belief of their
efficacy; and she felt a thrill, an awe, creep over her blood, as the
shadows of eve, deepening over the far mountains, brought on the time of
trial. At length it was night, and Lucilla sought her chamber.

The hour was exceedingly serene, and the stars shone through the
casement with a lustre that to her seemed ominous. With bare feet, and
only in her night-robe, she stole tremblingly across the threshold. She
paused for a moment at the window, and looked out on the deep and quiet
night; and as she so stood, it was a picture that, had I been a painter,
I would have devoted a youth to accomplish. Half in light--half in
shadow--her undress gave the outline, and somewhat more, of a throat and
breast, whose roundness, shape, and hue, never were surpassed. Her arms
were lightly crossed above her bosom; and her long rich hair seeming
darker by that light, fell profusely, yet not dishevelled, around her
neck; parting from her brow. Her attitude at that moment was quite
still, as if in worship, and perhaps it was; her face was inclined
slightly upward, looking to the heavens and towards Rome. But that
face--there was the picture! It was so young, so infantine, so modest;
and yet, the youth and the timidity were elevated and refined by the
earnest doubt, the preternatural terror, the unearthly hope, which dwelt
upon her forehead--her parted lip, and her wistful and kindled eye.
There was a sublimity in her loneliness and her years, and in the fond
and vain superstition, which was but a spirit called from the deeps of
an unfathomable and mighty love. And afar was heard the breaking of
the lake in upon the shore--no other sound! And now, among the unwaving
pines, there was a silver shimmer as the moon rose into her empire, and
deepened at once, along the universal scene, the loveliness and the awe.

Lucilla turned from the window, and kneeling down wrote with a trembling
hand upon the figure one word--the name of Godolphin. She then placed it
under her pillow, and the spell was concluded. The astrologer had told
her of the necessary co-operation which the mind must afford to
the charm; but it will easily be believed that Lucilla required no
injunction to let her imagination dwell upon the vision she expected
to invoke. And it would have been almost strange, if, so intently and
earnestly brooding, as she had done over the image of Godolphin, that
image had not, without recurring to any cabalistical spells, been
present to her dreams.

She thought that it was broad noonday, and that she was sitting alone
in the house she then inhabited, and weeping bitterly. Of a sudden the
voice of Godolphin called to her; she ran eagerly forth, but no
sooner had she passed the threshold, than the scene so familiar to her
vanished, and she was alone in an immense and pathless wilderness; there
was no tree and no water in this desert; all was arid, solitary, and
inanimate. But what seemed most strange to her was that in the heavens,
although they were clear and bright, there was neither sun nor stars;
the light seemed settled and stagnant--there was in it no life.

And she thought that she continued to move involuntarily along the
waste; and that, ever and anon, she yearned and strove to rest, but her
limbs did not obey her will, and a power she could not control urged her
onward.

And now there was no longer an utter dumbness and death over the scene.
Forth from the sands, as from the bowels of the reluctant earth, there
crept, one by one, loathly and reptile shapes; obscene sounds rang
in her ears--now in a hideous mockery, now in a yet more sickening
solicitation. Shapes of terror thickened and crowded round her. She was
roused by dread into action; she hurried faster and faster; she strove
to escape; and ever as she fled, the sounds grew louder, and the
persecuting shapes more ghastly,--abominations which her pure mind
shuddered to behold, presented themselves at every turn: there was no
spot for refuge, no cave for concealment. Wearied and despairing, she
stopped short; but then the shapes and sounds seemed gradually to lose
their terror; her eye and ear became familiar to them; and what at first
seemed foes, grew into companions.

And now, again, the wilderness was gone; she stood in a strange spot,
and opposite, and gazing upon her with intent and mournful eyes, stood
Godolphin. But he seemed much older than he was, and the traces of care
were ploughed deeply on his countenance; and above them both hung a
motionless and livid cloud; and from the cloud a gigantic hand was
stretched forth, pointing with a shadowy and unmoving finger towards
a quarter of the earth which was enveloped in a thick gloom. While she
sought with straining eyes, to penetrate the darkness of the spot
thus fearfully marked out, she thought Godolphin vanished, and all was
suddenly and utter night--night, but not stillness--for there was a
roar as of many winds, and a dashing of angry waters, that seemed close
beneath; and she heard the trees groan and bend, and felt the icy and
rushing air: the tempests were abroad. But amidst the mingling of the
mighty sounds, she heard distinctly the ringing of a horse’s hoofs; and
presently a wild cry, in which she recognised the voice of Godolphin,
rang forth, adding to the wrath of nature the yet more appalling witness
of a human despair. The cry was followed by the louder dashing of the
waves, and the fiercer turmoil of the winds; and then her anguish and
horror freeing her from the Prison of Sleep, she woke.

It was nearly day, but the serenity of the late night had gone; the
rain fell in torrents, and the house shook beneath the fury of a violent
storm. This change in the mood of nature had probably influenced the
latter part of her dream. But Lucilla thought of no natural solution to
the dreadful vision she had undergone. Her superstition was confirmed
and ratified by the intense impression wrought upon her mind by the
dream. A thousand unutterable fears, fears for Godolphin, rather
than herself--or if for herself, only in connection with him--bore
irresistible despotism over her thoughts. She could not endure to wait,
to linger any longer in the dark and agitated suspense she herself
had created; the idea she before had nursed now became resolve, she
determined forthwith to set out for Rome--to see Godolphin. She rose,
woke her attendant, and that very day she put her resolution into
effect.



CHAPTER XLII.

JOY AND DESPAIR.

It was approaching towards the evening as Lucilla paused for a few
seconds at the door which led to Godolphin’s apartments. At length she
summoned courage. The servant who admitted her was Godolphin’s favorite
domestic; and he was amazed, but overjoyed, to see her; for Lucilla was
the idol of all who knew her,--save of him, whose love only she cared
and lived for.

His master, he said, was gone out for a short time, but the next day
they were to have returned home. Lucilla coloured with vivid delight
to hear that her letter had produced an effect she had not hoped so
expeditiously to accomplish. She passed on into Godolphin’s apartment.
The room bore evident signs of approaching departure; the trunks lay
half-packed on the floor; there was all that importance of confusion
around which makes to the amateur traveller a luxury out of discomfort.
Lucilla sat down, and waited, anxious and trembling, for her lover. Her
woman, who had accompanied her, thinking of more terrestrial concerns
than love, left her, at her desire. She could not rest long; she walked,
agitating and expecting, to and fro the long and half-furnished chamber
which characterises the Italian palace. At length, her eye fell on an
open letter on a writing-table at one corner of the room. She glanced
over it mechanically,--certain words suddenly arrested her attention.
Were those words--words of passion--addressed to her? If not, O Heaven!
to whom? She obeyed, as she ever did, the impulse of the moment, and
read what follows:

“Constance--As I write that word how many remembrances rush upon
me!--for how many years has that name been a talisman to my heart,
waking its emotions at will! You are the first woman I ever really
loved: you rejected me, yet I could not disdain you. You became
another’s but my love could not desert you. Your hand wrote the history
of my life after the period when we met,--my habits--my thoughts--you
influenced and coloured them all! And now, Constance, you are free; and
I love you more fervently than ever! And you--yes, you would not reject
me now; you have grown wiser, and learned the value of a heart. And yet
the same Fate that divided us hitherto will divide us now; all obstacles
but one are passed away--of that one you shall hear and judge.

“When we parted, Constance, years ago, I did not submit tamely to the
burning remembrance you bequeathed me; I sought to dissipate your
image, and by wooing others to forget yourself. Need I say, that to know
another was only to remember you the more? But among the other and
far less worthy objects of my pursuit was one whom, had I not seen you
first, I might have loved as ardently as I do you; and in the first
flush of emotion, and the heat of sudden events, I imagined that I did
so love her. She was an orphan, a child in years and in the world; and
I was all to her--I am, all to her. She is not mine by the ties of the
Church; but I have pledged a faith to her equally sacred and as strong.
Shall I break that faith? shall I betray that trust? shall I crush a
heart that has always been mine--mine more tenderly than yours, rich in
a thousand gifts and resources, ever was or ever can be? Shall I,--sworn
to protect her--I, who have already robbed her of fame and friends, rob
her now of father, brother, lover, husband, the world itself,--for I am
all to her? Never--never! I shall be wretched throughout life: I shall
know that you are free that you--oh! Constance! you might be mine!--but
she shall never dream what she has cost me! I have been too cold, too
ungrateful to her already--I will make her amends. My heart may break
in the effort, but it shall reward her. You, Constance, in the pride
of your lofty station, your strengthened mind, your regulated virtue
(fenced in by the hundred barriers of custom), you cannot, perhaps,
conceive how pure and devoted the soul of this poor girl is! She is not
one whom I could heap riches upon and leave:--my love is all the riches
she knows. Earth has not a consolation or a recompense for the loss of
my affection: and even Heaven itself she has never learned to think of,
except as a place in which we shall be united for ever. As I write this
I know that she is sitting afar off and alone, and thinking only of one
whose whole soul, fated and accursed as he is, is maddened by the love
of another. My letters, her only comfort, have been cold and few of
late; I know how they have wrung her heart. I picture to myself her
solitude--her sadness--her unfriended youth--her ardent mind, which, not
enriched by culture, clings, feeds, lives only on one idea. Before you
receive this, I shall be on the road to her. Never again will I risk
the temptation I have under gone. I am not a vain man; I do not deceive
myself; I do not imagine, I do not insult you by believing, that you
will long or bitterly feel my loss. I have loved you far better than you
have loved me, and you have uncounted channels for your bright hopes
and your various ambition. You love the world, and the world is at
your feet! And in remembering me now, you may think you have cause for
indignation. Why, with the knowledge of a tie that forbade me to hope
for you, why did I linger round you? why did I give vent to any word, or
license to any look, that told you I loved you still? Why, above all, on
that fated yesterday, when we stood alone surrounded by the waters,--why
did I dare forget myself--why clasp you to my breast--why utter the
assurance of that love which was a mockery, if I were not about solemnly
to record it?

“This you will ask; and if you are not satisfied with the answer, your
pride will clothe my memory with resentment. Be it so--yet hear me.
Constance, when, in my first youth, at the time when the wax was yet
soft, and the tree might yet be bent--when I laid my heart and my
future lot at your feet--when you, at the dictates of a worldly and cold
ambition (disguise the name as you will, the reality is the same),
threw me back on the solitary desert of life; when you rejected--forsook
me;--do you think that, although I loved you still, there was no
anger mingled with the love! We met again: but what years of wasted
existence--of dimmed hope--of deadened emotion--had passed over me
since then! And who had thus marked them? You! Do you wonder, then, that
something of human pride asked for human vengeance? Yes! I pined
for some triumph in my turn: I longed to try whether I was yet
forgotten--whether the heart which stung me had been stung also in the
wound that it inflicted. Was not this natural? Ask yourself, and blame
me if you can. But by degrees, as I gazed upon a beauty, and listened
to a voice, softer in their character than of old,--as I felt that you
would not deny me retribution, this selfish desire for revenge died
away, and, by degrees, all emotions were merged in one--unconquered,
unconquerable love. And can you blame me, if then--traitor to myself
as to you--I lingered on the spot?--if I had many struggles to endure
before I could resolve on the sacrifice I now make? Alas! it has cost me
much to be just. Can you blame me if at all times I could not control my
words and looks? Nay, even in our last meeting, when I was maddened
by the thought that we were about to part for ever--when we stood
alone--when no eye was near--when you clung to me in a delicious
timidity--when your breath was on my cheek--when the heaving of your
heart was heard by mine--when my hand touched that which could give me
all the world in itself--when my arm encircled that glorious and divine
shape--0 Heaven! can you blame me--can you wonder if I was transported
beyond myself;--if conscience, reason, all were forgotten, and I
thought--felt--lived--but for the moment and for you? No, you will feel
for the weakness of nature; you will not judge me harshly.

“And why should you rob me of the remembrance of that brief moment--that
wild embrace? How often shall I recall it!--How often when the light
step of her to whom I return glides around me, shall I cheat myself, and
think it yours; when I feel her breath at night, shall I not start--and
dream it comes from your lips? and in returning her unconscious caress,
let me fancy it is you whispers me the assurances of unutterable love!
Forgive me, Constance, my yet adored Constance, whom I shall never see
more, for these wild words--this momentary weakness. Farewell! Whatever
becomes of me, may God give you all His blessings!

“One word more--no, I will not close this letter yet! You remember that
you once gave me a flower--years ago. I have preserved its leaves to
this day; but I will give no indulgence to a folly that will now wrong
you, and be unworthy of myself. I will send you back those leaves: let
them plead for me, as the memories of former days. I must break off
now, for I can literally write no more. I must go forth and recover my
self-command. And oh! may she whom I seek to-morrow--whose unsuspecting
heart admonished by temptation, I will watch over, guide, and shield
far, far more zealously than I have yet done--never know what it has
cost me, not to abandon and betray her.”

And Lucilla read over every word of this letter! How wholly impossible
it is for language to express the agony, the hopeless, irremediable
despair that deepened within her as she proceeded to the end! Everything
that life had, or could ever have had for her, of common peace or joy,
was blasted for ever! As she came to the last word, she bowed her head
in silence over the writing, and felt as if some mighty rock had fallen
upon her heart, and crushed it to dust. Had the letter breathed but
one unkind--one slighting expression of her, it would have been some
comfort--some rallying point, however forlorn and wretched; but this
cruel tenderness--this bitter generosity!

And before she had read that letter, how joyously, how breathlessly she
had anticipated rushing to her lover’s breast! It seems incredible
that the space of a few minutes should suffice to blight a whole
existence--blacken without a ray of hope an entire future!

She was aroused by the sound of steps, though in another apartment; she
would not now have met Godolphin for worlds; the thought of his return
alone gave her the power of motion. She thrust the fatal letter into
her bosom; and then, in characters surprisingly distinct and clear, she
wrote her name, and placed that writing in the stead of the epistle she
took away. She judged rightly, that that single name would suffice to
say all she could not then say. Having done this, she rose, left the
room, and stole softly and unperceived into the open street.

Unconscious and careless whither she went, she hurried on, her eyes bent
on the ground, and concealing her form and face with her long mantle.
The streets at Rome are not thronged as with us; nor does there exist,
in a city consecrated by so many sublime objects, that restless and
vulgar curiosity which torments the English public. Each lives in
himself, not in his neighbour. The moral air of Rome is Indifference.

Lucilla, therefore, hurried along unmolested and unobserved, until
at length her feet failed her, and she sank exhausted, but still
unconscious of her movements and of all around, upon one of the
scattered fragments of ancient pride that at every turn are visible in
the streets of Rome. The place was quiet and solitary, and darkened by
the shadows of a palace that reared itself close beside. She sat down;
and shrouding her face as it drooped over her breast, endeavoured to
collect her thoughts. Presently the sound of a guitar was heard; and
along the street came a little group of the itinerant musicians who
invest modern Italy with its yet living air of poetry: the reality is
gone, but the spirit lingers. They stopped opposite a small house; and
Lucilla, looking up, saw the figure of a young girl placing a light at
the window as a signal well known, and then she glided away. Meanwhile,
the lover (who had accompanied the musicians, and seemed in no very
elevated rank of life) stood bare-headed beneath; and in his upward
look there was a devotion, a fondness, a respect, that brought back to
Lucilla all the unsparing bitterness of contrast and recollection. And
now the serenade began. The air was inexpressibly soft and touching,
and the words were steeped in that vague melancholy which is inseparable
from the tenderness, if not from the passion, of love. Lucilla listened
involuntarily, and the charm slowly wrought its effect. The hardness and
confusion of her mind melted gradually away, and as the song ended she
turned aside and burst into tears. “Happy, happy girl!” she murmured;
“she is loved!”

Here let us drop the curtain upon Lucilla. Often, O Reader! shalt thou
recall this picture; often shalt thou see her before thee--alone and
broken-hearted--weeping in the twilight streets of Rome!



CHAPTER XLIII.

LOVE STRONG AS DEATH, AND NOT LESS BITTER.


When Godolphin returned home the door was open, as Lucilla had left
it, and he went at once into his apartment. He hastened to the table on
which he had left, with the negligence arising from the emotions of the
moment, the letter to Constance,--the paper on which Lucilla had written
her name alone met his eye. While yet stunned and amazed, his servant
and Lucilla’s entered: in a few moments he had learned all they had
to tell him; the rest Lucilla’s handwriting did indeed sufficiently
explain. He comprehended all; and, in a paroxysm of alarm and remorse,
he dispersed his servants, and hurried himself in search of her. He went
to the house of her relations; they had not seen or heard of her. It was
now night, and every obstacle in the way of his search presented itself.
Not a clue could be traced; or, sometimes following a description that
seemed to him characteristic, he chased, and found some wanderer--how
unlike Lucilla! Towards daybreak he returned home, after a vain and
weary search; and his only comfort was in learning from her attendant
that she had about her a sum of money which he knew would in Italy
always purchase safety and attention. Yet, alone, at night, in the
streets,--so utter a stranger as she was to the world,--so young and
so lovely--he shuddered, he gasped for breath at the idea. Might she
destroy herself? That hideous question forced itself upon him; he could
not exclude it: he trembled when he recalled her impassioned and keen
temper; and when, in remembering the tone and words of his letter
to Constance, he felt how desperate a pang every sentence must have
inflicted upon her. And, indeed, even his imagination could not
equal the truth, when it attempted to sound the depths of her wounded
feelings. He only returned home to sally out again. He now employed
the police, and those most active and vigilant agents that at Rome are
willing to undertake all enterprises;--he could not but feel assured of
discovering her.

Still, however, noon--evening came on, and no tidings. As he once more
returned home, in the faint hope that some intelligence might await him
there, his servant hurried eagerly out to him with a letter--it was from
Lucilla, and it was worthy of her: give it to the reader.

        LUCILLA’S LETTER.

“I have read your letter to another! Are not these words sufficient to
tell you all? All? no! you never, never, never can tell how crushed and
broken my heart is. Why?--because you are a man, and because you have
never loved as I loved. Yes, Godolphin, I knew that I was not one whom
you could love. I am a poor, ignorant, untutored girl, with nothing at
my heart but a great world of love which I could never tell. Thou saidst
I could not comprehend thee: alas! how much was there--is there--in my
nature--in my feelings, which have been, and ever will be, unfathomable
to thy sight!

“But all this matters not; the tie between us is eternally broken. Go,
dear, dear Godolphin! link thyself to that happier other one--seemingly
so much more thine equal than the lowly and uncultivated Lucilla. Grieve
not for me; you have been kind, most kind, to me. You have taken away
hope, but you have given me pride in its stead;--the blow which has
crushed my heart has given strength to my mind. Were you and I left
alone on the earth, we must still be apart; I could never, never live
with you again; my world is not your world; when our hearts have ceased
to be in common, what of union is there left to us? Yet it would be
something if, since the future is shut out from me, you had not also
deprived me of the past: I have not even the privilege of looking back!
What! all the while my heart was lavishing itself upon thee--all the
while I had no other thought, no other dream but thee--all the while
I sat by thy side, and watched thee, hanging on thy wish, striving to
foresee thy thoughts--all the while I was the partner of thy days, and
at night my bosom was thy pillow, and I could not sleep from the bliss
of thinking thee so near me: thy heart was then indeed away from me: thy
thoughts estranged; I was to thee only an encumbrance--a burthen, from
which thy sigh was to be free! Can I ever look back, then, to those
hours we spent together? All that vast history of the past is but one
record of bitterness and shame. And yet I cannot blame thee; it were
something if I could: in proportion as you loved me not, you were kind
and generous; and God will bless you for that kindness to the poor
orphan. A harsh word, a threatening glance, I never had the affliction
to feel from thee. Tracing the blighted past, I am only left to sadden
at that gentleness which never came from love!

“Go, Godolphin--I repeat the prayer in all humbleness and sincerity--go
to her whom thou lovest, perhaps as I loved thee; go, and in your
happiness I shall feel at last something of happiness myself. We part
for ever, but there is no unkindness between us; there is no reproach
that one can make against the other. If I have sinned, it has been
against Heaven and not thee; and thou--why, even against Heaven mine was
all the fault--the rashness the madness! You will return to your native
land; to that proud England, of which I have so often questioned you,
and which, even in your answers, seems to me so cold and desolate a
spot,--a land so hostile to love. There, in your new ties, you will
learn new objects, and you will be too busy, and too happy, for your
thoughts to turn to me again. Too happy?--No, I wish I could think you
would be; but I whom you deny to possess sympathies with you--I have at
least penetrated so far into your heart as to fear that, come what may,
you will never find the happiness you ask. You exact too much, you dream
too fondly, not to be discontented with the truth. What has happened
to me must happen to my rival--will happen to you throughout life. Your
being is in one world, your soul is in another. Alas! how foolishly I
run on, as if seeking in your nature and not circumstances, the blow
that separates us.

“I shall hasten to a conclusion. I have gained a refuge in this convent;
seek me not, follow me not, I implore, I adjure thee; it can serve no
purpose. I would not see thee; the veil is already drawn between thy
world and me, and it only remains, in kindness and in charity, to bid
each other farewell. Farewell, then! I think I am now with thee; I think
my lips have breathed aside thy long hair, and cling to thy fair temples
with a sister’s---that word, at least, is left me--a sister’s kiss. As
we stood together, at the grey dawn, when we last parted--as then, in
sorrow and in tears, I hid my face in thy bosom--as then, unconscious
of what was to come, I poured forth my assurances of faithful unswerving
thought--as thrice thou didst tear thyself from me and didst thrice
return--and as, through the comfortless mists of morn I gazed after
thee, and fancied for hours that thy last words yet rang in my ear;
so now, but with different feelings, I once more bid thee
farewell--farewell for ever!”



CHAPTER XLIV.

GODOLPHIN.

“No, signor, she will not see you!”

“You have given my note--given that ring?”

“I have, and she still refuses.”

“Refuses?--and is that all the answer? no line to--to soften the reply?”

“Signor, I have spoken all my message.”

“Cruel, hard-hearted! May I call again, think you, with a better
success?”

“The convent, at stated times, is open to strangers, signor; but so far
as the young signora is concerned I feel assured, from her manner, that
your visits will be in vain.”

“Ay--ay, I understand you, madam; you wish to entice her from the wicked
world,--to suffer not human friendships to disturb her thoughts. Good
Heavens! and can she, so young, so ardent, dream of taking the veil?”

“She does not dream of it,” said the nun, coolly; “she has no intention
of remaining here long.”

“Befriend me, I beseech you!” cried Godolphin, eagerly “restore her to
me; let me only come once to her within these walls and I will enrich
your----”

“Signor, good-day.”

Dejected, melancholy, and yet enraged amidst all his sorrow, Godolphin
returned to Rome. Lucilla’s letter rankled in his heart like the barb of
a broken arrow; but the stern resolve with which she had refused to see
him appeared to the pride that belongs to manhood a harsh and unfeeling
insult. He knew not that poor Lucilla’s eyes had watched him from the
walls of the convent, and that while, for his sake more than her own,
she had refused the meeting he prayed for, she had not the resolution to
deny herself the luxury of gazing on him once more.

He reached Rome; he found a note on his table from Lady Charlotte
Deerham, saying she had heard it was his intention to leave Rome, and
begging him to receive from her that evening her adieux. “Lady Erpingham
will be with me,” concluded the note.

This brought a new train of ideas. Since Lucilla’s flight, all thought
but of Lucilla had been expelled from Godolphin’s mind. We have seen how
his letter to Lady Erpingham miscarried: he had written no other. How
strange to Constance must seem his conduct, after the scene of the
avowal in the Siren’s Cave: no excuse on the one hand, no explanation on
the other; and now what explanation should he give? There was no longer
a necessity, for it was no longer honesty and justice to fly from the
bliss that might await him--the love of his early-worshipped Constance.
But could he, with a heart yet bleeding from the violent rupture of one
tie, form a new one? Agitated, restless, self-reproachful, bewildered,
and uncertain, he could not bear thoughts that demanded answers to a
thousand questions; he flung from his cheerless room, and hastened, with
a feverish pulse and burning temples, to Lady Charlotte Deerham’s.

“Good Heavens! how ill you look, Mr. Godolphin!” cried the hostess,
involuntarily.

“Ill!--ha! ha! I never was better; but I have just returned from a
long journey: I have not touched food nor felt sleep for three days
and nights! I--ha, ha! no, I’m not ill;” and, with an eye bright with
gathering delirium, Godolphin glared around him.

Lady Charlotte drew back and shuddered; Godolphin felt a cool, soft hand
laid on his; he turned and the face of Constance, full of anxious and
wondering pity, was bent upon him. He stood arrested for one moment, and
then, seizing that hand, pressed it to his lips--his heart, and burst
suddenly into tears. That paroxysm saved his life; for days afterwards
he was insensible.



CHAPTER XLV.

THE DECLARATION.--THE APPROACHING NUPTIALS.--IS THE IDEALIST CONTENTED?

As Godolphin returned to health, and, day after day, the presence of
Constance, her soft tones, her deep eyes, grew on him, renewing their
ancient spells, the reader must perceive that bourne to which events
necessarily tended. For some weeks not a word that alluded to the
Siren’s Cave was uttered by either; but when that allusion came at last
from Godolphin’s lips, the next moment he was kneeling beside Constance,
her hand surrendered to his, and her proud cheek all bathed in the
blushes of sixteen.

“And so,” said Saville, “you, Percy Godolphin, are at last the accepted
lover of Constance, Countess of Erpingham. When is the wedding to be?”

“I know not,” replied Godolphin, musingly.

“Well, I almost envy you; you will be very happy for six weeks, and
that’s something in this disagreeable world. Yet now, I look on you,
I grow reconciled to myself again; you do not seem so happy as that I,
Augustus Saville, should envy you while my digestion lasts. What are you
thinking of?”

“Nothing,” replied Godolphin, vacantly; the words of Lucilla were
weighing at his heart, like a prophecy working towards its fulfilment:
“Come what may, you will never find the happiness you ask: you exact too
much.”

At that moment Lady Erpingham’s page entered with a note from Constance,
and a present of flowers. No one ever wrote half so beautifully, so
spiritually as Constance, and to Percy the wit was so intermingled with
the tenderness!

“No,” said he, burying his lips among the flowers; “no! I discard the
foreboding; with you I must be happy!” But conscience, still unsilenced,
whispered Lucilla!

The marriage was to take place at Rome. The day was fixed; and, owing
to Constance’s rank, beauty and celebrity, the news of the event created
throughout “the English in Italy” no small sensation. There was a great
deal of gossip, of course, on the occasion; and some of this gossip
found its way to the haughty ears of Constance. It was said that she had
made a strange match--that it was a curious weakness in one so proud
and brilliant, to look no loftier than a private and not very wealthy
gentleman; handsome, indeed, and reputed clever; but one who had never
distinguished himself in anything--who never would!

Constance was alarmed and stung, not at the vulgar accusation, the
paltry sneer, but at the prophecy relating to Godolphin: “he had never
distinguished himself in anything--he never would.” Rank, wealth, power,
Constance felt these she wanted not, these she could command of herself;
but she felt also that a nobler vanity of her nature required that the
man of her mature and second choice should not be one, in repute, of
that mere herd, above whom, in reality, his genius so eminently exalted
him. She deemed it essential to her future happiness that Godolphin’s
ambition should be aroused, that he should share her ardour for those
great objects that she felt would for ever be dear to her.

“I love Rome!” said she, passionately, one day, as accompanied by
Godolphin, she left the Vatican; “I feel my soul grow larger amidst its
ruins. Elsewhere, through Italy, we live in the present, but here in the
past.”

“Say not that that is the better life, dear Constance; the present--can
we surpass it?”

Constance blushed, and thanked her lover with a look that told him he
was understood.

“Yet,” said she, returning to the subject, “who can breathe the air that
is rife with glory, and not be intoxicated with emulation? Ah, Percy!”

“Ah, Constance! and what wouldst thou have of me? Is it not glory enough
to be thy lover?”

“Let the world be as proud of my choice as I am.” Godolphin frowned; he
penetrated in those words to Constance’s secret meaning. Accustomed to
be an idol from his boyhood, he resented the notion that he had need of
exertion to render him worthy even of Constance; and sensible that it
might be thought he made an alliance beyond his just pretensions, he
was doubly tenacious as to his own claims. Godolphin frowned, then, and
turned away in silence. Constance sighed; she felt that she might not
renew the subject. But, after a pause, Godolphin himself continued it.

“Constance,” said he, in a low firm voice, “let us understand each
other. You are all to me in the world; fame, and honor, and station and
happiness. Am I, also, that all to you? If there be any thought at your
heart which whispers you, ‘You might have served your ambition
better; you have done wrong in yielding to love and love only,’--then,
Constance, pause; it is not too late.”

“Do I deserve this, Percy?”

“You drop words sometimes,” answered Godolphin, “that seem to indicate
that you think the world may cavil at your choice, and that some
exertion on my part is necessary to maintain your dignity. Constance,
need I say, again and again, that I adore the very dust you tread on?
But I have a pride, a self-respect, beneath which I cannot stoop; if
you really think or feel this, I will not condescend to receive even
happiness from you: let us part.”

Constance saw his lips white and quivering as he spoke; her heart smote
her, her pride vanished: she sank on his shoulder, and forgot even
ambition; nay, while she inly murmured at his sentiment, she felt it
breathed a sort of nobility that she could not but esteem. She strove
then to lull to rest all her more worldly anxieties for the future; to
hope that, cast on the exciting stage of English ambition, Godolphin
must necessarily be stirred despite his creed; and if she sometimes
doubted, sometimes despaired of this, she felt at least that his
presence had become dearer to her than all things. Nay, she checked her
own enthusiasm, her own worship of fame, since they clashed with his
opinions; so marvellously and insensibly had Love bowed down the proud
energies and the lofty soul of the daughter of John Vernon.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE BRIDALS.--THE ACCIDENT.--THE FIRST LAWFUL POSSESSION OF LOVE.

It was the morning on which Constance and Godolphin were to be married;
it had been settled that they were to proceed the same day towards
Florence; and Constance was at her toilette when her woman laid beside
her a large bouquet of flowers.

“From Percy--from Mr. Godolphin, I mean?” she asked, taking them up.

“No, my lady; a young woman outside the palace gave them me, and bade me
in such pretty English be sure to give them to your ladyship; and when I
offered her money, she would not take anything, my lady.”

“The Italians are a courteous people,” replied Constance; and she placed
the flowers in her bosom.

As, after the ceremony, Godolphin assisted his bride into the carriage,
a girl, wrapped in a large cloak, pressed forward for a moment.
Godolphin had in that moment turned his head to give some order to his
servant, and with the next the girl had sunk back into the throng that
was drawn around the carriage--yet not before Constance had heard
her murmur in deep, admiring, yet sorrowful tone: “Beautiful! how
beautiful!--Ah me!”

“Did you observe what beautiful eyes that young girl had?” asked
Constance, as the carriage whirled off.

“What girl? I saw nothing but you!”

“Hark! there is a noise behind.”

Godolphin looked out; the crowd seemed collected round one person.

“Only a young woman fainted, sir!” said his servant seated behind. “She
fell down in a fit just before the horses; but they started aside, and
did not hurt her.”

“That is fortunate!” said Godolphin, reseating himself by his new bride;
“drive on faster.”

At Florence, Godolphin revealed to Constance the outline of Lucilla’s
history, and Constance shared somewhat of the feelings with which he
told it.

“I left,” said he, “in the hands of the abbess a sum to be entirely at
Lucilla’s control, whether she stay in the convent or not, and which
will always secure to her an independence. But I confess I should like
now, once more to visit the convent, and learn on what fate she has
decided.”

“You would do well, dear Percy,” replied Constance, who from her high
and starred sphere could stoop to no vulgar jealousy; “indeed, I think
you could do no less.”

And Godolphin covered those generous lips with the sweet kisses in which
esteem begins to mingle with passion. What has the earth like that first
fresh union of two hearts long separated, and now blended for ever?
However close the sympathy between woman and her lover--however each
thinks to have learned the other--what a world is there left un-learned,
until marriage brings all those charming confidences, that holy and
sweet intercourse, which leaves no separate interest, no undivided
thought! But there is one thing that distinguishes the conversation of
young married people from that of lovers on a less sacred footing--they
talk of the future! Other lovers talk rather of the past; an uncertainty
pervades their hereafter; they feel they recoil from, it; they are
sensible that their plans are not one and indivisible. But married
people are always laying out the “to come;” always talking over their
plans: this often takes something away from the tenderness of affection,
but how much it adds to its enjoyment!

Seated by each other, and looking on the silver Arno, Godolphin
and Constance, hand clasped in hand, surrendered themselves to the
contemplation of their future happiness. “And what would be your
favorite mode of life, dear Percy?”

“Why, I have now no schemings left me, Constance. With you obtained, I
have grown a dullard, and left off dreaming. But let me see, a house
in England--you like England--some ten or twenty miles from the great
Babel: books, pictures, statues, and old trees that shall put us in mind
of our Norman fathers who planted them; above all, a noisy, clear sunny
stream gliding amidst them--deer on the opposite bank, half hidden
amongst the fern; and rooks overhead: a privilege for eccentricity that
would allow one to be social or solitary as one pleased; and a house so
full of guests, that to shun them all now and then would be no affront
to one.”

“Well,” said Constance, smiling, “go on.”

“I have finished.”

“Finished?”

“Yes, my fair Insatiable! What more would you have?”

“Why, this is but a country-life you have been talking of; very well in
its way for three months in the year.”

“Italy, then, for the other nine,” returned Godolphin.

“Ah, Percy!--is pleasure, mere pleasure, vulgar pleasure,--to be really
the sole end and aim of life?”

“Assuredly.”

“And action, enterprise--are these as nothing?”

Godolphin was silent, but began absently to throw pebbles into the
water. The action reminded Constance of the first time she had ever seen
him among his ancestral groves; and she sighed as she now gazed on a
brow from which the effeminacy and dreaming of his life had banished
much of its early chivalric and earnest expression.



CHAPTER XLVII.

NEWS OF LUCILLA.

Godolphin was about one morning to depart for the convent to which
Lucilla had flown, when a letter was brought to him from the abbess of
the convent herself; it had followed him from Rome. Lucilla had left her
retreat--left it three days before Godolphin’s marriage; the abbess knew
not whither, but believed she intended to reside in Rome. She inclosed
him a note from Lucilla, left for him before her departure. Short but
characteristic, it ran thus:

     LUCILLA TO GODOLPHIN.

“I can stay here no longer; my mind will not submit to quiet; this
inactivity wears me to madness. Besides, I want to see thy wife. I shall
go to Rome; I shall witness thy wedding; and then--ah! what then? Give
me back. Godolphin, oh; give me back the young pure heart I had ere I
loved you! Then, I could take joy in all things:--now! But I will not
repine; it is beneath me. I, the daughter of the stars, am no love-sick
and nerveless minion of a vain regret; my pride is roused at last, and I
feel at least the independence of being alone. Wild and roving shall be
my future life; that lot which denies me hope, has raised me above all
fear. Love makes us all the woman; love has left me, and something
hard and venturous, something that belongs to they sex, has come in its
stead.

“You have left me money--I thank you--I thank you--I thank you; my heart
almost chokes me as I write this. Could you think of me so basely?--For
shame, man! if my child--our child were living (and O, Percy, she had
thine eyes!), I would see her starve inch by inch rather than touch one
doit of thy bounty! But she is dead--thank God! Fear not for me, I shall
not starve; these hands can support life. God bless thee--loved as thou
still art! If, years hence, I should feel my end draw near, I will drag
myself to thy country, and look once more on thy face before I die.”

Godolphin sank down, and covered his face with his hands. Constance took
up the letter. “Ay--read it!” said he in a hollow voice. She did so, and
when she had finished, the proud Constance, struck by a spirit like her
own, bathed the letter in her tears. This pleased--this touched--this
consoled Godolphin more than the most elaborate comforting. “Poor girl!”
 said Constance, through her tears, “this must not be; she must not be
left on the wide world to her own despairing heart. Let us both go to
Rome, and seek her out. I will persuade her to accept what she refuses
from you.”

Godolphin pressed his wife’s hand, but spoke not. They went that day to
Rome. Lucilla had departed for Leghorn, and thence taken her passage in
a vessel bound to the northern coasts of Europe. Perhaps she had sought
her father’s land? With that hope, in the absence of all others, they
attempted to console themselves.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

IN WHICH TWO PERSONS, PERMANENTLY UNITED, DISCOVER THAT NO TIE CAN
PRODUCE UNION OF MINDS.

Weeks passed on, and, apparently, Godolphin had reconciled himself to
the disappearance and precarious destiny of Lucilla. It was not in his
calm and brooding nature to show much of emotion; but there was often,
even in the presence of Constance, a cloud on his brow, and the fits
of abstraction to which he had always been accustomed grew upon him more
frequently than ever. Constance had been inured for years to the most
assiduous, the most devoted attentions; and now, living much alone with
Godolphin, she began somewhat to miss them; for Godolphin could be a
passionate, a romantic, but he could not be a very watchful lover. He
had no petits soins. Few husbands have, it is true; nor is it necessary
for husbands in general. But Constance was not an ordinary woman; she
loved deeply, but she loved according to her nature--as a woman proud
and exacting must love. For Godolphin, her haughty step waxed timorous
and vigilant; she always sprang forward the first to meet him on his
return from his solitary ramblings, and he smiled upon her with his
wonted gentleness but not so gratefully, thought Constance, as he ought.
In truth, he had been too much accustomed to the eager love of Lucilla,
to feel greatly surprised at any proof of tenderness from Constance.
Thus, too proud to speak--to hint a complaint, Constance was
nevertheless perpetually wounded, and by degrees (although not loving
her husband less) she taught that love to be more concealed. Oh,
that accursed secretiveness in women, which makes them always belie
themselves!

Godolphin, too, was not without his disappointments. There was something
so bright, so purely intellectual about Constance’s character, that at
times, when brought into constant intercourse with her, you longed for
some human weakness--some wild, warm error on which to repose. Dazzling
and fair as snow, like snow your eye ached to gaze upon her. She had,
during the years of her ungenial marriage, cultivated her mind to
the utmost; few women were so accomplished--it might be learned; her
conversation flowed for ever in the same bright, flowery, adorned
stream. There were times when Godolphin recollected how hard it is
to read a volume of that Gibbon who in a page is so delightful. Her
affection for him was intense, high, devoted; but it was wholly of the
same intellectual spiritualised order; it seemed to Godolphin to want
human warmth and fondness. In fact, there never was a woman who, both by
original nature and after habits, was so purely and abstractedly “mind”
 as was Constance; there was not a single trait or taste in her
character that a sensualist could have sneered at. Her heart was wholly
Godolphin’s; her mind was generous, sympathising, lofty; her person
unrivalled in the majesty of its loveliness; all these, too, were
Godolphin’s, and yet the eternal something was wanting still.

“I have brought you your hat, Percy,” said Constance; “you forget the
dews are falling fast, and your head is uncovered.”

“Thank you,” said Percy, gently; yet Constance thought the tone might
have been warmer. “How beautiful is this hour! Look yonder, the sun’s
rays still upon those immortal hills--that lone grey tower amongst the
far plains--the pines around--hearken to their sighing! These are indeed
the scenes of the Dryad and the Faun. These are scenes where we could
melt our whole nature down to love: Nature never meant us for the stern
and arid destinies we fulfil. Look round, Constance, in every leaf of
her gorgeous book, how glowingly is written the one sentence, ‘Love and
be happy!’ You answer not; to these thoughts you are cold.”

“They breathe too much of the Epicurean and his rose-leaves for me,”
 answered Constance, smilingly. “I love better that stern old tower,
telling of glorious strife and great deeds, than all the softer
landscape, on which the present debasement of the south seems written.”

“You and your English,” said Godolphin, somewhat bitterly, “prate of the
debasement of my poor Italians in a jargon that I confess almost enrages
me. (Constance coloured and bit her lip.) Debasement! why debasement?
They enjoy themselves: they take from life its just moral; they do not
affect the more violent crimes; they feel their mortality, follow
its common ends, are frivolous, contented, and die! Well; this is
debasement. Be it so. But for what would you exchange it? The hard,
cold, ferocious guilt of ancient Rome; the detestable hypocrisy, the
secret villiany, fraud, murder, that stamped republican Venice? The
days of glory that you lament are the days of the darkest guilt; and man
shudders when he reads what the fair moralisers over the soft and idle
Italy sigh to recall!”

“You are severe,” said Constance, with a pained voice. “Forgive me,
dearest; but you are often severe on my feelings.”

Constance was silent; the magic of the sunset was gone; they walked back
to the house, thoughtful, and somewhat cooled towards each other.

Another day, on which the rain forbade them to stir from home,
Godolphin, after he had remained long silent and meditating, said to
Constance, who was busy writing letters to her political friends, in
which, avoiding Italy and love, the scheming countess dwelt only on busy
England and its eternal politics:

“Will you read to me, dear Constance? my spirits are sad to-day; the
weather affects them.”

Constance laid aside her letters, and took up one of the many books that
strewed the table: it was a volume of one of our most popular poets.

“I hate poetry,” said Godolphin, languidly.

“Here is Machiavel’s history of the Prince of Lucca,” said Constance,
quickly.

“Ah, read that, and see how odious is ambition,” returned Godolphin.

And Constance read, but she warmed at what Godolphin’s lip curled
with disdain. The sentiments, however, drew him from his apathy; and
presently, with the eloquence he could command when once excited,
he poured forth the doctrines of his peculiar philosophy. Constance
listened, delighted and absorbed; she did not sympathise with the
thought, but she was struck with the genius which clothed it. “Ah!” said
she, with enthusiasm, “why should those brilliant words be thus spoken
and lost for ever? Why not stamp them on the living page, or why not
invest them in the oratory that would render you illustrious and them
immortal?”

“Excellent!” said Godolphin laughing; “the House of Commons would
sympathise with philosophy warmly!”

Yet Constance was right on the whole. But the curse of a life of
pleasure is its aversion to useful activity. Talk of the genius that
lies crushed and obscure in poverty! Wealth and station have also their
mute Miltons and inglorious Hampdens.

Alas! how much of deep and true wisdom do we meet among the triflers of
the world! How much that in the stern middle walks of life would have
obtained renown, in the withering and relaxed air of loftier ranks dies
away unheeded! The two extremes meet in this,--the destruction of mental
gifts.



CHAPTER XLIX.

THE RETURN TO LONDON.--THE ETERNAL NATURE OF DISAPPOINTMENT.--FANNY
MILLINGER.--HER HOUSE AND SUPPER.

It was in the midst of spring, and at the approach of night, that our
travellers entered London. After an absence of some duration, there is a
singular emotion on returning to the roar and tumult of that vast
city. Its bustle, its life, its wealth--the tokens of the ambition
and commerce of the Great Island Race--have something of inconceivable
excitement and power, after the comparative desertion and majestic
stillness of Continental cities. Constance leaned restlessly forth from
the window of the carriage as it whirled on.

“Oh, that I were a man!” said she, fervently.

“And why?” asked Godolphin, smilingly.

“Why! look out on this broad theatre of universal ambition, and read
the why. What a proud and various career lies open in this free city
to every citizen! Look, look yonder--the old hereditary senate, still
eloquent with high memories.”

“And close by it,” said Godolphin, sneering, “behold the tomb!”

“Yes, but the tomb of great men!” said Constance, eagerly.

“The victims of their greatness.”

There was a pause; Constance would not reply, she would scarcely listen.

“And do you feel no excitement, Percy, in the hum and bustle--the
lights, the pomp of your native city?”

“Yes; I am in the mart where all enjoyment may be purchased.”

“Ah, fie!”

Godolphin drew his cloak round him, and put up the window.

“These cursed east winds!”

Very true--they are the curse of the country!

The carriage stopped at the stately portico of Erpingham House.
Godolphin felt a little humiliated at being indebted to another--to a
woman, for so splendid a tenement; but Constance, not penetrating into
this sentiment, hastened up the broad stairs, and said, pointing to a
door that led to her boudoir,

“In that room cabinets have been formed and shaken.”

Godolphin laughed; he was alive only to the vanity of the boast, because
he shared not the enthusiasm; this was Constance’s weak point: her dark
eye flashed fire.

There’s nothing bores a man more than the sort of uneasy quiet
that follows a day’s journey. Godolphin took his hat, and yawningly
stretching himself, nodded to Constance, and moved to the door; they
were in her dressing-room at the time.

“Why, what, Percy, you cannot be going out now?”

“Indeed I am, my love.”

“Where, in Heaven’s name?”

“To White’s, to learn the news of the Opera, and the strength of the
Ballet.”

“I had just rung for lights to show you the house!” said Constance,
disappointed, and half-reproachfully.

“Mercy, Constance! damp rooms and east winds together are too
much. House, indeed! what can there be worth seeing in your English
drawing-rooms after the marble palaces of Italy? Any commands?”

“None!” said Constance, sinking back into her chair, with the tears in
her eyes. Godolphin did not perceive them; he was only displeased by
the cold tone of her answer, and he shut the door, muttering to
himself--“Was there ever such indelicate ostentation!”

“And thus,” said Constance, bitterly, “I return to England; friendless,
unloved, solitary in my schemes and my heart as I was before. Awake, my
soul! thou art my sole strength, my sole support. Weak, weak that I was,
to love this man in spite of--Well, well, I am not sunk so low as to
regret.”

So saying, she wiped away a few tears, and turning with a strong effort
from softer thoughts, leaned her cheek on her hand, and gazing on the
fire, surrendered herself to the sterner and more plotting meditations
which her return to the circle of her old ambition had at first called
forth.

Meanwhile Godolphin sauntered into the then arch-club of St. James’s,
that reservoir of idle exquisites and kid-gloved politicians. There
are two classes of popular men in London; the sprightly, joyous,
good-humoured set; the quiet, gentle, sarcastic herd. The one are
fellows called devilish good--the other, fellows called devilish
gentleman like. To the latter class belonged Godolphin. As he had never
written a book, nor set up for a genius, his cleverness was tacitly
allowed to be no impediment to his good qualities. Nothing atones for
the sin, in the eyes of those young gentlemen who create for their
contemporaries reputation, of having in any way distinguished oneself.
“He’s such a d--d bore, that man with his books and poetry,” said an
arch-dandy of Byron, just after Childe Harold had turned the heads
of the women. There happened to be a knot assembled at White’s when
Godolphin entered; they welcomed him affectionately.

“Wish you joy, old fellow,” said one. “Bless me, Godolphin! well, I am
delighted to see you,” cried another. “So, you have monopolised Lady
Erpingham!--lucky dog!” whispered a third.

Godolphin, his vanity soothed by the reception he met with, spent his
evening at the Club. The habit begun, became easy--Godolphin spent many
evenings at his club. Constance, running the round of her acquaintance,
was too proud to complain. Perhaps complaint would not have mended the
matter: but one word of delicate tenderness, or one look that asked for
his society, and White’s would have been forsaken! Godolphin secretly
resented the very evenness of temper he had once almost overprized.

“Oh, Godolphin,” one evening whispered a young lord, “we sup at the
little actress’s,--the Millinger; you remember the Millinger? You must
come; you are an old favourite, you know: she’ll be so glad to
see you,--all innocent, by the way: Lady Erpingham need not be
jealous--(jealous! Constance jealous of Fanny Millinger!) all innocent.
Come, I’ll drive you there; my cab is at the door.”

“Anything better than a lecture on ambition,” thought Godolphin; and
he consented. Godolphin’s friend was a lively young nobleman, of that
good-natured, easy, uncaptious temper, which a clever, susceptible,
indolent man often likes better than comrades more intellectual, because
he has not to put himself out of his way in the comradeship. Lord
Falconer rattled on, as they drove along the brilliant streets, through
a thousand topics, of which Godolphin heard as much as he pleased; and
Falconer was of that age and those spirits when a listener may be easily
dispensed with.

They arrived at a little villa at Brompton: there was a little garden
round it, and a little bower in one corner, all kept excessively neat;
and the outside of the house had just been painted white from top to
bottom; and there was a veranda to the house; and the windows were
plate-glass, with mahogany sashes--only, here and there, a Gothic
casement was stuck in by way of looking “tasty;” and through one window
on the ground-floor, the lights shining within, showed crimson silk and
gilded chairs, and all sorts of finery--Louis Quatorze in a nutshell!
The reader knows the sort of house as well as if he had lived in it.
Ladies of Fanny Millinger’s turn of mind always choose the same kind of
habitation. It is astonishing what a unanimity of taste they have; and
young men about town call it “taste” too, and imitate the fashion in
their own little tusculums in Chapel street.

After having threaded a Gothic hall four feet by eight and an oval
conservatory with a river-god in the middle, the two visitors found
themselves in the presence of Fanny Millinger.

Godolphin had certainly felt no small curiosity to see again the frank,
fair, laughing face which had shone on his boyhood, and his mind ran
busily back to that summer evening when, with a pulse how different from
its present languid tenor, and a heart burning with ardour and the pride
of novel independence, the young adventurer first sallied on the world.
He drew back involuntarily as he now gazed on the actress: she had kept
the promise of her youth, and grown round and full in her proportions.
She was extravagantly dressed, but not with an ungraceful, although a
theatrical choice: her fair hands and arms were covered with jewels,
and that indescribable air which betrays the stage was far more visibly
marked in her deportment than when Godolphin first knew her; yet
still there was the same freedom as of old, the same joyousness, and
good-humoured carelessness in her manner, and in the silver ring of
her voice as she greeted Falconer, and turned to question him as to his
friend. Godolphin dropped his cloak, and the next moment, with a pretty
scream, quite stage-effect, and yet quite natural, the actress had
thrown herself into his arms.

“Oh! but I forgot,” said she presently, with a mock salutation of
respect, “you are married now; there will be no more cakes and ale.
Ah! what long years since we met; yet I have never quite forgotten you,
although the stage requires all one’s memory for one’s new parts. Alas!
your hair--it was so beautiful, it has lost half its curl, and grown
thin. Very rude in me to say so, but I always speak the truth, and my
heart warms to see you, so all its thoughts thaw out.”

“Well,” said Lord Falconer, who had been playing with a little muffy
sort of dog, “you’ll recollect me presently.”

“You! Oh! one never thinks of you, except when you speak, and then one
recollects you--to look at the clock.”

“Very good, Fanny--very good, Fan: and when do you expect Windsor?--He
ought to be here soon. Tell me, do you like him really?”

“Like him!--yes, excessively; just the word for him--for you all. If
love were thrown into the stream of life, my little sail would be upset
in an instant. But in truth, what with dressing, and playing, and
all the grave business of life, I am not idle enough to love. And oh,
Godolphin, I’m so improved! Ask Lord Falconer, if I don’t sing like
an angel, although my voice is hardly strong enough to go round a
loo-table; but on the stage, one learns to dispense with all qualities.
It is a curious thing, that fictitious existence, side by side with
the real one! We live in enchantment, Percy, and enjoy what the poets
pretend to.”

The dreaming Godolphin was struck by the remark. He was surprised,
also, to see how much Fanny remained the same. A life of gaiety had not
debased her.

Tom Windsor came next, an Irishman of five-and-forty, not like his
countrymen in aught save wit. Thin, small, shrivelled, but up to his
ears in knowledge of the world, and with a jest for ever on his tongue:
rich and gay,--he was always popular, and he made the most of his little
life without being an absolute rascal. Next dropped in the handsome
Frenchman De Damville; next, the young gambler, St. John; next two
ladies, both actresses; and the party was complete.

The supper was in keeping with the house; the best wines, excellent
viands--the actress had grown rich. Wit, noise, good-humour, anecdote,
flashed round with the champagne; and Godolphin, exhilarated into a
second youth, fancied himself once more the votary of pleasure.



CHAPTER L.

GODOLPHIN’S SOLILOQUY.--HE BECOMES A MAN OF PLEASURE AND A PATRON OF
THE ARTS.--A NEW CHARACTER SHADOWED FORTH; FOR AS WE ADVANCE, WHETHER IN
LIFE OR ITS REPRESENTATIONS, CHARACTERS ARE MORE FAINT AND DIMLY DRAWN
THAN IN THE EARLIER PART OF OUR CAREER.

“Yes,” said Godolphin, the next morning, as he soliloquised over his
lonely breakfast-table--lonely, for the hours of the restless Constance
were not those of the luxurious and indolent Godolphin, and she was
already in her carriage, nay, already closeted with an intriguing
ambassadress--“yes, I have passed two eras of life--the first of
romance, the second of contemplation; once my favourite study was
poetry--next philosophy. Now, returned to my native country, rich,
settled, yet young, new objects arise to me; not that vulgar and
troublous ambition (which is to make a toil of life) that Constance
suggests, but a more warm and vivid existence than that I have lately
dreamed away. Let luxury and pleasure now be to me what solitude and
thought were. I have been too long the solitary, I will learn to be
social.”

Agreeably to this resolution, Godolphin returned with avidity to the
enjoyment of the world; he found himself courted, he courted society in
return. Erpingham House had been for years the scene of fascination: who
does not recollect the yet greater refinement which its new lord threw
over its circles? A delicate and just conception of the fine arts
had always characterised Godolphin. He now formed that ardour for
collecting, common to the more elegant order of minds. From his beloved
Italy he imported the most beautiful statues--his cabinets were filled
with gems--his walls glowed with the triumphs of the canvas--the showy
but heterogeneous furniture of Erpingham House gave way to a more
classic and perfect taste. The same fastidiousness which, in the affairs
of the heart, had characterised Godolphin’s habits and sentiments,
characterised his new pursuits; the same thirst for the Ideal, the same
worship of the Beautiful, and aspirations after the Perfect.

It was not in Constance’s nature to admit this smaller ambition; her
taste was pure but not minute; she did not descend to the philosophy of
detail. But she was glad still to see that Godolphin could be aroused to
the discovery of an active object; and, although she sighed to perceive
his fine genius fritted away on the trifles of the virtuoso--although
she secretly regretted the waste of her great wealth (which afforded to
political ambition so High an advantage) on the mute marble, and
what she deemed, nor unjustly, frivolous curiosities--she still never
interfered with Godolphin’s caprices, conscious that, to his delicacy,
a single objection to his wishes on the score of expense would have
reminded him of what she wished him most to forget--viz., that the means
of this lavish expenditure were derived from her. She hoped that his
mind, once fairly awakened, would soon grow sated with the acquisition
of baubles, and at length sigh for loftier objects; and, in the
meanwhile, she plunged into her old party plots and ambitions intrigues.

Erpingham House, celebrated as ever for the beauty of its queen and for
the political nature of its entertainments, received a new celebrity
from its treasures of art, and the spiritual wit and grace with which
Godolphin invested its attractions. Among the crowd of its guests there
was one whom its owners more particularly esteemed--Stainforth Radclyffe
was still considerably under thirty, but already a distinguished man. At
school he had been distinguished; at college distinguished, and now in
the world of science distinguished also. Beneath a quiet, soft, and cold
exterior, he concealed the most resolute and persevering ambition; and
this ambition was the governing faculty of his soul. His energies were
undistracted by small objects; for he went little into general society,
and he especially sought in his studies those pursuits which nerve and
brace the mind. He was a profound thinker, a deep political economist,
an accurate financier, a judge of the intricacies of morals and
legislation--for to his mere book studies he added an instinctive
penetration into men; and when from time to time he rejoined the
world, he sought out those most distinguished in the sciences he had
cultivated, and by their lights corrected his own. In him there
was nothing desultory or undetermined; his conduct was perpetual
calculation. He did nothing but with an eye to a final object; and
when, to the superficial, he seemed most to wander from the road their
prudence would have suggested, he was only seeking the surest and
shortest paths. Yet his ambition was not the mere vulgar thirst for
getting on in the world; he cared little for the paltry place, the petty
power which may reward what are called aspiring young men. His clear
sight penetrated to objects that seemed wrapped in shade to all others;
and to those only--distant, but vast and towering,--he deigned to attach
his desires. He cared not for small and momentary rewards; and while
always (for he knew its necessity) uppermost on the tide of the hour,
he had neither joy nor thought for the petty honours for which he was
envied, and by which he was supposed to be elated. Always occupied and
always thoughtful, he went, as I have just said, very little into the
gay world, and was not very well formed to shine in it when there; for
trifles require the whole man as much as matters of importance. He did
not want either wit or polish, but he tasked his powers too severely on
great subjects not to be sometimes dull upon small ones: yet, when he
was either excited or at home, he was not without--what man of genius
is?--his peculiar powers of conversation. There was in this young dark,
brooding, stern man, that which had charmed Constance at first sight;
she thought to recognise a nature like her own, and Radclyffe’s
venturous spirit exulted in a commune with hers. Their politics were
the same; their ultimate ends not very unlike; and their common ambition
furnished them with an eternity of topics and schemes. Radclyffe was
Constance’s guest;--but Godolphin soon grew attached to the young
politician, though he shrugged his shoulders at his opinions. In youth,
Godolphin had been a Tory--now, if anything, he was a Tory still. Such
a political creed was perhaps the natural result of his philosophical
belief. Constance, Whig by profession, ultra-Liberal in reality, still
however gave the character to the politics of the house; and the easy
Godolphin thought politics the veriest of all the trifles which a man
could leave to the discretion of the lady of his household. We may
judge, therefore, of the quiet, complacent amusement he felt in the
didactics of Radclyffe or the declamations of Constance.

“That is a dangerous, scheming woman, believe me,” said the Duchess of
---- to her great husband, one morning, when Constance left her Grace.

“Nonsense! women are never dangerous.”



CHAPTER LI.

GODOLPHIN’S COURSE OF LIFE.--INFLUENCE OF OPINION AND OF RIDICULE ON THE
MINDS OF PRIVILEGED ORDERS.--LADY ERPINGITAM’S FRIENDSHIP WITH GEORGE
THE FOURTH.--HIS MANNER OF LIVING.

The course of life which Godolphin now led, was exactly that which it
is natural for a very rich intellectual man to indulge--voluptuous
but refined. He was arriving at that age when the poetry of the heart
necessarily decays. Wealth almost unlimited was at his command; he had
no motive for exertion; and he now sought in pleasure that which he had
formerly asked from romance. As his faculties and talents had no
other circle for display than that which “society” affords; so by slow
degrees, society--its applause and its regard--became to him of greater
importance than his “philosophy dreamt of.” Whatever the circle we live
amongst, the public opinion of that circle will, sooner or later, obtain
a control over us. This is the reason why a life of pleasure makes even
the strongest mind frivolous at last. The lawyer, the senator, the magi
of letters, all are insensibly guided--moulded--formed--by the judgment
of the tribe they belong to, and the circle in which they move. Still
more is it the case with the idlers of the great world, amongst whom the
only main staple of talk is “themselves.”

And in the last-named set, Ridicule being more strong and fearful a
deity than she is amongst the cultivators of the graver occupations
of life, reduces the inmates, by a constant dread of incurring her
displeasure, to a more monotonous and regular subjection to the judgment
of others. Ridicule is the stifler of all energy amongst those she
controls. After man’s position in society is once established--after
he has arrived at a certain age--he does not like to hazard any
intellectual enterprise which may endanger the quantum of respect
or popularity at present allotted to him. He does not like to risk a
failure in parliament--a caustic criticism in literature: he does not
like to excite new jealousies, and provoke angry rivals where he
now finds complaisant inferiors. The most admired authors, the most
respected members of either house, now looked up to Godolphin as a man
of wit and genius; a man whose house, whose wealth, whose wife, gave
him an influence few individuals enjoy. Why risk all this respect by
provoking comparison? Among the first in one line, why sink into the
probability of being second-rate in another?

This motive, which secretly governs half the aristocracy--the cleverer
half, viz., the more diffident and the more esteemed; which leaves to
the obtuse and the vain, a despised and unenviable notoriety; added new
force to Godolphin’s philosophical indifference to ambition. Perhaps,
had his situation been less brilliant, or had he persevered in that
early affection for solitude which youth loves as the best nurse to
its dreams, he might now, in attaining an age when ambition, often dumb
before, usually begins to make itself heard, have awakened to a more
resolute and aspiring temperament of mind. But, as it was, courted and
surrounded by all the enjoyments which are generally the reward to which
exertion looks, even an ambitious man might have forgotten his nature.
No wound to his vanity, no feeling that he was underrated (that great
spur to proud minds) excited him to those exertions we undertake in
order to belie calumny. He was “the glass of fashion,” at once popular
and admired; and his good fortune in marrying the celebrated, the
wealthy, the beautiful Countess of Erpingham was, as success always is,
considered the proof of his genius, and the token of his merits.

It was certainly true, that a secret and mutual disappointment rankled
beneath the brilliant lot of the husband and wife. Godolphin exacted
from Constance more softness, more devotion, more compliance than
belonged to her nature; and Constance, on the other hand, ceased not to
repine that she found in Godolphin no sympathy with her objects, and
no feeling for her enthusiasm. As there was little congenial in their
pursuits, the one living for pleasure, the other for ambition, so there
could be no congeniality in their intercourse. They loved each other
still; they loved each other warmly; they never quarrelled; for the
temper of Constance was mild, and that of Godolphin generous: but
neither believed there was much love on the other side; and both sought
abroad that fellowship and those objects they had not in common at home.

Constance was a great favourite with the reigning king; she was
constantly invited to the narrow circle of festivities at Windsor.
Godolphin, who avoided the being bored as the greatest of earthly evils,
could not bow down his tastes and habits to any exact and precise order
of life, however distinguished the circle in which it became the rule.
Thirsting to be amused, he could not conjugate the active verb “to
amuse.” No man was more fitted to adorn a court, yet no man could less
play the courtier. He admired the manners of the sovereign,--he did
homage to the natural acuteness of his understanding; but, accustomed
as he was to lay down the law in society, he was too proud to receive
it from another,--a common case among those who live with the great
by right and not through sufferance. His pride made him fear to seem a
parasite; and, too chivalrous to be disloyal, he was too haughty to
be subservient. In fact, he was thoroughly formed to be the Great
Aristocrat,--a career utterly distinct from that of the hanger-on upon a
still greater man; and against his success at court, he had an obstacle
no less in the inherent fierte of his nature, than in the acquired
philosophy of his cynicism.

The king, at first, was civil enough to Lady Erpingham’s husband; but he
had penetration enough to see that he was not adequately admired: and on
the first demonstration of royal coolness, Godolphin, glad of an excuse,
forswore Castle and Pavilion for ever, and left Constance to enjoy alone
the honours of the regal hospitality. The world would have insinuated
scandal; but there was that about Constance’s beauty which there is said
by one of the poets to belong to an angel’s--it struck the heart, but
awed the senses.



CHAPTER LII.

RADCLYFFE AND GODOLPHIN CONVERSE.--THE VARIETIES OF AMBITION.

“I don’t know,” said Godolphin to Radclyffe, as they were one day riding
together among the green lanes that border the metropolis--“I don’t know
what to do with myself this evening. Lady Erpingham is gone to Windsor;
I have no dinner engagement, and I am wearied of balls. Shall we dine
together, and go to the play quietly, as we might have done some ten
years ago?”

“Nothing I should like better;--and the theatre--are you fond of it now?
I think I have heard you say that it once made your favorite amusement.”

“I still like it passably,” answered Godolphin; “but the gloss is
gone from the delusion. I am grown mournfully fastidious. I must have
excellent acting--an excellent play. A slight fault--a slight deviation
from nature--robs me of my content at the whole.”

“The same fault in your character pervading all things,” said Radclyffe,
half smiling.

“True,” said Godolphin, yawning;--“but have you seen my new Canova?”

“No: I care nothing for statues, and I know nothing of the Fine Arts.”

“What a confession!”

“Yes, it is a rare confession: but I suspect that the Arts, like
truffles and olives, are an acquired taste. People talk themselves into
admiration, where at first they felt indifference. But how can you,
Godolphin, with your talents, fritter away life on these baubles?”

“You are civil,” said Godolphin, impatiently. “Allow me to tell you that
it is your objects I consider baubles. Your dull, plodding,
wearisome honours; a name in the newspapers--a place, perhaps, in the
Ministry--purchased by a sacrificed youth and a degraded manhood--a
youth in labour, a manhood in schemes. No, Radclyffe! give me the
bright, the glad sparkle of existence; and, ere the sad years of age and
sickness, let me at least enjoy. That is wisdom! Your creed is--But I
will not imitate your rudeness!” and Godolphin laughed.

“Certainly,” replied Radclyffe, “you do your best to enjoy yourself.
You live well and fare sumptuously: your house is superb, your villa
enchanting. Lady Erpingham is the handsomest woman of her time: and,
as if that were not enough, half the fine women in London admit you at
their feet. Yet you are not happy.”

“Ay: but who is?” cried Godolphin, energetically.

“I am,” said Radclyffe, drily.

“You!--humph!”

“You disbelieve me.”

“I have no right to do so: but are you not ambitious? And is not
ambition full of anxiety, care,--mortification at defeat, disappointment
in success? Does not the very word ambition--that is, a desire to be
something you are not--prove you discontented with what you are?”

“You speak of a vulgar ambition,” said Radclyffe.

“Most august sage!--and what species of ambition is yours?”

“Not that which you describe. You speak of the ambition for self; my
ambition is singular--it is the ambition for others. Some years ago I
chanced to form an object in what I considered the welfare of my race.
You smile. Nay, I boast no virtue in my dreams; but philanthropy was
my hobby, as statues may be yours. To effect this object, I see great
changes are necessary: I desire, I work for these great changes. I am
not blind, in the meanwhile, to glory. I desire, on the contrary, to
obtain it! But it would only please me if it came from certain sources.
I want to feel that I may realise what I attempt; and wish for that
glory that comes from the permanent gratitude of my species, not that
which springs from the momentary applause. Now, I am vain, very vain:
vanity was, some years ago, the strongest characteristic of my nature.
I do not pretend to conquer the weakness, but to turn it towards my
purposes. I am vain enough to wish to shine, but the light must come
from deeds I think really worthy.”

“Well, well!” said Godolphin, a little interested in spite of himself:
“but ambition of one sort resembles ambition of another, inasmuch as it
involves perpetual harassment and humiliations.”

“Not so,” answered Radclyffe;--“because when a man is striving for what
he fancies a laudable object, the goodness of his intentions comforts
him for a failure in success, whereas your selfishly ambitious man has
no consolation in his defeats; he is humbled by the external world, and
has no inner world to apply to for consolation.”

“Oh, man!” said Godolphin, almost bitterly, “how dost thou eternally
deceive thyself! Here is the thirst for power, and it calls itself the
love of mankind!”

“Believe me,” said Radclyffe, so earnestly, and with so deep a meaning
in his grave, bright eye, that Godolphin was staggered from his
scepticism;--“believe me, they may be distinct passions, and yet can be
united.”



CHAPTER LIII.

FANNY BEHIND THE SCENES.--REMINISCENCES OF YOUTH.--THE UNIVERSALITY OF
TRICK.--THE SUPPER AT FANNY MILLINGER’S.--TALK ON A THOUSAND MATTERS,
EQUALLY LIGHT AND TRUE.--FANNY’S SONG.

The play was Pizarro, and Fanny Millinger acted Cora, Godolphin and
Radclyffe went behind the scenes.

“Ah!” said Fanny, as she stood in her white Peruvian dress, waiting
her turn to re-enter the stage,--“ah, Godolphin! this reminds me of old
times. How many years have passed since you used to take such pleasure
in this mimic life! Well do I remember your musing eye and thoughtful
brow bent kindly on me from the stage-box yonder: and do you recollect
how prettily you used to moralise on the deserted scenes when the play
was over? And you sometimes waited on these very boards to escort me
home. Those times have changed. Heigh-ho!”

“Ay, Fanny, we have passed through new worlds of feeling since then.
Could life be to us now what it was at that time, we might love each
other anew: but tell me, Fanny, has not the experience of life made
you a wiser woman? Do you not seek more to enjoy the present--to pluck
Tirne’s fruit on the bough, ere yet the ripeness is gone? I do. I
dreamed away my youth--I strive to enjoy my manhood.”

“Then,” said Fanny, with that quickness with which, in matters of the
heart, women beat all our philosophy--“then I can prophesy that, since
we parted, you have loved or lost some one. Regret, which converts
the active mind into the dreaming temper, makes the dreamer hurry into
activity, whether of business or of pleasure.”

“Right,” said Radclyffe, as a shade darkened his stern brow.

“Right,” said Godolphin thoughtfully, and Lucille’s image smote his
heart like an avenging conscience. “Right,” repeated he, turning aside
and soliloquising; “and those words from an idle tongue have taught me
some of the motives of my present conduct. But away reflection! I have
resolved to forswear it. My pretty Cora!” said he, aloud, as he turned
back to the actress, “you are a very De Stael in your wisdom: but let
us not be wise; ‘tis the worst of our follies. Do you not give us one of
your charming suppers to-night?”

“To be sure: your friend will join us. He was once the gayest of the
gay; but years and fame have altered him a little.”

“Radclyffe gay! Bah!” said Godolphin surprised. “Ay, you may well look
astonished,” said Fanny, archly; “but note that smile--it tells of old
days.”

And Godolphin turning to his friend, saw indeed on the thin lip of that
earnest face a smile so buoyant, so joyous, that it seemed as if the
whole character of the man were gone: but while he gazed, the smile
vanished, and Radclyffe gravely declined the invitation.

Cora was now on the stage: a transport of applause shook the house.

“How well she acts!” said Radclyffe warmly.

“Yes,” answered Godolphin, as with folded arms he looked quietly on;
“but what a lesson in the human heart does good acting teach us! Mark
that glancing eye--that heaving breast--that burst of passion--that
agonised voice: the spectators are in tears! The woman’s whole soul
is in her child! Not a bit of it! She feels no more than the boards we
tread on: she is probably thinking of the lively supper we shall have;
and when she comes off the stage, she will cry, ‘Did I not act it
well?’”

“Nay,” said Radclyffe, “she probably feels while she depicts the
feeling.”

“Not she: years ago she told me the whole science of acting was trick;
and trick--trick--trick it is, on the stage or off. The noble art of
oratory--(noble forsooth!)--is just the same: philosophy, poetry--all,
all hypocrisy. ‘Damn the moon!’ said B---- to me, as we once stood
gazing on it at Venice; ‘it always gives me the ague: but I have
described it well in my poetry, Godolphin--eh?’”

“But--,” began Radclyffe.

“But me no buts,” interrupted Godolphin, with the playful pertinacity
which he made so graceful: “you are younger than I am; when you have
lived as long, you shall have a right to contradict my system--not
before.”

Godolphin joined the supper party. Like Godolphin’s, Fanny’s life was
the pursuit of pleasure: she lavished on it, in proportion to her
means, the same cost and expense, though she wanted the same taste and
refinement. Generous and profuse, like all her tribe--like all persons
who win money easily--she was charitable to all and luxurious in
herself. The supper was attended by four male guests--Godolphin,
Saville, Lord Falconer; and Mr. Windsor.

It was early summer: the curtains were undrawn, the windows were half
opened, and the moonlight slept on the little grassplot that surrounded
the house. The guests were in high spirits. “Fill me this goblet,”
 cried Godolphin; “champagne is the boy’s liquor; I will return to it con
amore. Fanny, let us pledge each other: stay: a toast!--What shall it
be?”

“Hope till old age, and Memory afterwards,” said Fanny, smiling.

“Pshaw! theatricals still, Fan?” growled Saville, who had placed a large
screen between himself and the window; “no sentiment between friends.”

“Out on you, Saville,” said Godolphin; “as well might you say no music
out of the opera; these verbal prettinesses colour conversation. But
your roues are so d----d prosaic, you want us to walk to Vice without a
flower by the way.”

“Vice indeed!” cried Saville. “I abjure your villanous appellatives.
It was in your companionship that I lost my character, and now you turn
king’s evidence against the poor devil you seduced.”

“Humph!” cried Godolphin gaily; “you remind me of the advice of the
Spanish hidalgo to a servant: always choose a master with a good memory:
for ‘if he does not pay, he will at least remember that he owes you.’ In
future, I shall take care to herd only with those who recollect, after
they are finally debauched, all the good advice I gave them beforehand.”

“Meanwhile,” said the pretty Fanny, with her arch mouth half-full of
chicken, “I shall recollect that Mr. Saville drinks his wine without
toasts--as being a useless delay.”

“Wine,” said Mr. Windsor, sententiously, “wine is just the reverse of
love. Your old topers are all for coming at once, to the bottle, and
your old lovers for ever mumbling the toast.”

“See what you have brought on yourself, Saville, by affecting a joke
upon me,” said Godolphin. “Come, let us make it up: we fell out with the
toast--let us be reconciled by the glass.--Champagne?”

“Ay, anything for a quiet life,--even champagne,” said Saville, with a
mock air of patience, and dropping his sharp features into a state of
the most placid repose. “Your wits are so very severe. Yes, champagne if
you please. Fanny, my love,” and Saville made a wry face as he put down
the scarce-tasted glass; “go on--another joke, if you please; I now find
I can bear your satire better, at least, than your wine.”

Fanny was all bustle: it is in these things that the actress
differs from the lady--there is no quiet in her. “Another bottle of
champagne:--what can have happened to this?” Poor Fanny was absolutely
pained. Saville enjoyed it, for he always revenged a jest by an
impertinence.

“Nay,” said Godolphin, “our friend does but joke. Your champagne is
excellent, Fanny. Well, Saville, and where is young Greenhough? He is
vanished. Report says he was marked down in your company, and has not
risen since.”

“Report is the civilest jade in the world. According to her all the
pigeons disappear in my fields. But, seriously speaking, Greenhough is
off--gone to America--over head and ears in debt--debts of honor. Now,”
 said Saville, very slowly, “there’s the difference between the gentleman
and the parvenu; the gentleman, when all is lost, cuts his throat: the
parvenu only cuts his creditors. I am really very angry with Greenhough
that he did not destroy himself. A young man under my protection and
all: so d----d ungrateful in him.”

“He was not much in your debt--eh?” said Lord Falconer, speaking for the
first time as the wine began to get into his head.

Saville looked hard at the speaker.

“Lord Falconer, a pinch of snuff: there is something singularly happy
in your question; so much to the point: you have great knowledge of the
world--great. He was very much in my debt. I introduced the vulgar dog
into the world, and he owes me all the thousands he had the Honor to
lose in good society!”

“Do you know, Percy,” continued Saville, “do you know, by the way, that
my poor dear friend Jasmin is dead? died after a hearty game of whist.
He had just time to cry ‘four by honours’ when death trumped him. It was
a great shock to me: he was the second best player at Graham’s. Those
sudden deaths are very awful--especially with the game in one’s hands.”

“Very mortifying, indeed,” seriously said Lord Falconer, who had just
been initiated into whist.

“‘Tis droll,” said Saville, “to see how often the last words of a man
tally with his life; ‘tis like the moral to the fable. The best instance
I know is in Lord Chesterfield, whose fine soul went out in that sublime
and inimitable sentence--`Give Mr. Darrell a chair.’”

“Capital,” cried Lord Falconer. “Saville, a game at ecarte.”

As the lion in the Tower looked at the lapdog, so in all the compassion
of contempt looked Saville on Lord Falconer.

“Infelix puer!” muttered Godolphin; “Infelix puer atque, impar
congressus Achilli.”

“With all my heart,” said Saville at last. “Yet, no--we’ve been talking
of death--such topics waken a man’s conscience, Falconer, I never play
for less than----”

“Ponies!--I know it!” cried Falconer, triumphantly.

“Ponies--less than chargers!”

“Chargers--what are chargers?”

“The whole receipts of an Irish peer, Lord Falconer; and I make it a
point never to lose the first game.”

“Such men are dangerous,” said Mr. Windsor, with his eyes shut.

“O Night!” cried Godolphin, springing up theatrically, “thou wert made
for song, and moonlight, and laughter--but woman’s laughter. Fanny, a
song--the pretty quaint song you sang me, years ago, in praise of a town
love and an easy life.”

Fanny, who had been in the pouts ever since Saville had blamed the
champagne--for she was very anxious to be of bon ton in her own little
way--now began to smile once more; and, as the moon played on her arch
face, she seated herself at the piano, and, glancing at Godolphin, sang
the following song:--


          LOVE COURTS THE PLEASURES.
               I.
     Believe me, Love was never made
          In deserts to abide;
     Leave Age to take the sober shade,
          And Youth the sunny side.

               II.
     Love dozes by the purling brook,
          No friend to lonely places;
     Or, if he toy with Strephon’s crook,
          His Chloes are the Graces.

               III.
     Forsake ‘The Flaunting Town!’ Alas!
          Be cells for saints, my own love!
     The wine of life’s a social glass,
          Nor may be quaffed alone, love.

               IV.
     Behold the dead and solemn sea,
          To which our beings flow;
     Let waves that soon so dark must be
          Catch every glory now.

               V.
     I would not chain that heart to this
          To sicken at the rest;
     The cage we close a prison is,
          The open cage a nest.



CHAPTER LIV.

THE CAREER OF CONSTANCE.--REAL STATE OF HER FEELINGS TOWARDS
GODOLPHIN.--RAPID SUCCESSION OF POLITICAL EVENTS.--CANNING’S
ADMINISTRATION.--CATHOLIC QUESTION.--LORD GREY’S SPEECH.--CANNING’S
DEATH.

While in scenes like these, alternated with more refined and polished
dissipation, Godolphin lavished away his life, Constance, became more
and more powerful as one of the ornaments of a great political party.
Few women in England ever mixed more actively in politics than Lady
Erpingham, or with more remarkable ability. Her friends were out of
office, it is true; but she saw the time approaching rapidly when their
opinions must come into power. She had begun to love, for itself, the
scheming of political ambition, and in any country but England she
would have been a conspirator, and in old times might have risen to be
a queen; but as it was, she was only a proud, discontented woman. She
knew, too, that it was all she could be--all that her sex allowed her
to be--yet did she not the less straggle and toil on. The fate of her
father still haunted her; her promise and his death-bed still rose oft
and solemnly before her; the humiliations she had known in her
early condition--the homage that had attended her later career--still
cherished in her haughty soul indignation at the faction he had
execrated, and little less of the mighty class which that faction
represented. The system of “fashion” she had so mainly contributed
to strengthen, and which was originally by her intended to build up a
standard of opinion, independent of mere rank, and in defiance of mere
wealth, she saw polluted and debased by the nature of its followers,
into a vulgar effrontery, which was worse than the more quiet dulness
it had attempted to supplant. Yet still she was comforted by the thought
that through this system lay the way to more wholesome changes. The
idols of rank and wealth once broken, she believed that a pure and sane
worship must ultimately be established. Doubtless in the old French
regime there were many women who thought like her, but there were none
who acted like her--deliberately, and with an end. What an excellent,
what a warning picture is contained in the entertaining Memoirs of Count
Segur! how admirably that agreeable gossip develops the state of
mind among the nobility of France!--“merry censurers of the old
customs”--“enchanted by the philosophy of Voltaire”--“ridiculing the old
system”--“embracing liberality as a fashion,” and “gaily treading a soil
bedecked with flowers, which concealed a precipice from their view!”
 In England, there are fewer flowers, and the precipice will be less
fearful.

A certain disappointment which had attended her marriage with Godolphin,
and the disdainful resentment she felt at the pleasures that allured him
from her, tended yet more to deepen at once her distaste for the habits
of a frivolous society, and to nerve and concentrate her powers of
political intrigue. Her mind grew more and more masculine; her dark
eye burnt with a sterner fire; the sweet mouth was less prodigal of its
smiles; and that air of dignity which she had always possessed, grew
harder in its character, and became command.

This change did not tend to draw Godolphin nearer to her. He, so
susceptible to coldness, so refining, so exacting, believed fully
that she loved him no more--that she repented the marriage she had
contracted. His pride was armed against her; and he sought more eagerly
those scenes where all, for the admired, the gallant, the sparkling
Godolphin, wore smiles and sunshine.

There was another matter that rankled in his breast with peculiar
bitterness. He had wished to raise a large sum of money (in the purchase
of some celebrated works of art), which could only be raised with Lady
Erpingham’s consent. When he had touched upon the point to her, she
had not refused, but she had hesitated. She seemed embarrassed, and, he
thought, discontented. His delicacy took alarm, and he never referred
to the question again; but he was secretly much displeased with her
reluctant manner on that occasion. Nothing the proud so little forget
as a coolness conceived upon money matters: In this instance, Godolphin
afterwards discovered that he had wronged Constance, and misinterpreted
the cause of her reluctance.

Yet as time flew on for both, both felt a yearning of the heart towards
each other; and had they been thrown upon a desert island--had there
been full leisure, full opportunity, for a frank unfettered interchange
and confession of thought--they would have been mutually astonished to
find themselves still so beloved, and each would have been dearer to the
other than in their warmest hour of earlier attachment. But when once,
in a very gay and occupied life, a husband and wife have admitted
a seeming indifference to creep in between them, the chances are a
thousand to one against its after-removal. How much more so with a
wife so proud as Constance, and a husband so refining as Godolphin!
Fortunately, however, as I said before, the temper of each was
excellent; they never quarrelled; and the indifference, therefore,
lay on the surface, not at the depth. They seemed to the world an
affectionate couple, as couples go; and their union would have been
classed by Rochefoucauld among those marriages that are very happy--il
n’y a point de delicieux.

Meanwhile, as Constance had predicted, the political history of the
country was marked by a perpetual progress towards liberal opinions.
Mr. Canning was now in office; the Catholic Question was in every one’s
mouth.

There was a brilliant meeting at Erpingham House; those who composed
it were of the heads of the party: but there were divisions amongst
themselves; some were secretly for joining Mr. Canning’s administration;
some had openly done so; others remained in stubborn and jealous
opposition. With these last was the heart of Constance. “Well, well,
Lady Erpingham,” said Lord Paul Plympton, a young nobleman, who had
written a dull history, and was therefore considered likely to succeed
in parliamentary life--“well, I cannot help thinking you are too severe
upon Canning: he is certainly very liberal in his views.”

“Is there one law he ever caused to pass for the benefit of the working
classes? No, Lord Paul, his Whiggism is for peers, and his Toryism for
peasants. With the same zeal he advocates the Catholic Question and the
Manchester Massacre.”

“Yet, surely,” cried Lord Paul, “you make a difference between the
just liberality that provides for property and intelligence, and
the dangerous liberality that would slacken the reins of an ignorant
multitude.”

“But,” said Mr. Benson, a very powerful member of the Lower House, “true
politicians must conform to circumstances. Canning may not be all we
wish, but still he ought to be supported. I confess that I shall be
generous: I care not for office, I care not for power; but Canning is
surrounded with enemies, who are enemies also to the people: for that
reason I shall support him.”

“Bravo, Benson!” cried Lord Paul.

“Bravo, Benson!” echoed two or three notables, who had waited an
opportunity to declare themselves; “that’s what I call handsome.”

“Manly!”

“Fair!”

“Disinterested, by Jove!”

Here the Duke of Aspindale suddenly entered the room. “Ah, Lady
Erpingham, you should have been in the Lords to-night; such a speech!
Canning is crushed for ever!”

“Speech! from whom?”

“Lord Grey--terrific: it was the vengeance of a life concentrated into
one hour; it has shaken the Ministry fearfully.”

“Humph!” said Benson, rising; “I shall go to Brooks’s and hear more.”

“And I too,” said Lord Paul.

A day or two after, Benson in presenting a petition, alluded in terms
of high eulogy to the masterly speech made “in another place:” and Lord
Paul Plympton said, “it was indeed unequalled.”

That’s what I call handsome. Manly!

Fair!

Disinterested, by Jove!

And Canning died; his gallant soul left the field of politics broken
into a thousand petty parties. From the time of his death the two
great hosts into which the struggles for power were divided have never
recovered their former strength. The demarcation that his policy had
tended to efface was afterwards more weakened by his successor, the Duke
of Wellington; and had it not been for the question of Reform that again
drew the stragglers on either side around one determined banner, it
is likely that Whig and Tory would, among the many minute sections and
shades of difference, have lost for ever the two broad distinguishing
colours of their separate factions.

Mr. Canning died; and now, with redoubled energy, went on the wheels of
political intrigue. The rapid succession of short-lived administrations,
the leisure of a prolonged peace, the pressure of debt, the writings
of philosophers, all, insensibly, yet quickly, excited that popular
temperament which found its crisis in the Reform Bill.



CHAPTER LV.

THE DEATH OF GEORGE IV.--THE POLITICAL SITUATION OF PARTIES, AND OF LADY
ERPINGHAM.

The death of George the Fourth was the birth of a new era. During the
later years of that monarch a silent spirit had been gathering over the
land, which had crept even to the very walls of his seclusion. It cannot
be denied that the various expenses of his reign,--no longer consecrated
by the youthful graces of the prince, no longer disguised beneath
the military triumphs of the people,--had contributed far more than
theoretical speculations to the desire of political change. The shortest
road to liberty lies through attenuated pockets!

Constance was much at Windsor during the king’s last illness, one of
the saddest periods that ever passed within the walls of a palace. The
memorialists of the reign of the magnificent Louis XIV. will best convey
to the reader a notion of the last days of George the Fourth. For, like
that great king, he was the representation in himself of a particular
period, and he preserved much of the habits of (and much too of the
personal interest attached to) his youth, through the dreary decline of
age. It was melancholy to see one who had played, not only so exalted,
but so gallant a part, breathing his life away; nor was the gloom
diminished by the many glimpses of a fine original nature, which broke
forth amidst infirmity and disease.

George the Fourth died; his brother succeeded; and the English world
began to breathe more freely, to look around, and to feel that the
change, long coming, was come at last. The French Revolution, the new
parliament, Henry Brougham’s return for Yorkshire, Mr. Hurne’s return
for Middlesex, the burst of astonished indignation at the Duke of
Wellington’s memorable words against reform, all betrayed, while they
ripened, the signs of the new age. The Whig Ministry was appointed,
appointed amidst discontents in the city, suspicions amongst the
friends of the people, amidst fires and insurrections in the
provinces;--convulsions abroad, and turbulence at home.

The situation of Constance in these changes was rather curious;
her intimacy with the late king was no recommendation with the Whig
government of his successor. Her power, as the power of fashion always
must in stormy times, had received a shock; and as she had of late been
a little divided from the main body of the Whigs, she did not share at
once in their success, or claim to be one of their allies. She remained
silent and aloof; her parties were numerous and splendid as ever, but
the small plotting reunions of intriguers were suspended. She hinted
mysteriously at the necessity of pausing, to see what reform the new
ministers would recommend, and what economy they would effect. The
Tories, especially the more moderate tribe, began to court her: the
Whigs, flushed with their triumph, and too busy to think of women, began
to neglect. This last circumstance the high Constance felt keenly--but
with the keenness rather of scorn than indignation; years had deepened
her secret disgust at all aristocratic ordinances, and looking rather
at what the Whigs had been than what, pressed by the times, they have
become, she regarded them as only playing with democratic counters for
aristocratic rewards. She repaid their neglect with contempt, and the
silent neutralist soon became regarded by them as the secret foe.

But Constance was sufficiently the woman to feel mortified and wounded
by that which she affected to despise. No post at court had been offered
to her by her former friends; the confidant of George the Fourth had
ceased to be the confidant of Lord Grey. Arrived at that doubtful time
of life when the beauty although possessing, is no longer assured of,
her charms, she felt the decay of her personal influence as a personal
affront; and thus vexed, wounded, alarmed, in her mid-career, Constance
was more than ever sensible of the peculiar disquietudes that await
female ambition, and turned with sighs more frequent than heretofore
to the recollections of that domestic love which seemed lost to her for
ever.

Mingled with the more outward and visible stream of politics there
was, as there ever is, a latent tide of more theoretic and speculative
opinions. While the practical politicians were playing their momentary
parts, schemers, and levellers, were propagating in all quarters
doctrines which they fondly imagined were addressed to immortal ends.
And Constance began to turn with some curiosity to these charlatans or
sages. The bright countess listened to their harangues, pondered over
their demonstrations, and mused over their hopes. But she had lived too
much on the surface of the actual world, her habits of thought were
too essentially worldly, to be converted, while she was attracted, by
doctrines so startling in their ultimate conclusions. She turned once
more to herself, and waited, in a sad and thoughtful stillness, the
progress of things--convinced only of the vanity of them all.



CHAPTER LVI.

THE ROUE HAS BECOME A VALETUDINARIAN.--NEWS.--A FORTUNETELLER.

Meanwhile the graced Godolphin floated down the sunny tide of his
prosperity. He lived chiefly with a knot of epicurean dalliers with
the time, whom he had selected from the wittiest and the easiest of
the London world. Dictator of theatres--patron of operas--oracle in
music--mirror of entertainments and equipage--to these conditions had
his natural genius and his once dreaming dispositions been bowed at
last! A round of dissipation, however, left him no time for reflection;
and he believed (perhaps he was not altogether wrong) that the best
way to preserve the happy equilibrium of the heart is to blunt its
susceptibilities. As the most uneven shapes, when whirled into rapid and
ceaseless motion, will appear a perfect circle, so, once impelled in
a career that admits no pause, our life loses its uneven angles, and
glides on in smooth and rounded celerity, with false aspects more
symmetrical than the truth.

One day Godolphin visited Saville; who now, old, worn, and fast waning
to the grave, cropped the few flowers on the margin, and jested, but
with sourness, on his own decay. He found the actress (who had also come
to visit the Man of Pleasure) sitting by the window, and rattling
away with her usual vivacity, while she divided her attention with the
labours of knitting a purse.

“Heaven only knows,” said Saville, “what all these times will produce.
I lose my head in the dizzy quickness of events. Fanny, hand me my
snuff-box. Well, I fancy my last hour is not far distant; but I hope, at
least, I shall die a gentleman. I have a great dislike to the thought of
being revolutionised into a roturier. That’s the only kind of revolution
I have any notion about. What do you say to all this, Godolphin? Every
one else is turning politician; young Sunderland whirls his cab down to
the House at four o’clock every day--dines at Bellamy’s on cold beef;
and talks of nothing but that d----d good speech of Sir Robert’s’.
Revolution! faith, the revolution is come already. Revolutions only
change the aspect of society, is it not changed enough within the last
six months? Bah! I suppose you are bit by the mania?”

“Not I! while I live I will abjure the vulgar toil of ambition. Let
others rule or ruin the state;--like the Duc de Lauzun, while the
guillotine is preparing, I will think only of my oysters and my
champagne.”

“A noble creed!” said Fanny, smiling: “let the world go to wreck, and
bring me my biscuit! That’s Godolphin’s motto.”

“It is life’s motto.”

“Yes--a gentleman’s life.”

“Pish! Fanny; no satire from you: you, who are not properly speaking
even a tragic actress! But there is something about your profession
sublimely picturesque in the midst of these noisy brawls. The storms
of nations shake not the stage; you are wrapt in another life; the
atmosphere of poetry girds you. You are like the fairies who lived among
men, visible only at night, and playing their fantastic tricks amidst
the surrounding passions--the sorrow, the crime, the avarice, the love,
the wrath, the luxury, the famine, that belong to the grosser dwellers
of the earth. You are to be envied, Fanny.”

“Not so; I am growing old.”

“Old!” cried Saville: “Ah, talk not of it! Ugh!--Ugh! Curse this cough!
But hang politics; it always brings disagreeable reflections. Glad, my
old pupil,--glad am I to see that you still retain your august contempt
for these foolish strugglers--insects splashing and panting in the vast
stream of events, which they scarcely stir, and in which they scarcely
drop before they are drowned--”

“Or the fishes, their passions, devour them,” said Godolphin.

“News!” cried Saville; “let us have real news; cut all the politics out
of the Times, Fanny, with your scissors, and then read me the rest.”

Fanny obeyed.

“‘Fire in Marylebone!’”

“That’s not news!--skip that.”

“‘Letter from Padieal.’”

“Stuff! What else?”

“Emigration:--‘No fewer than sixty-eight----’”

“Hold! for mercy’s sake! What do I, just going out of the world, care
for people only going out of the country? Here, child, give the paper to
Godolphin; he knows exactly what interests a man of sense.”

“‘Sale of Lord Lysart’s wines----’”

“Capital!” cried Saville: “that’s news--that’s interesting!”

Fanny’s pretty hands returned to their knitting. When the wines had been
discussed, the following paragraph was chanced upon:--

“There is a foolish story going the round of the papers about Lord Grey
and his vision;--the vision is only in the silly heads of the inventors
of the story, and the ghost is, we suppose, the apparition of Old Sarum.
By the way, there is a celebrated fortune-teller, or prophetess, now in
London, making much noise. We conclude the discomfited Tories will next
publish her oracular discourses. She is just arrived in time to predict
the passing of the Reform Bill, without any fear of being proved an
impostor.”

“Ah, by the by,” said Saville, “I hear wonders of this sorceress. She
dreams and divines with the most singular accuracy; and all the old
women of both sexes flock to her in hackney-coaches, making fools of
themselves to-day in order to be wise to-morrow. Have you seen her,
Fanny?”

“Yes,” replied the actress, very gravely; “and, in sober earnest, she
has startled me. Her countenance is so striking, her eyes so wild, and
in her conversation there is so much enthusiasm, that she carries you
away in spite of yourself. Do you believe in astrology, Percy?”

“I almost did once,” said Godolphin, with a half sigh; “but does this
female seer profess to choose astrology in preference to cards? The last
is the more convenient way of tricking the public.”

“Oh, but this is no vulgar fortune-teller, I assure you,” cried Fanny,
quite eagerly: “she dwells much on magnetism; insists on the effect of
your own imagination; discards all outward quackeries; and, in short,
has either discovered a new way of learning the future, or revived
some forgotten trick of deluding the public. Come and see her some day,
Godolphin.”

“No, I don’t like that kind of imposture,” said Godolphin, quickly, and
turning away, he sank into a silent and gloomy reverie.



CHAPTER LVII.

SUPERSTITION.--ITS WONDERFUL EFFECTS.

It was perfectly true that there had appeared in London a person of the
female sex who, during the last few years, had been much noted on the
Continent for the singular boldness with which she had promulgated the
wildest doctrines, and the supposed felicity which had attended her
vaticinations. She professed belief in all the dogmas that preceded the
dawn of modern philosophy; and a strange, vivid, yet gloomy eloquence
that pervaded her language gave effect to theories which, while
incomprehensible to the many, were alluring to the few. None knew her
native country, although she was believed to come from the North of
Europe. Her way of life was lonely, her habits eccentric; she sought no
companionship; she was beautiful, but not of this earth’s beauty; men
admired, but courted not; she, at least, lived apart from the reach of
human passions. In fact, the strange Liehbur, for such was the name the
prophetess was known by (and she assumed before it the French title
of Madame), was not an impostor, but a fanatic: the chords of the brain
were touched, and the sound they gave back was erring and imperfect.
She was mad, but with a certain method in her madness; a cold, and
preternatural, and fearful spirit abode within her, and spoke from her
lips--its voice froze herself, and she was more awed by her own oracles
than her listeners themselves.

In Vienna and in Paris her renown was great, and even terrible: the
greatest men in those capitals had consulted her, and spoke of her
decrees with a certain reverence; her insanity thrilled there, and they
mistook the cause. Besides, in the main, she was right in the principle
she addressed: she worked on the imagination, and the imagination
afterwards fulfilled what she predicted. Every one knows what dark
things may be done by our own fantastic persuasions; belief insures the
miracles it credits. Men dream they shall die within a certain hour; the
hour comes, and the dream is realised. The most potent wizardries are
less potent than fancy itself. Macbeth was a murderer, not because the
witches predicted, but because their prediction aroused the thoughts
of murder. And this principle of action the prophetess knew well: she
appealed to that attribute common to us all, the foolish and the wise,
and on that fruitful ground she sowed her soothsayings.

In London there are always persons to run after anything new, and Madame
Liehbur became at once the rage.--I myself have seen a minister hurrying
from her door with his cloak about his face; and one of the coldest of
living sages confesses that she told him what he believes, by mere human
means, she could not have discovered. Delusion all! But what age is free
from it?

The race of the nineteenth century boast their lights, but run as madly
after any folly as their fathers in the eighth. What are the prophecies
of St. Simon but a species of sorcery? Why believe the external more
than the inner miracle?

     *     *     *     *     *

There were but a few persons present at Lady Erpingham’s, and when
Radclyffe entered, Madame Liehbur was the theme of the general
conversation. So many anecdotes were told, so much that was false was
mingled with so much that seemed true, that Lady Erpingham’s curiosity
was excited, and she resolved to seek the modern Cassandra with the
first opportunity. Godolphin sat apart from the talkers playing a quiet
game at ecarte. Constance’s eyes stole ever and anon to his countenance;
and when she turned at length away with a sigh, she saw that Radclyffe’s
deep and inscrutable gaze was bent upon her, and the proud countess
blushed, although she scarce knew why.



CHAPTER LVIII.

THE EMPIRE OF TIME AND OF LOVE.--THE PROUD CONSTANCE GROWN WEARY AND
HUMBLE.--AN ORDEAL.

About this time the fine constitution of Lady Erpingham began to feel
the effects of that life which, at once idle and busy, is the most
exhausting of all. She suffered under no absolute illness; she was free
from actual pain; but a fever crept over her at night, and a languid
debility succeeded it the next day. She was melancholy and dejected;
tears came into her eyes without a cause; a sudden noise made her
tremble; her nerves were shaken,--terrible disease, which marks a new
epoch in life, which is the first token that our youth is about to leave
us!

It is in sickness that we feel our true reliance on others, especially
if it is of that vague and not dangerous character when those around
us are not ashamed or roused into attendance; when the care, and the
soothing, and the vigilance, are the result of that sympathy which true
and deep love only feels. This thought broke upon Constance as she sat
alone one morning in that mood when books cannot amuse, nor music lull,
nor luxury soothe--the mood of an aching memory and a spiritless frame.
Above her, and over the mantelpiece of her favourite room, hung that
picture of her father which I have before described; it had been long
since removed from Wendover Castle to London, for Constance wished it to
be frequently in her sight. “Alas!” thought she, gazing upon the proud
and animated brow that bent down upon her; “Alas! though in a different
sphere, thy lot, my father, has been mine;--toil unrepaid, affection
slighted, sacrifices forgotten;--a harder lot in part; for thou hadst,
at least, in thy stirring and magnificent career, continued excitement
and perpetual triumph. But I, a woman, shut out by my sex from contest,
from victory, am left only the thankless task to devise the rewards
which others are to enjoy; the petty plot, the poor intrigue, the toil
without the honour, the humiliation without the revenge;--yet have I
worked in thy cause, my father, and thou--thou, couldst thou see my
heart, wouldst pity and approve me.”

As Constance turned away her eyes, they fell on the opposite mirror,
which reflected her still lofty but dimmed and faded beauty; the worn
cheek, the dejected eye, those lines and hollows which tell the
progress of years! There are certain moments when the time we have been
forgetting makes its march suddenly apparent to our own eyes; when the
change we have hitherto marked not stares upon us rude and abrupt; we
almost fancy those lines, these wrinkles, planted in a single hour so
unperceived have they been before. And such a moment was this to
the beautiful Constance: she started at her own likeness, and turned
involuntarily from the unflattering mirror. Beside it, on her table,
lay a locket, given her by Godolphin just before they married, and
containing his hair; it was a simple trifle, and the simplicity
seemed yet more striking amidst the costly and modern jewels that were
scattered round it. As she looked on it, her heart, all woman still,
flew back to the day on which, whispering eternal love, he hung it round
her neck. “Ah, happy days! would that they could return!” sighed the
desolate schemer; and she took the locket, kissed it, and softened by
all the numberless recollections of the past, wept silently over it.
“And yet,” she said, after a pause, and wiping away her tears, “and yet
this weakness is unworthy of me. Lone, sad, ill, broken in frame and
spirit as I am, he comes not near me; I am nothing to him, nothing to
any one in the wide world. My heart, my heart, reconcile thyself to thy
fate!--what thou hast been from thy cradle, that shalt thou be to my
grave. I have not even the tenderness of a child to look to--the future
is all blank!”

Constance was yet half yielding to, half struggling with, these
thoughts, when Stainforth Radclyffe (to whom she was never denied) was
suddenly announced. Time, which, sooner or later, repays perseverance,
although in a deceitful coin, had brought to Radclyffe a solid earnest
of future honors. His name had risen high in the science of his country;
it was equally honoured by the many and the few; he had become a marked
man, one of whom all predicted a bright hereafter. He had not yet, it
is true, entered Parliament--usually the great arena in which English
reputations are won--but it was simply because he had refused to enter
it under the auspices of any patron; and his political knowledge, his
depths of thought, and his stern, hard, ambitious mind were not the less
appreciated and acknowledged. Between him and Constance friendship had
continued to strengthen, and the more so as their political sentiments
were in a great measure the same, although originating in different
causes--hers from passion, his from reflection.

Hastily Constance turned aside her face, and brushed away her tears,
as Radclyffe approached; and then seeming to busy herself amongst some
papers that lay scattered on her escritoire, and gave her an excuse
for concealing in part her countenance, she said, with a constrained
cheerfulness, “I am happy you are come to relieve my ennui; I have been
looking over letters, written so many years ago, that I have been forced
to remember how soon I shall cease to be young; no pleasant reflection
for any one, much less a woman.”

“I am at a loss for a compliment in return, as you may suppose,”
 answered Radclyffe; “but Lady Erpingham deserves a penance for even
hinting at the possibility of being ever less charming than she is; so I
shall hold my tongue.”

“Alas!” said Constance, gravely, “how little, save the mere triumphs of
youth and beauty, is left to our sex! How much, nay, how entirely, in
all other and loftier objects, is our ambition walled in and fettered!
The human mind must have its aim, its aspiring; how can your sex blame
us, then, for being frivolous when no aim, no aspiring, save those of
frivolity, are granted us by society?”

“And is love frivolous?” said Radclyffe; “is the empire of the heart
nothing?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Constance, with energy; “for the empire never lasts.
We are slaves to the empire we would found; we wish to be loved, but
we only succeed in loving too well ourselves. We lay up our all--our
thoughts, hopes, emotions-all the treasures of our hearts--in one spot;
and when we would retire from the deceits and cares of life, we find the
sanctuary walled against us--we love, and are loved no longer!”

Constance had turned round with the earnestness of the feeling she
expressed; and her eyes, still wet with tears, her flushed cheek, her
quivering lip, struck to Radclyffe’s heart more than her words. He rose
involuntarily; his own agitation was marked; he moved several
steps towards Constance, and then checked the impulse, and muttered
indistinctly to himself.

“No,” said Constance, mournfully, and scarcely heeding him--“it is in
vain for us to be ambitious. We only deceive ourselves; we are not
stern and harsh enough for the passion. Touch our affections, and we are
recalled at once to the sense of our weakness; and I--I--would to God
that I were a humble peasant girl, and not--not what I am!”

So saying, the lofty Constance sank down, overpowered with the
bitterness of her feelings, and covered her face with her hands. Was
Radclyffe a man that he could see this unmoved?--that he could hear
those beautiful lips breathe complaints for the want of love, and not
acknowledge the love that burned at his own heart? Long, secretly,
resolutely, had he struggled against the passion for Constance, which
his frequent intercourse with her had fed, and which his consciousness,
that in her was the only parallel to himself that he had ever met with
in her sex, had first led him to form; and now lone, neglected, sad,
this haughty woman wept over her unloved lot in his presence, and still
he was not at her feet! He spoke not, moved not, but his breath heaved
thick, and his face was as pale as death. He conquered himself.
All within Radclyffe obeyed the idol he had worshipped, even before
Constance; all within him, if ardent and fiery, was also high and
generous. The acuteness of his reason permitted him no self-sophistried;
and he would have laid his head on the block rather than breathe a word
of that love which he knew, from the moment it was confessed, would
become unworthy of Constance and himself.

There was a pause. Lady Erpingham, ashamed, confounded at her own
weakness, recovered herself slowly and in silence. Radclyffe at length
spoke; and his voice, at first trembling and indistinct, grew, as he
proceeded, clear and earnest.

“Never,” said he, “shall I forget the confidence your emotions have
testified in my--my friendship; I am about to deserve it. Do not, my
dear friend (let me so call you), do not forget that life is too short
for misunderstandings in which happiness is concerned. You believe
that--that Godolphin does not repay the affection you have borne him:
do not be angry, dear Lady Erpingham; I feel it indelicate in me to
approach that subject, but my regard for you emboldens me. I know
Godolphin’s heart; he may seem light, neglectful, but he loves you as
deeply as ever; he loves you entirely.”

Constance, humbled as she was, listened in breathless silence; her
cheek burned with blushes, and those blushes were at once to Radclyffe a
torture and a reward.

“At this moment,” continued he, with constrained calmness, “at this
moment he fancies in you that very coldness you lament in him. Pardon
me, Lady Erpingham; but Godolphin’s nature is wayward, mysterious, and
exacting. Have you consulted, have you studied it sufficiently? Note it
well, soothe it; and if his love can repay you, you will be repaid. God
bless you, dearest Lady Erpingham.”

In a moment more Radclyffe had left the apartment.



CHAPTER LIX.

CONSTANCE MAKES A DISCOVERY THAT TOUCHES AND ENLIGHTENS HER AS TO
GODOLPHIN’S NATURE.--AN EVENT, ALTHOUGH IN PRIVATE LIFE, NOT WITHOUT ITS
INTEREST.

If Constance most bitterly reproached herself, or rather her slackened
nerves, her breaking health, that she had before another--that other
too, not of her own sex--betrayed her dependence upon even her husband’s
heart for happiness; if her conscience instantly took alarm at the
error (and it was indeed a grave one) which had revealed to any man her
domestic griefs; yet, on the other hand, she could not control the
wild thrill of delight with which she recalled those words that had so
solemnly assured her she was still beloved by Godolphin. She had a firm
respect in Radclyffe’s penetration and his sincerity, and knew that he
was one neither to deceive her nor be deceived himself. His advice, too,
came home to her. Had she, indeed, with sufficient address, sufficient
softness, insinuated herself into Godolphin’s nature? Neglected herself,
had she not neglected in return? She asked herself this question, and
was never weary of examining her past conduct. That Radclyffe, the
austere and chilling Radclyffe, entertained for her any feeling warmer
than friendship, she never for an instant suspected; that suspicion
alone would have driven him from her presence for ever. And although
there had been a time, in his bright and exulting youth, when Radclyffe
had not been without those arts which win, in the opposite sex,
affection from aversion itself, those arts doubled, ay, a hundredfold,
in their fascination, would not have availed him with the pure but
disappointed Constance, even had a sense of right and wrong very
different from the standard he now acknowledged permitted him to exert
them. So that his was rather the sacrifice of impulse, than of any
triumph that impulse could afterwards have gained him.

Many, and soft and sweet were now the recollections of Constance. Her
heart flew back to her early love among the shades of Wendover; to the
first confession of the fair enthusiastic boy, when he offered at her
shrine a mind, a genius, a heart capable of fruits which the indolence
of after-life, and the lethargy of disappointed hope, had blighted
before their time.

If he was now so deaf to what she considered the nobler, because more
stirring, excitements of life, was she not in some measure answerable
for the supineness? Had there not been a day in which he had vowed to
toil, to labour, to sacrifice the very character of his mind, for a
union with her? Was she, after all, was she right to adhere so rigidly
to her father’s dying words, and to that vow afterwards confirmed by her
own pride and bitterness of soul? She looked to her father’s portrait
for an answer; and that daring and eloquent face seemed, for the first
time, cold and unanswering to her appeal.

In such meditations the hours passed, and midnight came on without
Constance having quitted her apartment. She now summoned her woman, and
inquired if Godolphin was at home. He had come in about an hour since,
and, complaining of fatigue, had retired to rest. Constance again
dismissed her maid, and stole to his apartment. He was already asleep,
his cheek rested on his arm, and his hair fell wildly over a brow that
now worked under the influence of his dreams. Constance put the light
softly down, and seating herself beside him, watched over a sleep which,
if it had come suddenly on him, was not the less unquiet and disturbed.
At length he muttered, “Yes, Lucilla, yes; I tell you, you are avenged.
I have not forgotten you! I have not forgotten that I betrayed, deserted
you! but was it my fault? No, no! Yet I have not the less sought to
forget it. These poor excesses,--these chilling gaieties,--were they not
incurred for you?--and now you come--you--ah, no--spare me!”

Shocked and startled, Constance drew back. Here was a new key to
Godolphin’s present life, his dissipation, his thirst for pleasure. Had
he indeed sought to lull the stings of conscience? And she, instead
of soothing, of reconciling him to the past, had she left him alone
to struggle with bitter and unresting thoughts, and to contrast the
devotion of the one lost with the indifference of the one gained? She
crept back to her own chamber, to commune with her heart and be still.

“My dear Percy,” said she, the next day, when he carelessly sauntered
into her boudoir before he rode out, “I have a favour to ask of you.”

“Who ever denied a favour to Lady Erpingham?”

“Not you, certainly; but my favour is a great one.”

“It is granted.”

“Let us pass the summer in ----shire.”

Godolphin’s brow clouded.

“At Wendover Castle?” said he, after a pause.

“We have never been there since our marriage,” said Constance evasively.

“Humph!--as you will.”

“It was the place,” said Constance, “where you, Percy, first told me you
loved!”

The tone of his wife’s voice struck on the right chord in Godolphin’s
breast; he looked up, and saw her eyes full of tears and fixed upon him.

“Why, Constance,” said he, much affected, “who would have thought that
you still cherished that remembrance?”

“Ah! when shall I forget it?” said Constance; “then you loved me!”

“And was rejected.”

“Hush! but I believe now that I was wrong.”

“No, Constance; you were wrong, for your own happiness, that the
rejection was not renewed.”

“Percy!”

“Constance!” and in the accent of that last word there was something
that encouraged Constance, and she threw herself into Godolphin’s arms,
and murmured:--

“If I have offended, forgive me; let us be to each other what we once
were.”

Words like these from the lips of one in whom such tender supplications,
such feminine yearnings, were not common, subdued Godolphin at once.
He folded her in his arms, and kissing her passionately, whispered, “Be
always thus, Constance, and you will be more to me than ever.”



CHAPTER LX.

THE REFORM BILL.--A VERY SHORT


This reconciliation was not so short-lived as matters of the kind
frequently are. There is a Chinese proverb which says: “How near are two
hearts when there is no deceit between them!” And the misunderstanding
of their mutual sentiments being removed, their affection became at once
visible to each other. And Constance reproaching herself for her former
pride mingled in her manner to her husband a gentle, even an humble
sweetness, which, being exactly that which he had most desired in her,
was what most attracted him.

At this time, Lord John Russell brought forward the Bill of
Parliamentary Reform. Lady Erpingham was in the lantern of the House of
Commons on that memorable night; like every one else, her feelings at
first were all absorbed in surprise. She went home; she hastened to
Godolphin’s library. Leaning his head on his hand, that strange person,
in the midst of events that stirred the destinies of Europe, was
absorbed in the old subtleties of Spinosa. In the frank confidence of
revived love, she put her hand upon his shoulder, and told him rapidly
that news which was then on its way to terrify or delight the whole of
England.

“Will this charm you, dear Constance?” said he kindly; “is it a blow to
the party you hate, and I sympathise with--or----

“My father,” interrupted Constance, passionately, “would to Heaven
he had seen this day! It was this system, the patron and the nominee
system, that crushed, and debased, and killed him. And now, I shall see
that system destroyed!”

“So, then, my Constance will go over to the Whigs in earnest?”

“Yes, because I shall meet there truth and the people!”

Godolphin laughed gently at the French exaggeration of the saying, and
Constance forgave him. The fine ladies of London were a little divided
as to the merits of the “Bill;” Constance was the first that declared in
its favour. She was air important ally--as important at least as a woman
can be. A bright spirit reigned in her eye; her step grew more elastic;
her voice more glad. This was the happiest time of her life--she was
happy in the renewal of her love, happy in the approaching triumph of
her hate.



CHAPTER LXI.

THE SOLILOQUY OF THE SOOTHSAYER.--AN EPISODICAL MYSTERY, INTRODUCED AS
A TYPE OF THE MANY THINGS IN LIFE THAT ARE NEVER ACCOUNTED
FOR.--GRATUITOUS DEVIATIONS FROM OUR COMMON CAREER.

In Leicester Square there is a dim old house, which I have but this
instant visited, in order to bring back more vividly to my recollection
the wild and unhappy being who, for some short time, inhabited its
old-fashioned and gloomy chambers.

In that house, at the time I now speak of, lodged the mysterious
Liehbur. It was late at noon, and she sat alone in her apartment, which
was darkened so as to exclude the broad and peering sun. There was no
trick, nor sign of the fallacious art she professed, visible in the
large and melancholy room. One or two books in the German language lay
on the table beside which she sat: but they were of the recent poetry,
and not of the departed dogmas, of the genius of that tongue. The
enthusiast was alone; and, with her hand supporting her chin, and her
eyes fixed on vacancy, she seemed feeding in silence the thoughts that
flitted to and fro athwart a brain which had for years lost its certain
guide; a deserted mansion, whence the lord had departed, and where
spirits not of this common life had taken up their haunted and desolate
abode. And never was there a countenance better suited to the character
which this singular woman had assumed. Rich, thick, auburn hair was
parted loosely over a brow in which the large and full temples would
have betrayed to a phrenologist the great preponderance which the
dreaming and the imaginative bore over the sterner faculties. Her eyes
were deep, intense, but of the bright and wandering glitter which is so
powerful in its effect on the beholder, because it betokens that thought
which is not of this daily world and inspires that fear, that sadness,
that awe, which few have looked on the face of the insane and not
experienced. Her features were still noble, and of the fair Greek
symmetry of the painter’s Sibyl; but the cheeks were worn and hollow,
and one bright spot alone broke their marble paleness; her lips were,
however, full, and yet red, and by their uncertain and varying
play, gave frequent glimpses of teeth lustrously white; which, while
completing the beauty of her face, aided--with somewhat of a fearful
effect--the burning light of her strange eyes, and the vague, mystic
expression of her abrupt and unjoyous smile. You might see when her
features were, as now, in a momentary repose, that her health was
broken, and that she was not long sentenced to wander over that world
where the soul had already ceased to find its home; but the instant she
spoke, her colour deepened, and the brilliant and rapid alternations of
her countenance deceived the eye, and concealed the ravages of the worm
that preyed within.

“Yes,” said she, at last breaking silence, and soliloquising in the
English tongue, but with somewhat of a foreign accent; “yes, I am in his
city; within a few paces of his home; I have seen him, I have heard him.
Night after night--in rain, and in the teeth of the biting winds, I
have wandered round his home. Ay! and I could have raised my voice, and
shrieked a warning and a prophecy, that should have startled him from
his sleep as the trumpet of the last angel! but I hushed the sound
within my soul, and covered the vision with a thick silence. O God! what
have I seen, and felt, and known, since he last saw me! But we shall
meet again; and ere the year has rolled round, I shall feel the touch of
his lips and die! Die! what calmness, what luxury in the word! The fiery
burthen of this dread knowledge I have heaped upon me, shuffled off;
memory no more; the past, the present, the future exorcised; and a long
sleep, with bright dreams of a lulling sky, and a silver voice, and his
presence!”

The door opened, and a black girl of about ten years old, in the costume
of her Moorish tribe, announced the arrival of a new visitor. The
countenance of Madame Liehbur changed at once into an expression of
cold and settled calmness; she ordered the visitor to be admitted; and
presently, Stainforth Radclyffe entered the room.

   *   *   *   *   *   *
   *   *   *   *   *   *

“Thou mistakest me and my lore,” said the diviner; “I meddle not with
the tricks and schemes of the worldly; I show the truth, not garble it.”

“Pshaw!” said Radclyffe, impatiently; “this jargon cannot deceive me.
You exhibit your skill for money. I ask one exertion of it, and desire
you to name your reward. Let us talk after the fashion of this world,
and leave that of the other to our dupes.”

“Yet, thou hast known grief too,” said the diviner, musingly, “and those
who have sorrowed ought to judge more gently of each other. Wilt thou
try my art on thyself, ere thou askest it for others?”

“Ay, if you could restore the dead to my dreams.”

“I can!” replied the soothsayer, sternly.

Radclyffe laughed bitterly. “Away with this talk to me; or, if you would
convince me, raise at once the spectre I desire to see!”

“And dost thou think, vain man,” replied Liehbur, haughtily, “that I
pretend to the power thou speakest of? Yes; but not as the impostors of
old (dull and gross, appealing to outward spells, and spells wrought by
themselves alone) affected to do. I can bring the dead before thee, but
thou thyself must act upon thyself.”

“Mummery! What would you drive at?”

“Wilt thou fast three days, and for three nights abstain from sleep, and
then visit me once again?”

“No, fair deluder; such a preliminary is too much to ask of a Neophyte.
Three days without food, and three nights without sleep! Why, you would
have to raise myself from the dead!”

“And canst thou,” said the diviner, with great dignity, “canst thou hope
that thou wouldst be worthy of a revelation from a higher world--that
for thee the keys of the grave should unlock their awful treasure, and
the dead return to life, when thou scruplest to mortify thy flesh and
loosen the earthly bonds that cumber and chain the spirit? I tell thee,
that only as the soul detaches itself from the frame, can its inner
and purer sense awaken, and the full consciousness of the invisible and
divine things that surround it descend upon its powers.”

“And what,” said Radclyffe, startled more by the countenance and voice
than the words themselves of the soothsayer; “what would you then do,
supposing that I perform this penance?”

“Awaken to their utmost sense, even to pain and torture, the naked
nerves of that Great Power thou callest the Imagination; that Power
which presides over dreams and visions, which kindles song, and lives
in the heart of Melodies; which inspired the Magian of the East and
the Pythian voices--and, in the storms and thunder of savage lands
originated the notion of a God and the seeds of human worship; that vast
presiding Power which, to the things of mind, is what the Deity is to
the Universe itself--the creator of all. I would awaken, I say, that
Power from its customary sleep where, buried in the heart, it folds its
wings, and lives but by fits and starts, unquiet, but unaroused; and
by that Power thou wouldst see, and feel, and know, and through it only
thou wouldst exist. So that it would be with thee, as if the body were
not: as if thou wert already all-spiritual, all-living. So thou wouldst
learn in life that which may be open to thee after death; and so, soul
might now, as hereafter, converse with soul, and revoke the Past, and
sail prescient down the dark tides of the Future. A brief and fleeting
privilege, but dearly purchased: be wise, and disbelieve in it; be
happy, and reject it!”

Radclyffe was impressed, despite himself, by the solemn novelty of this
language, and the deep mournfulness with which the soothsayer’s last
sentence died away.

“And how,” said he, after a pause, “how, and by what arts would you so
awaken the imaginative faculty?”

“Ask not until the time comes for the trial,” answered Liebhur.

“But can you awaken it in all?--the dull, the unideal, as in the musing
and exalted?”

“No! but the dull and unideal will not go through the necessary ordeal.
Few besides those for whom fate casts her great parts in life’s drama,
ever come to that point when I can teach them the Future.”

“Do you mean that your chief votaries are among the great? Pardon me,
I should have thought the most superstitious are to be found among the
most ignorant and lowly.”

“Yes; but they consult only what imposes on their credulity, without
demanding stern and severe sacrifice of time and enjoyment, as I do. The
daring, the resolute, the scheming with their souls intent upon great
objects and high dreams--those are the men who despise the charms of the
moment, who are covetous of piercing the far future, who know how much
of their hitherward career has been brightened, not by genius or nature,
but some strange confluence of events, some mysterious agency of fate.
The great are always fortunate, and therefore mostly seekers into the
decrees of fortune.”

So great is the influence which enthusiasm, right or wrong, always
exercises over us, that even the hard and acute Radclyffe--who had
entered the room with the most profound contempt for the pretensions of
the soothsayer, and partly from a wish to find materials for ridiculing
a folly of the day, partly, it may be from the desire to examine which
belonged to his nature--began to consider in his own mind whether he
should yield to his curiosity, now strongly excited, and pledge himself
to the preliminary penance the diviner had ordained.

The soothsayer continued:--

“The stars, and the clime, and the changing moon have power over us--why
not? Do they not have influence over the rest of nature? But we can only
unravel their more august and hidden secrets, by giving full wing to
the creative spirit which first taught us their elementary nature, and
which, when released from earth, will have full range to wander over
their brilliant fields. Know in one word, the Imagination and the Soul
are one, one indivisible and the same; on that truth rests all my lore.”

“And if I followed your precepts, what other preliminaries would you
enjoin?”

“Not until thou engagest to perform them, will I tell thee more.”

“I engage!”

“And swear?”

“I swear!”

The soothsayer rose--and----

     *     *     *     *     *
     *     *     *     *     *
     *     *     *     *     *



CHAPTER LXII.

IN WHICH THE COMMON LIFE GLIDES INTO THE STRANGE.--EQUALLY TRUE, BUT THE
TRUTH NOT EQUALLY ACKNOWLEDGED.

It was on the night of this interview that Constance, coming into
Godolphin’s room, found him leaning against the wall, pale, and
agitated, and almost insensible. “Percy--Percy, you are ill!” she
exclaimed, and wound her arms round his neck. He looked at her long and
wistfully, breathing hard all the time, until at length he seemed slowly
to recover his self-possession, and seating himself, motioned Constance
to do the same. After a pause, he said, clasping her hand.

“Listen to me, Constance. My health, I fear, is breaking; I am tormented
by fearful visions; I am possessed by some magic influence. For several
nights successively, before falling asleep, a cold tremor has gradually
pervaded my frame; the roots of my hair stand on end; my teeth chatter;
a vague horror seizes me; my blood seems turned to a solid substance, so
curdled and stagnant is it. I strive to speak, to cry out, but my voice
clings to the roof of my mouth; I feel that I have no longer power over
myself. Suddenly, and in the very midst of this agony, I fall into
a heavy sleep; then come strange bewildering dreams, with Volktman’s
daughter for ever presiding over them; but with a changed countenance,
calm, unutterably calm, and gazing on me with eyes that burn into
my soul. The dream fades, I wake with the morning, but exhausted and
enfeebled. I have consulted physicians; I have taken drugs; but I cannot
break the spell--the previous horror and the after-dreams. And just now,
Constance, just now--you see the window is open to the park, the gate of
the garden is unclosed; I happened to lift my eyes, and lo! gazing upon
me in the sickly moonlight, was the countenance of my dreams--Lucilla’s,
but how altered! Merciful Heaven! is it a mockery, or can the living
Lucilla really be in England? and have these visions, these terrors been
part of that mysterious sympathy which united us ever, and which her
father predicted should cease but with our lives?”

The emotions of Godolphin were so rarely visible, and in the present
instance they were so unaffected, and so roused, that Constance could
not summon courage to soothe, to cheer him; she herself was alarmed and
shocked, and glanced fearfully towards the window, lest the apparition
he had spoken of should reappear. All without was still, not a leaf
stirred on the trees in the Mall; no human figure was to be seen. She
turned again to Godolphin, and kissed the drops from his brow, and
pressed his cheek to her bosom.

“I have a presentiment,” said he, “that something dreadful will happen
shortly. I feel as if I were near some great crisis of my life; and as
if I were about to step from the bright and palpable world into regions
of cloud and darkness. Constance, strange misgivings as to my choice
in my past life haunt and perplex me. I have sought only the present; I
have adjured all toil, all ambition, and laughed at the future; my hand
has plucked the rose-leaves, and now they lie withered in the grasp.
My youth flies me--age scowls on me from the distance; an age of
frivolities that I once scorned; yet--yet, had I formed a different
creed, how much I might have done! But--but, out on this cant! My nerves
are shattered, and I prate nonsense. Lend me your arm, Constance, let us
go into the saloon, and send for music!”

And all that night Constance watched by the side of Godolphin, and
marked in mute terror the convulsions that wrung his sleep, the foam
that gathered to his lip, the cries that broke from his tongue. But
she was rewarded when, with the grey dawn, he awoke, and, catching her
tender and tearful gaze, flung himself upon her bosom, and bade God
bless her for her love!



CHAPTER LXIII.

A MEETING BETWEEN CONSTANCE AND THE PROPHETESS.

A strange suspicion had entered Constance’s mind, and for Godolphin’s
sake she resolved to put it to the proof. She drew her mantle round her
stately figure, put on a large disguising bonnet, and repaired to Madame
Liehbur’s house.

The Moorish girl opened the door to the countess; and her strange dress,
her African hue and features, relieved by the long, glittering pendants
in her ears, while they seemed suited to the eccentric reputation of her
mistress, brought a slight smile to the proud lip of Lady Erpingham,
as she conceived them a part of the charlatanism practised by the
soothsayer. The girl only replied to Lady Erpingham’s question by an
intelligent sign; and running lightly up the stairs, conducted the guest
into an anteroom, where she waited but for a few moments before she was
admitted into Madame Liehbur’s apartment.

The effect that the personal beauty of the diviner always produced on
those who beheld her was not less powerful than usual on the surprised
and admiring gaze of Lady Erpingham. She bowed her haughty brow with
involuntary respect, and took the seat to which the enthusiast beckoned.

“And what, lady,” said the soothsayer, in the foreign music of her low
voice, “what brings thee hither? Wouldst thou gain, or hast thou lost,
that gift our poor sex prizes so dearly beyond its value? Is it of love
that thou wouldst speak to the interpreter of dreams and the priestess
of the things to come?”

While the bright-eyed Liehbur thus spoke, the countess examined through
her veil the fair face before her, comparing it with that description
which Godolphin had given her of the sculptor’s daughter, and her
suspicion acquired new strength.

“I seek not that which you allude to,” said Constance; “but of the
future, although without any definite object, I would indeed like to
question you. All of us love to pry into dark recesses hid from our
view, and over which you profess the empire.”

“Your voice is sweet, but commanding,” said the oracle; “and your air is
stately, as of one born in courts. Lift your veil, that I may gaze upon
your face, and tell by its lines the fate your character has shaped for
you.”

“Alas!” answered Constance, “life betrays few of its past signs by
outward token. If you have no wiser art than that drawn from the lines
and features of our countenances, I shall still remain what I am now--an
unbeliever in your powers.”

“The brow, and the lip, and the eye, and the expression of each and
all,” answered Liehbur, “are not the lying index you suppose them.”

“Then,” rejoined Constance, “by those signs will I read your own
destiny, as you would read mine.”

The sibyl started, and waved her hand impatiently; but Constance
proceeded.

“Your birth, despite your fair locks, was under a southern sky; you were
nursed in the delusions you now teach; you were loved, and left alone;
you are in the country of your lover. Is it not so?--am I not an oracle
in my turn?”

The mysterious Liehbur fell back in her chair; her lips apart and
blanched--her hands clasped--her eyes fixed upon her visitant.

“Who are you?” she cried at last, in a shrill tone; “who, of my own sex,
knows my wretched history? Speak, speak!--in mercy speak! tell me more!
convince me that you have but vainly guessed my secret, or that you have
a right to know it!”

“Did not your father forsake, for the blue skies of Rome, his own colder
shores?” continued Constance, adopting the heightened and romantic tone
of the one she addressed; and, “Percy Godolphin--is that name still
familiar to the ear of Lucilla Volktman?”

A loud, long shriek burst from the lips of the soothsayer, and she sank
at once lifeless on the ground. Greatly alarmed, and repenting her own
abruptness, Constance hastened to her assistance. She lifted the poor
being, whom she unconsciously had once contributed so deeply to injure,
from the ground; she loosened her dress, and perceived that around her
neck hung a broad ivory necklace wrought with curious characters, and
many uncouth forms and symbols. This evidence that, in deluding others,
the soothsayer deluded herself also, touched and affected the countess;
and while she was still busy in chafing the temples of Lucilla, the
Moor, brought to the spot by that sudden shriek, entered the apartment.
She seemed surprised and terrified at her mistress’s condition, and
poured forth, in some tongue unknown to Constance, what seemed to her a
volley of mingled reproach and lamentation. She seized Lady Erpingham’s
hand, dashed it indignantly away, and, supporting herself the ashen
cheek of Lucilla, motioned to Lady Erpingham to depart; but Constance,
not easily accustomed to obey, retained her position beside the still
insensible Lucilla; and now, by slow degrees, and with quick and
heavy sighs, the unfortunate daughter of Volktman returned to life and
consciousness.

In assisting Lucilla, the countess had thrown aside her veil, and the
eyes of the soothsayer opened upon that superb beauty, which once to
see was never to forget. Involuntarily she again closed her eyes, and
groaned audibly; and then, summoning all her courage, she withdrew her
hand from Constance’s clasp, and bade her Moorish handmaid leave them
once more alone.

“So, then,” said Lucilla, after a pause, “it is Percy Godolphin’s wife;
his English wife, who has come to gaze on the fallen, the degraded
Lucilla; and yet,” sinking her voice into a tone of ineffable and
plaintive sweetness--“yet I have slept on his bosom, and been dear and
sacred to him as thou! Go, proud lady, go!--leave me to my mad, and
sunken, and solitary state. Go!”

“Dear Lucilla!” said Constance, kindly, and striving once more to take
her hand, “do not cast me away from you. I have long sympathised with
your generous although erring heart--your hard and bitter misfortunes.
Look on me only as your friend--nay, your sister, if you will. Let me
persuade you to leave this strange and desultory life; choose your own
home: I am rich to overflowing; all you can desire shall be at your
command. He shall not know more of you unless (to assuage the remorse
that the memory of you does, I know, still occasion him) you will suffer
him to learn, from your own hand, that you are well and at ease, and
that you do not revoke your former pardon. Come, dear Lucilla!” and the
arm of the generous and bright-souled Constance gently wound round the
feeble frame of Lucilla, who now, reclining back, wept as if her heart
would break.

“Come, give me the deep, the grateful joy of thinking I can minister to
your future comforts. I was the cause of all your wretchedness; but
for me, Godolphin would have been yours for ever--would probably, by
marriage, have redressed your wrongs; but for me you would not have
wandered an outcast over the inhospitable world. Let me in something
repair what I have cost you. Speak to me, Lucilla!”

“Yes, I will speak to you,” said poor Lucilla, throwing herself on
the ground, and clasping with grateful warmth the knees of her gentle
soother; “for long, long years--I dare not think how many--I have not
heard the voice of kindness fall upon my ear. Among strange faces and
harsh tongues hath my lot been cast; and if I have wrought out from the
dreams of my young hours the course of this life (which you contemn,
but not justly), it has been that I may stand alone and not dependent;
feared and not despised. And now you, you whom I admire and envy, and
would reverence more than living woman (for he loves you and deems
you worthy of him), you, lady, speak to me as a sister would speak,
and--and----” Here sobs interrupted Lucilla’s speech; and Constance
herself, almost equally affected, and finding it vain to attempt to
raise her, knelt by her side, and tenderly caressing her, sought to
comfort her, even while she wept in doing so.

And this was a beautiful passage in the life of the lofty Constance.
Never did she seem more noble than when, thus lowly and humbling
herself, she knelt beside the poor victim of her husband’s love, and
whispered to the diseased and withering heart tidings of comfort,
charity, home, and a futurity of honour and of peace. But this was not
a dream that could long lull the perturbed and erring brain of Lucilla
Volktman. And when she recovered, in some measure, her self-possession,
she rose, and throwing back the wild hair from her throbbing temples,
she said, in a calm and mournful voice:

“Your kindness comes too late. I am dying, fast--fast. All that is left
to me in the world are these very visions, this very power--call it
delusion if you will--from which you would tear me. Nay, look not so
reproachfully, and in such wonder. Do you not know that men have in
poverty, sickness, and all outer despair, clung to a creative spirit
within--a world peopled with delusions--and called it Poetry? and that
gift has been more precious to them than all that wealth and pomp could
bestow? So,” continued Lucilla, with fervid and insane enthusiasm, “so
is this, my creative spirit, my imaginary world, my inspiration, what
poetry may be to others. I may be mistaken in the truth of my belief.
There are times when my brain is cool, and my frame at rest, and I sit
alone and think over the real past--when I feel my trust shaken, and my
ardour damped: but that thought does not console but torture me, and
I hasten to plunge once more among the charms, and spells, and mighty
dreams, that wrap me from my living self. Oh, lady! bright, and
beautiful, and lofty, as you are, there may come a time when you can
conceive that even madness may be a relief. For” (and here the wandering
light burned brighter in the enthusiast’s glowing eyes), “for, when the
night is round us, and there is peace on earth, and the world’s children
sleep, it is a wild joy to sit alone and vigilant, and forget that we
live and are wretched. The stars speak to us then with a wondrous
and stirring voice; they tell us of the doom of men and the wreck of
empires, and prophesy of the far events which they taught to the old
Chaldeans. And then the Winds, walking to and fro as they list, bid us
go forth with them and hear the songs of the midnight spirits; for you
know,” she whispered with a smile, putting her hand upon the arm of
the appalled and shrinking Constance, who now saw how hopeless was
the ministry she had undertaken, “though this world is given up to two
tribes of things that live and have a soul: the one bodily and
palpable as we are; the other more glorious, but invisible to our dull
sight--though I have seen them--Dread Solemn Shadows, even in their
mirth; the night is their season as the day is ours; they march in the
moonbeams, and are borne upon the wings of the winds. And with them,
and by their thoughts, I raise myself from what I am and have been. Ah,
lady, wouldst thou take this comfort from me?”

“But,” said Constance, gathering courage from the gentleness which
Lucilla’s insanity now wore, and trying to soothe, not contradict her
in her present vein, “but in the country, Lucilla, in some quiet and
sheltered nook, you might indulge these visions without the cares and
uncertainty that must now perplex you; without leading this dangerous
and roving life, which must at times expose you to insult, to annoyance,
and discontent you with yourself.”

“You are mistaken, lady,” said the astrologer, proudly; “none know me
who do not fear. I am powerful, and I hug my power--it comforts me:
without it, what should I be?--an abject, forsaken, miserable woman.
No! that power I possess--to shake men’s secret souls--even if it be
a deceit--even if I should laugh at them, not pity--reconciles me to
myself and to the past. And I am not poor, madam,” as, with the common
caprice of her infirmity, an angry suspicion seemed to cross her; “I
want no one’s charity, I have learned to maintain myself. Nay, I could
be even wealthy if I would!”

“And,” said Constance, seeing that for the present she must postpone her
benevolent intentions, “and he--Godolphin--you forgive him still?”

At that name, it was as if a sudden charm had been whispered to the
fevered heart of the poor fanatic; her head sank from its proud bearing;
a deep, a soft blush coloured the wan cheek; her arms drooped beside
her; she trembled violently; and, after a moment’s silence, sank again
on her seat and covered her face with her hands. “Ah!” said she, softly,
“that word brings me back to my young days, when I asked no power but
what love gave me over one heart: it brings me back to the blue Italian
lake, and the waving pines, and our solitary home, and my babe’s distant
grave. Tell me,” she cried, again starting up, “has he not spoken of me
lately--has he not seen me in his dreams? have I not been present to his
soul when the frame, torpid and locked, severed us no more, and, in the
still hours, I charmed myself to his gaze? Tell me, has he not owned
that Lucilla haunted his pillow? Tell me; and if I err, my spells are
nothing, my power is vanity, and I am the helpless creature thou wouldst
believe me!”

Despite her reason and her firm sense, Constance half shuddered at these
mysterious words, as she recalled what Percy had told her of his dreams
the preceding evening, and the emotions she herself had witnessed in
his slumbers when she watched beside his bed. She remained silent, and
Lucilla regarded her countenance with a sort of triumph.

“My art, then, is not so idle as thou wouldst hold it. But--hush!--last
night I beheld him, not in spirit, but visibly, face to face: for I
wander at times before his home (his home was once mine!) and he saw me,
and was smitten with fear; in these worn features he could recognise
not the living Lucilla he had known. But go to him!--thou, his wife, his
own--go to him; tell him--no, tell him not of me. He must not seek me;
we must not held parley together: for oh, lady” (and Lucilla’s face
became settled into an expression so sad, so unearthly sad, that no word
can paint, no heart conceive, its utter and solemn sorrow), “when we two
meet again to commune,--to converse,--when once more I touch that hand,
when once more I feel that beloved, that balmy breath;--my last hour is
at hand--and danger--imminent, dark, and deadly danger, clings fast to
him!”

As she spoke, Lucilla closed her eyes, as it to shut some horrid vision
from her gaze; and Constance looked fearfully round, almost expecting
some apparition at hand. Presently Lucilla, moving silently across
the room, beckoned to the countess to follow: she did so: they entered
another apartment: before a recess there hung a black curtain: Lucilla
drew it slowly aside, and Constance turned her eyes from a dazzling
light that broke upon them; when she again looked, she beheld a sort of
glass dial marked with various quaint hieroglyphics and the figures of
angels, beautifully wrought; but around the dial, which was circular,
were ranged many stars, and the planets, set in due order. These were
lighted from within by some chemical process, and burnt with a clear and
lustrous, but silver light. And Constance observed that the dial turned
round, and that the stars turned with it, each in a separate motion; and
in the midst of the dial were the hands as of a clock-that moved, but so
slowly, that the most patient gaze alone could observe the motion.

While the wondering Constance regarded this singular device, Lucilla
pointed to one star that burned brighter than the rest; and below it,
half-way down the dial, was another, a faint and sickly orb, that, when
watched, seemed to perform a much more rapid and irregular course than
its fellows.

“The bright star is his,” said she; “and yon dim and dying one is the
type of mine. Note: in the course they both pursue they must meet at
last; and when they meet, the mechanism of the whole halts--the work of
the dial is for ever done. These hands indicate hourly the progress made
to that end; for it is the mimicry and symbol of mine. Thus do I number
the days of my fate; thus do I know, even almost to a second, the period
in which I shall join my Father that is in Heaven!

“And now,” continued the maniac (though maniac is too harsh and decided
a word for the dreaming wildness of Lucilla’s insanity), as, dropping
the curtain, she took her guest’s hand and conducted her back into the
outer room--“and now, farewell! You sought me, and, I feel, only from
kind and generous motives. We never shall meet more. Tell not your
husband that you have seen me. He will know soon, too soon, of my
existence: fain would I spare him that pang and,” growing pale as she
spoke, “that peril; but Fate forbids it. What is writ, is writ: and who
shall blot God’s sentence from the stars, which are His book? Farewell!
high thoughts are graved upon your brow: may they bless you; or, where
they fail to bless, may they console and support. Farewell! I have not
yet forgotten to be grateful, and I still dare to pray.”

Thus saying, Lucilla kissed the hand she had held, and turning hastily
away, regained the room she had just left; and, locking the door, left
the stunned and bewildered countess to depart from the melancholy abode.
With faltering steps she quitted the chamber, and at the foot of the
stairs the little Moor awaited her. To her excited fancy there was
something eltrich and preternatural in the gaze of the young African,
and the grin of her pearly teeth, as she opened the door to the
visitant. Hastening to her carriage, which she had left at a corner
of the square, the countess rejoiced when she gained it; and throwing
herself back on the luxurious cushions, felt as exhausted by this starry
and weird incident in the epic of life’s common career, as if she
had partaken of that overpowering inspiration which she now almost
incredulously asked herself, as she looked forth on the broad day and
the busy streets, if she had really witnessed.



CHAPTER LXIV.

LUCILLA’S FLIGHT.--THE PERPLEXITY OF LADY ERPINGHAM.--A CHANGE COMES
OVER GODOLPHIN’S MIND.--HIS CONVERSATION WITH RADCLYFFE.--GENERAL
ELECTION.--GODOLPHIN BECOMES A SENATOR.

No human heart ever beat with more pure and generous emotions, when
freed from the political fever that burned within her (withering, for
the moment, the chastened and wholesome impulses of her nature), than
those which animated the heart of the queenly Constance. She sent that
evening for the most celebrated physician in London--that polished and
courtly man who seems born for the maladies of the drawing-room, but
who beneath so urbane a demeanour, conceals so accurate and profound a
knowledge of the disorders of his unfortunate race. I say accurate and
profound comparatively, for positive knowledge of pathology is what no
physician in modern times and civilized countries really possesses. No
man cures us--the highest art is not to kill! Constance, then, sent for
this physician, and, as delicately as possible, related the unfortunate
state of Lucilla, and the deep anxiety she felt for her mental and
bodily relief. The physician promised to call the next day; he did
so, late in the afternoon--Lucilla was gone. Strange, self-willed,
mysterious, she came like a dream, to warn, to terrify, and to depart.
They knew not whither she had fled, and her Moorish handmaid alone
attended her.

Constance was deeply chagrined at this intelligence; for she had already
begun to build castles in the air, which poor Lucilla, with a frame
restored, and a heart at ease, and nothing left of the past but a soft
and holy penitence, should inhabit. The countess, however, consoled
herself with the hope that Lucilla would at least write to her, and
mention her new place of residence; but days passed and no letter came.

Constance felt that her benevolent intentions were doomed to be
unfulfilled. She was now greatly perplexed whether or not to relate to
Godolphin the interview that had taken place between her and Lucilla.
She knew the deep, morbid, and painful interest which the memory of this
wild and visionary creature created in Godolphin; and she trembled at
the feeling she might re-awaken by even a faint picture of the condition
and mental infirmities of her whose life he had so darkly shadowed. She
resolved, therefore, at all events for the present, and until every hope
of discovering Lucilla once more had expired, to conceal the meeting
that had occurred. And in this resolve she was strengthened by
perceiving that Godolphin’s mind had become gradually calmed from its
late excitement, and that he had begun to consider, or at least appeared
to consider the apparition of Lucilla at his window, as the mere
delusion of a heated imagination. His nights grew once more tranquil,
and freed from the dark dreams that had tormented his brain; and even
the cool and unimaginative Constance could scarcely divest herself of
the wild fancy that, when Lucilla was near, a secret and preternatural
sympathy between Godolphin and the reader of the stars had produced
that influence over his nightly dreams which paled, and receded, and
vanished, as Lucilla departed from the actual circle in which he lived.

It was at this time, too, that a change was perceptible in Godolphin’s
habits, and crept gradually over the character of his thoughts.
Dissipation ceased to allure him, the light wit of his parasites palled
upon his ear; magnificence had lost its gloss, and the same fastidious,
exacting thirst for the ideal which had disappointed him in the better
objects of life, began now to discontent him with its glittering
pleasures.

The change was natural and the causes not difficult to fathom. The fact
was, that Godolphin had now arrived at that period of existence when a
man’s character is almost invariably subject to great change; the crisis
in life’s fever, when there is a new turn in our fate, and our moral
death or regeneration is sealed by the silent wavering, or the solemn
decision of the Hour. Arrived at the confines of middle age, there is
an outward innovation in the whole system; unlooked-for symptoms break
forth in the bodily, unlooked-for symptoms in the mental, frame.
It happened to Godolphin that, at this critical period, a chance, a
circumstance, a straw, had reunited his long interrupted, but never
stifled affections to the image of his beautiful Constance. The reign
of passion, the magic of those sweet illusions, that ineffable yearning
which possession mocks, although it quells at last, were indeed for ever
over; but a friendship more soft and genial than exists in any relation,
save that of husband and wife, had sprung up, almost as by a miracle (so
sudden was it), between breasts for years divided. And the experience
of those years had taught Godolphin how frail and unsubstantial had been
all the other ties he had formed. He wondered, as sitting alone with
Constance, her tenderness recalled the past, her wit enlivened the
present, and his imagination still shed a glory and a loveliness over
the future, that he had been so long insensible to the blessing of that
communion which he now experienced. He did not perceive what in fact
was the case--that the tastes and sympathies of each, blunted by that
disappointment which is the child of experience, were more willing
to concede somewhat to the tastes and sympathies of the other; that
Constance gave a more indulgent listening to his beautiful refinements
of an ideal and false epicurism; that he, smiling still, smiled with
kindness, not with scorn, at the sanguine politics, the worldly schemes,
and the rankling memories of the intriguing Constance. Fortunately,
too, for her, the times were such, that men who never before dreamed of
political interference were roused and urged into the mighty conflux
of battling interests, which left few moderate and none neuter. Every
coterie resounded with political war-cries; every dinner rang; from soup
to the coffee, with the merits of the bill; wherever Godolphin turned
for refuge, Reform still assailed him; and by degrees the universal
feeling, that was at first ridiculed, was at last, although reluctantly,
admitted by his mind.

“Why,” said he, one day, musingly, to Radclyffe, whom he met in the old
Green Park,--(for since the conversation recorded between Radclyffe and
Constance the former came little to Erpingham House), “why should I not
try a yet untried experiment? Why should I not live like others in their
graver as in their lighter pursuits? I confess, when I look back to the
years I have spent in England, I feel that I calculated erroneously. I
chalked out a plan--I have followed it rigidly. I have lived for self,
for pleasure, for luxury; I have summoned wit, beauty, even wisdom
around me. I have been the creator of a magic circle, but to the
magician himself the magic was tame and ignoble. In short, I have
dreamed, and am awake. Yet, what course of life should supply this,
which I think of deserting? Shall I go once more abroad, and penetrate
some untravelled corner of the earth? Shall I retire into the country,
and write, draining my mind of the excitement that presses on it; or
lastly, shall I plunge with my contemporaries into the great gulf
of actual events, and strive, and fret, and struggle?--or--in short,
Radclyffe, you are a wise man: advise me!”

“Alas!” answered Radclyffe, “it is of no use advising one to be happy
who has no object beyond himself. Either enthusiasm, or utter mechanical
coldness, is necessary to reconcile men to the cares and mortifications
of life. You must feel nothing, or you must feel for others. Unite
yourself to a great object; see its goal distinctly; cling to its course
courageously; hope for its triumph sanguinely; and on its majestic
progress you sail, as in a ship, agitated indeed by the storms, but
unheeding the breeze and the surge that would appal the individual
effort. The larger public objects make us glide smoothly and unfelt
over our minor private griefs. To be happy, my dear Godolphin, you must
forget yourself. Your refining and poetical temperament preys upon your
content. Learn benevolence--it is the only cure to a morbid nature.”

Godolphin was greatly struck by this answer of Radclyffe; the more so,
as he had a deep faith in the unaffected sincerity and the calculating
wisdom of his adviser. He looked hard in Radclyffe’s face, and, after
a pause of some moments, replied slowly, “I believe you are right
after all; and I have learned in a few short sentences the secret of a
discontented life.”

Godolphin would have sought other opportunities of conversing with
Radclyffe, but events soon parted them. Parliament was dissolved! What
an historical event is recorded in those words! The moment the king
consented to that measure, the whole series of subsequent events became,
to an ordinary prescience, clear as in a mirror. Parliament dissolved
in the heat of the popular enthusiasm, a majority, a great majority of
Reformers was sure to be returned.

Constance perceived at a glance the whole train of consequences issuing
from that one event; perceived and exulted. A glory had gone for ever
from the party she abhorred. Her father was already avenged. She heard
his scornful laugh ring forth from the depths of his forgotten grave.

London emptied itself at once. England was one election. Godolphin
remained almost alone. For the first time a sense of littleness crept
over him; a feeling of insignificance, which wounded and galled his
vain nature. In these great struggles he was nothing. The admired--the
cultivated--_spirituel_--the splendid Godolphin, sank below the commonest
adventurer, the coarsest brawler--yea, the humblest freeman, who felt
his stake in the state, joined the canvass, swelled the cry, and helped
in the mighty battle between old things and new, which was so resolutely
begun. This feeling gave an impetus to the growth of the new aspirations
he had already suffered his mind to generate; and Constance marked,
with vivid delight, that he now listened to her plans with interest, and
examined the political field with a curious and searching gaze.

But she was soon condemned to a disappointment proportioned to her
delight. Though Godolphin had hitherto taken no interest in party
politics, his prejudices, his feelings, his habits of mind, were all the
reverse of democratic. When he once began to examine the bearings of the
momentous question that agitated England, he was not slow in coming to
conclusions which threatened to produce a permanent disagreement between
Constance and himself.

“You wish me to enter Parliament, my dear Constance,” said he, with
his quiet smile; “it would be an experiment dangerous to the union
re-established between us. I should vote against your Bill.”

“You!” exclaimed Constance, with warmth; “is it possible that you can
sympathise with the fears of a selfish oligarchy--with the cause of the
merchants and traffickers of the plainest right of a free people--the
right to select their representatives?”

“My dear Constance,” returned Godolphin, “my whole theory of Government
is aristocratic. The right of the people to choose representatives!--you
may as well say the right of the people to choose kings, or magistrates,
and judges--or clergymen and archbishops! The people have, it is true,
the abstract and original right to choose all these, and every year to
chop and change them as they please, but the people, very properly,
in all states, mortgage their elementary rights for one catholic and
practical right--the right to be well governed. It may be no more to
the advantage of the state that the People (that is, the majority, the
populace) should elect uncontrolled all the members of the House of
Commons--than that they should elect all the pastors of their religion.
The sole thing we have to consider is, will they be better governed?”

“Unquestionably,” said Constance.

“Unquestionably!--Well, I question it. I foresee a more even balance of
parties--nothing else. When parties are evenly balanced states tremble.
In good government there should be somewhere sufficient power to carry
on, not unexamined, but at least with vigour, the different operations
of government itself. In free countries, therefore, one party ought to
preponderate sufficiently over the other. If it do not--all the state
measures are crippled, delayed, distorted, and the state languishes
while the doctors dispute as to the medicines to be applied to it. You
will find by your Bill, not that the Tories are destroyed, but that the
Whigs and the Radicals are strengthened--the Lords are not crushed--but
the Commons are in a state to contest with them. Hence party battles
upon catchwords--struggles between the two chambers for things of straw.
You who desire progress and movement will find the real affairs of this
great Artificial Empire, in its trade--commerce--colonies--internal
legislation--standing still while the Whigs and the Tories pelt each
other with the quibbles of faction. No I should vote against your Bill!
I am not for popular governments, though I like free states. All the
advantages of democracy seem to me more than counterbalanced by the
sacrifice of the peace and tranquillity, the comfort and the grace, the
dignity and the charities of life that democracies usually entail. If
the object of men is to live happily--not to strive and to fret--not
to make money in the marketplace, and call each other rogues on the
hustings, who would not rather be a German than an American? I own I
regret to differ from you. For--but no matter----”

“For!--what were you about to say?”

“For--then, since you must know it--I am beginning to feel interest
in these questions--excitement is contagious. And after all, if a
man really deem his mother-country in some danger, inaction is not
philosophy, but a species of parricide. But to think of the daily and
hourly pain I should occasion to you, my beloved and ardent Constance,
by shocking all your opinions, counteracting all your schemes, working
against objects which your father’s fate and your early associations
have so singularly made duties in your eyes--to do all this is a
patriotism beyond me. Let us glide out of this whirlpool, and hoist sail
for some nook in the country where we can hear gentler sounds than the
roar of the democracy.”

Constance sighed, and suffered Godolphin to quit her in silence. But
her generous heart was touched by his own generosity. This is one of
the great curses of a woman who aspires to the man’s part of political
controversy. If the man choose to act, the woman, with all her wiles,
her intrigues, her arts, is powerless. If Godolphin were to enter
Parliament a Tory, the great Whig rendezvous of Erpingham House was
lost, and Constance herself a cipher--and her father’s wrongs forgotten,
and the stern purpose of her masculine career baffled at the very
moment of success. She now repented that she had ever desired to draw
Godolphin’s attention to political matters. She wondered at her own want
of foresight. How, with his love for antiquity--his predilections for
the elegant and the serene--his philosophy of the “Rose-garden”--could
she ever have supposed that he would side with the bold objects and
turbulent will of a popular party in a stormy crisis?

The subject was not renewed. But she had the pain of observing that
Godolphin’s manner was altered: he took pleasure in none of his old
hobbies--he was evidently dissatisfied with himself. In fact, it is true
that he, for the first time in his life, felt that there is a remorse
to the mind as well as to the soul, and that a man of genius cannot be
perpetually idle without, as he touches on the middle of his career,
looking to the past with some shame, and to the fixture with some
ambition. One evening, when he had sat by the open window in a
thoughtful and melancholy, almost morose, silence for a considerable
time, Constance, after a violent struggle with herself, rose suddenly,
and fell on his neck--

“Forgive me, Percy,” she said, unable to suppress her tears--“forgive
me--it is past--I have no right that you, so superior to myself, should
be sacrificed to my--my prejudices you would call them--so be it. Is
it for your wife to condemn you to be inglorious? No--no--dear
Godolphin--fulfil your destiny--you are born for high objects. Be
active--be distinguished--and I will ask no more!”

John Vernon, in that hour you were forgotten! Who among the dead can
ever hope for fidelity, when love to the living invites a woman to
betray?

“My sweet Constance,” said Godolphin, drawing her to his heart, and
affected in proportion as he appreciated all that in that speech his
wife gave up for his sake--the all, far more than the lovely person, the
splendid wealth, the lofty rank that she had brought to his home--“my
sweet Constance, do not think I will take advantage of words so
generously, but hastily spoken. Time enough hereafter to think of
differences between us. At present let us indulge only the luxury of
the new love--the holiness of the new nuptials--that have made us as one
Being. Perhaps this restlessness, so unusual to me, will pass away--let
us wait awhile. At present ‘Sparta has many a worthier son.’ One other
year, one sweet summer, of the private life we have too much suffered to
glide away, enjoyed, and then we will see whether the harsh realities of
Ambition be worth either a concession or a dispute. Let us go into the
country--to-morrow if you will.”

And as Constance was about to answer, he sealed her lips with his kiss.

But Lady Erpingham was not one of those who waver in what they deem a
duty. She passed the night in stern and sleepless commune with herself;
she was aware of all that she hazarded--all that she renounced: she was
even tortured by scruples as to the strange oath that had almost unsexed
her. Still, in spite of all, she felt that nothing would excuse her in
suffering that gifted and happy intellect, now awakened from the sleep
of the Sybarite, to fall back into its lazy and effeminate repose. She
had no right to doom a human soul to rot away in its clay. Perhaps,
too, she hoped, as all polemical enthusiasts do, that Godolphin, once
aroused, would soon become her convert. Be that as it may, she delayed,
on various pretences, their departure from London. She went secretly the
next day to one of the proprietors of the close Boroughs, the existence
of which was about to be annihilated, and a few days afterwards
Godolphin received a letter informing him that he had been duly elected
member for ----. I will not say what were his feelings at these tidings.
Perhaps, such is man’s proud and wayward heart, he felt shame to be so
outdone by Constance.



CHAPTER LXV.

NEW VIEWS OF A PRIVILEGED ORDER.--THE DEATH-BED OF AUGUSTUS SAVILLE.

This event might indeed have been an era in the life of Percy Godolphin,
had that life been spared to a more extended limit than it was; and
yet, so long had his ambition been smoothed and polished away by his
peculiarities of thought, and so little was his calm and indifferent
tone of mind suited to the hot contests and nightly warfare of
parliamentary politics, that it is not probable he would ever have won
a continuous and solid distinction in a career which requires either
obtuseness of mind or enthusiasm of purpose to encounter the repeated
mortifications and failures which the most brilliant debutant ordinarily
endures. As it was, however, it produced a grave and solemn train of
thought in Godolphin’s breast. He mused much over his past life, and
the musing did not satisfy him. He felt like one of those recorded
in physiological history who have been in a trance for years: and now
slowly awakening, he acknowledged the stir and rush of revived but
confused emotions. Nature, perhaps, had intended Godolphin for a
poet; for, with the exception of the love of glory, the poetical
characteristics were rife within him; and over his whole past existence
the dimness of unexpressed poetical sensation had clung and hovered. It
was this which had deadened his soul to the active world, and wrapped
him in the land of dreams; it was this which had induced that vague and
restless dissatisfaction with the Actual which had brought the thirst
for the Ideal; it was this which had made him fastidious in love,
repining in pleasure, magnificent in luxury, seeking and despising all
things in the same breath. There are many, perhaps, of this sort,
who, having the poet’s nature, have never found the poet’s vent to his
emotions; have wandered over the visionary world without chancing to
discover the magic wand that was stored within the dark chamber of their
mind, and would have reduced the visions into shape and substance. Alas!
what existence can be more unfulfilled than that of one who has the
soul of the poet and not the skill? who has the susceptibility and the
craving, not the consolation or the reward?

But if this cloud of dreamlike emotion had so long hung over Godolphin,
it began now to melt away from his heart; a clearer and distincter view
of the large objects of life lay before him; and he felt that he was
standing, half stunned and passive, in the great crisis of his fate.

The day was now fixed for their departure to Wendover, when Saville was
taken alarmingly ill; Godolphin was sent for, late one evening. He
found the soi-disant Epicurean at the point of death, but in perfect
possession of his senses. The scene around him was emblematic of his
life: save Godolphin, not a friend was by. Saville had some dozen or
two of natural children--where were they? He had abandoned them to their
fate: he knew not of their existence, nor they of his death. Lonely in
his selfishness was he left to breathe out the small soul of a man
of bon-ton! But I must do Saville the justice to say, that if he was
without the mourners and the attendants that belonged to natural ties,
he did not require them. His was no whimpering exit from life: the
champagne was drained to the last drop; and Death, like the true boon
companion, was about to shatter the empty glass.

“Well, my friend,” said Saville, feebly, but pressing with weak fingers
Godolphin’s hand--“well, the game is up, the lights are going out, and
presently the last guest will depart, and all be darkness!” here the
doctor came to the bedside with a cordial. The dying man, before he
took it, fixed upon the leech an eye which, although fast glazing, still
retained something of its keen, searching shrewdness.

“Now tell me, my good sir, how many hours more can you keep in
this--this breath?”

The doctor looked at Godolphin.

“I understand you,” said Saville; “you are shy on these points. Never
be shy, my good fellow; it is inexcusable after twenty: besides, it is
a bad compliment to my nerves--a gentleman is prepared for every event.
Sir, it is only a roturier whom death, or anything else, takes by
surprise. How many hours, then, can I live?”

“Not many, I fear, sir: perhaps until daybreak.”

“My day breaks about twelve o’clock, p.m.,” said Saville, as drily as
his gasps would let him. “Very well;--give me the cordial;--don’t let me
go to sleep--I don’t want to be cheated out of a minute. So, so--! I
am better. You may withdraw, doctor. Let my spaniel come up. Bustle,
Bustle!--poor fellow! poor fellow! Lie down, sir! be quiet! And now,
Godolphin, a few words in farewell. I always liked you greatly; you know
you were my protege, and you have turned out well. You have not been led
away by the vulgar passions of politics, and place, and power. You have
had power over power itself; you have not office, but you have fashion.
You have made the greatest match in England; very prudently not marrying
Constance Vernon, very prudently marrying Lady Erpingham. You are at
the head and front of society; you have excellent taste, and spend your
wealth properly. All this must make your conscience clear--a wonderful
consolation! Always keep a sound conscience; it is a great blessing on
one’s death-bed--it is a great blessing to me in this hour, for I have
played my part decently--eh?--I have enjoyed life, as much as so dull a
possession can be enjoyed; I have loved, gamed, drunk, but I have never
lost my character as a gentleman: thank Heaven, I have no remorse of
that sort! Follow my example to the last and you will die as easily. I
have left you my correspondence and my journal; you may publish them if
you like; if not, burn them. They are full of amusing anecdotes; but I
don’t care for fame, as you well know--especially posthumous fame. Do as
you please then, with my literary remains. Take care of my dog--‘tis
a good creature; and let me be quietly buried. No bad taste--no
ostentation--no epitaph. I am very glad I die before the d--d Revolution
that must come; I don’t want to take wine with the Member for Holborn
Bars. I am a type of a system; I expire before the system; my death is
the herald of its fall.”

With these expressions--not continuously uttered, but at short
intervals--Saville turned away his face: his breathing became thick:
he fell into the slumber he had deprecated; and, after about an hour’s
silence, died away as insensibly as an infant. Sic transit glories
mundi!

The first living countenance beside the death-bed on which Godolphin’s
eye fell was that of Fanny Millinger; she (who had been much with
Saville during his latter days, for her talk amused him, and her
good-nature made her willing to amuse any one) had been, at his request,
summoned also with Godolphin at the sudden turn of his disease. She was
at the theatre at the time, and had only just arrived when the deceased
had fallen into his last sleep. There, silent and shocked, she stood
by the bed, opposite Godolphin. She had not stayed to change her
stage-dress; and the tinsel and mock jewels glittered on the revolted
eye of her quondam lover. What a type of the life just extinguished!
What a satire on its mountebank artificialities!

Some little time after, she joined Godolphin in the desolate
apartment below. She put her hand in his, and her tears--for she wept
easily--flowed fast down her cheeks, washing away the lavish rouge which
imperfectly masked the wrinkles that Time had lately begun to sow on a
surface Godolphin had remembered so fair and smooth.

“Poor Saville!” said she, falteringly; “he died without a pang. Ah! he
had the best temper possible.”

Godolphin sat by the writing-table of the deceased, shading his brow
with the hand which the actress left disengaged.

“Fanny,” said he, bitterly, after a pause, “the world is indeed a stage.
It has lost a consummate actor, though in a small part.”

The saying was wrung from Godolphin--and was not said unkindly, though
it seemed so--for he too had tears in his eyes.

“Ah,” said she, “the play-house has indeed taught us, in our youth, many
things which the real world could not teach us better.”

“Life differs from the play only in this,” said Godolphin, some time
afterwards; “it has no plot--all is vague, desultory, unconnected--till
the curtain drops with the mystery unsolved.”

Those were the last words that Godolphin ever addressed to the actress.



CHAPTER LXVI.

THE JOURNEY AND THE SURPRISE.--A WALK IN THE SUMMER NIGHT.--THE STARS
AND THE ASSOCIATION THAT MEMORY MAKES WITH NATURE.

This event detained Godolphin some days longer in town. He saw the last
rites performed to Saville, and he was present at the opening of the
will.

As in life Saville had never lent a helping hand to the distressed, as
he had mixed with the wealthy only, so now to the wealthy only was his
wealth devoted. The rich Godolphin was his principal heir; not a word
was even said about his illegitimate children, not an inquiry ordained
towards his poor relations. In this, as in all the formula of his will,
Saville followed the prescribed customs of the world.

Fast went the panting steeds that bore Constance and Godolphin from the
desolate city. Bright was the summer sky, and green looked the smiling
fields that lay on either side their road. Nature was awake and active.
What a delicious contrast to the scenes of Art which they left behind!
Constance exerted herself to the utmost to cheer the spirits of her
companion, and succeeded. In the small compass which confined them
together, their conversation flowed in confidence and intimate
affection. Not since the first month of their union had they talked with
less reserve and more entire love--only there was this difference in
their topics they then talked of the future only, they now talked more
of the past. They uttered many a fond regret over their several faults
to each other; and, with clasped hands, congratulated themselves
on their present reunion of heart. They allowed how much all things
independent of affection had deceived them, and no longer exacting so
much from love, they felt its real importance. Ah, why do all of us lose
so many years in searching after happiness, but never inquiring into its
nature! We are like one who collects the books of a thousand tongues,
and knowing not their language, wonders why they do not delight him?

But still, athwart the mind of Constance one dark image would ever and
anon obtrude itself; the solitary and mystic Lucilla, with her erring
brain and forlorn fortunes, was not even in happiness to be forgotten.
There were times, too, in that short journey, when she felt the tale of
her interview with that unhappy being rise to her lips: but ever when
she looked on the countenance of Godolphin, beaming with more heartfelt
and homeborn gladness than she had seen for years, she could not bear
the thought of seeing it darkened by the pain her story would inflict;
and she shrank from embittering moments so precious to her heart.

All her endeavours to discover Lucilla had been in vain: but an unquiet
presentiment that at any moment that discovery might be made, perhaps
in the presence of Godolphin, constantly haunted her, and she even now
looked painfully forth at each inn where they changed horses, lest the
sad, stern features of the soothsayer should appear, and break that
spell of happy quiet which now lay over the spirit of Godolphin.

It was towards the evening that their carriage slowly wound up a steep
and long ascent. The sun yet wanted an hour to its setting; and at their
right, its slant and mellowed beams fell over rich fields, green with
the prodigal luxuriance of June, and intersected by hedges from which,
proud and frequent, the oak and elm threw forth their lengthened
shadows. On their left the grass less fertile, and the spaces less
inclosed, were whitened with flocks of sheep; and far and soft came the
bleating of the lambs upon their ear. They saw not the shepherd nor any
living form; but from between the thicker groups of trees the chimneys
of peaceful cottages peered forth, and gave to the pastoral serenity of
the scene that still and tranquil aspect of life which alone suited it.
The busy wheel in the heart of Constance was at rest, and Godolphin’s
soul, steeped in the luxury of the present hour, felt that delicious
happiness which would be heaven could it outlive the hour.

“My Constance,” whispered he, “why, since we return at last to these
scenes, why should we ever leave them? Amidst them let us recall our
youth!” Constance sighed, but with pleasure, and pressed Godolphin’s
hand to her lips.

And now they had gained the hill, a sudden colour flushed over
Godolphin’s cheek.

“Surely,” said he, “I remember this view. Yonder valley! This is not the
road to Wendover Castle; this--my father’s home!--the same, and not the
same!”

Yes! Below, basking in the western light, lay the cottage in which
Godolphin’s childhood had been passed. There was the stream rippling
merrily; there the broken and fern-clad turf, with “its old hereditary
trees;” but the ruins!--the shattered arch, the mouldering tower, were
left indeed--but new arches, new turrets had arisen, and so dexterously
blended with the whole that Godolphin might have fancied the hall of
his forefathers restored--not indeed in the same vast proportions and
cumbrous grandeur as of old, but still alike in shape and outline, and
such even in size as would have contented the proud heart of its last
owner. Godolphin’s eyes turned inquiringly to Constance.

“It should have been more consistent with its ancient dimensions,” said
she; “but then it would have taken half our lives to have built it.”

“But this must have been the work of years.”

“It was.”

“And your work, Constance?”

“For you.”

“And it was for this that you hesitated when I asked you to consent to
raising the money for the purchase of Lord ----‘s collection?”

“Yes;--am I forgiven?”

“Dearest Constance,” said Godolphin, flinging his arms around her,
“how have I wronged you! During those very years, then, of our
estrangement--during those very years in which I thought you
indifferent, you were silently preparing this noble revenge on the
injury I did you. Why, why did I not know this before? Why did you not
save us both from so long a misunderstanding of each other?”

“Dearest Percy, I was to blame; but I always looked to this hour as to a
pleasure of which I could not bear to rob myself. I always fancied that
when this task was finished, and you could witness it, you would feel
how uppermost you always were in my thoughts, and forgive me many faults
from that consideration. I knew that I was executing your father’s
great wish; I knew that you always, although unconsciously, perhaps,
sympathised in that wish. I only grieve that, as yet, it has been
executed so imperfectly.”

“But how,” continued Godolphin, gazing on the new pile as they now
neared the entrance, “how was it this never reached my ears through
other quarters?”

“But it did, Percy; don’t you remember our country neighbour, Dartmour,
complimenting you on your intended improvements, and you fancied it was
irony, and turned your back on the discomfited squire?”

They now drove under the gates surmounted with Godolphin’s arms; and in
a few minutes more, they were within the renovated halls of the Priory.

Perhaps it was impossible for Constance to have more sensibly touched
and flattered Godolphin than by this surprise; it affected him far
more than the political concession which to her had been so profound a
sacrifice; for his early poverty had produced in him somewhat of that
ancestral pride which the poor only can gracefully wear; and although
the tie between his father and himself had not possessed much
endearment, yet he had often, with the generosity that belonged to
him, regretted that his parent had not survived to share in his present
wealth, and to devote some portion of it to the realisation of those
wishes which he had never been permitted to consummate. Godolphin, too,
was precisely of a nature to appreciate the delicacy of Constance’s
conduct, and to be deeply penetrated by the thought that, while he was
following a career so separate from hers, she, in the midst of all her
ambitious projects, could pause to labour, unthanked and in concealment,
for the delight of this hour’s gratification to him: the delicacy and
the forethought affected him the more, because they made not a part of
the ordinary character of the high and absorbed ambition of Constance.
He did not thank her much by words, but his looks betrayed all he felt,
and Constance was overpaid.

Although the new portion of the building was necessarily not extensive,
yet each chamber was of those grand proportions which suited the
magnificent taste of Godolphin, and harmonised with the ancient ruins.
Constance had shown her tact by leaving the ruins themselves (which it
was profane to touch) unrestored; but so artfully were those connected
with the modern addition, and thence with the apartments in the cottage,
which she had not scrupled to remodel, that an effect was produced from
the whole far more splendid than many Gothic buildings of greater extent
and higher pretensions can afford. Godolphin wandered delightedly over
the whole, charmed with the taste and judgment which presided over even
the nicest arrangement.

“Why, where,” said he, struck with the accurate antiquity of some of the
details, “where learned you all these minutiae? You are as wise as Hope
himself upon cornices and tables.”

“I was forced to leave these things to others,” answered Constance; “but
I took care that they possessed the necessary science.”

The night was exceedingly beautiful, and they walked forth under the
summer moon among those grounds in which Constance had first seen
Godolphin. They stood by the very rivulet--they paused at the very spot!
On the murmuring bosom of the wave floated many a water-flower; and now
and then a sudden splash, a sudden circle in the shallow stream, denoted
the leap of the river-tyrant on his prey. There was a universal odor in
the soft air; that delicate, that ineffable fragrance belonging to those
midsummer nights which the rich English poetry might well people with
Oberon and his fairies; the bat wheeled in many a ring along the air;
but the gentle light bathed all things, and robbed his wanderings of the
gloomier associations that belong to them; and ever, and ever, the busy
moth darted to and fro among the flowers, or misled upwards by the stars
whose beam allured it, wandered, like Desire after Happiness, in search
of that light it might never reach. And those stars still, with their
soft, unspeakable eyes of love, looked down upon Godolphin as of old,
when, by the Italian lake, he roved with her for whom he had become
the world itself. No, not now, nor ever, could he gaze upon those wan,
mysterious orbs, and not feel the pang that reminded him of Lucilla!
Between them and her was an affinity which his imagination could not
sever. All whom we have loved have something in nature especially
devoted to their memory; a peculiar flower, a breath of air, a leaf, a
tone. What love is without some such association.

     “Striking the electric chain wherewith we’re bound”?

But the dim, and shadowy, and solemn stars were indeed meet
remembrancers of Volktman’s wild daughter; and so intimately was their
light connected in Godolphin’s breast with that one image, that their
very softness had, to his eyes, something fearful and menacing--although
as in sadness, not in anger.



CHAPTER LXVII

THE FULL RENEWAL OF LOVE.--HAPPINESS PRODUCES FEAR, “AND IN TO-DAY
ALREADY WALKS TOMORROW.”

Oh, First Love! well sang the gay minstrel of France, that we return
again and again to thee. As the earth returns to its spring, and is
green once more, we go back to the life of life and forget the seasons
that have rolled between! Whether it was--perhaps so--that in the minds
of both was a feeling that their present state was not fated to endure;
whether they felt, in the deep calm they enjoyed, that the storm was
already at hand; whether this was the truth I know not; but certain
it is, that during the short time they remained at Godolphin Priory,
previous to their earthly separation, Constance and Godolphin were
rather like lovers for the first time united, than like those who have
dragged on the chain for years. Their perfect solitude, the absence of
all intrusion, so unlike the life they had long passed, renewed all that
charm, that rapture in each other’s society, which belong to the first
youth of love. True, that this could not have endured long; but Fate
suffered it to endure to the last of that tether which remained to their
union. Constance was not again doomed to the severe and grating shock
which the sense of estrangement brings to a woman’s heart; she was
sensible that Godolphin was never so entirely, so passionately her own,
as towards the close of their mortal connection. Every thing around
them breathed of their first love. This was that home of Godolphin’s to
which, from the splendid halls of Wendover, the young soul of the proud
orphan had so often and so mournfully flown with a yearning and wistful
interest: this was that spot in which he, awaking from the fever of the
world, had fed his first dreams of her. The scene, the solitude, was as
a bath to their love: it braced, it freshened, it revived its tone. They
wandered, they read, they thought together; the air of the spot was an
intoxication. The world around and without was agitated; they felt
it not: the breakers of the great deep died in murmurs on their ear.
Ambition lulled its voice to Constance; Godolphin had realised his
visions of the ideal. Time had dimmed their young beauty, but their eyes
saw it not; they were young, they were all beautiful, to each other.

And Constance hung on the steps of her lover--still let that name be
his! She could not bear to lose him for a moment: a vague indistinctness
of fear seized her if she saw him not. Again and again, in the slumbers
of the night, she stretched forth her arms to feel that he was near;
all her pride, her coldness seemed gone, as by a spell; she loved as the
softest, the fondest, love. Are we, 0 Ruler of the future! imbued with
the half-felt spirit of prophecy as the hour of evil approaches--the
great, the fierce, the irremediable evil of a life? In this depth
and intensity of their renewed passion, was there not something
preternatural? Did they not tremble as they loved? They were on a spot
to which the dark waters were slowly gathering; they clung to the Hour,
for eternity was lowering round.

It was one evening that a foreboding emotion of this kind weighed
heavily on Constance. She pressed Godolphin’s hand in hers, and when
he returned the pressure, she threw herself on his neck, and burst
into tears. Godolphin was alarmed; he covered her cheek with kisses, he
sought the cause of her emotion.

“There is no cause,” answered Constance, recovering herself, but
speaking in a faltering voice, “only I feel the impossibility that this
happiness can last; its excess makes me shudder.”

As she spoke, the wind rose and swept mourningly over the large leaves
of the chestnut-tree beneath which they stood: the serene stillness of
the evening seemed gone; an unquiet and melancholy spirit was loosened
abroad, and the chill of the sudden change which is so frequent to
our climate, came piercingly upon them. Godolphin was silent for some
moments, for the thought found a sympathy in his own.

“And is it truly so?” he said at last; “is there really to be no
permanent happiness for us below? Is pain always to tread the heels of
pleasure? Are we never to say the harbour is reached, and we are
safe? No, my Constance,” he added, warming into the sanguine vein that
traversed even his most desponding moods, “no! let us not cherish this
dark belief; there is no experience for the future; one hour lies to the
next; if what has been seem thus chequered, it is no type of what may
be. We have discovered in each other that world that was long lost to
our eyes; we cannot lose it again; death only can separate us!”

“Ah, death!” said Constance, shuddering.

“Do not recoil at that word, my Constance, for we are yet in the noon of
life; why bring, like the Egyptian, the spectre to the feast? And, after
all, if death come while we thus love, it is better than change and
time--better than custom which palls--better than age which chills. Oh!”
 continued Godolphin, passionately, “oh! if this narrow shoal and sand of
time be but a breathing-spot in the great heritage of immortality,
why cheat ourselves with words so vague as life and death? What is the
difference? At most, the entrance in and the departure from one scene
in our wide career. How many scenes are left to us! We do but hasten our
journey, not close it. Let us believe this, Constance, and cast from us
all fear of our disunion.”

As he spoke, Constance’s eyes were fixed upon his face, and the deep
calm that reigned there sank into her soul, and silenced its murmurs.
The thought of futurity is that which Godolphin (because it is so with
all idealists) must have revolved with the most frequent fervour; but it
was a thought which he so rarely touched upon, that it was the first and
only time Constance ever heard it breathed from his lips.

They turned into the house; and the mark is still in that page of the
volume which they read, where the melodious accents of Godolphin died
upon the heart of Constance. Can she ever turn to it again?



CHAPTER LXVIII.

THE LAST CONVERSATION BETWEEN GODOLPHIN AND CONSTANCE.--HIS THOUGHTS
AND SOLITARY WALK AMIDST THE SCENES OF HIS YOUTH.--THE LETTER.--THE
DEPARTURE.

They had denied themselves to all the visitors who had attacked the
Priory; but on their first arrival, they had deemed it necessary to
conciliate their neighbours by concentrating into one formal act of
hospitality all those social courtesies which they could not persuade
themselves to relinquish their solitude in order singly to perform.
Accordingly, a day had been fixed for one grand fete at the Priory; it
was to follow close on the election, and be considered as in honour
of that event. The evening for this gala succeeded that which I have
recorded in the last chapter. It was with great reluctance that they
prepared themselves to greet this sole interruption of their seclusion;
and they laughed, although they did not laugh cordially, at the serious
annoyance which the giving a ball was for the first time to occasion to
persons who had been giving balls for a succession of years.

The day was remarkably still and close; the sun had not once pierced
through the dull atmosphere, which was charged with the yet silent but
gathering thunder; and as the evening came on, the sullen tokens of an
approaching storm became more and more loweringly pronounced.

“We shall not, I fear, have propitious weather for our festival
to-night,” said Godolphin; “but after a general election, people’s
nerves are tolerably hardened: what are the petty fret and tumult of
nature, lasting but an hour, to the angry and everlasting passions of
men?”

“A profound deduction from a wet night, dear Percy,” said Constance,
smiling.

“Like our friend C----,” rejoined Godolphin, in the same vein; “I can
philosophise on the putting on one’s gloves, you know:” and therewith
their conversation flowed into a vein singularly contrasted with the
character of the coming events. Time fled on as they were thus engaged
until Constance started up, surprised at the lateness of the hour, to
attend the duties of the toilette.

“Wear this, dearest,” said Godolphin, taking a rose from a flower-stand
by the window, “in memory of that ball at Wendover Castle, which
although itself passed bitterly enough for me, has yet left so many
happy recollections.” Constance put the rose into her bosom; its leaves
were then all fresh and brilliant--so were her prospects for the future.
He kissed her forehead as they parted;--they parted for the last time.

Godolphin, left alone, turned to the window, which, opening to the
ground, invited him forth among the flowers that studded the grass-plots
which sloped away to the dark and unwavering trees that girded the
lawn. That pause of nature which precedes a storm ever had a peculiar
attraction to his mind; and instinctively he sauntered from the house,
wrapped in the dreaming, half-developed thought which belonged to his
temperament. Mechanically he strayed on until he found himself beside
the still lake which the hollows of the dismantled park embedded. There
he paused, gazing unconsciously on the gloomy shadows which fell from
the arches of the Priory and the tall trees around. Not a ripple stirred
the broad expanse of waters; the birds had gone to rest; no sound, save
the voice of the distant brook that fed the lake beside which, on the
first night of his return to his ancestral home, he had wandered with
Constance, broke the universal silence. That voice was never mute. All
else might be dumb; but that living stream, rushing through its rocky
bed, stilled not its repining music. Like the soul of the landscape is
the gush of a fresh stream; it knows no sleep, no pause; it works for
ever--the life, the cause of life to all around. The great frame of
nature may repose, but the spirit of the waters rests not for a moment.
As the soul of the landscape is the soul of man, in our deepest slumbers
its course glides on, and works unsilent, unslumbering, through its
destined channel.

With slow step and folded arms Godolphin moved along. The
well-remembered scenes of his childhood were all before him; the wild
verdure of the fern, the broken ground, with its thousand mimic mounts
and valleys, the deep dell overgrown with matted shrubs and dark as a
wizard’s cave; the remains of many a stately vista, where the tender
green of the lime showed forth, even in that dusky light, beneath the
richer leaves of the chestnut; all was familiar and home-breathing
to his mind. Fragments of boyish verse, forgotten for years, rose
hauntingly to his remembrance, telling of wild thoughts, unsatisfied
dreams, disappointed hopes.

“But I am happy at last,” said he aloud; “yes, happy. I have passed that
bridge of life which divides us from the follies of youth; and better
prospects, and nobler desires, extend before me. What a world of wisdom
in that one saying of Radclyffe’s, ‘Benevolence is the sole cure to
idealism;’ to live for others draws us from demanding miracles for
ourselves. What duty as yet have I fulfilled? I renounced ambition as
unwise, and with it I renounced wisdom itself. I lived for pleasure--I
lived the life of disappointment. Without one vicious disposition, I
have fallen into a hundred vices; I have never been actively selfish,
yet always selfish. I nursed high thoughts--for what end? A poet in
heart, a voluptuary in life. If mine own interest came into clear
collision with that of another, mine I would have sacrificed, but I
never asked if the whole course of my existence was not that of a war
with the universal interest. Too thoughtful to be without a leading
principle in life, the one principle I adopted has been one error. I
have tasted all that imagination can give to earthly possession: youth,
health, liberty, knowledge, love, luxury, pomp. Woman was my first
passion,--what woman have I wooed in vain? I imagined that my career
hung upon Constance’s breath--Constance loved and refused me. I
attributed my errors to that refusal; Constance became mine--how have I
retrieved them? A vague, a dim, an unconfessed remorse has pursued me in
the memory of Lucilla; yet, why not have redeemed that fault to her by
good to others? What is penitence not put into action, but the
great fallacy in morals? A sin to one, if irremediable, can only be
compensated by a virtue to some one else. Yet was I to blame in my
conduct to Lucilla? Why should conscience so haunt me at that name? Did
I not fly her? Was it not herself who compelled our union? Did I not
cherish, respect, honour, forbear with her, more than I have since with
my wedded Constance? Did I not resolve to renounce Constance herself,
when most loved, for Lucilla’s sake alone? Who prevented that
sacrifice--who deserted me--who carved out her own separate
life?--Lucilla herself. No, so far, my sin is light. But ought I not to
have left all things to follow her, to discover her, to force upon her
an independence from want, or possibly from crime? Ah, there was my
sin, and the sin of my nature; the sin, too, of the children of
the world--passive sin. I could sacrifice my happiness, but not my
indolence; I was not ungenerous, I was inert. But is it too late? Can
I not yet search, discover her, and remove from my mind the anxious
burthen which her remembrance imposes on it? For, oh, one thought of
remorse linked with the being who has loved us, is more intolerable to
the conscience than the gravest crime!”

Muttering such thoughts, Godolphin strayed on until the deepening night
suddenly recalled his attention to the lateness of the hour. He turned
to the house and entered his own apartment. Several of the guests had
already come. Godolphin was yet dressing, when a servant knocked at the
door and presented him with a note.

“Lay it on the table,” said he to the valet; “it is probably some excuse
about the ball.”

“Sir,” said the servant, “a lad has just brought it from S----,” naming
a village about four miles distant; “and says he is to wait for an
answer. He was ordered to ride as fast as possible.”

With some impatience Godolphin took up the note; but the moment his eye
rested on the writing, it fell from his hands; his cheek, his lips,
grew as white as death; his heart seemed to refuse its functions; it
was literally as if life stood still for a moment, as by the force of a
sudden poison. With a strong effort he recovered himself, tore open the
note, and read as follows:

“Percy Godolphin, the hour has arrived-once more we shall meet. I
summon you, fair love, to that meeting--the bed of death. Come! Lucilla
Volktman.”

“Don’t alarm the countess,” said Godolphin to his servant, in a very
low, calm voice; “bring my horse to the postern, and send the bearer of
this note to me.”

The messenger appeared--a rough country lad, of about eighteen or
twenty.

“You brought this note?”

“I did, your honour.”

“From whom?”

“Why, a sort of a strange lady as is lying at the ‘Chequers,’ and not
expected to live. She be mortal bad, sir, and do run on awesome.”

Godolphin pressed his hands convulsively together.

“And how long has she been there?”

“She only came about two hours since, sir; she came in a chaise, sir,
and was taken so ill, that we sent for the doctor directly. He says she
can’t get over the night.”

Godolphin walked to and fro, without trusting himself to speak, for
some minutes. The boy stood by the door, pulling about his hat, and
wondering, and staring, and thoroughly stupid.

“Did she come alone?”

“Eh, your honour?”

“Was no one with her?”

“Oh, yes! a little nigger girl: she it was sent me with the letter.”

“The horse is ready, sir,” said the servant; “but had you not better
have the carriage brought out? It looks very black; it must rain
shortly, sir; and the ford between this and S---- is dangerous to cross
in so dark a night.”

“Peace!” cried Godolphin, with flashing eyes, and a low convulsive
laugh. “Shall I ride to that death-bed at my ease and leisure?”

He strode rapidly down the stairs, and reached the small postern door:
it was a part of the old building: one of the grooms held his impatient
horse--the swiftest in his splendid stud; and the dim but flaring light,
held by another of the servitors, streamed against the dull heavens and
the imperfectly seen and frowning ruins of the ancient pile.

Godolphin, unconscious of all around, and muttering to himself, leaped
on his steed: the fire glinted from the coursers hoofs; and thus the
last lord of that knightly race bade farewell to his father’s halls.
Those words which he had muttered, and which his favourite servant
caught and superstitiously remembered, were the words in Lucilla’s
note--“The hour has arrived!”



CHAPTER THE LAST.

A DREAD MEETING.--THE STORM.--THE CATASTROPHE.

On the humble pallet of the village inn lay the broken form of the
astrologer’s expiring daughter. The surgeon of the place sat by the
bedside, dismayed and terrified, despite his hardened vocation, by the
wild words and ghastly shrieks that ever and anon burst from the lips
of the dying woman. The words were, indeed, uttered in a foreign tongue
unfamiliar to the leech, a language not ordinarily suited to inspire
terror; the language of love, and poetry, and music, the language of the
sweet South. But, uttered in that voice where the passions of the soul
still wrestled against the gathering weakness of the frame, the soft
syllables sounded harsh and fearful; and the dishevelled locks of the
sufferer--the wandering fire of the sunken eyes--the distorted gestures
of the thin, transparent arms, gave fierce effect to the unknown words,
and betrayed the dark strength of the delirium which raged upon her.

One wretched light on the rude table opposite the bed broke the gloom of
the mean chamber; and across the window flashed the first lightnings
of the storm about to break. By the other side of the bed sat,
mute, watchful, tearless, the Moorish girl, who was Lucilla’s sole
attendant--her eyes fixed on the sufferer with faithful, unwearying
love; her ears listening, with all the quick sense of her race, to
catch, amidst the growing noises of the storm, and the tread of
hurrying steps below, the expected sound of the hoofs that should herald
Godolphin’s approach.

Suddenly, as if exhausted by the paroxysm of her disease, Lucilla’s
voice sank into silence; and she lay so still, so motionless, that, but
for the faint and wavering pulse of the hand, which the surgeon was
now suffered to hold, they might have believed the tortured spirit was
already released. This torpor lasted for some minutes, when, raising
herself up, as a bright gleam of intelligence stole over the hollow
cheeks, Lucilla put her finger to her lips, smiled, and said, in a low,
clear voice, “Hark! he comes!”

The Moor crept across the chamber, and opening the door, stood there in
a listening attitude. She, as yet, heard not the tread of the speeding
charger;--a moment, and it smote her ear; a moment more it halted by
the inn door: the snort of the panting horse--the rush of steps--Percy
Godolphin was in the room--was by the bedside--the poor sufferer was in
his arms; and softened, thrilled, overpowered, Lucilla resigned herself
to that dear caress; she drank in the sobs of his choked voice; she
felt still, as in happier days, burning into her heart, the magic of his
kisses. One instant of youth, of love, of hope, broke into that desolate
and fearful hour, and silent and scarcely conscious tears gushed from
her aching eyes, and laved, as it were, the burthen and the agony from
her heart.

The Moor traversed the room, and, laying one hand on the surgeon’s
shoulder, pointed to the door. Lucilla and Godolphin were alone.

“Oh!” said he, at last finding voice, “is it thus--thus we meet? But say
not that you are dying, Lucilla! have mercy, mercy upon your betrayer,
your----”

Here he could utter no more; he sank beside her, covering his face with
his hands, and sobbing bitterly.

The momentary lucid interval for Lucilla had passed away; the maniac
rapture returned, although in a wild and solemn shape.

“Blame not yourself,” said she, earnestly; “the remorseless stars are
the sole betrayers: yet, bright and lovely as they once seemed when they
assured me of a bond between thee and me, I could not dream that their
still and shining lore could forebode such gloomy truths. Oh, Percy!
since we parted, the earth has not been as the earth to me: the Natural
has left my life; a weird and roving spirit has entered my breast, and
filled my brain, and possessed my thoughts, and moved every spring of my
existence: the sun and the air, the green herb, the freshness and glory
of the world, have been covered with a mist in which only dim shapes
of dread were shadowed forth. But thou, my love, on whose breast I
have dreamed such blessed dreams, wert not to blame. No! the power
that crushes we cannot accuse: the heavens are above the reach of our
reproach; they smile upon our agony; they bid the seasons roll on,
unmoved and unsympathising, above our broken hearts. And what has been
my course since your last kiss on these dying lips? Godolphin,”--and
here Lucilla drew herself apart from him, and writhed, as with some
bitter memory,--“these lips have felt other kisses, and these ears have
drunk unhallowed sounds, and wild revelry and wilder passion have made
me laugh over the sepulchre of my soul. But I am a poor creature; pour,
poor--mad, Percy--mad--they tell me so!” Then, in the sudden changes
incident to her disease, Lucilla continued--“I saw your bride, Percy,
when your bore her from Rome, and the wheels of your bridal carriage
swept over me, for I flung myself in their way; but they scratched me
not; the bright demons above ordained otherwise, and I wandered over the
world; but you shall know not,” added Lucilla, with a laugh of dreadful
levity, “whither or with whom, for we must have concealments, my love,
as you will confess; and I strove to forget you, and my brain sank in
the effort. I felt my frame withering, and they told me my doom was
fixed, and I resolved to come to England, and look on my first love once
more; so I came, and I saw you, Godolphin; and I knew, by the wrinkles
in your brow, and the musing thought in your eye, that your proud lot
had not brought you content. And then there came to me a stately shape,
and I knew it for her for whom you had deserted me: she told me, as you
tell me, to live, to forget the past. Mockery, mockery! But my heart
is proud as hers, Percy, and I would not stoop to the kindness of a
triumphant rival; and I fled, what matters it whither? But listen,
Percy, listen; my woes have made me wise in that science which is not
of heart, and I knew that you and I must meet once more, and that that
meeting would be in this hour; and I counted, minute by minute, with a
savage gladness, the days that were to bring on this interview and my
death!” Then raising her voice into a wild shriek--“Beware,
beware, Percy!--the rush of waters is on my ear-the splash, the
gurgle!--Beware!--your last hour, also; is at hand!”

From the moment in which she uttered these words, Lucilla relapsed into
her former frantic paroxysms. Shriek followed shriek; she appeared to
know none around her, not even Godolphin. With throes and agony the soul
seemed to wrench itself from the frame. The hours swept on--midnight
came--clear and distinct the voice of the clock below reached that
chamber.

“Hush!” cried Lucilla, starting. “Hush!” and just at that moment,
through the window opposite, the huge clouds, breaking in one spot,
discovered high and far above them a solitary star.

“Thine, thine, Godolphin!” she shrieked forth, pointing to the lonely
orb; “it summons thee;--farewell, but not for long!”

     *     *     *     *     *
     *     *     *     *     *
     *     *     *     *     *

The Moor rushed forward with a loud cry; she placed her hand on
Lucilla’s bosom; the heart was still, the breath was gone, the fire had
vanished from the ashes: that strange unearthly spirit was perhaps with
the stars for whose mysteries it had so vainly yearned.

Down fell the black rain in torrents; and far from the mountains you
might hear the rushing of the swollen streams, as they poured into the
bosom of the valleys. The sullen, continued mass of cloud was broken,
and the vapours hurried fast and louring over the heavens, leaving now
and then a star to glitter forth ere again “the jaws of darkness did
devour it up.” At the lower verge of the horizon, the lightning flashed
fierce, but at lingering intervals; the trees rocked and groaned beneath
the rain and storm; and, immediately above the bowed head of a solitary
horseman, broke the thunder that, amidst the whirl of his own emotions,
he scarcely heard.

Beside a stream, which the rains had already swelled, was a gipsy
encampment; and as some of the dusky itinerants, waiting perhaps the
return of a part of their band from a predatory excursion, cowered over
the flickering fires in their tent, they perceived the horseman rapidly
approaching the stream.

“See to yon gentry cove,” cried one of the band; “‘tis the same we saw
in the forenight crossing the ford above. He has taken a short cut, the
buzzard! and will have to go round again to the ford; a precious time to
be gallivanting about!”

“Pish!” said an old hag; “I love to see the proud ones tasting the
bitter wind and rain as we bear alway; ‘tis but a mile longer round to
the ford. I wish it was twenty.”

“Hallo!” cried the first speaker; “the fool takes to the water. He’ll be
drowned; the banks are too high and rough to land man or horse yonder.
Hallo!” and with that painful sympathy which the hardest feel at the
imminent peril of another when immediately subjected to their eyes, the
gipsy ran forth into the pelting storm, shouting to the traveller
to halt. For one moment Godolphin’s steed still shrunk back from the
rushing tide: deep darkness was over the water; and the horseman saw not
the height of the opposite banks. The shout of the gipsy sounded to his
ear like the cry of the dead whom he had left: he dashed his heels into
the sides of the reluctant horse, and was in the stream.

“Light--light the torches!” cried the gipsy; and in a few moments the
banks were illumined with many a brand from the fire, which the rain
however almost instantly extinguished; yet, by that momentary light,
they saw the noble animal breasting the waters, and perceived that
Godolphin, discovering by the depth his mistake, had already turned the
horse’s head in the direction of the ford: they could see no more, but
they shouted to Godolphin to turn back to the place from which he had
plunged; and, in a few minutes afterwards, they heard, several yards
above, the horse clambering up the rugged banks, which there were steep
and high, and crushing the boughs that clothed the ascent. They thought,
at the same time, that they distinguished also the splash of a heavy
substance in the waves; but they fancied it some detached fragment of
earth or stone, and turned to their tent, in the belief that the daring
rider had escaped the peril he had so madly incurred. That night the
riderless steed of Godolphin arrived at the porch of the Priory, where
Constance, alarmed, pale, breathless, stood exposed to the storm,
awaiting the return of Godolphin, or the messengers she had despatched
in search of him.

At daybreak his corpse was found by the shallows of the ford; and the
mark of violence across the temples, as of some blow, led them to guess
that in scaling the banks his head had struck against one of the tossing
boughs that overhung them, and the blow had precipitated him into the
waters.

LETTER FROM CONSTANCE, COUNTESS OF ERPINGHAM, TO * * *.

                                                           August, 1832.

“I have read the work you have so kindly compiled from the papers
transmitted to your care, and from your own intimate knowledge of those
to whom they relate;--you have in much fulfilled my wishes with singular
success. On the one hand, I have been anxious that a History should be
given to the world, from which lessons so deep and, I firmly believe,
salutary, may be generally derived: on the other hand, I have been
anxious that it should be clothed in such disguises, that the names of
the real actors in the drama should be for ever a secret. Both these
objects you have attained. It is impossible I think, for any one to read
the book about to be published, without being impressed with the truth
of the moral it is intended to convey, and without seeing, by a thousand
infallible signs, that its spring and its general course have flowed
from reality and not fiction. Yet have you, by a few light alterations
and addition, managed to effect that concealment of names and persons,
which is due no less to the living than to the memory of the dead.

“So far I thank you from my heart: but in one point you have utterly
failed. You have done no justice to the noble character you meant to
delineate under the name of Godolphin; you have drawn his likeness with
a harsh and cruel pencil; you have enlarged on the few weaknesses he
might have possessed, until you have made them the foreground of the
portrait; and his vivid generosity, his high honour, his brilliant
intellect, the extraordinary stores of his mind, you have left in
shadow. Oh, God! that for such a being such a destiny was reserved! and
in the prime of life, just when his mind had awakened to a sense of its
own powers and their legitimate objects! What a fatal system of things,
that could for thirty-seven years have led away, by the pursuits and
dissipations of a life suited but to the beings he despised, a genius of
such an order, a heart of such tender emotions!(1) But on this subject I
cannot, cannot write. I must lay down the pen: to-morrow I will try and
force myself to resume it.

“Well, then, I say, you have not done justice to him. I beseech you to
remodel that character, and atone to the memory of one, whom none ever
saw but to admire, or knew but to love.

“Of me,--of me, the vain, the scheming, the proud, the unfeminine
cherisher of bitter thoughts, of stern designs,--of me, on the other
hand, how flattering is the picture you have drawn! In that flattery
is my sure disguise; therefore, I will not ask you to shade it into the
poor and unlovely truth. But while, with agony and shame, I feel that
you have rightly described that seeming neglectfulness of one no more,
which sprang from the pride that believed itself neglected, you have not
said enough--no, not one millionth part enough--of the real love that
I constantly bore to him: the only soft and redeeming portion of my
nature. But who can know, who can describe what another feels? Even I
knew not what I felt, until death taught it me.

“Since I have read the whole book, one thought constantly haunts me--the
strangeness that I should survive his loss; that the stubborn strings
of my heart have not been broken long since; that I live, and live, too,
amidst the world! Ay, but not one of the world; with that consciousness
I sustain myself in the petty and sterile career of life. Shut out
henceforth and for ever, from all the tenderer feelings that belong to
my sex; without mother, husband, child, or friend; unloved and unloving,
I support myself by the belief that I have done the little suffered to
my sex in expediting the great change which is advancing on the world;
and I cheer myself by the firm assurance that, sooner or later, a time
must come, when those vast disparities in life which have been fatal,
not to myself alone, but to all I have admired and loved; which render
the great heartless, and the lowly servile; which make genius either
an enemy to mankind or the victim to itself; which debase the energetic
purpose; which fritter away the ennobling sentiment; which cool the
heart and fetter the capacities, and are favorable only to the general
development of the Mediocre and the Lukewarm, shall, if never utterly
removed, at least be smoothed away into more genial and unobstructed
elements of society. Alas! it is with an aching eye that we look abroad
for the only solace, the only occupation of life,--Solitude at home, and
Memory at our hearth.”


THE END.


(1) The reader will acquit me of the charge of injustice to Godolphin’s
character when he arrives at this sentence; it conveys exactly the
impression that my delineation, faithful to truth, is intended to
convey--the influences of our actual world on the ideal and imaginative
order of mind, when that mind is without the stimulus of pursuits at
once practical and ennobling.





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