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Title: Tales and Novels — Volume 10
 - Helen
Author: Edgeworth, Maria
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales and Novels — Volume 10
 - Helen" ***

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By Maria Edgeworth

Tales And Novels

In Ten Volumes

With Engravings On Steel

Vol. X.

























































“There is Helen in the lime-walk,” said Mrs. Collingwood to her husband,
as she looked out of the window. The slight figure of a young person in
deep mourning appeared between the trees,--“How slowly she walks! She
looks very unhappy!”

“Yes,” said Mr. Collingwood, with a sigh, “she is young to know sorrow,
and to struggle with difficulties to which she is quite unsuited both
by nature and by education, difficulties which no one could ever have
foreseen. How changed are all her prospects!”

“Changed indeed!” said Mrs. Collingwood, “pretty young creature!--Do
you recollect how gay she was when first we came to Cecilhurst? and
even last year, when she had hopes of her uncle’s recovery, and when he
talked of taking her to London, how she enjoyed the thoughts of going
there! The world was bright before her then. How cruel of that uncle,
with all his fondness for her, never to think what was to become of her
the moment he was dead: to breed her up as an heiress, and leave her a

“But what is to be done, my dear?” said her husband.

“I am sure I do not know; I can only feel for her, you must think for

“Then I think I must tell her directly of the state in which her uncle’s
affairs are left, and that there is no provision for her.”

“Not yet, my dear,” said Mrs. Collingwood: “I don’t mean about there
being no provision for herself, that would not strike her, but her
uncle’s debts,--there is the point: she would feel dreadfully the
disgrace to his memory--she loved him so tenderly!”

“Yet it must be told,” said Mr. Collingwood, resolutely “and perhaps it
will be better now; she will feel it less, while her mind is absorbed by
grief for him.”

Helen was the only daughter of colonel and Lady Anne Stanley; her
parents had both died when she was too young to know her loss, nor had
she ever felt till now that she was an orphan, for she had been adopted
and brought up with the greatest tenderness by her uncle, Dean Stanley,
a man of genius, learning, and sincere piety, with the most affectionate
heart, and a highly cultivated understanding. But on one subject he
really had not common sense; in money matters he was inconceivably
imprudent and extravagant; extravagant from charity, from taste, from
habit. He possessed rich benefices in the church, and an ample private
fortune, and it was expected that his niece would be a great heiress--he
had often said so himself, and his fondness for her confirmed every one
in this belief. But the dean’s taste warred against his affection: his
too hospitable, magnificent establishment had exceeded his income; he
had too much indulged his passion for all the fine arts, of which he
was a liberal patron: he had collected a magnificent library, and had
lavished immense sums of money on architectural embellishments. Cursed
with too fine a taste, and with too soft a heart--a heart too well
knowing how to yield, never could he deny himself, much less any other
human being, any gratification which money could command; and soon the
necessary consequence was, that he had no money to command, his affairs
fell into embarrassment--his estate was sold; but, as he continued to
live with his accustomed hospitality and splendour, the world believed
him to be as rich as ever.

Some rise superior from the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, but that
was not the case with Dean Stanley, not from want of elasticity of mind;
but perhaps because his ingenuity continually suggested resources, and
his sanguine character led him to plunge into speculations--they failed,
and in the anxiety and agitation which his embarrassments occasioned
him, he fell into bad health, his physicians ordered him to Italy.
Helen, his devoted nurse, the object upon which all his affections
centered, accompanied him to Florence. There his health and spirits
seemed at first, by the change of climate, to be renovated; but in Italy
he found fresh temptations to extravagance, his learning and his fancy
combined to lead him on from day to day to new expense, and he satisfied
his conscience by saying to himself that all the purchases which he now
made were only so much capital, which would, when sold in England,
bring more than their original price, and would, he flattered himself,
increase the fortune he intended for his niece. But one day, while he
was actually bargaining for an antique, he was seized with a fit of
apoplexy. From this fit he recovered, and was able to return to England
with his niece. Here he found his debts and difficulties had been
increasing; he was harassed with doubts as to the monied value of his
last-chosen chef-d’oeuvres; his mind preyed upon his weakened frame, he
was seized with another fit, lost his speech, and, after struggles the
most melancholy for Helen to see, conscious as she was that she could
do nothing for him--he expired--his eyes fixed on her face, and his
powerless hand held between both hers.

All was desolation and dismay at the deanery; Helen was removed to the
vicarage by the kindness of the good vicar and his wife, Mr. and Mrs.

It was found that the dean, instead of leaving a large fortune, had
nothing to leave. All he had laid out at the deanery was sunk and
gone; his real property all sold; his imaginary wealth, his pictures,
statues--his whole collection, even his books, his immense library,
shrunk so much in value when estimated after his death, that the demands
of the creditors could not be nearly answered: as to any provision for
Miss Stanley, that was out of the question.

These were the circumstances which Mrs. Collingwood feared to reveal,
and which Mr. Collingwood thought should be told immediately to Helen;
but hitherto she had been so much absorbed in sorrow for the uncle she
had loved, that no one had ventured on the task.

Though Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood had not known her long (for they had but
lately come to the neighbourhood), they had the greatest sympathy for
her orphan state; and they had seen enough of her during her uncle’s
illness to make them warmly attached to her. Every body loved her that
knew her, rich or poor, for in her young prosperity, from her earliest
childhood, she had been always sweet-tempered and kind-hearted; for
though she had been bred up in the greatest luxury, educated as
heiress to a large fortune, taught every accomplishment, used to every
fashionable refinement, she was not spoiled--she was not in the least
selfish. Indeed, her uncle’s indulgence, excessive though it was, had
been always joined with so much affection, that it had early touched her
heart, and filled her whole soul with ardent gratitude.

It is said, that the ill men do, lives after them--the good is oft
interred with their bones. It was not so with Dean Stanley: the good he
had intended for Helen, his large fortune, was lost and gone; but the
real good he had done for his niece remained in full force, and to the
honour of his memory: the excellent education he had given her--it was
excellent not merely in the worldly meaning of the word, as regards
accomplishments and elegance of manners, but excellent in having given
her a firm sense of duty, as the great principle of action, and as the
guide of her naturally warm generous affections.

And now, when Helen returned from her walk, Mr. Collingwood, in the
gentlest and kindest manner he was able, informed her of the confusion
in her uncle’s affairs, the debts, the impossibility of paying the
creditors, the total loss of all fortune for herself.

Mrs. Collingwood had well foreseen the effect this intelligence would
have on Helen. At first, with fixed incredulous eyes, she could not
believe that her uncle could have been in any way to blame. Twice she
asked--“Are you sure--are you certain--is there no mistake?” And when
the conviction was forced upon her, still her mind did not take in any
part of the facts, as they regarded herself. Astonished and, shocked,
she could feel nothing but the disgrace that would fall upon the memory
of her beloved uncle.

Then she exclaimed--“One part of it is not true, I am certain:” and
hastily leaving the room, she returned immediately with a letter in
her hand, which, without speaking, she laid before Mr. Collingwood, who
wiped his spectacles quickly, and read.

It was addressed to the poor dean, and was from an old friend of his,
Colonel Munro, stating that he had been suddenly ordered to India,
and was obliged to return a sum of money which the dean had many years
before placed in his hands, to secure a provision for his niece, Miss

This letter had arrived when the dean was extremely ill. Helen had been
afraid to give it to him, and yet thought it right to do so. The moment
her uncle had read the letter, which he was still able to do, and to
comprehend, though he was unable to speak, he wrote on the back with
difficulty, in a sadly trembling hand, yet quite distinctly, these
words:--“That money is yours, Helen Stanley: no one has any claim
upon it. When I am gone consult Mr. Collingwood; consider him as your

Mr. Collingwood perceived that this provision had been made by the dean
for his niece before he had contracted his present debts--many years
before, when he had sold his paternal estate, and that knowing his own
disposition to extravagance, he had put this sum out of his own power.

“Right--all right, my dear Miss Stanley,” said the vicar; “I am very
glad--it is all justly yours.”

“No,” said Helen, “I shall never touch it: take it, my dear Mr.
Collingwood, take it, and pay all the debts before any one can

Mr. Collingwood pressed her to him without speaking; but after a
moment’s recollection he replied:--“No, no, my dear child, I cannot let
you do this: as your guardian, I cannot allow such a young creature as
you are, in a moment of feeling, thus to give away your whole earthly
fortune--it must not be.”

“It must, indeed it must, my dear sir. Oh, pay everybody at

“No, not directly, at all events,” said Mr. Collingwood--“certainly not
directly: the law allows a year.”

“But if the money is ready,” said Helen, “I cannot understand why the
debt should not be paid at once. Is there any law against paying people

Mr. Collingwood half smiled, and on the strength of that half smile
Helen concluded that he wholly yielded. “Yes, do,” cried she, “send this
money this instant to Mr. James, the solicitor: he knows all about it,
you say, and he will see everybody paid.”

“Stay, my dear Miss Stanley,” said the vicar, “I cannot consent to this,
and you should be thankful that I am steady. If I were at this minute
to consent, and to do what you desire--pay away your whole fortune,
you would repent, and reproach me with my folly before the end of the
year--before six months were over.”

“Never, never,” said Helen.

Mrs. Collingwood strongly took her husband’s side of the question. Helen
could have no idea, she said, how necessary money would be to her. It
was quite absurd to think of living upon air; could Miss Stanley think
she was to go on in this world without money?

Helen said she was not so absurd; she reminded Mrs. Collingwood that she
should still have what had been her mother’s fortune. Before Helen had
well got out the words, Mrs. Collingwood replied,

“That will never do, you will never be able to live upon that; the
interest of Lady Anne Stanley’s fortune, I know what it was, would just
do for pocket-money for you in the style of life for which you have been
educated. Some of your uncle’s great friends will of course invite you
presently, and then you will find what is requisite with that set of

“Some of my uncle’s friends perhaps will,” said Helen; “but I am not
obliged to go to great or fine people, and if I cannot afford it I will
not, for I can live independently on what I have, be it ever so little.”

Mrs. Collingwood allowed that if Helen were to live always in the
country in retirement, she might do upon her mother’s fortune.

“Wherever I live--whatever becomes of me, the debts must be paid--I will
do it myself;” and she took up a pen as she spoke--“I will write to Mr.
James by this day’s post.”

Surprised at her decision of manner and the firmness of one in general
so gentle, yielding, and retired, and feeling that he had no legal power
to resist, Mr. Collingwood at last gave way, so far as to agree that he
would in due time use this money in satisfying her uncle’s creditors;
_provided she lived for the next six months within her income_.

Helen smiled, as if that were a needless proviso.

“I warn you,” continued Mr. Collingwood, “that you will most probably
find before six months are over, that you will want some of this money
to pay debts of your own.”

“No, no, no,” cried she; “of that there is not the slightest chance.”

“And now, my dear child,” said Mrs. Collingwood, “now that Mr.
Collingwood has promised to do what you wish, will you do what we
wish? Will you promise to remain with us? to live here with us, for the
present at least; we will resign you whenever better friends may claim
you, but for the present will you try us?”

“Try!” in a transport of gratitude and affection she could only repeat
the words “Try! oh, my dear friends, how happy I am, an orphan, without
a relation, to have such a home.”

But though Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood, childless as they were, felt real
happiness in having such a companion--such an adopted daughter, yet they
were sure that some of Dean Stanley’s great friends and acquaintance in
high life would ask his niece to spend the spring in town, or the summer
in the country with them; and post after post came letters of condolence
to Miss Stanley from all these personages of high degree, professing
the greatest regard for their dear amiable friend’s memory, and for Miss
Stanley, his and their dear Helen; and these polite and kind expressions
were probably sincere at the moment, but none of these dear friends
seemed to think of taking any trouble on her account, or to be in the
least disturbed by the idea of never seeing their dear Helen again in
the course of their lives.

Helen, quite touched by what was said of her uncle, thought only of him;
but when she showed the letters to Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood, they marked
the oversight, and looked significantly as they read, folded the letters
up and returned them to Helen in silence. Afterwards between themselves,
they indulged in certain comments.

“Lady C---- does not invite her, for she has too many daughters, and
they are too ugly, and Helen is too beautiful,” said Mrs. Collingwood.

“Lady L---- has too many sons,” said Mr. Collingwood, “and they are too
poor, and Helen is not an heiress now.”

“But old Lady Margaret Dawe, who has neither sons nor daughters, what
stands in the way there? Oh! her delicate health--delicate health is
a blessing to some people--excuses them always from doing anything for

Then came many, who hoped, in general, to see Miss Stanley as soon as
possible; and some who were “very anxious indeed” to have their dear
Helen with them; but when or where never specified--and a general
invitation, as every body knows, means nothing but “Good morning to

Mrs. Coldstream ends with, “I forbear to say more at present,” without
giving any reason.

“And here is the dean’s dear duchess, always in the greatest haste, with
‘You know my heart,’ in a parenthesis, ‘ever and ever most sincerely and

“And the Davenants,” continued Mrs. Collingwood, “who were such near
neighbours, and who were so kind to the dean at Florence; they have not
even written!”

“But they are at Florence still,” said Mr. Collingwood, “they can hardly
have heard of the poor dean’s death.”

The Davenants were the great people of this part of the country; their
place, Cecilhurst, was close to the deanery and to the vicarage, but
they were not known to the Collingwoods, who had come to Cecilhurst
during the dean’s absence abroad.

“And here is Mrs. Wilmot too,” continued Mrs. Collingwood, “wondering
as usual, at everybody else, wondering that Lady Barker has not invited
Miss Stanley to Castleport; and it never enters into Mrs. Wilmot’s head
that she might invite her to Wilmot’s fort. And this is friendship, as
the world goes!”

“And as it has been ever since the beginning of the world and will be
to the end,” replied Mr. Collingwood. “Only I thought in Dean Stanley’s
case--however, I am glad his niece does not see it as we do.”

No--with all Helen’s natural quickness of sensibility, she suspected
nothing, saw nothing in each excuse but what was perfectly reasonable
and kind; she was sure that her uncle’s friends could not mean to
neglect her. In short, she had an undoubting belief in those she loved,
and she loved all those who she thought had loved her uncle, or who
had ever shown her kindness. Helen had never yet experienced neglect or
detected insincerity, and nothing in her own true and warm heart could
suggest the possibility of double-dealing, or even of coldness in
friendship. She had yet to learn that--

  “No after-friendship e’er can raze
  Th’ endearments of our early days,
  And ne’er the heart such fondness prove,
  As when it first began to love;
  Ere lovely nature is expelled,
  And friendship is romantic held.
  But prudence comes with hundred eyes,
  The veil is rent, the vision flies,
  The dear illusions will not last,
  The era of enchantment’s past:
  The wild romance of life is done,
  The real history begun!”


Some time after this, Mr. Collingwood, rising from the breakfast-table,
threw down the day’s paper, saying there was nothing in it; Mrs.
Collingwood glancing her eye over it exclaimed--

“Do you call this nothing? Helen, hear this!

“Marriage in high life--At the ambassador’s chapel, Paris, on the 16th
instant, General Clarendon to Lady Cecilia Davenant, only daughter of
Earl and Countess Davenant.”

“Married! absolutely married!” exclaimed Helen: “I knew it was to
be, but so soon I did not expect. Ambassador’s chapel--where did
you say?--Paris? No, that must be a mistake, they are all at
Florence--settled there, I thought their letters said.”

Mrs. Collingwood pointed to the paragraph, and Helen saw it was
certainly Paris--there could be no mistake. Here was a full account of
the marriage, and a list of all “the fashionables who attended the fair
bride to the hymeneal altar. Her father gave her away.”

“Then certainly it is so,” said Helen; and she came to the joyful
conclusion that they must all be on their way home:--“Dear Lady Davenant
coming to Cecilhurst again!”

Lady Cecilia, “the fair bride,” had been Helen’s most intimate friend;
they had been when children much together, for the deanery was so close
to Cecilhurst, that the shrubbery opened into the park. “But is it not
rather extraordinary, my dear. Helen,” said Mrs. Collingwood, “that
you should see this account of your dear Lady Cecilia’s marriage in the
public papers only, without having heard of it from any of your friends
themselves--not one letter, not one line from any of them?”

A cloud came over Helen’s face, but it passed quickly, and she was sure
they had written--something had delayed their letters. She was certain
Lady Davenant or Lady Cecilia had written; or, if they had not, it was
because they could not possibly, in such a hurry, such agitation as they
must have been in. At all events, whether they had written or not, she
was certain they could not mean anything unkind; she could not change
her opinion of her friend for a letter more or less. “Indeed!” said Mrs.
Collingwood, “how long is it since you have seen them?”

“About two years; just two years it is since I parted from them at

“And you have corresponded with Lady Cecilia constantly ever since?”
 asked Mrs. Collingwood.

“Not constantly.”

“Not constantly--oh!” said Mrs. Collingwood, in a prolonged and somewhat
sarcastic tone.

“Not constantly--so much the better,” said her husband: “a constant
correspondence is always a great burthen, and moreover, sometimes a
great evil, between young ladies especially--I hate the sight of ladies’
long cross-barred letters.”

Helen said that Lady Cecilia’s letters were never cross-barred, always
short and far between.

“You seem wonderfully fond of Lady Cecilia,” said Mrs. Collingwood.

“Not wonderfully,” replied Helen, “but very fond, and no wonder, we were
bred up together. And”--continued she, after a little pause, “and
if Lady Cecilia had not been so generous as she is, she might have
been--she must have been, jealous of the partiality, the fondness, which
her mother always showed me.”

“But was not Lady Davenant’s heart large enough to hold two?” asked Mrs.
Collingwood. “Was not she fond of her daughter?”

“Yes, as far as she knew her, but she did not know Lady Cecilia.”

“Not know her own daughter!” Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood both at once
exclaimed, “How could that possibly be?”

“Very easily,” Helen said, “because she saw so little of her.”

“Was not Lady Cecilia educated at home?”

“Yes, but still Lady Cecilia, when a child, was all day long with her
governess, and at Cecilhurst the governess’s apartments were quite out
of the way, in one of the wings at the end of a long corridor, with a
separate staircase; she might as well have been in another house.”

“Bad arrangement,” said Mr. Collingwood, speaking to himself as he stood
on the hearth. “Bad arrangement which separates mother and daughter.”

“At that time,” continued Helen, “there was always a great deal of
company at Cecilhurst. Lord Davenant was one of the ministers then. I
believe--I know he saw a great many political people, and Lady Davenant
was forced to be always with them talking.”

“Talking! yes, yes!” said Mr. Collingwood, “I understand it all--Lady
Davenant is a great politician, and female politicians, with their heads
full of the affairs of Europe, cannot have time to think of the affairs
of their families.”

“What is the matter, my dear Helen?” said Mrs. Collingwood, taking her
hand. Helen had tears in her eyes and looked unhappy.

“I have done very wrong,” said she; “I have said something that has
given you a bad, a false opinion of one for whom I have the greatest
admiration and love--of Lady Davenant. I am excessively sorry; I have
done very wrong.”

“Not the least, my dear child; you told us nothing but what everybody
knows--that she is a great politician; you told us no more.”

“But I should have told you more, and what nobody knows better than I
do,” cried Helen, “that Lady Davenant is a great deal more, and a great
deal better than a politician. I was too young to judge, you may think,
but young as I was, I could see and feel, and children can and do often
see a great deal into character, and I assure you Lady Davenant’s is a
sort of deep, high character, that you would admire.”

Mrs. Collingwood observed with surprise, that Helen spoke of her with
even more enthusiasm than of her dear Lady Cecilia. “Yes, because she is
a person more likely to excite enthusiasm.”

“You did not feel afraid of her, then?”

“I do not say that,” replied Helen; “yet it was not fear exactly, it was
more a sort of awe, but still I liked it. It is so delightful to have
something to look up to. I love Lady Davenant all the better, even for
that awe I felt of her.”

“And I like you all the better for everything you feel, think, and say
about your friends,” cried Mrs. Collingwood; “but let us see what they
will do; when I see whether they can write, and what they write to you,
I will tell you more of my mind--if any letters come.”

“If!--” Helen repeated, but would say no more--and there it rested, or
at least stopped. By common consent the subject was not recurred to
for several days. Every morning at post-time Helen’s colour rose with
expectation, and then faded with disappointment; still, with the same
confiding look, she said, “I am sure it is not their fault.”

“Time will show,” said Mrs. Collingwood.

At length, one morning when she came down to breakfast, “Triumph, my
dear Helen!” cried Mrs. Collingwood, holding up two large letters,
all scribbled over with “Try this place and try that, mis-sent to
Cross-keys--Over moor, and heaven knows where--and--no matter.”

Helen seized the packets and tore them open; one was from Paris, written
immediately after the news of Dean Stanley’s death; it contained two
letters, one from Lady Davenant, the other from Lady Cecilia--“written,
only think!” cried she, “how kind!--the very day before her marriage;
signed ‘Cecilia Davenant, for the last time,’--and Lady Davenant,
too--to think of me in all their happiness.”

She opened the other letters, written since their arrival in England,
she read eagerly on,--then stopped, and her looks changed.

“Lady Davenant is not coming to Cecilhurst. Lord Davenant is to be
sent ambassador to Petersburgh, and Lady Davenant will go along
with him!--Oh! there is an end of everything, I shall never see her
again!--Stay--she is to be first with Lady Cecilia at Clarendon Park,
wherever that is, for some time--she does not know how long--she
hopes to see me there--oh! how kind, how delightful!” Helen put Lady
Davenant’s letter proudly into Mrs. Collingwood’s hand, and eagerly
opened Lady Cecilia’s.

“So like herself! so like Cecilia,” cried she. Mrs. Collingwood read and
acknowledged that nothing could be kinder, for here was an invitation,
not vague or general, but particular, and pressing as heart could wish
or heart could make it. “We shall be at Clarendon Park on Thursday, and
shall expect you, dearest Helen, on Monday, just time, the general says,
for an answer; so write and say where horses shall meet you,” &c. &c.

“Upon my word, this is being in earnest, when it comes to horses
meeting,” cried Mr. Collingwood. “Of course you will go directly?”

Helen was in great agitation.

“Write--write--my dear, directly,” said Mrs. Collingwood, “for the
post-boy waits.”

And before she had written many lines the cross-post boy sent up word
that he could wait no longer.

Helen wrote she scarcely knew what, but in short an acceptance, signed,
sealed, delivered, and then she took breath. Off cantered the boy with
the letters bagged, and scarcely was he out of sight, when Helen saw
under the table the cover of the packet, in which were some lines
that had not yet been read. They were in Lady Cecilia’s handwriting--a

“I forgot, dear Helen, the thing that is most essential, (you remember
our friend Dumont’s definition of _une betîse: c’est d’oublier la chose
essentielle;_) I forgot to tell you that the general declares he will
not hear of a mere _visit_ from you. He bids me tell you that it must be
‘till death or marriage.’ So, my dear friend, you must make up your mind
in short to live with us till you find a General Clarendon of your own.
To this postscript no reply--silence gives consent.”

“If I had seen this!” said Helen, as she laid it before Mr. and Mrs.
Collingwood, “I ought to have answered, but, indeed, I never saw it;”
 she sprang forward instantly to ring the bell, exclaiming, “It is time
yet--stop the boy--‘silence gives consent.’ I must write. I cannot
leave you, my dear friends, in this way. I did not see that postscript,
believe me I did not.”

They believed her, they thanked her, but they would not let her ring
the bell; they said she had better not bind herself in any way either
to themselves or to Lady Cecilia. Accept of the present invitation she
must--she must go to see her friend on her marriage; she must take leave
of her dear Lady Davenant before her departure.

“They are older friends than we are,” said Mr. Collingwood, “they have
the first claim upon you; but let us think of it as only a visit now. As
to a residence for life, that you can best judge of for yourself after
you have been some time at Clarendon Park; if you do not like to remain
there, you know how gladly we shall welcome you here again, my child;
or, if you decide to live with those you have known so long and loved so
much, we cannot be offended at your choice.”

This generous kindness, this freedom from jealous susceptibility,
touched Helen’s heart, and increased her agitation. She could not bear
the thoughts of either the reality or appearance of neglecting these
kind good people, the moment she had other prospects, and frequently
in all the hurry of her preparations, she repeated, “It will only be a
visit at Clarendon Park. I will return to you, I shall write to you, my
dear Mrs. Collingwood, at all events, constantly.”

When Mr. Collingwood gave her his parting blessing he reminded her of
his warning about her fortune. Mrs. Collingwood reminded her of her
promise to write. The carriage drove from the door. Helen’s heart was
full of the friends she was leaving, but by degrees the agitation of
the parting subsided, her tears ceased, her heart grew lighter, and the
hopes of seeing her friends at Clarendon Park arose bright in her mind,
and her thoughts all turned upon Cecilia, and Lady Davenant.


Helen looked eagerly out of the carriage-window for the first view of
Clarendon Park. It satisfied--it surpassed her expectations. It was a
fine, aristocratic place:--ancestral trees, and a vast expanse of park;
herds of deer, yellow and dark, or spotted, their heads appearing in the
distance just above the fern, or grazing near, startled as the carriage
passed. Through the long approach, she caught various views of the
house, partly gothic, partly of modern architecture; it seemed of great
extent and magnificence.

All delightful so far; but now for her own reception. Her breath grew
quick and quicker as she came near and nearer to the house. Some one was
standing on the steps. Was it General Clarendon? No; only a servant. The
carriage stopped, more servants appeared, and as Helen got out, a very
sublime-looking personage informed her, that “Lady Cecilia and the
General were out riding--only in the park--would be in immediately.”

And as she crossed the great hall, the same sublime person informed
her that there would be still an hour before dinner-time, and inquired
whether she would be pleased to be shown to her own apartment, or to
the library? Helen felt chilled and disappointed, because this was not
exactly the way she had expected things would be upon her arrival. She
had pictured to herself Cecilia running to meet her in the hall.

Without answering the groom of the chambers, she asked, “Is Lady
Davenant out too?”

“No; her ladyship is in the library.”

“To the library then.”

And through the antechamber she passed rapidly, impatient of a momentary
stop of her conductor to open the folding-doors, while a man, with a
letter-box in hand, equally impatient, begged that Lady Davenant might
be told, “The General’s express was waiting.”

Lady Davenant was sealing letters in great haste for this express, but
when the door opened, and she saw Helen, she threw wax and letter from
her, and pushing aside the sofa-table, came forward to receive her with
open arms.

All was in an instant happy in Helen’s heart; but there was the man
of the letter-box; he must be attended to. “Beg your pardon, Helen, my
dear--one moment. Letters of consequence--must not be delayed.”

By the time the letters were finished, before they were gone, Lady
Cecilia came in. The same as ever, with affectionate delight in her
eyes--her beautiful eyes. The same, yes, the same Cecilia as ever; yet
different: less of a girl, less lively, but more happy. The moment
she had embraced her, Lady Cecilia turned quick to present General
Clarendon, thinking he had followed, but he had stopped in the hall.

“Send off the letters,” were the first words of his which Helen heard.
The tone commanding, the voice remarkably gentlemanlike. An instant
afterwards he came in. A fine figure, a handsome man; in the prime
of life; with a high-born, high-bred military air. English
decidedly--proudly English. Something of the old school--composed
self-possession, with voluntary deference to others--rather distant.
Helen felt that his manner of welcoming her to Clarendon Park was
perfectly polite, yet she would have liked it better had it been less
polite--more cordial. Lady Cecilia, whose eyes were anxiously upon her,
drew her arm within hers, and hurried her out of the room. She stopped
at the foot of the stairs, gathered up the folds of her riding-dress,
and turning suddenly to Helen, said,--

“Helen, my dear, you must not think _that_”----

“Think what?” said Helen.

“Think _that_--for which you are now blushing. Oh, you know what I mean!
Helen, your thoughts are just as legible in your face, as they always
were to me. His manner is reserved--cold, may be--but not his heart.
Understand this, pray--once for all. Do you? will you, dearest Helen?”

“I do, I will,” cried Helen; and every minute she felt that she better
understood and was more perfectly pleased with her friend. Lady Cecilia
showed her through the apartment destined for her, which she had taken
the greatest pleasure in arranging; everything there was not only most
comfortable, but particularly to her taste; and some little delicate
proofs of affection, recollections of childhood, were there;--keepsakes,
early drawings, nonsensical things, not worth preserving, but still

“Look how near we are together,” said Cecilia, opening a door into her
own dressing-room. “You may shut this up whenever you please, but I hope
you will never please to do so. You see how I leave you your own free
will, as friends usually do, with a proviso, a hope at least, that
you are never to use it on any account--like the child’s half guinea
pocket-money, never to be changed.” Her playful tone relieved, as she
intended it should, Helen’s too keen emotion; and this too was felt with
the quickness with which every touch of kindness ever was felt by her.
Helen pressed her friend’s hand, and smiled without speaking.

They were to be some time alone before the commencement of bridal
visits, and an expected succession of troops of friends. This was a time
of peculiar enjoyment to Helen: she had leisure to grow happy in the
feeling of reviving hopes from old associations.

She did not forget her promise to write to Mrs. Collingwood; nor
afterwards (to her credit be it here marked)--even when the house was
full of company, and when, by amusement or by feeling, she was most
pressed for time--did she ever omit to write to those excellent friends.
Those who best know the difficulty will best appreciate this proof of
the reality of her gratitude.

As Lady Cecilia was a great deal with her husband riding or walking,
Helen had opportunities of being much alone with Lady Davenant, who now
gave her a privilege that she had enjoyed in former times at Cecilhurst,
that of entering her apartment in the morning at all hours without fear
of being considered an intruder.

The first morning, however, on seeing her ladyship immersed in papers
with a brow of care, deeply intent, Helen paused on the threshold, “I am
afraid I interrupt--I am afraid I disturb you.”

“Come in, Helen, come in,” cried Lady Davenant, looking up, and the
face of care was cleared, and there was a radiance of
pleasure--“Interrupt--yes: disturb--no. Often in your little life,
Helen, you have interrupted--never disturbed me. From the time you were
a child till this moment, never did I see you come into my room without

Then sweeping away heaps of papers, she made room for Helen on the sofa
beside her.

“Now tell me how things are with you--somewhat I have heard reported of
my friend the dean’s affairs--tell me all.”

Helen told all as briefly as possible; she hurried on through her
uncle’s affairs with a tremulous voice, and before she could come to a
conclusion Lady Davenant exclaimed,

“I foresaw it long since: with all my friend’s virtues, all his
talents--but we will not go back upon the painful past. You, my
dear Helen, have done just what I should have expected from
you,--right;--right, too, the condition Mr. Collingwood has made--very
right. And now to the next point:--where are you to live, Helen? or
rather with whom?”

Helen was not quite sure yet, she said she had not quite determined.

“Am I to understand that your doubt lies between the Collingwoods and my

“Yes; Cecilia most kindly invited me, but I do not know General
Clarendon yet, and he does not know me yet. Cecilia might wish most
sincerely that I should live with her, and I am convinced she does; but
her husband must be considered.”

“True,” said Lady Davenant--“true; a husband is certainly a thing _to
be cared for_--in Scottish phrase, and General Clarendon is no doubt
a person to be considered,--but it seems that I am not a person to be
considered in your arrangements.”

Even the altered, dry, and almost acrid tone in which Lady Davenant
spoke, and the expression of disappointment in her countenance--were,
as marks of strong affection, deeply gratifying to Helen. Lady Davenant
went on.

“Was not Cecilhurst always a home to you, Helen Stanley?”

“Yes, yes,--always a most happy home!”

“Then why is not Cecilhurst to be your home?”

“My dear Lady Davenant! how kind!--how very, very kind of you to wish
it--but I never thought of----”

“And why did you not think of it, Helen?’”

“I mean--I thought you were going to Russia.”

“And have you settled, my dear Helen,” said Lady Davenant, smiling,
“have you settled that I am never to come back from Russia? Do not
you know that you are--that you ever were--you ever will be to me a
daughter?” and drawing Helen fondly towards her, she added, “as my own
very dear--I must not say dearest child,--must not, because as I well
remember once--little creature as you were then---you whispered to me,
‘Never call me dearest,’--generous-hearted child!” And tears started
into her eyes as she spoke; but at that moment came a knock at the door.
“A packet from Lord Davenant, by Mr. Mapletofft, my lady.” Helen rose
to leave the room, but Lady Davenant laid a detaining hand upon her,
saying, “You will not be in my way in the least;” and she opened her
packet, adding, that while she read, Helen might amuse herself “with
arranging the books on that table, or in looking over the letters in
that portfolio.”

Helen had hitherto seen Lady Davenant only with the eyes of very early
youth; but now, after an absence of two years--a great space in her
existence, it seemed as if she looked upon her with new eyes, and every
hour made fresh discoveries in her character. Contrary to what too often
happens when we again see and judge of those whom we have early
known, Lady Davenant’s character and abilities, instead of sinking and
diminishing, appeared to rise and enlarge, to expand and be ennobled
to Helen’s view. Strong lights and shades there were, but these only
excited and fixed her attention. Even her defects--those inequalities
of temper of which she had already had some example, were interesting as
evidences of the power and warmth of her affections.

The books on the table were those which Lady Davenant had had in her
travelling carriage. They gave Helen an idea of the range and variety
of the reader’s mind. Some of them were presentation copies, as they
are called, from several of the first authors of our own, and foreign
countries; some with dedications to Lady Davenant; others with
inscriptions expressing respect or propitiating favour, or anxious for

The portfolio contained letters whose very signatures would have driven
the first of modern autograph collectors distracted with joy--whose
meanest scrap would make a scrap-book the envy of the world.

But among the letters in this portfolio, there were none of those
nauseous notes of compliment, none of those epistles adulatory,
degrading to those who write, and equally degrading to those to
whom they are written: letters which are, however cleverly turned,
inexpressibly wearisome to all but the parties concerned.

After opening and looking at the signature of several of these letters,
Helen sat in a delightful _embarras de richesse_. To read them all--all
at once, was impossible; with which to begin, she could not determine.
One after another was laid aside as too good to be read first, and
after glancing at the contents of each, she began to deal them round
alphabetically till she was struck by a passage in one of them--she
looked to the signature, it was unknown to fame--she read the whole,
it was striking and interesting. There were several letters in the same
hand, and Helen was surprised to find them arranged according to their
dates, in Lady Davenant’s own writing--preserved with those of persons
of illustrious reputation! These she read on without further hesitation.
There was no sort of affectation in them--quite easy and natural, “real
feeling, and genius,” certainly genius, she thought!--and there seemed
something romantic and uncommon in the character of the writer. They
were signed Granville Beauclerc!

Who could he be, this Granville Beauclerc? She read on till Lady
Davenant, having finished her packet, rang a silver handbell, as was
her custom, to summon her page. At the first tingle of the bell Helen
started, and Lady Davenant asked, “Whose letter, my dear, has so
completely abstracted you?”

Carlos, the page, came in at this instant, and after a quick glance
at the handwriting of the letters, Lady Davenant gave her orders in
Portuguese to Carlos, and then returning to Helen, took no further
notice of the letters, but went on just where she had left off. “Helen,
I remember when you were about nine years old, timid as you usually
were, your coming forward, bold as a little lion, to attack me in
Cecilia’s defence; I forget the particulars, but I recollect that you
said I was unjust, and that I did not know Cecilia, and there you
were right; so, to reward you, you shall see that now I do her perfect
justice, and that I am as fond of her as your heart can wish. I really
never did know Cecilia till I saw her heartily in love; I had imagined
her incapable of real love; I thought the desire of pleasing universally
had been her ruling passion--the ruling passion that, of a little mind
and a cold heart; but I did her wrong. In another more material point,
too, I was mistaken.”

Lady Davenant paused and looked earnestly at Helen, whose eyes said,
“I am glad,” and yet she was not quite certain she knew to what she

“Cecilia righted herself, and won my good opinion, by the openness with
which she treated me from the very commencement of her attachment to
General Clarendon.” Lady Davenant again paused to reflect, and played
for some moments with the tablets in her hand.

“Some one says that we are apt to flatter ourselves that we leave our
faults when our faults leave us, from change of situation, age, and so
forth; and perhaps it does not signify much which it is, if the faults
are fairly gone, and if there be no danger of their returning: all
our former misunderstandings arose on Cecilia’s part from cowardice of
character; on mine from--no matter what--no matter which of us was most

“True, true,” cried Helen eagerly; and anxious to prevent recurrence
to painful recollections, she went on to ask rapidly several questions
about Cecilia’s marriage.

Lady Davenant smiled, and promised that she should have the whole
history of the marriage in true gossip detail.

“When I wrote to you, I gave you some general ideas on the subject, but
there are little things which could not well be written, even to so safe
a young friend as you are, for what is written remains, and often for
those by whom it was never intended to be seen; the _dessoux des cartes_
can seldom be either safely or satisfactorily shown on paper, so give me
my embroidery-frame, I never can tell well without having something to
do with my hands.”

And as Helen set the embroidery-frame, Lady Davenant searched for some
skeins of silk and silk winders.

“Take these, my dear, and wind this silk for me, for I must have my
hearer comfortably established, not like the agonised listener in the
‘_World_’ leaning against a table, with the corner running into him all
the time.”


“I must go back,” continued Lady Davenant, “quite to the dark ages,
the time when I knew nothing of my daughter’s character but by the
accidental lights which you afforded me. I will take up my story before
the reformation, in the middle ages, when you and your dear uncle left
us at Florence; about two years ago, when Cecilia was in the height
of her conquests, about the time when a certain Colonel D’Aubiguy
flourished, you remember him?”

Helen answered “Yes,” in rather a constrained voice, which caused Lady
Davenant to look up, and on seeing that look of inquiry, Helen coloured,
though she would have given the world not to be so foolish. The affair
was Cecilia’s, and Helen only wished not to have it recurred to, and yet
she had now, by colouring, done the very thing to fix Lady Davenant’s
attention, and as the look was prolonged, she coloured more and more.

“I see I was wrong,” said Lady Davenant; “I had thought Colonel
D’Aubigny’s ecstasy about that miniature of you was only a feint; but I
see he really was an admirer of yours, Helen?”

“Of mine! oh no, never!” Still from her fear of saying something that
should implicate Cecilia, her tone, though she spoke exactly the truth,
was not to Lady Davenant’s discriminative ear quite natural--Helen
seeing doubt, added,

“Impossible, my dear Lady Davenant! you know I was then so young, quite
a child!”

“No, no, not quite; two from eighteen and sixteen remain, I think, and
in our days sixteen is not absolutely a child.”

Helen made no answer; her thoughts had gone back to the time when
Colonel D’Aubigny was first introduced to her, which was just before her
uncle’s illness, and when her mind had been so engrossed by him, that
she had but a confused recollection of all the rest.

“Now you are right, my dear,” said Lady Davenant; “right to be
absolutely silent. In difficult cases say nothing; but still you are
wrong in sitting so uneasily under it, for that seems as if there _was_

“Nothing upon earth!” cried Helen, “if you would not look at me _so_, my
clear Lady Davenant.”

“Then, my dear Helen, do not break my embroidery silk; that jerk was
imprudent, and trust me, my dear, the screw of that silk winder is not
so much to blame as you would have me think; take patience with yourself
and with me. There is no great harm done, no unbearable imputation,
you are not accused of loving or liking, only of having been admired.”
 “Never!” cried Helen.

“Well, well! it does not signify in the least now; the man is either
dying or dead.”

“I am glad of it,” cried Helen.

“How barbarous!” said Lady Davenant, “but let it pass, I am neither glad
nor sorry; contempt is more dignified and safer than hatred, my dear.

“Now to return to Cecilia; soon after, I will not say the D’Aubigny era,
but soon after you left us, I fell sick, Cecilia was excessively kind to
me. In kindness her affectionate heart never failed, and I felt this
the more, from a consciousness that I had been a little harsh to her. I
recovered but slowly; I could not bear to have her confined so long in a
sick room, and yet I did not much like either of the chaperons with
whom she went out, though they were both of rank, and of unimpeachable
character--the one English, one of the best women in the world, but the
most stupid; the other a foreigner, one of the most agreeable women
in the world, but the most false. I prevailed on Cecilia to break off
that--I do not know what to call it, friendship it was not, and my
daughter and I drew nearer together. Better times began to dawn, but
still there was little sympathy between us; my mind was intent on Lord
Davenant’s interests, hers on amusement and admiration. Her conquests
were numerous, and she gloried in their number, for, between you and
me, Cecilia was, before the reformation, not a little of a coquette. You
will not allow it, you did not see it, you did not go out with her, and
being three or four years younger, you could not be a very good critic
of Cecilia’s conduct; and depend upon it I am right, she was not a
little of a coquette. She did not know, and I am sure I did not know,
that she had a heart, till she became acquainted with General Clarendon.

“The first time we met him,”--observing a quickening of attention in
Helen’s eyes, Lady Davenant smiled, and said, “Young ladies always like
to hear of ‘the first time we saw him.’--The first time we saw General
Clarendon was--forgive me the day of the month--in the gallery at
Florence. I forget how it happened that he had not been presented to
me--to Lord Davenant he must have been. But so it was and it was new to
Cecilia to see a man of his appearance who had not on his first arrival
shown himself ambitious to be made known to her. He was admiring a
beautiful Magdalene, and he was standing with his back towards us. I
recollect that his appearance when I saw him as a stranger--the
time when one can best judge of appearance--struck me as that of a
distinguished person; but little did I think that there stood Cecilia’s
husband! so little did my maternal instinct guide me.

“As we approached, he turned and gave one look at Cecilia; she gave one
look at him. He passed on, she stopped me to examine the picture which
he had been admiring.

“Every English mother at Florence, except myself, had their eyes fixed
upon General Clarendon from the moment of his arrival. But whatever I
may have been, or may have been supposed to be, on the great squares of
politics, I believe I never have been accused or even suspected of being
a manoeuvrer on the small domestic scale.

“My reputation for imbecility in these matters was perhaps advantageous.
He did not shun me as he did the tribe of knowing ones; a hundred
reports flew about concerning him, settling in one, that he was resolved
never to marry. Yet he was a passionate admirer of beauty and grace, and
it was said that he had never been unsuccessful where he had wished to
please. The secret of his resolution against marriage was accounted for
by the gossiping public in many ways variously absurd. The fact was,
that in his own family, and in that of a particular friend, there had
been about this time two or three scandalous intrigues, followed by ‘the
public brand of shameful life.’ One of these ‘sad affairs,’ as they are
styled, was marked with premeditated treachery and turpitude. The lady
had been, or had seemed to be, for years a pattern wife, the mother of
several children; yet she had long betrayed, and at last abandoned, a
most amiable and confiding husband, and went off with a man who did
not love her, who cared for nought but himself, a disgusting monster
of selfishness, vanity, and vice! This woman was said to have been once
good, but to have been corrupted and depraved by residence abroad--by
the contagion of foreign profligacy. In the other instance, the
seduced wife had been originally most amiable, pure-minded, uncommonly
beautiful, loved to idolatry by her husband, Clarendon’s particular
friend, a man high in public estimation. The husband shot himself. The
seducer was, it’s said, the lady’s first love. That these circumstances
should have made a deep impression on Clarendon, is natural; the more
feeling--the stronger the mind, the more deep and lasting it was likely
to be. Besides his resolution against marriage in general, we heard that
he had specially resolved against marrying any travelled lady, and most
especially against any woman with whom there was danger of a first love.
How this danger was to be avoided or ascertained, mothers and daughters
looked at one another, and did not ask, or at least did not answer.

“Cecilia, apparently unconcerned, heard and laughed at these high
resolves, after her gay fashion with her young companions, and marvelled
how long the resolution would be kept. General Clarendon of course could
not but be introduced to us, could not but attend our assemblies, nor
could he avoid meeting us in all the good English and foreign society
at Florence; but whenever he met us, he always kept at a safe distance:
this caution marked his sense of danger. To avoid its being so
construed, perhaps, he made approaches to me, politely cold; we talked
very wisely on the state of the Continent and the affairs of Europe;
I did not, however, confine myself or him to politics, I gave him many
unconscious opportunities of showing in conversation, not his abilities,
for they are nothing extraordinary; but his character, which is
first-rate. Gleams came out, of a character born to subjugate, to
captivate, to attach for life. It worked first on Cecilia’s curiosity;
she thought she was only curious, and she listened at first, humming an
opera air between times, with the least concerned look conceivable. But,
her imagination was caught, and it thenceforward through every thing
that every body else might be saying, and through all she said herself,
she heard every word that fell from our general, and even all that was
repeated of his saying at second or third hand. So she learned in due
season that he had seen women as handsome, handsomer than Lady Cecilia
Davenant; but that there was something in her manner peculiarly suited
to his taste--his fastidious taste! so free from coquetry, he said she
was. And true, perfectly true, from the time he became acquainted with
her; no hypocrisy on her part, no mistake on his; at the first touch
of a real love, there was an end of vanity and coquetry. Then her
deference--her affection for her mother, was so charming, he thought;
such perfect confidence--such quick intelligence between us. No deceit
here either, only a little self-deception on Cecilia’s part. She had
really grown suddenly fonder of me; what had become of her fear, she did
not know. But I knew full well my new charm and my real merit; I was a
good and safe conductor of the electric shock.

“It chanced one day, when I was listening only as one listens to a man
who is talking at another through oneself, I did not immediately catch
the meaning, or I believe hear what the general said. Cecilia,
unawares, answered for me, and showed that she perfectly understood:--he
bowed--she blushed.

“Man is usually quicksighted to woman’s blushes. But our general was not
vain, only proud; the blush he did not set down to his own account, but
very much to hers. It was a proof, he thought, of so much simplicity of
heart, so unspoiled by the world, so unlike--in short, so like the very
woman he had painted in his fancy, before he knew too much----. Lady
Cecilia was now a perfect angel. Not one word of all this did he say,
but it was understood quite as well as if it had been spoken: his
lips were firm compressed, and the whole outer man composed--frigidly
cold;--yet through all this Cecilia saw--such is woman’s penetration in
certain cases--Cecilia saw what must sooner or later happen. He, still
proud of his prudence, refrained from word, look, or sigh, resolved to
be impassive till his judgment should be perfectly satisfied. At last
this judgment was perfectly satisfied; that is, he was passionately in
love--fairly ‘caught,’ my dear, ‘in the strong toils of grace,’ and he
threw himself at Cecilia’s feet. She was not quite so much surprised as
he expected, but more pleased than he had ventured to hope. There was
that, however, in his proud humility, which told Cecilia there must be
no trifling.

  ‘He either fears his fate too much,
  Or his deserts are small,
  Who fears to put it to the touch,
  To win or lose it all.’

“He put it to the test, and won it all. General Clarendon, indeed, is a
man likely to win and keep the love of woman, for this, among other good
reasons, that love and honour being with him inseparable, the idol he
adores must keep herself at the height to which he has raised her, or
cease to receive his adoration. She must be no common vulgar idol for
every passing worshipper.” As Lady Davenant paused, Helen looked up,
hesitated, and said: “I hope that General Clarendon is not disposed to

“No: he’s too proud to be jealous,” replied Lady Davenant.

Are proud men never jealous? thought Helen.

“I mean,” continued Lady Davenant, “that General Clarendon is too proud
to be jealous of his wife. For aught I know, he might have felt jealousy
of Cecilia before she was his, for then she was but a woman, like
another; but once HIS--once having set his judgment on the cast, both
the virtues and the defects of his character join in security for his
perfect confidence in the wife ‘his choice and passion both approve.’
From temper and principle he is unchangeable. I acknowledge that I think
the general is a little inclined perhaps to obstinacy; but, as Burke
says, though obstinacy is certainly a vice, it happens that the whole
line of the great and masculine virtues, constancy, fidelity, fortitude,
magnanimity, are closely allied to this disagreeable quality, of which
we have so just an abhorrence.

“It is most peculiarly happy for Cecilia that she has a husband of this
firm character, one on whom she can rely--one to whom she may, she must,
look up, if not always, yet upon all important occasions where decision
is necessary, or integrity required. It is between her and her general
as it should be in marriage, each has the compensating qualities to
those which the other possesses: General Clarendon is inferior to
Cecilia in wit, but superior in judgment; inferior in literature,
superior in knowledge of the world; inferior to my daughter altogether
in abilities, in what is called genius, but far superior in that ruling
power, _strength of mind_. Strength of mind is an attaching as well as a
ruling power: all human creatures, women especially, become attached to
those who have power over their minds. Yes, Helen, I am satisfied with
their marriage, and with your congratulations: yours are the sort
I like. Vulgar people--by vulgar people I mean all who think
vulgarly--very great vulgar people have congratulated me upon this
establishment of my daughter’s fortune and future rank (a dukedom in
view), all that could be wished in worldly estimation. But I rejoice in
it as the security for my daughter’s character and happiness. Thank you
again, my dear young friend, for your sympathy; you can understand me,
you can feel with me.”

Sympathy, intelligent, quick, warm, unwearied, unweariable, such as
Helen’s, is really a charming accomplishment in a friend; the only
obligation a proud person, is never too proud to receive; and it
was most gratifying to Helen to be allowed to sympathise with Lady
Davenant--one who, in general, never spoke of herself, or unveiled her
private feelings, even to those who lived with her on terms of intimacy.
Helen felt responsible for the confidence granted to her thus upon
credit, and a strong ambition was excited in her mind to justify the
high opinion her superior friend had formed of her. She determined to
become all that she was believed to be; as the flame of a taper suddenly
rises towards what is held over it, her spirit mounted to the point to
which her friend pointed.


Helen’s perfect happiness at Clarendon Park was not of long duration.
People who have not been by nature blessed or cursed with nice feelings,
or who have well rubbed off their delicacy in roughing through the
world, can be quite happy, or at least happy enough without ascertaining
whether they are really esteemed or liked by those with whom they live.
Many, and some of high degree, when well sheltered and fed, and provided
with all the necessaries, and surrounded by all the luxuries of life,
and with appearances tolerably well kept up by outward manner, care
little or nought about the inside sentiments.

But Helen was neither of the case-hardened philosophic, or the naturally
obtuse-feeling class; she belonged to the over-anxious. Surrounded at
Clarendon Park with all the splendour of life, and with the immediate
expectation of seeing and being seen by the first society in England;
with the certainty also of being tenderly loved and highly esteemed
by two of the persons she was living with, yet a doubt about the third
began to make her miserable. Whether General Clarendon really liked
her or not, was a question that hung upon her mind sometimes as a dead
weight--then vibrating backwards and forwards, she often called to mind,
and endeavoured to believe, what Cecilia the first day told her, that
this reserved manner was natural to him with strangers, and would wear
off. But to her the icy coldness did not thaw. So she felt, or so she
fancied, and which it was she could not decide. She had never before
lived with any one about whose liking for her she could doubt,
therefore, as she said to herself, “I know I am a bad judge.” She feared
to open her mind to Cecilia. Lady Davenant would be the safest person
to consult; yet Helen, with all her young delicacy fresh about her,
scrupled, and could not screw her courage to the sticking-place. Every
morning going to Lady Davenant’s room, she half resolved and yet came
away without speaking. At last, one morning, she began:--

“You said something the other day, my dear Lady Davenant, about a visit
from Miss Clarendon. Perhaps--I am afraid--in short I think,--I fear,
the general does not like my being here; and I thought, perhaps, he was
displeased at his sister’s not being here,--that he thought Cecilia’s
having asked me prevented his sister’s coming; but then you told me he
was not of a jealous temper, did not you?”

“_Distinguez_,” said Lady Davenant; “_distinguons_, as the old French
metaphysicians used to say, _distinguons_, there be various kinds of
jealousy, as of love. The old romancers make a distinction between
_amour_ and _amour par amours_. Whatever that mean, I beg leave to
take a distinction full as intelligible, I trust, between _jalousie par
amour_ and _jalousie par amitié_. Now, to apply; when I told you that
our general was not subject to jealousy, I should have distinguished,
and said, _jalousie par amour_--jealousy in love, but I will not ensure
him against _jalousie par amitié_--jealousy in friendship--of friends
and relations, I mean. Me-thinks I have seen symptoms of this in the
general, he does not like my influence over Cecilia, nor yours, my

“I understand it all,” exclaimed Helen, “and I was right from the very
first; I saw he disliked me, and he ever will and must dislike and
detest me--I see it in every look, hear it in every word, in every

“Now, my dear Helen, if you are riding off on your imagination, I
wish you a pleasant ride, and till you come back again I will write my
letter,” said Lady Davenant, taking up a pen.

Helen begged pardon, and protested she was not going to ride off
upon any imagination,--she had no imagination now--she entreated Lady
Davenant to go on, for she was very anxious to know the whole truth,
whatever it might be. Lady Davenant laid down her pen, and told her all
she knew. In the first place, that Cecilia did not like Miss Clarendon,
who, though a very estimable person, had a sort of uncompromising
sincerity, joined with a _brusquerie_ of manner which Cecilia could
not endure. How her daughter had managed matters to refuse the sister
without offending the brother, Lady Davenant said she did not know; that
was Cecilia’s secret, and probably it lay in her own charming manner
of doing things, aided by the whole affair having occurred a few days
before marriage, when nothing could be taken ill of the bride elect.
“The general, as Cecilia told me, desired that she would write to invite
you, Helen; she did so, and I am very glad of it. This is all I know of
this mighty matter.”

But Helen could not endure the idea of being there, contrary to the
general’s wishes, in the place of the sister he loved. Oh, how very,
very unfortunate she was to have all her hopes blighted, destroyed--and
Cecilia’s kindness all in vain. Dear, dear Cecilia!--but for the whole
world Helen would not be so selfish--she would not run the hazard of
making mischief. She would never use her influence over Cecilia in
opposition to the general. Oh, how little he knew of her character, if
he thought it possible.

Helen had now come to tears. Then the keen sense of injustice turned to
indignation; and the tears wiped away, and pride prevailing, colouring
she exclaimed, “That she knew what she ought to do, she knew what she
would do--she would not stay where the master of the house did not wish
for her. Orphan though she was, she could not accept of protection or
obligation from any human being who neither liked or esteemed her. She
would shorten her visit at Clarendon Park--make it as short as his heart
could desire,--she would never be the cause of any disagreement--poor,
dear, kind Cecilia! She would write directly to Mrs. Collingwood.” At
the close of these last incoherent sentences, Helen was awe-struck by
the absolute composed immovability and silence of Lady Davenant. Helen
stood rebuked before her.

“Instead of writing to Mrs. Collingwood, had not you better go at
once?” said her ladyship, speaking in a voice so calm, and in a tone so
slightly ironical, that it might have passed for earnest on any but an
acutely feeling ear--“Shall I ring, and order your carriage?”
 putting her hand on the bell as she spoke, and resting it there, she
continued--“It would be so spirited to be off instantly; so wise, so
polite, so considerate towards _dear_ Cecilia--so dignified towards the
general, and so kind towards me, who am going to a far country, Helen,
and may perhaps not see you ever again.”

“Forgive me!” cried Helen; “I never could go while you were here.”

“I did not know what you might think proper when you seemed to have lost
your senses.”

“I have recovered them,” said Helen; “I will do whatever you
please--whatever you think best.”

“It must not be what I please, my dear child, nor what I think best,
but what you judge for yourself to be best; else what will become of you
when I am in Russia? It must be some higher and more stable principle of
action that must govern you. It must not be the mere wish to please this
or that friend;--the defect of your character, Helen, remember I tell
you, is this--inordinate desire to be loved, this impatience of not
being loved--that which but a moment ago made you ready to abandon two
of the best friends you have upon earth, because you imagine, or you
suspect, or you fear, that a third person, almost a stranger, does not
like before he has had time to know you.”

“I was very foolish,” said Helen; “but now I will be wise, I will do
whatever is--right. Surely you would not have me live here if I were
convinced that the master of the house did not wish it?”

“Certainly not--certainly not,” repeated Lady Davenant; “but let us see
our way before us; never gallop, my dear, much less leap; never move,
till you see your way;--once it is ascertained that General Clarendon
does not wish you to be here, nor approve of you for the chosen
companion of his wife, I, as your best friend, would say, begone, and
speed you on your way; then as much pride, as much spirit as you will;
but those who are conscious of possessing real spirit, should never
be--seldom are--in a hurry to show it; that kind of ostentatious haste
is undignified in man, and ungraceful in woman.”

Helen promised that she would be patience itself: “But tell me exactly,”
 said she, “what you would have me do.”

“Nothing,” said Lady Davenant.

“Nothing! that is easy at least,” said Helen, smiling.

“No, not so easy as you imagine; it requires sometimes no small share of
strength of mind.”

“Strength of mind!” said Helen, “I am afraid I have not any.”

“Acquire it then, my dear,” said her friend.

“But can I?”

“Certainly; strength of mind, like strength of body, is improved by

“If I had any to begin with--” said Helen.

“You have some, Helen, a great deal in one particular, else why should
I have any more regard for you, or more hope of you, than of any other
well-dressed, well-taught beauty, any of the tribe of young ladies who
pass before me without ever fixing my mind’s eye for one moment?”

“But in what particular, my dear Lady Davenant, do you mean?” said
Helen, anxiously; “I am afraid you are mistaken; in what do you think I
ever showed strength of mind? Tell me, and I will tell you the truth.”

“That you will, and there is the point that I mean. Ever since I have
known you, you have always, as at this moment, coward as you are, been
brave enough to speak the truth; and truth I believe to be the only real
lasting foundation for friendship; in all but truth there is a principle
of decay and dissolution. Now good bye, my dear;--stay, one word
more--there is a line in some classic poet, which says ‘the suspicion of
ill-will never fails to produce it’--Remember this in your intercourse
with General Clarendon; show no suspicion of his bearing you ill-will,
and to show none, you must feel none. Put absolutely out of your head
all that you may have heard or imagined about Miss Clarendon, or her
brother’s prejudices on her account.”

“I will--I will indeed,” said Helen, and so they parted. A few words
have sometimes a material influence on events in human life. Perhaps
even among those who hold in general that advice never does good, there
is no individual who cannot recollect some few words--some conversation
which has altered the future colour of their lives.

Helen’s over-anxiety concerning General Clarendon’s opinion of her,
being now balanced by the higher interest Lady Davenant had excited, she
met him with new-born courage; and Lady Cecilia, not that she suspected
it was necessary, but merely by way of prevention, threw in little
douceurs of flattery, on the general’s part, repeated sundry pretty
compliments, and really kind things which he had said to her of Helen.
These always pleased Helen at the moment, but she could never make
what she was told he said of her quite agree with what he said to her:
indeed, he said so very little, that no absolute discrepancy could be
detected between the words spoken and the words reported to have been
said; but still the looks did not agree with the opinions, or the
cordiality implied.

One morning Lady Cecilia told her that the general wished that she would
ride out with them, “and you must come, indeed you must, and try his
pretty Zelica; he wishes it of all things, he told me so last night.”

The general chancing to come in as she spoke, Lady Cecilia appealed to
him with a look that almost called upon him to enforce her request; but
he only said that if Miss Stanley would do him the honour, he should
certainly be happy, if Zelica would not be too much for her; but he
could not take it upon him to advise. Then looking for some paper
of which he came in search, and passing her with the most polite and
deferential manner possible, he left the room.

Half vexed, half smiling, Helen looked at Cecilia, and asked whether all
she had told her was not a little--“_plus belle que la vérité._”

Lady Cecilia, blushing slightly, poured out rapid protestations that
all she had ever repeated to Helen of the general’s sayings was perfect
truth--“I will not swear to the words--because in the first place it is
not pretty to swear, and next, because I can never recollect anybody’s
words, or my own, five minutes after they have been said.”

Partly by playfulness, and partly by protestations, Lady Cecilia
half convinced Helen; but from this time she refrained from repeating
compliments which, true or false, did no good, and things went on
better; observing this, she left them to their natural course, upon all
such occasions the best way.

And now visitors began to appear, and some officers of the general’s
staff arrived. Clarendon Park happened to be in the district which
General Clarendon commanded, so that he was able usually to reside
there. It was in what is called a good neighbourhood, and there was much
visiting, and many entertainments.

One day at dinner, Helen was seated between the general and a fine
young guardsman, who, as far as his deep sense of his own merit, and
his fashionable indifference to young ladies would permit, had made some
demonstrations of a desire to attract her notice. He was piqued when,
in the midst of something he had wonderfully exerted himself to say, he
observed that her attention was distracted by a gentleman opposite, who
had just returned from the Continent, and who, among other pieces of
news, marriages and deaths of English abroad, mentioned that “poor
D’Aubigny” was at last dead.

Helen looked first at Cecilia, who, as she saw, heard what was said with
perfect composure; and then at Lady Davenant, who had meantime glanced
imperceptibly at her daughter, and then upon Helen, whose eyes she
met--and Helen coloured merely from association, because she had
coloured before--provoking! yet impossible to help it. All passed in
less time than it can be told, and Helen had left the guardsman in the
midst of his sentence, discomfited, and his eyes were now upon her; and
in confusion she turned from him, and there were the general’s eyes but
he was only inviting her to taste some particular wine, which he thought
she would like, and which she willingly accepted, and praised, though
she assuredly did not know in the least what manner of taste it had. The
general now exerted himself to occupy the guardsman in a conversation
about promotion, and drew all observation from Helen. Yet not the
slightest indication of having seen, heard, or understood, appeared
in his countenance, not the least curiosity or interest about Colonel
D’Aubigny. Of one point Helen was however intuitively certain, that he
had noticed that confusion which he had so ably, so coolly covered. One
ingenuous look from her thanked him, and his look in return was most
gratifying; she could not tell how it was, but it appeared more as if
he understood and liked her than any look she had ever seen from him
before. They were both more at their ease. Next day, he certainly
justified all Cecilia’s former assurances, by the urgency with which
he desired to have her of the riding party. He put her on horseback
himself, bade the aide-de-camp ride on with Lady Cecilia--three several
times set the bridle right in Miss Stanley’s hand, assuring her that she
need not be afraid, that Zelica was the gentlest creature possible, and
he kept his fiery horse, Fleetfoot, to a pace that suited her during
the whole time they were out. Helen took courage, and her ride did her a
vast deal of good.

The rides were repeated, the general evidently became more and more
interested about Miss Stanley; he appealed continually to her taste, and
marked that he considered her as part of his family; but, as Helen told
Lady Davenant, it was difficult, with a person of his high-bred manners
and reserved temper, to ascertain what was to be attributed to general
deference to her sex, what to particular regard for the individual, how
much to hospitality to his guest, or attention to his wife’s friend,
and what might be considered as proof of his own desire to share that
friendship, and of a real wish that she should continue to live with

While she was in this uncertainty, Lord Davenant arrived from London; he
had always been fond of Helen, and now the first sight of her youthful
figure in deep mourning, the recollection of the great changes that had
taken place since they had last met, touched him to the heart--he folded
her in his arms, and was unable to speak. He! a great bulky man, with a
face of constitutional joy--but so it was; he had a tender heart,
deep feelings of all kinds under an appearance of _insouciance_ which
deceived the world. He was distinguished as a political leader--but,
as he said of himself, he had been three times inoculated with
ambition--once by his mother, once by his brother, and once by his wife;
but it had never taken well; the last the best, however,--it had shown
at least sufficiently to satisfy his friends, and he was happy to be
no more tormented. With talents of the first order, and integrity
unblenching, his character was not of that stern stuff--no, not of that
corrupt stuff--of which modern ambition should be made.

He had now something to tell Helen, which he would say even before he
opened his London budget of news. He told her, with a congratulatory
smile, that he had had an opportunity of showing his sense of Mr.
Collingwood’s merits; and as he spoke he put a letter into her hand.

The letter was from her good friend Mr. Collingwood, accepting a
bishopric in the West Indies, which had been offered to him by Lord
Davenant. It enclosed a letter for Helen, desiring in the most kind
manner that she would let him know immediately and decidedly where and
with whom she intended to live; and there was a postscript from Mrs.
Collingwood full of affection, and doubts, and hopes, and fears.

The moment Helen had finished this letter, without seeming to regard the
inquiring looks of all present, and without once looking towards any
one else, she walked deliberately up to General Clarendon, and begged to
speak to him alone. Never was general more surprised, but of course he
was too much of a general to let that appear. Without a word, he offered
his arm, and led her to his study; he drew a chair towards her--

“No misfortune, I hope, Miss Stanley? If I can in any way be of

“The only service, General Clarendon,” said Helen, her manner becoming
composed, and her voice steadying as she went on--“the only service you
can do me now is to tell me the plain truth, and this will prevent what
would certainly be a misfortune to me--perhaps to all of us. Will you
read this letter?”

He received it with an air of great interest, and again moved the chair
to her. Before she sat down, she added,--

“I am unused to the world, you see, General Clarendon. I have been
accustomed to live with one who always told me his mind sincerely, so
that I could judge always what I ought to do. Will you do so now? It is
the greatest service, as well as favour, you can do me.”

“Depend upon it, I will,” said General Clarendon.

“I should not ask you to tell me in words--that might be painful to your
politeness; only let me see it,” said Helen, and she sat down.

The general read on without speaking, till he came to the mention of
Helen’s original promise of living with the Collingwoods. He did not
comprehend that passage, he said, showing it to her. He had always,
on the contrary, understood that it had been a long _settled_ thing, a
promise between Miss Stanley and Lady Cecilia, that Helen should live
with Lady Cecilia when she married.

“No such thing!” Helen said. “No such agreement had ever been made.”

So the general now perceived; but this was a mistake of his which he
hoped would make no difference in her arrangements, he said: “Why should
it?--unless Miss Stanley felt unhappy at Clarendon Park?”

He paused, and Helen was silent: then, taking desperate resolution, she

“I should be perfectly happy here, if I were sure of your wishes, your
feelings about me--about it.”

“Is it possible that there has been any thing in my manner,” said he,
“that could give Miss Stanley pain? What could have put a doubt into her

“There might be some other person nearer, and naturally dearer to you,”
 said Helen, looking up in his face ingenuously--“one whom you might have
desired to have in my place:--your sister, Miss Clarendon, in short.”

“Did Cecilia tell you of this?”

“No, Lady Davenant did; and since I heard it I never could be happy--I
never can be happy till I know your feeling.”

His manner instantly changed.

“You shall know my feelings, then,” said he. “Till I knew you, Helen,
my wish was, that my sister should live with my wife; now I know you, my
wish is, that you should live with us. You will suit Cecilia better
than my sister could--will suit us both better, having the same truth
of character, and more gentleness of manner. I have answered you with
frankness equal to your own. And now,” said he, taking her hand, “you
know Cecilia has always considered you as her sister--allow me to do the
same: consider me as a brother--such you shall find me. Thank you. This
is settled for life,” added he, drawing her arm through his, and taking
up her letters, he led her back towards the library.

But her emotion, the stronger for being suppressed, was too great for
re-appearing in company: she withdrew her arm from his when they were
passing through the hall, and turning her face away, she had just voice
enough to beg he would show her letters to----

He understood. She ran up-stairs to her own room, glad to be alone; a
flood of joy came over her.

“A brother in Cecilia’s husband!--a brother!”

The word had a magical charm, and she could not help repeating it
aloud--she wept like a child. Lady Cecilia soon came flying in, all
delight and affection, reproaches and wonder alternately, in the
quickest conceivable succession. “Delighted, it is settled and for ever!
my dear, dear Helen! But how could you ever think of leaving us, you
wicked Helen! Well! now you see what Clarendon really is! But, my dear,
I was so terrified when I heard it all. You are, and ever were, the
oddest mixture of cowardice and courage. I--do you know I, brave
_I_--never should have advised--never should have ventured as you have?
But he is delighted at it all, and so am I now it has all ended so
charmingly, now I have you safe. I will write to the Collingwoods; you
shall not have a moment’s pain; I will settle it all, and invite them
here before they leave England; Clarendon desired I would--oh, he
is!--now you will believe me! The Collingwoods, too, will be glad to be
asked here to take leave of you, and all will be right; I love, as you
do, dear Helen, that everybody should be pleased when I am happy.”

When Lady Davenant heard all that had passed, she did not express that
prompt unmixed delight which Helen expected; a cloud came over her brow,
something painful regarding her daughter seemed to strike her, for her
eyes fixed on Cecilia, and her emotion was visible in her countenance;
but pleasure unmixed appealed as she turned to Helen, and to her she
gave, what was unusual, unqualified approbation.

“My dear Helen, I admire your plain straightforward truth; I am
satisfied with this first essay of your strength of mind and courage.”

“Courage!” said Helen, smiling.

“Not such as is required to take a lion by the beard, or a bull by the
horns,” replied Lady Davenant; “but there are many persons in this world
who, brave though they be, would rather beard a lion, sooner seize a
bull by the horns, than, when they get into a dilemma, dare to ask a
direct question, and tell plainly what passes in their own minds. Moral
courage is, believe me, uncommon in both sexes, and yet in going through
the world it is equally necessary to the virtue of both men and women.”

“But do you really think,” said Helen, “that strength of mind, or what
you call moral courage, is as necessary to women as it is to men?”

“Certainly, show me a virtue, male or female--if virtues admit of
grammatical distinctions, if virtues acknowledge the more worthy gender
and the less worthy of the grammar, show me a virtue male or female that
_can_ long exist without truth. Even that emphatically termed the virtue
of our sex, Helen, on which social happiness rests, society depends, on
what is it based? is it not on that single-hearted virtue truth?--and
truth on what? on courage of the mind. They who dare to speak the truth,
will not ever dare to go irretrievably wrong. Then what is falsehood but
cowardice?--and a false woman!--does not that say all in one word?”

“But whence arose all this? you wonder, perhaps,” said Lady Davenant;
“and I have not inclination to explain. Here comes Lord Davenant. Now
for politics--farewell morality, a long farewell. Now for the London
budget, and ‘what news from Constantinople? Grand vizier certainly
strangled, or not?’”


The London budget of news was now opened, and gone through by Lord
Davenant, including quarrels in the cabinet and all that with fear of
change perplexes politicians. But the fears and hopes of different ages
are attached to such different subjects, that Helen heard all this as
though she heard it not, and went on with her drawing, touching, and
retouching it, without ever looking up, till her attention was wakened
by the name of Granville Beauclerc; this was the name of the person who
had written those interesting letters which she had met with in Lady
Davenant’s portfolio. “What is he doing in town?” asked the general.

“Amusing himself, I suppose,” replied Lord Davenant.

“I believe he forgets that I am his guardian,” said the general.

“I am sure he cannot forget that you are his friend,” said Lady Cecilia;
“for he has the best heart in the world.”

“And the worst head for any thing useful,” said the general.

“He is a man of genius,” said Lady Davenant.

“Did you speak to him, my lord,” pursued the general, “about standing
for the county?”


“And he said what?”

“That he would have nothing to do with it.”


“Something about not being tied to party, and somewhat he said about
patriotism,” replied Lord Davenant.

“Nonsense!” said the general, “he is a fool.”

“Only young,” said Lady Davenant,

“Men are not so very young in these days at two-and-twenty,” said the

“In some,” said Lady Davenant, “the classical touch, the romance of
political virtue, lasts for months, if not years, after they leave
college; even those who, like Granville, go into high life in London,
do not sometimes, for a season or two, lose their first enthusiasm of

The general’s lips became compressed. Lord Davenant, throwing himself
back in his easy chair, repeated, “Patriotism! yes, every young man of
talent is apt to begin with a fit of that sort.”

“My dear lord,” cried Lady Davenant, “you, of all men, to speak of
patriotism as a disease!”

“And a disease that can be had but once in life, I am afraid,” replied
her lord laughing; “and yet,” as if believing in that at which he
laughed, “it evaporates in most men in words, written or spoken, lasts
till the first pamphlet is published, or till the maiden-speech in
parliament is fairly made, and fairly paid for--in all honour--all
honourable men.”

Lady Davenant passed over these satirical observations, and somewhat
abruptly asked Lord Davenant if he recollected the late Mr. Windham.

“Certainly he was not a man to be easily forgotten: but what in

“The scales of his mind were too fine,” said Lady Davenant, “too nicely
adjusted for common purposes; diamond scales will not do for weighing
wool. Very refined, very ingenious, very philosophical minds, such as
Windham, Burke, Bacon, were all too scrupulous weighers; their scales
turned with the millionth of a grain, and all from the same cause,
subject to the same defect, indecision. They saw too well how much can
be said on both sides of the question. There is a sort of philosophical
doubt, arising from enlargement of understanding, quite different from
that irresolution of character which is caused by infirmity of will;
and I have observed,” continued Lady Davenant, “in some of these over
scrupulous weighers, that when once they come to a balance, that instant
they become most wilful; so it will be, you will see, with Beauclerc.
After excessive indecision, you will see him start perhaps at once to
rash action.”

“Rash of wrong, resolute of right,” said Lord Davenant.

“He is constitutionally wilful, and metaphysically vacillating,” said
Lady Davenant.

The general waited till the metaphysics were over, and then said to Lord
Davenant that he suspected there was something more than mere want of
ambition in Beauclerc’s refusal to go into parliament. Some words were
here inaudible to Helen, and the general began to walk up and down the
room with so strong a tread, that at every step the china shook on the
table near which Helen sat, so that she lost most part of what followed,
and yet it seemed interesting, about some Lord Beltravers, and a
Comtesse de Saint ---- something, or a Lady Blanche ---- somebody.

Lady Davenant looked anxious, the general’s steps became more
deliberately, more ominously firm; till lady Cecilia came up to him, and
playfully linking her arm in his, the steps were moderated, and when
a soothing hand came upon his shoulder, the compressed lips were
relaxed--she spoke in a low voice--he answered aloud.

“By all means! write to him yourself, my love; get him down here and he
will be safe; he cannot refuse you.”

“Tuesday, then?” she would name the earliest day if the general

He approved of every thing she said; “Tuesday let it be.” Following
him to the door, Lady Cecilia added something which seemed to fill the
measure of his contentment. “Always good and kind,” said he; “so let it

“Then shall I write to your sister, or will you?”

“You,” said the general, “let the kindness come from you, as it always

Lady Cecilia, in a moment at the writing-table, ran off, as fast as pen
could go, two notes, which she put into her mother’s hand, who gave
an approving nod; and, leaving them with her to seal and have franked,
Cecilia darted out on the terrace, carrying Helen along with her, to see
some Italian garden she was projecting.

And as she went, and as she stood directing the workmen, at every close
of her directions she spoke to Helen. She said she was very glad that
she had settled that Beauclerc was to come to them immediately. He was a
great favourite of hers.

“Not for any of those grandissimo qualities which my mother sees in him,
and which I am not quite clear exist; but just because he is the most
agreeable person in nature; and really natural; though he is a man of
the world, yet not the least affected. Quite fashionable, of course, but
with true feeling. Oh! he is delightful, just--” then she interrupted
herself to give directions to the workmen about her Italian garden----

“Oleander in the middle of that bed; vases nearer to the balustrade--”

“Beauclerc has a very good taste, and a beautiful place he has,
Thorndale. He will be very rich. Few very rich young men are
agreeable now, women spoil them so.--[‘Border that bed with something
pretty.’]--Still he is, and I long to know what you will think of him;
I know what I think he will think, but, however, I will say no more;
people are always sure to get into scrapes in this world, when they say
what they think.--[‘That fountain looks beautiful.’]--I forgot to tell
you he is very handsome. The general is very fond of him, and he of the
general, except when he considers him as his guardian, for Granville
Beauclerc does not particularly like to be controlled--who does? It is
a curious story.--[‘Unpack those vases, and by the time that is done I
will be back.’]--Take a turn with me, Helen, this way. It is a curious
story: Granville Beauclerc’s father--but I don’t know it perfectly, I
only know that he was a very odd man, and left the general, though he
was so much younger than himself, guardian to Granville, and settled
that he was not to be of age, I mean not to come into possession of
his large estates, till he is five-and-twenty: shockingly hard on poor
Granville, and enough to make him hate Clarendon, but he does not, and
that is charming, that is one reason I like him! So amazingly respectful
to his guardian always, considering how impetuous he is, amazingly
respectful, though I cannot say I think he is what the gardening books
call _patient of the knife_, I don’t think he likes his fancies to
be lopped; but then he is so clever. Much more what you would call a
reading man than the general, distinguished at college, and all that
which usually makes a young man conceited, but Beauclerc is only a
little headstrong--all the more agreeable, it keeps one in agitation;
one never knows how it will end, but I am sure it will all go on well
now. It is curious, too, that mamma knew him also when he was at Eton,
I believe--I don’t know how, but long before we ever heard of Clarendon,
and she corresponded with him, but I never knew him till he came to
Florence, just after it was all settled with me and the general; and he
was with us there and at Paris, and travelled home with us, and I like
him. Now you know all, except what I do not choose to tell you, so come
back to the workmen--‘That vase will not do there, move it in front of
these evergreens; that will do.’”

Then returning to Helen--“After all, I did so right, and I am so glad
I thought in time of inviting Esther, now Mr. Beauclerc is coming--the
general’s sister--half sister. Oh, so unlike him! you would never guess
that Miss Clarendon was his sister, except from her pride. But she is
so different from other people; she knows nothing, and wishes to know
nothing of the world. She lives always at an old castle in Wales, Llan
---- something, which she inherited from her mother, and she has always
been her own mistress, living with her aunt in melancholy grandeur
there, till her brother brought her to Florence, where--oh, how she was
out of her element! Come this way and I will tell you more. The fact is,
I do not not much like Miss Clarendon, and I will tell you why--I will
describe her to you.”

“No, no, do not,” said Helen; “do not, my dear Cecilia, and I will tell
you why.”

“Why--why?” cried Cecilia. “Do you recollect the story my uncle told us
about the young bride and her old friend, and the bit of advice?”

No, Cecilia did not recollect any thing of it. She should be very glad
to hear the anecdote, but as to the advice, she hated advice.

“Still, if you knew who gave it--it was given by a very great man.”

“A very great man! now you make me curious. Well, what is it?” said Lady

“That for one year after her marriage, she would not tell to her friends
the opinion she had formed, if unfavourable, of any of her husband’s
relations, as it was probable she might change that opinion on knowing
them better, and would afterwards be sorry for having told her first
hasty judgment. Long afterwards the lady told her friend that she owed
to this advice a great part of the happiness of her life, for she really
had, in the course of the year, completely changed her first notions of
some of her husband’s family, and would have had sorely to repent, if
she had told her first thoughts!”

Cecilia listened, and said it was all “Vastly well! excellent! But I
had nothing in the world to say of Miss Clarendon, but that she was too
good--too sincere for the world we live in. For instance, at Paris, one
day a charming Frenchwoman was telling some anecdote of the day in the
most amusing manner. Esther Clarendon all the while stood by, grave and
black as night, and at last turning upon our charmer at the end of the
story, pronounced, ‘There is not one word of truth in all you have been
saying!’ Conceive it, in full salon! The French were in such amazement.
‘Inconceivable!’ as they might well say to me, as she walked off with
her tragedy-queen air; _‘Inconcevable--mais, vraiment inconcevable;’_
and _‘Bien Anglaise,’_ they would have added, no doubt, if I had not
been by.”

“But there must surely have been some particular reason,” said Helen.

“None in the world, only the story was not true, I believe. And then
another time, when she was with her cousin, the Duchess of Lisle, at
Lisle-Royal, and was to have gone out the next season in London with the
Duchess, she came down one morning, just before they were to set off for
town, and declared that she had heard such a quantity of scandal since
she had been there, and such shocking things of London society, that she
had resolved not to go out with the Duchess, and not to go to town at
all? So absurd--so prudish!”

Helen felt some sympathy in this, and was going to have said so, but
Cecilia went on with--

“And then to expect that Granville Beauclerc--should--”

Here Cecilia paused, and Helen felt curious, and ashamed of her
curiosity; she turned away, to raise the branches of some shrub, which
were drooping from the weight of their flowers.

“I know something _has_ been thought of,” said Cecilia. “A match has
been in contemplation--do you comprehend me, Helen?”

“You mean that Mr. Beauclerc is to marry Miss Clarendon,” said Helen,
compelled to speak.

“I only say it has been thought of,” replied Lady Cecilia; “that is, as
every thing in this way is thought of about every couple not within the
prohibited degrees, one’s grandmother inclusive. And the plainer the
woman, the more sure she is to contemplate such things for herself, lest
no one else should think of them for her. But, my dear Helen, if you
mean to ask--”

“Oh, I don’t mean to ask any thing,” cried Helen.

“But, whether you ask or not, I must tell you that the general is too
proud to own, even to himself, that he could; ever think of any man for
his sister who had not first proposed for her.”

There was a pause for some minutes.

“But,” resumed Lady Cecilia, “I could not do less than ask her here
for Clarendon’s sake, when I know it pleases him; and she is
very--estimable, and so I wish to make her love me if I could! But I do
not think she will be nearer her point with Mr. Beauclerc, if it is her
point, by coming here just now. Granville has eyes as well as ears,
and contrasts will strike. I know who I wish should strike him, as she
strikes me--and I think--I hope--”

Helen looked distressed.

“I am as innocent as a dove,” pursued Lady Cecilia; “but I suppose even
doves may have their own private little thoughts and wishes.”

Helen was sure Cecilia had meant all this most kindly, but she was
sorry that some things had been said. She was conscious of having been
interested by those letters of Mr. Beauclerc’s; but a particular thought
had now been put into her mind, and she could never more say, never
more feel, that such a thought had not come into her head. She was very
sorry; it seemed as if somewhat of the freshness, the innocence, of her
mind was gone from her. She was sorry, too, that she had heard all
that Cecilia had said about Miss Clarendon; it appeared as if she was
actually doomed to get into some difficulty with the general about his
sister; she felt as if thrown back into a sea of doubts, and she was not
clear that she could, even by opposing, end them.

On the appointed Tuesday, late, Miss Clarendon arrived; a fine figure,
but ungraceful, as Helen observed, from the first moment when she
turned sharply away from Lady Cecilia’s embrace to a great dog of her
brother’s--“Ah, old Neptune! I’m glad you’re here still.”

And when Lady Cecilia would have put down his paws--“Let him alone, let
him alone, dear, honest, old fellow.”

“But the dear, honest, old fellow’s paws are wet, and will ruin your
pretty new pelisse.”

“It may be new, but you know it is not pretty,” said Miss Clarendon,
continuing to pat Neptune’s head as he jumped up with his paws on her

“O my dear Esther, how can you bear him? he is so rough in his love!”

“I like rough better than smooth.” The rough paw caught in her lace
frill, and it was torn to pieces before “down! down!” and the united
efforts of Lady Cecilia and Helen could extricate it.--“Don’t distress
yourselves about it, pray; it does not signify in the least. Poor
Neptune, how really sorry he looks--there, there, wag your tail
again--no one shall come between us two old friends.”

Her brother came in, and, starting up, her arms were thrown round his
neck, and her bonnet falling back, Helen who had thought her quite plain
before, was surprised to see that, now her colour was raised, and there
was life in her eyes, she was really handsome.

Gone again that expression, when Cecilia spoke to her: whatever she
said, Miss Clarendon differed from; if it was a matter of taste, she
was always of the contrary opinion; if narrative or assertion,
she questioned, doubted, seemed as if she could not believe. Her
conversation, if conversation it could be called, was a perpetual
rebating and regrating, especially with her sister-in-law; if Lady
Cecilia did but say there were three instead of four, it was taken up as
“quite a mistake,” and marked not only as a mistake, but as “not true.”
 Every, the slightest error, became a crime against majesty, and the
first day ended with Helen’s thinking her really the most disagreeable,
intolerable person she had ever seen.

And the second day went on a little worse. Helen thought Cecilia took
too much pains to please, and said it would be better to let her quite
alone. Helen did so completely, but Miss Clarendon did not let Helen
alone; but watched her with penetrating eyes continually, listened to
every word she said, and seeming to weigh every syllable,--“Oh, my words
are not worth your weighing,” said Helen, laughing.

“Yes they are, to settle my mind.”

The first thing that seemed at all to settle it was Helen’s not agreeing
with Cecilia about the colour of two ribands which Helen said she could
not flatter her were good matches. The next was about a drawing of Miss
Clarendon’s, of Llansillan, her place in Wales; a beautiful drawing
indeed, which she had brought for her brother, but one of the towers
certainly was out of the perpendicular. Helen was appealed to, and could
not say it was upright; Miss Clarendon instantly took up a knife, cut
the paper at the back of the frame, and, taking out the drawing, set the
tower to rights.

“There’s the use of telling the truth.”

“Of listening to it,” said Helen.

“We shall get on, I see, Miss Stanley, if you can get over the first
bitter outside of me;--a hard outside, difficult to crack--stains
delicate fingers, may be,” she continued, as she replaced her drawing in
its frame--“stains delicate fingers, may be, in the opening, but a good
walnut you will find it, taken with a grain of salt.”

Many a grain seemed necessary, and very strong nut-crackers in very
strong hands. Lady Cecilia’s evidently were not strong enough, though
she strained hard. Helen did not feel inclined to try.

Cecilia invited Miss Clarendon to walk out and see some of the
alterations her brother had made. As they passed the new Italian garden,
Miss Clarendon asked, “What’s all this?--don’t like this--how I regret
the Old English garden, and the high beech hedges. Every thing is to be
changed here, I suppose,--pray do not ask my opinion about any of the

“I do not wonder,” said Cecilia, “that you should prefer the old garden,
with all your early associations; warm-hearted, amiable people must
always be so fond of what they have loved in childhood.”

“I never was here when I was a child, and I am not one of your amiable

“Very true, indeed,” thought Helen.

“Miss Stanley looks at me as if I had seven heads,” said Miss Clarendon,
laughing; and, a minute after, overtaking Helen as she walked on, she
looked full in her face, and added, “Do acknowledge that you think me
a savage.” Helen did not deny it, and from that moment Miss Clarendon
looked less savagely upon her: she laughed and said, “I am not quite
such a bear as I seem, you’ll find; at least I never hug people to
death. My growl is worse than my bite, unless some one should flatter my
classical, bearish passion, and offer to feed me with honey, and when I
find it all comb and no honey, who would not growl then?”

Lady Cecilia now came up, and pointed out views to which the general had
opened. “Yes, it’s well, he has done very well, but pray don’t stand
on ceremony with me. I can walk alone, you may leave me to my own
cogitations, as I like best.”

“Surely, as you like best,” said Lady Cecilia; “pray consider yourself,
as you know you are, at home here.”

“No, I never shall be at home here,” said Esther.

“Oh! don’t say that, let me hope--let me hope--” and she withdrew. Helen
just stayed to unlock a gate for Miss Clarendon’s ‘rambles further,’
and, as she unlocked it, she heard Miss Clarendon sigh as she repeated
the word, “Hope! I do not like to hope, hope has so often deceived me.”

“You will never be deceived in Cecilia,” said Helen.

“Take care--stay till you try.”

“I have tried,” said Helen, “I know her.”

“How long?”

“From childhood!”

“You’re scarcely out of childhood yet.”

“I am not so very young. I have had trials of my friends--of Cecilia
particularly, much more than you could ever have had.”

“Well, this is the best thing I ever heard of her, and from good
authority too; her friends abroad were all false,” said Miss Clarendon.

“It is very extraordinary,” said Helen, “to hear such a young person as
you are talk so--


“Of false friends--you must have been very unfortunate.”

“Pardon me--very fortunate--to find them out in time.” She looked at
the prospect, and liked all that her brother was doing, and disliked all
that she even guessed Lady Cecilia had done. Helen showed her that she
guessed wrong here and there, and smiled at her prejudices; and Miss
Clarendon smiled again, and admitted that she was prejudiced, “but every
body is; only some show and tell, and others smile and fib. I wish that
word fib was banished from English language, and white lie drummed out
after it. Things by their right names and we should all do much better.
Truth must be told, whether agreeable or not.”

“But whoever makes truth disagreeable commits high treason against
virtue,” said Helen.

“Is that yours?” cried Miss Clarendon, stopping short.

“No,” said Helen. “It is excellent whoever said it.”

“It was from my uncle Stanley I heard it,” said Helen.

“Superior man that uncle must have been.”

“I will leave you now,” said Helen.

“Do, I see we shall like one another in time, Miss Stanley; in time,--I
hate sudden friendships.”

That evening Miss Clarendon questioned Helen more about her friendship
with Cecilia, and how it was she came to live with her. Helen plainly
told her.

“Then it was not an original promise between you?”

“Not at all,” said Helen.

“Lady Cecilia told me it was. Just like her,--I knew all the time it was
a lie.”

Shocked and startled at the word, and at the idea, Helen exclaimed, “Oh!
Miss Clarendon, how can you say so? anybody may be mistaken. Cecilia
mistook--” Lady Cecilia joined them at this moment. Miss Clarendon’s
face was flushed. “This room is insufferably hot. What can be the use of
a fire at this time of year?”

Cecilia said it was for her mother, who was apt to be chilly in the
evenings; and as she spoke, she put a screen between the flushed cheek
and the fire. Miss Clarendon pushed it away, saying, “I can’t talk, I
can’t hear, I can’t understand with a screen before me. What did you
say, Lady Cecilia, to Lady Davenant, as we came out from dinner, about
Mr. Beauclerc?”

“That we expect him to-morrow.”

“You did not tell me so when you wrote!”

“No, my dear.”

“Why pray?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know, Lady Cecilia! why should people say they do not know,
when they do know perfectly well?”

“If I had thought it was of any consequence to you, Esther,” said
Cecilia, with an arch look----

“Now you expect me to answer that it was not of the least consequence to
me--that is the answer you would make; but my answer is, that it was of
consequence to me, and you knew it was.”

“And if I did?”

“If you did, why say ‘If I had thought it of any consequence to
you?’--why say so? answer me truly.”

“Answer me truly!” repeated Lady Cecilia, laughing. “Oh, my dear Esther,
we are not in a court of justice.”

“Nor in a court of honour,” pursued Miss Clarendon.

“Well, well! let it be a court of love at least,” said Lady Cecilia.
“What a pretty proverb that was, Helen, that we met with the other day
in that book of old English proverbs--‘Love rules his kingdom without a

“Very likely; but to the point,” said Miss Clarendon, “when do you
expect Mr. Beauclerc?”


“Then I shall go to-morrow!”

“My dear Esther, why?”

“You know why; you know what reports have been spread; it suits neither
my character nor my brother’s to give any foundation for such reports.
Let me ring the bell and I will give my own orders.”

“My dear Esther, but your brother will be so vexed--so surprised.”

“My brother is the best judge of his own conduct, he will do what he
pleases, or what you please. I am the judge of mine, and certainly shall
do what I think right.”

She rang accordingly, and ordered that her carriage should be at the
door at six o’clock in the morning.

“Nay, my dear Esther,” persisted Cecilia, “I wish you would not decide
so suddenly; we were so glad to have you come to us--”

“Glad! why you know--”

“I know,” interrupted Lady Cecilia, colouring, and she began as fast
as possible to urge every argument she could think of to persuade Miss
Clarendon; but no arguments, no entreaties of hers or the general’s,
public or private, were of any avail,--go she would, and go she did at
six o’clock.

“I suppose,” said Helen to Lady Davenant, “that Miss Clarendon is very
estimable, and she seems to be very clever: but I wonder that with all
her abilities she does not learn to make her manners more agreeable.”

“My dear,” said Lady Davenant, “we must take people as they are; you may
graft a rose upon an oak, but those who have tried the experiment tell
us the graft will last but a short time, and the operation ends in the
destruction of both; where the stocks have no common nature, there is
ever a want of conformity which sooner or later proves fatal to both.”

But Beauclerc, what was become of him?--that day passed, and no
Beauclerc; another and another came, and on the third day, only a letter
from him, which ought to have come on Tuesday.--But “_too late_,” the
shameful brand of procrastination was upon it--and it contained only a
few lines blotted in the folding, to say that he could not possibly
be at Clarendon Park on Tuesday, but would on Wednesday or Thursday if

Good-natured Lord Davenant observed, “When a young man in London,
writing to his friends in the country, names two days for leaving town,
and adds an ‘_if possible_’ his friends should never expect him till the
last of the two named.”

The last of the two days arrived--Thursday. The aide-de-camp asked if
Mr. Beauclerc was expected to-day. “Yes, I expect to see him to-day,”
 the general answered.

“I hope, but do not expect,” said Lady Davenant, “for, as learned
authority tells me, ‘to expect is to hope with some degree of

The general left the room repeating, “I expect him to-day, Cecilia.”

The day passed, however, and he came not--the night came. The general
ordered that the gate should be kept open, and that a servant should
sit up. The servant sat up all night, cursing Mr. Beauclerc. And in the
morning he replied with malicious alacrity to the first question his
master asked, “No, Sir, Mr. Beauclerc is not come.”

At breakfast, the general, after buttering his bread in silence for some
minutes, confessed that he loved punctuality. It might be a military
prejudice;--it might be too professional, martinet perhaps,--but
still he owned he did love punctuality. He considered it as a part
of politeness, a proper attention to the convenience and feelings of
others; indispensable between strangers it is usually felt to be, and he
did not know why intimate friends should deem themselves privileged to
dispense with it.

His eyes met Helen’s as he finished these words, and smiling, he
complimented her upon her constant punctuality. It was a voluntary grace
in a lady, but an imperative duty in a man--and a young man.

“You are fond of this young man, I see general,” said Lord Davenant.

“But not of his fault.”

Lady Cecilia said something about forgiving a first fault.

“Never!” said Lady Davenant. “Lord Collingwood’s rule was--never forgive
a first fault, and you will not have a second. You love Beauclerc, I
see, as Lord Davenant says.”

“Love him!” resumed the general; “with all his faults and follies, I
love him as if he were my brother.”

At which words Lady Cecilia, with a scarcely perceptible smile, cast a
furtive glance at Helen.

The general called for his horses, and, followed by his aide-de-camp,
departed, saying that he should be back at luncheon-time, when he
hoped to find Beauclerc. In the same hope, Lady Davenant ordered
her pony-phaeton earlier than usual; Lady Cecilia further hoped most
earnestly that Beauclerc would come this day, for the next the house
would be full of company, and she really wished to have him one day at
least to themselves, and she gave a most significant glance at Helen.

“The first move often secures the game against the best players,” said

Helen blushed, because she could not help understanding; she was
ashamed, vexed with Cecilia, yet pleased by her kindness, and half
amused by her arch look and tone.

They were neither of them aware that Lady Davenant had heard the words
that passed, or seen the looks; but immediately afterwards, when they
were leaving the breakfast-room, Lady Davenant came between the two
friends, laid her hand upon her daughter’s arm, and said,

“Before you make any move in a dangerous game, listen to the voice of
old experience.”

Lady Cecilia startled, looked up, but as if she did not comprehend.

“Cupid’s bow, my dear,” continued her mother, “is, as the Asiatics tell
us, strung with bees, which are apt to sting--sometimes fatally--those
who meddle with it.”

Lady Cecilia still looked with an innocent air, and still as if she
could not comprehend.

“To speak more plainly, then, Cecilia,” said her mother, “build
no matrimonial castles in the air; standing or falling they do
mischief--mischief either to the builder, or to those for whom they may
be built.”

“Certainly if they fall they disappoint one,” said Lady Cecilia, “but if
they stand?”

Seeing that she made no impression on her daughter, Lady Davenant turned
to Helen, and gravely said,--

“My dear Helen, do not let my daughter inspire you with false, and
perhaps vain imaginations, certainly premature, therefore unbecoming.”

Helen shrunk back, yet instantly looked up, and her look was ingenuously

“But, mamma,” said Lady Cecilia, “I declare I do not understand what all
this is about.”

“About Mr. Granville Beauclerc,” said her mother.

“How can you, dear mamma, pronounce his name so _tout an long?_”

“Pardon my indelicacy, my dear; delicacy is a good thing, but truth a
better. I have seen the happiness of many young women sacrificed by such
false delicacy, and by the fear of giving a moment’s present pain, which
it is sometimes the duty of a true friend to give.”

“Certainly, certainly, mamma, only not necessary now; and I am so sorry
you have said all this to poor dear Helen.”

“If you have said nothing to her, Cecilia, I acknowledge I have said too

“I said--I did nothing,” cried Lady Cecilia; “I built no castles--never
built a regular castle in my life; never had a regular plan in my
existence; never mentioned his name, except about another person--”

An appealing look to Helen was however _protested_.

“To the best of my recollection, at least,” Lady Cecilia immediately

“Helen seems to be blushing for your want of recollection, Cecilia.”

“I am sure I do not know why you blush, Helen. I am certain I never did
say a word distinctly.”

“Not _distinctly_ certainly,” said Helen in a low voice. “It was my
fault if I understood----”

“Always true, you are,” said Lady Davenant.

“I protest I said nothing but the truth,” cried Lady Cecilia hastily.

“But not the whole truth, Cecilia,” said her mother.

“I did, upon my word, mamma,” persisted Lady Cecilia, repeating “upon my

“Upon your word, Cecilia! that is either a vulgar expletive or a most
serious asseveration.”

She spoke with a grave tone, and with her severe look, and Helen dared
not raise her eyes; Lady Cecilia now coloured deeply.

“Shame! Nature’s hasty conscience,” said Lady Davenant. “Heaven preserve

“Oh, mother!” cried Lady Cecilia, laying her hand on her mother’s,
“surely you do not think seriously--surely you are not angry--I cannot
bear to see you displeased,” said she, looking up imploringly in her
mother’s face, and softly, urgently pressing her hand. No pressure was
returned; that hand was slowly and with austere composure withdrawn, and
her mother walked away down the corridor to her own room. Lady Cecilia
stood still, and the tears came into her eyes.

“My dear friend, I am exceedingly sorry,” said Helen. She could not
believe that Cecilia meant to say what was not true, yet she felt that
she had been to blame in not telling all, and her mother in saying too

Lady Cecilia, her tears dispersed, stood looking at the impression which
her mother’s signet-ring had left in the palm of her hand. It was at
that moment a disagreeable recollection that the motto of that ring was
“Truth.” Rubbing the impress from her hand, she said, half speaking to
herself, and half to Helen--“I am sure I did not mean anything wrong;
and I am sure nothing can be more true than that I never formed a
regular plan in my life. After all, I am sure that so much has been said
about nothing, that I do not understand anything: I never do, when mamma
goes on in that way, making mountains of molehills, which she always
does with me, and did ever since I was a child; but she really forgets
that I am not a child. Now, it is well the general was not by; he would
never have borne to see his wife so treated. But I would not, for the
world, be the cause of any disagreement. Oh! Helen, my mother does not
know how I love her, let her be ever so severe to me! But she never
loved me; she cannot help it. I believe she does her best to love me--my
poor, dear mother!”

Helen seized this opportunity to repeat the warm expressions she had
heard so lately from Lady Davenant, and melting they sunk into Cecilia’s
heart. She kissed Helen again and again, for a dear, good peacemaker,
as she always was--and “I’m resolved”--but in the midst of her good
resolves she caught a glimpse through the glass door opening on the
park, of the general, and a fine horse they were ringing, and she
hurried out: all light of heart she went, as though

  “Or shake the downy _blowball_ from her stalk.”


Since Lord Davenant’s arrival, Lady Davenant’s time was so much taken
up with him, that Helen could not have many opportunities of conversing
with her, and she was the more anxious to seize every one that occurred.
She always watched for the time when Lady Davenant went out in her pony
phaeton, for then she had her delightfully to herself, the carriage
holding only two.

It was at the door, and Lady Davenant was crossing the hall followed by
Helen, when Cecilia came in with a look, unusual in her, of being much

“Another put off from Mr. Beauclerc! He will not be here to-day. I give
him up.”

Lady Davenant stopped short, and asked whether Cecilia had told him that
probably she should soon be gone?

“To be sure I did, mamma.”

“And what reason does he give for his delay?”

“None, mamma, none--not the least apology. He says, very cavalierly
indeed, that he is the worst man in the world at making excuses--shall
attempt none.”

“There he is right” said Lady Davenant. “Those who are good at excuses,
as Franklin justly observed, are apt to be good for nothing else.”

The general came up the steps at this moment, rolling a note between his
fingers, and looking displeased. Lady Davenant inquired if he could tell
her the cause of Mr. Beauclerc’s delay. He could not.

Lady Cecilia exclaimed--“Very extraordinary! Provoking! Insufferable!

“It is Mr. Beauclerc’s own affair,” said Lady Davenant, wrapping her
shawl round her; and, taking the general’s arm, she walked on to
her carriage. Seating herself, and gathering up the reins, she
repeated--“Mr. Beauclerc’s own affair, completely.”

The lash of her whip was caught somewhere, and, while the groom
was disentangling it, she reiterated--“That will do: let the horses
go:”--and with half-suppressed impatience thanked Helen, who was
endeavouring to arrange some ill-disposed cloak--“Thank you, thank you,
my dear: it’s all very well. Sit down, Helen.”

She drove off rapidly, through the beautiful park scenery But the
ancient oaks, standing alone, casting vast shadows, the distant massive
woods of magnificent extent and of soft and varied foliage; the secluded
glades, all were lost upon her. Looking straight between her horses’
ears, she drove on in absolute silence.

Helen’s idea of Mr. Beauclerc’s importance increased wonderfully. What
must he be whose coming or not coming could so move all the world, or
those who were all the world to her? And, left to her own cogitations,
she was picturing to herself what manner of man he might be, when
suddenly Lady Davenant turned, and asked what she was thinking of?

“I beg your pardon for startling you so, my dear; I am aware that it
is a dreadfully imprudent, impertinent question--one which, indeed, I
seldom ask. Few interest me sufficiently to make me care of what they
think: from fewer still could I expect to hear the truth. Nay--nothing
upon compulsion, Helen. Only say plainly, if you would rather not tell
me. That answer I should prefer to the ingenious formula of evasion,
the solecism in metaphysics, which Cecilia used the other day, when
unwittingly I asked her of what she was thinking--‘Of a great many
different things, mamma.’”

Helen, still more alarmed by Lady Davenant’s speech than by her
question, and aware of the conclusions which might be drawn from her
answer, nevertheless bravely replied that she had been thinking of Mr.
Beauclerc, of what he might be whose coming or not coming was of such
consequence. As she spoke the expression of Lady Davenant’s countenance

“Thank you, my dear child, you are truth itself, and truly do I love you
therefore. It’s well that you did not ask me of what I was thinking, for
I am not sure that I could have answered so directly.”

“But I could never have presumed to ask such a question of you,” said
Helen, “there is such a difference.”

“Yes,” replied Lady Davenant; “there is such a difference as age and
authority require to be made, but nevertheless, such as is not quite
consistent with the equal rights of friendship. You have told me the
subject of your day-dream, my love, and if you please, I will tell you
the subject of mine. I was rapt into times long past: I was living over
again some early scenes--some which are connected, and which connect me,
in a curious manner, with this young man, Mr. Granville Beauclerc.”

She seemed to speak with some difficulty, and yet to be resolved to go
on. “Helen, I have a mind,” continued she, “to tell you what, in the
language of affected autobiographers, I might call ‘some passages of my

Helen’s eyes brightened, as she eagerly thanked her: but hearing a
half-suppressed sigh, she added--“Not if it is painful to you though, my
dear Lady Davenant.”

“Painful it must be,” she replied, “but it may be useful to you; and a
weak friend is that who can do only what is pleasurable. You have
often trusted me with those little inmost feelings of the heart, which,
however innocent, we shrink from exposing to any but the friends we most
love; it is unjust and absurd of those advancing in years to expect of
the young that confidence should come all and only on their side: the
human heart, at whatever age, opens only to the heart that opens in

Lady Davenant paused again, and then said,--“It is a general opinion,
that nobody is the better for advice.”

“I am sure I do not think so,” said Helen.

“I am glad you do not; nor do I. Much depends upon the way in which it
is offered. General maxims, drawn from experience, are, to the young at
least, but as remarks--moral sentences--mere dead letter, and take no
hold of the mind. ‘I have felt’ must come before ‘I think,’ especially
in speaking to a young friend, and, though I am accused of being so
fond of generalising that I never come to particulars, I can and will:
therefore, my dear, I will tell you some particulars of my life, in
which, take notice, there are no adventures. Mine has been a life of
passion--of feeling, at least,--not of incidents: nothing, my dear, to
excite or to gratify curiosity.”

“But, independent of all curiosity about events,” said Helen, “there
is such an interest in knowing what has been really felt and thought in
their former lives by those we know and love.”

“I shall sink in your esteem,” said Lady Davenant--“so be it.”

“I need not begin, as most people do, with ‘I was born’--” but,
interrupting herself, she said, “this heat is too much for me.”

They turned into a long shady drive through the woods. Lady Davenant
drew up the reins, and her ponies walked slowly on the grassy road;
then, turning to Helen, she said:--

“It would have been well for me if any friend had, when I was of your
age, put me on my guard against my own heart: but my too indulgent, too
sanguine mother, led me into the very danger against which she should
have warned me--she misled me, though without being aware of it. Our
minds, our very natures differed strangely.

“She was a castle-builder--yes, now you know, my dear, why I spoke so
strongly, and, as you thought, so severely this morning. My mother was
a castle-builder of the ordinary sort: a worldly plan of a castle was
hers, and little care had she about the knight within; yet she
had sufficient tact to know that it must be the idea of the _preux
chevalier_ that would lure her daughter into the castle. Prudent for
herself, imprudent for me, and yet she loved me--all she did was for
love of me. She managed with so much address, that I had no suspicion
of my being the subject of any speculation--otherwise, probably, my
imagination might have revolted, my self-will have struggled, my pride
have interfered, or my delicacy might have been alarmed, but nothing of
all that happened; I was only too ready, too glad to believe all that I
was told, all that appeared in that spring-time of hope and love. I was
very romantic, not in the modern fashionable young-lady sense of the
word, with the mixed ideas of a shepherdess’s hat and the paraphernalia
of a peeress--love in a cottage, and a fashionable house in town. No;
mine was honest, pure, real romantic love--absurd if you will; it was
love nursed by imagination more than by hope. I had early, in my
secret soul, as perhaps you have at this instant in yours, a pattern of
perfection--something chivalrous, noble, something that is no longer to
be seen now-a-days--the more delightful to imagine, the moral
sublime and beautiful; more than human, yet with the extreme of human
tenderness. Mine was to be a demigod whom I could worship, a husband to
whom I could always look up, with whom I could always sympathise, and to
whom I could devote myself with all a woman’s self-devotion. I had then
a vast idea--as I think you have now, Helen--of self-devotion; you would
devote yourself to your friends, but I could not shape any of my friends
into a fit object. So after my own imagination I made one, dwelt upon
it, doated on it, and at last threw this bright image of my own
fancy full upon the being to whom I thought I was most happily
destined--destined by duty, chosen by affection. The words ‘I love you’
once pronounced, I gave my whole heart in return, gave it, sanctified,
as I felt, by religion. I had high religious sentiments; a vow once
passed the lips, a look, a single look of appeal to Heaven, was as much
for me as if pronounced at the altar, and before thousands to witness.
Some time was to elapse before the celebration of our marriage.
Protracted engagements are unwise, yet I should not say so; this gave me
time to open my eyes--my bewitched eyes: still, some months I passed
in a trance of beatification, with visions of duties all
performed--benevolence universal, and gratitude, and high success, and
crowns of laurel, for my hero, for he was military; it all joined well
in my fancy. All the pictured tales of vast heroic deeds were to be his.
Living, I was to live in the radiance of his honour; or dying, to die
with him, and then to be most blessed.

“It is all to me now as a dream, long passed, and never told; no, never,
except to him who had a right to know it--my husband, and now to you,
Helen. From my dream I was awakened by a rude shock--I saw, I thank
Heaven I first, and I alone, saw that his heart was gone from me--that
his heart had never been mine--that it was unworthy of me. No, I
will not say that; I will not think so. Still I trust he had deceived
himself, though not so much as he deceived me. I am willing to believe
he did not know that what he professed for me was not love, till he was
seized by that passion for another, a younger, fairer----Oh! how much
fairer. Beauty is a great gift of Heaven--not for the purposes of female
vanity; but a great gift for one who loves, and wishes to be loved. But
beauty I had not.”

“Had not!” interrupted Helen, “I always heard----”

“_He_ did not think so, my dear; no matter what others thought, at least
so I felt at that time. My identity is so much changed that I can look
back upon this now, and tell it all to you calmly.

“It was at a rehearsal of ancient music; I went there accidentally one
morning without my mother, with a certain old duchess and her daughters;
the dowager full of some Indian screen which she was going to buy; the
daughters, intent, one of them, on a quarrel between two of the singers;
the other upon loves and hates of her own. I was the only one of the
party who had any real taste for music. I was then particularly fond of

“Well, my dear, I must come to the point,” her voice changing as she
spoke.--“After such a lapse of time, during which my mind, my whole self
has so changed, I could not have believed before I began to speak on
this subject, that these reminiscences could have so moved me; but it is
merely this sudden wakening of ideas long dormant, for years not called
up, never put into words.

“I was sitting, wrapt in a silent ecstasy of pleasure, leaning back
behind the whispering party, when I saw him come in, and, thinking only
of his sharing my delight, I made an effort to catch his attention, but
he did not see me--his eye was fixed on another; I followed that eye,
and saw that most beautiful creature on which it fixed; I saw him seat
himself beside her--one look was enough--it was conviction. A pang went
through me; I grew cold, but made no sound nor motion; I gasped for
breath, I believe, but I did not faint. None cared for me; I was
unnoticed--saved from the abasement of pity. I struggled to retain
my self-command, and was enabled to complete the purpose on which I
then--even _then_, resolved. That resolve gave me force.

“In any great emotion we can speak better to those who do not care for
us than to those who feel for us. More calmly than I now speak to you, I
turned to the person who then sat beside me, to the dowager whose heart
was in the Indian screen, and begged that I might not longer detain her,
as I wished that she would carry me home--she readily complied: I had
presence of mind enough to move when we could do so without attracting
attention. It was well that woman talked as she did all the way home;
she never saw, never suspected, the agony of her to whom she spoke. I
ran up to my own room, bolted the door, and threw myself into a chair;
that is the last thing I remember, till I found myself lying on the
floor, wakening from a state of insensibility. I know not what time had
elapsed; so as soon as I could I rang for my maid; she had knocked at my
door, and, supposing I slept, had not disturbed me--my mother, I found,
had not yet returned.

“I dressed for dinner: HE was to dine with us. It was my custom to see
him for a few minutes before the rest of the company arrived. No time
ever appeared to me so dreadfully long as the interval between my being
dressed that day and his arrival.

“I heard him coming up stairs: my heart beat so violently that I feared
I should not be able to speak with dignity and composure, but the motive
was sufficient.

“What I said I know not; I am certain only that it was without one
word of reproach. What I had at one glance foreboded was true--he
acknowledged it. I released him from all engagement to me. I saw he was
evidently relieved by the determined tone of my refusal--at what expense
to my heart he was set free, he saw not--never knew--never suspected.
But after that first involuntary expression of the pleasure of relief, I
saw in his countenance surprise, a sort of mortified astonishment at my
self-possession. I own my woman’s pride enjoyed this; it was something
better than pride--the sense of the preservation of my dignity. I felt
that in this shipwreck of my happiness I made no cowardly exposure of my
feelings, but he did not understand me. Our minds, as I now found, moved
in different orbits. We could not comprehend each other. Instead of
feeling, as the instinct of generosity would have taught him to feel,
that I was sacrificing my happiness to his, he told me that he now
believed I had never loved him. My eyes were opened--I saw him at once
as he really was. The ungenerous look upon self-devotion as madness,
folly, or art: he could not think me a fool, he did not think me mad,
artful I believe he did suspect me to be; he concluded that I made
the discovery of his inconstancy an excuse for my own; he thought me,
perhaps, worse than capricious, interested--for, our engagement being
unknown, a lover of higher rank had, in the interval, presented himself.
My perception of this base suspicion was useful to me at the moment, as
it roused my spirit, and I went through the better, and without relapse
of tenderness, with that which I had undertaken. One condition only I
made; I insisted that this explanation should rest between us two;
that, in fact, and in manner, the breaking off the match should be left
entirely to me. And to this part of the business I now look back with
satisfaction, and I have honest pride in telling you, who will feel
the same for me, that I practised in the whole conduct of the affair no
deceit of any kind, not one falsehood was told. The world knew nothing;
there my mother had been prudent. She was the only person to whom I was
bound to explain--to speak, I mean, for I did not feel myself bound
to explain. Perfect confidence only can command perfect confidence in
whatever relation of life. I told her all that she had a right to know.
I announced to her that the intended marriage could never be--that I
objected to it; that both our minds were changed; that we were both
satisfied in having released each other from our mutual engagement.
I had, as I foresaw, to endure my mother’s anger, her entreaties, her
endless surprise, her bitter disappointment; but she exhausted all
these, and her mind turned sooner than I had expected to that hope of
higher establishment which amused her during the rest of the season in
London. Two months of it were still to be passed--to me the two most
painful months of my existence. The daily, nightly, effort of appearing
in public, while I was thus wretched, in the full gala of life in the
midst of the young, the gay, the happy--broken-hearted as I felt--it was
an effort beyond my strength. That summer was, I remember, intolerably
hot. Whenever my mother observed that I looked pale, and that my spirits
were not so good as formerly, I exerted myself more and more; accepted
every invitation because I dared not refuse; I danced at this ball,
and the next, and the next; urged on, I finished to the dregs the
dissipation of the season.

“My mother certainly made me do dreadfully too much. But I blame
others, as we usually do when we are ourselves the most to blame--I had
attempted that which could not be done. By suppressing all outward sign
of suffering, allowing no vent for sorrow in words or tears--by actual
force of compression--I thought at once to extinguish my feelings.
Little did I know of the human heart when I thought this! The weak are
wise in yielding to the first shock. They cannot be struck to the
earth who sink prostrate; sorrow has little power where there is no
resistance.--‘The flesh will follow where the pincers tear.’ Mine was a
presumptuous--it had nearly been a fatal struggle. That London season at
last over, we got into the country; I expected rest, but found none. The
pressing necessity for exertion over, the stimulus ceasing, I sunk--sunk
into a state of apathy. Time enough had elapsed between the breaking off
of my marriage and the appearance of this illness, to prevent any ideas
on my mother’s part of cause and effect, ideas indeed which were never
much looked for, or well joined in her mind. The world knew nothing of
the matter. My illness went under the convenient head ‘nervous.’ I heard
all the opinions pronounced on my case, and knew they were all mistaken,
but I swallowed whatever they pleased. No physician, I repeated to
myself, can ‘minister to a mind diseased.’

“I tried to call religion to my aid; but my religious sentiments were,
at that time, tinctured with the enthusiasm of my early character. Had I
been a Catholic, I should have escaped from my friends and thrown myself
into a cloister; as it was, I had formed a strong wish to retire from
that world which was no longer anything to me: the spring of passion,
which I then thought the spring of life, being broken, I meditated my
resolution secretly and perpetually as I lay on my bed. They used to
read to me, and, among other things, some papers of ‘The Rambler,’ which
I liked not at all; its tripod sentences tired my ear, but I let them go
on--as well one sound as another.

“It chanced that one night, as I was going to sleep, an eastern story in
‘The Rambler,’ was read to me, about some man, a-weary of the world, who
took to the peaceful hermitage. There was a regular moral tagged to the
end of it, a thing I hate, the words were, ‘No life pleasing to God that
is not useful to man.’ When I wakened in the middle of that night, this
sentence was before my eyes, and the words seemed to repeat themselves
over and over again to my ears when I was sinking to sleep. The
impression remained in my mind, and though I never voluntarily recurred
to it, came out long afterwards, perfectly fresh, and became a motive of

“Strange, mysterious connection between mind and body; in mere animal
nature we see the same. The bird wakened from his sleep to be taught a
tune sung to him in the dark, and left to sleep again,--the impression
rests buried within him, and weeks afterward he comes out with the
tune perfect. But these are only phenomena of memory--mine was more
extraordinary. I am not sure that I can explain it to you. In my weak
state, my understanding enfeebled as much as my body--my reason weaker
than my memory, I could not help allowing myself to think that the
constant repetition of that sentence was a warning sent to me from
above. As I grew stronger, the superstition died away, but the sense of
the thing still remained with me. It led me to examine and reflect. It
did more than all my mother’s entreaties could effect. I had refused to
see any human creature, but I now consented to admit a few. The charm
was broken. I gave up my longing for solitude, my plan of retreat from
the world; suffered myself to be carried where they pleased--to Brighton
it was--to my mother’s satisfaction. I was ready to appear in the ranks
of fashion at the opening of the next London campaign. Automatically
I ‘ran my female exercises o’er’ with as good grace as ever. I had
followers and proposals; but my mother was again thrown into despair
by what she called the short work I made with my admirers, scarcely
allowing decent time for their turning into lovers before I warned them
not to think of me. I have heard that women who have suffered from man’s
inconstancy are disposed afterwards to revenge themselves by inflicting
pain such as they have themselves endured, and delight in all the
cruelty of coquetry. It was not so with me. Mine was too deep a
wound--skinned over--not callous, and all danger of its opening again I
dreaded. I had lovers the more, perhaps, because I cared not for
them; till amongst them there came one who, as I saw, appreciated my
character, and, as I perceived, was becoming seriously attached. To
prevent danger to his happiness, as he would take no other warning,
I revealed to him the state of my mind. However humiliating the
confession, I thought it due to him. I told him that I had no heart
to give--that I had received none in return for that with which I had
parted, and that love was over with me.

“‘As a passion, it may be so, not as an affection,’ was his reply.

“The words opened to me a view of his character. I saw, too, by his love
increasing with his esteem, the solidity of his understanding, and the
nobleness of his nature. He went deeper and deeper into my mind, till he
came to a spring of gratitude, which rose and overflowed, vivifying and
fertilising the seemingly barren waste. I believe it to be true that,
after the first great misfortune, persons never return to be the same
that they were before, but this I know--and this it is important you
should be convinced of, my dear Helen--that the mind, though sorely
smitten, can recover its powers. A mind, I mean, sustained by good
principles, and by them made capable of persevering efforts for its
own recovery. It may be sure of regaining, in time--observe, I say in
time--its healthful tone.

“Time was given to me by that kind, that noble being, who devoted
himself to me with a passion which I could not return--but, with such
affection as I could give, and which he assured me would make his
happiness, I determined to devote to him the whole of my future
existence. Happiness for me, I thought, was gone, except in so far as I
could make him happy.

“I married Lord Davenant--much against my mother’s wish, for he was then
the younger of three brothers, and with a younger brother’s very small
portion. Had it been a more splendid match, I do not think I could have
been prevailed on to give my consent. I could not have been sure of
my own motives, or rather my pride would not have been clear as to the
opinion which others might form. This was a weakness, for in acting we
ought to depend upon ourselves, and not to look for the praise or blame
of others; but I let you see me as I am, or as I was: I do not insist,
like Queen Elizabeth, in having my portrait without shade.”


“I am proud to tell you, that at the time I married we were so poor,
that I was obliged to give up many of those luxuries to which I was
entitled, and to which I had been so accustomed, that the doing without
them had till then hardly come within my idea of possibility. Our whole
establishment was on the most humble scale.

“I look back to this period of my life with the greatest satisfaction.
I had exquisite pleasure, like all young people of sanguine temperament
and generous disposition, in the consciousness of the capability of
making sacrifices. This notion was my idol, the idol of the inmost
sanctuary of my mind, and I worshipped it with all the energies of body
and soul.

“In the course of a few years, my husband’s two elder brothers died. If
you have any curiosity to know how, I will tell you, though indeed it
is as little to the purpose as half the things people tell in their
histories. The eldest, a homebred lordling, who, from the moment he
slipped his mother’s apron-strings, had fallen into folly, and then, to
show himself manly, run into vice, lost his life in a duel about some
lady’s crooked thumb, or more crooked mind.

“The second brother distinguished himself in the navy; he died the death
of honour; he fell gloriously, and was by his country honoured--by his
country mourned.

“After the death of this young man, the inheritance came to my husband.
Fortune soon after poured in upon us a tide of wealth, swelled by
collateral streams.

“You will wish to know what effect this change of circumstances produced
upon my mind, and you shall, as far as I know it myself. I fancied that
it would have made none, because I had been before accustomed to all
the trappings of wealth; yet it did make a greater change in my feelings
than you could have imagined, or I could have conceived. The possibility
of producing a great effect in society, of playing a distinguished part,
and attaining an eminence which pleased my fancy, had never till now
been within my reach. The incense of fame had been wafted near me,
but not to me--near my husband I mean, yet not to him; I had heard his
brother’s name from the trumpet of fame, I longed to hear his own. I
knew, what to the world was then unknown, his great talents for civil
business, which, if urged into action, might make him distinguished as a
statesman even beyond his hero brother, but I knew that in him ambition,
if it ever awoke, must be awakened by love. Conscious of my influence, I
determined to use it to the utmost.

“Lord Davenant had not at that time taken any part in politics, but from
his connections he could ask and obtain; and there was one in the world
for whom I desired to obtain a favour of importance. It chanced that he,
whom I have mentioned to you as my inconstant lover, now married to
my lovely rival, was at this time in some difficulty about a command
abroad. His connections, though of very high rank were not now in power.
He had failed in some military exploit which had formerly been intrusted
to him. He was anxious to retrieve his character; his credit, his whole
fate in life, depended on his obtaining this appointment, which, at my
request, was secured to him by Lord Davenant. The day it was obtained
was, I think, the proudest of my life. I was proud of returning good for
evil; that was a Christian pride, if pride can be Christian. I was proud
of showing that in me there was none of the fury of a woman scorned--no
sense of the injury of charms despised.

“But it was not yet the fulness of success; it had pained me in the
midst of my internal triumph, that my husband had been obliged to use
intermediate powers to obtain that which I should have desired should
have been obtained by his own. Why should not he be in that first place
of rule? He could hold the balance with a hand as firm, an eye as just.
That he should be in the House of Peers was little satisfaction to me,
unless distinguished among his peers. It was this distinction that I
burned to see obtained by Lord Davenant; I urged him forward then by all
the motives which make ambition virtue. He was averse from public life,
partly from indolence of temper, partly from sound philosophy: power was
low in the scale in his estimate of human happiness; he saw how little
can be effected of real good in public by any individual; he felt
it scarcely worth his while to stir from his easy chair of domestic
happiness. However, love urged him on, and inspired him, if not with
ambition, at least with what looked like it in public. He entered the
lists, and in the political tournament tilted successfully. Many were
astonished, for, till they came against him in the joust, they had
no notion of his weight, or of his skill in arms; and many seriously
inclined to believe that Lord Davenant was only Lady Davenant in
disguise, and all he said, wrote, and did, was attributed to me. Envy
gratifies herself continually by thus shifting the merit from one person
to another; in hopes that the actual quantity may be diminished, she
tries to make out that it is never the real person, but somebody else
who does that which is good. This silly, base propensity might have cost
me dear, would have cost me my husband’s affections, had he not been a
man, as there are few, above all jealousy of female influence or female
talent; in short, he knew his own superiority, and needed not to measure
himself to prove his height. He is quite content, rather glad, that
every body should set him down as a common-place character. Far from
being jealous of his wife’s ruling him, he was amused by the notion: it
flattered his pride, and it was convenient to his indolence; it fell in,
too, with his peculiar humour. The more I retired, the more I was put
forward, he, laughing behind me, prompted and forbade me to look back.

“Now, Helen, I am come to a point where ambition ceased to be virtue.
But why should I tell you all this? no one is ever the better for the
experience of another.”

“Oh! I cannot believe that,” cried Helen; “pray, pray go on.”

“Ambition first rose in my mind from the ashes of another passion. Fresh
materials, of heterogeneous kinds, altered the colour, and changed the
nature of the flame: I should have told you, but narrative is not my
forte--I never can remember to tell things in their right order. I
forgot to tell you, that when Madame de Staël’s book, ‘Sur la Revolution
Française,’ came out, it made an extraordinary impression upon me. I
turned, in the first place, as every body did, eagerly to the chapter
on England, but, though my national feelings were gratified, my female
pride was dreadfully mortified by what she says of the ladies of
England; in fact, she could not judge of them. They were afraid of her.
They would not come out of their shells. What she called timidity, and
what I am sure she longed to call stupidity, was the silence of overawed
admiration, or mixed curiosity and discretion. Those who did venture,
had not full possession of their powers, or in a hurry showed them in
a wrong direction. She saw none of them in their natural state. She
asserts that, though there may be women distinguished as writers in
England, there are no ladies who have any great conversational and
political influence in society, of that kind which, during _l’ancien
régime_, was obtained in France by what they would call their _femmes
marquantes_, such as Madame de Tencin, Madame du Deffand, Mademoiselle
de l’Espinasse. This remark stung me to the quick, for my country and
for myself, and raised in me a foolish, vain-glorious emulation, an
ambition false in its objects, and unsuited to the manners, domestic
habits, and public virtue of our country. I ought to have been gratified
by her observing, that a lady is never to be met with in England, as
formerly in France, at the Bureau du Ministre; and that in England there
has never been any example of a woman’s having known in public
affairs, or at least told, what ought to have been kept secret.
Between ourselves, I suspect she was a little mistaken in some of these
assertions; but, be that as it may, I determined to prove that she
was mistaken; I was conscious that I had more within me than I had yet
brought out; I did not doubt that I had eloquence, if I had but courage
to produce it. It is really astonishing what a mischievous effect
those few passages produced on my mind. In London, one book drives out
another, one impression, however deep, is effaced by the next shaking
of the sand; but I was then in the country, for, unluckily for me, Lord
Davenant had been sent away on some special embassy. Left alone with my
nonsense, I set about, as soon as I was able, to assemble an audience
round me, to exhibit myself in the character of a female politician, and
I believe I had a notion at the same time of being the English Corinne.
Rochefoucault, the dexterous anatomist of self-love, says that we
confess our small faults, to persuade the world that we have no large
ones. But, for my part, I feel that there are some small faults more
difficult to me to confess than any large ones. Affectation, for
instance; it is something so little, so paltry, it is more than a crime,
it is a ridicule: I believe I did make myself completely ridiculous; I
am glad Lord Davenant was not by, it lasted but a short time. Our dear
good friend Dumont (you knew Dumont at Florence?) could not bear to see
it; his regard for Lord Davenant urged him the more to disenchant
me, and bring me back, before his return, to my natural form. The
disenchantment was rather rude.

“One evening, after I had been snuffing up incense till I was quite
intoxicated, when my votaries had departed, and we were alone together,
I said to him, ‘Allow that this is what would be called at Paris, _un
grand succés_.’

“Dumont made no reply, but stood opposite to me playing in his peculiar
manner with his great snuff-box, slowly swaying the snuff from side to
side. Knowing this to be a sign that he was in some great dilemma, I
asked of what he was thinking. ‘Of you,’ said he. ‘And what of me?’ In
his French accent he repeated those two provoking lines--

  ‘New wit, like wine, intoxicates the brain,
   Too strong for feeble women to sustain.’

“‘To my face?’ said I, smiling, for I tried to command my temper.

“‘Better than behind your back, as others do,’ said he.

“‘Behind my back!’ said I; ‘impossible.’

“‘Perfectly possible,’ said he, ‘as I could prove if you were strong
enough to bear it.’

“‘Quite strong enough,’ I said, and bade him speak on.

“‘Suppose you were offered,’ said he, ‘the fairy-ring that rendered the
possessor invisible, and enabled him to hear every thing that was said,
and all that was thought of him, would you throw it away, or put it on
your finger?’

“‘Put it on my finger,’ I replied; ‘and this instant, for a true friend
is better than a magic ring, I put it on.’

“‘You are very brave,’ said he, ‘then you shall hear the lines I heard
in a rival salon, repeated by him who last wafted the censer to you
to-night.’ He repeated a kind of doggrel pasquinade, beginning with--

  ‘Tell me, gentles, have you seen,
  The prating she, the mock Corinne?’

“Dumont, who had the courage for my good to inflict the blow, could
not stay to see its effect, and this time I was left alone, not with my
nonsense, but with my reason. It was quite sufficient. I was cured. My
only consolation in my disgrace was, that I honourably kept Dumont’s
counsel. The friend who composed the lampoon, from that day to this
never knew that I had heard it; though I must own I often longed to
tell him, when he was offering his incense again, that I wished he would
reverse his practice, and let us have the satire in my presence, and
keep the flattery for my absence. The graft of affectation, which was
but a poor weak thing, fell off at once, but the root of the evil had
not yet been reached. My friend Dumont had not cut deep enough, or
perhaps feared to cut away too much that was sound and essential to
life: my political ambition remained, and on Lord Davenant’s return
sprang up in full vigour.

“Now it is all over, I can analyse and understand my own motives: when
I first began my political course, I really and truly had no love for
power; full of other feelings, I was averse from it; it was absolutely
disagreeable to me; but as people acquire a taste for drams after making
faces at first swallowing, so I, from experience of the excitation,
acquired the habit, the love, of this mental dram-drinking; besides, I
had such delightful excuses for myself: I didn’t love power for its own
sake, it was never used for myself, always for others; ever with my old
principle of sacrifice in full play: this flattering unction I laid to
my soul, and it long hid from me its weakness, its gradual corruption.

“The first instance in which I used my influence, and by my husband’s
intervention obtained a favour of some importance, the thing done,
though actually obtained by private favour, was in a public point of
view well done and fit to be done; but when in time Lord Davenant had
reached that eminence which had been the summit of my ambition, and when
once it was known that I had influence (and in making it known between
jest and earnest Lord Davenant was certainly to blame), numbers of
course were eager to avail themselves of the discovery, swarms born in
the noontide ray, or such as salute the rising morn, buzzed round me.
I was good-natured and glad to do the service, and proud to show that I
could do it. I thought I had some right to share with Lord Davenant,
at least, the honour and pleasures of patronage, and so he willingly
allowed it to be, as long as my objects were well chosen, though he
said to me once with a serious smile, ‘The patronage of Europe would not
satisfy you; you would want India, and if you had India, you would sigh
for the New World.’ I only laughed, and said ‘The same thought as Lord
Chesterfield’s, only more neatly put.’ ‘If all Ireland were given to
such a one for his patrimony, he’d ask for the Isle of Man for his
cabbage-garden.’ Lord Davenant did not smile. I felt a little alarmed,
and a feeling of estrangement began between us.

“I recollect one day his seeing a note on my table from one of my
_protegés_, thanking me outrageously, and extolling my very obliging
disposition. He read, and threw it down, and with one of his dry-humour
smiles repeated, half to himself,

  And so obliging that she ne’er obliged.’

“I thought these lines were in the Characters of Women, and I hunted all
through them in vain; at last I found them in the character of a man,
which could not suit me, and I was pacified, and, what is extraordinary,
my conscience quite put at ease.

“The week afterwards I went to make some request for a friend: my little
boy--for I had a dear little boy then--had come in along with mamma.
Lord Davenant complied with my request, but unwillingly I saw, and as if
he felt it a weakness; and, putting his hand upon the curly-pated little
fellow’s head, he said, ‘This boy rules Greece, I see.’ The child was
sent for the Grecian history, his father took him on his knee, while
he read the anecdote, and as he ended he whispered in the child’s ear,
‘Tell mamma this must not be; papa should be ruled only by justice.’ He
really had public virtue, I only talked of it.

“After this you will wonder that I could go on, but I did.

“I had at that time a friend, who talked always most romantically,
and acted most selfishly, and for some time I never noticed the
inconsistency between her words and actions. In fact she had two
currents in her mind, two selves, one romantic from books, the other
selfish from worldly education and love of fashion, and of the goods of
this world. She had charming manners, which I thought went for nothing
with me, but which I found stood for every thing. In short, she was as
caressing, as graceful, in her little ways, and as selfish as a cat. She
had claws too, but at first I only felt the velvet.

“It was for this woman that I hazarded my highest happiness--my
husband’s esteem, and for the most paltry object imaginable. She wanted
some petty place for some man who was to marry her favourite maid. When
I first mentioned it to him, Lord Davenant coldly said, ‘It can’t be
done,’ and his pen went on very quickly with the letter he was writing.
Vexed and ashamed, and the more vexed because ashamed, I persisted.
‘Cannot be done for _me_?’ said I. ‘Not for anybody,’ said he--‘by me,
at least.’--I thought--Helen, I am ashamed to tell you what I thought;
but I will tell it you, because it will show you how a mind may be
debased by the love of power, or rather by the consequence which its
possession bestows. I thought he meant to point out to me that, although
he would not do it, I might _get it done_. And, speaking as if to
myself, I said, ‘Then I’ll go to such a person; then I’ll use such and
such ways and means.’

“Looking up from his writing at me, with a look such as I had never
seen from him before, he replied, in the words of a celebrated minister,
_‘C’est facile de se servir de pareils moyens, c’est difficile de s’y

“I admired him, despised myself, left the room, and went and told my
friend decidedly it could not be done. That instant, she became my
enemy, and I felt her claws. I was proud of the wounds, and showed them
to my husband. Now, Helen, you think I am cured for ever, and safe.
Alas! no, my dear, it is not so easy to cure habit. I have, however,
some excuse--let me put it forward; the person for whom I again
transgressed was my mother, and for her I was proud of doing the utmost,
because she had, as I could not forget, been ready to sacrifice my
happiness to her speculations. She had left off building castles in the
air, but she had outbuilt herself on earth. She had often recourse to me
in her difficulties, and I supplied funds, as well I might, for I had a
most liberal allowance from my most liberal lord; but schemes of my
own, very patriotic but not overwise, had in process of time drained
my purse. I had a school at Cecilhurst, and a lace manufactory; and to
teach my little girls I must needs bring over lace-makers from Flanders,
and Lisle thread, at an enormous expense: I shut my lace-makers up in a
room (for secrecy was necessary), where, like spiders, they quarrelled
with each other and fought, and the whole failed.

“Another scheme, very patriotic too, cost me an immensity: trying to
make Indian cachemires in England, very beautiful they were, but they
left not the tenth part of a penny in my private purse, and then my
mother wanted some thousands for a new dairy; dairies were then the
fashion, and hers was to be floored with the finest Dutch tiles,
furnished with Sevre china, with plate glass windows, and a porch hung
with French mirrors; so she set me to represent to Lord Davenant her
very distressed situation, and to present a petition from her for a
pension. The first time I urged my mother’s request, Lord Davenant said,
‘I am sure, Anne, that you do not know what you are asking.’ I desisted.
I did not indeed well understand the business, nor at all comprehend
that I was assisting a fraudulent attempt to obtain public money for a
private purpose, but I wished to have the triumph of success, I wished
to feel my own influence.

“Had it been foretold to me that I could so forget myself in the
intoxication of political power, how I should have disdained the
prophecy--‘Lord, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?’
There is a fine sermon of Blair’s on this subject; it had early made a
great impression upon me; but what are good impressions, good feelings,
good impulses, good intentions, good any thing, without principle?

“My mother wondered how I could so easily take a refusal; she piqued
my pride by observing that she was sorry my influence had declined; her
pity, so near contempt, wounded me, and I unadvisedly exclaimed that my
influence had in no way declined. Scarcely had I uttered the words, when
I saw the inference to which they laid me open, that I had not used
my influence to the utmost for her. My mother had quite sense and just
feeling enough to refrain from marking this in words. She noted it
only by an observing look, followed by a sigh. She confessed that I had
always been so kind, so much kinder than she could have expected, that
she would say no more. This was more to the purpose with me than if
she had talked for hours. I heard fresh sighs, and saw tears begin to
flow--a mother’s sighs and tears it is difficult, and I felt it was
shameful, to bear. I was partly melted, much confused, and hurried, too,
by visitors coming in, and I hastily promised that I would try once more
what I could do. The moment I had time for reflection I repented of what
I had promised. But the words were past recall. It was so disagreeable
to me to speak about the affair to my husband, that I wanted to get it
off my mind as soon as possible, but the day passed without my being
able to find a moment when I could speak to Lord Davenant in private.
Company stayed till late, my mother the latest. At parting, as she
kissed me, calling me her dearest Anne, she said she was convinced I
could do whatever I pleased with Lord Davenant, and as she was going
down stairs, added, she was sure the first words she should hear from me
in the morning would be ‘Victory, victory!’

“I hated myself for admitting the thought, and yet there it was; I let
it in, and could not get it out. From what an indescribable mixture of
weak motives or impulses, and often without one reasonable principle, do
we act in the most important moments of life. Even as I opened the door
of his room I hesitated, my heart beat forebodingly, but I thought I
could not retreat, and I went in.

“He was standing on the hearth looking weary, but a reviving smile came
on seeing me, and he held out his hand--‘My comfort always,’ said he.

“I took his hand, and, hesitating, was again my better self; but I would
not go back, nor could I begin with any preface.--Thank Heaven that was
impossible. I began:--

“‘Davenant, I am come to ask you a favour, and you must do it for me.’

“‘I hope it is in my power, my dear,’ said he; ‘I am sure you would not
ask--’ and there he stopped.

“I told him it was in his power, and that I would not ask it for any
creature living, but--’ He put his hand upon my lips, told me he knew
what I was going to say, and begged me not to say it; but I, hoping to
carry it off playfully, kissed his hand, and putting it aside said, ‘I
must ask, and you must grant this to my mother.’ He replied, ‘It cannot
be, Anne, consistently with public justice, and with my public duty.

“‘Nonsense, nonsense,’ I said, ‘such words are only to mask a refusal.’
_Mask_, I remember, was the word that hurt him. Of all I could have
used, it was the worst: I knew it the instant I had said it. Lord
Davenant stepped back, and with such a look! You, Helen, who have seen
only his benign countenance, his smiling eyes, cannot conceive it. I am
sure he must have seen how much it alarmed me, for suddenly it changed,
and I saw all the melting softness of love.

“Oh fool! vain wicked fool that I was! I thought of ‘victory,’ and
pursued it. My utmost power of persuasion--words--smiles--and tears I
tried--and tried in vain; and then I could not bear to feel that I had
in vain made this trial of power and love. Shame and pride and
anger seized me by turns, and raised such a storm within me--such
confusion--that I knew not what I did or said. And he was so calm!
looked so at least, though I am sure he was not. His self-possession
piqued and provoked me past all bearing. I cannot tell you exactly
how it was--it was so dreadfully interesting to me that I am unable to
recall the exact words; but I remember at last hearing him say, in a
voice I had never before heard, ‘Lady Davenant!’--He had never called
me so before; he had always called me ‘Anne:’ it seemed as if he had
dismissed me from his heart.

“‘Call me Anne! O call me Anne!’

“And he yielded instantly, he called me Anne, and caressing me, ‘his
Anne.’ ‘O Helen! never do as I did.’ I whispered, ‘Then, my love, you
will do this for me--for me, your own Anne?’

“He put me gently away, and leaned against the chimney-piece in silence.
Then turning to me, in a low suppressed voice, he said,--

“‘I have loved you--love you as much as man can love woman, there is
nothing I would not sacrifice for you except--’

“‘No exceptions!’ cried I, in an affected tone of gaiety.

“‘Except honour,’ he repeated firmly.--Helen, my dear, you are of a
generous nature, so am I, but the demon of pride was within me, it made
me long to try the extent of my power. Disappointed, I sunk to meanness;
never, never, however tempted, however provoked, never do as I did,
never reproach a friend with any sacrifice you have made for them; this
is a meanness which your friend may forgive, but which you can never
forgive yourself.

“I reproached him with the sacrifice of my feelings, which I had made
in marrying him! His answer was, ‘I feel that what you say is true, I
am now convinced you are incapable of loving me; and since I cannot make
you happy, we had better--part.’

“These were the last words I heard. The blow was wholly unexpected.

“Whether I sunk down, or threw myself at his feet, I know not; but when
I came to myself he was standing beside me. There were other faces, but
my eyes saw only his: I felt his hand holding mine, I pressed it, and
said, ‘Forget.’ He stooped down and whispered, ‘It is forgotten.’

“I believe there is nothing can touch a generous mind so much as the
being treated with perfect generosity--nothing makes us so deeply feel
our own fault.”

Lady Davenant was here so much moved that she could say no more. By an
involuntary motion, she checked the reins, and the horses stopped, and
she continued quite silent for a few minutes: at length two or three
deeply drawn sighs seemed to relieve her; she looked up, and her
attention seemed to be caught by a bird that was singing sweetly on a
branch over their heads. She asked what bird it was? Helen showed it to
her where it sat: she looked up and smiled, touched the horses with
her whip, and went on where she had left off.--“The next thing was the
meeting my mother in the morning; I prepared myself for it, and thought
I was now armed so strong in honesty that I could go through with it
well: my morality, however, was a little nervous, was fluttered by the
knock at the door, and, when I heard her voice as she came towards my
room, asking eagerly if I was alone, I felt a sickness at the certainty
that I must at once crush her hopes. But I stood resolved; my eyes
fixed on the door through which she was to enter. She came in, to my
astonishment, with a face radiant with joy, and hastening to me she
embraced me with the warmest expression of fondness and gratitude.--I
stood petrified as I heard her talk of my kindness--my generosity. I
asked what she could mean, said there must be some mistake. But holding
before my eyes a note, ‘Can there be any mistake in this?’ said she.
That note, for I can never forget it, I will repeat to you.

“‘What you wish can be done in a better manner than you proposed.
The public must have no concern with it; Lady Davenant must have the
pleasure of doing it her own way; an annuity to the amount required
shall be punctually paid to your banker. The first instalment will be in
his hands by the time you receive this.--DAVENANT.’

“When I had been formerly disenchanted from my trance of love, the
rudeness of the shock had benumbed all my faculties, and left me
scarcely power to think; but now, when thus recovered from the delirium
of power, I was immediately in perfect possession of my understanding,
and when I was made to comprehend the despicable use I would have
made of my influence, or the influence my husband possessed, I was so
shocked, that I have ever since, I am conscious, in speaking of any
political corruption, rather exaggerated my natural abhorrence of it.
Not from the mean and weak idea of convincing the world how foreign
all such wrong was to my soul, but because it really is foreign to it,
because I know how it can debase the most honourable characters; I feel
so much shocked at the criminal as at the crime, because I saw it once
in all its hideousness so near myself.

“A change in the ministry took place this year, Lord Davenant’s
resignation was sent in and accepted, and in retirement I had not only
leisure to be good, but also leisure to cultivate my mind. Of course I
had read all such reading as ladies read, but this was very different
from the kind of study that would enable me to keep pace with Lord
Davenant and his highly informed friends. Many of these, more men of
thought than of show, visited us from time to time in the country.
Though I had passed very well in London society, blue, red, and green,
literary, fashionable, and political, and had been extolled as both
witty and wise, especially when my husband was in place; yet when I
came into close contact with minds of a higher order, I felt my own
deficiencies. Lord Davenant’s superiority I particularly perceived in
the solidity of the ground he uniformly took and held in reasoning. And
when I, too confident, used to venture rashly, and often found myself
surrounded, and in imminent danger in argument, he used to bring me off
and ably cover my retreat, and looked so pleased, so proud, when I made
a happy hit, or jumped to a right conclusion.

“But what I most liked, most admired, in him was, that he never
triumphed or took unfair advantages on the strength of his learning, of
his acquirements, or of what I may call his logical training.

“I mention these seeming trifles because it is not always in the great
occasions of life that a generous disposition shows itself in the way
which we most feel. Little instances of generosity shown in this way,
unperceived by others, have gone most deeply into my mind; and have most
raised my opinion of his character. The sense that I was over rather
than under valued, made me the more ready to acknowledge and feel my own
deficiencies. I felt the truth of an aphorism of Lord Verulam’s, which
is now come down to the copy-books; that ‘knowledge is power.’ Having
made this notable discovery, I set about with all my might to acquire
knowledge. You may smile, and think that this was only in a new form
the passion for power; no, it was something better. Not to do myself
injustice, I now felt the pure desire of knowledge, and enjoyed the pure
pleasure of obtaining it; assisted, supported, and delighted, by the
sympathy of a superior mind.

“As to intellectual happiness, this was the happiest time of my life.
As if my eyes had been rubbed by your favourite dervise in the Arabian
tales, with this charmed ointment, which opened at once to view all the
treasures of the earth, I saw and craved the boundless treasures opened
to my view. I now wanted to read all that Lord Davenant was reading,
that I might be up to his ideas, but this was not to be done in an
instant. There was a Frenchwoman who complained that she never could
learn any thing, because she could not find anybody to teach her all
she wanted to know in two words. I was not quite so _exigeante_ as
this lady; but, after having skated on easily and rapidly, far on the
superficies of knowledge, it was difficult and rather mortifying to have
to go back and begin at the beginning. Yet, when I wanted to go a little
deeper, and really to understand what I was about, this was essentially
necessary. I could not have got through without the assistance of one
who showed me what I might safely leave unlearned, and who pointed out
what fruit was worth climbing for, what would only turn to ashes.

“This happy time of my life too quickly passed away. It was interrupted,
however, not by any fault or folly of my own, but by an infliction
from the hand of Providence, to which I trust I submitted with
resignation--we lost our dear little boy; my second boy was born dead,
and my confinement was followed by long and severe illness. I was
ordered to try the air of Devonshire.

“One night--now, my dear, I have kept for the last the only romantic
incident in my life--one night, a vessel was wrecked upon our coast;
one of the passengers, a lady, an invalid, was brought to our house; I
hastened to her assistance--it was my beautiful rival!

“She was in a deep decline, and had been at Lisbon for some time, but
she was now sent home by the physicians, as they send people from one
country to another to die. The captain of the ship in which she was
mistook the lights upon the coast, and ran the ship ashore near to our

“Of course we did for her all we could, but she was dying: she knew
nothing of my history, and I trust I soothed her last moments--she died
in my arms.

“She had one child, a son, then at Eton: we sent for him; he arrived too
late; the feeling he showed interested us deeply; we kept him with us
some time; he was grateful; and afterwards as he grew up he often wrote
to me. His letters you have read.”

“Mr. Beauclerc!” said Helen.

“Mr. Beauclerc.--I had not seen him for some time, when General
Clarendon presented him to me as his ward at Florence, where I had
opportunities of essentially serving him. You may now understand,
my dear, why I had expected that Mr. Granville Beauclerc might have
preferred coming to Clarendon Park this last month of my stay in England
to the pleasures of London. I was angry, I own, but after five minutes’
grace I cooled, saw that I must be mistaken, and came to the just
conclusion of the old poet, that no one sinks at once to the depth of
ill, and ingratitude I consider as the depth of ill. I opine, therefore,
that some stronger feeling than friendship now operates to detain
Granville Beauclerc. In that case I forgive him, but, for his own sake,
and with such a young man I should say for the sake of society--of the
public good--for he will end in public life, I hope the present object
is worthy of him, whoever she may be.

“Have I anything more to tell you? Yes, I should say that, when by
changes in the political world Lord Davenant was again in power, I had
learned, if not to be less ambitious, at least to show it less. D----,
who knew always how to put sense into my mind, so that I found it there,
and thought it completely my own, had once said that ‘every public man
who has a cultivated and high-minded wife, has in fact two selves, each
holding watch and ward for the other.’ The notion pleased me--pleased
both my fancy and my reason; I acted on it, and Lord Davenant assures
me that I have been this second self to him, and I am willing to believe
it, first because he is a man of strict truth, and secondly, because
every woman is willing to believe what she wishes.”

Lady Davenant paused, and after some minutes of reflection said, “I
confess, however, that I have not reason to be quite satisfied with
myself as a mother; I did not attend sufficiently to Cecilia’s early
education: engrossed with politics, I left her too much to governesses,
at one period to a very bad one. I have done what I can to remedy this,
and you have done more perhaps; but I much fear that the early neglect
can never be completely repaired; she is, however, married to a man of
sense, and when I go to Russia I shall think with satisfaction that I
leave you with her.”

After expressing how deeply she had been interested in all that she
had heard, and how grateful she felt for the confidence reposed in her,
Helen said she could not help wishing that Cecilia knew all that had
been just told her of Lady Davenant’s history. If Cecilia could but know
all the tenderness of her mother’s heart, how much less would she fear,
how much more would she love her!

“It would answer no purpose,” replied Lady Davenant; “there are persons
with intrinsic differences of character, who, explain as you will, can
never understand one another beyond a certain point. Nature and art
forbid--no spectacles you can furnish will remedy certain defects of
vision. Cecilia sees as much as she can ever see of my character, and I
see, in the best light, the whole of hers. So Helen, my dear, take the
advice of a Scotch proverb--proverbs are vulgar, because they usually
contain common sense--‘Let well alone.’”

“You are really a very good little friend,” added she, “but keep my
personal narrative for your own use.”


It was late before they reached home, and Helen dressed as fast as
possible, for the general’s punctual habits required that all should
assemble in the drawing-room five minutes at least before dinner. She
was coming down the private turret staircase, which led from the family
apartments to the great hall, when, just at the turn, and in the most
awkward way possible, she met a gentleman, a stranger, where never
stranger had been seen by her before, running up full speed, so that
they had but barely space and time to clear out of each other’s way.
Pardons were begged of course. The manner and voice of the stranger were
particularly gentlemanlike. A servant followed with his portmanteau,
inquiring into which room Mr. Beauclerc was to go?

“Mr. Beauclerc!”--When Helen got to the drawing-room, and found that not
even the general was there, she thought she could have time to run
up the great staircase to Lady Davenant’s room, and tell her that Mr.
Beauclerc was come.

“My dear Lady Davenant, Mr. Beauclerc!”--He was there! and she made her
retreat as quickly as possible. The quantity that had been said about
him, and the awkward way in which they had thus accidentally met, made
her feel much embarrassed when they were regularly introduced.

At the beginning of dinner, Helen fancied that there was unusual silence
and constraint; perhaps this might be so, or perhaps people were really
hungry, or perhaps Mr. Beauclerc had not yet satisfied the general and
Lady Davenant: however, towards the end of dinner, and at the dessert,
he was certainly entertaining; and Lady Cecilia appeared particularly
amused by an account which he was giving of a little French piece he
had seen just before he left London, called “Les Premieres Amours,” and
Helen might have been amused too, but that Lady Cecilia called upon her
to listen, and, Mr. Beauclerc turning his eyes upon her, she saw, or
fancied that he was put out in his story, and though he went on with
perfect good breeding, yet it was evidently with diminished spirit. As
soon as politeness permitted, at the close of the story, she, to relieve
him and herself, turned to the aide-de-camp on her other side, and
devoted, or seemed to devote, to him her exclusive attention. He was
always tiresome to her, but now more than ever; he went on, when
once set a-going, about his horses and his dogs, while she had the
mortification of hearing almost immediately after her seceding, that Mr.
Beauclerc recovered the life and spirit of his tone, and was in full and
delightful enjoyment of conversation with Lady Cecilia. Something very
entertaining caught her ear every now and then; but, with her eyes fixed
in the necessary direction, it was impossible to make it out, through
the aid-de-camp’s never-ending tediousness. She thought the sitting
after dinner never would terminate, though it was in fact rather shorter
than usual.

As soon as they reached the drawing-room, Lady Cecilia asked her mother
what was the cause of Granville’s delay in town, and why he had come
to-day, after he had written it was impossible?

Lady Davenant answered, that he had ‘trampled,’ as Lord Chatham did, ‘on
impossibilities.’ “It was not a physical impossibility, it seems.”

“I’m sure--I hope,” continued Cecilia, “that none of the Beltravers’ set
had any thing to do with his delay, yet from a word or two the general
let fall, I’m almost sure that they have--Lady Blanche, I’m afraid--.”
 There she stopped. “If it were only a money difficulty with Lord
Beltravers,” resumed she, “that might be easily settled, for Beauclerc
is rich enough.”

“Yes,” said Lady Davenant, “but rashly generous; an uncommon fault in
these days, when young men are in general selfishly prudent or selfishly

“I hope,” said Cecilia,--“I hope Lady Blanche Forrester will not--”
 there she paused, and consulted her mother’s countenance; her mother
answered that Beauclerc had not spoken to her of Lady Blanche. After
putting her hopes and fears, questions and conjectures, into every
possible form and direction, Lady Cecilia was satisfied that her mother
knew no more than herself, and this was a great comfort.

When Mr. Beauclerc reappeared, Helen was glad that she was settled at an
embroidery frame, at the furthest end of the room, as there, apart from
the world, she felt safe from all cause for embarrassment, and there she
continued happy till some one came to raise the light of the lamp
over her head. It was Mr. Beauclerc, and, as she looked up, she gave a
foolish little start of surprise, and then all her confusion returning,
with thanks scarce audible, her eyes were instantly fixed on the
vine leaf she was embroidering. He asked how she could by lamplight
distinguish blue from green? a simple and not very alarming question,
but she did not hear the words rightly, and thinking he asked whether
she wished for a screen, she answered “No, thank you.”

Lady Cecilia laughed, and covering Helen’s want of hearing by
Beauclerc’s want of sight, explained--“Do not you see, Granville,
the silk-cards are written upon, ‘blue’ and ‘green;’ there can be no

Mr. Beauclerc made a few more laudable attempts at conversation with
Miss Stanley, but she, still imagining that this was forced, could not
in return say anything but what seemed forced and unnatural, and as
unlike her usual self as possible. Lady Cecilia tried to relieve her;
she would have done better to have let it alone, for Beauclerc was not
of the French wit’s opinion that, _La modestie n’est bonne qu’à quinze
ans_, and to him it appeared only a graceful timidity. Helen retired
earlier than any one else, and, when she thought over her foolish
awkwardness, felt as much ashamed as if Mr. Beauclerc had actually heard
all that Lady Cecilia had said about him--had seen all her thoughts, and
understood the reason of her confusion. At last, when Lady Cecilia came
into her room before she went to bed, she began with--“I am sure you are
going to scold me, and I deserve it, I am so provoked with myself, and
the worst of it is, that I do not think I shall ever get over it--I am
afraid I shall be just as foolish again tomorrow.”

“I could find it in my heart to scold you to death,” said Lady Cecilia,
“but that I am vexed myself.”

Then hesitating, and studying Helen’s countenance, she seemed doubtful
how to proceed. Either she was playing with Helen’s curiosity, or she
was really herself perplexed. She made two or three beginnings, each a
little inconsistent with the other.

“Mamma is always right; with her--‘coming events’ really and truly ‘cast
their shadows before.’ I do believe she has the fatal gift, the coming
ill to know!”

“Ill!” said Helen; “what ill is coming?”

“After all, however, it may not be an ill,” said Lady Cecilia; “it may
be all for the best; yet I am shockingly disappointed, though I declare
I never formed any--”

“Oh, my dear Cecilia, do tell me at once what it is you mean.”

“I mean, that Granville Beauclerc, like all men of genius, has acted
like the greatest fool.”

“What has he done?”

“He is absolutely--you must look upon him in future--as a married man.”

Helen was delighted. Cecilia could form no farther schemes on her
account, and she felt relieved from all her awkwardness.

“Dearest Helen, this is well at all events,” cried Cecilia, seeing her
cleared countenance. “This comforts me; you are at ease; and, if I have
caused you one uncomfortable evening, I am sure you are consoled for it
by the reflection that my mother was right, and I, as usual, wrong. But,
Helen,” continued she earnestly, “remember that this is not to be known;
remember you must not breathe the least hint of what I have told you to
mamma or the general.”

Something more than astonishment appeared in Helen’s countenance. “And
is it possible that Mr. Beauclerc does not tell them,--does not trust
his guardian and such a friend as your mother?” said Helen.

“He will tell them, he will tell them--but not yet; perhaps not till--he
is not to see his fiancée--they have for some reason agreed to be
separated for some time--I do not know exactly, but surely every body
may choose their own opportunity for telling their own secrets. In fact,
Helen, the lady, I understand, made it a point with him that nothing
should be said of it yet--to any one.”

“But he told it to you?”

“No, indeed, he did not tell it; I found it out, and he could not deny
it; but he charged me to keep it secret, and I would not have told it to
any body living but yourself; and to you, after all I said about him, I
felt it was necessary--thought I was bound--in short, I thought it would
set things to rights, and put you at your ease at once.”

And then, with more earnestness, she again pressed upon Helen a promise
of secrecy, especially towards Lady Davenant. Helen submitted. Cecilia
embraced her affectionately, and left the room. Quite tired, and quite
happy, Helen was in bed and asleep in a few minutes.

Not the slightest suspicion crossed her mind that all her friend had
been telling her was not perfectly true. To a more practised, a less
confiding, person the perplexity of Lady Cecilia’s prefaces, and some
contradictions or inconsistencies, might have suggested doubts; but
Helen’s general confidence in her friend’s truth had never yet been
seriously shaken. Lady Davenant she had always thought prejudiced on
this point, and too severe. If there had been in early childhood a bad
habit of inaccuracy in Cecilia, Helen thought it long since cured; and
so perhaps it was, till she formed a friendship abroad with one who had
no respect for truth.

But of this Helen knew nothing; and, in fact, till now Lady Cecilia’s
aberrations had been always trifling, almost imperceptible, errors, such
as only her mother’s strictness or Miss Clarendon’s scrupulosity could
detect. Nor would Cecilia have ventured upon a decided, an important,
false assertion, except for a kind purpose. Never in her life had she
told a falsehood to injure any human creature, or one that she could
foresee might, by any possibility do harm to any living being. But
here was a friend, a very dear friend, in an awkward embarrassment, and
brought into it by her means; and by a little innocent stretching of the
truth she could at once, she fancied, set all to rights. The moment the
idea came into her head, upon the spur of the occasion, she resolved to
execute it directly. It was settled between the drawing-room door and
her dressing-room. And when thus executed successfully, with happy
sophistry she justified it to herself. “After all,” said she to herself,
“though it was not absolutely true, it was _ben trovato_, it was as near
the truth, perhaps, as possible. Beauclerc’s best friends really feared
that he was falling in love with the lady in question. It was very
likely, and too likely, it might end in his marrying this Lady Blanche
Forrester. And, on every account, and every way, it was for the best
that Helen should consider him as a married man. This would restore
Helen by one magical stroke to herself, and release her from that
wretched state in which she could neither please nor be pleased.” And
as far as this good effect upon Helen was concerned, Lady Cecilia’s plan
was judicious; it succeeded admirably.

Wonderful! how a few words spoken, a single idea taken, out of or
put into the mind, can make such a difference, not only in the mental
feelings, but in the whole bodily appearance, and in the actual powers
of perception and use of our senses.

When Helen entered the breakfast-room the next morning, she looked, and
moved, and felt, quite a different creature from what she had been the
preceding day. She had recovered the use of her understanding, and she
could hear and see quite distinctly; and the first thing she saw was,
that nobody was thinking particularly about her; and now she for the
first time actually saw Mr. Beauclerc. She had before looked at him
without seeing him, and really did not know what sort of looking person
he was, except that he was like a gentleman; of that she had a sort of
intuitive perception;--as Cuvier could tell from the first sight of a
single bone what the animal was, what were its habits, and to what class
it belonged, so any person early used to good company can, by the first
gesture, the first general manner of being, passive or active, tell
whether a stranger, even scarcely seen, is or is not a gentleman.

At the beginning of breakfast, Mr. Beauclerc had all the perfect
English quiet of look and manners, with somewhat of a high-bred air of
indifference to all sublunary things, yet saying and doing whatever was
proper for the present company; yet it was done and said like one in
a dream, performed like a somnambulist, correctly from habit, but all
unconsciously. He awakened from his reverie the moment General Clarendon
came in, and he asked eagerly,--

“General! how far is it to Old Forest?” These were the first words which
he pronounced like one wide awake. “I must ride there this morning; it’s
absolutely necessary.”

The general replied that he did not see the necessity.

“But when I do, sir,” cried Beauclerc; the natural vivacity of the young
man breaking through the conventional manner. Next moment, with a humble
look, he hoped that the general would accompany him, and the look of
proud humility vanished from his countenance the next instant, because
the general demurred, and Beauclerc added, “Will not you oblige me so
far? Then I must go by myself.”

The general, seeming to go on with his own thoughts, and not to be moved
by his ward’s impatience, talked of a review that was to be put off, and
at length found that he could accompany him. Beauclerc then, delighted,
thanked him warmly.

“What is the object of this essential visit to Old Forest, may I ask?”
 said Lady Davenant.

“To see a dilapidated house,” said the general.

“To save a whole family from ruin,” cried Beauclerc; “to restore a man
of first-rate talents to his place in society.”

“Pshaw!” said the general.

“Why that contemptuous exclamation, my dear general?” said Beauclerc.

“I have told you, and again I tell you, the thing is impossible!” said
the general.

“So I hear you say, sir,” replied his ward; “but till I am convinced, I
hold to my project.”

“And what is your project, Granville?” said Lady Davenant.

“I will explain it to you when we are alone,” said Beauclerc.

“I beg your pardon, I was not aware that there was any mystery,” said
Lady Davenant. “No mystery,” said Beauclerc, “only about lending some
money to a friend.”

“To which I will not consent,” said the general.

“Why not, sir?” said Beauclerc, throwing back his head with an air of
defiance in his countenance; there was as he looked at his guardian a
quick, mutable succession of feelings, in striking contrast with the
fixity of the general’s appearance.

“I have given you my reasons, Beauclerc,” said the general, “It is
unnecessary to repeat what I have said, you will do no good.”

“No good, general? When I tell you that if I lend Beltravers the money,
to put his place in repair, to put it in such a state that his sisters
could live in it, he would no longer be a banished man, a useless
absentee, a wanderer abroad, but he would come and settle at Old Forest,
re-establish the fortune and respectability of his family, and above
all, save his own character and happiness. Oh, my dear general!”

General Clarendon, evidently moved by his ward’s benevolent enthusiasm,
paused and said that there were many recollections which made it
rather painful to him to revisit Old Forest. Still he would do it for
Beauclerc, since nothing but seeing the place would convince him of
the impracticability of his scheme. “I have not been at Old Forest,”
 continued the general, “since I was a boy--since it was deserted by the
owners, and sadly changed I shall find it.

“In former times these Forresters were a respectable, good old English
family, till the second wife, pretty and silly, took a fancy for
figuring in London, where of course she was nobody. Then, to make
herself somebody, she forced her husband to stand for the county. A
contested election--bribery--a petition--another election--ruinous
expense. Then that Beltravers title coming to them: and they were to
live up to it,--and beyond their income. The old story--over head and
shoulders in debt. Then the new story,--that they must go abroad for

“Economy! The cant of all those who have not courage to retrench at
home,” said Lady Davenant.

“They must,” they said, “live abroad, it is so cheap,” continued the
general. “So cheap to leave their house to go to ruin! Cheap education
too! and so good--and what does it come to?”

“A cheap provision it is for a family in many cases,” said Lord
Davenant. “Wife, son, and daughter, Satan, are thy own.”

“Not in this case,” cried Beauclerc; “you cannot mean I hope.”

“I can answer for one, the daughter at least,” said Lady Davenant; “that
Mad. de St. Cimon, whom we saw abroad, at Florence, you know, Cecilia,
with whom I would not let you form an acquaintance.”

“Your ladyship was quite right,” said the general.

Beauclerc could not say, “Quite wrong,”--and he looked--suffering.

“I know nothing of the son,” pursued Lady Davenant.

“I do,” said Beauclerc, “he is my friend.”

“I thought he had been a very distressed man, that young Beltravers,”
 said the aid-de-camp.

“And if he were, that would not prevent my being his friend, sir,” said

“Of course,” said the aid-de-camp, “I only asked.”

“He is a man of genius and feeling,” continued Beauclerc, turning to
Lady Davenant.

“But I never heard you mention Lord Beltravers before. How long has he
been your friend?” said Lady Davenant.

Beauclerc hesitated. The general without hesitation answered, “Three
weeks and one day.”

“I do not count my friendship by days or weeks,” said Beauclerc.

“No, my dear Beauclerc,” said the general: “well would it be for you if
you would condescend to any such common-sense measure.” He rose from the
breakfast-table as he spoke, and rang the bell to order the horses.

“You are prejudiced against Beltravers, general; but you will think
better of him, I am sure, when you know him.”

“You will think worse of him when you know him, I suspect,” replied the

“Suspect! But since you only _suspect_,” said Beauclerc, “we English do
not condemn on suspicion, unheard, unseen.”

“Not unheard,” said the general, “I have heard enough of him.”

“From the reports of his enemies,” said Beauclerc.

“I do not usually form my judgment,” replied the general, “from reports
either of friends or enemies; I have not the honour of knowing any of
Lord Beltravers’ enemies.”

“Enemies of Lord Beltravers!” exclaimed Lady Davenant. “What right as
he to enemies as if he were a great man?--a person of whom nobody ever
heard, setting up to have enemies! But now-a-days, these candidates
for fame, these would-be celebrated, set up their enemies as they would
their equipages, on credit--then, by an easy process of logic, make out
the syllogism thus:--Every great man has enemies, therefore, every man
who has enemies must be great--hey, Beauclerc?”

Beauclerc vouchsafed only a faint, absent smile, and, turning to his
guardian, asked--“Since Lord Beltravers was not to be allowed the
honours of enemies, or the benefit of pleading prejudice, on what _did_
the general form his judgment?”

“From his own words.”

“Stay judgment, my dear general,” cried Beauclerc; “words repeated! by

“Repeated by no one--heard from himself, by myself.”

“Yourself! I was not aware you had ever met;--when? where?” Beauclerc
started forward on his chair, and listened eagerly for the answer.

“Pity!” said Lady Davenant, speaking to herself,--“pity! that ‘with such
quick affections kindling into flame,’ they should burn to waste.”

“When, where?” repeated Beauclerc, with his eyes fixed on his guardian,
and his soul in his eyes.

Soberly and slowly his guardian answered, and categorically,--“When did
I meet Lord Beltravers? A short time before his father’s death.--Where?
At Lady Grace Bland’s.”

“At Lady Grace Bland’s!--where he could not possibly appear to
advantage! Well, go on, sir.”

“One moment--pardon me, Beauclerc; I have curiosity as well as yourself.
May I ask why Lord Beltravers could not possibly have appeared to
advantage at Lady Grace Bland’s?”

“Because I know he cannot endure her; I have heard him, speaking of her,
quote what Johnson or somebody says of Clariss--‘a prating, preaching,
frail creature.’”

“Good!” said the general, “he said this of his own aunt!”

“Aunt! You cannot mean that Lady Grace is his aunt?” cried Beauclerc.

“She is his mother’s sister,” replied the general, “and therefore is, I
conceive, his aunt.”

“Be it so,” cried Beauclerc; “people must tell the truth sometimes, even
of their own relations; they must know it best, and therefore I conclude
that what Beltravers said of Lady Grace is true.”

“Bravo! well jumped to a conclusion, Granville, as usual,” said Lady
Davenant, “But go on, general, tell us what you have heard from this
precious lord; can you have better than what Beauclerc, his own witness,
gives in evidence?”

“Better I think, and in the same line,” said the general: “his lordship
has the merit of consistency. At table, servants of course present, and
myself a stranger, I heard Lord Beltravers begin by cursing England
and all that inhabit it. ‘But your country!’ remonstrated his aunt. He
abjured England; he had no country, he said, no liberal man ever has;
he had no relations--what nature gave him without his consent he had a
right to disclaim, I think he argued. But I can swear to these words,
with which he concluded--‘My father is an idiot, my mother a brute, and
my sister may go to the devil her own way.’”

“Such bad taste!” said the aid-de-camp.

Lady Davenant smiled at the unspeakable astonishment in Helen’s face.
“When you have lived one season in the world, my dear child, this power
of surprise will be worn out.”

“But even to those who have seen the world,” said the aide-de-camp, who
had seen the world, “as it strikes me, really it is such extraordinary
bad taste!”

“Such ordinary bad taste! as it strikes me,” said Lady Davenant; “base
imitation, and imitation is always a confession of poverty, a want of
original genius. But then there are degrees among the race of imitators.
Some choose their originals well, some come near them tolerably; but
here, all seems equally bad, clumsy, Birmingham counterfeit; don’t you
think so, Beauclerc? a counterfeit that falls and makes no noise. There
is the worst of it for your protégé, whose great ambition I am sure it
is to make a noise in the world. However, I may spare my remonstrances,
for I am quite aware that you would never let drop a friend.”

“Never, never!” cried Beauclerc.

“Then, my dear Granville, do not take up this man, this Lord Beltravers,
for, depend upon it, he will never do. If he had made a bold stroke for
a reputation, like a great original, and sported some deed without
a name, to work upon the wonder-loving imagination of the credulous
English public, one might have thought something of him. But this
cowardly, negative sin, _not_ honouring his father and mother! so
commonplace, too, neutral tint--no effect. Quite a failure, one cannot
even stare, and you know, Granville, the object of all these strange
speeches is merely to make fools stare. To be the wonder of the London
world for a single day, is the great ambition of these ephemeral
fame-hunters ‘insects that shine, buzz, and fly-blow in the setting

Beauclerc pushed away his tea-cup half across the table, exclaiming,
“How unjust! to class him among a tribe he detests and despises as much
as you can, Lady Davenant. And all for that one unfortunate speech--Not
quite fair, general, not quite philosophical, Lady Davenant, to decide
on a man’s character from the specimen of a single speech: this is like
judging of a house from the sample of a single brick. All this time I
know how Beltravers came to make that speech--I know how it was, as well
as if I had been present--better!”

“Better!” cried Lady Cecilia.

“Ladies and gentlemen may laugh,” resumed Beauclerc, “but I seriously

“How better than the general, who was present, and heard and saw the
whole?” said Lady Cecilia.

“Yes, better, for he saw only effects, and I know causes; and I appeal
to Lady Davenant,--from Lady Davenant sarcastic to Lady Davenant
philosophic I appeal--may not the man who discovers causes, say he knows
more than he who merely sees effects?”

“He may say he knows more, at all events,” replied Lady Davenant; “but
now for the discovery of causes, metaphysical sir.”

“I have done,” cried the general, turning to leave the breakfast-room;
“when Beauclerc goes to metaphysics I give it up.”

“No, no, do not give it up, my dear general,” cried Lady Cecilia; “do
not stir till we have heard what will come next, for I am sure it will
be something delightfully absurd.”

Beauclerc bowed, and feared he should not justify her ladyship’s good
opinion, for he had nothing delightfully absurd to say, adding that the
cause of his friend’s appearing like a brute was, that he feared to be a
hypocrite among hypocrites.

“Lord Beltravers was in company with a set who were striving, with all
their might of dissimulation, to appear better than they are, and he, as
he always does, strove to make himself appear worse than he really is.”

“Unnecessary, I should think,” said Lady Davenant.

“Impossible, I should think,” said the general.

“Impossible I know it is to change your opinion, general, of any one,”
 said Beauclerc.

“For my own part, I am glad of that,” said Lady Cecilia, rising; “and
I advise you, Granville, to rest content with the general’s opinion of
yourself, and say no more.”

“But,” said Beauclerc; “one cannot be content to think only of
one’s-self always.”

“Say no more, say no more,” repeated Lady Cecilia, smiling as she looked
back from the door, where she had stopped the general. “For my sake say
no more, I entreat, I do dislike to hear so much said about anything or
anybody. What sort of a road is it to Old Forest?” continued she; “why
should not we ladies go with you, my dear Clarendon, to enliven the

Clarendon’s countenance brightened at this proposal. The road was
certainly beautiful, he said, by the banks of the Thames. Lady Cecilia
and the general left the room, but Beauclerc remained sitting at the
breakfast-table, apparently intently occupied in forming a tripod
of three tea-spoons; Lady Davenant opposite to him, looking at him
earnestly, “Granville!” said she. He started, “Granville! set my mind at
ease by one word, tell me the _mot d’énigme_ of this sudden friendship.”

“Not what you suppose,” said he steadily, yet colouring deeply. “The
fact is, that Beltravers and I were school-fellows; a generous little
fellow he was as ever was born; he got me out of a sad scrape once at
his own expense, and I can never forget it. We had never met since we
left Eton, till about three weeks ago in town, when I found him in great
difficulties, persecuted too, by a party--I could not turn my back on
him--I would rather be shot!”

“No immediate necessity for being shot, my dear Granville, I hope,” said
Lady Davenant. “But if this be indeed _all_, I will never say another
word against your Lord Beltravers; I will leave it to you to find out
his character, or to time to show it. I shall be quite satisfied that
you throw away your money, if it be only money that is in the question;
be this Lord Beltravers what he may. Let him say, ‘or let them do, it is
all one to me,’ provided that he does not marry you to his sister.”

“He has not a thought of it,” cried Beauclerc; “and if he had, do you
conceive, Lady Davenant, that any man on earth could dispose of me in
marriage, at his pleasure?”

“I hope not,” said Lady Davenant.

“Be assured not; my own will, my own heart alone, must decide that

“The horses are at the door!” cried Cecilia, as she entered; but
“where’s Helen?”

Helen had made her escape out of the room when Lady Davenant had
pronounced the words, “Set my mind at rest, Granville,” as she felt it
must then be embarrassing to him to speak, and to herself to hear. Her
retreat, had not, however, been effected with considerable loss, she had
been compelled to leave a large piece of the crape-trimming of her gown
under the foot of Lady Davenant’s inexorable chair.

“Here is something that belongs to Miss Stanley, if I mistake not,” said
the general, who first spied the fragment. The aid-de-camp stooped for
it--Lady Cecilia pitied it--Lady Davenant pronounced it to be Helen’s
own fault--Beauclerc understood how it happened, and said nothing.

“But, Helen,” cried Lady Cecilia, as she re-appeared,--“but, Helen, are
you not coming with us?”

Helen had intended to have gone in the pony-carriage with Lady Davenant,
but her ladyship now declared that she had business to do at home; it
was settled therefore that Helen was to be of the riding party, and that
party consisted of Lady Cecilia and the general, Beauclerc and herself.


It was a delightful day, sun shining, not too hot, air balmy, birds
singing, all nature gay; and the happy influence was quickly felt by the
riding party. Unpleasant thoughts of the past or future, if any such had
been, were now lost in present enjoyment. The general, twice a man on
horseback, as he always felt himself, managed his own and Helen’s horse
to admiration, and Cecilia, riding on with Beauclerc, was well pleased
to hear his first observation, that he had been quite wrong last night,
in not acknowledging that Miss Stanley was beautiful. “People look so
different by daylight and by candlelight,” said he; “and so different
when one does not know them at all, and when one begins to know
something of them.”

“But what can you know yet of Helen?”

“One forms some idea of character from trifles light as air. How
delightful this day is!”

“And now you really allow she may be called beautiful?”

“Yes, that is, with some expression of mind, heart, soul, which is what
I look for in general,” said Beauclerc.

“In general, what can you mean by in general?”

“Not in particular; in particular cases I might think--I--I might

“In particular, then, do you like fools that have no mind, heart, or
soul, Granville?--Answer me.”

“Take care,” said he, “that horse is too spirited for a lady.”

“Not for me,” said Lady Cecilia; “but do not think you shall get off so;
what did you mean?”

“My meaning lies too deep for the present occasion.”

“For the present company--eh?”

Beauclerc half smiled and answered--“You know you used to tell me that
you hated long discussions on words and nice distinctions.”

“Well, well, but let me have the nice distinction now.”

“Between love and friendship, then, there is a vast difference in what
one wishes for in a woman’s face; there are, ‘faces which pale passion

“To the right, turn,” the general’s voice far behind was heard to say.

To the right they turned, into a glade of the park, which opened to
a favourite view of the general’s, to which Cecilia knew that all
attention must be paid. He came up, and they proceeded through a wood
which had been planted by his father, and which seemed destined to stand
for ever secure from sacrilegious axe. The road led them next into
a village, one of the prettiest of that sort of scattered English
villages, where each habitation seems to have been suited to the fancy
as well as to the convenience of each proprietor; giving an idea at
once of comfort and liberty, such as can be seen only in England. Happy
England, how blest, would she but know her bliss!

This village was inhabited by the general’s tenants. His countenance
brightened and expanded, as did theirs, whenever he came amongst them;
he saw them happy, and they knew that they owed their happiness in
just proportion to their landlord and themselves; therefore there was
a comfortable mixture in their feelings of gratitude and self-respect.
Some old people who were sitting on the stone benches, sunning
themselves at their doors, rose as he passed, cap in hand, with cordial
greeting. The oldest man, the father of the village, forgot his crutch
as he came forward to see his landlord’s bride, and to give him joy. At
every house where they stopped, out came husband, wife, and children,
even “wee toddling things;” one of these, while the general was speaking
to its mother, made its way frightfully close to his horse’s heels:
Helen saw it, and called to the mother. The general, turning and leaning
back on his horse, said to the bold little urchin as the mother snatched
him up, “My boy, as long as you live never again go behind a horse’s

“And remember, it was general Clarendon gave you this advice,” added
Beauclerc, and turning to Lady Cecilia--“‘_Et souvenez vous que c’est
Maréchal Turenne qui vous l’a dit_.’”

While the general searched for that English memento, six-pence, Lady
Cecilia repeated, “Marshal Turenne! I do not understand.”

“Yes, if you recollect,” said Helen, “you do.”

“I dare say I know, but I don’t remember,” said Cecilia. “It was only,”
 said Helen, “that the same thing had happened to Marshal Turenne, that
he gave the same advice to a little child.”

Lady Cecilia said she owed Beauclerc an acknowledgment down to her
saddle-bow, for the compliment to her general, and a bow at least as low
to Helen, for making her comprehend it; and, having paid both debts with
graceful promptitude, she observed, in an aside to Beauclerc, that she
quite agreed with him, that “In friendship it was good not to have to do
with fools.”

He smiled.

“It is always permitted,” continued Cecilia, “to woman to use her
intellects so far as to comprehend what man says; her knowledge, of
whatever sort, never comes amiss when it serves only to illustrate what
is said by one of the lords of the creation. Let us note this, my dear
Helen, as a general maxim, for future use, and pray, since you have so
good a memory, remember to tell mamma, who says I never generalise, that
this morning I have actually made and established a philosophical
maxim, one that may be of some use too, which cannot be said of all
reflections, general or particular.”

They rode on through a lane bright and fragrant with primroses and
violets; gradually winding, this lane opened at last upon the beautiful
banks of the Thames, whose “silver bosom” appeared at once before them
in the bright sunshine, silent, flowing on, seeming, as Beauclerc
said, as if it would for ever flow on unaltered in full, broad, placid
dignity. “Here,” he exclaimed, as they paused to contemplate the view,
“the throng of commerce, the ponderous barge, the black steam-boat,
the hum and din of business, never have violated the mighty current. No
lofty bridge insultingly over-arches it, no stone-built wharf confines
it; nothing but its own banks, coeval with itself and like itself,
uncontaminated by the petty uses of mankind!--they spread into large
parks, or are hung with thick woods, as nature wills. No citizen’s box,
no chimera villa destroys the idea of repose; but nature, uninterrupted,
carries on her own operations in field, and flood, and tree.”

The general, less poetically inclined, would name to Helen all the fine
places within view--“Residences,” as he practically remarked, “such as
cannot be seen in any country in the world but England; and not only
fine places such as these, but from the cottage to the palace--‘the
homes of Old England’ are the best homes upon earth.”

“The most candid and sensible of all modern French travellers,” said
Beauclerc, “was particularly struck with the superiority of our English
country residences, and the comfort of our homes.”

“You mean M. de Staël?” said the general; “true English sense in that
book, I allow.”

When the general and Beauclerc did agree in opinion about a book,
which was not a circumstance of frequent occurrence, they were mutually
delighted; one always feeling the value of the other’s practical sense,
and the other then acknowledging that literature is good for something.
Beauclerc in the fulness of his heart, and abundance of his words,
began to expatiate on M. de Staël’s merits, in having better than any
foreigner understood the actual workings and balances of the British
constitution, that constitution so much talked of abroad, and so little

“So little understood any where,” said the general.

Reasonably as Beauclerc now spoke, Helen formed a new idea of his
capacity, and began to think more respectfully even of his common sense,
than when she had heard him in the Beltravers cause. He spoke of the
causes of England’s prosperity, the means by which she maintains her
superiority among nations--her equal laws and their just administration.
He observed, that the hope which every man born in England, even in
the lowest station, may have of rising by his own merits to the highest
eminence, forms the great spring of industry and talent. He agreed with
the intelligent foreigner’s observation, that the aristocracy of talent
is superior in England to the aristocracy of birth.

The general seemed to demur at the word superior, drew himself up, but
said nothing in contradiction.

“Industry, and wealth, and education, and fashion, all emulous, act in
England beneficially on each other,” continued Beauclerc.

The general sat at ease again.

“And above all,” pursued Beauclerc,--“above all, education and the
diffusion of knowledge----”

“Knowledge--yes, but take care of what kind,” said his guardian. “All
kinds are good,” said Beauclerc.

“No, only such as are safe,” said the general. The march of intellect
was not a favourite march with him, unless the step were perfectly kept,
and all in good time.

But now, on passing a projecting bend in the wood, they came within
sight of a place in melancholy contrast to all they had just admired.
A park of considerable extent, absolutely bereft of trees, except a few
ragged firs on each side of a large dilapidated mansion, on the summit
of a bleak hill: it seemed as if a great wood had once been there.

“Old Forest!” exclaimed the general; “Old Forest, now no more! Many a
happy hour, when I was a boy, have I spent shooting in those woods,” and
he pointed to where innumerable stumps of trees, far as the eye could
reach, marked where the forest had once stood: some of the white
circles on the ground showed the magnificent size of those newly felled.
Beauclerc was quite silent.

The general led the way on to the great gate of entrance: the porter’s
lodge was in ruins.

A huge rusty padlock hung upon one of the gates, which had been dragged
half open, but, the hinge having sunk, there it stuck--the gate could
not be opened further. The other could not be stirred without imminent
hazard of bringing down the pier on which it hung, and which was so
crazy, the groom said, “he was afraid, if he shook it never so little,
all would come down together.”

“Let it alone,” said the general, in the tone of one resolved to
be patient; “there is room enough for us to get in one by one--Miss
Stanley, do not be in a hurry, if you please; follow me quietly.”

In they filed. The avenue, overgrown with grass, would have been
difficult to find, but for deep old cart-ruts which still marked the
way. But soon, fallen trees, and lopped branches, dragged many a rood
and then left there, made it difficult to pass. And there lay exposed
the white bodies of many a noble tree, some wholly, some half, stripped
of their bark, some green in decay, left to the weather--and every here
and there little smoking pyramids of burning charcoal.

As they approached the house--“How changed,” said the general, “from
that once cheerful hospitable mansion!”--It was a melancholy example
of a deserted home: the plaster dropping off, the cut stone green, the
windows broken, the shutters half shut, the way to the hall-door steps
blocked up. They were forced to go round through the yards. Coach-houses
and stables, grand ranges, now all dilapidated. Only one yelping cur in
the great kennel. The back-door being ajar, the general pushed it open,
and they went in, and on to the great kitchen, where they found in the
midst of wood smoke one little old woman, whom they nearly scared out
of her remaining senses. She stood and stared. Beauclerc stepped towards
her to explain; but she was deaf: he raised his voice--in vain. She was
made to comprehend by the general, whose voice, known in former times,
reached her heart--“that they only came to see the place.”

“See the place! ah! a sad sight to see.” Her eyes reverted to Beauclerc,
and, conceiving that he was the young lord himself, she waxed pale, and
her head shook fearfully; but, when relieved from this mistake, she went
forward to show them over the house.

As they proceeded up the great staircase, she confided to her friend,
the general, that she was glad it was not the young lord, for she was
told he was a fiery man, and she dreaded his coming unawares.

Lady Cecilia asked if she did not know him?

No, she had never seen him since he was a little fellow: “he has been
always roaming about, like the rest, in foreign parts, and has never set
foot in the place since he came to man’s estate.”

As the general passed a window on the landing-place, he looked
out.--“You are missing the great elm, Sir. Ah! I remember you here, a
boy; you was always good. It was the young lord ordered specially the
cutting of that, which I could not stomach; the last of the real old
trees! Well, well! I’m old and foolish--I’m old and foolish, and I
should not talk.”

But still she talked on, and as this seemed her only comfort, they would
not check her garrulity. In the hope that they were come to take the
house, she now bustled as well as she could, to show all to the best
advantage, but bad was the best now, as she sorrowfully said. She was
very unwilling that the gentlemen should go up to inspect the roof. They
went, however; and the general saw and estimated, and Beauclerc saw and

The general, recollecting the geography of the house, observed that she
had not shown them what used to be the picture-gallery, which looked out
on the terrace; he desired to see it. She reluctantly obeyed; and, after
trying sundry impossible keys, repeating all the while that her heart
was broke, that she wished it had pleased God never to give her a heart,
unlock the door she could not in her trepidation. Beauclerc gently took
the keys from her, and looked so compassionately upon her, that she
God-blessed him, and thought it a pity her young lord was not like
him; and while he dealt with the lock, Lady Cecilia, saying they would
trouble her no further, slipped into her hand what she thought would be
some comfort. The poor old creature thanked her ladyship, but said gold
could be of no use to her now in life; she should soon let the parish
bury her, and be no cost to the young lord. She could forgive many
things, she said, but she could never forgive him for parting with the
old pictures. She turned away as the gallery-door opened.

One only old daub of a grandmother was there; all the rest had been
sold, and their vacant places remained discoloured on the walls. There
were two or three dismembered old chairs, the richly dight windows
broken, the floor rat-eaten. The general stood and looked, and did not
sigh, but absolutely groaned. They went to the shattered glass door,
which looked out upon the terrace--that terrace which had cost thousands
of pounds to raise, and he called Cecilia to show her the place where
the youngsters used to play, and to point out some of his favourite

“It is most melancholy to see a family-place so gone to ruin,” said
Beauclerc; “if it strikes us so much, what must it be to the son of this
family, to come back to the house of his ancestors, and find it thus
desolate! Poor Beltravers!”

The expression of the general’s eye changed.

“I am sure you must pity him, my dear general,” continued Beauclerc.

“I might, had he done any thing to prevent, or had he done less to
hasten, this ruin.”

“How? he should not have cut down the trees, do you mean?--but it was to
pay his father’s debts----”

“And his own,” said the general.

“He told me his father’s, sir.”

“And I tell you his own.”

“Even so,” said Beauclerc, “debts are not crimes for which we ought to
shut the gates of mercy on our fellow-creatures--and so young a man
as Beltravers, left to himself, without a home, his family abroad, no
parent, no friend--no guardian friend.”

“But what is it you would do, Beauclerc?” said the general.

“What you must wish to be done,” said Beauclerc. “Repair this ruin,
restore this once hospitable mansion, and put it in the power of the son
to be what his ancestors have been.”

“But how--my dear Beauclerc? Tell me plainly--how?”

“Plainly, I would lend him money enough to make this house fit to live

“And he would never repay you, and would never live in it.”

“He would, sir--he promised me he would.”

“Promised you!”

“And I promised him that I would lend him the money.”

“Promised! Beauclerc? Without your guardian’s knowledge? Pray, how

“Confound me, if I remember the words. The sense was, what would do the
business; what would make the house fit for him and his sisters to live

“Ten thousand!--fifteen thousand would not do.”

“Well, sir. You know what will be necessary better than I do. A few
thousands more or less, what signifies, provided a friend be well
served. The superfluous money accumulated during my long minority cannot
be better employed.”

“All that I have been saving for you with such care from the time your
father died!”

“My dear guardian, my dear friend, do not think me ungrateful; but the
fact is,--in short, my happiness does not depend, never can depend, upon
money; as my friend, therefore, I beseech you to consider my moneyed
interest less, and my happiness more.”

“Beauclerc, you do not know what your happiness is. One hour you tell
me it is one thing, the next another. What is become of the plan for the
new house you wanted to build for yourself? I must have common sense for
you, Beauclerc, as you have none for yourself. I shall not give you this
money for Lord Beltravers.”

“You forget sir, that I told you I had promised.”

“You forget, Beauclerc, that I told you that such a promise, vague and
absurd in itself, made without your guardian’s concurrence or consent,
is absolutely null and void.”

“Null and void in law, perhaps it may be,” cried Beauclerc; “but for
that very reason, in honour, the stronger the more binding, and I am
speaking to a man of honour.”

“To one who can take care of his own honour,” said the general.

“And of mine, I trust.”

“You do well to trust it, as your father did, to me: it shall not be

“When once I am of age,” interrupted Beauclerc.

“You will do as you please,” said the general. “In the mean time I shall
do my duty.”

“But, sir, I only ask you to let me _lend_ this money.”

“Lend--nonsense! lend to a man who cannot give any security.”

“Security!” said Beauclerc, with a look of unutterable contempt. “When a
friend is in distress, to talk to him like an attorney, of security! Do,
pray, sir, spare me that. I would rather give the money at once.”

“I make no doubt of it; then at once I say No, sir.”

“No, sir! and why do you say no?”

“Because I think it my duty, and nothing I have heard has at all shaken
my opinion.”

“Opinion! and so I am to be put down by opinion, without any reason!”
 cried Beauclerc. Then trying to command his temper, “But tell me, my
dear general, why I cannot have this cursed money?”

“Because, my dear Beauclerc, I am your guardian, and can say _no_,
and can adhere to a refusal as firmly as any man living, when it is

“Yes, and when it is unnecessary. General Clarendon, according to your
own estimate, fifteen thousand pounds is the utmost sum requisite to put
this house in a habitable state--by that sum I abide!”


“Yes, I require it, to keep my promise to Beltraver’s, and have it I

“Not from me.”

“From some one else then, for have it I WILL.

“Dearest Clarendon,” whispered Lady Cecilia, “let him have it, since he
has promised----”

Without seeming to hear her whisper, without a muscle of his countenance
altering, General Clarendon repeated, “Not from me.”

“From some one else then--I can.”

“Not while I have power to prevent.”

“Power! power! power! Yes, that is what you love, above all things
and all persons, and I tell you plainly, General Clarendon,” pursued
Beauclerc, too angry to heed or see Lady Cecilia’s remonstrating looks,
“at once I tell you that you have not the power. You had it. It is past
and gone. The power of affection you had, if not of reason; but force,
General Clarendon, despotism, can never govern me. I submit to no man’s
mere will, much less to any man’s sheer obstinacy.”

At the word obstinacy, the general’s face, which was before rigid, grew
hard as iron. Beauclerc walked up and down the room with great strides,
and as he strode he went on talking to himself.

“To be kept from the use of my own money, treated like a child--an
idiot--at my time of life! Not considered at years of discretion, when
other men of the meanest capacity, by the law of the land, can do
what they please with their own property! By heavens!--that will of my

“Should be respected, my dear Granville, since it was your father’s
will,” said Lady Cecilia, joining him as he walked. “And respect----” He
stopped short.

“My dear Lady Cecilia, for your sake----” he tried to restrain himself.

“Till this moment never did I say one disrespectful word to General
Clarendon. I always considered him as the representative of my father;
and when most galled I have borne the chains in which it was my father’s
pleasure to leave me. Few men of my age would have so submitted to a
guardian not many years older than himself.”

“Yes, and indeed that should be considered,” said Lady Cecilia, turning
to the general.

“I have always considered General Clarendon more as my friend than my

“And have found him so, I had hoped,” said the general, relaxing in tone
but not in looks.

“I have never treated you, sir, as some wards treat their guardians.
I have dealt openly, as man of honour to man of honour, gentleman to
gentleman, friend to friend.”

“Acknowledged, and felt by me, Beauclerc.”

“Then now, my dear Clarendon, grant the only request of any consequence
I ever made you--say yes.” Beauclerc trembled with impatience.

“No,” said the general, “I have said it--No.”

The gallery rung with the sound.

“No!” repeated Beauclerc.

Each walked separately up and down the room, speaking without listening
to what the other said. Helen heard an offer from Beauclerc, to which
she extremely wished that the general had listened. But he was deaf with
determination not to yield to any thing Beauclerc could say further: the
noise of passion in their ears was too great for either of them to hear
the other.

Suddenly turning, Beauclerc exclaimed,--

“Borne with me, do you say? ‘Tis I that have to bear--and by heavens!”
 cried he, “more than I can--than I will--bear. Before to-morrow’s sun
goes down I will have the money.”

“From whom?”

“From any money-lending
Jew--usurer--extortioner--cheat--rascal--whatever he be. You drive me
to it--you--you my friend--you, with whom I have dealt so openly; and to
the last it shall be open. To no vile indirections will I stoop. I tell
you, my guardian, that if you deny me my own, I will have what I want
from the Jews.”

“Easily,” said his guardian. “But first, recollect that a clause in your
father’s will, in such case, sends his estates to your cousin Venables.”

“To my cousin Venables let them go--all--all; if such be your pleasure,
sir, be it so. The lowest man on earth that has feeling keeps his
promise. The slave has a right to his word! Ruin me if you will, and as
soon as you please; disgrace me you cannot; bend my spirit you cannot;
ruin in any shape I will meet, rather than submit to such a guardian,
such a----”

Tyrant he was on the point of saying, but Lady Cecilia stopped that word
by suddenly seizing upon his arm: forcibly she carried him off, saying
“Come out with me on the terrace, Granville, and recover your senses.”

“My senses! I have never lost them; never was cooler in my life,”
 said he, kicking open the glass door upon its first resistance, and
shattering its remaining panes to fragments. Unnoticing, not hearing
the crash, the general stood leaning his elbow on the mantel-piece,
and covering his eyes with his hand. Helen remained near him, scarce
breathing loud enough to be heard; he did not know she was there, and he
repeated aloud, in an accent of deep feeling, “Tyrant! from Beauclerc!”

A sigh from Helen made him aware of her presence, and, as he removed his
hand from his eyes, she saw his look was more in sorrow than in anger:
she said softly, “Mr. Beauclerc was wrong, very wrong, but he was in a
passion, he did not know what he meant.”

There was silence for a few moments. “You are right, I believe,” said
the general, “it was heat of anger----”

“To which the best are subject,” said Helen, “and the best and kindest
most easily forgive.”

“But Beauclerc said some things which were----”

“Unpardonable--only forget them; let all be forgotten.”

“Yes,” said the general, “all but my determination; that, observe, is
fixed. My mind, Miss Stanley, is made up, and, once made up, it is not
to be changed.”

“I am certain of that,” said Helen, “but I am not clear that your mind
is made up.”

The general looked at her with astonishment.

“Your refusal is not irrevocable.”

“You do not know me, Miss Stanley.”

“I think I do.”

“Better than I know myself.”

“Yes, better, if you do yourself the injustice to think that you would
not yield, if it were right to do so. At this very instant,” pursued
Helen, disregarding his increasing astonishment, “you would yield if you
could reasonably, honourably--would not you? If you could without injury
to your ward’s fortune or character, would you not? Surely it is for his
good only that you are so resolute?”

“Certainly!” He waited with eyes fixed, bending forward, but with
intensity of purpose in his calmness of attention.

“There was something which I heard Mr. Beauclerc say, which, I think,
escaped your attention,” said Helen. “When you spoke of the new house he
intended to build for himself, which was to cost so much, he offered to
give that up.”

“I never heard that offer.”

“I heard him,” said Helen, “I assure you: it was when you were both
walking up and down the room.”

“This may be so, I was angry _then_,” said the general.

“But you are not angry now,” said Helen.

He smiled, and in truth he desired nothing more than an honourable
loophole--a safe way of coming off without injury to his ward--without
hurting his own pride, or derogating from the dignity of guardian. Helen
saw this, and, thanking him for his condescension, his kindness,
in listening to her, she hastened as quickly as possible, lest the
relenting moment might not be seized; and running out on the terrace,
she saw Beauclerc, his head down upon his arms, leaning upon an old
broken stone lion, and Lady Cecilia standing beside him, commiserating;
and as she approached, she heard her persuading him to go to the
general, and speak to him again, and say _so_--only say so.

Whatever it was, Helen did not stay to inquire, but told Cecilia, in as
few words as she could, all that she had to say; and ended with “Was I

“Quite right, was not she, Granville?”

Beauclerc looked up--a gleam of hope and joy came across his face, and,
with one grateful look to Helen, he darted forward. They followed, but
could not keep pace with him; and when they reached the gallery, they
found him appealing, as to a father, for pardon.

“Can you forgive, and will you?”

“Forgive my not hearing you, not listening to you, as your father would?
My dear Beauclerc, you were too hot, and I was too cold; and there is
an end of it.” This reconciliation was as quick, as warm, as the quarrel
had been. And then explanations were made, as satisfactorily as they are
when the parties are of good understanding, and depend on each other’s
truth, past, present, and future.

Beauclerc, whose promise all relied on, and for reasons good, none more
implicitly than the general, promised that he would ask for no more than
just what would do to put this Old Forest house in habitable trim; he
said he would give up the new house for himself, till as many thousands
as he now lent, spent, or wasted--take which word you will--should be
again accumulated from his income. It was merely a sacrifice of his
own vanity, and perhaps a little of his own comfort, he said, to save a
friend, a human being, from destruction.

“Well, well, let it rest so.”

It was all settled, witness present--“two angels to witness,” as
Beauclerc quoted from some old play.

And now in high good-humour, up again to nonsense pitch, they all felt
that delightful relief of spirits, of which friends, after perilous
quarrel, are sensible in perfect reconciliation. They left this
melancholy mansion now, with Beauclerc the happiest of the happy, in the
generous hope that he should be the restorer of its ancient glories
and comfort. The poor old woman was not forgotten as they passed, she
courtesying, hoping, and fearing: Lady Cecilia whispered, and the deaf
ear heard.

“The roof will not fall--all will be well: and there is the man that
will do it all.”

“Well, well, my heart inclined to him from the first--at least from the
minute I knew him not to be my young lord.”

They were to go home by water. The boat was in readiness, and, as
Beauclerc carefully handed Helen into it, the general said:--“Yes, you
are right to take care of Miss Stanley, Beauclerc; she is a good friend
in need, at least, as I have found this morning,” added he, as he seated
himself beside her.

Lady Cecilia was charming, and every thing was delightful, especially
the cold chicken.


No two people could be more unlike in their habits of mind than this
guardian and ward. General Clarendon referred in all cases to old
experience, and dreaded innovation; Beauclerc took for his motto, “My
mind leadeth me to new things.” General Clarendon was what is commonly
called a practical man; Granville Beauclerc was the flower of theorists.
The general, fit for action, prompt and decided in all his judgments,
was usually right and just in his conclusions--but if wrong, there was
no setting him right; for he not only would not, but could not go back
over the ground--he could not give in words any explanation of his
process of reasoning--it was enough for him that it was right, and that
it was _his_; while Beauclerc, who cared not for any man’s opinion,
was always so ingeniously wrong, and could show all the steps of his
reasoning so plausibly, that it was a pity he should be quite out of the
right road at last. The general hated metaphysics, because he considered
them as taking a flight beyond the reach of discipline, as well as of
common sense: he continually asked, of what use are they?--While Lady
Davenant answered,--

“To invigorate and embellish the understanding. ‘This turning the soul
inward on itself concentrates its forces, and fits it for the strongest
and boldest flights; and in such pursuits, whether we take or whether we
lose the game, the chase is certainly of service.’”

Possibly, the general said; he would not dispute the point with Lady
Davenant, but a losing chase, however invigorating, was one in which he
never wished to engage: as to the rest, he altogether hated discussions,
doubts, and questionings. He had “made up his fagot of opinions,” and
would not let one be drawn out for examination, lest he should loosen
the bundle.

Beauclerc, on the contrary, had his dragged out and scattered about
every day, and each particular stick was tried, and bent, and twisted,
this way and that, and peeled, and cut, and hacked; and unless they
proved sound to the very core, not a twig of them should ever go back
into his bundle, which was to be the bundle of bundles, the best that
ever was seen, when once tied so that it would hold together--of which
there seemed little likelihood, as every knot slipped, and all fell to
pieces at each pull.

While he was engaged in this analysis, he was, as his guardian thought,
in great moral peril, for not a principle had he left to bless himself
with; and, in any emergency, if any temptation should occur, what was to
become of him? The general, who was very fond of him, but also strongly
attached to his own undeviating rule of right, was upon one occasion
about peremptorily to interpose, not only with remonstrances as a
friend, but with authority as a guardian.

This occurred when Beauclerc was with them at Florence, and when
the general’s love for Lady Cecilia, and intimacy with her mother,
commenced. Lady Davenant being much interested for young Beauclerc,
begged that the patient might be left to her, and that his guardian
would refrain from interference. This was agreed to the more readily
by the general, as his thoughts and feelings were then more agreeably
engrossed, and Beauclerc found in Lady Davenant the very friend he
wanted and wished for most ardently--one whose mind would not blench at
any moral danger, would never shrink from truth in any shape, but, calm
and self-possessed, would examine whether it were indeed truth, or only
a phantom assuming her form. Besides, there was in Lady Davenant towards
Beauclerc a sort of maternal solicitude and kindness, of which the
effect was heightened by her dignified manner and pride of character.
She, in the first place, listened to him patiently; she, who could talk,
would listen: this was, as she said, her first merit in his estimation.
To her he poured forth all those doubts, of which she was wise enough
not to make crimes: she was sure of his honourable intentions, certain
that there was no underhand motive, no bad passion, no concealed vice,
or disposition to vice, beneath his boasted freedom from prejudice,
to be justified or to be indulged by getting rid of the restraints of
principle. Had there been any danger of this sort, which with young men
who profess themselves _ultra-liberal_ is usually the case, she would
have joined in his guardian’s apprehensions; but in fact Beauclerc,
instead of being “le philosophe sans le savoir,” was “le bon enfant
sans le savoir;” for, while he questioned the rule of right in all his
principles, and while they were held in abeyance, his good habits, and
good natural disposition held fast and stood him in stead; while
Lady Davenant, by slow degrees, brought him to define his terms, and
presently to see that he had been merely saying old things in new words,
and that the systems which had dazzled him as novelties were old to
older eyes; in short, that he was merely a resurrectionist of obsolete
heresies, which had been gone over and over again at various long-past
periods, and over and over again abandoned by the common sense of
mankind: so that, after puzzling and wandering a weary way in the
dark labyrinth he had most ingeniously made for himself, he saw light,
followed it, and at length, making his way out, was surprised, and sorry
perhaps to perceive that it was the common light of day.

It is of great consequence to young enthusiastic tyros, like Beauclerc,
to have safe friends to whom they can talk of their opinions privately,
otherwise they will talk their ingenious nonsense publicly, and so they
bind themselves, or are bound, to the stake, and live or die martyrs to
their own follies.

From these and all such dangers Lady Davenant protected him, and she
took care that nobody hurt him in his defenceless state, before his
shell was well formed and hardened. She was further of peculiar service
in keeping all safe and smooth between the ward and guardian. All
Beauclerc’s romance the general would have called by the German
word “_Schwärmerey_,”--not fudge--not humbug--literally
“sky-rocketing”--visionary enthusiasm; and when it came to arguments,
they might have turned to quarrels, but for Lady Davenant’s superior
influence, while Lady Cecilia’s gentleness and gaiety usually succeeded
in putting all serious dangerous thoughts to flight.

Nature never having intended Lady Cecilia for a manoeuvrer, she was now
perpetually on the point of betraying herself; and one day, when she
was alone with Helen, she exclaimed, “Never was any thing better
managed than I managed this, my dear Helen! I am so glad I told you----”
 Recollecting herself just in time, she ended with, “so glad I told you
the truth.”

“Oh yes! thank you,” said Helen. “My uncle used to say no one could be a
good friend who does not tell the whole truth.”

“That I deny,” thought Cecilia. The twinge of conscience was felt but
very slightly; not visible in any change of countenance, except by a
quick twinkling motion of the eyelashes, not noticed by unsuspicious

Every thing now went on as happily as Cecilia could have desired; every
morning they rode or booted to Old Forest to see what was doing. The
roof was rather hastily taken off; Lady Cecilia hurried forward that
measure, aware that it would prevent the possibility of any of the
ladies of the family coming there for some time. Delay was all she
wanted, and she would now, as she promised herself, leave the rest to
time. She would never interfere further in word or look, especially when
her mother might be by. One half of this promise she kept faithfully,
the other she broke continually.

There were plans to be made of all the alterations and improvements
at Old Forest. Beauclerc applied to Lady Cecilia for her advice and
assistance. Her advice she gave, but her assistance she ingeniously
contrived to leave to Helen; for whenever Beauclerc brought to her a
sketch or a plan of what was to be done, Lady Cecilia immediately gave
it to Helen, repeating, “Never drew a regular plan in my life, you know,
my dear, you must do this;” so that Helen’s pencil and her patience were
in constant requisition. Then came apologies from Beauclerc, and regrets
at taking up her time, all which led to an intimacy that Lady Cecilia
took care to keep up by frequent visits to Old Forest, so that Helen was
necessarily joined in all his present pursuits.

During one of these visits, they were looking over some old furniture
which Lord Beltravers had commissioned Beauclerc to have disposed of at
some neighbouring auction. There was one curiously carved oak arm-chair,
belonging to “the old old gentleman of all” which the old woman
particularly regretted should go. She had sewn it up in a carpet, and
when it came out, Helen was struck with its likeness to a favourite
chair of her uncle’s; many painful recollections occurred to her, and
tears came into her eyes. Ashamed of what appeared so like affectation,
she turned away, that her tears might not be seen, and when Cecilia,
following her, insisted on knowing what was the matter, she left Helen
immediately to the old woman, and took the opportunity of telling
Beauclerc all about Dean Stanley, and how Helen was an heiress and no
heiress, and her having determined to give up all her fortune to pay
her uncle’s debts. There was a guardian, too, in the case, who would not
consent; and, in short, a parallelism of circumstances, a similarity of
generous temper, and all this she thought must interest Beauclerc--and
so it did. But yet its being told to him would have gone against his
nice notions of delicacy, and Helen would have been ruined in his
opinion had he conceived that it had been revealed to him with her
consent or connivance. She came back before Lady Cecilia had quite
finished, and a few words which she heard, made her aware of the whole.
The blush of astonishment--the glance of indignation--which she gave
at Lady Cecilia, settled Beauclerc’s opinion; and Cecilia was satisfied
that she had done her friend good service against her will; and as to
the means thought she--what signifies going back to consider when they

The Collingwoods gladly availed themselves of Lady Cecilia Clarendon’s
kind invitation, as they were both most anxious to take leave of Helen
Stanley before their departure. They were to sail very soon, so that
their visit was but short; a few days of painful pleasure to Helen--a
happy meeting, but enjoyed with the mournful sense that they were so
soon to separate, and for so long a time; perhaps, for ever.

Mr. Collingwood told Helen that if she still agreed to his conditions,
he would arrange with Mr. James, the solicitor, that all the money left
to her by her uncle should be appropriated to the payment of his debts.
“But,” continued he, “pause and consider well, whether you can do
without this money, which is still yours; you are, you know, not bound
by any promise, and it is not yet too late to say you have altered your

Helen smiled and said, “You cannot be serious in saying this, I am

Mr. Collingwood assured her that he was. Helen simply said that her
determination was unalterable. He looked pleased yet his last words in
taking leave of her were, “Remember, my dear, that when you have given
away your fortune, you cannot live as if you had it.”

The Collingwoods departed; and, after a decent time had elapsed, or what
she deemed a decent time, Lady Cecilia was anxious to ascertain what
progress had been made; how relatively to each other, Lady Blanche
Forrester and Helen stood in Beauclerc’s opinion, or rather in his
imagination. But this was not quite so easy a matter to determine as
she had conceived it would be, judging from the frankness of Beauclerc’s
temper, and from the terms of familiarity on which they had lived while
abroad. His confidence was not to be won, surprised, or forced. He was
not only jealous of his free will, as most human beings are in love
affairs, but, like all men of true feeling, he desired in these matters
perfect mental privacy.

When Pysche is awakened, it should be by Cupid alone. Beauclerc did
not yet wish that she should be awakened. He admired, he enjoyed that
repose; he was charmed by the perfect confiding simplicity of Helen’s
mind, so unlike what he had seen in others--so real. The hope of that
pure friendship which dawned upon him he wished to prolong, and dreaded
lest, by any doubt raised, all might be clouded and changed. Lady
Cecilia was, however, convinced that, without knowing it, he was falling
comfortably in love through friendship; a very easy convenient way.

And Helen, had she too set out upon that easy convenient road of
friendship? She did not think about the road, but she felt that it
was very agreeable, and thought it was quite safe, as she went on so
smoothly and easily. She could not consider Mr. Beauclerc as a new
acquaintance, because she had heard so much about him. He was completely
one of the family, so that she, as part of that family, could not treat
him as a stranger. Her happiness, she was sensible, had much increased
since his arrival; but so had everybody’s. He gave a new spring, a new
interest, to everything; added so much to the life of life; his sense
and his nonsense were each of them good in their kind; and they were
of various kinds, from the high sublime of metaphysics to the droll
realities of life. But everybody blaming, praising, scolding, laughing
_at_, or _with_ him, he was necessary to all and with all, for some
reason or other, a favourite.

But the general was always as impatient as Lady Cecilia herself both
of his hypercriticism and of his never-ending fancies, each of which
Beauclerc purused with an eagerness and abandoned with a facility which
sorely tried the general’s equanimity. One day, after having ridden to
Old Forest, General Clarendon returned chafed. He entered the library,
talking to Cecilia, as Helen thought, about his horse.

“No managing him! Curb him ever so little, and he is on his hind-legs
directly. Give him his head, put the bridle on his neck, and he stands
still; does not know which way he would go, or what he would do. The
strangest fellow for a rational creature.”

Now it was clear it was of Beauclerc that he spoke. “So rash and yet so
resolute,” continued the general.

“How is that?” said Lady Davenant.

“I do not know how, but so it is,” said the general. “As you know,”
 appealing to Helen and to Lady Cecilia, “he was ready to run me through
till he had his own way about that confounded old house; and now there
are all the workmen at a stand, because Mr. Beauclerc cannot decide what
he will have done or undone.”

“Oh, it is my fault!” cried Helen, with the guilty recollection of the
last alteration not having been made yesterday in drawing the working
plan, and she hastened to look for it directly; but when she found it,
she saw to her dismay that Beauclerc had scribbled it all over with
literary notes; it was in no state to meet the general’s eye; she set
about copying it as fast as possible.

“Yes,” pursued the general; “forty alterations--shuffling about
continually. Cannot a man be decided?”

“Always with poor Beauclerc,” said Lady Cecilia, “le mieux est l’ennemi
du bien.”

“No, my dear Cecilia, it is all his indolence; there he sat with a book
in his hand all yesterday! with all his impetuosity, too indolent to
stir in his own business,” said the general.

“His mind is too active sometimes to allow his body to stir,” said Lady
Davenant; “and because he cannot move the universe, he will not stir his
little finger.”

“He is very fond of paradoxes, and your ladyship is very fond of him,”
 said the general; “but indolent he is; and as to activity of mind, it is
only in pursuit of his own fancies.”

“And your fancies and his differ,” said Lady Davenant.

“Because he never fancies any thing useful,” said the general. “C’est
selon! c’est selon!” cried Lady Cecilia gaily; “he thinks his fancies
useful, and especially all he is doing at Old Forest; but I confess he
tends most to the agreeable. Certainly he is a most agreeable creature.”

“Agreeable! satisfied to be called an agreeable man!” cried the general
indignantly; “yes, he has no ambition.”

“There I differ from you, general,” said Lady Davenant; “he has too
much: have patience with him; he is long-sighted in his visions of

“Visions indeed!” said the general.

“Those who are really ambitious,” continued Lady Davenant, “must think
before they act. ‘What shall I do to be for ever known?’ is a question
which deserves at least a little more thought than those which most
young men ask themselves, which commonly are, ‘What shall I do to be
known to-morrow--on the Turf or at Brook’s--or in Doctors’ Commons--or
at some exclusive party at charming Lady Nobody’s?’”

“What will you do for the plan for these workmen in the mean time, my
dear Clarendon?” said Lady Cecilia, afraid that some long discussion
would ensue.

“Here it is!” said Helen, who had managed to get it ready while they
were talking. She gave it to the general, who thanked her, and was
off directly. Cecilia then came to divert herself with looking at
Beauclerc’s scribbled plan, and she read the notes aloud for her
mother’s amusement. It was a sketch of a dramatical, metaphysical,
entertainment, of which half a dozen proposed titles had been scratched
out, and there was finally left ‘Tarquin the Optimist, or the Temple
of Destiny.’ It was from an old story begun by Laurentius Valla, and
continued by Leibnitz;--she read,

_“Act I. Scene 1. Sextus Tarquin goes to consult the Oracle, who
foretells the crime he is to commit.’_

“And then,” cried Lady Cecilia, “come measures of old and new front of
Old Forest house, wings included.”--Now he goes on with his play.

_“‘Tarquin’s complaint to Jupiter of the Oracle--Modern Predestination
compared to Ancient Destiny.’_

“And here,” continued Cecilia, “come prices of Norway deal and a great
blot, and then we have _‘Jupiter’s answer that Sextus may avoid his doom
if he pleases, by staying away from Rome; but he does not please to
do so, because he must then_ _renounce the crown. Good speech here on
vanity, and inconsistency of human wishes.’_

“‘Kitchen 23 ft. by 21. Query with hobs?’

“I cannot conceive, my dear Helen,” continued Lady Cecilia, “how you
could make the drawing out through all this,” and she continued to read.

_“‘Scene 3rd._

_“‘High Priest of Delphi asks Jupiter why he did not give Sextus a
better WILL?--why not MAKE him choose to give up the crown, rather than
commit the crime? Jupiter refuses to answer, and sends the High Priest
to consult Minerva at Athens.’_

“‘N.B. Old woman at Old Forest, promised her an oven,’--‘_Leibnitz

“Oh! if he goes to Leibnitz,” said Lady Cecilia, “he will be too grand
for me, but it will do for you, mamma.”

_“‘Leibnitz gives in his Temple of the Destinies a representation of
every possible universe from the worst to the best--This could not be
done on the stage.’_

“Very true indeed,” said Lady Cecilia; “but, Helen, listen, Granville
has really found an ingenious resource.”

_“‘By Ombres Chinoises, suppose; or a gauze curtain, as in Zemire et
Azore, the audience might be made to understand the main point, that
GOOD resulted from Tarquin’s BAD choice. Brutus, Liberty, Rome’s
grandeur, and the Optimist right at last. Q.E.D.’_

“Well, well,” continued Lady Cecilia, “I don’t understand it; but I
understand this,--‘Bricks wanting.’”

Lady Davenant smiled at this curious specimen of Beauclerc’s
versatility, but said, “I fear he will fritter away his powers on a
hundred different petty objects, and do nothing at last worthy of his
abilities. He will scatter and divide the light of his genius, and
show us every change of the prismatic colours--curious and beautiful to
behold, but dispersing, wasting the light he should concentrate on some
one, some noble object.”

“But if he has light enough for little objects and great too?” said Lady
Cecilia, “I allow, ‘qu’il faudrait plus d’un coeur pour aimer tant de
choses à la fois;’ but as I really think Granville has more heart than
is necessary, he can well afford to waste some of it, even on the old
woman at Old Forest.”


One evening, Helen was looking over a beautiful scrap-book of Lady
Cecilia’s. Beauclerc, who had stood by for some time, eyeing it in
rather scornful silence, at length asked whether Miss Stanley was a
lover of albums and autographs?

Helen had no album of her own, she said, but she was curious always to
see the autographs of celebrated people.

“Why?” said Beauclerc.

“I don’t know. It seems to bring one nearer to them. It gives more
reality to our imagination of them perhaps,” said Helen.

“The imagination is probably in most cases better than the reality,”
 replied he.

Lady Davenant stooped over Helen’s shoulder to look at the handwriting
of the Earl of Essex--the writing of the gallant Earl of Essex, at sight
of which, as she observed, the hearts of queens have beat high. “What a
crowd of associated ideas rise at the sight of that autograph! who can
look at it without some emotion?”

Helen could not. Beauclerc in a tone of raillery said he was sure, from
the eager interest Miss Stanley took in these autographs, that she would
in time become a collector herself; and he did not doubt that he should
see her with a valuable museum, in which should be preserved the old
pens of great men, that of Cardinal Chigi, for instance, who boasted
that he wrote with the same pen for fifty years.

“And by that boast you know,” said Lady Davenant, “convinced the
Cardinal de Retz that he was not a great, but a very little man. We will
not have that pen in Helen’s museum.”

“Why not?” Beauclerc asked, “it was full as well worth having as many
of the relics to be found in most young ladies’ and even old gentlemen’s
museums. It was quite sufficient whether a man had been great or little
that he had been talked of,--that he had been something of a _lion_--to
make any thing belonging to him valuable to collectors, who preserve and
worship even ‘the parings of lions’ claws.’”

That class of indiscriminate collectors Helen gave up to his
ridicule; still he was not satisfied. He went on to the whole class of
‘lion-hunters,’ as he called them, condemning indiscriminately all those
who were anxious to see celebrated people; he hoped Miss Stanley was not
one of that class.

“No, not a lion-hunter,” said Helen; she hoped she never should be one
of that set, but she confessed she had a great desire to see and to know
distinguished persons, and she hoped that this sort of curiosity, or
as she would rather call it enthusiasm, was not ridiculous, and did
not deserve to be confounded with the mere trifling vulgar taste for
sight-seeing and lion-hunting.

Beauclerc half smiled, but, not answering immediately, Lady Davenant
said, that for her part she did not consider such enthusiasm as
ridiculous; on the contrary, she liked it, especially in young people.
“I consider the warm admiration of talent and virtue in youth as a
promise of future excellence in maturer age.”

“And yet,” said Beauclerc, “the maxim ‘not to admire,’ is, I believe,
the most approved in philosophy, and in practice is the great secret of
happiness in this world.”

“In the _fine_ world, it is a fine air, I know,” said Lady Davenant.
“Among a set of fashionable young somnambulists it is doubtless the only
art they know to make men happy or to keep them so; but this has nothing
to do with philosophy, Beauclerc, though it has to do with conceit or

Mr. Beauclerc, now piqued, with a look and voice of repressed feeling,
said, that he hoped her ladyship did not include him among that set of
fashionable somnambulists.

“I hope you will not include yourself in it,” answered Lady Davenant:
“it is contrary to your nature, and if you join the _nil admirari_
coxcombs, it can be only for fashion’s sake--mere affectation.”

Beauclerc made no reply, and Lady Davenant, turning to Helen, told her
that several celebrated people were soon to come to Clarendon Park,
and congratulated her upon the pleasure she would have in seeing them.
“Besides being a great pleasure, it is a real advantage,” continued she,
“to see and be acquainted early in life with superior people. It enables
one to form a standard of excellence, and raises that standard high and
bright. In men, the enthusiasm becomes glorious ambition to excel in
arts or arms; in women, it refines and elevates the taste, and is so far
a preventive against frivolous, vulgar company, and all their train of
follies and vices. I can speak from my own recollection, of the great
happiness it was to me, when I early in life became acquainted with some
of the illustrious of my day.”

“And may I ask,” said Beauclerc, “if any of them equalled the
expectations you had formed of them?”

“Some far exceeded them,” said Lady Davenant.

“You were fortunate. Every body cannot expect to be so happy,” said
Beauclerc. “I believe, in general it is found that few great men of any
times stand the test of near acquaintance. No man----”

“Spare me!” cried Lady Davenant, interrupting him, for she imagined she
knew what he was going to say; “Oh! spare me that old sentence, ‘No man
is a hero to his valet de chambre.’ I cannot endure to hear that for the
thousandth time; I heartily wish it had never been said at all.”

“So do I,” replied Beauclerc; but Lady Davenant had turned away, and he
now spoke in so low a voice, that only Helen heard him. “So do I detest
that quotation, not only for being hackneyed, but for having been these
hundred years the comfort both of lean-jawed envy and fat mediocrity.”

He took up one of Helen’s pencils and began to cut it--he looked vexed,
and low to her observed, “Lady Davenant did not do me the honour to let
me finish my sentence.”

“Then,” said Helen, “if Lady Davenant misunderstood you, why do not you

“No, no it is not worth while, if she could so mistake me.”

“But any body may be mistaken; do explain.”

“No, no,” said he, very diligently cutting the pencil to pieces; “she is
engaged, you see, with somebody--something else.”

“But now she has done listening.”

“No, no, not now; there are too many people, and it’s of no

By this time the company were all eagerly talking of every remarkable
person they had seen, or that they regretted not having seen. Lady
Cecilia now called upon each to name the man among the celebrated of
modern days, whom they should most liked to have seen. By acclamation
they all named Sir Walter Scott, ‘The Ariosto of the North!’

All but Beauclerc; he did not join the general voice; he said low to
Helen with an air of disgust--“How tired I am of hearing him called ‘The
Ariosto of the North!’”

“But by whatever name,” said Helen, “surely you join in that general
wish to have seen him?”

“Yes, yes, I am sure of your vote,” cried Lady Cecilia, coming up to
them, “You, Granville, would rather have seen Sir Walter Scott than any
author since Shakespeare--would not you?”

“Pardon me, on the contrary, I am glad that I have never seen him.”

“Glad not to have seen him!--_not_?”

The word _not_ was repeated with astonished incredulous emphasis by all
voices. “Glad not to have seen Sir Walter Scott! How extraordinary! What
can Mr. Beauclerc mean?”

“To make us all stare,” said Lady Davenant, “so do not gratify him. Do
not wonder at him; we cannot believe what is impossible, you know, only
because it is impossible. But,” continued she, laughing, “I know how it
is. The spirit of contradiction--the spirit of singularity--two of your
familiars, Granville, have got possession of you again, and we must have
patience while the fit is on.”

“But I have not, and will not have patience,” said Lord Davenant, whose
good-nature seldom failed, but who was now quite indignant.

“I wonder you are surprised, my dear Lord,” said Lady Davenant, “for Mr.
Beauclerc likes so much better to go wrong by himself than to go right
with all the world, that you could not expect that he would join the
loud voice of universal praise.”

“I hear the loud voice of universal execration,” said Beauclerc; “you
have all abused me, but whom have I abused? What have I said?”

“Nothing.” replied Lady Cecilia; “that is what we complain of. I could
have better borne any abuse than indifference to Sir Walter Scott.”

“Indifference!” exclaimed Beauclerc--“what did I say Lady Cecilia, from
which you could infer that I felt indifference? Indifferent to him whose
name I cannot pronounce without emotion! I alone, of all the world,
indifferent to that genius, pre-eminent and unrivalled, who has so long
commanded the attention of the whole reading public, arrested at will
the instant order of the day by tales of other times, and in this
commonplace, this every-day existence of ours, created a holiday world,
where, undisturbed by vulgar cares, we may revel in a fancy region of
felicity, peopled with men of other times--shades of the historic dead,
more illustrious and brighter than in life!”

“Yes, the great Enchanter,” cried Cecilia.

“Great and good Enchanter,” continued Beauclerc, “for in his magic there
is no dealing with unlawful means. To work his ends, there is never aid
from any one of the bad passions of our nature. In his writings there
is no private scandal--no personal satire--no bribe to human frailty--no
libel upon human nature. And among the lonely, the sad, and the
suffering, how has he medicined to repose the disturbed mind, or
elevated the dejected spirit!--perhaps fanned to a flame the unquenched
spark, in souls not wholly lost to virtue. His morality is not in purple
patches, ostentatiously obtrusive, but woven in through the very texture
of the stuff. He paints man as he is, with all his faults, but with his
redeeming virtues--the world as it goes, with all its compensating good
and evil, yet making each man better contented with his lot. Without our
well knowing how, the whole tone of our minds is raised--for, thinking
nobly of our kind, he makes us think more nobly of ourselves!”

Helen, who had sympathised with Beauclerc in every word he had said,
felt how true it is that

“----Next to genius, is the power Of feeling where true genius lies.”

“Yet after all this, Granville,” said Lady Cecilia, “you would make us
believe you never wished to have seen this great man?”

Beauclerc made no answer.

“Oh! how I wish I had seen him!” said Helen to Lady Davenant, the only
person present who had had that happiness.

“If you have seen Raeburn’s admirable pictures, or Chantrey’s speaking
bust,” replied Lady Davenant, “you have as complete an idea of Sir
Walter Scott as painting or sculpture can give. The first impression of
his appearance and manner was surprising to me, I recollect, from its
quiet, unpretending good nature; but scarcely had that impression been
made before I was struck with something of the chivalrous courtesy of
other times. In his conversation you would have found all that is most
delightful in all his works--the combined talent and knowledge of the
historian, novelist, antiquary, and poet. He recited poetry admirably,
his whole face and figure kindling as he spoke: but whether talking,
reading, or reciting, he never tired me, even with admiring; and it
is curious that, in conversing with him, I frequently found myself
forgetting that I was speaking to Sir Walter Scott; and, what is even
more extraordinary, forgetting that Sir Walter Scott was speaking to me,
till I was awakened to the conviction by his saying something which no
one else could have said. Altogether he was certainly the most perfectly
agreeable and perfectly amiable great man I ever knew.”

“And now, mamma,” said Lady Cecilia, “do make Granville confess honestly
he would give the world to have seen him.”

“Do, Lady Davenant,” said Helen, who saw, or thought she saw, a singular
emotion in Beauclerc’s countenance, and fancied he was upon the point of
yielding; but Lady Davenant, without looking at him, replied,--“No, my
dear, I will not ask him--I will not encourage him in _affectation_.”

At that word dark grew the brow of Beauclerc, and he drew back, as it
were, into his shell, and out of it came no more that night, nor the
next morning at breakfast. But, as far as could be guessed, he suffered
internally, and no effort made to relieve did him any good, so every one
seemed to agree that it was much better to let him alone, or let him
be moody in peace, hoping that in time the mood would change; but it
changed not till the middle of that day, when, as Helen was sitting
working in Lady Davenant’s room, while she was writing, two quick knocks
were heard at the door.

“Come in!” said Lady Davenant.

Mr. Beauclerc stood pausing on the threshold----

“Do not go, Miss Stanley,” said he, looking very miserable and ashamed,
and proud, and then ashamed again.

“What is the matter, Granville?” said Lady Davenant.

“I am come to have a thorn taken out of my mind,” said he--“two thorns
which have sunk deep, kept me awake half the night. Perhaps, I ought to
be ashamed to own I have felt pain from such little things. But so it
is; though, after all, I am afraid they will be invisible to you, Lady

“I will try with a magnifying-glass,” said she; “lend me that of your
imagination, Granville--a high power, and do not look so very miserable,
or Miss Stanley will laugh at you.”

“Miss Stanley is too good to laugh.”

“That is being too good indeed,” said Lady Davenant. “Well, now to the

“You were very unjust to me, Lady Davenant, yesterday, and unkind.”

“Unkind is a woman’s word; but go on.”

“Surely man may mark ‘unkindness’ altered eye’ as well as woman,” said
Beauclerc; “and from a woman and a friend he may and must feel it, or he
is more or less than man.”

“Now what can you have to say, Granville, that will not be anticlimax to
this exordium?”

“I will say no more if you talk of exordiums and anti-climaxes,” cried
he. “You accused me yesterday of affectation--twice, when I was no more
affected than you are.”

“Oh! is that my crime? Is that, what has hurt you so dreadfully? Here is
the thorn that has gone in so deep! I am afraid that, as is usual, the
accusation hurt the more because it was----”

“Do not say ‘true,’” interrupted Beauclerc, “for you really cannot
believe it, Lady Davenant. You know me, and all my faults, and I have
plenty; but you need not accuse me of one that I have not, and which
from the bottom of my soul I despise. Whatever are my faults, they are
at least real, and my own.”

“You may allow him that,” said Helen.

“Well I will--I do,” said Lady Davenant; “to appease you, poor injured
innocence; though anyone in the world might think you affected at this
moment. Yet I, who know you, know that it is pure real folly. Yes, yes,
I acquit you of affectation.”

Beauclerc’s face instantly cleared up.

“But you said two thorns had gone into your mind--one is out, now for
the other.”

“I do not feel that other, now,” said Beauclerc, “it was only a mistake.
When I began with ‘No man,’ I was not going to say, ‘No man is a hero to
his valet de chambre.’ If I had been allowed to finish my sentence, it
would have saved a great deal of trouble, I was going to say that no man
admires excellence more fervently than I do, and that my very reason
for wishing not to see celebrated people is, lest the illusion should be

“No description ever gives us an exact idea of any person, so that when
any one has been much described and talked of, before we see them we
form in our mind’s eye some image, some notion of our own, which always
proves to be unlike the reality; and when we do afterwards see it, even
if it be fairer or better than our imagination, still at first there
is a sort of disappointment, from the non-agreement with our previously
formed conception. Every body is disappointed the first time they see
Hamlet, or Falstaff, as I think Dugald Stewart observes.”

“True; and I remember,” said Lady Davenant, “Madame de la Rochejaquelin
once said to me, ‘I hate that people should come to see me. I know it
destroys the illusion.’”

“Yes,” cried Beauclerc; “how much I dread to destroy any of those
blessed illusions, which make the real happiness of life. Let me
preserve the objects of my idolatry; I would not approach too near the
shrine; I fear too much light. I would not know that they were false!”

“Would you then be deceived?” said Lady Davenant.

“Yes,” cried he; “sooner would I believe in all the fables of the Talmud
than be without the ecstasy of veneration. It is the curse of age to
be thus miserably disenchanted; to outlive all our illusions, all our
hopes. That may be my doom in age, but, in youth, the high spring-time
of existence, I will not be cursed with such a premature ossification
of the heart. Oh! rather, ten thousand times rather, would I die this

“Well! but there is not the least occasion for your dying,” said Lady
Davenant, “and I am seriously surprised that you should suffer so much
from such slight causes; how will you ever get through the world if you
stop thus to weigh every light word?”

“The words of most people,” replied he, “pass by me like the idle wind;
but I do weigh every word from the very few whom I esteem, admire, and
love; with my friends, perhaps, I am too susceptible, I love them so

This is an excuse for susceptibility of temper which flatters friends
too much to be easily rejected. Even Lady Davenant admitted it, and
Helen thought it was all natural.


Lady Cecilia was now impatient to have the house filled with company.
She gave Helen a _catalogue raisonné_ of all who were expected at
Clarendon Park, some for a fashionable three days’ visit; some for a
week; some for a fortnight or three weeks, be the same more or less. “I
have but one fixed principle,” said she, “but I _have_ one,--never to
have tiresome people when it can possibly be avoided. Impossible, you
know, it is sometimes. One’s own and one’s husband’s relations one must
have; but, as for the rest, it’s one’s own fault if one fails in the
first and last maxim of hospitality--to welcome the coming and speed the
parting guest.”

The first party who arrived were of Lady Davenant’s particular friends,
to whom Cecilia had kindly given the precedence, if not the preference,
that her mother might have the pleasure of seeing them, and that they
might have the honour of taking leave of her, before her departure from

They were political, fashionable, and literary; some of ascendency
in society, some of parliamentary promise, and some of ministerial
eminence--the aristocracy of birth and talents well mixed.

The aristocracy of birth and the aristocracy of talents are words
now used more as a commonplace antithesis, than as denoting a real
difference or contrast. In many instances, among those now living,
both are united in a manner happy for themselves and glorious for their
country. England may boast of having among her young nobility

  “The first in birth, the first in fame.”

men distinguished in literature and science, in senatorial eloquence and
statesmanlike abilities.

But in this party at Clarendon Park there were more of the literary and
celebrated than without the presence of Lady Davenant could perhaps have
been assembled, or perhaps would have been desired by the general and
Lady Cecilia. Cecilia’s beauty and grace were of all societies, and the
general was glad for Lady Davenant’s sake and proud for his own part, to
receive these distinguished persons at his house.

Helen had seen some of them before at Cecilhurst and at the Deanery.
By her uncle’s friends she was kindly recognised, by others of course
politely noticed; but miserably would she have been disappointed and
mortified, if she had expected to fix general attention, or excite
general admiration. Past and gone for ever are the days, if ever they
were, when a young lady, on her entrance into life, captivated by a
glance, overthrew by the first word, and led in triumph her train of
admirers. These things are not to be done now-a-days.

Yet even when unnoticed Helen was perfectly happy. Her expectations were
more than gratified in seeing and in hearing these distinguished people,
and she sat listening to their conversation in delightful enjoyment,
without even wanting to have it seen how well she understood.

There is a precious moment for young people, if taken at the prime, when
first introduced into society, yet not expected, not called upon to take
a part in it, they, as standers by, may see not only all the play, but
the characters of the players, and may learn more of life and of
human nature in a few months, than afterwards in years, when they are
themselves actors upon the stage of life, and become engrossed by their
own parts. There is a time, before the passions are awakened, when
the understanding, with all the life of nature, fresh from all that
education can do to develop and cultivate, is at once eager to observe
and able to judge, for a brief space blessed with the double advantages
of youth and age. This time once gone is lost irreparably; and how often
it is lost--in premature vanity, or premature dissipation!

Helen had been chiefly educated by a man, and a very sensible man, as
Dean Stanley certainly was in all but money matters. Under his masculine
care, while her mind had been brought forward on some points, it
had been kept back on others, and while her understanding had
been cultivated, it had been done without the aid of emulation or
competition; not by touching the springs of pride, but by opening
sources of pure pleasure; and this pure pleasure she now enjoyed,
grateful to that dear uncle. For the single inimitable grace of
simplicity which she possessed, how many mothers, governesses, and young
ladies themselves, willingly, when they see how much it charms, would
too late exchange half the accomplishments, all the acquirements, so
laboriously achieved!

Beauclerc, who had seen something of the London female world, was, both
from his natural taste and from contrast, pleased with Helen’s fresh and
genuine character, and he sympathised with all her silent delight. He
never interrupted her in her enthusiastic contemplation of the great
stars, but he would now and then seize an interval of rest to compare
her observations with his own; anxious to know whether she estimated
their relative magnitude and distances as he did. These snatched moments
of comparison and proof of agreement in their observations, or the
pleasure of examining the causes of their difference of opinion,
enhanced the enjoyment of this brilliant fortnight; and not a cloud
obscured the deep serene.

Notwithstanding all the ultra-refined nonsense Beauclerc had talked
about his wish not to see remarkable persons, no one could enjoy it
more, as Helen now perceived; and she saw also that he was considered
as a man of promise among all these men of performance. But there were
some, perhaps very slight things, which raised him still more in her
mind, because they showed superiority of character. She observed his
manner towards the general in this company, where he had himself
the ‘vantage ground--so different now from what it had been in the
Old-Forest battle, when only man to man, ward to guardian. Before these
distinguished persons there was a look--a tone of deference at once most
affectionate and polite.

“It is so generous,” said Lady Cecilia to Helen; “is not it?” and Helen

This brilliant fortnight ended too soon, as Helen thought, but Lady
Cecilia had had quite enough of it. “They are all to go to-morrow
morning, and I am not sorry for it,” said she at night, as she threw
herself into an arm-chair, in Helen’s room; and, after having indulged
in a refreshing yawn, she exclaimed, “Very delightful, very delightful!
as you say, Helen, it has all been; but I am not sure that I should not
be very much tired if I had much more of it. Oh! yes, I admired them all
amazingly, but then admiring all day long is excessively wearisome. The
very attitude of looking up fatigues both body and mind. Mamma is never
tired, because she never has to look up; she can always look down, and
that’s so grand and so easy. She has no idea how the neck of my poor
mind aches this minute; and my poor eyes! blasted with excess of light.
How yours have stood it so well, Helen, I cannot imagine! how much
stronger they must be than mine. I must confess, that, without the
relief of music now and then, and ecarté, and that quadrille, bad as it
was, I should never have got through it to-night alive or awake. But,”
 cried she, starting up in her chair, “do you know Horace Churchill
stays to-morrow. Such a compliment from him to stay a day longer than he
intended! And do you know what he says of your eyes, Helen?--that they
are the best listeners he ever spoke to. I should warn you though,
my dear, that he is something, and not a little, I believe, of a male
coquette. Though he is not very young, but he well understands all the
advantages of a careful toilette. He has, like that George Herbert in
Queen Elizabeth’s time, ‘a genteel humour for dress.’ He is handsome
still, and his fine figure, and his fine feelings, and his fine fortune,
have broken two or three hearts; nevertheless I am delighted that he
stays, especially that he stays on your account.”

“Upon my account!” exclaimed Helen. “Did not you see that, from the
first day when Mr. Churchill had the misfortune to be placed beside me
at dinner, he utterly despised me: he began to talk to me, indeed, but
left his sentence unfinished, his good story untold, the instant he
caught the eye of a grander auditor.”

Lady Cecilia had seen this, and marvelled at a well-bred man so far
forgetting himself in vanity; but this, she observed, was only the first
day; he had afterwards changed his manner towards Helen completely.

“Yes, when he saw Lady Davenant thought me worth speaking to. But, after
all, it was quite natural that he should not know well what to say to
me. I am only a young lady. I acquit him of all peculiar rudeness to
me, for I am sure Mr. Churchill really could not talk for only one
insignificant hearer, could not bring out his good things, unless he
felt secure of possessing the attention of the whole dinner-table, so I
quite forgive him.”

“After this curse of forgiveness, my dear Helen, I will wish you a good
night,” said Lady Cecilia, laughing; and she retired with a fear that
there would not be jealousy enough between the gentlemen, or that Helen
would not know how to play them one against another.

There is a pleasure in seeing a large party disperse; in staying behind
when others go:--there is advantage as well as pleasure, which is felt
by the timid, because they do not leave their characters behind them;
and rejoiced in by the satirical, because the characters of the departed
and departing are left behind, fair game for them. Of this advantage
no one could be more sensible, no one availed himself of it with more
promptitude and skill, than Mr. Churchill: for well he knew that though
wit may fail, humour may not take--though even flattery may pall upon
the sense, scandal, satire, and sarcasm, are resources never failing for
the lowest capacities, and sometimes for the highest.

This morning, in the library at Clarendon Park, he looked out of the
window at the departing guests, and, as each drove off, he gave to each
his _coup de patte_. To Helen, to whom it was new, it was wonderful to
see how each, even of those next in turn to go, enjoyed the demolition
of those who were just gone; how, blind to fate, they laughed,
applauded, and licked the hand just raised to strike themselves. Of the
first who went--“Most respectable people,” said Lady Cecilia; “a _bonne
mère de famille_.”

“Most respectable people!” repeated Horace--“most respectable people,
old coach and all.” And then, as another party drove off--“No fear of
any thing truly respectable here.”

“Now, Horace, how can you say so?--she is so amiable and so clever.”

“So clever? only, perhaps, a thought too fond of English liberty and
French dress. _Poissarde bien coiffée_.”

“_Poissarde!_ of one of the best born, best bred women in England!”
 cried Lady Cecilia; “_bien coiffée_, I allow.”

“Lady Cecilia is _si coiffée de sa belle amie_, that I see I must not
say a word against her, till--the fashion changes. But, hark! I hear a
voice I never wish to hear.”

“Yet nobody is better worth hearing----”

“Oh! yes, the queen of the Blues--the Blue Devils!”

“Hush!” cried the aide-de-camp, “she is coming in to take leave.”

Then, as the queen of the Blue Devils entered, Mr. Churchill, in the
most humbly respectful manner, begged--“My respects--I trust your grace
will do me the favour--the justice to remember me to all your party
who--do me the honour to bear me in mind--” then, as she left the room,
he turned about and laughed.

“Oh! you sad, false man!” cried the lady next in turn to go. “I declare,
Mr. Churchill, though I laugh, I am quite afraid to go off before you.”

“Afraid! what could malice or envy itself find to say of your ladyship,
_intacte_ as you are?--_Intacte!_” repeated he, as she drove off,
“_intacte!_--a well chosen epithet, I flatter myself!”

“Yes, _intacte_--untouched--above the breath of slander,” cried Lady

“I know it: so I say,” replied Churchill: “fidelity that has stood all
temptations--to which it has ever been exposed; and her husband is----”

“A near relation of mine,” said Lady Cecilia. “I am not prudish as to
scandal in general,” continued she, laughing; “‘a chicken, too, might do
me good,’ but then the fox must not prey at home. No one ought to stand
by and hear their own relations abused.”

“A thousand pardons! I depended too much on the general maxim--that the
nearer the bone the sweeter the slander.”

“Nonsense!” said Lady Cecilia.

“I meant to say, the nearer the heart the dearer the blame. A cut
against a first cousin may go wrong--but a bosom friend--oh! how I have
succeeded against best friends; scolded all the while, of course, and
called a monster. But there is Sir Stephen bowing to you.” Then, as Lady
Cecilia kissed her hand to him from the window, Churchill went on: “By
the by, without any scandal, seriously I heard something--I was quite
concerned--that he had been of late less in his study and more in the
boudoir of ------. Surely it cannot be true!”

“Positively false,” said Lady Cecilia.

“At every breath a reputation dies,” said Beauclerc.

“‘Pon my soul, that’s true!” said the aide-de-camp. “Positively, hit or
miss, Horace has been going on, firing away with his wit, pop, pop, pop!
till he has bagged--how many brace?”

Horace turned away from him contemptuously, and looked to see
whereabouts Lady Davenant might be all this time.


Lady Davenant was at the far end of the room engrossed, Churchill
feared, by the newspaper; as he approached she laid it down, and said,--

“How scandalous some of these papers have become, but it is the fault of
the taste of the age. ‘Those who live to please, must please to live.’”

Horace was not sure whether he was cut or not, but he had the presence
of mind not to look hurt. He drew nearer to Lady Davenant, seated
himself, and taking up a book as if he was tired of folly, to which he
had merely condescended, he sat and read, and then sat and thought, the
book hanging from his hand.

The result of these profound thoughts he gave to the public, not to the
aide-de-camp; no more of the little pop-gun pellets of wits--but now was
brought out reason and philosophy. In a higher tone he now reviewed the
literary, philosophical, and political world, with touches of La Bruyere
and Rochefoucault in the characters he drew and in the reflections
he made; with an air, too, of sentimental contrition for his own
penetration and fine moral sense, which compelled him to see and to be
annoyed by the faults of such superior men.

The analysis he made of every mind was really perfect--in one respect,
not a grain of bad but was separated from the good, and held up clean
and clear to public view. And as an anatomist he showed such knowledge
both of the brain and of the heart, such an admirable acquaintance with
all their diseases and handled the probe and the scalpel so well, with
such a practised hand!

“Well, really this is comfortable,” said Lord Davenant, throwing himself
back in his arm-chair--“True English comfort, to sit at ease and see all
one’s friends so well dissected! Happy to feel that it is our duty to
our neighbour to see him well cut up--ably anatomised for the good of
society; and when I depart--when my time comes--as come it must, nobody
is to touch me but Professor Churchill. It will be a satisfaction to
know that I shall be carved as a dish fit for gods, not hewed as
a carcase for hounds. So now remember, Cecilia, I call on you to
witness--I hereby, being of sound mind and body, leave and bequeath my
character, with all my defects and deficiencies whatsoever, and all and
any singular curious diseases of the mind, of which I may die possessed,
wishing the same many for his sake,--to my good friend Doctor Horace
Churchill, professor of moral, philosophic, and scandalous anatomy, to
be by him dissected at his good pleasure for the benefit of society.”

“Many thanks, my good lord; and I accept your legacy for the honour--not
the value of the gift, which every body must be sensible is nothing,”
 said Churchill, with a polite bow--“absolutely nothing. I shall never be
able to make anything of it.”

“Try--try, my dear friend,” answered Lord Davenant. “Try, don’t be

“That would be difficult when so distinguished,” said Beauclerc, with an
admirable look of proud humility.

“Distinguished Mr. Horace Churchill assuredly is,” said Lady Davenant,
looking at him from behind her newspaper. “Distinguished above all his
many competitors in this age of scandal; he has really raised the art
to the dignity of a science. Satire, scandal, and gossip, now
hand-in-hand--the three new graces: all on the same elevated
rank--three, formerly considered as so different, and the last left to
our inferior sex, but now, surely, to be a male gossip is no reproach.”

“O, Lady Davenant!--male gossip--what an expression!”

“What a reality!”

“Male gossip!--‘_Tombe sur moi le ciel!_’” cried Churchill.

“‘_Pourvu que je me venge_,’ always understood,” pursued Lady Davenant;
“but why be so afraid of the imputation of gossiping, Mr. Churchill?
It is quite fashionable, and if so, quite respectable, you know, and in
your style quite grand.

  “And gossiping wonders at being so fine--

“Malice, to be hated, needs but to be seen, but now when it is elegantly
dressed we look upon it without shame or consciousness of evil; we grow
to doat upon it--so entertaining, so graceful, so refined. When vice
loses half its grossness, it loses all its deformity. Humanity used to
be talked of when our friends were torn to pieces, but now there is such
a philosophical perfume thrown over the whole operation, that we are
irresistibly attracted. How much we owe to such men as Mr. Churchill,
who make us feel detraction virtue!”

He bowed low as Lady Davenant, summoned by her lord, left the room, and
there he stood as one condemned but not penitent.

“If I have not been well sentenced,” said he, as the door closed, “and
made ‘_to feel detraction virtue_!’--But since Lady Cecilia cannot help
smiling at that, I am acquitted, and encouraged to sin again the first
opportunity. But Lady Davenant shall not be by, nor Lord Davenant

Lady Cecilia sat down to write a note, and Mr. Churchill walked round
the room in a course of critical observation on the pictures, of which,
as of every thing else, he was a supreme judge. At last he put his eye
and his glass down to something which singularly attracted his attention
on one of the marble tables.

“Pretty!” said Lady Cecilia, “pretty are not they?--though one’s so
tired of them every where now--those doves!”

“Doves!” said Churchill, “what I am admiring are gloves, are not they,
Miss Stanley?” said he, pointing to an old pair of gloves, which, much
wrinkled and squeezed together, lay on the beautiful marble in rather an
unsightly lump.

“Poor Doctor V------,” cried Helen to Cecilia; “that poor Doctor
V-------is as absent as ever! he is gone, and has forgotten his gloves!”

“Absent! oh, as ever!” said Lady Cecilia, going on with her note, “the
most absent man alive.”

“Too much of that sort of thing I think there is in Doctor V-------,”
 pursued Churchill: “a touch of absence of mind, giving the idea of high
abstraction, becomes a learned man well enough; but then it should only
be slight, as a _soupçon_ of rouge, which may become a pretty woman;
all depends on the measure, the taste, with which these things are
managed--put on.”

“There is nothing managed, nothing _put on_ in Doctor V------,” cried
Helen, eagerly, her colour rising; “it is all perfectly sincere, true in
him, whatever it be.”

Beauclerc put down his book.

“All perfectly true! You really think so, Miss Stanley?” said Churchill,
smiling, and looking superior down.

“I do, indeed,” cried Helen.

“Charming--so young! How I do love that freshness of mind!”

“Impertinent fellow! I could knock him down, felt Beauclerc.

“And you think all Doctor V------‘s humility true?” said Churchill.
“Yes, perfectly!” said Helen; “but I do not wonder you are surprised at
it, Mr. Churchill.”

She meant no _malice_, though for a moment he thought she did; and he
winced under Beauclerc’s smile.

“I do not wonder that any one who does not know Doctor V------ should be
surprised by his great humility,” added Helen.

“You are sure that it is not pride that apes humility?” asked Churchill.

“Yes, quite sure!”

“Yet--” said Churchill (putting his malicious finger through a great
hole in the thumb of the doctor’s glove) “I should have fancied that
I saw vanity through the holes in these gloves, as through the
philosopher’s cloak of old.”

“Horace is a famous fellow for picking holes and making much of them,
Miss Stanley, you see,” said the aide-de-camp.

“Vanity! Doctor V----has no vanity!” said Helen, “if you knew him.”

“No vanity! Whom does Miss Stanley mean?” cried the aide-de-camp. “No
vanity? that’s good. Who? Horace?”

“_Mauvais plaisant_!” Horace put him by, and, happily not easily put out
of countenance, he continued to Helen,--

“You give the good doctor credit, too, for all his _naïveté_?” said

“He does not want credit for it,” said Helen, “he really has it.”

“I wish I could see things as you do, Miss Stanley.”

“Show him that, Helen,” cried Lady Cecilia, looking at a table beside
them, on which lay one of those dioramic prints which appear all a
confusion of lines till you look at them in their right point of view.
“Show him that--it all depends, and so does seeing characters, on
getting the right point of view.”

“Ingenious!” said Churchill, trying to catch the right position; “but I
can’t, I own--” then abruptly resuming, “Navïeté charms me at fifteen,”
 and his eye glanced at Helen, then was retracted, then returning to his
point of view, “at eighteen perhaps may do,” and his eyes again turned
to Helen, “at eighteen--it captivates me quite,” and his eye dwelt. “But
naïveté at past fifty, verging to sixty, is quite another thing, really
rather too much for me. I like all things in season, and above all,
simplicity will not bear long keeping. I have the greatest respect
possible for our learned and excellent friend, but I wish this could be
any way suggested to him, and that he would lay aside this out-of-season

“He cannot lay aside his nature,” said Helen, “and I am glad of it, it
is such a good nature.”

“Kind-hearted creature he is, I never heard him say a severe word of any
one,” said Lady Cecilia.

“What a sweet man he must he!” said Horace, making a face at which none
present, not even Helen, could forbear to smile. “His heart, I am sure,
is in the right place always. I only wish one could say the same of his
wig. And would it be amiss if he sometimes (I would not be too hard upon
him, Miss Stanley), once a fortnight, suppose--brushed, or caused to be
brushed, that coat of his?”

“You have dusted his jacket for him famously, Horace, I think,” said the

At this instant the door opened, and in came the doctor himself.

Lady Cecilia’s hand was outstretched with her note, thinking, as the
door opened, that she should see the servant come in, for whom she had

“What surprises you all so, my good friends,” said the doctor, stopping
and looking round in all his native simplicity.

“My dear doctor” said Lady Cecilia, “only we all thought you were
gone--that’s all.”

“And I am not gone, that’s all. I stayed to write a letter, and am come
here to look for--but I cannot find-my--”

“Your gloves, perhaps, doctor, you are looking for,” said Churchill,
going forward, and with an air of the greatest respect and
consideration, both for the gloves and for their owner, he presented
them; then shook the doctor by the hand, with a cordiality which the
good soul thought truly English, and, bowing him out, added, “How proud
he had been to make his acquaintance,--_au revoir_, he hoped, in Park

“Oh you treacherous--!” cried Lady Cecilia, turning to Horace, as soon
as the unsuspecting philosopher was fairly gone. “Too bad really! If
he were not the most simple-minded creature extant, he must have seen,
suspected, something from your look; and what would have become of you
if the doctor had come in one moment sooner, and had heard you--I was
really frightened.”

“Frightened! so was I, almost out of my wits,” said Churchill.
“_Les revenans_ always frighten one; and they never hear any good of
themselves, for which reason I make it a principle, when once I have
left a room, full of friends especially, never--never to go back. My
gloves, my hat, my coat, I’d leave, sooner than lose my friends. Once
I heard it said, by one who knew the world and human nature better than
any of us--once I heard it said in jest, but in sober earnest I say,
that I would not for more than I am worth be placed, without his knowing
it, within earshot of my best friend.”

“What sort of a best friend can yours he?” cried Beauclerc.

“Much like other people’s, I suppose,” replied Horace, speaking with
perfect nonchalance--“much like other people’s best friends. Whosoever
expects to find better, I guess, will find worse, if he live in the
world we live in.”

“May I go out of the world before I believe or suspect any such thing?”
 cried Beauclerc. “Rather than have the Roman curse light upon me,
‘May you survive all your friends and relations!’ may I die a thousand

“Who talks of dying, in a voice so sweet--a voice so loud?” said
provoking Horace, in his calm, well-bred tone; “for my part, I who have
the honour of speaking to you, can boast, that never since I was of
years of discretion (counting new style, beginning at thirteen, of
course)--never have I lost a friend, a sincere friend--never, for this
irrefragable reason--since that nonage, never was I such a neophyte as
to fancy I had found that _lusus natures_, a friend perfectly sincere.”

“How I pity you!” cried Beauclerc, “if you are in earnest; but in
earnest you can’t be.”

“Pardon me, I can, and I am. And in earnest you will oblige me, Mr.
Beauclerc, if you will spare me your pity: for, all things in this
world considered,” said Horace Churchill, drawing himself up, “I do not
conceive that I am much an object of pity.” Then, turning upon his heel,
he walked away, conscious, however, half an instant afterwards, that
he had drawn himself up too high, and that for a moment his temper had
spoiled his tone, and betrayed him into a look and manner too boastful,
bordering on the ridiculous. He was in haste to repair the error.

Not Garrick, in the height of his celebrity and of his susceptibility,
was ever more anxious than Horace Churchill to avert the stroke of
ridicule--to guard against the dreaded smile. As he walked away, he felt
behind his back that those he left were smiling in silence.

Lady Cecilia had thrown herself on a sofa, resting, after the labour of
_l’éloquence de billet_. He stopped, and, leaning over the back of the
sofa on which she reclined, repeated an Italian line in which was the
word “_pavoneggiarsi_.”

“My dear Lady Cecilia, you, who understand and feel Italian so well, how
expressive are some of their words! _Pavoneggiarsi!_--untranslatable.
One cannot say well in English, to peacock oneself. To make oneself like
unto a peacock is flat; but _pavoneggiarsi_--action, passion, picture,
all in one! To plume oneself comes nearest to it; but the word cannot
be given, even by equivalents, in English; nor can it be naturalised,
because, in fact, we have not the feeling. An Englishman is too proud to
boast--too bashful to strut; if ever he _peacocks himself_, it is in
a moment of anger, not in display. The language of every country,”
 continued he, raising his voice, in order to reach Lady Davenant,
who just then returned to the room, as he did not wish to waste a
philosophical observation on Lady Cecilia,--“the language of every
country is, to a certain degree, evidence, record, history of its
character and manners.” Then, lowering his voice almost to a whisper,
but very distinct, turning while he spoke so as to make sure that Miss
Stanley heard--“Your young friend this morning quite captivated me by
her nature--nature, the thing that now is most uncommon, a real natural
woman; and when in a beauty, how charming! How delicious when one meets
with _effusion de coeur_: a young lady, too, who speaks pure English,
not a leash of languages at once; and cultivated, too, your friend is,
for one does not like ignorance, if one could have knowledge without
pretension--so hard to find the golden mean!--and if one could find it,
one might not be nearer to----”

Lady Cecilia listened for the finishing word, but none came. It all
ended in a sigh, to be interpreted as she pleased. A look towards the
ottoman, where Beauclerc had now taken his seat beside Miss Stanley,
seemed to point the meaning out: but Lady Cecilia knew her man too well
to understand him.

Beauclerc, seated on the ottoman, was showing to Helen some passages in
the book he was reading; she read with attention, and from time to time
looked up with a smile of intelligence and approbation. What either said
Horace could not hear, and he was the more curious, and when the book
was put down, after carelessly opening others he took it up. Very much
surprised was he to find it neither novel nor poem: many passages were
marked with pencil notes of approbation, he took it for granted these
were Bleauclerc’s; there he was mistaken, they were Lady Davenant’s. She
was at her work-table. Horace, book in hand, approached; the book
was not in his line, it was more scientific than literary--it was for
posterity more than for the day; he had only turned it over as literary
men turn over scientific books, to seize what may serve for a new simile
or a good allusion; besides, among his philosophical friends, the book
being talked of, it was well to know enough of it to have something to
say, and he had said well, very _judiciously_ he had praised it among
the elect; but now it was his fancy to depreciate it with all his might;
not that he disliked the author or the work now more than he had
done before, but he was in the humour to take the opposite side from
Beauclerc, so he threw the book from him contemptuously “Rather a slight
hasty thing, in my opinion,” said he. Beauclerc’s eyes took fire as he
exclaimed, “Slight! hasty! this most noble, most solid work!”

“Solid in your opinion,” said Churchill, with a smile deferential,
slightly sneering.

“Our own opinion is all that either of us can give,” said Beauclerc; “in
my opinion it is the finest view of the progress of natural philosophy,
the most enlarged, the most just in its judgments of the past, and in
its prescience of the future; in the richness of experimental knowledge,
in its theoretic invention, the greatest work by any one individual
since the time of Bacon.”

“And Bacon is under your protection, too?”

“Protection! my protection?” said Beauclerc.

“Pardon me, I simply meant to ask if you are one of those who swear by
Lord Verulam.”

“I swear by no man, I do not swear at all, not on philosophical subjects
especially; swearing adds nothing to faith,” said Beauclerc.

“I stand corrected,” said Churchill, “and I would go further, and add
that in argument enthusiasm adds nothing to reason--much as I admire,
as we all admire,” glancing at Miss Stanley, “that enthusiasm with which
this favoured work has been advocated!”

“I could not help speaking warmly,” cried Beauclerc; “it is a book to
inspire enthusiasm; there is such a noble spirit all through it, so pure
from petty passions, from all vulgar jealousies, all low concerns! Judge
of a book, somebody says, by the impression it leaves on your mind when
you lay it down; this book stands that test, at least with me, I lay
it down with such a wish to follow--with steps ever so unequal still to
follow, where it points the way.”

“Bravo! bravissimo! hear him, hear him! print him, print him! hot-press
from the author to the author, hot-press!” cried Churchill, and he

Like one suddenly awakened from the trance of enthusiasm by the cold
touch of ridicule, stood Beauclerc, brought down from heaven to earth,
and by that horrid little laugh, not the heart’s laugh.

“But my being ridiculous does not make my cause so, and that is a

“And another comfort you may have, my dear Granville,” said Lady
Davenant, “that ridicule is not the test of truth; truth should be the
test of ridicule.”

“But where is the book?” continued Beauclerc.

Helen gave it to him.

“Now, Mr. Churchill,” said Beauclerc; “I am really anxious, I know you
are such a good critic, will you show me these faults? blame as well as
praise must always be valuable from those who themselves excel.”

“You are too good,” said Churchill.

“Will you then be good enough to point out the errors for me?”

“Oh, by no means,” cried Churchill, “don’t note me, do not quote me, I
am nobody, and I cannot give up my authorities.”

“But the truth is all I want to get at,” said Beauclerc.

“Let her rest, my dear sir, at the bottom of her well; there she is,
and there she will be for ever and ever, and depend upon it none of our
windlassing will ever bring her up.”

“Such an author as this,” continued Beauclerc, “would have been so glad
to have corrected any error.”

“So every author tells you, but I never saw one of them who did not look
blank at a list of errata--if you knew how little one is thanked for

“But you would be thanked now,” said Beauclerc:--“the faults in style,
at least.”

“Nay, I am no critic,” said Churchill, confident in his habits of
literary detection; “but if you ask me,” said he, as he disdainfully
flirted the leaves back and forward with a “There now!” and a “Here
now!” “We should not call that good writing--you could not think this
correct? I may be wrong, but I should not use this phrase. Hardly
English that--colloquial, I think; and this awkward ablative
absolute--never admitted now.”

“Thank you,” said Beauclerc, “these faults are easily mended.”

“Easily mended, say you? I say, better make a new one.”

“WHO COULD?” said Beauclerc.

“How many faults you see,” said Helen, “which I should never have
perceived unless you had pointed them out, and I am sorry to know them
now.” Smiling at Helen’s look of sincere mortification, in contrast at
this moment with Mr. Churchill’s air of satisfied critical pride, Lady
Davenant said,--

“Why sorry, my dear Helen? No human work can be perfect; Mr. Churchill
may be proud of that strength of eye which in such a powerful light can
count the spots. But whether it be the best use to make of his eyes, or
the best use that can be made of the light, remains to be considered.”


Beyond measure was Churchill provoked to find Lady Davenant against him
and on the same side as Granville Beauclerc--all unused to contradiction
in his own society, where he had long been supreme, he felt a difference
of opinion so sturdily maintained as a personal insult.

For so young a man as Beauclerc, yet unknown to fame, not only to
challenge the combat but to obtain the victory, was intolerable; and
the more so, because his young opponent appeared no ways elated or
surprised, but seemed satisfied to attribute his success to the goodness
of his cause.

Churchill had hitherto always managed wisely his great stakes and
pretensions in both the fashionable and literary world. He had never
actually published any thing except a clever article or two in a review,
or an epigram, attributed to him but not acknowledged. Having avoided
giving his measure, it was believed he was above all who had been
publicly tried--it was always said--“If Horace Churchill would but
publish, he would surpass every other author of our times.”

Churchill accordingly dreaded and hated all who might by possibility
approach the throne of fashion, or interfere with his dictatorship in a
certain literary set in London, and from this moment he began cordially
to detest Beauclerc--he viewed him with a scornful, yet with jealous
eyes; but his was the jealousy of vanity, not of love; it regarded Lady
Davenant and his fashionable reputation in the first place--Helen only
in the second.

Lady Davenant observed all this, and was anxious to know how much or
how little Helen had seen, and what degree of interest it excited in her
mind. One morning, when they were alone together, looking over a cabinet
of cameos, Lady Davenant pointed to one which she thought like Mr.
Beauclerc. Helen did not see the likeness.

“People see likenesses very differently,” said Lady Davenant. “But you
and I, Helen, usually see characters, if not faces, with the same eyes.
I have been thinking of these two gentlemen, Mr. Churchill and Mr.
Beauclerc--which do you think the most agreeable?”

“Mr. Churchill is amusing certainly,” said Helen, “but I think Mr.
Beauclerc’s conversation much more interesting--though Mr. Churchill is
agreeable, sometimes--when--”

“When he flatters you,” said Lady Davenant.

“When he is not satirical--I was going to say,” said Helen.

“There is a continual petty brilliancy, a petty effort too,” continued
Lady Davenant, “in Mr. Churchill, that tires me--sparks struck
perpetually, but then you hear the striking of the flints, the clink of
the tinder-box.”

Helen, though she admitted the tinder-box, thought it too low a
comparison. She thought Churchill’s were not mere sparks.

“Well, fireworks, if you will,” said Lady Davenant, “that rise, blaze,
burst, fall, and leave you in darkness, and with a disagreeable smell
too; and it’s all _feu d’artifice_ after all. Now in Beauclerc there is
too little art and too ardent nature. Some French friends of mine who
knew both, said of Mr. Churchill, ‘_De l’esprit on ne peut pas plus même
à Paris_,’ the highest compliment a Parisian can pay, but they allowed
that Beauclerc had ‘_beaucoup plus d’ame_.’”

“Yes,” said Helen; “how far superior!”

“It has been said,” continued Lady Davenant, “that it is safer to judge
of men by their actions than by their words, but there are few actions
and many words in life; and if women would avail themselves of their
daily, hourly, opportunities of judging people by their words, they
would get at the natural characters, or, what is of just as much
consequence, they would penetrate through the acquired habits; and here
Helen, you have two good studies before you.”

Preoccupied as Helen was with the certainty of Beauclerc being an
engaged, almost a married man, and looking, as she did, on Churchill as
one who must consider her as utterly beneath his notice, she listened to
Lady Davenant’s remarks as she would have done to observations about two
characters in a novel or on the stage.

As Churchill could not immediately manifest his hatred of Beauclerc, it
worked inwardly the more. He did not sleep well this night, and when he
got up in the morning, there was something the matter with him. Nervous,
bilious--cross it could not be;--_journalier_ (a French word settles
everything)--_journalier_ he allowed he was; he rather gloried in it,
because his being permitted to be so proved his power,--his prerogative
of fortune and talent combined.

In the vast competition of the London world, it is not permitted to
every man to be in his humour or out of his humour at pleasure; but, by
an uncommon combination of circumstances, Churchill had established his
privilege of caprice; he was allowed to have his bad and his good days,
and the highest people and the finest smiled, and submitted to his
“_cachet de faveur et de disgrace_;” and when he was sulky, rude,
or snappish, called it only Horace Churchill’s way. They even prided
themselves on his preferences and his aversions. “Horace is always
charming when he is with us.”--“With me you have no idea how delightful
he is.”--“Indeed I must do him the justice to say, that I never found
him otherwise.”--While the less favoured permitted him to be as rude as
he pleased, and only petted him, and told of his odd ways to those who
sighed in vain to have him at their parties. But Lady Davenant was not
a person to pet or spoil a child of any age, and to the general, Mr.
Churchill was not particularly agreeable--not his sort; while to Lady
Cecilia, secure in grace, beauty, and fashion, his humours were only
matter of amusement, and she bore with him pleasantly and laughingly.

“Such weather!” cried he in a querulous tone; “how can a man have any
sense in such weather? Some foreigner says, that the odious climate of
England is an over-balance for her good constitution. The sun of the
south is in truth well worth the liberty of the north. It is a sad
thing,” said he, with a very sentimental air, “that a free-born Briton
should be servile to these skyey influences;” and, grumbling on, he
looked out of the window as cross as he pleased, and nobody minded him.
The aide-de-camp civilly agreed with him that it was horrid weather,
and likely to rain, and it did rain; and every one knows how men, like
children, are in certain circumstances affected miserably by a rainy
day. There was no going out; horses at the door, and obliged to be
dismissed. Well, since there could be no riding, the next best thing the
aide-de-camp thought, was to talk of horses, and the officers all grew
eager, and Churchill had a mind to exert himself so far as to show
them that he knew more of the matter than they did; that he was no mere
book-man; but on this unlucky day, all went wrong. It happened that
Horace fell into some grievous error concerning the genealogy of a
famous race-horse, and, disconcerted more than he would have been at
being convicted of any degree of moral turpitude, vexed and ashamed,
he talked no more of Newmarket or of Doncaster, left the race-ground
to those who prided themselves on the excellences of their four-footed
betters, and lounged into the billiard-room.

He found Lady Cecilia playing with Beauclerc; Miss Stanley was looking
on. Churchill was a famous billiard-player, and took his turn to show
how much better than Beauclerc he performed, but this day his hand was
out, his eye not good; he committed blunders of which a novice might
have been ashamed. And there was Miss Stanley and there was Beauclerc by
to see! and Beauclerc pitied him!

  O line extreme of human misery!

He retreated to the book-room, but there the intellectual Horace, with
all the sages, poets, and novelists of every age within his reach,
reached them not; but, with his hands in his pockets, like any squire
or schoolboy under the load of ignorance or penalties of idleness, stood
before the chimney-piece, eyeing the pendule, and verily believing that
this morning the hands went backward. Dressing-time at last came, and
dinner-time, bringing relief how often to man and child ill-tempered;
but, this day to Churchill dinner brought only discomfiture worse

Some of the neighbouring families were to dine at Clarendon Park. Mr.
Churchill abhorred country neighbours and country gentlemen. Among
these, however, were some not unworthy to be perceived by him; and
besides these, there were some foreign officers; one in particular, from
Spain, of high rank and birth, of the _sangre azul_, the _blue blood_,
who have the privilege of the silken cord if they should come to be
hanged. This Spaniard was a man of distinguished talent, and for him
Horace might have been expected to shine out; it was his pleasure,
however, this day to disappoint expectations, and to do “the dishonours
of his country.” He would talk only of eating, of which he was
privileged not only to speak but to judge, and pronounce upon _en
dernier ressort_, though this was only an air, for he was not really a
gourmand; but after ogling through his glass the distant dishes, when
they with a wish came nigh, he, after a cursory glance or a close
inspection, made them with a nod retire.

At last he thought an opportunity offered for bringing in a
well-prepared anecdote which he had about Cambaçeres, and a hot
blackbird and white feet, but unluckily a country gentleman would tell
some history of a battle between poachers and gamekeepers, which fixed
the attention of the company till the moment for the anecdote was past.

Horace left his tale untold, and spoke word never more till a subject
was started on which he thought he could come out unrivalled. General
Clarendon had some remarkably good wines. Churchill was referred to as
a judge, and he allowed them to be all good, but he prided himself on
possessing a certain Spanish wine, esteemed above all price, because not
to be had for money--_amontillado_ is its name. Horace appealed to the
Spanish officer, who confirmed all he said of this vinous phenomenon.
“No cultivator can be certain of producing it. It has puzzled, almost to
death, all the _growers_ of Xeres:--it is a variety of sherry, almost as
difficult to judge of as to procure.”

But Mr. Churchill boasted he had some, undoubtedly genuine; he added,
“that Spanish judges had assured him his taste was so accurate he might
venture to pronounce upon the difficult question of amontillado or not!”

While he yet spoke, General Clarendon, unawares, placed before him
some of this very fine wine, which, as he finished speaking, Churchill
swallowed without knowing it from some other sherry which he had
been drinking. He would have questioned that it was genuine, but
the Spaniard, as far as he could pretend to judge, thought it

Churchill’s countenance fell in a manner that quite surprised Helen, and
exceedingly amused Lady Cecilia. He was more mortified and vexed by this
failure than by all the rest, for the whole table smiled.

The evening of this day of misfortune was not brighter than the morning,
everything was wrong--even at night--at night when at last the dinner
company, the country visitors, relieved him from their presence,
and when some comfort might be had, he thought, stretched in a good
easy-chair--Lord Davenant had set him the example. But something had
happened to all the chairs,--there was a variety of fashionable kinds;
he tried them by turns, but none of them this night would suit him. Yet
Lady Cecilia maintained (for the general had chosen them) that they
were each and all of them in their way comfortable, in the full
English spirit of the word, and according to the French explanation of
_comfortable_, given to us by the Duchess d’Abrantes, _convenablement
bon_; but in compassion to Mr. Churchill’s fastidious restlessness, she
would now show him a perfection of a chair which she had just had made
for her own boudoir. She ordered that it should be brought, and in it
rolled, and it was looked at in every direction and sat in, and no fault
could be found with it, even by the great faultfinder; but what was it
called? It was neither a lounger, nor a dormeuse, nor a Cooper, nor a
Nelson, nor a kangaroo: a chair without a name would never do; in all
things fashionable the name is more than half. Such a happy name as
kangaroo Lady Cecilia despaired of finding for her new favourite, but
she begged some one would give it a good one; whoever gave her the best
name should be invited to the honours and pleasures of the sitting in
this chair for the rest of the night.

Her eyes, and all eyes, turned upon Mr. Churchill, but whether the
occasion was too great, or that his desire to satisfy the raised
expectation of the public was too high strained, or that the time was
out of joint, or that he was out of sorts, the fact was, he could find
no name.

Beauclerc, who had not yet tried the chair, sank into its luxurious
depth, and leaning back, asked if it might not be appropriately called
the “Sleepy-hollow.”

“Sleepy-hollow!” repeated Lady Cecilia, “excellent!” and by acclamation
“Sleepy-hollow” was approved; but when Beauclerc was invited to the
honours of the sitting, he declined, declaring that the name was not his
invention, only his recollection; it had been given by a friend of his
to some such easy chair.

This magnanimity was too much for Horace; he looked at his watch,
found it was bed-time, pushed the chair out of his way, and departed;
Beauclerc, the first and last idea in this his day of mortifications.

Seeing a man subject to these petty irritations lowers him in the eyes
of woman. For that susceptibility of temper arising from the jealousy
of love, even when excited by trifles, woman makes all reasonable, all
natural allowance; but for the jealousy of self-love she has no pity.
Unsuited to the manly character!--so Helen thought, and so every woman


It was expected by all who had witnessed his discomfiture and his
parting push to the chair, that Mr. Churchill would be off early in
the morning--such was his wont when he was disturbed in vanity: but he
reappeared at breakfast.

This day was a good day with Horace; he determined it should be so,
and though it was again a wet day, he now showed that he could rule
the weather of his own humour, when intensity of will was wakened by
rivalry. He made himself most agreeable, and the man of yesterday was
forgotten or remembered only as a foil to the man of to-day. The words
he so much loved to hear, and to which he had so often surreptitiously
listened, were now repeated, ‘No one can be so agreeable as Horace
Churchill is on his good days!’

Bright he shone out, all gaiety and graciousness; the _cachet de faveur_
was for all, but its finest impression was for Helen. He tried flattery,
and wit, each playing on the other with reflected and reflecting lustre,
for a woman naturally says to herself, “When this man has so much wit,
his flattery even must be worth something.”

And another day came, and another, and another party of friends filled
the house, and still Mr. Churchill remained, and was now the delight of
all. As far as concerned his successes in society, no one was more ready
to join in applause than Beauclerc; but when Helen was in question he
was different, though he had reasoned himself into the belief that he
could not yet love Miss Stanley, therefore he could not be jealous. But
he had been glad to observe that she had from the first seemed to see
what sort of a person Mr. Churchill was. She was now only amused, as
everybody must be, but she would never be interested by such a man as
Horace Churchill, a wit without a soul. If she were--why he could never
feel any further interest about her--that was all!

So it went on; and now Lady Cecilia was as much amused as she expected
by these daily jealousies, conflicts, and comparisons, the feelings
perpetually tricking themselves out, and strutting about, calling
themselves judgments, like the servants in Gil Blas in their masters’
clothes, going about as counts dukes, and grandees.

“Well, really,” said Lady Cecilia to Helen, one day, as she was standing
near her tambour frame, “you are an industrious creature, and the only
very industrious person I ever could bear. I have myself a natural
aversion to a needle, but that tambour needle I can better endure than a
common one, because, in the first place, it makes a little noise in
the world; one not only sees but hears it getting on; one finds, that
without dragging it draws at every link a lengthened chain.”

“It is called chainstitch, is it not?” said the aide-de-camp; “and Miss
Stanley is working on so famously fast at it she will have us all in her
chains by and by.”

“Bow, Miss Stanley,” said Lady Cecilia; “that pretty compliment deserves
at least a bow, if not a look-up.”

“I should prefer a look-down, if I were to choose,” said Churchill.

“Beggars must not be choosers,” said the aide-de-camp.

“But the very reason I can bear to look at you working, Helen,”
 continued Lady Cecilia, “is, because you do look up so often--so
refreshingly. The professed _Notables_ I detest--those who never raise
their eyes from their everlasting work; whatever is said, read, thought,
or felt, is with them of secondary importance to that bit of muslin in
which they are making holes, or that bit of canvass on which they are
perpetrating such figures or flowers as nature scorns to look upon.
I did not mean anything against you mamma, I assure you,” continued
Cecilia, turning to her mother, who was also at her embroidering
frame, “because, though you do work, or have work before you, to do you
justice, you never attend to it in the least.”

“Thank you! my dear Cecilia,” said Lady Davenant, smiling; “I am,
indeed, a sad bungler, but still I shall always maintain a great respect
for work and workers, and I have good reasons for it.”

“And so have I,” said Lord Davenant. “I only wish that men who do not
know what to do with their hands, were not ashamed to sew. If custom had
but allowed us this resource, how many valuable lives might have been
saved, how many rich ennuyés would not have hung themselves, even in
November! What years of war, what overthrow of empires, might have been
avoided, if princes and sultans, instead of throwing handkerchiefs, had
but hemmed them!”

“No, no,” said Lady Davenant, “recollect that the race of Spanish
kings has somewhat deteriorated since they exchanged the sword for
the tambour-frame. We had better have things as they are: leave us the
privilege of the needle, and what a valuable resource it is; sovereign
against the root of all evil--an antidote both to love in idleness and
hate in idleness--which is most to be dreaded, let those who have felt
both decide. I think we ladies must be allowed to keep the privilege of
the needle to ourselves, humble though it be, for we must allow it is a
good one.”

“Good at need,” said Churchill. “There is an excellent print, by Bouck,
I believe, of an old woman beating the devil with a distaff; distaffs
have been out of fashion with spinsters ever since, I fancy.”

“But as she was old, Churchill,” said Lord Davenant, “might not your
lady have defied his black majesty, without her distaff?”

“His _black_ majesty! I admire your distinction, my lord,” said
Churchill, “but give it more emphasis; for all kings are not black
in the eyes of the fair, it is said, you know.” And here he began an
anecdote of regal scandal in which Lady Cecilia stopped him----

“Now, Horace, I protest against your beginning with scandal so early
in the morning. None of your _on dits_, for decency’s sake, before
luncheon; wait till evening.”

Churchill coughed, and shrugged, and sighed, and declared he would be
temperate; he would not touch a character, upon his honour; he would
only indulge in a few little personalities; it could not hurt any lady’s
feelings that he should criticise or praise absent beauties. So he just
made a review of all he could recollect, in answer to a question one of
the officers, Captain Warmsley, had asked him, and which, in an absent
fit, he had had the ill-manners yesterday, as now he recollected, not
to answer--Whom he considered as altogether the handsomest woman of his
acquaintance? Beauclerc was now in the room, and Horace was proud to
display, before him in particular, his infinite knowledge of all the
fair and fashionable, and all that might be admitted fashionable without
being fair--all that have the _je ne sais quoi_, which is than beauty
dearer. As one conscious of his power to consecrate or desecrate, by one
look of disdain or one word of praise, he stood; and beginning at the
lowest conceivable point, his uttermost notion of want of beauty--his
_laid ideal_, naming one whose image, no doubt, every charitable
imagination will here supply, Horace next fixed upon another for his
mediocrity point--what he should call “just well enough”--_assez bien,
assez_--just up to the Bellasis motto, “_Bonne et belle assez_.” Then,
in the ascending scale, he rose to those who, in common parlance, may be
called charming, fascinating; and still for each he had his fastidious
look and depreciating word. Just keeping within the verge, Horace,
without exposing himself to the ridicule of coxcombry, ended by sighing
for that being ‘made of every creature’s best’--perfect, yet free
from the curse of perfection. Then, suddenly turning to Beauclerc, and
tapping him on the shoulder--“Do, give us your notions--to what sort of
a body or mind, now, would you willingly bend the knee?”

Beauclerc could not or would not tell--“I only know that whenever I bend
the knee,” said he, “it will be because I cannot help it!”

Beauclerc could not be drawn out either by Churchill’s persiflage or
flattery, and he tried both, to talk of his tastes or opinions of women.
He felt too much perhaps about love to talk much about it. This all
agreed well in Helen’s imagination with what Lady Cecilia had told her
of his secret engagement. She was sure he was thinking of Lady Blanche,
and that he could not venture to describe her, lest he should betray
himself and his secret. Then, leaving Churchill and the talkers, he
walked up and down the room alone, at the further side, seeming as if
he were recollecting some lines which he repeated to himself, and then
stopping before Lady Cecilia, repeated to her, in a very low voice, the

  “I saw her upon nearer view,
  A spirit, yet a woman too!
  Her household motions light and free,
  And steps of virgin liberty;
  A countenance in which did meet
  Sweet records, promises as sweet;
  A creature not too bright or good
  For human nature’s daily food;
  For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
  Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.”

Helen thought Lady Blanche must be a charming creature if she was like
this picture; but somehow, as she afterwards told Lady Cecilia, she had
formed a different idea of Lady Blanche Forrester--Cecilia smiled and
asked, “How? different how?”

Helen did not exactly know, but altogether she had imagined that she
must be more of a heroine, or perhaps more of a woman of rank and
fashion. She had not formed any exact idea--but different altogether
from this description. Lady Cecilia again smiled, and said, “Very
natural; and after all not very certain that the Lady Blanche is like
this picture, which was not drawn for her or from her assuredly--a
resemblance found only in the imagination, to which we are, all of us,
more or less, dupes; and _tant mieux_ say I--_tant pis_ says mamma--and
all mothers.”

“There is one thing I like better in Mr. Beauclerc’s manners than in Mr.
Churchill,” said Helen.

“There are a hundred I like better,” said Lady Cecilia, “but what is
your one thing?”

“That he always speaks of women in general with respect--as if he
had more confidence in them, and more dependence upon them for his
happiness. Now Mr. Churchill, with all the adoration he professes, seems
to look upon them as idols that he can set up or pull down, bend the
knee to or break to pieces, at pleasure--I could not like a man for a
friend who had a bad, or even a contemptuous, opinion of women--could
you, Cecilia?”

“Certainly not,” Lady Cecilia said; “the general had always, naturally,
the greatest respect for women. Whatever prejudices he had taken up had
been only caught from others, and lasted only till he had got rid of the
impression of certain ‘untoward circumstances.’” Even a grave, serious
dislike, both Lady Cecilia and Helen agreed that they could bear better
than that persiflage which seemed to mock even while it most professed
to admire.

Horace presently discovered the mistakes he had made in his attempts,
and repaired them as fast as he could by his infinite versatility. The
changes shaded off with a skill which made them run easily into each
other. He perceived that Mr. Beauclerc’s respectful air and tone were
preferred, and he now laid himself out in the respectful line, adding,
as he flattered himself, something of a finer point, more polish in
whatever he said, and with more weight of authority.

But he was mortified to find that it did not produce the expected
effect, and, after having done the respectful one morning, as he
fancied, in the happiest manner, he was vexed to perceive that he not
only could not raise Helen’s eyes from her work, but that even Lady
Davenant did not attend to him: and that, as he was rounding one of his
best periods, her looks were directed to the other side of the room,
where Beauclerc sat apart; and presently she called to him, and begged
to know what it was he was reading. She said she quite envied him the
power he possessed of being rapt into future times or past, completely
at his author’s bidding, to be transported how and where he pleased.

Beauclerc brought the book to her, and put it into her hand. As she took
it she said, “As we advance in life, it becomes more and more difficult
to find in any book the sort of enchanting, entrancing interest which we
enjoyed when life, and, books, and we ourselves were new. It were vain
to try and settle whether the fault is most in modern books, or in our
ancient selves; probably not in either: the fact is, that not only does
the imagination cool and weaken as we grow older, but we become, as we
live on in this world, too much engrossed by the real business and cares
of life, to have feeling or time for factitious, imaginary interests.
But why do I say factitious? while they last, the imaginative interests
are as real as any others.”

“Thank you,” said Beauclerc, “for doing justice to poor imagination,
whose pleasures are surely, after all, the highest, the most real, that
we have, unwarrantably as they have been decried both by metaphysicians
and physicians.”

The book which had so fixed Beauclerc’s attention, was Segur’s History
of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign. He was at the page where the burning of
Moscow is described--the picture of Buonaparte’s despair, when he met
resolution greater than his own, when he felt himself vanquished by
the human mind, by patriotism, by virtue--virtue in which he could not
believe, the existence of which, with all his imagination, he could not
conceive: the power which his indomitable will could not conquer.

Beauclerc pointed to the account of that famous inscription on the
iron gate of a church which the French found still standing, the words
written by Rostopchin after the burning of his “delightful home.”

“_Frenchmen, I have been eight years in embellishing this residence; I
have lived in it happily in the bosom of my family. The inhabitants of
this estate (amounting to seventeen hundred and twenty) have quitted
it at your approach; and I have, with my own hands, set fire to my own
house, to prevent it from being polluted by your presence._”

“See what one, even one, magnanimous individual can do for his country,”
 exclaimed Beauclerc. “How little did this sacrifice cost him! Sacrifice
do I say? it was a pride--a pleasure.”

Churchill did not at all like the expression of Helen’s countenance, for
he perceived she sympathised with Beauclerc’s enthusiasm. He saw that
romantic enthusiasm had more charm for her than wit or fashion; and now
he meditated another change of style. He would try a noble style. He
resolved that the first convenient opportunity he would be a little
romantic, and perhaps, even take a touch at chivalry, a burst like
Beauclerc, but in a way of his own, at the degeneracy of modern times.
He tried it--but it was quite a failure; Lady Cecilia, as he overheard,
whispered to Helen what was once so happily said--“_Ah! le pauvre homme!
comme il se batte les flancs d’un enthousiasme de commande._”

Horace was too clever a man to persist in a wrong line, or one in which
his test of right _success_ did not crown his endeavours. If this did
not do, something else would--should. It was impossible that with all
his spirit of resource he should ultimately fail. To please, and to make
an impression on Helen, a greater impression than Beauclerc--to annoy
Beauclerc, in short, was still, independently of all serious thoughts,
the utmost object of Churchill’s endeavours.




About this time a circumstance occurred, which seemed to have nothing to
do with Churchill, or Beauclerc, but which eventually brought both their
characters into action and passion.

Lord Davenant had purchased, at the sale of Dean Stanley’s pictures,
several of those which had been the dean’s favourites, and which,
independently of their positive merit, were peculiarly dear to Helen. He
had ordered that they should be sent down to Clarendon Park; at first,
he only begged house-room for them from the general while he and Lady
Davenant were in Russia; then he said that in case he should never
return he wished the pictures should be divided between his two dear
children, Cecilia and Helen; and that, to prevent disputes, he would
make the distribution of them himself now, and in the kindest and most
playful manner he allotted them to each, always finding some excellent
reason for giving to Helen those which he knew she liked best; and then
there was to be a _hanging committee_, for hanging the pictures, which
occasioned a great deal of talking, Beauclerc always thinking most of
Helen, or of what was really best for the paintings; Horace most of
himself and his amateurship.

Among these pictures were some fine Wouvermans, and other hunting and
hawking pieces, and one in particular of the duchess and her ladies,
from Don Quixote. Beauclerc, who had gone round examining and admiring,
stood fixed when he came to this picture, in which he fancied he
discovered in one of the figures some likeness to Helen; the lady had a
hawk upon her wrist. Churchill came up eagerly to the examination, with
glass at eye. He could not discern the slightest resemblance to Miss
Stanley; but he was in haste to bring out an excellent observation of
his own, which he had made his own from a Quarterly Review, illustrating
the advantage it would be to painters to possess knowledge, even of
kinds seemingly most distant from the line of their profession.

“For instance, now _à priori_, one should not insist upon a great
painter’s being a good ornithologist, and yet, for want of being
something of a bird-fancier, look here what he has done--quite absurd,
a sort of hawk introduced, such as never was or could be at any hawking
affair in nature: would not sit upon lady’s wrist or answer to her
call--would never fly at a bird. Now you see this is a ridiculous

While Churchill plumed himself on this critical remark Captain Warmsley
told of who still kept hawks in England, and of the hawking parties
he had seen and heard of--“even this year, that famous hawking in
Wiltshire, and that other in Norfolk.”

Churchill asked Warmsley if he had been at Lord Berner’s when Landseer
was there studying the subject of his famous hawking scene. “Have you
seen it, Lady Cecilia?” continued he; “it is beautiful; the birds seem
to be absolutely coming out of the picture;” and he was going on with
some of his connoisseurship, and telling of his mortification in having
missed the purchase of that picture; but Warmsley got back to the
hawking he had seen, and he became absolutely eloquent in describing the

Churchill, though eager to speak, listened with tolerably polite
patience till Warmsley came to what he had forgot to mention,--to the
label with the date of place and year that is put upon the heron’s leg;
to the heron brought from Denmark, where it had been caught, with the
label of having been let fly from Lord Berner’s; “for,” continued he,
“the heron is always to be saved if possible, so, when it is down, and
the hawk over it, the falconer has some raw beef ready minced, and lays
it on the heron’s back, or a pigeon, just killed, is sometimes used; the
hawk devours it, and the heron, quite safe, as soon as it recovers from
its fright, mounts slowly upward and returns to its heronry.”

Helen listened eagerly, and so did Lady Cecilia, who said, “You know,
Helen, our favourite Washington Irving quotes that in days of yore, ‘a
lady of rank did not think herself completely equipped in riding forth,
unless she had her tassel-gentel held by jesses on her delicate hand.’”

Before her words were well finished, Beauclerc had decided what he would
do, and the business was half done that is well begun. He was at the
library table, writing as fast as pen could go, to give carte blanche
to a friend, to secure for him immediately a whole hawking establishment
which Warmsley had mentioned, and which was now upon public sale, or
privately to be parted with by the present possessor.

At the very moment when Beauclerc was signing and sealing at one end of
the room, at the other Horace Churchill, to whom something of the same
plan had occurred, was charming Lady Cecilia Clarendon, by hinting to
her his scheme--anticipating the honour of seeing one of his hawks borne
upon her delicate wrist.

Beauclerc, after despatching his letter, came up just in time to catch
the sound and the sense, and took Horace aside to tell him what he had
done. Horace looked vexed, and haughtily observed, that he conceived his
place at Erlesmede was better calculated for a hawking party than most
places in England; and he had already announced his intentions to the
ladies. The way was open to him--but Beauclerc did not see why he should
recede; the same post might carry both their letters--both their orders!

“How far did your order go, may I ask?” said Churchill.

“Carte blanche.”

Churchill owned, with a sarcastic smile, that he was not prepared to go
quite so far. He was not quite so young as Granville; he, unfortunately,
had arrived at years of discretion--he said unfortunately; without
ironical reservation, he protested from the bottom of his heart he
considered it as a misfortune to have become that slow circumspect sort
of creature which looks before it leaps. Even though this might save him
from the fate of the man who was in Sicily, still he considered it as
unfortunate to have lost so much of his natural enthusiasm.

“Natural enthusiasm!” Beauclerc could not help repeating to himself, and
he went on his own way. It must be confessed, as even Beauclerc’s best
friends allowed, counting among them Lady Davenant and his guardian,
that never was man of sense more subject to that kind of temporary
derangement of the reasoning powers which results from being what is
called bit by a fancy; he would then run on straight forward, without
looking to the right or the left, in pursuit of his object, great or
small. That hawking establishment now in view, completely shut out, for
the moment, all other objects; “of tercels and of lures he talks;” and
before his imagination were hawking scenes, and Helen with a hawk on her
wrist, looking most graceful--a hawk of his own training it should be.
Then, how to train a hawk became the question. While he was waiting for
the answer to his carte blanche, nothing better, or so good, could be
done, as to make himself master of the whole business, and for this
purpose he found it essential to consult every book on falconry that
could be found in the library, and a great plague he became to everybody
in the course of this book-hunt.

“What a bore!” Warmsley might be excused for muttering deep and low
between the teeth. General Clarendon sighed and groaned. Lady Davenant
bore and forebore philosophically--it was for Beauclerc; and to her
great philosophy she gave all the credit of her indulgent partiality.
Lady Cecilia, half-annoyed yet ever good-natured, carried her
complaisance so far as to consult the catalogue and book-shelves sundry
times in one hour; but she was not famous for patience, and she soon
resigned him to a better friend--Helen, the most indefatigable of
book-hunters. She had been well trained to it by her uncle; had been
used to it all her life; and really took pleasure in the tiresome
business. She assured Beauclerc it was not the least trouble, and he
thought she looked beautiful when she said so. Whosoever of the male
kind, young, and of ardent, not to say impatient, spirit, has ever been
aided and abetted in a sudden whim, assisted, forwarded, above all,
sympathised with, through all the changes and chances of a reigning
fancy, may possibly conceive how charming, and more charming every hour,
perhaps minute, Helen became in Beauclerc’s eyes. But, all in the way
of friendship observe. Perfectly so--on her part, for she could not have
another idea, and it was for this reason she was so much at her ease. He
so understood it, and, thoroughly a gentleman, free from coxcombry,
as he was, and interpreting the language and manners of women with
instinctive delicacy, they went on delightfully. Churchill was on the
watch, but he was not alarmed; all was so undisguised and frank, that
now he began to feel assured that love on her side not only was, but
ever would be, quite out of the question.

Beauclerc was, indeed, in the present instance, really and truly intent
upon what he was about; and he pursued the History of Falconry, with all
its episodes, from the olden time of the Boke of St. Alban’s down to
the last number of the Sporting Magazine, including Colonel Thornton’s
latest flight, with the adventures of his red falcons, Miss M’Ghee
and Lord Townsend, and his red tercels, Messrs. Croc Franc and
Craignon;--not forgetting that never-to-be forgotten hawking of the
Emperor Arambombamboberus with Trebizonian eagles, on the authority of a
manuscript in the Grand Signior’s library.

Beauclerc had such extraordinary dependence upon the sympathy of his
friends, that, when he was reading any thing that interested him, no
matter what they might be doing, he must have their admiration for what
charmed him. He brought his book to Lord Davenant, who was writing
a letter. “Listen, oh listen! to this pathetic lament of the
falconer,--‘Hawks, heretofore the pride of royalty, the insignia of
nobility, the ambassador’s present, the priest’s indulgence, companion
of the knight, and nursling of the gentle mistress, are now uncalled-for
and neglected.’”

“Ha! very well that,” said good-natured Lord Davenant, stopping his pen,
dipping again, dotting, and going on.

Then Beauclerc passaged to Lady Davenant, and, interrupting her in
Scott’s Lives of the Novelists, on which she was deeply intent, “Allow
me, my dear Lady Davenant, though you say you are no great
topographer, to show you this, it is so curious; this royal falconer’s
proclamation--Henry the Eighth’s--to preserve his partridges, pheasants,
and herons, from his palace at Westminster to St. Giles’s _in the
Fields_, and from thence to Islington, Hampstead, and Highgate, under
penalty for every bird killed of imprisonment, or whatever other
punishment to his highness may seem meet.”

Lady Davenant vouchsafed some suitable remark, consonant to expectation,
on the changes of times and places, and men and manners, and then
motioned the quarto away with which motion the quarto reluctantly
complied; and then following Lady Cecilia from window to window, as
she _tended_ her flowers, he would insist upon her hearing the table of
precedence for hawks. She, who never cared for any table of precedence
in her life, even where the higher animals were concerned, would only
undertake to remember that the merlin was a lady’s hawk, and this only
upon condition, that she should have one to sit upon her wrist like
the fair ladies in Wouvermans’ pictures. But further, as to Peregrine,
Gerfalcon, or Gerkin, she would hear nought of them, nor could she
listen, though Granville earnestly exhorted, to the several good reasons
which make a falcon dislike her master--

1st. If he speak rudely to her. 2nd. If he feed her carelessly.

Before he could get thirdly out, Lady Cecilia stopped him, declaring
that in all her life she never could listen to any thing that began with
_first_ and _secondly_--reasons especially.

Horace, meanwhile, looked superior down, and thought with ineffable
contempt of Beauclerc’s little skill in the arts of conversation, thus
upon unwilling ears to squander anecdotes which would have done him
credit at some London dinner.

“What I could have made of them! and may make of them yet,” thought he;
“but some there are, who never can contrive, as other some cleverly
do, to ride their hobby-horses to good purpose and good effect;--now
Beauclerc’s hobbies, I plainly see, will always run away with him
headlong, cost him dear certainly, and, may be, leave him in the mire at

What this fancy was to cost him, Beauclerc did not yet know. Two or
three passages in the Sporting Magazine had given some hints of the
expense of this “most delectable of all country contentments,” which he
had not thought it necessary to read aloud. And he knew that the late
Lord Orford, an ardent pursuer of this “royal and noble” sport, had
expended one hundred a-year on every hawk he kept, each requiring a
separate attendant, and being moreover indulged in an excursion to
the Continent every season during moulting-time: but Beauclerc said to
himself he had no notion of humouring his hawks to that degree; they
should, aristocratic birds though they be, content themselves in
England, and not pretend to “damn the climate like a lord.” And he
flattered himself that he should be able to pursue his fancy more
cheaply than any of his predecessors; but as he had promised his
guardian that, after the indulgence granted him in the Beltravers’
cause, he would not call upon him for any more extraordinary supplies,
he resolved, in case the expense exceeded his ways and means, to sell
his hunters, and so indulge in a new love at the expense of an old one.

The expected pleasure of the first day’s hawking was now bright in
his imagination; the day was named, the weather promised well, and the
German cadgers and trainers who had been engaged, and who, along with
the whole establishment, were handed over to Beauclerc, were to come
down to Clarendon Park, and Beauclerc was very happy teaching the
merlins to sit on Lady Cecilia’s and on Miss Stanley’s wrist. Helen’s
voice was found to be peculiarly agreeable to the hawk, who, as
Beauclerc observed, loved, like Lear, that excellent thing in woman, a
voice ever soft, gentle, and low.

The ladies were to wear some pretty dresses for the occasion, and all
was gaiety and expectation; and Churchill was mortified when he saw how
well the thing was likely to take, that he was not to be the giver
of the fête, especially as he observed that Helen was particularly
pleased--when, to his inexpressible surprise, Granville Beauclerc came
to him, a few days before that appointed for the hawking-party, and said
that he had changed his mind, that he wished to get rid of the whole
concern--that he should be really obliged to Churchill if he would take
his engagement off his hands. The only reason he gave was, that the
establishment would altogether be more than he could afford, he found he
had other calls for money, which were incompatible with his fancy, and
therefore he would give it up.

Churchill obliged him most willingly by taking the whole upon himself,
and he managed so to do in a very ingenious way, without incurring any
preposterous expense. He was acquainted with a set of rich, fashionable
young men, who had taken a sporting lodge in a neighbouring county,
who desired no better than to accede to the terms proposed, and to
distinguish themselves by giving a fête out of the common line, while
Churchill, who understood, like a true man of the world, the worldly
art of bargaining, contrived, with off-hand gentleman-like jockeying,
to have every point settled to his own convenience, and he was to be the
giver of the entertainment to the ladies at Clarendon Park. When
this change in affairs was announced, Lady Cecilia, the general, Lady
Davenant, and Helen, were all, in various degrees, surprised, and each
tried to guess what could have been the cause of Beauclerc’s sudden
relinquishment of his purpose. He was--very extraordinary for
him--impenetrable: he adhered to the words “I found I could not afford
it.” His guardian could not believe in this wonderful prudence, and was
almost certain “there must be some imprudence at the bottom of it all.”

Granville neither admitted nor repelled that accusation. Lady Cecilia
worked away with perpetual little strokes, hoping to strike out the
truth, but, as she said, you might as well have worked at an old flint.
Nothing was elicited from him, even by Lady Davenant; nor did the
collision of all their opinions throw any light upon the matter.

Meanwhile the day for the hawking-party arrived. Churchill gave the
fete, and Beauclerc, as one of the guests, attended and enjoyed it
without the least appearance even of disappointment; and, so far from
envying Churchill, he assisted in remedying any little defects, and did
all he could to make the whole go off well.

The party assembled on a rising ground; a flag was displayed to give
notice of the intended sport; the falconers appeared, picturesque
figures in their green jackets and their long gloves, and their caps
plumed with herons’ feathers--some with the birds on their wrists--one
with the frame over his shoulder upon which to set the hawk. _Set_, did
we say?--no: “_cast_ your hawk on the perch” is, Beauclerc observed, the
correct term; for, as Horace sarcastically remarked, Mr. Beauclerc
might be detected as a novice in the art by his over-exactness; his too
correct, too attic, pronunciation of the hawking language. But Granville
readily and gaily bore all this ridicule and raillery, sure that it
would neither stick nor stain, enjoying with all his heart the amusement
of the scene--the assembled ladies, the attendant cavaliers; the
hood-winked hawks, the ringing of their brass bells; the falconers
anxiously watching the clouds for the first appearance of the bird;
their skill in loosening the hoods, as, having but one hand at liberty,
they used their teeth to untie the string:----And now the hoods are off,
and the hawks let fly.

They were to fly many castes of hawks this day; the first flight was
after a curlew; and the riding was so hard, so dangerous, from the
broken nature of the ground, that the ladies gave it up, and were
contented to view the sport from the eminence where they remained.

And now there was a question to be decided among the sportsmen as to
the comparative rate of riding at a fox chase, and in “the short, but
terrifically hard gallop, with the eyes raised to the clouds, which is
necessary for the full enjoyment of hawking;” and then the gentlemen,
returning, gathered round the ladies, and the settling the point,
watches in hand, and bets depending, added to the interest of flight the
first, and Churchill, master of the revels, was in the highest spirits.

But presently the sky was overcast, the morning lowered, the wind rose,
and changed was Churchill’s brow; there is no such thing as hawking
against the wind--that capricious wind!

“Curse the wind!” cried Churchill; “and confusion seize the fellow who
says there is to be no more hawking to-day!”

The chief falconer, however, was a phlegmatic German, and
proper-behaved, as good falconers should be, who, as “Old Tristram’s
booke” has it, even if a bird should be lost, he should never swear, and
only say, “_Dieu soit loué_,” and “remember that the mother of hawks is
not dead.”

But Horace, in the face of reason and in defiance of his German
counsellors, insisted upon letting fly the hawks in this high wind; and
it so fell out that, in the first place, all the terms he used in his
haste and spleen were wrong; and in the next, that the quarry taking
down the wind, the horsemen could not keep up with the hawks: the
falconers in great alarm, called to them by the names they gave
them--“Miss Didlington,” “Lord Berners.” “Ha! Miss Didlington’s
off;--off with Blucher, and Lady Kirby, and Lord Berners, and all of ‘em
after her.” Miss Didlington flew fast and far, and further still, till
she and all the rest were fairly out of sight--lost, lost, lost!

“And as fine a caste of hawks they were as ever came from Germany!”--the
falconers were in despair, and Churchill saw that the fault was his;
and it looked so like cockney sportsmanship! If Horace had been in a
towering rage, it would have been well enough; but he only grew pettish,
snappish, waspish: now none of those words ending in _ish_ become a
gentleman; ladies always think so, and Lady Cecilia now thought so, and
Helen thought so too, and Churchill saw it, and he grew pale instead of
red, and that looks ugly in an angry man.

But Beauclerc excused him when he was out of hearing; and when others
said he had been cross, and crosser than became the giver of a gala,
Beauclerc pleaded well for him, that falconry has ever been known to
be “an extreme stirrer-up of the passions, being subject to mischances

However, a cold and hot collation under the trees for some, and under a
tent for others, set all to rights for the present. Champagne sparkled,
and Horace pledged and was pledged, and all were gay; even the Germans
at their own table, after their own fashion, with their Rhenish and
their foaming ale, contrived to drown the recollection of the sad
adventure of the truant hawks.

And when all were refreshed and renewed in mind and body, to the hawking
they went again. For now that

  “The wind was laid, and all their fears asleep,”

there was to be a battle between heron and hawk, one of the finest
sights that can be in all falconry.

“Look! look! Miss Stanley,” cried Granville; “look! follow that
high-flown hawk--that black speck in the clouds. Now! now! right over
the heron; and now she will _canceleer_--turn on her wing, Miss Stanley,
as she comes down, whirl round, and balance herself--_chanceler_. Now!
now look! cancelleering gloriously!”

But Helen at this instant recollected what Captain Warmsley had said of
the fresh-killed pigeon, which the falconer in the nick of time is to
lay upon the heron’s back; and now, even as the cancelleering was going
on--three times most beautifully, Helen saw only the dove, the white
dove, which that black-hearted German held, his great hand round the
throat, just raised to wring it. “Oh, Beauclerc, save it, save it!”
 cried Lady Cecilia and Helen at once.

Beauclerc sprang forward, and, had it been a tiger instead of a dove,
would have done the same no doubt at that moment; the dove was saved,
and the heron killed. If Helen was pleased, so was not the chief
falconer, nor any of the falconers, the whole German council in
combustion! and Horace Churchill deeming it “Rather extraordinary that
any gentleman should so interfere with other gentlemen’s hawks.”

Lady Cecilia stepped between, and never stepped in vain. She drew a ring
from her finger--a seal; it was the seal of peace--no great value--but
a well-cut bird--a bird for the chief falconer--a guinea-hen, with its
appropriate cry, its polite motto, “Come back, come back;” and she gave
it as a pledge that the ladies would come back another day, and see
another hawking; and the gentlemen were pleased, and the aggrieved
attendant falconers pacified by a promise of another heron from the
heronry at Clarendon Park; and the clouded faces brightened, and “she
smoothed the raven down of darkness till it smiled,” whatever that may
mean; but, as Milton said it, it must be sense as well as sound.

At all events, in plain prose, be it understood that every body was
satisfied, even Mr. Churchill; for Beauclerc had repaired for him, just
in time, an error which would have been a blot on his gallantry of the
day. He had forgotten to have some of the pretty grey hairs plucked
from the heron, to give to the ladies to ornament their bonnets, but
Beauclerc had secured them for him, and also two or three of those
much-valued, smooth, black feathers, from the head of the bird, which
are so much prized that a plume of them is often set with pearls and
diamonds. Horace presented these most gracefully to Lady Cecilia and
Helen, and was charmed with Lady Cecilia’s parting compliments, which
finished with the words “Quite chivalrous.”

And so, after all the changes and chances of weather, wind, and humour,
all ended well, and no one rued the hawking of this day.


“But all this time,” said Lady Davenant, “you have not told me whether
you have any of you found out what changed Granville’s mind about this
falconry scheme--why he so suddenly gave up the whole to Mr. Churchill.
Such a point-blank weathercock turn of fancy in most young men would no
more surprise me than the changes of those clouds in the sky, now shaped
and now unshaped by the driving wind; but in Granville Beauclerc there
is always some reason for apparent caprice, and the reason is often so
ingeniously wrong that it amuses me to hear it; and even as a study in
human nature, I am curious to know the simple fact.”

But no one could tell the simple fact, no one could guess his reason,
and from him it never would have been known--never could have been
found out, but from a mistake--from a letter of thanks coming to a wrong

One morning, when Helen was sitting in Lady Davenant’s room with her,
Lord Davenant came in, reading a letter, like one walking in his sleep.

“What is all this, my dear? Can you explain it to me? Some good action
of yours, I suppose, for which I am to be thanked.”

Lady Davenant looked at the letter. She had nothing to do with the
matter, she said; but, on second thoughts, exclaimed, “This is Granville
Beauclerc’s doing, I am clear!”

The letter was from Count Polianski, one of the poor banished Poles; now
poor, but who had been formerly master of a property estimated at
about one hundred and sixty-five thousand _available individuals_. In
attempting to increase the happiness and secure the liberty of these
available individuals, the count had lost every thing, and had been
banished from his country--a man of high feeling as well as talents, and
who had done all he could for that unhappy country, torn to pieces by
demagogues from within and tyrants from without.

Lady Davenant now recollected that Beauclerc had learned from her all
this, and had heard her regretting that the circumstances in which Lord
Davenant was placed at this moment, prevented the possibility of his
affording this poor count assistance for numbers of his suffering
fellow-countrymen who had been banished along with him, and who were now
in London in the utmost distress. Lady Davenant remembered that she
had been speaking to Granville on this subject the very day that he had
abandoned his falconry project. “Now I understand it all,” said she;
“and it is like all I know and all I have hoped of him. These hundreds
a-year which he has settled on these wretched exiles, are rather better
disposed of in a noble national cause, than in pampering one set of
birds that they may fly at another set.”

“And yet this is done,” said Lord Davenant, “by one of the much reviled,
high-bred English gentlemen--among whom, let the much reviling, low-bred
English democrats say what they will, we find every day instances of
subscription for public purposes from private benevolence, in a spirit
of princely charity to be found only in our own dear England--England
with all her faults.’”

“But this was a less ordinary sort of generosity of Granville’s,” said
Lady Davenant,--“the giving up a new pleasure, a new whim with all its
gloss fresh upon it, full and bright in his eye.”

“True,” said Lord Davenant; “I never saw a strong-pulling fancy better
thrown upon its haunches.”

The white dove, whose life Helen had saved, was brought home by
Beauclerc, and was offered to her and accepted. Whether she had done a
good or a bad action, by thus saving the life of a pigeon at the expense
of a heron, may be doubted, and will be decided according to the several
tastes of ladies and gentlemen for herons or doves. As Lady Davenant
remarked, Helen’s humanity (or dove-anity, as Churchill called it,) was
of that equivocal sort which is ready to destroy one creature to save
another which may happen to be a greater favourite.

Be this as it may, the favourite had a friend upon the present occasion,
and no less a friend than General Clarendon, who presented it with
a marble basin, such as doves should drink out of, by right of long

The general feared, he said, “that this vase might be a little too
deep--dangerously perhaps----.”

But Helen thought nothing could be altogether more perfect in taste and
in kindness--approving Beauclerc’s kindness too--a remembrance of a day
most agreeably spent. Churchill, to whom she looked, as she said
the last words, with all becoming politeness, bowed and accepted the
compliment, but with a reserve of jealousy on the brow; and as he looked
again at the dove, caressing and caressed, and then at the classic
vase--he stood vexed, and to himself he said,--

“So this is the end of all my pains--hawking and all ‘quite chivalrous!’
Beauclerc carries off the honours and pleasures of the day, and his
present and his dove are to be all in all. Yet still,” continued he to
himself in more consolatory thought--“she is so open in her very love
for the bird, that it is plain she has not yet any love for the man. She
would be somewhat more afraid to show it, delicate as she is. It is only
friendship--honest friendship, on her side; and if her affections be
not engaged somewhere else--she may be mine: if--if I please--if--I can
bring myself fairly to propose--we shall see--I shall think of it.”

And now he began to think of it seriously.--Miss Stanley’s indifference
to him, and the unusual difficulty which he found in making any
impression, stimulated him in an extraordinary degree. Helen now
appeared to him even more beautiful than he had at first thought
her--“Those eyes that fix so softly,” thought he, “those dark
eyelashes--that blush coming and going so beautifully--and there is
a timid grace in all her motions, with that fine figure too--and that
high-bred turn of the neck!--altogether she is charming! and she will be
thought so!--she must be mine!”

She would do credit to his taste; he thought she would, when she had a
little more _usage du monde_, do the honours of his house well; and
it would be delightful to train her!--If he could but engage her
affections, before she had seen more of the world, she might really
love him for his own sake--and Churchill wished to be really loved, if
possible, for his own sake; but of the reality of modern love he justly
doubted, especially for a man of his fortune and his age; yet, with
Helen’s youth and innocence he began to think he had some chance of
disinterested attachment, and he determined to bring out for her the
higher powers of his mind--the better parts of his character.

One day Lady Davenant had been speaking of London conversation. “So
brilliant,” said she, “so short-lived, as my friend Lady Emmeline
K----once said, ‘London wit is like gas, which lights at a touch, and
at a touch can be extinguished;’” and Lady Davenant concluded with a
compliment to him who was known to have this “_touch and go_” of good
conversation to perfection.

Mr. Churchill bowed to the compliment, but afterwards sighed, and it
seemed an honest sigh, from the bottom of his heart. Only Lady Davenant
and Helen were in the room, and turning to Lady Davenant he said,

“If I have it, I have paid dearly for it, more than it is worth, much
too dearly, by the sacrifice of higher powers; I might have been a very
different person from what I am.”

Helen’s attention was instantly fixed; but Lady Davenant suspected he
was now only talking for effect. He saw what she thought--it was partly
true, but not quite. He felt what he said at the moment; and besides,
there is always a sincere pleasure in speaking of one’s self when one
can do it without exposing one’s self to ridicule, and with a chance of
obtaining real sympathy.

“It was my misfortune,” he said, “to be spoiled, even in childhood, by
my mother.”

As he pronounced the word “mother,” either his own heart or Helen’s eyes
made him pause with a look of respectful tenderness. It was cruel of
a son to blame the fond indulgence of a mother; but the fact was, she
brought him too forward early as a clever child, fed him too much with
that sweet dangerous fostering dew of praise. The child--the man--must
suffer for it afterwards.

“True, very true,” said Lady Davenant; “I quite agree with you.”

“I could do nothing without flattery,” continued he, pursuing the
line of confession which he saw had fixed Lady Davenant’s attention
favourably. “Unluckily, I came too early into possession of a large
fortune, and into the London world, and I lapped the stream of
prosperity as I ran, and it was sweet with flattery, intoxicating, and I
knew it, and yet could not forbear it. Then in a London life every thing
is too stimulating--over-exciting. If there are great advantages to men
of science and literature in museums and public libraries, the more
than _Avicenna_ advantages of having books come at will, and ministering
spirits in waiting on all your pursuits--there is too much of every
thing except time, and too little of that. The treasures are within
our reach, but we cannot clutch; we have, but we cannot hold. We have
neither leisure to be good, nor to be great: who can think of living for
posterity, when he can scarcely live for the day? and sufficient for the
day are never the hours thereof. From want of time, and from the immense
quantity that nevertheless must be known, comes the necessity, the
unavoidable necessity of being superficial.”

“Why should it be unavoidable necessity?” asked Lady Davenant.

“Because _should_ waits upon _must_, in London always, if not
elsewhere,” said Churchill.

“A conversation answer,” replied Lady Davenant.

“Yes, I allow it; it is even so, just so, and to such tricks, such
playing upon words, do the bad habits of London conversation lead;” and
Lady Davenant wondered at the courage of his candour, as he went on to
speak of the petty jealousies, the paltry envy, the miserable selfish
susceptibility generated by the daily competition of London society.
Such dissensions, such squabbles--an ignoble but appropriate word--such
deplorable, such scandalous squabbles among literary, and even among
scientific men. “And who,” continued he, “who can hope to escape in such
a tainted atmosphere--an atmosphere overloaded with life, peopled with
myriads of little buzzing stinging vanities! It really requires
the strength of Hercules, mind and body, to go through our labours,
fashionable, political, _bel esprit_, altogether too much for mortal.
In parliament, in politics, in the tug of war you see how the strongest
minds fail, come to untimely----”

“Do not touch upon that subject,” cried Lady Davenant, suddenly
agitated. Then, commanding herself, she calmly added--“As you are
not now, I think, in parliament, it cannot affect you. What were you
saying?--your health of mind and body, I think you said, you were
sensible had been hurt by----”

“These straining, incessant competitions have hurt me. My health
suffered first, then my temper. It was originally good, now, as you have
seen, I am afraid”--glancing at Helen, who quickly looked down, “I am
afraid I am irritable.”

There was an awkward silence. Helen thought it was for Lady Davenant to
speak; but Lady Davenant did not contradict Mr. Churchill. Now, the
not contradicting a person who is abusing himself, is one of the most
heinous offences to self-love that can be committed; and it often
provokes false candour to pull off the mask and throw it in your face;
but either Mr. Horace Churchill’s candour was true, or it was so well
guarded at the moment that no such catastrophe occurred.

“Worse than this bad effect on my temper!” continued he, “I feel that my
whole mind has been deteriorated--my ambition dwindled to the shortest
span--my thoughts contracted to the narrow view of mere effect; what
would please at the dinner-table or at the clubs--what will be thought
of me by this literary coterie, or in that fashionable boudoir. And
for this _reputation de salon_ I have sacrificed all hope of other
reputation, all power of obtaining it, all hope of “----(here he added a
few words, murmured down to Lady Davenant’s embroidery frame, yet still
in such a tone that Helen could not help thinking he meant she should
hear)--“If I had a heart such as--” he paused, and, as if struck with
some agonising thought, he sighed deeply, and then added--“but I have
not a heart worth such acceptance, or I would make the offer.”

Helen was not sure what these words meant, but she now pitied him, and
she admired his candour, which she thought was so far above the petty
sort of character he had at first done himself the injustice to seem,
and she seized the first opportunity to tell Beauclerc all Mr. Churchill
had said to Lady Davenant and to her, and of the impression it had made
upon them both. Beauclerc had often discussed Mr. Churchill’s character
with her, but she was disappointed when she saw that what she told made
no agreeable impression on Beauclerc: at first he stood quite silent,
and when she asked what he thought, he said--“It’s all very fine, very

“But it is all true,” said Helen, “And I admire Mr. Churchill’s knowing
the truth so well and telling it so candidly.”

“Every thing Mr. Churchill has said may be true--and yet I think the
truth is not in him.”

“You are not usually so suspicious,” said Helen. “If you had heard Mr.
Churchill’s voice and emphasis, and seen his look and manner at the
time, I think you could not have doubted him.”

The more eager she grew, the colder Mr. Beauclerc became. “Look and
manner, and voice and emphasis,” said he, “make a great impression, I
know, on ladies.”

“But what is your reason, Mr. Beauclerc, for disbelief? I have as yet
only heard that you believe every thing that Mr. Churchill said was
true, and yet that you do not believe in his truth,” said Helen, in a
tone of raillery.

And many a time before had Beauclerc been the first to laugh when one
of his own paradoxes stared him in the face; but now he was more out of
countenance than amused, and he looked seriously about for reasons to
reconcile his seeming self-contradiction.

“In the first place, all those allusions and those metaphorical
expressions, which you have so wonderfully well remembered, and which no
doubt were worth remembering, all those do not give me the idea of a man
who was really feeling in earnest, and speaking the plain truth about
faults, for which, if he felt at all, he must be too much ashamed to
talk in such a grand style; and to talk of them at all, except to most
intimate friends, seems so unnatural, and quite out of character in a
man who had expressed such horror of egotists, and who is so excessively
circumspect in general.”

“Yes, but Mr. Churchill’s forgetting all his little habits of
circumspection, and all fear of ridicule, is the best proof of his being
quite in earnest--that all he said was from his heart.”

“I doubt whether he has any heart,” said Beauclerc.

“Poor man, he said----” Helen began, and then recollecting the
words, ‘or I would make the offer,’ she stopped short, afraid of
the construction they might bear, and then, ashamed of her fear, she
coloured deeply.

“Poor man, he said----” repeated Beauclerc, fixing his eyes upon her,
“What did he say, may I ask?”

“No,--” said Helen, “I am not sure that I distinctly heard or understood
Mr. Churchill.”

“Oh, if there was any mystery!” Beauclerc begged pardon.

And he went away very quickly. He did not touch upon the subject again,
but Helen saw that he never forgot it; and, by few words which she heard
him say to Lady Davenant about his dislike to half-confidences, she knew
he was displeased, and she thought he was wrong. She began to fear that
his mistrust of Churchill arose from envy at his superior success in
society; and, though she was anxious to preserve her newly-acquired good
opinion of Churchill’s candour, she did not like to lose her esteem for
Beauclerc’s generosity. Was it possible that he could be seriously hurt
at the readiness with which Mr. Churchill availed himself of any idea
which Beauclerc threw out, and which he dressed up, and passed as his
own? Perhaps this might be what he meant by “the truth is not in him.”
 She remembered one day when she sat between him and Beauclerc, and when
he did not seem to pay the least attention to what Mr. Beauclerc was
saying to her, yet fully occupied as he had apparently been in talking
for the company in general, he had through all heard Granville telling
the Chinese fable of the “Man in the Moon, whose business it is to knit
together with an invisible silken cord those who are predestined for
each other.” Presently, before the dessert was over, Helen found the
“Chinese Man in the Moon,” whom she thought she had all to herself,
figuring at the other end of the table, and received with great
applause. And was it possible that Beauclerc, with his abundant springs
of genius, could grudge a drop thus stolen from him? but without any
envy in the case, he was right in considering such theft, however petty,
as a theft, and right in despising the meanness of the thief. Such
meanness was strangely incompatible with Mr. Churchill’s frank
confession of his own faults. Could that confession be only for effect?

Her admiration had been sometimes excited by a particular happiness of
thought, beauty of expression, or melody of language in Mr. Churchill’s
conversation. Once Beauclerc had been speaking with enthusiasm of modern
Greece, and his hopes that she might recover her ancient character;
and Mr. Churchill, as if admiring the enthusiasm, yet tempering it with
better judgment, smiled, paused, and answered.

“But Greece is a dangerous field for a political speculator; the
imagination produces an illusion resembling the beautiful appearances
which are sometimes exhibited in the Sicilian straits; the reflected
images of ancient Grecian glory pass in a rapid succession before the
mental eye; and, delighted with the captivating forms of greatness and
splendour, we forget for a moment that the scene is in reality a naked

Some people say they can distinguish between a written and a spoken
style, but this depends a good deal on the art of the speaker. Churchill
could give a colloquial tone to a ready-written sentence, and could
speak it with an off-hand grace, a carelessness which defied
all suspicion of preparation; and the look, and pause, and
precipitation--each and all came in aid of the actor’s power of
perfecting the illusion. If you had heard and seen him, you would
have believed that, in speaking this passage, the thought of the _Fata
Morgana_ rose in his mind at the instant, and that, seeing it
pleased you, and pleased with it himself, encouraged by your look
of intelligence, and borne along by your sympathy, the eloquent man
followed his own idea with a happiness more than care, admirable in
conversation. A few days afterwards, Helen was very much surprised
to find her admired sentence word for word in a book, from which
Churchill’s card fell as she opened it.

Persons without a name Horace treated as barbarians who did not know
the value of their gold; and he seemed to think that, if they chanced
to possess rings and jewels, they might be plucked from them without
remorse, and converted to better use by some lucky civilised adventurer.
Yet in his most successful piracies he was always haunted by the fear
of discovery, and he especially dreaded the acute perception of Lady
Davenant; he thought she suspected his arts of appropriation, and he
took the first convenient opportunity of sounding her opinion on this

“How I enjoy,” said he to Lady Cecilia “telling a good story to you, for
you never ask if it is a fact. Now, in a good story, no one sticks to
absolute fact; there must be some little embellishment. No one would
send his own or his friend’s story into the world without ‘putting a hat
on its head, and a stick into its hand,’” Churchill triumphantly quoted;
this time he did not steal.

“But,” said Lady Davenant, “I find that even the pleasure I have in mere
characteristic or humorous narration is heightened by my dependence on
the truth--the character for truth--of the narrator.”

Not only Horace Churchill, but almost every body present, except Helen,
confessed that they could not agree with her. The character for truth
of the story-teller had nothing to do with his story, unless it was
_historique_, or that he was to swear to it.

“And even if it were _historique_,” cried Horace, buoyed up at the
moment by the tide in his favour, and floating out farther than was
prudent--“and even if it were _historique_, how much pleasanter is
graceful fiction than grim, rigid truth; and how much more amusing in my
humble opinion!”

“Now,” said Lady Davenant, “for instance, this book I am reading--(it
was Dumont’s ‘Mémoires de Mirabeau’)--this book which I am reading,
gives me infinitely increased pleasure, from my certain knowledge, my
perfect conviction of the truth of the author. The self-evident nature
of some of the facts would support themselves, you may say, in some
instances; but my perceiving the scrupulous care he takes to say no
more than what he knows to be true, my perfect reliance on the relater’s
private character for integrity, gives a zest to every anecdote
he tells--a specific weight to every word of conversation which
he repeats--appropriate value to every trait of wit or humour
characteristic of the person he describes. Without such belief, the
characters would not have to me, as they now have, all the power, and
charm, and life, of nature and reality. They are all now valuable as
records of individual varieties that have positively so existed. While
the most brilliant writer could, by fiction, have produced an effect,
valuable only as representing the general average of human nature, but
adding nothing to our positive knowledge, to the data from which we can
reason in future.”

Churchill understood Lady Davenant too well to stand quite unembarrassed
as he listened; and when she went on to say how differently she should
have felt in reading these memoirs if they had been written by Mirabeau
himself; with all his brilliancy, all his talents, how inferior would
have been her enjoyment as well as instruction! his shrinking conscience
told him how this might all be applied to himself; yet, strange to say,
though somewhat abashed, he was nevertheless flattered by the idea of
a parallel between himself and Mirabeau. To _Mirabeauder_ was no easy
task; it was a certain road to notoriety, if not to honest fame.

But even in the better parts of his character, his liberality in money
matters, his good-natured patronage of rising genius, the meanness
of his mind broke out. There was a certain young poetess whom he had
encouraged; she happened to be sister to Mr. Mapletofft, Lord Davenant’s
secretary, and she had spoken with enthusiastic gratitude of Mr.
Churchill’s kindness. She was going to publish a volume of Sonnets
under Mr. Churchill’s patronage, and, as she happened to be now at some
country town in the neighbourhood, he requested Lady Cecilia to allow
him to introduce this young authoress to her. She was invited for a
few days to Clarendon Park, and Mr. Churchill was zealous to procure
subscriptions for her, and eager to lend the aid of his fashion and his
literary reputation to bring forward the merits of her book. “Indeed,”
 he whispered, “he had given her some little help in the composition,”
 and all went well till, in an evil hour, Helen praised one of the
sonnets rather too much--more, he thought, than she had praised another,
which was his own. His jealousy wakened--he began to criticise his
protegée’s poetry. Helen defended her admiration, and reminded him that
he had himself recommended these lines to her notice.

“Well!--yes--I did say the best I could for the whole thing, and for her
it is surprising--that is, I am anxious the publication should take. But
if we come to compare--you know this cannot stand certain comparisons
that might be made. Miss Stanley’s own taste and judgment must
perceive--when we talk of genius--that is quite out of the question, you

Horace was so perplexed between his philanthropy and his jealousy, his
desire to show the one and his incapability of concealing the other,
that he became unintelligible; and Helen laughed, and told him that
she could not now understand what his opinion really was. She was quite
ready to agree with him, she said, if he would but agree with himself:
this made him disagree still more with himself and unluckily with his
better self, his benevolence quite gave way before his jealousy and
ill-humour, and he vented it upon the book; and, instead of prophecies
of its success, he now groaned over “sad careless lines,”--“passages
that lead to nothing,”--“similes that will not hold when you come to
examine them.”

Helen pointed out in the dedication a pretty, a happy thought.

Horace smiled, and confessed that was his own.

What! in the dedication to himself?--and in the blindness of his vanity
he did not immediately see the absurdity.

The more he felt himself in the wrong, of course the more angry he grew,
and it finished by his renouncing the dedication altogether, declaring
he would have none of it. The book and the lady might find a better
patron. There are things which no man of real generosity could say or
do, or think, put him in ever so great a passion. He would not be
harsh to an inferior--a woman--a protegée on whom he had conferred
obligations; but Mr. Churchill was harsh--he showed neither generosity
nor feeling; and Helen’s good opinion of him sank to rise no more.

Of this, however, he had not enough of the sympathy or penetration of
feeling to be aware.


The party now at Clarendon Park consisted chiefly of young people.
Among them were two cousins of Lady Cecilia’s, whom Helen had known at
Cecilhurst before they went abroad, while she was still almost a child.
Lady Katrine Hawksby, the elder, was several years older than
Cecilia. When Helen last saw her, she was tolerably well-looking,
very fashionable, and remarkable for high spirits, with a love for
_quizzing_, and for all that is vulgarly called _fun_, and a talent
for ridicule, which she indulged at everybody’s expense. She had always
amused Cecilia, who thought her more diverting than really ill-natured;
but Helen thought her more ill-natured than diverting, never liked her,
and had her own private reasons for thinking that she was no good friend
to Cecilia: but now, in consequence either of the wear and tear of
London life, or of a disappointment in love or matrimony, she had lost
the fresh plumpness of youth; and gone too was that spirit of mirth,
if not of good humour, which used to enliven her countenance. Thin and
sallow, the sharp features remained, and the sarcastic without the arch
expression; still she had a very fashionable air. Her pretensions to
youth, as her dress showed, were not gone; and her hope of matrimony,
though declining, not set. Her many-years-younger sister, Louisa,
now Lady Castlefort, was beautiful. As a girl, she had been the most
sentimental, refined, delicate creature conceivable; always talking
poetry--and so romantic--with such a soft, sweet, die-away voice--lips
apart--and such fine eyes, that could so ecstatically turn up to heaven,
or be so cast down, charmingly fixed in contemplation:--and now she
is married, just the same. There she is, established in the library at
Clarendon Park, with the most sentimental fashionable novel of the
day, beautifully bound, on the little rose-wood table beside her, and a
manuscript poem, a great secret, “Love’s Last Sigh,” in her bag with her
smelling-bottle and embroidered handkerchief; and on that beautiful
arm she leaned so gracefully, with her soft languishing expression; so
perfectly dressed too--handsomer than ever.

Helen was curious to know what sort of man Lady Louisa had married, for
she recollected that no hero of any novel that ever was read, or talked
of, came up to her idea of what a hero ought to be, of what a man must
be, whom she could ever think of loving. Cecilia told Helen that she had
seen Lord Castlefort, but that he was not Lord Castlefort, or likely to
be Lord Castlefort, at that time; and she bade her guess, among all she
could recollect having ever seen at Cecilhurst, who the man of Louisa’s
choice could be. Lady Katrine, with infinite forbearance, smiled,
and gave no hint, while Helen guessed and guessed in vain. She was
astonished when she saw him come into the room. He was a little deformed
man, for whom Lady Louisa had always expressed to her companions a
peculiar abhorrence. He had that look of conceit which unfortunately
sometimes accompanies personal deformity, and which disgusts even Pity’s
self. Lord Castlefort was said to have declared himself made for love
and fighting! Helen remembered that kind-hearted Cecilia had often
remonstrated for humanity’s sake, and stopped the quizzing which used to
go on in their private coteries, when the satirical elder sister would
have it that _le petit bossu_ was in love with Louisa.

But what _could_ make her marry him? Was there anything within to make
amends for the exterior? Nothing--nothing that could “rid him of the
lump behind.” But superior to the metamorphoses of love, or of fairy
tale, are the metamorphoses of fortune. Fortune had suddenly advanced
him to uncounted thousands and a title, and no longer _le petit bossu_,
Lord Castlefort obtained the fair hand--the very fair hand of Lady
Louisa Hawksby, _plus belle que fée!_

Still Helen could not believe that Louisa had married him voluntarily;
but Lady Cecilia assured her that it was voluntarily, quite voluntarily.
“You could not have so doubted had you seen the _trousseau_ and the
_corbeille_, for you know, ‘_Le présent fait oublier le futur_.’”

Helen could scarcely smile.

“But Louisa had feeling--really some,” continued Lady Cecilia; “but she
could not afford to follow it. She had got into such debt, I really do
not know what she would have done if Lord Castlefort had not proposed;
but she has some little heart, and I could tell you a secret; but no, I
will leave you the pleasure of finding it out.”

“It will be no pleasure to me,” said Helen.

“I never saw anybody so out of spirits,” cried Lady Cecilia, laughing,
“at another’s unfortunate marriage, which all the time she thinks very
fortunate. She is quite happy, and even Katrine does not laugh at him
any longer, it is to be supposed; it is no laughing matter now.”

“No indeed,” said Helen.

“Nor a crying matter either,” said Cecilia. “Do not look shocked at me,
my dear, I did not do it; but so many do, and I have seen it so often,
that I cannot wonder with such a foolish face of blame--I do believe, my
dear Helen, that you are envious because Louisa is married before you!
for shame, my love! Envy is a naughty passion, you know our Madame Bonne
used to say; but here’s mamma, now talk to her about Louisa Castlefort,

Lady Davenant took the matter with great coolness, was neither
shocked nor surprised at this match, she had known so many worse; Lord
Castlefort, as well as she recollected, was easy enough to live with.
“And after all,” said she, “it is better than what we see every day, the
fairest of the fair knowingly, willingly giving themselves to the most
profligate of the profligate, In short, the market is so overstocked
with accomplished young ladies on the one hand, and on the other, men
find wives and establishments so expensive, clubs so cheap and so
much more luxurious than any home, liberty not only so sweet but so
fashionable, that their policy, their maxim is, ‘Marry not at all, or
if marriage be ultimately necessary to pay debts and leave heirs to good
names, marry as late as possible;’ and thus the two parties with their
opposite interests stand at bay, or try to outwit or outbargain each
other. And if you wish for the moral of the whole affair, here it is
from the vulgar nursery-maids, with their broad sense and bad English,
and the good or bad French of the governess, to the elegant innuendo of
the drawing-room, all is working to the same effect: dancing-masters,
music-masters, and all the tribe, what is it all for, but to prepare
young ladies for the grand event; and to raise in them, besides the
natural, a factitious, an abstract idea of good in being married! Every
girl in these days is early impressed with the idea that she must be
married, that she cannot be happy unmarried. Here is an example of what
I meant the other day by strength of mind; it requires some strength of
mind to be superior to such a foolish, vain, and vulgar belief.”

“It will require no great strength of mind in me,” said Helen, “for I
really never have formed such notions. They never were early put into my
head; my uncle always said a woman might be very happy unmarried. I do
not think I shall ever be seized with a terror of dying an old maid.”

“You are not come to the time yet, my dear,” said Lady Davenant smiling.
“Look at Lady Katrine; strength of mind on this one subject would have
saved her from being a prey to envy, and jealousy, and all the vulture
passions of the mind.

“In the old French _régime_,” continued Lady Davenant, “the young
women were at least married safely out of their convents; but our young
ladies, with their heads full of high-flown poetry and sentimental
novels, are taken out into the world before marriage, expected to see
and not to choose, shown the most agreeable, and expected, doomed to
marry the most odious. But, in all these marriages for establishment,
the wives who have least feeling are not only likely to be the happiest,
but also most likely to conduct themselves well. In the first place they
do not begin with falsehood. If they have no hearts, they cannot pretend
to give any to the husband, and that is better than having given them
to somebody else. Husband and wife, in this case, clearly understand the
terms of agreement, expect, imagine no more than they have, and jog-trot
they go on together to the end of life very comfortably.”

“Comfortably!” exclaimed Helen, “it must be most miserable.”

“Not most miserable, Helen,” said Lady Davenant, “keep your pity for
others; keep your sighs for those who need them--for the heart which no
longer dares to utter a sigh for itself, the faint heart that dares to
love, but dares not abide by its choice. Such infatuated creatures, with
the roots of feeling left aching within them, must take what opiates
they can find; and in after-life, through all their married existence,
their prayer must be for indifference, and thankful may they be if that
prayer is granted.”

These words recurred to Helen that evening, when Lady Castlefort sang
some tender and passionate airs; played on the harp with a true Saint
Cecilia air and attitude; and at last, with charming voice and touching
expression, sung her favourite--“Too late for redress.”

Both Mr. Churchill and Beauclerc were among the group of gentlemen;
neither was a stranger to her. Mr. Churchill admired and applauded as a
connoisseur. Beauclerc listened in silence. Mr. Churchill entreated
for more--more--and named several of his favourite Italian airs. Her
ladyship really could not. But the slightest indication of a wish from
Beauclerc, was, without turning towards him, heard and attended to, as
her sister failed not to remark and to make others remark.

Seizing a convenient pause while Mr. Churchill was searching for some
master-piece, Lady Katrine congratulated her sister on having recovered
her voice, and declared that she had never heard her play or sing since
she was married till tonight.

“You may consider it as a very particular compliment, I assure you,”
 continued she, addressing herself so particularly to Mr. Beauclerc that
he could not help being a little out of countenance,--“I have so
begged and prayed, but she was never in voice or humour, or heart, or
something. Yesterday, even Castlefort was almost on his knees for a
song,--were not you, Lord Castlefort?”

Lord Castlefort pinched his pointed chin, and casting up an angry look,
replied in a dissonant voice,--“I do not remember!”

“_Tout voir, tout entendre, tout oublier_,” whispered Lady Katrine
to Mr. Churchill, as she stooped to assist him in the search for a
music-book--“_Tout voir, tout entendre, tout oublier_, should be the
motto adopted by all married people.”

Lady Castlefort seemed distressed, and turned over the leaves in such a
flutter that she could not find anything, and she rose, in spite of all
entreaties, leaving the place to her sister, who was, she said, “so much
better a musician and not so foolishly nervous.” Lady Castlefort said
her “voice always went away when she was at all--”

There it ended as far as words went; but she sighed, and retired so
gracefully, that all the gentlemen pitied her.

There is one moment in which ill-nature sincerely repents--the moment
when it sees pity felt for its victim.

Horace followed Lady Castlefort to the ottoman, on which she sank.
Beauclerc remained leaning on the back of Lady Katrine’s chair, but
without seeming to hear what she said or sung. After some time Mr.
Churchill, not finding his attentions well received, or weary of paying
them, quitted Lady Castlefort but sat down by Helen; and in a voice to
be heard by her, but by no one else, he said--

“What a relief!--I thought I should never get away!” Then, favoured by
a loud bravura of Lady Katrine’s, he went on--“That beauty, between you
and me, is something of a bore--she--I don’t mean the lady who is now
screaming--she should always sing. Heaven blessed her with song, not
sense--but here one is made so fastidious!”

He sighed, and for some moments seemed to be given up to the duet which
Lady Katrine and an officer were performing; and then exclaimed, but so
that Helen only could hear,--“Merciful Heaven! how often one wishes one
had no ears: that Captain Jones must be the son of Stentor, and that
lady!--if angels sometimes saw themselves in a looking-glass when
singing--there would be peace upon earth.”

Helen, not liking to be the secret receiver of his contraband good
things, was rising to change her place, when softly detaining her, he
said, “Do not be afraid, no danger--trust me, for I have studied under

“What can you mean?”

“I mean,” continued he, “that Talma taught me the secret of his dying
scenes--how every syllable of his dying words might be heard to
the furthest part of the audience; and I--give me credit for my
ingenuity--know how, by reversing the art, to be perfectly inaudible at
ten paces’ distance, and yet, I trust, perfectly intelligible, always,
to you.”

Helen now rose decidedly, and retreated to a table at the other side
of the room, and turned over some books that lay there--she took up
a volume of the novel Lady Castlefort had been reading--“Love
unquestionable.” She was surprised to find it instantly, gently, but
decidedly drawn from her hand: she looked up--it was Beauclerc.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Stanley, but----”

“Thank you! thank you!” said Helen; “you need not beg my pardon.”

This was the first time Beauclerc had spoken in his friendly, cordial,
natural manner, to her, since their incomprehensible misunderstanding.
She was heartily glad it was over, and that he was come to himself
again. And now they conversed very happily together for some time;
though what they said might not be particularly worth recording. Lady
Katrine was at Helen’s elbow before she perceived her “looking for her
sac;” and Lady Castlefort came for her third volume, and gliding off,
wished to all--“_Felice, felicissima notte_.”

Neither of these sisters had ever liked Helen; she was too true for the
one, and too good-natured for the other. Lady Katrine had always, even
when she was quite a child, been jealous of Lady Cecilia’s affection for
Helen; and now her indignation and disappointment were great at finding
her established at Clarendon Park--to live with the Clarendons, to _go
out_ with Lady Cecilia. Now, it had been the plan of both sisters, that
Lady Katrine’s present visit should be eternal. How they would ever have
managed to fasten her ladyship upon the General, even if Helen had been
out of the question, need not now be considered. Their disappointment
and dislike to Helen were as great as if she had been the only obstacle
to the fulfilment of their scheme.

These two sisters had never agreed--

  --“Doom’d by Fate
  To live in all the elegance of hate;”

and since Lady Castlefort’s marriage, the younger, the beautiful being
now the successful lady of the ascendant, the elder writhed in all the
combined miseries of jealousy and dependance, and an everyday lessening
chance of bettering her condition. Lord Castlefort, too, for good
reasons of his own, well remembered, detested Lady Katrine, and longed
to shake her off. In this wish, at least, husband and wife united; but
Lady Castlefort had no decent excuse for her ardent impatience to get
rid of her sister. She had magnificent houses in town and country,
ample room everywhere--but in her heart. She had the smallest heart
conceivable, and the coldest; but had it been ever so large, or ever so
warm, Lady Katrine was surely not the person to get into it, or into
any heart, male or female: there was the despair. “If Katrine was but
married--Mr. Churchill, suppose?”

Faint was the _suppose_ in Lady Castlefort’s imagination. Not so the
hope which rose in Lady Katrine’s mind the moment she saw him here. “How
fortunate!” Her ladyship had now come to that no particular age, when
a remarkable metaphysical phenomenon occurs; on one particular subject
hope increases as all probability of success decreases. This aberration
of intellect is usually observed to be greatest in very clever women;
while Mr. Churchill, the flattered object of her present hope, knew how
to manage with great innocence and modesty, and draw her on to overt
acts of what is called flirtation.

Rousseau says that a man is always awkward and miserable when placed
between two women to whom he is making love. But Rousseau had never
seen Mr. Churchill, and had but an imperfect idea of the dexterity,
the ambiguity, that in our days can be successfully practised by an
accomplished male coquette. Absolutely to blind female jealousy may be
beyond his utmost skill; but it is easy, as every day’s practice shows,
to keep female vanity pleasantly perplexed by ocular deception--to make
her believe that what she really sees she does not see, and that what
is unreal is reality: to make her, to the amusement of the spectators,
continually stretch out her hand to snatch the visionary good that
for ever eludes her grasp, or changes, on near approach, to grinning

This delightful game was now commenced with Lady Katrine, and if Helen
could be brought to take a snatch, it would infinitely increase the
interest and amusement of the lookers on. Of this, however, there seemed
little chance; but the evil eye of envy was set upon her, and the demon
of jealousy was longing to work her woe.

Lady Castlefort saw with scornful astonishment that Mr. Beauclerc’s
eyes, sometimes when she was speaking, or when she was singing, would
stray to that part of the room where Miss Stanley might be; and when
she was speaking to him, he was wonderfully absent. Her ladyship rallied
him, while Lady Katrine, looking on, cleared her throat in her horrid
way, and longed for an opportunity to discomfit Helen, which supreme
pleasure her ladyship promised herself upon the first convenient
occasion,--convenient meaning when Lady Davenant was out of the room;
for Lady Katrine, though urged by prompting jealousy, dared not attack
her when under cover of that protection. From long habit, even her
sarcastic nature stood in awe of a certain power of moral indignation,
which had at times flashed upon her, and of which she had a sort of
superstitious dread, as of an incomprehensible, incalculable power.

But temper will get the better of all prudence. Piqued by some little
preference which Lady Cecilia had shown to Helen’s taste in the choice
of the colour of a dress, an occasion offered of signalising her
revenge, which could not be resisted. It was a question to be publicly
decided, whether blue, green, or white should be adopted for the ladies’
uniform at an approaching _fête_. She was deputed to collect the votes.
All the company were assembled; Lady Davenant, out of the circle, as it
was a matter that concerned her not, was talking to the gentlemen apart.

Lady Katrine went round canvassing. “Blue, green, or white? say blue,
_pray_.” But when she came to Helen, she made a full stop, asked no
question--preferred no prayer, but after fixing attention by her pause,
said, “I need not ask Miss Stanley’s vote or opinion, as I know my
cousin’s, and with Miss Stanley it is always ‘I say ditto to
Lady Cecilia;’ therefore, to save trouble, I always count two for
Cecilia--one for herself and one for her _double_.”

“Right, Lady Katrine Hawksby,” cried a voice from afar, which made her
start; “you are quite right to consider Helen Stanley as my daughter’s
double, for my daughter loves and esteems her as her second self--her
better self. In this sense Helen is Lady Cecilia’s double, but if you

“Bless me! I don’t know what I meant, I declare. I could not have
conceived that Lady Davenant----Miss Stanley, I beg a thousand million
of pardons.”

Helen, with anxious good-nature, pardoned before she was asked, and
hastened to pass on to the business of the day, but Lady Davenant
would not so let it pass; her eye still fixed she pursued the quailing
enemy--“One word more. In justice to my daughter, I must say her love
has not been won by flattery, as none knows better than the Lady Katrine

The unkindest cut of all, and on the tenderest part. Lady Katrine could
not stand it. Conscious and trembling, she broke through the circle,
fled into the conservatory, and, closing the doors behind her, would not
be followed by Helen, Cecilia, or any body.

Lady Castlefort sighed, and first breaking the silence that ensued,
said, “‘Tis such a pity that Katrine will always so let her wit run
away with her--it brings her so continually into----for my part, in all
humility I must confess, I can’t help thinking that, what with its
being unfeminine and altogether so incompatible with what in general
is thought amiable--I cannot but consider wit in a woman as a real
misfortune. What say the gentlemen? they must decide, gentlemen being
always the best judges.”

With an appealing tone of interrogation she gracefully looked up to the
gentlemen; and after a glance towards Granville Beauclerc, unluckily
unnoticed or unanswered, her eyes expected reply from Horace Churchill.
He, well feeling the predicament in which he stood, between a fool and a
_femme d’esprit_, answered, with his ambiguous smile, “that no doubt it
was a great misfortune to have ‘_plus d’esprit qu’on ne sait mêner_.’”

“This is a misfortune,” said Lady Davenant, “that may be deplored for
a great genius once in an age, but is really rather of uncommon
occurrence. People complain of wit where, nine times in ten, poor wit is
quite innocent; but such is the consequence of having kept bad company.
Wit and ill-nature having been too often found together, when we see one
we expect the other; and such an inseparable false association has been
formed, that half the world take it for granted that there is wit if
they do but see ill-nature.”

At this moment Mr. Mapletofft, the secretary, entered with his face full
of care, and his hands full of papers. Lady Katrine needed not to
feign or feel any further apprehensions of Lady Davenant; for, an hour
afterwards, it was announced that Lord and Lady Davenant were obliged to
set off for town immediately. In the midst of her hurried preparations
Lady Davenant found a moment to comfort Helen with the assurance
that, whatever happened, she would see her again. It might end in Lord
Davenant’s embassy being given up. At all events she would see
her again--she hoped in a few weeks, perhaps in a few days. “So no
leave-takings, my dear child, and no tears--it is best as it is. On my
return let me find----”

“Lord Davenant’s waiting, my lady,” and she hurried away.


Absent or present, the guardian influence of a superior friend is one
of the greatest blessings on earth, and after Lady Davenant’s departure
Helen was so full of all she had said to her, and of all that she would
approve or disapprove, that every action, almost every thought, was
under the influence of her friend’s mind. Continually she questioned her
motives as well as examined her actions, and she could not but condemn
some of her conduct, or if not her conduct, her manner, towards Horace
Churchill; she had been flattered by his admiration, and had permitted
his attentions more than she ought, when her own mind was perfectly made
up as to his character. Ever since the affair of the poetess, she had
been convinced that she could never make the happiness or redeem the
character of one so mean.

According to the ladies’ code, a woman is never to understand that a
gentleman’s attentions mean anything more than common civility; she is
supposed never to see his mind, however he may make it visible, till
he declares it in words. But, as Helen could not help understanding his
manner, she thought it was but fair to make him understand her by her
manner. She was certain that if he were once completely convinced, not
only that he had not made any impression, but that he never could make
any impression, on her heart, his pursuit would cease. His vanity,
mortified, might revenge itself upon her, perhaps; but this was a danger
which she thought she ought to brave; and now she resolved to be quite
sincere, as she said to herself, at whatever hazard (probably meaning
at the hazard of displeasing Cecilia) she would make her own sentiments
clear, and put an end to Mr. Churchill’s ambiguous conduct: and this
should be done on the very first opportunity.

An opportunity soon occurred--Horace had a beautiful little topaz ring
with which Lady Katrine Hawksby fell into raptures; such a charming
device!--Cupid and Momus making the world their plaything.

It was evident that Lady Katrine expected that the seal should be
presented to her. Besides being extravagantly fond of baubles,
she desired to have this homage from Horace. To her surprise and
mortification, however, he was only quite flattered by her approving of
his taste:--it was his favourite seal, and so “he kept the topaz, and
the rogue was bit.”

Lady Katrine was the more mortified by this failure, because it was
witnessed by many of the company, among whom, when she looked round,
she detected smiles of provoking intelligence. Soon afterwards the
dressing-bell rang and she quitted the room; one after another every one
dropped off, except Helen, who was finishing a letter, and Horace,
who stood on the hearth playing with his seal. When she came to
sealing-time, he approached and besought her to honour him by the
acceptance of this little seal. “If he could obliterate Momus--if he
could leave only Cupid, it would be more appropriate. But it was a
device invented for him by a French friend, and he hoped she would
pardon his folly, and think only of his love!”

This was said so that it might pass either for mere jest or for earnest;
his look expressed very sentimental love, and Helen seized the moment to
explain herself decidedly.

It was a surprise--a great surprise to Mr. Churchill, a severe
disappointment, not only to his vanity but to his heart, for he had one.
It was some comfort, however, that he had not quite committed himself,
and he recovered--even in the moment of disappointment he recovered
himself time enough dexterously to turn the tables upon Helen.

He thanked her for her candour--for her great care of his happiness,
in anticipating a danger which might have been so fatal to him; but he
really was not aware that he had said anything which required so serious
an answer.

Afterwards he amused himself with Lady Katrine at Miss Stanley’s
expense, representing himself as in the most pitiable case of Rejected
Addresses--rejected before he had offered. He had only been guilty of
Folly, and he was brought in guilty of Love.

Poor Helen had to endure not only this persiflage, which was soon made
to reach her ear, but also the reproaches of Lady Cecilia, who said,
“I should have warned you, Helen, not to irritate that man’s relentless
vanity; now you see the consequences.”

“But, after all, what harm can he do me?” thought Helen. “It is very
disagreeable to be laughed at, but still my conscience is satisfied, and
that is a happiness that will last; all the rest will soon be over. I am
sure I did the thing awkwardly, but I am glad it is done.”

Mr. Churchill soon afterwards received an invitation--a command to join
a royal party now at some watering-place; an illustrious person could
not live another day without Horace _le désiré_. He showed the note,
and acted despair at being compelled to go, and then he departed. To the
splendid party he went, and drowned all recollections of whatever love
he had felt in the fresh intoxication of vanity--a diurnal stimulus
which, however degrading, and he did feel it degrading, was now become
necessary to his existence.

His departure from Clarendon Park was openly regretted by Lady Cecilia,
while Lady Katrine secretly mourned over the downfall of her projects,
and Beauclerc attempted not to disguise his satisfaction.

He was all life and love, and would then certainly have declared his
passion, but for an extraordinary change which now appeared in Helen’s
manner towards him. It seemed unaccountable; it could not be absolute
caprice, she did not even treat him as a friend, and she evidently
avoided explanation. He thought, and thought, and came as near the truth
without touching it as possible. He concluded that she had understood
his joy at Churchill’s departure; that she now clearly perceived his
attachment; and was determined against him. Not having the slightest
idea that she considered him as a married man, he could not even
guess the nature of her feelings. And all the time Helen did not
well understand herself; she began to be extremely alarmed at her own
feelings--to dread that there was something not quite right. This
dread, which had come and gone by fits,--this doubt as to her own
sentiments,--was first excited by the death of her dove--Beauclerc’s
gift. The poor dove was found one morning drowned in the marble vase in
which it went to drink. Helen was very sorry--that was surely natural;
but she was wonderfully concerned. Lady Katrine scoffingly said;
and before everybody, before Beauclerc, worse than all, her ladyship
represented to the best of her ability the attitude in which she had
found Helen mourning over her misfortune, the dove in her hand pressed
close to her bosom--“And in tears--absolutely.” She would swear to the

Helen blushed, tried to laugh, and acknowledged it was very foolish.
Well, that passed off as only foolish, and she did not at first feel
that it was a thing much to be ashamed of in any other way. But she was
sorry that Beauclere was by when Lady Katrine mimicked her; most sorry
that he should think her foolish. But then did he? His looks expressed
tenderness. He was very tender-hearted. Really manly men always are so;
and so she observed to Lady Cecilia. Lady Katrine heard the observation,
and smiled--her odious smile--implying more than words could say. Helen
was not quite clear, however, what it meant to say.

Some days afterwards Lady Katrine took up a book, in which Helen’s name
was written in Beauclerc’s hand. “_Gage d’amitié?_” said her ladyship;
and she walked up and down the room, humming the air of an old French
song; interrupting herself now and then to ask her sister if she could
recollect the words. “The _refrain_, if I remember right, is something
like this--

  Sous le nom d’amitié--sous le nom d’amitié,
  La moitié du monde trompe l’autre moitié,
  Sous le nom, sous le nom, sous le nom d’amitié.

And it ends with

  Sous le nom d’amitié, Damon, je vous adore,
  Sous le nom, sous le nom d’amitié.

“Miss Stanley, do you know that song?” concluded her malicious ladyship.
No--Miss Stanley had never heard it before; but the marked emphasis with
which Lady Katrine sung and looked, made Helen clear that she meant to
apply the words tauntingly to her and Beauclerc,--but which of them her
ladyship suspected was cheating, or cheated--“_sous le nom d’amitié_,”
 she did not know. All was confusion in her mind. After a moment’s cooler
reflection, however, she was certain it could not be Beauclerc who was
to blame--it must be herself, and she now very much wished that every
body, and Lady Katrine in particular, should know that Mr. Beauclerc was
engaged--almost married; if this were but known, it would put an end to
all such imputations.

The first time she could speak to Cecilia on the subject, she begged to
know how soon Mr. Beauclerc’s engagement would be declared. Lady
Cecilia slightly answered she could not tell--and when Helen pressed the
question she asked,--

“Why are you so anxious, Helen?”

Helen honestly told her, and Lady Cecilia only laughed at her for
minding what Lady Katrine said,--“When you know yourself, Helen, how it
is, what can it signify what mistakes others may make?”

But Helen grew more and more uneasy, for she was not clear that she did
know how it was, with herself at least. Her conscience faltered, and she
was not sure whether she was alarmed with or without reason. She began
to compare feelings that she had read of, and feelings that she had seen
in others, and feelings that were new to herself, and in this maze and
mist nothing was distinct--much was magnified--all alarming.

One day Beauclerc was within view of the windows on horseback, on a very
spirited horse, which he managed admirably; but a shot fired suddenly in
an adjoining preserve so startled the horse that it----oh! what it
did Helen did not see, she was so terrified: and why was she so much
terrified? She excused herself by saying it was natural to be frightened
for any human creature. But, on the other hand, Tom Isdall was a human
creature, and she had seen him last week actually thrown from his horse,
and had not felt much concern. But then he was not a friend; and he
fell into a soft ditch: and there was something ridiculous in it which
prevented people from caring about it. With such nice casuistry she went
on pretty well; and besides, she was so innocent--so ignorant, that it
was easy for her to be deceived. She went on, telling herself that she
loved Beauclerc as a brother--as she loved the general. But when she
came to comparisons, she could not but perceive a difference. Her
heart never bounded on the general’s appearance, let him appear ever so
suddenly, as it did one day when Beauclerc returned unexpectedly from
Old Forest. Her whole existence seemed so altered by his approach, his
presence, or his absence. Why was this? Was there any thing wrong in
it? She had nobody whose judgment she could consult--nobody to whom
she could venture to describe her feelings, or lay open her doubts and
scruples. Lady Cecilia would only laugh; and she could not quite trust
either her judgment or her sincerity, though she knew her affection.
Besides, after what Cecilia had said of her being safe; after all she
had told her of Beauclerc’s engagement, how astonished and shocked
Cecilia would be!

Then Helen resolved that she would keep a strict watch over herself, and
repress all emotion, and be severe with her own mind to the utmost: and
it was upon this resolution that she had changed her manner, without
knowing how much, towards Beauclerc; she was certain he meant nothing
but friendship. It was her fault if she felt too much pleasure in his
company; the same things were, as she wisely argued, right or wrong
according to the intention with which they were said, done, looked,
or felt. Rigidly she inflicted on herself the penance of avoiding his
delightful society, and to make sure that she did not try to attract,
she repelled him with all her power--thought she never could make
herself cold, and stiff, and disagreeable enough to satisfy her

Then she grew frightened at Beauclerc’s looks of astonishment--feared
he would ask explanation--avoided him more and more. Then, on the
other hand, she feared he might guess and interpret _wrong_, or rather
_right_, this change; and back she changed, tried in vain to keep the
just medium--she had lost the power of measuring--altogether she was
very unhappy, and so was Beauclerc; he found her incomprehensible, and
thought her capricious. His own mind was fluttered with love, so that
he could not see or judge distinctly, else he might have seen the truth;
and sometimes, though free from conceit, he did hope it might be all
love. But why then so determined to discourage him? he had advanced
sufficiently to mark his intentions, she could not doubt his sincerity.
He would see farther before he ventured farther. He thought a man was
a fool who proposed before he had tolerable reason to believe he should
not be refused.

Lord Beltravers and his sisters were now expected at Old Forest
immediately, and Beauclerc went thither early every morning, to press
forward the preparations for the arrival of the family, and he seldom
returned till dinner-time; and every evening Lady Castlefort contrived
to take possession of him. It appeared to be indeed as much against his
will as it could be between a well-bred man and a high-bred belle; but
to do her bidding, seemed if not a moral, at least a polite necessity.
She had been spoiled, she owned, by foreign attentions, not French, for
that is all gone now at Paris, but Italian manners, which she so much
preferred. She did not know how she could live out of Italy, and she
must convince Lord Castlefort that the climate was necessary for her
health. Meanwhile she adopted, she acted, what she conceived to be
foreign manners, and with an exaggeration common with those who have
very little sense and a vast desire to be fashionable with a certain
set. Those who knew her best (all but her sister Katrine, who shook her
head,) were convinced that there was really no harm in Lady Castlefort,
“only vanity and folly.” How frequently folly leads farther than fools
ever, or wise people often foresee, we need not here stop to record. On
the present occasion, all at Clarendon Park, even those most inclined to
scandal, persons who, by the by, may be always known by their invariable
preface of, “I hate all scandal,” agreed that “no one _so far_ could
behave better than Granville Beauclerc--so far,”--“as yet.” But all the
elderly who had any experience of this world, all the young who had any
intuitive prescience in these matters, could not but fear that things
could not long go on as they were now going. It was sadly to be feared
that so young a man, and so very handsome a man, and such an admirer of
beauty, and grace, and music, and of such an enthusiastic temper, must
be in danger of being drawn on farther than he was aware, and before he
knew what he was about.

The general heard and saw all that went on without seeming to take heed,
only once he asked Cecilia how long she thought her cousins would stay.
She did not know, but she said “she saw he wished them to be what they
were not--cousins once removed--and quite agreed with him.” He smiled,
for a man is always well pleased to find his wife agree with him in
disliking her cousins.

One night--one fine moonlight night--Lady Castlefort, standing at
the conservatory door with Beauclerc, after talking an inconceivable
quantity of nonsense about her passion for the moon, and her notions
about the stars, and congenial souls born under the same planet,
proposed to him a moonlight walk.

The general was at the time playing at chess with Helen, and had
the best of the game, but at that moment he made a false move, was
check-mated, rose hastily, threw the men together on the board, and
forgot to regret his shameful defeat, or to compliment Helen upon her
victory. Lady Castlefort, having just discovered that the fatality
nonsense about the stars would not quite do for Beauclerc, had been the
next instant seized with a sudden passion for astronomy; she must see
those charming rings of Saturn, which she had heard so much of, which
the general was showing Miss Stanley the other night; she must beg him
to lend his telescope; she came up with her sweetest smile to trouble
the general for his glass. Lord Castlefort, following, objected
strenuously to her going out at night; she had been complaining of a bad
cold when he wanted her to walk in the daytime, she would only make it
worse by going out in the night air. If she wanted to see Saturn and his
rings, the general, he was sure, would fix a telescope at the window for

But that would not do, she must have a moonlight walk; she threw open
the conservatory door, beckoned to Mr. Beauclerc, and how it ended Helen
did not stay to see. She thought that she ought not even to think on the
subject, and she went away as fast as she could. It was late, and she
went to bed wishing to be up early, to go on with a drawing she was to
finish for Mrs. Collingwood--a view by the river side, that view which
had struck her fancy as so beautiful the day she went first to Old
Forest. Early the next morning--and a delightful morning it was--she was
up and out, and reached the spot from which her sketch was taken. She
was surprised to find her little camp-stool, which she had looked for in
vain in the hall, in its usual place, set here ready for her, and on it
a pencil nicely cut.

Beauclerc must have done this. But he was not in general an early riser.
However, she concluded that he had gone over thus early to Old Forest,
to see his friend Lord Beltravers, who was to have arrived the day
before, with his sisters. She saw a boat rowing down the river, and she
had no doubt he was gone. But just as she had settled to her drawing,
she heard the joyful bark of Beauclerc’s dog Nelson, who came bounding
towards her, and the next moment his master appeared, coming down the
path from the wood. With quick steps he came till he was nearly close to
her, then slackened his pace.

“Good morning!” said Helen; she tried to speak with composure, but her
heart beat--she could not help feeling surprise at seeing him--but it
was only surprise.

“I thought you were gone to Old Forest?” said she.

“Not yet,” said he.

His voice sounded different from usual, and she saw in him some
suppressed agitation. She endeavoured to keep her own manner
unembarrassed--she thanked him for the nicely-cut pencil, and the
exactly well-placed seat. He advanced a step or two nearer, stooped, and
looked close at her drawing, but he did not seem to see or know what he
was looking at.

At this moment Nelson, who had been too long unnoticed, put up one paw
on Miss Stanley’s arm, unseen by his master, and encouraged by such
gentle reproof as Helen gave, his audacious paw was on the top of her
drawing-book the next moment, and the next was upon the drawing--and the
paw was wet with dew.--“Nelson!” exclaimed his master in an angry tone.

“O do not scold him,” cried Helen, “do not punish him; the drawing is
not spoiled--only wet, and it will be as well as ever when it is dry.”

Beauclerc ejaculated something about the temper of an angel while she
patted Nelson’s penitent head.

“As the drawing must be left to dry,” said Beauclerc, “perhaps Miss
Stanley would do me the favour to walk as far as the landing-place,
where the boat is to meet me--to take me--if--if I MUST go to Old
Forest!” and he sighed.

She took his offered arm and walked on--surprised--confused;--wondering
what he meant by that sigh and that look--and that strong emphasis on
_must_. “If I _must_ go to Old Forest.” Was not it a pleasure?--was it
not his own choice?--what could he mean?--What could be the matter?

A vague agitating idea rose in her mind, but she put it from her, and
they walked on for some minutes, both silent. They entered the wood,
and feeling the silence awkward, and afraid that he should perceive her
embarrassment, and that he should suspect her suspicion, she exerted
herself to speak--to say something, no matter what.

“It is a charming morning!”

After a pause of absence of mind, he answered,


Then stopping short, he fixed his eyes upon Helen with an expression
that she was afraid to understand. It could hardly bear any
interpretation but one--and yet that was impossible--ought to be
impossible--from a man in Beauclerc’s circumstances--engaged--almost a
married man, as she had been told to consider him. She did not know at
this moment what to think--still she thought she must mistake him,
and she should be excessively ashamed of such a mistake, and now more
strongly felt the dread that he should see and misinterpret or interpret
too rightly her emotion; she walked on quicker, and her breath grew
short, and her colour heightened. He saw her agitation--a delightful
hope arose in his mind. It was plain she was not indifferent--he looked
at her, but dared not look long enough--feared that he was mistaken. But
the embarrassment seemed to change its character even as he looked, and
now it was more like displeasure--decidedly, she appeared displeased.
And so she was; for she thought now that he must either be trifling
with her, or, if serious, must be acting most dishonourably;--her good
opinion of him must be destroyed for ever, if, as now it seemed, he
wished to make an impression upon her heart--yet still she tried not to
think, not to see it. She was sorry, she was very wrong to let such an
idea into her mind--and still her agitation increased.

Quick as she turned from him these thoughts passed in her mind,
alternately angry and ashamed, and at last, forcing herself to be
composed, telling herself she ought to see farther and at least to be
certain before she condemned him--condemned so kind, so honourable a
friend, while the fault might be all her own; she now, in a softened
tone, as if begging pardon for the pain she had given, and the injustice
she had done him, said some words, insignificant in themselves, but from
the voice of kindness charming to Beauclerc’s ear and soul.

“Are not we walking very fast?” said she, breathless. He slackened
his pace instantly, and with a delighted look, while she, in a hurried
voice, added, “But do not let me delay you. There is the boat. You must
be in haste--impatient!”

“In haste! impatient! to leave you, Helen!” She blushed deeper than he
had ever seen her blush before. Beauclerc in general knew--

  “Which blush was anger’s, which was love’s!”

--But now he was so much moved he could not decide at the first glance:
at the second, there was no doubt; it was anger--not love. Her arm was
withdrawn from his. He was afraid he had gone too far. He had called her
Helen! He begged pardon, half humbly, half proudly. “I beg pardon; Miss
Stanley, I should have said. I see I have offended. I fear I have been
presumptuous, but Lady Davenant taught me to trust to Miss Stanley’s
sincerity, and I was encouraged by her expressions of confidence and

“Friendship! Oh, yes! Mr. Beauclerc,” said Helen, in a hurried voice,
eagerly seizing on and repeating the word friendship; “yes, I have
always considered you as a friend. I am sure I shall always find you a
sincere, good friend.”

“Friend!” he repeated in a disappointed tone--all his hopes sunk. She
took his arm again, and he was displeased even with that. She was not
the being of real sensibility he had fancied--she was not capable
of real love. So vacillated his heart and his imagination, and so
quarrelled he alternately every instant with her and with himself.
He could not understand her, or decide what he should next do or say
himself; and there was the boat nearing the land, and they were going
on, on, towards it in silence. He sighed.

It was a sigh that could not but be heard and noticed; it was not meant
to be noticed, and yet it was. What could she think of it? She could
not believe that Beauclerc meant to act treacherously. This time she was
determined not to take anything for granted, not to be so foolish as she
had been with Mr. Churchill.

“Is not that your boat that I see, rowing close?”

“Yes, I believe--certainly. Yes,” said he.

But now the vacillation of Beauclerc’s mind suddenly ceased. Desperate,
he stopped her, as she would have turned down that path to the
landing-place where the boat was mooring. He stood full across the path.
“Miss Stanley, one word--by one word, one look decide. You must decide
for me whether I stay--or go--for ever!”

“I!--Mr. Beauclerc!--”

The look of astonishment--more than astonishment, almost of
indignation--silenced him completely, and he stood dismayed. She pressed
onwards, and he no longer stopped her path. For an instant he submitted
in despair. “Then I must not think of it. I must go--must I, Miss
Stanley? Will not you listen to me, Helen? Advise me; let me open my
heart to you as a friend.”

She stopped under the shady tree beneath which they were passing,
and, leaning against it, she repeated, “As a friend--but, no, no, Mr.
Beauclerc--no; I am not the friend you should consult--consult the
general, your guardian.”

“I have consulted him, and he approves.”

“You have! That is well, that is well at all events,” cried she; “if he
approves, then all is right.”

There was a ray of satisfaction on her countenance. He looked as if
considering what she exactly meant. He hoped again, and was again
resolved to hazard the decisive words. “If you knew all!” and he pressed
her arm closer to him--“if I might tell you all----?”

Helen withdrew her arm decidedly. “I know all,” said she; “all I ought
to know, Mr. Beauclerc.”

“You know all!” cried he, astonished at her manner.

“You know the circumstances in which I am placed?”

He alluded to the position in which he stood with Lady Castlefort; she
thought he meant with respect to Lady Blanche, and she answered--“Yes: I
know all!” and her eye turned towards the boat.

“I understand you,” said he; “you think I ought to go?”

“Certainly,” said she. It never entered into her mind to doubt the truth
of what Lady Cecilia had told her, and she had at first been so much
embarrassed by the fear of betraying what she felt she ought not to
feel, and she was now so shocked by what she thought his dishonourable
conduct, that she repeated almost in a tone of severity--“Certainly, Mr.
Beauclerc, you ought to go.”

The words, “since you are engaged,”--“you know you are engaged,” she was
on the point of adding, but Lady Cecilia’s injunctions not to tell him
that she had betrayed his secret stopped her.

He looked at her for an instant, and then abruptly, and in great
agitation, said; “May I ask, Miss Stanley, if your affections are

“Is that a question, Mr. Beauclerc, which you have a right to ask me?”

“I have no right--no right, I acknowledge--I am answered.”

He turned away from her, and ran down the bank towards the boat, but
returned instantly, and exclaimed, “If you say to me, go! I am gone for

“Go!” Helen firmly pronounced. “You never can be more than a friend to
me! Oh never be less!--go!”

“I am gone,” said he, “you shall never see me more.”

He went, and a few seconds afterwards she heard the splashing of his
oars. He was gone! Oh! how she wished that they had parted sooner--a few
minutes sooner, even before he had so looked--so spoken!

“Oh! that we had parted while I might have still perfectly esteemed him;
but now--!”


When Helen attempted to walk, she trembled so much that she could not
move, and leaning against the tree under which she was standing, she
remained fixed for some time almost without thought. Then she began to
recollect what had been before all this, and as soon as she could walk
she went back for her drawing-book, threw from her the pencil which
Beauclerc had cut, and made her way home as fast as she could, and up to
her own room, without meeting anybody; and as soon as she was there she
bolted the door and threw herself upon her bed. She had by this time a
dreadful headache, and she wanted to try and get rid of it in time for
breakfast--that was her first object; but her thoughts were so confused
that they could not fix upon anything rightly. She tried to compose
herself, and to think the whole affair over again; but she could not.
There was something so strange in what had passed! The sudden--the total
change in her opinion--her total loss of confidence! She tried to put
all thoughts and feelings out of her mind, and just to lie stupified if
she could, that she might get rid of the pain in her head. She had no
idea whether it was late or early, and was going to get up to look at
her watch, when she heard the first bell, half an hour before breakfast,
and this was the time when Cecilia usually opened the door between their
rooms. She dreaded the sound, but when she had expected it some minutes,
she became impatient even for that which she feared; she wanted to have
it over, and she raised herself on her elbow, and listened with acute
impatience: at last the door was thrown wide open, and bright and gay as
ever, in came Cecilia, but at the first sight of Helen on her bed, wan
and miserable, she stopped short.

“My dearest Helen! what can be the matter?”

“Mr. Beauclerc--”

“Well! what of him?” cried Cecilia, and she smiled.

“Oh, Cecilia! do not smile; you cannot imagine--”

“Oh, yes! but I can,” cried Cecilia. “I see how it is; I understand it
all; and miserable and amazed as you look at this moment, I will set all
right for you in one word. He is not going to be married--not engaged.”

Helen started up. “Not engaged!”

“No more than you are, my dear! Oh! I am glad to see your colour come

“Thank Heaven!” cried Helen, “then he is not--”

“A villain!--not at all. He is all that’s right; all that is charming,
my dear. So thank Heaven, and be as happy as you please.”

“But I cannot understand it,” said Helen, sinking back; “I really cannot
understand how it is, Cecilia.” Cecilia gave her a glass of water in
great haste, and was very sorry, and very glad, and begged forgiveness,
and all in a breath: but as yet Helen did not know what she had to
forgive, till it was explained to her in direct words, that Cecilia had
told her not only what was not true, but what she at the time of telling
knew to be false.

“For what purpose, oh! my dear Cecilia! All to save me from a little
foolish embarrassment at first, you have made us miserable at last.”

“Miserable! my dear Helen; at worst miserable only for half an hour.
Nonsense! lie down again, and rest your poor head. I will go this minute
to Granville. Where is he?”

“Gone! Gone for ever! Those were his last words.”

“Impossible! absurd! Only what a man says in a passion. But where is he
gone? Only to Old Forest! Gone for ever--gone till dinner-time! Probably
coming back at this moment in all haste, like a true lover, to beg your
pardon for your having used him abominably ill. Now, smile; do not shake
your head, and look so wretched; but tell me exactly, word for word and
look for look, all that passed between you, and then I shall know what
is best to be done.”

Word for word Helen could not answer, for she had been so much confused,
but she told to the best of her recollection; and Cecilia still thought
no great harm was done. She only looked a little serious from the
apprehension, now the real, true apprehension, of what might happen
about Lady Blanche, who, as she believed, was at Old Forest. “Men are so
foolish; men in love, so rash. Beauclerc, in a fit of anger and despair
on being so refused by the woman he loved, might go and throw himself at
the feet of another for whom he did not care in the least, in a strange
sort of revenge. But I know how to settle it all, and I will do it this

But Helen caught hold of her hand, and firmly detaining it, absolutely
objected to her doing anything without telling her exactly and truly
what she was going to do.

Lady Cecilia assured her that she was only going to inquire from the
general whether Lady Blanche was with her sister at Old Forest, or not.
“Listen to me, my dear Helen; what I am going to say can do no mischief.
If Lady Blanche is there, then the best thing to be done is, for me to
go immediately, this very morning, to pay the ladies a visit on their
coming to the country, and I will bring back Granville. A word will
bring him back. I will only tell him there was a little mistake, or if
you think it best, I will tell him the whole truth. Let me go--only let
me go and consult the general before the breakfast-bell rings, for I
shall have no time afterwards.”

Helen let her go, for as Beauclerc had told her that he had opened his
mind to the general, she thought it was best that he should hear all
that had happened.

The moment the general saw Lady Cecilia come in, he smiled, and said,
“Well! my dear Cecilia, you have seen Helen this morning, and she has
seen Beauclerc--what is the result? Does he stay, or go?”

“He is gone!” said Cecilia. The general looked surprised and sorry.
“He did not propose for her,” continued Cecilia, “he did not declare
himself--he only began to sound her opinion of him, and she--she
contrived to misunderstand--to offend him, and he is gone, but only to
Old Forest, and we can have him back again directly.”

“That is not likely,” said the general, “because I know that Beauclerc
had determined, that if he went he would not return for some time. Your
friend Helen was to decide. If she gave him any hope, that is, permitted
him to appear as her declared admirer, he could, with propriety,
happiness, and honour, remain here; if not, my dear Cecilia, you must be
sensible that he is right to go.”

“Gone for some time!” repeated Cecilia, “you mean as long as Lady
Castlefort is here.”

“Yes,” said the general.

“I wish she was gone, I am sure, with all my heart,” said Cecilia; “but
in the mean time, tell me, my dear Clarendon, do you know whether Lord
Beltravers’ sisters are at Old Forest?”

The general did not think that Lady Blanche had arrived; he was
not certain, but he knew that the Comtesse de St. Cymon had arrived

“Then,” said Cecilia, “it would be but civil to go to see the comtesse.
I will go this morning.”

General Clarendon answered instantly, and with decision, that she must
not think of such a thing--that it could not be done. “Madame de St.
Cymon is a woman of doubtful reputation, not a person with whom Lady
Cecilia Clarendon ought to form any acquaintance.”

“No, not form an acquaintance--I’m quite aware of that,” and eagerly
she pleaded that she had no intention of doing anything; “but just one
morning visit paid and returned, you know, leads to nothing. Probably we
shall neither of us be at home, and never meet; and really it would be
such a marked thing not to pay this visit to the Beltravers family
on their return to the country. Formerly there was such a good
understanding between the Forresters and your father; and really
hospitality requires it. Altogether this one visit really must be paid,
it cannot be helped, so I will order the carriage.”

“It must not be done!” the general said; “it is a question of right, not
of expediency.”

“Right, but there is nothing really wrong, surely; I believe all that
has been said of her is scandal. Nobody is safe against reports--the
public papers are so scandalous! While a woman lives with her husband,
it is but charitable to suppose all is right. That’s the rule. Besides,
we should not throw the first stone.” Then Lady Cecilia pleaded, lady
this and lady that, and the whole county, without the least scruple
would visit Madame de St. Cymon.

“Lady this and lady that may do as they please, or as their husbands
think proper or improper, that is no rule for Lady Cecilia Clarendon;
and as to the whole county, or the whole world, what is that to me, when
I have formed my own determination?”

The fact was, that at this very time Madame de St. Cymon was about to
be separated from her husband. A terrible discovery had just been made.
Lord Beltravers had brought his sister to Old Forest to bide her from
London disgrace; there he intended to leave her to rusticate, while he
should follow her husband to Paris immediately, to settle the terms of
separation or divorce.

“Beauclerc, no doubt, will go to Paris with him,” said the general.

“To Paris! when will he set out?”

“To-day--directly, if Helen has decidedly rejected him; but you say he
did not declare himself. Pray tell me all at once.”

And if she had done so, all might have been well; but she was afraid.
Her husband was as exact about _some things_ as her mother; he would
certainly be displeased at the deception she had practised on Helen; she
could not tell him that, not at this moment, for she had just fooled him
to the top of his bent about this visit; she would find a better
time; she so dreaded the instant change of his smile--the look of
disapprobation; she was so cowardly; in short, the present pain of
displeasing--the consequences even of her own folly, she never could
endure, and to avoid it she had always recourse to some new evasion;
and now, when Helen--her dear Helen’s happiness, was at stake, she
faltered--she paltered--she would not for the world do her any wrong;
but still she thought she could manage without telling the whole--she
would tell nothing _but_ the truth. So, after a moment’s hesitation,
while all these thoughts went through her mind, when the general
repeated his question, and begged to know at once what was passing in
her little head; she smiled in return for that smile which played on her
husband’s face while he fondly looked upon her, and she answered, “I
am thinking of poor Helen. She has made a sad mistake--and has a horrid
headache at this moment--in short she has offended Beauclerc past
endurance--past his endurance--and he went off in a passion before she
found out her mistake. In short, we must have him back again; could you
go, my dear love--or write directly?”

“First let me understand,” said the general. “Miss Stanley has made a
mistake--what mistake?”

“She thought Beauclerc was engaged to Lady Blanche.”

“How could she think so? What reason had she?”

“She had been told so by somebody.”

“Somebody!--that eternal scandal-monger Lady Katrine, I suppose.”

“No--not Lady Katrine,” said Cecilia; “but I am not at liberty to tell
you whom.”

“No matter; but Miss Stanley is not a fool; she could not believe
somebody or anybody, contrary to common sense.”

“No, but Beauclerc did not come quite to proposing--and you know she
had been blamed for refusing Mr. Churchill before she was asked--and in
short--in love, people do not always know what they are about.”

“I do not understand one word of it,” said the general; “nor I am sure
do you, my dear Cecilia.”

“Yes, I really do, but----”

“My dear Cecilia, I assure you it is always best to let people settle
their love affairs their own way.”

“Yes, certainly--I would not interfere in the least--only to get
Granville back again--and then let them settle it their own way. Cannot
you call at Old Forest?”


“Could you not write?”

“No--not unless I know the whole. I will do nothing in the dark. Always
tell your confessor, your lawyer, your physician, your friend, your
whole case, or they are fools or rogues if they act for you; go back and
repeat this to Helen Stanley from me.”

“But, my dear, she will think it so unkind.”

“Let her show me how I can serve her, and I will do it.”

“Only write a line to Beauclerc--say, ‘Beauclerc come back,--here has
been a mistake.’” She would have put a pen into his hand, and held paper
to him.

“Let me know the whole, and then, and not till then, can I judge whether
I should be doing right for her or not.” The difficulty of telling
the whole had increased to Lady Cecilia, even from the hesitation and
prevarication she had now made. “Let me see Helen,--let me speak to
her myself, and learn what this strange nonsensical mystery is.” He was
getting impatient. “Cannot I see Miss Stanley?”

“Why no, my dear love, not just now, she has such a headache! She is
lying down. There is the breakfast-bell--after breakfast, if you
please. But I am clear she would rather not speak to you herself on the

“Then come down to breakfast, my dear, and let her settle it her own
way--that is much the best plan. Interference in love matters always
does mischief. Come to breakfast, my dear--I have no time to lose--I
must be off to a court-martial.”

He looked at his watch, and Cecilia went half down stairs with him, and
then ran back to keep Helen quiet by the assurance that all would
be settled--all would be right, and that she would send her up some
breakfast--she must not think of coming down; and Cecilia lamented half
breakfast-time--how subject to headaches poor Helen was; and through
this and through all other conversation she settled what she would do
for her. As the last resource, she would tell the whole truth--not to
her husband, she loved him too well to face his displeasure for one
moment--but to Beauclerc; and writing would be so much easier than
speaking--without being put to the blush she could explain it all to
Beauclerc, and turn it playfully; and he would be so happy that he
would be only too glad to forgive her, and to do anything she asked.
She concocted and wrote a very pretty letter, in which she took all the
blame fully on herself--did perfect justice to Helen; said she wrote
without her knowledge, and depended entirely upon his discretion, so
he must come back of his own accord, and keep her counsel. This letter,
however, she could not despatch so soon as she had expected; she
could not send a servant with it till the general should be off to his
court-martial. Now had Cecilia gone the straight-forward way to work,
her husband could in that interval, and would, have set all to rights;
but this to Cecilia was impossible; she could only wait in an agony of
impatience till the general and his officers were all out of the way,
and then she despatched a groom with her letter to Old Forest, and
desired him to return as fast as possible, while she went to Helen’s
room, to while away the time of anxious suspense as well as she could;
and she soon succeeded in talking herself into excellent spirits again.
“Now, my dear Helen, if that unlucky mistake had not been made,--if
you had not fancied that Granville was married already,--and if he had
actually proposed for you,--what would you have said?--in short--would
you have accepted him?”

“Oh! Cecilia, I do hope he will understand how it all was; I hope he
will believe that I esteem him as I always did: as to love--”

Helen paused, and Lady Cecilia went on: “As to love, nobody knows
anything about it till it comes--and here it is coming, I do believe!”
 continued she, looking out of the window.--No! not Mr. Beauclerc, but
the man she had sent with her letter, galloping towards the house.
Disappointed not to see Beauclerc himself, she could only conclude that
as he had not his horse with him, he was returning in the boat.
The answer to her letter was brought in. At the first glance on the
direction, her countenance changed. “Not Granville’s hand!--what can
have happened?” She tore open the note, “He is gone!--gone with Lord
Beltravers--set off!--gone to Paris!” Helen said not one word, and
Cecilia, in despair, repeated, “Gone!--gone!--absolutely gone! Nothing
more can be done. Oh, that I had done nothing about it! All has failed!
Heaven knows what may happen now! Oh! if I could but have let it all
alone! I never, never can forgive myself! My dear Helen, be angry with
me--reproach me: pray--pray reproach me as I deserve!” But Helen could
not blame one who so blamed herself--one who, however foolish and wrong
she had been, had done it all from the kindest motives. In the agony of
her penitence, she now told Helen all that had passed between her and
the general; that, to avoid the shame of confessing to him her first
deception, she had gone on another and another step in these foolish
evasions, contrivances, and mysteries; how, thinking she could manage
it, she had written without his knowledge; and now, to complete her
punishment, not only had every thing which she had attempted failed, but
a consequence which she could never have foreseen had happened.--“Here
I am, with a note actually in my hand from this horrid Madame de St.
Cymon, whom Clarendon absolutely would not hear of my even calling upon!
Look what she writes to me. She just took advantage of this opportunity
to begin a correspondence before an acquaintance: but I will never
answer her. Here is what she says:--

“‘The Comtesse de St. Cymon exceedingly regrets that Lady Cecilia
Clarendon’s servant did not arrive in time to deliver her ladyship’s
letter into Mr. Beauclerc’s own hand. Mr. B. left Old Forest with
Lord Beltravers early to-day for Paris. The Comtesse de St. Cymon,
understanding that Lady Cecilia Clarendon is anxious that there should
be as little delay as possible in forwarding her letter, and calculating
that if returned by her ladyship’s servant it must be too late for this
day’s post from Clarendon Park, has forwarded it immediately with her
own letters to Paris, which cannot fail to meet Mr. Beauclerc directly
on his arrival there.’

“Oh!” cried Lady Cecilia, “how angry the general would be if he knew of
this!” She tore the note to the smallest bits as she spoke, and threw
them away; and next she begged that Helen would never say a word about
it. There was no use in telling the general what would only vex him, and
what could not be helped; and what could lead to nothing, for she should
never answer this note, nor have any further communication of any kind
with Madame de St. Cymon.

Helen, nevertheless, thought it would be much better to tell the general
of it, and she wondered how Cecilia could think of doing otherwise, and
just when she had so strongly reproached herself, and repented of
these foolish mysteries; and this was going on another step. “Indeed,
Cecilia,” said Helen, “I wish--on my own account I wish you would not
conceal anything. It is hard to let the general suspect me of extreme
folly and absurdity, or of some sort of double dealing in this business,
in which I have done my utmost to do right and to go straightforward.”
 Poor Helen, with her nervous headache beating worse and worse,
remonstrated and entreated, and came to tears; and Lady Cecilia promised
that it should be all done as she desired; but again she charged and
besought Helen to say nothing herself about the matter to the general:
and this acceded to, Lady Cecilia’s feelings being as transient as they
were vehement, all her self-reproaches, penitence, and fears passed
away, and, taking her bright view of the whole affair, she ended with
the certainty that Beauclerc, would return the moment he received her
letter; that he would have it in a very few days, and all would end
well, and quite as well as if she had not been a fool.


THE first tidings of Beauclerc came in a letter from him to the general,
written immediately after his arrival at Paris. But it was plain that it
must have been written before Lady Cecilia’s letter, forwarded by Madame
de St. Cymon, could have reached him. It was evident that matters were
as yet unexplained, from his manner of writing about “the death-blow
to all his hopes,” and now he was setting off with Lord Beltravers
for Naples, to follow M. de St. Cymon, and settle the business of the
sister’s divorce. Lady Cecilia could only hope that her letter would
follow him thither, enclosed in this Madame de St. Cymon’s despatches to
her brother; and now they could know nothing more till they could hear
from Naples.

Meanwhile, Helen perceived that, though the general continued to be as
attentive and kind to her as usual, yet that there was something more
careful and reserved in his manner than formerly, less of spontaneous
regard, and cordial confidence. It was not that he was displeased by
her having discouraged the addresses of his ward, fond as he was of
Beauclerc, and well as he would have been pleased by the match. This he
distinctly expressed the only time that he touched upon the subject. He
said, that Miss Stanley was the best and the only judge of what would
make her happy; but he could not comprehend the nature of the mistake
she had made; Cecilia’s explanations, whatever they were, had not made
the matter clear. There was either some caprice, or some mystery, which
he determined not to inquire into, upon his own principle of leaving
people to settle their love affairs in their own way. Helen’s spirits
were lowered: naturally of great sensibility, she depended more for her
happiness on her inward feelings than upon any external circumstances. A
great deal of gaiety was now going on constantly among the young people
at Clarendon Park, and this made her want of spirits more disagreeable
to herself, more obvious, and more observed by others. Lady Katrine
rallied her unmercifully. Not suspecting the truth, her ladyship
presumed that Miss Stanley repented of having, before she was asked,
said No instead of Yes, to Mr. Churchill. Ever since his departure she
had evidently worn the willow.

Lady Cecilia was excessively vexed by this ill-natured raillery:
conscious that she had been the cause of all this annoyance to Helen,
and of much more serious evil to her, the zeal and tenderness of her
affection now increased, and was shown upon every little occasion
involuntarily, in a manner that continually irritated her cousin
Katrine’s jealousy. Helen had been used to live only with those by whom
she was beloved, and she was not at all prepared for the sort of warfare
which Lady Katrine carried on; her perpetual sneers, innuendoes, and
bitter sarcasms, Helen did not resent, but she felt them. The arrows,
ill-aimed and weak, could not penetrate far; it was not with their point
they wounded, but by their venom--wherever that touched it worked inward
mischief. Often to escape from one false imputation she exposed herself
to another more grievous. One night, when the young people wished to
dance, and the usual music was not to be had, Helen played quadrilles,
and waltzes, for hours with indefatigable good-nature, and when some of
the party returned their cordial thanks, Lady Katrine whispered, “our
musician has been well paid by Lord Estridge’s admiration of her white
hands.” His lordship had not danced, and had been standing all the
evening beside Helen, much to the discomfiture of Lady Katrine, who
intended to have had him for her own partner. The next night, Helen
did not play, but joined the dance, and with a boy partner, whom nobody
could envy her. The general, who saw wonderfully quickly the by-play
of society, marked all this, and now his eye followed Helen through the
quadrille, and he said to some one standing by, that Miss Stanley danced
charmingly, to his taste, and in such a lady-like manner. He was glad
to see her in good spirits again; her colour was raised, and he
observed that she looked remarkably well. “Yes,” Lady Katrine answered,
“remarkably well; and black is so becoming to that sort of complexion,
no doubt this is the reason Miss Stanley wears it so much longer than
is customary for an uncle. Short or long mournings are, to be sure, just
according to fashion, or feeling, as some say. For my part, I hate long
mournings--so like ostentation of sentiment; whatever I did, at any rate
I would be consistent. I never would dance in black. Pope, you know, has
such a good cut at that sort of thing. Do you recollect the lines?”

“‘And bear about the mockery of woe  To midnight dances and the public show.’”

Lady Castlefort took Miss Stanley aside, after the dance was over, to
whisper to her so good-naturedly, how shockingly severe Katrine had
been; faithfully repeating every word that her sister had said. “And
so cruel, to talk of your bearing about the _mockery_ of woe!--But, my
sweet little lamb, do not let me distress you so.” Helen, withdrawing
from the false caresses of Lady Castlefort, assured her that she should
not be hurt by any thing Lady Katrine could say, as she so little
understood her real feelings; and at the moment her spirit rose against
the injustice, and felt as much superior to such petty malice as even
Lady Davenant could have desired. She had resolved to continue in
mourning for the longest period in which it is worn for a parent,
because, in truth, her uncle had been a parent to her; but the morning
after Lady Katrine’s cruel remarks, Cecilia begged that Helen would
oblige her by laying aside black. “Let it be on my birthday.” Lady
Cecilia’s birth-day was to be celebrated the ensuing week. “Well, for
that day certainly I will,” Helen said; “but only for that day.” This
would not satisfy Cecilia. Helen saw that Lady Katrine’s observations
had made a serious impression, and, dreading to become the subject of
daily observation, perhaps altercation, she yielded. The mourning was
thrown aside. Then every thing she wore must be new. Lady Cecilia and
Mademoiselle Felicie, her waiting-maid, insisted upon taking the matter
into their own hands. Helen really intended only to let one dress for
her friend’s birth-day be bespoken for her; but from one thing she was
led on to another. Lady Cecilia’s taste in dress was exquisite. Her
first general principle was admirable--“Whatever you buy, let it be the
best of its kind, which is always the cheapest in the end.” Her second
maxim was--“Never have anything but from such and such people, or from
such and such places,” naming those who were at the moment accredited by
fashion. “These, of course, make you pay high for the name of the thing;
but that must be. The name is all,” said Lady Cecilia. “Does your
hat, your bonnet, whatever it be, come from the reigning fashionable
authority? then it is right, and you are quite right. You can put down
all objections and objectors with the magic of a name. You need think no
more about your dress; you have no trouble; while the poor creatures
who go toiling and rummaging in cheap shops--what comes of it? but total
exhaustion and disgrace! Yesterday, now, my dear Helen, recollect. When
Lady Katrine, after dinner, asked little Miss Isdall where she bought
that pretty hat, the poor girl was quite out of countenance. ‘Really
she did not know; she only knew it was very cheap.’ You saw that nobody
could endure the hat afterwards; so that, cheap as it might be, it was
money to all intents and purposes absolutely thrown away, for it did not
answer its purpose.”

Helen, laughing, observed, that if its purpose had been to look well,
and to make the wearer look well, it had fully succeeded. “Sophistry,
my dear Helen. The purpose was not to look well, but to have a
distinguished air. Dress, and what we call fashion and taste altogether,
you know, are mere matters of opinion, association of ideas, and so
forth. When will you learn to reason, as mamma says? Do not make me
despair of you.”

Thus, half in jest, half in earnest, with truth and falsehood, sense
and nonsense, prettily blended together, Lady Cecilia prevailed in
overpowering Helen’s better judgment, and obtained a hasty submission.
In economy, as in morals, false principles are far more dangerous than
any one single error. One false principle as to laying out money is
worse than any bad bargain that can be made, because it leads to bad
bargains innumerable. It was settled that all Helen wanted should be
purchased, not only from those who sold the best goods, but from certain
very expensive houses of fashionably high name in London. And the next
point Lady Cecilia insisted upon was, that Helen’s dress should always
be the same as her own. “You know it used to be so, my dear Helen, when
we were children; let it be so now.”

“But there is such a difference _now_” said Helen; “and I cannot

“Difference! Oh! don’t talk of differences--let there be none ever
between us. Not afford!--nonsense, my dear--the expense will be nothing.
In these days you get the materials of dress absolutely for nothing--the
fashion--the making-up is all, us Felicie and I, and everybody who knows
anything of the matter, can tell you. Now all that sort of thing we can
save you--here is my wedding paraphernalia all at your service--patterns
ready cut--and here is Felicie, whose whole French soul is in the
toilette--and there is your own little maid, who has hands, and head,
and heart, all devoted to you--so leave it to us--leave it to us, my
dear--take no thought what you shall put on--and you will put it on all
the better.” Felicie was summoned. “Felicie, remember Miss Stanley’s
dress is always to be the same as my own. It must be so, my dear. It
will be the greatest pleasure to me,” and with her most persuasive
caressing manner, she added, “My own dear Helen, if you love me, let it
be so.”

This was an appeal which Helen could not resist. She thought that she
could not refuse without vexing Cecilia; and, from a sort of sentimental
belief that she was doing Cecilia “a real kindness,”--that it was
what Cecilia called “a sisterly act,” she yielded to what she knew was
unsuited to her circumstances--to what was quite contrary to her better
judgment. It often so happens, that our friends doubly guard one obvious
point of weakness, while another exists undiscovered by them, and
unknown to ourselves. Lady Davenant had warned Helen against the
dangers of indecision and coquetry with her lovers, but this danger of
extravagance in dress she had not foreseen--and into how much expense
this one weak compliance would lead her, Helen could not calculate. She
had fancied that, at least, till she went to town, she should not want
anything expensive--this was a great mistake. Formerly in England, as
still in every other country but England, a marked difference was made
in the style of dress in the country and in town. Formerly, overdressing
in the country was reprobated as quite vulgar; but now, even persons
of birth and fashion are guilty of this want of taste and sense. They
display almost as much expensive dress in the country as in town.

It happened that, among the succession of company at Clarendon Park
this summer, there came, self-invited, from the royal party in the
neighbourhood, a certain wealthy lady, by some called “Golconda,” by
others “the Duchess of Baubleshire.” She was passionately fond of dress,
and she eclipsed all rivals in magnificence and variety of ornaments. At
imminent peril of being robbed, she brought to the country, and carried
about everywhere with her, an amazing number of jewels, wearing two or
three different sets at different times of the day--displaying them on
the most absurdly improper occasions--at a fete champêtre, or a boat

Once, after a riding-party, at a pic-nic under the trees, when it had
been resolved unanimously that nobody should change their dress at
dinner-time, Golconda appeared in a splendid necklace, displayed over
her riding-dress, and when she was reproached with having broken through
the general agreement not to dress she replied, that, “Really she had
put the thing on in the greatest hurry, without knowing well what it
was, just to oblige her little page who had brought three sets of jewels
for her choice--she had chosen the _most undressed_ of the three, merely
because she could not disappoint the poor little fellow.”

Every one saw the affectation and folly, and above all, the vulgarity of
this display, and those who were most envious were most eager to comfort
themselves by ridicule. Never was the “Golconda” out of hearing, but
Lady Katrine was ready with some instance of her “absurd vanity.” “If
fortune had but blessed her with such jewels,” Lady Katrine said, “she
trusted she should have worn them with better grace;” but it did not
appear that the taste for baubles was diminished by the ridicule thrown
upon them--quite the contrary, it was plain that the laughers were only
envious, and envious because they could not be envied.

Lady Cecilia, who had no envy in her nature--who was really
generous--entered not into this vain competition; on the contrary,
she refrained from wearing any of her jewels, because Helen had none;
besides, simplicity was really the best taste, the general said so--this
was well thought and well done for some time, but there was a little
lurking love of ornaments in Cecilia’s mind, nor was Helen entirely
without sympathy in that taste. Her uncle had early excited it in her
mind by frequent fond presents of the prettiest trinkets imaginable; the
taste had been matured along with her love for one for whom she had such
strong affection, and it had seemed to die with its origin. Before she
left Cecilhurst, Helen had given away every ornament she possessed;
she thought she could never want them again, and she left them as
remembrances with those who had loved her and her uncle.

Cecilia on her birthday brought her a set of forget-me-nots to match
those which she intended to wear herself, and which had been long
ago given to Lady Cecilia by the dear good dean himself. This was
irresistible to Helen, and they were accepted. But this was only the
prelude to presents of more value, which Helen scrupled to receive;

  “Oft to refuse and never once offend”

was not so easily done as said, especially with Lady Cecilia; she was so
urgent, so caressing, and had so many plausible reasons, suitable to all
occasions. On the general’s birthday, Lady Cecilia naturally wished to
wear his first gift to her--a pair of beautiful pearl bracelets, but
then Helen must have the same. Helen thought that Roman pearl would do
quite as well for her. She had seen some such excellent imitations that
no eye could detect the difference. “No eye! very likely; but still
your own conscience, my dear!” replied Lady Cecilia. “And if people ask
whether they are real, what could you say? You know there are everywhere
impertinent people; malicious Lady Katrines, who will ask questions. Oh!
positively I cannot bear to think of your being detected in passing off
counterfeits. In all ornaments, it should be genuine or none--none or

“None, then, let it be for me this time, dear Cecilia.”

Cecilia seemed to submit, and Helen thought she had well settled it.
But on the day of the general’s _fête_, the pearl bracelets were on her
dressing-table. They were from the general, and could not be refused.
Cecilia declared she had nothing to do with the matter.

“Oh, Cecilia!”

“Upon my word!” cried Lady Cecilia; “and if you doubt me, the general
shall have the honour of presenting, and you the agony of refusing or
accepting them in full salon.”

Helen sighed, hesitated, and submitted. The general, on her appearing
with the bracelets, bowed, smiled, and thanked her with his kindest
look; and she was glad to see him look kindly upon her again.

Having gained her point so pleasantly this time, Lady Cecilia did
not stop there; and Helen found there was no resource but to bespeak
beforehand for herself whatever she apprehended would be pressed upon
her acceptance.

Fresh occasions for display, and new necessities for expense,
continually occurred. Reviews, and races, and race-balls, and archery
meetings, and archery balls, had been, and a regatta was to be. At some
of these the ladies had appeared in certain uniforms, new, of course,
for the day; and now preparations for the regatta had commenced, and
were going on. It was to last several days: and after the boat-races in
the morning, there were to be balls at night. The first of these was
to be at Clarendon Park, and Mademoiselle Felicie considered her lady’s
dress upon this occasion as one of the objects of first importance in
the universe. She had often sighed over the long unopened jewel-box.
Her lady might as well be nobody. Mademoiselle Felicie could no ways
understand a lady well born not wearing that which distinguished her
above the common; and if she was ever to wear jewels, the ball-room was
surely the proper place. And the sapphire necklace would look _à ravir_
with her lady’s dress, which, indeed, without it, would have no effect;
would be quite _mésquine_ and _manquée_.

Now Lady Cecilia had a great inclination to wear that sapphire necklace,
which probably Felicie saw when she commenced her remonstrances, for
it is part of the business of the well-trained waiting-woman, to give
utterance to those thoughts which her lady wishes should be divined and
pressed into accomplishment. Cecilia considered whether it would not be
possible to divide the double rows of her sapphires, to make out a set
for Helen as well as for herself; she hesitated only because they had
been given to her by her mother, and she did not like to run the hazard
of spoiling the set; but still she could manage it, and she would do it.
Mademoiselle Felicie protested the attempt would be something very like
sacrilege; to prevent which, she gave a hint to Helen of what was in

Helen knew that with Cecilia, when once she had set her heart upon a
generous feat of this kind, remonstrance would be in vain; she dreaded
that she would, if prevented from the meditated division of the
sapphires, purchase for her a new set: she had not the least idea what
the expense was, but, at the moment, she thought anything would be
better than letting Cecilia spoil her mother’s present, or put her under
fresh obligations of this sort. She knew that the sapphires had been
got from the jewellers with whom her uncle had dealt, and who were no
strangers to her name; she wrote, and bespoke a similar set to Lady

“_Charmante!_ the very thing,” Mademoiselle Felicie foresaw, “a young
lady so well born would determine on doing. And if she might add a
little word, it would be good at the same opportunity to order a ruby
brooch, the same as her lady’s, as that would be the next object
in question for the second day’s regatta ball, when it would be
indispensable for that night’s appearance; _positivement_, she knew her
lady would do it for Miss Stanley if Miss Stanley did not do it of her
own head.”

Helen did not think that a brooch could be very expensive; there was not
time to consider about it--the post was going--she was afraid that Lady
Cecilia would come in and find her writing, and prevent her sending the
letter. She hastily added an order for the brooch, finished the letter,
and despatched it. And when it was gone she told Cecilia what she had
done. Cecilia looked startled; she was well aware that Helen did not
know the high price of what she had bespoken. But, determining that she
would settle it her own way, she took care not to give any alarm, and
shaking her head, she only reproached Helen playfully with having thus
stolen a march upon her.

“You think you have out-generaled me, but we shall see. Remember, I am
the wife of a general, and not without resources.”


Of the regatta, of the fineness of the weather, the beauty of the
spectacle, and the dresses of the ladies, a full account appeared in
the papers of the day, of which it would be useless here to give a
repetition, and shameful to steal or seem to steal a description. We
shall record only what concerns Helen.

With the freshness of youth and of her naturally happy temper, she was
delighted with the whole, to her a perfectly new spectacle, and every
body was pleased except Lady Katrine, who, in the midst of every
amusement, always found something that annoyed her, something that
“should not have been so.” She was upon this occasion more cross than
usual, because this morning’s uniform was not becoming to her, and was
most particularly so to Miss Stanley, as all the gentlemen observed.

Just in time before the ladies went to dress for the ball at night, the
precious box arrived, containing the set of sapphires. Cecilia opened
it eagerly, to see that all was right. Helen was not in the room. Lady
Katrine stood by, and when she found that these were for Helen, her
envious indignation broke forth. “The poor daughters of peers cannot
indulge in such things,” cried she; “they are fit only for rich
heiresses! I understood,” continued she, “that Miss Stanley had given
away her fortune to pay her uncle’s debts, but I presume she has thought
better of that, as I always prophesied she would----generosity is
charming, but, after all, sapphires are so becoming!”

Helen came into the room just as this speech was ended. Lady Katrine had
one of the bracelets in her hand. She looked miserably cross, for she
had been disappointed about some ornaments she had expected by the
same conveyance that brought Miss Stanley’s. She protested that she
had nothing fit to wear to-night. Helen looked at Cecilia; and though
Cecilia’s look gave no encouragement, she begged that Lady Katrine would
do her the honour to wear these sapphires this night, since she had not
received what her ladyship had ordered. Lady Katrine suffered herself to
be prevailed on, but accepted with as ill a grace as possible. The
ball went on, and Helen at least was happier than if she had worn the
bracelets. She had no pleasure in being the object of envy, and now,
when she found that Cecilia could be and was satisfied, though their
ornaments were not exactly alike, it came full upon her mind that she
had done foolishly in bespeaking these sapphires: it was at that moment
only a transient self-reproach for extravagance, but before she went to
rest this night it became more serious.

Lady Davenant had been expected all day, but she did not arrive till
late in the midst of the ball, and she just looked in at the dancers for
a few minutes before she retired to her own apartment. Helen would have
followed her, but that was not allowed. After the dancing was over,
however, as she was going to her room, she heard Lady Davenant’s voice,
calling to her as she passed by; and, opening the door softly, she found
her still awake, and desiring to see her for a few minutes, if she was
not too much tired.

“Oh no, not in the least tired; quite the contrary,” said Helen.

After affectionately embracing her, Lady Davenant held her at arms’
length, and looked at her as the light of the lamp shone full upon
her face and figure. Pleased with her whole appearance, Lady Davenant
smiled, and said, as she looked at her--“You seem, Helen, to have shared
the grateful old fairy’s gift to Lady Georgiana B. of the never-fading
rose in the cheek. But what particularly pleases me, Helen, is the
perfect simplicity of your dress. In the few minutes that I was in the
ball-room to-night, I was struck with that over-dressed duchess: her
figure has been before my eyes ever since, hung round with jewellery,
and with that _auréole_ a foot and a-half high on her head: like the
Russian bride’s headgear, which Heber so well called ‘the most costly
deformity he ever beheld.’ Really, this passion for baubles,” continued
Lady Davenant, “is the universal passion of our sex. I will give you an
instance to what extravagance it goes. I know a lady of high rank, who
hires a certain pair of emerald earrings at fifteen hundred pounds per
annum. She rents them in this way from some German countess in whose
family they are an heir-loom, and cannot be sold.” Helen expressed her
astonishment. “This is only one instance, my dear; I could give you
hundreds. Over the whole world, women of all ages, all ranks, all
conditions, have been seized with this bauble insanity--from the counter
to the throne. Think of Marie Antoinette and the story of her necklace;
and Josephine and her Cisalpine pearls, and all the falsehoods she told
about them to the emperor she reverenced, the husband she loved--and
all for what?--a string of beads! But I forget,” cried Lady Davenant,
interrupting herself, “I must not forget how late it is: and I am
keeping you up, and you have been dancing: forgive me! When once my
mind is moved, I forget all hours. Good night--or good morning, my dear
child; go, and rest.” But just as Helen was withdrawing her hand, Lady
Davenant’s eye fixed on her pearl bracelets--“Roman pearls, or real?
Real, I see, and very valuable!--given to you, I suppose, by your poor
dear extravagant uncle?”

Helen cleared her uncle’s memory from this imputation, and explained
that the bracelets were a present from General Clarendon. She did not
know they were so “very valuable,” but she hoped she had not done wrong
to accept of them in the circumstances; and she told how she had been
induced to take them.

Lady Davenant said she had done quite right. The general was no
present-maker, and this exception in his favour could not lead to
any future inconvenience. “But Cecilia,” continued she, “is too much
addicted to trinket giving, which ends often disagreeably even between
friends, or at all events fosters a foolish taste, and moreover
associates it with feelings of affection in a way particularly deceitful
and dangerous to such a little, tender-hearted person as I am speaking
to, whose common sense would too easily give way to the pleasure of
pleasing or fear of offending a friend. Kiss me, and don’t contradict
me, for your conscience tells you that what I say is true.”

The sapphires, the ruby brooch, and all her unsettled accounts, came
across Helen’s mind; and if the light had shone upon her face at that
moment, her embarrassment must have been seen; but Lady Davenant, as she
finished the last words, laid her head upon the pillow, and she turned
and settled herself comfortably to go to sleep. Helen retired with a
disordered conscience; and the first thing she did in the morning was
to look in the red case in which the sapphires came, to see if there was
any note of their price; she recollected having seen some little bit
of card--it was found on the dressing-table. When she beheld the price,
fear took away her breath--it was nearly half her whole year’s
income; still she _could_ pay it. But the ruby brooch that had not yet
arrived--what would that cost? She hurried to her accounts; she had let
them run on for months unlooked at, but she thought she must know the
principal articles of expense in dress by her actual possessions. There
was a heap of little crumpled bills which, with Felicie’s griffonage,
Helen had thrown into her table-drawer. In vain did she attempt to
decipher the figures, like apothecaries’ marks, linked to quarters and
three-quarters, and yards, of gauzes, silks, and muslins, altogether
inextricably puzzling. They might have been at any other moment
laughable, but now they were quite terrible to Helen; the only thing she
could make clearly out was the total; she was astonished when she saw to
how much little nothings can amount, an astonishment felt often by the
most experienced--how much more by Helen, all unused to the arithmetic
of economy! At this instant her maid came in smiling with a packet, as
if sure of being the bearer of the very thing her young lady most wished
for; it was the brooch--the very last thing in the world she desired to
see. With a trembling hand she opened the parcel, looked at the note of
the price, and sank upon her chair half stupified, with her eyes fixed
upon the sum. She sat she knew not how long, till, roused by the opening
of Cecilia’s door, she hastened to put away the papers. “Let me see
them, my dear, don’t put away those papers,” cried Cecilia; “Felicie
tells me that you have been at these horrid accounts these two hours,
and--you look--my dear Helen, you must let me see how much it is!” She
drew the total from beneath Helen’s hand. It was astounding even to
Cecilia, as appeared by her first unguarded look of surprise. But,
recovering herself immediately, she in a playfully scolding tone told
Helen that all this evil came upon her in consequence of her secret
machinations. “You set about to counteract me, wrote for things that
I might not get them for you, you see what has come of it! As to these
bills, they are all from tradespeople who cannot be in a hurry to be
paid; and as to the things Felicie has got for you, she can wait, is not
she a waiting-woman by profession? Now, where is the ruby-brooch? Have
you never looked at it?--I hope it is pretty--I am sure it is handsome,”
 cried she as she opened the case. “Yes; I like it prodigiously, I will
take it off your hands, my dear; will that do?”

“No, Cecilia, I cannot let you do that, for you have one the same, I
know, and you cannot want another--no, no.”

“You speak like an angel, my dear, but you do not look like one,” said
Cecilia. “So woe-begone, so pale a creature, never did I see! do look at
yourself in the glass; but you are too wretched to plague. Seriously, I
want this brooch, and mine it must be--it is mine: I have a use for it,
I assure you.”

“Well, if you have a use for it, really,” said Helen, “I should indeed
be very glad----”

“Be glad then, it is mine,” said Cecilia; “and now it is yours, my dear
Helen, now, not a word! pray, if you love me!”

Helen could not accept of it; she thanked Cecilia with all her
heart, she felt her kindness--her generosity, but even the hitherto
irresistible words, “If you love me,” were urged in vain. If she had not
been in actual need of money, she might have been over-persuaded, but
now her spirit of independence strengthened her resolution, and she
persisted in her refusal. Lady Davenant’s bell rang, and Helen, slowly
rising, took up the miserable accounts, and said, “Now I must go----”

“Where!” said Cecilia; “you look as if you had heard a knell that
summoned you--what are you going to do?”

“To tell all my follies to Lady Davenant.”

“Tell your follies to nobody but me,” cried Lady Cecilia. “I have enough
of my own to sympathise with you, but do not go and tell them to my
mother, of all people; she, who has none of her own, how can you expect
any mercy?”

“I do not; I am content to bear all the blame I so richly deserve, but
I know that after she has heard me, she will tell me what I ought to do,
she will find out some way of settling it all rightly, and if that can
but be, I do not care how much I suffer. So the sooner I go to her the
better,” said Helen.

“But you need not be in such a hurry; do not be like the man who said,
‘Je veux être l’enfant prodigue, je veux être l’enfant perdu.’ L’enfant
prodigue, well and good, but why l’enfant perdu?”

“My dear Cecilia, do not play with me now--do not stop me,” said Helen
anxiously. “It is serious with me now, and it is as much as I can

Cecilia let her go, but trembled for her, as she looked after her, and
saw her stop at her mother’s door.

Helen’s first knock was too low, it was unheard, she was obliged to
wait; another, louder, was answered by, “Come in.” And in the presence
she stood, and into the middle of things she rushed at once; the
accounts, the total, lay before Lady Davenant. There it was: and the
culprit, having made her confession, stood waiting for the sentence.

The first astonished change of look, was certainly difficult to sustain.
“I ought to have foreseen this,” said Lady Davenant; “my affection has
deceived my judgment. Helen, I am sorry for your sake, and for my own.”

“Oh do not speak in that dreadful calm voice, as if--do not give me up
at once,” cried Helen.

“What can I do for you? what can be done for one who has no strength
of mind?” I have some, thought Helen, or I should not be here at this
moment. “Of what avail, Helen, is your good heart--your good intentions,
without the power to abide by them? When you can be drawn aside from
the right by the first paltry temptation--by that most contemptible of
passions--the passion for baubles! You tell me it was not that, what
then? a few words of persuasion from any one who can smile, and fondle,
and tell you that they love you;--the fear of offending Cecilia! how
absurd! Is this what you both call friendship? But weaker still, Helen,
I perceive that you have been led blindfold in extravagance by a
prating French waiting-maid--to the brink of ruin, the very verge of

“Dishonesty! how?”

“Ask yourself, Helen: is a person honest, who orders and takes from the
owner that for which he cannot pay? Answer me, honest or dishonest.”

“Dishonest! if I had intended not to pay. But I did intend to pay, and I

“You will! The weak have no will--never dare to say I will. Tell me how
you will pay that which you owe. You have no means--no choice, except to
take from the fund you have already willed to another purpose. See what
good intentions, come to, Helen, when you cannot abide by them!”

“But I can,” cried Helen; “whatever else I do, I will not touch that
fund, destined for my dear uncle--I have not touched it. I could pay it
in two years, and I will--I will give up my whole allowance.”

“And what will you live upon in the mean time?”

“I should not have said my whole allowance, but I can do with very
little, I will buy nothing new.”

“Buy nothing--live upon nothing!” repeated Lady Davenant; “how often
have I heard these words said by the most improvident, in the moment
of repentance, even then as blind and uncalculating as ever! And you,
Helen, talk to me of your powers of forbearance,--you, who, with the
strongest motive your heart could feel, have not been able for a few
short months to resist the most foolish--the most useless fancies.”

Helen burst into tears. But Lady Davenant, unmoved, at least to all
outward appearance, coldly said, “It is not feeling that you want, or
that I require from you; I am not to be satisfied by words or tears.”

“I deserve it all,” said Helen; “and I know you are not cruel. In the
midst of all this, I know you are my best friend.”

Lady Davenant was now obliged to be silent, lest her voice should betray
more tenderness than her countenance chose to show.

“Only tell me what I can do now,” continued Helen; “what can I do?”

“What you CAN do, I will tell you, Helen. Who was the man you were
dancing with last night?”

“I danced with several; which do you mean?”

“Your partner in the quadrille you were dancing when I came in.”

“Lord Estridge: but you know him--he has been often here.”

“Is he rich?” said Lady Davenant.

“Oh yes, very rich, and very self-sufficient: he is the man Cecilia used
to call ‘_Le prince de mon mérite._’”

“Did she? I do not remember. He made no impression on me, nor on you, I
dare say.”

“Not the least, indeed.”

“No matter, he will do as well as another, since he is rich. You can
marry him, and pay your present debts, and contract new, for thousands
instead of hundreds:--this is what you CAN do, Helen.”

“Do you think I can?” said Helen.

“You can, I suppose, as well as others. You know that young ladies often
marry to pay their debts?”

“So I once heard,” said Helen, “but is it possible?”

“Quite. You might have been told more--that they enter into regular
partnerships, joint-stock companies with dress-makers and jewellers, who
make their ventures and bargains on the more or less reputation of
the young ladies for beauty or for fashion, supply them with finery,
speculate on their probabilities of matrimonial success, and trust to
being repaid after marriage. Why not pursue this plan next season in
town? You must come to it like others, whose example you follow--why not
begin it immediately?”

There is nothing so reassuring to the conscience as to hear, in the
midst of blame that we do deserve, suppositions of faults, imputations
which we know to be unmerited--impossible. Instead of being hurt or
alarmed by what Lady Davenant had said, the whole idea appeared to
Helen so utterly beneath her notice, that the words made scarcely any
impression on her mind, and her thoughts went earnestly back to the
pressing main question--“What can I do, honestly to pay this money that
I owe?” She abruptly asked Lady Davenant if she thought the jeweller
could be prevailed upon to take back the sapphires and the brooch?

“Certainly not, without a considerable loss to you,” replied Lady
Davenant; but with an obvious change for the better in her countenance,
she added, “Still the determination to give up the bauble is good;
the means, at whatever loss, we will contrive for you, if you are

“Determined!--oh yes.” She ran for the bracelets and brooch, and eagerly
put them into Lady Davenant’s hand. And now another bright idea came
into her mind: she had a carriage of her own--a very handsome carriage,
almost new; she could part with it--yes, she would, though it was
a present from her dear uncle--his last gift; and he had taken such
pleasure in having it made perfect for her. She was very, very fond of
it, but she would part with it; she saw no other means of abiding by her
promise, and paying his debts and her own. This passed rapidly through
her mind; and when she had expressed her determination, Lady Davenant’s
manner instantly returned to all its usual kindness, and she exclaimed
as she embraced her, drew her to her, and kissed her again and
again--“You are my own Helen! These are deeds, Helen, not words: I am
satisfied--I may be satisfied with you now!

“And about that carriage, my dear, it shall not go to a stranger, it
shall be mine. I want a travelling chaise--I will purchase it from you:
I shall value it for my poor friend’s sake, and for yours, Helen. So now
it is settled, and you are clear in the world again. I will never spoil
you, but I will always serve you, and a greater pleasure I cannot have
in this world.”

After this happy termination of the dreaded confession, how much did
Helen rejoice that she had had the courage to tell all to her friend.
The pain was transient--the confidence permanent.

As Helen was going into her own room, she saw Cecilia flying up stairs
towards her, with an open letter in her hand, her face radiant with joy.
“I always knew it would all end well! Churchill might well say that
all the sand in my hour-glass was diamond sand. There, my dear
Helen--there,” cried Cecilia, embracing her as she put the letter into
her hand. It was from Beauclerc, his answer to Lady Cecilia’s letter,
which had followed him to Naples. It was written the very instant he had
read her explanation, and, warm from his heart, he poured out all the
joy he felt on hearing the truth, and, in his transport of delight, he
declared that he quite forgave Lady Cecilia, and would forget, as
she desired, all the misery she had made him feel. Some confounded
quarantine he feared might detain him, but he would certainly be at
Clarendon Park in as short a time as possible. Helen’s first smile, he
said, would console him for all he had suffered, and make him forget

Helen’s first smile he did not see, nor the blush which spread and rose
as she read. Cecilia was delighted. “Generous, affectionate Cecilia!”
 thought Helen; “if she has faults, and she really has but one, who could
help loving her?” Not Helen, certainly, or she would have been the most
ungrateful of human beings. Besides her sympathy in Helen’s happiness,
Cecilia was especially rejoiced at this letter, coming, as it did, the
very day after her mother’s return; for though she had written to Lady
Davenant on Beauclerc’s departure, and told her that he was gone only
on Lord Beltravers’ account, yet she dreaded that, when it came to
speaking, her mother’s penetration would discover that something
extraordinary had happened. Now all was easy. Beauclerc was coming
back: he had finished his friend’s business, and, before he returned
to Clarendon Park he wished to know if he might appear there as the
acknowledged admirer of Miss Stanley--if he might with any chance of
success pay his addresses to her. Secure that her mother would never ask
to see the letter, considering it either as a private communication to
his guardian, or as a love letter to Helen, Cecilia gave this version
of it to Lady Davenant; and how she settled it with the general, Helen
never knew, but it seemed all smooth and right.

And now, the regatta being at an end, the archery meetings over, and
no hope of further gaiety for this season at Clarendon Park, the
Castleforts and Lady Katrine departed. Lady Katrine’s last satisfaction
was the hard haughty look with which she took leave of Miss Stanley--a
look expressing, as well as the bitter smile and cold form of good
breeding could express it, unconquered, unconquerable hate.


There is no better test of the strength of affection than the ready
turning of the mind to the little concerns of a friend, when preoccupied
with important interests of our own. This was a proof of friendship,
which Lady Davenant had lately given to Helen, for, at the time when
she had entered with so much readiness and zeal into Helen’s little
difficulties and debts, great political affairs and important interests
of Lord Davenant’s were in suspense, and pressed heavily upon her mind.
What might be the nature of these political embarrassments had not been
explained. Lady Davenant had only hinted at them. She said, “she knew
from the terror exhibited by the inferior creatures in office that some
change in administration was expected, as beasts are said to howl and
tremble before storm, or earthquake, or any great convulsion of nature
takes place.”

Since Lady Davenant’s return from town, where Lord Davenant still
remained, nothing had been said of the embassy to Russia but that it
was delayed. Lady Cecilia, who was quick, and, where she was not herself
concerned, usually right, in interpreting the signs of her mother’s
discomfiture, guessed that Lord Davenant had been circumvented by some
diplomatist of inferior talents, and she said to Helen, “When an ass
kicks you never tell it, is a maxim which mamma heard from some friend,
and she always acts upon it; but a kick, whether given by ass or not,
leaves a bruise, which sometimes tells in spite of ourselves, and my
mother should remember another maxim of that friend’s, that the faults
and follies of the great are the delight and comfort of the little. Now,
my mother, though she is so well suited, from her superior abilities
and strength of mind, and all that, to be the wife of a great political
leader, yet in some respects she is the most unfit person upon earth for
_the situation_; for, though she feels the necessity of conciliating,
she cannot unbend with her inferiors, that is, with half the world. As
Catalani said of singing, it is much more difficult to descend than to
ascend well. Shockingly mamma shows in her manner sometimes how tired
she is of the stupid, and how she despises the mean; and all the
underlings think she can undo them with papa, for it has gone abroad
that she _governs_, while in fact, though papa asks her advice, to be
sure, because she is so wise, she never does interfere in the least;
but, now it has once got into the world’s obstinate head that she does,
it cannot be put out again, and mamma is the last person upon earth to
take her own part, or condescend to explain and set things right. She
is always thinking of papa’s glory and the good of the public, but the
public will never thank him and much less her; so there she is a martyr,
without her crown; now, if I were to make a martyr of myself, which,
Heaven forbid! I would at least take right good care to secure my crown,
and to have my full glory round my head, and set on becomingly. But
seriously, my dear Helen,” continued Lady Cecilia, “I am unhappy about
papa and mamma, I assure you. I have seen little clouds of discontent
long gathering, lowering, and blackening, and I know they will burst
over their heads in some tremendous storm at last.”

Helen hoped not, but looked frightened.

“Oh, you may hope not, my dear, but I know it will be--we may not hear
the thunder, but we shall see the lightning all the more dangerous. We
shall be struck down, unless--” she paused.

“Unless what?” said Helen.

“Unless the storm be dispersed in time.”

“And how?”

“The lightning drawn off by some good conductor--such as myself; I am
quite serious, and though you were angry with me for laughing just now,
as if I was not the best of daughters, even though I laugh, I can tell
you I am meditating an act of self-devotion for my mother’s sake--a
grand _coup d’état_.”

“_Coup d’état_? you, Cecilia! my dear--”

“I, Helen, little as you think of me.”

“Of your political talents you don’t expect me to think much, do you?”

“My political talents! you shall see what they are. I am capable of
a grand _coup d’état_. I will have next week a three days’ congress,
anti-political, at Clarendon Park, where not a word of politics shall be
heard, nor any thing but nonsense if I can help it, and the result shall
be, as you shall see, goodwill between all men and all women--women?
yes, there’s the grand point. Mamma has so affronted two ladies, very
influential as they call it, each--Lady Masham, a favourite at court,
and Lady Bearcroft, risen from the ranks, on her husband’s shoulders;
he, ‘a man of law,’ Sir Benjamin Bearcroft, and very clever she is I
hear, but loud and coarse; absolutely inadmissible she was thought till
lately, and now, only tolerated for her husband’s sake, but still have
her here I must.”

“I think you had better not,” remonstrated Helen; “if she is so very
vulgar, Lady Davenant and the general will never endure her.”

“Oh, he will! the general will bear a great deal for mamma’s sake,
and more for papa’s. I must have her, my dear, for the husband is of
consequence and, though he is ashamed of her, for that very reason he
cannot bear that any body should neglect her, and terribly mamma has
neglected her! Now, my dear Helen, do not say a word more against it.”
 Very few words had Helen said. “I must ponder well,” continued Cecilia,
“and make out my list of worthies, my concordatum party.”

Helen much advised the consulting Lady Davenant first; but Lady Cecilia
feared her mother might be too proud to consent to any advance on her
own part. Helen still feared that the bringing together such discordant
people would never succeed, but Lady Cecilia, always happy in paying
herself with words answerable to her wishes, replied, “that discords
well managed often produced the finest harmony.” The only point she
feared was, that she should not gain the first step, that she should not
be able to prevail upon the general to let her give the invitations. In
truth, it required all her persuasive words, and more persuasive looks
to accomplish this preliminary, and to bring General Clarendon to
invite, or permit to be invited, to Clarendon Park, persons whom he knew
but little, and liked not at all. But as Lady Cecilia pleaded and urged
that it would soon be over, “the whole will be over in three days--only
a three days’ visit; and for mamma!--I am sure, Clarendon--you will do
anything for her, and for papa, and your own Cecilia? “--the general
smiled, and the notes were written, and the invitations were accepted,
and when once General Clarendon had consented, he was resolutely polite
in his reception of these to him unwelcome guests. His manner was not
false; it was only properly polite, not tending to deceive any one who
understood the tokens of conventional good breeding. It however
required considerable power over himself to keep the line of demarcation
correctly, with one person in particular to whom he had a strong
political aversion: Mr. Harley.--His very name was abhorrent to General
Clarendon, who usually designated him as “That Genius, Cecilia--that
favourite of your mother’s! “--while to Lady Davenant Mr. Harley was
the only person from whose presence she anticipated any pleasure, or
who could make the rest of the party to her endurable. Helen, though
apprehensive of what might be the ultimate result of this congress,
yet could not help rejoicing that she should now have an opportunity
of seeing some of those who are usually considered “high as human
veneration can look.” It is easy, after one knows who is who, to
determine that we should have found out the characteristic qualities and
talents in each countenance. Lady Cecilia, however, would not tell Helen
the names of the celebrated unknown who were assembled when they went
into the drawing-room before dinner, and she endeavoured to guess from
their conversation the different characters of the speakers; but only
a few sentences were uttered, signifying nothing; snuff-boxes
were presented, pinches taken and inclinations made with becoming
reciprocity, but the physiognomy of a snuff-box Helen could not
interpret, though Lavater asserts that every thing in nature, even a cup
of tea, has a physiognomy.

Dinner was announced, and the company paired off, seemingly not standing
on the order of their going; yet all, especially as some were strangers,
secretly mindful of their honours, and they moved on in precedence just,
and found themselves in places due at the dinner-table.

But Helen did not seem likely to obtain more insight into the characters
of these great personages in the dining-room than she had done in the
drawing-room. For it often happens that, when the most celebrated, and
even the most intellectual persons are brought together expressly
for the purpose of conversation, then it does not flow, but sinks to
silence, and ends at last in the stagnation of utter stupidity. Each
seems oppressed with the weight of his own reputation, and, in the pride
of high celebrity, and the shyness, real or affected, of high rank, each
fears to commit himself by a single word. People of opposite parties,
when thrown together, cannot at once change the whole habit of their
minds, nor without some effort refrain from that abuse of their
opposites in which they are accustomed to indulge when they have it all
to themselves. Now every subject seems laboured--for in the pedantry of
party spirit no partisan will speak but in the slang or cant of his
own craft. Knowledge is not only at one entrance, but at every entrance
quite shut out, and even literature itself grows perilous, so that to be
safe they must all be dumb.

Lady Cecilia Clarendon was little aware of what she undertook when
she called together this heterogeneous assembly of uncongenials and
dissimilars round her dinner-table. After she had in vain made
what efforts she could, and, well skilled in throwing the ball of
conversation, had thrown it again and again without rebound from either
side, she felt that all was flat, and that the silence and the stupidity
were absolutely invincible. Helen could scarcely believe, when she tried
afterwards to recollect, that she had literally this day, during the
whole of the first course, heard only the following sentences, which
came out at long intervals between each couple of questions and
answers--or observations and acquiescences:--“We had a shower.”--“Yes,
I think so.” “But very fine weather we have had.”--“Only too
hot.”--“Quite.” “The new buildings at Marblemore--are they getting on,
my Lord?”--“Do not know; did not come that way.” “Whom have they now at
Dunstanbury?” was the next question. Then in reply came slowly a list of
fashionable names. “Sir John died worth a million, they say.”--“Yes,
a martyr to the gout.” “Has Lady Rachel done any thing for her
eyes?”--“Gone to Brighton, I believe.” “Has any thing been heard of the
North Pole expedition?”--“Not a word.” “Crockly has got a capital cook,
and English too.”--“English! eh?”--“English--yes.” Lord Davenant hoped
this English cook would, with the assistance of several of his brother
_artistes_ of the present day, redeem our country from one-half of the
Abbé Gregoire’s reproach. The abbé has said that England would be
the finest country in the world, but that it wants two essentials,
_sunshine_ and _cooks_. “Good! Good! Very!” voices from different sides
of the table pronounced; and there was silence again.

At the dessert, however, after the servants had withdrawn, most people
began to talk a little to their next neighbours; but by this Helen
profited not, for each pair spoke low, and those who were beside her
on either hand, were not disposed to talk; she was seated between Sir
Benjamin Bearcroft and Mr. Harley--Sir Benjamin the man of law, and Mr.
Harley the man of genius, each eminent in his kind; but he of law
seemed to have nothing in him but law, of which he was very full. In
Sir Benjamin’s economy of human life it was a wholesome rule, which he
practised invariably, to let his understanding sleep in company, that
it might waken in the courts, and for his repose he needed not what
some great men have professed so much to like--“the pillow of a woman’s
mind.” Helen did not much regret the silence of this great legal
authority, but she was very sorry that the man of genius did not talk;
she did not expect him to speak to her, but she wished to hear him
converse with others. But something was the matter with him; from the
moment he sat down to dinner Helen saw he seemed discomfited. He first
put his hand across his eyes, then pressed his forehead: she feared he
had a bad headache. The hand went next to his ear, with a shrinking,
excruciating gesture; it must be the earache thought Helen. Presently
his jaws were pinched together; toothache perhaps. At last she detected
the disturbing cause. Opposite to Mr. Harley, and beside Lady Davenant,
sat a person whom he could not endure; one, in the first place, of an
opposite party, but that was nothing; a man who was, in Mr. Harley’s
opinion, a disgrace to any party, and what could bring him here? They
had had several battles in public, but had never before met in private
society, and the aversion of Mr. Harley seemed to increase inversely as
the squares of the distance. Helen could not see in the object adequate
cause for this antipathy: the gentleman looked civil, smiling, rather
mean, and quite insignificant, and he really was as insignificant as he
appeared--not of consequence in any point of view. He was not high in
office, nor ambassador, nor _chargé-d’affaires_; not certain that he was
an _attaché_ even, but he was said to have the ear of _somebody_,
and was reputed to be secretly employed in diplomatic transactions of
equivocal character; disclaimed, but used, by his superiors, and courted
by his timid inferiors, whom he had persuaded of his great influence
_somewhere_. Lady Cecilia had been assured, from good authority, that
he was one who ought to be propitiated on her father’s account, but now,
when she perceived what sort of creature he was, sorely did she repent
that he had been invited; and her mother, by whom he sat, seemed quite
oppressed and nauseated.

So ended the dinner. And, as Lady Cecilia passed the general in going
out of the room, she looked her contrition, her acknowledgment that he
was perfectly right in his prophecy that it would never do.


It was rather worse when the ladies were by themselves. Some of the
party were personally strangers to Lady Davenant; all had heard of her
sufficiently; most had formed a formidable and false opinion of
her. Helen was quite astonished at the awe her ladyship inspired in
strangers. Lady Davenant’s appearance and manner at this moment were
not, indeed, calculated to dispel this dread. She was unusually distant
and haughty, from a mistaken sort of moral pride. Aware that some of
the persons now before her had, in various ways, by their own or
their husbands’ means, power to serve or to injure Lord Davenant, she
disdained to propitiate them by the slightest condescension.

But how any persons in England--in London--could be strangers to Lady
Davenant, was to a foreign lady who was present, matter of inexpressible
surprise. She could not understand how the wives of persons high in
political life, some of opposite, but some of the same parties, should
often be personally strangers to each other. Foreigners are, on first
coming to England, apt to imagine that all who act together in public
life must be of the same private society; while, on the contrary,
it often happens that the ladies especially of the same party are in
different grades of fashion--moving in different orbits. The number
of different circles and orbits in London is, indeed, astonishing to
strangers, and the manner in which, though touching at tangents,
these keep each their own path, attracted and repelled, or mutually
influential, is to those who have not seen and studied the planisphere,
absolutely incomprehensible. And, as she pondered on this difficulty,
the ambassadress, all foreigner as she was, and all unused to silence,
spoke not, and no one spoke: and nought was heard but the cup on the
saucer, or the spoon in the cup, or the buzzing of a fly in the window.

In the midst of this awful calm it was that Lady Bearcroft blurted out
with loud voice--“Amazing entertaining we are! so many clever people got
together, too, for what?” It was worth while to have seen Lady Masham’s
face at that moment! Lady Bearcroft saw it, and, fearing no mortal,
struck with the comic of that look of Lady Masham’s, burst into laughter
uncontrolled, and the contrast of dignity and gravity in Lady Davenant
only made her laugh the more, till out of the room at last she ran. Lady
Masham all the while, of course, never betrayed the slightest idea that
she could by any possibility have been the object of Lady Bearcroft’s
mirth. But Lady Davenant--how did she take it? To her daughter’s
infinite relief, quite quietly; she looked rather amused than
displeased. She bore with Lady Bearcroft, altogether, better than
could have been expected; because she considered her only as a person
unfortunately out of her place in society, and, without any fault of her
own, dragged up from below to a height of situation for which nature
had never intended, and neither art nor education had ever prepared her;
whose faults and deficiencies were thus brought into the flash of day
at once, before the malice of party and the fastidiousness of fashion,
which knows not to distinguish between _manque d’esprit_, and _manque

Not so Lady Davenant: she made liberal and philosophic allowance for
even those faults of manner which were most glaring, and she further
suspected that Lady Bearcroft purposely exaggerated her own vulgarity,
partly for diversion, partly to make people stare, and partly to prevent
their seeing what was habitual, and what involuntary, by hiding
the bounds of reality. Of this Lady Masham had not the most distant
conception; on the contrary, she was now prepared to tell a variety
of odd anecdotes of Lady Bearcroft. She had seen, she said, this
extraordinary person before, but had never met her in society, and
delighted she was unexpectedly to find her here--“quite a treat.”
 Such characters are indeed seldom met with at a certain height in the
atmosphere of society, and such were peculiarly and justly Lady
Masham’s delight, for they relieved and at the same time fed a sense of
superiority insufficient to itself. Such a person is fair, privileged,
safe game, and Lady Masham began, as does a reviewer determined to be
especially severe, with a bit of praise.

“Really very handsome, Lady Bearcroft must have been! Yes, as you say,
Lady Cecilia, she is not out of blow yet certainly, only too full blown
rather for some tastes--fortunately not for Sir Benjamin; he married
her, you know, long ago, for her beauty; she is a very correct
person--always was; but they do repeat the strangest things she says--so
very odd! and they tell such curious stories, too, of the things she
does.” Lady Masham then detailed a variety of anecdotes, which related
chiefly to Lady Bearcroft’s household cares, which never could she
with haste despatch; then came stories of her cheap magnificence and
extraordinary toilette expedients. “I own,” continued Lady Masham, “that
I always thought the descriptions I heard must be exaggerated; but one
is compelled to acknowledge that there is here in reality a terrible
want of tact. Poor Sir Benjamin! I quite pity him, he must so see it!
Though not of the first water himself, yet still he must feel, when he
sees Lady Bearcroft with other people! He has feeling, though nobody
would guess it from his look, and he shows it too, I am told; sadly
annoyed he is sometimes by her _malapropoisms_. One day, she at one end
of the table and he at the other, her ladyship, in her loud voice called
out to him, ‘Sir Benjamin! Sir Benjamin! this is our wedding-day!’ He,
poor man, did not hear; she called out again louder, ‘Sir Benjamin,
my dear, this day fifteen years ago you and I were married!’ ‘Well, my
dear,’ he answered, ‘well, my dear, how can I possibly help that now!’”

Pleased with the success of this anecdote, which raised a general smile,
Lady Masham vouched for its perfect correctness, “she had it from one,
who heard it from a person who was actually present at the time it
happened.” Lady Davenant had not the least doubt of the correctness of
the story, but she believed the names of the parties were different;
she had heard it years ago of another person. It often happens, as she
observed, to those who make themselves notoriously ridiculous, as to
those who become famous for wit, that all good things in their kinds
are attributed to them; though the one may have no claim to half
the witticisms, and the other may not be responsible for half the
absurdities for which they have the reputation. It required all Lady
Masham’s politeness to look pleased, and all her candour to be quite
happy to be set right as to that last anecdote. But many she had heard
of Lady Bearcroft were really incredible. “Yet one would almost believe
anything of her.” While she was yet speaking, Lady Bearcroft returned,
and her malicious enemy, leaning back in her chair as if in expectation
of the piece beginning, waited for her puppet to play or be played off.

All this time Lady Cecilia was not at ease; she, well aware what her
mother would feel, and had felt, while Lady Masham was going on with
this gossip-talk, had stood between her ladyship and Lady Davenant, and,
as Lady Masham did not speak much above her breath, Cecilia had for some
time flattered herself that her laudable endeavours to intercept the
sound, or to prevent the sense from reaching her mother’s ear, had
succeeded, especially as she had made as many exclamations as she could
of “Really!” “Indeed!” “How extraordinary!” “You do not say so?” which,
as she pronounced them, might have excited the curiosity of commonplace
people, but which she knew would in her mother’s mind deaden all desire
to listen. However, Lady Masham had raised her voice, and from time to
time had stretched her neck of snow beyond Lady Cecilia’s intercepting
drapery, so as actually to claim Lady Davenant’s attention. The
consequences her daughter heard and felt. She heard the tap, tap, tap of
the ivory folding-knife upon the table; and well interpreting, she
knew, even before she saw her mother’s countenance, that Lady Masham had
undone herself, and, what was of much more consequence, had destroyed
all chance of accomplishing that reconciliation with “mamma,” that
projected coalition which was to have been of such ultimate advantage to

Notwithstanding Lady Bearcroft’s want of knowledge of the great
world, she had considerable knowledge of human nature, which stood her
wonderfully in stead. She had no notion of being made sport of for the
_élégantes_, and, with all Lady Masham’s plausibility of persiflage, she
never obtained her end, and never elicited anything really absurd by
all attempts to draw her out--out she would not be drawn. After an
unconquerable silence and all the semblance of dead stupidity, Lady
Bearcroft suddenly showed signs of life, however, and she, all at once,
began to talk--to Helen of all people!--And why?--because she had taken,
in her own phrase, a monstrous fancy to Miss Stanley; she was not sure
of her name, but she knew she liked her nature, and it would be a pity
that her reason should not be known and in the words in which she told
it to Lady Cecilia, “Now I will just tell you why I have taken such a
monstrous fancy to your friend here, Miss Hanley--”

“Miss Stanley--give me leave to mention,” said Lady Cecilia. “Let me
introduce you regularly.”

“Oh! by no means; don’t trouble yourself now, Lady Cecilia, for I hate
regular introductions. But, as I was going to tell you how, before
dinner to-day, as I came down the great staircase, I had an uncommon
large, big, and, for aught I know, yellow corking-pin, which that most
careless of all careless maids of mine--a good girl, too--had left
sticking point foremost out of some part of me. Miss Hanley--Stanley
(beg pardon) was behind, and luckily saw and stopped. Out she pulled it,
begging my pardon; so kindly too, I only felt the twitch on my sleeve,
and turned, and loved the first sight I had of that pretty face, which
need never blush, I am sure, though it’s very becoming the blush too. So
good-natured, you know, Lady Cecilia, it was, when nobody was looking,
and before any body was the wiser. Not like some young ladies, or old
even, that would have _showed one up_, rather than help one out in any
pin’s point of a difficulty.”

Lady Cecilia herself was included in Lady Bearcroft’s good graces, for
she liked that winning way, and saw there was a real good-nature there,
too. She opened to both friends cordially, _à propos_ to some _love_
of a lace trimming. Of lace she was a famous judge, and she went into
details of her own good bargains, with histories of her expeditions
into the extremity of the city in search of cheap goods and unheard
of wonders at prime cost, in regions unknown. She told how it was her
clever way to leave her carriage and her _people_, and go herself down
narrow streets and alleys, where only wheel-barrows and herself could
go; she boasted of her feats in diving into dark dens in search of run
goods, charming things--French warranted--that could be had for next to
nothing, and, in exemplification, showed the fineness of her embroidered
cambric handkerchiefs, and told their price to farthing!

Lady Masham’s “Wonderful!” was worthy of any Jesuit male or female, that
ever existed.

From her amazing bargains, the lady of the law-knight went on to
smuggling; and, as she got into spirits, talking loudly, she told of
some amber satin, a whole piece capitally got over in an old gentleman’s
“Last Will and Testament,” tied up with red tape so nicely, and sealed
and superscribed and all, got through untouched! “But a better thing I
did myself,” continued she; “the last trip I made to Paris--coming back,
I set at defiance all the searchers and _stabbers_, and custom-house
officers of both nations. I had hundreds of pounds worth of Valenciennes
and Brussels lace hid--you would never guess where. I never told
a servant--not a mortal maid even; that’s the only way; had only a
confidante of a coachmaker. But when it came to packing-up time, my own
maid smelt out the lace was missing; and gave notice, I am, confident,
to the custom-house people to search me. So much the more glory to me.
I got off clear; and, when they had stabbed the cushions, and torn the
inside of my carriage all to pieces, I very coolly made them repair the
mischief at their own cost. Oh, I love to do things bravely! and away I
drove triumphant with the lace, well stuffed, packed, and covered within
the pole leather of the carriage they had been searching all the time.”

At this period of her narrative the gentlemen came into the
drawing-room. “But here comes Sir Benjamin! mum, mum! not a word more
for my life! You understand, Lady Cecilia! husbands must be minded. And
let me whisper a favour--a whist-party I must beg; nothing keeps Sir Ben
in good-humour so certainly as whist--when he wins, I mean.”

The whist-party was made, and Lady Cecilia took care that Sir Benjamin
should win, while she lost with the best grace possible. By her
conciliating manners and good management in dividing to govern, all
parties were arranged to general satisfaction. Mr. Harley’s antipathy,
the _attaché_, she settled at ecartê with Lady Masham, who found him
“quite a well-mannered, pleasant person.” Lady Cecilia explained to Mr.
Harley, that it was her fault--her mistake entirely--that this person
had been invited. Mr. Harley was now himself again, and happy in
conversation with Lady Davenant, beside whom he found his place on the

After Helen had done her duty at harp and piano-forte, Cecilia relieved
her, and whispered that she might now go to her mother’s sofa, and rest
and be happy. “Mamma’s work is in some puzzle, Helen; you must go and
set it to rights, my dear.” Lady Davenant welcomed her with a smile,
made room for her on the sofa, and made over to her the tambour-frame;
and now that Helen saw and heard Mr. Harley in his natural state, she
could scarcely believe that he was the same person who had sat beside
her at dinner. Animated and delightful he was now, and, what she
particularly liked in him, there was no display--nothing in the
Churchill style. Whenever any one came near, and seemed to wish to hear
or speak, Mr. Harley not only gave them fair play, but helped them in
their play. Helen observed that he possessed the art which she had often
remarked in Lord Davenant, peculiar to good-natured genius--the art of
drawing something good out of every body; sometimes more than they knew
they had in them till it was brought out. Even from Lord Masham, insipid
and soulless though he was, as any courtier-lord in waiting could be,
something was extracted: Lord Masham, universally believed to have
nothing in him, was this evening surprisingly entertaining. He gave Lady
Davenant a description of what he had been so fortunate as to see--the
first public dinner of the king of France on his restoration, served
according to all the _ci-devant_ ceremonials, and in the etiquette of
Louis the Fourteenth’s time. Lord Masham represented in a lively manner
the Marquis de Dreux, in all his antiquarian glory, going through the
whole form prescribed: first, knocking with his cane at the door; then
followed by three guards with shouldered carbines, marching to buttery
and hall, each and every officer of the household making reverential
obeisance as they passed to the _Nef_--the _Nef_ being, as Lord Masham
explained to Miss Stanley, a piece of gilt plate in the shape of the
hull of a ship, in which the napkins for the king’s table are kept. “But
why the hull of a ship should be appropriated to the royal napkins?”
 was asked. Lord Masham confessed that this was beyond him, but he looked
amazingly considerate--delicately rubbed his polished forehead with the
second finger of the right hand, then regarded his ring, and turned it
thrice slowly round, but the talismanic action produced nothing, and he
received timely relief by a new turn given to the conversation, in which
he was not, he thought, called upon to take any share--the question
indeed appeared to him irrelevant, and retiring to the card-table, he
“left the discussion to abler heads.”

The question was, why bow to the Nef at all?--This led to a discussion
upon the advantages of ceremonials in preserving respect for order and
reverence for authority, and then came an inquiry into the abuses of
this real good. It was observed that the signs of the times should
always be consulted, and should guide us in these things.--How far?
was next to be considered. All agreed on the principle that ‘order is
Heaven’s first law,’ yet there were in the application strong shades of
difference between those who took part in the conversation. On one side,
it was thought that overturning the _tabouret_ at the court of France
had been the signal for the overthrow of the throne; while, on the other
hand, it was suggested that a rigid adherence to forms unsuited to the
temper of the times only exasperates, and that, wherever reliance on
forms is implicit, it is apt to lead princes and their counsellors to
depend too much on the strength of that fence which, existing only in
the imagination, is powerless when the fashion changes. In a court quite
surrounded and enveloped by old forms, the light of day cannot penetrate
to the interior of the palace, the eyes long kept in obscurity are
weakened, so that light cannot be borne: when suddenly it breaks in, the
royal captive is bewildered, and if obliged to act, he gropes, blunders,
injures himself, and becomes incapable of decision in extremity of
danger, reduced to the helplessness which marks the condition of the
Eastern despot, or _les rois fainéans_ of any time or country.

As Helen sat by, listening to this conversation, what struck and
interested her most was, the manner in which it went on and went off
without leading to any unpleasant consequences, notwithstanding the
various shades of opinion between the parties. This she saw depended
much on the good sense and talents, but far more on the good breeding
and temper of those who spoke and those who listened. Time in the first
place was allowed and taken for each to be understood, and no one was
urged by exclamation, or misconception, or contradiction, to say more
than just the thing he thought.

Lady Cecilia, who had now joined the party, was a little in pain when
she heard Louis the Fourteenth’s love for punctuality alluded to. She
dreaded, when the general quoted “Punctuality is the virtue of princes,”
 that Mr. Harley, with the usual impatience of genius, would have
ridiculed so antiquated a notion; but, to Lady Cecilia’s surprise,
he even took the part of punctuality: in a very edifying manner he
distinguished it from mere ceremonial etiquette--the ceremonial of the
German courts, where “they lose time at breakfast, at dinner, at supper;
at court, in the antechamber, on the stairs, everywhere:”--punctuality
was, he thought, a habit worthy to be ranked with the virtues, by its
effects upon the mind, the power it demands and gives of self-control,
raising in us a daily, hourly sense of duty, of something that ought,
that must be done, one of the best habits human creatures can have,
either for their own sake or the sake of those with whom they live. And
to kings and courtiers more particularly, because it gives the idea
of stability--of duration; and to the aged, because it gives a sort of
belief that life will last for ever. The general had often thought
this, but said he had never heard it so well expressed; he afterwards
acknowledged to Cecilia that he found Mr. Harley was quite a different
person from what he had expected--“He has good sense, as well as genius
and good breeding. I am glad, my dear Cecilia, that you asked him here.”
 This was a great triumph.

Towards the close of the evening, when mortals are beginning to think of
bed-chamber candles, Lady Cecilia looked at the _ecarté_ table, and
said to her mother, “How happy they are, and how comfortable we are!
A card-table is really a necessary of life--not even music is more
universally useful.” Mr. Harley said, “I doubt,” and then arose between
Lady Davenant and him an argument upon the comparative power in modern
society of music and cards. Mr. Harley took the side of music, but Lady
Davenant inclined to think that cards, in their day, and their day is
not over yet, have had a wider range of influence. “Nothing like that
happy board of green cloth; it brings all intellects to one level,” she
said. Mr. Harley pleaded the cause of music, which, he said, hushes all
passions, calms even despair. Lady Davenant urged the silent superiority
of cards, which rests the weary talker, and relieves the perplexed
courtier, and, in support of her opinion, she mentioned an old ingenious
essay on cards and tea, by Pinto, she thought; and she begged that Helen
would some time look for it in the library. Helen went that instant. She
searched, but could not find; where it ought to have been, there it of
course was not. While she was still on the book-ladder, the door opened,
and enter Lady Bearcroft.

“Miss Hanley!” cried she, “I have a word to say to you, for, though you
are a stranger to me, I see you are a dear good creature, and I think I
may take the liberty of asking your advice in a little matter.”

Helen, who had by this time descended from the steps, stood and looked
a little surprised, but said all that was properly civil, “gratified by
Lady Bearcroft’s good opinion--happy to be of any service,”--&c. &c.

“Well, then--sit ye down one instant, Miss Hanley.”

Helen suggested that her name was Stanley.

“Stanley!--eh?--Yes, I remember. But I want to consult you, since you
are so kind to allow me, on a little matter--but do sit down, I never
can talk of business standing. Now I just want you, my dear Miss Hanley,
to do a little job for me with Lady Davenant, who, with half an eye can
see, is a great friend of yours.--Aren’t I right?”

Helen said Lady Davenant was indeed a very kind friend of hers, but
still what it could be in which Lady Bearcroft expected her assistance
she could not imagine.

“You need not be frightened at the word job; if that is what alarms
you,” continued Lady Bearcroft, “put your heart at ease, there is
nothing of that sort here. It is only a compliment that I want to make,
and nothing in the world expected in return for it--as it is a return
in itself. But in the first place look at this cover.” She produced the
envelope of a letter. “Is this Lady Davenant’s handwriting, think you?”
 She pointed to the word “_Mis-sent_,” written on the corner of
the cover. Helen said it was Lady Davenant’s writing. “You are
certain?--Well, that is odd!--Mis-sent! when it was directed to herself,
and nobody else on earth, as you see as plain as possible--Countess
Davenant, surely that is right enough?” Then opening a red morocco case
she showed a magnificent diamond Sevigné. “Observe now,” she continued,
“these diamonds are so big, my dear Miss Hanley--Stanley, they would
have been quite out of my reach, only for that late French invention,
which maybe you may not have heard of, nor should I, but for the hint
of a friend at Paris, who is in the jewellery line. The French, you must
know, have got the art of sticking small diamonds together so as to make
little worthless ones into large, so that, as you see, you would never
tell the difference; and as it was a new discovery, and something
ingenious and scientific, and Lady Davenant being reported to be a
scientific lady, as well as political and influential, and all that,
I thought it a good opportunity, and a fine excuse for paying her a
compliment, which I had long wished to pay, for she was once on a time
very kind to Sir Ben, and got him appointed to his present station; and
though Lord Davenant was the ostensible person, I considered her as the
prime mover behind the curtain. Accordingly, I sat me down, and wrote as
pretty a note as I could pen, and Sir Ben approved of the whole thing;
but I don’t say that I’m positive he was as off-handed and clean-hearted
in the matter as I was, for between you and I his gratitude, as they say
of some people’s, is apt to squint with one eye to the future as well as
one to the past--you comprehend?”

Helen was not clear that she comprehended all that had been said; still
less had she any idea what she could have to do in this matter; she
waited for further explanation.

“Now all I want from you then, Miss Hanley--Stanley I would say, I beg
pardon, I’m the worst at proper names that lives--but all I want of
you, Miss Hanley, is--first, your opinion as to the validity of the
handwriting,--well, you are positive, then, that this _mis-sent_ is her
hand. Now then, I want to know, do you think Lady Davenant knew what she
was about when she wrote it?”

Helen’s eyes opened to their utmost power of distension, at the idea of
anybody’s questioning that Lady Davenant knew what she was about.

“La! my dear,” said Lady Bearcroft; “spare the whites of your eyes, I
didn’t mean she didn’t know what she was about in _that_ sense.”

“What sense?” said Helen.

“Not in any particular sense,” replied Lady Bearcroft. “But let me go
on, or we shall never come to an understanding; I only meant that her
ladyship might have just sat down to answer my note, as I often do
myself, without having read the whole through, or before I have taken it
in quite.” Helen thought this very unlikely to have happened with Lady

“But still it might have happened,” continued Lady Bearcroft, “that her
ladyship did not notice the delicacy of the way in which the thing
was _put_--for it really was put so that nobody could take hold of it
against any of us--you understand; and after all, such a curiosity of a
Sevigné as this, and such fine ‘di’monds,’ was too pretty, and too good
a thing to be refused hand-over-head, in that way. Besides, my note
was so respectable, and respectful, it surely required and demanded
something more of an answer, methinks, from a person of birth or
education, than the single bald word ‘mis-sent,’ like the postman!
Surely, Miss Hanley, now, putting your friendship apart, candidly you
must think as I do? And, whether or no, at least you will be so obliging
to do me the favour to find out from Lady Davenant if she really made
the reply with her eyes open or not, and really meant what she said.”

Helen being quite clear that Lady Davenant always meant what she said,
and had written with her eyes open, declined, as perfectly useless,
making the proposed inquiry. It was plain that Lady Davenant had not
thought proper to accept of this present, and to avoid any unpleasant
explanations, had presumed it was not intended for her, but had been
sent by mistake. Helen advised her to let the matter rest.

“Well, well!” said Lady Bearcroft, “thank you, Miss Hanley, at all
events for your good advice. But, neck or nothing, I am apt to go
through with whatever I once take into my head, and, since you cannot
aid and abet, I will trouble you no further, only not to say a word of
what I have mentioned. But all the time I thank you, my dear young lady,
as much as if I took your dictum. So, my dear Miss Hanley--Stanley--do
not let me interrupt you longer in your book-hunt. Take care of that
step-ladder, though; it is _coggledy_, as I observed when you came
down--Good night, good night.”


“My dear Helen, there is an end of every thing!” cried Lady Cecilia, the
next day, bursting into Helen’s room, and standing before her with an
air of consternation. “What has brought things to this sad pass, I know
not,” continued she, “for, but an hour before, I left every body in
good-humour with themselves--all in good train. But now----”

“What?” said Helen, “for you have not given me the least idea of what
has happened.”

“Because I have not the least idea myself, my dear. All I know is,
that something has gone wrong, dreadfully! between my mother and Lady
Bearcroft. Mamma would not tell me what it is; but her indignation is
at such a height she declares she will not see that _woman,_
again:--positively will not come forth from her chamber as long as Lady
Bearcroft remains in the house. So there is a total break up--and I wish
I had never meddled with any thing. O that I had never brought together
these unsuitabilities, these incompatibilities! Oh, Helen! what shall I

Quite pale, Lady Cecilia stood, really in despair; and Helen did not
know what to advise.

“Do you know any thing about it, Helen, for you look as if you did?”

An abrupt knock at the door interrupted them, and, without waiting for
permission, in came Lady Bearcroft, as if blown by a high wind,
looking very red: half angry, half frightened, and then laughing, she
exclaimed--“A fine _boggle-de-botch,_ I have made of it!” But seeing
Lady Cecilia, she stopped short--“Beg pardon--thought you were by
yourself, Miss Hanley.”

Lady Cecilia instantly offered to retire, yet intimated, as she moved
towards the door, a wish to stay, and, if it were not too much, to ask
what was meant by----

“By _boggle-de-botch_, do you mean?” said Lady Bearcroft. “I am aware
it is not a canonical word--classical, I mean; nor in nor out of any
dictionary, perhaps--but when people are warm, they cannot stand picking

“Certainly not,” said Lady Cecilia; “but what is the matter? I am sorry
any thing unpleasant has occurred.”

“Unpleasant indeed!” cried Lady Bearcroft; “I have been treated
actually like a dog, while paying a compliment too, and a very handsome
compliment, beyond contradiction. Judge for yourself, Lady Cecilia, if
this Sevigné is to be _sneezed at_?”

She opened the case; Lady Cecilia said the diamonds were certainly very
handsome, but----

“But!” repeated Lady Bearcroft, “I grant you there may be a but to
everything in life; still it might be said civilly, as you say it, Lady
Cecilia, or looked civilly, as you look it, Miss Hanley: and if that had
been done, instead of being affronted, I might after all have been well
enough pleased to pocket my diamonds; but nobody can without compunction
pocket an affront.”

Lady Cecilia was sure her mother could not mean any affront.

“Oh, I do not know what she could or could not mean; but I will tell you
what she did--all but threw the diamonds in my face.”

“Impossible!” cried Helen.

“Possible--and I will show you how, Miss Hanley. This way: just shut
down the case--snap!--and across the table she threw it, just as you
would deal a card in a passion, only with a Mrs. Siddons’ air to boot.
I beg your pardons, both ladies, for mimicking your friend and your
parent, but flesh and blood could not stand that sort of style, you
know, and a little wholesome mimicry breaks no bones, and is not very
offensive, I hope?” The mimicry could not indeed be very offensive, for
the imitation was so utterly unlike the reality, that Lady Cecilia and
Helen with difficulty repressed their smiles. “Ladies may smile, but
they would smile on the wrong sides of their pretty little mouths if
they had been treated as I have been--so ignominiously. I am sure I wish
I had taken your advice, Miss Hanley; but the fact was, last night I did
not quite believe you: I thought you were only saying the best you could
to set off a friend; for, since I have been among the great, and indeed
even when I lived with the little, I have met with so many fair copies
of false countenances, that I could not help suspecting there might
be something of that sort with your Lady Davenant, but I am entirely
convinced all you told me is true, for I peeped quite close at her,
lifted up the hood, and found there were not two faces under it--only
one very angry one for my pains. But I declare I would rather see that
than a double one, like my Lady Masham’s, with her spermaceti smile.
And after all, do you know,” continued Lady Bearcroft in a right
vulgarly-cordial tone--“Do you know now, really, the first anger over,
I like Lady Davenant--I protest and vow, even her pride I like--it well
became her--birth and all, for I hear she is straight from Charlemagne!
But I was going to mention, now my recollection is coming to me, that
when I began talking to her ladyship of Sir Ben’s gratitude about that
place she got for him, she cut me short with her queer look, and said
she was sure that Lord Davenant (and if he had been the king himself,
instead of only her husband, and your father, Lady Cecilia, she could
not have pronounced his name with more distinction)--she was sure, she
said, that Lord Davenant would not have been instrumental in obtaining
that place for Sir Benjamin Bearcroft if he had known any man more
worthy of it, which indeed I did not think at the time over and above
civil--for where, then, was the particular compliment to Sir Ben?”

But when Lady Bearcroft saw Lady Cecilia’s anxiety and real distress
at her mother’s indignant resolution, she, with surprising good-humour
said,--“I wish I could settle it for you, my dear. I cannot go away
directly, which would be the best move, because Sir Benjamin has
business here to-day with Lord Davenant--some job of his own, which must
take place of any movements of mine, he being the more worthy gender..
But I will tell you what I can do, and will, and welcome. I will keep my
room instead of your mother keeping hers; so you may run and tell Lady
Davenant that she is a prisoner at large, with the range of the whole
house, without any danger of meeting me, for I shall not stir till the
carriage is at the door to-morrow morning, when she will not be up, for
we will have it at six. I will tell Sir Benjamin, he is in a hurry back
to town, and he always is. So all is right on my part. And go you to
your mother, my dear Lady Cecilia, and settle her. I am glad to see you
smile again; it is a pity you should ever do any thing else.” It was not
long before Cecilia returned, proclaiming, “Peace, peace!” She had made
such an amusing report to her mother of all that Lady Bearcroft had said
and done, and purposed to do, that Lady Davenant could not help seeing
the whole in a ludicrous light, felt at once that it was beneath her
serious notice, and that it would be unbecoming to waste indignation
upon such a person. The result was, that she commissioned Helen to
release Lady Bearcroft as soon as convenient, and to inform her that an
act of oblivion was passed over the whole transaction.

There had been a shower, and it had cleared up. Lady Cecilia thought the
sky looked bluer, and birds sang sweeter, and the air felt pleasanter
than before the storm. “Nothing like a storm,” said she, “for clearing
the air; nothing like a little honest hurricane. But with Lady Masham
there never is anything like a little honest hurricane. It is all still
and close with an indescribable volcano-like feeling; one is not sure
of what one is standing upon. Do you know, Helen,” continued she, “I am
quite afraid of some explosion between mamma and Lady Masham. If we came
to any difficulty with her, we could not get out of it quite so well as
with Lady Bearcroft, for there is no resource of heart or frankness of
feeling with her. Before we all meet at dinner, I must sound mamma,
and see if all is tolerably safe.” And when she went this day at
dressing-time with a bouquet, as was her custom, for her mother, she
took Helen with her.

At the first hint of Lady Cecilia’s fears, that Lady Masham could do her
any mischief, Lady Davenant smiled in scorn. “The will she may have, my
dear, but she has not the power.”

“She is very foolish, to be sure,” said Lady Cecilia; “still she might
do mischief, and there is something monstrously treacherous in that
smile of hers.”

“Monstrously!” repeated Lady Davenant. “No, no, my dear Cecilia; nothing
monstrous. Leave to Lady Bearcroft the vulgar belief in court-bred
monsters; we know there are no such things. Men and women there, as
everywhere else, are what nature, education, and circumstances have
made them. Once an age, once in half-a-dozen ages, nature may make a
Brinvilliers, or art allow of a Zeluco; but, in general, monsters are
mere fabulous creatures--mistakes often, from bad drawings, like the

“Yes, mamma, yes; now I feel much more comfortable. The unicorn has
convinced me,” said Lady Cecilia, laughing and singing

  ‘’Tis all a mere fable; there’s nothing to fear.’

“And I shall think of her henceforth as nothing but what she appears to
be, a well-dressed, well-bred, fine lady. Ay--every inch a fine lady;
every word, look, motion, thought, suited to that _metier_.”

“That vocation,” said Lady Davenant; “it is above a trade; with her it
really is a sacred duty, not merely a pleasure, to be fine. She is a
fine lady of the first order; nothing too professional in her manner--no
obvious affectation, for affectation in her was so early wrought into
habit as to have become second nature, scarcely distinguishable from
real--all easy.”

“Just so, mamma; one gets on so easy with her.”

“A curious illusion,” continued Lady Davenant, “occurs with every one
making acquaintance with such persons as Lady Masham, I have observed;
perhaps it is that some sensation of the tread-mill life she leads,
communicates itself to those she is talking to; which makes you fancy
you are always getting on, but you never do get beyond a certain point.”

“That is exactly what I feel,” said Helen, “while Lady Masham speaks, or
while she listens, I almost wonder how she ever existed without me.”

“Yes, and though one knows it is all an illusion,” said Lady Cecilia,
“still one is pleased, knowing all the time that she cannot possibly
care for one in the least; but then one does not expect every body to
care for one really; at least I know I cannot like all my acquaintance
as much as my friends, much less can I love all my neighbours as

“Come, come! Cecilia!” said her mother.

“By ‘come, come!’ mamma means, don’t go any further, Cecilia,” said she,
turning to Helen. “But now, mamma, I am not clear whether you really
think her your friend or your enemy, inclined to do you mischief or not.
Just as it may be for her interest or not, I suppose.”

“And just as it may be the fashion or not,” said Lady Davenant. “I
remember hearing old Lady--, one of the cleverest women of the last
century, and one who had seen much of the world, say, ‘If it was the
fashion to burn me, and I at the stake, I hardly know ten persons of my
acquaintance who would refuse to throw on a faggot.’”

“Oh mamma!--Oh Lady Davenant!” exclaimed Helen and Cecilia.

“It was a strong way of putting the matter,” said Lady Davenant,
laughing:--“but fashion has, I assure you, more influence over weak
minds, such as Lady Masham’s, than either party or interest. And since
you do not like my illustration by fire, take one by water--She is just
a person to go out with, on a party of pleasure, on the smooth surface
of a summer sea, and if a slight shower comes on would pity your
bonnet sincerely, but if a serious squall arose and all should be in

“Then, of course, every body would take care of themselves,” interrupted
Lady Cecilia, “excepting such a simpleton as Helen, who would take care
of you first, mamma, of me next and of herself last.”

“I believe it--I do believe it,” cried Lady Davenant, and, her eyes and
thoughts fixing upon Helen, she quite forgot what further she was going
to say of Lady Masham.

The perfectly unimpassioned tone, in which her mother had discussed this
lady’s character, even the candour, convinced Lady Cecilia as well as
Helen, that nothing further could be done as to drawing them together.
No condescension of manner, no conciliation, could be expected from Lady
Davenant towards Lady Masham, but at the same time there was no fear of
any rupture. And to this humble consolation was Lady Cecilia brought.
She told Helen that she gave up all hope of doing any good, she would
now be quite content if she avoided doing harm, and if this visit ended
without coming to any further outrage on the part of Lady Bearcroft, and
without her mother’s being _guilty of contempt_ to Lady Masham. She had
done some little service, however, with respect to the ambassadress, and
her mother knew it. It was well known that the ambassadress governed the
ambassador, and Lady Cecilia had quite won her heart, “so that he will
be assuredly a friend to papa. Indeed, this has been almost promised.
Madame l’Ambassadrice assured me that her husband looks upon Lord
Davenant as one of the first sages of England, that is to say, of
Europe; and she says he is well acquainted with all Lord Davenant’s
works--and it is my belief,” concluded Lady Cecilia, “that all Sir
William Davenant’s works go with her to papa’s credit, for as she spoke
she gave a polite glance towards the bookcase where she saw their gilded
backs, and I found the ambassador himself, afterwards, with ‘Davenant
on Trade’ in his hand! Be it so: it is not, after all, you know,
robbing the dead, only inheriting by mistake from a namesake, which with
foreigners is allowable, because impossible to avoid, from the time
of _‘Monsieur Robinson parent apparemment de Monsieur Crusoe?’_ to the
present day.”

By dint of keeping well asunder those who would not draw well together,
Lady Cecilia did contrive to get through the remaining morning of
this operose visit; some she sent out to drive with gallant military
outriders to see places in the neighbourhood famed for this or that;
others walked or boated, or went through the customary course of
conservatories, pheasantry, flower-garden, pleasure-grounds, and best
views of Clarendon Park--and billiards always. The political conferences
were held in Lord Davenant’s apartment: to what these conferences tended
we never knew and never shall; we consider them as matters of history,
and leave them with due deference to the historian; we have to do only
with biography. Far be it from us to meddle with politics--we have quite
enough to do with manners and morality.


The next day, as Helen was going across the hall, she saw the members
of the last political conclave coming out of Lord Davenant’s room, each
looking as if the pope had not been chosen according to his wish--dark
and disappointed; even Mr. Harley’s radiant countenance was dimmed,
and the dry symptomatic cough which he gave after taking leave of Lady
Davenant, convinced Helen that all was not well within. He departed, and
there seemed to be among those who remained a greater constraint than
ever. There appeared to be in each an awakened sense that there were
points on which they could never agree; all seemed to feel how different
it would have been if Mr. Harley had remained. True, the absence or
presence of a person of genius makes as much difference in the whole
appearance of things, as sunshine or no sunshine on the landscape.

Dinner, however, was got through, for time and the hour, two hours, or
three, will get through the roughest dinner or the smoothest. “Never
saw a difficult dinner-party better bothered!” was Lady Bearcroft’s
compliment, whispered to Cecilia as they went into the drawing-room;
and Helen, notwithstanding Lady Bearcroft’s vulgarity, could not help
beginning absolutely to like her for her good nature and amazingly
prompt sympathy; but, after all, good nature without good manners is but
a blundering ally, dangerous to its best friend.

This evening, Lady Cecilia felt that every one was uncomfortable, and,
flitting about the room, she touched here and there to see how things
were going on. They were not going on well, and she could not make
them better; even her efforts at conciliation were ineffectual; she had
stepped in between her mother, some of the gentlemen, and the general,
in an argument in which she heard indications of strife, and she set
about to explain away contradictions, and to convince every body that
they were really all of the same opinion. With her sweet voice and
pretty persuasive look, this might have done for the general, as a
relaxing smile seemed to promise; but it would not do at all with
Lady Davenant, who, from feelings foreign to the present matter, was
irritated, and spoke, as Helen thought, too harshly:--“Cecilia, you
would act Harmony in the comedy to perfection; but, unfortunately, I am
not one of those persons who can be persuaded that when I say one thing
I mean quite another--probably because it is not my practice so to do.
That old epigram, Sir Benjamin, do you know it,” continued she, “which
begins with a bankrupt’s roguish ‘Whereas?’

  “Whereas the religion and fate of three nations
  Depend on th’ importance of our conversations:
  Whereas some objections are thrown in our way,
  And words have been construed to mean what they say,--
  Be it known from henceforth to each friend and each brother,
  When’er we say one thing we mean quite another.”

Sir Benjamin gravely remarked that it was good law practice. The courts
themselves would be shut up if some such doctrine were not understood
in the practice there, _subaudito,_ if not publicly proclaimed with an
absolute “Whereas be it known from henceforth.” Whether this was dry
humour of Sir Benjamin’s, or plain matter of fact and serious opinion,
the gravity with which it was delivered indicated not; but it produced
the good effect of a smile, a laugh, at him or with him. Lady Cecilia
did not care which, the laugh was good at all events; her invincible
good-nature and sweetness of temper had not been soured or conquered
even by her mother’s severity; and Lady Davenant, observing this,
forgave and wished to be forgiven.

“My dearest Cecilia,” said she, “clasp this bracelet for me, will you?
It would really be a national blessing, if, in the present times, all
women were as amiable as you,

‘Fond to spread friendships, but to cover heats.’”

Then, turning to a French gentleman, she spoke of the change she had
observed when she was last at Paris, from the overwhelming violence of
party spirit on all sides.

“Dreadfully true,” the French gentleman replied--“party spirit, taking
every Proteus form, calling itself by a hundred names and with a
thousand devices and watchwords, which would be too ridiculous, if
they were not too terrible--domestic happiness destroyed, all society
disordered, disorganised--literature not able to support herself,
scarcely appearing in company--all precluded, superseded by the politics
of the day.”

Lady Davenant joined with him in his regrets, and added, that she feared
society in England would soon be brought to the same condition.

“No,” said the French gentleman, “English ladies will never be so
vehement as my countrywomen; they will never become, I hope, like some
of our lady politicians, ‘_qui heurlent comme des demons_.’”

Lady Cecilia said that, from what she had seen at Paris, she was
persuaded that if the ladies did bawl too loud it was because the
gentlemen did not listen to them; that above half the party-violence
which appeared in Parisian belles was merely dramatic, to produce a
sensation, and draw the gentlemen, from the black _pelotons_ in which
they gathered, back to their proper positions round the _fauteuils_ of
the fair ladies.

The foreigner, speaking to what he saw passing in Lady Davenant’s mind,
went on;--“Ladies can do much, however, in this as in all other dilemmas
where their power is, and ought to be, omnipotent.”

“Female _influence_ is and ought to be _potent,_” said the general,
with an emphasis on influence, contradistinguishing it from power, and
reducing the exaggeration of omnipotent by the short process of lopping
off two syllables.

“So long as ladies keep in their own proper character,” said Lady
Davenant, “all is well; but, if once they cease to act as women, that
instant they lose their privilege--their charm: they forfeit their
exorcising power; they can no longer command the demon of party nor
themselves, and he transforms them directly, as you say,” said she to
the French gentleman, “into actual furies.”

“And, when so transformed, sometimes unconscious of their state,” said
the general, drily, his eye glancing towards the other end of the room,
and lighting upon Lady Bearcroft, who was at the instant very red and
very loud; and Lady Cecilia was standing, as if watchful for a moment’s
pause, in which to interpose her word of peace. She waited for some
time in vain, for when she hastened from the other end of the room to
this--the scene of action, things had come to such a pass between the
ladies Masham and Bearcroft, that mischief, serious mischief, must have
ensued, had not Lady Cecilia, at utmost need, summoned to her aid the
happy genius of Nonsense--the genius of Nonsense, in whose elfin power
even Love delights; on whom Reason herself condescends often to smile,
even when Logic frowns, and chops him on his block: but cut in twain,
the ethereal spirit soon unites again, and lives, and laughs. But mark
him well--this little happy genius of Nonsense; see that he be the true
thing--the genuine spirit. You will know him by his well-bred air and
tone, which none can counterfeit; and by his smile; for while most he
makes others laugh, the arch little rogue seldom goes beyond a smile
himself! Graceful in the midst of all his pranks, he never goes too
far--though far enough he has been known to go--he has crept into
the armour of the great hero, convulsed the senate in the wig of a
chancellor, and becomingly, decorously, put on now and then the mitre of
an archbishop. “If good people,” said Archbishop Usher, “would but make
goodness agreeable, and smile, instead of frowning in their virtue, how
many they would win to the good cause!” Lady Cecilia in this was good
at need, and at her utmost need, obedient to her call, came this happy
little genius, and brought with him song and dance, riddle and charade,
and comic prints; and on a half-opened parcel of books Cecilia darted,
and produced a Comic Annual, illustrated by him whom no risible muscles
can resist. All smiled who understood, and mirth admitted of her
crew all who smiled, and party-spirit fled. But there were foreigners
present. Foreigners cannot well understand our local allusions; our
Cruikshank is to them unintelligible, and Hood’s “Sorrows of Number One”
 quite lost upon them. Then Lady Bearcroft thought she would do as
much as Lady Cecilia, and more--that she would produce what these poor
foreigners could comprehend. But not at her call came the genius of
lively nonsense, he heard her not. In his stead came that counterfeit,
who thinks it witty to be rude:

  “And placing raillery in railing,
  Will tell aloud your greatest failing--”

that vulgar imp yclept Fun--known by his broad grin, by his loud tone,
and by his rude banter. Head foremost forcing himself in, came he,
and brought with him a heap of coarse caricatures, and they were party

“Capital!” Lady Bearcroft, however, pronounced them, as she spread all
upon the table for applause--but no applause ensued.

Not such, these, as real good English humour produces and enjoys,
independently of party--these were all too broad, too coarse. Lady
Davenant despised, the general detested. Helen turned away, and Lady
Cecilia threw them under the table, that they might not be seen by
the foreigners. “For the honour of England, do not let them be spread
abroad, pray, Lady Bearcroft.”

“The world is grown mighty nice!” said Lady Bearcroft; “for my part,
give me a good laugh when it is to be had.”

“Perhaps we shall find one here,” said Lady Cecilia, opening a portfolio
of caricatures in a different style, but they were old, and Lady
Bearcroft would have thrown them aside; but Lord Davenant observed that,
if they have lasted so long,--they must be good, because their humour
only can ensure their permanence; the personality dies with the person:
for instance, in the famous old print of the minister rat-catcher, in
the Westminster election, the likeness to each rat of the day is lost to
us, but the ridicule on placemen ratters remains. The whole, however, is
perfectly incomprehensible to foreigners. “Rats! rat!” repeated one of
the foreigners, as he looked at and studied the print. It was amusing
to see the gravity with which this foreign diplomatist, quite new to
England, listened to Lady Bearcroft’s explanation of what is meant
in English by a _rat political_. She was at first rather good on this
topic, professing a supernatural acuteness of the senses, arising from
an unconquerable antipathy, born with her, to the whole race of _rats_.
She declared that she could see a rat a mile off in any man--could, from
the moment a man opened his mouth in parliament, or on the hustings,
prophesy whether he would turn into a rat at last, or not. She,
moreover, understood the language of rats of every degree, and knew even
when they said “No,” that they meant “Yes,”--two monosyllables, the test
of rats, which betray them all sooner or later, and transform the biped
into the quadruped, who then turns tail, and runs always to the other
side, from whatever side he may be of.

The _chargé-d’affaires_ stood in half bow, lending deferential ear and
serious attention the whole time of this lecture upon rats, without
being able from beginning to end to compass its meaning, and at the
close, with a disconsolate shrug, he exclaimed, “_Ah! Je renonce à

Lady Bearcroft went on--“Since I cannot make your excellency understand
by description what I mean by an English rat-political, I must give you
an example or two, dead and living--living best, and I have more than
one noted and branded rat in my eye.”

But Lady Cecilia, anxious to interrupt this perilous business, hastily
rang for wine and water; and as the gentlemen went to help themselves
she gave them a general toast, as sitting down to the piano-forte, to
the tune of--“Here’s to the maiden of blushing fifteen”--

She sang--

“Here’s to rats and ratcatchers of every degree,  The rat that is trapped, and the rat that is free,
  The rat that is shy, sir, the rat that is bold, sir,
  The rat upon sale, sir, the rat that is sold, sir.
  Let the rats rat! Success to them all,
  And well off to the old ones before the house fall!”


Sir Benjamin and Lady Bearcroft departed at six o’clock the next
morning, and all the rest of the political and diplomatic corps _left_
immediately after breakfast.

Lady Davenant looked relieved, the general satisfied, and Lady Cecilia
consoled herself with the hope that, if she had done no good, she had
not done any harm. This was a bad slide, perhaps, in the magic lantern,
but would leave no trace behind. She began now to be very impatient for
Beauclerc’s appearance; always sanguine, and as rapid in her conclusions
as she was precipitate in her actions, she felt no doubt, no anxiety,
as to the future; for, though she refrained from questioning Helen as
to her sentiments for Beauclerc, she was pretty well satisfied on
that subject. Helen was particularly grateful to Lady Cecilia for
this forbearance, being almost ashamed to own, even to herself, how
exceedingly happy she felt; and now that it was no longer wrong in her
to love, or dishonourable in him to wish to be loved, she was surprised
to find how completely the idea of Beauclerc was connected with and
interwoven through all her thoughts, pursuits, and sentiments. He had
certainly been constantly in her company for several months, a whole
summer, but she could scarcely believe that during this time he could
have become so necessary to her happiness. While, with still increasing
agitation, she looked forward to his arrival, she felt as if Lady
Davenant’s presence was a sort of protection, a something to rely on, in
the new circumstances in which she was to be placed. Lord Davenant had
returned to town, but Lady Davenant remained. The Russian embassy seemed
still in abeyance.

One morning as Helen was sitting in Lady Davenant’s room alone with her,
she said suddenly: “At your age, Helen, I had as little taste for what
are called politics as you have, yet you see what I am come to, and by
the same road you may, you will, arrive at the same point.”

“I! oh, I hope not!” cried Helen, almost before she felt the whole
inference that might be drawn from this exclamation.

“You hope not?” repeated her ladyship calmly. “Let us consider this
matter rationally, and put our hopes, and our fears, and our prejudices
out of the question, if possible. Let me observe to you, that the
position of women in society is somewhat different from what it was a
hundred years ago, or as it was sixty, or I will say thirty years
since. Women are now so highly cultivated, and political subjects are
at present of so much importance, of such high interest, to all human
creatures who live together in society, you can hardly expect, Helen,
that you, as a rational being, can go through the world as it now is,
without forming any opinion on points of public importance. You cannot,
I conceive, satisfy yourself with the common namby-pamby little missy
phrase, ‘ladies have nothing to do with politics.’”

Helen blushed, for she was conscious that, wrong or right, namby-pamby,
little missy, or not, she had hitherto satisfied herself very
comfortably with some such thought.

“Depend upon it, Helen,” resumed Lady Davenant, “that when you are
married, your love for a man of superior abilities, and of superior
character, must elevate your mind to sympathy with all his pursuits,
with all the subjects which claim his attention.”

Helen felt that she must become strongly interested in every subject in
which the man she loved was interested; but still she observed that
she had not abilities or information, like Lady Davenant’s, that could
justify her in attempting to follow her example. Besides, Helen was
sure that, even if she had, it would not suit her taste; and besides, in
truth, she did not think it well suited to a woman--she stopped when she
came to that last thought. But what kindness and respect suppressed
was clearly understood by her penetrating friend. Fixing her eyes upon
Helen, she said with a smile, the candour and nobleness of her character
rising above all little irritation of temper.

“I agree with you, my dear Helen, in all you do _not_ say, and were I to
begin life over again, my conduct should in some respects be different.
Of the public dangers and private personal inconveniences that may
result from women becoming politicians, or, as you better express our
meaning interfering, with public affairs, no one can be more aware than
I am. _Interfering_, observe I say, for I would mark and keep the line
between influence and interference. Female influence must, will,
and ought to exist on political subjects as on all others; but this
influence should always be domestic, not public--the customs of society
have so ruled it. Of the thorns in the path of ambitious men all
moralists talk, but there are little, scarcely visible, thorns of a
peculiar sort that beset the path of an ambitious woman, the venomous
prickles of the _domestic bramble_, a plant not perhaps mentioned in
Withering’s Botany, or the Hortus Kewensis, but it is too well known to
many, and to me it has been sorely known.”

At this instant General Clarendon came in with some letters, which
had been forwarded to him express. One, for Lady Davenant, he had been
desired to put into her hands himself: he retired, and Lady Davenant
opened the letter. By the first glance at her countenance, Helen saw
that there was something in it which had surprised and given her great
concern. Helen withdrew her eyes, and waited till she should speak. But
Lady Davenant was quite silent, and Helen, looking at her again, saw
her put her hand to her heart, as if from some sudden sense of violent
bodily pain, and she sank on the sofa, fell back, and became as pale
as death and motionless. Excessively frightened, Helen threw open the
window, rang the bell for Lady Davenant’s own woman, and sent the
page for Lady Cecilia. In a few moments Lady Cecilia and Elliott came.
Neither was as much alarmed as Helen had expected they would be. They
had seen Lady Davenant, under similar attacks--they knew what remedies
to apply. Elliott was a remarkably composed, steady person. She now went
on doing all that was necessary without speaking a word. The paroxysm
lasted longer than usual, as Lady Cecilia observed; and, though she
continued her assurances to Helen that “It was all nervous--only
nerves,” she began evidently to be herself alarmed. At length symptoms
of returning animation appeared, and then Cecilia retired, beckoning to
Helen to follow her into the next room. “We had better leave mamma
to Elliott, she will be happier if she thinks we know nothing of the
matter.” Then, recollecting that Helen had been in the room when this
attack came on, she added--“But no, you must go back, for mamma will
remember that you were present--take as little notice, however, as
possible of what has happened.”

Cecilia said that her mother, when they were abroad, had been subject to
such seizures at intervals, “and in former times, before I was born, I
believe,” said Lady Cecilia, “she had some kind of extraordinary
disease in the heart; but she has a particular aversion to being thought
nervous. Every physician who has ever pronounced her nervous has always
displeased her, and has been dismissed. She was once quite vexed with
me for barely suggesting the idea. There,” cried Cecilia, “I hear her
voice, go to her.”

Helen followed Lady Cecilia’s suggestion, and took as little notice as
possible of what had happened. Elliott disappeared as she entered--the
page was waiting at the door, but to Helen’s satisfaction Lady Davenant
did not admit him. “Not yet; tell him I will ring when I want him,”
 said she. The door closed: and Lady Davenant, turning to Helen, said,
“Whether I live or die is a point of some consequence to the friends who
love me; but there is another question, Helen, of far more importance to
me, and, I trust, to them. That question is, whether I continue to live
as I have lived, honoured and respected, or live and die dishonoured and
despised,”--her eye glanced towards the letter she had been reading.
“My poor child,” continued Lady Davenant, looking at Helen’s agitated
countenance,--“My poor child, I will not keep you in suspense.” She then
told Helen that she was suspected of having revealed a secret of state
that had been confided to her husband, and which it was supposed, and
truly supposed, that Lord Davenant had told to her. Beyond its political
importance, the disclosure involved a charge of baseness, in her
having betrayed confidence, having suffered a copy of a letter from an
illustrious personage to be handed about and read by several people.
“Lord Davenant as yet knows nothing of this, the effect upon him is what
I most dread. I cannot show you this,” continued she, opening again the
letter she had just received, “because it concerns others as well
as myself. I am, at all events, under obligations that can never be
forgotten to the person who gave me this timely notice, which could no
otherwise have reached me, and the person to whom I am thus obliged is
one, Helen, whom neither you nor I like, and whom Cecilia particularly
dislikes--Miss Clarendon! Her manner of doing me this service is
characteristic: she begins,

“‘Miss Clarendon is aware that Lady Davenant has no liking for her, but
that shall not prevent Miss Clarendon from doing what she thinks an act
of justice towards a noble character falsely attacked.’”--Lady Davenant
read no more.

“Had not you better wait till you are stronger, my dear Lady Davenant!”
 said Helen, seeing her prepare to write.

“It was once said, gloriously well,” replied Lady Davenant, “that the
duties of life are more than life itself--so I think.”

While she wrote, Helen thought of what she had just heard, and she
ventured to interrupt Lady Davenant to ask if she had formed any idea of
the means by which the secret could have been betrayed--or the copy of
the letter obtained.

Yes, she had a suspicion of one person, the diplomatist to whom Mr.
Harley had shown such a mortal antipathy. She recollected that the last
morning the _Congress_ had sat in Lord Davenant’s cabinet, she had left
her writing-desk there, and this letter was in it; she thought that she
had locked the desk when she had left the room, it certainly was fast
when she returned, but it had a spring Bramah lock, and its being shut
down would have fastened it. She had no proof one way or other, her
suspicion rested where was her instinctive dislike. It was remarkable,
however, that she at once did justice to another person whom she did
not like, Mr. Mapletofft, Lord Davenant’s secretary. “His manners do not
please me,” she said, “but I have perfect confidence in his integrity.”

Helen felt and admired this generous candour, but her suspicions were
not of the diplomatist alone: she thought of one who might perhaps have
been employed by him--Carlos the page. And many circumstances, which
she recollected and put together, now strengthened this suspicion. She
wondered it had not occurred to Lady Davenant; she thought it must,
but that she did not choose to mention it. Helen had often heard
Lady Davenant’s particular friends complain that it was extremely
disagreeable to them to have this boy constantly in the room, whatever
might be the conversation. There was the page, either before or behind a
screen, always within hearing.

Lady Davenant said that, as Carlos was a Portuguese, and had never been
in England till she had brought him over, a few months before, he could
not understand English well enough to comprehend what was going on. This
was doubted, especially by Helen, who had watched his countenance, and
had represented her doubts and her reasons for them to Lady Davenant,
but she was not convinced. It was one of the few points on which
she could justly be reproached with adhering to her fancy instead of
listening to reason. The more Carlos was attacked, the more she adhered
to him. In fact, it was not so much because he was a favourite, as
because he was a _protegé_; he was completely dependent upon her
protection: she had brought him to England, had saved him from his
mother, a profligate camp-follower, had freed him from the most
miserable condition possible, and had raised him to easy, happy,
confidential life. To the generous the having conferred an obligation
is in itself a tie hard to sever. All noble-minded people believe in
fidelity, and never doubt of gratitude; they throw their own souls
into those they oblige, and think and feel for them, as they, in
their situation, would think and feel. Lady Davenant considered it an
injustice to doubt the attachment of this boy, and a cruelty she
deemed it to suspect him causelessly of being the most base of human
creatures--he, a young defenceless orphan. Helen had more than once
offended, by attempting to stop Lady Davenant from speaking imprudently
before Carlos; she was afraid, even at this moment, to irritate her by
giving utterance to her doubts; she determined, therefore, to keep them
to herself till she had some positive grounds for her suspicions. She
resolved to watch the boy very carefully. Presently, having finished her
letters, Lady Davenant rang for him. Helen’s eyes were upon Carlos the
moment he entered, and her thoughts did not escape observation.

“You are wrong, Helen,” said Lady Davenant, as she lighted the taper to
seal her letters.

“If I am not right,” said Helen, keeping her eyes upon the boy’s
changing countenance, “I am too suspicious--but observe, am I not right,
at this instant, in thinking that his countenance is _bad?_”

Lady Davenant could not but see that countenance change in an
extraordinary manner, in spite of his efforts to keep it steady.

“You cause that of which you complain,” said she, going on sealing
her letters deliberately. “In courts of public justice, and in private
equity,” the word _equity_ she pronounced with an austere emphasis, “how
often is the change of countenance misinterpreted. The sensibility of
innocence, that cannot bear to be suspected, is often mistaken for the
confusion worse confounded of guilt.”

Helen observed, that, as Lady Davenant spoke, and spoke in his favour,
the boy’s countenance cleared up; that vacillating expression of fear,
and consciousness of having something within him unwhipt of justice,
completely disappeared, and his whole air was now bold and open--towards
Helen, almost an air of defiance.

“What do you think is the cause of this change in his countenance--you
observe it, do you not?” asked Helen.

“Yes, and the cause is as plain as the change. He sees I do not suspect
him, though you do; and seeing, Helen, that he has at least one friend
in the world, who will do him justice, the orphan boy takes courage.”

“I wish I could be as good as you are, my dearest Lady Davenant,” said
Helen; “but I cannot help still feeling, and saying,--I doubt. Now
observe him, while I speak; I will turn my eyes away, that my terrible
looks may not confound him. You say he knows that you do not suspect
him, and that I do. How does he know it?”

“How!” said Lady Davenant. “By the universal language of the eyes.”

“Not only by that universal language, I think,” said Helen; “but I
suspect he understands every word we say.”

Helen, without ever looking up from a bunch of seals which she was
rubbing bright, slowly and very distinctly added,

“I think that he can speak, read, and write English.”

A change in the countenance of Carlos appeared, notwithstanding all his
efforts to hold his features in the same position; instead of placid
composure there was now grim rigidity.

“Give me the great seal with the coat of arms on it,” said Lady
Davenant, dropping the wax on her letter, and watching the boy’s eye as
she spoke, without herself looking towards the seal she had described.
He never stirred, and Helen began to fear she was unjust and suspicious.
But again her doubts, at least of his disposition, occurred: as she was
passing through Lady Davenant’s dressing-room with her, when they were
going down to dinner, the page following them, Helen caught his figure
in a mirror, and saw that he was making a horrible grimace at her behind
her back, his dark countenance expressing extreme hatred and revenge.
Helen touched Lady Davenant’s arm, but, before her eye could be directed
to the glass, Carlos, perceiving that he was observed, pretended to be
suddenly seized with the cramp in his foot, which obliged him to make
these frightful contortions. Helen was shocked by his artfulness, but
it succeeded with Lady Davenant: it was in vain to say more about it
to her, so Helen let it pass. When she mentioned it afterwards to
Lady Cecilia, she said--“I am sorry, for your sake, Helen, that this
happened; depend upon it, that revengeful little Portuguese gnome
will work you mischief some time or other.” Helen did not think of
herself--indeed she could not imagine any means by which he could
possibly work her woe; but the face was so horrible, that it came again
and again before her eyes, and she was more and more determined to watch
Carlos constantly.

This was one of the public days at Clarendon Park, on which there was
a good deal of company; many of the neighbouring gentry were to be at
dinner. When Lady Davenant appeared, no inquiries concerning her health
were made by her daughter or by the general--no allusion to her having
been unwell. She seemed quite recovered, and Helen observed that she
particularly exerted herself, and that her manner was more gracious
than usual to commonplace people--more present to everything that
was passing. She retired however early, and took Helen with her. The
depression of her spirits, or rather the weight upon her mind, appeared
again as soon as they were alone together. She took her writing-desk,
and looked over some letters which she said ought to be burned. She
could not sleep in peace, she said--she ought not to sleep, till this
was done. Several of these, as she looked over them, seemed to give her
pain, and excited her indignation or contempt as she from time to
time exclaimed--“Meanness!--corruption!--ingratitude too!--all favours
forgotten! To see--to feel this--is the common fate of all who have
lived the life I have lived; of this I am not so inconsistent as to
complain. But it is hard that my own character--the integrity of a whole
life--should avail me nothing! And yet,” added she, after a moment’s
pause of reflection, “to how few can my character be really known! Women
cannot, like men, make their characters known by public actions. I have
no right to complain; but if Lord Davenant’s honour is to be--” She
paused; her thoughts seeming too painful for utterance. She completed
the arrangement of the papers, and, as she pressed down the lid of her
writing-box, and heard the closing sound of the lock, she said,--“Now
I may sleep in peace.” She put out the lamp, and went to her bed-room,
carrying with her two or three books which she intended to read after
she should be in bed; for, though she talked of sleeping, it was plain
she thought she should not. Helen prevailed upon her to let her remain
with her, and read to her.

She opened first a volume of Shakspeare, in which was Lady Davenant’s
mark. “Yes,” said she, “read that speech of Wolsey’s; read that whole
scene, the finest picture of ambition ever drawn.” And, after she had
heard the scene, she observed that there is no proof more certain of
the truth of poetic description, than its recurring to us at the time we
strongly feel. “Those who tell us,” continued she, “that it is unnatural
to recollect poetry or eloquence at times of powerful emotion, are much
mistaken; they have not strong feelings or strong imaginations. I can
affirm from my own experience, that it is perfectly natural.” Lady
Davenant rapidly mentioned some instances of this sort which she
recollected, but seeing the anxiety of Helen’s look, she added, “You are
afraid that I am feverish; you wish me to rest; then, go on reading to

Helen read on, till Lady Davenant declared she would not let her sit
up any longer. “Only, before you go, my dear child, look here at what I
have been looking at while you have been reading.” She made Helen place
herself so as to see exactly in the same direction and light in which
she was looking, and she pointed out to her, in the lining of the bed,
a place where, from the falling of the folds and the crinkles in the
material, a figure with the head, head-dress, and perfect profile of an
old woman with a turned-up chin, appeared. At first Helen could not see
it; but at last she caught it, and was struck with it. “The same sort
of curious effect of chance resemblance and coincidence which painters,
Leonardo da Vinci in particular, have observed in the moss and stains on
old stones,” observed Lady Davenant. “But it struck me to-night, Helen,
perhaps because I am a little feverish--it struck me in a new point of
view--moral, not picturesque. If such be the effects of chance, or of
coincidence, how cautious we should be in deciding from appearances, or
pronouncing from circumstantial evidence upon the guilt of evil design
in any human creature.”

“You mean this to apply to me about Carlos?” said Helen.

“I do. But not only of him and you was I thinking, but of myself and
those who judge of me falsely from coincidences, attributing to me
designs which I never had, and actions of which I am incapable.” She
suddenly raised herself in her bed, and was going to say more, but the
pendule striking at that instant two o’clock, she stopped abruptly,
kissed Helen, and sent her away.

Helen gathered together and carried away with her all the books, that
Lady Davenant might not be tempted to look at them more. As she had
several piled on one arm, and had a taper in her hand, she was somewhat
encumbered, and, though she managed to open the bed-room door, and to
shut it again without letting any of the books fall, and crossed the
little ante-room between the bed-chamber and dressing-room safely, yet,
as she was opening the dressing-room door, and taking too much or too
little care of some part of her pyramid of books, down came the
whole pile with a noise which, in the stillness of the night, sounded
tremendous. She was afraid it would disturb Lady Davenant, and was going
back to tell her what it was, when she was startled by hearing, as
she thought, the moving of a chair or table in the dressing-room: she
stopped short to listen--all was silent; she thought she had mistaken
the direction in which the noise came.

She softly opened the dressing-room door, and looked in--all was
silent--no chair, or stool, or table overturned, every thing was in its
place exactly as they had left it, but there was a strong smell of a
half extinguished lamp: she thought it had been put out when they had
left the room, she now supposed it had not been sufficiently
lowered, she turned the screw, and took care now to see it completely
extinguished; then went back for the books, and as people sometimes
will, when most tired and most late, be most orderly, she would not go
to bed without putting every volume in its place in the book-case. After
reaching to put one book upon the highest shelf, as she was getting down
she laid her hand on the top of Lady Davenant’s writing-box, and, as she
leaned on it, was surprised to hear the click of its lock closing. The
sound was so peculiar she could not be mistaken; besides, she thought
she had felt the lid give way under her pressure. There was no key left
in the lock--she perfectly recollected the very sound of that click when
Lady Davenant shut the lid down before leaving the room this night. She
stood looking at the lock, and considering how this could be, and as
she remained perfectly still, she heard, or thought she heard some
one breathing near her. Holding in her own breath, she listened and
cautiously looked round without stirring from the place where she
stood--one of the window curtains moved, so at least she thought--yes,
certainly there was some living thing behind it. It might be Lady
Davenant’s great dog; but looking again at the bottom of the curtain she
saw a human foot. The page, Carlos! was her instant suspicion, and his
vengeful face came before her, and a vision of a stiletto! or she did
not well know what. She trembled all over; yet she had presence of mind
enough to recollect that she should not seem to take notice. And, while
she moved about the books on the table, she gave another look, and saw
that the foot was not withdrawn. She knew she was safe still, it had not
been perceived that she had seen it; now what was she to do? “Go up to
that curtain and draw it back and face the boy”--but she did not dare;
yet he was only a boy--But it might be a man and not the page. Better
go and call somebody--tell Lady Davenant. She MUST go through the
antechamber, and pass close to that curtain to open the door. All this
was the thought of one moment, and she went on holding up the light to
the book-shelves as if in quest of some book, and kept coasting along to
gain the door; she was afraid when she was to pass the window-curtain,
either of touching it, or of stumbling over that foot. But she got past
without touching or stumbling, opened the door, whisked through--that
was done too quickly, but she could not help it,--she shut, bolted the
door, and ran across the ante-chamber to Lady Davenant’s bed-room. She
entered softly, aware of the danger to her of sudden alarm. But Lady
Davenant was not asleep, was not alarmed, but was _effective_ in a
moment. First she asked:--“Did you lock the door after you?” “Yes,
bolted it,”--“That is well.” Neither of them said. “Who do you think
it is?” But each knew what the other thought. They returned through the
ante-chamber to the dressing-room. But when they opened the door, all
was quiet--no one behind the curtain, no one in the room--they searched
under the sofas, everywhere; there was no closet or hiding-place in
which any one could be concealed. The window fastenings were unstirred.
But the door into the gallery was unlocked, and the simple thing
appeared--that Helen, in her confusion, had thought only of fastening
the door into the ante-chamber, which also opened on the gallery, but
had totally forgotten to lock that from the dressing-room into the
gallery, by which whoever had been in the room had escaped without any
difficulty. Lady Davenant rather inclined to believe that no one had
been there, and that it was all Helen’s imagination. But Helen persisted
that she had seen what she had seen, and heard what she had heard. They
went into the gallery--all silence, no creature visible, and the doors
at the ends of the gallery locked outside.

After a fruitless search they retired, Lady Davenant to her own room,
and Helen to hers, full of shame and regret that she had not had the
courage to open the curtain at the right moment. Nothing could stir her
belief, however, in the evidence of her senses; the boy must have been
there, and must be still concealed somewhere in the gallery, or in some
of the rooms opening into it. Some of these were unoccupied, but they
were all locked up, as Lady Davenant had told her when she had proposed
searching them; one or two they tried and found fastened. She stood
at her own door, after having put down the candle on her table, still
giving a lingering look-out, when, through the darkness in the gallery
at the further end, she saw a ray of light on the floor, which seemed to
come from under the door of a room unoccupied--Mr. Mapletofft’s room;
he had gone to town with Lord Davenant. Helen went on tiptoe very softly
along the gallery, almost to this door, when it suddenly opened, and the
page stood before her, the lamp in his hand shining full on his face and
on hers. Both started--then both were motionless for one second--but he,
recovering instantly, shot back again into the room, flung to the door,
and locked it.

“Seen him!” cried Lady Davenant, when Helen flew to her room and told
her; “seen him! do you say?” and then ringing her bell, she bade Helen
run and knock at the general’s door, while she went herself to Mr.
Mapletofft’s room, commanding Carlos to open the door immediately. But
he would not open it, nor make any answer; the servants came, and the
general ordered one to go round to the windows of the room lest the boy
should escape that way. It was too late, he had escaped; when the door
was forced, one of the windows was found open; Carlos was not in the
room; he must have swung himself down from the height by means of a tree
which was near the window. The lamp was still burning, and papers half
burnt smouldering on the table. There were sufficient remains to tell
what they had been. Lady Davenant saw, in the handwriting of Carlos,
copies of letters taken from her desk. One half unburnt cover of the
packet he had been making up, showed by its direction to whom it was
to have been sent, and there were a few lines in the boy’s own writing
within--side-addressed to his employer, which revealed the whole. His
employer was, as Lady Davenant had suspected--the diplomatist!

A duplicate Bramah key was found under the table, and she recollected
that she had some months ago missed this duplicate key of her desk, and
supposed she had dropped it from her watch-ring while out walking; she
recollected, further, that Carlos had with great zeal assisted her in
the search for it all through the shrubbery walks. The proofs of this
boy’s artifice and long-premeditated treachery, accumulating upon Lady
Davenant, shocked her so much that she could not think of anything else.
“Is it possible? is it in human nature?” she exclaimed. “Such falsehood,
such art, such ingratitude!” As she fixed her eyes upon the writing,
scarcely yet dry, she repeated. “It _is_ his writing--I see it, yet
can scarcely believe it! I, who taught him to write myself--guided that
little hand to make the first letters that he ever formed! And this is
in human nature! I could not have conceived it--it is dreadful to be so
convinced, it lowers one’s confidence in one’s fellow-creatures. That is
the worst of all!” She sighed deeply, and then, turning to Helen, said,
“But let us think no more of it to-night, we can do no more, they are in
pursuit of him; I hope I may never, never, see him more.”


Some people value their friends most for active service, some for
passive kindness. Some are won by tender expressions, some convinced by
solid proofs of regard; others of a yet nobler kind, and of this sort
was Lady Davenant, are apt to be best pleased, most touched, by proofs
that their own character has been thoroughly understood, and that they
have justly appreciated the good qualities of their friend. More than
by all the kindness and sympathy Helen had ever before shown her was she
now pleased and touched by the respect for her feelings in this affair
of the page. Helen never having at the moment of his detection nor
afterwards, by word or look, indulged in the self-triumph of “You see
how right I was!” which implies, “You see how wrong you were!” On the
contrary, she gave what comfort she honestly could by showing that she
knew from what humane motives and generous feelings Lady Davenant had
persisted in supporting this boy to the last.

As to the little wretch himself, he appeared no more. Search was made
for him in every direction, but he was not to be found, and Helen
thought it was well that Lady Davenant should be spared the pain of
seeing or hearing more about him.

The whole mystery was now solved, the difficulty for Lady Davenant in
a fair way to be ended. She had felt an instinctive aversion to the
fawning tone of the diplomatist, whom she had suspected of caballing
against Lord Davenant secretly, and it was now proved that he had
been base beyond what she could have conceived possible; had been in
confederacy with this boy, whom he had corrupted, purchasing from him
copies of private letters, and bribing him to betray his benefactress.
The copy of that letter from an illustrious personage had been thus
obtained. The proofs now brought home to the guilty person, deprived
him at once of all future means of injuring Lord Davenant. Completely
in their power, he would be ready to ensure silence at any price, and,
instead of caballing further, this low intriguer would now be compelled
to return from whence he came, too happy to be permitted to retreat
from his situation, and quit England without being brought to public
disgrace. No notice of the report that had been in private circulation
against Lady Davenant having yet appeared in the public prints, it was
possible to prevent the mischief that even the mention of her name in
such an affair must have occasioned. It was necessary, however, that
letters should be written immediately to the different persons whom the
private reports had reached; and Helen and her daughter trembled for
her health in consequence of this extreme hurry and fatigue, but
she repeated her favourite maxim--“Better to wear out, than to rust
out”--and she accomplished all that was to be done. Lord Davenant wrote
in triumph that all was settled, all difficulties removed, and they were
to set out for Russia immediately.

And now Lady Davenant breathed freely. Relieved from the intolerable
thought that the base finger of suspicion could point at her or at Lord
Davenant, her spirits rose, her whole appearance renovated, and all the
fears that Helen and her daughter had felt, lest she should not be able
to sustain the hardships of a long voyage and the rigour of a northern
climate, were now completely dispelled.

The day of departure was fixed--Lady Davenant remained, however, as long
as she possibly could with her daughter; and she was anxious, too, to
see Granville Beauclerc before she left Clarendon Park.

The number of the days of quarantine were gone over every morning at
breakfast by Lady Cecilia and the general; they looked in the papers
carefully for the arrivals at the hotel which Beauclerc usually
frequented. This morning, in reading the list aloud, the general came to
the name of Sir Thomas D’Aubigny, brother to the colonel. The paragraph
stated that Colonel D’Aubigny had left some manuscripts to his brother,
which would soon be published, and then followed some puff in the usual
style, which the general did not think it necessary to read. But one of
the officers, who knew some of the D’Aubignys, went on talking of the
colonel, and relating various anecdotes to prove that his souvenirs
would be amusing. Helen, who was conscious that she always blushed
when Colonel D’Aubigny’s name was mentioned, and that the general had
observed it, was glad that he never looked up from what he was reading,
and when she had courage to turn towards her, she admired Cecilia’s
perfect self-possession. Beauclerc’s name was not among the arrivals,
and it was settled consequently that they should not see him this day.

Some time after they had left the breakfast-room, Helen found Lady
Davenant in her own apartment, sitting, as it was very unusual with her,
perfectly unemployed--her head leaning on her hand, and an expression
of pain in her countenance. “Are not you well, my dear Lady Davenant?”
 Helen asked.

“My mind is not well,” she replied, “and that always affects my body,
and I suppose my looks.” After a moment’s silence she fixed her eyes
on Helen, and said, “You tell me that Colonel D’Aubigny never was a
lover--never was an admirer of yours?”

“Never!” said Helen, low, but very decidedly. Lady Davenant sighed, but
did not speak.

After a longer continuance of silence than had almost ever occurred when
they two were alone together, Lady Davenant looked up, and said, “I hope
in God that I am mistaken. I pray that I may never live to see it!”

“To see what?” cried Helen.

“To see that one little black spot, invisible to you, Helen, the speck
of evil in that heart--my daughter’s heart--spread and taint, and
destroy all that is good. It must be cut out--at any pain it must be cut
away; if any part be unsound, the corruption will spread.”

“Corruption in Cecilia!” exclaimed Helen. “Oh! I know her--I know
her from dear childhood! there is nothing corrupt in her, no, not a

“My dear Helen, you see her as she has been--as she is. I see her as she
may become--very--frightfully different. Helen! if truth fail, if
the principle of truth fail in her character, all will fail! All that
charming nature, all that fair semblance, all that fair reality, all
this bright summer’s dream of happiness, even love--the supreme felicity
of her warm heart--even love will fail her. Cecilia will lose her
husband’s affections!”

Helen uttered a faint cry.

“Worse!” continued Lady Davenant. “Worse! she will lose her own esteem,
she will sink, but I shall be gone,” cried she, and pressing her hand
upon her heart, she faintly repeated, “Gone!” And then abruptly added,
“Call Cecilia! I must see Cecilia, I must speak to her. But first I
will tell you, from a few words that dropped this morning from General
Clarendon, I suspect--I fear that Cecilia has deceived him!”

“Impossible!--about what--about whom?”

“That Colonel D’Aubigny,” said Lady Davenant.

“I know all about it, and it was all nothing but nonsense. Did you look
at her when the general read that paragraph this morning--did you see
that innocent countenance?”

“I saw it, Helen, and thought as you did, but I have been so
deceived--so lately in countenance!”

“Not by hers--never.”

“Not by yours, Helen, never. And yet, why should I say so? This very
morning, yours, had I not known you, yours would have misled me.”

“Oh, my foolish absurd habit of blushing, how I wish I could prevent
it!” said Helen; “I know it will make me betray somebody some time or

“Betray! What have you to betray?” cried Lady Davenant, leaning forward
with an eagerness of eye and voice that startled Helen from all power of
immediate reply. After an instant’s pause, however, she answered firmly,
“Nothing, Lady Davenant, and that there is nothing wrong to be known
about Cecilia, I as firmly believe as that I stand here at this moment.
Can you suspect anything really wrong?”

“Suspect!--wrong!” cried Lady Davenant, starting up, with a look in
her eyes which made Helen recoil. “Helen, what can you conceive that I
suspect wrong?--Cecilia?--Captain D’Aubigny?--What did you mean? Wrong
did you say?--of Cecilia? Could you mean--could you conceive,
Helen, that I, having such a suspicion could be here--living with
her--or--living anywhere--” And she sank down on the sofa again, seized
with sudden spasm--in a convulsion of agonising pain. But she held
Helen’s hand fast grasped, detaining her--preventing her from pulling
the bell; and by degrees the pain passed off, the livid hue cleared
away, the colour of life once more returned, but more tardily than
before, and Helen was excessively alarmed.

“Poor child! my poor, dear child, I feel--I hear your heart beating. You
are a coward, Helen, but a sweet creature; and I love you--and I love my
daughter. What were we saying?”

“Oh, say no more! say no more now, for Heaven’s sake,” said Helen,
kneeling beside her; and, yielding to that imploring look, Lady
Davenant, with a fond smile, parted the hair on her forehead, kissed
her, and remained perfectly quiet and silent for some time.

“I am quite well again now,” said she, “and quite composed. If Cecilia
has told her husband the whole truth, she will continue to be, as she
is, a happy wife; but if she have deceived him in the estimation of a
single word--she is undone. With him, of all men, never will
confidence, once broken, unite again. Now General Clarendon told me this
morning--would I had known it before the marriage!--that he had made one
point with my daughter, and only one, on the faith of which he married:
the point was, that she should tell him, if she had ever loved any
other man. And she told him--I fear from some words which he said
afterwards--I am sure he is in the belief--the certainty, that his wife
never loved any man breathing but himself.”

“Nor did she,” said Helen. “I can answer for it--she has told him the
truth--and she has nothing to fear, nor have you.”

“You give me new life!” cried Lady Davenant, her face becoming suddenly
radiant with hope; “but how can you answer for this, Helen? You had no
part in any deceit, I am sure, but there was something about a miniature
of you, which I found in Colonel D’Aubigny’s hands one day. That was
done, I thought at the time, to deceive me, to make me believe that you
were his object.--Deceit there was.”

“On his part,” said Helen, “much and always; but on Cecilia’s there was
only, from her over-awe of you, some little concealment; but the whole
was broken off and repented of, whatever little there was, long since.
And as to loving him, she never did; she told me so then, and often and
often she has told me so since.”

“Convince me of that,” said Lady Davenant; “convince me that she thought
what she said. I believe, indeed, that till she met General Clarendon
she never felt any enthusiastic attachment, but I thought she liked
that man--it was all coquetry, flirting nonsense perhaps. Be it so--I
am willing to believe it. Convince me but that she is true--there is
the only point of consequence. The man is dead and gone, the whole in
oblivion, and all that is of importance is her truth; convince me but of
that, and I am a happy mother.”

Helen brought recollections, and proofs from conversations at the time
and letters since, confirming at least Cecilia’s own belief that she had
never loved the man, that it was all vanity on her part and deception on
his: Lady Davenant listened, willing to be convinced.

“And now,” said she, “let us put this matter out of our minds
entirely--I want to talk to you of yourself.”

She took Helen out with her in her pony-phaeton, and spoke of Granville
Beauclerc, and of his and Helen’s prospects of happiness.

Lady Cecilia, who was riding with her husband in some fields adjoining
the park, caught a glimpse of the phaeton as it went along the avenue,
and, while the general was giving some orders to the wood-ranger about a
new plantation, she, telling him that she would be back in two minutes,
cantered off to overtake her mother, and, making a short cut across
the fields, she leaped a wide ha-ha which came in her way. She was an
excellent horse-woman, and Fairy carried her lightly over; and when
she heard the general’s voice in dismay and indignation at what she
had done, she turned and laughed, and cantered on till she overtook the
phaeton. The breeze had blown her hair most becomingly, and raised her
colour, and her eyes were joyously bright, and her light figure, always
well on horseback, now looked so graceful as she bent to speak to her
mother, that her husband could not find it in his heart to scold her,
and he who came to chide remained to admire. Her mother, looking up at
her, could not help exclaiming,

“Well! certainly, you are an excessively pretty creature!”

“Bearers of good news always look well, I believe,” said she, smiling;
“so there is now some goodness in my face.”

“That there certainly is,” said her mother, fondly.

“But you certainly don’t know what it is--you cannot know till I tell
you, my dearest Helen--my dear mother, I mean. Granville Beauclerc will
be here to-day--I am sure of it. So pray do not go far from home--do
not go out of the grounds: this was what I was in such a hurry to say to

“But how do you know, Cecilia?”

“Just because I can read,” replied she, “because I can read a newspaper
through, which none of you newspaper-readers by profession could do this
morning. After you all of you laid them down I took them up, and found
in that evening paper which your stupid aide-de-camp had been poring and
boring over, a fresh list of arrivals, and Mr. Granville Beauclerc among
them at full length. Now he would not stay a moment longer in town
than was absolutely necessary, you know, or else he ought to be
excommunicated. But it is not in his nature to delay; he will be here
directly--I should not be surprised--”

“You are right, Cecilia,” interrupted the general. “I see a caleche on
that road.--It is he.”

The caleche turned into the park, and in a few minutes they
met.--Carriages, horses, and servants, were sent off to the house, while
the whole party walked, and talked, and looked. Lady Cecilia was in
delightful spirits, and so affectionately, so delicately joyful--so
kind, that if Helen and Beauclerc had ever blamed, or had reason to
blame her, it must now be for ever forgotten. As, in their walk, they
came near that seat by the water’s side where the lovers had parted,
Cecilia whispered something to her mother, and instantly it was “done as
desired.” Beauclerc and Helen were left to their own explanations, and
the rest of the party pursued their walk home. Of what passed in this
explanatory scene no note has been transmitted to the biographer, and we
must be satisfied with the result.


“All is right!” cried Lady Cecilia. “O my dear mother, I am the happiest
creature in the world, if you were not going away; could not you stay--a
little, a very little longer--just till--”

“No, no, my dear, do not urge me to stay,” said Lady Davenant; “I
cannot--your father expects me to-morrow.”

All her preparations were made--in short, it must be so, and Lady
Davenant begged her daughter would not spend the short remaining time
they were to have together in entreaties, distressing and irritating
to the feelings of those who ask and of those who must refuse. “Let us
enjoy in peace,” said she, “all that is to be enjoyed this day before I

When Helen entered the drawing-room before dinner, knowing that she
was very late, she found assembled Lady Davenant, Beauclerc, and the
officers, but Cecilia was not there, nor did the punctual general make
his appearance; the dinner-hour was passed, a servant had twice looked
in to announce it, and, seeing neither my lady nor the general, had
in surprise retired. Silence prevailed--what could be the matter? So
unusual for the general to be late. The general came in, hurried--very
uncommon in him, and, after saying a few words in a low voice to Lady
Davenant, who immediately went up stairs, he begged pardon, was very
sorry he had kept dinner waiting, but Lady Cecilia had been taken
ill--had fainted--she was better--he hoped it was nothing that would
signify--she was lying down--he begged they would go to dinner. And to
dinner they went, and when Lady Davenant returned she put Helen’s mind
at ease by saying it was only a little faintishness from over-fatigue.
She had prescribed rest, and Cecilia had herself desired to be left
quite alone. After dinner Lady Davenant went up again to see her, found
her not so well--feverish; she would not let Helen go to her--they would
talk if they were together, and she thought it necessary to keep Cecilia
very quiet. If she would but submit to this, she would be well again
probably in the morning. At tea-time, and in the course of the evening
twice, Cecilia sent to beg to speak to Helen; but Lady Davenant and the
general joined in requesting her not to go. The general went himself
to Lady Cecilia to enforce obedience, and he reported that she had
submitted with a good grace.

Helen was happily engaged by Beauclerc’s conversation during the rest
of the evening. It was late before they retired, and when she went
up-stairs, Felicie said that her lady was asleep, and had been asleep
for the last two hours, and she was sure that after such good rest her
ladyship would be perfectly well in the morning. Without further anxiety
about her friend, therefore, Helen went to her own room. It was a fine
moonlight night, and she threw open the shutters, and stood for a long
time looking out upon the moonlight, which she loved; and even after she
had retired to bed it was long before she could sleep. The only painful
thought in her mind was of Lady Davenant’s approaching departure;
without her, all happiness would be incomplete; but still, hope and love
had much that was delightful to whisper, and, as she at last sank to
sleep, Beauclerc’s voice seemed still speaking to her in soft sounds.
Yet the dream which followed was uneasy; she thought that they were
standing together in the library, at the open door of the conservatory,
by moonlight, and he asked her to walk out, and when she did not comply,
all changed, and she saw him walking with another--with Lady Castlefort;
but then the figure changed to one younger--more beautiful--it must be,
as the beating of Helen’s heart in the dream told her--it must be Lady
Blanche. Without seeing Helen, however, they seemed to come on,
smiling and talking low to each other along the matted alley of the
conservatory, almost to the very door where she was still, as she
thought, standing with her hand upon the lock, and then they stopped,
and Beauclerc pulled from an orange-tree a blossom which seemed the very
same which Helen had given to him that evening, he offered it to Lady
Blanche, and something he whispered; but at this moment the handle of
the lock seemed to slip, and Helen awoke with a start; and when she was
awake, the noise of her dream seemed to continue; she heard the real
sound of a lock turning--her door slowly opened, and a white figure
appeared. Helen started up in her bed, and awaking thoroughly, saw that
it was only Cecilia in her dressing-gown.

“Cecilia! What’s the matter, my dear? are you worse?”

Lady Cecilia put her finger on her lips, closed the door behind her,
and said, “Hush! hush! or you’ll waken Felicie; she is sleeping in the
dressing-room to-night. Mamma ordered it, in case I should want her.”

“And how are you now? What can I do for you?”

“My dear Helen, you can do something for me indeed. But don’t get up.
Lie down and listen to me. I want to speak to you.”

“Sit down, then, my dear Cecilia, sit down here beside me.”

“No, no, I need not sit down, I am very well, standing. Only let me say
what I have to say. I am quite well.”

“Quite well! indeed you are not. I feel you all trembling. You must sit
down, indeed, my dear,” said Helen, pressing her.

She sat down. “Now listen to me--do not waste time, for I can’t stay.
Oh! if the general should awake and find me gone.”

“What is the matter, my dear Cecilia? Only tell me what I can do for

“That is the thing; but I am afraid, now it is come to the point.” Lady
Cecilia breathed quick and short. “I am almost afraid to ask you to do
this for me.”

“Afraid! my dear Cecilia, to ask me to do anything in this world for
you! How can you be afraid? Tell me only what it is at once.”

“I am very foolish--I am very weak. I know you love me--would do
anything for me, Helen. And this is the simplest thing in the world, but
the greatest favour--the greatest service. It is only just to receive a
packet, which the general will give you in the morning. He will ask if
it is for you. And you will just accept of it. I don’t ask you to say it
is yours, or to say a word about it--only receive it for me.”

“Yes, I will, to be sure. But why should he give it to me, and not to

“Oh, he thinks, and you must let him think, it is for you, that’s
all. Will you promise me?”--But Helen made no answer. “Oh, promise me,
promise me, speak, for I can’t stay. I will explain it all to you in the
morning.” She rose to go.

“Stay, stay! Cecilia,” cried Helen, stopping her; “stay!--you must,
indeed, explain it all to me now--you must indeed!”

Lady Cecilia hesitated--said she had not time. “You said, Helen, that
you would take the packet, and you know you must; but I will explain
it all as fast as I can. You know I fainted, but you do not know why? I
will tell you exactly how it all happened:--you recollect my coming into
the library after I was dressed, before you went up-stairs, and giving
you a sprig of orange flowers?”

“Oh yes, I was dreaming of it just now when you came in,” said Helen.
“Well, what of that?”

“Nothing, only you must have been surprised to hear so soon afterwards
that I had fainted.”

“Yes,” Helen said, she had been very much surprised and alarmed; and
again Lady Cecilia paused.

“Well, I went from you directly to Clarendon, to give him a rose, which
you may remember I had in my hand for him. I found him in the study,
talking to corporal somebody. He just smiled as I came in, took the
rose, and said, ‘I shall be ready this moment:’ and looking to a table
on which were heaps of letters and parcels which Granville had brought
from town, he added, ‘I do not know whether there is anything there for
you, Cecilia?’ I went to look, and he went on talking to his corporal.
He was standing with his back to the table.”

Helen felt that Lady Cecilia told all these minute details as if there
was some fact to which she feared to come. Cecilia went on very quickly.
“I did not find anything for myself; but in tossing over the papers I
saw a packet directed to General Clarendon. I thought it was a feigned
hand--and yet that I knew it--that I had seen it somewhere lately. There
was one little flourish that I recollected; it was like the writing of
that wretched Carlos.”

“Carlos!” cried Helen: “well!”

“The more I looked at it,” continued Lady Cecilia, “the more like I
thought it; and I was going to say so to the general, only I waited till
he had done his business: but as I was examining it through the outer
cover, of very thin foreign paper, I could distinguish the writing of
some of the inside, and it was like your hand or like mine. You know,
between our hands there is such a great resemblance, there is no telling
one from the other.”

Helen did not think so, but she remained silent.

“At least,” said Cecilia, answering her look of doubt, “at least the
general says so; he never knows our hands asunder. Well! I perceived
that there was something hard inside--more than papers; and as I felt
it, there came from it an uncommon perfume--a particular perfume, like
what I used to have once, at the time--that time that I can never bear
to think of, you know--”

“I know,” said Helen, and in a low voice she added, “you mean about
Colonel D’Aubigny.”

“The perfume, and altogether I do not know what, quite overcame me. I
had just sense enough to throw the packet from me: I made an effort, and
reached the window, and I was trying to open the sash, I remember; but
what happened immediately after that, I cannot tell you. When I came to
myself, I was in my husband’s arms; he was carrying me up-stairs--and so
much alarmed about me he was! Oh, Helen, I do so love him! He laid me on
the bed, and he spoke so kindly, reproaching me for not taking more care
of myself--but so fondly! Somehow I could not bear it just then, and I
closed my eyes as his met mine. He, I knew, could suspect nothing--but
still! He stayed beside me, holding my hand: then dinner was ready; he
had been twice summoned. It was a relief to me when he left me. Next,
I believe, my mother came up, and felt my pulse, and scolded me for
over-fatiguing myself, and for that leap; and I pleaded guilty, and it
was all very well. I saw she had not an idea there was anything else.
Mamma really is not suspicious, with all her penetration--she is not

“And why did you not tell her all the little you had to tell, dear
Cecilia? If you had, long ago, when I begged of you to do so--if you had
told your mother all about--”

“Told her!” interrupted Cecilia; “told my mother!--oh no, Helen!”

Helen sighed, and feebly said, “Go on.”

“Well! when you were at dinner, it came into my poor head that the
general would open that parcel before I could see you again, and before
I could ask your advice and settle with you--before I could know what
was to be done. I was so anxious, I sent for you twice.”

“But Lady Davenant and the general forbade me to go to you.”

“Yes,”--Lady Cecilia said she understood that, and she had seen the
danger of showing too much impatience to speak to Helen; she thought it
might excite suspicion of her having something particular to say, she
had therefore refrained from asking again. She was not asleep when Helen
came to bed, though Felicie thought she was; she was much too anxious
to sleep till she had seen her husband again; she was awake when he came
into his room; she saw him come in with some letters and packets in his
hand; by his look she knew all was still safe--he had not opened _that_
particular packet--he held it among a parcel of military returns in
his hand as he came to the side of the bed on tiptoe to see if she
was asleep--to ask how she did; “He touched my pulse,” said Lady
Cecilia,--“and I am sure he might well say it was terribly quick.

“Every instant I thought he would open that packet. He threw it,
however, and all the rest, down on the table, to be read in the morning,
as usual, as soon as he awoke. After feeling my pulse again, the last
thing, and satisfying himself that it was better--‘Quieter now,’ said
he, he fell fast asleep, and slept so soundly, and I--”

Helen looked at her with astonishment, and was silent.

“Oh speak to me!” said Lady Cecilia, “what do you say, Helen?”

“I say that I cannot imagine why you are so much alarmed about this

“Because I am a fool, I believe,” said Lady Cecilia, trying to laugh. “I
am so afraid of his opening it.”

“But why?” said Helen, “what do you think there is in it?”

“I have told you, surely! Letters--foolish letters of mine to that
D’Aubigny. Oh how I repent I ever wrote a line to him! And he told me,
he absolutely swore, he had destroyed every note and letter I ever wrote
to him. He was the most false of human beings!”

“He was a very bad man--I always thought so,” said Helen; “but, Cecilia,
I never knew that he had any letters of yours.”

“Oh yes, you did, my dear, at the time; do not you recollect I showed
you a letter, and it was you who made me break off the correspondence?”

“I remember your showing me several letters of his,” said Helen, “but
not of yours--only one or two notes--asking for that picture back again
which he had stolen from your portfolio.”

“Yes, and about the verses; surely you recollect my showing you another
letter of mine, Helen!”

“Yes, but these were all of no consequence; there must be more, or you
could not be so much afraid, Cecilia, of the general’s seeing these,
surely.” At this moment Lady Davenant’s prophecy, all she had said about
her daughter, flashed across Helen’s mind, and with increasing eagerness
she went on. “What is there in those letters that can alarm you so

“I declare I do not know,” said Cecilia, “that is the plain truth; I
cannot recollect--I cannot be certain what there is in them.”

“But it is not so long ago, Cecilia,--only two years?”

“That is true, but so many great events have happened since, and such
new feelings, all that early nonsense was swept out of my mind. I never
really loved that wretch--”

A gleam of joy came across Helen’s face.

“Never, never,” repeated Lady Cecilia.

“Oh, I am happy still,” cried Helen. “I told your mother I was sure of

“Good heavens!--Does she know about this packet?”

“No, no!--how could she? But what frightens you, my dear Cecilia? you
say there is nothing wrong in the letters?”


“Then make no wrong out of nothing,” cried Helen. “If you break
confidence with your husband, that confidence will never, never unite
again--your mother says so.”

“My mother!” cried Cecilia: “Good heavens!--so she does suspect?--tell
me, Helen, tell me what she suspects.”

“That you did not at first--before you were married, tell the general
the whole truth about Colonel D’Aubigny.”

Cecilia was silent.

“But it is not yet too late,” said Helen, earnestly; “you can set it all
right now--this is the moment, my dearest Cecilia. Do, do,” cried Helen,
“do tell him all--bid him look at the letters.”

“Look at them! Impossible! Impossible!” said Lady Cecilia. “Bid me die

She turned quite away.

“Listen to me, Cecilia;” she held her fast. “You must do it, Cecilia.”

“Helen, I cannot.”

“You can, indeed you can,” said Helen; “only have courage _now_, and you
will be happier all your life afterwards.”

“Do not ask it--do not ask it--it is all in vain, you are wasting time.”

“No, no--not wasting time; and in short, Cecilia, you must do what I ask
of you, for it is right; and I will not do what you ask of me, for it is

“You will not!--You will not!” cried Lady Cecilia, breathless. “After
all! You will not receive the packet for me! you will not let the
general believe the letters to be yours! Then I am undone! You will
not do it!--Then do not talk to me--do not talk to me--you do not know
General Clarendon. If his jealousy were once roused, you have no idea
what it would be.”

“If the man were alive,” said Helen, “but since he is dead--”

“But Clarendon would never forgive me for having loved another--”

“You said you did not love him.”

“Nor did I ever _really_ love that man; but still Clarendon, from even
seeing those letters, might think I did. The very fact of having written
such letters would be destruction to me with Clarendon. You do not know
Clarendon. How can I convince you it is impossible for me to tell him?
At the time he first proposed for me--oh! how I loved him, and feared to
lose him. One day my mother, when I was not by, said something--I do
not know what, about a first love, let fall something about that hateful
D’Aubigny, and the general came to me in such a state! Oh, Helen, in
such a state! I thought it was all at an end. He told me he never would
marry any woman on earth who had ever loved another. I told him I
never had, and that was true, you know; but then I went a little beyond
perhaps. I said I had never THOUGHT of anybody else, for he made such
a point of that. In short, I was a coward--a fool; I little foresaw--I
laughed it off, and told him that what mamma had said was all a mistake,
all nonsense; that Colonel D’Aubigny was a sort of universal flirt--and
that was very true, I am sure: that he had admired us both, both you and
me, but you last, you most, Helen, I said.”

“Oh, Cecilia, how could you say so, when you knew he never cared for me
in the least?”

“Forgive me, my dear, for there was no other way; and what harm did it
do you, or what harm can it ever do you? It only makes it the easier for
you to help me--to save me now. And Granville,” continued Lady Cecilia,
thinking that was the obstacle in Helen’s mind, “and Granville need
never know it.”

Helen’s countenance suddenly changed--“Granville! I never thought of
that!” and now that she did think of it, she reproached herself with
the selfishness of that fear. Till this moment, she knew her motives had
been all singly for Cecilia’s happiness; now the fear she felt of this
some way hurting her with Beauclerc made her less resolute. Lady Cecilia
saw her giving way and hurried on----

“Oh, my dear Helen! I know I have been very wrong, but you would not
quite give me up, would you?--Oh! for my mother’s sake! Consider how it
would be with my mother, so ill as you saw her! I am sure if anything
broke out now in my mother’s state of health it would be fatal.”

Helen became excessively agitated.

“Oh, Helen! would you make me the death of that mother?--Oh, Helen, save
her! and do what you will with me afterwards. It will be only for a few
hours--only a few hours!” repeated Lady Cecilia, seeing that these words
made a great impression upon Helen,--“Save me, Helen! save my mother.”

She sank upon her knees, clasping her hands in an agony of supplication.
Helen bent down her head and was silent--she could no longer refuse.
“Then I must,” said she.

“Oh thank you! bless you!” cried Lady Cecilia in an ecstasy--“you will
take the letters?”

“Yes,” Helen feebly said; “yes, since it must be so.”

Cecilia embraced her, thanked her, blessed her, and hastily left the
room, but in an instant afterward she returned, and said, “One thing I
forgot, and I must tell you. Think of my forgetting it! The letters are
not signed with my real name, they are signed Emma--Henry and Emma!--Oh
folly, folly! My dear, dear friend! save me but now, and I never will
be guilty of the least deception again during my whole life; believe
me, believe me! When once my mother is safely gone I will tell Clarendon
all. Look at me, dear Helen, look at me and believe me.”

And Helen looked at her, and Helen believed her.


Helen slept no more this night. When alone in the stillness of the long
hours, she went over and over again all that had passed, what Cecilia
had said, what she had at first thought and afterwards felt, all the
persuasions by which she had been wrought upon, and, on the contrary,
all the reasons by which she ought to be decided; backward and forward
her mind vibrated, and its painful vacillation could not be stilled.

“What am I going to do? To tell a falsehood! That cannot be right; but
in the circumstances--yet this is Cecilia’s own way of palliating the
fault that her mother so fears in her--that her mother trusted to me to
guard her against; and now, already, even before Lady Davenant has left
us, I am going to assist Cecilia in deceiving her husband, and on that
very dangerous point--Colonel D’Aubigny.” Lady Davenant’s foreboding
having already been so far accomplished struck Helen fearfully, and her
warning voice in the dead silence of that night sounded, and her look
was upon her, so strongly, that she for an instant hid her head to get
rid of her image. “But what _can_ I do? her own life is at stake! No
less a motive could move me, but this ought--must--shall decide me. Yet,
if Lady Davenant were to know it!--and I, in the last hours I have to
pass with her--the last I ever may have with her, shall I deceive
her? But it is not deceit, only prudence--necessary prudence; what a
physician would order, what even humanity requires. I am satisfied it
is quite right, quite, and I will go to sleep that I may be strong,
and calm, and do it all well in the morning. After all, I have been too
cowardly; frightening myself about nothing; too scrupulous--for what is
it I have promised? only to receive the letters as if they were mine.
Not to _say_ that they are mine; he will not ask me, Cecilia thinks he
will not ask me. But how can she tell? if he should, what _can_ I do? I
must then answer that they are mine. Indeed it is the same thing, for I
should lead him to believe it as much by my receiving them in silence;
it will be telling or acting an absolute falsehood, and can that ever be
right?” Back it came to the same point, and in vain her cheek settled
on the pillow and she thought she could sleep. Then with closed eyes she
considered how the general would look, and speak, or not speak. “What
will he think of me when he sees the picture--the letters? for he must
open the packet. But he will not read them, no, he is too honourable.
I do not know what is in them. There can be nothing, however, but
nonsense, Cecilia says; yet even so, love-letters he must know they are,
and a clandestine correspondence. I heard him once express such contempt
for any clandestine affair. He, who is so nice, so strict, about women’s
conduct, how I shall sink in his esteem! Well, be it so, that concerns
only myself; and it is for his own sake too, to save his happiness; and
Cecilia, my dear Cecilia, oh I can bear it, and it will be a pride to me
to bear it, for I am grateful; my gratitude shall not be only in words;
now, when I am put to the trial, I can do something for my friends. Yes,
and I will, let the consequences be what they may.” Yet Beauclerc! that
thought was at the bottom of her heart; the fear, the almost certainty,
that some way or other--every way in which she could think of it,
it would lead to difficulty with Beauclerc. But this fear was mere
selfishness, she thought, and to counteract it came all her generous,
all her grateful, all her long-cherished, romantic love of sacrifice--a
belief that she was capable of self-devotion for the friends she loved;
and upon the strength of this idea she fixed at last. Quieted, she
soothed herself to repose, and, worn out with reasoning or trying to
reason in vain, she at last, in spite of the morning light dawning upon
her through the unclosed shutters, in a soft sort of enthusiastic vision
fading away, fell asleep.

She slept long; when she awoke it was with that indescribable feeling
that something painful had happened--that something dreadful was to be
this day. She recollected, first, that Lady Davenant was to go. Then
came all that had passed with Cecilia. It was late, she saw that her
maid had been in the room, but had refrained from awakening her; she
rose, and dressed as fast as she could. She was to go to Lady Davenant,
when her bell rang twice. How to appear before one who knew her
countenance so well, without showing that any thing had happened, was
her first difficulty. She looked in her glass to see whether there was
any alteration in her face; none that she could see, but she was no
judge. “How foolish to think so much about it all!” She dressed, and
between times inquired from her maid if she had heard of any change in
Lady Davenant’s intentions of going. Had any counter-orders about the
carriage been given? None; it was ordered to be at the door by twelve
o’clock. “That was well,” Helen said to herself. It would all soon be
over. Lady Davenant would be safe, then she could bear all the rest;
next she hoped, that any perturbation or extraordinary emotion in
herself would not be observed in the hurry of departure, or would be
thought natural at parting with Lady Davenant. “So then, I come at every
turn to some little deceit,” thought she, “and I must, I must!” and she

“It is a sad thing for you, ma’am, Lady Davenant’s going away,” said her

Helen sighed again. “Very sad indeed.” Suddenly a thought darted into
her mind, that the whole danger might be avoided. A hope came that the
general might not open the packet before Lady Davenant’s departure,
in which case Cecilia could not expect that she should abide by her
promise, as it was only conditional. It had been made really on her
mother’s account; Cecilia had said that if once her mother was safe out
of the house, she could then, and she would the very next day tell the
whole to her husband. Helen sprang from under the hands of her maid as
she was putting up her hair behind, and ran to Cecilia’s dressing-room,
but she was not there. It was now her usual time for coming, and Helen
left open the door between them, that she might go to her before Felicie
should be rung for. She waited impatiently, but no Cecilia came. The
time, to her impatience, seemed dreadfully long. But her maid observed,
that as her ladyship had not been well yesterday, it was no wonder she
was later this morning than usual.

“Very true, but there is somebody coming along the gallery now, see if
that is Lady Cecilia.”

“No, ma’am, Mademoiselle Felicie.”

Mademoiselle Felicie said ditto to Helen’s own maid, and, moreover,
supposed her lady might not have slept well. Just then, one little
peremptory knock at the door was heard.

“Bon Dieu! C’est Monsieur le Général!” exclaimed Felicie.

It was so--Felicie went to the door and returned with the general’s
compliments to Miss Stanley, and he begged to see her as soon as it
might suit her convenience in the library, before she went into the
breakfast-room, and after she should have seen Lady Cecilia, who wished
to see her immediately.

Helen found Lady Cecilia in bed, looking as if she had been much
agitated, two spots of carnation colour high up in her cheeks, a
well-known sign in her of great emotion. “Helen!” she cried, starting
up the moment Helen came in, “he has opened the packet, and you see me
alive. But I do believe I should have died, when it came to the point,
but for you--dearest Helen, I should have been, and still but for you I
must be, undone--and my mother--oh! if he had gone to her!”

“What has happened, tell me clearly, my dear Cecilia, and quickly, for I
must go to General Clarendon; he has desired to see me as soon as I can
after seeing you.”

“I know, I know,” said Cecilia, “but he will allow time, and you had
better be some time with me, for he thinks I have all to explain to
you this morning--and so I have, a great deal to say to you; sit
down--quietly--Oh if you knew how I have been agitated, I am hardly able
yet tell anything rightly.” She threw herself back on the pillows, and
drew a long breath, as if to relieve the oppression of mind and body.
“Now I think I can tell it.”

“Then do, my dear Cecilia--all--pray do! and exactly--oh, Cecilia, tell
me all.”

“Every word, every look, to the utmost, as far as I can recollect, as
if you had been present. Give me your hand, Helen, how cool you
are--delightful! but how you tremble!”

“Never mind,” said Helen; “but how burning hot your hand is!”

“No matter. If ever I am well or happy again in this world, Helen, I
shall owe it to you. After I left you I found the general fast asleep, I
do not believe he had ever awoke--I lay awake for hours, till past five
o’clock in the morning, I was wide awake--feverish. But can you conceive
it? just then, when I was most anxious to be awake, when I knew there
was but one hour--not so much, till he would awake and read that packet,
I felt an irresistible sleepiness come over me; I turned and turned, and
tried to keep my eyes open, and pulled and pinched my fingers. But all
would not do, and I fell asleep, dreaming that I was awake, and how long
I slept I cannot tell you, so deep, so dead asleep I must have been; but
the instant I did awake, I started up and drew back the curtain, and
I saw--oh, Helen! there was Clarendon dressed--standing with his arms
folded--a letter open hanging from his hand. His eyes were fixed upon
me, waiting, watching for my first look: he saw me glance at the letter
in his hand, and then at the packet on the table near the bed. For
an instant neither of us spoke: I could not, nor exclaim even; but
surprised, terrified, he must have seen I was. As I leaned forward,
holding by the curtains, he pulled one of them suddenly back, threw open
the shutters, and the full glare was upon my face. I shut my eyes--I
could not help it--and shrank; but, gathering strength from absolute
terror of his silence, I spoke: I asked, ‘For Heaven’s sake! Clarendon,
what is the matter? Why do you look so?’

“Oh, that look of his! still fixed on me--the same as I once saw before
we were married--once, and but once, when he came from my mother to me
about this man. Well! I put my hands before my eyes; he stepped forward,
drew them down, and placed the open letter before me, and then asked
me, in a terrible sort of suppressed voice, ‘Cecilia, whose writing is

“The writing was before my eyes, but I literally could not see it--it
was all a sort of maze. He saw I could not read it, and calmly bade me
‘Take time--examine--is it a forgery?’

“A forgery!--that had never crossed my mind, and for an instant I was
tempted to say it was; but quickly I saw that would not do: there was
the miniature, and that could not be a forgery. ‘No,’ I answered, ‘I do
not think it is a forgery.’

“‘What then?’ said he, so hastily that I could hardly hear; and before
I could think what to answer, he said, ‘I must see Lady Davenant.’ He
stepped towards the bell; I threw myself upon his arm--‘Good Heavens! do
not, Clarendon, if you are not out of your senses.’ ‘I am not out of my
senses, Cecilia, I am perfectly calm; answer me, one word only--is this
your writing? Oh! my dear Helen, then it was that you saved me.’”


“Yes, forgive me, Helen, I answered, ‘There is a handwriting so like,
that you never can tell it from mine. Ask me no more, Clarendon,’ I

“I saw a flash of light, as it were, come across his face--it was
hope--but still it was not certainty. I saw this: oh! how quick one
sees. He pointed to the first words of the letter, held his finger under
them, and his hand trembled--think of his hand trembling! ‘Read,’ he
said, and I read. How I brought myself to pronounce the words, I cannot
imagine. I read what, as I hope for mercy, I had no recollection of ever
having written--‘My dear, too dear Henry.’ ‘Colonel D’Aubigny?’ said
the general. I answered, ‘Yes.’ He looked astonished at my
self-possession--and so was I. For another instant his finger rested,
pressing down there under the words, and his eyes on my face, as if he
would have read into my soul. ‘Ask me no more,’ I repeated, scarcely
able to speak; and something I said, I believe, about honour and not
betraying you. He turned to the signature, and, putting his hand down
upon it, asked, ‘What name is signed to this letter?’ I answered, I have
seen--I know--I believe it is ‘Emma.’

“‘You knew then of this correspondence?’ was his next question. I
confessed I did. He said that was wrong, ‘but quite a different
affair’ from having been engaged in it myself, or some such word. His
countenance cleared; that pale look of the forehead, the fixed purpose
of the eye, changed. Oh! I could see--I understood it all with half
a glance--saw the natural colour coming back, and tenderness for me
returning--yet some doubt lingering still. He stood, and I heard some
half-finished sentences. He said that you must have been very young at
that time; I said, ‘Yes, very young:’--‘And the man was a most artful
man,’ he observed; I said. ‘Yes, very artful.’ That was true, I am sure.
Clarendon then recollected that you showed some emotion one day when
Colonel D’Aubigny was first mentioned--at that time, you know, when we
heard of his death. I said nothing. The general went on: ‘I could hardly
have believed all this of Helen Stanley,’ he said. He questioned no
farther:--and oh! Helen, what do you think I did next? but it was the
only thing left me to put an end to doubts, which, to _me_, must have
been fatal--forgive me, Helen!”

“Tell me what you did,” said Helen.

“Cannot you guess?”

“You told him positively that I wrote the letters?”

“No, not so bad, I never said that downright falsehood--no, I could not;
but I did almost as bad.”

“Pray tell me at once, my dear Cecilia.”

“Then, in the first place, I stretched out my hand for the whole packet
of letters which lay on the table untouched.”


“Well, he put them into my hands and said, ‘There is no direction on
these but to myself, I have not looked at any of them except this, which
in ignorance I first opened; I have not read one word of any of the

“Well,” said Helen; “and what did you do?”

“I said I was not going to read any of the letters, that I was only
looking for--now, Helen, you know--I told you there was something hard
in the parcel, something more than papers, I was sure what it must
be--the miniature--the miniature of you, which I painted, you know, that
I might have it when you were gone, and which _he_ stole, and pretended
before my mother to be admiring as your likeness, but he kept it only
because it was my painting. I opened the paper in which it was folded;
Clarendon darted upon it--‘It is Helen!’ and then he said. ‘How like!
how beautiful! how unworthy of that man!’

“But, oh, Helen, think of what an escape I had next. There was my
name--my initials C. D. at the bottom of the picture, as the painter;
and that horrible man, not content with his initials opposite to
mine, had on the back written at full length, ‘For Henry
D’Aubigny.’--Clarendon looked at it, and said between his teeth. ‘He is
dead.’--‘Thank God!’ said I.

“Then he asked me, how I came to paint this picture for that man; I
answered--oh how happy then it was for me that I could tell the whole
truth about that at least!--I answered that I did not do the picture for
Colonel D’Aubigny; that it never was given to him; that he stole it from
my portfolio, and that we both did what we could to get it back again
from him, but could not. And that you even wanted me to tell my mother,
but of that I was afraid; and Clarendon said, ‘You were wrong there, my
dear Cecilia.’

“I was so touched when I heard him call me his dear Cecilia again, and
in his own dear voice, that I burst into tears. That was a great relief
to me, and I kept saying over and over again, that I was wrong--very
wrong indeed! and then he kneeled down beside me, and I so felt his
tenderness, his confiding love for me--for me, unworthy as I am.” The
tears streamed from Lady Cecilia’s eyes as she spoke--“Quite unworthy!”

“No, no, not quite unworthy,” said Helen; “my poor dear Cecilia, what
you must have felt!”

“Once!” continued Cecilia--“once! Helen, as my head was lying on his
shoulder, my face hid, I felt so much love, so much remorse, and knowing
I had done nothing really bad, I was tempted to whisper all in his ear.
I felt I should be so much happier for ever--ever--if I could!”

“Oh that you had! my dear Cecilia, I would give anything upon earth for
your sake, that you had.”

“Helen, I could not--I could not. It was too late, I should have been
undone if I had breathed but a word. When he even suspected the truth!
that look--that voice was so terrible. To see it--hear it again! I could
not--oh, Helen, it would have been utter ruin--madness. I grant you, my
dear Helen, it might have been done at first, before I was married; oh
would to heaven it had! but it is useless thinking of that now. Helen,
my whole earthly happiness is in your hands, this is all I have to say,
may I--may I depend on you?”

“Yes, yes, depend upon me, my dearest Cecilia,” said Helen; “now let me

Lady Cecilia held her one instant longer, to say that she had asked
Clarendon to leave it to her to return the letters, “to save you
the embarrassment, my dearest Helen; but he answered he must do this
himself, and I did not dare to press the matter; but you need not
be alarmed, he will be all gentleness to you, he said, ‘it is so
different.’ Do not be afraid.”

“Afraid for myself?” said Helen; “oh no--rest, dear Cecilia, and let me

“Go then, go,” cried Cecilia; “but for you what would become of my
mother!--of me!--you save us all.”

Believing this, Helen hastened to accomplish her purpose; resolved to go
through with it, whatever it might cost; her scruples vanished, and
she felt a sort of triumphant pleasure in the courage of sacrificing


General Clarendon was sitting in the music-room, within the library, the
door open, so that he could see Helen the moment she came in, and that
moment he threw down his book as he rose, and their eyes met: hers fell
beneath his penetrating glance; he came forward immediately to meet
her, with the utmost gentleness and kindness in his whole appearance
and manner, took her hand, and, drawing her arm within his, said, in the
most encouraging voice, “Consider me as your brother, Helen; you know
you have allowed me so to feel for you, and so, believe me, I do feel.”

This kindness quite overcame her, and she burst into tears. He hurried
her across the library, into the inner room, seated her, and when he
had closed the door, stood beside her, and began, as if he had been to
blame, to apologise for himself.

“You must have been surprised at my having opened letters which did not
belong to me, but there was no direction, no indication that could stop
me. They were simply in a cover directed to me. The purpose of whoever
sent them must have been to make me read them; the ultimate purpose was,
I doubt not, to ruin Lady Cecilia Clarendon in my opinion.”

“Or me,” said Helen.

“No, Miss Stanley, no, that at all events cannot be,” said the general.
“Supposing the letters to be acknowledged by you, still it would be
quite a different affair. But in the first place look at them, they may
be forgeries. You will tell me if they are forgeries?”

And he placed the packet in her hands. Scarcely looking at the writing,
she answered, “No, forgeries I am sure they are not.” The general looked
again at the direction of the cover, and observed, “This is a feigned
hand. Whose can it be?”

Helen was on the brink of saying that Cecilia had told her it was
like the writing of Carlos. Now this cover had not, to the general’s
knowledge, been seen by Cecilia, and that one answer might have betrayed
all that she was to conceal, for he would instantly have asked how and
when did Cecilia see it, and the cause of her fainting would have been
then understood by him. Such hazards in every, even the first, least,
step in falsehood; such hazard in this first moment! But she escaped
this peril, and Helen answered: “It is something like the writing of the
page Carlos, but I do not think all that direction is his. There seem to
be two different hands. I do not know, indeed, how it is?”

“Some time or other it will come out,” said the general.

“I will keep this cover, it will lead to the direction of that boy, or
of whoever it was that employed him.”

To give her further time the general went on looking at the miniature,
which he held in his hand. “This is a beautiful likeness,” said he, “and
not ill painted--by Cecilia, was not it?”

Helen looked at it, and answered, “Yes, by Cecilia.”

“I am glad it is safe,” said the general, “restored--Cecilia told me the
history. I know that it was stolen, not given by you.”

“Given!” said Helen. “Oh no! stolen.”

“Base!” said the general.

“He was base,” answered Helen.

General Clarendon held in his hand, along with the picture, one letter
separated from the rest, open; he looked at it as if embarrassed, while
Helen spoke the last words, and he repeated, “Base! yes, he certainly
was, or he would have destroyed these letters.”

Again Helen was on the point of saying that Colonel D’Aubigny had told
Cecilia he had done so, but fortunately her agitation, in default of
presence of mind, kept her silent.

“This is the first letter I opened,” said the general, “before I was
aware that they were not what I should read. I saw only the first words,
I thought then that I had a right to read them. When these letters met
my eyes, I conceived them to have been written by my wife. I had a right
to satisfy myself respecting the nature of the correspondence; that
done, I looked no farther. I bore my suspense--I waited till she awoke.”

“So she told me, Cecilia has told me all; but even if she had not, in
any circumstances who could doubt your honour, General Clarendon?”

“Then trust to it, Miss Stanley, for the past, for the future, trust to
it! You gratify me more than I can express--you do me justice. I wished
to return these letters to you with, my own hand,” continued he, “to
satisfy myself, in the first place, that there was no mistake. Of
that your present candour, indeed, the first look of that ingenuous
countenance, was sufficient.”

Helen felt that she blushed all over.

“Pardon me for distressing you, my dear Helen. It was a matter in which
a man MUST be selfish,_ must_ in point of honour, _must_ in point of
feeling, I owe to your candour not merely relief from what I could not
endure and live, but relief from suspicion,--suspicion of the truth of
one dearer to me than life.”

Helen sat as if she had been transfixed.

“I owe to you,” continued he, “the happiness of my whole future life.”

“Then I am happy,” cried Helen, “happy in this, at all events, whatever
may become of me.”

She had not yet raised her eyes towards the general; she felt as if her
first look must betray Cecilia; but she now tried to fix her eyes upon
him as he looked anxiously at her, and she said, “thank you, thank you,
General Clarendon! Oh, thank you for all the kindness you have shown me;
but I am the more grieved, it makes me more sorry to sink quite in your

“To sink! You do not: your candour, your truth raises you----”

“Oh! do not say that----”

“I do,” repeated the general, “and you may believe me. I am incapable
of deceiving you--this is no matter of compliment. Between friend and
friend I should count a word, a look of falsehood, treason.”

Helen’s tears stopped, and, without knowing what she did, she began
hastily to gather up the packet of letters which she had let fall; the
general assisted her in putting them into her bag, and she closed the
strings, thanked him, and was rising, when he went on--“I beg your
indulgence while I say a few words of myself.”

She sat down again immediately. “Oh! as many as you please.”

“I believe I may say I am not of a jealous temper.”

“I am sure you are not,” said Helen.

“I thank you,” said the general. “May I ask on what your opinion is

“On what has now passed, and on all that I have heard from Lady

He bowed. “You may have heard then, from Lady Davenant, of some
unfortunate circumstances in my own and in a friend’s family which
happened a short time before my marriage?”

Helen said she had.

“And of the impression these circumstances made on my mind, my
consequent resolve never to marry a woman who had ever had any previous

Helen was breathless at hearing all this repeated.

“Were you informed of these particulars?” said the general.

“Yes,” said Helen, faintly.

“I am not asking, Miss Stanley, whether you approved of my resolution;
simply whether you heard of it?”


“That’s well. It was on an understanding between Cecilia and myself on
this point, that I married. Did you know this?”

“Yes,” said Helen.

“Some words,” continued the general, “once fell from Lady Davenant
concerning this Colonel D’Aubigny which alarmed me. Cecilia satisfied me
that her mother was mistaken. Cecilia solemnly assured me that she had
never loved him.” The general paused.

Helen, conceiving that he waited for and required her opinion, replied,
“So I always thought--so I often told Lady Davenant.” But at this moment
recollecting the words at the beginning of that letter, “My dear, too
dear Henry,” Helen’s voice faltered. The general saw her confusion,
but attributed it to her own consciousness. “Had Lady Davenant not been
mistaken,” resumed he, “that is to say had there ever been--as might
have happened not unnaturally--had there ever been an attachment; in
short, had Cecilia ever loved him, and told me so, I am convinced that
such truth and candour would have satisfied me, would have increased--as
I now feel--increased my esteem. I am at this moment convinced that, in
spite of my declared resolution, I should in perfect confidence, have

“Oh that Cecilia had but told him!” thought Helen.

“I should not, my dear Miss Stanley,” continued the general, “have thus
taken up your time talking of myself, had I not an important purpose
in view. I was desirous to do away in your mind the idea of my great
strictness--not on my own account, but on yours, I wished to dispel this
notion. Now you will no longer, I trust, apprehend that my esteem for
you is diminished. I assure you I can make allowances.”

She was shocked at the idea of allowances, yet thanked him for his
indulgence, and she could hardly refrain from again bursting into tears.

“Still by your agitation I see you are afraid of me,” said he, smiling.

“No indeed; not afraid of you, but shocked at what you must think of

“I am not surprised, but sorry to see that the alarm I gave my poor
Cecilia this morning has passed from her mind into yours. To her I
must have appeared harsh: I _was_ severe; but when I thought I had been
deceived, duped, can you wonder?”

Helen turned her eyes away.

“My dear Miss Stanley, why will not you distinguish? the cases are
essentially different. Nine out of ten of the young ladies who marry
in these countries do not marry the first object of their fancy, and
whenever there is, as there will be, I am sure, in your case, perfect
candour, I do not apprehend the slightest danger to the happiness of
either party. On the contrary, I should foretell an increase of esteem
and love. Beauclerc has often----”

Beauclerc’s voice was at this instant heard in the hall.

“Compose yourself, my dear Miss Stanley--this way,” said the general,
opening a door into the conservatory, for he heard Beauclerc’s step now
in the library. The general followed Helen as she left the room, and
touching the bag that contained the letters, said,

“Remember, whatever may be your hurry, lock this up first.”

“Thank you,” answered she; “I will, I will!” and she hastened on, and in
a moment she was safe across the hall and upstairs, without meeting any
one, and in her own room, and the bag locked up in her cabinet. Lady
Davenant’s bell rang as she went to her apartment; she looked in at
Cecilia, who started up in her bed.

“All is over,” said Helen, “all is well. I have the letters locked up; I
cannot stay.”

Helen disengaged herself almost forcibly from Cecilia’s embrace, and she
was in Lady Davenant’s room in another minute. She bade her good morning
as composedly as she could, she thought quite as usual. But that was
impossible: so much the better, for it would not have been natural
this last morning of Lady Davenant’s stay, when nothing was as usual
externally or internally. All was preparation for departure--her maids
packing--Lady Davenant, making some last arrangements--in the midst of
which she stopped to notice Helen--pressed her in her arms, and after
looking once in her face, said, “My poor child! it must be so.”

Elliott interrupted, asking some question, purposely to draw off her
attention; and while she turned about to give some orders to another
servant, Elliott said to Miss Stanley, “My Lady was not well last night;
she must be kept from all that can agitate her, as much as possible.”

Helen at that instant rejoiced that she had done what she had. She
agreed with Elliott, she said, that all emotion which could be avoided
should; and upon this principle busied herself, and was glad to employ
herself in whatever she could to assist the preparations, avoiding all
conversation with Lady Davenant.

“You are right, my love--quite right,” said Lady Davenant. “The best
way is always to employ one’s self always to the last. Yes, put up
those drawings carefully, in this portfolio, Elliott; take silver paper,

They were Helen’s own drawings, so all went on, and all was safe--even
when Cecilia was spoken of; while the silver paper went over the
drawings, Helen answered that she had seen her. “She was not well, but
still not seriously ill, though--”

“Yes,” said Lady Davenant; “only the general is too anxious about
her--very naturally. He sent me word just now,” continued she, “that he
has forbidden her to get up before breakfast. I will go and see her now;
dear Cecilia! I hope she will do well--every way--I feel sure of it,
Helen--sure as you do yourself, my dear--But what is the matter?”

“Nothing!” said Helen. That was not quite true; but she could not help
it--“Nothing!” repeated she. “Only I am anxious, my dear Lady Davenant,”
 continued poor Helen blundering, unaccustomed to evasions--“only I am
very anxious you should go soon to Cecilia; I know she is awake now, and
you will be hurried after breakfast.”

Elliott looked reproachfully at Miss Stanley, for she thought it much
better for her lady to be engaged in more indifferent matters till
after breakfast, when she would have but a few minutes to spend with her
daughter; so Helen, correcting herself, added--“But, perhaps I’m wrong,
so do not let me interrupt you in whatever you are doing.”

“My dear child,” said Lady Davenant; “you do not know what you are
saying or doing yourself this morning.”

But no suspicion was excited in her mind, as she accounted for Helen’s
perturbation by the sorrow of their approaching separation, and by the
hurry of her spirits at Beauclerc’s arrival the day before. And then
came the meeting the general at breakfast, which Helen dreaded; but
so composed, so impenetrable was he that she could hardly believe that
anything could have occurred that morning to agitate him.

Lady Davenant, after being with her daughter, came to take leave of
Helen, and said gravely, “Helen! remember what I said of Cecilia’s
truth, my trust is in you. Remember, if I never see you again, by all
the love and esteem I bear you, and all which you feel for me, remember
this my last request--prayer--adjuration to you, support, save Cecilia!”

At that moment the general came to announce that the carriage was ready;
promptly he led her away, handed her in and the order to “drive on,” was
given. Lady Davenant’s last look, her last anxious smile, was upon Helen
and Beauclerc as they stood beside each other on the steps, and she was

Helen was so excessively agitated that Beauclerc did not attempt to
detain her from hurrying to her own room, where she sat down, and
endeavoured to compose herself. She repeated Lady Davenant’s last words,
“Support, save Cecilia,” and, unlocking the cabinet in which she had
deposited the fatal letters, she seized the bag that contained them,
and went immediately to Cecilia. She was in her dressing-room, and the
general sitting beside her on the sofa, upon which she was resting. He
was sitting directly opposite to Helen as she entered; she started at
the sight of him: his eye instantly fell upon the bag, and she felt her
face suddenly flush. He took out his watch, said he had an appointment,
and was gone before Helen raised her eyes.

“My dearest friend, come to me, come close to me,” cried Cecilia, and
throwing her arms round Helen, she said, “Oh, I am the happiest creature

“Are you?” said Helen.

“Yes, that I am, and I thank you for it; how much I thank you, Helen, it
is impossible to express, and better I love you than anything upon earth
but Clarendon himself, my best friend, my generous Helen. Oh, Clarendon
has been so kind, so very kind! so sorry for having alarmed me! He is a
noble, charming creature. I love him a thousand times better than I
ever did, am happier than I ever was! and all this I owe to you, dearest
Helen. But I cannot get your eyes from that bag,--what have you there?”

“The letters,” said Helen.

“The letters!” exclaimed Cecilia, springing up, “give them to me,”
 seizing and opening the bag. “Oh that dreadful perfume! Helen open the
window, and bolt the door, my dear--both doors.”

While Helen was doing so, Cecilia struck one little quick blow on a
taper-lighter; it flared, and when Helen turned, one of the letters was
in flames, and Cecilia continued feeding the flame with them as fast as
ever it could devour.

“Burn! burn! there, there!” cried she, “I would not look at any one of
them again for the world; I know no more what is in them than if I had
never written them, except those horrid, horrid words Clarendon saw and
showed me. I cannot bear to think of it. There now,” continued she, as
they burned, “no one can ever know anything more about the matter: how
glad I am to see them burning!--burnt! safe! The smell will go off in
a minute or two. It is going,--yes, gone! is not it? Now we may breathe
freely. But you look as if you did not know whether you were glad or
sorry, Helen.”

“I believe it was right; the general advised me to lock, them up,” said
Helen, “but then--”

“Did he? how thoughtful of him! But better to burn them at once; I am
sure it was not my fault that they were not long ago destroyed. I was
assured by that abominable man--but no matter, we will never think of
him again. It is done now--no, not completely yet,” said she, looking
close at the half white, half black burnt paper, in which words, and
whole lines still appeared in shrunken but yet quite legible characters.
“One cannot be too careful,” and she trampled on the burnt paper, and
scattered the cinders. Helen was anxious to speak, she had something
important to say, but hesitated; she saw that Cecilia’s thoughts were
so far from what she wanted to speak of that she could not instantly say
it; she could not bear to overturn all Cecilia’s present happiness, and
yet, said to herself, I must--I must--or what may happen hereafter? Then
forcing herself to speak, she began, “Your mother is safe now, Cecilia.”

“Oh yes, and thank you, thank you for that--”

“Then now, Cecilia--your promise.”

“My promise!” Lady Cecilia’s eyes opened in unfeigned astonishment.
“What promise?--Oh, I recollect, I promised--did I?”

“My dear Cecilia, surely you cannot have forgotten.”

“How was it?”

“You know the reason I consented was to prevent the danger of any shock
to Lady Davenant.”

“Well, I know, but what did I promise?”

The words had in reality passed Lady Cecilia’s lips at the time without
her at all considering them as a promise, only as a means of persuasion
to bring Helen to her point.

“What did I promise?” repeated she. “You said, ‘As soon as my mother is
safe, as soon as she is gone, I will tell my husband all,’--Cecilia, you
cannot forget what you promised.”

“Oh, no, now I remember it perfectly, but I did not mean so soon. I
never imagined you would claim it so soon: but some time I certainly
will tell him all.”

“Do not put it off, dearest Cecilia. It must be done--let it be done

“To-day!” Lady Cecilia almost screamed.

“I will tell you why,” said Helen.

“To-day!” repeated Lady Cecilia.

“If we let the present _now_ pass,” continued Helen, “we shall lose both
the power and the opportunity, believe me.”

“I have not the power, Helen, and I do not know what you mean by the
opportunity,” said Cecilia.

“We have a reason now to give General Clarendon--a true good reason, for
what we have done.”

“Reason!” cried Lady Cecilia, “what can you mean?”

“That it was to prevent danger to your mother, and now she is safe; and
if you tell him directly, he will see this was, really so.”

“That is true; but I cannot--wait till to-morrow, at least.”

“Every day will make it more difficult. The deception will be greater,
and less pardonable. If we delay, it will become deliberate falsehood, a
sort of conspiracy between us,” said Helen.

“Conspiracy! Oh, Helen, do not use such a shocking word, when it is
really nothing at all.”

“Then why not tell it?” urged Helen.

“Because, though it is nothing at all in reality, yet Clarendon would
think it dreadful--though I have done nothing really wrong.”

“So I say--so I know,” cried Helen; “therefore----”

“Therefore let me take my own time,” said Cecilia. “How can you urge me
so, hurrying me so terribly, and when I am but just recovered from one
misery, and when you had made me so happy, and when I was thanking you
with all my heart.”

Helen was much moved, but answered as steadily as she could. “It seems
cruel, but indeed I am not cruel.”

“When you had raised me up,” continued Cecilia, “to dash me down again,
and leave me worse than ever!”

“Not worse--no, surely not worse, when your mother is safe.”

“Yes, safe, thank you--but oh, Helen, have you no feeling for your own

“The greatest,” answered Helen; and her tears said the rest.

“You, Helen! I never could have thought you would have urged me so!”

“O Cecilia! if you knew the pain it was to me to make you unhappy
again,--but I assure you it is for your own sake. Dearest Cecilia, let
me tell you all that General Clarendon said about it, and then you will
know my reasons.” She repeated as quickly as she could, all that
had passed between her and the general, and when she came to this
declaration that, if Cecilia had told him plainly the fact before, he
would have married with perfect confidence, and, as he believed, with
increased esteem and love: Cecilia started up from the sofa on which she
had thrown herself, and exclaimed,

“O that I had but known this at the time, and I _would_ have told him.”

“It is still time,” said Helen.

“Time now?--impossible. His look this morning. Oh! that look!”

“But what is one look, my dear Cecilia, compared with a whole life of
confidence and happiness?”

“A life of happiness! never, never for me; in that way at least, never.”

“In that way and no other, Cecilia, believe me. I am certain you never
could endure to go on concealing this, living with him you love so, yet
deceiving him.”

“Deceiving! do not call it deceiving, it is only suppressing a fact that
would give him pain; and when he can have no suspicion, why give him
that pain? I am afraid of nothing now but this timidity of yours--this
going back. Just before you came in, Clarendon was saying how much he
admired your truth and candour, how much he is obliged to you for saving
him from endless misery; he said so to me, that was what made me so
completely happy. I saw that it was all right for you as well as me,
that you had not sunk, that you had risen in his esteem.”

“But I must sink, Cecilia, in his esteem, and now it hangs upon a single
point--upon my doing what I cannot do.” Then she repeated what the
general had said about that perfect openness which he was sure there
would be in this case between her and Beauclerc. “You see what the
general expects that I should do.”

“Yes,” said Cecilia; and then indeed she looked much disturbed. “I
am very sorry that this notion of your telling Beauclerc came into
Clarendon’s head--very, very sorry, for he will not forget it. And yet,
after all,” continued she, “he will never ask you point blank, ‘Have you
told Beauclerc?’--and still more impossible that he should ask Beauclerc
about it.”

“Cecilia!” said Helen, “if it were only for myself I would say no more;
there is nothing I would not endure--that I would not sacrifice--even my
utmost happiness.”--She stopped, and blushed deeply.

“Oh, my dearest Helen! do you think I could let you ever hazard that? If
I thought there was the least chance of injuring you with Granville!--I
would do any thing--I would throw myself at Clarendon’s feet this

“This instant--I wish he was here,” cried Helen.

“Good Heavens! do you?” cried Lady Cecilia, looking at the door with
terror--she thought she heard his step.

“Yes, if you would but tell him--O let me call him!”

“Oh no, no! Spare me--spare me, I cannot speak now. I could not utter
the words; I should not know what words to use. Tell him if you will, I

“May I tell him?” said Helen, eagerly.

“No, no--that would be worse; if anybody tells him it must be myself.”

“Then you will now--when he comes in?”

“He is coming!” cried Cecilia.

General Clarendon came to the door--it was bolted.

“In a few minutes,” said Helen. Lady Cecilia did not speak, but
listened, as in agony, to his receding footsteps.

“In a few minutes, Helen, did you say?--then there is nothing for me
now, but to die--I wish I could die--I wish I was dead.”

Helen felt she was cruel, she began to doubt her own motives; she
thought she had been selfish in urging Cecilia too strongly; and, going
to her kindly, she said, “Take your own time, my dear Cecilia: only tell
him--tell him soon.”

“I will, I will indeed, when I can--but now I am quite exhausted.”

“You are indeed,” said Helen, “how cruel I have been!--how pale you

Lady Cecilia lay down on the sofa, and Helen covered her with a soft
India shawl, trembling so much herself that she could hardly stand.

“Thank you, thank you, dear, kind Helen; tell him I am going to sleep,
and I am sure I hope I shall.”

Helen closed the shutters--she had now done all she could; she
feared she had done too much; and as she left the room, she said to
herself,--“Oh, Lady Davenant! if you could see--if you knew--what it
cost me!”




The overwrought state of Helen’s feelings was relieved by a walk
with Beauclerc, not in the dressed part of the park, but in what was
generally undiscovered country: a dingle, a bosky dell, which he had
found out in his rambles, and which, though so little distant from
the busy hum of men, had a wonderful air of romantic seclusion and
stillness--the stillness of evening. The sun had not set; its rich, red
light yet lingered on the still remaining autumn tints upon the trees.
The birds hopped fearlessly from bough to bough, as if this sweet spot
were all their own. The cattle were quietly grazing below, or slowly
winding their way to the watering-place. By degrees, the sounds of
evening faded away upon the ear; a faint chirrup here and there from the
few birds not yet gone to roost, and now only the humming of the flies
over the water were to be heard.

It was perfect repose, and Beauclerc and Helen sat down on the bank to
enjoy it together. The sympathy of the woman he loved, especially in
his enjoyment of the beauties of nature, was to Beauclerc an absolute
necessary of life. Nor would he have been contented with that show taste
for the picturesque, which is, as he knew, merely one of a modern young
lady’s many accomplishments. Helen’s taste was natural, and he was glad
to feel it so true, and for him here alone expressed with such peculiar
heightened feeling, as if she had in all nature now a new sense of
delight. He had brought her here, in hopes that she would be struck
with this spot, not only because it was beautiful in itself, and his
discovery, but because it was like another bushy dell and bosky bourne,
of which he had been from childhood fond, in another place, of which he
hoped she would soon be mistress. “Soon! very soon, Helen!” he repeated,
in a tone which could not be heard by her with indifference. He said
that some of his friends in London told him that the report of their
intended union had been spread everywhere--(by Lady Katrine Hawksby
probably, as Cecilia, when Lady Castlefort departed, had confided to
her, to settle her mind about Beauclerc, that he was coming over as Miss
Stanley’s acknowledged lover). And since the report had been so spread,
the sooner the marriage took place the better; at least, it was a plea
which Beauclerc failed not to urge, and Helen’s delicacy failed not to

She sighed--she smiled. The day was named--and the moment she consented
to be his, nothing could be thought of but him. Yet, even while he
poured out all his soul--while he enjoyed the satisfaction there is in
perfect unreservedness of confidence, Helen felt a pang mix with her
pleasure. She felt there was one thing _she_ could _not_ tell him: he
who had told her every thing--all his faults, and follies. “Oh! why,”
 thought she, “why cannot I tell him every thing? I, who have no secrets
of my own--why should I be forced to keep the secrets of another?” In
confusion, scarcely finished, these ideas came across her mind, and she
sighed deeply. Beauclerc asked why, and she could not tell him! She was
silent; and he did not reiterate the indiscreet question. He was sure
she thought of Lady Davenant; and he now spoke of the regret he felt
that she could not be present at their marriage, and Lord Davenant too!
Beauclerc said he had hoped that Lord Davenant, who loved Helen as if
she were his own daughter, would have been the person to act as her
father at the ceremony. But the general, his friend and her’s, would
now, Beauclerc said, give her to him; and would, he was sure, take
pleasure in thus publicly marking his approbation of his ward’s choice.

They rose, and going on down the path to the river’s side, they reached
a little cove where he had moored his boat, and they returned home
by water--the moon just visible, the air so still; all so placid, so
delightful, and Beauclerc so happy, that she could not but be happy;
yes--quite happy too. They reached the shore just as the lamps were
lighting in the house. As they went in, they met the general, who said,
“In good time;” and he smiled on Helen as she passed.

“It is all settled,” whispered Beauclerc to him; “and you are to give
her away.”

“With pleasure,” said the general.

As Helen went up-stairs, she said to herself, “I understand the
general’s smile; he thinks I have followed his advice; he thinks I have
told all--and I--I can only be silent.”

There was a great dinner party, but the general, not thinking Cecilia
quite equal to it, had engaged Mrs. Holdernesse, a relation of his own,
to do the honours of the day.

Lady Cecilia came into the drawing-room in the evening; but, after
paying her compliments to the company, she gladly followed the general’s
advice, and retired to the music-room: Helen went with her, and
Beauclerc followed. Lady Cecilia sat down to play at ecarté with him,
and Helen tuned her harp. The general came in for a few minutes, he
said, to escape from two young ladies, who had talked him half dead
about craniology. He stood leaning on the mantelpiece, and looking over
the game. Lady Cecilia wanted counters, and she begged Beauclerc to look
for some which she believed he would find in the drawer of a table that
was behind him. Beauclerc opened the drawer, but no sooner had he done
so, than, in admiration of something he discovered there, he exclaimed,
“Beautiful! beautiful! and how like!” It was the miniature of Helen, and
besides the miniature, further back in the drawer, Lady Cecilia saw--how
quick is the eye of guilty fear!--could it be?--yes--one of the fatal
letters--_the_ letter! Nothing but the picture had yet been seen by
the general or by Beauclerc: Lady Cecilia stretched behind her husband,
whose eyes were upon the miniature, and closed the drawer. It was all
she could do, it was impossible for her to reach the letter.

Beauclerc, holding the picture to the light, repeated, “Beautiful! who
did it? whom is it for? General, look! do you know it?”

“Yes, to be sure,” replied the general; “Miss Stanley.”

“You have seen it before?”

“Yes,” said the general, coldly. “It is very like. Who did it?”

“I did it,” cried Lady Cecilia, who now recovered her voice.

“You, my dear Lady Cecilia! Whom for? for me? is it for me?”

“For you? It may be, hereafter, perhaps.”

“Oh thank you, my dear Lady Cecilia!” cried Beauclerc.

“If you behave well, perhaps,” added she.

The general heard in his wife’s tremulous tone, and saw in her half
confusion, half attempt at playfulness, only an amiable anxiety to save
her friend, and to give her time to recover from her dismay. He at once
perceived that Helen had not followed the course he had suggested; that
she had not told Beauclerc, and did not intend that he should be told
the whole truth. The general looked extremely grave; Beauclerc gave a
glance round the room. “Here is some mystery,” said he, now first seeing
Helen’s disconcerted countenance. Then he turned on the general a look
of eager inquiry. “Some mystery, certainly,” said he, “with which I am
not to be made acquainted?”

“If there be any mystery,” said the general, “with which you are not
to be made acquainted, I am neither the adviser nor abettor. Neither in
jest nor earnest am I ever an adviser of mystery.”

While her husband thus spoke, Lady Cecilia made another attempt to
possess herself of the letter. This time she rose decidedly, and,
putting aside the little ecarté table which was in her way, pressed
forward to the drawer, saying something about “counters.” Her Cachemere
caught on Helen’s harp, and, in her eager spring forward, it would have
been overset, but that the general felt, turned, and caught it.

“What are you about, my dear Cecilia?--what do you want?”

“Nothing, nothing, thank you, my dear; nothing now.”

Then she did not dare to open the drawer, or to let him open it, and
anxiously drew away his attention by pointing to a footstool which she
seemed to want.

“Could not you ask me for it, my dear, without disturbing yourself? What
are men made for?”

Beauclerc, after a sort of absent effort to join in quest of the
footstool, had returned eagerly to the picture, and looking at it more
closely, he saw the letters C.D. written in small characters in one
corner; and, just as his eye turned to the other corner, Lady Cecilia,
recollecting what initials were there, started up and snatched it from
his hand. “Oh, Granville!” cried she, “you must not look at this picture
any more till I have done something to it.” Beauclerc was trying to
catch another look at it, when Cecilia cried out, “Take it, Helen! take
it!” and she held it up on high, but as she held it, though she turned
the face from him, she forgot, quite forgot that Colonel D’Aubigny
had written his name on the back of the picture; and there it was in
distinct characters such as could be plainly read at that height, “_For_
Henry D’Aubigny.” Beauclerc saw, and gave one glance at Helen. He made
no further attempt to reach the picture. Lady Cecilia, not aware of what
he had seen, repeated, “Helen! Helen! why don’t you take it?--now! now!”

Helen could not stir. The general took the picture from his wife’s
hand, gave it to Miss Stanley, without looking at her, and said to Lady
Cecilia, “Pray keep yourself quiet, Cecilia. You have done enough,
too much to-day; sit down,” said he, rolling her arm-chair close, and
seating her. “Keep yourself quiet, I beg.”--“I beg,” in the tone of “I

She sat down, but catching a view of Beauclerc was alarmed by his
aspect--and Helen! her head was bent down behind the harp. Lady Cecilia
did not know yet distinctly what had happened. The general pressed
her to lean back on the cushions which he was piling up behind her.
Beauclerc made a step towards Helen, but checking himself, he turned
to the ecarté table. “Those counters, after all, that we were looking
for--” As he spoke he pulled open the drawer. The general with his
back to him was standing before Lady Cecilia, she could not see what
Beauclerc was doing, but she heard the drawer open, and cried out.
“Not there, Beauclerc; no counters there--you need not look there.”
 But before she spoke, he had given a sudden pull to the drawer, which
brought it quite out, and all the contents fell upon the floor, and
there was the fatal letter, open, and the words “_My dear, too dear
Henry_” instantly met his eyes; he looked no farther, but in that single
glance the writing seemed to him to be Lady Cecilia’s, and quick his eye
turned upon her. She kept perfectly quiet, and appeared to him perfectly
composed. His eye then darted in search of Helen; she had sunk upon a
seat behind the harp. Through the harp-strings he caught a glimpse
of her face, all pale--crimsoned it grew as he advanced: she rose
instantly, took up the letter, and, without speaking or looking at
any one, tore it to pieces. Beauclerc in motionless astonishment. Lady
Cecilia breathed again. The general’s countenance expressed “I interfere
no farther.” He left the room; and Beauclerc, without another look at
Helen, followed him.

For some moments after Lady Cecilia and Helen were left alone, there
was a dead silence. Lady Cecilia sat with her eyes fixed upon the door
through which her husband and Beauclerc had passed. She thought that
Beauclerc might return; but when she found that he did not, she went to
Helen, who had covered her face with her hands.

“My dearest friend,” said Lady Cecilia, “thank you! thank you!--you did
the best that was possible!”

“O Cecilia!” exclaimed Helen, “to what have you exposed me?”

“How did it all happen?” continued Cecilia. “Why was not that letter
burnt with the rest? How came it there? Can you tell me?”

“I do not know,” said Helen, “I cannot recollect.” But after some
effort, she remembered that in the morning, while the general had been
talking to her, she had in her confusion, when she took the packet, laid
the picture and that letter beside her on the arm of the chair. She had,
in her hurry of putting the other letters into her bag, forgotten this
and the picture, and she supposed that they had fallen between the chair
and the wall, and that they had been found and put into the table-drawer
by one of the servants.

Helen was hastening out of the room, Cecilia detained her. “Do not go,
my dear, for that would look as if you were guilty, and you know you are
innocent. At the first sound of your harp Beauclerc will return--only
command yourself for one hour or two.”

“Yes, it will only be for an hour or two,” said Helen, brightening with
hope. “You will tell the general to-night Do you think Granville will
come back? Where is the harp key?--I dropped it--here it is.” She began
to tune the harp. Crack went one string--then another. “That is lucky,”
 said Lady Cecilia, “it will give you something to do, my love, if the
people come in.”

The aide-de-camp entered. “I thought I heard harp-strings going,” said

“Several!--yes,” said Lady Cecilia, standing full in his way.

“Inauspicious sounds for us! had omens for my embassy.--Mrs. Holdernesse
sent me.”

“I know,” said Lady Cecilia, “and you will have the goodness to tell her
that Miss Stanley’s harp is unstrung.”

“Can I be of any use, Miss Stanley?” said he, moving towards the harp.

“No, no,” cried Lady Cecilia, “you are in my service,--attend to me.”

“Dear me, Lady Cecilia! I did not hear what you said.”

“That is what I complain of--hear me now.”

“I am all attention, I am sure. What are your commands?”

She gave him as many as his head could hold. A long message to
Mrs. Holdernesse, and to Miss Holdernesse and Miss Anna about their
music-books, which had been left in the carriage, and were to be sent
for, and duets to be played, and glees, for the major and Lady Anne

“Good Heavens! I cannot remember any more,” cried the aide-de-camp.

“Then go off, and say and do all that before you come back again,” said
Lady Cecilia.

“What amazing presence of mind you have!” said Helen. “How can you say
so much, and think of every thing!”

The aide-de-camp performed all her behests to admiration, and was
rewarded by promotion to the high office of turner-over general of the
leaves of the music books, an office requiring, as her ladyship remarked
to Miss Holdernesse, prompt eye and ear, and all his distinguished
gallantry. By such compliments she fixed him to the piano-forte, while
his curiosity and all his feelings, being subordinate to his vanity,
were prevented from straying to Miss Stanley and her harp-stringing, a
work still doing--still to do.

All the arrangement succeeded as Lady Cecilia’s arrangements usually
did. Helen heard the eternal buzz of conversation and the clang of
instruments, and then the harmony of music, all as in a dream, or as at
the theatre, when the thoughts are absent or the feelings preoccupied;
and in this dreamy state she performed the operation of putting in
the harp-strings quite well: and when she was at last called upon
by Cecilia, who gave her due notice and time, she sat and played
automatically, without soul or spirit--but so do so many others. It
passed “charmingly,” till a door softly opened behind her, and she saw
the shadow on the wall, and some one stood, and passed from behind her.
There was an end of her playing; however, from her just dread of making
a scene, she commanded herself so powerfully, that, except her timidity,
nothing was observed by the company, and that timidity was pitied by the
good-natured Mrs. Holdernesse, who said to her daughter, “Anne, we must
not press Miss Stanley any more; she, who is always so obliging, is
tired now.” She then made way for Helen to pass, who, thanking her with
such a look as might be given for a life saved, quitted the harp, and
the crowd, closing behind her, happily thought of her no more. She
retreated to the darkest part of the room, and sat down. She did not
dare to look towards what she most wished to see. Her eyes were fixed
upon the face of the young lady singing, and yet she saw not one feature
of that face, while she knew, without looking, or seeming to look,
exactly where Beauclerc stood. He had stationed himself in a doorway
into the drawing-room; there, leaning back against the wall, he stood,
and never stirred. Helen was so anxious to get one clear view of the
expression of his countenance, that at last she ventured to move a
little, and from behind the broad back of a great man she looked:
Beauclerc’s eyes met hers. How different from their expression when they
were sitting on the bank together but a few short hours before! He left
the doorway instantly, and placed himself where Helen could see him no

Of all the rest of what passed this evening she knew nothing; she felt
only a sort of astonishment at everybody’s gaiety, and a sense of the
time being intolerably long. She thought that all these people never
would go away--that their carriages never would be announced. But before
it came to that time, General Clarendon insisted upon Lady Cecilia’s
retiring. “I must,” said he, “play the tyrant, Cecilia; you have done
too much to-day--Mrs. Holdernesse shall hold your place.” He carried
Cecilia off, and Helen thought, or fancied, that he looked about for
her. Glad to escape, she followed close behind. The general did not
offer his arm or appear to notice her. When she came to the door leading
to the staircase, there was Beauclerc, standing with folded arms, as in
the music-room; he just bowed his head, and wished Lady Cecilia a good
night, and waited, without a word, for Helen to pass, or not to pass, as
she thought fit. She saw by his look that he expected explanation; but
till she knew what Cecilia meant to do, how could she explain? To
say nothing--to bear to be suspected,--was all she could do, without
betraying her friend. That word _betray_--that thought ruled her. She
passed him: “Good night” she could not then say. He bowed as she passed,
and she heard no “Good night”--no sound. And there was the general in
the hall to be passed also, before she could reach the staircase up
which Cecilia was going. When he saw Helen with a look of surprise--as
it seemed to her, of disapproving surprise--he said, “Are you gone,
Miss Stanley?” The look, the tone, struck cold to her heart. He
continued--“Though I drove Cecilia away, I did not mean to drive you
away too. It is early.”

“Is it? I thought it was very late.”

“No--and if you _can_, I hope you will return.” There was a meaning in
his eye, which she well understood.

“Thank you,” said she; “if I can certainly----”

“I hope you can and will.”

“Oh! thank you; but I must first----” see Cecilia, she was going to say,
but, afraid of implicating her, she changed the sentence to--“I must
first consider----”

“Consider! what the devil!” thought he, and his countenance was
instantly angrily suited to the thought. Helen hesitated. “Do not let
me detain--distress you farther, Miss Stanley, unavailingly; and since I
shall not have the pleasure of seeing you again this evening,” concluded
he, in a constrained voice, “I have the honour to wish you a good
night.” He returned to the music-room.


Helen instantly went to Cecilia’s room; Felicie was with her. Helen
expected Lady Cecilia would dismiss her instantly; but mademoiselle was
chattering. Helen had sometimes thought Cecilia let her talk too much,
but to-night it was insufferable. Helen was too impatient, too anxious
to bear it. “Cecilia, my dear, I want to speak to you alone, as soon as
you can, in my own room.”

“As soon as possible,” Cecilia answered in a voice not natural. And she
came, but not as soon as possible--shut the door behind her, showing
that she had not dismissed Felicie, and, with hair dishevelled, as if
hastening back to her room, said, “I am in a hurry; the general ordered
me to make haste, and not to be an hour undressing.

“I will not keep you a moment,” said Helen. “I am in as great a hurry as
you can be. Beauclerc is waiting for me.”

“Waiting for you at this time of night! Oh! my dear, he cannot be
standing there with his arms folded all this time.”

Helen repeated what the general had said, and ended with, “I am
determined to return.”

“No no,” Lady Cecilia said. The general could not advise her going back
at this time of night. And with rapidity and confusion, she poured out
a multitude of dissuasive arguments, some contradicting the others. “At
this time of night! The world is not gone, and Beauclerc is in the midst
of them by this time, you may be sure. You don’t think he is standing
alone there all this time. You could not speak to him before all the
world--don’t attempt it. You would only expose yourself. You would
make a scene at last--undo all, and come to disgrace, and ruin me and
yourself. I know you would, Helen. And if you were to send for him--into
the library--alone! the servants would know it--and the company
gone! And after all, for you, my dear, to make the first advance
to reconciliation! If he is angry--I don’t think that would be
quite--dignified; quite like you, Helen.”

“The general thinks it right, and I am sure he would not advise
any thing improper--undignified. It does not signify, Cecilia, I am
determined--I will go.” Trembling, she grew absolutely desperate from
fear. “I am afraid you have forgot your promise, Cecilia; you said that
if I could bear it for one hour, it would be over. Did you not promise
me that if any difficulty came between me and----” She stopped short.
She had felt indignant; but when she looked at Cecilia, and saw her
tears, she could not go on. “Oh Helen!” cried Cecilia, “I do not ask you
to pity me. You cannot know what I suffer--you are innocent--and I have
done so wrong! You cannot pity me.”

“I do, I do,” cried Helen, “from the bottom of my heart. Only trust me,
dear Cecilia; let me go down----”

Lady Cecilia sprang between her and the door. “Hear Me! hear me, Helen!
Do not go to-night, and, cost what it will--cost me what it may, since
it has come to this between you, I will confess all this night--I will
tell all to the general, and clear you with him and with Granville. What
more can you ask?--what more can I do, Helen? And will you go?”

“No no, my dear Cecilia. Since you promise me this, I will not go now.”

“Be satisfied then, and rest--for me there is no rest;” so saying
Cecilia slowly left the room.

Helen could not sleep: this was the second wretched night she had passed
in that most miserable of all uncertainty--whether she was right or

In the morning, to Helen’s astonishment, Cecilia’s first words were
about a dream--“Oh, my dear Helen, I have had such a dream! I do not
usually mind dreams in the least, but I must own to you that this has
made an impression! My dear, I can hardly tell it; I can scarcely bear
to think of it. I thought that Clarendon and I were sitting together,
and my hand was on his shoulder; and I had worked myself up--I was just
going to speak. He was winding up his watch, and I leaned forward to
see his face better. He looked up-and it was not him: it was Colonel
D’Aubigny come to life. The door opened, Clarendon appeared--his eyes
were upon me; but I do not know what came afterwards; all was confusion
and fighting. And then I was with that nurse my mother recommended, and
an infant in her arms. I was going to take the child, when Clarendon
snatched it, and threw it into the flames. Oh! I awoke with a scream!”

“How glad you must have been,” said Helen, “to awake and find it was
only a dream!”

“But when I screamed,” continued Cecilia, “Clarendon started up, and
asked if I was in pain. ‘Not of body,’ I said;--and then--oh, Helen!
then I thought I would begin. ‘Not of body,’ I said, ‘but of mind;’ then
I added, ‘I was thinking of Helen and Beauclerc,’ Clarendon said,
‘So was I; but there is no use in thinking of it; we can do no
good.’--‘Then,’ I said, ‘suppose, Clarendon--only suppose that Helen,
without saying any thing, were to let this matter pass off with
Beauclerc?’--Clarendon answered, ‘It would not pass off with
Beauclerc.’--‘But,’ said I, ‘I do not mean without any explanation at
all. Only suppose that Helen did not enter into any particulars, do not
you think, Clarendon, that things would go on well enough?’--‘No,’ he
said decidedly, ‘no.’--‘Do you mean,’ said I, ‘that things would not go
on at all?’--‘I do not say, not at all,’ he answered; ‘but _well_ they
would not go on.’”

“I am sure the general is right,” said Helen.

“Then,” continued Lady Cecilia, “then I put the question differently. I
wanted to feel my way, to try whether I could possibly venture upon my
own confession. ‘Consider it this way, Clarendon,’ I said. ‘Take it
for granted that Helen did somehow arrange that Beauclerc were to be
satisfied without any formal explanation.’--‘Formal!’ said he,--‘I will
not say formal,’ said I; ‘but without a _full_ explanation: in short,
suppose that from mere timidity, Helen could not, did not, exactly tell
him the whole before marriage--put it off till afterwards--then told him
all candidly; do you think, Clarendon, that if you were in Beauclerc’s
place (I quite stammered when I came to this)--do you think you could
pardon, or forgive, or esteem, or love,’ I intended to end with, but he
interrupted me with--‘I do not know,’ very shortly; and added, ‘I hope
this is not what Miss Stanley intends to do?’”

“Oh! what did you answer?” cried Helen.

“I said I did not know. My dear Helen, it was the only thing I could
say. What would Clarendon have thought, after all my _supposes_, if I
had said any thing else? he must have seen the truth.”

“And that he is not to see,” said Helen: “and how false he must think

“No, no; for I told him,” continued Lady Cecilia, “that I was sure you
wished always to tell the whole truth about everything, but that there
might be circumstances where you really could not; and where I, knowing
all the circumstances, could not advise it. He said, ‘Cecilia, I desire
you will not advise or interfere any farther in this matter. Promise
me, Cecilia!’ He spoke sternly, and I promised as fast as I could. ‘Do
nothing, say nothing more about it,’ he repeated; and now, after that,
could I go on, Helen?”

“No, indeed; I do not think you could. My dear Cecilia, I really think
you could not,” said Helen, much moved.

“And do you forgive me, my dear, good----.” But seeing Helen change
colour, Lady Cecilia, following her eye, and looking out of the window,
started up, exclaiming, “There is Beauclerc; I see him in my mother’s
walk. I will go to him this minute; yes, I will trust him--I will tell
him all instantly.”

Helen caught hold of her, and stopped her. Surprised, Cecilia said, “Do
not stop me. I may never have the courage again if stopped now. Do not
stop me, Helen.”

“I must, Cecilia. General Clarendon desired you not to interfere in the

“But this is not interfering, only interposing to prevent mischief.”

“But, Cecilia,” continued Helen eagerly, “another reason has just struck

“I wish reasons would not strike you. Let me go. Oh, Helen; it is for

“And it is for you I speak, Cecilia,” said Helen, as fast as she could.
“If you told Beauclerc, you never could afterwards tell the general; it
would be a new difficulty. You know the general could never endure your
having confessed this to any man but himself--trusted Beauclerc rather
than your husband.”

Cecilia stopped, and stood silent.

“My dear Cecilia,” continued Helen, “you must leave me to my own
judgment now;” and, breaking from Cecilia, she left the room. She
hurried out to meet Beauclerc. He stopped on seeing her, and then came
forward with an air of evident deliberation.

“Do you wish to speak to me, Miss Stanley!”

“Miss Stanley!” cried Helen; “is it come to this, and without hearing

“Without hearing you, Helen! Was not I ready last night to hear you?
Without hearing you! Have not you kept me in torture, the worst of
tortures--suspense? Why did not you speak to me last night?”

“I could not.”

“Why, why?”

“I cannot tell you,” said she.

“Then I can tell you, Helen.”

“You can!”

“And will. Helen, you could not speak to me till you had
consulted--arranged--settled what was to be said--what not to be
said--what told--what left untold.”

Between each half sentence he darted looks at her, defying hers to
contradict--and she could not contradict by word or look. “You could not
speak,” continued he passionately, “till you had well determined
what was to be told--what left untold to me! To me, Helen, your
confiding--devoted--accepted lover! for I protest before Heaven, had
I knelt at the altar with you, Helen Stanley, not more yours, not
more mine could I have deemed you--not more secure of your love and
truth--your truth, for what is love without it!--not more secure of
perfect felicity could I have been on earth than I was when we two sat
together but yesterday evening on that bank. Your words--your looks--and
still your looks--But what signify tears!--Tears, women’s tears! Oh!
what is woman!--and what is man that believes in her?--weaker still?”

“Hear me!--hear me!”

“Hear you?--No, Helen, do not now ask me to hear you.--Do not force
me to hear you.--Do not debase, do not sully, that perfect image of
truth.--Do not sink yourself, Helen, from that height at which it was
my entranced felicity to see you. Leave me one blessed, one sacred
illusion. No,” cried he, with increasing vehemence, “say nothing of all
you have prepared--not one arranged word conned over in your midnight
and your morning consultations,” pointing back to the window of her
dressing-room, where he had seen her and Lady Cecilia.

“You saw,” Helen began----

“Yes.--Am I blind, think you?--I wish I were. Oh! that I could be again
the believing, fond, happy dupe I was but yesterday evening!”

“Dupe!” repeated Helen. “But pour out all--all, dear Granville.
Think--say--what you will--reproach--abuse me as you please. It is a
relief--take it--for I have none to give.”

“None!” cried he, his tone suddenly changing, “no relief to give!--What!
have you nothing to say?--No explanation?--Why speak to me then at all?”

“To tell you so at once--to end your suspense--to tell you that I cannot
explain. The midnight consultation and the morning, were not to prepare
for you excuse or apology, but to decide whether I could tell you the
whole; and since that cannot be, I determined not to enter into any
explanation. I am glad that you do not wish to hear any.”

“Answer me one question,” said he:--“that picture-did you give it to
Colonel D’Aubigny?”

“No. That is a question I can answer. No--he stole it from Cecilia’s
portfolio. Ask me no more.”

“One question more--”

“No, not one more--I cannot tell you anything more.”

She was silent for a moment, he withdrew his eyes, and she went on.

“Granville! I must now put your love and esteem for me to the test. If
that love be what I believe it to be; if your confidence in me is what I
think it ought to be, I am now going to try it. There is a mystery which
I cannot explain. I tell you this, and yet I expect you to believe
that I am innocent of anything wrong but the concealment. There are
circumstances which I cannot tell you.”

“But why?” interrupted Beauclerc.--“Ought there to be any circumstances
which cannot be told to the man to whom you have plighted your faith?
Away with this ‘cannot--this mystery!’ Did not I tell you every folly
of my life--every fault? And what is this?--in itself,
nothing!--concealment everything--Oh! Helen--”

She was going to say, “If it concerned only myself,”--but that would at
once betray Cecilia, and she went on.--“If it were in my opinion right
to tell it to you, I would. On this point, Granville, leave me to judge
and act for myself. This is the test to which I put your love--put mine
to any test you will, but if your confidence in me is not sufficient to
endure this trial, we can never be happy together.” She spoke very
low: but Beauclerc listened with such intensity that he could not only
distinguish every syllable she said, but could distinctly hear the
beating of her heart, which throbbed violently, in spite of all her
efforts to be calm. “Can you trust me?” concluded she.

“I can,” cried he. “I can--I do! By Heaven I do! I think you an angel,
and legions of devils could not convince me of the contrary. I trust
your word--I trust that heavenly countenance--I trust entirely----”
 He offered, and she took his offered hand. “I trust entirely. Not one
question more shall I ask--not a suspicion shall I have: you put me to
the test, you shall find me stand it.”

“Can you?” said she; “you know how much I ask. I acknowledge a mystery,
and yet I ask you to believe that I am not wrong.”

“I know,” said she; “you shall see.” And both in happiness once more,
they returned to the house.

“I love her a thousand times better than ever,” thought Beauclerc, “for
the independence of mind she shows in thus braving my opinion, daring
to set all upon the cast--something noble in this! I am to form my own
judgment of her, and I will, independently of what any other human being
may say or think. The general, with his strict, narrow, conventional
notions, has not an idea of the kind of woman I like, or of what Helen
really is. He sees in Helen only the discreet proper-behaved young lady,
adapted, so nicely adapted to her place in society, to nitch and notch
in, and to be of no sort of value out of it. Give me a being able to
stand alone, to think and feel, decide and act, for herself. Were Helen
only what the general thinks her, she would not be for me; while she
is what I think her, I love--I adore!” And when he saw his guardian,
Beauclerc declared that, though Helen had entered into no explanations,
he was perfectly satisfied.

The general answered, “I am glad you _are_ satisfied.” Beauclerc
perceived that the general was not; and in spite of all that he had just
been saying to himself, this provoked and disgusted him. His theory of
his own mind, if not quite false, was still a little at variance with
his practice. His guardian’s opinion swayed him powerfully, whenever he
believed that it was not designed to influence him; when the opinion was
repressed, he could not rest without drawing it out. “Then, you think,
general,” said he, “that some explanation ought to have been made?”

“No matter what I think, Granville, the affair is yours. If you are
satisfied, that is all that is necessary.”

Then even, because left on their own point of suspension to vibrate
freely, the diamond-scales of Beauclerc’s mind began to move, from some
nice, unseen cause of variation. “But,” said he, “General Clarendon, no
one can judge without knowing facts.”

“So I apprehend,” said the general.

“I may be of too easy faith,” replied Beauclerc.--[No reply.] “This is
a point of honour.”--[No denial.] “My dear general, if there be anything
which weighs with you, and which you know and I do not, I think, as my
friend and my guardian, you ought to tell it to me.”

“Pardon me,” said the general, turning away from Beauclerc as he spoke,
and striking first one heel of his boot against the scraper at the
hall-door, then the other--“pardon me, Granville, I cannot admit you to
be a better judge than I am myself of what I ought to do or not to do.”

The tone was dry and proud, but Beauclerc’s provoked imagination
conceived it to be also mysterious; the scales of his mind vibrated
again, but he had said he would trust--trust entirely, and he would: yet
he could not succeed in banishing all doubt, till an idea started into
his head--“That writing was Lady Cecilia’s! I thought so at the first
moment, and I let it go again. It is hers, and Helen is keeping her
secret:--but could Lady Cecilia be so ungenerous--so treacherous?”
 However, he had declared he would ask no questions; he was a man of
honour, and he would ask none--none even of himself--a resolution which
he found it surprisingly easy to keep when the doubt concerned only Lady
Cecilia. Whenever the thought crossed his mind, he said to himself, “I
will ask nothing--suspect nobody; but if it is Lady Cecilia’s affair, it
is all the more generous in Helen.” And so, secure in this explanation,
though he never allowed to himself that he admitted it, his trust in
Helen was easy and complete, and his passion for her increased every

But Lady Cecilia was disturbed even by the perfect confidence and
happiness of Beauclerc’s manner towards Helen. She could not but fear
that he had guessed the truth; and it seemed as if everything which
happened tended to confirm him in his suspicions; for, whenever the mind
is strongly interested on any subject, something alluding to it seems
wonderfully, yet accidentally, to occur in everything that we read,
or hear in common conversation, and so it now happened; things were
continually said by persons wholly unconcerned, which seemed to bear
upon her secret. Lady Cecilia frequently felt this with pangs of
confusion, shame, and remorse; and, though Beauclerc did not watch, or
play the spy upon her countenance, he could not help sometimes observing
the flitting colour--the guilty changes of countenance--the assumed
composure: that mind, once so artless, began to be degraded--her spirits
sank; she felt that she “had lost the sunshine of a soul without a

The day fixed for the marriage approached; Lady Cecilia had undertaken
the superintendence of the _trousseau_, and Felicie was in anxious
expectation of its arrival. Helen had written to the Collingwoods to
announce the intended event, asking for the good bishop’s sanction, as
her guardian, and regretting that he could not perform the ceremony.
She had received from Lady Davenant a few lines, written just before she
sailed, warm with all the enthusiasm of her ardent heart, and full of
expectation that Helen’s lot would be one of the happiest this world
could afford. All seemed indeed to smile upon her prospects, and the
only clouds which dimmed the sunshine were Cecilia’s insincerity,
and her feeling that the general thought her acting unhandsomely and
unwisely towards his ward; but she consoled herself with the thought
that he could not judge of what he did not know, that she did not
deserve his displeasure, that Granville was satisfied, and if he was,
why should not General Clarendon be so too? Much more serious, however,
was the pain she felt on Cecilia’s account. She reproached herself with
betraying the trust Lady Davenant had reposed in her. That dreadful
prophecy seemed now accomplishing: Cecilia’s natural generosity, that
for which Helen had ever most loved and admired her, the brightest,
fairest parts of her character, seemed failing now; what could be more
selfish than Cecilia’s present conduct towards herself, more treacherous
to her noble minded, her confiding husband! The openness, the perfect
unreserve between the two friends, was no longer what it had been.
Helen, however, felt the constraint between them the less as she was
almost constantly with Beauclerc, and in her young happiness she hoped
all would be right. Cecilia would tell the general, and they would be as
intimate, as affectionate, as they had ever been.

One morning General Clarendon, stopping Cecilia as she was coming down
to breakfast, announced that he was obliged to set off instantly for
London, on business which could not be delayed, and that she must
settle with Miss Stanley whether they would accompany him or remain at
Clarendon Park. He did not know, he said, how long he might be detained.

Cecilia was astonished, and excessively curious; she tried her utmost
address to discover what was the nature of his business, in vain. All
that remained was to do as he required without more words. He left the
room, and Cecilia decided at once that they had better accompany him.
She dreaded some delay; she thought that, if the general went alone
to town, he might be detained Heaven knows how long; and though the
marriage must be postponed at all events, yet if they went with the
general, the ceremony might be performed in town as well as at Clarendon
Park; and she with some difficulty convinced Helen of this. Beauclerc
feared nothing but delay. They were to go. Lady Cecilia announced their
decision to the general, who immediately set off, and the others in a
few hours followed him.


“In my youth, and through the prime of manhood, I never entered London
without feelings of hope and pleasure. It was to me the grand theatre
of intellectual activity, the field for every species of enterprise and
exertion, the metropolis of the world, of business, thought, and action.
There, I was sure to find friends and companions, to hear the voice
of encouragement and praise. There, society of the most refined sort
offered daily its banquets to the mind, and new objects of interest
and ambition were constantly exciting attention either in politics,
literature, or science.”

These feelings, so well described by a man of genius, have probably
been felt more or less by most young men who have within them any
consciousness of talent, or any of that enthusiasm, that eager desire
to have or to give sympathy, which, especially in youth, characterises
noble natures. But after even one or two seasons in a great metropolis
these feelings often change long before they are altered by age.
Granville Beauclerc had already persuaded himself that he now detested,
as much as he had at first been delighted with, a London life. From his
metaphysical habits of mind, and from the sensibility of his temper, he
had been too soon disgusted by that sort of general politeness which, as
he said, takes up the time and place of real friendship; and as for the
intellectual pleasures, they were, he said, too superficial for him; and
his notions of independence, too, were at this time quite incompatible
with the conventional life of a great capital. His present wish was to
live all the year round in the country, with the woman he loved, and in
the society of a few chosen friends. Helen quite agreed with him in his
taste for the country; she had scarcely ever known any other life, and
yet had always been happy; and whatever youthful curiosity had been
awakened in her mind as to the pleasures of London, had been now
absorbed by stronger and more tender feelings. Her fate in life, she
felt, was fixed, and wherever the man she loved wished to reside,
that, she felt, must be her choice. With these feelings they arrived at
General Clarendon’s delightful house in town.

Helen’s apartment, and Cecilia’s, were on different floors, and had no
communication with each other. It was of little consequence, as their
stay in town was to be but short, yet Helen could not help observing
that Cecilia did not express any regret at it, as formerly she would
have done; it seemed a symptom of declining affection, of which, every
the slightest indication was marked and keenly felt by Helen, the more
so because she had anticipated that such must be the consequence of all
that had passed between them, and there was now no remedy.

Among the first morning visitors admitted were Lady Castlefort and Lady
Katrine Hawksby. They did not, as it struck Cecilia, seem surprised to
see that Miss Stanley was Miss Stanley still, though the day for the
marriage had been announced in all the papers as fixed; but they did
seem now full of curiosity to know how it had come to pass, and there
was rather too apparent a hope that something was going wrong. Their
first inquisitive look was met by Lady Cecilia’s careless glance in
reply, which said better than words could express, “Nothing the matter,
do not flatter yourselves.” Then her expertness at general answers which
give no information, completely baffled the two curious impertinents.
They could only learn that the day for the marriage was not fixed, that
it could not be definitively named till some business should be settled
by the general. Law business they supposed, of course. Lady Cecilia
“knew nothing about it. Lawyers are such provoking wretches, with their
fast bind fast find. Such an unconscionable length of time as they do
take for their parchment doings, heeding nought of that little impatient
flapper Cupid.”

Certain that Lady Cecilia was only playing with their curiosity, yet
unable to circumvent her, Lady Katrine changed the conversation, and
Lady Castlefort preferred a prayer, which was, she said, the chief
object of her visit, that Lady Cecilia and Miss Stanley would come to
her on Monday; she was to have a few friends--a very small party, and
independently of the pleasure she should have in seeing them, it would
be advantageous perhaps to Miss Stanley, as Lady Castlefort, in her
softest voice, added, “For from the marriage being postponed even for
a few days, people might talk, and Mr. Beauclerc and Miss Stanley
appearing together would prevent anybody’s thinking there was any
little--Nothing so proper now as for a young lady to appear with her
_futur_; so I shall expect you, my dear Cecilia, and Miss Stanley,”--and
so saying, she departed. Helen’s objections were all overruled, and when
the engagement was made known to Beauclerc, he shrugged, and shrank, and
submitted; observing, “that all men, and all women, must from the moment
they come within the precincts of London life, give up their time and
their will to an imaginary necessity of going when we do not like it,
where we do not wish, to see those whom we have no desire to see, and
who do not care if they were never to see us again, except for the sake
of their own reputation of playing well their own parts in the grand
farce of mock civility” Helen was sorry to have joined in making an
engagement for him which he seemed so much to dislike. But Lady Cecilia,
laughing, maintained that half his reluctance was affectation, and the
other half a lover-like spirit of monopoly, in which he should not be
indulged, and instead of pretending to be indifferent to what the world
might think, he ought to be proud to show Helen as a proof of his taste.

In dressing Helen this night, Felicie, excited by her lady’s
exhortations, displayed her utmost skill. Mademoiselle Felicie had a
certain _petite métaphysique de toilette_, of which she was justly vain.
She could talk, and as much to the purpose as most people of “le genre
classique,” and “le genre romantique,” of the different styles of dress
that suit different styles of face; and while “she worked and wondered
at the work she made,” she threw out from time to time her ideas on the
subject to form the taste of Helen’s little maid. Rose, who, in mute
attention, held the light and assiduously presented pins. “Not your pin
so fast one after de other Miss Rose--Tenez! tenez!” cried mademoiselle.
“You tink in England alway too much of your pin in your dress, too
little of our taste--too little of our elegance, too much of your what
you call _tidiness_, or God know what! But never you mind dat so much,
Miss Rose; and you not prim up your little mouth, but listen to me.
Never you put in one pin before you ask yourself, Miss Rose, what for
I do it? In every toilette that has taste there is above all--tenez--a
character--a sentiment to be support; suppose your lady is to be
superbe, or she will rather be élégante, or charmante, or intéressante,
or distinguée--well, dat is all ver’ well, and you dress to that idée,
one or oder--well, very well--but none of your wat you call _odd_. No,
no, never, Miss Rose--dat is not style noble; ‘twill only become de
petit minois of your English originale. I wash my hand of dat always.”
 The toilette superbe mademoiselle held to be the easiest of all those
which she had named with favour, it may be accomplished by any common
hands; but _head_ is requisite to reach the toilette distinguée. The
toilette superbe requires only cost--a toilette distinguée demands care.
There was a happiness as well as care in Felicie’s genius for dress,
which, ever keeping the height of fashion in view, never lost sight of
nature, adapting, selecting, combining to form a perfect whole, in which
art itself concealed appeared only, as she expressed it, in the sublime
of simplicity. In the midst of all her talking, however, she went on
with the essential business, and as she finished, pronounced “Précepte
commence, exemple achève.”

When they arrived at Lady Castlefort’s, Lady Cecilia was surprised to
find a line of carriages, and noise, and crowds of footmen. How was
this? She had understood that it was to be one of those really small
parties, those select reunions of some few of the high and mighty
families who chance to be in town before Christmas.--“But how is this?”
 Lady Cecilia repeated to herself as she entered the hall, amazed to
find it blazing with light, a crowd on the stairs, and in the anteroom
a crowd, as she soon felt, of an unusual sort. It was not the soft crush
of aristocracy, they found hard unaccustomed citizen elbows,--strange
round-shouldered, square-backed men and women, so over-dressed, so
bejewelled, so coarse--shocking to see, impossible to avoid; not one
figure, one face, Lady Cecilia had ever seen before; till at last, from
the midst of the throng emerged a fair form--a being as it seemed of
other mould, certainly of different caste. It was one of Cecilia’s
former intimates--Lady Emily Greville, whom she had not seen since her
return from abroad. Joyfully they met, and stopped and talked; she was
hastening away, Lady Emily said, “after having been an hour on duty;
Lady Castlefort had made it a point with her to stay after dinner, she
had dined there, and had stayed, and now guard was relieved.”

“But who are all these people? What is all this, my dear Lady Emily?”
 asked Cecilia.

“Do not you know? Louisa has trapped you into coming then, to-night
without telling you how it is?”

“Not a word did she tell me, I expected to meet only our own world.”

“A very different world you perceive this! A sort of farce this is to
the ‘Double Distress,’ a comedy;--in short, one of Lord Castlefort’s
brothers is going to stand for the City, and citizens and citoyennes
must be propitiated. When an election is in the case all other things
give place: and, besides, he has just married the daughter of some
amazing merchant, worth I don’t know how many plums; so _le petit
Bossu_, who is proud of his brother, for he is reckoned the genius
of the family! made it a point with Louisa to do this. She put up her
eyebrows, and stood out as long as she could, but Lord Castlefort had
his way, for he holds the purse you know,--and so she was forced to make
a party for these Goths and Vandals, and of course she thought it best
to do it directly, out of season, you know, when nobody will see it--and
she consulted me whether it should be large or small; I advised a large
party, by all means, as crowded as possible.”

“Yes, yes, I understand,” said Cecilia; “to hide the shame in the
multitude; vastly well, very fair all this, except the trapping us into
it, who have nothing to do with it.”

“Nothing to do with it! pardon me,” cried Lady Emily. “It could not have
been done without us. Entrapping us!--do not you understand that we
are the baits to the traps? Bringing those animals here, wild beasts or
tame, only to meet one another, would have been ‘doing business no how.’
We are what they are ‘come for to see,’ or to have it to say that they
have seen the Exclusives, Exquisites, or Transcendentals, or whatever
else they call us.”

“Lady Emily Greville’s carriage!” was now called in the anteroom.

“I must go, but first make me known to your friend Miss Stanley, you
see I know her by instinct;” but “Lady Emily Greville’s carriage!” now
resounded reiteratedly, and gentlemen with cloaks stood waiting, and as
she put hers on, Lady Emily stooped forward and whispered,

“I do not believe one word of what they say of her,” and she was off,
and Lady Cecilia stood for an instant looking after her, and considering
what she could mean by those last words. Concluding, however, that she
had not heard aright, or had missed some intervening name, and that
these words, in short, could not possibly apply to Helen, Lady Cecilia
turned to her, they resumed their way onward, and at length they reached
the grand reception-room.

In the middle of that brilliantly lighted saloon, immediately under the
centre chandelier, was ample verge and space enough reserved for the
_élite_ of the world; circle it was not, nor square, nor form regularly
defined, yet the bounds were guarded. There was no way of getting to
the further end of the saloon, or to the apartments open in the distance
beyond it, except by passing through this enclosed space, in which one
fair entrance was practicable, and one ample exit full in view on
the opposite side. Several gentlemen of fashionable bearing held the
outposts of this privileged place, at back of sofa, or side of fauteuil,
stationary, or wandering near. Some chosen few were within; two
caryatides gentlemen leaned one on each side of the fireplace, and in
the centre of the rug stood a remarkably handsome man, of fine figure,
perfectly dressed, his whole air exquisitely scornful, excruciatingly
miserable, and loftily abstract. ‘Twas wonderful, ‘twas strange, ‘twas
passing strange! how one so lost to all sublunary concerns, so far above
the follies of inferior mortals, as he looked, came here--so extremely
well-dressed too! How happened it? so nauseating the whole, as he
seemed, so wishing that the business of the world were done! With
half-closed dreamy eyelids he looked silent down upon two ladies who
sat opposite to him, rallying, abusing, and admiring him to his vanity’s
content. They gave him his choice of three names, l’Ennuyé, le Frondeur,
or le Blasé. L’Ennuyé? he shook his head; too common; he would have none
of it. Le Frondeur? no; too much trouble; he shrugged his abhorrence.
Le Blasé? he allowed, might be too true. But would they hazard a
substantive verb? He would give them four-and-twenty hours to consider,
and he would take twenty-four himself to decide. They should have his
definitive to-morrow, and he was sliding away, but Lady Castlefort, as
he passed her, cried, “Going, Lord Beltravers, going are you?” in an
accent of surprise and disappointment; and she whispered, “I am hard at
work here, acting receiver general to these city worthies; and you do
not pity me--cruel!” and she looked up with languishing eyes, that
so begged for sympathy. He threw upon her one look of commiseration,
reproachful. “Pity you, yes! But why will you do these things? and why
did you bring me here to do this horrid sort of work?” and he vanished.

Lady Cecilia Clarendon and Miss Stanley now appeared in the _offing_,
and now reached the straits: Lady Castlefort rose with vivacity
extraordinary, and went forward several steps. “Dear Cecilia! Miss
Stanley, so good! Mr. Beauclerc, so happy! the general could not? so
sorry!” Then with hand pressed on hers, “Miss Stanley, so kind of you to
come. Lady Grace, give me leave--Miss Stanley--Lady Grace Bland,” and in
a whisper, “Lord Beltravers’ aunt.”

Lady Grace, with a haughty drawback motion, and a supercilious arching
of her brows, was “happy to have the honour.” Honour nasally prolonged,
and some guttural sounds followed, but further words, if words they
were, which she syllabled between snuffling and mumbling, were utterly
unintelligible; and Helen, without being “very happy,” or happy at all,
only returned bend for bend.

Lady Cecilia then presented her to a group of sister graces standing
near the sofas of mammas and chaperons--not each a different grace,
but similar each, indeed upon the very same identical pattern air of
young-lady fashion--well-bred, and apparently well-natured. No sooner
was Miss Stanley made known to them by Lady Cecilia, than, smiling just
enough, not a muscle too much, they moved; the ranks opened softly, but
sufficiently, and Helen was in the group; amongst them, but not _of_
them--and of this she became immediately sensible, though without
knowing how or why. One of these daughters had had expectations last
season from having been frequently Mr. Beauclerc’s partner, and the
mother was now fanning herself opposite to him. But Helen knew nought
of this: to her all was apparently soft, smooth, and smiling. While,
whenever any of the unprivileged multitude, the city monsters, passed
near this high-born, high-bred group, they looked as though the
rights of pride were infringed, and, smiling scorn, they dropped from
half-closed lips such syllables of withering contempt, as they thought
these vulgar victims merited: careless if they heard or not, rather
rejoicing to see the sufferers wince beneath the wounds which they
inflicted in their pride and pomp of sway. “Pride!” thought Helen,
“was it pride?” If pride it was, how unlike what she had been taught
to consider the proper pride of aristocracy; how unlike that noble sort
which she had seen, admired, and loved! Helen fancied what Lady Davenant
would have thought, how ignoble; how mean, how vulgar she would have
considered these sneers and scoffs from the nobly to the lowly born. How
unworthy of their rank and station in society! They who ought to be the
first in courtesy, because the first in place.

As these thoughts passed rapidly in Helen’s mind, she involuntarily
looked towards Beauclerc; but she was so encompassed by her present
companions that she could not discover him. Had she been able to see
his countenance, she would have read in it at once how exactly he was at
that instant feeling with her. More indignant than herself, for his
high chivalrous devotion to the fair could ill endure the readiness with
which the gentlemen, attendants at ottoman or sofa, lent their aid to
mock and to embarrass every passing party of the city tribe, mothers and
their hapless daughter-train.

At this instant Lady Bearcroft, who, if she had not good breeding,
certainly had good-nature, came up to Beauclerc, and whispered
earnestly, and with an expression of strong interest in her countenance,
“As you love her, do not heed one word you hear anybody say this night,
for it’s all on purpose to vex you; and I am certain as you are it’s
all false--all envy. And there she goes, Envy herself in the black
jaundice,” continued she, looking at Lady Katrine Hawksby, who passed at
that instant.

“Good Heavens!” cried Beauclerc, “what can----”

“No, no,” interrupted Lady Bearcroft, “no, no, do not ask--better not;
best you should know no more--only keep your temper whatever happens. Go
you up the hill, like the man in the tale, and let the black stones
bawl themselves hoarse--dumb. Go you on, and seize your pretty singing
thinking bird--the sooner the better. So fare you well.”

And she disappeared in the crowd. Beauclerc, to whom she was perfectly
unknown, (though she had made him out,) totally at a loss to imagine
what interest she could take in Helen or in him, or what she could
possibly mean, rather inclined to suppose she was a mad women, and he
forgot everything else as he saw Helen with Lady Cecilia emerging from
the bevy of young ladies and approaching him. They stopped to speak
to some acquaintance, and he tried to look at Helen as if he were an
indifferent spectator, and to fancy what he should think of her if he
saw her now for the first time. He thought that he should be struck
not only with her beauty, but with her graceful air--her ingenuous
countenance, so expressive of the freshness of natural sensibility. She
was exquisitely well dressed too, and that, as Felicie observed, goes
for much, even with your most sensible men. Altogether he was charmed,
whether considering her as with the eyes of an unbiased stranger or with
his own. And all he heard confirmed, and, although he would not have
allowed it, strengthened his feelings. He heard it said that, though
there were some as handsome women in the room, there were none so
interesting; and some of the young men added, “As lovely as Lady
Blanche, but with more expression.” A citizen, with whom Beauclerc could
have shaken hands on the spot, said, “There’s one of the highbreds, now,
that’s well-bred too.” In the height of the rapture of his feelings
he overtook Lady Cecilia, who telling him that they were going on to
another room, delivered Helen to his care, and herself taking the arm of
some ready gentleman, they proceeded as fast as they could through the
crowd to the, other end of the room.

This was the first time Helen had ever seen Lady Cecilia in public,
where certainly she appeared to great advantage. Not thinking about
herself, but ever willing to be pleased; so bright, so gay, she was
sunshine which seemed to spread its beams wherever she turned. And she
had something to say to everybody, or to answer quick to whatever they
said or looked, happy always in the _àpropos_ of the moment. Little
there might be, perhaps, in what she said, but there was all that was
wanted, just what did for the occasion. In others there often appeared
a distress for something to say, or a dead dullness of countenance
opposite to you. From others, a too fast hazarded broadside of questions
and answers--glads and sorrys in chain-shots that did no execution,
because there was no good aim--congratulations and condolences playing
at cross purposes--These were mistakes, misfortunes, which could never
occur in Lady Cecilia’s natural grace and acquired tact of manner. Helen
was amused, as she followed her, in watching the readiness with which
she knew how to exchange the necessary counters in the commerce of
society: she was amused, till her attention was distracted by hearing,
as she and Beauclerc passed, the whispered words--“_I promessi
sposi_--look--_La belle fiancée_.” These words were repeated as they
went on, and Lady Cecilia heard some one say, “I thought it was broken
off; that was all slander then?” She recollected Lady Emily’s words,
and, terrified lest Helen should hear more of--she knew not what, she
began to talk to her as fast as she could, while they were stopped in
the door-way by a crowd. She succeeded for the moment with Helen;
she had not heard the last speech, and she could not, as long as Lady
Cecilia spoke, hear more; but Beauclerc again distinguished the words
“_Belle fiancée_;” and as he turned to discover the speaker, a fat
matron near him asked, “Who is it?” and the daughter answered, “It is
that handsome girl, with the white rose in her hair.”--“Hush!” said the
brother, on whose arm she leaned; “Handsome is that handsome does.”

Handsome does! thought Beauclerc: and the mysterious warning of his
unknown friend recurred to him. He was astonished, alarmed, furious; but
the whispering party had passed on, and just then Lady Cecilia descrying
Mr. Churchill in the distance, she made towards him. Conversation sure
to be had in abundance from him. He discerned them from afar, and
was happily prepared both with a ready bit of wit and with a proper
greeting. His meeting with Lady Cecilia was, of course, just the same as
ever. He took it up where he left off at Clarendon Park; no difference,
no hiatus. His bow to Beauclerc and Helen, to Helen and Beauclerc,
joined in one little sweep of a congratulatory motion, was incomparable:
it said everything that a bow could say, and more. It implied such a
happy freedom from envy or jealousy; such a polite acquiescence in the
decrees of fate; such a philosophic indifference; such a cool sarcastic
superiority to the event; and he began to Lady Cecilia with one of his
prepared impromptus: “At the instant your ladyship came up, I am afraid
I started, actually in a trance, I do believe. Methought I was--where do
you think? In the temple of Jaggernaut.”

“Why?” said Lady Cecilia smiling.

“Methought,” continued Horace, “that I was in the temple of
Jaggernaut--that one strange day in the year, when ill castes meet, when
all distinction of castes and ranks is forgotten--the abomination of
mixing them all together permitted, for their sins no doubt--high caste
and low, from the abandoned Paria to the Brahmin prince, from their
Billingsgate and Farringilon Without, suppose, up to their St. James’s,
Street and Grosvenor Square, mingle, mingle, ye who mingle may, white
spirits and grey, black spirits and blue. Now, pray look around: is not
this Jaggernaut night with Lady Castlefort?”

“And you,” said Lady Cecilia; “are not you the great Jaggernaut himself,
driving over all in your triumphant chariot of sarcasm, and crushing all
the victims in your way?”

This took place with Horace; it put him in spirits, in train, and he
fired away at Lady Castlefort, whom he had been flattering _à loutrance_
five minutes before.

“I so admire that acting of sacrifice in your _belle cousine_ to-night!
Pasta herself could not do it better. There is a look of ‘Oh, ye just
gods! what a victim am I!’ and with those upturned eyes so charming!
Well, and seriously it is a sad sacrifice. Fathers have flinty hearts by
parental prescription; but husbands--_petit Bossus_ especially--should
have mercy for their own sakes; they should not strain their marital
power too far.”

“But,” said Lady Cecilia, “it is curious, that one born and bred such
an ultra exclusive as Louisa Castlefort, should be obliged after her
marriage immediately to open her doors and turn ultra liberale, or an
universal suffragist--all in consequence of these _mésalliances_.”

“True, true,” said Churchill, with a solemn, pathetic shake of the
head. “Gentlemen and noblemen should consider before they make these low
matches to save their studs, or their souls, or their entailed estates.
Whatever be the necessity, there can be no apology for outraging all
_bienséance_. Necessity has no law, but it should have some decency.
Think of, bringing upon a foolish elder brother--But we won’t be

“No, don’t pray, Horace,” said Lady Cecilia, moving on. “But think,
only think, my dear Lady Cecilia; think what it must be to be
‘_How-d’ye-doed_,’ and to be ‘dear sistered’ by such bodies as these in

“Sad! sad!” said Lady Cecilia.

“The old French nobility,” continued Churchill, “used to call these low
money-matches, ‘mettre du fumier sur nos terres.’”

“Dirty work at best,” said Lady Cecilia.

“But still,” said Horace, “it might be done with decency if not with

“But in the midst of all this,” said Lady Cecilia, “I want some ice very
much for myself, and for Helen more.”

“I have a notion we shall find some here,” replied he, “if you will come
on this way--in this _sanctum sanctorum_ of Lady Katrine’s.”

He led them on to a little inner apartment, where, as he said, Lady
Katrine Hawksby and her set do always scandal take, and sometimes
tea.--“Tea and punch,” continued he, “you know, in London now is quite
_à la Française_, and it is astonishing to me, who am but a man, what
strong punch ladies can take.”

“Only when it is iced,” said Lady Cecilia, smiling.

“Be it so,” said he,--“very refreshing ice, and more refreshing scandal,
and here we have both in perfection. Scandal, hot and hot, and ice, cold
and cold.”

By this time they had reached the entrance to what he called Lady
Katrine’s _sanctum sanctorum_, where she had gathered round the iced
punch and tea-table a select party, whom she had drawn together with the
promise of the other half of a half-published report,--a report in which
“_I promessi Sposi_” and “_La belle fiancée_” were implicated!

“Stop here one moment,” cried Churchill, “one moment longer. Let us see
before we are seen. Look in, look in pray, at this group. Lady Katrine
herself on the sofa, finger up--holding forth; and the deaf old woman
stretching forward to hear, while the other, with the untasted punch,
sits suspended in curiosity. ‘What can it be?’ she says, or seems to
say. Now, now, see the pretty one’s hands and eyes uplifted, and the
ugly one, with that look of horror, is exclaiming, ‘You don’t say so, my
dear Lady Katrine!’ Admirable creatures! Cant and scandal personified! I
wish Wilkie were here--worth any money to him.”

“And he should call it ‘The scandal party,’” said Lady Cecilia. “He told
me he never could venture upon a subject unless he could give it a good

At this moment Lady Katrine, having finished her story, rose, and
awaking from the abstraction of malice, she looked up and saw Helen
and Lady Cecilia, and, as she came forward, Churchill whispered between
them, “Now--now we are going comfortably to enjoy, no doubt, Madame de
Sevigné’s pleasure ‘de mal dire du prochain,’ at the right hour too.”

Churchill left them there. Lady Katrine welcoming her victims--her
unsuspicious victims--he slid off to the friends round the tea-table to
learn from “Cant” what “Scandal” had been telling. Beauclerc was gone
to inquire for the carriage. The instant Helen appeared, all eyes were
fixed upon her, and “Belle fiancée” was murmured round, and, Cecilia
heard--“He’s much to be pitied.”

At this moment Lord Castlefort went up to Helen; she had always been a
favourite of his; he was grateful to her for her constant kindness to
him, and, peevish though the little man might be, he had a good heart,
and he showed it now by instantly taking Helen out of the midst of the
starers, and begging her opinion upon a favourite picture of his, a
Madonna.--Was it a Raffaelle, or was it not? He and Mr. Churchill,
he said, were at issue about it. In short, no matter what he said, it
engrossed Helen’s attention, so that she could not hear any thing that
passed, and could not be seen by the starers; and he detained her in
conversation till Beauclerc came to say--“The carriage is ready, Lady
Cecilia is impatient.” Lord Castlefort opened a door that led at once
to the staircase, so that they had not to recross all the rooms, but got
out immediately. The smallest service merits thanks, and Helen thanked
Lord Castlefort by a look which he appreciated.

Even in the few words which Beauclerc had said as he announced the
carriage, she had perceived that he was agitated, and, as he attended
her in silence down the stairs, his look was grave and pre-occupied; she
saw he was displeased, and she thought he was displeased with her. When
he had put them into the carriage, he wished them good night.

“Are not you coming with us?” cried Lady Cecilia.

“No, he thanked her, he had rather walk, and,” he added--“I shall not
see you at breakfast--I am engaged.”

“Home!” said Lady Cecilia, drawing up the glass with a jerk.

Helen looked out anxiously. Beauclerc had turned away, but she caught
one more glance of his face as the lamp flared upon it--she saw, and
she was sure that----“Something is very much the matter--I am certain of

“Nonsense, my dear Helen,” said Lady Cecilia; “the matter is, that he is
tired to death, as I am sure I am.”

“There’s more than that,” said Helen, “he is angry,”--and she sighed.

“Now, Helen, do not torment yourself about nothing,” said Cecilia, who,
not being sure whether Beauclerc had heard anything, had not looked at
his countenance or remarked his tone; her mind was occupied with what
had passed while Helen was looking at the Madonna. Lady Cecilia had
tried to make out the meaning of these extraordinary starings and
whisperings--Lady Katrine would not tell her any thing distinctly, but
said, “Strange reports--so sorry it had got into the papers, those vile
libellous papers; of course she did not believe--of Miss Stanley. After
all, nothing very bad--a little awkward only--might be hushed up. Better
not talk of it to-night; but I will try, Cecilia, in the morning, to
find those paragraphs for you.” Lady Cecilia determined to go as early
as possible in the morning, and make out the whole; and, had she plainly
told this to Helen, it would have been better for all parties: but she
continued to talk of the people they had seen, to hide her thoughts from
Helen, who all the time felt as in a feverish dream, watching the lights
of the carriage flit by like fiery eyes, while she thought only of the
strange words she had heard and why they should have made Beauclerc
angry with her.

At last they were at home. As they went in, Lady Cecilia inquired if the
general had come in?--Yes, he had been at home for some time, and was
in bed. This was a relief. Helen was glad not to see any one, or to be
obliged to say anything more that night. Lady Cecilia bade her “be a
good child, and go to sleep.” How much Helen slept may be left to the
judgment of those who have any imagination.


“_Miladi a une migranie affreuse_ this morning,” said Felicie,
addressing herself on the stairs to Rose. “_Mille amitiés de sa part_
to your young lady, Miss Rose, and _miladi_ recommend to her to follow a
good example, and to take her breakfast in her bed, and then to take one
good sleep till you shall hear _midi sonné_.”

Miss Stanley, however, was up and dressed at the time when this message
was brought to her, and a few minutes afterwards a footman came to the
door, to give notice that the general was in the breakfast-room, waiting
to know whether Miss Stanley was coming down or not. The idea of a
_tête-à-tetê_ breakfast with him was not now quite so agreeable as it
would have been to her formerly, but she went down. The general was
standing with his back to the fire, newspapers hanging from his hand,
his look ominously grave. After “Good mornings” had been exchanged with
awful solemnity, Helen ventured to hope that there was no bad public

“No public news whatever,” said the general.

Next, she was sorry to hear that Cecilia had “such a bad headache.”

“Tired last night,” said the general.

“It was, indeed, a tiresome, disagreeable party,” said Helen, hoping
this would lead to how so? or why? but the general drily answered, “Not
the London season,” and went on eating his breakfast in silence.

Such a constraint and awe came upon her, that she felt it would be
taking too great a liberty, in his present mood, to put sugar and cream
into his tea, as she was wont in happier times. She set sugar-bowl
and cream before him, and whether he understood, or noticed not her
feelings, she could not guess. He sugared, and creamed, and drank, and
thought, and spoke not. Helen put out of his way a supernumerary cup, to
which he had already given a push, and she said, “Mr. Beauclerc does not
breakfast with us.”

“So I suppose,” said the general, “as he is not here.”

“He said he was engaged to breakfast.”

“With some of his friends, I suppose,” said the general.

There the dialogue came to a full stop, and breakfast, uncomfortably
on her part, and with a preoccupied air on his, went on in absolute
silence. At length the general signified to the servant who was in
waiting, by a nod, and a look towards the door, that his further
attendance was dispensed with. At another time Helen would have felt
such a dismissal as a relief, for she disliked, and recollected that her
uncle particularly disliked, the fashion of having servants waiting at
a family breakfast, which he justly deemed unsuited to our good old
English domestic habits; but somehow it happened that at this moment she
was rather sorry when the servant left the room. He returned however
in a moment, with something which he fancied to be yet wanting; the
general, after glancing at whatever he had brought, said, “That will do,
Cockburn; we want nothing more.”

Cockburn placed a screen between him and the fire; the general put it
aside, and, looking at him, said sternly--“Cockburn, no intelligence
must ever go from my house to any newspapers.”

Cockburn bowed--“None shall, Sir, if I can prevent it; none ever did
from me, general.”

“None must ever go from anyone in my family--look to it.”

Cockburn bowed again respectfully, but with a look of reservation of
right of remonstrance, answered by a look from his master, of “No more
must be said.” Yet Cockburn was a favourite; he had lived in the family
from the time he was a boy. He moved hastily towards the door, and
having turned the handle, rested upon it and said, “general, I cannot
answer for others.”

“Then, Cockburn, I must find somebody who can.”

Cockburn disappeared, but after closing the door the veteran opened it
again, stood, and said stoutly, though seemingly with some impediment
in his throat--“General Clarendon, do me the justice to give me full

“Whatever you require: say, such are your orders from me, and that
you have full power to dismiss whoever disobeys.” Cockburn bowed, and
withdrew satisfied.

Another silence, when the general hastily finishing his breakfast, took
up the newspaper, and said, “I wished to have spared you the pain of
seeing these, Miss Stanley, but it must be done now. There have appeared
in certain papers, paragraphs alluding to Beauclerc and to you; these
scandalous papers I never allow to enter my house, but I was informed
that there were such paragraphs, and I was obliged to examine into them.
I am sorry to find that they have some of them been copied into my paper

He laid the newspaper before her. The first words which struck her eye
were the dreaded whispers of last night; the paragraph was as follows:

“In a few days will be published the Memoirs of the late Colonel D’----,
comprising anecdotes, and original love-letters; which will explain
the mysterious allusions lately made in certain papers to ‘_La belle
Fiancée_,’ and ‘_I promessi sposi_.”

“What!” exclaimed Helen; “the letters! published!”

The general had turned from her as she read, and had gone to his
writing-desk, which was at the furthest end of the room; he unlocked
it, and took from it a small volume, and turning over the leaves as he
slowly approached Helen, he folded down some pages, laid the volume
on the table before her, and then said, “Before you look into these
scandalous memoirs, Miss Stanley, let me assure you, that nothing but
the necessity of being empowered by you to say what is truth and what is
falsehood, could determine me to give you this shock.”

She was scarcely able to put forward her hand; yet took the book, opened
it, looked at it, saw letters which she knew could not be Cecilia’s,
but turning another leaf, she pushed it from her with horror. It was the
letter--beginning with “My dear--too dear Henry.”

“In print!” cried she; “In print! published!”

“Not published yet, that I hope to be able to prevent,” said the

Whether she heard, whether she could hear him, he was not certain, her
head was bent down, her hands clasping her forehead. He waited some
minutes, then sitting down beside her, with a voice of gentleness and
of commiseration, yet of steady determination, he went on:--“I _must_
speak, and you _must_ hear me, Helen, for your own sake, and for
Beauclerc’s sake.”

“Speak,” cried she, “I hear.”

“Hear then the words of a friend, who will be true to you through
life--through life and death, if you will be but true to yourself, Helen
Stanley--a friend who loves you as he loves Beauclerc; but he must do
more, he must esteem you as he esteems Beauclerc, incapable of any thing
that is false.”

Helen listened with her breath suspended, not a word in reply.

“Then I ask----” She put her hand upon his arm, as if to stop him; she
had a foreboding that he was going to ask something that she could not,
without betraying Cecilia, answer.

“If you are not yet sufficiently collected, I will wait; take your own
time--My question is simple--I ask you to tell me whether _all_ these
letters are your’s or not?”

“No,” cried Helen, “these letters are not mine.”

“Not all,” said the general: “this first one I know to be yours, because
I saw it in your handwriting; but I am certain all cannot be yours: now
will you show me which are and which are not.”

“I will take them to my own room, and consider and examine.”

“Why not look at them here, Miss Stanley?”

She wanted to see Cecilia, she knew she could never answer the question
without consulting her, but that she could not say; still she had no
other resource, so, conquering her trembling, she rose and said, “I
would rather go to----”

“Not to Cecilia,” said he; “to that I object: what can Cecilia do for
you? what can she advise, but what I advise, that the plain truth should
be told?”

“If I could! O if I could!” cried Helen.

“What can you mean? Pardon me, Miss Stanley, but surely you can tell the
plain fact; you can recollect what you have written--at least you can
know what you have not written. You have not yet even looked beyond a
few of the letters--pray be composed--be yourself. This business it was
that brought me to town. I was warned by that young lady, that poetess
of Mr. Churchill’s, whom you made your friend by some kindness at
Clarendon Park--I was warned that there was a book to come out, these
Memoirs of Colonel D’Aubigny, which would contain letters said to be
yours, a publication that would be highly injurious to you. I need
not enter into details of the measures I consequently took; but I
ascertained that Sir Thomas D’Aubigny, the elder brother of the colonel,
knows nothing more of the matter than that he gave a manuscript of
his brother’s, which he had never read, to be published: the rest is
a miserable intrigue between booksellers and literary manufacturers,
I know not whom; I have not been able to get to the bottom of it;
sufficient for my present purpose I know, and must tell you. You have
enemies who evidently desire to destroy your reputation, of course to
break your marriage. For this purpose the slanderous press has been set
at work, the gossiping part of the public has had its vile curiosity
excited, the publication of this book is expected in a few days: this
is the only copy yet completed, I believe, and this I could not get from
the bookseller till this morning; I am now going to have every other
copy destroyed directly.”

“Oh my dear, dear friend, how can I thank you?” Her tears gushed forth.

“Thank me not by words, Helen, but by actions; no tears, summon your
soul--be yourself.”

“O if I could but retrieve one false step!”--she suddenly checked

He stood aghast for an instant, then recovering himself as he looked
upon her and marked the nature of her emotion, he said: “There can be
no false step that you could ever have taken that cannot be retrieved.
There can have been nothing that is irretrievable, except falsehood.”

“Falsehood! No,” cried she, “I will not say what is false--therefore I
will not say anything.”

“Then since you cannot speak,” continued the general, “will you trust me
with the letters themselves? Have you brought them to town with you?”

“The original letters?”

“Yes, those in the packet which I gave to you at Clarendon Park.”

“They are burned.”

“All?--one, this first letter I saw you tear; did you burn all the

“They are burned,” repeated she, colouring all over. She could not say
“I burned them.”

He thought it a poor evasion. “They are burned,” continued he, “that is,
you burned them: unfortunate. I must then recur to my first appeal. Take
this pencil, and mark, I pray you, the passages that are your’s. I may
be called on to prove the forgery of these passages: if you do not show
me, and truly, which are yours, and which are not, how can I answer for
you, Helen?”

“One hour,” said Helen,--“only leave me for one hour, and it shall be

“Why this cowardly delay?”

“I ask only one hour--only leave me for one hour.”

“I obey, Miss Stanley, since it must be so. I am gone.”

He went, and Helen felt how sunk she was in his opinion,--sunk for ever,
she feared! but she could not think distinctly, her mind was stunned;
she felt that she must wait for somebody, but did not at first recollect
clearly that it was for Cecilia. She leaned back on the sofa, and sank
into a sort of dreamy state. How long she remained thus unconscious she
knew not; but she was roused at last by the sound, as she fancied, of
a carriage stopping at the door: she started up, but it was gone, or it
had not been. She perceived that the breakfast things had been removed,
and, turning her eyes upon the clock, she was surprised to see how late
it was. She snatched up the pages which she hated to touch, and ran
up-stairs to Cecilia’s room,--door bolted;--she gave a hasty tap--no
answer; another louder, no answer. She ran into the dressing-room for
Felicie, who came with a face of mystery, and the smile triumphant of
one who knows what is not to be known. But the smile vanished on seeing
Miss Stanley’s face.

“Bon Dieu! Miss Stanley--how pale! mais qu’est ce que c’est? Mon Dieu,
qu’est ce que c’est donc?”

“Is Lady Cecilia’s door bolted within side?” said Helen.

“No, only lock by me,” said Mademoiselle Felicie. “Miladi charge me not
to tell you she was not dere. And I had de presentiment you might go up
to look for her in her room. Her head is got better quite. She is all
up and dress; she is gone out in the carriage, and will soon be back no
doubt. I know not to where she go, but in my opinion to my Lady Katrine.
If you please, you not mention I say dat, as miladi charge me not to
speak of dis to you. _Apparemment quelque petit mystère_.”

Poor Helen felt as if her last hope was gone, and now in a contrary
extreme from the dreamy torpor in which she had been before, she was
seized with a nervous impatience for the arrival of Cecilia, though
whether to hope or fear from it, she did not distinctly know. She went
to the drawing-room, and listened and listened, and watched and watched,
and looked at the clock, and felt a still increasing dread that the
general might return before Lady Cecilia, and that she should not have
accomplished her promise. She became more and more impatient. As it grew
later, the rolling of carriages increased, and their noise grew louder,
and continually as they came near she expected that one would stop at
the door. She expected and expected, and feared, and grew sick with fear
long deferred. At last one carriage did stop, and then came a thundering
knock--louder, she thought, than usual; but before she could decide
whether it was Cecilia or not, the room-door opened, and the servant had
scarcely time to say, that two ladies who did not give their names had
insisted upon being let up--when the two ladies entered. One in the
extreme of foreign fashion, but an Englishwoman, of assured and not
prepossessing appearance; the other, half hid behind her companion, and
all timidity, struck Helen as the most beautiful creature she had ever

“A thousand pardons for forcing your doors,” said the foremost lady;
“but I bear my apology in my hand: a precious little box of Roman
cameos from a friend of Lady Cecilia Clarendon’s, which I was desired to
deliver myself.”

Helen was, of course, sorry that Lady Cecilia was not at home.

“I presume I have the honour of speaking to Miss Stanley,” continued
the assured lady, and she gave her card “Comtesse de St. Cymon.”
 Then half-turning to the beauty, who now became visible--“Allow me to
_mention_--Lady Blanche Forrester.”

At that name Helen did not start, but she felt as if she had received an
electric shock. How she went through the necessary forms of civility
she knew not; but even in the agony of passion the little habits of life
hold their sway. The customary motions were made, and words pronounced;
yet when Helen looked at that beautiful Lady Blanche, and saw how
beautiful! there came a spasm at her heart.

The comtesse, in answer to her look towards a chair, did not “choose to
sit down--could not stay--would not intrude on Miss Stanley.” So they
stood, Helen supporting herself as best she could, and preserving,
apparently, perfect composure, seeming to listen to what farther Madame
de St. Cymon was saying; but only the sounds reached her ear, and a
general notion that she spoke of the box in her hand. She gave Helen
some message to Lady Cecilia, explanatory of her waiting or not waiting
upon her ladyship, to all which Helen answered with proper signs of
civility; and while the comtesse was going on, she longed to look again
at Lady Blanche, but dared not. She saw a half curtsey and a receding
motion; and she knew they were going, and she curtsied mechanically. She
felt inexpressible relief when Madame de St. Cymon turned her back and
moved towards the door. Then Helen looked again at Lady Blanche, and saw
again her surpassing beauty and perfect tranquillity. The tranquillity
gave her courage, it passed instantaneously into herself, through her
whole existence. The comtesse stopped in her way out, to look at a china
table. “Ha! beautiful! Sêvre!--enamel--by Jaquetot, is it not?”

Helen was able to go forward, and answer to all the questions asked. Not
one word from the Lady Blanche; but she wished to hear the sound of
her voice. She tried--she spoke to her; but to whatever Helen said,
no answer came, but the sweetest of smiles. The comtesse, with easy
assurance and impertinent ill-breeding, looked at all that lay in her
way, and took up and opened the miniature pictures that were on the
table. “Lady Cecilia Clarendon--charming!--Blanche, you never saw her
yet. Quite charming, is it not?”

Not a word from Lady Blanche, but a smile, a Guido smile. Another
miniature taken up by the curious comtesse. “Ah! very like indeed! not
flattered though. Do you know it, Blanche--eh?”

It was Beauclerc. Lady Blanche then murmured some few words
indistinctly, in a very sweet voice, but showed no indication of
feeling, except, as Helen gave one glance, she thought she saw a slight
colour, like the inside of a shell, delicately beautiful; but it might
be only the reflection from the crimson silk curtain near which she
stood: it was gone, and the picture put down; and in a lively tone from
the comtesse “_Au revoir_,” and exit, a graceful bend from the silent
beauty, and the vision vanished.

Helen stood for some moments fixed to the spot where they left her. She
questioned her inmost thoughts. “Why was I struck so much, so strangely,
with that beauty--so painfully? It cannot be envy; I never was envious
of any one, though so many I have seen so much handsomer than myself.
Jealousy? surely not; for there is no reason for it--no possibility of
danger. Yet now, alas! when he has so much cause to doubt me! perhaps he
might change. He seemed so displeased last night, and he has never been
here all the morning!” She recollected the look and accent of Madame de
St. Cymon, as she said the words “_au revoir_.” Helen did not like the
words, or the look. She did not like anything about Madame de St. Cymon:
“Something so assured, so impertinent! And all that unintelligible
message about those cameos!--a mere excuse for making this unseasonable
pushing visit--just pushing for the acquaintance. The general will never
permit it, though--that is one comfort. But why do I say comfort?” Back
went the circle of her thoughts to the same point.--“What can I do?--the
general will return, he will find I have not obeyed him. But what can be
done till Cecilia returns? If she were but here, I could mark--we could
settle. O Cecilia! where are you? But,” thought she, “I had better look
at the whole. I will, have courage to read these horrible letters.” To
prevent all hazard of further interruption, she now went into an inner
room, bolted the doors, and sat down to her dreaded task. And there we
leave her.


That Fortune is not nice in her morality, that she frequently favours
those who do not adhere to truth more than those who do, we have early
had occasion to observe. But whether Fortune may not be in this, as in
all the rest, treacherous and capricious; whether she may not by her
first smiles and favours lure her victims on to their cost, to their
utter undoing at last, remains to be seen.

It is time to inquire what has become of Lady Cecilia Clarendon. Before
we follow her on her very early morning visit to her cousin’s, we must
take leave to pause one moment to remark, not in the way of moralising
by any means, but simply as a matter of history, that the first little
fib in which Lady Cecilia, as a customary licence of speech, indulged
herself the moment she awoke this morning, though it seemed to answer
its purpose exactly at the time, occasioned her ladyship a good deal of
superfluous toil and trouble during the course of the day. In reply
to the first question her husband had asked, or in evasion of that
question, she had answered, “My dear love, don’t ask me any questions,
for I have such a horrid headache, that I really can hardly speak.”

Now a headache, such as she had at that moment, certainly never silenced
any woman. Slighter could not be--scarce enough to swear by. There
seemed no great temptation to prevarication either, for the general’s
question was not of a formidable nature, not what the lawyers call a
leading question, rather one that led to nothing. It was only, “Had you
a pleasant party at Lady Castlefort’s last night, my dear Cecilia?”
 But with that prescience with which some nicely foresee how the truth,
seemingly most innocent, may do harm, her ladyship foreboded that, if
she answered straight forward--“no”--that might lead to--why? how? or
wherefore?--and this might bring out the history of the strange rude
manner in which _la belle fiancée_ had been received. That need not
necessarily have followed, but, even if it had, it would have done
her no harm,--rather would have served at once her purpose in the best
manner possible, as time will show. Her husband, unsuspicious man, asked
no more questions, and only gave her the very advice she wished him to
give, that she should not get up to breakfast--that she should rest as
long as she could. Farther, as if to forward her schemes, even without
knowing them, he left the house early, and her headache conveniently
going off, she was dressed with all despatch--carriage at the door
as soon as husband out of sight, and away she went, as we have seen,
without Helen’s hearing, seeing, or suspecting her so well contrived and
executed project.

She was now in good spirits. The infection of fear which she had caught,
perhaps from the too sensitive Helen, last night, she had thrown off
this morning. It was a sunny day, and the bright sunshine dispelled,
as ever with her, any black notions of the night, all melancholy ideas
whatsoever. She had all the constitutional hopefulness of good animal
spirits. But though no fears remained, curiosity was as strong as ever.
She was exceedingly eager to know what had been the cause of all these
strange appearances. She guessed it must be some pitiful jealousy of
Lady Katrine’s--some poor spite against Helen. Anything that should
really give Beauclerc uneasiness, she now sincerely believed to be out
of the question. Nonsense--only Helen and Beauclerc’s love of tormenting
themselves--quite nonsense! And nonsense! three times ejaculated, quite
settled the matter, and assured her in the belief that there could be
nothing serious to be apprehended. In five minutes she should be at the
bottom of all things, and in half an hour return triumphant to Helen,
and make her laugh at her cowardly self. The carriage rolled on, Lady
Cecilia’s spirits rising as she moved rapidly onwards, so that by the
time she arrived at Lady Castlefort’s she was not only in good but in
high spirits. To her askings, “Not at home” never echoed. Even at hours
undue, such as the present, she, privileged, penetrated. Accordingly,
unquestioned, unquestioning, the alert step was let down, opened wide
was the hall-door, and lightly tripped she up the steps; but the
first look into the hall told her that company was in the house
already--yes--a breakfast--all were in the breakfast-room, except Lady
Castlefort, not yet come down--above, the footman believed, in her
boudoir. To the boudoir Cecilia went, but Lady Castlefort was not
there, and Cecilia was surprised to hear the sound of music in the
drawing-room, Lady Castlefort’s voice singing. While she waited in the
next room for the song to be finished, Cecilia turned over the books
on the table, richly gilt and beautifully bound, except one in a brown
paper parcel, which seemed unsuited to the table, yet excited more
attention than all the others, because it was directed _“Private--for
Lady Katherine Hawksby--to be returned before two o’clock.”_ What could
it be? thought Lady Cecilia. But her attention was now attracted by
the song which Lady Castlefort seemed to be practising; the words
were distinctly pronounced, uncommonly distinctly, so as to be plainly

  “Had we never loved so kindly,
  Hail we never loved so blindly,
  Never met, or never parted.
  We had ne’er been broken-hearted.”

As Cecilia listened, she cast her eyes upon a card which lay on the
table--“Lord Beltravers,” and a new light flashed upon her, a light
favourable to her present purpose; for since the object was altered with
Lady Castlefort, since it was not Beauclerc any longer, there would
be no further ill-will towards Helen. Lady Castlefort was not of the
violent vindictive sort, with her there was no long-lasting _dépit
amoureux_. She was not that fury, a woman scorned, but that blessed
spirit, a woman believing herself always admired. “Soft, silly,
sooth--not one of the hard, wicked, is Louisa,” thought Cecilia. And as
Lady Castlefort, slowly opening the door, entered, timid, as if she
knew some particular person was in the room, Cecilia could not help
suspecting that Louisa had intended her song for other ears than those
of her dear cousin, and that the superb negligence of her dress was
not unstudied; but that well-prepared, well-according sentimental air,
changed instantly on seeing--not the person expected, and with a start,
she exclaimed, “Cecilia Clarendon!”

“Louisa Castlefort!” cried Lady Cecilia, answering that involuntary
start of confusion with a well-acted start of admiration. “Louisa
Castlefort, _si belle, si belle_, so beautifully dressed!”

“Beautifully dressed--nothing extraordinary!” said Lady Castlefort,
advancing with a half embarrassed, half _nonchalant_ air,--“One must
make something of a _toilette de matin_, you know, when one has people
to breakfast.”

“So elegant, so negligent!” continued Lady Cecilia.

“There is the point,” said Lady Castlefort. “I cannot bear any thing
that is studied in costume, for dress is really a matter of so little
consequence! I never bestow a thought upon it. Angelique rules my
toilette as she pleases.”

“Angelique has the taste of an angel fresh from Paris,” cried Lady

“And now tell me, Cecilia,” pursued Lady Castlefort, quite in good
humour, “tell me, my dear, to what do I owe this pleasure? what makes
you so _matinale?_ It must be something very extraordinary.”

“Not at all, only a little matter of curiosity.”

Then, from Lady Castlefort, who had hitherto, as if in absence of mind,
stood, there was a slight “Won’t you sit?” motion.

“No, no, I can’t sit, can’t stay,” said Lady Cecilia.

A look quickly visible, and quickly suppressed, showed Lady Castlefort’s
sense of relief; then came immediately greater pressing to sit down,
“Pray do not be in such a hurry.

“But I am keeping you; have you breakfasted?”

“Taken coffee in my own room,” said Lady Castlefort “But you have people
to breakfast; must not you go down?”

“No, no, I shall not go down for this is Katrine’s affair, as I will
explain to you.”

Lady Cecilia was quite content, without any explanation; and sitting
down, she drew her chair close to Lady Castlefort, and said, “Now, my
dear, my little matter of curiosity.”

“Stay, my dear, first I must tell you about Katrine--now

Lady Cecilia ought to have been aware that when once her dear cousin
Louisa’s little heart opened, and she became confidential, very, it was
always of her own domestic grievances she began to talk, and that, once
the sluice opened, out poured from the deep reservoir the long-collected
minute drops of months and years.

“You have no idea what a life I lead with Katrine--now she is grown

“Is she?” said Lady Cecilia, quite indifferent.

“Deep blue! shocking: and this is a blue breakfast, and all the people
at it are true bores, and a blue bore is, as Horace Churchill says, one
of the most mischievous creatures breathing; and he tells me the only
way of hindering them from doing mischief is by _ringing_ them; but
first you must get rings. Now, in this case, for Katrine not a ring to
be had for love or money. So there is no hope for me.”

“No hope for me,” thought Lady Cecilia, throwing herself back in her
chair, submissive, but not resigned.

“If it had but pleased Heaven,” continued Lady Castlefort, “in its
mercy, to have sent Katrine a husband of any kind, what a blessing it
would have been! If she could but have been married to any body--now any

“Any body is infinitely obliged to you,” said Cecilia, “but since that
is out of the question, let us say no more about it--no use.”

“No use! that is the very thing of which I complain; the very thing
which must ever--ever make me miserable.”

“Well, well, my dear,” cried Lady Cecilia, no longer capable of
patience; “do not be miserable any more just now; never mind Katrine
just now.”

“Never mind her! Easy for you to say, Cecilia, who do not live with
Katrine Hawksby, and do not know what it is to have such a plague of a
sister, watching one,--watching every turn, every look one gives--worse
than a jealous husband. Can I say more?”

“No,” cried Cecilia; “therefore say no more about it. I understand it
all perfectly, and I pity you from the bottom of my heart, so now, my
dear Louisa----”

“I tell you, my dear Cecilia,” pursued Lady Castlefort, continuing her
own thoughts, “I tell you, Katrine is envious of me. Envy has been
her fault from a child. Envy of poor me! Envy, in the first place, of
whatever good looks it pleased Providence to give me.” A glance at the
glass.--“And now Katrine envies me for being Lady Castlefort, Heaven
knows! now, Cecilia, and you know, she need not envy me so when she
looks at Lord Castlefort; that is, what she sometimes says herself,
which you know is very wrong of her to say to me--unnecessary too, when
she knows I had no more hand in my marriage----”

“Than heart!” Cecilia could not forbear saying.

“Than heart!” readily responded Lady Castlefort; “never was a truer word
said. Never was there a more complete sacrifice than my mother made of
me; you know, Cecilia, a poor, young, innocent, helpless sacrifice, if
ever there was one upon earth.”

“To a coronet,” said Lady Cecilia.

“Absolutely dragged to the altar,” continued Lady Castlefort.

“In Mechlin lace, that was some comfort,” said Cecilia laughing, and she
laughed on in hope of cutting short this sad chapter of sacrifices. But
Lady Castlefort did not understand raillery upon this too tender point.
“I don’t know what you mean by Mechlin lace,” cried she pettishly. “Is
this your friendship for me, Cecilia?”

Cecilia, justly in fear of losing the reward of all her large lay-out
of flattery, fell to protesting the tenderest sympathy. “But only now it
was all over, why make her heart bleed about what could not be helped?”

“Cannot be helped! Oh! there is the very thing I must ever, ever mourn.”

The embroidered cambric handkerchief was taken out of the bag; no tears,
indeed, came, but there were sobs, and Cecilia not knowing how far it
might go, apprehending that her ladyship meditated hysterics, seized a
smelling-bottle, threw out the stopper, and presented it close under
the nostrils. The good “_Sels poignans d’Angleterre,_” of which
Felicie always acknowledged the unrivalled potency, did their business
effectually. Back went the head, with an exclamation of “That’s enough!
Oh, oh! too much! too much, Cecilia!”

“Are you better, my dear?” inquired Cecilia; “but indeed you must not
give way to low spirits; indeed, you must not: so now to change the
conversation, Louisa----”

“Not so fast, Lady Cecilia; not yet;” and now Louisa went on with a
medical maundering. “As to low spirits, my dear Cecilia, I must say I
agree with Sir Sib Pennyfeather, who tells me it is not mere common
low spirits, but really all mind, too much mind; mind preying upon
my nerves. Oh! I knew it myself. At first he thought it was rather
constitutional; poor dear Sir Sib! he is very clever, Sir Sib; and I
convinced him he was wrong; and so we agreed that it was all upon my
mind--all; all----”

At that instant a green parrot, who had been half asleep in the corner,
awoke on Lady Castlefort’s pronouncing, in an elevated tone, “All, all!”
 and conceiving himself in some way called upon, answered, “Poll! Poll!
bit o’sugar Poll!” No small difficulty had Lady Cecilia at that moment
in keeping her risible muscles in order; but she did, for Helen’s sake,
and she was rewarded, for after Lady Castlefort had, all unconscious of
ridicule, fed Poll from her amber bonbonniere, and sighed out once more
“Mind! too much mind!” she turned to Cecilia, and said, “But, my dear,
you wanted something; you had something to ask me.”

At once, and as fast as she could speak, Lady Cecilia poured out her
business about Helen Stanley. She told of the ill-bred manner in which
Helen had been received last night; inquired why the words _promessi
sposi_ and _belle fiancée_ were so oddly repeated, as if they had been
watchwords, and asked what was meant by all those strange whisperings in
the sanctum sanctorum.

“Katrine’s set,” observed Lady Castlefort coolly. “Just like them; just
like her!”

“I should not care about it in the least,” said Lady Cecilia, “if it
were only Katrine’s ill-nature, or their ill-breeding. Ill-breeding
always recoils on the ill-bred, and does nobody else any harm. But
I should be glad to be quite clear that there is nothing more at the

Lady Castlefort made no reply, but took up a bunch of seals, and looked
at each of them one after another. Lady Cecilia more afraid now than she
had yet been that there was something at the bottom, still bravely went
on, “What is it? If you know, tell me at once.”

“Nay, ask Katrine,” said Lady Castlefort.

“No, I ask you, I would rather ask you, for you are good-natured,
Louisa--so tell me.”

“But I dare say it is only slander,” said the good-natured Louisa.

“Slander!” repeated Lady Cecilia, “slander did you say?”

“Yes; what is there to surprise you so much in that word? did you never
hear of such a thing? I am sure I hear too much of it; Katrine lives
and breathes and fattens upon it; as Churchill says, she eats slander,
drinks slander, sleeps upon slander.”

“But tell me, what of Helen? that is all I want to hear,” cried Lady
Cecilia: “Slander! of Helen Stanley! what is it that Katrine says about
poor Helen? what spite, what vengeance, can she have against her, tell
me, tell me.”

“If you would ask one question at a time, I might be able to answer
you,” said Lady Castlefort. “Do not hurry me so; you fidget my nerves.
First as to the spite, you know yourself that Katrine, from the
beginning, never could endure Helen Stanley; for my part, I always
rather liked her than otherwise, and shall defend her to the last.”

“Defend her!”

“But Katrine was always jealous of her, and lately worse than ever, for
getting into her place, as she says, with you; that made her hate her
all the more.”

“Let her hate on, that will never make me love Helen the less.”

“So I told her; and besides, Miss Stanley is going to be married.”

“To be sure;--well?”

“And Katrine naturally hates every body that is going to be married. If
you were to see the state she is in always reading the announcements
of Marriages in High Life! Churchill, I do believe, had Miss Stanley’s
intended match put into every paper continually, on purpose for the
pleasure of plaguing Katrine; and if you could have seen her long face,
when she saw it announced in the Court Gazette--good authority, you
know--really it was pitiable.”

“I don’t care, I don’t care about that--Oh pray go on to the facts about

“Well, but the fact is as I tell you; you wanted to know what sufficient
cause for vengeance, and am not I telling you? If you would not get
into such a state of excitement!--as Sir Sib says excitements should be
avoided. La! my dear,” continued Lady Castlefort, looking up at her with
unfeigned astonishment, “what agitation! why, if it were a matter that
concerned yourself----”

“It concerns my friend, and that is the same thing.”

“So one says; but--you look really, such a colour.”

“No matter what colour I look,” cried Cecilia; “go on.”

“Do you never read the papers?” said Lady Castlefort.

“Sometimes,” said Lady Cecilia; “but I have not looked at a paper these
three days; was there any thing particular? tell me.”

“My dear! tell you! as if I could remember by heart all the scandalous
paragraphs I read.” She looked round the room, and not seeing the
papers, said, “I do not know what has become of those papers; but you
can find them when you go home.”

She mentioned the names of two papers, noted for being personal,
scandalous, and scurrilous.

“Are those the papers you mean?” cried Lady Cecilia; “the general never
lets them into the house.”

“That is a pity--that’s hard upon you, for then you never are, as you
see, _au courant du jour_, and all your friends might be abused to death
without your knowing it, if some kind person did not tell you.”

“Do tell me, then, the substance; I don’t want the words.”

“But the words are all. Somehow it is nothing without the words.”

In her now excited state of communicativeness, Lady Castlefort rose and
looked all about the room for the papers, saying, “They were here, they
were there, all yesterday; Katrine had them showing them to Lady Masham
in the morning, and to all her blue set afterwards--Lord knows what she
has done with them. So tiresome looking for things! how I hate it.”

She rang the bell and inquired from the footman if he knew what
had become of the papers. Of course he did not know, could not
imagine--servants never know, nor can imagine what have become of
newspapers--but he would inquire. While he went to inquire, Lady
Castlefort sank down again into her _bergère_, and again fell into
admiration of Cecilia’s state of impatience.

“How curious you are! Now I am never really curious about any thing
that does not come home to myself; I have so little interest about other

This was said in all the simplicity of selfishness, not from candour,
but from mere absence of shame, and utter ignorance of what others
think--what others feel, which always characterises, and often betrays
the selfish, even where the head is best capable of supplying the
deficiencies of the heart. But Louisa Castlefort had no head to hide her
want of heart; while Cecilia, who had both head and heart, looked down
upon her cousin with surprise, pity, and contempt, quick succeeding each
other, in a sort of parenthesis of feeling, as she moved her eyes for
a moment from the door on which they had been fixed, and to which
they recurred, while she stood waiting for the appearance of those
newspapers. The footman entered with them. “In Mr. Landrum’s room they
were, my lady.”

Lady Cecilia did not hear a word that was said, nor did she see that the
servant laid a note on the table. It was well that Louisa had that note
to read, and to answer, while Cecilia looked at the paragraphs in these
papers; else her start must have been seen, her exclamation must have
been heard: it must have been marked, that the whole character of her
emotion changed from generous sympathy with her friend, to agony of fear
for herself. The instant she cast her eyes on that much-read paper, she
saw the name of Colonel D’Aubigny; all the rest swam before her eyes.
Lady Castlefort, without looking up from her writing, asked--What day
of the month? Cecilia could not answer, but recalled to herself by the
sound of the voice, she now tried to read--she scarcely read the words,
but some way took the sense into her mind at a glance.


The first of these paragraphs caught the eye by its title in capital


“Though quite unknown in the London world, this young lady cannot fail
to excite some curiosity among our fashionables as the successful rival
of one whom the greatest painter of the age has pronounced to be _the
fairest of the fair_--the Lady B. F. This new _Helen_ is, we understand,
of a respectable family, niece to a late dean, distinguished for piety
much and virtù more. It was reported that the niece was a great heiress,
but after the proposal had been made, it was discovered that Virtù had
made away with every shilling of her fortune. This made no difference in
the eyes of her inamorato, who is as rich as he is generous, and who
saw with the eyes of a youth ‘Of Age to-morrow.’ His guardian, a wary
general, demurred--but _nursery tactics_ prevailed. The young lady,
though she had never been out, bore the victory from him of many
campaigns. The day for the marriage was fixed as announced by us--But
we are concerned to state that a _postponement_ of this marriage for
_mysterious reasons_ has taken place. Delicacy forbids us to say more at

Delicacy, however, did not prevent their saying in the next paper in a
paragraph headed, “MYSTERY SOLVED,” “We understand that in the course
of a few days will appear the ‘Memoirs of the late Colonel D----y; or,
_Reminiscences of a Rouè_, well known in the Fashionable World.’ This
little volume bids fair to engross the attention of the higher circles,
as it contains, besides innumerable curious, personal, and secret
anecdotes, the original love letters of a certain _belle fiancée_, now
residing with a noble family in Grosvenor Square.”

Lady Cecilia saw at once the whole dreadful danger--her own letters to
Colonel D’Aubigny they must he! How could they have got them? They would
be seen by her husband--published to the whole world--if the general
found out they were hers, he would cast her off for ever. If they were
believed to be Helen’s--Helen was undone, sacrificed to her folly, her
cowardice. “Oh! if I had but told Clarendon, he would have stopped this
dreadful, dreadful publication.” And what falsehoods it might
contain, she did not even dare to think. All was remorse, terror,
confusion--fixed to the spot like one stupified, she stood. Lady
Castlefort did not see it--she had been completely engrossed with what
she had been writing, she was now looking for her most sentimental seal,
and not till she had pressed that seal down and examined the impression,
did she look up or notice Cecilia--Then struck indeed with a sense of
something unusual--“My dear,” said she, “you have no idea how odd you
look--so strange, Cecilia--quite _èbahie!_” Giving two pulls to the bell
as she spoke, and her eyes on the door, impatient for the servant, she
added--“After all, Cecilia, Helen Stanley is no relation even--only a
friend. Take this note--” to the footman who answered the bell; and the
moment he left the room, continuing, in the same tone, to Lady Cecilia,
she said--“You will have to give her up at last--that’s all; so you had
better make your mind up to it.”

When Lady Cecilia tried to speak, she felt her tongue cleave to the roof
of her mouth; and when she did articulate, it was in a sort of
hoarse sound. “Is the book published?” She held the paper before Lady
Castlefort’s eyes, and pointed to the name she could not utter.

“D’Aubigny’s book--is it published, do you mean?” said Lady Castlefort.
“Absolutely published, I cannot say, but it is all in print, I know. I
do not understand about publishing. There’s something about presentation
copies: I know Katrine was wild to have one before any body else, so she
is to have the first copy, I know, and, I believe, is to have it this
very morning for the people at this breakfast: it is to be the _bonne
bouche_ of the business.”

“What has Katrine to do with it?--Oh, tell me, quick!”

“Dear me, Cecilia, what a fuss you are in!--you make me quite nervous to
look at you. You had better go down to the breakfast-room, and you will
hear all about it from the fountain-head.”

“Has Katrine the book or not?” cried Lady Cecilia.

“Bless me! I will inquire, my dear, if you will not look so dreadful.”
 She rang and coolly asked--“Did that man, that bookseller, Stone, send
any parcel or book this morning, do you know, for Lady Katrine?”

“Yes, my lady; Landrum had a parcel for Lady Katrine--it is on the
table, I believe.”

“Very well.” The man left the room. Lady Cecilia darted on the brown
paper parcel she had seen directed to Lady Katrine, and seized it before
the amazed Louisa could prevent her. “Stop, stop!” cried she, springing
forward, “stop, Cecilia; Katrine will never forgive me!”

But Lady Cecilia seizing a penknife, cut the first knot. “Oh, Cecilia,
I am undone if Katrine comes in! Make haste, make haste! I can only
let you have a peep or two. We must do it up again as well as ever,”
 continued Lady Castlefort, while Lady Cecilia, fast as possible, went
on cut, cut, cutting the packthread to bits, and she tore off the brown
paper cover, then one of silver paper, that protected the silk binding.
Lady Castlefort took up the outer cover and read, “To be returned before
two o’clock.”--“What can that mean? Then it is only lent; not her own.
Katrine will not understand this--will be outrageously disappointed.
I’m sure I don’t care. But here is a note from Stone, however, which
may explain it.” She opened and read--“Stone’s respects--existing
circumstances make it necessary her ladyship’s copy should be returned.
Will be called for at two o’clock.”

“Cecilia, Cecilia, make haste! But Katrine does not know yet--Still she
may come up.” Lady Castlefort rang and inquired,--

“Have they done breakfast?”

“Breakfast is over, my lady,” said the servant who answered the bell,
“but Landrum thinks the gentlemen and ladies will not be up immediately,
on account of one of the ladies being _performing_ a poem.”

“Very well, very good,” added her ladyship, as the man left the room.
“Then, Cecilia, you will have time enough, for when once they begin
performing, as Sylvester calls it, there is no end of it.”

“Oh Heavens!” cried Cecilia, as she turned over the pages, “Oh Heavens!
what is here? Such absolute falsehood! Shocking, shocking!” she
exclaimed, as she looked on, terrified at what she saw: “Absolutely
false--a forgery.”

“Whereabouts are you?” said Lady Castlefort, approaching to read along
with her.

“Oh, do not read it,” cried Cecilia, and she hastily closed the book.

“What signifies shutting the book, my dear,” said Louisa, “as if you
could shut people’s eyes? I know what it is; I have read it.”

“Read it!”

“Read it! I really can read, though it seems to astonish you.”

“But it is not published?”

“One can read in manuscript.”

“And did you see the manuscript?”

“I had a glimpse. Yes--I know more than Katrine thinks I know.”

“O tell me, Louisa; tell me all,” cried Cecilia.

“I will, but you must never tell that I told it to you.”

“Speak, speak,” cried Cecilia.

“It is a long story,” said Lady Castlefort.

“Make it short then. O tell me quick, Louisa.’”

“There is a literary _dessous des cartes_,” said Lady Castlefort, a
little vain of knowing a literary _dessous des cartes_; “Churchill
being at the head of every thing of that sort, you know, the bookseller
brought him the manuscript which Sir Thomas D’Aubigny had offered him,
and wanted to know whether it would do or not. Mr. Churchill’s answer
was, that it would never do without more pepper and salt, meaning
gossip and scandal, and all that. But you are reading on, Cecilia, not
listening to me.”

“I am listening, indeed.”

“Then never tell how I came to know every thing. Katrine’s maid has a
lover, who is, as she phrases it, one of the gentlemen connected with
the press. Now, my Angelique, who cannot endure Katrine’s maid, tells me
that this man is only a _wonder-maker_, a half-crown paragraph writer.
So, through Angelique, and indeed from another person--” she stopped;
and then went on--“through Angelique it all came up to me.”

“All what?” cried Cecilia; “go on, go on to the facts.”

“I will, if you will not hurry me so. The letters were not in Miss
Stanley’s handwriting.”

“No! I am sure of that,” said Cecilia.

“Copies were all that they pretended to be; so they may be forgeries
after all, you see.”

“But how did Katrine or Mr. Churchill come by the copies?”

“I have a notion, but of this I am not quite sure--I have a notion, from
something I was told by--in short I suspect that Carlos, Lady Davenant’s
page, somehow got at them, and gave them, or had them given to the man
who was to publish the book. Lady Katrine and Churchill laid their heads
together; here, in this very _sanctum sanctorum_. They thought I knew
nothing, but I knew every thing. I do not believe Horace had anything to
do with it, except saying that the love-letters would be just the thing
for the public if they were bad enough. I remember, too, that it was
he who added the second title, ‘Reminiscences of a Rouè,’ and said
something about alliteration’s artful aid. And now,” concluded Lady
Castlefort, “it is coming to the grand catastrophe, as Katrine calls it.
She has already told the story, and to-day she was to give all her set
what she calls ocular demonstration. Cecilia, now, quick, finish;
they will be here this instant. Give me the book; let me do it up this

“No, no; let me put it up,” cried Lady Cecilia, keeping possession of
the book and the brown paper. “I am a famous hand at doing up a parcel,
as famous as any Bond Street shopman: your hands are not made for such

Any body but Lady Castlefort would have discerned that Lady Cecilia had
some further design, and she was herself afraid it would be perceived;
but taking courage from seeing what a fool she had to deal with, Lady
Cecilia went on more boldly: “Louisa, I must have more packthread; this
is all cut to bits.”

“I will ring and ask for some.”

“No, no; do not ring for the footman; he might observe that we had
opened the parcel. Cannot you get a string without ringing? Look in that

“None there, I know,” said Lady Castlefort without stirring.

“In your own room then; Angelique has some.”

“How do you know?”

“I know! never mind how. Go, and she will give you packthread. I must
have it before Katrine comes up. So go, Louisa, go.”

“Go,” in the imperative mood, operated, and she went; she did not know

That instant Lady Cecilia drew the book out of the half-folded paper,
and quick, quick, tore out page after page--every page of those letters
that concerned herself or Helen, and into the fire thrust them, and as
they blazed held them down bravely--had the boldness to wait till all
was black: all the while she trembled, but stood it, and they were
burnt, and the book in its brown paper cover was left on the table, and
she down stairs, before Lady Castlefort’s dressing-room door opened, and
she crossed the hall without meeting a soul except the man in waiting
there. The breakfast-room was at the back of the house looking into the
gardens, and her carriage at the front-door had never been seen by Lady
Katrine, or any of her blue set. She cleared out of the house into her
carriage--and off--“To the Park,” said she.--She was off but just in
time. The whole tribe came out of the breakfast room before she had
turned the corner of the street. She threw herself back in the carriage
and took breath, congratulating herself upon this hairbreadth ‘scape.
For this hour, this minute, she had escaped!--she was reprieved!

And now what was next to be done? This was but a momentary reprieve.
Another copy would be had--no, not till to-morrow though. The sound
of the words that had been read from the bookseller’s note by Lady
Castlefort, though scarcely noticed at the time, recurred to her
now; and there was hope something might to-day be done to prevent the
publication. It might still be kept for ever from her husband’s and from
Beauclerc’s knowledge. One stratagem had succeeded--others might.

She took a drive round the Park to compose the excessive flurry of her
spirits. Letting down all the glasses, she had the fresh air blowing
upon her, and ere she was half round, she was able to think of what yet
remained to do. Money! Oh! any money she could command she would give
to prevent this publication. She was not known to the bookseller--no
matter. Money is money from whatever hand. She would trust the matter
to no one but herself, and she would go immediately--not a moment to be
lost.--“To Stone’s, the bookseller’s.”

Arrived. “Do not give my name; only say, a lady wants to speak to Mr.

The people at Mr. Stone’s did not know the livery or the carriage, but
such a carriage and such a lady commanded the deference of the shopman.
“Please to walk in, madam,” and by the time she had walked in, the man
changed madam into your ladyship--“Mr. Stone will be with your ladyship
in a moment--only in the warehouse. If your ladyship will please to walk
up into the back drawing-room--there’s a fire.” The maid followed to
blow it; and while the bellows wheezed and the fire did not burn, Lady
Cecilia looked out of the window in eager expectation of seeing Mr.
Stone returning from the warehouse with all due celerity. No Mr. Stone,
however, appeared; but there was a good fire in the middle of the
court-yard, as she observed to the maid who was plying the wheezing
bellows; and who answered that they had had a great fire there this hour
past “burning of papers.” And at that moment a man came out with his
arms full of a huge pile--sheets of a book, Lady Cecilia saw--it was
thrown on the fire. Then came out and stood before the fire--could she
he mistaken?--impossible--it was like a dream--the general!

Cecilia’s first thought was to run away before she should be seen; but
the next moment that thought was abandoned, for the time to execute it
was now past. The messenger sent across the yard had announced that a
lady in the back drawing-room wanted Mr. Stone. Eyes had looked up--the
general had seen and recognised her, and all she could now do was, to
recognise him in return, which she did as eagerly and gracefully as
possible. The general came up to her directly, not a little astonished
that she, whom he fancied at home in her bed, incapacitated by a
headache that had prevented her from speaking to him, should be here,
so far out of her usual haunts, and, as it seemed, out of her
element--“What can bring you here, my dear Cecilia?”

“The same purpose which, if I rightly spell, brought you here, my dear
general,” and her eye intelligently glanced at the burning papers in
the yard. “Do you know then, Cecilia, what those papers are? How did you

Lady Cecilia told her history, keeping as strictly to facts as the
nature of the case admitted. Her headache, of course, she had found much
better for the sleep she had taken. She had set off, she told him, as
soon as she was able, for Lady Castlefort’s, to inquire into the meaning
of the strange whispers of the preceding night. Then she told of the
scandalous paragraphs she had seen; how she had looked over the book;
and how successfully she had torn out and destroyed the whole chapter;
and then how, hoping to be able to prevent the publication, she had
driven directly to Mr. Stone’s.

Her husband, with confiding, admiring eyes, looked at her and listened
to her, and thought all she said so natural, so kind, that he could not
but love her the more for her zeal of friendship, though he blamed her
for interfering, in defiance of his caution, “Had you consulted me, or
listened to me, my dear Cecilia, this morning, I could have saved you
all this trouble; I should have told you that I would settle with Stone,
and stop the publication, as I have done.”

“But that copy which had been sent to Lady Katrine, surely I did some
good there by burning those pages; for if once it had got among her set,
it would have spread like wildfire, you know, Clarendon.”

He acknowledged this, and said, smiling--“Be satisfied with yourself, my
love; I acknowledge that you made there a capital _coup de main_.”

Just then in came Mr. Stone with an account in his hand, which the
general stepped forward to receive, and, after one glance at the amount,
he took up a pen, wrote, and signed his name to a cheque on his banker.
Mr. Stone received it, bowed obsequiously, and assured the general that
every copy of the offensive chapter had been withdrawn from the book and
burnt--“that copy excepted which you have yourself, general, and that
which was sent to Lady Katrine Hawksby, which we expect in every minute,
and it shall be sent to Grosvenor Square immediately. I will bring it
myself, to prevent all danger.”

The general, who knew there was no danger there, smiled at Cecilia,
and told the bookseller that he need take no further trouble about Lady
Katrine’s copy; the man bowed, and looking again at the amount of the
cheque, retired well satisfied.

“You come home with me, my dear Clarendon, do not you?” said Lady

They drove off. On their way, the general said--“It is always difficult
to decide whether to contradict or to let such publications take their
course: but in the present case, to stop the scandal instantly and
completely was the only thing to be done. There are cases of honour,
when women are concerned, where law is too slow: it must not be remedy,
it must be prevention. If the finger of scorn dares to point, it must
be--cut off.” After a pause of grave thought, he added--“Upon the manner
in which Helen now acts will depend her happiness--her character--her
whole future life.”

Lady Cecilia summoned all her power to prevent her from betraying
herself: the danger was great, for she could not command her fears so
completely as to hide the look of alarm with which she listened to the
general; but in his eyes her agitation appeared no more than was natural
for her to feel about her friend.

“My love,” continued he, “if Helen is worthy of your affection, she
will show it now. Her only resource is in perfect truth: tell her so,
Cecilia--impress it upon her mind. Would to Heaven I had been able to
convince her of this at first! Speak to her strongly, Cecilia; as
you love her, impress upon her that my esteem, Beauclerc’s love, the
happiness of her life, depend upon her truth!” As he repeated these
words, the carriage stopped at their own door.


We left Helen in the back drawing-room, the door bolted, and beginning
to read her dreaded task. The paragraphs in the newspapers, we
have seen, were sufficiently painful, but when she came to the book
itself--to the letters--she was in consternation, greater even than what
she had felt in the general’s presence under the immediate urgency of
his eye and voice. Her conviction was that in each of these letters,
there were some passages, some expressions, which certainly were
Cecilia’s, but mixed with others, which as certainly were not hers. The
internal evidence appeared to her irresistibly strong: and even in those
passages which she knew to be Cecilia’s writing, it too plainly appeared
that, however playfully, however delicately expressed, there was more
of real attachment for Colonel D’Aubigny than Cecilia had ever allowed
Helen to believe; and she felt that Cecilia must shrink from General
Clarendon’s seeing these as her letters, after she had herself assured
him that he was her first love. The falsehood was here so indubitable,
so proved, that Helen herself trembled at the thought of Cecilia’s
acknowledging the plain facts to her husband. The time for it was past.
Now that they were in print, published perhaps, how must he feel! If
even candid confession were made to him, and made for the best motives,
it would to him appear only forced by necessity--forced, as he would say
to himself, because her friend would not submit to be sacrificed.

Such were Helen’s thoughts on reading the two or three first letters,
but, as she went on, her alarm increased to horror. She saw things
which she felt certain Cecilia could never have written; yet truth and
falsehood were so mixed up in every paragraph, circumstances which
she herself had witnessed so misrepresented, that it was all to her
inextricable confusion. The passages which were to be marked could not
now depend upon her opinion, her belief; they must rest upon Cecilia s
integrity--and could she depend upon it? The impatience which she had
felt for Lady Cecilia’s return now faded away, and merged in the more
painful thought that, when she did come, the suspense would not end--the
doubts would never be satisfied.

She lay down upon the sofa and tried to rest, kept herself perfectly
still, and resolved to think no more; and, as far as the power of the
mind over itself can stay the ever-rising thoughts, she controlled hers,
and waited with a sort of forced, desperate composure for the event.
Suddenly she heard that knock, that ring, which she knew announced Lady
Cecilia’s return. But not Cecilia alone; she heard the general also
coming upstairs, but Cecilia first, who did not stop for more than an
instant at the drawing-room door:--she looked in, as Helen guessed, and
seeing that no one was there, ran very quickly up the next flight of
stairs. Next came the general:--on hearing his step, Helen’s anxiety
became so intense, that she could not, at the moment he came near, catch
the sound or distinguish which way he went. Strained beyond its power,
the faculty of hearing seemed suddenly to fail--all was confusion, an
indistinct buzz of sounds. The next moment, however, recovering, she
plainly heard his step in the front drawing-room, and she knew that he
twice walked up and down the whole length of the room, as if in
deep thought. Each time as he approached the folding doors she
was breathless. At last he stopped, his hand was on the lock--she
recollected that the door was bolted, and as he turned the handle she,
in a powerless voice, called to tell him, but not hearing her, he tried
again, and as the door shook she again tried to speak, but could not.
Still she heard, though she could not articulate. She heard him say,
“Miss Stanley, are you there? Can I see you?”

But the words--the voice seemed to come from afar--sounded dull and
strange. She tried to rise from her seat--found a difficulty--made an
effort--stood up--she summoned resolution--struggled--hurried across
the room--drew back the bolt--threw open the door--and that was all she
could do. In that effort strength and consciousness failed--she fell
forward and fainted at the general’s feet. He raised her up, and laid
her on the sofa in the inner room. He rang for her maid, and went
up-stairs to prevent Cecilia’s being alarmed. He took the matter coolly:
he had seen many fainting young ladies, he did not like them--his own
Cecilia excepted--in his mind always excepted from every unfavourable
suspicion regarding the sex. Helen, on the contrary, was at present
subject to them all, and, under the cloud of distrust, he saw in a bad
light every thing that occurred; the same appearances which, in his
wife, he would have attributed to the sensibility of true feeling, he
interpreted in Helen as the consciousness of falsehood, the proof of
cowardly duplicity. He went back at once to his original prejudice
against her, when, as he first thought, she had been forced upon him in
preference to his own sister. He had been afterwards convinced that she
had been perfectly free from all double dealing; yet now he slid back
again, as people of his character often do, to their first opinion. “I
thought so at first, and I find, as I usually do, that my first thought
was right.”

What had been but an adverse feeling was now considered as a prescient
judgment. And he did not go upstairs the quicker for these thoughts, but
calmly and coolly, when he reached Lady Cecilia’s dressing-room, knocked
at the door, and, with all the precautions necessary to prevent her from
being alarmed, told her what had happened. “You had better not go down,
my dear Cecilia, I beg you will not. Miss Stanley has her own maid, all
the assistance that can be wanted. My dear, it is not fit for you. I
desire you will not go down.”

But Lady Cecilia would not listen, could not be detained; she escaped
from her husband, and ran down to Helen. Excessively alarmed she was,
and well she might be, knowing herself to be the cause, and not certain
in any way how it might end. She found Helen a little recovered, but
still pale as white marble; and when Lady Cecilia took her hand, it was
still quite cold. She came to herself but very slowly. For some minutes
she did not recover perfect consciousness, or clear recollection. She
saw figures of persons moving about her, she felt them as if too near,
and wished them away; wanted air, but could not say what she wished. She
would have moved, but her limbs would not obey her will. At last, when
she had with effort half raised her head, it sunk back again before she
could distinguish all the persons in the room. The shock of cold water
on her forehead revived her; then coming clearly to power of perception,
she saw Cecilia bending over her. But still she could not speak, and
yet she understood distinctly, saw the affectionate anxiety, too, in her
little maid Rose’s countenance; she felt that she loved Rose, and
that she could not endure Felicie, who had now come in, and was making
exclamations, and advising various remedies, all of which, when offered,
Helen declined. It was not merely that Felicie’s talking, and tone of
voice, and superabundant action, were too much for her; but that Helen
had at this moment a sort of intuitive perception of insincerity, and of
exaggeration. In that dreamy state, hovering between life and death, in
which people are on coming out of a swoon, it seems as if there was need
for a firm hold of reality; the senses and the understanding join in the
struggle, and become most acute in their perception of what is natural
or what is unnatural, true or false, in the expressions and feelings
of the by-standers. Lady Cecilia understood her look, and dismissed
Felicie, with all her smelling-bottles. Rose, though not ordered away,
judiciously retired as soon as she saw that her services were of no
further use, and that there was something upon her young lady’s mind,
for which, hartshorn and sal volatile could be of no avail.

Cecilia would have kissed her forehead, but Helen made a slight
withdrawing motion, and turned away her face: the next instant, however,
she looked up, and taking Cecilia’s hand, pressed it kindly, and said,
“You are more to be pitied than I am; sit down, sit down beside me, my
poor Cecilia; how you tremble! and yet you do not know what is coming
upon you.”

“Yes, yes, I do--I do,” cried Lady Cecilia, and she eagerly told Helen
all that had passed, ending with the assurance that the publication had
been completely stopped by her dear Clarendon; that the whole chapter
containing the letters had been destroyed, that not a single copy had
got abroad. “The only one in existence is this,” said she, taking it
up as she spoke, and she made a movement as if going to tear out the
leaves, but Helen checked her hand, “That must not be, the general

And almost breathless, yet distinctly, she repeated what the general had
said, that he might be called upon to prove which parts were forged,
and which true, and that she had promised to mark the passages. “So now,
Cecilia, here is a pencil, and mark what is and what is not yours.”

Lady Cecilia instantly took the pencil, and in great agitation obeyed.
“Oh, my dear Helen, some of these the general could not think yours.
Very wicked these people have been!--so the general said; he was sure,
he knew, all could not be yours.”

“Finish! my dear Cecilia,” interrupted Helen; “finish what you have to
do, and in this last trial, give me this one proof of your sincerity. Be
careful in what you are now doing, mark truly--oh, Cecilia! every word
you recollect--as your conscience tells you. Will you, Cecilia? this is
all I ask, as I am to answer for it--will you?”

Most fervently she protested she would. She had no difficulty in
recollecting, in distinguishing her own; and at first she marked truly,
and was glad to separate what was at worst only foolish girlish nonsense
from things which had been interpolated to make out the romance; things
which never could have come from her mind.

There is some comfort in having our own faults overshadowed, outdone by
the greater faults of others. And here it was flagrant wickedness in
the editor, and only weakness and imprudence in the writer of the real
letters. Lady Cecilia continually solaced her conscience by pointing
out to Helen, as she went on, the folly, literally the folly, of the
deception she had practised on her husband; and her exclamations against
herself were so vehement that Helen would not add to her pain by a
single reproach, since she had decided that the time was past for urging
her confession to the general. She now only said, “Look to the future,
Cecilia, the past we cannot recall. This will be a lesson you can never

“Oh, never, never can I forget it. You have saved me, Helen.”

Tears and protestations followed these words, and at the moment they
were all sincere; and yet, can it be believed? even in this last trial,
when it came to this last proof, Lady Cecilia was not perfectly true.
She purposely avoided putting her mark of acknowledgment to any of those
expressions which most clearly proved her love for Colonel D’Aubigny;
for she still said to herself that the time might come, though at
present it could not be, when she might make a confession to her
husband,--in his joy at the birth of a son, she thought she might
venture; she still looked forward to doing justice to her friend at some
future period, and to make this easier--to make this possible--as she
said to herself, she must now leave out certain expressions, which
might, if acknowledged, remain for ever fixed in Clarendon’s mind, and
for which she could never be forgiven.

Helen, when she looked over the pages, observed among the unmarked
passages some of those expressions which she had thought were Cecilia’s,
but she concluded she was mistaken: she could not believe that her
friend could at such a moment deceive her, and she was even ashamed of
having doubted her sincerity; and her words, look, and manner, now gave
assurance of perfect unquestioning confidence.

This delicacy in Helen struck Lady Cecilia to the quick. Ever apt to be
more touched by her refined feelings than by any strong appeal to her
reason or her principles, she was now shocked by the contrast between
her own paltering meanness and her friend’s confiding generosity. As
this thought crossed her mind, she stretched out her hand again for
the book, took up the pencil, and was going to mark the truth; but, the
impulse past, cowardice prevailed, and cowardice whispered, “Helen is
looking at me, Helen sees at this moment what I am doing, and, after
having marked them as not mine, how can I now acknowledge them?--it is
too late--it is impossible.”

“I have done as you desired,” continued she, “Helen, to the best of my
ability. I have marked all this, but what can it signify now my dear,

Helen interrupted her. “Take the book to the general this moment, will
you, and tell him that all the passages are marked as he desired; stay,
I had better write.”

She wrote upon a slip of paper a message to the same effect, having
well considered the words by which she might, without further step in
deception, save her friend, and take upon herself the whole blame--the
whole hazardous responsibility.

When Cecilia gave the marked book to General Clarendon, he said, as he
took it, “I am glad she has done this, though it is unnecessary now, as
I was going to tell her if she had not fainted: unnecessary, because I
have now in my possession the actual copies of the original letters; I
found them here on my return. That good little poetess found them for me
at the printer’s--but she could not discover--I have not yet been able
to trace where they came from, or by whom they were copied.”

“O let me see them,” cried Lady Cecilia.

“Not yet, my love,” said he; “you would know nothing more by seeing
them; they are in a feigned hand evidently.”

“But,” interrupted Cecilia, “you cannot want the book now, when you have
the letters themselves;” and she attempted to draw it from his hand,
for she instantly perceived the danger of the discrepancies between
her marks and the letters being detected. She made a stronger effort to
withdraw the book but he held it fast. “Leave it with me now, my dear; I
want it; it will settle my opinion as to Helen’s truth.”

Slowly, and absolutely sickened with apprehension, Lady Cecilia
withdrew. When she returned to Helen, and found how pale she was and
how exhausted she seemed, she entreated her to lie down again and try to

“Yes, I believe I had better rest before I see Granville,” said Helen:
“where can he have been all day?”

“With some friend of his, I suppose,” said Cecilia, and she insisted on
Helen’s saying no more, and keeping herself perfectly quiet. She farther
suggested that she had better not appear at dinner.

“It will be only a family party, some of the general’s relations.
Miss Clarendon is to be here, and she is one, you know, trying to the
spirits; and she is not likely to be in her most _suave_ humour this
evening, as she has been under a course of the tooth-ache, and has been
all day at the dentist’s.”

Helen readily consented to remain in her own room, though she had not
so great a dread of Miss Clarendon as Lady Cecilia seemed to feel. Lady
Cecilia was indeed in the greatest terror lest Miss Clarendon should
have heard some of these reports about Helen and Beauclerc, and would in
her blunt way ask directly what they meant, and go on with some of her
point-blank questions, which Cecilia feared might be found unanswerable.
However, as Miss Clarendon had only just come to town from Wales, and
come only about her teeth, she hoped that no reports could have reached
her; and Cecilia trusted much to her own address and presence of mind in
moments of danger, in turning the conversation the way it should go.

But things were now come to a point where none of the little skilful
interruptions or lucky hits, by which she had so frequently profited,
could avail her farther than to delay what must be. Passion and
character pursue their course unalterably, unimpeded by small external
circumstances; interrupted they may be in their progress, but as the
stream opposed bears against the obstacle, sweeps it away, or foams and
passes by.

Before Lady Cecilia’s toilette was finished her husband was in her
dressing-room; came in without knocking,--a circumstance so unusual with
him, that Mademoiselle Felicie’s eyes opened to their utmost orbit, and,
without waiting for word or look, she vanished, leaving the bracelet
half clasped on her lady’s arm.

“Cecilia!” said the general.

He spoke in so stern a tone that she trembled from head to foot;
her last falsehood about the letters--all her falsehoods, all her
concealments, were, she thought, discovered; unable to support herself,
she sank into his arms. He seated her, and went on in a cool, inexorable
tone, “Cecilia, I am determined not to sanction by any token of my
public approbation this marriage, which I no longer in my private
conscience desire or approve; I will not be the person to give Miss
Stanley to my ward.”

Lady Cecilia almost screamed: her selfish fears forgotten, she felt only
terror for her friend. She exclaimed, “Clarendon, will you break off the
marriage? Oh! Helen, what will become of her! Clarendon, what can you

“I mean that I have compared the passages that Helen marked in the book,
with those copies of the letters which were given to the bookseller
before the interpolations were made--the letters as Miss Stanley wrote
them. The passages in the letters and the passages marked in the book do
not agree.”

“Oh, but she might have forgotten, it might be accident,” cried Cecilia,
overwhelmed with confusion.

“No, Cecilia,” pursued the General, in a tone which made her heart die
within her--“no, Cecilia, it is not accident, it is design. I perceive
that every strong expression, every word, in short, which could show her
attachment to that man, has been purposely marked as not her own, and
the letters themselves prove that they were her own. The truth is not in

In an agitation, which prevented all power of thought, Cecilia
exclaimed, “She mistook--she mistook; I could not, I am sure, recollect;
she asked me if I remembered any.”

“She consulted you, then?”

“She asked my advice,--told me that----”

“I particularly requested her,” interrupted the general, “not to ask
your advice; I desired her not to speak to you on the subject--not to
consult you. Deceit--double-dealing in every thing she does, I find.”

“No, no, it is my fault; every thing I say and do is wrong,” cried
Lady Cecilia. “I recollect now--it was just after her fainting, when I
brought the book, and when she took it to mark she really was not able.
It was not that she consulted me, but I forced my counsel upon her. I
looked over the letters, and said what I thought--if anybody is wrong,
it is I, Clarendon. Oh, do not visit my sins upon Helen so cruelly!--do
not make me the cause of her ruin, innocent creature! I assure you, if
you do this, I never could forgive myself.”

The general looked at her in silence: she did not dare to meet his eyes,
desperately anxious as she was to judge by his countenance what was
passing within. He clasped for her that bracelet which her trembling
hands were in vain attempting to close.

“Poor thing, how its heart beats!” said her husband, pressing her to
him as he sat down beside her. Cecilia thought she might venture
to speak.--“You know, my dear Clarendon, I never oppose--interfere
with--any determination of yours when once it is fixed--”

“This is fixed,” interrupted the general.

“But after all you have done for her this very day, for which I am sure
she--I am sure I thank you from my soul, would you now undo it all?”

“She is saved from public shame,” said the general; “from private
contempt I cannot save her: who can save those who have not truth? But
my determination is fixed; it is useless to waste words on the subject.
Esther is come; I must go to her. And now, Cecilia, I conjure you, when
you see Beauclerc--I have not seen him all day--I do not know where he
has been--I conjure you---I command you not to interfere between him and

“But you would not have me give her up! I should be the basest of human

“I do not know what you mean, Cecilia; you have done for her all that an
honourable friend could do.”

“I am not an honourable friend,” was Cecilia’s bitter consciousness,
as she pressed her hand upon her heart, which throbbed violently with
contending fears.

“You have done all that an honourable friend could do; more must not be
done,” continued the general. “And now recollect, Cecilia, that you are
my wife as well as Miss Stanley’s friend;” and, as he said these words,
he left the room.


That knowing French minister, Louvois, whose power is said to have been
maintained by his surpassing skill in collecting and spreading secret
and swift intelligence, had in his pay various classes of unsuspected
agents, dancing-masters, fencing-masters, language-masters, milliners,
hairdressers and barbers--dentists, he would have added, had he lived
to our times; and not all Paris could have furnished him with a person
better suited to his purpose than the most fashionable London dentist of
the day, St. Leger Swift. Never did Frenchman exceed him in volubility
of utterance, or in gesture significant, supplying all that words might
fear or fail to tell; never was he surpassed by prattling barber or
privileged hunchback in ancient or modern story, Arabian or Persian; but
he was not a malicious, only a coxcomb scandal-monger, triumphing in his
_sçavoir dire_. St. Leger Swift was known to everybody--knew everybody
in London that was to be or was not to be known, every creature dead or
alive that ever had been, or was about to be celebrated, fashionable, or
rich, or clever, or notorious, _roué_ or murderer, about to be married
or about to be hanged--for that last class of persons enjoys in our days
a strange kind of heroic celebrity, of which Voltaire might well have
been jealous. St, Leger was, of course, hand and glove with all the
royal family; every illustrious personage--every most illustrious
personage--had in turn sat in his chair; he had had all their heads, in
their turns, in his hands, and he had capital anecdotes and sayings of
each, with which he charmed away the sense of pain in loyal subjects.
But with scandal for the fair was he specially provided. Never did man
or woman skim the surface tittle-tattle of society, or dive better,
breathless, into family mysteries; none, with more careless air, could
at the same time talk and listen--extract your news and give you his _on
dit_, or tell the secret which you first reveal. There was in him and
about him such an air of reckless, cordial coxcombry, it warmed the
coldest, threw the most cautious off their guard, brought out family
secrets as if he had been one of your family--your secret purpose as
though he had been a secular father confessor; as safe every thing told
to St. Leger Swift, he would swear to you, as if known only to yourself:
he would swear, and you would believe, unless peculiarly constituted, as
was the lady who, this morning, took her seat in his chair--

Miss Clarendon. She was accompanied by her aunt, Mrs. Pennant.

“Ha! old lady and young lady, fresh from the country. Both, I see,
persons of family--of condition,” said St. Leger to himself. On that
point his practised eye could not mistake, even at first glance; and
accordingly it was really doing himself a pleasure, and these ladies,
as he conceived it, a pleasure, a service, and an honour, to put them,
immediately on their arrival in town, _au courant du jour_. Whether
to pull or not to pull a tooth that had offended, was the professional
question before him.

Miss Clarendon threw back her head, and opened her mouth.

“Fine teeth, fine! Nothing to complain of here surely,” said St. Leger.
“As fine a show of ivory as ever I beheld. ‘Pon my reputation, I know
many a fine lady who would give--all but her eyes for such a set.”

“I must have this tooth out,” said Miss Clarendon, pointing to the

“I see; certainly, ma’am, as you say.”

“I hope, sir, you don’t think it necessary,” said her tender-hearted
aunt: “if it could be any way avoided----”

“By all means, madam, as you say. We must do nothing without

“I have considered, my dear aunt,” said Miss Clarendon. “I have not
slept these three nights.

“But you do not consider that you caught cold getting up one night for
me; and it may be only an accidental cold, my dear Esther. I should be
so sorry if you were to lose a tooth. Don’t be in a hurry; once gone,
you cannot get it back again.”

“Never was a truer, wiser word spoken, madam,” said St. Leger, swiftly
whisking himself round, and as if looking for some essential implement.
“May be a mere twinge, accidental cold, rheumatism; or may be----My
dear madam” (to the aunt), “I will trouble you; let me pass. I beg
pardon--one word with you,” and with his back to the patient in the
chair, while he rummaged among ivory-handled instruments on the table,
he went on in a low voice to the aunt--“Is she nervous? is she nervous,
eh, eh, eh?”

Mrs. Pennant looked, but did not hear, for she was a little deaf.

“Yes, yes, yes; I see how it is. A word to the wise,” replied he, with
a nod of intelligence. “Every lady’s nervous now-a-days, more or less.
Where the deuce did I put this thing? Yes, yes--nerves;--all the same
to me; know how to manage. Make it a principle--professional, to begin
always by talking away nerves. You shall see, you shall see, my dearest
madam; you shall soon see--you shall hear, you shall hear how I’ll
talk this young lady--your niece--out of her nerves fairly. Beg pardon,
Miss----, one instant. I am searching for--where have I put it?”

“I beg your pardon, sir: I am a little deaf,” said Mrs. Pennant.

“Deaf--hey? Ha! a little deaf. So everybody is now-a-days; even the
most illustrious personages, more or less. Death and deafness common
to all--_mors omnibus_. I have it. Now, my dear young lady, let us
have another look and touch at these beautiful teeth. Your head will do
very--vastly well, my dear ma’am--Miss----um, um, um!” hoping the name
would be supplied. But that Miss Clarendon did not tell.

So raising his voice to the aunt as he went on looking, or seeming to
look, at the niece’s tooth, he continued rapidly--“From Wales you are,
ma’am? a beautiful country Wales, ma’am. Very near being born there
myself, like, ha, ha, ha! that Prince of Wales--first Prince--Caernarvon
Castle--you know the historical anecdote. Never saw finer teeth, upon
my reputation. Are you ladies, may I ask, for I’ve friends in both
divisions--are you North or South Wales, eh, eh?”

“South, sir. Llansillen.”

“Ay, South. The most picturesque certainly. Llansillen, Llansillen; know
it; know everybody ten miles round. Respectable people--all--very; most
respectable people come up from Wales continually. Some of our best
blood from Wales, as a great personage observed lately to me,--Thick,
thick! not thicker blood than the Welsh. His late Majesty, _à-propos_,
was pleased to say to me once--”

“But,” interrupted Miss Clarendon, “what do you say to my tooth?”

“Sound as a roach, my dear ma’am; I will insure it for a thousand

“But that, the tooth you touch, is not the tooth I mean: pray look at
this, sir?”

“Excuse me, my dear madam, a little in my light,” said he to the aunt.
“May I beg the favour of your name?”

“Pennant! ah! ah! ah!” with his hands in uplifted admiration--“I thought
so--Pennant. I said so to myself, for I know so many Pennants--great
family resemblance--Great naturalist of that name--any relation? Oh
yes--No--I thought so from the first. Yes--and can assure you, to my
private certain knowledge, that man stood high on the pinnacle of favour
with a certain royal personage,--for, often sitting in this very chair--

“Keep your mouth open--a little longer--little wider, my good Miss
Pennant. Here’s a little something for me to do, nothing of any
consequence--only touch and go--nothing to be taken away, no, no, must
not lose one of these fine teeth. That most illustrious personage said
one day to me, sitting in this very chair--‘Swift,’ said he, ‘St. Leger
Swift,’ familiarly, condescendingly, colloquially--‘St. Leger Swift, my
good fellow,’ said he--

“But positively, my dear Miss--um, um, if you have not patience--you
must sit still--pardon me, professionally I must be peremptory.
Impossible I could hurt--can’t conceive--did not touch--only making a
perquisition--inquisition--say what you please, but you are nervous,
ma’am; I am only taking a general survey.

“A-propos--general survey--General--a friend of mine, General Clarendon
is just come to town. My ears must have played me false, but I thought
my man said something like Clarendon when he showed you up.”

No answer from Miss Clarendon, who held her mouth open wide, as desired,
resolved not to satisfy his curiosity, but to let him blunder on. “Be
that as it may, General Clarendon’s come to town--fine teeth he has
too--and a fine kettle of fish--not very elegant, but expressive
still--he and his ward have made, of that marriage announced. Fine young
man, though, that Beauclerc--finest young man, almost, I ever saw!”

But here Mr. St. Leger Swift, starting suddenly, withdrawing his hand
from Miss Clarendon’s mouth, exclaimed,--

“My finger, ma’am! but never mind, never mind, all in the day’s work.
Casualty--contingencies--no consequence. But as I was saying, Mr.
Granville Beauclerc----”

Then poured out, on the encouragement of one look of curiosity from Mrs.
Pennant, all the _on dits_ of Lady Katrine Hawksby, and all her chorus,
and all the best authorities; and St. Leger Swift was ready to pledge
himself to the truth of every word. He positively knew that the marriage
was off, and thought, as everybody did, that the young gentleman was
well off too; for besides the young lady’s great fortune turning out
not a _sous_--and here he supplied the half-told tale by a drawn-up ugly
face and shrugging gesture.

“Shocking! shocking! all came to an _éclat--esclandre_; a scene quite,
last night, I am told, at my friend Lady Castlefort’s. Sad--sad--so
young a lady! But to give you a general idea, love letters to come out
in the Memoirs of that fashionable Roué--friend of mine too--fine fellow
as ever breathed--only a little--you understand; Colonel D’Aubigny--Poor
D’Atibigny, heigho!--only if the book comes out--Miss Stanley--”

Mrs. Pennant looked at her niece in benevolent anxiety; Miss Clarendon
was firmly silent; but St. Leger, catching from the expression of
both ladies’ countenances, that they were interested in the contrary
direction to what he had anticipated, turned to the right about, and

“This may be all scandal, one of the innumerable daily false reports
that are always flying about town; scandal all, I have no doubt--Your
head a little to the right, if you please--And the publication will be
stopped, of course, and the young lady’s friends--you are interested for
her, I see; so am I--always am for the young and fair, that’s my foible;
and indeed, confidentially I can inform you--If you could keep your head
still, my dear madam.”

But Miss Clarendon could bear it no longer; starting from under his
hand, she exclaimed, “No more, thank you--no more at present, sir: we
can call another day--no more:” and added as she hastily left the room,
“Better bear the toothache,” and ran down stairs. Mrs. Pennant slipped
into the dentist’s hand, as he pulled the bell, a double fee; for though
she did not quite think he deserved it much, yet she felt it necessary
to make amends for her niece’s way of running off, which might not be
thought quite civil.

“Thank you, ma’am--thank ye, ma’am--not the least occasion--don’t say
a word about it--Young lady’s nervous, said so from the first. Nerves!
nerves! all--open the door there--Nerves all,” were the last words, at
the top of the stairs, St. Leger Swift was heard to say.

And the first words of kind Mrs. Pennant, as soon as she was in the
carriage and had drawn up the glass, were, “Do you know, Esther, my
dear, I am quite sorry for this poor Miss Stanley. Though I don’t know
her, yet, as you described her to me, she was such a pretty, young,
interesting creature! I am quite sorry.”

“I don’t believe a word of it,” said Miss Clarendon.

“But even to have such things said must be so distressing to her and to
her lover, your friend Mr. Beauclerc--so very distressing!”

“I hope they are not such fools as to be distressed about such stuff.
All this insufferable talking man’s invention, I dare say.”

“Why do people tell such things?” said Mrs. Pennant. “But, my dear
Esther, even supposing it to be all false, it is shocking to have such
things spoken of. I pity the poor young lady and her lover. Do you not
think, my dear, we shall be able to inquire into the truth of the matter
from your brother this evening? He must know, he ought to know about it:
whether the report be true or false, he should hear of it. He can best
judge what should be done, if any thing should be done, my dear.”

Miss Clarendon quite agreed with all this; indeed she almost always
agreed with this aunt of hers, who, perhaps from the peculiar gentleness
of her manner, joined to a simplicity and sincerity of character she
could never doubt, had an ascendency over her, which no one, at first
view, could have imagined. They had many country commissions to execute
this morning, which naturally took up a good deal of aunt Pennant’s
attention. But between each return from shop to carriage, in the
intervals between one commission off her hands and another on her
mind, she returned regularly to “that poor Miss Stanley, and those
love-letters!” and she sighed. Dear kind-hearted old lady! she
had always a heart, as well as a hand, open as day to melting
charity--charity in the most enlarged sense of the word: charity in
judging as well as charity in giving. She was all indulgence for human
nature, for youth and love especially.

“We must take care, my dear Esther,” said she, “to be at General
Clarendon’s early, as you will like to have some little time with him to
yourself before any one else arrives--shall you not, my dear?”

“Certainly,” replied Miss Clarendon; “I shall learn the truth from my
brother in five minutes, if Lady Cecilia does not come between us.”

“Nay, my dear Esther, I cannot think so ill of Lady Cecilia; I cannot

“No, my dear aunt, I know you cannot think ill of any body. Stay till
you know Lady Cecilia Clarendon as I do. If there is any thing wrong
in this business, you will find that some falsehood of hers is at the
bottom of it.”

“Oh, my dear, do not say so before you know; perhaps, as you thought
at first, we shall find that it is all only a mistake of that giddy
dentist’s; for your brother’s sake try to think as well as you can of
his wife; she is a charming agreeable creature, I am sure.”

“You’ve only seen her once, my dear aunt,” said Miss Clarendon. “For my
brother’s sake I would give up half her agreeableness for one ounce--for
one scruple--of truth.”

“Well, well, take it with some grains of allowance, my dear niece; and,
at any rate, do not suffer yourself to be so prejudiced as to conceive
she can be in fault in this business.”

“We shall see to-day,” said Miss Clarendon; “I will not be prejudiced;
but I remember hearing at Florence that this Colonel D’Aubigny had been
an admirer of Lady Cecilia’s. I will get at the truth.”

With this determination, and in pursuance of the resolve to be early,
they were at General Clarendon’s full a quarter of an hour before the
arrival of any other company; but Lady Cecilia entered so immediately
after the general, that Miss Clarendon had no time to speak with her
brother alone. Determined, however, as she was, to get at the truth,
without preface, or even smoothing her way to her object, she rushed
into the middle of things at once. “Have you heard any reports about
Miss Stanley, brother?”


“And you, Lady Cecilia?”


“What have you heard?”

Lady Cecilia was silent, looked at the general, and left it to him to
speak as much or as little as he pleased. She trusted to his laconic
mode of answering, which, without departing from truth, defied
curiosity. Her trust in him upon the present occasion was, however,
a little disturbed by her knowledge of his being at this moment
particularly displeased with Helen. But, had she known the depths as
well as she knew the surface of his character, her confidence in his
caution would have been increased, instead of being diminished by this
circumstance: Helen was lost in his esteem, but she was still under his
protection; her secrets were not only sacred, but, as far as truth and
honour could admit, he would still serve and save her. Impenetrable,
therefore, was his look, and brief was his statement to his sister. A
rascally bookseller had been about to publish a book, in which were some
letters which paragraphs in certain papers had led the public to believe
were Miss Stanley’s; the publication had been stopped, the offensive
chapter suppressed, and the whole impression destroyed.

“But, brother,” pursued Miss Clarendon, “were the letters Miss
Stanley’s, or not? You know I do not ask from idle curiosity, but from
regard for Miss Stanley;” and she turned her inquiring eyes full upon
Lady Cecilia.

“I believe, my dear Esther,” said Lady Cecilia, “I believe we had better
say no more; you had better inquire no further.”

“That must be a bad case which can bear no inquiry,” said Miss
Clarendon; “which cannot admit any further question, even from one most
disposed to think well of the person concerned--a desperately bad case.”

“Bad! no, Esther. It would be cruel of you so to conclude: and falsely
it would be--might be; indeed, Esther! my dear Esther!----” Her
husband’s eyes were upon Lady Cecilia, and she did not dare to justify
Helen decidedly; her imploring look and tone, and her confusion, touched
the kind aunt, but did not stop the impenetrable niece.

“Falsely, do you say? Do you say, Lady Cecilia, that it would be to
conclude falsely? Perhaps not falsely though, upon the data given to me.
The data may be false.”

“Data! I do not know what you mean exactly, Esther,” said Lady Cecilia,
in utter confusion.

“I mean exactly what I say,” pursued Miss Clarendon; “that if I
reason wrong, and come to a false conclusion, or what you call a cruel
conclusion, it is not my fault, but the fault of those who do not
plainly tell me the facts.”

She looked from Lady Cecilia to her brother, and from her brother to
Lady Cecilia. On her brother no effect was produced: calm, unalterable,
looked he; as though his face had been turned to stone. Lady Cecilia
struggled in vain to be composed. “I wish I could tell you, Esther,”
 said she; “but facts cannot always--all facts--even the most
innocent--that is, even with the best intentions--cannot always be all
told, even in the defence of one’s best friend.”

“If this be the best defence you can make for your best friend, I
am glad you will never have to defend me, and I am sorry for Helen

“Oh, my dear Esther!” said her aunt, with a remonstrating look; for,
though she had not distinctly heard all that was said, she saw that
things were going wrong, and that Esther was making them worse. “Indeed,
Esther, my dear, we had better let this matter rest.”

“Let this matter rest!” repeated Miss Clarendon; “that is not what you
would say, my dear aunt, if you were to hear any evil report of me. If
any suspicion fell like a blast on my character you would never say ‘let
it rest.’”

Fire lighted in her brother’s eyes, and the stone face was all animated,
and he looked sudden sympathy, and he cried, “You are right, sister, in
principle, but wrong in--fact.”

“Set me right where only I am wrong then,” cried she.

He turned to stone again, and her aunt in a low voice, said, “Not now.”

“Now or never,” said the sturdy champion; “it is for Miss Stanley’s
character. You are interested for her, are not you, aunt?”

“Certainly, I am indeed; but we do not know all the circumstances--we

“But we must. You do not know, brother, how public these reports are.
Mr. St. Leger Swift, the dentist, has been chattering to us all morning
about them. So, to go to the bottom of the business at once, will you,
Lady Cecilia, answer me one straight-forward question?”

Straight-forward question! what is coming? thought Lady Cecilia: her
face flushed, and taking up a hand-screen, she turned away, as if from
the scorching fire; but it was not a scorching fire, as everybody, or
at least as Miss Clarendon, could see. The face turned away from Miss
Clarendon was full in view of aunt Pennant, who was on her other side;
and she, seeing the distressed state of the countenance, pitied, and
gently laying her hand upon Lady Cecilia’s arm, said, in her soft low
voice, “This must be a very painful subject to you, Lady Cecilia. I am
sorry for you.”

“Thank you,” said Lady Cecilia, pressing her hand with quick gratitude
for her sympathy. “It is indeed to me a painful subject, for Helen has
been my friend from childhood, and I have so much reason for loving

Many contending emotions struggled in Cecilia’s countenance, and she
could say no more: but what she had said, what she had looked, had been
quite enough to interest tenderly in her favour that kind heart to which
it was addressed; and Cecilia’s feeling was true at the instant; she
forgot all but Helen; the screen was laid down; tears stood in her
eyes--those beautiful eyes! “If I could but tell you the whole--oh if I
could! without destroying----”

Miss Clarendon at this moment placed herself close opposite to Cecilia,
and, speaking so low that neither her brother nor her aunt could hear
her, said, “Without destroying yourself, or your friend--which?”

Lady Cecilia could not speak.

“You need not--I am answered,” said Miss Clarendon; and returning to her
place, she remained silent for some minutes.

The general rang, and inquired if Mr. Beauclerc had come in.


The general made no observation and then began some indifferent
conversation with Mrs. Pennant, in which Lady Cecilia forced herself to
join; she dreaded even Miss Clarendon’s silence--that grim repose,--and
well she might.

“D’Aubigny’s Memoirs, I think, was the title of the book, aunt, that the
dentist talked of? That is the book you burnt, is not it, brother?--a
chapter in that book?”

“Yes,” said the general.

And again Miss Clarendon was silent; for though she well recollected
what she had heard at Florence, and however strong were her suspicions,
she might well pause; for she loved her brother before every thing
but truth and justice,--she loved her brother too much to disturb
his confidence. “I have no proof,” thought she; “I might destroy his
happiness by another word, and I may be wrong.”

“But shall not we see Miss Stanley?” said Mrs. Pennant.

Lady Cecilia was forced to explain that Helen was not very well, would
not appear till after dinner--nothing very much the matter--a little

“Fainted,” said the general.

“Yes, quite worn out--she was at Lady Castlefort’s last night--such a
crowd!” She went on to describe its city horrors.

“But where is Mr. Beauclerc all this time?” said Miss Clarendon: “has he
fainted too? or is he faintish?”

“Not likely,” said Lady Cecilia; “faint heart never won fair lady. He is
not of the faintish sort.”

At this moment a thundering knock at the door announced the rest of
the company, and never was company more welcome. But Beauclerc did not
appear. Before dinner was served, however, a note came from him to the
general. Lady Cecilia stretched out her hand for it, and read,

“MY DEAR FRIENDS,--I am obliged to dine out of town. I shall not return
to-night, but you will see me at breakfast-time to-morrow. Yours ever,

Cockburn now entered with a beautiful bouquet of hot-house flowers,
which, he said, Mr. Beauclerc’s man had brought with the note, and which
were, he said, for Miss Stanley. Lady Cecilia’s countenance grew radiant
with joy, and she exclaimed, “Give them to me,--I must have the pleasure
of taking them to her myself.”

And she flew off with them. Aunt Pennant smiled on her as she passed,
and, turning to her niece as Lady Cecilia left the room, said, “What a
bright creature! so warm, so affectionate!” Miss Clarendon was indeed
struck with the indisputably natural sincere satisfaction and affection
in Cecilia’s countenance; and, herself of such a different nature, could
not comprehend the possibility of such contradiction in any character:
she could not imagine the existence of such variable, transitory
feelings--she could not believe any human being capable of sacrificing
her friend to save herself, while she still so loved her victim, could
still feel such generous sympathy for her. She determined at least
to suspend her judgment; she granted Lady Cecilia a reprieve from her
terrific questions and her as terrific looks. Cecilia recovered her
presence of mind, and dinner went off delightfully, to her at least,
with the sense of escape in recovered self-possession, and “spirits
light, to every joy in tune.”

From the good-breeding of the company there was no danger that the topic
she dreaded should be touched upon. Whatever reports might have
gone forth, whatever any one present might have heard, nothing would
assuredly be said of her friend Miss Stanley, to her, or before her,
unless she or the general introduced the subject; and she was still more
secure of his discretion than of her own. The conversation kept safe on
London-dinner generalities and frivolities. Yet often things that were
undesignedly said touched upon the _taboo’d_ matter; and those who knew
when, where, and how it touched, looked at or from one another, and
almost equally dangerous was either way of looking. Such perfect
neutrality of expression is not given to all men in these emergencies as
to General Clarendon.

The dessert over, out of the dinner-room and in the drawing-room, the
ladies alone together, things were not so pleasant to Lady Cecilia.
Curiosity peeped out more and more in great concern about Miss Stanley’s
health; and when ladies trifled over their coffee, and saw through all
things with their half-shut eyes, they asked, and Lady Cecilia
answered, and parried, and explained, and her conscience winced, and
her countenance braved, and Miss Clarendon listened with that dreadfully
good memory, that positive point-blank recollection, which permits not
the slightest variation of statement. Her doubts and her suspicions
returned, but she was silent; and sternly silent she remained the rest
of the evening.


If “trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong as
proofs of Holy Writ,” and that they are no one since the time of Othello
could ever doubt, it may be some consolation to observe, on the credit
side of human nature, that, to those who are not cursed with a jealous
infirmity, trifles light as air are often confirmations strong of the
constancy of affection. Well did Lady Cecilia know this when she was so
eager to be the bearer of the flowers which were sent by Beauclerc. She
foresaw and enjoyed the instant effect, the quick smile, and blush of
delight with which that bouquet was received by Helen.

“Oh, thank you! How kind of him!” and “all’s well,” was her immediate
conclusion. When she saw his note, she never even took notice that he
did not particularly mention her. The flowers from him were enough; she
knew his sincerity so well, trusted to it so completely, that she was
quite sure, if he had been angry with her, he would not have sent these
tokens of his love,--slight tokens, though they were all-sufficient for
her. Her fears had taken but one direction, and in that direction they
were all dispelled. He would be at breakfast to-morrow, when she should
know where he had been, and what had detained him from her the whole
of this day. She told Cecilia that she was now quite well, but that she
would not attempt to go down stairs. And Cecilia left her happy, so far
at least; and when she was alone with her flowers, she doubly enjoyed
them, inhaling the fragrance of each which she knew he particularly
liked, and thanking him in her heart for the careful choice, for she was
certain that they were not accidentally put together. Some of them were
associated with little circumstances known only to themselves, awakening
recollections of bright, happy moments, and selected, she was sure,
with reference to a recent conversation they had had on the language of

Whether Helen fancied half this, or whether it was all true, it had the
effect of soothing and pleasing her anxious, agitated mind; and she was
the more ready to indulge in that pleasant reverie, from all that she
had previously suffered herself, and all that she feared Beauclerc had
yet to endure. She knew too well how much these reports would affect
him--and hear them he must. She considered what trials he had already
borne, and might still have to bear, for her sake, whatever course she
might now pursue. Though soon, very soon, the whole would be told to
him, yet still, though she might stand clear in his eyes as to the main
points, he must, and would blame her weakness in first consenting to
this deception--he who was above deceit. She had not absolutely _told_,
but she had _admitted_ a falsehood; she had _acted_ a falsehood. This
she could not extenuate. Her motive at first, to save Lady Davenant’s
life, was good; but then her weakness afterwards, in being persuaded
time after time by Cecilia, could not well be excused. She was conscious
that she had sunk step by step, dragged down that slippery path by
Cecilia, instead of firmly making a stand, as she ought to have done,
and up-holding by her own integrity her friend’s failing truth. With
returning anguish of self-reproach, she went over and over these
thoughts; she considered the many unforeseen circumstances that had
occurred. So much public shame, so much misery had been brought upon
herself and on all she loved, by this one false step! And how much more
might still await her, notwithstanding all that best of friends,
the general, had done! She recollected how much he had done for
her!--thinking of her too, as he must, with lowered esteem, and that was
the most painful thought of all;--to Beauclerc she could and would soon
clear her truth, but to the general--never, perhaps, completely!

Her head was leaning on her hand, as she was sitting deep in these
thoughts, when she was startled by an unusual knock at her door. It
was Cockburn with a packet, which General Clarendon had ordered him to
deliver into Miss Stanley’s own hands. The instant she saw the packet
she knew that it contained _the book;_ and on opening it she found
manuscript letters inserted between the marked pages, and there was a
note from General Clarendon. She trembled--she foreboded ill.

The note began by informing Miss Stanley how the enclosed manuscript
letters came into General Clarendon’s hands from a person whom Miss
Stanley had obliged, and who had hoped in return to do her some service.
The general next begged Miss Stanley to understand that these letters
had been put into his possession since his conversation with her at
breakfast time; his only design in urging her to mark her share in the
printed letters had been to obtain her authority for serving her to
the best of his ability; but he had since compared them:--and then came
references, without comment, to the discrepancies between the marked
passages, the uniform character of the omissions, followed only by a
single note of admiration at each from the general’s pen. And at last,
in cold polite phrase, came his regret that he had not been able to
obtain that confidence which he had trusted he had deserved, and his
renunciation of all future interference in her affairs--_or concerns_,
had been written, but a broad dash of the pen had erased the superfluous
words; and then came the inevitable conclusion, on which Helen’s eyes
fixed, and remained immovable for some time--that determination which
General Clarendon had announced to his wife in the first heat of
indignation, but which, Lady Cecilia had hoped, could be evaded,
changed, postponed--would not at least be so suddenly declared to Helen;
therefore she had given her no hint, had in no way prepared her for
the blow,--and with the full force of astonishment it came upon
her--“General Clarendon cannot have the pleasure he had proposed to
himself, of giving Miss Stanley at the altar to his ward. He cannot by
any public act of his attest his consent to that marriage, of which, in
his private opinion, he no longer approves.”

“And he is right. O Cecilia!” was Helen’s first thought, when she could
think after this shock--not of her marriage, not of herself, not of
Beauclerc, but of Cecilia’s falsehood--Cecilia’s selfish cowardice,
she thought, and could not conceive it possible,--could not believe it,
though it was there. “Incredible--yet proved--there--there--before her
eyes-brought home keen to her heart! after all! at such a time--after
her most solemn promise, with so little temptation, so utterly
false--with every possible motive that a good mind could have to
be true--in this last trial--her friend’s whole character at
stake--ungenerous--base! O Cecilia! how different from what I thought
you--or how changed! And I have helped to bring her to this!--I--I have
been the cause.--I will not stay in this house--I will leave her.
To save her--to save myself--save my own truth and my own real
character--let the rest go as it will--the world think what it may!
Farther and farther, lower and lower, I have gone: I will not go
lower--I will struggle up again at any risk, at any sacrifice. This is a
sacrifice Lady Davenant would approve of: she said that if ever I should
be convinced that General Clarendon did not wish me to be his guest--if
he should ever cease to esteem me--I should go, that instant--and I will
go. But where? To whom could she fly, to whom turn? The Collingwoods
were gone; all her uncle’s friends passed rapidly through her
recollection. Since she had been living with General and Lady Cecilia
Clarendon, several had written to invite her; but Helen knew a little
more of the world now than formerly, and she felt that there was not
one, no, not one of all these, to whom she could now, at her utmost
need, turn and say, ‘I am in distress, receive me! my character is
attacked, defend me! my truth is doubted, believe in me!’” And, her
heart beating with anxiety, she tried to think what was to be done.
There was an old Mrs. Medlicott, who had been a housekeeper of her
uncle’s, living at Seven Oaks--she would go there--she should be
safe--she should be independent. She knew that she was then in town, and
was to go to Seven Oaks the next day; she resolved to send Rose early
in the morning to Mrs. Medlicott’s lodging, which was near Grosvenor
Square, to desire her to call at General Clarendon’s as she went out of
town, at eight o’clock. She could then go with her to Seven Oaks; and,
by setting out before Cecilia could be up, she should avoid seeing her

There are minds which totally sink, and others that wonderfully rise,
under the urgency of strong motive and of perilous circumstance. It is
not always the mind apparently strongest or most daring that stands the
test. The firm of principle are those most courageous in time of need.
Helen had determined what her course should be, and, once determined,
she was calm. She sat down and wrote to General Clarendon.

“MISS STANLEY regrets that she cannot explain to General Clarendon the
circumstances which have so much displeased him. She assures him that
no want of confidence has been, on her part, the cause; but she cannot
expect that, without further explanation, he should give her credit
for sincerity. She feels that with his view of her conduct, and in
his situation, his determination is right,--that it is what she
has deserved,--that it is just towards his ward and due to his own
character. She hopes, however, that he will not think it necessary
to announce to Mr. Beauclerc his determination of withdrawing his
approbation and consent to his marriage, when she informs him that it
will now never be by her claimed or accepted. She trusts that General
Clarendon will permit her to take upon herself the breaking off this
union. She encloses a letter to Mr. Beauclerc, which she begs may be
given to him to-morrow. General Clarendon will find she has dissolved
their engagement as decidedly as he could desire, and that her decision
will be irrevocable. And since General Clarendon has ceased to esteem
her, Miss Stanley cannot longer accept his protection, or encroach upon
his hospitality. She trusts that he will not consider it as any want
of respect, that she has resolved to retire from his family as soon as
possible. She is certain of having a safe and respectable home with a
former housekeeper of her uncle Dean Stanley’s, who will call for her at
eight o’clock to-morrow, and take her to Seven Oaks, where she resides.
Miss Stanley has named that early hour, that she may not meet Mr.
Beauclerc before she goes; she wishes also to avoid the struggle and
agony of parting with Lady Cecilia. She entreats General Clarendon will
prevent Lady Cecilia from attempting to see her in the morning, and
permit her to go unobserved out of the house at her appointed hour.

“So now farewell, my dear friend--yes, friend, this last time you must
permit me to call you; for such I feel you have ever been, and ever
would have been, to me, if my folly would have permitted. Believe
me--notwithstanding the deception of which I acknowledge I have been
guilty towards you, General Clarendon--I venture to say, _believe me_, I
am not ungrateful. At this instant my heart swells with gratitude, while
I pray that you may be happy--happy as you deserve to be. But you will
read this with disdain, as mere idle words: so be it. Farewell! HELEN

Next, she was to write to Beauclerc himself. Her letter was as

“With my whole heart, dear Granville, I thank you for the generous
confidence you have shown towards me, and for the invariable steadiness
of your faith and love. For your sake, I rejoice. One good has at
least resulted from the trials you have gone through: you must now and
hereafter feel sure of your own strength of mind. With me it has been
different, for I have not a strong mind. I have been all weakness, and
must now be miserable; but wicked I will not be--and wicked I should
be if I took advantage of your confiding love. I must disappoint your
affection, but your confidence I will not betray. When I put your love
to that test which it has so nobly stood, I had hoped that a time would
come when all doubts would be cleared up, and when I could reward your
constancy by the devotion of my whole happy life--but that hope is past:
I cannot prove my innocence--I will no longer allow you to take it upon
my assertion. I cannot indeed, with truth, even assert that I have done
no wrong; for though I am not false, I have gone on step by step in
deception, and might go on, I know not how far, nor to what dreadful
consequences, if I did not now stop--and I do stop. On my own head be
the penalty of my fault--upon my own happiness--my own character: I will
not involve yours--therefore we part. You have not yet heard all that
has been said of me; but you soon will, and you will feel, as I do, that
I am not fit to be your wife. Your wife should not be suspected; I have
been--I am. All the happiness I can ever have in this world must be
henceforth in the thought of having saved from misery--if not secured
the happiness of those I love. Leave me this hope--Oh, Granville, do not
tell me, do not make me believe that you will never be happy without me!
You will--indeed you will. I only pray Heaven that you may find love as
true as mine, and strength to abide by the truth! Do not write to me--do
not try to persuade me to change my determination: it is irrevocable.
Further writing or meeting could be only useless anguish to us both.
Give me the sole consolation I can now have, and which you alone can
give--let me hear from Cecilia that you and your noble-minded guardian
are, after I am gone, as good friends as you were before you knew me. I
shall be gone from this house before you are here again; I cannot stay
where I can do no good, and might do much evil by remaining even a few
hours longer. As it is, comfort your generous heart on my account, with
the assurance that I am sustained by the consciousness that I am now,
to the best of my power, doing right. Adieu, Granville! Be happy! you
can--you have done no wrong. Be happy, and that will console

“Your affectionate HELEN STANLEY.”

This, enclosed to General Clarendon, she sent by Cockburn, who delivered
it to his master immediately. Though she could perfectly depend upon her
maid Rose’s fidelity, Helen did not tell her that she was going away
in the morning, to avoid bringing her into any difficulty if she were
questioned by Lady Cecilia; and besides, no note of preparation would be
heard or seen. She would take with her only sufficient for the day,
and would leave Rose to pack up all that belonged to her, after her
departure, and to follow her. Thanks to her own late discretion, she had
no money difficulties--no debts but such as Rose could settle, and she
had now only to write to Cecilia; but she had not yet recovered from
the tumult of mind which the writing to the general and to Beauclerc had
caused. She lay down upon the sofa, and closing her trembling eyelids,
she tried to compose herself sufficiently to think at least of what she
was to say. As she passed the table in going to the sofa, she, without
perceiving it, threw down some of the flowers; they caught her eye, and
she said to herself “Lie there! lie there! Granville’s last gifts! last
gifts to me! All over now; lie there and wither! Joys that are passed,
wither! All happiness for me, gone! Lie there, and wither, and die!--and
so shall I soon, I hope--if that only hope is not wrong.”

Some one knocked at the door; she started up, and said, “I cannot see
you, Cecilia!”

A voice not Cecilia’s, a voice she did not recollect, answered, “It is
not Cecilia; let me see you. I come from General Clarendon.”

Helen opened the door, and saw--Miss Clarendon. Her voice had sounded so
much lower and gentler than usual, that Helen had not guessed it to be
hers. She was cloaked, as if prepared to go away; and in the outer room
was another lady seated with her back towards them, and with her cloak
on also.

“My aunt Pennant--who will wait for me. As she is a stranger, she would
not intrude upon you, Miss Stanley; but will you allow me one minute?”

Helen, surprised, begged Miss Clarendon to come in, moved a chair
towards her, and stood breathless with anxiety. Miss Clarendon sat down,
and resuming her abruptness of tone, said, “I feel that I have no right
to expect that you should have confidence in me, and yet I do. I believe
in your sincerity, even from the little I know of you, and I have a
notion you believe in mine. Do you?”

“I do.”

“I wish it had pleased Heaven,” continued Miss Clarendon, “that my
brother had married a woman who could speak truth! But you need not
be afraid; I will not touch on your secrets. On any matter you have in
keeping, my honour as well as yours will command my silence--as will
also my brother’s happiness, which I have somewhat at heart; not that I
think it can be preserved by the means you take. But this is not what I
came to say. You mean to go away from this house to-morrow morning?”

“Yes,” said Helen.

“You are right. I would not stay where I did not esteem or where I had
reason to believe that I was not esteemed. You are quite right to go,
and to go directly; but not to your old housekeeper.”

“Why not?” said Helen.

“Because, though I dare say she is vastly respectable,--an excellent
person in her way, I am convinced,--yet my brother says she might not be
thought just the sort of person to whom you should go now--not just the
thing for you at present; though, at another time, it would be very
well and condescending; but now, when you are attacked, you must look to
appearances--in short, my brother will not allow you to go to this old
lady’s boarding-house, or cottage, or whatever it may be, at Seven Oaks;
he must be able to say for you where you are gone. You must be with me;
you must be at Llansillen. Llansillen is a place that can be named. You
must be with me--with General Clarendon’s sister. You must--you will, I
am sure, my dear Miss Stanley. I never was so happy in having a house of
my own as at this moment. You will not refuse to return with my aunt
and me to Llansillen, and make our home yours? We will try and make it
a happy home to you. Try; you see the sense of it: the world can say
nothing when you are known to be with Miss Clarendon; and you will, I
hope, feel the comfort of it, out of the stir and din of this London
world. I know you like the country, and Llansillen is a beautiful
place--romantic too; a fine castle, an excellent library, beautiful
conservatory; famous for our conservatories we are in South Wales; and
no neighbours--singular blessing! And my aunt Pennant, you will love her
so! Will you try? Come! say that you will.”

But Helen could not; she could only press the hand that Miss Clarendon
held out to her. There is nothing more touching, more overcoming, than
kindness at the moment the heart is sunk in despair. “But did General
Clarendon really wish you to ask me?” said Helen, when she could speak.
“Did he think so much and so carefully for me to the last? And with such
a bad opinion as he must have of me!”

“But there you know he is wrong.”

“It is like himself,” continued Helen; “consistent in protecting me to
the last. Oh, to lose such a friend!”

“Not lost, only mislaid,” said Miss Clarendon. “You will find him again
some fair day or other; truth always comes to light. Meanwhile, all is
settled. I must run and tell my aunt, and bless the fates and Lady
Emily Greville, that Lady Cecilia did not come up in the middle of it.
Luckily, she thinks I am gone, and knows nothing of my being with you;
for my brother explained all this to me in his study, after we had left
the saloon, and he desires me to say that his carriage shall be ready
for you at your hour, at eight o’clock. We shall expect you; and now,
farewell till to-morrow.”

She was gone, and her motto might well be, though in a different
acceptation from that of our greatest modern politician--“_Tout faire
sans paraître._”

But before Helen could go to rest, she must write to Lady Cecilia, and
her thoughts were in such perplexity, and her feelings in such conflict,
that she knew not how to begin. At last she wrote only a few hasty
lines of farewell, and referred for her determination, and for all
explanations, to her letter to the general. It came to “Farewell, dear

Dear! yes, still dear she was to Helen--she must be as Lady Davenant’s
daughter--still dear for her own sake was Cecilia, the companion of
her childhood, who had shown her such generous affection early, such
fondness always, who was so charming, with so many good qualities, so
much to win love--loved she must be still. “Farewell, Cecilia; may you
be happy!”

But as Helen wrote these words, she thought it impossible, she could
scarcely in the present circumstances wish it possible, that Cecilia
should be happy. How could she, unless her conscience had become quite

She gave her note to Rose, with orders to deliver it herself to Lady
Cecilia to-night, when she should demand admittance. And soon she came,
the very instant Lady Emily Greville went away--before Helen was in bed
she heard Cecilia at her door; she left her to parley with Rose--heard
her voice in the first instance eager, peremptory for admittance. Then a
sudden silence. Helen comprehended that she had opened her note--and in
another instant she heard her retreating step. On seeing the first
words referring for explanation to Helen’s letter to the general,
panic-struck, Lady Cecilia hurried to her own room to read the rest

Helen now tried to recollect whether every thing had been said, written,
done, that ought to be done; and at last went to bed and endeavoured to
sleep for a few hours.


Helen was just dressed, and had given her last orders to her bewildered
maid, when she heard a knock at the door, and Mademoiselle Felicie’s
voice. She could not at this instant endure to hear her heartless
exclamatory speeches; she would not admit her. Mademoiselle Felicie gave
Rose a note for her young lady--it was from Cecilia.

“Dearest Helen,--The general will not allow me to take leave of you
this morning, but I shall certainly go to you in the course of to-day.
I cannot understand or make you understand any thing till I see you. I
_will_ see you to-day. Your affectionate CECILIA.”

“I understand it too well!” thought Helen.

The carriage was announced, Helen was ready; she hurried into it, and
she was gone! And thus she parted from the friend of her childhood--the
friend she had but a few months before met with such joy, such true
affection; and her own affection was true to the last.

As Helen drove from the door, she saw the general--yes, it certainly was
the general riding off--at this unusual hour!--Was it to avoid her?
But she was in too great anguish to dwell upon that or any other
circumstance; her only thought now was to subdue her emotion before
she was seen by Miss Clarendon and Mrs. Pennant. And by the time she
arrived, she thought she had quite recovered herself, and was not aware
that any traces of tears remained; but to Mrs. Pennant’s sympathising
eyes they were visible, and after the first introductions and
salutations were over, that kind lady, as she seated her at the
breakfast-table, gently pressing her hand, said, “Poor thing! no
wonder--parting with old friends for new is a sad trial: but you know
we shall become old friends in time: we will make what haste we can, my
dear Miss Stanley, and Esther will help me to make you forget that you
have not known us all your life.”

“There is very little to be known; no mysteries, that is one comfort,”
 said Miss Clarendon; “so now to breakfast. You are very punctual, Miss
Stanley; and that is a virtue which aunt Pennant likes, and can estimate
to a fraction of a minute with that excellent watch of hers.”

There was some history belonging to that family-watch, which then came
out; and then the conversation turned upon little family anecdotes and
subjects which were naturally interesting to the aunt and niece, and not
exciting to Helen, whose mind, they saw, needed quiet, and freedom from
all observation.

From the first awkwardness of her situation, from the sense of
intrusion, and the suddenness of change, she was thus as far as
possible gradually and almost imperceptibly relieved. By their perfect
good-breeding, as well as good-nature, from their making no effort to
show her particular attention, she felt received at once into their
family as one of themselves; and yet, though there was no effort,
she perceived in the most minute circumstances the same sort of
consideration which would be shown to an intimate friend. They not only
did not expect, but did not wish, that she should make any exertion to
appear to be what she could not be; they knew the loneliness of heart
she must feel, the weight that must be upon her spirits. They left her,
then, quite at liberty to be with them or alone, as she might like, and
she was glad to be alone with her own thoughts; they soon fixed upon
Beauclerc. She considered how he would feel, what he would think, when
he should receive her letter: she pictured his looks while reading
it; considered whether he would write immediately, or attempt,
notwithstanding her prohibition, to see her. He would know from General
Clarendon, that is, if the general thought proper to tell him, where
she was, and that she would remain all this day in town. Though her
determination was fixed, whether he wrote or came, to abide by her
refusal, and for the unanswerable reasons which she had given, or which
she had laid down to herself; yet she could not, and who, loving as she
did, could help wishing that Beauclerc should desire to see her again;
she hoped that he would make every effort to change her resolution, even
though it might cost them both pain. Yet in some pain there is pleasure;
or, to be without it, is a worse kind of suffering. Helen was conscious
of the inconsistency in her mind, and sighed, and endeavoured to be
reasonable. And, to do her justice, there was not the slightest wavering
as to the main point. She thought that the general might, perhaps, have
some relenting towards her. Hope would come into her mind, though she
tried to keep it out; she had nothing to expect, she repeatedly said
to herself, except that either Cecilia would send, or the general would
call this morning, and Rose must come at all events.

The morning passed on, however, and no one came so soon as Helen had
expected. She was sitting in a back room where no knocks at the door
could be heard; but she would have been called, surely, if General
Clarendon had come. He had come, but he had not asked for her; he had at
first inquired only for his sister, but she was not at home, gone to the
dentist’s. The general then desired to see Mrs. Pennant, and when she
supposed that she had not heard rightly, and that Miss Stanley must
be the person he wished to see, he had answered, “By no means; I
particularly wish not to see Miss Stanley. I beg to see Mrs. Pennant

It fell to the lot of this gentle-hearted lady to communicate to Helen
the dreadful intelligence he brought: a duel had taken place! When Helen
had seen the general riding off, he was on his way to Chalk Farm. Just
as the carriage was coming round for Miss Stanley, Mr. Beauclerc’s groom
had requested in great haste to see the general; he said he was sure
something was going wrong about his master; he had heard the words Chalk
Farm. The general was off instantly, but before he reached the spot
the duel had been fought. A duel between Beauclerc and Mr. Churchill.
Beauclerc was safe, but Mr. Churchill was dangerously wounded; the
medical people present could not answer for his life. At the time the
general saw him he was speechless, but when Beauclerc and his second,
Lord Beltravers, had come up to him, he had extended his hand in token
of forgiveness to one or the other, but to which he had addressed the
only words he had uttered could not be ascertained; the words were,
“_You_ are not to blame!--escape!--fly!” Both had fled to the Continent.
General Clarendon said that he had no time for explanations, he had not
been able to get any intelligible account of the cause of the affair.
Lord Beltravers had named Miss Stanley, but Beauclerc had stopped him,
and had expressed the greatest anxiety that Miss Stanley’s name should
not be implicated, should not be mentioned. He took the whole blame upon
himself--said he would write--there was no time for more.

Mrs. Pennant listened with the dread of losing a single word: but
however brief his expressions, the general’s manner of speaking,
notwithstanding the intensity of his emotion, was so distinct that every
word was audible, except the name of Lord Beltravers, which was not
familiar to her. She asked again the name of Mr. Beauclerc’s second?
“Lord Beltravers,” the general repeated with a forcible accent, and
loosening his neck-cloth with his finger, he added, “Rascal! as I always
told Beauclerc that he was, and so he will find him--too late.”

Except this exacerbation, the general was calmly reserved in speech, and
Mrs. Pennant felt that she could not ask him a single question beyond
what he had communicated. When he rose to go, which he did the moment
he had finished what he had to say, she had, however, courage enough
to hope that they should soon hear again, when the general should learn
something more of Mr. Churchill.

Certainly he would let her know whatever he could learn of Mr.
Churchill’s state.

Her eyes followed him to the door with anxious eagerness to penetrate
farther into what his own opinion of the danger might be. His rigidity
of composure made her fear that he had no hope, “otherwise certainly he
would have said something.”

He opened the door again, and returning, said, “Depend upon it you shall
hear how he is, my dear Mrs. Pennant, before you leave town to-morrow.”

“We will not go to-morrow,” she replied. “We will stay another day at
least. Poor Miss Stanley will be so anxious----”

“I advise you not to stay in town another day, my dear madam. You can do
no good by it. If Mr. Churchill survive this day, he will linger long
I am assured. Take Helen--take Miss Stanley out of town, as soon as may
be. Better go to-morrow, as you had determined.”

“But it will be so long, my dear general!--one moment--if we go, it will
be so long before we can hear any further news of your ward.”

“I will write.”

“To Miss Stanley--Oh, thank you.”

“To my sister,” he looked back to say, and repeated distinctly, “To my

“Very well--thank you, at all events.”

Mrs. Pennant saw that, in General Clarendon’s present disposition
towards Miss Stanley, the less she said of him the better, and she
confined herself strictly to what she had been commissioned to say, and
all she could do was to prevent the added pain of suspense; it was told
to Helen in the simplest shortest manner possible:--but the facts were
dreadful. Beauclerc was safe!--safe! but under what circumstances?

“And it was for me, I am sure,” cried Helen, “I am sure it was for me!
I was the cause! I am the cause of that man’s death--of Beauclerc’s

For some time Helen had not power or thought for any other idea. The
promise that they should hear as soon as they could learn any thing more
of Mr. Churchill’s state was all she could rely upon or recur to.

When her maid Rose arrived from General Clarendon’s, she said, that
when Lady Cecilia heard of the duel she had been taken very ill, but
had since recovered sufficiently to drive out with the general.
Miss Clarendon assured Helen there was no danger. “It is too deep a
misfortune for Lady Cecilia. Her feelings have not depth enough for it,
you will see. You need not be afraid for her, Helen.”

The circumstances which led to the duel were not clearly known till long
afterwards, but may be now related. The moment Beauclerc had parted from
Helen when he turned away at the carriage door after the party at Lady
Castlefort’s he went in search of one, who, as he hoped, could explain
the strange whispers he had heard. The person of whom he went in search
was his friend, his friend as he deemed him, Lord Beltravers. Churchill
had suggested that if any body knew the bottom of the matter, except
that origin of all evil Lady Katrine herself,--it must be Lord
Beltravers, with whom Lady Castlefort was, it was said, _fortement
éprise_, and as Horace observed, “the secrets of scandal are common
property between lovers, much modern love being cemented by hate.”

Without taking in the full force of this observation in its particular
application to the hatred which Lord Beltravers might feel to Miss
Stanley, as the successful rival of his sister Blanche, Beauclerc
hastened to act upon his suggestion. His lordship was not at home: his
people thought he had been at Lady Castlefort’s; did not know where he
might be if not there. At some gambling-house Beauclerc at last found
him, and Lord Beltravers was sufficiently vexed in the first place at
being there found, for he had pretended to his friend Granville that he
no longer played. His embarrassment was increased by the questions which
Beauclerc so suddenly put to him; but he had _nonchalante_ impudence
enough to brave it through, and he depended with good reason on
Beauclerc’s prepossession in his favour. He protested he knew nothing
about it; and he returned Churchill’s charge, by throwing the
whole blame upon him; said he knew he was in league with Lady
Katrine;--mentioned that one morning, sometime ago, he had dropped in
unexpectedly early at Lady Castlefort’s, and had been surprised to
find the two sisters, contrary to their wont, together--their heads and
Horace Churchill’s over some manuscript, which was shuffled away as
he entered. This was true, all but the shuffling away; and here it is
necessary to form a clear notion, clearer than Lord Beltravers
will give, of the different shares of wrong; of wrong knowingly and
unknowingly perpetrated by the several scandal-mongers concerned in this

Lord Beltravers could be in no doubt as to his own share, for he it was
who had furnished the editor of Colonel D’Aubigny’s Memoirs with the
famous letters. When Carlos, Lady Davenant’s runaway page, escaped from
Clarendon Park, having changed his name, he got into the service of
Sir Thomas D’Aubigny, who was just at this time arranging his brother’s
papers. Now it had happened that Carlos had been concealed behind the
screen in Lady Davenant’s room, the day of her first conversation with
Helen about Colonel D’Aubigny, and he had understood enough of it to
perceive that there was some mystery about the colonel with either
Helen or Lady Cecilia; and chancing one day, soon after he entered Sir
Thomas’s service, to find his escritoire open, he amused himself with
looking over his papers, among which he discovered the packet of Lady
Cecilia’s letters. Carlos was not perfectly sure of the handwriting; he
thought it was Lady Cecilia’s; but when he found the miniature of Miss
Stanley along with them, he concluded that the letters must be hers. And
having special reasons for feeling vengeance against Helen, and certain
at all events of doing mischief, he sent them to General Clarendon: not,
however, forgetting his old trade, he copied them first. This was just
at the time when Lord Beltravers returned from abroad after his sister’s
divorce. He by some accident found out who Carlos was, and whence he
came, and full of his own views for his sister, he cross-examined him as
to every thing he knew about Miss Stanley; and partly by bribes, partly
by threats of betraying him to Lady Davenant, he contrived to get from
him the copied letters. Carlos soon after returned with his master
to Portugal, and was never more heard of. Lord Beltravers took these
purloined copies of the letters, thus surreptitiously obtained, to the
editor, into whose hands Sir Thomas D’Aubigny (who knew nothing of books
or book-making) had put his brother’s memoirs. This editor, as has been
mentioned, had previously consulted Mr. Churchill, and in consequence
of his pepper and salt hint, Lord Beltravers himself made those
interpolations which he hoped would ruin his sister’s rival in the eyes
of her lover.

Mr. Churchill, however, except this hint, and except his vanity in
furnishing a good title, and his coxcombry of literary patronage,
and his general hope that Helen’s name being implicated in such a
publication would avenge her rejection of himself, had had nothing to do
with the business. This Lord Beltravers well knew, and yet when he found
that the slander made no impression upon Beauclerc, and that he was only
intent upon discovering the slanderer, he, with dexterous treachery,
contrived to turn the tables upon Churchill, and to direct all
Beauclerc’s suspicion towards him! He took his friend home with him, and
showed him all the newspaper paragraphs--paragraphs which he himself
had written! Yes, this man of romantic friendship, this blazé, this hero
oppressed with his own sensibility, could condescend to write anonymous
scandal, to league with newsmongers, and to bribe waiting-women to
supply him with information, for Mademoiselle Felicie had, through Lady
Katrine’s maid, told all, and more than all she knew, of what passed
at General Clarendon’s; and on this foundation did he construct those
paragraphs, which he hoped would blast the character of the woman to
whom his dearest friend was engaged. And now he contrived to say all
that could convince Beauclerc that Mr. Churchill was the author of
these very paragraphs. And hot and rash, Beauclerc rushed on to that
conclusion. He wrote, a challenge to Churchill, and as soon as it was
possible in the morning he sent it by Lord Beltravers. Mr. Churchill
named Sir John Luttrell as his friend: Lord Beltravers would enter
into no terms of accommodation; the challenge was accepted, Chalk Farm
appointed as the place of meeting, and the time fixed for eight o’clock
next morning. And thus, partly by his own warmth of temper, and partly
by the falsehood of others, was Beauclerc urged on to the action he
detested, to be the thing he hated. Duelling and duellists had, from
the time he could think, been his abhorrence, and now he was to end his
life, or to take the life of a fellow-creature perhaps, in a duel.

There was a dread interval. And it was during the remainder of this
day and night that Beauclerc felt most strongly compared with all other
earthly ties, his attachment, his passionate love for Helen. At every
pause, at every close of other thoughts forced upon him, his mind
recurred to Helen--what Helen would feel--what Helen would think--what
she would suffer--and in the most and in the least important things
his care was for her. He recalled the last look that he had seen at the
carriage-door when they parted, recollected that it expressed anxiety,
was conscious that he had turned away abruptly--that in the preoccupied
state of his mind he had not spoken one word of kindness--and that this
might be the last impression of him left on her mind. He knew that her
anxiety would increase, when all that day must pass without his return,
and it was then he thought of sending her those flowers which would, he
knew, reassure her better than any words he could venture to write.

Meanwhile his false friend coldly calculated what were the chances in
his sister’s favour; and when Churchill fell, and even in the hurry of
their immediate departure, Lord Beltravers wrote to Madame de St. Cymon,
over whom the present state of her affairs gave him command, to order
her to set out immediately, and to take Blanche with her to Paris,
without asking the consent of that fool and prude, her aunt Lady Grace.

It was well for poor Helen, even in the dreadful uncertainty in which
she left London, that she did not know _all_ these circumstances. It may
be doubted, indeed, whether we should be altogether happier in this life
if that worst of evils, as it is often called, suspense, were absolutely
annihilated, and if human creatures could clearly see their fate, or
even know what is most likely to happen.


According to the general’s advice, Mrs. Pennant did not delay her
journey, and Helen left London the next day with her and Miss Clarendon.
The last bulletin of Mr. Churchill had been that he was still in great
danger, and a few scarce legible lines Helen had received from Cecilia,
saying that the general would not allow her to agitate herself by going
to take leave of her, that she was glad that Helen was to be out of town
till all blew over, and that she was so much distracted by this horrible
event, she scarcely knew what she wrote.

As they drove out of town, Miss Clarendon, in hopes of turning Helen’s
thoughts, went on talking. “Unless,” said she, “we could like Madame de
Genlis, ‘promote the post-boys into agents of mystery and romance,’ we
have but little chance, I am afraid, of any adventures on our journey to
Llansillen, my dear Miss Stanley.”

She inveighed against the stupid safety, convenience, luxury, and
expedition of travelling now-a-days all over England, even in Wales, “so
that one might sleep the whole way from Hyde Park corner to Llansillen
gate,” said she, “and have no unconscionably long nap either. No
difficulties on the road, nothing to complain of at inns, no enjoying
one’s dear delight in being angry, no opportunity even of showing one’s
charming resignation. Dreadfully bad this for the nervous and bilious,
for all the real use and benefit of travelling is done away; all too
easy for my taste; one might as well be a doll, or a dolt, or a parcel
in the coach.”

Helen would have been glad to have been considered merely as a parcel
in the coach. During the whole journey, she took no notice of any thing
till they came within a few miles of Llansillen; then, endeavouring to
sympathise with her companions, she looked out of the carriage window at
the prospect which they admired. But, however charming, Llansillen had
not for Helen the chief charm of early, fond, old associations with a
happy home. To her it was to be, she doubted not, as happy as kindness
could make it, but still it was new; and in that thought, that feeling,
there was something inexpressibly melancholy; and the contrast, at this
moment, between her sensations and those of her companions, made the
pain the more poignant; they perceived this, and were silent. Helen was
grateful for this consideration for her, but she could not bear to be
a constraint upon them, therefore she now exerted herself, sat
forward--admired and talked when she was scarcely able to speak. By the
time they came to Llansillen gate, however, she could say no more; she
was obliged to acknowledge that she was not well; and when the carriage
at last stopped at the door, there was such a throbbing in her temples,
and she was altogether so ill, that it was with the greatest difficulty
she could, leaning on Miss Clarendon’s arm, mount the high steps to
the hall-door. She could scarcely stand when she reached the top, but,
making an effort, she went on, crossed the slippery floor of that great
hall, and came to the foot of the black oak staircase, of which the
steps were so very low that she thought she could easily go up, but
found it impossible, and she was carried directly up to Miss Clarendon’s
own room, no other having been yet prepared. The rosy Welsh maids looked
with pity on the pale stranger. They hurried to and fro, talking Welsh
to one another very fast; and Helen felt as if she were in a foreign
land, and in a dream. The end of the matter was, that she had a low
fever which lasted long. It was more dispiriting than dangerous--more
tedious than alarming. Her illness continued for many weeks, during
which time she was attended most carefully by her two new friends--by
Miss Clarendon with the utmost zeal and activity--by Mrs. Pennant with
the greatest solicitude and tenderness.

Her history for these weeks--indeed for some months afterwards--can
be only the diary of an invalid and of a convalescent. Miss Clarendon
meanwhile received from her brother, punctually, once a week, bulletins
of Churchill’s health; the surgical details, the fears of the formation
of internal abscess, reports of continual exfoliations of bone, were
judiciously suppressed, and the laconic general reported only “Much
the same--not progressing--cannot be pronounced out of danger.” These
bulletins were duly repeated to Helen, whenever she was able to hear
them; and at last she was considered well enough to read various
letters, which had arrived for her during her illness; several were from
Lady Cecilia, but little in them. The first was full only of expressions
of regret, and self-reproach; in the last, she said, _she hoped soon to
have a right to claim Helen back again_. This underlined passage Helen
knew alluded to the promise she had once made, that at the birth of her
child all should be told; but words of promise from Cecilia had lost all
value--all power to excite even hope, as she said to herself as she read
the words, and sighed.

One of her letters mentioned what she would have seen in the first
newspaper she had opened, that Lady Blanche Forrester was gone with her
sister, the Comtesse de St. Cymon, to Paris, to join her brother Lord
Beltravers. But Lady Cecilia observed, that Helen need not be alarmed
by this paragraph, which she was sure was inserted on purpose to plague
her. Lady Cecilia seemed to take it for granted that her rejection of
Beauclerc was only a _ruse d’amour_, and went on with her usual hopes,
now vague and more vague every letter--that things would end well
sometime, somehow or other.

Helen only sighed on reading these letters, and quick as she glanced her
eye over them, threw them from her on the bed; and Miss Clarendon said,
“Ay! you know her now, I see!”

Helen made no reply: she was careful not to make any comment which could
betray how much, or what sort of reason she had to complain of Lady
Cecilia; but Miss Clarendon, confident that she had guessed pretty
nearly the truth, was satisfied with her own penetration, and then,
after seeming to doubt for a few moments, she put another letter into
Helen’s hand, and with one of those looks of tender interest which
sometimes softened her countenance, she left the room.

The letter was from Beauclerc; it appeared to have been written
immediately after he had received Helen’s letter, and was as follows:--

“Not write to you, my dearest Helen! Renounce my claim to your hand!
submit to be rejected by you, my affianced bride! No, never--never!
Doubt! suspicion!--suspicion of you!--you, angel as you are--you, who
have devoted, sacrificed yourself to others. No, Helen, my admiration,
my love, my trust in you, are greater than they ever were. And do _I_
dare to say these words to you? _I_, who am perhaps a murderer! I ought
to imitate your generosity, I ought not to offer you a hand stained with
blood:--I ought at least to leave you free till I know when I may return
from banishment. I have written this at the first instant I have been
able to command during my hurried journey, and as you know something of
what led to this unhappy business, you shall in my next letter hear the
whole; till then, adieu! GRANVILLE BEAUCLERC.”

The next day, when she thought Helen sufficiently recovered from the
agitation of reading Beauclerc’s letter, aunt Pennant produced one
letter more, which she had kept for the last, because she hoped it
would give pleasure to her patient. Helen sat up in her bed eagerly, and
stretched out her hand. The letter was directed by General Clarendon,
but that was only the outer cover, they knew, for he had mentioned
in his last dispatch to his sister, that the letter enclosed for Miss
Stanley was from Lady Davenant. Helen tore off the cover, but the
instant she saw the inner direction, she sank hack, turned, and hid her
face on the pillow.

It was directed--“To Mrs. Granville Beauclerc.”

Lady Davenant had unfortunately taken it for granted, that nothing could
have prevented the marriage.

Aunt Pennant blamed herself for not having foreseen, and prevented
this accident, which she saw distressed poor Helen so much. But Miss
Clarendon wondered that she was so shocked, and supposed she would
get over it in a few minutes, or else she must be very weak. There was
nothing that tended to raise her spirits much in the letter itself, to
make amends for the shock the direction had given. It contained but a
few lines in Lady Davenant’s own handwriting, and a postscript from Lord
Davenant. She wrote only to announce their safe arrival at Petersburgh,
as she was obliged to send off her letter before she had received any
dispatches from England; and she concluded with, “I am sure the first
will bring me the joyful news of Beauclerc’s happiness and yours, my
dear child.”

Lord Davenant’s postscript added, that in truth Lady Davenant much
needed such a cordial, for that her health had suffered even more than
he had feared it would. He repented that he had allowed her to accompany
him to such a rigorous climate.

All that could be said to allay the apprehensions this postscript might
excite, was of course said in the best way by aunt Pennant. But it was
plain that Helen did not recover during the whole of this day from the
shock she had felt “from that foolish direction,” as Miss Clarendon
said. She could not be prevailed upon to rise this day, though Miss
Clarendon, after feeling her pulse, had declared that she was very well
able to get up. “It was very bad for her to remain in bed.” This was
true, no doubt. And Miss Clarendon remarked to her aunt that she was
surprised to find Miss Stanley so weak. Her aunt replied that it was not
surprising that she should be rather weak at present, after such a long

“Weakness of body and mind need not go together,” said Miss Clarendon.

“Need not, perhaps,” said her aunt, “but they are apt to do so.”

“It is to be hoped the weakness of mind will go with the weakness of
body, and soon,” said Miss Clarendon.

“We must do what we can to strengthen and fatten her, poor thing!” said
Mrs. Pennant.

“Fatten the body, rather easier than to strengthen the mind. Strength of
mind cannot be thrown in, as you would throw in the bark, or the chicken

“Only have patience with her,” said Mrs. Pennant, “and you will find
that she will have strength of mind enough when she gets quite well.
Only have patience.”

During Helen’s illness Miss Clarendon had been patient, but now that she
was pronounced convalescent, she became eager to see her quite well.
In time of need Miss Clarendon had been not only the most active
and zealous, but a most gentle and--doubt it who may--soft-stepping,
soft-voiced nurse; but now, when Doctor Tudor had assured them that all
fever was gone, and agreed with her that the patient would soon be well,
if she would only think so, Miss Clarendon deemed it high time to use
something more than her milder influence, to become, if not a rugged, at
least a stern nurse, and she brought out some of her rigid lore.

“I intend that you should get up in seasonable time to-day, Helen,” said
she, as she entered her room.

“Do you?” said Helen in a languid voice.

“I do,” said Miss Clarendon; “and I hope you do not intend to do as you
did yesterday, to lie in bed all day.”

Helen turned, sighed, and Mrs. Pennant said, “Yesterday is over, my dear
Esther--no use in talking of yesterday.”

“Only to secure our doing better to-day, ma’am,” replied Miss Clarendon
with prompt ability.

Helen was all submission, and she got up, and that was well. Miss
Clarendon went in quest of arrow-root judiciously; and aunt Pennant
stayed and nourished her patient meanwhile with “the fostering dew of
praise;” and let her dress as slowly and move as languidly as she liked,
though Miss Clarendon had admonished her “not to _dawdle_.”

As soon as she was dressed, Helen went to the window and threw up the
sash for the first time to enjoy the fresh air, and to see the prospect
which she was told was beautiful; and she saw that it was beautiful,
and, though it was still winter, she felt that the air was balmy;
and the sun shone bright, and the grass began to be green, for spring
approached. But how different to her from the spring-time of former
years! Nature the same, but all within herself how changed! And all
which used to please, and to seem to her most cheerful, now came over
her spirits with a sense of sadness;--she felt as if all the life of
life was gone. Tears filled her eyes, large tears rolled slowly down as
she stood fixed, seeming to gaze from that window at she knew not
what. Aunt Pennant unperceived stood beside her, and let the tears flow
unnoticed. “They will do her good; they are a great relief sometimes.”
 Miss Clarendon returned, and the tears were dried, but the glaze
remained, and Miss Clarendon saw it, and gave a reproachful look at her
aunt, as much as to say, “Why did you let her cry?” And her aunt’s look
in reply was, “I could not help it, my dear.”

“Eat your arrow-root,” was all that transpired to Helen. And she tried
to eat, but could not; and Miss Clarendon was not well pleased, for the
arrow-root was good, and she had made it; she felt Miss Stanley’s pulse,
and said that “It was as good a pulse as could be, only low and a little

“Do not flutter it any more, then, Esther my dear,” said Mrs. Pennant.

“What am I doing or saying, ma’am, that should flutter anybody that has
common sense?”

“Some people don’t like to have their pulse felt,” said aunt Pennant.

“Those people have not common sense,” replied the niece.

“I believe I have not common sense,” said Helen.

“Sense you have enough--resolution is what you want, Helen, I tell you.”

“I know,” said Helen, “too true----”

“True, but not too true--nothing can be too true.”

“True,” said Helen, with languid submission. Helen was not in a
condition to chop logic, or ever much inclined to it; now less than
ever, and least of all with Miss Clarendon, so able as she was. There is
something very provoking sometimes in perfect submission, because it is
unanswerable. But the langour, not the submission, afforded some cause
for further remark and remonstrance.

“Helen, you are dreadfully languid to-day.”

“Sadly,” said Helen.

“If you could have eaten more arrow-root before it grew cold, you would
have been better.”

“But if she could not, my dear Esther,” said aunt Pennant.

“_Could_ not, ma’am! As if people could not eat if they pleased.”

“But if people have no appetite, my dear, I am afraid eating will not do
much good.”

“I am afraid, my dear aunt, you will not do Miss Stanley much good,”
 said Miss Clarendon, shaking her head; “you will only spoil her.”

“I am quite spoiled, I believe,” said Helen; “you must unspoil me,

“Not so very easy,” said Esther; “but I shall try, for I am a sincere

“I am sure of it,” said Helen.

Then what more could be said? Nothing at that time--Helen’s look was so
sincerely grateful, and “gentle as a lamb,” as aunt Pennant observed;
and Esther was not a wolf quite--at heart not at all.

Miss Clarendon presently remarked that Miss Stanley really did not seem
glad to be better--glad to get well. Helen acknowledged that instead of
being glad, she was rather sorry.

“If it had pleased Heaven, I should have been glad to die.”

“Nonsense about dying, and worse than nonsense,” cried Miss Clarendon,
“when you see that it did not please Heaven that you should die--”

“I am content to live,” said Helen.

“Content! to be sure you are,” said Miss Clarendon. “Is this your
thankfulness to Providence?”

“I am resigned--I am thankful--I will try to be more so--but cannot be

General Clarendon’s bulletins continued with little variation for some
time; they were always to his sister--he never mentioned Beauclerc,
but confined himself to the few lines or words necessary to give his
promised regular accounts of Mr. Churchill’s state, the sum of which
continued to be for a length of time: “Much the same.”--“Not in
immediate danger.”--“Cannot be pronounced out of danger.”

Not very consolatory, Helen felt. “But while there is life, there is
hope,” as aunt Pennant observed.

“Yes, and fear,” said Helen; and her hopes and fears on this subject
alternated with fatiguing reiteration, and with a total incapacity of
forming any judgment.

Beauclerc’s letter of explanation arrived, and other letters came from
him from time to time, which, as they were only repetitions of hopes and
fears as to Churchill’s recovery, and of uncertainty as to what might
be his own future fate, only increased Helen’s misery; and as even their
expressions of devoted attachment could not alter her own determination,
while she felt how cruel her continued silence must appear, they only
agitated without relieving her mind. Mrs. Pennant sympathised with and
soothed her, and knew how to sooth, and how to raise, and to sustain a
mind in sorrow, suffering under disappointed affection, and sunk almost
to despondency; for aunt Pennant, besides her softness of manner, and
her quick intelligent sympathy, had power of consolation of a higher
sort, beyond any which this world can give. She was very religious, of a
cheerfully religious turn of mind--of that truly Christian spirit which
hopeth all things. When she was a child somebody asked her if she was
bred up in the fear of the Lord. She said no, but in the love of
God. And so she was, in that love which casteth out fear. And now the
mildness of her piety, and the whole tone and manner of her speaking and
thinking, reminded Helen of that good dear uncle by whom she had been
educated. She listened with affectionate reverence, and she truly and
simply said, “You do me good--I think you have done me a great deal of
good--and you shall see it.” And she did see it afterwards, and Miss
Clarendon thought it was her doing, and so her aunt let it pass, and was
only glad the good was done.

The first day Helen went down to the drawing-room, she found there a
man who looked, as she thought at first glance, like a tradesman--some
person, she supposed, come on business, standing waiting for Miss
Clarendon, or Mrs. Pennant. She scarcely looked at him, but passed on
to the sofa, beside which was a little table set for her, and on it a
beautiful work-box, which she began to examine and admire.

“Not nigh so handsome as I could have wished it, then, for you, Miss
Helen--I ask pardon, Miss Stanley.”

Helen looked up, surprised at hearing herself addressed by one whom she
had thought a stranger; but yet she knew the voice, and a reminiscence
came across her mind of having seen him somewhere before.

“Old David Price, ma’am. Maybe you forget him, you being a child at that
time. But since you grew up, you have been the saving of me and many
more----” Stepping quite close to her, he whispered that he had been
paid under her goodness’s order by Mr. James, along with _the other
creditors_ that had been _left_.

Helen by this time recollected who the poor Welshman was--an upholsterer
and cabinet-maker, who had been years before employed at the Deanery.
Never having been paid at the time, a very considerable debt had
accumulated, and having neither note nor bond, Price said that he had
despaired of ever obtaining the amount of his earnings. He had, however,
since the dean’s death, been paid in full, and had been able to retire
to his native village, which happened to be near Llansillen, and most
grateful he was; and as soon as he perceived that he was recognised, his
gratitude became better able to express itself. Not well, however, could
it make its way out for some time; between crying and laughing, and
between two languages, he was at first scarcely intelligible. Whenever
much moved, David Price had recourse to his native Welsh, in which he
was eloquent; and Mrs. Pennant, on whom, knowing that she understood
him, his eyes turned, was good enough to interpret for him. And when
once fairly set a-going, there was danger that poor David’s garrulous
gratitude should flow for ever. But it was all honest; not a word of
flattery; and his old face was in a glow and radiant with feeling,
and the joy of telling Miss Helen all, how, and about it; particularly
concerning the last day when Mr. James paid him, and them, and all of
them: that was a day Miss Stanley ought to have seen; pity she could not
have witnessed it; it would have done her good to the latest hour of
her life. Pity she should never see the faces of many, some poorer they
might have been than himself; many richer, that would have been ruined
for ever but for her. For his own part, he reckoned himself one of the
happiest of them all, in being allowed to see her face to face. And
he hoped, as soon as she was able to get out so far--but it was not so
far--she would come to see how comfortable he was in his own house. It
ended at last in his giving a shove to the work-box on the table,
which, though nothing worth otherwise, he knew she could not mislike, on
account it was made out of all the samples of wood the dean, her uncle,
had given to him in former times.

Notwithstanding the immoderate length of his speeches, and the
impossibility he seemed to find of ending his visit, Helen was not much
tired. And when she was able to walk so far, Mrs. Pennant took her to
see David Price, and in a most comfortable house she found him; and
every one in that house, down to the youngest child, gathered round her
by degrees, some more, some less shy, but all with gratitude beaming
and smiling in their faces. It was delightful to Helen; for there is no
human heart so engrossed by sorrow, so over whelmed by disappointment,
so closed against hope of happiness, that will not open to the touch of


But there was still in Helen’s inmost soul one deceitful hope. She
thought she had pulled it up by the roots many times, and the last time
completely; but still a little fibre lurked, and still it grew again.
It was the hope that Cecilia would keep that last promise, though at the
moment Helen had flung from her the possibility; yet now she took it up
again, and she thought it was possible that Cecilia might be true to her
word. If her child should be born alive, and if it should be a boy! It
became a heart-beating suspense as the time approached, and every day
the news might be expected. The post came in but three times a week at
Llansillen, and every post day Miss Clarendon repeated her prophecy to
her aunt, “You will see, ma’am, the child will be born in good time, and
alive. You who have always been so much afraid for Lady Cecilia, will
find she has not feeling enough to do her any harm.”

In due time came a note from the general. “A boy! child and mother doing
well. Give me joy.”

The joy to Miss Clarendon was much increased by the triumph, in her own
perfectly right opinion. Mrs. Pennant’s was pure affectionate joy for
the father, and for Lady Cecilia, for whom, all sinner as she was in
her niece’s eyes, this good soul had compassion. Helen’s anxiety to hear
again and again every post was very natural, the aunt thought; quite
superfluous, the niece deemed it: Lady Cecilia would do very well, no
doubt, she prophesied again, and laughed at the tremor, the eagerness,
with which Helen every day asked if there was any letter from Cecilia.
At last one came, the first in her own hand-writing, and it was to Helen
herself, and it extinguished all hope. Helen could only articulate,
“Oh! Cecilia!” Her emotion, her disappointment, were visible, but
unaccountable: she could give no reason for it to Miss Clarendon, whose
wondering eye was upon her; nor even to sympathising aunt Pennant could
she breathe a word without betraying Cecilia; she was silent, and there
was all that day, and many succeeding days, a hopelessness of languor
in her whole appearance. There was, as Miss Clarendon termed it, a
“backsliding in her recovery,” which grieved aunt Pennant, and Helen had
to bear imputation of caprice, and of indolence from Miss Clarendon; but
even that eye immediately upon her, that eye more severe than ever, had
not power to rouse her. Her soul was sunk within, nothing farther
to hope; there, was a dead calm, and the stillness and loneliness of
Llansillen made that calm almost awful. The life of great excitation
which she had led previous to her illness, rendered her more sensible of
the change, of the total want of stimulus. The walks to Price’s cottage
had been repeated, but, though it was a very bright spot, the eye could
not always be fixed upon it.

Bodily exertion being more easy to her now than mental, she took long
walks, and came in boasting how far she had been, and looking quite
exhausted. And Miss Clarendon wondered at her wandering out alone; then
she tried to walk with Miss Clarendon, and she was more tired, though
the walks were shorter--and that was observed, and was not agreeable
either to the observer, or to the observed. Helen endeavoured to make
up for it; she followed Miss Clarendon about in all her various
occupations, from flower-garden to conservatory, and from conservatory
to pheasantry, and to all her pretty cottages, and her schools, and she
saw and admired all the good that Esther did so judiciously, and with
such extraordinary, such wonderful energy.

“Nothing wonderful in it,” Miss Clarendon said: and as she ungraciously
rejected praise, however sincere, and required not sympathy, Helen was
reduced to be a mere silent, stupid, useless stander-by, and she could
not but feel this a little awkward. She tried to interest herself
for the poor people in the neighbourhood, but their language was
unintelligible to her, and her’s to them, and it is hard work trying to
make objects for oneself in quite a new place, and with a pre-occupying
sorrow in the mind all the time. It was not only hard work to Helen, but
it seemed labour in vain--bringing soil by handfulls to a barren rock,
where, after all, no plant will take root. Miss Clarendon thought that
labour could never be in vain.

One morning, when it must be acknowledged that Helen had been sitting
too long in the same position, with her head leaning on her hand, Miss
Clarendon in her abrupt voice asked, “How much longer, Helen, do you
intend to sit there, doing only what is the worst thing in the world for

Helen started, and said she feared she had been sitting too long idle.

“If you wish to know how long, I can tell you,” said Miss Clarendon;
“just one hour and thirteen minutes.”

“By the stop watch,” said Helen, smiling.

“By my watch,” said grave Miss Clarendon; “and in the mean time look at
the quantity of work I have done.”

“And done so nicely!” said Helen, looking at it with admiration.

“Oh, do not think to bribe me with admiration; I would rather see you do
something yourself than hear you praise my doings.”

“If I had anybody to work for. I have so few friends now in the world
who would care for anything I could do! But I will try--you shall see,
my dear Esther, by and bye.”

“By and bye! no, no--now. I cannot bear to see you any longer, in this
half-alive, half-dead state.”

“I know,” said Helen, “that all you say is for my good. I am sure your
only object is my happiness.”

“Your happiness is not in my power or in your’s, but it is in your
power to deserve to be happy, by doing what is right--by exerting
yourself:--that is my object, for I see you are in danger of being lost
in indolence. Now you have the truth and the whole truth.”

Many a truth would have come mended from Miss Clarendon’s tongue, if
it had been uttered in a softer tone, and if she had paid a little
more attention to times and seasons: but she held it the sacred duty
of sincerity to tell a friend her faults as soon as seen, and without

The next day Helen set about a drawing. She made it an object to
herself, to try to copy a view of the dear Deanery in the same style as
several beautiful drawings of Miss Clarendon’s. While she looked over
her portfolio, several of her old sketches recalled remembrances which
made her sigh frequently; Miss Clarendon heard her, and said--“I wish
you would cure yourself of that habit of sighing; it is very bad for

“I know it,” said Helen.

“Despondency is not penitence,” continued Esther: “reverie is not

She felt as desirous as ever to make Helen happy at Llansillen, but she
was provoked to find it impossible to do so. Of a strong body herself,
capable of great resistance, powerful reaction under disappointment
or grief, she could ill make allowance for feebler health and
spirits--perhaps feebler character. For great misfortunes she had great
sympathy, but she could not enter into the details of lesser sorrows,
especially any of the sentimental kind, which she was apt to class
altogether under the head--“Sorrows of my Lord Plumcake!” an expression
which had sovereignly taken her fancy, and which her aunt did not
relish, or quite understand.

Mrs. Pennant was, indeed, as complete a contrast to her niece in these
points, as nature and habit joined could produce. She was naturally
of the most exquisitely sympathetic mimosa-sensibility, shrinking and
expanding to the touch of others’ joy or woe; and instead of having
by long use worn this out, she had preserved it wonderfully fresh
in advanced years. But, notwithstanding the contrast and seemingly
incompatible difference between this aunt and niece, the foundations
of their characters both being good, sound, and true, they lived on
together well, and loved each other dearly. They had seldom differed so
much on any point as in the present case, as to their treatment of their
patient and their guest. Scarcely a day passed in which they did not
come to some mutual remonstrance; and sometimes when she was by, which
was not pleasant to her, as may be imagined. Yet perhaps even these
little altercations and annoyances, though they tried Helen’s temper or
grieved her heart at the moment, were of use to her upon the whole, by
drawing her out of herself. Besides, these daily vicissitudes--made by
human temper, manner, and character--supplied in some sort the total
want of events, and broke the monotony of these tedious months.

The general’s bulletins, however, became at last more favourable: Mr.
Churchill was decidedly better; his physician hoped he might soon be
pronounced out of danger. The general said nothing of Beauclerc, but
that he was, he believed, still at Paris. And from this time forward no
more letters came from Beauclerc to Helen; as his hopes of Churchill’s
recovery increased, he expected every day to be released from his
banishment, and was resolved to write no more till he could say that he
was free. But Helen, though she did not allow it to herself, felt this
deeply: she thought that her determined silence had at last convinced
him that all pursuit of her was vain; and that he submitted to her
rejection: she told herself it was what should be, and yet she felt
it bitterly. Lady Cecilia’s letters did not mention him, indeed they
scarcely told anything; they had become short and constrained: the
general, she said, advised her to go out more, and her letters often
concluded in haste, with “Carriage at the door,” and all the usual
excuses of a London life.

One day when Helen was sitting intently drawing, Miss Clarendon said
“Helen!” so suddenly that she started and looked round; Miss Clarendon
was seated on a low stool at her aunt’s feet, with one arm thrown over
her great dog’s neck; he had laid his head on her lap, and resting on
him, she looked up with a steadiness, a fixity of repose, which brought
to Helen’s mind Raphael’s beautiful figure of Fortitude leaning on
her lion; she thought she had never before seen Miss Clarendon look
so handsome, so graceful, so interesting; she took care not to say so,

“Helen!” continued Miss Clarendon, “do you remember the time when I
was at Clarendon Park and quitted it so abruptly? My reasons were good,
whatever my manner was; the opinion of the world I am not apt to fear
for myself, or even for my brother, but to the whispers of conscience I
do listen. Helen! I was conscious that certain feelings in my mind were
too strong,--in me, you would scarcely believe it--too tender. I had
no reason to think that Granville Beauclerc liked me; it was therefore
utterly unfit that I should think of him: I felt this, I left Clarendon
Park, and from that moment I have refused myself the pleasure of his
society, I have altogether ceased to think of him. This is the only
way to conquer a hopeless attachment. But you, Helen, though you have
commanded him never to attempt to see you again, have not been able to
command your own mind. Since Mr. Churchill is so much better, you expect
that he will soon be pronounced out of danger--you expect that Mr.
Beauclerc will come over--come here, and be at your feet!”

“I expect nothing,” said Helen in a faltering voice, and then added
resolutely, “I cannot foresee what Mr. Beauclerc may do, but of this be
assured, Miss Clarendon, that until I stand as I once stood, and as I
deserve to stand, in the opinion of your brother; unless, above all, I
can bring _proofs_ to Granville’s confiding heart, that I have ever been
unimpeachable of conduct and of mind, and in all but one circumstance
true--true as yourself, Esther--never, never, though your brother and
all the world consented, never till I myself felt that I was _proved_
to be as worthy to be his wife as I think I am, would I consent to marry
him--no, not though my heart were to break.”

“I believe it,” said Mrs. Pennant; “and I wish--oh, how I wish--”

“That Lady Cecilia were hanged, as she deserves,” said Miss Clarendon:
“so do I, I am sure; but that is nothing to the present purpose.”

“No, indeed,” said Helen.

“Helen!” continued Esther, “remember that Lady Blanche Forrester is at

Helen shrank.

“Lady Cecilia tells you there is no danger; I say there is.”

“Why should you say so, my dear Esther?” said her aunt.

“Has not this friend of yours always deceived, misled you, Helen?”

“She can have no motive for deceiving me in this,” said Helen: “I
believe her.”

“Believe her then!” cried Miss Clarendon; “believe her, and do not
believe me, and take the consequences: I have done.”

Helen sighed, but though she might feel the want of the charm of Lady
Cecilia’s suavity of manner, of her agreeable, and her agreeing temper,
yet she felt the safe solidity of principle in her present friend, and
admired, esteemed, and loved, without fear of change, her unblenching
truth. Pretty ornaments of gold cannot be worked out of the native ore;
to fashion the rude mass some alloy must be used, and when the slight
filigree of captivating manner comes to be tested against the sterling
worth of unalloyed sincerity, weighed in the just balance of adversity,
we are glad to seize the solid gold, and leave the ornaments to those
that they deceive.

The fear about Lady Blanche Forrester was, however, soon set at rest,
and this time Lady Cecilia was right. A letter from her to Helen
announced that Lady Blanche was married!--actually married, and not to
Granville Beauclerc, but to some other English gentleman at Paris, no
matter whom. Lord Beltravers and Madame de St. Cymon, disappointed, had
returned to London; Lady Cecilia had seen Lord Beltravers, and heard the
news from him. There could be no doubt of the truth of the intelligence,
and scarcely did Helen herself rejoice in it with more sincerity than
did Miss Clarendon, and Helen loved her for her candour as well as for
her sympathy.

Time passed on; week after week rolled away. At last General Clarendon
announced to his sister, but without one word to Helen, that Mr.
Churchill was pronounced out of danger. The news had been sent to his
ward, the general said, and he expected Granville would return from his
banishment immediately.

Quite taken up in the first tumult of her feelings at this intelligence,
Helen scarcely observed that she had no letter from Cecilia. But
even aunt Pennant was obliged to confess, in reply to her niece’s
observation, that this was “certainly very odd! but we shall soon hear
some explanation, I hope.”

Miss Clarendon shook her head; she said that she had always thought how
matters would end; she judged from her brother’s letters that he began
to find out that he was not the happiest of men. Yet nothing to that
effect was ever said by him; one phrase only excepted, in his letter to
her on her last birth-day, which began with, “In our happy days, my dear

Miss Clarendon said nothing to Helen upon this subject; she refrained
altogether from mentioning Lady Cecilia.

Two, three post-days passed without bringing any letter to Helen. The
fourth, very early in the morning, long before the usual time for the
arrival of the post, Rose came into her room with a letter in her hand,
saying, “From General Clarendon, ma’am. His own man, Mr. Cockburn, has
just this minute arrived, ma’am--from London.” With a trembling hand,
Helen tore the letter open: not one word from General Clarendon! It
was only a cover, containing two notes; one from Lord Davenant to the
general, the other from Lady Davenant to Helen.

Lord Davenant said that Lady Davenant’s health had declined so
alarmingly after their arrival at Petersburgh, that he had insisted upon
her return to England, and that as soon as the object of his mission
was completed, he should immediately follow her. A vessel, he said,
containing letters from England, had been lost, so that they were in
total ignorance of what had occurred at home; and, indeed, it appeared
from the direction of Lady Davenant’s note to Helen, written on her
landing in England, that she had left Russia without knowing that
the marriage had been broken off, or that Helen had quitted General
Clarendon’s. She wrote--“Let me see you and Granville once more before I
die. Be in London, at my own house, to meet me. I shall be there as soon
as I can be moved.”

The initials only of her name were signed. Elliot added a postscript,
saying that her lady had suffered much from an unusually long passage,
and that she was not sure what day they could be in town.

There was nothing from Lady Cecilia.--Cockburn said that her ladyship
had not been at home when he set out; that his master had ordered him to
travel all night, to get to Llansillen as fast as possible, and to make
no delay in delivering the letter to Miss Stanley.

To set out instantly, to be in town at her house to meet Lady Davenant,
was, of course, Helen’s immediate determination. General Clarendon had
sent his travelling carriage for her; and under the circumstances, her
friends could have no wish but to speed her departure. Miss Clarendon
expressed surprise at there being no letter from Lady Cecilia, and would
see and question Cockburn herself; but nothing more was to be learned
than what he had already told, that the packet from Lady Davenant had
come by express to his master after Lady Cecilia had driven out, as it
had been her custom of late, almost every day, to Kensington, to see her
child. Nothing could be more natural, Mrs. Pennant thought, and she only
wondered at Esther’s unconvinced look of suspicion. “Nothing, surely,
can be more natural, my dear Esther.” To which Esther replied, “Very
likely, ma’am.” Helen was too much hurried and too much engrossed by the
one idea of Lady Davenant to think of what they said. At parting she had
scarcely time even to thank her two friends for all their kindness, but
they understood her feelings, and, as Miss Clarendon said, words on that
point were unnecessary. Aunt Pennant embraced her again and again, and
then let her go, saying, “I must not detain you, my dear.”

“But I must,” said Miss Clarendon, “for one moment. There is one point
on which my parting words are necessary. Helen! keep clear of Lady
Cecilia’s affairs, whatever they may be. Hear none of her secrets.”

Helen wished she had never heard any; did not believe there were any
more to hear; but she promised herself and Miss Clarendon that she would
observe this excellent counsel.

And now she was in the carriage, and on her road to town. And now she
had leisure to breathe, and to think, and to feel. Her thoughts and
feelings, however, could be only repetitions of fears and hopes about
Lady Davenant, and uncertainty and dread of what would happen when she
should require explanation of all that had occurred in her absence. And
how would Lady Cecilia he able to meet her mother’s penetration?--ill
or well, Lady Davenant was so clear-sighted. “And how shall I,” thought
Helen, “without plunging deeper in deceit, avoid revealing the truth?
Shall I assist Cecilia to deceive her mother in her last moments; or
shall I break my promise, betray Cecilia’s secret, and at last be the
death of her mother by the shock?” It is astonishing how often the
mind can go over the same thoughts and feelings without coming to any
conclusion, any ease from racking suspense. In the mean time, on rolled
the carriage, and Cockburn, according to his master’s directions, got
her over the ground with all conceivable speed.


When they were within the last stage of London, the carriage suddenly
stopped, and Helen, who was sitting far back, deep in her endless
reverie, started forward--Cockburn was at the carriage-door.

“My lady, coming to meet you, Miss Stanley.”

It was Cecilia herself. But Cecilia so changed in her whole appearance,
that Helen would scarcely have known her. She was so much struck that
she hardly knew what was said; but the carriage-doors were opened,
and Lady Cecilia was beside her, and Cockburn shut the door without
permitting one moment’s delay, and on they drove.

Lady Cecilia was excessively agitated. Helen had not power to utter a
word, and was glad that Cecilia went on speaking very fast; though she
spoke without appearing to know well what she was saying: of Helen’s
goodness in coming so quickly, of her fears that she would never have
been in time--“but she was in time,--her mother had not yet arrived.
Clarendon had gone to meet her on the road, she believed--she was not
quite certain.”

That seemed very extraordinary to Helen. “Not quite certain?” said she.

“No, I am not,” replied Cecilia, and she coloured; her very pale cheek
flushed; but she explained not at all, she left that subject, and
spoke of the friends Helen had left at Llansillen--then suddenly of her
mother’s return--her hopes--her fears--and then, without going on to the
natural idea of seeing her mother, and of how soon they should see
her, began to talk of Beauclerc--of Mr. Churchill’s being quite out of
danger--of the general’s expectation of Beauclerc’s immediate return.
“And then, my dearest Helen,” said she, “all will be-----”

“Oh! I do not know how it will be!” cried she, her tone changing
suddenly; and, from the breathless hurry in which she had been running
on, sinking at once to a low broken tone, and speaking very slowly.
“I cannot tell what will become of any of us. We can never be happy
again--any one of us. And it is all my doing--and I cannot die. Oh!
Helen, when I tell you-----”

She stopped, and Miss Clarendon’s warning counsel, all her own past
experience, were full in Helen’s mind; and after a moment’s silence, she
stopped Cecilia just as she seemed to have gathered power to speak, and
begged that she would not tell her any thing that was to be kept secret.
She could not, would not hear any secrets; she turned her head aside,
and let down the glass, and looked out, as if determined not to be
compelled to receive this confidence.

“Have you, then, lost all interest, all affection for me, Helen? I
deserve it!--But you need not fear me now, Helen: I have done with
deception, would to Heaven I had never begun with it!”

It was the tone and look of truth--she steadily fixed her eyes upon
Helen--and instead of the bright beams that used to play in those eyes,
there was now a dark deep-seated sorrow, almost despair. Helen was
touched to the heart: it was indeed impossible for her, it would have
been impossible for any one who had any feeling, to have looked upon
Lady Cecilia Clarendon at that moment, and to have recollected what she
had so lately been, without pity. The friend of her childhood looked
upon her with all the poignant anguish of compassion--

“Oh! my dear Cecilia! how changed!”

Helen was not sensible that she uttered the words “how changed!”

“Changed! yes! I believe I am,” said Lady Cecilia, in a calm voice,
“very much changed in appearance, but much more in reality; my mind is
more altered than my person. Oh! Helen! if you could see into my mind
at this moment, and know how completely it is changed;--but it is all
in vain now! You have suffered, and suffered for me! but your sufferings
could not equal mine. You lost love and happiness, but still conscious
of deserving both: I had both at my command, and I could enjoy neither
under the consciousness, the torture of remorse.”

Helen threw her arms round her, and exclaimed, “Do not think of me!--all
will be well--since you have resolved on the truth, all will yet be

Cecilia sighed deeply and went on.--“I am sure, Helen, you were
surprised that my child was born alive; at least I was. I believe its
mother had not feeling enough to endanger its existence. Well, Clarendon
has that comfort at all events, and, as a boy, it will never put him
in mind of his mother. Well, Helen, I had hopes of myself to the last
minute; I really and truly hoped, as I told you, that I should have
had courage to tell him all when I put the child into his arms. But his
joy!--I could not dash his joy--I could not!--and then I thought I never
could. I knew you would give me up; I gave up all hope of myself. I was
very unhappy, and Clarendon thought I was very ill; and I acknowledge
that I was anxious about you, and let all the blame fall on you,
innocent, generous creature!--I heard my husband perpetually upbraiding
you when he saw me ill--all, he said, the consequences of your
falsehood--and all the time I knew it was my own.

“My dear Helen, it is impossible to tell you all the daily, hourly
necessities for dissimulation which occurred. Every day, you know, we
were to send to inquire for Mr. Churchill; and every day when Clarendon
brought me the bulletin, he pitied me, and blamed you; and the double
dealing in my countenance he never suspected--always interpreted
favourably. Oh, such confidence as he had in me--and how it has been
wasted, abused! Then letters from Beauclerc--how I bore to hear them
read I cannot conceive: and at each time that I escaped, I rejoiced and
reproached myself--and reproached myself and rejoiced. I succeeded in
every effort at deception, and was cursed by my own success. Encouraged
to proceed, I soon went on without shame and without fear. The general
heard me defending you against the various reports which my venomous
cousin had circulated, and he only admired what he called ‘my amiable
zeal.’ His love for me increased, but it gave me no pleasure: for,
Helen, now I am going to tell you an extraordinary turn which my mind
took, for which I cannot account--I can hardly believe it--it seems out
of human nature--my love for him decreased!--not only because I felt
that he would hate me if he discovered my deceit, but because he was
lowered in my estimation! I had always had, as every body has, even
my mother, the highest opinion of his judgment. To that judgment I had
always looked up; it had raised me in my own opinion; it was a motive to
me to be equal to what he thought me: but now that motive was gone, I
no longer looked up to him; his credulous affection had blinded his
judgment--he was my dupe! I could not reverence--I could not love one
who was my dupe. But I cannot tell you how shocked I was at myself when
I felt my love for him decrease every time I saw him.

“I thought myself a monster; I had grown use to every thing but
that--that I could not endure; it was a darkness of the mind--a
coldness; it was as if the sun had gone out of the universe; it was
more--it was worse--it was as if I was alone in the world. Home was a
desert to me. I went out every evening; sometimes, but rarely, Clarendon
accompanied me: he had become more retired; his spirits had declined
with mine; and though he was glad I should go out and amuse myself,
yet he was always exact as to the hours of my return. I was often
late--later than I ought to have been, and I made a multitude of paltry
excuses; this it was, I believe, which first shook his faith in my
truth; but I was soon detected in a more decided failure.

“You know I never had the least taste for play of any kind: you may
remember I used to be scolded for never minding what I was about at
ecarté: in short, I never had the least love for it--it wearied me; but
now that my spirits were gone, it was a sort of intoxication in which
I cannot say I indulged--for it was no indulgence, but to which I had
recourse. Louisa Castlefort, you know, was always fond of play--got into
her first difficulties by that means--she led me on. I lost a good deal
of money to her, and did not care about it as long as I could pay; but
presently it came to a time when I could not pay without applying to the
general: I applied to him, but under false pretences--to pay this bill
or that, or to buy something, which I never bought: this occurred so
often and to such extent, that he suspected--he discovered how it went;
he told me so. He spoke in that low, suppressed, that terrible voice
which I had heard once before; I said, I know not what, in deprecation
of his anger. ‘I am not angry, Cecilia,’ said he. I caught his hand,
and would have detained him; he withdrew that hand, and, looking at
me, exclaimed, ‘Beautiful creature! half those charms would I give for
_truth!_’ He left the room, and there was contempt in his look.

“All my love--all my reverence, returned for him in an instant; but what
could I say? He never recurred to the subject; and now, when I saw the
struggle in his mind, my passion for him returned in all its force.

“People who flattered me often, you know, said I was fascinating, and I
determined to use my powers of fascination to regain my husband’s heart;
how little I knew that heart! I dressed to please him--oh! I never
dressed myself with such care in my most coquettish days;--I gave a
splendid ball; I dressed to please him--he used to be delighted with
my dancing: he had said, no matter what, but I wanted to make him say
it--feel it again; he neither said nor felt it. I saw him standing
looking at me, and at the close of the dance I heard from him one sigh.
I was more in love with him than when first we were married, and he saw
it, but that did not restore me to his confidence--his esteem; nothing
could have done that, but--what I had not. One step in dissimulation led
to another.

“After Lord Beltravers returned from Paris on Lady Blanche’s marriage,
I used to meet him continually at Louisa Castlefort’s. As for play, that
was over with me for ever, but I went to Louisa’s continually, because
it was the gayest house I could go to; I used to meet Lord Beltravers
there, and he pretended to pay me a vast deal of attention, to which
I was utterly indifferent, but his object was to push his sister into
society again by my means. He took advantage of that unfortunate note
which I had received from Madame de St. Cymon, when she was at Old
Forest; he wanted me to admit her among my acquaintance; he urged it in
every possible way, and was excessively vexed that it would not do: not
that he cared for her; he often spoke of her in a way that shocked me,
but it hurt his pride that she should be excluded from the society to
which her rank entitled her. I had met her at Louisa’s once or twice;
but when I found that for her brother’s sake she was always to be
invited, I resolved to go there no more, and I made a merit of this with
Clarendon. He was pleased; he said, ‘That is well, that is right, my
dear Cecilia.’ And he went out more with me. One night at the Opera, the
Comtesse de St. Cymon was in the box opposite to us, no lady with her,
only some gentlemen. She watched me; I did all I could to avoid her
eye, but at an unlucky moment she caught mine, bent forward, and had
the assurance to bow. The general snatched the opera-glass from my hand,
made sure who it was, and then said to me,

“‘How does that woman dare to claim your notice, Lady Cecilia? I am
afraid there must have been some encouragement on your part.’

“‘None,’ said I, ‘nor ever shall be; you see I take no notice.’

“‘But you must have taken notice, or this could never be?’

“‘No indeed!’ persisted I. ‘Helen! I really forgot at the moment that
first unfortunate note. An instant afterwards I recollected it, and the
visit about the cameos, but that was not my fault. I had, to be sure,
dropped a card in return at her door, and I ought to have mentioned
that, but I really did not recollect it till the words had passed my
lips, and then it was too late, and I did not like to go back and spoil
my case by an exception. The general did not look quite satisfied; he
did not receive my assertions as implicitly as formerly. He left the
box afterwards to speak to some one, and while he was gone in came Lord
Beltravers. After some preliminary nothings, he went directly to the
point; and said in an assured manner, ‘I believe you do not know my
sister at this distance. She has been endeavouring to catch your eye.’

“‘The Comtesse de St. Cymon does me too much honour,’ said I with a
slight inclination of the head, and elevation of the eyebrow, which
spoke sufficiently plainly.

“Unabashed, and with a most provoking, almost sneering look, he replied,
‘Madame de St. Cymon had wished to say a few words to your ladyship on
your own account; am I to understand this cannot be?’

“‘On my own account?’ said I, ‘I do not in the least understand your
lordship.’ ‘I am not sure,’ said he, ‘that I perfectly comprehend it.
But I know that you sometimes drive to Kensington, and sometimes take a
turn in the gardens there. My sister lives at Kensington, and could not
she, without infringing etiquette, meet you in your walk, and have the
honour of a few words with you? Something she wants to say to you,’ and
here he lowered his voice, ‘about a locket, and Colonel D’Aubigny.’

“Excessively frightened, and hearing some one at the door, I answered,
‘I do not know, I believe I shall drive to Kensington to-morrow.’ He
bowed delighted, and relieved me from his presence that instant. The
moment afterwards General Clarendon came in. He asked me, ‘Was not that
Lord Beltravers whom I met?’

“‘Yes,’ said I; ‘he came to reproach me for not noticing his sister, and
I answered him in such a manner as to make him clear that there was no

“‘You did right,’ said he, ‘if you did so.’ My mind was in such
confusion that I could not quite command my countenance, and I put up my
fan as if the lights hurt me. “‘Cecilia,’ said he, ‘take care what you
are about. Remember, it is not my request only, but my command to my
wife’ (he laid solemn stress on the words) ‘that she should have no
communication with this woman.’

“‘My dear Clarendon, I have not the least wish.’

“‘I do not ask what your wishes may be; I require only your obedience.’

“Never have I heard such austere words from him. I turned to the stage,
and I was glad to seize the first minute I could to get away. But what
was to be done? If I did not go to Kensington, there was this locket,
and I knew not what, standing out against me. I knew that this wretched
woman had had Colonel D’Aubigny in her train abroad, and supposed that
he must--treacherous profligate as he was--have given the locket to her,
and now I was so afraid of its coming to Clarendon’s eyes or ears!--and
yet why should I have feared his knowing about it? Colonel D’Aubigny
stole it, just as he stole the picture. I had got it for you, do you

“Perfectly,” said Helen, “and your mother missed it.”

“Yes,” continued Lady Cecilia. “O that I had had the sense to do nothing
about it! But I was so afraid of its somehow bringing everything to
light: my cowardice--my conscience--my consciousness of that first
fatal falsehood before my marriage, has haunted me at the most critical
moments: it has risen against me, and stood like an evil spirit
threatening me from the right path.

“I went to Kensington, trusting to my own good fortune, which had so
often stood me in stead; but Madame de St. Cymon was too cunning for
me, and so interested, so mean, she actually bargained for giving up the
locket. She hinted that she knew Colonel D’Aubigny had never been your
lover, and ended by saying she had not the locket with her; and though I
made her understand that the general would never allow me to receive her
at my own house, yet she ‘hoped I could manage an introduction for her
to some of my friends, and that she would bring the locket on Monday, if
I would in the mean time try, at least with Lady Emily Greville and Mrs.

“I felt her meanness, and yet I was almost as mean myself, for I agreed
to do what I could. Monday came, Clarendon saw me as I was going out,
and, as he handed me into the carriage, he asked me where I was going.
To Kensington I said, and added--oh! Helen, I am ashamed to tell you,
I added,--I am going to see my child. And there I found Madame de St.
Cymon, and I had to tell her of my failure with Lady Emily and Mrs.
Holdernesse. I softened their refusal as much as I could, but I might
have spared myself the trouble, for she only retorted by something
about English prudery. At this moment a shower of rain came on, and she
insisted upon my taking her home; ‘Come in,’ said she, when the carriage
stopped at her door: ‘if you will come in, I will give it to you now,
and you need not have the trouble of calling again.’ I had the folly to
yield, though I saw that it was a trick to decoy me into her house, and
to make it pass for a visit. It all flashed upon me, and yet I could
not resist, for I thought I must obtain the locket at all hazards. I
resolved to get it from her before I left the house, and then I thought
all would be finished.

“She looked triumphant as she followed me into her saloon, and gave a
malicious smile, which seemed to say, ‘You see you are visiting me after
all.’ After some nonsensical conversation, meant to detain me, I pressed
for the locket, and she produced it: it was indeed the very one that had
been made for you--But just at that instant, while she still held it in
her band, the door suddenly opened, and Clarendon stood opposite to me!

“I heard Madame de St. Cymon’s voice, but of what she said, I have
no idea. I heard nothing but the single word ‘rain’ and with scarcely
strength to articulate, I attempted to follow up that excuse.
Clarendon’s look of contempt!--But he commanded himself, advanced calmly
to me, and said, ‘I came to Kensington with these letters; they have
just arrived by express. Lady Davenant is in England--she is ill.’ He
gave me the packet, and left the room, and I heard the sound of his
horses’ feet the next instant as he rode off. I broke from Madame de St.
Cymon, forgetting the locket and everything. I asked my servants which
way the general had gone? ‘To Town.’ I perceived that he must have been
going to look for me at the nurse’s, and had seen the carriage at Madame
de St. Cymon’s door. I hastened after him, and then I recollected that
I had left the locket on the table at Madame de St. Cymon’s, that locket
for which I had hazarded--lost--everything! The moment I reached home,
I ran to Clarendon’s room; he was not there, and oh! Helen, I have not
seen him since!

“From some orders which he left about horses, I suppose he went to meet
my mother. I dared not follow him. She had desired me to wait for her
arrival at her own house. All yesterday, all last night, Helen, what
I have suffered! I could not bear it any longer, and then I thought
of coming to meet you. I thought I must see you before my mother
arrived--my mother! but Clarendon will not have met her till to-day. Oh,
Helen! you feel all that I fear--all that I foresee.”

Lady Cecilia sank back, and Helen, overwhelmed with all she had heard,
could for some time only pity her in silence; and at last could
only suggest that the general would not have time for any private
communication with Lady Davenant, as her woman would be in the carriage
with her, and the general was on horseback.

It was late in the day before they reached town. As they came near
Grosvenor Square, Cockburn inquired whether they were to drive home, or
to Lady Davenant’s?

“To my mother’s, certainly, and as fast as you can.”

Lady Davenant had not arrived, but there were packages in the hall, her
courier, and her servants, who said that General Clarendon was with
her, but not in the carriage; he had sent them on. No message for Lady
Cecilia, but that Lady Davenant would be in town this night.

To night--some hours still of suspense! As long as there were
arrangements to be made, anything to do or to think of but that meeting
of which they dared not think, it was endurable, but too soon all
was settled; nothing to be done, but to wait and watch, to hear the
carriages roll past, and listen, and start, and look at each other, and
sink back disappointed. Lady Cecilia walked from the sofa to the window,
and looked out, and back again---continually, continually, till at last
Helen begged her to sit down. She sat down before an old piano-forte of
her mother’s, on which her eyes fixed; it was one on which she had often
played with Helen when they were children. “Happy, innocent days,” said
she; “I never shall we be so happy again, Helen! But I cannot think of
it;” she rose hastily, and threw herself on the sofa.

A servant, who had been watching at the hall-door, came in--“The
carriage, my lady! Lady Davenant is coming.”

Lady Cecilia started up; they ran down stairs; the carriage stopped, and
in the imperfect light they saw the figure of Lady Davenant, scarcely
altered, leaning upon General Clarendon’s arm. The first sound of her
voice was feebler, softer, than formerly--quite tender, when she said,
as she embraced them both by turns, “My dear children!”

“You have accomplished your journey, Lady Davenant, better than you
expected,” said the general.

Something struck her in the tone of his voice. She turned quickly, saw
her daughter lay her hand upon his arm, and saw that arm withdrawn!

They all entered the saloon--it was a blaze of light; Lady Davenant,
shading her eyes with her hand, looked round at the countenances, which
she had not yet seen. Lady Cecilia shrank back. The penetrating eyes
turned from her, glanced at Helen, and fixed upon the general.

“What is all this?” cried she.

Helen threw her arms round Lady Davenant. “Let us think of you first,
and only--be calm.”

Lady Davenant broke from her, and pressing forwards exclaimed, “I must
see my daughter--if I have still a daughter! Cecilia!”

The general moved. Lady Cecilia, who had sunk upon a chair behind him,
attempted to rise. Lady Davenant stood opposite to her; the light
was now full upon her face and figure; and her mother saw how it was
changed! and looking back at Helen, she said in a low, awful tone, “I
see it; the black spot has spread!”

Scarcely had Lady Davenant pronounced these words, when she was seized
with violent spasms. The general had but just time to save her from
falling; he could not leave her. All was terror! Even her own woman, so
long used to these attacks, said it was the worst she had ever seen,
and for some time evidently feared it would terminate fatally. At
last slowly she came to herself, but perfectly in possession of her
intellects, she sat up, looked round, saw the agony in her daughter’s
countenance, and holding out her hand to her, said, “Cecilia, if there
is anything that I ought to know, it should be said now.” Cecilia caught
her mother’s hand, and threw herself upon her knees. “Helen, Helen,
stay!” cried she, “do not go, Clarendon!”

He stood leaning against the chimney-piece, motionless, while Cecilia,
in a faltering voice, began; her voice gaining strength, she went on,
and poured out all--even from the very beginning, that first suppression
of the truth, that first cowardice, then all that followed from that one
falsehood--all--even to the last degradation, when in the power, in
the presence of that bad woman, her husband found and left her. She
shuddered as she came to the thought of that look of his, and not
daring, not having once dared while she spoke, to turn towards him, her
eyes fixed upon her mother’s; but as she finished speaking, her head
sank, she laid her face on the sofa beside her; she felt her mother’s
arm thrown over her and she sobbed convulsively.

There was silence.

“I have still a daughter!” were the first words that broke the silence.
“Not such as I might have had, but that is my own fault.”

“Oh mother!”

“I have still a daughter,” repeated Lady Davenant. “There is,” continued
she, turning to General Clarendon, “there is a redeeming power in truth.
She may yet be more worthy to be your wife than she has ever yet been!”

“Never!” exclaimed the general. His countenance was rigid as iron; then
suddenly it relaxed, and going up to Helen, he said,

“I have done you injustice, Miss Stanley. I have been misled. I have
done you injustice, and by Heaven! I will do you public justice, cost me
what it will. Beauclerc will be in England in a few days, at the altar I
will give you to him publicly; in the face of all the world, will I mark
my approbation of his choice; publicly will I repair the wrong I have
done you. I will see his happiness and yours before I leave England for

Lady Cecilia started up: “Clarendon!” was all she could say.

“Yes, Lady Cecilia Clarendon,” said he, all the stern fixedness of his
face returning at once--“Yes, Lady Cecilia Clarendon, we separate, now
and for ever.”

Then turning from her, he addressed Lady Davenant. “I shall be ordered
on some foreign service. Your daughter, Lady Davenant, will remain with
you, while I am still in England, unless you wish otherwise----”

“Leave my daughter with me, my dear general, till my death,” said Lady
Davenant. She spoke calmly, but the general, after a respectful--an
affectionate pressure of the hand she held out to him, said, “That may
be far distant, I trust in God, and we shall at all events meet again
the day of Helen’s marriage.”

“And if that day is to be a happy day to me,” cried Helen, “to me or to
your own beloved ward, General Clarendon, it must be happy to Cecilia!”

“As happy as she has left it in my power to make her. When I am gone, my

“Name it not as happiness for my daughter,” interrupted Lady Davenant,
“or you do her injustice, General Clarendon.”

“I name it but to do her justice,” said he. “It is all that she has left
it in my power to give;” and then his long suppressed passion suddenly
bursting forth, he turned to Cecilia. “All I can give to one so
false--false from the first moment to the last--false to me--to me! who
so devotedly, fondly, blindly loved her!” He rushed out of the room.

Then Lady Davenant, taking her daughter in her arms, said, “My child,
return to me!”

She sank back exhausted. Mrs. Elliott was summoned, she wished them all
out of the room, and said so; but Lady Davenant would have her daughter
stay beside her, and with Cecilia’s hand in hers, she fell into a
profound slumber.


On awaking in the morning, after some long-expected event has happened,
we feel in doubt whether it has really occurred, or whether it is all
a dream. Then comes the awful sense of waking truth, and the fear that
what has been done, or said, is irremediable, and then the astonishment
that it really is done. “It is over!” Helen repeated to herself,
repeated aloud, before she could well bring herself from that state of
half belief, before she could recover her stunned faculties.

Characters which she thought she perfectly understood, had each
appeared, in these new circumstances, different from what she had
expected. From Cecilia she had scarcely hoped, even at the last moment,
for such perfect truth in her confession. From Lady Davenant not so much
indulgence, not all that tenderness for her daughter. From the general,
less violence of expression, more feeling for Cecilia; he had not
allowed the merit of her candour, her courage at the last. It was a
perfectly voluntary confession, all that concerned Colonel D’Aubigny,
and the letters could never have been known to the general by any other
means. Disappointed love, confidence duped, and his pride of honour,
had made him forget himself in anger, even to cruelty. Helen thought he
would feel this hereafter, fancied he must feel it even now, but that,
though he might relent, he would not recede; though he might regret
that he had made the determination, he would certainly abide by it; that
which he had resolved to do, would certainly be done,--the separation
between him and Cecilia would take place. And though all was clear and
bright in Helen’s own prospects, the general’s esteem restored, his
approbation to be publicly marked, Beauclerc to be convinced of her
perfect innocence! Beauclerc, freed from all fear and danger, returning
all love and joy; yet she could not be happy--it was all mixed with
bitterness, anguish for Cecilia.

She had so often so forcibly urged her to this confession! and now it
was made, did Helen regret that it was made? No, independently of her
own cleared character, she was satisfied, even for Cecilia’s sake, for
it was right, whatever were the consequences; it was right, and in the
confusion and discordance of her thoughts and feelings, this was the
only fixed point. To this conclusion she had come, but had not been able
farther to settle her mind, when she was told that Lady Davenant was now
awake, and wished to see her.

Lady Davenant, renovated by sleep, appeared to Helen, even when she saw
her by daylight, scarcely altered in her looks. There was the same life,
and energy, and elasticity, and strength, Helen hoped, not only of mind,
but of body, and quick as that hope rose, as she stood beside her
bed, and looked upon her, Lady Davenant marked it, and said, “You are
mistaken, my dear Helen, I shall not last long; I am now to consider how
I am to make the most of the little life that remains. How to repair
as far as may be, as far as can be, in my last days, the errors of my
youth! You know, Helen, what I mean, and it is now no time to waste
words, therefore I shall not begin by wasting upon you, Helen, any
reproaches. Foolish, generous, weak creature that you are, and as the
best of human beings will ever be--I must be content with you as you
are; and so,” continued she, in a playful tone, “we must love one
another, perhaps all the better, for not being too perfect. And indeed,
my poor child, you have been well punished already, and the worst of
criminals need not be punished twice. Of the propensity to sacrifice
your own happiness for others you will never be cured, but you will, I
trust, in future, when I am gone never to return, be true to yourself.
Now as to my daughter--”

Lady Davenant then went over with Helen every circumstance in Cecilia’s
confession, and showed how, in the midst of the shock she had felt at
the disclosure of so much falsehood, hope for her daughter’s future
truth had risen in her mind even from the courage, and fulness, and
exactness of her confession. “And it is not,” continued she, “a sudden
reformation; I have no belief in sudden reformations. I think I see that
this change in Cecilia’s mind has been some time working out by her own
experience of the misery, the folly, the degradation of deceit.”

Helen earnestly confirmed this from her own observations, and from the
expressions which had burst forth in the fulness of Cecilia’s heart and
strength of her conviction, when she told her all that had passed in her

“That is well!” pursued Lady Davenant; “but principles cannot be
depended upon till confirmed by habit; and Cecilia’s nature is so
variable--impressions on her are easily, even deeply made, but all in
sand; they may shift with the next tide--may be blown away by the next

“Oh no,” exclaimed Helen, “there is no danger of that. I see the
impression deepening every hour, from your kindness and--” Helen
hesitated, “And besides--”

“_Besides_,” said Lady Davenant, “usually comes as the _arrière-ban_
of weak reasons: you mean to say that the sight of my sufferings must
strengthen, must confirm all her principles--her taste for truth. Yes,”
 continued she, in her most firm tone, “Cecilia’s being with me during my
remaining days will be painful but salutary to her. She sees, as you do,
that all the falsehood meant to save me has been in vain; that at last
the shock has only hastened my end: it must be so, Helen. Look at it
steadily, in the best point of view--the evil you cannot avert; take the
good and be thankful for it.”

And Cecilia--how did she feel? Wretched she was, but still in her
wretchedness there was within her a relieved conscience and the
sustaining power of truth; and she had now the support of her mother’s
affection, and the consolation of feeling that she had at last done
Helen justice! To her really generous, affectionate disposition,
there was in the return of her feelings to their natural course, an
indescribable sense of relief. Broken, crushed, as were all her own
hopes, her sympathy, even in the depths of her misery, now went pure,
free from any windings of deceit, direct to Helen’s happy prospects, in
which she shared with all the eagerness of her warm heart.

Beauclerc arrived, found the general at home expecting him, and in his
guardian’s countenance and voice he saw and heard only what was natural
to the man. The general was prepared, and Beauclerc was himself in too
great impatience to hear the facts, to attend much to the manner in
which things were told.

“Lady Davenant has returned ill; her daughter is with her, and

“And Helen----”

“And you may be happy, Beauclerc, if there be truth in woman,” said the
general. “Go to her--you will find I can do justice. Go, and return
when you can tell me that your wedding-day is fixed. And, Beauclerc,” he
called after him, “let it be as soon as possible.”

“The only unnecessary advice my dear guardian has ever given me,”
 Beauclerc, laughing, replied.

The general’s prepared composure had not calculated upon this laugh,
this slight jest; his features gave way. Beauclerc, struck with a
sudden change in the general’s countenance, released his hand from the
congratulatory shake in which its power failed. The general turned away
as if to shun inquiry, and Beauclerc, however astonished, respected
his feelings, and said no more. He hastened to Lady Davenant with all
a lover’s speed--with all a lover’s joy saw the first expression in
Helen’s eyes; and with all a friend’s sorrow for Lady Davenant and for
the general, heard all that was to be told of Lady Cecilia’s affairs:
her mother undertook the explanation, Cecilia herself did not appear.

In the first rush of Beauclerc’s joy in Helen’s cleared fame, he was
ready to forgive all the deceit; yes, to forgive all; but it was such
forgiveness as contempt can easily grant, which can hardly be received
by any soul not lost to honour. This Lady Davenant felt, and felt so
keenly, that Helen trembled for her: she remained silent, pressing her
hand upon her heart, which told her sense of approaching danger. It was
averted by the calmness, the truth, the justice with which Helen spoke
to Beauclerc of Cecilia. As she went on, Lady Davenant’s colour returned
and Beauclerc’s ready sympathy went with her as far as she pleased,
till she came to one point, from which he instantly started back. Helen
proposed, if Beauclerc would consent, to put off their marriage till the
general should be reconciled to Cecilia.

“Attempt it not, Helen,” cried Lady Davenant; “delay not for any
consideration. Your marriage must be as soon as possible, for my sake,
for Cecilia’s--mark me!--for Cecilia’s sake, as soon as possible let it
be; it is but justice that her conscience should be so far relieved,
let her no longer obstruct your union. Let me have the satisfaction
of seeing it accomplished; name the day, Helen, I may not have many to

The day, the earliest possible, was named by Helen; and the moment it
was settled, Lady Davenant hurried Beauclerc away, saying--“Return to
General Clarendon--spare him suspense--it is all we can do for him.”

The general’s wishes in this, and in all that followed, were to be
obeyed. He desired that the marriage should be public, that all should
be bidden of rank, fashion, and note--all their family connections. Lady
Katrine Hawksby, he especially named. To do justice to Helen seemed the
only pleasurable object now remaining to him. In speaking to Beauclerc,
he never once named Lady Cecilia; it seemed a tacit compact between him
and Beauclerc, that her name should not be pronounced. They talked of
Lady Davenant; the general said he did not think her in such danger
as she seemed to consider herself to be: his opinion was, he declared,
confirmed by his own observation; by the strength of mind and of body
which she had shown since her arrival in England. Beauclerc could only
hope that he was right; and the general went on to speak of the service
upon which he was to be employed: said that all _arrangements_, laying
an emphasis upon the word, would be transacted by his man of business.
He spoke of what would happen after he quitted England, and left his
ward a legacy of some favourite horse which he used to ride at Clarendon
Park, and seemed to take it for granted that Beauclerc and Helen would
be sometimes there when he was gone. Then, having cleared his throat
several times, the general desired that Lady Cecilia’s portrait, which
he designated only as “the picture over the chimney-piece in my room,”
 should be sent after him. And taking leave of Beauclerc, he set off
for Clarendon Park, where he was to remain till the day before the
wedding;--the day following he had fixed for his departure from England.

When Beauclerc was repeating this conversation to Helen, Lady Davenant
came into the room just as he was telling these last particulars. She
marked the smile, the hope that was excited, but shook her head, and
said, “Raise no false hopes in my daughter’s mind, I conjure you;” and
she turned the conversation to other subjects. Beauclerc had been to see
Mr. Churchill, and of that visit Lady Davenant wished to hear.

As to health, Beauclerc said that Mr. Churchill had recovered almost
perfectly; “but there remains, and I fear will always remain, a little
lameness, not disabling, but disfiguring--an awkwardness in moving,
which, to a man of his personal pretensions, is trying to the temper;
but after noticing the impediment as he advanced to meet me, he shook my
hand cordially, and smiling, said, ‘You see I am a marked man; I always
wished to be so, you know, so pray do not repent, my good friend.’ He
saw I was too much moved for jesting, then he took it more seriously,
but still kindly, assuring me that I had done him real service; it is
always of service, he said, to be necessitated to take time for quiet
reflection, of which he had had sufficient in his hours of solitary
confinement--this little adversity had left him leisure to be good.

“And then,” continued Beauclerc, “Churchill adverting to our foolish
quarrel, to clear that off my mind, threw the whole weight of the blame
at once comfortably upon the absent--on Beltravers. Churchill said
we had indeed been a couple of bravely blind fools; he ought, as he
observed, to have recollected in time, that

  ‘A full hot horse, who being allowed his way,
  Self-mettle tires him.’

“So that was good, and Horace, in perfect good-humour with me and
himself, and all the world, played on with the past and the future, glad
he had no more of his bones to exfoliate; glad, after so many months of
failure in ‘the first intention,’ to find himself in a whole skin, and
me safe returned from transportation--spoke of Helen seriously; said
that his conduct to her was the only thing that weighed upon his mind,
but he hoped that his sincere penitence, and his months of suffering,
would be considered as sufficient atonement for his having brought
her name before the public; and he finished by inviting himself to our
wedding, if it were only for the pleasure of seeing what sort of a face
Lady Katrine Hawksby will have upon the occasion.--It was told of a
celebrated statesman, jealous of his colleagues, Horace says, that every
commonly good speech cost him a twinge of the gout; and every uncommonly
good one sent him to bed with a regular fit. Now Horace protests that
every commonly decent marriage of her acquaintance costs Lady Katrine at
least a sad headache; but Miss Stanley’s marriage, likely as it is to be
so happy after all, as he politely said, foredooms poor Lady Katrine to
a month’s heartache at the least, and a face full ell long.”

Whether in his penitence he had forsworn slander or not, it was plain
that Churchill had not lost either his taste, talent, or power of
sarcasm, and of this Beauclerc could have given, and in time gave,
further illustrations; but it was in a case which came home to him
rather too nearly, and on which his reports did not flow quite so
fluently--touching Lord Beltravers, it was too tender a subject.
Beauclerc was ashamed of himself for having been so deceived when, after
all his guardian had done to save his fortune, after all that noble
sacrifice had been made, he found that it was to no good end, but for
the worst purpose possible. Lord Beltravers, as it was now clear, never
had the slightest intention of living in that house of his ancestors on
which Beauclerc had lavished his thousands, ay, and tens of thousands:
but while he was repairing, and embellishing, and furnishing Old Forest,
fit for an English aristocrat of the first water, the Lord Beltravers at
the gaming-table, pledged it, and lost it, and sold it; and it went to
the hammer. This came out in the first fury of Lord Beltravers upon his
sister’s marriage at Paris: and then and there Beauclerc first came to
the perception that his good friend had predestined him and his fortune
for the Lady Blanche, whom, all the time, he considered as a fool and a
puppet, and for whom he had not the slightest affection: it was all for
his own interested purposes.

Beauclerc suddenly opened his eyes wide, and saw it all at once: how
it had happened that they had never seen it before, notwithstanding all
that the general on one side, and Lady Davenant on the other, had
done to force them open, was incomprehensible; but, as Lady Davenant
observed, “A sort of cataract comes over the best eyes for a time, and
the patient will not suffer himself to be couched; and if you struggle
to perform the operation that is to do him good against his will, it is
odds but you blind him for life.”

Helen could not, however, understand how Granville could have been
so completely deceived, except that it had been impossible for him to
imagine the exquisite meanness of that man’s mind.

“There,” cried Beauclerc, “you see my fault was having too little,
instead of too much imagination.”

Lady Davenant smiled, and said, “It has been admirably observed, that
it is among men as among certain tribes of animals, it is sometimes only
necessary that one of the herd should step forward and lead the way, to
make all the others follow with alacrity and submission; and I solve the
whole difficulty thus: I suppose that Lord Beltravers, just following
Beauclerc’s lead, succeeded in persuading him that he was a man of
genius and a noble fellow, by allowing all Beauclerc’s own paradoxes,
adopting all his ultra-original opinions, and, in short, sending him
back the image of his own mind, till Granville had been caught by it,
and had fairly fallen in love with it--a mental metaphysical Narcissus.”
 [Footnote: Lord Mahon.] “After all,” continued Lady Davenant, smiling,
“of all the follies of youth, the dangerous folly of trying to do
good--that for which you stand convicted, may be the most easily
pardoned, the most safely left to time and experience to cure. You
know, Granville, that ever since the time of Alexander the Great’s great
tutor, the characteristic faults of youth and age have been the ‘_too
much_’ and the ‘_too little_.’ In youth, the too much confidence in
others and in themselves, the too much of enthusiasm--too much of
benevolence;--in age, alas! too little. And with this youth, who has the
too much in every thing--what shall we do with him, Helen? Take him, for
better for worse, you must; and I must love him as I have done from his
childhood, a little while longer--to the end of my life.”

“A little longer, to the end of her life!” said Beauclerc to himself,
as leaning on the back of Helen’s chair he looked at Lady Davenant. “I
cannot believe that she whom I see before me is passing away, to be
with us but a little longer; so full of life as she appears; such energy
divine! No, no, she will live, live long!”

And as his eyes looked that hope, Helen caught it, and yet she doubted,
and sighed, but still she had hope. Cecilia had none; she was sitting
behind her mother; she looked up at Helen, and shook her head; she had
seen more of her mother’s danger, she had been with her in nights of
fearful struggle. She had been with her just after she had written to
Lord Davenant what she must have felt to be a farewell letter--letter,
too, which contained the whole history of Cecilia’s deception and
Helen’s difficulties, subjects so agitating that the writing of them had
left her mother in such a state of exhaustion that Cecilia could think
only with terror for her, yet she exerted all her power over herself to
hide her anguish, not only for her mother’s but for Helen’s sake.

The preparations for the wedding went on, pressed forward by Lady
Davenant as urgently as the general could desire. The bridesmaids were
to be Lady Emily Greville’s younger sister, Lady Susan, and, at Helen’s
particular request, Miss Clarendon. Full of joy, wonder, and sympathy,
in wedding haste Miss Clarendon and Mrs. Pennant arrived both delighted
that it was all happily settled for Helen: which most, it was scarcely
possible to say; but which most curious as to the means by which it
had been settled, it was very possible to see. When Miss Clarendon had
secured a private moment with Helen, she began.

“Now tell me--tell me everything about yourself.”

Helen could only repeat what the general had already written to her
sister--that he was now convinced that the reports concerning Miss
Stanley were false, his esteem restored, his public approbation to be
given, Beauclerc satisfied, and her rejection honourably retracted.

“I will ask you no more, Helen, by word or look,” said Esther; “I
understand it all, my brother and Lady Cecilia are separated for
life. And now let us go to aunt Pennant: she will not annoy you by her
curiosity, but how she will be able to manage her sympathy amongst you
with these crossing demands I know not; Lady Cecilia’s wretchedness will
almost spoil my aunt’s joy for you--it cannot be pure joy.”

Pure joy! how far from it Helen’s sigh told; and Miss Clarendon had
scarcely patience enough with Lady Cecilia to look at her again; had
scarcely seconded, at least with good grace, a suggestion of Mrs.
Pennant’s that they should prevail on Lady Cecilia to take a turn in the
park with them, she looked so much in want of fresh air.

“We can go now, my dear Esther, you know, before it is time for that
picture sale, at which you are to be before two o’clock.” Lady Davenant
desired Cecilia to go. “Helen will be with me, do, my dear Cecilia, go.”

She went, and before the awkwardness of Miss Clarendon’s silence ceased,
and before Mrs. Pennant had settled which glass or which blind was best
up or down, Lady Cecilia burst into tears, thanked aunt Pennant for her
sympathy, and now, above the fear of Miss Clarendon--above all fear but
that of doing further wrong by concealment, she at once told the whole
truth, that they might, as well as the general, do full justice
to Helen, and that they might never, never blame Clarendon for the
separation which was to be.

That he should have mentioned nothing of her conduct even to his sister,
was not surprising. “I know his generous nature,” said Cecilia.

“But I never knew yours till this moment, Cecilia,” cried Miss
Clarendon, embracing her; “my sister, now,--separation or not.”

“But there need be no separation,” said kind aunt Pennant. Cecilia
sighed, and Miss Clarendon repeated, “You will find in me a sister at
all events.”

She now saw Cecilia as she really was--faults and virtues. Perhaps
indeed in this moment of revulsion of feeling, in the surprise of
gratified confidence, she overvalued Lady Cecilia’s virtues, and was
inclined to do her more than justice, in her eagerness to make generous
reparation for unjust suspicion.


After setting down Lady Cecilia at her mother’s, the aunt and niece
proceeded to the picture sale which Miss Clarendon was eager to attend,
as she was in search of a pendant to a famous Berghem she possessed; and
while she was considering the picture, she had the advantage of hearing
a story, which seemed, indeed, to be told for the amusement of the
whole room, by a party of fashionables who were standing near her:--a
wonderful story of a locket, which was going about; it was variously
told, but all agreed in one point--that a young married lady of high
rank had never dared to appear in the World since her husband had seen
this locket in her hands--it had brought out something--something
which had occurred before marriage;--and here mysterious nods were

Another version stated that the story had not yet been fully explained
to the husband, that he had found the locket on the table in a room that
he had suddenly entered, where he discovered her kneeling to the person
in question,--“the person in question” being sometimes a woman and
sometimes a man.

Then leaned forward, stretching her scraggy neck, one who had good
reason to believe that the husband would soon speak out--the public
would soon hear of a separation: and everybody must be satisfied that
there could not be a separation without good grounds.

Miss Clarendon inquired from a gentleman near them, who the lady was
with the outstretched scraggy neck--Lady Katrine Hawksby. Miss Clarendon
knew her only by reputation. She did not know Miss Clarendon either by
reputation or by sight; and she went on to say, she would “venture any
wager that the separation would take place within a month. In short,
there could be no doubt that before marriage,”--and she ended with a
look which gave a death-blow to the reputation.

Exceedingly shocked, Miss Clarendon, not only from a sense of justice to
Lady Cecilia, but from feeling for her brother’s honour, longed to
reply in defence; but she constrained herself for once, and having been
assured by Lady Cecilia that all had been confessed to her mother, she
thought that Lady Davenant must be the best person to decide what should
be done. She went to her house immediately, sent in word that she begged
to see Lady Davenant for two or three minutes alone, was admitted;
Cecilia immediately vacated the chair beside her mother’s bed, and left
the room. Miss Clarendon felt some difficulty in beginning, but she
forced herself to repeat all she had heard. Then Lady Davenant started
up in her bed, and the colour of life spread over her face--

“Thank you, thank you, Miss Clarendon! a second time I have to thank
you for an inestimable service. It is well for Cecilia that she made the
whole truth known to us both--made you her friend; now we _can_ act for
her. I will have that locket from Madame de St. Cymon before the sun
goes down.”

Now Lady Davenant had Madame de St. Cymon completely in her power, from
her acquaintance with a disgraceful transaction which had come to her
knowledge at Florence. The locket was surrendered, returned with humble
assurances that Madame de St. Cymon now perfectly understood the thing
in its true light, and was quite convinced it had been stolen, not
given. Lady Davenant glanced over her note with scorn, and was going to
throw it from her into the fire, but did not. When Miss Clarendon called
upon her again that evening as she had appointed, she showed it to her,
and desired that she would, when her brother arrived next day, tell him
what she had heard, what Lady Davenant had done, and how the locket was
now in her possession.

Some people who pretend to know, maintain that the passion of love is of
such an all-engrossing nature that it swallows up every other feeling;
but we who judge more justly of our kind, hold differently, and rather
believe that love in generous natures imparts a strengthening power,
a magnetic touch, to every good feeling. Helen was incapable of being
perfectly happy while her friend was miserable; and even Beauclerc, in
spite of all the suffering she had caused, could not help pitying Lady
Cecilia, and he heartily wished the general could be reconciled to her;
yet it was a matter in which he could not properly interfere; he did not
attempt it.

Lady Davenant determined to give a breakfast to all the bridal
party after the marriage. In her state of health, Helen and Cecilia
remonstrated, but Lady Davenant had resolved upon it, and at last they
agreed it would be better than parting at the church-door--better that
she should at her own house take leave of Helen and Beauclerc, who would
set out immediately after the breakfast for Thorndale.

And now equipages were finished, and wedding paraphernalia sent
home--the second time that wedding-dresses had been furnished for Miss
Stanley;--and never once were these looked at by the bride elect, nor
even by Cecilia, but to see that all was as it should be--that seen, she
sighed, and passed on.

Felicie’s ecstasies were no more to be heard: we forgot to mention that
she had, before Helen’s return from Llansillen, departed, dismissed in
disgrace; and happy was it for Lady Cecilia and Helen to be relieved
from her jabbering, and not exposed to her spying and reporting.
Nevertheless, the gloom that hung over the world above could not but be
observed by the world below; it was, however, naturally accounted for by
Lady Davenant’s state of health, and by the anxiety which Lady Cecilia
must feel for the general, who, as it had been officially announced
by Mr. Cockburn, was to set out on foreign service the day after the

Lady Cecilia, notwithstanding the bright hopefulness of her temper, and
her habits of sanguine belief that all would end well in which she and
her good fortune had any concern, seemed now, in this respect, to have
changed her nature; and ever since her husband’s denunciations, had
continued quite resigned to misery, and submissive to the fate which she
thought she had deserved. She was much employed in attendance upon
her mother, and thankful that she was so permitted to be. She never
mentioned her husband’s name, and if she alluded to him, or to what had
been decreed by him, it was with an emotion that scarcely dared to touch
the point. She spoke most of her child, and seemed to look to the care
of him as her only consolation. The boy had been brought from Kensington
for Lady Davenant to see, and was now at her house. Cecilia once said
she thought he was very like his father, and hoped that he would at
least take leave of his boy at the last. To that last hour--that hour
when she was to see her husband once more, when they were to meet but
to part, to meet first at the wedding ceremony, and at a breakfast in
a public company,--altogether painful as it must be, yet she looked
forward to it with a sort of longing ardent impatience. “True, it will
be dreadful, yet still--still I shall see him again, see him once again,
and he cannot part with his once so dear Cecilia without some word--some
look, different from his last.”

The evening before the day on which the wedding was to be, Lady Cecilia
was in Lady Davenant’s room, sitting beside the bed while her mother
slept. Suddenly she was startled from her still and ever the same
recurring train of melancholy thoughts, by a sound which had often made
her heart beat with joy--her husband’s knock; she ran to the window,
opened it, and was out on the balcony in an instant. His horse was at
the door, he had alighted, and was going up the steps; she leaned over
the rails of the balcony, and as she leaned, a flower she wore broke
off--it fell at the general’s feet: he looked up, and their eyes met.
There he stood, waiting on those steps, some minutes, for an answer to
his inquiry how Lady Davenant was: and when the answer was brought out
by Elliott, whom, as it seemed, he had desired to see, he remounted his
horse, and rode away without ever again looking up to the balcony.

Lady Davenant had awakened, and when Cecilia returned on hearing her
voice, her mother, as the light from the half-open shutters shone upon
her face, saw that she was in tears; she kneeled down by the side of the
bed, and wept bitterly; she made her mother understand how it had been.

“Not that I hoped more, but still--still to feel it so! Oh! mother, I am
bitterly punished.”

Then Lady Davenant seizing those clasped hands, and raising herself in
her bed, fixed her eyes earnestly upon Cecilia, and asked,--“Would
you, Cecilia--tell me, would you if it were now, this moment, in your
power--would you retract your confession?”

“Retract! impossible!”

“Do you repent--regret having made it, Cecilia?”

“Repent--regret having made it. No, mother, no!” replied Cecilia firmly.
“I only regret that it was not sooner made. Retract!--impossible I could
wish to retract the only right thing I have done, the only thing that
redeems me in my inmost soul from uttermost contempt. No! rather would
I be as I am, and lose that noble heart, than hold it as I did,
unworthily. There is, mother, as you said--as I feel, a sustaining--a
redeeming power in truth.”

Her mother threw her arms round her.

“Come to my heart, my child, close--close to my heart Heaven bless you!
You have my blessing--my thanks, Cecilia. Yes, my thanks,--for now I
know--I feel, my dear daughter, that my neglect of you in childhood has
been repaired. You make me forgive myself, you make me happy, you have
my thanks--my blessing--my warmest blessing!”

A smile of delight was on her pale face, and tears ran down as Cecilia
answered--“Oh, mother, mother! blind that I have been. Why did not I
sooner know this tenderness of your heart?”

“And why, my child, did I not sooner know you? The fault was mine, the
suffering has been yours,--not yours alone, though.”

“Suffer no more for me, mother, for now, after this, come what may, I
can bear it. I can be happy, even if----” There she paused, and then
eagerly looking into her mother’s eyes she asked,--

“What do you say, mother, about him? do you think I may hope?”

“I dare not bid you hope,” replied her mother.

“Do you bid me despair?”

“No, despair in this world is only for those who have lost their own
esteem, who have no confidence in themselves, for those who cannot
repent, reform, and trust. My child, you must not despair. Now leave me
to myself,” continued she “Open a little more of the shutter, and put
that book within my reach.”

As soon as Miss Clarendon heard that her brother had arrived in town she
hastened to him, and, as Lady Davenant had desired, told him of all
the reports that were in circulation, and of all that Lady Cecilia had
spontaneously confided to her. Esther watched his countenance as she
spoke, and observed that he listened with eager attention to the proofs
of exactness in Cecilia; but he said nothing, and whatever his feelings
were, his determination, she could not doubt, was still unshaken; even
she did not dare to press his confidence.

Miss Clarendon reported to Lady Davenant that she had obeyed her
command, and she described as nearly as she could all that she thought
her brother’s countenance expressed. Lady Davenant seemed satisfied, and
this night she slept, as she told Cecilia in the morning, better than
she had done since she returned to England. And this was the day of

The hour came, and Lady Davenant was in the church with her daughter.
This marriage was to be, as described in olden times, “celebrated with
all the lustre and pomp imaginable;” and so it was, for Helen’s sake,
Helen, the pale bride---

“Beautiful!” the whispers ran as she appeared, “but too pale.” Leaning
on General Clarendon’s arm she was led up the aisle to the altar. He
felt the tremor of her arm on his, but she looked composed and almost
firm. She saw no one individual of the assembled numbers, not even
Cecilia or Lady Davenant. She knelt at the altar beside him to whom she
was to give her faith, and General Clarendon, in the face of all the
world, proudly gave her to his ward, and she, without fear, low and
distinctly pronounced the sacred vow. And as Helen rose from her knees,
the sun shone out, and a ray of light was on her face, and it was
lovely. Every heart said so--every heart but Lady Katrine Hawksby’s--And
why do we think of her at such a moment? and why does Lady Davenant
think of her at such a moment? Yet she did; she looked to see if she
were present, and she bade her to the breakfast.

And now all the salutations were given and received, and all the murmur
of congratulations rising, the living tide poured out of the church; and
then the noise of carriages, and all drove off to Lady Davenant’s; and
Lady Davenant had gone through it all so far, well. And Lady Cecilia
knew that it had been; and her eyes had been upon her husband, and her
heart had been full of another day when she had knelt beside him at
the altar. And did he, too, think of that day? She could not tell, his
countenance discovered no emotion, his eyes never once turned to the
place where she stood. And she was now to see him for one hour, but one
hour longer, and at a public breakfast! but still she was to see him.

And now they are all at breakfast. The attention of some was upon the
bride and bridegroom; of others, on Lady Cecilia and on the general; of
others, on Lady Davenant; and of many, on themselves. Lady Davenant had
Beauclerc on one side, General Clarendon on the other, and her daughter
opposite to him. Lady Katrine was there, with her “_tristeful_ visage,”
 as Churchill justly called it, and more _tristeful_ it presently became.

When breakfast was over, seizing her moment when conversation flagged,
and when there was a pause, implying “What is to be said or done
next?” Lady Davenant rose from her seat with an air of preparation, and
somewhat of solemnity.--All eyes were instantly upon her. She drew out a
locket, which she held up to public view; then, turning to Lady Katrine
Hawksby, she said--“This bauble has been much talked of, I understand,
by your ladyship, but I question whether you have ever yet seen it, or
know the truth concerning it. This locket was _stolen_ by a worthless
man, given by him to a worthless woman, from whom I have obtained it;
and now I give it to the person for whom it was originally destined.”

She advanced towards Helen and put it round her neck. This done, her
colour flitted--her hand was suddenly pressed to her heart; yet she
commanded--absolutely commanded, the paroxysm of pain. The general
was at her side; her daughter, Helen, and Beauclerc, were close to her
instantly. She was just able to walk: she slowly left the room--and was
no more seen by the world!

She suffered herself to be carried up the steps into her own apartment
by the general, who laid her on the sofa in her dressing-room. She
looked round on them, and saw that all were there whom she loved; but
there was an alteration in her appearance which struck them all, and
most the general, who had least expected it. She held out her hand
to him, and fixing her eyes upon him with deathful expression, calmly
smiled, and said--“You would not believe this could be; but now you
see it must be, and soon. We have no time to lose,” continued she, and
moving very cautiously and feebly, she half-raised herself--“Yes,” said
she, “a moment is granted to me, thank Heaven!” She rose with sudden
power and threw herself on her knees at the general’s feet: it was done
before he could stop her.

“For God’s sake!” cried he, “Lady Davenant!--I conjure you---”

She would not be raised. “No,” said she, “here I die if I appeal to you
in vain--to your justice, General Clarendon, to which, as far as I know
none ever appealed in vain--and shall I be the first?--a mother for her
child--a dying mother for your wife--for my dear Cecilia, once dear to

His face was instantly covered with his hands.

“Not to your love,” continued she--“if that be gone--to your justice I
appeal, and MUST be heard, if you are what I think you: if you are not,
why, go--go, instantly--go, and leave your wife, innocent as she is, to
be deemed guilty--Part from her, at the moment when the only fault she
committed has been repaired--Throw her from you when, by the sacrifice
of all that was dear to her, she has proved her truth--Yes, you know
that she has spoken the whole, the perfect truth---”

“I know it,” exclaimed he.

“Give her up to the whole world of slanderers!--destroy her character!
If now her husband separate from her, her good name is lost for ever! If
now her husband protect her not---”

Her husband turned, and clasped her in his arms. Lady Davenant rose and
blessed him--blessed them both: they knelt beside her, and she joined
their hands.

“Now,” said she, “I give my daughter to a husband worthy of her, and she
more worthy of that noble heart than when first his. Her only fault was
mine--my early neglect: it is repaired--I die in peace! You make my last
moments the happiest! Helen, my dearest Helen, now, and not till now,
happy--perfectly happy in Love and Truth!”

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales and Novels — Volume 10
 - Helen" ***

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including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
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+ Refrain from automated qu