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Alice, or The Mysteries, Book III by Edward Bulwer Lytton

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BOOK III.

Harsh things he mitigates, and pride subdues.
_Ex._ SOLON: _Eleg._

CHAPTER I.

YOU still are what you were, sir!
. . . . . .
. . . With most quick agility could turn
And return; make knots and undo them,
Give forked counsel.--_Volpone, or the Fox_.

BEFORE a large table, covered with parliamentary papers, sat Lumley Lord
Vargrave. His complexion, though still healthy, had faded from the
freshness of hue which distinguished him in youth. His features, always
sharp, had grown yet more angular: his brows seemed to project more
broodingly over his eyes, which, though of undiminished brightness, were
sunk deep in their sockets, and had lost much of their quick
restlessness. The character of his mind had begun to stamp itself on the
physiognomy, especially on the mouth when in repose. It was, a face
striking for acute intelligence, for concentrated energy; but there was a
something written in it which said, "BEWARE!" It would have inspired any
one who had mixed much amongst men with a vague suspicion and distrust.

Lumley had been always careful, though plain, in dress; but there was now
a more evident attention bestowed on his person than he had ever
manifested in youth,--while there was something of the Roman's celebrated
foppery in the skill with which his hair was arranged on his high
forehead, so as either to conceal or relieve a partial baldness at the
temples. Perhaps, too, from the possession of high station, or the habit
of living only amongst the great, there was a certain dignity insensibly
diffused over his whole person that was not noticeable in his earlier
years, when a certain _ton de garnison_ was blended with his ease of
manners. Yet, even now, dignity was not his prevalent characteristic;
and in ordinary occasions, or mixed society, he still found a familiar
frankness a more useful species of simulation. At the time we now treat
of, Lord Vargrave was leaning his cheek on one hand, while the other
rested idly on the papers methodically arranged before him. He appeared
to have suspended his labours, and to be occupied in thought. It was, in
truth, a critical period in the career of Lord Vargrave.

From the date of his accession to the peerage, the rise of Lumley Ferrers
had been less rapid and progressive than he himself could have foreseen.
At first, all was sunshine before him; he had contrived to make himself
useful to his party; he had also made himself personally popular. To the
ease and cordiality of his happy address, he added the seemingly careless
candour so often mistaken for honesty; while, as there was nothing showy
or brilliant in his abilities or oratory--nothing that aspired far above
the pretensions of others, and aroused envy by mortifying self-love--he
created but little jealousy even amongst the rivals before whom he
obtained precedence. For some time, therefore, he went smoothly on,
continuing to rise in the estimation of his party, and commanding a
certain respect from the neutral public, by acknowledged and eminent
talents in the details of business; for his quickness of penetration, and
a logical habit of mind, enabled him to grapple with and generalize the
minutiae of official labour or of legislative enactments with a masterly
success. But as the road became clearer to his steps, his ambition
became more evident and daring. Naturally dictatorial and presumptuous,
his early suppleness to superiors was now exchanged for a self-willed
pertinacity, which often displeased the more haughty leaders of his
party, and often wounded the more vain. His pretensions were scanned
with eyes more jealous and less tolerant than at first. Proud
aristocrats began to recollect that a mushroom peerage was supported but
by a scanty fortune; the men of more dazzling genius began to sneer at
the red-tape minister as a mere official manager of details; he lost much
of the personal popularity which had been one secret of his power. But
what principally injured him in the eyes of his party and the public were
certain ambiguous and obscure circumstances connected with a short period
when himself and his associates were thrown out of office. At this time,
it was noticeable that the journals of the Government that succeeded were
peculiarly polite to Lord Vargrave, while they covered all his coadjutors
with obloquy: and it was more than suspected that secret negotiations
between himself and the new ministry were going on, when suddenly the
latter broke up, and Lord Vargrave's proper party were reinstated. The
vague suspicions that attached to Vargrave were somewhat strengthened in
the opinion of the public by the fact that he was at first left out of
the restored administration; and when subsequently, after a speech which
showed that he could be mischievous if not propitiated, he was
readmitted, it was precisely to the same office he had held before,--an
office which did not admit him into the Cabinet. Lumley, burning with
resentment, longed to decline the offer; but, alas! he was poor, and,
what was worse, in debt; "his poverty, but not his will, consented." He
was reinstated; but though prodigiously improved as a debater, he felt
that he had not advanced as a public man. His ambition inflamed by his
discontent, he had, since his return to office, strained every nerve to
strengthen his position. He met the sarcasms on his poverty by greatly
increasing his expenditure, and by advertising everywhere his engagement
to an heiress whose fortune, great as it was, he easily contrived to
magnify. As his old house in Great George Street--well fitted for the
bustling commoner--was no longer suited to the official and fashionable
peer, he had, on his accession to the title, exchanged that respectable
residence for a large mansion in Hamilton Place; and his sober dinners
were succeeded by splendid banquets. Naturally, he had no taste for such
things; his mind was too nervous, and his temper too hard, to take
pleasure in luxury or ostentation. But now, as ever he _acted upon a
system_. Living in a country governed by the mightiest and wealthiest
aristocracy in the world, which, from the first class almost to the
lowest, ostentation pervades,--the very backbone and marrow of
society,--he felt that to fall far short of his rivals in display was to
give them an advantage which he could not compensate either by the power
of his connections or the surpassing loftiness of his character and
genius. Playing for a great game, and with his eyes open to all the
consequences, he cared not for involving his private fortunes in a
lottery in which a great prize might be drawn. To do Vargrave justice,
money with him had never been an object, but a means; he was grasping,
but not avaricious. If men much richer than Lord Vargrave find State
distinctions very expensive, and often ruinous, it is not to be supposed
that his salary, joined to so moderate a private fortune, could support
the style in which he lived. His income was already deeply mortgaged,
and debt accumulated upon debt. Nor had this man, so eminent for the
management of public business, any of that talent which springs from
_justice_, and makes its possessor a skilful manager of his own affairs.
Perpetually absorbed in intrigues and schemes, he was too much engaged in
cheating others on a large scale to have time to prevent being himself
cheated on a small one. He never looked into bills till he was compelled
to pay them; and he never calculated the amount of an expense that seemed
the least necessary to his purposes. But still Lord Vargrave relied upon
his marriage with the wealthy Evelyn to relieve him from all his
embarrassments; and if a doubt of the realization of that vision ever
occurred to him, still public life had splendid prizes. Nay, should he
fail with Miss Cameron, he even thought that, by good management, he
might ultimately make it worth while to his colleagues to purchase his
absence with the gorgeous bribe of the Governor-Generalship of India.

As oratory is an art in which practice and the dignity of station produce
marvellous improvement, so Lumley had of late made effects in the House
of Lords of which he had once been judged incapable. It is true that no
practice and no station can give men qualities in which they are wholly
deficient; but these advantages can bring out in the best light all the
qualities they _do_ possess. The glow of a generous imagination, the
grasp of a profound statesmanship, the enthusiasm of a noble
nature,--these no practice could educe from the eloquence of Lumley Lord
Vargrave, for he had them not; but bold wit, fluent and vigorous
sentences, effective arrangement of parliamentary logic, readiness of
retort, plausibility of manner, aided by a delivery peculiar for
self-possession and ease, a clear and ringing voice (to the only fault of
which, shrillness without passion, the ear of the audience had grown
accustomed), and a countenance impressive from its courageous
intelligence,--all these had raised the promising speaker into the
matured excellence of a nervous and formidable debater. But precisely as
he rose in the display of his talents, did he awaken envies and enmities
hitherto dormant. And it must be added that, with all his craft and
coldness, Lord Vargrave was often a very dangerous and mischievous
speaker for the interests of his party. His colleagues had often cause
to tremble when he rose: nay, even when the cheers of his own faction
shook the old tapestried walls. A man who has no sympathy with the
public must commit many and fatal indiscretions when the public, as well
as his audience, is to be his judge. Lord Vargrave's utter incapacity to
comprehend political morality, his contempt for all the objects of social
benevolence, frequently led him into the avowal of doctrines, which, if
they did not startle the men of the world whom he addressed (smoothed
away, as such doctrines were, by speciousness of manner and delivery),
created deep disgust in those even of his own politics who read their
naked exposition in the daily papers. Never did Lord Vargrave utter one
of those generous sentiments which, no matter whether propounded by
Radical or Tory, sink deep into the heart of the people, and do lasting
service to the cause they adorn. But no man defended an abuse, however
glaring, with a more vigorous championship, or hurled defiance upon a
popular demand with a more courageous scorn. In some times, when the
anti-popular principle is strong; such a leader may be useful; but at the
moment of which we treat he was a most equivocal auxiliary. A
considerable proportion of the ministers, headed by the premier himself,
a man of wise views and unimpeachable honour, had learned to view Lord
Vargrave with dislike and distrust. They might have sought to get rid of
him; but he was not one whom slight mortifications could induce to retire
of his own accord, nor was the sarcastic and bold debater a person whose
resentment and opposition could be despised. Lord Vargrave, moreover,
had secured a party of his own,--a party more formidable than himself.
He went largely into society; he was the special favourite of the female
diplomats, whose voices at that time were powerful suffrages, and with
whom, by a thousand links of gallantry and intrigue, the agreeable and
courteous minister formed a close alliance. All that _salons_ could do
for him was done. Added to this, he was personally liked by his royal
master; and the Court gave him their golden opinions; while the poorer,
the corrupter, and the more bigoted portion of the ministry regarded him
with avowed admiration.

In the House of Commons, too, and in the bureaucracy, he had no
inconsiderable strength; for Lumley never contracted the habits of
personal abruptness and discourtesy common to men in power who wish to
keep applicants aloof. He was bland and conciliating to all men of
ranks; his intellect and self-complacency raised him far above the petty
jealousies that great men feel for rising men. Did any tyro earn the
smallest distinction in parliament, no man sought his acquaintance so
eagerly as Lord Vargrave; no man complimented, encouraged, "brought on"
the new aspirants of his party with so hearty a good will.

Such a minister could not fail of having devoted followers among the
able, the ambitious, and the vain. It must also be confessed that Lord
Vargrave neglected no baser and less justifiable means to cement his
power by placing it on the sure rock of self-interest. No jobbing was
too gross for him. He was shamefully corrupt in the disposition of his
patronage; and no rebuffs, no taunts from his official brethren, could
restrain him from urging the claims of any of his creatures upon the
public purse. His followers regarded this charitable selfishness as the
stanchness and zeal of friendship; and the ambition of hundreds was wound
up in the ambition of the unprincipled minister.

But besides the notoriety of his public corruption, Lord Vargrave was
secretly suspected by some of personal dishonesty,--suspected of selling
his State information to stock-jobbers, of having pecuniary interests in
some of the claims he urged with so obstinate a pertinacity. And though
there was not the smallest evidence of such utter abandonment of honour,
though it was probably but a calumnious whisper, yet the mere suspicion
of such practices served to sharpen the aversion of his enemies, and
justify the disgust of his rivals.

In this position now stood Lord Vargrave: supported by interested, but
able and powerful partisans; hated in the country, feared by some of
those with whom he served, despised by others, looked up to by the rest.
It was a situation that less daunted than delighted him; for it seemed to
render necessary and excuse the habits of scheming and manoeuvre which
were so genial to his crafty and plotting temper. Like an ancient Greek,
his spirit loved intrigue for intrigue's sake. Had it led to no end, it
would still have been sweet to him as a means. He rejoiced to surround
himself with the most complicated webs and meshes; to sit in the centre
of a million plots. He cared not how rash and wild some of them were.
He relied on his own ingenuity, promptitude, and habitual good fortune to
make every spring he handled conducive to the purpose of the
machine--SELF.

His last visit to Lady Vargrave, and his conversation with Evelyn, had
left on his mind much dissatisfaction and fear. In the earlier years of
his intercourse with Evelyn, his good humour, gallantry, and presents had
not failed to attach the child to the agreeable and liberal visitor she
had been taught to regard as a relation. It was only as she grew up to
womanhood, and learned to comprehend the nature of the tie between them,
that she shrank from his familiarity; and then only had he learned to
doubt of the fulfilment of his uncle's wish. The last visit had
increased this doubt to a painful apprehension. He saw that he was not
loved; he saw that it required great address, and the absence of happier
rivals, to secure to him the hand of Evelyn; and he cursed the duties and
the schemes which necessarily kept him from her side. He had thought of
persuading Lady Vargrave to let her come to London, where he could be
ever at hand; and as the season was now set in, his representations on
this head would appear sensible and just. But then again this was to
incur greater dangers than those he would avoid. London!--a beauty and
an heiress, in her first _debut_ in London! What formidable admirers
would flock around her! Vargrave shuddered to think of the gay,
handsome, well-dressed, seductive young _elegans_, who might seem, to a
girl of seventeen, suitors far more fascinating than the middle-aged
politician. This was perilous; nor was this all: Lord Vargrave knew that
in London--gaudy, babbling, and remorseless London--all that he could
most wish to conceal from the young lady would be dragged to day. He had
been the lover, not of one, but of a dozen women, for whom he did not
care three straws, but whose favour had served to strengthen him in
society, or whose influence made up for his own want of hereditary
political connections. The manner in which he contrived to shake off
these various Ariadnes, whenever it was advisable, was not the least
striking proof of his diplomatic abilities. He never left them enemies.
According to his own solution of the mystery, he took care never to play
the gallant with Dulcineas under a certain age. "Middle-aged women," he
was wont to say, "are very little different from middle-aged men; they
see things sensibly, and take things coolly." Now Evelyn could not be
three weeks, perhaps three days, in London, without learning of one or
the other of these _liaisons_. What an excuse, if she sought one, to
break with him! Altogether, Lord Vargrave was sorely perplexed, but not
despondent. Evelyn's fortune was more than ever necessary to him, and
Evelyn he was resolved to obtain since to that fortune she was an
indispensable appendage.

CHAPTER II.

YOU shall be Horace, and Tibullus I.--POPE.

LORD VARGRAVE was disturbed from his revery by the entrance of the Earl
of Saxingham.

"You are welcome!" said Lumley, "welcome!--the very man I wished to see."

Lord Saxingham, who was scarcely altered since we met with him in the
last series of this work, except that he had grown somewhat paler and
thinner, and that his hair had changed from iron-gray to snow-white,
threw himself in the armchair beside Lumley, and replied,--

"Vargrave, it is really unpleasant, our finding ourselves always thus
controlled by our own partisans. I do not understand this new-fangled
policy, this squaring of measures to please the Opposition, and throwing
sops to that many-headed monster called Public Opinion. I am sure it
will end most mischievously."

"I am satisfied of it," returned Lord Vargrave. "All vigour and union
seem to have left us; and if they carry the ----- question against us, I
know not what is to be done."

"For my part, I shall resign," said Lord Saxingham, doggedly; "it is the
only alternative left to men of honour."

"You are wrong; I know another alternative."

"What is that?"

"Make a Cabinet of our own. Look ye, my dear lord; you been ill-used;
your high character, your long experience, are treated with contempt. It
is an affront to you--the situation you hold. You, Privy Seal!--you
ought to be Premier; ay, and, if you are ruled by me, Premier you shall
be yet."

Lord Saxingham coloured, and breathed hard.

"You have often hinted at this before, Lumley; but you are so partial, so
friendly."

"Not at all. You saw the leading article in the ----- to-day? That will
be followed up by two evening papers within five hours of this time. We
have strength with the Press, with the Commons, with the Court,--only let
us hold fast together. This ----- question, by which they hope to get
rid of us, shall destroy them. You shall be Prime Minister before the
year is over--by Heaven, you shall!--and then, I suppose, I too may be
admitted to the Cabinet!"

"But how?--how, Lumley? You are too rash, too daring."

It has not been my fault hitherto,--but boldness is caution in our
circumstances. If they throw us out now, I see the inevitable march of
events,--we shall be out for years, perhaps for life. The Cabinet will
recede more and more from our principles, our party. Now is the time for
a determined stand; now can we make or mar ourselves. I will not resign;
the king is with us; our strength shall be known. These haughty
imbeciles shall fall into the trap they have dug for us."

Lumley spoke warmly, and with the confidence of a mind firmly assured of
success. Lord Saxingham was moved; bright visions flashed across
him,--the premiership, a dukedom. Yet he was old and childless, and his
honours would die with the last lord of Saxingham!

"See," continued Lumley, "I have calculated our resources as accurately
as an electioneering agent would cast up the list of voters. In the
Press, I have secured ----- and -----, and in the Commons we have the
subtle -----, and the vigour of -----, and the popular name of -----, and
all the boroughs of -----; in the Cabinet we have -----, and at Court you
know our strength. Let us choose our moment; a sudden _coup_, an
interview with the king, statement of our conscientious scruples to this
atrocious measure. I know the vain, stiff mind of the premier; _he_ will
lose temper, he will tender his resignation; to his astonishment, it will
be accepted. You will be sent for; we will dissolve parliament; we will
strain every nerve in the elections; we shall succeed, I know we shall.
But be silent in the meanwhile, be cautious: let not a word escape you,
let them think us beaten; lull suspicion asleep; let us lament our
weakness, and hint, only hint at our resignation, but with assurances of
continued support. I know how to blind them, if you leave it to me."

The weak mind of the old earl was as a puppet in the hands of his bold
kinsman. He feared one moment, hoped another; now his ambition was
flattered, now his sense of honour was alarmed. There was something in
Lumley's intrigue to oust the government with which he served that had an
appearance of cunning and baseness, of which Lord Saxingham, whose
personal character was high, by no means approved. But Vargrave talked
him over with consummate address, and when they parted, the earl carried
his head two inches higher,--he was preparing himself for his rise in
life.

"That is well! that is well!" said Lumley, rubbing his hands when he was
left alone: "the old driveller will be my _locum tenens_, till years and
renown enable me to become his successor. Meanwhile, I shall be really
what he will be in name."

Here Lord Vargrave's well-fed servant, now advanced to the dignity of own
gentleman and house-steward, entered the room with a letter; it had a
portentous look; it was wafered, the paper was blue, the hand clerklike,
there was no envelope; it bore its infernal origin on the face of it,--IT
WAS A DUN'S.

Lumley opened the epistle with an impatient pshaw! The man, a
silversmith (Lumley's plate was much admired!) had applied for years in
vain; the amount was large, and execution was threatened! An
execution!--it is a trifle to a rich man; but no trifle to one suspected
of being poor, one straining at that very moment at so high an object,
one to whom public opinion was so necessary, one who knew that nothing
but his title, and scarcely that, saved him from the reputation of an
adventurer! He must again have recourse to the money-lenders,--his small
estate was long since too deeply mortgaged to afford new security.
Usury, usury, again!--he knew its price, and he sighed--but what was to
be done?

"It is but for a few months, a few months, and Evelyn must be mine.
Saxingham has already lent me what he can; but he is embarrassed. This
d-----d office, what a tax it is! and the rascals say we are too well
paid! I, too, who could live happy in a garret, if this purse-proud
England would but allow one to exist within one's income. My
fellow-trustee, the banker, my uncle's old correspondent--all, well
thought of! He knows the conditions of the will; he knows that, at the
worst, I must have thirty thousand pounds, if I live a few months longer.
I will go to him."

CHAPTER III.

ANIMUM nunc hoc celerem, nunc dividit illuc.*--VIRGIL.

* "Now this, now that, distracts the active mind."

THE late Mr. Templeton had been a banker in a provincial town, which was
the centre of great commercial and agricultural activity and enterprise.
He had made the bulk of his fortune in the happy days of paper currency
and war. Besides his country bank he had a considerable share in a
metropolitan one of some eminence. At the time of his marriage with the
present Lady Vargrave he retired altogether from business, and never
returned to the place in which his wealth had been amassed. He had still
kept up a familiar acquaintance with the principal and senior partner of
the metropolitan bank I have referred to; for he was a man who always
loved to talk about money matters with those who understood them. This
gentleman, Mr. Gustavus Douce, had been named, with Lumley, joint trustee
to Evelyn's fortune. They had full powers to invest it in whatever stock
seemed most safe or advantageous. The trustees appeared well chosen, as
one, being destined to share the fortune, would have the deepest interest
in its security; and the other, from his habits and profession, would be
a most excellent adviser.

Of Mr. Douce, Lord Vargrave had seen but little; they were not thrown
together. But Lord Vargrave, who thought every rich man might, some time
or other, become a desirable acquaintance, regularly asked him once every
year to dinner; and twice in return he had dined with Mr. Douce, in one
of the most splendid villas, and off some of the most splendid plate it
had ever been his fortune to witness and to envy!--so that the little
favour he was about to ask was but a slight return for Lord Vargrave's
condescension.

He found the banker in his private sanctum, his carriage at the door; for
it was just four o'clock, an hour in which Mr. Douce regularly departed
to Caserta, as his aforesaid villa was somewhat affectedly styled.

Mr. Douce was a small man, a nervous man; he did not seem quite master of
his own limbs: when he bowed he seemed to be making you a present of his
legs; when he sat down, he twitched first on one side, then on the other,
thrust his hands into his pockets, then took them out, and looked at
them, as if in astonishment, then seized upon a pen, by which they were
luckily provided with incessant occupation. Meanwhile, there was what
might fairly be called a constant play of countenance: first he smiled,
then looked grave; now raised his eyebrows, till they rose like rainbows,
to the horizon of his pale, straw-coloured hair; and next darted them
down, like an avalanche, over the twinkling, restless, fluttering, little
blue eyes, which then became almost invisible. Mr. Douce had, in fact,
all the appearance of a painfully shy man, which was the more strange, as
he had the reputation of enterprise, and even audacity, in the business
of his profession, and was fond of the society of the great.

"I have called on you, my dear sir," said Lord Vargrave, after the
preliminary salutations, "to ask a little favour, which, if the least
inconvenient, have no hesitation in refusing. You know how I am situated
with regard to my ward, Miss Cameron; in a few months I hope she will be
Lady Vargrave."

Mr. Douce showed three small teeth, which were all that, in the front of
his mouth, fate had left him; and then, as if alarmed at the indelicacy
of a smile upon such a subject, pushed back his chair, and twitched up
his blotting-paper-coloured trousers.

"Yes, in a few months I hope she will be Lady Vargrave; and you know
then, Mr. Douce, that I shall be in no want of money."

"I hope--that is to say, I am sure,--that--I trust that never will be the
ca-ca-case with your lordship," put in Mr. Douce, with timid hesitation.
Mr. Douce, in addition to his other good qualities, stammered much in the
delivery of his sentences.

"You are very kind, but it is the case just at present; I have great need
of a few thousand pounds upon my personal security. My estate is already
a little mortgaged, and I don't wish to encumber it more; besides, the
loan would be merely temporary. You know that if at the age of eighteen
Miss Cameron refuses me (a supposition out of the question, but in
business we must calculate on improbabilities), I claim the forfeit she
incurs,--thirty thousand pounds; you remember."

"Oh, yes--that--is--upon my word--I--I don't exactly--but--your
lord--l-l-l-lord-lordship knows best--I have been so--so busy--I forget
the exact--hem--hem!"

"If you just turn to the will you will see it is as I say. Now, could
you conveniently place a few thousands to my account, just for a short
time? But I see you don't like it. Never mind, I can get it elsewhere;
only, as you were my poor uncle's friend--"

"Your lord--l-l-l-lordship is quite mistaken," said Mr. Douce, with
trembling agitation; "upon my word, yes, a few thou-thou-thousands--to be
sure--to be sure. Your lordship's banker is--is--"

"Drummond--disagreeable people--by no means obliging. I shall certainly
change to your house when my accounts are better worth keeping."

"You do me great--great honour; I will just--step--step--step out for a
moment--and--and speak to Mr. Dobs;--not but what you may depend
on.--Excuse me! 'Morning Chron-chron-Chronicle,' my lord!"

Mr. Douce rose, as if by galvanism, and ran out of the room, spinning
round as he ran, to declare, again and again, that he would not be gone a
moment.

"Good little fellow, that--very like an electrified frog!" murmured
Vargrave, as he took up the "Morning Chronicle," so especially pointed
out to his notice; and turning to the leading article, read a very
eloquent attack on himself. Lumley was thick-skinned on such matters; he
liked to be attacked,--it showed that he was up in the world.

Presently Mr. Douce returned. To Lord Vargrave's amazement and delight,
he was informed that 10,000 pounds would be immediately lodged with
Messrs. Drummond. His bill of promise to pay in three months--five per
cent interest--was quite sufficient. Three months was a short date; but
the bill could be renewed on the same terms, from quarter to quarter,
till quite convenient to his lordship to pay. "Would Lord Vargrave do
him the honour to dine with him at Caserta next Monday?"

Lord Vargrave tried to affect apathy at his sudden accession of ready
money, but really it almost turned his head; he griped both Mr. Douce's
thin, little shivering hands, and was speechless with gratitude and
ecstasy. The sum, which doubled the utmost he expected, would relieve
him from all his immediate embarrassments. When he recovered his voice,
he thanked his dear Mr. Douce with a warmth that seemed to make the
little man shrink into a nutshell; and assured him that he would dine
with him every Monday in the year--if he was asked! He then longed to
depart; but he thought, justly, that to go as soon as he had got what he
wanted would look selfish. Accordingly, he reseated himself, and so did
Mr. Douce, and the conversation turned upon politics and news; but Mr.
Douce, who seemed to regard all things with a commercial eye, contrived,
Vargrave hardly knew how, to veer round from the change in the French
ministry to the state of the English money-market.

"It really is, indeed, my lord--I say it, I am sure, with concern, a very
bad ti-ti-ti-ti-time for men in business,--indeed, for all men; such poor
interest in the English fu-fun-funds, and yet speculations are so
unsound. I recommended my friend Sir Giles Grimsby to--to invest some
money in the American canals; a most rare res-res-respons-reponsibility,
I may say, for me; I am cautious in--in recommending--but Sir Giles was
an old friend,--con-con-connection, I may say; but most providentially,
all turned out--that is--fell out--as I was sure it would,--thirty per
cent,--and the value of the sh-sh-sh-shares doubled. But such things are
very rare,--quite godsends, I may say!"

"Well, Mr. Douce, whenever I have money to lay out, I must come and
consult you."

"I shall be most happy at all times to--to advise your lordship; but it
is not a thing I'm very fond of. There's Miss Cameron's fortune quite
l-l-locked up,--three per cents and exchequer bills; why, it might have
been a mil-mil-million by this ti-ti-time, if the good old gentleman--I
beg pardon--old--old nobleman, my poor dear friend, had been now alive!"

"Indeed!" said Lumley, greedily, and pricking up his ears; "he was a good
manager, my uncle!"

"None better, none better. I may say a genius for busi--hem-hem! Miss
Cameron a young woman of bus-bus-business, my lord?"

"Not much of that, I fear. A million, did you say?"

"At least!--indeed, at least--money so scarce, speculation so sure in
America; great people the Americans, rising people, gi-gi-giants
--giants!"

"I am wasting your whole morning,--too bad in me," said Vargrave, as the
clock struck five; "the Lords meet this evening,--important business;
once more a thousand thanks to you; good day."

"A very good day to you, my lord; don't mention it; glad at any time to
ser-ser-serve you," said Mr. Douce, fidgeting, curveting, and prancing
round Lord Vargrave, as the latter walked through the outer office to the
carriage.

"Not a step more; you will catch cold. Good-by--on Monday, then, seven
o'clock. The House of Lords."

And Lumley threw himself back in his carriage in high spirits.

CHAPTER IV.

OUBLIE de Tullie, et brave du Senat.*
VOLTAIRE: _Brutus_, Act ii. sc. 1.

* "Forgotten by Tully and bullied by the Senate."

IN the Lords that evening the discussion was animated and prolonged,--it
was the last party debate of the session. The astute Opposition did not
neglect to bring prominently, though incidentally, forward the question
on which it was whispered that there existed some growing difference in
the Cabinet. Lord Vargrave rose late. His temper was excited by the
good fortune of his day's negotiation; he felt himself of more importance
than usual, as a needy man is apt to do when he has got a large sum at
his banker's; moreover, he was exasperated by some personal allusions to
himself, which had been delivered by a dignified old lord who dated his
family from the ark, and was as rich as Croesus. Accordingly, Vargrave
spoke with more than his usual vigour. His first sentences were welcomed
with loud cheers; he warmed, he grew vehement, he uttered the most
positive and unalterable sentiments upon the question alluded to, he
greatly transgressed the discretion which the heads of his party were
desirous to maintain,--instead of conciliating without compromising, he
irritated, galled, _and_ compromised. The angry cheers of the opposite
party were loudly re-echoed by the cheers of the more hot-headed on his
own side. The premier and some of his colleagues observed, however, a
moody silence. The premier once took a note, and then reseated himself,
and drew his hat more closely over his brows. It was an ominous sign for
Lumley; but he was looking the Opposition in the face, and did not
observe it. He sat down in triumph; he had made a most effective and a
most mischievous speech,--a combination extremely common. The leader of
the Opposition replied to him with bitter calmness; and when citing some
of his sharp sentences, he turned to the premier, and asked, "Are these
opinions those also of the noble lord? I call for a reply,--I have a
right to demand a reply," Lumley was startled to hear the tone in which
his chief uttered the comprehensive and significant "_Hear, hear_!"

At midnight the premier wound up the debate; his speech was short, and
characterized by moderation. He came to the question put to him. The
House was hushed,--you might have heard a pin drop; the Commoners behind
the throne pressed forward with anxiety and eagerness on their
countenances.

"I am called upon," said the minister, "to declare if those sentiments,
uttered by my noble friend, are mine also, as the chief adviser of the
Crown. My lords, in the heat of debate every word is not to be
scrupulously weighed, and rigidly interpreted." ("Hear, hear,"
ironically from the Opposition, approvingly from the Treasury benches.)
"My noble friend will doubtless be anxious to explain what he intended to
say. I hope, nay, I doubt not, that his explanation will be satisfactory
to the noble lord, to the House, and to the country; but since I am
called upon for a distinct reply to a distinct interrogatory, I will say
at once, that if those sentiments be rightly interpreted by the noble
lord who spoke last, those sentiments are not mine, and will never
animate the conduct of any cabinet of which I am a member."
(Long-continued cheering from the Opposition.) "At the same time, I am
convinced that my noble friend's meaning has not been rightly construed;
and till I hear from himself to the contrary, I will venture to state
what I think he designed to convey to your lordships." Here the premier,
with a tact that nobody could be duped by, but every one could admire,
stripped Lord Vargrave's unlucky sentences of every syllable that could
give offence to any one; and left the pointed epigrams and vehement
denunciations a most harmless arrangement of commonplace.

The House was much excited; there was a call for Lord Vargrave, and Lord
Vargrave promptly rose. It was one of those dilemmas out of which Lumley
was just the man to extricate himself with address. There was so much
manly frankness in his manner, there was so much crafty subtlety in his
mind! He complained, with proud and honest bitterness, of the
construction that had been forced upon his words by the Opposition.
"If," he added (and no man knew better the rhetorical effect of the _tu
quoque form of argument),--"if every sentence uttered by the noble lord
opposite in his zeal for liberty had, in days now gone by, been construed
with equal rigour, or perverted with equal ingenuity, that noble lord had
long since been prosecuted as an incendiary, perhaps executed as a
traitor!" Vehement cheers from the ministerial benches; cries of
"Order!" from the Opposition. A military lord rose to order, and
appealed to the Woolsack.

Lumley sat down as if chafed at the interruption; he had produced the
effect he had desired,--he had changed the public question at issue into
a private quarrel; a new excitement was created; dust was thrown into the
eyes of the House. Several speakers rose to accommodate matters; and
after half-an-hour of public time had been properly wasted, the noble
lord on the one side and the noble lord on the other duly explained, paid
each other the highest possible compliments, and Lumley was left to
conclude his vindication, which now seemed a comparatively flat matter
after the late explosion. He completed his task so as to satisfy,
apparently, all parties--for all parties were now tired of the thing, and
wanted to go to bed. But the next morning there were whispers about the
town, articles in the different papers, evidently by authority,
rejoicings among the Opposition, and a general feeling that though the
Government might keep together that session, its dissensions would break
out before the next meeting of parliament.

As Lumley was wrapping himself in his cloak after this stormy debate, the
Marquess of Raby--a peer of large possessions, and one who entirely
agreed with Lumley's views--came up to him, and proposed that they should
go home together in Lord Raby's carriage. Vargrave willingly consented,
and dismissed his own servants.

"You did that admirably, my dear Vargrave!" said Lord Raby, when they
were seated in the carriage. "I quite coincide in all your sentiments; I
declare my blood boiled when I heard ----- [the premier] appear half
inclined to throw you over. Your hit upon ----- was first-rate,--he will
not get over it for a month; and you extricated yourself well."

"I am glad you approve my conduct,--it comforts me," said Vargrave,
feelingly; "at the same time I see all the consequences; but I can brave
all for the sake of character and conscience."

"I feel just as you do!" replied Lord Raby, with some warmth; "and if I
thought that ----- meant to yield to this question, I should certainly
oppose his administration."

Vargrave shook his head, and held his tongue, which gave Lord Raby a high
idea of his discretion.

After a few more observations on political matters, Lord Raby invited
Lumley to pay him a visit at his country-seat.

"I am going to Knaresdean next Monday; you know we have races in the
park, and really they are sometimes good sport; at all events, it is a
very pretty sight. There will be nothing in the Lords now,--the recess
is just at hand; and if you can spare the time, Lady Raby and myself will
be delighted to see you."

"You may be sure, my dear lord, I cannot refuse your invitation; indeed,
I intended to visit your county next week. You know, perhaps, a Mr.
Merton."

"Charles Merton?--to be sure; most respectable man, capital fellow, the
best parson in the county,--no cant, but thoroughly orthodox; he
certainly keeps in his brother, who, though a very active member, is what
I call a waverer on certain questions. Have you known Merton long?"

"I don't know him at all as yet; my acquaintance is with his wife and
daughter,--a very fine girl, by the by. My ward, Miss Cameron, is
staying with them."

"Miss Cameron! Cameron--ah, I understand. I think I have heard that--
But gossip does not always tell the truth!"

Lumley smiled significantly, and the carriage now stopped at his door.

"Perhaps you will take a seat in our carriage on Monday?" said Lord Raby.

"Monday? Unhappily I am engaged; but on Tuesday your lordship may expect
me."

"Very well; the races begin on Wednesday: we shall have a full house.
Good-night."

CHAPTER V.

HOMUNCULI quanti sunt, cum recogito.*--PLAUTUS.

* "When I reflect, how great your little men are in their own
consideration!"

IT is obvious that for many reasons we must be brief upon the political
intrigue in which the scheming spirit of Lord Vargrave was employed. It
would, indeed, be scarcely possible to preserve the necessary medium
between too plain a revelation and too complex a disguise. It suffices,
therefore, very shortly to repeat what the reader has already gathered
from what has gone before; namely, that the question at issue was one
which has happened often enough in all governments,--one on which the
Cabinet was divided, and in which the weaker party was endeavouring to
out-trick the stronger.

The malcontents, foreseeing that sooner or later the head of the
gathering must break, were again divided among themselves whether to
resign, or to stay in and strive to force a resignation on their
dissentient colleagues. The richer and the more honest were for the
former course; the poorer and the more dependent for the latter. We have
seen that the latter policy was that espoused and recommended by
Vargrave, who, though not in the Cabinet, always contrived somehow or
other to worm out its secrets. At the same time he by no means rejected
the other string to his bow. If it were possible so to arrange and to
strengthen his faction, that, by the _coup d'etat_ of a sudden
resignation in a formidable body, the whole Government might be broken
up, and a new one formed from among the resignees, it would obviously be
the best plan. But then Lord Vargrave was doubtful of his own strength,
and fearful to play into the hands of his colleagues, who might be able
to stand even better without himself and his allies, and by conciliating
the Opposition take a step onward in political movement,--which might
leave Vargrave placeless and powerless for years to come.

He repented his own rashness in the recent debate, which was, indeed, a
premature boldness that had sprung out of momentary excitement--for the
craftiest orator must be indiscreet sometimes. He spent the next few
days in alternately seeking to explain away to one party, and to sound,
unite, and consolidate the other. His attempts in the one quarter were
received by the premier with the cold politeness of an offended but
careful statesman, who believed just as much as he chose, and preferred
taking his own opportunity for a breach with a subordinate to risking any
imprudence by the gratification of resentment. In the last quarter, the
penetrating adventurer saw that his ground was more insecure than he had
anticipated. He perceived in dismay and secret rage that many of those
most loud in his favour while he was with the Government would desert him
the soonest if thrown out. Liked as a subordinate minister, he was
viewed with very different eyes the moment it was a question whether,
instead of cheering his sentiments, men should trust themselves to his
guidance. Some did not wish to displease the Government; others did not
seek to weaken but to correct them. One of his stanchest allies in the
Commons was a candidate for a peerage; another suddenly remembered that
he was second cousin to the premier. Some laughed at the idea of a
puppet premier in Lord Saxingham; others insinuated to Vargrave that he
himself was not precisely of that standing in the country which would
command respect to a new party, of which, if not the head, he would be
the mouthpiece. For themselves they knew, admired, and trusted him; but
those d-----d country gentlemen--and the dull public!

Alarmed, wearied, and disgusted, the schemer saw himself reduced to
submission, for the present at least; and more than ever he felt the
necessity of Evelyn's fortune to fall back upon, if the chance of the
cards should rob him of his salary. He was glad to escape for a
breathing-while from the vexations and harassments that beset him, and
looked forward with the eager interest of a sanguine and elastic
mind--always escaping from one scheme to another--to his excursion into
B-----shire.

At the villa of Mr. Douce, Lord Vargrave met a young nobleman who had
just succeeded to a property not only large and unencumbered, but of a
nature to give him importance in the eyes of politicians. Situated in a
very small county, the estates of Lord Doltimore secured to his
nomination at least one of the representatives, while a little village at
the back of his pleasure-grounds constituted a borough, and returned two
members to parliament. Lord Doltimore, just returned from the Continent,
had not even taken his seat in the Lords; and though his family
connections, such as they were--and they were not very high, and by no
means in the fashion--were ministerial, his own opinions were as yet
unrevealed.

To this young nobleman Lord Vargrave was singularly attentive. He was
well formed to attract men younger than himself, and he eminently
succeeded in his designs upon Lord Doltimore's affection.

His lordship was a small, pale man, with a very limited share of
understanding, supercilious in manner, elaborate in dress, not
ill-natured _au fond_, and with much of the English gentleman in his
disposition,--that is, he was honourable in his ideas and actions,
whenever his natural dulness and neglected education enabled him clearly
to perceive (through the midst of prejudices, the delusions of others,
and the false lights of the dissipated society in which he had lived)
what was right and what wrong. But his leading characteristics were
vanity and conceit. He had lived much with younger sons, cleverer than
himself, who borrowed his money, sold him their horses, and won from him
at cards. In return they gave him all that species of flattery which
young men _can_ give with so hearty an appearance of cordial admiration.
"You certainly have the best horses in Paris. You are really a devilish
good fellow, Doltimore. Oh, do you know, Doltimore, what little Desire
says of you? You have certainly turned the girl's head."

This sort of adulation from one sex was not corrected by any great
acerbity from the other. Lord Doltimore at the age of twenty-two was a
very good _parti_; and, whatever his other deficiencies, he had sense
enough to perceive that he received much greater attention--whether from
opera-dancers in search of a friend, or virtuous young ladies in search
of a husband--than any of the companions, good-looking though many of
them were, with whom he had habitually lived.

"You will not long remain in town now the season is over?" said Vargrave,
as after dinner he found himself, by the departure of the ladies, next to
Lord Doltimore.

"No, indeed; even in the season I don't much like London. Paris has
rather spoiled me for any other place."

"Paris is certainly very charming; the ease of French life has a
fascination that our formal ostentation wants. Nevertheless, to a man
like you, London must have many attractions."

"Why, I have a good many friends here; but still, after Ascot, it rather
bores me."

"Have you any horses on the turf?"

"Not yet; but Legard (you know Legard, perhaps,--a very good fellow) is
anxious that I should try my luck. I was very fortunate in the races at
Paris--you know we have established racing there. The French take to it
quite naturally."

"Ah, indeed! It is so long since I have been in Paris--most exciting
amusement! _A propos_ of races, I am going down to Lord Raby's
to-morrow; I think I saw in one of the morning papers that you had very
largely backed a horse entered at Knaresdean."

"Yes, Thunderer--I think of buying Thunderer. Legard--Colonel Legard (he
was in the Guards, but he sold out)--is a good judge, and recommends the
purchase. How very odd that you too should be going to Knaresdean!"

"Odd, indeed, but most lucky! We can go together, if you are not better
engaged."

Lord Doltimore coloured and hesitated. On the one hand he was a little
afraid of being alone with so clever a man; on the other hand, it was an
honour,--it was something for him to talk of to Legard. Nevertheless,
the shyness got the better of the vanity. He excused himself; he feared
he was engaged to take down Legard.

Lumley smiled, and changed the conversation; and so agreeable did he make
himself, that when the party broke up, and Lumley had just shaken hands
with his host, Doltimore came to him, and said in a little confusion,--

"I think I can put off Legard--if--if you--"

"That's delightful! What time shall we start?--need not get down much
before dinner--one o'clock?"

"Oh, yes! not too long before dinner; one o'clock will be a little too
early."

"Two then. Where are you staying?"

"At Fenton's."

"I will call for you. Good-night! I long to see Thunderer!"

CHAPTER VI.

LA sante de l'ame n'est pas plus assuree que celle du corps;
et quoique l'on paraisse eloigne des passions, on n'est pas
moins en danger de s'y laisser emporter que de tomber malade
quand on se porte bien.*--LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.

* "The health of the soul is not more sure than that of the
body; and although we may appear free from passions, there
is not the less danger of their attack than of falling sick
at the moment we are well."

IN spite of the efforts of Maltravers to shun all occasions of meeting
Evelyn, they were necessarily sometimes thrown together in the round of
provincial hospitalities; and certainly, if either Mr. Merton or Caroline
(the shrewder observer of the two) had ever formed any suspicion that
Evelyn had made a conquest of Maltravers, his manner at such times
effectually removed it.

Maltravers was a man to feel deeply, but no longer a boy to yield to
every tempting impulse. I have said that FORTITUDE was his favourite
virtue, but fortitude is the virtue of great and rare occasions; there
was another, equally hard-favoured and unshowy, which he took as the
staple of active and every-day duties, and that virtue was JUSTICE. Now,
in earlier life, he had been enamoured of the conventional Florimel that
we call HONOUR,--a shifting and shadowy phantom, that is but the reflex
of the opinion of the time and clime. But justice has in it something
permanent and solid; and out of justice arises the real not the false
honour.

"Honour!" said Maltravers,--"honour is to justice as the flower to the
plant,--its efflorescence, its bloom, its consummation! But honour that
does not spring from justice is but a piece of painted rag, an artificial
rose, which the men-milliners of society would palm upon us as more
natural than the true."

This principle of justice Maltravers sought to carry out in all
things--not, perhaps, with constant success; for what practice can always
embody theory?--but still, at least his endeavour at success was
constant. This, perhaps, it was which had ever kept him from the
excesses to which exuberant and liberal natures are prone, from the
extravagances of pseudo-genius.

"No man, for instance," he was wont to say, "can be embarrassed in his
own circumstances, and not cause embarrassment to others. Without
economy, who can be just? And what are charity, generosity, but the
poetry and the beauty of justice?"

No man ever asked Maltravers twice for a just debt; and no man ever once
asked him to fulfil a promise. You felt that, come what would, you might
rely upon his word. To him might have been applied the witty eulogium
passed by Johnson upon a certain nobleman: "If he had promised you an
acorn, and the acorn season failed in England, he would have sent to
Norway for one!"

It was not, therefore, the mere Norman and chivalrous spirit of honour,
which he had worshipped in youth as a part of the Beautiful and the
Becoming, but which in youth had yielded to temptation, as a _sentiment_
ever must yield to a passion, but it was the more hard, stubborn, and
reflective _principle_, which was the later growth of deeper and nobler
wisdom, that regulated the conduct of Maltravers in this crisis of his
life. Certain it is, that he had never but once loved as he loved
Evelyn; and yet that he never yielded so little to the passion.

"If engaged to another," thought he, "that engagement it is not for a
third person to attempt to dissolve. I am the last to form a right
judgment of the strength or weakness of the bonds which unite her to
Vargrave, for my emotions would prejudice me despite myself. I may fancy
that her betrothed is not worthy of her,--but that is for her to decide.
While the bond lasts, who can be justified in tempting her to break it?"

Agreeably to these notions, which the world may, perhaps, consider
overstrained, whenever Maltravers met Evelyn, he intrenched himself in a
rigid and almost a chilling formality. How difficult this was with one
so simple and ingenuous! Poor Evelyn! she thought she had offended him;
she longed to ask him her offence,--perhaps, in her desire to rouse his
genius into exertion, she had touched some secret sore, some latent wound
of the memory? She recalled all their conversations again and again.
Ah, why could they not be renewed? Upon her fancy and her thoughts
Maltravers had made an impression not to be obliterated. She wrote more
frequently than ever to Lady Vargrave, and the name of Maltravers was
found in every page of her correspondence.

One evening, at the house of a neighbour, Miss Cameron (with the Mertons)
entered the room almost in the same instant as Maltravers. The party was
small, and so few had yet arrived that it was impossible for Maltravers,
without marked rudeness, to avoid his friends from the rectory; and Mrs.
Merton, placing herself next to Evelyn, graciously motioned to Maltravers
to occupy the third vacant seat on the sofa, of which she filled the
centre.

"We grudge all your improvements, Mr. Maltravers, since they cost us your
society. But we know that our dull circle must seem tame to one who has
seen so much. However, we expect to offer you an inducement soon in Lord
Vargrave. What a lively, agreeable person he is!"

Maltravers raised his eyes to Evelyn, calmly and penetratingly, at the
latter part of this speech. He observed that she turned pale, and sighed
involuntarily.

"He had great spirits when I knew him," said he; "and he had then less
cause to make him happy."

Mrs. Merton smiled, and turned rather pointedly towards Evelyn.

Maltravers continued, "I never met the late lord. He had none of the
vivacity of his nephew, I believe."

"I have heard that he was very severe," said Mrs. Merton, lifting her
glass towards a party that had just entered.

"Severe!" exclaimed Evelyn. "Ah, if you could have known him! the
kindest, the most indulgent--no one ever loved me as he did." She
paused, for she felt her lip quiver.

"I beg your pardon, my dear," said Mrs. Merton, coolly. Mrs. Merton had
no idea of the pain inflicted by _treading upon a feeling_. Maltravers
was touched, and Mrs. Merton went on. "No wonder he was kind to you,
Evelyn,--a brute would be that; but he was generally considered a stern
man."

"I never saw a stern look, I never heard a harsh word; nay, I do not
remember that he ever even used the word 'command,'" said Evelyn, almost
angrily.

Mrs. Merton was about to reply, when suddenly seeing a lady whose little
girl had been ill of the measles, her motherly thoughts flowed into a new
channel, and she fluttered away in that sympathy which unites all the
heads of a growing family. Evelyn and Maltravers were left alone.

"You do not remember your father, I believe?" said Maltravers.

"No father but Lord Vargrave; while he lived, I never knew the loss of
one."

"Does your mother resemble you?"

"Ah, I wish I could think so; it is the sweetest countenance!"

"Have you no picture of her?"

"None; she would never consent to sit."

"Your father was a Cameron; I have known some of that name."

"No relation of ours: my mother says we have none living."

"And have we no chance of seeing Lady Vargrave in B-----shire?"

"She never leaves home; but I hope to return soon to Brook-Green."

Maltravers sighed, and the conversation took a new turn.

"I have to thank you for the books you so kindly sent; I ought to have
returned them ere this," said Evelyn.

"I have no use for them. Poetry has lost its charm for me,--especially
that species of poetry which unites with the method and symmetry
something of the coldness of Art. How did you like Alfieri?"

"His language is a kind of Spartan French," answered Evelyn, in one of
those happy expressions which every now and then showed the quickness of
her natural talent.

"Yes," said Maltravers, smiling, "the criticism is acute. Poor Alfieri!
in his wild life and his stormy passions he threw out all the redundance
of his genius; and his poetry is but the representative of his thoughts,
not his emotions. Happier the man of genius who lives upon his reason,
and wastes feeling only on his verse!"

"You do not think that we _waste_ feeling upon human beings?" said
Evelyn, with a pretty laugh.

"Ask me that question when you have reached my years, and can look upon
fields on which you have lavished your warmest hopes, your noblest
aspirations, your tenderest affections, and see the soil all profitless
and barren. 'Set not your heart on the things of earth,' saith the
Preacher."

Evelyn was affected by the tone, the words, and the melancholy
countenance of the speaker. "You, of all men, ought not to think thus,"
said she, with a sweet eagerness; "you who have done so much to awaken
and to soften the heart in others; you--who--" she stopped short, and
added, more gravely. "Ah, Mr. Maltravers, I cannot reason with you, but
I can hope you will refute your own philosophy."

"Were your wish fulfilled," answered Maltravers, almost with sternness,
and with an expression of great pain in his compressed lips, "I should
have to thank you for much misery." He rose abruptly, and turned away.

"How have I offended him?" thought Evelyn, sorrowfully; "I never speak
but to wound him. What _have_ I done?"

She could have wished, in her simple kindness, to follow him, and make
peace; but he was now in a coterie of strangers; and shortly afterwards
he left the room, and she did not see him again for weeks.

CHAPTER VII.

NIHIL est aliud magnum quam multa minuta.*--VETUS. AUCTOR.

* "There is nothing so great as the collection of the minute."

AN anxious event disturbed the smooth current of cheerful life at Merton
Rectory. One morning when Evelyn came down, she missed little Sophy, who
had contrived to establish for herself the undisputed privilege of a
stool beside Miss Cameron at breakfast. Mrs. Merton appeared with a
graver face than usual. Sophy was unwell, was feverish; the scarlet
fever had been in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Merton was very uneasy.

"It is the more unlucky, Caroline," added the mother, turning to Miss
Merton, "because to-morrow, you know, we were to have spent a few days at
Knaresdean to see the races. If poor Sophy does not get better, I fear
you and Miss Cameron must go without me. I can send to Mrs. Hare to be
your chaperon; she would be delighted."

"Poor Sophy!" said Caroline; "I am very sorry to hear she is unwell; but
I think Taylor would take great care of her; you surely need not stay,
unless she is much worse."

Mrs. Merton, who, tame as she seemed, was a fond and attentive mother,
shook her head and said nothing; but Sophy was much worse before noon.
The doctor was sent for, and pronounced it to be the scarlet fever.

It was now necessary to guard against the infection. Caroline had had
the complaint, and she willingly shared in her mother's watch of love for
two or three hours. Mrs. Merton gave up the party. Mrs. Hare (the wife
of a rich squire in the neighbourhood) was written to, and that lady
willingly agreed to take charge of Caroline and her friend.

Sophy had been left asleep. When Mrs. Merton returned to her bed, she
found Evelyn quietly stationed there. This alarmed her, for Evelyn had
never had the scarlet fever, and had been forbidden the sick-room. But
poor little Sophy had waked and querulously asked for her dear Evy; and
Evy, who had been hovering round the room, heard the inquiry from the
garrulous nurse, and come in she would; and the child gazed at her so
beseechingly, when Mrs. Merton entered, and said so piteously, "Don't
take Evy away," that Evelyn stoutly declared that she was not the least
afraid of infection, and stay she must. Nay, her share in the nursing
would be the more necessary since Caroline was to go to Knaresdean the
next day.

"But you go too, my dear Miss Cameron?"

"Indeed I could not. I don't care for races, I never wished to go, I
would much sooner have stayed; and I am sure Sophy will not get well
without me,--will you, dear?"

"Oh, yes, yes; if I'm to keep you from the nice races, I should be worse
if I thought that."

"But I don't like the nice races, Sophy, as your sister Carry does; she
must go,--they can't do without her; but nobody knows me, so I shall not
be missed."

"I can't hear of such a thing," said Mrs. Merton, with tears in her eyes;
and Evelyn said no more then. But the next morning Sophy was still
worse, and the mother was too anxious and too sad to think more of
ceremony and politeness, so Evelyn stayed.

A momentary pang shot across Evelyn's breast when all was settled; but
she suppressed the sigh which accompanied the thought that she had lost
the only opportunity she might have for weeks of seeing Maltravers. To
that chance she had indeed looked forward with interest and timid
pleasure. The chance was lost; but why should it vex her,--what was he
to her?

Caroline's heart smote her, as she came into the room in her lilac bonnet
and new dress; and little Sophy, turning on her eyes which, though
languid, still expressed a child's pleasure at the sight of finery,
exclaimed, "How nice and pretty you look, Carry! Do take Evy with
you,--Evy looks pretty too!"

Caroline kissed the child in silence, and paused irresolute; glanced at
her dress, and then at Evelyn, who smiled on her without a thought of
envy; and she had half a mind to stay too, when her mother entered with a
letter from Lord Vargrave. It was short: he should be at the Knaresdean
races, hoped to meet them there, and accompany them home. This
information re-decided Caroline, while it rewarded Evelyn. In a few
minutes more, Mrs. Hare arrived; and Caroline, glad to escape, perhaps,
her own compunction, hurried into the carriage, with a hasty "God bless
you all! Don't fret--I'm sure she will be well to-morrow; and mind,
Evelyn, you don't catch the fever!" Mr. Merton looked grave and sighed,
as he handed her into the carriage; but when, seated there, she turned
round and kissed her hand at him, she looked so handsome and
distinguished, that a sentiment of paternal pride smoothed down his
vexation at her want of feeling. He himself gave up the visit; but a
little time after, when Sophy fell into a tranquil sleep, he thought he
might venture to canter across the country to the race-ground, and return
to dinner.

Days--nay, a whole week passed, the races were over, but Caroline had not
returned. Meanwhile, Sophy's fever left her; she could quit her bed, her
room; she could come downstairs now, and the family was happy. It is
astonishing how the least ailment in those little things stops the wheels
of domestic life! Evelyn fortunately had not caught the fever: she was
pale, and somewhat reduced by fatigue and confinement; but she was amply
repaid by the mother's swimming look of quiet gratitude, the father's
pressure of the hand, Sophy's recovery, and her own good heart. They had
heard twice from Caroline, putting off her return: Lady Raby was so kind,
she could not get away till the party broke up; she was so glad to hear
such an account of Sophy.

Lord Vargrave had not yet arrived at the rectory to stay; but he had
twice ridden over, and remained there some hours. He exerted himself to
the utmost to please Evelyn; and she--who, deceived by his manners, and
influenced by the recollections of long and familiar acquaintance, was
blinded to his real character--reproached herself more bitterly than ever
for her repugnance to his suit and her ungrateful hesitation to obey the
wishes of her stepfather.

To the Mertons, Lumley spoke with good-natured praise of Caroline; she
was so much admired; she was the beauty at Knaresdean. A certain young
friend of his, Lord Doltimore, was evidently smitten. The parents
thought much over the ideas conjured up by that last sentence.

One morning, the garrulous Mrs. Hare, the gossip of the neighbourhood,
called at the rectory; she had returned, two days before, from
Knaresdean; and she, too, had her tale to tell of Caroline's conquests.

"I assure you, my dear Mrs. Merton, if we had not all known that his
heart was pre-occupied, we should have thought that Lord Vargrave was her
warmest admirer. Most charming man, Lord Vargrave! but as for Lord
Doltimore, it was quite a flirtation. Excuse _me_: no scandal, you know,
ha, ha! a fine young man, but stiff and reserved,--not the fascination of
Lord Vargrave."

"Does Lord Raby return to town, or is he now at Knaresdean for the
autumn?"

"He goes on Friday, I believe: very few of the guests are left now. Lady
A. and Lord B., and Lord Vargrave and your daughter, and Mr. Legard and
Lord Doltimore, and Mrs. and the Misses Cipher; all the rest went the
same day I did."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Merton, in some surprise.

"Ah, I read your thoughts: you wonder that Miss Caroline has not come
back,--is not that it? But perhaps Lord Doltimore--ha, ha!--no scandal
now--do excuse _me_!"

"Was Mr. Maltravers at Knaresdean?" asked Mrs. Merton, anxious to change
the subject, and unprepared with any other question. Evelyn was cutting
out a paper horse for Sophy, who--all her high spirits flown--was lying
on the sofa, and wistfully following her fairy fingers. "Naughty Evy,
you have cut off the horse's head!"

"Mr. Maltravers? No, I think not; no, he was not there. Lord Raby asked
him pointedly to come, and was, I know, much disappointed that he did
not. But _a propos_ of Mr. Maltravers: I met him not a quarter of an
hour ago, this morning, as I was coming to you. You know we have leave
to come through his park, and as I was in the park at the time, I stopped
the carriage to speak to him. I told him that I was coming here, and
that you had had the scarlet fever in the house, which was the reason you
had not gone to the races; and he turned quite pale, and seemed so
alarmed. I said we were all afraid that Miss Cameron should catch it;
and, excuse me--ah, ah!--no scandal, I hope--but--"

"Mr. Maltravers," said the butler, throwing open the door. Maltravers
entered with a quick and even a hurried step. He stopped short when he
saw Evelyn; and his whole countenance was instantly lightened up by a
joyous expression, which as suddenly died away.

"This is kind, indeed," said Mrs. Merton; "it is so long since we have
seen you."

"I have been very much occupied," muttered Maltravers, almost inaudibly,
and seated himself next Evelyn. "I only just heard--that--that you had
sickness in the house. Miss Cameron, you look pale--you--you have not
suffered, I hope?"

"No, I am quite well," said Evelyn, with a smile; and she felt happy that
her friend was kind to her once more.

"It's only me, Mr. Ernest," said Sophy; "you have forgot me."

Maltravers hastened to vindicate himself from the charge, and Sophy and
he were soon made excellent friends again. Mrs. Hare, whom surprise at
this sudden meeting had hitherto silenced, and who longed to shape into
elegant periphrasis the common adage, "Talk of," etc., now once more
opened her budget. She tattled on, first to one, then to the other, then
to all, till she had tattled herself out of breath; and then the orthodox
half-hour was expired, and the bell was rung, and the carriage ordered,
and Mrs. Hare rose to depart.

"Do just come to the door, Mrs. Merton," said she, "and look at my
pony-phaeton, it is so pretty; Lady Raby admires it so much; you ought to
have just such another." As she spoke, she favoured Mrs. Merton with a
significant glance, that said, as plainly as glance could say, "I have
something to communicate." Mrs. Merton took the hint, and followed the
good lady out of the room.

"Do you know, my dear Mrs. Merton," said Mrs. Hare, in a whisper, when
they were safe in the billiard-room, that interposed between the
apartment they had left and the hall; "do you know whether Lord Vargrave
and Mr. Maltravers are very good friends?"

"No, indeed; why do you ask?"

"Oh, because when I was speaking to Lord Vargrave about him, he shook his
head; and really I don't remember what his lordship said, but he seemed
to speak as if there was a little soreness. And then he inquired very
anxiously if Mr. Maltravers was much at the rectory; and looked
discomposed when he found you were such near neighbours. You'll excuse
me, you know--ha, ha! but we're such old friends!--and if Lord Vargrave
is coming to stay here, it might be unpleasant to meet--you'll excuse
_me_. I took the liberty to tell him he need not be jealous of Mr.
Maltravers--ha, ha!--not a marrying man at all. But I did think Miss
Caroline was the attraction--you'll excuse me--no scandal--ha, ha! But,
after all, Lord Doltimore must be the man. Well, good morning, I thought
I'd just give you this hint. Is not the phaeton pretty? Kind
compliments to Mr. Merton."

And the lady drove off.

During this confabulation, Maltravers and Evelyn were left alone with
Sophy. Maltravers had continued to lean over the child, and appeared
listening to her prattle; while Evelyn, having risen to shake hands with
Mrs. Hare, did not reseat herself, but went to the window, and busied
herself with a flower-stand in the recess.

"Oh, very fine, Mr. Ernest," said Sophy (always pronouncing that proper
name as if it ended in _th_), "you care very much for us to stay away so
long,--don't he, Evy? I've a great mind not to speak to you, sir, that I
have!"

"That would be too heavy a punishment, Miss Sophy, only, luckily, it
would punish yourself; you could not live without talking--talk--talk
--talk!"

"But I might never have talked more, Mr. Ernest, if Mamma and pretty Evy
had not been so kind to me;" and the child shook her head mournfully, as
if she had _pitie de soi-meme_. "But you won't stay away so long again,
will you? Sophy play to-morrow; come to-morrow, and swing Sophy; no nice
swinging since you've been gone."

While Sophy spoke Evelyn turned half round, as if to hear Maltravers
answer; he hesitated, and Evelyn spoke.

"You must not tease Mr. Maltravers so; Mr. Maltravers has too much to do
to come to us."

Now this was a very pettish speech in Evelyn, and her cheek glowed while
she spoke; but an arch, provoking smile was on her lips.

"It can be a privation only to me, Miss Cameron," said Maltravers,
rising, and attempting in vain to resist the impulse that drew him
towards the window. The reproach in her tone and words at once pained
and delighted him; and then this scene, the suffering child, brought back
to him his first interview with Evelyn herself. He forgot, for the
moment, the lapse of time, the new ties she had formed, his own
resolutions.

"That is a bad compliment to us," answered Evelyn, ingenuously; "do you
think we are so little worthy your society as not to value it? But,
perhaps" (she added, sinking her voice) "perhaps you have been
offended--perhaps I--I--said--something that--that hurt you!"

"You!" repeated Maltravers, with emotion.

Sophy, who had been attentively listening, here put in, "Shake hands and
make it up with Evy--you've been quarrelling, naughty Ernest!"

Evelyn laughed, and tossed back her sunny ringlets. "I think Sophy is
right," said she, with enchanting simplicity; "let us make it up," and
she held out her hand to Maltravers.

Maltravers pressed the fair hand to his lips. "Alas!" said he, affected
with various feelings which gave a tremor to his deep voice, "your only
fault is that your society makes me discontented with my solitary home;
and as solitude must be my fate in life, I seek to inure myself to it
betimes."

Here--whether opportunely or not, it is for the reader to decide--Mrs.
Merton returned to the room.

She apologized for her absence, talked of Mrs. Hare and the little Master
Hares,--fine boys, but noisy; and then she asked Maltravers if he had
seen Lord Vargrave since his lordship had been in the county. Maltravers
replied, with coldness, that he had not had that honour: that Vargrave
had called on him in his way from the rectory the other day, but that he
was from home, and that he had not seen him for some years.

"He is a person of most prepossessing manners," said Mrs. Merton.

"Certainly,--most prepossessing."

"And very clever."

"He has great talents."

"He seems most amiable."

Maltravers bowed, and glanced towards Evelyn, whose face, however, was
turned from him.

The turn the conversation had taken was painful to the visitor, and he
rose to depart.

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Merton, "you will meet Lord Vargrave at dinner
to-morrow; he will stay with us a few days,--as long as he can be
spared."

Maltravers meet Lord Vargrave! the happy Vargrave, the betrothed to
Evelyn! Maltravers witness the familiar rights, the enchanting
privileges, accorded to another! and that other one whom he could not
believe worthy of Evelyn! He writhed at the picture the invitation
conjured up.

"You are very kind, my dear Mrs. Merton, but I expect a visitor at
Burleigh,--an old and dear friend, Mr. Cleveland."

"Mr. Cleveland!--we shall be delighted to see him too. We knew him many
years ago, during your minority, when he used to visit Burleigh two or
three times a year."

"He is changed since then; he is often an invalid. I fear I cannot
answer for him; but he will call as soon as he arrives, and apologize for
himself."

Maltravers then hastily took his departure. He would not trust himself
to do more than bow distantly to Evelyn; she looked at him reproachfully.
So, then, it was really premeditated and resolved upon--his absence from
the rectory; and why? She was grieved, she was offended--but more
grieved than offended,--perhaps because esteem, interest, admiration, are
more tolerant and charitable than love.

CHAPTER VIII.

_Arethusa_. 'Tis well, my lord, your courting of ladies.

. . . . . .

_Claremont_. Sure this lady has a good turn done her against
her will.

PHILASTER.

In the breakfast-room at Knaresdean, the same day, and almost at the same
hour, in which occurred the scene and conversation at the rectory
recorded in our last chapter, sat Lord Vargrave and Caroline alone. The
party had dispersed, as was usual, at noon. They heard at a distance the
sounds of the billiard-balls. Lord Doltimore was playing with Colonel
Legard, one of the best players in Europe, but who, fortunately for
Doltimore, had of late made it a rule never to play for money. Mrs. and
the Misses Cipher, and most of the guests, were in the billiard-room
looking on. Lady Raby was writing letters, and Lord Raby riding over his
home farm. Caroline and Lumley had been for some time in close and
earnest conversation. Miss Merton was seated in a large armchair, much
moved, with her handkerchief to her eyes. Lord Vargrave, with his back
to the chimney-piece, was bending down and speaking in a very low voice,
while his quick eye glanced, ever and anon, from the lady's countenance
to the windows, to the doors, to be prepared against any interruption.

"No, my dear friend," said he, "believe me that I am sincere. My
feelings for you are, indeed, such as no words can paint."

"Then why--"

"Why wish you wedded to another; why wed another myself? Caroline, I
have often before explained to you that we are in this the victims of an
inevitable fate. It is absolutely necessary that I should wed Miss
Cameron. I never deceived you from the first. I should have loved
her,--my heart would have accompanied my hand, but for your too seductive
beauty, your superior mind!--yes, Caroline, your mind attracted me more
than your beauty. Your mind seemed kindred to my own,--inspired with the
proper and wise ambition which regards the fools of the world as puppets,
as counters, as chessmen. For myself, a very angel from heaven could not
make me give up the great game of life, yield to my enemies, slip from
the ladder, unravel the web I have woven! Share my heart, my friendship,
my schemes! this is the true and dignified affection that should exist
between minds like ours; all the rest is the prejudice of children."

"Vargrave, I am ambitious, worldly: I own it; but I could give up all for
you!"

"You think so, for you do not know the sacrifice. You see me now
apparently rich, in power, courted; and this fate you are willing to
share; and this fate you _should_ share, were it the real one I could
bestow on you. But reverse the medal. Deprived of office, fortune gone,
debts pressing, destitution notorious, the ridicule of embarrassments,
the disrepute attached to poverty and defeated ambition, an exile in some
foreign town on the poor pension to which alone I should be entitled, a
mendicant on the public purse; and that, too, so eaten into by demands
and debts, that there is not a grocer in the next market-town who would
envy the income of the retired minister! Retire, fallen, despised, in
the prime of life, in the zenith of my hopes! Suppose that I could bear
this for myself, could I bear it for you? _You_, born to be the ornament
of courts! And you could you see me thus--life embittered, career
lost--and feel, generous as you are, that your love had entailed on me,
on us both, on our children, this miserable lot! Impossible, Caroline! we
are too wise for such romance. It is not because we love too little, but
because our love is worthy of each other, that we disdain to make love a
curse! We cannot wrestle against the world, but we may shake hands with
it, and worm the miser out of its treasures. My heart must be ever
yours; my hand must be Miss Cameron's. Money I must have,--my whole
career depends on it. It is literally with me the highwayman's
choice,--money or life." Vargrave paused, and took Caroline's hand.

"I cannot reason with you," said she; "you know the strange empire you
have obtained over me, and, certainly, in spite of all that has passed
(and Caroline turned pale) I could bear anything rather than that you
should hereafter reproach me for selfish disregard of your
interests,--your just ambition."

"My noble friend! I do not say that I shall not feel a deep and sharp
pang at seeing you wed another; but I shall be consoled by the thought
that I have assisted to procure for you a station worthier of your merits
than that which I can offer. Lord Doltimore is rich,--you will teach him
to employ his riches well; he is weak,--your intellect will govern him;
he is in love,--your beauty will suffice to preserve his regard. Ah, we
shall be dear friends to the last!"

More--but to the same effect--did this able and crafty villain continue
to address to Caroline, whom he alternately soothed, irritated,
flattered, and revolted. Love him she certainly did, as far as love in
her could extend; but perhaps his rank, his reputation, had served to win
her affection; and; not knowing his embarrassments, she had encouraged a
worldly hope that if Evelyn should reject his hand it might be offered to
her. Under this impression she had trifled, she had coquetted, she had
played with the serpent till it had coiled around her; and she could not
escape its fascination and its folds. She was sincere,--she could have
resigned much for Lord Vargrave; but his picture startled and appalled
her. For difficulties in a palace she might be prepared; perhaps even
for some privations in a _cottage ornee_,--but certainly not for penury
in a lodging-house! She listened by degrees with more attention to
Vargrave's description of the power and homage that would be hers if she
could secure Lord Doltimore; she listened, and was in part consoled. But
the thought of Evelyn again crossed her; and perhaps with natural
jealousy was mingled some compunction at the fate to which Lord Vargrave
thus coldly appeared to condemn one so lovely and so innocent.

"But do not, Vargrave," she said, "do not be too sanguine; Evelyn may
reject you. She does not see you with my eyes; it is only a sense of
honour that, as yet, forbids her openly to refuse the fulfilment of an
engagement from which I know that she shrinks; and if she does refuse,
and you be free,--and I another's--"

"Even in that case," interrupted Vargrave, "I must turn to the Golden
Idol; my rank and name must buy me an heiress, if not so endowed as
Evelyn, wealthy enough, at least, to take from my wheels the drag-chain
of disreputable debt. But Evelyn--I will not doubt of her! her heart is
still unoccupied!"

"True; as yet her affections are not engaged."

"And this Maltravers--she is romantic, I fancy--did he seem captivated by
her beauty or her fortune?"

"No, indeed, I think not; he has been very little with us of late. He
talked to her more as to a child,--there is a disparity of years."

"I am many years older than Maltravers," muttered Vargrave, moodily.

"You--but your _manner_ is livelier, and, therefore, younger!"

"Fair flatterer! Maltravers does not love me: I fear his report of my
character--"

"I never heard him speak of you, Vargrave; and I will do Evelyn the
justice to say, that precisely as she does not love she esteems and
respects you."

"Esteems! respects! these are the feelings for a prudent Hymen," said
Vargrave, with a smile. "But, hark! I don't hear the billiard-balls;
they may find us here,--we had better separate."

Lord Vargrave lounged into the billiard-room. The young men had just
finished playing, and were about to visit Thunderer, who had won the
race, and was now the property of Lord Doltimore.

Vargrave accompanied them to the stables; and after concealing his
ignorance of horseflesh as well as he could, beneath a profusion of
compliments on fore-hand, hind-quarters, breeding, bone, substance, and
famous points, he contrived to draw Doltimore into the courtyard, while
Colonel Legard remained in converse high with the head groom.

"Doltimore, I leave Knaresdean to-morrow; you go to London, I suppose?
Will you take a little packet for me to the Home Office?"

"Certainly, when I go; but I think of staying a few days with Legard's
uncle--the old admiral; he has a hunting-box in the neighbourhood, and
has asked us both over."

"Oh, I can detect the attraction; but certainly it is a fair one, the
handsomest girl in the county; pity she has no money."

"I don't care for money," said Lord Doltimore, colouring, and settling
his chin in his neckcloth; "but you are mistaken; I have no thoughts that
way. Miss Merton is a very fine girl, but I doubt much if she cares for
me. I would never marry any woman who was not very much in love with
me." And Lord Doltimore laughed rather foolishly.

"You are more modest than clear-sighted," said Vargrave, smiling; "but
mark my words,--I predict that the beauty of next season will be a
certain Caroline Lady Doltimore."

The conversation dropped.

"I think that will be settled well," said Vargrave to himself, as he was
dressing for dinner. "Caroline will manage Doltimore, and I shall manage
one vote in the Lords and three in the Commons. I have already talked
him into proper politics; a trifle all this, to be sure: but I had
nothing else to amuse me, and one must never lose an occasion. Besides,
Doltimore is rich, and rich friends are always useful. I have Caroline,
too, in my power, and she may be of service with respect to this Evelyn,
who, instead of loving, I half hate: she has crossed my path, robbed me
of wealth; and now, if she does refuse me--but no, I will not think of
_that_!"

CHAPTER IX.

OUT of our reach the gods have laid
Of time to come the event;
And laugh to see the fools afraid
Of what the knaves invent.--SEDLEY, _from Lycophron_.

THE next day Caroline returned to the rectory in Lady Raby's carriage;
and two hours after her arrival came Lord Vargrave. Mr. Merton had
secured the principal persons in the neighbourhood to meet a guest so
distinguished, and Lord Vargrave, bent on shining in the eyes of Evelyn,
charmed all with his affability and wit. Evelyn, he thought, seemed pale
and dispirited. He pertinaciously devoted himself to her all the
evening. Her ripening understanding was better able than heretofore to
appreciate his abilities; yet, inwardly, she drew comparisons between his
conversation and that of Maltravers, not to the advantage of the former.
There was much that amused but nothing that interested in Lord Vargrave's
fluent ease. When he attempted sentiment, the vein was hard and hollow;
he was only at home on worldly topics. Caroline's spirits were, as usual
in society, high, but her laugh seemed forced, and her eye absent.

The next day, after breakfast, Lord Vargrave walked alone to Burleigh.
As he crossed the copse that bordered the park, a large Persian greyhound
sprang towards him, barking loudly; and, lifting his eyes, he perceived
the form of a man walking slowly along one of the paths that intersected
the wood. He recognized Maltravers. They had not till then encountered
since their meeting a few weeks before Florence's death; and a pang of
conscience came across the schemer's cold heart. Years rolled away from
the past; he recalled the young, generous, ardent man, whom, ere the
character or career of either had been developed, he had called his
friend. He remembered their wild adventures and gay follies, in climes
where they had been all in all to each other; and the beardless boy,
whose heart and purse were ever open to him, and to whose very errors of
youth and inexperienced passion he, the elder and the wiser, had led and
tempted, rose before him in contrast to the grave and melancholy air of
the battled and solitary man, who now slowly approached him,--the man
whose proud career he had served to thwart, whose heart his schemes had
prematurely soured, whose best years had been consumed in exile,--a
sacrifice to the grave which a selfish and dishonourable villany had
prepared! Cesarini, the inmate of a mad-house, Florence in her
shroud,--such were the visions the sight of Maltravers conjured up. And
to the soul which the unwonted and momentary remorse awakened, a boding
voice whispered, "And thinkest thou that thy schemes shall prosper, and
thy aspirations succeed?" For the first time in his life, perhaps, the
unimaginative Vargrave felt the mystery of a presentiment of warning and
of evil.

The two men met, and with an emotion which seemed that of honest and real
feeling, Lumley silently held out his hand, and half turned away his
head.

"Lord Vargrave!" said Maltravers, with an equal agitation, "it is long
since we have encountered."

"Long,--very long," answered Lumley, striving hard to regain his
self-possession; "years have changed us both; but I trust it has still
left in you, as it has in me, the remembrance of our old friendship."

Maltravers was silent, and Lord Vargrave continued,--

"You do not answer me, Maltravers. Can political differences, opposite
pursuits, or the mere lapse of time, have sufficed to create an
irrevocable gulf between us? Why may we not be friends again?"

"Friends!" echoed Maltravers; "at our age that word is not so lightly
spoken, that tie is not so unthinkingly formed, as when we were younger
men."

"But may not the old tie be renewed?"

"Our ways in life are different; and were I to scan your motives and
career with the scrutinizing eyes of friendship, it might only serve to
separate us yet more. I am sick of the great juggle of ambition, and I
have no sympathy left for those who creep into the pint-bottle, or
swallow the naked sword."

"If you despise the exhibition, why, then, let us laugh at it together,
for I am as cynical as yourself."

"Ah," said Maltravers with a smile, half mournful, half bitter, "but are
you not one of the Impostors?"

"Who ought better to judge of the Eleusiniana than one of the Initiated?
But seriously, why on earth should political differences part private
friendship? Thank Heaven! such has never been my maxim."

"If the differences be the result of honest convictions on either
side,--no; but are you honest, Lumley?"

"Faith, I have got into the habit of thinking so; and habit's a second
nature. However, I dare say we shall yet meet in the arena, so I must
not betray my weak points. How is it, Maltravers, that they see so
little of you at the rectory? You are a great favourite there. Have you
any living that Charley Merton could hold with his own? You shake your
head. And what think you of Miss Cameron, my intended?"

"You speak lightly. Perhaps you--"

"Feel deeply,--you were going to say. I do. In the hand of my ward,
Evelyn Cameron, I trust to obtain at once the domestic happiness to which
I have as yet been a stranger, and the wealth necessary to my career."

Lord Vargrave continued, after a short pause, "Though my avocations have
separated us so much, I have no doubt of her steady affection,--and, I
may add, of her sense of honour. She alone can repair to me what else
had been injustice in my uncle." He then proceeded to repeat the moral
obligations which the late lord had imposed on Evelyn,--obligations that
he greatly magnified. Maltravers listened attentively, and said little.

"And these obligations being fairly considered," added Vargrave, with a
smile, "I think, even had I rivals, that they could scarcely in honour
attempt to break an existing engagement."

"Not while the engagement lasted," answered Maltravers; "not till one or
the other had declined to fulfil it, and therefore left both free: but I
trust it will be an alliance in which all but affection will be
forgotten; that of honour alone would be but a harsh tie."

"Assuredly," said Vargrave; and, as if satisfied with what had passed, he
turned the conversation,--praised Burleigh, spoke of county matters,
resumed his habitual gayety, though it was somewhat subdued, and
promising to call again soon, he at last took his leave.

Maltravers pursued his solitary rambles, and his commune with himself was
stern and searching.

"And so," thought he, "this prize is reserved for Vargrave! Why should I
deem him unworthy of the treasure? May he not be worthier, at all
events, than this soured temper and erring heart? And he is assured too
of her affection! Why this jealous pang? Why can the fountain within
never be exhausted? Why, through so many scenes and sufferings, have I
still retained the vain madness of my youth,--the haunting susceptibility
to love? This is my latest folly."

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