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

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BOOK VIII.

O Fate! O Heaven!--what have ye then decreed?
SOPHOCLES: _OEd. Tyr._ 738.

"Insolent pride . . .
. . . . . .
The topmost crag of the great precipice
Surmounts--to rush to ruin."
_Ibid._ 874.

CHAPTER I.

. . . SHE is young, wise, fair,
In these to Nature she's immediate heir.
. . . . . .
. . . Honours best thrive
When rather from our acts we them derive
Than our foregoers!--_All's Well that Ends Well_.

LETTER FROM ERNEST MALTRAVERS TO THE HON. FREDERICK CLEVELAND.

EVELYN is free; she is in Paris; I have seen her,--I see her daily!

How true it is that we cannot make a philosophy of indifference! The
affections are stronger than all our reasonings. We must take them into
our alliance, or they will destroy all our theories of self-government.
Such fools of fate are we, passing from system to system, from scheme to
scheme, vainly seeking to shut out passion and sorrow-forgetting that
they are born within us--and return to the soul as the seasons to the
earth! Yet,--years, many years ago, when I first looked gravely into my
own nature and being here, when I first awakened to the dignity and
solemn responsibilities of human life, I had resolved to tame and curb
myself into a thing of rule and measure. Bearing within me the wound
scarred over but never healed, the consciousness of wrong to the heart
that had leaned upon me, haunted by the memory of my lost Alice, I
shuddered at new affections bequeathing new griefs. Wrapped in a haughty
egotism, I wished not to extend my empire over a wider circuit than my
own intellect and passions. I turned from the trader-covetousness of
bliss, that would freight the wealth of life upon barks exposed to every
wind upon the seas of Fate; I was contented with the hope to pass life
alone, honoured, though unloved. Slowly and reluctantly I yielded to the
fascinations of Florence Lascelles. The hour that sealed the compact
between us was one of regret and alarm. In vain I sought to deceive
myself,--I felt that I did not love. And then I imagined that Love was
no longer in my nature,--that I had exhausted its treasures before my
time, and left my heart a bankrupt. Not till the last--not till that
glorious soul broke out in all its brightness the nearer it approached
the source to which it has returned--did I feel of what tenderness she
was worthy and I was capable. She died, and the world was darkened!
Energy, ambition, my former aims and objects, were all sacrificed at her
tomb. But amidst ruins and through the darkness, my soul yet supported
me; I could no longer hope, but I could endure. I was resolved that I
would not be subdued, and that the world should not hear me groan.
Amidst strange and far-distant scenes, amidst hordes to whom my very
language was unknown, in wastes and forests, which the step of civilized
man, with his sorrows and his dreams, had never trodden, I wrestled with
my soul, as the patriarch of old wrestled with the angel,--and the angel
was at last the victor! You do not mistake me: you know that it was not
the death of Florence alone that worked in me that awful revolution; but
with that death the last glory fled from the face of things that had
seemed to me beautiful of old. Hers was a love that accompanied and
dignified the schemes and aspirations of manhood,--a love that was an
incarnation of ambition itself; and all the evils and disappointments
that belong to ambition seemed to crowd around my heart like vultures to
a feast allured and invited by the dead. But this at length was over;
the barbarous state restored me to the civilized. I returned to my
equals, prepared no more to be an actor in the strife, but a calm
spectator of the turbulent arena. I once more laid my head beneath the
roof of my fathers; and if without any clear and definite object, I at
least hoped to find amidst "my old hereditary trees" the charm of
contemplation and repose. And scarce--in the first hours of my
arrival--had I indulged that dream, when a fair face, a sweet voice, that
had once before left deep and unobliterated impressions on my heart,
scattered all my philosophy to the winds. I saw Evelyn! and if ever
there was love at first sight, it was that which I felt for her: I lived
in her presence, and forgot the Future! Or, rather, I was with the
Past,--in the bowers of my springtide of life and hope! It was an
after-birth of youth--my love for that young heart!

It is, indeed, only in maturity that we know how lovely were our earliest
years! What depth of wisdom in the old Greek myth, that allotted Hebe as
the prize to the god who had been the arch-labourer of life! and whom the
satiety of all that results from experience had made enamoured of all
that belongs to the Hopeful and the New!

This enchanting child, this delightful Evelyn, this ray of undreamed of
sunshine, smiled away all my palaces of ice. I loved, Cleveland,--I
loved more ardently, more passionately, more wildly than ever I did of
old! But suddenly I learned that she was affianced to another, and felt
that it was not for me to question, to seek the annulment of the bond. I
had been unworthy to love Evelyn if I had not loved honour more! I fled
from her presence, honestly and resolutely; I sought to conquer a
forbidden passion; I believed that I had not won affection in return; I
believed, from certain expressions that I overheard Evelyn utter to
another, that her heart as well as her hand was given to Vargrave. I
came hither; you know how sternly and resolutely I strove to eradicate a
weakness that seemed without even the justification of hope! If I
suffered, I betrayed it not. Suddenly Evelyn appeared again before
me!--and suddenly I learned that she was free! Oh, the rapture of that
moment! Could you have seen her bright face, her enchanting smile, when
we met again! Her ingenuous innocence did not conceal her gladness at
seeing me! What hopes broke upon me! Despite the difference of our
years, I think she loves me! that in that love I am about at last to
learn what blessings there are in life.

Evelyn has the simplicity, the tenderness, of Alice, with the refinement
and culture of Florence herself; not the genius, not the daring spirit,
not the almost fearful brilliancy of that ill-fated being,--but with a
taste as true to the Beautiful, with a soul as sensitive to the Sublime!
In Evelyn's presence I feel a sense of peace, of security, of home!
Happy! thrice happy! he who will take her to his breast! Of late she has
assumed a new charm in my eyes,--a certain pensiveness and abstraction
have succeeded to her wonted gayety. Ah, Love is pensive,--is it not,
Cleveland? How often I ask myself that question! And yet, amidst all my
hopes, there are hours when I tremble and despond! How can that innocent
and joyous spirit sympathize with all that mine has endured and known?
How, even though her imagination be dazzled by some prestige around my
name, how can I believe that I have awakened her heart to that deep and
real love of which it is capable, and which youth excites in youth? When
we meet at her home, or amidst the quiet yet brilliant society which is
gathered round Madame de Ventadour or the Montaignes, with whom she is an
especial favourite; when we converse; when I sit by her, and her soft
eyes meet mine,--I feel not the disparity of years; my heart speaks to
her, and _that_ is youthful still! But in the more gay and crowded
haunts to which her presence allures me, when I see that fairy form
surrounded by those who have not outlived the pleasures that so naturally
dazzle and captivate her, then, indeed, I feel that my tastes, my habits,
my pursuits, belong to another season of life, and ask myself anxiously
if my nature and my years are those that can make _her_ happy? Then,
indeed, I recognize the wide interval that time and trial place between
one whom the world has wearied, and one for whom the world is new. If
she should discover hereafter that youth should love only youth, my
bitterest anguish would be that of remorse! I know how deeply I love by
knowing how immeasurably dearer her happiness is than my own! I will
wait, then, yet a while, I will examine, I will watch well that I do not
deceive myself. As yet I think that I have no rivals whom I need fear:
surrounded as she is by the youngest and the gayest, she still turns with
evident pleasure to me, whom she calls her friend. She will forego the
amusements she most loves for society in which we can converse more at
ease. You remember, for instance, young Legard? He is here; and, before
I met Evelyn, was much at Lady Doltimore's house. I cannot be blind to
his superior advantages of youth and person; and there is something
striking and prepossessing in the gentle yet manly frankness of his
manner,--and yet no fear of his rivalship ever haunts me. True, that of
late he has been little in Evelyn's society; nor do I think, in the
frivolity of his pursuits, he can have educated his mind to appreciate
Evelyn, or be possessed of those qualities which would render him worthy
of her. But there is something good in the young man, despite his
foibles,--something that wins upon me; and you will smile to learn, that
he has even surprised from _me_--usually so reserved on such matters--the
confession of my attachment and hopes! Evelyn often talks to me of her
mother, and describes her in colours so glowing that I feel the greatest
interest in one who has helped to form so beautiful and pure a mind. Can
you learn who Lady Vargrave was? There is evidently some mystery thrown
over her birth and connections; and, from what I can hear, this arises
from their lowliness. You know that, though I have been accused of
family pride, it is a pride of a peculiar sort. I am proud, not of the
length of a mouldering pedigree, but of some historical quarterings in my
escutcheon,--of some blood of scholars and of heroes that rolls in my
veins; it is the same kind of pride that an Englishman may feel in
belonging to a country that has produced Shakspeare and Bacon. I have
never, I hope, felt the vulgar pride that disdains want of birth in
others; and I care not three straws whether my friend or my wife be
descended from a king or a peasant. It is myself, and not my
connections, who alone can disgrace my lineage; therefore, however humble
Lady Vargrave's parentage, do not scruple to inform me, should you learn
any intelligence that bears upon it.

I had a conversation last night with Evelyn that delighted me. By some
accident we spoke of Lord Vargrave; and she told me, with an enchanting
candour, of the position in which she stood with him, and the
conscientious and noble scruples she felt as to the enjoyment of a
fortune, which her benefactor and stepfather had evidently intended to be
shared with his nearest relative. In these scruples I cordially
concurred; and if I marry Evelyn, my first care will be to carry them
into effect,--by securing to Vargrave, as far as the law may permit, the
larger part of the income; I should like to say all,--at least till
Evelyn's children would have the right to claim it: a right not to be
enforced during her own, and, therefore, probably not during Vargrave's
life. I own that this would be no sacrifice, for I am proud enough to
recoil from the thought of being indebted for fortune to the woman I
love. It was that kind of pride which gave coldness and constraint to my
regard for Florence; and for the rest, my own property (much increased by
the simplicity of my habits of life for the last few years) will suffice
for all Evelyn or myself could require. Ah, madman that I am! I
calculate already on marriage, even while I have so much cause for
anxiety as to love. But my heart beats,--my heart has grown a dial that
keeps the account of time; by its movements I calculate the moments--in
an hour I shall see her!

Oh, never, never, in my wildest and earliest visions, could I have
fancied that I should love as I love now! Adieu, my oldest and kindest
friend! If I am happy at last, it will be something to feel that at last
I shall have satisfied your expectations of my youth.

Affectionately yours,

E. MALTRAVERS.

RUE DE -----, PARIS,
January --, 18--.

CHAPTER II.

IN her youth
There is a prone and speechless dialect--
Such as moves men.--_Measure for Measure_.

_Abbess_. Haply in private--
_Adriana_. And in assemblies too.--_Comedy of Errors_.

IT was true, as Maltravers had stated, that Legard had of late been
little at Lady Doltimore's, or in the same society as Evelyn. With the
vehemence of an ardent and passionate nature, he yielded to the jealous
rage and grief that devoured him. He saw too clearly, and from the
first, that Maltravers adored Evelyn; and in her familiar kindness of
manner towards him, in the unlimited veneration in which she appeared to
hold his gifts and qualities, he thought that that love might become
reciprocal. He became gloomy and almost morose; he shunned Evelyn, he
forbore to enter into the lists against his rival. Perhaps the
intellectual superiority of Maltravers, the extraordinary conversational
brilliancy that he could display when he pleased, the commanding dignity
of his manners, even the matured authority of his reputation and years,
might have served to awe the hopes, as well as to wound the vanity, of a
man accustomed himself to be the oracle of a circle. These might have
strongly influenced Legard in withdrawing himself from Evelyn's society;
but there was one circumstance, connected with motives much more
generous, that mainly determined his conduct. It happened that
Maltravers, shortly after his first interview with Evelyn, was riding
alone one day in the more sequestered part of the Bois de Boulogne, when
he encountered Legard, also alone, and on horseback. The latter, on
succeeding to his uncle's fortune, had taken care to repay his debt to
Maltravers; he had done so in a short but feeling and grateful letter,
which had been forwarded to Maltravers at Paris, and which pleased and
touched him. Since that time he had taken a liking to the young man, and
now, meeting him at Paris, he sought, to a certain extent, Legard's more
intimate acquaintance. Maltravers was in that happy mood when we are
inclined to be friends with all men. It is true, however, that, though
unknown to himself, that pride of bearing, which often gave to the very
virtues of Maltravers an unamiable aspect, occasionally irritated one who
felt he had incurred to him an obligation of honour and of life never to
be effaced; it made the sense of this obligation more intolerable to
Legard; it made him more desirous to acquit himself of the charge. But
on this day there was so much cordiality in the greeting of Maltravers,
and he pressed Legard in so friendly a manner to join him in his ride,
that the young man's heart was softened, and they rode together,
conversing familiarly on such topics as were in common between them. At
last the conversation fell on Lord and Lady Doltimore; and thence
Maltravers, whose soul was full of one thought, turned it indirectly
towards Evelyn.

"Did you ever see Lady Vargrave?"

"Never," replied Legard, looking another way; "but Lady Doltimore says
she is as beautiful as Evelyn herself, if that be possible; and still so
young in form and countenance, that she looks rather like her sister than
her mother!"

"How I should like to know her!" said Maltravers, with a sudden energy.

Legard changed the subject. He spoke of the Carnival, of balls, of
masquerades, of operas, of reigning beauties!

"Ah," said Maltravers, with a half sigh, "yours is the age for those
dazzling pleasures; to me they are 'the twice-told tale.'"

Maltravers meant it not, but this remark chafed Legard. He thought it
conveyed a sarcasm on the childishness of his own mind or the levity of
his pursuits; his colour mounted, as he replied,--

"It is not, I fear, the slight difference of years between us,--it is the
difference of intellect you would insinuate; but you should remember all
men have not your resources; all men cannot pretend to genius!"

"My dear Legard," said Maltravers, kindly, "do not fancy that I could
have designed any insinuation half so presumptuous and impertinent.
Believe me, I envy you, sincerely and sadly, all those faculties of
enjoyment which I have worn away. Oh, how I envy you! for, were they
still mine, then--then, indeed, I might hope to mould myself into greater
congeniality with the beautiful and the young!"

Maltravers paused a moment, and resumed, with a grave smile: "I trust,
Legard, that you will be wiser than I have been; that you will gather
your roses while it is yet May: and that you will not live to thirty-six,
pining for happiness and home, a disappointed and desolate man; till,
when your ideal is at last found, you shrink back appalled, to discover
that you have lost none of the tendencies to love, but many of the graces
by which love is to be allured!"

There was so much serious and earnest feeling in these words that they
went home at once to Legard's sympathies. He felt irresistibly impelled
to learn the worst.

"Maltravers," said he, in a hurried tone, "it would be an idle compliment
to say that you are not likely to love in vain; perhaps it is indelicate
in me to apply a general remark; and yet--yet I cannot but fancy that I
have discovered your secret, and that you are not insensible to the
charms of Miss Cameron!"

"Legard!" said Maltravers,--and so strong was his fervent attachment to
Evelyn, that it swept away all his natural coldness and reserve,--"I tell
you plainly and frankly that in my love for Evelyn Cameron lie the last
hopes I have in life. I have no thought, no ambition, no sentiment that
is not vowed to her. If my love should be unreturned, I may strive to
endure the blow, I may mix with the world, I may seem to occupy myself in
the aims of others; but my heart will be broken! Let us talk of this no
more; you have surprised my secret, though it must have betrayed itself.
Learn from me how preternaturally strong, how generally fatal is love
deferred to that day when--in the stern growth of all the feelings--love
writes itself on granite!"

Maltravers, as if impatient of his own weakness, put spurs to his horse,
and they rode on rapidly for some time without speaking.

That silence was employed by Legard in meditating over all he had heard
and witnessed, in recalling all that he owed to Maltravers; and before
that silence was broken the young man nobly resolved not even to attempt,
not even to hope, a rivalry with Maltravers; to forego all the
expectations he had so fondly nursed, to absent himself from the company
of Evelyn, to requite faithfully and firmly that act of generosity to
which he owed the preservation of his life,--the redemption of his
honour.

Agreeably to this determination, he abstained from visiting those haunts
in which Evelyn shone; and if accident brought them together, his manner
was embarrassed and abrupt. She wondered,--at last, perhaps she
resented,--it may be that she grieved; for certain it is that Maltravers
was right in thinking that her manner had lost the gayety that
distinguished it at Merton Rectory. But still it may be doubted whether
Evelyn had seen enough of Legard, and whether her fancy and romance were
still sufficiently free from the magical influences of the genius that
called them forth in the eloquent homage of Maltravers, to trace,
herself, to any causes connected with her younger lover the listless
melancholy that crept over her. In very young women--new alike to the
world and the knowledge of themselves--many vague and undefined feelings
herald the dawn of Love; shade after shade and light upon light succeeds
before the sun breaks forth, and the earth awakens to his presence.

It was one evening that Legard had suffered himself to be led into a
party at the ----- ambassador's; and there, as he stood by the door, he
saw at a little distance Maltravers conversing with Evelyn. Again he
writhed beneath the tortures of his jealous anguish; and there, as he
gazed and suffered, he resolved (as Maltravers had done before him) to
fly from the place that had a little while ago seemed to him Elysium! He
would quit Paris, he would travel, he would not see Evelyn again till the
irrevocable barrier was passed, and she was the wife of Maltravers! In
the first heat of this determination, he turned towards some young men
standing near him, one of whom was about to visit Vienna. He gayly
proposed to join him,--a proposal readily accepted, and began conversing
on the journey, the city, its splendid and proud society, with all that
cruel exhilaration which the forced spirits of a stricken heart can alone
display, when Evelyn (whose conference with Maltravers was ended) passed
close by him. She was leaning on Lady Doltimore's arm, and the admiring
murmur of his companions caused Legard to turn suddenly round.

"You are not dancing to-night, Colonel Legard," said Caroline, glancing
towards Evelyn. "The more the season for balls advances, the more
indolent you become."

Legard muttered a confused reply, one half of which seemed petulant,
while the other half was inaudible.

"Not so indolent as you suppose," said his friend. "Legard meditates an
excursion sufficient, I hope, to redeem his character in your eyes. It
is a long journey, and, what is worse, a very cold journey, to Vienna."

"Vienna! do you think of going to Vienna?" cried Caroline.

"Yes," said Legard. "I hate Paris; any place better than this odious
city!" and he moved away.

Evelyn's eyes followed him sadly and gravely. She remained by Lady
Doltimore's side, abstracted and silent for several minutes.

Meanwhile Caroline, turning to Lord Devonport (the friend who had
proposed the Viennese excursion), said, "It is cruel in you to go to
Vienna,--it is doubly cruel to rob Lord Doltimore of his best friend and
Paris of its best waltzer."

"Oh, it is a voluntary offer of Legard's, Lady Doltimore,--believe me, I
have used no persuasive arts. But the fact is, that we have been talking
of a fair widow, the beauty of Austria, and as proud and as unassailable
as Ehrenbreitstein itself. Legard's vanity is piqued; and so--as a
professed lady-killer--he intends to see what can be effected by the
handsomest Englishman of his time."

Caroline laughed, and new claimants on her notice succeeded to Lord
Devonport. It was not till the ladies were waiting their carriage in the
shawl-room that Lady Doltimore noticed the paleness and thoughtful brow
of Evelyn.

"Are you fatigued or unwell, dear?" she said.

"No," answered Evelyn, forcing a smile; and at that moment they were
joined by Maltravers, with the intelligence that it would be some minutes
before the carriage could draw up. Caroline amused herself in the
interval by shrewd criticisms on the dresses and characters of her
various friends. Caroline had grown an amazing prude in her judgment of
others!

"What a turban!--prudent for Mrs. A----- to wear,--bright red; it puts
out her face, as the sun puts out the fire. Mr. Maltravers, do observe
Lady B----- with that _very_ young gentleman. After all her experience
in angling, it is odd that she should still only throw in for small fish.
Pray, why is the marriage between Lady C----- D----- and Mr. F-----
broken off? Is it true that he is so much in debt, and is so very--very
profligate? They say she is heartbroken."

"Really, Lady Doltimore," said Maltravers, smiling, "I am but a bad
scandal-monger. But poor F----- is not, I believe, much worse than
others. How do we know whose fault it is when a marriage is broken off?
Lady C----- D----- heartbroken! what an idea! Nowadays there is never
any affection in compacts of that sort; and the chain that binds the
frivolous nature is but a gossamer thread! Fine gentlemen and fine
ladies, their loves and their marriages--

"'May flourish and may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made.'

"Never believe that a heart long accustomed to beat only in good society
can be broken,--it is rarely ever touched!"

Evelyn listened attentively, and seemed struck. She sighed, and said in
a very low voice, as to herself, "It is true--how could I think
otherwise?"

For the next few days Evelyn was unwell, and did not quit her room.
Maltravers was in despair. The flowers, the books, the music he sent;
his anxious inquiries, his earnest and respectful notes, touched with
that ineffable charm which Heart and Intellect breathe into the most
trifling coinage from their mint,--all affected Evelyn sensibly. Perhaps
she contrasted them with Legard's indifference and apparent caprice;
perhaps in that contrast Maltravers gained more than by all his brilliant
qualities. Meanwhile, without visit, without message, without
farewell,--unconscious, it is true, of Evelyn's illness,--Legard departed
for Vienna.

CHAPTER III.

A PLEASING land . . .
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye,
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flashing round a summer sky.--THOMSON.

DAILY, hourly, increased the influence of Evelyn over Maltravers. Oh,
what a dupe is a man's pride! what a fool his wisdom! That a girl, a
mere child, one who scarce knew her own heart, beautiful as it
was,--whose deeper feelings still lay coiled up in their sweet
buds,--that she should thus master this proud, wise man! But as
thou--our universal teacher--as thou, O Shakspeare! haply speaking from
the hints of thine own experience, hast declared--

"None are so truly caught, when they are catched,
As wit turned fool; folly in wisdom hatched,
Hath wisdom's warrant."

Still, methinks that, in that surpassing and dangerously indulged
affection which levelled thee, Maltravers, with the weakest, which
overturned all thy fine philosophy of Stoicism, and made thee the veriest
slave of the "Rose Garden,"--still, Maltravers, thou mightest at least
have seen that thou hast lost forever all right to pride, all privilege
to disdain the herd! But thou wert proud of thine own infirmity! And
far sharper must be that lesson which can teach thee that Pride--thine
angel--is ever pre-doomed to fall.

What a mistake to suppose that the passions are strongest in youth! The
passions are not stronger, but the control over them is weaker. They are
more easily excited, they are more violent and more apparent; but they
have less energy, less durability, less intense and concentrated power,
than in maturer life. In youth, passion succeeds to passion, and one
breaks upon the other, as waves upon a rock, till the heart frets itself
to repose. In manhood, the great deep flows on, more calm, but more
profound; its serenity is the proof of the might and terror of its
course, were the wind to blow and the storm to rise.

A young man's ambition is but vanity,--it has no definite aim, it plays
with a thousand toys. As with one passion, so with the rest. In youth,
Love is ever on the wing, but, like the birds in April, it hath not yet
built its nest. With so long a career of summer and hope before it, the
disappointment of to-day is succeeded by the novelty of to-morrow, and
the sun that advances to the noon but dries up its fervent tears. But
when we have arrived at that epoch of life,--when, if the light fail us,
if the last rose wither, we feel that the loss cannot be retrieved, and
that the frost and the darkness are at hand, Love becomes to us a
treasure that we watch over and hoard with a miser's care. Our
youngest-born affection is our darling and our idol, the fondest pledge
of the Past, the most cherished of our hopes for the Future. A certain
melancholy that mingles with our joy at the possession only enhances its
charm. We feel ourselves so dependent on it for all that is yet to come.
Our other barks--our gay galleys of pleasure, our stately argosies of
pride--have been swallowed up by the remorseless wave. On this last
vessel we freight our all, to its frail tenement we commit ourselves.
The star that guides it is our guide, and in the tempest that menaces we
behold our own doom!

Still Maltravers shrank from the confession that trembled on his lips;
still he adhered to the course he had prescribed to himself. If ever (as
he had implied in his letter to Cleveland)--if ever Evelyn should
discover they were not suited to each other! The possibility of such an
affliction impressed his judgment, the dread of it chilled his heart.
With all his pride, there was a certain humility in Maltravers that was
perhaps one cause of his reserve. He knew what a beautiful possession is
youth,--its sanguine hopes, its elastic spirit, its inexhaustible
resources! What to the eyes of woman were the acquisitions which manhood
had brought him,--the vast but the sad experience, the arid wisdom, the
philosophy based on disappointment? He might be loved but for the vain
glitter of name and reputation,--and love might vanish as custom dimmed
the illusion. Men of strong affections are jealous of their own genius.
They know how separate a thing from the household character genius often
is,--they fear lest they should be loved for a quality, not for
themselves.

Thus communed he with himself; thus, as the path had become clear to his
hopes, did new fears arise; and thus did love bring, as it ever does, in
its burning wake,--

"The pang, the agony, the doubt!"

Maltravers then confirmed himself in the resolution he had formed: he
would cautiously examine Evelyn and himself; he would weigh in the
balance every straw that the wind should turn up; he would not aspire to
the treasure, unless he could feel secure that the coffer could preserve
the gem. This was not only a prudent, it was a just and a generous
determination. It was one which we all ought to form if the fervour of
our passions will permit us. We have no right to sacrifice years to
moments, and to melt the pearl that has no price in a single draught!
But can Maltravers adhere to his wise precautions? The truth must be
spoken,--it was, perhaps, the first time in his life that Maltravers had
been really in love. As the reader will remember, he had not been in
love with the haughty Florence; admiration, gratitude,--the affection of
the head, not that of the feelings,--had been the links that bound him to
the enthusiastic correspondent revealed in the gifted beauty; and the
gloomy circumstances connected with her early fate had left deep furrows
in his memory. Time and vicissitude had effaced the wounds, and the
Light of the Beautiful dawned once more in the face of Evelyn. Valerie
de Ventadour had been but the fancy of a roving breast. Alice, the sweet
Alice!--her, indeed, in the first flower of youth, he had loved with a
boy's romance. He had loved her deeply, fondly,--but perhaps he had
never been in love with her; he had mourned her loss for
years,--insensibly to himself her loss had altered his character and cast
a melancholy gloom over all the colours of his life. But she whose range
of ideas was so confined, she who had but broke into knowledge, as the
chrysalis into the butterfly--how much in that prodigal and gifted
nature, bounding onwards into the broad plains of life, must the peasant
girl have failed to fill! They had had nothing in common but their youth
and their love. It was a dream that had hovered over the poet-boy in the
morning twilight,--a dream he had often wished to recall, a dream that
had haunted him in the noon-day,--but had, as all boyish visions ever
have done, left the heart unexhausted, and the passions unconsumed!
Years, long years, since then had rolled away, and yet, perhaps, one
unconscious attraction that drew Maltravers so suddenly towards Evelyn
was a something indistinct and undefinable that reminded him of Alice.
There was no similarity in their features; but at times a tone in
Evelyn's voice, a "trick of the manner," an air, a gesture, recalled him,
over the gulfs of Time, to Poetry, and Hope, and Alice.

In the youth of each--the absent and the present one--there was
resemblance,--resemblance in their simplicity, their grace. Perhaps
Alice, of the two, had in her nature more real depth, more ardour of
feeling, more sublimity of sentiment, than Evelyn. But in her primitive
ignorance half her noblest qualities were embedded and unknown. And
Evelyn--his equal in rank; Evelyn, well cultivated; Evelyn, so long
courted, so deeply studied--had such advantages over the poor peasant
girl! Still the poor peasant girl often seemed to smile on him from that
fair face; and in Evelyn he half loved Alice again!

So these two persons now met daily; their intercourse was even more
familiar than before, their several minds grew hourly more developed and
transparent to each other. But of love Maltravers still forbore to
speak; they were friends,--no more; such friends as the disparity of
their years and their experience might warrant them to be. And in that
young and innocent nature--with its rectitude, its enthusiasm, and its
pious and cheerful tendencies--Maltravers found freshness in the desert,
as the camel-driver lingering at the well. Insensibly his heart warmed
again to his kind; and as the harp of David to the ear of Saul, was the
soft voice that lulled remembrance and awakened hope in the lonely man.

Meanwhile, what was the effect that the presence, the attentions, of
Maltravers produced on Evelyn? Perhaps it was of that kind which most
flatters us and most deceives. She never dreamed of comparing him with
others. To her thoughts he stood aloof and alone from all his kind. It
may seem a paradox, but it might be that she admired and venerated him
almost too much for love. Still her pleasure in his society was so
evident and unequivocal, her deference to his opinion so marked, she
sympathized in so many of his objects, she had so much blindness or
forbearance for his faults (and he never sought to mask them), that the
most diffident of men might have drawn from so many symptoms hopes the
most auspicious. Since the departure of Legard, the gayeties of Paris
lost their charm for Evelyn, and more than ever she could appreciate the
society of her friend. He thus gradually lost his earlier fears of her
forming too keen an attachment to the great world; and as nothing could
be more apparent than Evelyn's indifference to the crowd of flatterers
and suitors that hovered round her, Maltravers no longer dreaded a rival.
He began to feel assured that they had both gone through the ordeal; and
that he might ask for love without a doubt of its immutability and faith.
At this period they were both invited, with the Doltimores, to spend a
few days at the villa of De Montaigne, near St. Cloud. And there it was
that Maltravers determined to know his fate!

CHAPTER IV.

CHAOS of Thought and Passion all confused.--POPE.

IT is to the contemplation of a very different scene that the course of
our story now conducts us.

Between St. Cloud and Versailles there was at that time--perhaps there
still is--a lone and melancholy house, appropriated to the
insane,--melancholy, not from its site, but the purpose to which it is
devoted. Placed on an eminence, the windows of the mansion
command--beyond the gloomy walls that gird the garden ground--one of
those enchanting prospects which win for France her title to _La Belle_.
There the glorious Seine is seen in the distance, broad and winding
through the varied plains, and beside the gleaming villages and villas.
There, too, beneath the clear blue sky of France, the forest-lands of
Versailles and St. Germains stretch in dark luxuriance around and afar.
There you may see sleeping on the verge of the landscape the mighty
city,--crowned with the thousand spires from which, proud above the rest,
rises the eyry of Napoleon's eagle, the pinnacle of Notre Dame.

Remote, sequestered, the place still commands the survey of the turbulent
world below; and Madness gazes upon prospects that might well charm the
thoughtful eyes of Imagination or of Wisdom! In one of the rooms of this
house sat Castruccio Cesarini. The apartment was furnished even with
elegance; a variety of books strewed the table; nothing for comfort or
for solace that the care and providence of affection could dictate was
omitted. Cesarini was alone: leaning his cheek upon his hand, he gazed
on the beautiful and tranquil view we have described. "And am I never to
set a free foot on that soil again?" he muttered indignantly, as he broke
from his revery.

The door opened, and the keeper of the sad abode (a surgeon of humanity
and eminence) entered, followed by De Montaigne. Cesarini turned round
and scowled upon the latter; the surgeon, after a few words of
salutation, withdrew to a corner of the room, and appeared absorbed in a
book. De Montaigne approached his brother-in-law,--"I have brought you
some poems just published at Milan, my dear Castruccio,--they will please
you."

"Give me my liberty!" cried Cesarini, clenching his hands. "Why am I to
be detained here? Why are my nights to be broken by the groans of
maniacs, and my days devoured in a solitude that loathes the aspect of
things around me? Am I mad? You know I am not! It is an old trick to
say that poets are mad,--you mistake our agonies for insanity. See, I am
calm; I can reason: give me any test of sound mind--no matter how
rigid--I will pass it; I am not mad,--I swear I am not!"

"No, my dear Castruccio," said De Montaigne, soothingly; "but you are
still unwell,--you still have fever; when next I see you perhaps you may
be recovered sufficiently to dismiss the doctor and change the air.
Meanwhile is there anything you would have added or altered?"

Cesarini had listened to this speech with a mocking sarcasm on his lip,
but an expression of such hopeless wretchedness in his eyes, as they
alone can comprehend who have witnessed madness in its lucid intervals.
He sank down, and his head drooped gloomily on his breast. "No," said
he; "I want nothing but free air or death,--no matter which."

De Montaigne stayed some time with the unhappy man, and sought to soothe
him; but it was in vain. Yet when he rose to depart, Cesarini started
up, and fixing on him his large wistful eyes, exclaimed, "Ah! do not
leave me yet. It is so dreadful to be alone with the dead and the worse
than dead!"

The Frenchman turned aside to wipe his eyes, and stifle the rising at his
heart; and again he sat, and again he sought to soothe. At length
Cesarini, seemingly more calm, gave him leave to depart. "Go," said he,
"go; tell Teresa I am better, that I love her tenderly, that I shall live
to tell her children not to be poets. Stay, you asked if there was aught
I wished changed: yes, this room; it is too still: I hear my own pulse
beat so loudly in the silence, it is horrible! There is a room below, by
the window of which there is a tree, and the winds rock its boughs to and
fro, and it sighs and groans like a living thing; it will be pleasant to
look at that tree, and see the birds come home to it,--yet that tree is
wintry and blasted too! It will be pleasant to hear it fret and chafe in
the stormy nights; it will be a friend to me, that old tree! let me have
that room. Nay, look not at each other,--it is not so high as this; but
the window is barred,--I cannot escape!" And Cesarini smiled.

"Certainly," said the surgeon, "if you prefer that room; but it has not
so fine a view."

"I hate the view of the world that has cast me off. When may I change?"

"This very evening."

"Thank you; it will be a great revolution in my life."

And Cesarini's eyes brightened, and he looked happy. De Montaigne,
thoroughly unmanned, tore himself away.

The promise was kept, and Cesarini was transferred that night to the
chamber he had selected.

As soon as it was deep night, the last visit of the keeper paid, and,
save now and then, by some sharp cry in the more distant quarter of the
house, all was still, Cesarini rose from his bed; a partial light came
from the stars that streamed through the frosty and keen air, and cast a
sickly gleam through the heavy bars of the casement. It was then that
Cesarini drew from under his pillow a long-cherished and
carefully-concealed treasure. Oh, with what rapture had he first
possessed himself of it! with what anxiety had it been watched and
guarded! how many cunning stratagems and profound inventions had gone
towards the baffling, the jealous search of the keeper and his myrmidons!
The abandoned and wandering mother never clasped her child more fondly to
her bosom, nor gazed upon his features with more passionate visions for
the future. And what had so enchanted the poor prisoner, so deluded the
poor maniac? A large nail! He had found it accidentally in the garden;
he had hoarded it for weeks,--it had inspired him with the hope of
liberty. Often, in the days far gone, he had read of the wonders that
had been effected, of the stones removed, and the bars filed, by the
self-same kind of implement. He remembered that the most celebrated of
those bold unfortunates who live a life against the law, had said,
"Choose my prison, and give me but a rusty nail, and I laugh at your
jailers and your walls!" He crept to the window; he examined his relic
by the dim starlight; he kissed it passionately, and the tears stood in
his eyes.

Ah, who shall determine the worth of things? No king that night so
prized his crown as the madman prized that rusty inch of wire,--the
proper prey of the rubbish-cart and dunghill. Little didst thou think,
old blacksmith, when thou drewest the dull metal from the fire, of what
precious price it was to become!

Cesarini, with the astuteness of his malady, had long marked out this
chamber for the scene of his operations; he had observed that the
framework in which the bars were set seemed old and worm-eaten; that the
window was but a few feet from the ground; that the noise made in the
winter nights by the sighing branches of the old tree without would
deaden the sound of the lone workman. Now, then, his hopes were to be
crowned. Poor fool! and even _thou_ hast hope still! All that night he
toiled and toiled, and sought to work his iron into a file; now he tried
the bars, and now the framework. Alas! he had not learned the skill in
such tools, possessed by his renowned model and inspirer; the flesh was
worn from his fingers, the cold drops stood on his brow; and morning
surprised him, advanced not a hair-breadth in his labour.

He crept back to bed, and again hid the useless implement, and at last he
slept.

And, night after night, the same task, the same results! But at length,
one day, when Cesarini returned from his moody walk in the gardens
(_pleasure_-grounds they were called by the owner), he found better
workmen than he at the window; they were repairing the framework, they
were strengthening the bars,--all hope was now gone! The unfortunate
said nothing; too cunning to show his despair he eyed them silently, and
cursed them; but the old tree was left still, and that was
something,--company and music.

A day or two after this barbarous counterplot, Cesarini was walking in
the gardens towards the latter part of the afternoon (just when in the
short days the darkness begins to steal apace over the chill and western
sun), when he was accosted by a fellow-captive, who had often before
sought his acquaintance; for they try to have friends,--those poor
people! Even _we_ do the same; though _we_ say we are _not_ mad! This
man had been a warrior, had served with Napoleon, had received honours
and ribbons,--might, for aught we know, have dreamed of being a marshal!
But the demon smote him in the hour of his pride. It was his disease to
fancy himself a monarch. He believed, for he forgot chronology, that he
was at once the Iron Mask, and the true sovereign of France and Navarre,
confined in state by the usurpers of his crown. On other points he was
generally sane; a tall, strong man, with fierce features, and stern
lines, wherein could be read many a bloody tale of violence and wrong, of
lawless passions, of terrible excesses, to which madness might be at once
the consummation and the curse. This man had taken a fancy to Cesarini;
and, in some hours Cesarini had shunned him less than others,--for they
could alike rail against all living things. The lunatic approached
Cesarini with an air of dignity and condescension.

"It is a cold night, sir,--and there will be no moon. Has it never
occurred to you that the winter is the season for escape?"

Cesarini started; the ex-officer continued,--

"Ay, I see by your manner that you, too, chafe at our ignominious
confinement. I think that together we might brave the worst. You
probably are confined on some state offence. I give you full pardon, if
you assist me. For myself I have but to appear in my capital; old Louis
le Grand must be near his last hour."

"This madman my best companion!" thought Cesarini, revolting at his own
infirmity, as Gulliver started from the Yahoo. "No matter, he talks of
escape.

"And how think you," said the Italian, aloud,--"how think you, that we
have any chance of deliverance?"

"Hush, speak lower," said the soldier. "In the inner garden, I have
observed for the last two days that a gardener is employed in nailing
some fig-trees and vines to the wall. Between that garden and these
grounds there is but a paling, which we can easily scale. He works till
dusk; at the latest hour we can, let us climb noiselessly over the
paling, and creep along the vegetable beds till we reach the man. He
uses a ladder for his purpose; the rest is clear,--we must fell and gag
him,--twist his neck if necessary,--I have twisted a neck before," quoth
the maniac, with a horrid smile. "The ladder will help us over the wall,
and the night soon grows dark at this season."

Cesarini listened, and his heart beat quick. "Will it be too late to try
to-night?" said he in a whisper.

"Perhaps not," said the soldier, who retained all his military acuteness.
"But are you prepared,--don't you require time to man yourself?"

"No--no,--I have had time enough!--I am ready."

"Well, then,--hist!---we are watched--one of the jailers! Talk easily,
smile, laugh. This way."

They passed by one of the watch of the place, and just as they were in
his hearing, the soldier turned to Cesarini, "Sir, will you favour me
with your snuff-box?"

"I have none."

"None? what a pity! My good friend," and he turned to the scout, "may I
request you to look in my room for my snuff-box? It is on the
chimney-piece,--it will not take you a minute."

The soldier was one of those whose insanity was deemed most harmless, and
his relations, who were rich and wellborn, had requested every indulgence
to be shown to him. The watch suspected nothing, and repaired to the
house. As soon as the trees hid him,--"Now," said the soldier, "stoop
almost on all fours, and run quick."

So saying the maniac crouched low, and glided along with a rapidity which
did not distance Cesarini. They reached the paling that separated the
vegetable garden from the pleasure-ground; the soldier vaulted over it
with ease, Cesarini with more difficulty followed. They crept along; the
herbs and vegetable beds, with their long bare stalks, concealed their
movements; the man was still on the ladder. "_La bonne Esperance_" said
the soldier through his ground teeth, muttering some old watchword of the
wars, and (while Cesarini, below, held the ladder steadfast) he rushed up
the steps, and with a sudden effort of his muscular arm, hurled the
gardener to the ground. The man, surprised, half stunned, and wholly
terrified, did not attempt to wrestle with the two madmen, he uttered
loud cries for help! But help came too late; these strange and fearful
comrades had already scaled the wall, had dropped on the other side, and
were fast making across the dusky fields to the neighbouring forest.

CHAPTER V.

HOPES and Fears
Start up alarmed, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down: on what?--a fathomless abyss!--YOUNG.

MIDNIGHT--and intense frost! There they were--houseless and
breadless--the two fugitives, in the heart of that beautiful forest which
has rung to the horns of many a royal chase. The soldier, whose youth
had been inured to hardships, and to the conquests which our mother-wit
wrings from the stepdame Nature, had made a fire by the friction of two
pieces of dry wood; such wood was hard to be found, for the snow whitened
the level ground, and lay deep in the hollows; and when it was
discovered, the fuel was slow to burn; however, the fire blazed red at
last. On a little mound, shaded by a semicircle of huge trees, sat the
Outlaws of Human Reason. They cowered over the blaze opposite to each
other, and the glare crimsoned their features. And each in his heart
longed to rid himself of his mad neighbour; and each felt the awe of
solitude,--the dread of sleep beside a comrade whose soul had lost God's
light!

"Ho!" said the warrior, breaking a silence that had been long kept, "this
is cold work at the best, and hunger pinches me; I almost regret the
prison."

"I do not feel the cold," said Cesarini, "and I do not care for hunger: I
am revelling only in the sense of liberty!"

"Try and sleep," quoth the soldier, with a coaxing and, sinister softness
of voice; "we will take it by turns to watch."

"I cannot sleep,--take you the first turn."

"Hark ye, sir!" said the soldier sullenly; "I must not have my commands
disputed; now we are free, we are no longer equal: I am heir to the
crowns of France and Navarre. Sleep, I say!"

"And what Prince or Potentate, King or Kaiser," cried Cesarini, catching
the quick contagion of the fit that had seized his comrade, "can dictate
to the monarch of Earth and Air, the Elements and the music-breathing
Stars? I am Cesarini the Bard! and the huntsman Orion halts in his chase
above to listen to my lyre! Be stilled, rude man!--thou scarest away the
angels, whose breath even now was rushing through my hair!"

"It is too horrible!" cried the grim man of blood, shivering; "my enemies
are relentless, and give me a madman for a jailer!"

"Ha! a madman!" exclaimed Cesarini, springing to his feet, and glaring at
the soldier with eyes that caught and rivalled the blaze of the fire.
"And who are you?--what devil from the deep hell, that art leagued with
my persecutors against me?"

With the instinct of his old calling and valour, the soldier also rose
when he saw the movement of his companion; and his fierce features worked
with rage and fear.

"Avaunt!" said he, waving his arm; "we banish thee from our presence!
This is our palace!--and our guards are at hand!" pointing to the still
and skeleton trees that grouped round in ghastly bareness. "Begone!"

At that moment they heard at a distance the deep barking of a dog, and
each cried simultaneously, "They are after me!--betrayed!" The soldier
sprang at the throat of Cesarini; but the Italian, at the same instant,
caught a half-burned brand from the fire, and dashed the blazing end in
the face of his assailant. The soldier uttered a cry of pain, and
recoiled back, blinded and dismayed. Cesarini, whose madness, when
fairly roused, was of the most deadly nature, again raised his weapon,
and probably nothing but death could have separated the foes; but again
the bay of the dog was heard, and Cesarini, answering the sound by a wild
yell, threw down the brand, and fled away through the forest with
inconceivable swiftness. He hurried on through bush and dell,--and the
boughs tore his garments and mangled his flesh,--but stopped not his
progress till he fell at last on the ground, breathless and exhausted,
and heard from some far-off clock the second hour of morning. He had
left the forest; a farmhouse stood before him, and the whitened roofs of
scattered cottages sloped to the tranquil sky. The witness of man--the
social tranquil sky and the reasoning man--operated like a charm upon the
senses which recent excitement had more than usually disturbed. The
unhappy wretch gazed at the peaceful abodes, and sighed heavily; then,
rising from the earth, he crept into one of the sheds that adjoined the
farmhouse, and throwing himself on some straw, slept sound and quietly
till daylight, and the voices of peasants in the shed awakened him.

He rose refreshed, calm, and, for ordinary purposes, sufficiently sane to
prevent suspicion of his disease. He approached the startled peasants,
and representing himself as a traveller who had lost his way in the night
and amidst the forest, begged for food and water. Though his garments
were torn, they were new and of good fashion; his voice was mild; his
whole appearance and address those of one of some station--and the French
peasant is a hospitable fellow. Cesarini refreshed and rested himself an
hour or two at the farm, and then resumed his wanderings; he offered no
money, for the rules of the asylum forbade money to its inmates,--he had
none with him; but none was expected from him, and they bade him farewell
as kindly as if he had bought their blessings. He then began to consider
where he was to take refuge, and how provide for himself; the feeling of
liberty braced, and for a time restored, his intellect.

Fortunately, he had on his person, besides some rings of trifling cost, a
watch of no inconsiderable value, the sale of which might support him, in
such obscure and humble quarter as he could alone venture to inhabit, for
several weeks, perhaps months. This thought made him cheerful and
elated; he walked lustily on, shunning the high road. The day was clear,
the sun bright, the air full of racy health. Oh, what soft raptures
swelled the heart of the wanderer, as he gazed around him! The Poet and
the Freeman alike stirred within his shattered heart! He paused to
contemplate the berries of the icy trees, to listen to the sharp glee of
the blackbird; and once--when he found beneath a hedge a cold, scentless
group of hardy violets--he laughed aloud in his joy. In that laughter
there was no madness, no danger; but when as he journeyed on, he passed
through a little hamlet, and saw the children at play upon the ground,
and heard from the open door of a cabin the sound of rustic music, then
indeed he paused abruptly; the past gathered over him: _he knew that
which he had been, that which he was now_!--an awful memory! a dread
revelation! And, covering his face with his hands, he wept aloud. In
those tears were the peril and method of madness. He woke from them to
think of his youth, his hopes, of Florence, of revenge! Lumley Lord
Vargrave! better, from that hour, to encounter the tiger in his lair than
find thyself alone with that miserable man!

CHAPTER VI.

IT seemed the laurel chaste and stubborn oak,
And all the gentle trees on earth that grew,
It seemed the land, the sea, and heaven above,
All breathed out fancy sweet, and sighed out love.
FAIRFAX'S _Tasso_.

AT De Montaigne's villa, Evelyn, for the first time, gathered from the
looks, the manners, of Maltravers that she was beloved. It was no longer
possible to mistake the evidences of affection. Formerly, Maltravers had
availed himself of his advantage of years and experience, and would warn,
admonish, dispute, even reprove; formerly, there had been so much of
seeming caprice, of cold distance, of sudden and wayward haughtiness, in
his bearing; but now the whole man was changed,--the Mentor had vanished
in the Lover; he held his being on her breath. Her lightest pleasure
seemed to have grown his law, no coldness ever alternated the deep
devotion of his manner; an anxious, a timid, a watchful softness replaced
all his stately self-possession. Evelyn saw that she was loved; and she
then looked into her own heart.

I have said before that Evelyn was gentle, even to _yieldingness_; that
her susceptibility made her shrink from the thought of pain to another:
and so thoroughly did she revere Maltravers, so grateful did she feel for
a love that could not but flatter pride, and raise her in her
self-esteem, that she felt it impossible that she could reject his suit.
"Then, do I love him as I dreamed I could love?" she asked herself; and
her heart gave no intelligible reply. "Yes, it must be so; in his
presence I feel a tranquil and eloquent charm; his praise delights me;
his esteem is my most high ambition;--and yet--and yet--" she sighed and
thought of Legard; "but _he_ loved me not!" and she turned restlessly
from that image. "He thinks but of the world, of pleasure; Maltravers is
right,--the spoiled children of society cannot love: why should I think
of him?"

There were no guests at the villa, except Maltravers, Evelyn, and Lord
and Lady Doltimore. Evelyn was much captivated by the graceful vivacity
of Teresa, though that vivacity was not what it had been before her
brother's affliction; their children, some of whom had grown up,
constituted an amiable and intelligent family; and De Montaigne himself
was agreeable and winning, despite his sober manners and his love of
philosophical dispute. Evelyn often listened thoughtfully to Teresa's
praises of her husband,--to her account of the happiness she had known in
a marriage where there had been so great a disparity of years; Evelyn
began to question the truth of her early visions of romance.

Caroline saw the unequivocal attachment of Maltravers with the same
indifference with which she had anticipated the suit of Legard. It was
the same to her what hand delivered Evelyn and herself from the designs
of Vargrave; but Vargrave occupied nearly all her thoughts. The
newspapers had reported him as seriously ill,--at one time in great
danger. He was now recovering, but still unable to quit his room. He
had written to her once, lamenting his ill-fortune, trusting soon to be
at Paris; and touching, with evident pleasure, upon Legard's departure
for Vienna, which he had seen in the "Morning Post." But he was
afar--alone, ill, untended; and though Caroline's guilty love had been
much abated by Vargrave's icy selfishness, by absence and remorse, still
she had the heart of a woman,--and Vargrave was the only one that had
ever touched it. She felt for him, and grieved in silence; she did not
dare to utter sympathy aloud, for Doltimore had already given evidence of
a suspicious and jealous temper.

Evelyn was also deeply affected by the account of her guardian's illness.
As I before said, the moment he ceased to be her lover, her childish
affection for him returned. She even permitted herself to write to him;
and a tone of melancholy depression which artfully pervaded his reply
struck her with something like remorse. He told her in the letter that
he had much to say to her relative to an investment, in conformity with
her stepfather's wishes, and he should hasten to Paris, even before the
doctor would sanction his removal. Vargrave forbore to mention what the
meditated investment was. The last public accounts of the minister had,
however, been so favourable, that his arrival might be almost daily
expected; and both Caroline and Evelyn felt relieved.

To De Montaigne, Maltravers confided his attachment, and both the
Frenchman and Teresa sanctioned and encouraged it. Evelyn enchanted
them; and they had passed that age when they could have imagined it
possible that the man they had known almost as a boy was separated by
years from the lively feelings and extreme youth of Evelyn. They could
not believe that the sentiments he had inspired were colder than those
that animated himself.

One day, Maltravers had been absent for some hours on his solitary
rambles, and De Montaigne had not yet returned from Paris, which he
visited almost daily. It was so late in the noon as almost to border on
evening, when Maltravers; on his return, entered the grounds by a gate
that separated them from an extensive wood. He saw Evelyn, Teresa, and
two of her children walking on a terrace immediately before him. He
joined them; and, somehow or other, it soon chanced that Teresa and
himself loitered behind the rest, a little out of hearing. "Ah, Mr.
Maltravers," said the former, "we miss the soft skies of Italy and the
beautiful hues of Como."

"And, for my part, I miss the youth that gave 'glory to the grass and
splendour to the flower.'"

"Nay; we are happier now, believe me,--or at least I should be, if--But I
must not think of my poor brother. Ah, if his guilt deprived you of one
who was worthy of you, it would be some comfort to his sister to think at
last that the loss was repaired. And you still have scruples?"

"Who that loves truly has not? How young, how lovely, how worthy of
lighter hearts and fairer forms than mine! Give me back the years that
have passed since we last met at Como, and I might hope!"

"And this to me who have enjoyed such happiness with one older, when we
married, by ten years than you are now!"

"But you, Teresa, were born to see life through the Claude glass."

"Ah, you provoke me with these refinements; you turn from a happiness you
have but to demand."

"Do not--do not raise my hopes too high," cried Maltravers, with great
emotion; "I have been schooling myself all day. But if I _am_ deceived!"

"Trust me, you are not. See, even now she turns round to look for you;
she loves you,--loves you as you deserve. This difference of years that
you so lament does but deepen and elevate her attachment!"

Teresa turned to Maltravers, surprised at his silence. How joyous sat
his heart upon his looks,--no gloom on his brow, no doubt in his
sparkling eyes! He was mortal, and he yielded to the delight of
believing himself beloved. He pressed Teresa's hand in silence, and,
quitting her abruptly, gained the side of Evelyn. Madame de Montaigne
comprehended all that passed within him; and as she followed, she soon
contrived to detach her children, and returned with them to the house on
a whispered pretence of seeing if their father had yet arrived. Evelyn
and Maltravers continued to walk on,--not aware, at first, that the rest
of the party were not close behind.

The sun had set; and they were in a part of the grounds which, by way of
contrast to the rest, was laid out in the English fashion; the walk
wound, serpent-like, among a profusion of evergreens irregularly planted;
the scene was shut in and bounded, except where at a distance, through an
opening of the trees, you caught the spire of a distant church, over
which glimmered, faint and fair, the smile of the evening star.

"This reminds me of home," said Evelyn, gently.

"And hereafter it will remind me of you," said Maltravers, in whispered
accents. He fixed his eyes on her as he spoke. Never had his look been
so true to his heart; never had his voice so undisguisedly expressed the
profound and passionate sentiment which had sprung up within him,--to
constitute, as he then believed, the latest bliss, or the crowning
misery, of his life! At that moment, it was a sort of instinct that told
him they were _alone_; for who has not felt--in those few and memorable
hours of life when love long suppressed overflows the fountain, and seems
to pervade the whole frame and the whole spirit--that there is a magic
around and within us that hath a keener intelligence than intellect
itself? Alone at such an hour with the one we love, the whole world
besides seems to vanish, and our feet to have entered the soil, and our
lips to have caught the air, of Fairyland.

They were alone. And why did Evelyn tremble? Why did she feel that a
crisis of existence was at hand?

"Miss Cameron--Evelyn," said Maltravers, after they had walked some
moments in silence, "hear me--and let your reason as well as your heart
reply. From the first moment we met, you became dear to me. Yes, even
when a child, your sweetness and your fortitude foretold so well what you
would be in womanhood; even then you left upon my memory a delightful and
mysterious shadow,--too prophetic of the light that now hallows and wraps
your image! We met again,--and the attraction that had drawn me towards
you years before was suddenly renewed. I love you, Evelyn! I love you
better than all words can tell! Your future fate, your welfare, your
happiness, contain and embody all the hopes left to me in life! But our
years are different, Evelyn; I have known sorrows,--and the
disappointments and the experience that have severed me from the common
world have robbed me of more than time itself hath done. They have
robbed me of that zest for the ordinary pleasures of our race,--which may
it be yours, sweet Evelyn, ever to retain! To me, the time foretold by
the Preacher as the lot of age has already arrived, when the sun and the
moon are darkened, and when, save in you and through you, I have no
pleasure in anything. Judge, if such a being you can love! Judge, if my
very confession does not revolt and chill, if it does not present to you
a gloomy and cheerless future, were it possible that you could unite your
lot to mine! Answer not from friendship or from pity; the love I feel
for you can have a reply from love alone, and from that reasoning which
love, in its enduring power, in its healthful confidence, in its
prophetic foresight, alone supplies! I can resign you without a murmur;
but I could not live with you and even fancy that you had one care I
could not soothe, though you might have happiness I could not share. And
fate does not present to me any vision so dark and terrible--no, not your
loss itself; no, not your indifference; no, not your aversion--as your
discovery, after time should make regret in vain, that you had mistaken
fancy or friendship for affection, a sentiment for love. Evelyn, I have
confided to you all,--all this wild heart, now and evermore your own. My
destiny is with you."

Evelyn was silent; he took her hand, and her tears fell warm and fast
upon it. Alarmed and anxious, he drew her towards him and gazed upon her
face.

"You fear to wound me," he said, with pale lips and trembling voice.
"Speak on,--I can bear all."

"No, no," said Evelyn, falteringly; "I have no fear but not to deserve
you."

"You love me, then,--you love me!" cried Maltravers wildly, and clasping
her to his heart.

The moon rose at that instant, and the wintry sward and the dark trees
were bathed in the sudden light. The time--the light--so exquisite to
all, even in loneliness and in sorrow--how divine in such companionship!
in such overflowing and ineffable sense of bliss! There and then for the
first time did Maltravers press upon that modest and blushing cheek the
kiss of Love, of Hope,--the seal of a union he fondly hoped the grave
itself could not dissolve!

CHAPTER VII.

_Queen_. Whereon do you look?
_Hamlet_. On him, on him,--look you how pale he glares!--_Hamlet_.

PERHAPS to Maltravers those few minutes which ensued, as they walked
slowly on, compensated for all the troubles and cares of years; for
natures like his feel joy even yet more intensely than sorrow. It might
be that the transport, the delirium of passionate and grateful thoughts
that he poured forth, when at last he could summon words, expressed
feelings the young Evelyn could not comprehend, and which less delighted
than terrified her with the new responsibility she had incurred. But
love so honest, so generous, so intense, dazzled and bewildered and
carried her whole soul away. Certainly at that hour she felt no
regret--no thought but that one in whom she had so long recognized
something nobler than is found in the common world was thus happy and
thus made happy by a word, a look from her! Such a thought is woman's
dearest triumph; and one so thoroughly unselfish, so yielding, and so
soft, could not be insensible to the rapture she had caused.

"And oh!" said Maltravers, as he clasped again and again the hand that he
believed he had won forever, "now, at length, have I learned how
beautiful is life! For this--for this I have been reserved! Heaven is
merciful to me, and the waking world is brighter than all my dreams!"

He ceased abruptly. At that instant they were once more on the terrace
where he had first joined Teresa, facing the wood, which was divided by a
slight and low palisade from the spot where they stood. He ceased
abruptly, for his eyes encountered a terrible and ominous apparition,--a
form connected with dreary associations of fate and woe. The figure had
raised itself upon a pile of firewood on the other side of the fence, and
hence it seemed almost gigantic in its stature. It gazed upon the pair
with eyes that burned with a preternatural blaze, and a voice which
Maltravers too well remembered shrieked out "Love! love! What! _thou_
love again? Where is the Dead! Ha, ha! Where is the Dead?"

Evelyn, startled by the words, looked up, and clung in speechless terror
to Maltravers. He remained rooted to the spot.

"Unhappy man," said he, at length, and soothingly, "how came you hither?
Fly not, you are with friends."

"Friends!" said the maniac, with a scornful laugh. "I know thee, Ernest
Maltravers,--I know thee: but it is not thou who hast locked me up in
darkness and in hell, side by side with the mocking fiend! Friends! ah,
but no Friends shall catch me now! I am free! I am free! Air and wave
are not more free!" And the madman laughed with horrible glee. "She is
fair--fair," he said, abruptly checking himself, and with a changed
voice, "but not so fair as the Dead. Faithless that thou art--and yet
she loved _thee_! Woe to thee! woe! Maltravers, the perfidious! Woe to
thee--and remorse--and shame!"

"Fear not, Evelyn,--fear not," whispered Maltravers, gently, and placing
her behind him; "support your courage,--nothing shall harm you."

Evelyn, though very pale, and trembling from head to foot, retained her
senses. Maltravers advanced towards the mad man. But no sooner did the
quick eye of the last perceive the movement, than, with the fear which
belongs to that dread disease,--the fear of losing liberty,--he turned,
and with a loud cry fled into the wood. Maltravers leaped over the
fence, and pursued him some way in vain. The thick copses of the wood
snatched every trace of the fugitive from his eye.

Breathless and exhausted, Maltravers returned to the spot where he had
left Evelyn. As he reached it, he saw Teresa and her husband approaching
towards him, and Teresa's merry laugh sounded clear and musical in the
racy air. The sound appalled him; he hastened his steps to Evelyn.

"Say nothing of what we have seen to Madame de Montaigne, I beseech you,"
said he; "I will explain why hereafter."

Evelyn, too overcome to speak, nodded her acquiescence. They joined the
De Montaignes, and Maltravers took the Frenchman aside.

But before he could address him, De Montaigne said,--

"Hush! do not alarm my wife--she knows nothing; but I have just heard at
Paris, that--that he has escaped--you know whom I mean?"

"I do; he is at hand; send in search of him! I have seen him. Once more
I have seen Castruccio Cesarini!"

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