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Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete by Edward Bulwer Lytton

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--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."

BOOK IV.

"A virtuous woman is man's greatest pride."--SIMONIDES.

CHAPTER I.

ABROAD uneasy, nor content at home.
. . . . . .
And Wisdom shows the ill without the cure.

HAMMOND: _Elegies_.

TWO or three days after the interview between Lord Vargrave and
Maltravers, the solitude of Burleigh was relieved by the arrival of Mr.
Cleveland. The good old gentleman, when free from attacks of the gout,
which were now somewhat more frequent than formerly, was the same
cheerful and intelligent person as ever. Amiable, urbane, accomplished,
and benevolent, there was just enough worldliness in Cleveland's nature
to make his views sensible as far as they went, but to bound their scope.
Everything he said was so rational; and yet, to an imaginative person,
his conversation was unsatisfactory, and his philosophy somewhat
chilling.

"I cannot say how pleased and surprised I am at your care of the fine old
place," said he to Maltravers, as, leaning on his cane and his
_ci-devant_ pupil's arm, he loitered observantly through the grounds; "I
see everywhere the presence of the Master."

And certainly the praise was deserved. The gardens were now in order,
the dilapidated fences were repaired, the weeds no longer encumbered the
walks. Nature was just assisted and relieved by Art, without being
oppressed by too officious a service from her handmaid. In the house
itself some suitable and appropriate repairs and decorations--with such
articles of furniture as combined modern comfort with the ancient and
picturesque shapes of a former fashion--had redeemed the mansion from all
appearance of dreariness and neglect; while still was left to its quaint
halls and chambers the character which belonged to their architecture and
associations. It was surprising how much a little exercise of simple
taste had effected.

"I am glad you approve what I have done," said Maltravers. "I know not
how it was, but the desolation of the place when I returned to it
reproached me. We contract friendship with places as with human beings,
and fancy they have claims upon us; at least, that is my weakness."

"And an amiable one it is, too,--I share it. As for me, I look upon
Temple Grove as a fond husband upon a fair wife. I am always anxious to
adorn it, and as proud of its beauty as if it could understand and thank
me for my partial admiration. When I leave you I intend going to Paris,
for the purpose of attending a sale of the pictures and effects of M. de
-----. These auctions are to me what a jeweller's shop is to a lover; but
then, Ernest, I am an old bachelor."

"And I, too, am an Arcadian," said Maltravers, with a smile.

"Ah, but you are not too old for repentance. Burleigh now requires
nothing but a mistress."

"Perhaps it may soon receive that addition. I am yet undecided whether I
shall sell it."

"Sell it! sell Burleigh!--the last memorial of your mother's ancestry!
the classic retreat of the graceful Digbys! Sell Burleigh!"

"I had almost resolved to do so when I came hither; then I forswore the
intention: now again I sometimes sorrowfully return to the idea."

"And in Heaven's name, why?"

"My old restlessness returns. Busy myself as I will here, I find the
range of action monotonous and confined. I began too soon to draw around
me the large circumference of literature and action; and the small
provincial sphere seems to me a sad going back in life. Perhaps I should
not feel this, were my home less lonely; but as it is--no, the wanderer's
ban is on me, and I again turn towards the lands of excitement and
adventure."

"I understand this, Ernest; but why is your home so solitary? You are
still at the age in which wise and congenial unions are the most
frequently formed; your temper is domestic; your easy fortune and sobered
ambition allow you to choose without reference to worldly considerations.
Look round the world, and mix with the world again, and give Burleigh the
mistress it requires."

Maltravers shook his head, and sighed.

"I do not say," continued Cleveland, wrapped in the glowing interest of
the theme, "that you should marry a mere girl, but an amiable woman, who,
like yourself, has seen something of life, and knows how to reckon on its
cares, and to be contented with its enjoyments."

"You have said enough," said Maltravers, impatiently; "an experienced
woman of the world, whose freshness of hope and heart is gone! What a
picture! No, to me there is something inexpressibly beautiful in
innocence and youth. But you say justly,--my years are not those that
would make a union with youth desirable or well suited."

"I do _not_ say that," said Cleveland, taking a pinch of snuff; "but you
should avoid great disparity of age,--not for the sake of that disparity
itself, but because with it is involved discord of temper, pursuits. A
_very_ young woman, new to the world, will not be contented with home
alone; you are at once too gentle to curb her wishes, and a little too
stern and reserved--pardon me for saying so--to be quite congenial to
very early and sanguine youth."

"It is true," said Maltravers, with a tone of voice that showed he was
struck with the remark; "but how have we fallen on this subject? let us
change it. I have no idea of marriage,--the gloomy reminiscence of
Florence Lascelles chains me to the past."

"Poor Florence, she might once have suited you; but now you are older,
and would require a calmer and more malleable temper."

"Peace, I implore you!"

The conversation was changed; and at noon Mr. Merton, who had heard of
Cleveland's arrival, called at Burleigh to renew an old acquaintance. He
invited them to pass the evening at the rectory; and Cleveland, hearing
that whist was a regular amusement, accepted the invitation for his host
and himself. But when the evening came, Maltravers pleaded
indisposition, and Cleveland was obliged to go alone.

When the old gentleman returned about midnight, he found Maltravers
awaiting him in the library; and Cleveland, having won fourteen points,
was in a very gay, conversable humour.

"You perverse hermit!" said he, "talk of solitude, indeed, with so
pleasant a family a hundred yards distant! You deserve to be
solitary,--I have no patience with you. They complain bitterly of your
desertion, and say you were, at first, the _enfant de la maison_."

"So you like the Mertons? The clergyman is sensible, but commonplace."

"A very agreeable man, despite your cynical definition, and plays a very
fair rubber. But Vargrave is a first-rate player."

"Vargrave is there still?"

"Yes, he breakfasts with us to-morrow,--he invited himself."

"Humph!"

"He played one rubber; the rest of the evening he devoted himself to the
prettiest girl I ever saw,--Miss Cameron. What a sweet face! so modest,
yet so intelligent! I talked with her a good deal during the deals in
which I cut out. I almost lost my heart to her."

"So Lord Vargrave devoted himself to Miss Cameron?"

"To be sure,--you know they are to be married soon. Merton told me so.
She is very rich. He is the luckiest fellow imaginable, that Vargrave!
But he is much too old for her: she seems to think so too. I can't
explain why I think it; but by her pretty reserved manner I saw that she
tried to keep the gay minister at a distance: but it would not do. Now,
if you were ten years younger, or Miss Cameron ten years older, you might
have had some chance of cutting out your old friend."

"So you think I also am too old for a lover?"

"For a lover of a girl of seventeen, certainly. You seem touchy on the
score of age, Ernest."

"Not I;" and Maltravers laughed.

"No? There was a young gentleman present, who, I think, Vargrave might
really find a dangerous rival,--a Colonel Legard,--one of the handsomest
men I ever saw in my life; just the style to turn a romantic young lady's
head; a mixture of the wild and the thoroughbred; black curls, superb
eyes, and the softest manners in the world. But, to be sure, he has
lived all his life in the best society. Not so his friend, Lord
Doltimore, who has a little too much of the green-room lounge and French
_cafe_ manner for my taste."

"Doltimore, Legard, names new to me; I never met them at the rectory."

"Possibly they are staying at Admiral Legard's, in the neighbourhood.
Miss Merton made their acquaintance at Knaresdean. A good old lady--the
most perfect Mrs. Grundy one would wish to meet with--who owns the
monosyllabic appellation of Hare (and who, being my partner, trumped my
king!) assured me that Lord Doltimore was desperately in love with
Caroline Merton. By the way, now, there is a young lady of a proper age
for you,--handsome and clever, too."

"You talk of antidotes to matrimony; and so Miss Cameron--"

"Oh, no more of Miss Cameron now, or I shall sit up all night; she has
half turned my head. I can't help pitying her,--married to one so
careless and worldly as Lord Vargrave, thrown so young into the whirl of
London. Poor thing! she had better have fallen in love with
Legard,--which I dare say she will do, after all. Well, good-night!"

CHAPTER II.

PASSION, as frequently is seen,
Subsiding, settles into spleen;
Hence, as the plague of happy life,
I ran away from party strife.--MATTHEW GREEN.

Here nymphs from hollow oaks relate
The dark decrees and will of fate.--_Ibid._

ACCORDING to his engagement, Vargrave breakfasted the next morning at
Burleigh. Maltravers at first struggled to return his familiar
cordiality with equal graciousness. Condemning himself for former and
unfounded suspicions, he wrestled against feelings which he could not or
would not analyze, but which made Lumley an unwelcome visitor, and
connected him with painful associations, whether of the present or the
past. But there were points on which the penetration of Maltravers
served to justify his prepossessions.

The conversation, chiefly sustained by Cleveland and Vargrave, fell on
public questions; and as one was opposed to the other, Vargrave's
exposition of views and motives had in them so much of the self-seeking
of the professional placeman, that they might well have offended any man
tinged by the lofty mania of political Quixotism. It was with a strange
mixture of feelings that Maltravers listened: at one moment he proudly
congratulated himself on having quitted a career where such opinions
seemed so well to prosper: at another, his better and juster sentiments
awoke the long-dormant combative faculty, and he almost longed for the
turbulent but sublime arena, in which truths are vindicated and mankind
advanced.

The interview did not serve for that renewal of intimacy which Vargrave
appeared to seek, and Maltravers rejoiced when the placeman took his
departure.

Lumley, who was about to pay a morning visit to Lord Doltimore, had
borrowed Mr. Merton's stanhope, as being better adapted than any
statelier vehicle to get rapidly through the cross-roads which led to
Admiral Legard's house; and as he settled himself in the seat, with his
servant by his side, he said laughingly, "I almost fancy myself naughty
master Lumley again in this young-man-kind of two-wheeled cockle-boat:
not dignified, but rapid, eh?"

And Lumley's face, as he spoke, had in it so much of frank gayety, and
his manner was so simple, that Maltravers could with difficulty fancy him
the same man who, five minutes before, had been uttering sentiments that
might have become the oldest-hearted intriguer whom the hot-bed of
ambition ever reared.

As soon as Lumley was gone, Maltravers left Cleveland alone to write
letters (Cleveland was an exemplary and voluminous correspondent) and
strolled with his dogs into the village. The effect which the presence
of Maltravers produced among his peasantry was one that seldom failed to
refresh and soothe his more bitter and disturbed thoughts. They had
gradually (for the poor are quick-sighted) become sensible of his
_justice_,--a finer quality than many that seem more amiable. They felt
that his real object was to make them better and happier; and they had
learned to see that the means he adopted generally advanced the end.
Besides, if sometimes stern, he was never capricious or unreasonable; and
then, too, he would listen patiently and advise kindly. They were a
little in awe of him, but the awe only served to make them more
industrious and orderly,--to stimulate the idle man, to reclaim the
drunkard. He was one of the favourers of the small-allotment
system,--not, indeed, as panacea, but as one excellent stimulant to
exertion and independence; and his chosen rewards for good conduct were
in such comforts as served to awaken amongst those hitherto passive,
dogged, and hopeless a desire to better and improve their condition.
Somehow or other, without direct alms, the goodwife found that the little
savings in the cracked teapot or the old stocking had greatly increased
since the squire's return, while her husband came home from his moderate
cups at the alehouse more sober and in better temper. Having already
saved something was a great reason why he should save more. The new
school, too, was so much better conducted than the old one; the children
actually liked going there; and now and then there were little village
feasts connected with the schoolroom; play and work were joint
associations.

And Maltravers looked into his cottages, and looked at the
allotment-ground; and it was pleasant to him to say to himself, "I am not
altogether without use in life." But as he pursued his lonely walk, and
the glow of self-approval died away with the scenes that called it forth,
the cloud again settled on his brow; and again he felt that in solitude
the passions feed upon the heart. As he thus walked along the green
lane, and the insect life of summer rustled audibly among the shadowy
hedges and along the thick grass that sprang up on either side, he came
suddenly upon a little group that arrested all his attention.

It was a woman, clad in rags, bleeding, and seemingly insensible,
supported by the overseer of the parish and a labourer.

"What is the matter?" asked Maltravers.

"A poor woman has been knocked down and run over by a gentleman in a gig,
your honour," replied the overseer. "He stopped, half an hour ago, at my
house to tell me that she was lying on the road; and he has given me two
sovereigns for her, your honour. But, poor cretur! she was too heavy for
me to carry her, and I was forced to leave her and call Tom to help me."

"The gentleman might have stayed to see what were the consequences of his
own act," muttered Maltravers, as be examined the wound in the temple,
whence the blood flowed copiously.

"He said he was in a great hurry, your honour," said the village
official, overhearing Maltravers. "I think it was one of the grand folks
up at the parsonage; for I know it was Mr. Merton's bay horse,--he is a
hot 'un!"

"Does the poor woman live in the neighbourhood? Do you know her?" asked
Maltravers, turning from the contemplation of this new instance of
Vargrave's selfishness of character.

"No; the old body seems quite a stranger here,--a tramper, or beggar, I
think, sir. But it won't be a settlement if we take her in; and we can
carry her to the Chequers, up the village, your honour."

"What is the nearest house,--your own?"

"Yes; but we be so busy now!"

"She shall not go to your house, and be neglected; and as for the
public-house, it is too noisy: we must move her to the Hall."

"Your honour!" ejaculated the overseer, opening his eyes.

"It is not very far; she is severely hurt. Get a hurdle, lay a mattress
on it. Make haste, both of you; I will wait here till you return."

The poor woman was carefully placed on the grass by the road-side, and
Maltravers supported her head, while the men hastened to obey his orders.

CHAPTER III.

ALSE from that forked hill, the boasted seat
Of studious Peace and mild Philosophy,
Indignant murmurs mote be heard to threat.--WEST.

MR. CLEVELAND wanted to enrich one of his letters with a quotation from
Ariosto, which he but imperfectly remembered. He had seen the book he
wished to refer to in the little study the day before; and he quitted the
library to search for it.

As he was tumbling over some volumes that lay piled on the writing-table,
he felt a student's curiosity to discover what now constituted his host's
favourite reading. He was surprised to observe that the greater portion
of the works that, by the doubled leaf and the pencilled reference,
seemed most frequently consulted, were not of a literary nature,--they
were chiefly scientific; and astronomy seemed the chosen science. He
then remembered that he had heard Maltravers speaking to a builder,
employed on the recent repairs, on the subject of an observatory. "This
is very strange," thought Cleveland; "he gives up literature, the rewards
of which are in his reach, and turns to science, at an age too late to
discipline his mind to its austere training."

Alas! Cleveland did not understand that there are times in life when
imaginative minds seek to numb and to blunt imagination. Still less did
he feel that, when we perversely refuse to apply our active faculties to
the catholic interests of the world, they turn morbidly into channels of
research the least akin to their real genius. By the collision of minds
alone does each mind discover what is its proper product: left to
ourselves, our talents become but intellectual eccentricities.

Some scattered papers, in the handwriting of Maltravers, fell from one of
the volumes. Of these, a few were but algebraical calculations, or short
scientific suggestions, the value of which Mr. Cleveland's studies did
not enable him to ascertain; but in others they were wild snatches of
mournful and impassioned verse, which showed that the old vein of poetry
still flowed, though no longer to the daylight. These verses Cleveland
thought himself justified in glancing over; they seemed to portray a
state of mind which deeply interested, and greatly saddened him. They
expressed, indeed, a firm determination to bear up against both the
memory and the fear of ill; but mysterious and hinted allusions here and
there served to denote some recent and yet existent struggle, revealed by
the heart only to the genius. In these partial and imperfect
self-communings and confessions, there was the evidence of the pining
affections, the wasted life, the desolate hearth of the lonely man. Yet
so calm was Maltravers himself, even to his early friend, that Cleveland
knew not what to think of the reality of the feelings painted. Had that
fervid and romantic spirit been again awakened by a living object? If
so, where was the object found? The dates affixed to the verses were
most recent. But whom had Maltravers seen? Cleveland's thoughts turned
to Caroline Merton, to Evelyn; but when he had spoken of both, nothing in
the countenance, the manner, of Maltravers had betrayed emotion. And
once the heart of Maltravers had so readily betrayed itself! Cleveland
knew not how pride, years, and suffering school the features, and repress
the outward signs of what pass within. While thus engaged, the door of
the study opened abruptly, and the servant announced Mr. Merton.

"A thousand pardons," said the courteous rector. "I fear we disturb you;
but Admiral Legard and Lord Doltimore, who called on us this morning,
were so anxious to see Burleigh, I thought I might take the liberty. We
have come over quite in a large party,--taken the place by storm. Mr.
Maltravers is out, I hear; but you will let us see the house. My allies
are already in the hall, examining the armour."

Cleveland, ever sociable and urbane, answered suitably, and went with Mr.
Merton into the hall, where Caroline, her little sisters, Evelyn, Lord
Doltimore, Admiral Legard, and his nephew were assembled.

"Very proud to be my host's representative and your guide," said
Cleveland. "Your visit, Lord Doltimore, is indeed an agreeable surprise.
Lord Vargrave left us an hour or so since to call on you at Admiral
Legard's: we buy our pleasure with his disappointment."

"It is very unfortunate," said the admiral, a bluff, harsh-looking old
gentleman; "but we were not aware, till we saw Mr. Merton, of the honour
Lord Vargrave has done us. I can't think how we missed him on the road."

"My dear uncle," said Colonel Legard, in a peculiarly sweet and agreeable
tone of voice, "you forget we came three miles round by the high road;
and Mr. Merton says that Lord Vargrave took the short cut by Langley End.
My uncle, Mr. Cleveland, never feels in safety upon land, unless the road
is as wide as the British Channel, and the horses go before the wind at
the rapid pace of two knots and a half an hour!"

"I just wish I had you at sea, Mr. Jackanapes," said the admiral, looking
grimly at his handsome nephew, while he shook his cane at him.

The nephew smiled; and, falling back, conversed with Evelyn.

The party were now shown over the house; and Lord Doltimore was loud in
its praises. It was like a chateau he had once hired in Normandy,--it
had a French character; those old chairs were in excellent taste,--quite
the style of Francis the First.

"I know no man I respect more than Mr. Maltravers," quoth the admiral.
"Since he has been amongst us this time, he has been a pattern to us
country gentlemen. He would make an excellent colleague for Sir John.
We really must get him to stand against that young puppy who is member of
the House of Commons only because his father is a peer, and never votes
more than twice a session."

Mr. Merton looked grave.

"I wish to Heaven you could persuade him to stay amongst you," said
Cleveland. "He has half taken it into his head to part with Burleigh!"

"Part with Burleigh!" exclaimed Evelyn, turning abruptly from the
handsome colonel, in whose conversation she had hitherto seemed absorbed.

"My very ejaculation when I heard him say so, my dear young lady."

"I wish he would," said Lord Doltimore hastily, and glancing towards
Caroline. "I should much like to buy it. What do you think would be the
purchase-money?"

"Don't talk so cold-bloodedly," said the admiral, letting the point of
his cane fall with great emphasis on the floor. "I can't bear to see old
families deserting their old places,--quite wicked. You buy Burleigh!
have not you got a country seat of your own, my lord? Go and live there,
and take Mr. Maltravers for your model,--you could not have a better."

Lord Doltimore sneered, coloured, settled his neckcloth, and turning
round to Colonel Legard, whispered, "Legard, your good uncle is a bore."

Legard looked a little offended, and made no reply.

"But," said Caroline, coming to the relief of her admirer, "if Mr.
Maltravers will sell the place, surely he could not have a better
successor."

"He sha'n't sell the place, ma'am, and that's poz!" cried the admiral.
"The whole county shall sign a round-robin to tell him it's a shame; and
if any one dares to buy it we'll send him to Coventry."

Miss Merton laughed, but looked round the old wainscot walls with unusual
interest; she thought it would be a fine thing to be Lady of Burleigh!

"And what is that picture so carefully covered up?" said the admiral, as
they now stood in the library.

"The late Mrs. Maltravers, Ernest's mother," replied Cleveland, slowly.
"He dislikes it to be shown--to strangers: the other is a Digby."

Evelyn looked towards the veiled portrait, and thought of her first
interview with Maltravers; but the soft voice of Colonel Legard murmured
in her ear; and her revery was broken.

Cleveland eyed the colonel, and muttered to himself, "Vargrave should
keep a sharp look-out."

They had now finished their round of the show-apartments--which indeed
had little but their antiquity and old portraits to recommend them--and
were in a lobby at the back of the house, communicating with a courtyard,
two sides of which were occupied with the stables. The sight of the
stables reminded Caroline of the Arab horses; and at the word "horses"
Lord Doltimore seized Legard's arm and carried him off to inspect the
animals. Caroline, her father, and the admiral followed. Mr. Cleveland
happened not to have on his walking-shoes; and the flagstones in the
courtyard looked damp; and Mr. Cleveland, like most old bachelors, was
prudently afraid of cold; so he excused himself, and stayed behind. He
was talking to Evelyn about the Digbys, and full of anecdotes about Sir
Kenelm at the moment the rest departed so abruptly; and Evelyn was
interested, so she insisted on keeping him company.

The old gentleman was flattered; he thought it excellent breeding in Miss
Cameron. The children ran out to renew acquaintance with the peacock,
who, perched on an old stirrup-stone, was sunning his gay plumage in the
noon-day.

"It is astonishing," said Cleveland, "how certain family features are
transmitted from generation to generation! Maltravers has still the
forehead and eyebrows of the Digbys,--that peculiar, brooding, thoughtful
forehead, which you observed in the picture of Sir Kenelm. Once, too, he
had much the same dreaming character of mind, but he has lost that, in
some measure at least. He has fine qualities, Miss Cameron,--I have
known him since he was born. I trust his career is not yet closed; could
he but form ties that would bind him to England, I should indulge in
higher expectations than I did even when the wild boy turned half the
heads in Gottingen.

"But we were talking of family portraits: there is one in the
entrance-hall, which perhaps you have not observed; it is half
obliterated by damp and time, yet it is of a remarkable personage,
connected with Maltravers by ancestral intermarriages,--Lord Falkland,
the Falkland of Clarendon; a man weak in character, but made most
interesting by history,--utterly unfitted for the severe ordeal of those
stormy times; sighing for peace when his whole soul should have been in
war; and repentant alike whether with the Parliament or the king, but
still a personage of elegant and endearing associations; a
student-soldier, with a high heart and a gallant spirit. Come and look
at his features,--homely and worn, but with a characteristic air of
refinement and melancholy thought."

Thus running on, the agreeable old gentleman drew Evelyn into the outer
hall. Upon arriving there, through a small passage, which opened upon
the hall, they were surprised to find the old housekeeper and another
female servant standing by a rude kind of couch on which lay the form of
the poor woman described in the last chapter. Maltravers and two other
men were also there; and Maltravers himself was giving orders to his
servants, while he leaned over the sufferer, who was now conscious both
of pain and the service rendered to her. As Evelyn stopped abruptly, and
in surprise, opposite and almost at the foot of the homely litter, the
woman raised herself up on one arm, and gazed at her with a wild stare;
then muttering some incoherent words which appeared to betoken delirium,
she sank back, and was again insensible.

CHAPTER IV.

HENCE oft to win some stubborn maid,
Still does the wanton god assume
The martial air, the gay cockade,
The sword, the shoulder-knot, and plume.

MARRIOTT.

THE hall was cleared, the sufferer had been removed, and Maltravers was
left alone with Cleveland and Evelyn.

He simply and shortly narrated the adventure of the morning; but he did
not mention that Vargrave had been the cause of the injury his new guest
had sustained. Now this event had served to make a mutual and kindred
impression on Evelyn and Maltravers. The humanity of the latter, natural
and commonplace as it was, was an endearing recollection to Evelyn,
precisely as it showed that his cold theory of disdain towards the mass
did not affect his actual conduct towards individuals. On the other
hand, Maltravers had perhaps been yet more impressed with the prompt and
ingenuous sympathy which Evelyn had testified towards the sufferer: it
had so evidently been her first gracious and womanly impulse to hasten to
the side of this humble stranger. In that impulse, Maltravers himself
had been almost forgotten; and as the poor woman lay pale and lifeless,
and the young Evelyn bent over her in beautiful compassion, Maltravers
thought she had never seemed so lovely, so irresistible,--in fact, pity
in woman is a great beautifier.

As Maltravers finished his short tale, Evelyn's eyes were fixed upon him
with such frank and yet such soft approval, that the look went straight
to his heart. He quickly turned away, and abruptly changed the
conversation.

"But how long have you been here, Miss Cameron,--and your companions?"

"We are again intruders; but this time it was not my fault."

"No," said Cleveland, "for a wonder it was male, and not lady-like
curiosity that trespassed on Bluebeard's chamber. But, however, to
soften your resentment, know that Miss Cameron has brought you a
purchaser for Burleigh. Now, then, we can test the sincerity of your
wish to part with it. I assure you, meanwhile, that Miss Cameron was as
much shocked at the idea as I was. Were you not?"

"But you surely have no intention of selling Burleigh?" said Evelyn,
anxiously.

"I fear I do not know my own mind."

"Well," said Cleveland, "here comes your tempter. Lord Doltimore, let me
introduce Mr. Maltravers."

Lord Doltimore bowed.

"Been admiring your horses, Mr. Maltravers. I never saw anything so
perfect as the black one; may I ask where you bought him?"

"It was a present to me," answered Maltravers.

"A present?"

"Yes, from one who would not have sold that horse for a king's
ransom,--an old Arab chief, with whom I formed a kind of friendship in
the desert. A wound disabled him from riding, and he bestowed the horse
on me, with as much solemn tenderness for the gift as if he had given me
his daughter in marriage."

"I think of travelling in the East," said Lord Doltimore, with much
gravity: "I suppose nothing will induce you to sell the black horse?"

"Lord Doltimore!" said Maltravers, in a tone of lofty surprise.

"I do not care for the price," continued the young nobleman, a little
disconcerted.

"No; I never sell any horse that has once learned to know me. I would as
soon think of selling a friend. In the desert, one's horse is one's
friend. I am almost an Arab myself in these matters."

"But talking of sale and barter reminds me of Burleigh," said Cleveland,
maliciously. "Lord Doltimore is a universal buyer. He covets all your
goods: he will take the house, if he can't have the stables."

"I only mean," said Lord Doltimore, rather peevishly, "that if you wish
to part with Burleigh, I should like to have the option of purchase."

"I will remember it, if I determine to sell the place," answered
Maltravers, smiling gravely; "at present I am undecided."

He turned away towards Evelyn as he spoke, and almost started to observe
that she was joined by a stranger, whose approach he had not before
noticed,--and that stranger a man of such remarkable personal advantages,
that, had Maltravers been in Vargrave's position, he might reasonably
have experienced a pang of jealous apprehension. Slightly above the
common height; slender, yet strongly formed; set off by every advantage
of dress, of air, of the nameless tone and pervading refinement that
sometimes, though not always, springs from early and habitual intercourse
with the most polished female society,--Colonel Legard, at the age of
eight and twenty, had acquired a reputation for beauty almost as popular
and as well known as that which men usually acquire by mental
qualifications. Yet there was nothing effeminate in his countenance, the
symmetrical features of which were made masculine and expressive by the
rich olive of the complexion, and the close jetty curls of the
Antinous-like hair.

They seemed, as they there stood--Evelyn and Legard--so well suited to
each other in personal advantages, their different styles so happily
contrasted; and Legard, at the moment, was regarding her with such
respectful admiration, and whispering compliment to her in so subdued a
tone, that the dullest observer might have ventured a prophecy by no
means agreeable to the hopes of Lumley Lord Vargrave.

But a feeling or fear of this nature was not that which occurred to
Maltravers, or dictated his startled exclamation of surprise.

Legard looked up as he heard the exclamation, and saw Maltravers, whose
back had hitherto been turned towards him. He, too, was evidently
surprised, and seemingly confused; the colour mounted to his cheek, and
then left it pale.

"Colonel Legard," said Cleveland, "a thousand apologies for my neglect: I
really did not observe you enter,--you came round by the front door, I
suppose. Let me make you acquainted with Mr. Maltravers."

Legard bowed low.

"We have met before," said he, in embarrassed accents: "at Venice, I
think!"

Maltravers inclined his head rather stiffly at first, but then, as if
moved by a second impulse, held out his hand cordially.

"Oh, Mr. Ernest, here you are!" cried Sophy, bounding into the hall,
followed by Mr. Merton, the old admiral, Caroline, and Cecilia.

The interruption seemed welcome and opportune. The admiral, with blunt
cordiality, expressed his pleasure at being made known to Mr. Maltravers.

The conversation grew general; refreshments were proffered and declined;
the visit drew to its close.

It so happened that as the guests departed, Evelyn, from whose side the
constant colonel had insensibly melted away, lingered last,--save,
indeed, the admiral, who was discussing with Cleveland a new specific for
the gout. And as Maltravers stood on the steps, Evelyn turned to him
with all her beautiful _naivete_ of mingled timidity and kindness, and
said,--

"And are we really never to see you again; never to hear again your tales
of Egypt and Arabia; never to talk over Tasso and Dante? No books, no
talk, no disputes, no quarrels? What have we done? I thought we had
made it up,--and yet you are still unforgiving. Give me a good scold,
and be friends!"

"Friends! you have no friend more anxious, more devoted than I am.
Young, rich, fascinating as you are, you will carve no impression on
human hearts deeper than that you have graven here!"

Carried away by the charm of her childlike familiarity and enchanting
sweetness, Maltravers had said more than he intended; yet his eyes, his
emotion, said more than his words.

Evelyn coloured deeply, and her whole manner changed. However, she
turned away, and saying, with a forced gayety, "Well, then, you will not
desert us; we shall see you once more?" hurried down the steps to join
her companions.

CHAPTER V.

SEE how the skilful lover spreads his toils.--STILLINGFLEET.

THE party had not long returned to the rectory, and the admiral's
carriage was ordered, when Lord Vargrave made his appearance. He
descanted with gay good-humour on his long drive, the bad roads, and his
disappointment at the _contretemps_ that awaited him; then, drawing aside
Colonel Legard, who seemed unusually silent and abstracted, he said to
him,--

"My dear colonel, my visit this morning was rather to you than to
Doltimore. I confess that I should like to see your abilities enlisted
on the side of the Government; and knowing that the post of Storekeeper
to the Ordnance will be vacant in a day or two by the promotion of Mr.
-----, I wrote to secure the refusal. To-day's post brings me the
answer. I offer the place to you; and I trust, before long, to procure
you also a seat in parliament. But you must start for London
immediately."

A week ago, and Legard's utmost ambition would have been amply gratified
by this post; he now hesitated.

"My dear lord," said he, "I cannot say how grateful I feel for your
kindness; but--but--"

"Enough; no thanks, my dear Legard. Can you go to town to-morrow?"

"Indeed," said Legard, "I fear not; I must consult my uncle."

"I can answer for him; I sounded him before I wrote. Reflect! You are
not rich, my dear Legard; it is an excellent opening: a seat in
parliament, too! Why, what can be your reason for hesitation?"

There was something meaning and inquisitive in the tone of voice in which
this question was put that brought the colour to the colonel's cheek. He
knew not well what to reply; and he began, too, to think that he ought
not to refuse the appointment. Nay, would his uncle, on whom he was
dependent, consent to such a refusal? Lord Vargrave saw the
irresolution, and proceeded. He spent ten minutes in combating every
scruple, every objection: he placed all the advantages of the post, real
or imaginary, in every conceivable point of view before the colonel's
eyes; he sought to flatter, to wheedle, to coax, to weary him into
accepting it; and he at length partially succeeded. The colonel
petitioned for three days' consideration, which Vargrave reluctantly
acceded to; and Legard then stepped into his uncle's carriage, with the
air rather of a martyr than a maiden placeman.

"Aha!" said Vargrave, chuckling to himself as he took a turn in the
grounds, "I have got rid of that handsome knave; and now I shall have
Evelyn all to myself!"

CHAPTER VI.

I AM forfeited to eternal disgrace if you do not commiserate.
. . . . . .
Go to, then, raise, recover.--BEN JONSON: _Poetaster_.

THE next morning Admiral Legard and his nephew were conversing in the
little cabin consecrated by the name of the admiral's "own room."

"Yes," said the veteran, "it would be moonshine and madness not to accept
Vargrave's offer; though one can see through such a millstone as that
with half an eye. His lordship is jealous of such a fine, handsome young
fellow as you are,--and very justly. But as long as he is under the same
roof with Miss Cameron, you will have no opportunity to pay your court;
when he goes, you can always manage to be in her neighbourhood; and then,
you know--puppy that you are--her business will be very soon settled."
And the admiral eyed the handsome colonel with grim fondness.

Legard sighed.

"Have you any commands at -----?" said he; "I am just going to canter
over there before Doltimore is up."

"Sad lazy dog, your friend."

"I shall be back by twelve."

"What are you going to ----- for?"

"Brookes, the farrier, has a little spaniel,--King Charles's breed. Miss
Cameron is fond of dogs. I can send it to her, with my compliments,--it
will be a sort of leave-taking."

"Sly rogue; ha, ha, ha! d-----d sly; ha, ha!" and the admiral punched the
slender waist of his nephew, and laughed till the tears ran down his
cheeks.

"Good-by, sir."

"Stop, George; I forgot to ask you a question; you never told me you knew
Mr. Maltravers. Why don't you cultivate his acquaintance?"

"We met at Venice accidentally. I did not know his name then; he left
just as I arrived. As you say, I ought to cultivate his acquaintance."

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