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Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete by Edward Bulwer Lytton

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"Ah, cease," interrupted the proud man; "no compassion, I implore: give
me but time and silence,--they are the only remedies."

Before noon the next day, Burleigh was once more deserted by its lord.
As the carriage drove through the village, Mrs. Elton saw it from her
open window; but her patron, too absorbed at that hour even for
benevolence, forgot her existence and yet so complicated are the webs of
fate, that in the breast of that lowly stranger was locked a secret of
the most vital moment to Maltravers.

"Where is he going; where is the squire going?" asked Mrs. Elton,
anxiously.

"Dear heart!" said the cottager, "they do say he be going for a short
time to foren parts. But he will be back at Christmas."

"And at Christmas I may be gone hence forever," muttered the invalid;
"but what will that matter to him--to any one?"

At the first stage Maltravers and his friend were detained a short time
for the want of horses. Lord Raby's house had been filled with guests on
the preceding night, and the stables of this little inn, dignified with
the sign of the Raby Arms, and about two miles distant from the great
man's place, had been exhausted by numerous claimants returning homeward
from Knaresdean. It was a quiet, solitary post-house, and patience, till
some jaded horses should return, was the only remedy; the host, assuring
the travellers that he expected four horses every moment, invited them
within. The morning was cold, and the fire not unacceptable to Mr.
Cleveland; so they went into the little parlour. Here they found an
elderly gentleman of very prepossessing appearance, who was waiting for
the same object. He moved courteously from the fireplace as the
travellers entered, and pushed the "B-----shire Chronicle" towards
Cleveland: Cleveland bowed urbanely. "A cold day, sir; the autumn begins
to show itself."

"It is true, sir," answered the old gentleman; "and I feel the cold the
more, having just quitted the genial atmosphere of the South."

"Of Italy?"

"No, of England only. I see by this paper (I am not much of a
politician) that there is a chance of a dissolution of parliament, and
that Mr. Maltravers is likely to come forward for this county; are you
acquainted with him, sir?"

"A little," said Cleveland, smiling.

"He is a man I am much interested in," said the old gentleman; "and I
hope soon to be honoured with his acquaintance."

"Indeed! and you are going into his neighbourhood?" asked Cleveland,
looking more attentively at the stranger, and much pleased with a certain
simple candour in his countenance and manner.

"Yes, to Merton Rectory."

Maltravers, who had been hitherto stationed by the window, turned round.

"To Merton Rectory?" repeated Cleveland. "You are acquainted with Mr.
Merton, then?"

"Not yet; but I know some of his family. However, my visit is rather to
a young lady who is staying at the rectory,--Miss Cameron."

Maltravers sighed heavily; and the old gentleman looked at him curiously.
"Perhaps, sir, if you know that neighbourhood, you may have seen--"

"Miss Cameron! Certainly; it is an honour not easily forgotten."

The old gentleman looked pleased.

"The dear child!" said he, with a burst of honest affection, and he
passed his hand over his eyes. Maltravers drew near to him.

"You know Miss Cameron; you are to be envied, sir," said he.

"I have known her since she was a child; Lady Vargrave is my dearest
friend."

"Lady Vargrave must be worthy of such a daughter. Only under the light
of a sweet disposition and pure heart could that beautiful nature have
been trained and reared."

Maltravers spoke with enthusiasm; and, as if fearful to trust himself
more, left the room.

"That gentleman speaks not more warmly than justly," said the old man,
with some surprise. "He has a countenance which, if physiognomy be a
true science, declares his praise to be no common compliment; may I
inquire his name?"

"Maltravers," replied Cleveland, a little vain of the effect his
ex-pupil's name was to produce.

The curate--for it was he--started and changed countenance.

"Maltravers! but he is not about to leave the county?"

"Yes, for a few months."

Here the host entered. Four horses, that had been only fourteen miles,
had just re-entered the yard. If Mr. Maltravers could spare two to that
gentleman, who had, indeed, pre-engaged them?

"Certainly," said Cleveland; "but be quick."

"And is Lord Vargrave still at Mr. Merton's?" asked the curate, musingly.

"Oh, yes, I believe so. Miss Cameron is to be married to him very
shortly,--is it not so?"

"I cannot say," returned Aubrey, rather bewildered. "You know Lord
Vargrave, sir?"

"Extremely well!"

"And you think him worthy of Miss Cameron?"

"That is a question for her to answer. But I see the horses are put to.
Good-day, sir! Will you tell your fair young friend that you have met an
old gentleman who wishes her all happiness; and if she ask you his name,
say Cleveland?"

So saying, Mr. Cleveland bowed, and re-entered the carriage. But
Maltravers was yet missing. In fact, he returned to the house by the
back way, and went once more into the little parlour. It was something
to see again one who would so soon see Evelyn!

"If I mistake not," said Maltravers, "you are that Mr. Aubrey on whose
virtues I have often heard Miss Cameron delight to linger? Will you
believe my regret that our acquaintance is now so brief?"

As Maltravers spoke thus simply, there was in his countenance, his voice,
a melancholy sweetness, which greatly conciliated the good curate; and as
Aubrey gazed upon his noble features and lofty mien, he no longer
wondered at the fascination he had appeared to exercise over the young
Evelyn.

"And may I not hope, Mr. Maltravers," said he, "that before long our
acquaintance may be renewed? Could not Miss Cameron," he added, with a
smile and a penetrating look, "tempt you into Devonshire?"

Maltravers shook his head, and, muttering something not very audible,
quitted the room. The curate heard the whirl of the wheels, and the host
entered to inform him that his own carriage was now ready.

"There is something in this," thought Aubrey, "which I do not comprehend.
His manner, his trembling voice, bespoke emotions he struggled to
conceal. Can Lord Vargrave have gained his point? Is Evelyn, indeed, no
longer free?"

CHAPTER V.

CERTES, c'est un grand cas, Icas,
Que toujours tracas ou fracas
Vous faites d'une ou d'autre sort;
C'est le diable qui vous emporte!*--VOITURE.

* "Certes, it is the fact, Icas, that you are always engaged in
tricks or scrapes of some sort or other; it must be the devil
that bewitches you."

LORD VARGRAVE had passed the night of the ball and the following morning
at Knaresdean. It was necessary to bring the counsels of the scheming
conclave to a full and definite conclusion; and this was at last
effected. Their strength numbered, friends and foes alike canvassed and
considered, and due account taken of the waverers to be won over, it
really did seem, even to the least sanguine, that the Saxingham or
Vargrave party was one that might well aspire either to dictate to, or to
break up, a government. Nothing now was left to consider but the
favourable hour for action. In high spirits, Lord Vargrave returned
about the middle of the day to the rectory.

"So," thought he, as he reclined in his carriage,--"so, in politics, the
prospect clears as the sun breaks out. The party I have espoused is one
that must be the most durable, for it possesses the greatest property and
the most stubborn prejudice--what elements for Party! All that I now
require is a sufficient fortune to back my ambition. Nothing can clog my
way but these cursed debts, this disreputable want of gold. And yet
Evelyn alarms me! Were I younger, or had I not made my position too
soon, I would marry her by fraud or by force,--run off with her to
Gretna, and make Vulcan minister to Plutus. But this would never do at
my years, and with my reputation. A pretty story for the newspapers,
d-----n them! Well, nothing venture, nothing have; I will brave the
hazard! Meanwhile, Doltimore is mine; Caroline will rule him, and I rule
her. His vote and his boroughs are something,--his money will be more
immediately useful: I must do him the honour to borrow a few
thousands,--Caroline must manage that for me. The fool is miserly,
though a spendthrift; and looked black when I delicately hinted the other
day that I wanted a friend--_id est_, a loan! money and friendship same
thing,--distinction without a difference!" Thus cogitating, Vargrave
whiled away the minutes till his carriage stopped at Mr. Merton's door.

As he entered the hall he met Caroline, who had just quitted her own
room.

"How lucky I am that you have on your bonnet! I long for a walk with you
round the lawn."

"And I, too, am glad to see you, Lord Vargrave," said Caroline, putting
her arm in his.

"Accept my best congratulations, my own sweet friend," said Vargrave,
when they were in the grounds. "You have no idea how happy Doltimore is.
He came to Knaresdean yesterday to communicate the news, and his
neckcloth was primmer than ever. C'est un bon enfant."

"Ah, how can you talk thus? Do you feel no pain at the thought
that--that I am another's?"

"Your heart will be ever mine,--and that is the true fidelity. What
else, too, could be done? As for Lord Doltimore, we will go shares in
him. Come, cheer thee, _m'amie_; I rattle on thus to keep up your
spirits. Do not fancy I am happy!"

Caroline let fall a few tears; but beneath the influence of Vargrave's
sophistries and flatteries, she gradually recovered her usual hard and
worldly tone of mind.

"And where is Evelyn?" asked Vargrave. "Do you know, the little witch
seemed to be half mad the night of the ball. Her head was turned; and
when she sat next me at supper, she not only answered every question I
put to her _a tort et a travers_, but I fancied every moment she was
going to burst out crying. Can you tell what was the matter with her?"

"She was grieved to hear that I was to be married to the man I do not
love. Ah, Vargrave, she has more heart than you have!"

"But she never fancies that you love me?" asked Lumley, in alarm. "You
women are so confoundedly confidential!"

"No, she does not suspect our secret."

"Then I scarcely think your approaching marriage was a sufficient cause
for so much distraction."

"Perhaps she may have overheard some of the impertinent whispers about
her mother,--'Who was Lady Vargrave?' and 'What Cameron was Lady
Vargrave's first husband?' _I_ overheard a hundred such vulgar
questions; and provincial people whisper so loud."

"Ah, that is a very probable solution of the mystery; and for my part, I
am almost as much puzzled as any one else can be to know who Lady
Vargrave was!"

"Did not your uncle tell you?"

"He told me that she was of no very elevated birth and station,--nothing
more; and she herself, with her quiet, say-nothing manner, slips through
all my careless questionings like an eel. She is still a beautiful
creature, more regularly handsome than even Evelyn; and old Templeton had
a very sweet tooth at the back of his head, though he never opened his
mouth wide enough to show it."

"She must ever at least have been blameless, to judge by an air which,
even now, is more like that of a child than a matron."

"Yes; she has not much of the widow about her, poor soul! But her
education, except in music, has not been very carefully attended to; and
she knows about as much of the world as the Bishop of Autun (better known
as Prince Talleyrand) knows of the Bible. If she were not so simple, she
would be silly; but silliness is never simple,--always cunning; however,
there is some cunning in her keeping her past Cameronian Chronicles so
close. Perhaps I may know more about her in a short time, for I intend
going to C-----, where my uncle once lived, in order to see if I can
revive under the rose--since peers are only contraband
electioneerers--his old parliamentary influence in that city: and they
may tell me more there than I now know."

"Did the late lord marry at C-----?"

"No; in Devonshire. I do not even know if Mrs. Cameron ever was at
C-----."

"You must be curious to know who the father of your intended wife was?"

"Her father! No; I have no curiosity in that quarter. And, to tell you
the truth, I am much too busy about the Present to be raking into that
heap of rubbish we call the Past. I fancy that both your good
grandmother and that comely old curate of Brook-Green know everything
about Lady Vargrave; and, as they esteem her so much, I take it for
granted she is _sans tache_."

"How could I be so stupid! _A propos_ of the curate, I forgot to tell
you that he is here. He arrived about two hours ago, and has been
closeted with Evelyn ever since!"

"The deuce! What brought the old man hither?"

"That I know not. Papa received a letter from him yesterday morning, to
say that he would be here to-day. Perhaps Lady Vargrave thinks it time
for Evelyn to return home."

"What am I to do?" said Vargrave, anxiously. "Dare I yet venture to
propose?"

"I am sure it will be in vain, Vargrave. You must prepare for
disappointment."

"And ruin," muttered Vargrave, gloomily. "Hark you, Caroline, she may
refuse me if she pleases. But I am not a man to be baffled. Have her I
will, by one means or another; revenge urges me to it almost as much as
ambition. That girl's thread of life has been the dark line in my woof;
she has robbed me of fortune, she now thwarts me in my career, she
humbles me in my vanity. But, like a hound that has tasted blood, I will
run her down, whatever winding she takes."

"Vargrave, you terrify me! Reflect; we do not live in an age when
violence--"

"Tush!" interrupted Lumley, with one of those dark looks which at times,
though very rarely, swept away all its customary character from that
smooth, shrewd countenance. "Tush! We live in an age as favourable to
intellect and to energy as ever was painted in romance. I have that
faith in fortune and myself that I tell you, with a prophet's voice, that
Evelyn shall fulfil the wish of my dying uncle. But the bell summons us
back."

On returning to the house, Lord Vargrave's valet gave him a letter which
had arrived that morning. It was from Mr. Gustavus Douce, and ran
thus:--

FLEET STREET, ----- 20, 18--.

MY LORD,--It is with the greatest regret that I apprise you, for Self &
Co., that we shall not be able in the present state of the Money Market
to renew your Lordship's bill for 10,000 pounds, due the 28th instant.
Respectfully calling your Lordship's attention to the same, I have the
honour to be, for Self & Co., my Lord,

Your Lordship's most obedient and most obliged humble servant,
GUSTAVUS DOUCE.

To the Right Hon. LORD VARGRAVE, etc.

This letter sharpened Lord Vargrave's anxiety and resolve; nay, it seemed
almost to sharpen his sharp features as he muttered sundry denunciations
on Messrs. Douce and Co., while arranging his neckcloth at the glass.

CHAPTER VI.

_Sol._ Why, please your honourable lordship, we were talking
here and there,--this and that.--_The Stranger_.

AUBREY had been closeted with Evelyn the whole morning; and, simultaneous
with his arrival, came to her the news of the departure of Maltravers.
It was an intelligence that greatly agitated and unnerved her; and,
coupling that event with his solemn words on the previous night, Evelyn
asked herself, in wonder, what sentiments she could have inspired in
Maltravers. Could he love her,--her, so young, so inferior, so
uninformed? Impossible! Alas! alas! for Maltravers! His genius, his
gifts, his towering qualities,--all that won the admiration, almost the
awe, of Evelyn,--placed him at a distance from her heart! When she asked
herself if he loved her, she did not ask, even in that hour, if she loved
him. But even the question she did ask, her judgment answered erringly
in the negative. Why should he love, and yet fly her? She understood
not his high-wrought scruples, his self-deluding belief. Aubrey was more
puzzled than enlightened by his conversation with his pupil; only one
thing seemed certain,--her delight to return to the cottage and her
mother.

Evelyn could not sufficiently recover her composure to mix with the party
below; and Aubrey, at the sound of the second dinner-bell, left her to
her solitude, and bore her excuses to Mrs. Merton.

"Dear me!" said that worthy lady; "I am so sorry. I thought Miss Cameron
looked fatigued at breakfast, and there was something hysterical in her
spirits; and I suppose the surprise of your arrival has upset her.
Caroline, my dear, you had better go and see what she would like to have
taken up to her room,--a little soup and the wing of a chicken."

"My dear," said Mr. Merton, rather pompously, "I think it would be but a
proper respect to Miss Cameron, if you yourself accompanied Caroline."

"I assure you," said the curate, alarmed at the avalanche of politeness
that threatened poor Evelyn,--"I assure you that Miss Cameron would
prefer being left alone at present; as you say, Mrs. Merton, her spirits
are rather agitated."

But Mrs. Merton, with a sliding bow, had already quitted the room, and
Caroline with her.

"Come back, Sophy! Cecilia, come back!" said Mr. Merton, settling his
_jabot_.

"Oh, dear Evy! poor dear Evy!--Evy is ill!" said Sophy; "I may go to Evy?
I must go, Papa!"

"No, my dear, you are too noisy; these children are quite spoiled, Mr.
Aubrey."

The old man looked at them benevolently, and drew them to his knee; and,
while Cissy stroked his long white hair, and Sophy ran on about dear
Evy's prettiness and goodness, Lord Vargrave sauntered into the room.

On seeing the curate, his frank face lighted up with surprise and
pleasure; he hastened to him, seized him by both hands, expressed the
most heartfelt delight at seeing him, inquired tenderly after Lady
Vargrave, and, not till he was out of breath, and Mrs. Merton and
Caroline returning apprised him of Miss Cameron's indisposition, did his
rapture vanish; and, as a moment before he was all joy, so now he was all
sorrow.

The dinner passed off dully enough; the children, re-admitted to dessert,
made a little relief to all parties; and when they and the two ladies
went, Aubrey himself quickly rose to join Evelyn.

"Are you going to Miss Cameron?" said Lord Vargrave; "pray say how
unhappy I feel at her illness. I think these grapes--they are very
fine--could not hurt her. May I ask you to present them with my
best--best and most anxious regards? I shall be so uneasy till you
return. Now, Merton (as the door closed on the curate), let's have
another bottle of this famous claret! Droll old fellow that,--quite a
character!"

"He is a great favourite with Lady Vargrave and Miss Cameron, I believe,"
said Mr. Merton. "A mere village priest, I suppose; no talent, no
energy--or he could not be a curate at that age."

"Very true,--a shrewd remark. The Church is as good a profession as any
other for getting on, if a man has anything in him. I shall live to see
_you_ a bishop!"

Mr. Merton shook his head.

"Yes, I shall; though you have hitherto disdained to exhibit any one of
the three orthodox qualifications for a mitre."

"And what are they, my lord?"

"Editing a Greek play, writing a political pamphlet, and apostatizing at
the proper moment."

"Ha, ha! your lordship is severe on us."

"Not I; I often wish I had been brought up to the Church,--famous
profession, properly understood. By Jupiter, I should have been a
capital bishop!"

In his capacity of parson, Mr. Merton tried to look grave; in his
capacity of a gentlemanlike, liberal fellow, he gave up the attempt, and
laughed pleasantly at the joke of the rising man.

CHAPTER VII.

WILL nothing please you?
What do you think of the Court?--_The Plain Dealer_.

ON one subject Aubrey found no difficulty in ascertaining Evelyn's wishes
and condition of mind. The experiment of her visit, so far as Vargrave's
hopes were concerned, had utterly failed; she could not contemplate the
prospect of his alliance, and she poured out to the curate, frankly and
fully, all her desire to effect a release from her engagement. As it was
now settled that she should return with Aubrey to Brook-Green, it was
indeed necessary to come to the long-delayed understanding with her
betrothed. Yet this was difficult, for he had so little pressed, so
distantly alluded to, their engagement, that it was like a forwardness,
an indelicacy in Evelyn to forestall the longed-for yet dreaded
explanation. This, however, Aubrey took upon himself; and at this
promise Evelyn felt as the slave may feel when the chain is stricken off.

At breakfast, Mr. Aubrey communicated to the Mertons Evelyn's intention
to return with him to Brook-Green on the following day. Lord Vargrave
started, bit his lip, but said nothing.

Not so silent was Mr. Merton.

"Return with you! my dear Mr. Aubrey, just consider; it is impossible!
You see Miss Cameron's rank of life, her position,--so very strange; no
servants of her own here but her woman,--no carriage even! You would not
have her travel in a post-chaise such a long journey! Lord Vargrave, you
can never consent to that, I am sure?"

"Were it only as Miss Cameron's _guardian_," said Lord Vargrave,
pointedly, "I should certainly object to such a mode of performing such a
journey. Perhaps Mr. Aubrey means to perfect the project by taking two
outside places on the top of the coach?"

"Pardon me," said the curate, mildly, "but I am not so ignorant of what
is due to Miss Cameron as you suppose. Lady Vargrave's carriage, which
brought me hither, will be no unsuitable vehicle for Lady Vargrave's
daughter; and Miss Cameron is not, I trust, quite so spoiled by all your
friendly attentions as to be unable to perform a journey of two days with
no other protector than myself."

"I forgot Lady Vargrave's carriage,--or rather I was not aware that you
had used it, my dear sir," said Mr. Merton. "But you must not blame us,
if we are sorry to lose Miss Cameron so suddenly; I was in hopes that
_you_ too would stay at least a week with us."

The curate bowed at the rector's condescending politeness; and just as he
was about to answer, Mrs. Merton put in,--

"And you see I had set my heart on her being Caroline's bridesmaid."

Caroline turned pale, and glanced at Vargrave, who appeared solely
absorbed in breaking toast into his tea,--a delicacy he had never before
been known to favour.

There was an awkward pause. The servant opportunely entered with a small
parcel of books, a note to Mr. Merton, and that most blessed of all
blessed things in the country,--the letter-bag.

"What is this?" said the rector, opening his note, while Mrs. Merton
unlocked the bag and dispensed the contents: "Left Burleigh for some
months, a day or two sooner than he had expected; excuse French
leave-taking; return Miss Merton's books, much obliged; gamekeeper has
orders to place the Burleigh preserves at my disposal. So we have lost
our neighbour!"

"Did you not know Mr. Maltravers was gone?" said Caroline. "I heard so
from Jenkins last night; he accompanies Mr. Cleveland to Paris."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Merton, opening her eyes. "What could take him to
Paris?"

"Pleasure, I suppose," answered Caroline. "I'm sure I should rather have
wondered what could detain him at Burleigh."

Vargrave was all this while breaking open seals and running his eyes over
sundry scrawls with the practised rapidity of the man of business; he
came to the last letter. His countenance brightened.

"Royal invitation, or rather command, to Windsor," he cried. "I am
afraid I, too, must leave you, this very day."

"Bless me!" exclaimed Mrs. Merton; "is that from the king? Do let me
see!"

"Not exactly from the king; the same thing though:" and Lord Vargrave,
carelessly pushing the gracious communication towards the impatient hand
and loyal gaze of Mrs. Merton, carefully put the other letters in his
pocket, and walked musingly to the window.

Aubrey seized the opportunity to approach him. "My lord, can I speak
with you a few moments?"

"Me! certainly; will you come to my dressing-room?"

CHAPTER VIII.

. . . THERE was never
Poor gentleman had such a sudden fortune.

BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _The Captain_, Act v. sc. 5.

"MY LORD," said the curate, as Vargrave, leaning back in his chair,
appeared to examine the shape of his boots, while in reality "his
sidelong looks;" not "of love," were fixed upon his companion,--"I need
scarcely refer to the wish of the late lord, your uncle, relative to Miss
Cameron and yourself; nor need I, to one of a generous spirit, add that
an engagement could be only so far binding as both the parties whose
happiness is concerned should be willing in proper time and season to
fulfil it."

"Sir!" said Vargrave, impatiently waving his hand; and, in his irritable
surmise of what was to come, losing his habitual self-control, "I know
not what all this has to do with you; surely you trespass upon ground
sacred to Miss Cameron and myself? Whatever you have to say, let me beg
you to come at once to the point."

"My lord, I will obey you. Miss Cameron--and, I may add, with Lady
Vargrave's consent--deputes me to say that, although she feels compelled
to decline the honour of your lordship's alliance, yet if in any
arrangement of the fortune bequeathed to her she could testify to you, my
lord, her respect and friendship, it would afford her the most sincere
gratification."

Lord Vargrave started.

"Sir," said he, "I know not if I am to thank you for this information,
the announcement of which so strangely coincides with your arrival. But
allow me to say that there needs no ambassador between Miss Cameron and
myself. It is due, sir, to my station, to my relationship, to my
character of guardian, to my long and faithful affection, to all
considerations which men of the world understand, which men of feeling
sympathize with, to receive from Miss Cameron alone the rejection of my
suit."

"Unquestionably Miss Cameron will grant your lordship the interview you
have a right to seek; but pardon me, I thought it might save you both
much pain, if the meeting were prepared by a third person; and on any
matter of business, any atonement to your lordship--"

"Atonement! what can atone to me?" exclaimed Vargrave, as he walked to
and fro the room in great disorder and excitement. "Can you give me back
years of hope and expectancy,--the manhood wasted in a vain dream? Had I
not been taught to look to this reward, should I have rejected all
occasion--while my youth was not yet all gone, while my heart was not yet
all occupied--to form a suitable alliance? Nay, should I have indulged
in a high and stirring career, for which my own fortune is by no means
qualified? Atonement! atonement! Talk of atonement to boys! Sir, I
stand before you a man whose private happiness is blighted, whose public
prospects are darkened, life wasted, fortunes ruined, the schemes of an
existence built upon one hope, which was lawfully indulged, overthrown;
and you talk to me of _atonement_!"

Selfish as the nature of this complaint might be, Aubrey was struck with
its justice.

"My lord," said he, a little embarrassed, "I cannot deny that there is
truth in much of what you say. Alas! it proves how vain it is for man to
calculate on the future; how unhappily your uncle erred in imposing
conditions, which the chances of life and the caprices of affection could
at any time dissolve! But this is blame that attaches only to the dead:
can you blame the living?"

"Sir, I considered myself bound by my uncle's prayer to keep my hand and
heart disengaged, that this title--miserable and barren distinction
though it be!--might, as he so ardently desired, descend to Evelyn. I
had a right to expect similar honour upon her side!"

"Surely, my lord, you, to whom the late lord on his death-bed confided
all the motives of his conduct and the secret of his life, cannot but be
aware that, while desirous of promoting your worldly welfare, and uniting
in one line his rank and his fortune, your uncle still had Evelyn's
happiness at heart as his warmest wish; you must know that, if that
happiness were forfeited by a marriage with you, the marriage became but
a secondary consideration. Lord Vargrave's will in itself was a proof of
this. He did not impose as an absolute condition upon Evelyn her union
with yourself; he did not make the forfeiture of her whole wealth the
penalty of her rejection of that alliance. By the definite limit of the
forfeit, he intimated a distinction between a command and a desire. And
surely, when you consider all circumstances, your lordship must think
that, what with that forfeit and the estate settled upon the title, your
uncle did all that in a worldly point of view equity and even affection
could exact from him."

Vargrave smiled bitterly, but said nothing.

"And if this be doubted, I have clearer proof of his intentions. Such
was his confidence in Lady Vargrave, that in the letter he addressed to
her before his death, and which I now submit to your lordship, you will
observe that he not only expressly leaves it to Lady Vargrave's
discretion to communicate to Evelyn that history of which she is at
present ignorant, but that he also clearly defines the line of conduct he
wished to be adopted with respect to Evelyn and yourself. Permit me to
point out the passage."

Impatiently Lord Vargrave ran his eye over the letter placed in his hand,
till he came to these lines:--

"And if, when she has arrived at the proper age to form a judgment,
Evelyn should decide against Lumley's claims, you know that on no account
would I sacrifice her happiness; that all I require is, that fair play be
given to his pretensions, due indulgence to the scheme I have long had at
heart. Let her be brought up to consider him her future husband; let her
not be prejudiced against him; let her fairly judge for herself, when the
time arrives."

"You see, my lord," said Mr. Aubrey, as he took back the letter, "that
this letter bears the same date as your uncle's will. What he desired
has been done. Be just, my lord, be just, and exonerate us all from
blame: who can dictate to the affections?"

"And I am to understand that I have no chance, now or hereafter, of
obtaining the affections of Evelyn? Surely, at your age, Mr. Aubrey, you
cannot encourage the heated romance common to all girls of Evelyn's age.
Persons of our rank do not marry like the Corydon and Phyllis of a
pastoral. At my years, I never was fool enough to expect that I should
inspire a girl of seventeen with what is called a passionate attachment.
But happy marriages are based upon suitable circumstances, mutual
knowledge and indulgence, respect, esteem. Come, sir, let me hope
yet,--let me hope that, on the same day, I may congratulate you on your
preferment and you may congratulate me upon my marriage."

Vargrave said this with a cheerful and easy smile; and the tone of his
voice was that of a man who wished to convey serious meaning in a jesting
accent.

Mr. Aubrey, meek as he was, felt the insult of the hinted bribe, and
coloured with a resentment no sooner excited than checked. "Excuse me,
my lord, I have now said all; the rest had better be left to your ward
herself."

"Be it so, sir. I will ask you, then, to convey my request to Evelyn to
honour me with a last and parting interview."

Vargrave flung himself on his chair, and Aubrey left him.

CHAPTER IX.

THUS airy Strephon tuned his lyre.--SHENSTONE.

IN his meeting with Evelyn, Vargrave certainly exerted to the utmost all
his ability and all his art. He felt that violence, that sarcasm, that
selfish complaint would not avail in a man who was not loved,--though
they are often admirable cards in the hands of a man who is. As his own
heart was perfectly untouched in the matter, except by rage and
disappointment,--feelings which with him never lasted very long,--he
could play coolly his losing game. His keen and ready intellect taught
him that all he could now expect was to bequeath sentiments of generous
compassion and friendly interest; to create a favourable impression,
which he might hereafter improve; to reserve, in short, some spot of
vantage-ground in the country from which he was to affect to withdraw all
his forces. He had known, in his experience of women, which, whether as
an actor or a spectator, was large and various--though not among very
delicate and refined natures--that a lady often takes a fancy to a suitor
_after_ she has rejected him; that precisely _because_ she has once
rejected she ultimately accepts him. And even this chance was, in
circumstances so desperate, not to be neglected. He assumed, therefore,
the countenance, the postures, and the voice of heart-broken but
submissive despair; he affected a nobleness and magnanimity in his grief,
which touched Evelyn to the quick, and took her by surprise.

"It is enough," said he, in sad and faltering accents; "quite enough for
me to know that you cannot love me,--that I should fail in rendering you
happy. Say no more, Evelyn, say no more! Let me spare you, at least,
the pain your generous nature must feel in my anguish. I resign all
pretensions to your hand; you are free!--may you be happy!"

"Oh, Lord Vargrave! oh, Lumley!" said Evelyn, weeping, and moved by a
thousand recollections of early years. "If I could but prove in any
other way my grateful sense of your merits, your too partial appreciation
of me, my regard for my lost benefactor, then, indeed, nor till then,
could I be happy. Oh that this wealth, so little desired by me, had been
more at my disposal! but as it is, the day that sees me in possession of
it, shall see it placed under your disposition, your control. This is
but justice,--common justice to you; you were the nearest relation of the
departed. I had no claim on him,--none but affection. Affection! and
yet I disobey him!"

There was much in all this that secretly pleased Vargrave; but it only
seemed to redouble his grief.

"Talk not thus, my ward, my friend--ah, still my friend," said he,
putting his handkerchief to his eyes. "I repine not; I am more than
satisfied. Still let me preserve my privilege of guardian, of
adviser,--a privilege dearer to me than all the wealth of the Indies!"

Lord Vargrave had some faint suspicion that Legard had created an undue
interest in Evelyn's heart; and on this point he delicately and
indirectly sought to sound her. Her replies convinced him that if Evelyn
had conceived any prepossession for Legard, there had not been time or
opportunity to ripen it into deep attachment. Of Maltravers he had no
fear. The habitual self-control of that reserved personage deceived him
partly; and his low opinion of mankind deceived him still more. For if
there had been any love between Maltravers and Evelyn, why should the
former not have stood his ground, and declared his suit? Lumley would
have "bah'd" and "pish'd" at the thought of any punctilious regard for
engagements so easily broken having power either to check passion for
beauty, or to restrain self-interest in the chase of an heiress. He had
known Maltravers ambitious; and with him, ambition and self-interest
meant the same. Thus, by the very _finesse_ of his character--while
Vargrave ever with the worldly was a keen and almost infallible
observer--with natures of a more refined, or a higher order, he always
missed the mark by overshooting. Besides, had a suspicion of Maltravers
ever crossed him, Caroline's communications would have dispelled it. It
was more strange that Caroline should have been blind; nor would she have
been so had she been less absorbed in her own schemes and destinies. All
her usual penetration had of late settled in self; and an uneasy
feeling--half arising from conscientious reluctance to aid Vargrave's
objects, half from jealous irritation at the thought of Vargrave's
marrying another--had prevented her from seeking any very intimate or
confidential communication with Evelyn herself.

The dreaded conference was over; Evelyn parted from Vargrave with the
very feelings he had calculated on exciting,--the moment he ceased to be
her lover, her old childish regard for him recommenced. She pitied his
dejection, she respected his generosity, she was deeply grateful for his
forbearance. But still--still she was free; and her heart bounded within
her at the thought.

Meanwhile, Vargrave, after his solemn farewell to Evelyn, retreated again
to his own room, where he remained till his post-horses arrived. Then,
descending into the drawing-room, he was pleased to find neither Aubrey
nor Evelyn there. He knew that much affectation would be thrown away
upon Mr. and Mrs. Merton; he thanked them for their hospitality, with
grave and brief cordiality, and then turned to Caroline, who stood apart
by the window.

"All is up with me at present," he whispered. "I leave you, Caroline, in
anticipation of fortune, rank, and prosperity; that is some comfort. For
myself, I see only difficulties, embarrassment, and poverty in the
future; but I despond of nothing. Hereafter you may serve me, as I have
served you. Adieu!--I have been advising Caroline not to spoil
Doltimore, Mrs. Merton; he is conceited enough already. Good-by! God
bless you all! love to your little girls. Let me know if I can serve you
in any way, Merton,--good-by again!" And thus, sentence by sentence,
Vargrave talked himself into his carriage. As it drove by the
drawing-room windows, he saw Caroline standing motionless where he had
left her; he kissed his hand,--her eyes were fixed mournfully on his.
Hard, wayward, and worldly as Caroline Merton was, Vargrave was yet not
worthy of the affection he had inspired; for she could _feel_, and he
could not,--the distinction, perhaps, between the sexes. And there still
stood Caroline Merton, recalling the last tones of that indifferent
voice, till she felt her hand seized, and turned round to see Lord
Doltimore, and smile upon the happy lover, persuaded that he was adored!

BOOK VI.

"I will bring fire to thee--I reek not of the place."
--EURIPIDES: _Andromache_, 214.

CHAPTER I.

. . . THIS ancient city,
How wanton sits she amidst Nature's smiles!

. . . Various nations meet,
As in the sea, yet not confined in space,
But streaming freely through the spacious streets.--YOUNG.

. . . His teeth he still did grind,
And grimly gnash, threatening revenge in vain.--SPENSER.

"PARIS is a delightful place,--that is allowed by all. It is delightful
to the young, to the gay, to the idle; to the literary lion, who likes to
be petted; to the wiser epicure, who indulges a more justifiable
appetite. It is delightful to ladies, who wish to live at their ease,
and buy beautiful caps; delightful to philanthropists, who wish for
listeners to schemes of colonizing the moon; delightful to the haunters
of balls and ballets, and little theatres and superb _cafes_, where men
with beards of all sizes and shapes scowl at the English, and involve
their intellects in the fascinating game of dominos. For these, and for
many others, Paris is delightful. I say nothing against it. But, for my
own part, I would rather live in a garret in London than in a palace in
the Chaussee d'Antin.--'Chacun a son mauvais gout.'

"I don't like the streets, in which I cannot walk but in the kennel; I
don't like the shops, that contain nothing except what's at the window; I
don't like the houses, like prisons which look upon a courtyard; I don't
like the _beaux jardins_, which grow no plants save a Cupid in plaster; I
don't like the wood fires, which demand as many _petits soins_ as the
women, and which warm no part of one but one's eyelids, I don't like the
language, with its strong phrases about nothing, and vibrating like a
pendulum between 'rapture' and 'desolation;' I don't like the accent,
which one cannot get, without speaking through one's nose; I don't like
the eternal fuss and jabber about books without nature, and revolutions
without fruit; I have no sympathy with tales that turn on a dead jackass,
nor with constitutions that give the ballot to the representatives, and
withhold the suffrage from the people; neither have I much faith in that
enthusiasm for the _beaux arts_, which shows its produce in execrable
music, detestable pictures, abominable sculpture, and a droll something
that I believe the _French_ call POETRY. Dancing and cookery,--these are
the arts the French excel in, I grant it; and excellent things they are;
but oh, England! oh, Germany! you need not be jealous of your rival!"

These are not the author's remarks,--he disowns them; they were Mr.
Cleveland's. He was a prejudiced man; Maltravers was more liberal, but
then Maltravers did not pretend to be a wit.

Maltravers had been several weeks in the city of cities, and now he had
his apartments in the gloomy but interesting Faubourg St. Germain, all to
himself. For Cleveland, having attended eight days at a sale, and having
moreover ransacked all the curiosity shops, and shipped off bronzes and
cabinets, and Genoese silks and _objets de vertu_, enough to have half
furnished Fonthill, had fulfilled his mission, and returned to his villa.
Before the old gentleman went, he flattered himself that change of air
and scene had already been serviceable to his friend; and that time would
work a complete cure upon that commonest of all maladies,--an unrequited
passion, or an ill-placed caprice.

Maltravers, indeed, in the habit of conquering, as well as of concealing
emotion, vigorously and earnestly strove to dethrone the image that had
usurped his heart. Still vain of his self-command, and still worshipping
his favourite virtue of Fortitude and his delusive philosophy of the calm
Golden Mean, he would not weakly indulge the passion, while he so sternly
fled from its object.

But yet the image of Evelyn pursued,--it haunted him; it came on him
unawares, in solitude, in crowds. That smile so cheering, yet so soft,
that ever had power to chase away the shadow from his soul; that youthful
and luxurious bloom of pure and eloquent thoughts, which was as the
blossom of genius before its fruit, bitter as well as sweet, is born;
that rare union of quick feeling and serene temper, which forms the very
ideal of what we dream of in the mistress, and exact from the wife,--all,
even more, far more, than the exquisite form and the delicate graces of
the less durable beauty, returned to him, after every struggle with
himself; and time only seemed to grave, in deeper if more latent folds of
his heart, the ineradicable impression.

Maltravers renewed his acquaintance with some persons not unfamiliar to
the reader.

Valerie de Ventadour--how many recollections of the fairer days of life
were connected with that name! Precisely as she had never reached to his
love, but only excited his fancy (the fancy of twenty-two), had her image
always retained a pleasant and grateful hue; it was blended with no deep
sorrow, no stern regret, no dark remorse, no haunting shame.

They met again. Madame de Ventadour was still beautiful, and still
admired,--perhaps more admired than ever; for to the great, fashion and
celebrity bring a second and yet more popular youth. But Maltravers, if
rejoiced to see how gently Time had dealt with the fair Frenchwoman, was
yet more pleased to read in her fine features a more serene and contented
expression than they had formerly worn. Valerie de Ventadour had
preceded her younger admirer through the "MYSTERIES of LIFE;" she had
learned the real objects of being; she distinguished between the Actual
and the Visionary, the Shadow and the Substance; she had acquired content
for the present, and looked with quiet hope towards the future. Her
character was still spotless; or rather, every year of temptation and
trial had given it a fairer lustre. Love, that might have ruined, being
once subdued, preserved her from all after danger. The first meeting
between Maltravers and Valerie was, it is true, one of some embarrassment
and reserve: not so the second. They did but once, and that slightly,
recur to the past, and from that moment, as by a tacit understanding,
true friendship between them dated. Neither felt mortified to see that
an illusion had passed away,--they were no longer the same in each
other's eyes. Both might be improved, and were so; but the Valerie and
the Ernest of Naples were as things dead and gone! Perhaps Valerie's
heart was even more reconciled to the cure of its soft and luxurious
malady by the renewal of their acquaintance. The mature and experienced
reasoner, in whom enthusiasm had undergone its usual change, with the
calm brow and commanding aspect of sober manhood, was a being so
different from the romantic boy, new to the actual world of civilized
toils and pleasures, fresh from the adventures of Eastern wanderings, and
full of golden dreams of poetry before it settles into authorship or
action! She missed the brilliant errors, the daring aspirations,--even
the animated gestures and eager eloquence,--that had interested and
enamoured her in the loiterer by the shores of Baiae, or amidst the
tomb-like chambers of Pompeii. For the Maltravers now before her--wiser,
better, nobler, even handsomer than of yore (for he was one whom manhood
became better than youth)--the Frenchwoman could at any period have felt
friendship without danger. It seemed to her, not as it really was, the
natural _development_, but the very _contrast_, of the ardent, variable,
imaginative boy, by whose side she had gazed at night on the moonlit
waters and rosy skies of the soft Parthenope! How does time, after long
absence, bring to us such contrasts between the one we remember and the
one we see! And what a melancholy mockery does it seem of our own vain
hearts, dreaming of impressions never to be changed, and affections that
never can grow cool!

And now, as they conversed with all the ease of cordial and guileless
friendship, how did Valerie rejoice in secret that upon that friendship
there rested no blot of shame! and that she had not forfeited those
consolations for a home without love, which had at last settled into
cheerful nor unhallowed resignation,--consolations only to be found in
the conscience and the pride!

M. de Ventadour had not altered, except that his nose was longer, and
that he now wore a peruque in full curl instead of his own straight hair.
But somehow or other--perhaps by the mere charm of custom--he had grown
more pleasing in Valerie's eyes; habit had reconciled her to his foibles,
deficiencies, and faults; and, by comparison with others, she could
better appreciate his good qualities, such as they were,--generosity,
good-temper, good-nature, and unbounded indulgence to herself. Husband
and wife have so many interests in common, that when they have jogged on
through the ups and downs of life a sufficient time, the leash which at
first galled often grows easy and familiar; and unless the _temper_, or
rather the disposition and the heart, of either be insufferable, what was
once a grievous yoke becomes but a companionable tie. And for the rest,
Valerie, now that sentiment and fancy were sobered down, could take
pleasure in a thousand things which her pining affections once, as it
were, overlooked and overshot. She could feel grateful for all the
advantages her station and wealth procured her; she could cull the roses
in her reach, without sighing for the amaranths of Elysium.

If the great have more temptations than those of middle life, and if
their senses of enjoyment become more easily pampered into a sickly
apathy, so at least (if they can once outlive satiety) they have many
more resources at their command. There is a great deal of justice in the
old line, displeasing though it be to those who think of love in a
cottage, "'Tis best repenting in a coach and six!" If among the
Eupatrids, the Well Born, there is less love in wedlock, less quiet
happiness at home, still they are less chained each to each,--they have
more independence, both the woman and the man, and occupations and the
solace without can be so easily obtained! Madame de Ventadour, in
retiring from the mere frivolities of society--from crowded rooms, and
the inane talk and hollow smiles of mere acquaintanceship--became more
sensible of the pleasures that her refined and elegant intellect could
derive from art and talent, and the communion of friendship. She drew
around her the most cultivated minds of her time and country. Her
abilities, her wit, and her conversational graces enabled her not only to
mix on equal terms with the most eminent, but to amalgamate and blend the
varieties of talent into harmony. The same persons, when met elsewhere,
seemed to have lost their charm; under Valerie's roof every one breathed
a congenial atmosphere. And music and letters, and all that can refine
and embellish civilized life, contributed their resources to this gifted
and beautiful woman. And thus she found that the _mind_ has excitement
and occupation, as well as the heart; and, unlike the latter, the culture
we bestow upon the first ever yields us its return. We talk of education
for the poor, but we forget how much it is needed by the rich. Valerie
was a living instance of the advantages to women of knowledge and
intellectual resources. By them she had purified her fancy, by them she
had conquered discontent, by them she had grown reconciled to life and to
her lot! When the heavy heart weighed down the one scale, it was the
mind that restored the balance.

The spells of Madame de Ventadour drew Maltravers into this charmed
circle of all that was highest, purest, and most gifted in the society of
Paris. There he did not meet, as were met in the times of the old
_regime_, sparkling abbes intent upon intrigues; or amorous old dowagers,
eloquent on Rousseau; or powdered courtiers, uttering epigrams against
kings and religions,--straws that foretold the whirlwind. Paul Courier
was right! Frenchmen are Frenchmen still; they are full of fine phrases,
and their thoughts smell of the theatre; they mistake foil for diamonds,
the Grotesque for the Natural, the Exaggerated for the Sublime: but still
I say, Paul Courier was right,--there is more honesty now in a single
_salon_ in Paris than there was in all France in the days of Voltaire.
Vast interests and solemn causes are no longer tossed about like
shuttlecocks on the battledores of empty tongues. In the
_bouleversement_ of Revolutions the French have fallen on their feet!

Meeting men of all parties and all classes, Maltravers was struck with
the heightened tone of public morals, the earnest sincerity of feeling
which generally pervaded all, as compared with his first recollections of
the Parisians. He saw that true elements for national wisdom were at
work, though he saw also that there was no country in which their
operations would be more liable to disorder, more slow and irregular in
their results. The French are like the Israelites in the Wilderness,
when, according to a Hebrew tradition, every morning they seemed on the
verge of Pisgah, and every evening they were as far from it as ever. But
still time rolls on, the pilgrimage draws to its close, and the Canaan
must come at last!

At Valerie's house, Maltravers once more met the De Montaignes. It was a
painful meeting, for they thought of Cesarini when they met.

It is now time to return to that unhappy man. Cesarini had been removed
from England when Maltravers quitted it after Lady Florence's death; and
Maltravers had thought it best to acquaint De Montaigne with all the
circumstances that had led to his affliction. The pride and the honour
of the high-spirited Frenchman were deeply shocked by the tale of fraud
and guilt, softened as it was; but the sight of the criminal, his awful
punishment, merged every other feeling in compassion. Placed under the
care of the most skilful practitioners in Paris, great hopes of
Cesarini's recovery had been at first entertained. Nor was it long,
indeed, before he appeared entirely restored, so far as the external and
superficial tokens of sanity could indicate a cure. He testified
complete consciousness of the kindness of his relations, and clear
remembrance of the past: but to the incoherent ravings of delirium, an
intense melancholy, still more deplorable, succeeded. In this state,
however, he became once more the inmate of his brother-in-law's house;
and though avoiding all society, except that of Teresa, whose
affectionate nature never wearied of its cares, he resumed many of his
old occupations. Again he appeared to take delight in desultory and
unprofitable studies, and in the cultivation of that luxury of solitary
men, "the thankless muse." By shunning all topics connected with the
gloomy cause of his affliction, and talking rather of the sweet
recollections of Italy and childhood than of more recent events, his
sister was enabled to soothe the dark hour, and preserve some kind of
influence over the ill-fated man. One day, however, there fell into his
hands an English newspaper, which was full of the praises of Lord
Vargrave; and the article in lauding the peer referred to his services as
the commoner Lumley Ferrers.

This incident, slight as it appeared, and perfectly untraceable by his
relations, produced a visible effect on Cesarini; and three days
afterwards he attempted his own life. The failure of the attempt was
followed by the fiercest paroxysms. His disease returned in all its
dread force: and it became necessary to place him under yet stricter
confinement than he had endured before. Again, about a year from the
date now entered upon, he had appeared to recover; and again he was
removed to De Montaigne's house. His relations were not aware of the
influence which Lord Vargrave's name exercised over Cesarini; in the
melancholy tale communicated to them by Maltravers, that name had not
been mentioned. If Maltravers had at one time entertained some vague
suspicions that Lumley had acted a treacherous part with regard to
Florence, those suspicions had long since died away for want of
confirmation; nor did he (nor did therefore the De Montaignes) connect
Lord Vargrave with the affliction of Cesarini. De Montaigne himself,
therefore, one day at dinner, alluding to a question of foreign politics
which had been debated that morning in the Chamber, and in which he
himself had taken an active part, happened to refer to a speech of
Vargrave upon the subject, which had made some sensation abroad, as well
as at home. Teresa asked innocently who Lord Vargrave was; and De
Montaigne, well acquainted with the biography of the principal English
statesmen, replied that he had commenced his career as Mr. Ferrers, and
reminded Teresa that they had once been introduced to him in Paris.
Cesarini suddenly rose and left the room; his absence was not noted, for
his comings and goings were ever strange and fitful. Teresa soon
afterwards quitted the apartment with her children, and De Montaigne, who
was rather fatigued by the exertions and excitement of the morning,
stretched himself in his chair to enjoy a short _siesta_. He was
suddenly awakened by a feeling of pain and suffocation,--awakened in time
to struggle against a strong grip that had fastened itself at his throat.
The room was darkened in the growing shades of the evening; and, but for
the glittering and savage eyes that were fixed on him, he could scarcely
discern his assailant. He at length succeeded, however, in freeing
himself, and casting the intended assassin on the ground. He shouted for
assistance; and the lights borne by the servants who rushed into the room
revealed to him the face of his brother-in-law. Cesarini, though in
strong convulsions, still uttered cries and imprecations of revenge; he
denounced De Montaigne as a traitor and a murderer! In the dark
confusion of his mind, he had mistaken the guardian for the distant foe,
whose name sufficed to conjure up the phantoms of the dead, and plunge
reason into fury.

It was now clear that there was danger and death in Cesarini's disease.
His madness was pronounced to be capable of no certain and permanent
cure; he was placed at a new asylum (the superintendents of which were
celebrated for humanity as well as skill), a little distance from
Versailles, and there he still remained. Recently his lucid intervals
had become more frequent and prolonged; but trifles that sprang from his
own mind, and which no care could prevent or detect, sufficed to renew
his calamity in all its fierceness. At such times he required the most
unrelaxing vigilance, for his madness ever took an alarming and ferocious
character; and had he been left unshackled, the boldest and stoutest of
the keepers would have dreaded to enter his cell unarmed, or alone.

What made the disease of the mind appear more melancholy and confirmed
was, that all this time the frame seemed to increase in health and
strength. This is not an uncommon case in instances of mania--and it is
generally the worst symptom. In earlier youth, Cesarini had been
delicate even to effeminacy; but now his proportions were enlarged, his
form, though still lean and spare, muscular and vigorous,--as if in the
torpor which usually succeeded to his bursts of frenzy, the animal
portion gained by the repose or disorganization of the intellectual.
When in his better and calmer mood--in which indeed none but the
experienced could have detected his malady--books made his chief delight.
But then he complained bitterly, if briefly, of the confinement he
endured, of the injustice be suffered; and as, shunning all companions,
he walked gloomily amidst the grounds that surrounded that House of Woe,
his unseen guardians beheld him clenching his hands, as at some visionary
enemy, or overheard him accuse some phantom of his brain of the torments
he endured.

Though the reader can detect in Lumley Ferrers the cause of the frenzy,
and the object of the imprecation, it was not so with the De Montaignes,
nor with the patient's keepers and physicians; for in his delirium he
seldom or never gave name to the shadows that he invoked,--not even to
that of Florence. It is, indeed, no unusual characteristic of madness to
shun, as by a kind of cunning, all mention of the names of those by whom
the madness has been caused. It is as if the unfortunates imagined that
the madness might be undiscovered if the images connected with it were
unbetrayed.

Such, at this time, was the wretched state of the man, whose talents had
promised a fair and honourable career, had it not been the wretched
tendency of his mind, from boyhood upward, to pamper every unwholesome
and unhallowed feeling as a token of the exuberance of genius. De
Montaigne, though he touched as lightly as possible upon this dark
domestic calamity in his first communications with Maltravers, whose
conduct in that melancholy tale of crime and woe had, he conceived, been
stamped with generosity and feeling, still betrayed emotions that told
how much his peace had been embittered.

"I seek to console Teresa," said he, turning away his manly head, "and to
point out all the blessings yet left to her; but that brother so beloved,
from whom so much was so vainly expected,--still ever and ever, though
she strives to conceal it from me, this affliction comes back to her, and
poisons every thought! Oh, better a thousand times that he had died!
When reason, sense, almost the soul, are dead, how dark and fiend-like is
the life that remains behind! And if it should be in the blood--if
Teresa's children--dreadful thought!"

De Montaigne ceased, thoroughly overcome.

"Do not, my dear friend, so fearfully exaggerate your misfortune, great
as it is; Cesarini's disease evidently arose from no physical
conformation,--it was but the crisis, the development, of a
long-contracted malady of mind, passions morbidly indulged, the reasoning
faculty obstinately neglected; and yet too he may recover. The further
memory recedes from the shock he has sustained, the better the chance
that his mind will regain its tone."

De Montaigne wrung his friend's hand.

"It is strange that from you should come sympathy and comfort!--you whom
he so injured; you whom his folly or his crime drove from your proud
career, and your native soil! But Providence will yet, I trust, redeem
the evil of its erring creature, and I shall yet live to see you restored
to hope and home, a happy husband, an honoured citizen. Till then, I
feel as if the curse lingered upon my race."

"Speak not thus. Whatever my destiny, I have recovered from that wound;
and still, De Montaigne, I find in life that suffering succeeds to
suffering, and disappointment to disappointment, as wave to wave. To
endure is the only philosophy; to believe that we shall live again in a
brighter planet, is the only hope that our reason should accept from our
desires."

CHAPTER II.

MONSTRA evenerunt mihi:
Introit in aedes ater alienus canis,
Anguis per impluvium decidit de tegulis,
Gallina cecinit!*--TERENCE.

* "Prodigies have occurred: a strange black dog came into the house;
a snake glided from the tiles, through the court; the hen crowed."

WITH his constitutional strength of mind, and conformably with his
acquired theories, Maltravers continued to struggle against the latest
and strongest passion of his life. It might be seen in the paleness of
his brow, and that nameless expression of suffering which betrays itself
in the lines about the mouth, that his health was affected by the
conflict within him; and many a sudden fit of absence and abstraction,
many an impatient sigh, followed by a forced and unnatural gayety, told
the observant Valerie that he was the prey of a sorrow he was too proud
to disclose. He compelled himself, however, to take, or to affect, an
interest in the singular phenomena of the social state around
him,--phenomena that, in a happier or serener mood, would indeed have
suggested no ordinary food for conjecture and meditation.

The state of _visible transition_ is the state of nearly all the
enlightened communities in Europe. But nowhere is it so pronounced as in
that country which may be called the Heart of European Civilization.
There, all to which the spirit of society attaches itself appears broken,
vague, and half developed,--the Antique in ruins, and the New not formed.
It is, perhaps, the only country in which the Constructive principle has
not kept pace with the Destructive. The Has Been is blotted out; the To
Be is as the shadow of a far land in a mighty and perturbed sea.*

* The reader will remember that these remarks were written long
before the last French Revolution, and when the dynasty of Louis
Philippe was generally considered most secure.

Maltravers, who for several years had not examined the progress of modern
literature, looked with mingled feelings of surprise, distaste, and
occasional and most reluctant admiration, on the various works which the
successors of Voltaire and Rousseau have produced, and are pleased to
call the offspring of Truth united to Romance.

Profoundly versed in the mechanism and elements of those masterpieces of
Germany and England, from which the French have borrowed so largely while
pretending to be original, Maltravers was shocked to see the monsters
which these Frankensteins had created from the relics and the offal of
the holiest sepulchres. The head of a giant on the limbs of a dwarf,
incongruous members jumbled together, parts fair and beautiful,--the
whole a hideous distortion!

"It may be possible," said he to De Montaigne, "that these works are
admired and extolled; but how they can be vindicated by the examples of
Shakspeare and Goethe, or even of Byron, who redeemed poor and
melodramatic conceptions with a manly vigour of execution, an energy and
completeness of purpose, that Dryden himself never surpassed, is to me
utterly inconceivable."

"I allow that there is a strange mixture of fustian and maudlin in all
these things," answered De Montaigne; "but they are but the windfalls of
trees that may bear rich fruit in due season; meanwhile, any new school
is better than eternal imitations of the old. As for critical
vindications of the works themselves, the age that produces the phenomena
is never the age to classify and analyze them. We have had a deluge, and
now new creatures spring from the new soil."

"An excellent simile: they come forth from slime and mud,--fetid and
crawling, unformed and monstrous. I grant exceptions; and even in the
New School, as it is called, I can admire the real genius, the vital and
creative power of Victor Hugo. But oh, that a nation which has known a
Corneille should ever spawn forth a -----! And with these rickety and
drivelling abortions--all having followers and adulators--your Public can
still bear to be told that they have improved wonderfully on the day when
they gave laws and models to the literature of Europe; they can bear to
hear ----- proclaimed a sublime genius in the same circles which sneer
down Voltaire!"

Voltaire is out of fashion in France, but Rousseau still maintains his
influence, and boasts his imitators. Rousseau was the worse man of the
two; perhaps he was also the more dangerous writer. But his reputation
is more durable, and sinks deeper into the heart of his nation; and the
danger of his unstable and capricious doctrines has passed away. In
Voltaire we behold the fate of all writers purely destructive; their uses
cease with the evils they denounce. But Rousseau sought to construct as
well as to destroy; and though nothing could well be more absurd than his
constructions, still man loves to look back and see even delusive
images--castles in the air--reared above the waste where cities have
been. Rather than leave even a burial-ground to solitude, we populate it
with ghosts.

By degrees, however, as he mastered all the features of the French
literature, Maltravers become more tolerant of the present defects, and
more hopeful of the future results. He saw in one respect that that
literature carried with it its own ultimate redemption.

Its general characteristic--contradistinguished from the literature of
the old French classic school--is to take the _heart_ for its study; to
bring the passions and feelings into action, and let the Within have its
record and history as well as the Without. In all this our contemplative
analyst began to allow that the French were not far wrong when they
contended that Shakspeare made the fountain of their inspiration,--a
fountain which the majority of our later English Fictionists have
neglected. It is not by a story woven of interesting incidents, relieved
by delineations of the externals and surface of character, humorous
phraseology, and every-day ethics, that Fiction achieves its grandest
ends.

In the French literature, thus characterized, there is much false
morality, much depraved sentiment, and much hollow rant; but still it
carries within it the germ of an excellence, which, sooner or later, must
in the progress of national genius arrive at its full development.
Meanwhile, it is a consolation to know that nothing really immoral is
ever permanently popular, or ever, therefore, long deleterious; what is
dangerous in a work of genius cures itself in a few years. We can now
read "Werther," and instruct our hearts by its exposition of weakness and
passion, our taste by its exquisite and unrivalled simplicity of
construction and detail, without any fear that we shall shoot ourselves
in top-boots! We can feel ourselves elevated by the noble sentiments of
"The Robbers," and our penetration sharpened as to the wholesale
immorality of conventional cant and hypocrisy, without any danger of
turning banditti and becoming cutthroats from the love of virtue.
Providence, that has made the genius of the few in all times and
countries the guide and prophet of the many, and appointed Literature as
the sublime agent of Civilization, of Opinion, and of Law, has endowed
the elements it employs with a divine power of self-purification. The
stream settles of itself by rest and time; the impure particles fly off,
or are neutralized by the healthful. It is only fools that call the
works of a master-spirit immoral. There does not exist in the literature
of the world one _popular_ book that is immoral two centuries after it is
produced. For, in the heart of nations, the False does not live so long;
and the True is the Ethical to the end of time.

From the literary Maltravers turned to the political state of France his
curious and thoughtful eye. He was struck by the resemblance which this
nation--so civilized, so thoroughly European--bears in one respect to the
despotisms of the East: the convulsions of the capital decide the fate of
the country; Paris is the tyrant of France. He saw in this inflammable
concentration of power, which must ever be pregnant with great evils, one
of the causes why the revolutions of that powerful and polished people
are so incomplete and unsatisfactory, why, like Cardinal Fleury, system
after system, and Government after Government--

. . . "floruit sine fructu,
Defloruit sine luctu."*

* "Flourished without fruit, and was destroyed without regret."

Maltravers regarded it as a singular instance of perverse ratiocination,
that, unwarned by experience, the French should still persist in
perpetuating this political vice; that all their policy should still be
the policy of Centralization,--a principle which secures the momentary
strength, but ever ends in the abrupt destruction of States. It is, in
fact, the perilous tonic, which seems to brace the system, but drives the
blood to the head,--thus come apoplexy and madness. By centralization
the provinces are weakened, it is true,--but weak to assist as well as to
oppose a government, weak to withstand a mob. Nowhere, nowadays, is a
mob so powerful as in Paris: the political history of Paris is the
history of snobs. Centralization is an excellent quackery for a despot
who desires power to last only his own life, and who has but a
life-interest in the State; but to true liberty and permanent order
centralization is a deadly poison. The more the provinces govern their
own affairs, the more we find everything, even to roads and post-horses,
are left to the people; the more the Municipal Spirit pervades every vein
of the vast body, the more certain may we be that reform and change must
come from universal opinion, which is slow, and constructs ere it
destroys,--not from public clamour, which is sudden, and not only pulls
down the edifice but sells the bricks!

Another peculiarity in the French Constitution struck and perplexed
Maltravers. This people so pervaded by the republican sentiment; this
people, who had sacrificed so much for Freedom; this people, who, in the
name of Freedom, had perpetrated so much crime with Robespierre, and
achieved so much glory with Napoleon,--this people were, as a people,
contented to be utterly excluded from all power and voice in the State!
Out of thirty-three millions of subjects, less than two hundred thousand
electors! Where was there ever an oligarchy equal to this? What a
strange infatuation, to demolish an aristocracy and yet to exclude a
people! What an anomaly in political architecture, to build an inverted
pyramid! Where was the safety-valve of governments, where the natural
vents of excitement in a population so inflammable? The people itself
were left a mob,--no stake in the State, no action in its affairs, no
legislative interest in its security.*

* Has not all this proved prophetic?

On the other hand, it was singular to see how--the aristocracy of birth
broken down--the aristocracy of letters had arisen. A Peerage, half
composed of journalists, philosophers, and authors! This was the
beau-ideal of Algernon Sidney's Aristocratic Republic, of the Helvetian
vision of what ought to be the dispensation of public distinctions; yet
was it, after all, a desirable aristocracy? Did society gain; did
literature lose? Was the priesthood of Genius made more sacred and more
pure by these worldly decorations and hollow titles; or was aristocracy
itself thus rendered a more disinterested, a more powerful, or a more
sagacious element in the administration of law, or the elevation of
opinion? These questions, not lightly to be answered, could not fail to
arouse the speculation and curiosity of a man who had been familiar with
the closet and the forum; and in proportion as he found his interest
excited in these problems to be solved by a foreign nation, did the
thoughtful Englishman feel the old instinct--which binds the citizen to
the fatherland--begin to stir once more earnestly and vividly within him.

"You, yourself individually, are passing like us," said De Montaigne one
day to Maltravers, "through a state of transition. You have forever left
the Ideal, and you are carrying your cargo of experience over to the
Practical. When you reach that haven, you will have completed the
development of your forces."

"You mistake me,--I am but a spectator."

"Yes; but you desire to go behind the scenes; and he who once grows
familiar with the green-room, longs to be an actor."

With Madame de Ventadour and the De Montaignes Maltravers passed the
chief part of his time. They knew how to appreciate his nobler and to
love his gentler attributes and qualities; they united in a warm interest
for his future fate; they combated his Philosophy of Inaction; and they
felt that it was because he was not happy that he was not wise.
Experience was to him what ignorance had been to Alice. His faculties
were chilled and dormant. As affection to those who are unskilled in all
things, so is affection to those who despair of all things. The mind of
Maltravers was a world without a sun!

CHAPTER III.

COELEBS, quid agam?*--HORACE.

* "What shall I do, a bachelor?"

IN a room at Fenton's Hotel sat Lord Vargrave and Caroline Lady
Doltimore,--two months after the marriage of the latter.

"Doltimore has positively fixed, then, to go abroad on your return from
Cornwall?"

"Positively,--to Paris. You can join us at Christmas, I trust?"

"I have no doubt of it; and before then I hope that I shall have arranged
certain public matters, which at present harass and absorb me even more
than my private affairs."

"You have managed to obtain terms with Mr. Douce, and to delay the
repayment of your debt to him?"

"Yes, I hope so, till I touch Miss Cameron's income; which will be mine,
I trust, by the time she is eighteen."

"You mean the forfeit money of thirty thousand pounds?"

"Not I; I mean what I said!"

"Can you really imagine she will still accept your hand?"

"With your aid, I do imagine it! Hear me. You must take Evelyn with you
to Paris. I have no doubt but that she will be delighted to accompany
you; nay, I have paved the way so far. For, of course, as a friend of
the family, and guardian to Evelyn, I have maintained a correspondence
with Lady Vargrave. She informs me that Evelyn has been unwell and
low-spirited; that she fears Brook-Green is dull for her, etc. I wrote,
in reply, to say that the more my ward saw of the world, prior to her
accession, when of age, to the position she would occupy in it, the more
she would fulfil my late uncle's wishes with respect to her education and
so forth. I added that as you were going to Paris, and as you loved her
so much, there could not be a better opportunity for her entrance into
life under the most favourable auspices. Lady Vargrave's answer to this
letter arrived this morning: she will consent to such an arrangement
should you propose it."

"But what good will result to yourself in this project? At Paris you
will be sure of rivals, and--"

"Caroline," interrupted Lord Vargrave, "I know very well what you would
say: I also know all the danger I must incur. But it is a choice of
evils, and I choose the least. You see that while she is at Brook-Green,
and under the eye of that sly old curate, I can effect nothing with her.
There, she is entirely removed from my influence: not so abroad; not so
under your roof. Listen to me still further. In this country, and
especially in the seclusion and shelter of Brook-Green, I have no scope
for any of those means which I shall be compelled to resort to, in
failure of all else."

"What can you intend?" said Caroline, with a slight shudder.

"I don't know what I intend yet. But this, at least, I can tell
you,--that Miss Cameron's fortune I must and will have. I am a desperate
man; and I can play a desperate game, if need be."

"And do you think that _I_ will aid, will abet?"

"Hush, not so loud! Yes, Caroline, you will, and you must aid and abet
me in any project I may form."

"Must! Lord Vargrave?"

"Ay," said Lumley, with a smile, and sinking his voice into a
whisper,--"ay! _you are in my power_!"

"Traitor!--you cannot dare! you cannot mean--"

"I mean nothing more than to remind you of the ties that exist between
us,--ties which ought to render us the firmest and most confidential of
friends. Come, Caroline, recollect all the benefit must not lie on one
side. I have obtained for you rank and wealth; I have procured you a
husband,--you must help me to a wife!"

Caroline sank back, and covered her face with her hands.

"I allow," continued Vargrave, coldly,--"I allow that your beauty and
talent were sufficient of themselves to charm a wiser man than Doltimore;
but had I not suppressed jealousy, sacrificed love, had I dropped a hint
to your liege lord,--nay, had I not fed his lap-dog vanity by all the
cream and sugar of flattering falsehoods,--you would be Caroline Merton
still!"

"Oh, would that I were! Oh that I were anything but your tool, your
victim! Fool that I was! wretch that I am! I am rightly punished!"

"Forgive me, forgive me, dearest," said Vargrave, soothingly; "I was to
blame, forgive me: but you irritated, you maddened me, by your seeming
indifference to my prosperity, my fate. I tell you again and again,
pride of my soul, I tell you, that you are the only being I love! and if
you will allow me, if you will rise superior, as I once fondly hoped, to
all the cant and prejudice of convention and education, the only woman I
could ever respect, as well as love. Oh, hereafter, when you see me at
that height to which I feel that I am born to climb, let me think that to
your generosity, your affection, your zeal, I owed the ascent. At
present I am on the precipice; without your hand I fall forever. My own
fortune is gone; the miserable forfeit due to me, if Evelyn continues to
reject my suit, when she has arrived at the age of eighteen, is deeply
mortgaged. I am engaged in vast and daring schemes, in which I may
either rise to the highest station or lose that which I now hold. In
either case, how necessary to me is wealth: in the one instance, to
maintain my advancement; in the other, to redeem my fall."

"But did you not tell me," said Caroline, "that Evelyn proposed and
promised to place her fortune at your disposal, even while rejecting your
hand?"

"Absurd mockery!" exclaimed Vargrave; "the foolish boast of a girl,--an
impulse liable to every caprice. Can you suppose that when she launches
into the extravagance natural to her age and necessary to her position,
she will not find a thousand demands upon her rent-roll not dreamed of
now; a thousand vanities and baubles that will soon erase my poor and
hollow claim from her recollection? Can you suppose that, if she marry
another, her husband will ever consent to a child's romance? And even
were all this possible, were it possible that girls were not extravagant,
and that husbands had no common-sense, is it for me, Lord Vargrave, to be
a mendicant upon reluctant bounty,--a poor cousin, a pensioned
led-captain? Heaven knows I have as little false pride as any man, but
still this is a degradation I cannot stoop to. Besides, Caroline, I am
no miser, no Harpagon: I do not want wealth for wealth's sake, but for
the advantages it bestows,--respect, honour, position; and these I get as
the husband of the great heiress. Should I get them as her dependant?
No: for more than six years I have built my schemes and shaped my conduct
according to one assured and definite object; and that object I shall not
now, at the eleventh hour, let slip from my hands. Enough of this: you
will pass Brook-Green in returning from Cornwall; you will take Evelyn
with you to Paris,--leave the rest to me. Fear no folly, no violence,
from my plans, whatever they may be: I work in the dark. Nor do I
despair that Evelyn will love, that Evelyn will voluntarily accept me
yet: my disposition is sanguine; I look to the bright side of things; do
the same!"

Here their conference was interrupted by Lord Doltimore, who lounged
carelessly into the room, with his hat on one side. "Ah, Vargrave, how
are you? You will not forget the letters of introduction? Where are you
going, Caroline?"

"Only to my own room, to put on my bonnet; the carriage will be here in a
few minutes." And Caroline escaped.

"So you go to Cornwall to-morrow, Doltimore?"

"Yes; cursed bore! but Lady Elizabeth insists on seeing us, and I don't
object to a week's good shooting. The old lady, too, has something to
leave, and Caroline had no dowry,--not that I care for it; but still
marriage is expensive."

"By the by, you will want the five thousand pounds you lent me?"

"Why, whenever it is convenient."

Say no more,--it shall be seen to. Doltimore, I am very anxious that
Lady Doltimore's _debut_ at Paris should be brilliant: everything depends
on falling into the right set. For myself, I don't care about fashion,
and never did; but if I were married, and an idle man like you, it might
be different."

"Oh, you will be very useful to us when we return to London. Meanwhile,
you know, you have my proxy in the Lords. I dare say there will be some
sharp work the first week or two after the recess."

"Very likely; and depend on one thing, my dear Doltimore, that when I am
in the Cabinet, a certain friend of mine shall be an earl. Adieu."

"Good-by, my dear Vargrave, good-by; and, I say,--I say, don't distress
yourself about that trifle; a few months hence it will suit me just as
well."

"Thanks. I will just look into my accounts, and use you without
ceremony. Well, I dare say we shall meet at Paris. Oh, I forgot,--I
observe that you have renewed your intimacy with Legard. Now, he is a
very good fellow, and I gave him that place to oblige you; still, as you
are no longer a _garcon_--but perhaps I shall offend you?"

"Not at all. What is there against Legard?"

"Nothing in the world,--but he is a bit of a boaster. I dare say his
ancestor was a Gascon, poor fellow!--and he affects to say that you can't
choose a coat, or buy a horse, without his approval and advice,--that he
can turn you round his finger. Now this hurts your consequence in the
world,--you don't get credit for your own excellent sense and taste.
Take my advice, avoid these young hangers-on of fashion, these club-room
lions. Having no importance of their own, they steal the importance of
their friends. _Verbum sap_."

"You are very right,--Legard _is_ a coxcomb; and now I see why he talked
of joining us at Paris."

"Don't let him do any such thing! He will be telling the Frenchmen that
her ladyship is in love with him, ha, ha!"

"Ha, ha!--a very good joke--poor Caroline!--very good joke!"

"Well, good-by, once more." And Vargrave closed the door.

"Legard go to Paris--not if Evelyn goes there!" muttered Lumley.
"Besides, I want no partner in the little that one can screw out of this
blockhead."

CHAPTER IV.

MR. BUMBLECASE, a word with you--I have a little business.
Farewell, the goodly Manor of Blackacre, with all its woods,
underwoods, and appurtenances whatever.--WYCHERLEY: _Plain Dealer_.

IN quitting Fenton's Hotel, Lord Vargrave entered into one of the clubs
in St. James's Street: this was rather unusual with him, for he was not a
club man. It was not his system to spend his time for nothing. But it
was a wet December day; the House was not yet assembled, and he had done
his official business. Here, as he was munching a biscuit and reading an
article in one of the ministerial papers--the heads of which he himself
had supplied--Lord Saxingham joined and drew him to the window.

"I have reason to think," said the earl, "that your visit to Windsor did
good."

"Ah, indeed; so I fancied."

"I do not think that a certain personage will ever consent to the -----
question; and the premier, whom I saw to-day, seems chafed and
irritated."

"Nothing can be better; I know that we are in the right boat."

"I hope it is not true, Lumley, that your marriage with Miss Cameron is
broken off; such was the _on dit_ in the club, just before you entered."

"Contradict it, my dear lord,--contradict it. I hope by the spring to
introduce Lady Vargrave to you. But who broached the absurd report?"

"Why, your _protege_, Legard, says he heard so from his uncle, who heard
it from Sir John Merton."

"Legard is a puppy, and Sir John Merton a jackass. Legard had better
attend to his office, if he wants to get on; and I wish you'd tell him
so. I have heard somewhere that he talks of going to Paris,--you can
just hint to him that he must give up such idle habits. Public
functionaries are not now what they were,--people are expected to work
for the money they pocket; otherwise Legard is a cleverish fellow, and
deserves promotion. A word or two of caution from you will do him a vast
deal of good."

"Be sure I will lecture him. Will you dine with me to-day, Lumley?"

"No. I expect my co-trustee, Mr. Douce, on matters of business,--a
_tete-a-tete_ dinner."

Lord Vargrave had, as he conceived, very cleverly talked over Mr. Douce
into letting his debt to that gentleman run on for the present; and in
the meanwhile, he had overwhelmed Mr. Douce with his condescensions.
That gentleman had twice dined with Lord Vargrave, and Lord Vargrave had
twice dined with him. The occasion of the present more familiar
entertainment was in a letter from Mr. Douce, begging to see Lord
Vargrave on particular business; and Vargrave, who by no means liked the
word _business_ from a gentleman to whom he owed money, thought that it
would go off more smoothly if sprinkled with champagne.

Accordingly, he begged "My dear Mr. Douce" to excuse ceremony, and dine
with him on Thursday at seven o'clock,--he was really so busy all the
mornings.

At seven o'clock, Mr. Douce came. The moment he entered Vargrave called
out, at the top of his voice, "Dinner immediately!" And as the little
man bowed and shuffled, and fidgeted and wriggled (while Vargrave shook
him by the hand), as if he thought he was going himself to be spitted,
his host said, "With your leave, we'll postpone the budget till after
dinner. It is the fashion nowadays to postpone budgets as long as we
can,--eh? Well, and how are all at home? Devilish cold; is it not? So
you go to your villa every day? That's what keeps you in such capital
health. You know I had a villa too,--though I never had time to go
there."

"Ah, yes; I think, I remember, at Ful-Ful-Fulham!" gasped out Mr. Douce.
"Your poor uncle's--now Lady Var-Vargrave's jointure-house. So--so--"

"She don't live there!" burst in Vargrave (far too impatient to be
polite). "Too cockneyfied for her,--gave it up to me; very pretty place,
but d-----d expensive. I could not afford it, never went there, and so I
have let it to my wine-merchant; the rent just pays his bill. You will
taste some of the sofas and tables to-day in his champagne. I don't know
how it is, I always fancy my sherry smells like my poor uncle's old
leather chair: very odd smell it had,--a kind of respectable smell! I
hope you're hungry,--dinner's ready."

Vargrave thus rattled away in order to give the good banker to understand
that his affairs were in the most flourishing condition: and he continued
to keep up the ball all dinnertime, stopping Mr. Douce's little,
miserable, gasping, dacelike mouth, with "a glass of wine, Douce?" or "by
the by, Douce," whenever he saw that worthy gentleman about to make the
AEschylean improvement of a second person in the dialogue.

At length, dinner being fairly over, and the servants withdrawn, Lord
Vargrave, knowing that sooner or later Douce would have his say, drew his
chair to the fire, put his feet on the fender, and cried, as he tossed
off his claret, "NOW, DOUCE, WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?"

Mr. Douce opened his eyes to their full extent, and then as rapidly
closed them; and this operation he continued till, having snuffed them so
much that they could by no possibility burn any brighter, he was
convinced that he had not misunderstood his lordship.

"Indeed, then," he began, in his most frightened manner,
"indeed--I--really, your lordship is very good--I--I wanted to speak to
you on business."

"Well, what can I do for you,--some little favour, eh? Snug sinecure for
a favourite clerk, or a place in the Stamp-Office for your fat
footman--John, I think you call him? You know, my dear Douce, you may
command me."

"Oh, indeed, you are all good-good-goodness--but--but--"

Vargrave threw himself back, and shutting his eyes and pursing up his
mouth, resolutely suffered Mr. Douce to unbosom himself without
interruption. He was considerably relieved to find that the business
referred to related only to Miss Cameron.

Mr. Douce having reminded Lord Vargrave, as he had often done before, of
the wishes of his uncle, that the greater portion of the money bequeathed
to Evelyn should be invested in land, proceeded to say that a most
excellent opportunity presented itself for just such a purchase as would
have rejoiced the heart of the late lord,--a superb place, in the style
of Blickling,--deer-park six miles round, ten thousand acres of land,
bringing in a clear eight thousand pounds a year, purchase money only two
hundred and forty thousand pounds. The whole estate was, indeed, much
larger,--eighteen thousand acres; but then the more distant farms could
be sold in different lots, in order to meet the exact sum Miss Cameron's
trustees were enabled to invest.

"Well," said Vargrave, "and where is it? My poor uncle was after De
Clifford's estate, but the title was not good."

"Oh! this--is much--much--much fi-fi-finer; famous investment--but rather
far off--in--in the north, Li-Li-Lisle Court."

"Lisle Court! Why, does not that belong to Colonel Maltravers?"

"Yes. It is, indeed, quite, I may say, a secret-yes--really--a
se-se-secret--not in the market yet--not at all--soon snapped up."

"Humph! Has Colonel Maltravers been extravagant?"

"No; but he does not--I hear--or rather Lady--Julia--so I'm told, yes,
indeed--does not li-like--going so far, and so they spend the winter in
Italy instead. Yes--very odd--very fine place."

Lumley was slightly acquainted with the elder brother of his old
friend,--a man who possessed some of Ernest's faults,--very proud, and
very exacting, and very fastidious; but all these faults were developed
in the ordinary commonplace world, and were not the refined abstractions
of his younger brother.

Colonel Maltravers had continued, since he entered the Guards, to be
thoroughly the man of fashion, and nothing more. But rich and well-born,
and highly connected, and thoroughly _a la mode_ as he was, his pride
made him uncomfortable in London, while his fastidiousness made him
uncomfortable in the country. He was _rather_ a great person, but he
wanted to be a _very_ great person. This he was at Lisle Court; but that
did not satisfy him. He wanted not only to be a very great person, but a
very great person among very great persons--and squires and parsons bored
him. Lady Julia, his wife, was a fine lady, inane and pretty, who saw
everything through her husband's eyes. He was quite master _chez lui_,
was Colonel Maltravers! He lived a great deal abroad; for on the
Continent his large income seemed princely, while his high character,
thorough breeding, and personal advantages, which were remarkable,
secured him a greater position in foreign courts than at his own. Two
things had greatly disgusted him with Lisle Court,--trifles they might be
with others, but they were not trifles to Cuthbert Maltravers; in the
first place, a man who had been his father's attorney, and who was the
very incarnation of coarse unrepellable familiarity, had bought an estate
close by the said Lisle Court, and had, _horresco referens_, been made a
baronet! Sir Gregory Gubbins took precedence of Colonel Maltravers! He
could not ride out but he met Sir Gregory; he could not dine out but he
had the pleasure of walking behind Sir Gregory's bright blue coat with
its bright brass buttons. In his last visit to Lisle Court, which he had
then crowded with all manner of fine people, he had seen--the very first
morning after his arrival--seen from the large window of his state
saloon, a great staring white, red, blue, and gilt thing, at the end of
the stately avenue planted by Sir Guy Maltravers in honour of the victory
over the Spanish armada. He looked in mute surprise, and everybody else
looked; and a polite German count, gazing through his eye-glass, said,
"Ah! dat is vat you call a vim in your _pays_,--the vim of Colonel
Maltravers!"

This "vim" was the pagoda summer-house of Sir Gregory Gubbins, erected in
imitation of the Pavilion at Brighton. Colonel Maltravers was miserable:
the _vim_ haunted him; it seemed ubiquitous; he could not escape it,--it
was built on the highest spot in the county. Ride, walk, sit where he
would, the _vim_ stared at him; and he thought he saw little mandarins
shake their round little heads at him. This was one of the great curses
of Lisle Court; the other was yet more galling. The owners of Lisle
Court had for several generations possessed the dominant interest in the
county town. The colonel himself meddled little in politics, and was too
fine a gentleman for the drudgery of parliament. He had offered the seat
to Ernest, when the latter had commenced his public career; but the
result of a communication proved that their political views were
dissimilar, and the negotiation dropped without ill-feeling on either
side. Subsequently a vacancy occurred; and Lady Julia's brother (just
made a Lord of the Treasury) wished to come into parliament, so the
county town was offered to him. Now, the proud commoner had married into
the family of a peer as proud as himself, and Colonel Maltravers was
always glad whenever he could impress his consequence on his connections
by doing them a favour. He wrote to his steward to see that the thing
was properly settled, and came down on the nomination-day "to share the
triumph and partake the gale." Guess his indignation, when he found the
nephew of Sir Gregory Gubbins was already in the field! The result of
the election was that Mr. Augustus Gubbins came in, and that Colonel
Maltravers was pelted with cabbage-stalks, and accused of attempting to
sell the worthy and independent electors to a government nominee! In
shame and disgust, Colonel Maltravers broke up his establishment at Lisle
Court, and once more retired to the Continent.

About a week from the date now touched upon, Lady Julia and himself had
arrived in London from Vienna; and a new mortification awaited the
unfortunate owner of Lisle Court. A railroad company had been
established, of which Sir Gregory Gubbins was a principal shareholder;
and the speculator, Mr. Augustus Gubbins, one of the "most useful men in
the House," had undertaken to carry the bill through parliament. Colonel
Maltravers received a letter of portentous size, inclosing the map of the
places which this blessed railway was to bisect; and lo! just at the
bottom of his park ran a portentous line, which informed him of the
sacrifice he was expected to make for the public good,--especially for
the good of that very county town, the inhabitants of which had pelted
him with cabbage-stalks!

Colonel Maltravers lost all patience. Unacquainted with our wise
legislative proceedings, he was not aware that a railway planned is a
very different thing from a railway made; and that parliamentary
committees are not by any means favourable to schemes for carrying the
public through a gentleman's park.

"This country is not to be lived in," said he to Lady Julia; "it gets
worse and worse every year. I am sure I never had any comfort in Lisle
Court. I've a great mind to sell it."

"Why, indeed, as we have no sons, only daughters, and Ernest is so well
provided for," said Lady Julia, "and the place is so far from London, and
the neighbourhood is so disagreeable, I think we could do very well
without it."

Colonel Maltravers made no answer, but he revolved the pros and cons; and
then he began to think how much it cost him in gamekeepers and carpenters
and bailiffs and gardeners and Heaven knows whom besides; and then the
pagoda flashed across him; and then the cabbage-stalks, and at last he
went to his solicitor.

"You may sell Lisle Court," said he, quietly.

The solicitor dipped his pen in the ink. "The particulars, Colonel?"

"Particulars of Lisle Court! everybody, that is, every gentleman, knows
Lisle Court!"

"Price, sir?"

"You know the rents; calculate accordingly. It will be too large a
purchase for one individual; sell the outlying woods and farms separately
from the rest."

"We must draw up an advertisement, Colonel."

"Advertise Lisle Court! out of the question, sir. I can have no
publicity given to my intention: mention it quietly to any capitalist;
but keep it out of the papers till it is all settled. In a week or two
you will find a purchaser,--the sooner the better."

Besides his horror of newspaper comments and newspaper puffs, Colonel
Maltravers dreaded that his brother--then in Paris--should learn his
intention, and attempt to thwart it; and, somehow or other, the colonel
was a little in awe of Ernest, and a little ashamed of his resolution.
He did not know that, by a singular coincidence, Ernest himself had
thought of selling Burleigh.

The solicitor was by no means pleased with this way of settling the
matter. However, he whispered it about that Lisle Court was in the
market; and as it really was one of the most celebrated places of its
kind in England, the whisper spread among bankers and brewers and
soap-boilers and other rich people--the Medici of the New Noblesse rising
up amongst us--till at last it reached the ears of Mr. Douce.

Lord Vargrave, however bad a man he might be, had not many of those vices
of character which belong to what I may call the _personal class of
vices_,--that is, he had no ill-will to individuals. He was not,
ordinarily, a jealous man, nor a spiteful, nor a malignant, nor a
vindictive man: his vices arose from utter indifference to all men, and
all things--except as conducive to his own ends. He would not have
injured a worm if it did him no good; but he would have set any house on
fire if he had no other means of roasting his own eggs. Yet still, if
any feeling of personal rancour could harbour in his breast, it was,
first, towards Evelyn Cameron, and, secondly, towards Ernest Maltravers.
For the first time in his life, he did long for revenge,--revenge against
the one for stealing his patrimony, and refusing his hand; and that
revenge he hoped to gratify.

As to the other, it was not so much dislike he felt, as an uneasy
sentiment of inferiority. However well he himself had got on in the
world, he yet grudged the reputation of a man whom he had remembered a
wayward, inexperienced boy: he did not love to hear any one praise
Maltravers. He fancied, too, that this feeling was reciprocal, and that
Maltravers was pained at hearing of any new step in his own career. In
fact, it was that sort of jealousy which men often feel for the
companions of their youth, whose characters are higher than their own,
and whose talents are of an order they do not quite comprehend. Now, it
certainly did seem at that moment to Lord Vargrave that it would be a
most splendid triumph over Mr. Maltravers of Burleigh to be lord of Lisle
Court, the hereditary seat of the elder branch of the family to be, as it
were, in the very shoes of Mr. Ernest Maltravers's elder brother. He
knew, too, that it was a property of great consequence. Lord Vargrave of
Lisle Court would hold a very different post in the peerage from Lord
Vargrave of -----, Fulham! Nobody would call the owner of Lisle Court an
adventurer; nobody would suspect such a man of caring three straws about
place and salary. And if he married Evelyn, and if Evelyn bought Lisle
Court, would not Lisle Court be his? He vaulted over the _ifs_, stiff
monosyllables though they were, with a single jump. Besides, even should
the thing come to nothing, there was the very excuse he sought for
joining Evelyn at Paris, for conversing with her, consulting her. It was
true that the will of the late lord left it solely at the discretion of
the trustees to select such landed investment as seemed best to them; but
still it was, if not legally necessary, at least but a proper courtesy to
consult Evelyn. And plans, and drawings, and explanations, and
rent-rolls, would justify him in spending morning after morning alone
with her.

Thus cogitating, Lord Vargrave suffered Mr. Douce to stammer out sentence
upon sentence, till at length, as he rang for coffee, his lordship
stretched himself with the air of a man stretching himself into
self-complacency or a good thing, and said,--

"Mr. Douce, I will go down to Lisle Court as soon as I can; I will see
it; I will ascertain all about it; I will consider favourably of it. I
agree with you, I think it will do famously."

"But," said Mr. Douce, who seemed singularly anxious about the matter,
"we must make haste, my lord; for really--yes, indeed--if--if--if Baron
Roths--Rothschild should--that is to say--"

"Oh, yes, I understand; keep the thing close, my dear Douce; make friends
with the colonel's lawyer; play with him a little, till I can run down."

"Besides, you see, you are such a good man of business, my lord--that you
see, that--yes, really--there must be time to draw out the
purchase-money--sell out at a prop--prop--"

"To be sure, to be sure! Bless me, how late it is! I am afraid my
carriage is ready. I must go to Madame de L-----'s."

Mr. Douce, who seemed to have much more to say, was forced to keep it for
another time, and to take his leave. Lord Vargrave went to Madame de
L-----'s. His position in what is called Exclusive Society was rather
peculiar. By those who affected to be the best judges, the frankness of
his manner and the easy oddity of his conversation were pronounced at
variance with the tranquil serenity of thorough breeding. But still he
was a great favourite both with fine ladies and dandies. His handsome
keen countenance, his talents, his politics, his intrigues, and an
animated boldness in his bearing, compensated for his constant violation
of all the minutiae of orthodox conventionalism.

At this house he met Colonel Maltravers, and took an opportunity to renew
his acquaintance with that gentleman. He then referred, in a
confidential whisper, to the communication he had received touching Lisle
Court.

"Yes," said the colonel, "I suppose I must sell the place, if I can do so
quietly. To be sure, when I first spoke to my lawyer it was in a moment
of vexation, on hearing that the ----- railroad was to go through the
park, but I find that I overrated that danger. Still, if you will do me
the honour to go and look over the place, you will find very good
shooting; and when you come back, you can see if it will suit you. Don't
say anything about it when you are there; it is better not to publish my
intention all over the county. I shall have Sir Gregory Gubbins offering
to buy it if you do!"

"You may depend on my discretion. Have you heard anything of your
brother lately?"

"Yes; I fancy he is going to Switzerland. He would soon be in England,
if he heard I was going to part with Lisle Court!"

"What, it would vex him so?"

"I fear it would; but he has a nice old place of his own, not half so
large, and therefore not half so troublesome as Lisle Court."

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