Part 6 out of 9
"Ay! and he _did_ talk of selling that nice old place."
"Selling Burleigh! you surprise me. But really country places in England
_are_ a bore. I suppose he has his Gubbins as well as myself!"
Here the chief minister of the government adorned by Lord Vargrave's
virtues passed by, and Lumley turned to greet him.
The two ministers talked together most affectionately in a close
whisper,--so affectionately, that one might have seen, with half an eye,
that they hated each other like poison!
INSPICERE tanquam in speculum, in vitas omnium
* "I bid you look into the lives of all men, as
it were into a mirror."
ERNEST MALTRAVERS still lingered at Paris: he gave up all notion of
proceeding farther. He was, in fact, tired of travel. But there was
another reason that chained him to that "Navel of the Earth,"--there is
not anywhere a better sounding-board to London rumours than the English
_quartier_ between the Boulevard des Italiennes and the Tuileries; here,
at all events, he should soonest learn the worst: and every day, as he
took up the English newspapers, a sick feeling of apprehension and fear
came over him. No! till the seal was set upon the bond, till the Rubicon
was passed, till Miss Cameron was the wife of Lord Vargrave, he could
neither return to the home that was so eloquent with the recollections of
Evelyn, nor, by removing farther from England, delay the receipt of an
intelligence which he vainly told himself he was prepared to meet.
He continued to seek such distractions from thought as were within his
reach; and as his heart was too occupied for pleasures which had, indeed,
long since palled, those distractions were of the grave and noble
character which it is a prerogative of the intellect to afford to the
De Montaigne was neither a Doctrinaire nor a Republican,--and yet,
perhaps, he was a little of both. He was one who thought that the
tendency of all European States is towards Democracy; but he by no means
looked upon Democracy as a panacea for all legislative evils. He thought
that, while a writer should be in advance of his time, a statesman should
content himself with marching by its side; that a nation could not be
ripened, like an exotic, by artificial means; that it must be developed
only by natural influences. He believed that forms of government are
never universal in their effects. Thus, De Montaigne conceived that we
were wrong in attaching more importance to legislative than to social
reforms. He considered, for instance, that the surest sign of our
progressive civilization is in our growing distaste to capital
punishments. He believed, not in the ultimate _perfection_ of mankind,
but in their progressive _perfectibility_. He thought that improvement
was indefinite; but he did not place its advance more under Republican
than under Monarchical forms. "Provided," he was wont to say, "all our
checks to power are of the right kind, it matters little to what hands
the power itself is confided."
"AEgina and Athens," said he, "were republics--commercial and
maritime--placed under the same sky, surrounded by the same neighbours,
and rent by the same struggles between Oligarchy and Democracy. Yet,
while one left the world an immortal heirloom of genius, where are the
poets, the philosophers, the statesmen of the other? Arrian tells us of
republics in India, still supposed to exist by modern investigators; but
they are not more productive of liberty of thought, or ferment of
intellect, than the principalities. In Italy there were commonwealths as
liberal as the Republic of Florence; but they did not produce a
Machiavelli or a Dante. What daring thought, what gigantic speculation,
what democracy of wisdom and genius, have sprung up amongst the
despotisms of Germany! You cannot educate two individuals so as to
produce the same results from both; you cannot, by similar constitutions
(which are the education of nations) produce the same results from
different communities. The proper object of statesmen should be to give
every facility to the people to develop themselves, and every facility to
philosophy to dispute and discuss as to the ultimate objects to be
obtained. But you cannot, as a practical legislator, place your country
under a melon-frame: it must grow of its own accord."
I do not say whether or not De Montaigne was wrong! but Maltravers saw at
least that he was faithful to his theories; that all his motives were
sincere, all his practice pure. He could not but allow, too, that in his
occupations and labours, De Montaigne appeared to feel a sublime
enjoyment; that, in linking all the powers of his mind to active and
useful objects, De Montaigne was infinitely happier than the Philosophy
of Indifference, the scorn of ambition, had made Maltravers. The
influence exercised by the large-souled and practical Frenchman over the
fate and the history of Maltravers was very peculiar.
De Montaigne had not, apparently and directly, operated upon his friend's
outward destinies; but he had done so indirectly, by operating on his
mind. Perhaps it was he who had consolidated the first wavering and
uncertain impulses of Maltravers towards literary exertion; it was he who
had consoled him for the mortifications at the earlier part of his
career; and now, perhaps he might serve, in the full vigour of his
intellect, permanently to reconcile the Englishman to the claims of life.
There were, indeed, certain conversations which Maltravers held with De
Montaigne, the germ and pith of which it is necessary that I should place
before the reader,--for I write the inner as well as the outer history of
a man; and the great incidents of life are not brought about only by the
dramatic agencies of others, but also by our own reasonings and habits of
thought. What I am now about to set down may be wearisome, but it is not
episodical; and I promise that it shall be the last didactic conversation
in the work.
One day Maltravers was relating to De Montaigne all that he had been
planning at Burleigh for the improvement of his peasantry, and all his
theories respecting Labour-Schools and Poor-rates, when De Montaigne
abruptly turned round, and said,--
"You have, then, really found that in your own little village your
exertions--exertions not very arduous, not demanding a tenth part of your
time--have done practical good?"
"Certainly I think so," replied Maltravers, in some surprise.
"And yet it was but yesterday that you declared that all the labours of
Philosophy and Legislation were labours vain; their benefits equivocal
and uncertain; that as the sea, where it loses in one place, gains in
another, so civilization only partially profits us, stealing away one
virtue while it yields another, and leaving the large proportions of good
and evil eternally the same."
"True; but I never said that man might not relieve individuals by
individual exertion: though he cannot by abstract theories--nay, even by
practical action in the wide circle--benefit the mass."
"Do you not employ on behalf of individuals the same moral agencies that
wise legislation or sound philosophy would adopt towards the multitude?
For example, you find that the children of your village are happier, more
orderly, more obedient, promise to be wiser and better men in their own
station of life, from the new, and, I grant, excellent system of school
discipline and teaching that you have established. What you have done in
one village, why should not legislation do throughout a kingdom? Again,
you find that, by simply holding out hope and emulation to industry, by
making stern distinctions between the energetic and the idle, the
independent exertion and the pauper-mendicancy, you have found a lever by
which you have literally moved and shifted the little world around you.
But what is the difference here between the rules of a village lord and
the laws of a wise legislature? The moral feelings you have appealed to
exist universally, the moral remedies you have practised are as open to
legislation as to the individual proprietor."
"Yes; but when you apply to a nation the same principles which regenerate
a village, new counterbalancing principles arise. If I give education to
my peasants, I send them into the world with advantages _superior_ to
their fellows,--advantages which, not being common to their class, enable
them to _outstrip_ their fellows. But if this education were universal
to the whole tribe, no man would have an advantage superior to the
others; the knowledge they would have acquired being shared by all, would
leave all as they now are, hewers of wood and drawers of water: the
principle of individual hope, which springs from knowledge, would soon be
baffled by the vast competition that _universal_ knowledge would produce.
Thus by the universal improvement would be engendered a universal
"Take a broader view of the subject. Advantages given to the _few_
around me--superior wages, lighter toils, a greater sense of the dignity
of man--are not productive of any change in society. Give these
advantages to the _whole mass_ of the labouring classes, and what in the
small orbit is the desire of the _individual_ to rise becomes in the
large circumference the desire of the _class_ to rise; hence social
restlessness, social change, revolution, and its hazards. For
revolutions are produced but by the aspirations of one order, and the
resistance of the other. Consequently, legislative improvement differs
widely from individual amelioration; the same principle, the same agency,
that purifies the small body, becomes destructive when applied to the
large one. Apply the flame to the log on the hearth, or apply it to the
forest, is there no distinction in the result? The breeze that freshens
the fountain passes to the ocean, current impels current, wave urges
wave, and the breeze becomes the storm."
"Were there truth in this train of argument," replied De Montaigne, "had
we ever abstained from communicating to the Multitude the enjoyments and
advantages of the Few, had we shrunk from the good, because the good is a
parent of the change and its partial ills, what now would be society? Is
there no difference in collective happiness and virtue between the
painted Picts and the Druid worship, and the glorious harmony, light, and
order of the great English nation?"
"The question is popular," said Maltravers, with a smile; "and were you
my opponent in an election, would be cheered on any hustings in the
kingdom. But I have lived among savage tribes,--savage, perhaps, as the
race that resisted Caesar; and their happiness seems to me, not perhaps
the same as that of the few whose sources of enjoyment are numerous,
refined, and, save by their own passions, unalloyed; but equal to that of
the mass of men in States the most civilized and advanced. The artisans,
crowded together in the fetid air of factories, with physical ills
gnawing at the core of the constitution, from the cradle to the grave;
drudging on from dawn to sunset and flying for recreation to the dread
excitement of the dram-shop, or the wild and vain hopes of political
fanaticism,--are not in my eyes happier than the wild Indians with hardy
frames and calm tempers, seasoned to the privations for which you pity
them, and uncursed with desires of that better state never to be theirs.
The Arab in his desert has seen all the luxuries of the pasha in his
harem; but he envies them not. He is contented with his barb, his tent,
his desolate sands, and his spring of refreshing water.
"Are we not daily told, do not our priests preach it from their pulpits,
that the cottage shelters happiness equal to that within the palace? Yet
what the distinction between the peasant and the prince, differing from
that between the peasant and the savage? There are more enjoyments and
more privations in the one than in the other; but if, in the latter case,
the enjoyments, though fewer, be more keenly felt,--if the privations,
though apparently sharper, fall upon duller sensibilities and hardier
frames,--your gauge of proportion loses all its value. Nay, in
civilization there is for the multitude an evil that exists not in the
savage state. The poor man sees daily and hourly all the vast
disparities produced by civilized society; and reversing the divine
parable, it is Lazarus who from afar, and from the despondent pit, looks
upon Dives in the lap of Paradise: therefore, his privations, his
sufferings, are made more keen by comparison with the luxuries of others.
Not so in the desert and the forest. There but small distinctions, and
those softened by immemorial and hereditary usage--that has in it the
sanctity of religion--separate the savage from his chief. The fact is,
that in civilization we behold a splendid aggregate,--literature and
science, wealth and luxury, commerce and glory; but we see not the
million victims crushed beneath the wheels of the machine,--the health
sacrificed, the board breadless, the jails filled, the hospitals reeking,
the human life poisoned in every spring, and poured forth like water!
Neither do we remember all the steps, marked by desolation, crime, and
bloodshed, by which this barren summit has been reached. Take the
history of any civilized state,--England, France, Spain before she rotted
back into second childhood, the Italian Republics, the Greek
Commonwealths, the Empress of the Seven Hills--what struggles, what
persecutions, what crimes, what massacres! Where, in the page of
history, shall we look back and say, 'Here improvement has diminished the
sum of evil'? Extend, too, your scope beyond the State itself: each
State has won its acquisitions by the woes of others. Spain springs
above the Old World on the blood-stained ruins of the New; and the groans
and the gold of Mexico produce the splendours of the Fifth Charles!
"Behold England, the wise, the liberal, the free England--through what
struggles she has passed; and is she yet contented? The sullen oligarchy
of the Normans; our own criminal invasions of Scotland and France; the
plundered people, the butchered kings; the persecutions of the Lollards;
the wars of Lancaster and York; the new dynasty of the Tudors, that at
once put back Liberty, and put forward Civilization! the Reformation,
cradled in the lap of a hideous despot, and nursed by violence and
rapine; the stakes and fires of Mary, and the craftier cruelties of
Elizabeth,--England, strengthened by the desolation of Ireland, the Civil
Wars, the reign of hypocrisy, followed by the reign of naked vice; the
nation that beheaded the graceful Charles gaping idly on the scaffold of
the lofty Sidney; the vain Revolution of 1688, which, if a jubilee in
England, was a massacre in Ireland; the bootless glories of Marlborough;
the organized corruption of Walpole, the frantic war with our own
American sons, the exhausting struggles with Napoleon!
"Well, we close the page; we say, Lo! a thousand years of incessant
struggles and afflictions! millions have perished, but Art has survived;
our boors wear stockings, our women drink tea, our poets read Shakspeare,
and our astronomers improve on Newton! Are we now contented? No! more
restless than ever. New classes are called into power; new forms of
government insisted on. Still the same catchwords,--Liberty here,
Religion there; Order with one faction, Amelioration with the other.
Where is the goal, and what have we gained? Books are written, silks are
woven, palaces are built,--mighty acquisitions for the few--but the
peasant is a peasant still! The crowd are yet at the bottom of the
wheel; better off, you say. No, for they are not more contented! The
artisan is as anxious for change as ever the serf was; and the
steam-engine has its victims as well as the sword.
"Talk of legislation: all isolated laws pave the way to wholesale changes
in the form of government! Emancipate Catholics, and you open the door
to democratic principle, that Opinion should be free. If free with the
sectarian, it should be free with the elector. The Ballot is a corollary
from the Catholic Relief-bill. Grant the Ballot, and the new corollary
of enlarged suffrage. Suffrage enlarged is divided but by a yielding
surface (a circle widening in the waters) from universal suffrage.
Universal suffrage is Democracy. Is Democracy better than the
aristocratic commonwealth? Look at the Greeks, who knew both forms; are
they agreed which is the best? Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon,
Aristophanes--the Dreamer, the Historian, the Philosophic Man of Action,
the penetrating Wit--have no ideals in Democracy. Algernon Sidney, the
martyr of liberty, allows no government to the multitude. Brutus died
for a republic, but a republic of Patricians! What form of government is
then the best? All dispute, the wisest cannot agree. The many still say
'a Republic;' yet, as you yourself will allow, Prussia, the Despotism,
does all that Republics do. Yes, but a good despot is a lucky accident;
true, but a just and benevolent Republic is as yet a monster equally
short-lived. When the People have no other tyrant, their own public
opinion becomes one. No secret espionage is more intolerable to a free
spirit than the broad glare of the American eye.
"A rural republic is but a patriarchal tribe--no emulation, no glory;
peace and stagnation. What Englishman, what Frenchman, would wish to be
a Swiss? A commercial republic is but an admirable machine for making
money. Is man created for nothing nobler than freighting ships and
speculating on silk and sugar? In fact, there is no certain goal in
legislation; we go on colonizing Utopia, and fighting phantoms in the
clouds. Let us content ourselves with injuring no man, and doing good
only in our own little sphere. Let us leave States and senates to fill
the sieve of the Danaides, and roll up the stone of Sisyphus."
"My dear friend," said De Montaigne, "you have certainly made the most of
an argument, which, if granted, would consign government to fools and
knaves, and plunge the communities of mankind into the Slough of Despond.
But a very commonplace view of the question might suffice to shake your
system. Is life, mere animal life, on the whole, a curse or a blessing?"
"The generality of men in all countries," answered Maltravers, "enjoy
existence, and apprehend death; were it otherwise, the world had been
made by a Fiend, and not a God!"
"Well, then, observe how the progress of society cheats the grave! In
great cities, where the effect of civilization must be the most visible,
the diminution of mortality in a corresponding ratio with the increase of
civilization is most remarkable. In Berlin, from the year 1747 to 1755,
the annual mortality was as one to twenty-eight; but from 1816 to 1822,
it was as one to thirty-four! You ask what England has gained by her
progress in the arts? I will answer you by her bills of mortality. In
London, Birmingham, and Liverpool, deaths have decreased in less than a
century from one to twenty, to one to forty (precisely one-half!).
Again, whenever a community--nay, a single city, decreases in
civilization, and in its concomitants, activity and commerce, its
mortality instantly increases. But if civilization be favourable to the
prolongation of life, must it not be favourable to all that blesses
life,--to bodily health, to mental cheerfulness, to the capacities for
enjoyment? And how much more grand, how much more sublime, becomes the
prospect of gain, if we reflect that, to each life thus called forth,
there is a soul, a destiny beyond the grave, multiplied immortalities!
What an apology for the continued progress of States! But you say that,
however we advance, we continue impatient and dissatisfied: can you
really suppose that, because man in every state is discontented with his
lot, there is no difference in the _degree_ and _quality_ of his
discontent, no distinction between pining for bread and longing for the
moon? Desire is implanted within us, as the very principle of existence;
the physical desire fills the world, and the moral desire improves it.
Where there is desire, there must be discontent: if we are satisfied with
all things, desire is extinct. But a certain degree of discontent is not
incompatible with happiness, nay, it has happiness of its own; what
happiness like hope,--what is hope but desire? The European serf, whose
seigneur could command his life, or insist as a right on the chastity of
his daughter, desires to better his condition. God has compassion on his
state; Providence calls into action the ambition of leaders, the contests
of faction, the movement of men's aims and passions: a change passes
through society and legislation, and the serf becomes free! He desires
still, but what? No longer personal security, no longer the privileges
of life and health; but higher wages, greater comforts, easier justice
for diminished wrongs. Is there no difference in the quality of that
desire? Was one a greater torment than the other is? Rise a scale
higher: a new class is created--the Middle Class,--the express creature
of Civilization. Behold the burgher and the citizen, and still
struggling, still contending, still desiring, and therefore still
discontented. But the discontent does not prey upon the springs of life:
it is the discontent of _hope_, not _despair_; it calls forth faculties,
energies, and passions, in which there is more joy than sorrow. It is
this desire which makes the citizen in private life an anxious father, a
careful master, an _active_, and therefore not an unhappy, man. You
allow that individuals can effect individual good: this very
restlessness, this very discontent with the exact place that he occupies,
makes the citizen a benefactor in his narrow circle. Commerce, better
than Charity, feeds the hungry and clothes the naked. Ambition, better
than brute affection, gives education to our children, and teaches them
the love of industry, the pride of independence, the respect for others
"In other words, a deference to such qualities as can best fit them to
get on in the world, and make the most money!"
"Take that view if you will; but the wiser, the more civilized the State,
the worse chances for the rogue to get on! There may be some art, some
hypocrisy, some avarice,--nay, some hardness of heart,--in paternal
example and professional tuition. But what are such sober infirmities to
the vices that arise from defiance and despair? Your savage has his
virtues, but they are mostly physical,--fortitude, abstinence, patience:
mental and moral virtues must be numerous or few, in proportion to the
range of ideas and the exigencies of social life. With the savage,
therefore, they must be fewer than with civilized men; and they are
consequently limited to those simple and rude elements which the safety
of his state renders necessary to him. He is usually hospitable;
sometimes honest. But vices are necessary to his existence as well as
virtues: he is at war with a tribe that may destroy his own; and
treachery without scruple, cruelty without remorse, are essential to him;
he feels their necessity, and calls them _virtues_! Even the
half-civilized man, the Arab whom you praise, imagines he has a necessity
for your money; and his robberies become virtues to him. But in
civilized States, vices are at least not necessary to the existence of
the majority; they are not, therefore, worshipped as virtues. Society
unites against them; treachery, robbery, massacre, are not essential to
the strength or safety of the community: they exist, it is true, but they
are not cultivated, but punished. The thief in St. Giles's has the
virtues of your savage: he is true to his companions, he is brave in
danger, he is patient in privation; he practises the virtues necessary to
the bonds of his calling and the tacit laws of his vocation. He might
have made an admirable savage: but surely the mass of civilized men are
better than the thief?"
Maltravers was struck, and paused a little before he replied; and then he
shifted his ground. "But at least all our laws, all our efforts, must
leave the multitude in every State condemned to a labour that deadens
intellect, and a poverty that embitters life."
"Supposing this were true, still there are multitudes besides _the_
multitude. In each State Civilization produces a middle class, more
numerous to-day than the whole peasantry of a thousand years ago. Would
Movement and Progress be without their divine uses, even if they limited
their effect to the production of such a class? Look also to the effect
of art, and refinement, and just laws, in the wealthier and higher
classes. See how their very habits of life tend to increase the sum of
enjoyment; see the mighty activity that their very luxury, the very
frivolity of their pursuits, create! Without an aristocracy, would there
have been a middle class? Without a middle class, would there ever have
been an interposition between lord and slave? Before commerce produces a
middle class, Religion creates one. The Priesthood, whatever its errors,
was the curb to Power. But, to return to the multitude,--you say that in
all times they are left the same. Is it so? I come to statistics again:
I find that not only civilization, but liberty, has a prodigious effect
upon human life. It is, as it were, by the instinct of self-preservation
that liberty is so passionately desired by the multitude. A negro slave,
for instance, dies annually as one to five or six, but a free African in
the English service only as one to thirty-five! Freedom is not,
therefore, a mere abstract dream, a beautiful name, a Platonic
aspiration: it is interwoven with the most practical of all
blessings,--life itself! And can you say fairly that by laws labour
cannot be lightened and poverty diminished? We have granted already that
since there are degrees in discontent, there is a difference between the
peasant and the serf: how know you what the peasant a thousand years
hence may be? Discontented, you will say,--still discontented. Yes; but
if he had not been discontented, he would have been a serf still! Far
from quelling this desire to better himself, we ought to hail it as the
source of his perpetual progress. That desire to him is often like
imagination to the poet, it transports him into the Future--
'Crura sonant ferro, sed canit inter opus.'
It is, indeed, the gradual transformation from the desire of Despair to
the desire of Hope, that makes the difference between man and man,
between misery and bliss."
"And then comes the crisis. Hope ripens into deeds; the stormy
revolution, perhaps the armed despotism; the relapse into the second
infancy of States!"
"Can we, with new agencies at our command, new morality, new wisdom,
predicate of the Future by the Past? In ancient States, the mass were
slaves; civilization and freedom rested with oligarchies; in Athens
twenty thousand citizens, four hundred thousand slaves! How easy
decline, degeneracy, overthrow in such States,--a handful of soldiers and
philosophers without a People! Now we have no longer barriers to the
circulation of the blood of States. The absence of slavery, the
existence of the Press; the healthful proportions of kingdoms, neither
too confined nor too vast, have created new hopes, which history cannot
destroy. As a proof, look to all late revolutions: in England the Civil
Wars, the Reformation,--in France her awful Saturnalia, her military
despotism! Has either nation fallen back? The deluge passes, and,
behold, the face of things more glorious than before! Compare the French
of to-day with the French of the old _regime_. You are silent; well, and
if in all States there is ever some danger of evil in their activity, is
that a reason why you are to lie down inactive; why you are to leave the
crew to battle for the helm? How much may individuals by the diffusion
of their own thoughts in letters or in action regulate the order of vast
events,--now prevent, now soften, now animate, now guide! And is a man
to whom Providence and Fortune have imparted such prerogatives to stand
aloof, because he can neither foresee the Future nor create Perfection?
And you talk of no certain and definite goal! How know we that there is
a certain and definite goal, even in heaven? How know we that excellence
may not be illimitable? Enough that we improve, that we proceed. Seeing
in the great design of earth that benevolence is an attribute of the
Designer, let us leave the rest to Posterity and to God."
"You have disturbed many of my theories," said Maltravers, candidly; "and
I will reflect on our conversation; but, after all, is every man to
aspire to influence others; to throw his opinion into the great scales in
which human destinies are weighed? Private life is not criminal. It is
no virtue to write a book, or to make a speech. Perhaps, I should be as
well engaged in returning to my country village, looking at my schools,
and wrangling with the parish overseers--"
"Ah," interrupted the Frenchman, laughing; "if I have driven you to this
point, I will go no further. Every state of life has its duties; every
man must be himself the judge of what he is most fit for. It is quite
enough that he desires to be active, and labours to be useful; that he
acknowledges the precept, 'Never to be weary in well-doing.' The divine
appetite once fostered, let it select its own food. But the man who,
after fair trial of his capacities, and with all opportunity for their
full development before him, is convinced that he has faculties which
private life cannot wholly absorb, must not repine that Human Nature is
not perfect, when he refuses even to exercise the gifts he himself
Now these arguments have been very tedious; in some places they have been
old and trite; in others they may appear too much to appertain to the
abstract theory of first principles. Yet from such arguments, _pro_ and
_con_, unless I greatly mistake, are to be derived corollaries equally
practical and sublime,--the virtue of Action, the obligations of Genius,
and the philosophy that teaches us to confide in the destinies, and
labour in the service, of mankind.
I'LL tell you presently her very picture;
Stay--yes, it is so--Lelia.
_The Captain_, Act V. sc. I.
MALTRAVERS had not shrunk into a system of false philosophy from wayward
and sickly dreams, from resolute self-delusion; on the contrary, his
errors rested on his convictions: the convictions disturbed, the errors
were rudely shaken.
But when his mind began restlessly to turn once more towards the duties
of active life; when he recalled all the former drudgeries and toils of
political conflict, or the wearing fatigues of literature, with its small
enmities, its false friendships, and its meagre and capricious
rewards,--ah, then, indeed, he shrank in dismay from the thoughts of the
solitude at home! No lips to console in dejection, no heart to
sympathize in triumph, no love within to counterbalance the hate
without,--and the best of man, his household affections, left to wither
away, or to waste themselves on ideal images, or melancholy remembrance.
It may, indeed, be generally remarked (contrary to a common notion), that
the men who are most happy at home are the most active abroad. The
animal spirits are necessary to healthful action; and dejection and the
sense of solitude will turn the stoutest into dreamers. The hermit is
the antipodes of the citizen; and no gods animate and inspire us like the
One evening, after an absence from Paris of nearly a fortnight, at De
Montaigne's villa, in the neighbourhood of St. Cloud, Maltravers, who,
though he no longer practised the art, was not less fond than heretofore
of music, was seated in Madame de Ventadour's box at the Italian Opera;
and Valerie, who was above all the woman's jealousy of beauty, was
expatiating with great warmth of eulogium upon the charms of a young
English lady whom she had met at Lady G-----'s the preceding evening.
"She is just my beau-ideal of the true English beauty," said Valerie: "it
is not only the exquisite fairness of the complexion, nor the eyes so
purely blue,--which the dark lashes relieve from the coldness common to
the light eyes of the Scotch and German,--that are so beautifully
national, but the simplicity of manner, the unconsciousness of
admiration, the mingled modesty and sense of the expression. No, I have
seen women more beautiful, but I never saw one more lovely: you are
silent; I expected some burst of patriotism in return for my compliment
to your countrywoman!"
"But I am so absorbed in that wonderful Pasta--"
"You are no such thing; your thoughts are far away. But can you tell me
anything about my fair stranger and her friends? In the first place,
there is a Lord Doltimore, whom I knew before--you need say nothing about
him; in the next there is his new married bride, handsome, dark--but you
are not well!"
"It was the draught from the door; go on, I beseech you, the young lady,
the friend, her name?"
"Her name I do not remember; but she was engaged to be married to one of
your statesmen, Lord Vargrave; the marriage is broken off--I know not if
that be the cause of a certain melancholy in her countenance,--a
melancholy I am sure not natural to its Hebe-like expression. But who
have just entered the opposite box? Ah, Mr. Maltravers, do look, there
is the beautiful English girl!"
And Maltravers raised his eyes, and once more beheld the countenance of
Words of dark import gave suspicion birth.--POTTER.
_Luce_. Is the wind there?
That makes for me.
_Isab_. Come, I forget a business.
_Wit without Money_.
LORD VARGRAVE'S travelling-carriage was at his door, and he himself was
putting on his greatcoat in his library, when Lord Saxingham entered.
"What! you are going into the country?"
"Yes; I wrote you word,--to see Lisle Court."
"Ay, true; I had forgot. Somehow or other my memory is not so good as it
was. But, let me see, Lisle Court is in -----shire. Why, you will pass
within ten miles of C-----."
"C-----! Shall I? I am not much versed in the geography of
England,--never learned it at school. As for Poland, Kamschatka, Mexico,
Madagascar, or any other place as to which knowledge would be _useful_, I
have every inch of the way at my finger's end. But _a propos_ of C-----,
it is the town in which my late uncle made his fortune."
"Ah, so it is. I recollect you were to have stood for C-----, but gave
it up to Staunch; very handsome in you. Have you any interest there
"I think my ward has some tenants,--a street or two,--one called Richard
Street, and the other Templeton Place. I had intended some weeks ago to
have gone down there, and seen what interest was still left to our
family; but Staunch himself told me that C----- was a sure card."
"So he thought; but he has been with me this morning in great alarm: he
now thinks he shall be thrown out. A Mr. Winsley, who has a great deal
of interest there, and was a supporter of his, hangs back on account of
the ----- question. This is unlucky, as Staunch is quite with _us_; and
if he were to rat now it would be most unfortunate."
"Winsley! Winsley!--my poor uncle's right-hand man. A great
brewer,--always chairman of the Templeton Committee. I know the name,
though I never saw the man."
"If you could take C----- in your way?"
"To be sure. Staunch must not be lost. We cannot throw away a single
vote, much more one of such weight,--eighteen stone at the least! I'll
stop at C----- on pretence of seeing after my ward's houses, and have a
quiet conference with Mr. Winsley. Hem! Peers must not interfere in
elections, eh? Well, good-by: take care of yourself. I shall be back in
a week, I hope,--perhaps less."
In a minute more Lord Vargrave and Mr. George Frederick Augustus Howard,
a slim young gentleman of high birth and connections, but who, having, as
a portionless cadet, his own way to make in the world, condescended to be
his lordship's private secretary, were rattling over the streets the
first stage to C-----.
It was late at night when Lord Vargrave arrived at the head inn of that
grave and respectable cathedral city, in which once Richard Templeton,
Esq.,--saint, banker, and politician,--had exercised his dictatorial
sway. "Sic transit gloria mundi!" As he warmed his hands by the fire in
the large wainscoted apartment into which he was shown, his eye met a
full length engraving of his uncle, with a roll of papers in his
hand,--meant for a parliamentary bill for the turnpike trusts in the
neighbourhood of C-----. The sight brought back his recollections of
that pious and saturnine relation, and insensibly the minister's thoughts
flew to his death-bed, and to the strange secret which in that last hour
he had revealed to Lumley,--a secret which had done much in deepening
Lord Vargrave's contempt for the forms and conventionalities of decorous
life. And here it may be mentioned--though in the course of this volume
a penetrating reader may have guessed as much--that, whatever that
secret, it did not refer expressly or exclusively to the late lord's
singular and ill-assorted marriage. Upon that point much was still left
obscure to arouse Lumley's curiosity, had he been a man whose curiosity
was very vivacious. But on this he felt but little interest. He knew
enough to believe that no further information could benefit himself
personally; why should he trouble his head with what never would fill his
An audible yawn from the slim secretary roused Lord Vargrave from his
"I envy you, my young friend," said he, good-humouredly. "It is a
pleasure we lose as we grow older,--that of being sleepy. However, 'to
bed,' as Lady Macbeth says. Faith, I don't wonder the poor devil of a
thane was slow in going to bed with such a tigress. Good-night to you."
MA fortune va prendre une face nouvelle.*
RACINE. _Androm_., Act i. sc. 1.
* "My fortune is about to take a turn."
THE next morning Vargrave inquired the way to Mr. Winsley's, and walked
alone to the house of the brewer. The slim secretary went to inspect the
Mr. Winsley was a little, thickset man, with a civil but blunt
electioneering manner. He started when he heard Lord Vargrave's name,
and bowed with great stiffness. Vargrave saw at a glance that there was
some cause of grudge in the mind of the worthy man; nor did Mr. Winsley
long hesitate before he cleansed his bosom of its perilous stuff.
"This is an unexpected honour, my lord: I don't know how to account for
"Why, Mr. Winsley, your friendship with my late uncle can, perhaps,
sufficiently explain and apologize for a visit from a nephew sincerely
attached to his memory."
"Humph! I certainly did do all in my power to promote Mr. Templeton's
interests. No man, I may say, did more; and yet I don't think it was
much thought of the moment he turned his back upon the electors of
C-----. Not that I bear any malice; I am well to do, and value no man's
favour,--no man's, my lord!"
"You amaze me! I always heard my poor uncle speak of you in the highest
"Oh, well, it don't signify; pray say no more of it. Can I offer your
lordship a glass of wine?"
"No, I am much obliged to you; but we really must set this little matter
right. You know that after his marriage my uncle never revisited C-----;
and that shortly before his death he sold the greater part of his
interest in this city. His young wife, I suppose, liked the
neighbourhood of London; and when elderly gentlemen _do_ marry, you know
they are no longer their own masters; but if you had ever come to
Fulham--ah! then, indeed, my uncle would have rejoiced to see his old
"Your lordship thinks so," said Mr. Winsley with a sardonic smile. "You
are mistaken; I did call at Fulham; and though I sent in my card, Lord
Vargrave's servant (he was then My Lord) brought back word that his
lordship was not at home."
"But that must have been true; he was out, you may depend on it."
"I saw him at the window, my lord," said Mr. Winsley, taking a pinch of
"Oh, the deuce! I'm in for it," thought Lumley.--"Very strange, indeed!
but how can you account for it? Ah, perhaps the health of Lady
Vargrave--she was so very delicate then, and my poor uncle lived for
her--you know that he left all his fortune to Miss Cameron?"
"Miss Cameron! Who is she, my lord?"
"Why, his daughter-in-law; Lady Vargrave was a widow,--a Mrs. Cameron."
"Mrs. Cam--I remember now,--they put Cameron in the newspapers; but I
thought it was a mistake. But, perhaps" (added Winsley, with a sneer of
peculiar malignity),--"perhaps, when your worthy uncle thought of being a
peer, he did not like to have it known that he married so much beneath
"You quite mistake, my dear sir; my uncle never denied that Mrs. Cameron
was a lady of no fortune or connections,--widow to some poor Scotch
gentleman, who died I think in India."
"He left her very ill off, poor thing; but she had a great deal of merit,
and worked hard; she taught my girls to play--"
"Your girls! did Mrs. Cameron ever reside in C-----?"
"To be sure; but she was then called Mrs. Butler--just as pretty a name
to my fancy."
"You must make a mistake: my uncle married this lady in Devonshire."
"Very possibly," quoth the brewer, doggedly. "Mrs. Butler left the town
with her little girl some time before Mr. Templeton married."
"Well, you are wiser than I am," said Lumley, forcing a smile. "But how
can you be sure that Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Cameron are one and the same
person? You did not go into the house, you could not have seen Lady
Vargrave" (and here Lumley shrewdly guessed--if the tale were true--at
the cause of his uncle's exclusion of his old acquaintance).
"No! but I saw her ladyship on the lawn," said Mr. Winsley, with another
sardonic smile; "and I asked the porter at the lodge as I went out if
that was Lady Vargrave, and he said, 'yes.' However, my lord, bygones are
bygones,--I bear no malice; your uncle was a good man: and if he had but
said to me, 'Winsley, don't say a word about Mrs. Butler,' he might have
reckoned on me just as much as when in his elections he used to put five
thousand pounds in my hands, and say, 'Winsley, no bribery,--it is
wicked; let this be given in charity.' Did any one ever know how that
money went? Was your uncle ever accused of corruption? But, my lord,
surely you will take some refreshment?"
"No, indeed; but if you will let me dine with you tomorrow, you'll oblige
me much; and, whatever my uncle's faults (and latterly, poor man, he was
hardly in his senses; what a will he made!) let not the nephew suffer for
them. Come, Mr. Winsley," and Lumley held out his hand with enchanting
frankness, "you know my motives are disinterested; I have no
parliamentary interest to serve, we have no constituents for our Hospital
of Incurables; and--oh! that's right,--we're friends, I see! Now I must
go and look after my ward's houses. Let me see, the agent's name
"Perkins, I think, my lord," said Mr. Winsley, thoroughly softened by the
charm of Vargrave's words and manner. "Let me put on my hat, and show
you his house."
"Will you? That's very kind; give me all the election news by the
way--you know I was once within an ace of being your member."
Vargrave learned from his new friend some further particulars relative to
Mrs. Butler's humble habits and homely mode of life at C-----, which
served completely to explain to him why his proud and worldly uncle had
so carefully abstained from all intercourse with that city, and had
prevented the nephew from standing for its vacant representation. It
seemed, however, that Winsley--whose resentment was not of a very active
or violent kind--had not communicated the discovery he had made to his
fellow townspeople; but had contented himself with hints and aphorisms,
whenever he had heard the subject of Mr. Templeton's marriage discussed,
which had led the gossips of the place to imagine that he had made a much
worse selection than he really had. As to the accuracy of Winsley's
assertion, Vargrave, though surprised at first, had but little doubt on
consideration, especially when he heard that Mrs. Butler's principal
patroness had been the Mrs. Leslie, now the intimate friend of Lady
Vargrave. But what had been the career, what the earlier condition and
struggles of this simple and interesting creature? With her appearance
at C-----, commenced all that surmise could invent. Not greater was the
mystery that wrapped the apparition of Manco Capac by the lake Titiaca,
than that which shrouded the places and the trials whence the lowly
teacher of music had emerged amidst the streets of C------.
Weary, and somewhat careless, of conjecture, Lord Vargrave, in dining
with Mr. Winsley, turned the conversation upon the business on which he
had principally undertaken his journey,--namely, the meditated purchase
of Lisle Court.
"I myself am not a very good judge of landed property," said Vargrave; "I
wish I knew of an experienced surveyor to look over the farms and timber:
can you help me to such a one?"
Mr. Winsley smiled, and glanced at a rosy-cheeked young lady, who
simpered and turned away. "I think my daughter could recommend one to
your lordship, if she dared."
"I see. Well, Miss Winsley, I will take no recommendation but yours."
Miss Winsley made an effort.
"Indeed, my lord, I have always heard Mr. Robert Hobbs considered very
clever in his profession."
"Mr. Robert Hobbs is my man! His good health--and a fair wife to him."
Miss Winsley glanced at Mamma, and then at a younger sister; and then
there was a titter, and then a fluttering, and then a rising, and Mr.
Winsley, Lord Vargrave, and the slim secretary were left alone.
"Really, my lord," said the host, resettling himself, and pushing the
wine, "though you have guessed our little family arrangement, and I have
some interest in the recommendation, since Margaret will be Mrs. Robert
Hobbs in a few weeks, yet I do not know a more acute, intelligent young
man anywhere. Highly respectable, with an independent fortune; his
father is lately dead, and made at least thirty thousand pounds in trade.
His brother Edward is also dead; so he has the bulk of the property, and
he follows his profession merely for amusement. He would consider it a
"And where does he live?"
"Oh, not in this county,--a long way off; close to -----; but it is all
in your lordship's road. A very nice house he has, too. I have known
his family since I was a boy; it is astonishing how his father improved
the place,--it was a poor little lath-and-plaster cottage when the late
Mr. Hobbs bought it, and it is now a very excellent family house."
"Well, you shall give me the address and a letter of introduction, and so
much for that matter. But to return to politics;" and here Lord Vargrave
ran eloquently on, till Mr. Winsley thought him the only man in the world
who could save the country from that utter annihilation, the possibility
of which he had never even suspected before.
It may be as well to add, that, on wishing Lord Vargrave good-night, Mr.
Winsley whispered in his ear, "Your lordship's friend, Lord Staunch, need
be under no apprehension,--we are all right!"
THIS is the house, sir.--_Love's Pilgrimage_, Act iv, sc. 2.
Redeunt Saturnia regna.*--VIRGIL.
* "A former state of things returns."
THE next morning, Lumley and his slender companion were rolling rapidly
over the same road on which, sixteen years ago, way-worn and weary, Alice
Darvil had first met with Mrs. Leslie; they were talking about a new
opera-dancer as they whirled by the very spot.
It was about five o'clock in the afternoon, the next day, when the
carriage stopped at a cast-iron gate, on which was inscribed this
epigraph, "Hobbs' lodge--Ring the Bell."
"A snug place enough," said Lord Vargrave, as they were waiting the
arrival of the footman to unbar the gate.
"Yes," said Mr. Howard. "If a retired Cit could be transformed into a
house, such is the house he would be."
Poor Dale Cottage,--the home of Poetry and Passion! But change visits
the Commonplace as well as the Romantic. Since Alice had pressed to that
cold grating her wistful eyes, time had wrought his allotted revolutions;
the old had died, the young grown up. Of the children playing on the
lawn, death had claimed some, and marriage others,--and the holiday of
youth was gone for all.
The servant opened the gate. Mr. Robert Hobbs was at home; he had
friends with him,--he was engaged; Lord Vargrave sent in his card, and
the introductory letter from Mr. Winsley. In two seconds, these missives
brought to the gate Mr. Robert Hobbs himself, a smart young man, with a
black stock, red whiskers, and an eye-glass pendant to a hair-chain which
was possibly _a gage d'amour_ from Miss Margaret Winsley.
A profusion of bows, compliments, apologies, etc., the carriage drove up
the sweep, and Lord Vargrave descended, and was immediately ushered into
Mr. Hobbs's private room. The slim secretary followed, and sat silent,
melancholy, and upright, while the peer affably explained his wants and
wishes to the surveyor.
Mr. Hobbs was well acquainted with the locality of Lisle Court, which was
little more than thirty miles distant, he should be proud to accompany
Lord Vargrave thither the next morning. But, might he venture, might he
dare, might he presume--a gentleman who lived at the town of ----- was to
dine with him that day; a gentleman of the most profound knowledge of
agricultural affairs; a gentleman who knew every farm, almost every acre,
belonging to Colonel Maltravers; if his lordship could be induced to
waive ceremony, and dine with Mr. Hobbs; it might be really useful to
meet this gentleman. The slim secretary, who was very hungry, and who
thought he sniffed an uncommonly savoury smell, looked up from his boots.
Lord Vargrave smiled.
"My young friend here is too great an admirer of Mrs. Hobbs--who is to
be--not to feel anxious to make the acquaintance of any member of the
family she is to enter."
Mr. George Frederick Augustus Howard blushed indignant refutation of the
calumnious charge. Vargrave continued,--"As for me, I shall be delighted
to meet any friends of yours, and am greatly obliged for your
consideration. We may dismiss the postboys, Howard; and what time shall
we summon them,--ten o'clock?"
"If your lordship would condescend to accept a bed, we can accommodate
your lordship and this gentleman, and start at any hour in the morning
"So be it," interrupted Vargrave. "You speak like a man of business.
Howard, be so kind as to order the horses for six o'clock to-morrow.
We'll breakfast at Lisle Court."
This matter settled, Lord Vargrave and Mr. Howard were shown into their
respective apartments. Travelling dresses were changed, the dinner put
back, and the fish over-boiled; but what mattered common fish, when Mr.
Hobbs had just caught such a big one? Of what consequence he should be
henceforth and ever! A peer, a minister, a stranger to the county,--to
come all this way to consult _him_! to be _his_ guest! to be shown off,
and patted, and trotted out before all the rest of the company! Mr.
Hobbs was a made man! Careless of all this, ever at home with any one,
and delighted, perhaps, to escape a _tete-a-tete_ with Mr. Howard in a
strange inn, Vargrave lounged into the drawing-room, and was formally
presented to the expectant family and the famishing guests.
During the expiring bachelorship of Mr. Robert Hobbs, his sister, Mrs.
Tiddy (to whom the reader was first introduced as a bride gathering the
wisdom of economy and large joints from the frugal lips of her mamma),
officiated as lady of the house,--a comely matron, and well-preserved,--
except that she had lost a front tooth,--in a jaundiced satinet gown,
with a fall of British blonde, and a tucker of the same, Mr. Tiddy being
a starch man, and not willing that the luxuriant charms of Mrs. T.
should be too temptingly exposed! There was also Mr. Tiddy, whom his
wife had married for love, and who was now well to do,--a fine-looking
man, with large whiskers, and a Roman nose, a little awry. Moreover,
there was a Miss Biddy or Bridget Hobbs, a young lady of four or five
and twenty, who was considering whether she might ask Lord Vargrave to
write something in her album, and who cast a bashful look of admiration
at the slim secretary, as he now sauntered into the room, in a black
coat, black waistcoat, black trousers, and a black neckcloth, with a
black pin,--looking much like an ebony cane split half-way up. Miss
Biddy was a fair young lady, a _leetle_ faded, with uncommonly thin arms
and white satin shoes, on which the slim secretary cast his eyes and--
In addition to the family group were the Rector of -----, an agreeable
man, who published sermons and poetry; also Sir William Jekyll, who was
employing Mr. Hobbs to make a map of an estate he had just purchased;
also two country squires and their two wives; moreover, the physician of
the neighbouring town,--a remarkably tall man, who wore spectacles and
told anecdotes; and, lastly, Mr. Onslow, the gentleman to whom Mr. Hobbs
had referred,--an elderly man of prepossessing exterior, of high repute
as the most efficient magistrate, the best farmer, and the most sensible
person in the neighbourhood. This made the party, to each individual of
which the great man bowed and smiled; and the great man's secretary bent,
condescendingly, three joints of his backbone.
The bell was now rung, dinner announced. Sir William Jekyll led the way
with one of the she-squires, and Lord Vargrave offered his arm to the
portly Mrs. Tiddy.
Vargrave, as usual, was the life of the feast. Mr. Howard, who sat next
to Miss Bridget, conversed with her between the courses, "in dumb show."
Mr. Onslow and the physician played second and third to Lord Vargrave.
When the dinner was over, and the ladies had retired, Vargrave found
himself seated next to Mr. Onslow, and discovered in his neighbour a most
agreeable companion. They talked principally about Lisle Court, and from
Colonel Maltravers the conversation turned naturally upon Ernest.
Vargrave proclaimed his early intimacy with the latter gentleman,
complained, feelingly, that politics had divided them of late, and told
two or three anecdotes of their youthful adventures in the East. Mr.
Onslow listened to him with much attention.
"I made the acquaintance of Mr. Maltravers many years ago," said he, "and
upon a very delicate occasion. I was greatly interested in him; I never
saw one so young (for he was then but a boy) manifest feelings so deep.
By the dates you have referred to, your acquaintance with him must have
commenced very shortly after mine. Was he at that time cheerful, in good
"No, indeed; hypochondriacal to the greatest degree."
"Your lordship's intimacy with him, and the confidence that generally
exists between young men, induce me to suppose that he may have told you
a little romance connected with his early years."
Lumley paused to consider; and this conversation, which had been carried
on apart, was suddenly broken into by the tall doctor, who wanted to know
whether his lordship had ever heard the anecdote about Lord Thurlow and
the late king. The anecdote was as long as the doctor himself; and when
it was over, the gentlemen adjourned to the drawing-room, and all
conversation was immediately drowned by "Row, brothers, row," which had
only been suspended till the arrival of Mr. Tiddy, who had a fine bass
Alas! eighteen years ago, in that spot of earth, Alice Darvil had first
caught the soul of music from the lips of Genius and of Love! But better
as it is,--less romantic, but more proper,--as Hobbs' Lodge was less
pretty, but more safe from the winds and rains, than Dale Cottage.
Miss Bridget ventured to ask the good-humoured Lord Vargrave if he sang.
"Not I, Miss Hobbs; but Howard, there!--ah, if you heard _him_!" The
consequence of this hint was, that the unhappy secretary, who, alone, in
a distant corner, was unconsciously refreshing his fancy with some cool
weak coffee, was instantly beset with applications from Miss Bridget,
Mrs. Tiddy, Mr. Tiddy, and the tall doctor, to favour the company with a
specimen of his talents. Mr. Howard could sing,--he could even play the
guitar. But to sing at Hobbs' Lodge, to sing to the accompaniment of
Mrs. Tiddy, to have his gentle tenor crushed to death in a glee by the
heavy splayfoot of Mr. Tiddy's manly bass--the thought was insufferable!
He faltered forth assurances of his ignorance, and hastened to bury his
resentment in the retirement of a remote sofa. Vargrave, who had
forgotten the significant question of Mr. Onslow, renewed in a whisper
his conversation with that gentleman relative to the meditated
investment, while Mr. and Mrs. Tiddy sang "Come dwell with me;" and
Onslow was so pleased with his new acquaintance, that he volunteered to
make a fourth in Lumley's carriage the next morning, and accompany him to
Lisle Court. This settled, the party soon afterwards broke up. At
midnight Lord Vargrave was fast asleep; and Mr. Howard, tossing
restlessly to and fro on his melancholy couch, was revolving all the
hardships that await a native of St. James's, who ventures forth among--
"The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders!"
BUT how were these doubts to be changed into absolute certainty?
THE next morning, while it was yet dark, Lord Vargrave's carriage picked
up Mr. Onslow at the door of a large old-fashioned house, at the entrance
of the manufacturing town of -----. The party were silent and sleepy
till they arrived at Lisle Court. The sun had then appeared, the morning
was clear, the air frosty and bracing; and as, after traversing a noble
park, a superb quadrangular pile of brick flanked by huge square turrets
coped with stone broke upon the gaze of Lord Vargrave, his worldly heart
swelled within him, and the image of Evelyn became inexpressibly lovely
Though the housekeeper was not prepared for Vargrave's arrival at so
early an hour, yet he had been daily expected: the logs soon burned
bright in the ample hearth of the breakfast-room; the urn hissed, the
cutlets smoked; and while the rest of the party gathered round the fire,
and unmuffled themselves of cloaks and shawl-handkerchiefs, Vargrave
seized upon the housekeeper, traversed with delighted steps the
magnificent suite of rooms, gazed on the pictures, admired the state
bed-chambers, peeped into the offices, and recognized in all a mansion
worthy of a Peer of England,--but which a more prudent man would have
thought, with a sigh, required careful management of the rent-roll raised
from the property adequately to equip and maintain. Such an idea did not
cross the mind of Vargrave; he only thought how much he should be
honoured and envied, when, as Secretary of State, he should yearly fill
those feudal chambers with the pride and rank of England! It was
characteristic of the extraordinary sanguineness and self-confidence of
Vargrave, that he entirely overlooked one slight obstacle to this
prospect, in the determined refusal of Evelyn to accept that passionate
homage which he offered to--her fortune!
When breakfast was over the steward was called in, and the party, mounted
upon ponies, set out to reconnoitre. After spending the short day most
agreeably in looking over the gardens, pleasure-grounds, park, and
home-farm, and settling to visit the more distant parts of the property
the next day, the party were returning home to dine, when Vargrave's eye
caught the glittering _whim_ of Sir Gregory Gubbins.
He pointed it out to Mr. Onslow, and laughed much at hearing of the
annoyance it occasioned to Colonel Maltravers. "Thus," said Lumley, "do
we all crumple the rose-leaf under us, and quarrel with couches the most
luxuriant! As for me, I will wager, that were this property mine, or my
ward's, in three weeks we should have won the heart of Sir Gregory, made
him pull down his _whim_, and coaxed him out of his interest in the city
of -----. A good seat for you, Howard, some day or other."
"Sir Gregory has prodigiously bad taste," said Mr. Hobbs. "For my part,
I think that there ought to be a certain modest simplicity in the display
of wealth got in business,--that was my poor father's maxim."
"Ah!" said Vargrave, "Hobbs' Lodge is a specimen. Who was your
predecessor in that charming retreat?"
"Why, the place--then called Dale Cottage--belonged to a Mr. Berners, a
rich bachelor in business, who was rich enough not to mind what people
said of him, and kept a lady there. She ran off from him, and he then
let it to some young man--a stranger, very eccentric, I hear--a Mr.--Mr.
Butler--and he, too, gave the cottage an unlawful attraction,--a most
beautiful girl, I have heard."
"Butler!" echoed Vargrave,--"Butler! Butler!" Lumley recollected that
such had been the real name of Mrs. Cameron.
Onslow looked hard at Vargrave.
"You recognize the name, my lord," said he in a whisper, as Hobbs had
turned to address himself to Mr. Howard. "I thought you very discreet
when I asked you, last night, if you remembered the early follies of your
friend." A suspicion at once flashed upon the quick mind of Vargrave:
Butler was a name on the mother's side in the family of Maltravers; the
gloom of Ernest when he first knew him, the boy's hints that the gloom
was connected with the affections, the extraordinary and single
accomplishment of Lady Vargrave in that art of which Maltravers was so
consummate a master, the similarity of name,--all taken in conjunction
with the meaning question of Mr. Onslow, were enough to suggest to
Vargrave that he might be on the verge of a family secret, the knowledge
of which could be turned to advantage. He took care not to confess his
ignorance, but artfully proceeded to draw out Mr. Onslow's
"Why, it is true," said he, "that Maltravers and I had no secrets. Ah,
we were wild fellows then! The name of Butler is in his family, eh?"
"It is. I see you know all."
"Yes; he told me the story, but it is eighteen years ago. Do refresh my
memory. Howard, my good fellow, just ride on and expedite dinner: Mr.
Hobbs, will you go with Mr. What's-his-name, the steward, and look over
the maps, out-goings, etc.? Now, Mr. Onslow--so Maltravers took the
cottage, and a lady with it?--ay, I remember."
Mr. Onslow (who was in fact that magistrate to whom Ernest had confided
his name and committed the search after Alice, and who was really anxious
to know if any tidings of the poor girl had ever been ascertained) here
related that history with which the reader is acquainted,--the robbery of
the cottage, the disappearance of Alice, the suspicions that connected
that disappearance with her ruffian father, the despair and search of
Maltravers. He added that Ernest, both before his departure from
England, and on his return, had written to him to learn if Alice had ever
been heard of; the replies of the magistrate were unsatisfactory. "And
do you think, my lord, that Mr. Maltravers has never to this day
ascertained what became of the poor young woman?"
"Why, let me see,--what was her name?"
The magistrate thought a moment, and replied, "Alice Darvil."
"Alice!" exclaimed Vargrave. "Alice!"--aware that such was the
Christian name of his uncle's wife, and now almost convinced of the truth
of his first vague suspicion.
"You seem to know the name?"
"Of Alice; yes--but not Darvil. No, no; I believe he has never heard of
the girl to this hour. Nor you either?"
"I have not. One little circumstance related to me by Mr. Hobbs, your
surveyor's father, gave me some uneasiness. About two years after the
young woman disappeared, a girl, of very humble dress and appearance,
stopped at the gate of Hobbs' Lodge, and asked earnestly for Mr. Butler.
On hearing he was gone, she turned away, and was seen no more. It seems
that this girl had an infant in her arms--which rather shocked the
propriety of Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs. The old gentleman told me the
circumstance a few days after it happened, and I caused inquiry to be
made for the stranger; but she could not be discovered. I thought at
first this possibly might be the lost Alice; but I learned that, during
his stay at the cottage, your friend--despite his error, which we will
not stop to excuse--had exercised so generous and wide a charity amongst
the poor in the town and neighbourhood, that it was a more probable
supposition of the two that the girl belonged to some family he had
formerly relieved, and her visit was that of a mendicant, not a mistress.
Accordingly, after much consideration, I resolved not to mention the
circumstances to Mr. Maltravers, when he wrote to me on his return from
the Continent. A considerable time had then elapsed since the girl had
applied to Mr. Hobbs; all trace of her was lost; the incident might open
wounds that time must have nearly healed, might give false hopes--or,
what was worse, occasion a fresh and unfounded remorse at the idea of
Alice's destitution; it would, in fact, do no good, and might occasion
unnecessary pain. I therefore suppressed all mention of it."
"You did right: and so the poor girl had an infant in her arms?--humph!
What sort of looking person was this Alice Darvil,--pretty, of course?"
"I never saw her; and none but the persons employed in the premises knew
her by sight; they described her as remarkably lovely."
"Fair and slight, with blue eyes, I suppose?--those are the orthodox
requisites of a heroine."
"Upon my word I forget; indeed I should never have remembered as much as
I do, if the celebrity of Mr. Maltravers, and the consequence of his
family in these parts, together with the sight of his own agony--the most
painful I ever witnessed--had not served to impress the whole affair very
deeply on my mind."
"Was the girl who appeared at the gate of Hobbs' Lodge described to you?"
"No; they scarcely observed her countenance, except that her complexion
was too fair for a gypsy's; yet, now I think of it, Mrs. Tiddy, who was
with her father when he told me the adventure, dwelt particularly on her
having (as you so pleasantly conjecture) fair hair and blue eyes. Mrs.
Tiddy, being just married, was romantic at that day."
"Well, it is an odd tale; but life is full of odd tales. Here we are at
the house; it really is a splendid old place!"
PENDENT opera interrupta.*--VIRGIL.
* "The things begun are interrupted and suspended."
THE history Vargrave had heard he revolved much when he retired to rest.
He could not but allow that there was still little ground for more than
conjecture that Alice Darvil and Alice Lady Vargrave were one and the
same person. It might, however, be of great importance to him to trace
this conjecture to certainty. The knowledge of a secret of early sin and
degradation in one so pure, so spotless, as Lady Vargrave, might be of
immense service in giving him a power over her, which he could turn to
account with Evelyn. How could he best prosecute further inquiry,--by
repairing at once to Brook-Green, or--the thought struck him--by visiting
and "pumping" Mrs. Leslie, the patroness of Mrs. Butler, of C-----, the
friend of Lady Vargrave? It was worth trying the latter,--it was little
out of his way back to London. His success in picking the brains of Mr.
Onslow of a secret encouraged him in the hope of equal success with Mrs.
Leslie. He decided accordingly, and fell asleep to dream of Christmas
_battues_, royal visitors, the Cabinet, the premiership! Well, no
possession equals the dream of it! Sleep on, my lord! you would be
restless enough if you were to get all you want.
For the next three days, Lord Vargrave was employed in examining the
general outlines of the estate; and the result of this survey satisfied
him as to the expediency of the purchase. On the third day, he was
several miles from the house when a heavy rain came on. Lord Vargrave
was constitutionally hardy, and not having been much exposed to
visitations of the weather of late years, was not practically aware that
when a man is past forty, he cannot endure with impunity all that falls
innocuously on the elasticity of twenty-six. He did not, therefore, heed
the rain that drenched him to the skin, and neglected to change his dress
till he had finished reading some letters and newspapers which awaited
his return at Lisle Court. The consequence of this imprudence was, that
the next morning when he woke, Lord Vargrave found himself, for almost
the first time in his life, seriously ill. His head ached violently,
cold shiverings shook his frame like an ague; the very strength of the
constitution on which the fever had begun to fasten itself augmented its
danger. Lumley--the last man in the world to think of the possibility of
dying--fought up against his own sensations, ordered his post-horses, as
his visit of survey was now over, and scarcely even alluded to his
indisposition. About an hour before he set off, his letters arrived; one
of these informed him that Caroline, accompanied by Evelyn, had already
arrived in Paris; the other was from Colonel Legard, respectfully
resigning his office, on the ground of an accession of fortune by the
sudden death of the admiral, and his intention to spend the ensuing year
in a Continental excursion. This last letter occasioned Vargrave
considerable alarm; he had always felt a deep jealousy of the handsome
ex-guardsman, and he at once suspected that Legard was about to repair to
Paris as his rival. He sighed, and looked round the spacious apartment,
and gazed on the wide prospects of grove and turf that extended from the
window, and said to himself, "Is another to snatch these from my grasp?"
His impatience to visit Mrs. Leslie, to gain ascendency over Lady
Vargrave, to repair to Paris, to scheme, to manoeuvre, to triumph,
accelerated the progress of the disease that was now burning in his
veins; and the hand that he held out to Mr. Hobbs, as he stepped into his
carriage, almost scorched the cold, plump, moist fingers of the surveyor.
Before six o'clock in the evening Lord Vargrave confessed reluctantly to
himself that he was too ill to proceed much farther. "Howard," said he
then, breaking a silence that had lasted some hours, "don't be alarmed; I
feel that I am about to have a severe attack; I shall stop at M-----
(naming a large town they were approaching); I shall send for the best
physician the place affords; if I am delirious to-morrow, or unable to
give my own orders, have the kindness to send express for Dr.
Holland,--but don't leave me yourself, my good fellow. At my age, it is
a hard thing to have no one in the world to care for me in illness;
d-----n affection when I am well!"
After this strange burst, which very much frightened Mr. Howard, Lumley
relapsed into silence, not broken till he reached M-----. The best
physician was sent for; and the next morning, as he had half foreseen and
foretold, Lord Vargrave _was_ delirious!
NOUGHT under Heaven so strongly doth allure
The sense of man, and all his mind possess,
As Beauty's love-bait.--SPENSER.
LEGARD was, as I have before intimated, a young man of generous and
excellent dispositions, though somewhat spoiled by the tenor of his
education, and the gay and reckless society which had administered tonics
to his vanity and opiates to his intellect. The effect which the beauty,
the grace, the innocence of Evelyn had produced upon him had been most
deep and most salutary. It had rendered dissipation tasteless and
insipid; it had made him look more deeply into his own heart, and into
the rules of life. Though, partly from irksomeness of dependence upon an
uncle at once generous and ungracious, partly from a diffident and
feeling sense of his own inadequate pretensions to the hand of Miss
Cameron, and partly from the prior and acknowledged claims of Lord
Vargrave, he had accepted, half in despair, the appointment offered to
him, he still found it impossible to banish that image which had been the
first to engrave upon ardent and fresh affections an indelible
impression. He secretly chafed at the thought that it was to a fortunate
rival that he owed the independence and the station he had acquired, and
resolved to seize an early opportunity to free himself from obligations
that he deeply regretted he had incurred. At length he learned that Lord
Vargrave had been refused,--that Evelyn was free; and within a few days
from that intelligence, the admiral was seized with apoplexy; and Legard
suddenly found himself possessed, if not of wealth, at least of a
competence sufficient to redeem his character as a suitor from the
suspicion attached to a fortune-hunter and adventurer. Despite the new
prospects opened to him by the death of his uncle, and despite the surly
caprice which had mingled with and alloyed the old admiral's kindness,
Legard was greatly shocked by his death; and his grateful and gentle
nature was at first only sensible to grief for the loss he had sustained.
But when, at last, recovering from his sorrow, he saw Evelyn disengaged
and free, and himself in a position honourably to contest her hand, he
could not resist the sweet and passionate hopes that broke upon him. He
resigned, as we have seen, his official appointment, and set out for
Paris. He reached that city a day or two after the arrival of Lord and
Lady Doltimore. He found the former, who had not forgotten the cautions
of Vargrave, at first cold and distant; but partly from the indolent
habit of submitting to Legard's dictates on matters of taste, partly from
a liking to his society, and principally from the popular suffrages of
fashion, which had always been accorded to Legard, and which were
nowadays diminished by the news of his accession of fortune, Lord
Doltimore, weak and vain, speedily yielded to the influences of his old
associate, and Legard became quietly installed as the _enfant de la
maison_. Caroline was not in this instance a very faithful ally to
Vargrave's views and policy. In his singular _liaison_ with Lady
Doltimore, the crafty manoeuvrer had committed the vulgar fault of
intriguers: he had over-refined and had overreached himself. At the
commencement of their strange and unprincipled intimacy, Vargrave had
had, perhaps, no other thought than that of piquing Evelyn, consoling his
vanity, amusing his _ennui_, and indulging rather his propensities as a
gallant than promoting his more serious objects as a man of the world.
By degrees, and especially at Knaresdean, Vargrave himself became deeply
entangled by an affair that he had never before contemplated as more
important than a passing diversion; instead of securing a friend to
assist him in his designs on Evelyn, he suddenly found that he had
obtained a mistress anxious for his love and jealous of his homage. With
his usual promptitude and self-confidence, he was led at once to deliver
himself of all the ill-consequences of his rashness,--to get rid of
Caroline as a mistress, and to retain her as a tool, by marrying her to
Lord Doltimore. By the great ascendancy which his character acquired
over her, and by her own worldly ambition, he succeeded in inducing her
to sacrifice all romance to a union that gave her rank and fortune; and
Vargrave then rested satisfied that the clever wife would not only secure
him a permanent power over the political influence and private fortune of
the weak husband, but also abet his designs in securing an alliance
equally desirable for himself. Here it was that Vargrave's incapacity to
understand the refinements and scruples of a woman's affection and
nature, however guilty the one, and however worldly the other, foiled and
deceived him. Caroline, though the wife of another, could not
contemplate without anguish a similar bondage for her lover; and having
something of the better qualities of her sex still left to her, she
recoiled from being an accomplice in arts that were to drive the young,
inexperienced, and guileless creature who called her "friend" into the
arms of a man who openly avowed the most mercenary motives, and who took
gods and men to witness that his heart was sacred to another. Only in
Vargrave's presence were these scruples overmastered; but the moment he
was gone they returned in full force. She had yielded, from positive
fear, to his commands that she should convey Evelyn to Paris; but she
trembled to think of the vague hints and dark menaces that Vargrave had
let fall as to ulterior proceedings, and was distracted at the thought of
being implicated in some villanous or rash design. When, therefore, the
man whose rivalry Vargrave most feared was almost established at her
house, she made but a feeble resistance; she thought that, if Legard
should become a welcome and accepted suitor before Lumley arrived, the
latter would be forced to forego whatever hopes he yet cherished, and
that she should be delivered from a dilemma, the prospect of which
daunted and appalled her. Added to this, Caroline was now, alas!
sensible that a fool is not so easily governed; her resistance to an
intimacy with Legard would have been of little avail: Doltimore, in these
matters, had an obstinate will of his own; and, whatever might once have
been Caroline's influence over her liege, certain it is that such
influence had been greatly impaired of late by the indulgence of a
temper, always irritable, and now daily more soured by regret, remorse,
contempt for her husband,--and the melancholy discovery that fortune,
youth, beauty, and station are no talismans against misery.
It was the gayest season of Paris; and to escape from herself, Caroline
plunged eagerly into the vortex of its dissipations. If Doltimore's
heart was disappointed, his vanity was pleased at the admiration Caroline
excited; and he himself was of an age and temper to share in the pursuits
and amusements of his wife. Into these gayeties, new to their
fascination, dazzled by their splendour, the young Evelyn entered with
her hostess; and ever by her side was the unequalled form of Legard.
Each of them in the bloom of youth, each of them at once formed to
please, and to be pleased by that fair Armida which we call the World,
there was, necessarily, a certain congeniality in their views and
sentiments, their occupations and their objects; nor was there, in all
that brilliant city, one more calculated to captivate the eye and fancy
than George Legard. But still, to a certain degree diffident and
fearful, Legard never yet spoke of love; nor did their intimacy at this
time ripen to that point in which Evelyn could have asked herself if
there were danger in the society of Legard, or serious meaning in his
obvious admiration. Whether that melancholy, to which Lady Vargrave had
alluded in her correspondence with Lumley, were occasioned by thoughts
connected with Maltravers, or unacknowledged recollections of Legard, it
remains for the acute reader himself to ascertain.
The Doltimores had been about three weeks in Paris; and for a fortnight
of that time Legard had been their constant guest, and half the inmate of
their hotel, when, on that night which has been commemorated in our last
book, Maltravers suddenly once more beheld the face of Evelyn, and in the
same hour learned that she was free. He quitted Valerie's box; with a
burning pulse and a beating heart, joy and surprise and hope sparkling in
his eyes and brightening his whole aspect, he hastened to Evelyn's side.
It was at this time Legard, who sat behind Miss Cameron, unconscious of
the approach of a rival, happened by one of those chances which occur in
conversation to mention the name of Maltravers. He asked Evelyn if she
had yet met him.
"What! is he, then, in Paris?" asked Evelyn, quickly. "I heard, indeed,"
she continued, "that he left Burleigh for Paris, but imagined he had gone
on to Italy."
"No, he is still here; but he goes, I believe, little into the society
Lady Doltimore chiefly visits. Is he one of your favourites, Miss
There was a slight increase of colour in Evelyn's beautiful cheek, as she
"Is it possible not to admire and be interested in one so gifted?"
"He has certainly noble and fine qualities," returned Legard; "but I
cannot feel at ease with him: a coldness, a _hauteur_, a measured
distance of manner, seem to forbid even esteem. Yet _I_ ought not to say
so," he added, with a pang of self-reproach.
"No, indeed, you ought not to say so," said Evelyn, shaking her head with
a pretty affectation of anger; "for I know that you pretend to like what
I like, and admire what I admire; and I am an enthusiast in all that
relates to Mr. Maltravers!"
"I know that I would wish to see all things in life through Miss
Cameron's eyes," whispered Legard, softly; and this was the most meaning
speech he had ever yet made.
Evelyn turned away, and seemed absorbed in the opera; and at that instant
the door of the box opened, and Maltravers entered.
In her open, undisguised, youthful delight at seeing him again,
Maltravers felt, indeed, "as if Paradise were opened in her face." In
his own agitated emotions, he scarcely noticed that Legard had risen and
resigned his seat to him; he availed himself of the civility, greeted his
old acquaintance with a smile and a bow, and in a few minutes he was in
deep converse with Evelyn.
Never had he so successfully exerted the singular, the master-fascination
that he could command at will,--the more powerful from its contrast to
his ordinary coldness. In the very expression of his eyes, the very tone
of his voice, there was that in Maltravers, seen at his happier moments,
which irresistibly interested and absorbed your attention: he could make
you forget everything but himself, and the rich, easy, yet earnest
eloquence, which gave colour to his language and melody to his voice. In
that hour of renewed intercourse with one who had at first awakened, if
not her heart, at least her imagination and her deeper thoughts, certain
it is that even Legard was not missed. As she smiled and listened,
Evelyn dreamed not of the anguish she inflicted. Leaning against the
box, Legard surveyed the absorbed attention of Evelyn, the adoring eyes
of Maltravers, with that utter and crushing wretchedness which no passion
but jealousy, and that only while it is yet a virgin agony, can bestow!
He had never before even dreamed of rivalry in such a quarter; but there
was that ineffable instinct, which lovers have, and which so seldom errs,
that told him at once that in Maltravers was the greatest obstacle his
passion could encounter. He waited in hopes that Evelyn would take the
occasion to turn to him at least--when the fourth act closed. She did
not; and, unable to constrain his emotions, and reply to the small-talk
of Lord Doltimore, he abruptly quitted the box.
When the opera was over, Maltravers offered his arm to Evelyn; she
accepted it, and then she looked round for Legard. He was gone.
O Fate! O Heaven!--what have ye then decreed?
SOPHOCLES: _OEd. Tyr._ 738.
"Insolent pride . . .
. . . . . .
The topmost crag of the great precipice
Surmounts--to rush to ruin."
. . . SHE is young, wise, fair,
In these to Nature she's immediate heir.
. . . . . .
. . . Honours best thrive
When rather from our acts we them derive
Than our foregoers!--_All's Well that Ends Well_.
LETTER FROM ERNEST MALTRAVERS TO THE HON. FREDERICK CLEVELAND.
EVELYN is free; she is in Paris; I have seen her,--I see her daily!
How true it is that we cannot make a philosophy of indifference! The
affections are stronger than all our reasonings. We must take them into
our alliance, or they will destroy all our theories of self-government.
Such fools of fate are we, passing from system to system, from scheme to
scheme, vainly seeking to shut out passion and sorrow-forgetting that
they are born within us--and return to the soul as the seasons to the
earth! Yet,--years, many years ago, when I first looked gravely into my
own nature and being here, when I first awakened to the dignity and
solemn responsibilities of human life, I had resolved to tame and curb
myself into a thing of rule and measure. Bearing within me the wound
scarred over but never healed, the consciousness of wrong to the heart
that had leaned upon me, haunted by the memory of my lost Alice, I
shuddered at new affections bequeathing new griefs. Wrapped in a haughty
egotism, I wished not to extend my empire over a wider circuit than my
own intellect and passions. I turned from the trader-covetousness of
bliss, that would freight the wealth of life upon barks exposed to every
wind upon the seas of Fate; I was contented with the hope to pass life
alone, honoured, though unloved. Slowly and reluctantly I yielded to the
fascinations of Florence Lascelles. The hour that sealed the compact
between us was one of regret and alarm. In vain I sought to deceive
myself,--I felt that I did not love. And then I imagined that Love was
no longer in my nature,--that I had exhausted its treasures before my
time, and left my heart a bankrupt. Not till the last--not till that
glorious soul broke out in all its brightness the nearer it approached
the source to which it has returned--did I feel of what tenderness she
was worthy and I was capable. She died, and the world was darkened!
Energy, ambition, my former aims and objects, were all sacrificed at her
tomb. But amidst ruins and through the darkness, my soul yet supported
me; I could no longer hope, but I could endure. I was resolved that I
would not be subdued, and that the world should not hear me groan.
Amidst strange and far-distant scenes, amidst hordes to whom my very
language was unknown, in wastes and forests, which the step of civilized
man, with his sorrows and his dreams, had never trodden, I wrestled with
my soul, as the patriarch of old wrestled with the angel,--and the angel
was at last the victor! You do not mistake me: you know that it was not
the death of Florence alone that worked in me that awful revolution; but
with that death the last glory fled from the face of things that had
seemed to me beautiful of old. Hers was a love that accompanied and
dignified the schemes and aspirations of manhood,--a love that was an
incarnation of ambition itself; and all the evils and disappointments
that belong to ambition seemed to crowd around my heart like vultures to
a feast allured and invited by the dead. But this at length was over;
the barbarous state restored me to the civilized. I returned to my
equals, prepared no more to be an actor in the strife, but a calm
spectator of the turbulent arena. I once more laid my head beneath the
roof of my fathers; and if without any clear and definite object, I at
least hoped to find amidst "my old hereditary trees" the charm of
contemplation and repose. And scarce--in the first hours of my
arrival--had I indulged that dream, when a fair face, a sweet voice, that
had once before left deep and unobliterated impressions on my heart,
scattered all my philosophy to the winds. I saw Evelyn! and if ever
there was love at first sight, it was that which I felt for her: I lived
in her presence, and forgot the Future! Or, rather, I was with the
Past,--in the bowers of my springtide of life and hope! It was an
after-birth of youth--my love for that young heart!
It is, indeed, only in maturity that we know how lovely were our earliest
years! What depth of wisdom in the old Greek myth, that allotted Hebe as
the prize to the god who had been the arch-labourer of life! and whom the
satiety of all that results from experience had made enamoured of all
that belongs to the Hopeful and the New!
This enchanting child, this delightful Evelyn, this ray of undreamed of
sunshine, smiled away all my palaces of ice. I loved, Cleveland,--I
loved more ardently, more passionately, more wildly than ever I did of
old! But suddenly I learned that she was affianced to another, and felt
that it was not for me to question, to seek the annulment of the bond. I
had been unworthy to love Evelyn if I had not loved honour more! I fled
from her presence, honestly and resolutely; I sought to conquer a
forbidden passion; I believed that I had not won affection in return; I
believed, from certain expressions that I overheard Evelyn utter to
another, that her heart as well as her hand was given to Vargrave. I
came hither; you know how sternly and resolutely I strove to eradicate a
weakness that seemed without even the justification of hope! If I
suffered, I betrayed it not. Suddenly Evelyn appeared again before
me!--and suddenly I learned that she was free! Oh, the rapture of that
moment! Could you have seen her bright face, her enchanting smile, when
we met again! Her ingenuous innocence did not conceal her gladness at
seeing me! What hopes broke upon me! Despite the difference of our
years, I think she loves me! that in that love I am about at last to
learn what blessings there are in life.
Evelyn has the simplicity, the tenderness, of Alice, with the refinement
and culture of Florence herself; not the genius, not the daring spirit,
not the almost fearful brilliancy of that ill-fated being,--but with a
taste as true to the Beautiful, with a soul as sensitive to the Sublime!
In Evelyn's presence I feel a sense of peace, of security, of home!
Happy! thrice happy! he who will take her to his breast! Of late she has
assumed a new charm in my eyes,--a certain pensiveness and abstraction
have succeeded to her wonted gayety. Ah, Love is pensive,--is it not,
Cleveland? How often I ask myself that question! And yet, amidst all my
hopes, there are hours when I tremble and despond! How can that innocent
and joyous spirit sympathize with all that mine has endured and known?
How, even though her imagination be dazzled by some prestige around my
name, how can I believe that I have awakened her heart to that deep and
real love of which it is capable, and which youth excites in youth? When
we meet at her home, or amidst the quiet yet brilliant society which is
gathered round Madame de Ventadour or the Montaignes, with whom she is an
especial favourite; when we converse; when I sit by her, and her soft
eyes meet mine,--I feel not the disparity of years; my heart speaks to
her, and _that_ is youthful still! But in the more gay and crowded
haunts to which her presence allures me, when I see that fairy form
surrounded by those who have not outlived the pleasures that so naturally
dazzle and captivate her, then, indeed, I feel that my tastes, my habits,
my pursuits, belong to another season of life, and ask myself anxiously
if my nature and my years are those that can make _her_ happy? Then,
indeed, I recognize the wide interval that time and trial place between
one whom the world has wearied, and one for whom the world is new. If
she should discover hereafter that youth should love only youth, my
bitterest anguish would be that of remorse! I know how deeply I love by
knowing how immeasurably dearer her happiness is than my own! I will
wait, then, yet a while, I will examine, I will watch well that I do not
deceive myself. As yet I think that I have no rivals whom I need fear:
surrounded as she is by the youngest and the gayest, she still turns with
evident pleasure to me, whom she calls her friend. She will forego the
amusements she most loves for society in which we can converse more at
ease. You remember, for instance, young Legard? He is here; and, before
I met Evelyn, was much at Lady Doltimore's house. I cannot be blind to
his superior advantages of youth and person; and there is something
striking and prepossessing in the gentle yet manly frankness of his
manner,--and yet no fear of his rivalship ever haunts me. True, that of
late he has been little in Evelyn's society; nor do I think, in the
frivolity of his pursuits, he can have educated his mind to appreciate
Evelyn, or be possessed of those qualities which would render him worthy
of her. But there is something good in the young man, despite his
foibles,--something that wins upon me; and you will smile to learn, that
he has even surprised from _me_--usually so reserved on such matters--the
confession of my attachment and hopes! Evelyn often talks to me of her
mother, and describes her in colours so glowing that I feel the greatest
interest in one who has helped to form so beautiful and pure a mind. Can
you learn who Lady Vargrave was? There is evidently some mystery thrown
over her birth and connections; and, from what I can hear, this arises
from their lowliness. You know that, though I have been accused of
family pride, it is a pride of a peculiar sort. I am proud, not of the
length of a mouldering pedigree, but of some historical quarterings in my
escutcheon,--of some blood of scholars and of heroes that rolls in my
veins; it is the same kind of pride that an Englishman may feel in
belonging to a country that has produced Shakspeare and Bacon. I have
never, I hope, felt the vulgar pride that disdains want of birth in
others; and I care not three straws whether my friend or my wife be
descended from a king or a peasant. It is myself, and not my
connections, who alone can disgrace my lineage; therefore, however humble
Lady Vargrave's parentage, do not scruple to inform me, should you learn
any intelligence that bears upon it.
I had a conversation last night with Evelyn that delighted me. By some
accident we spoke of Lord Vargrave; and she told me, with an enchanting
candour, of the position in which she stood with him, and the
conscientious and noble scruples she felt as to the enjoyment of a
fortune, which her benefactor and stepfather had evidently intended to be
shared with his nearest relative. In these scruples I cordially
concurred; and if I marry Evelyn, my first care will be to carry them
into effect,--by securing to Vargrave, as far as the law may permit, the
larger part of the income; I should like to say all,--at least till
Evelyn's children would have the right to claim it: a right not to be
enforced during her own, and, therefore, probably not during Vargrave's
life. I own that this would be no sacrifice, for I am proud enough to
recoil from the thought of being indebted for fortune to the woman I
love. It was that kind of pride which gave coldness and constraint to my
regard for Florence; and for the rest, my own property (much increased by
the simplicity of my habits of life for the last few years) will suffice
for all Evelyn or myself could require. Ah, madman that I am! I
calculate already on marriage, even while I have so much cause for
anxiety as to love. But my heart beats,--my heart has grown a dial that
keeps the account of time; by its movements I calculate the moments--in
an hour I shall see her!
Oh, never, never, in my wildest and earliest visions, could I have
fancied that I should love as I love now! Adieu, my oldest and kindest
friend! If I am happy at last, it will be something to feel that at last
I shall have satisfied your expectations of my youth.
RUE DE -----, PARIS,
January --, 18--.
IN her youth
There is a prone and speechless dialect--
Such as moves men.--_Measure for Measure_.
_Abbess_. Haply in private--
_Adriana_. And in assemblies too.--_Comedy of Errors_.
IT was true, as Maltravers had stated, that Legard had of late been
little at Lady Doltimore's, or in the same society as Evelyn. With the
vehemence of an ardent and passionate nature, he yielded to the jealous
rage and grief that devoured him. He saw too clearly, and from the
first, that Maltravers adored Evelyn; and in her familiar kindness of
manner towards him, in the unlimited veneration in which she appeared to
hold his gifts and qualities, he thought that that love might become
reciprocal. He became gloomy and almost morose; he shunned Evelyn, he
forbore to enter into the lists against his rival. Perhaps the
intellectual superiority of Maltravers, the extraordinary conversational
brilliancy that he could display when he pleased, the commanding dignity
of his manners, even the matured authority of his reputation and years,
might have served to awe the hopes, as well as to wound the vanity, of a
man accustomed himself to be the oracle of a circle. These might have
strongly influenced Legard in withdrawing himself from Evelyn's society;
but there was one circumstance, connected with motives much more
generous, that mainly determined his conduct. It happened that
Maltravers, shortly after his first interview with Evelyn, was riding
alone one day in the more sequestered part of the Bois de Boulogne, when
he encountered Legard, also alone, and on horseback. The latter, on
succeeding to his uncle's fortune, had taken care to repay his debt to
Maltravers; he had done so in a short but feeling and grateful letter,
which had been forwarded to Maltravers at Paris, and which pleased and
touched him. Since that time he had taken a liking to the young man, and
now, meeting him at Paris, he sought, to a certain extent, Legard's more
intimate acquaintance. Maltravers was in that happy mood when we are
inclined to be friends with all men. It is true, however, that, though
unknown to himself, that pride of bearing, which often gave to the very
virtues of Maltravers an unamiable aspect, occasionally irritated one who
felt he had incurred to him an obligation of honour and of life never to
be effaced; it made the sense of this obligation more intolerable to
Legard; it made him more desirous to acquit himself of the charge. But
on this day there was so much cordiality in the greeting of Maltravers,
and he pressed Legard in so friendly a manner to join him in his ride,
that the young man's heart was softened, and they rode together,
conversing familiarly on such topics as were in common between them. At
last the conversation fell on Lord and Lady Doltimore; and thence
Maltravers, whose soul was full of one thought, turned it indirectly
"Did you ever see Lady Vargrave?"
"Never," replied Legard, looking another way; "but Lady Doltimore says
she is as beautiful as Evelyn herself, if that be possible; and still so
young in form and countenance, that she looks rather like her sister than
"How I should like to know her!" said Maltravers, with a sudden energy.
Legard changed the subject. He spoke of the Carnival, of balls, of
masquerades, of operas, of reigning beauties!
"Ah," said Maltravers, with a half sigh, "yours is the age for those
dazzling pleasures; to me they are 'the twice-told tale.'"
Maltravers meant it not, but this remark chafed Legard. He thought it
conveyed a sarcasm on the childishness of his own mind or the levity of
his pursuits; his colour mounted, as he replied,--
"It is not, I fear, the slight difference of years between us,--it is the
difference of intellect you would insinuate; but you should remember all
men have not your resources; all men cannot pretend to genius!"
"My dear Legard," said Maltravers, kindly, "do not fancy that I could
have designed any insinuation half so presumptuous and impertinent.
Believe me, I envy you, sincerely and sadly, all those faculties of
enjoyment which I have worn away. Oh, how I envy you! for, were they
still mine, then--then, indeed, I might hope to mould myself into greater
congeniality with the beautiful and the young!"
Maltravers paused a moment, and resumed, with a grave smile: "I trust,
Legard, that you will be wiser than I have been; that you will gather
your roses while it is yet May: and that you will not live to thirty-six,
pining for happiness and home, a disappointed and desolate man; till,
when your ideal is at last found, you shrink back appalled, to discover
that you have lost none of the tendencies to love, but many of the graces
by which love is to be allured!"
There was so much serious and earnest feeling in these words that they
went home at once to Legard's sympathies. He felt irresistibly impelled
to learn the worst.
"Maltravers," said he, in a hurried tone, "it would be an idle compliment
to say that you are not likely to love in vain; perhaps it is indelicate
in me to apply a general remark; and yet--yet I cannot but fancy that I
have discovered your secret, and that you are not insensible to the
charms of Miss Cameron!"
"Legard!" said Maltravers,--and so strong was his fervent attachment to
Evelyn, that it swept away all his natural coldness and reserve,--"I tell
you plainly and frankly that in my love for Evelyn Cameron lie the last
hopes I have in life. I have no thought, no ambition, no sentiment that
is not vowed to her. If my love should be unreturned, I may strive to
endure the blow, I may mix with the world, I may seem to occupy myself in
the aims of others; but my heart will be broken! Let us talk of this no
more; you have surprised my secret, though it must have betrayed itself.
Learn from me how preternaturally strong, how generally fatal is love
deferred to that day when--in the stern growth of all the feelings--love
writes itself on granite!"
Maltravers, as if impatient of his own weakness, put spurs to his horse,
and they rode on rapidly for some time without speaking.
That silence was employed by Legard in meditating over all he had heard
and witnessed, in recalling all that he owed to Maltravers; and before
that silence was broken the young man nobly resolved not even to attempt,
not even to hope, a rivalry with Maltravers; to forego all the
expectations he had so fondly nursed, to absent himself from the company
of Evelyn, to requite faithfully and firmly that act of generosity to
which he owed the preservation of his life,--the redemption of his
Agreeably to this determination, he abstained from visiting those haunts
in which Evelyn shone; and if accident brought them together, his manner
was embarrassed and abrupt. She wondered,--at last, perhaps she
resented,--it may be that she grieved; for certain it is that Maltravers
was right in thinking that her manner had lost the gayety that
distinguished it at Merton Rectory. But still it may be doubted whether
Evelyn had seen enough of Legard, and whether her fancy and romance were
still sufficiently free from the magical influences of the genius that
called them forth in the eloquent homage of Maltravers, to trace,
herself, to any causes connected with her younger lover the listless
melancholy that crept over her. In very young women--new alike to the
world and the knowledge of themselves--many vague and undefined feelings
herald the dawn of Love; shade after shade and light upon light succeeds
before the sun breaks forth, and the earth awakens to his presence.
It was one evening that Legard had suffered himself to be led into a
party at the ----- ambassador's; and there, as he stood by the door, he
saw at a little distance Maltravers conversing with Evelyn. Again he
writhed beneath the tortures of his jealous anguish; and there, as he
gazed and suffered, he resolved (as Maltravers had done before him) to
fly from the place that had a little while ago seemed to him Elysium! He
would quit Paris, he would travel, he would not see Evelyn again till the
irrevocable barrier was passed, and she was the wife of Maltravers! In
the first heat of this determination, he turned towards some young men
standing near him, one of whom was about to visit Vienna. He gayly
proposed to join him,--a proposal readily accepted, and began conversing
on the journey, the city, its splendid and proud society, with all that
cruel exhilaration which the forced spirits of a stricken heart can alone
display, when Evelyn (whose conference with Maltravers was ended) passed
close by him. She was leaning on Lady Doltimore's arm, and the admiring
murmur of his companions caused Legard to turn suddenly round.
"You are not dancing to-night, Colonel Legard," said Caroline, glancing
towards Evelyn. "The more the season for balls advances, the more
indolent you become."
Legard muttered a confused reply, one half of which seemed petulant,
while the other half was inaudible.
"Not so indolent as you suppose," said his friend. "Legard meditates an
excursion sufficient, I hope, to redeem his character in your eyes. It
is a long journey, and, what is worse, a very cold journey, to Vienna."
"Vienna! do you think of going to Vienna?" cried Caroline.
"Yes," said Legard. "I hate Paris; any place better than this odious
city!" and he moved away.
Evelyn's eyes followed him sadly and gravely. She remained by Lady
Doltimore's side, abstracted and silent for several minutes.
Meanwhile Caroline, turning to Lord Devonport (the friend who had
proposed the Viennese excursion), said, "It is cruel in you to go to
Vienna,--it is doubly cruel to rob Lord Doltimore of his best friend and
Paris of its best waltzer."
"Oh, it is a voluntary offer of Legard's, Lady Doltimore,--believe me, I
have used no persuasive arts. But the fact is, that we have been talking
of a fair widow, the beauty of Austria, and as proud and as unassailable
as Ehrenbreitstein itself. Legard's vanity is piqued; and so--as a
professed lady-killer--he intends to see what can be effected by the
handsomest Englishman of his time."
Caroline laughed, and new claimants on her notice succeeded to Lord
Devonport. It was not till the ladies were waiting their carriage in the
shawl-room that Lady Doltimore noticed the paleness and thoughtful brow
"Are you fatigued or unwell, dear?" she said.
"No," answered Evelyn, forcing a smile; and at that moment they were
joined by Maltravers, with the intelligence that it would be some minutes
before the carriage could draw up. Caroline amused herself in the
interval by shrewd criticisms on the dresses and characters of her
various friends. Caroline had grown an amazing prude in her judgment of
"What a turban!--prudent for Mrs. A----- to wear,--bright red; it puts
out her face, as the sun puts out the fire. Mr. Maltravers, do observe
Lady B----- with that _very_ young gentleman. After all her experience
in angling, it is odd that she should still only throw in for small fish.
Pray, why is the marriage between Lady C----- D----- and Mr. F-----
broken off? Is it true that he is so much in debt, and is so very--very
profligate? They say she is heartbroken."
"Really, Lady Doltimore," said Maltravers, smiling, "I am but a bad
scandal-monger. But poor F----- is not, I believe, much worse than
others. How do we know whose fault it is when a marriage is broken off?
Lady C----- D----- heartbroken! what an idea! Nowadays there is never
any affection in compacts of that sort; and the chain that binds the
frivolous nature is but a gossamer thread! Fine gentlemen and fine
ladies, their loves and their marriages--
"'May flourish and may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made.'
"Never believe that a heart long accustomed to beat only in good society
can be broken,--it is rarely ever touched!"
Evelyn listened attentively, and seemed struck. She sighed, and said in
a very low voice, as to herself, "It is true--how could I think
For the next few days Evelyn was unwell, and did not quit her room.
Maltravers was in despair. The flowers, the books, the music he sent;
his anxious inquiries, his earnest and respectful notes, touched with
that ineffable charm which Heart and Intellect breathe into the most
trifling coinage from their mint,--all affected Evelyn sensibly. Perhaps
she contrasted them with Legard's indifference and apparent caprice;
perhaps in that contrast Maltravers gained more than by all his brilliant
qualities. Meanwhile, without visit, without message, without
farewell,--unconscious, it is true, of Evelyn's illness,--Legard departed
A PLEASING land . . .
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye,
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flashing round a summer sky.--THOMSON.
DAILY, hourly, increased the influence of Evelyn over Maltravers. Oh,
what a dupe is a man's pride! what a fool his wisdom! That a girl, a
mere child, one who scarce knew her own heart, beautiful as it
was,--whose deeper feelings still lay coiled up in their sweet
buds,--that she should thus master this proud, wise man! But as
thou--our universal teacher--as thou, O Shakspeare! haply speaking from
the hints of thine own experience, hast declared--
"None are so truly caught, when they are catched,
As wit turned fool; folly in wisdom hatched,
Hath wisdom's warrant."
Still, methinks that, in that surpassing and dangerously indulged
affection which levelled thee, Maltravers, with the weakest, which
overturned all thy fine philosophy of Stoicism, and made thee the veriest
slave of the "Rose Garden,"--still, Maltravers, thou mightest at least
have seen that thou hast lost forever all right to pride, all privilege
to disdain the herd! But thou wert proud of thine own infirmity! And
far sharper must be that lesson which can teach thee that Pride--thine
angel--is ever pre-doomed to fall.
What a mistake to suppose that the passions are strongest in youth! The
passions are not stronger, but the control over them is weaker. They are
more easily excited, they are more violent and more apparent; but they
have less energy, less durability, less intense and concentrated power,
than in maturer life. In youth, passion succeeds to passion, and one
breaks upon the other, as waves upon a rock, till the heart frets itself
to repose. In manhood, the great deep flows on, more calm, but more
profound; its serenity is the proof of the might and terror of its
course, were the wind to blow and the storm to rise.
A young man's ambition is but vanity,--it has no definite aim, it plays
with a thousand toys. As with one passion, so with the rest. In youth,
Love is ever on the wing, but, like the birds in April, it hath not yet
built its nest. With so long a career of summer and hope before it, the
disappointment of to-day is succeeded by the novelty of to-morrow, and
the sun that advances to the noon but dries up its fervent tears. But
when we have arrived at that epoch of life,--when, if the light fail us,
if the last rose wither, we feel that the loss cannot be retrieved, and
that the frost and the darkness are at hand, Love becomes to us a
treasure that we watch over and hoard with a miser's care. Our
youngest-born affection is our darling and our idol, the fondest pledge
of the Past, the most cherished of our hopes for the Future. A certain
melancholy that mingles with our joy at the possession only enhances its
charm. We feel ourselves so dependent on it for all that is yet to come.
Our other barks--our gay galleys of pleasure, our stately argosies of
pride--have been swallowed up by the remorseless wave. On this last
vessel we freight our all, to its frail tenement we commit ourselves.
The star that guides it is our guide, and in the tempest that menaces we
behold our own doom!
Still Maltravers shrank from the confession that trembled on his lips;
still he adhered to the course he had prescribed to himself. If ever (as
he had implied in his letter to Cleveland)--if ever Evelyn should
discover they were not suited to each other! The possibility of such an
affliction impressed his judgment, the dread of it chilled his heart.
With all his pride, there was a certain humility in Maltravers that was